Tuesday, October 20

Changing Table

Today we're going to take a break from the desk as I ponder the hinge situation and make up a small project that is coming due very soon. This is a Changing Table built as a fixture that can be slipped on top of a chest of drawers when needed, but can be removed and stowed out of the way when not needed.
We start with the design drawings I made up, sent to Brian for approval and were amended to suit the size of their changing pad. I use them to lay out the lumber for cutting. Brian and Mary wanted this to be made of pine so they can paint it to match their chest of drawers. The local big box store carries "whitewood" as their version of construction grade pine -- who know what it really is. But this stuff tends to be very knotty, twisted, warped and generally nasty stuff. It may be usable for trimming out a house, but for furniture it's garbage. So when I need this sort of stuff I go to our local "real" lumber yard and buy spruce trim boards. It costs more, but the quality is much better.
Once the boards are all laid out I start cutting the parts by cross cutting them on the chop saw -- chop saw is slang for a compound miter saw. Generally "chop saw" is reserved for a low end version that is used primarily for cutting down long planks to a manageable size, mine is not top-of-the-line, but it's not a cheapo either, and it does a good job of mitering boards when needed. Once the pieces for the base plate are roughed out I joint them, then glue and clamp them into a panel. I'll leave this to set up while I cut out the other parts. Once the glue has set up I use the wide drum sander to smooth and prettify the panel. This takes two passes on each side Then I trim it to width and length on the table saw. I use the rip fence for trimming the width, and a cut-off sled (shown here) to trim the ends. Finally, I use a hand-held router to round-over the corners of the base plate. I leave the corner that will be the lower edge on the back side square because a cleat will be attached flush with that edge. Our router table is set up for another use, and the routing needed for this project is minimal, so I choose -- instead of changing the router table over then having to set it up for the desk project again later -- to use a "poor man's router table -- by clamping the router upside down in my bench vise and just using the base plate as a mini-table. Since I'm using only a piloted round-over bit a fence is not needed, so this works just fine to shape the edges of the few boards that make up this project. The changing table will be held in place on the top of Brian and Mary's chest of drawers by a series of cleats affixed to the bottom of the table with screws. I drill counter-bores for these screws in the cleats now using the drill press. I'll glue and screw only the rear cleat, the others will be held just with screws so they can be adjusted should need be. The side rails have a high section at the head, then get lower at the "business" end of the table to make it easier to work with the baby and diaper. I cut that shape into the side rails now using the band saw equipped with a 1/4" 10 TPI band. I refine the curvy parts and dress the freshly cut edges using a medium diameter sanding drum mounted in the drill press. I dry-fit the parts to be sure they fit as they should, then apply glue and clamps. I'll give the glue a while to tack up, then drive in some 2" finish nails to reinforce the joints, countersink them and fill over the heads with wood putty. Because this will get painted, I really don't need to get any fancier than that. The washer-headed screws that I want to use to hold the cleats to the underside of the base are just a smidge too long -- because I sanded the base plate to smooth it, reducing it's thickness just a smidge. Two passes on each side removing 1/128" on each pass, so in this case a smidge is 1/128 X 4 = 1/32 of an inch. So to prevent the points of the screws from poking through the top side of the base I use a bench grinder to blunt the screws... just a smidge. I glue and screw the rear cleat in place, clamp each of the other cleats in their place, use a sharp screw to cut the screw hole - but don't drive it all the way in - remove it, and install a blunted screw for the permanent mounting. Then I lay-out where the rail assembly will go and drill pilot holes through from the top, flip the base plate over and countersink the screw holes from underneath so the screw heads will not scratch up their chest of drawers. Once all the screws are installed, it looks like this. All that remains to do is to sand the putty I put into the nail holes smooth and it's ready to box up and send to Brian and Mary so they can prime and paint to to match the rest of their nursery. Their little one is due in a couple of weeks, so it was necessary to get this piece done and on it's way now. I hope all three of them will enjoy using this changing table.

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