Archive for the 'wood' Category

Oversized Workbench

I was badly in need of a workbench, and my brother owed me help.

We got wood and miscellaneous supplies: ~$100 at Lowe’s.

Ten 2x4x8s, with two 4x4x8s for the legs and a 3/8 4×8 semi-finished plywood for the top.

Also, 2.5″ screws (for connecting 2x4s), 1.25″ screws (for attaching brackets and plywood), and some metal brackets (for attaching the legs).

The desired size of the table is 7.5×2.5′. Some of the design was sketched out on paper, some we worked out as we went along. We got the plywood cut at Lowe’s, and I have a jigsaw for the 2x4s, but the 4x4s had to be done with a hand saw. (Four of those cuts take about half an hour.)

Pile-of-wood stage. My brother in the center with the jigsaw, cutting out one of the long sides of the frame. On the ground next to his feet are the long sides of the lattice (note the notches cut out for the short sides of the frame). Standing next to that are two of the legs.

Plywood top (upside down) with part of the frame. The frame is a set of 2x4s around the perimeter underside of the top. The only thing attached here is the short-edge pieces (with small L-brackets), just so the top stays attached for the duration of the construction. In the end, the plywood will be glued to the frame.

Completed frame, plus a pair of 2x4s on their edges which will form the long sides of the lattice. (The same pieces in the shot with my brother, above.)

The lattice will rest directly on the 4×4 legs. Nothing in this shot is attached except the short-edge frame pieces.

Added cross-sections to the lattice and put it together.

All the structural connections are done with 2.5″ coarse drywall screws. We drilled 3/8″ holes through the outer piece of wood and 3/16″ holes through the inner piece, so that the screw cinches the two tight.

Lattice in place, and attached to the long sides of the frame via 2.5″ screws (7 each) from the inside of the lattice through the frame.

Legs cut out. Also, added some remnant scraps to the lattice where the legs will go to increase the surface area of the connection. Also, attached the ends of the long sides of the lattice to the short ends of the frame.

I have no power tool that’ll cut 4x4s, so was forced to hand-saw the legs. Worse, I wasn’t sure of the ideal height, so guessed on the long side, expecting the possibility of having to subsequently cut them shorter.

Legs attached with metal brackets. This is the weakest part of the construction, but should be fine since all the force is exerted down through the legs, not against the brackets.

This is the best shot to clarify the construction. There are four basic parts to it:

  • The legs are just straight-cut 4x4s – originally at 36″; later cut down to 30″.
  • The lattice rests directly on top of the legs. The lattice is strongly connected internally, but connected to the legs just with some brackets to keep it from shifting side-to-side. The lattice is made up of 2x4s on their edges.
  • The table top rests directly on top of the lattice. This means that the table overall is 30″ (legs) + 3.5″ (2x4s) + 3/8 (plywood) = ~34″ high.
  • The frame reinforces the plywood. It’s composed of 2x4s around its perimeter on the underside. The short edges of the frame rest on the lattice (there are notches cut out for them). The long edges of the frame are attached with long screws to the long edges of the lattice.
  • It’s worth noting that the main goals of the construction is to make the table strong without any screws where they would interfere with working (e.g. there are no screws going through the top surface).

    Nowhere near done, but turned it right side up to answer:
    1) Is it movable by one person? (Yes, with some effort)
    2) Is it the right height? (No, as expected. Experimented putting some tools on the surface, and decided that it needed to be 6″ shorter.)
    3) Is there a need for another set of legs (or one more leg) at the center? (No. The lattice is really quite stable.)

    Back to construction – rear cross brace.

    Side cross braces.

    Bottom shelf. This is using the remnant of the 4×8′ plywood sheet, I just had to cut it down on the sides to fit between the legs.

    Shelf mostly attached. This might seem upside down, but that’s deliberate. The shelf hangs off the back and side 2x4s so that they serve as edges for the shelf. That way, I won’t have things constantly falling off the back of the shelf.

    The plywood is attached via a large number of 1.25″ screws. In this case, I didn’t bother drilling holes for them, so it was easy to put in a lot. (~20)

    Front 2×4 brace. In hindsight, I should’ve made it the full length of the workbench, like the rear 2×4, but this should be sufficient. I’ll go back and fix it up if the shelf starts sagging.

    I considered adding diagonal cross-braces at this point, but the table is very steady as is.

    Shortening the legs (1 of 4 done).

    Knot right in the middle of one of the cuts. Good times.

    Legs even, bench right-side up and basically done. It’s quite stable, and rather heavy.

    All that’s left is gluing the top to the frame and sanding the edges to prevent splinters.

    I don’t have enough clamps to do the whole thing in one go, so I removed one side of the L-brackets at a time (remember, they’re the only thing holding the top to the frame) to lift the top to get in some glue and clamp.

    Gluing the sides and back. Since this has to include the side edges, was forced to improvise heavy items. Would have gotten more clamps, but it was July 4th, and I don’t have the kind of patience it takes to wait a full day. Also, went over the rough edges with a rasp.

    Done and in place.

    Wall-clock time: 2 weeks.
    Work-time: ~15 man-hours.
    Beers consumed: ~6 (Beck’s Dark, Dos Equis, Sam Lager).

    Two nights of work with my brother (getting the materials, making out the plans, cutting the legs and the frame and the start of the lattice), about a full weekend day putting the rest together, and a couple of short sessions gluing/clamping at 24-hour intervals.

    (This post originally written here.)

    Sailor Pluto’s “Time Key” Staff Cosplay



    This is a cosplay build/reminiscence for the Garnet Rod, also known as the Time Key: the key-shaped staff wielded by Sailor Pluto. It was the first cosplay thing I’ve made, so it’s quite primitive. Nevertheless, I’m happy with how it turned out, and I think it looks very authentic to the anime. I didn’t take many photos of the progress, so I’ll reconstruct the build as best I can.


    My wife started cosplaying in 2004, and her first cosplay was to be of Sailor Pluto. I offered to make the staff for her. At the time, we lived in a small apartment without many tools, but some friends of ours did a lot of cosplay, so I abused their hospitality and used some of their equipment. I built the staff over the course of a couple of months, coming over to the friends’ place on some weekends, working in our apartment at other times.


    I printed an image of the staff full size, to my wife’s scale, on a bunch of sheets of paper taped together. I used an inconsistent scale – the height of the staff and its thickness are scaled to my wife’s height and width relative to the height and width of Sailor Pluto, respectively, rather than matching the same scale. I think this maintains a realistic approximation of the overall character design.



    The body of the staff is made of segments of 3/4″ and 1″ dowels, with 1/4″ steel rods to connect and strengthen. The balls are 1.5″ and 2″ diameter wooden balls I got at Michael’s, the key bits are 1/4″ plywood. The carved capital between the body and head is a piece of 4×4, and the curved head is a 1″ piece of oak (which was a pain to carve, believe me). The yellow spheres are marbles, and the red sphere is a christmas ornament.


    For tools, I used our friends’ dremel, power sander and hand saws. I also bought a vise and attached it to a ramshackle wooden platform so I could take it around with me. Aside from that, all I used was a hand power drill.

    The Build


    There are four dowels put together end-to-end, connected with the steel rods. The first step was to cut the dowels to length.

    There’s one main long dowel, and then three short ones at the end, alternating between 3/4″ and 1″ to match the staff’s design. I sanded the very lowest one to taper it.

    Dowel placement:

    Note that the dowels go through the 1.5″ balls. The next step was to drill out those balls, with 3/4″ holes. This was pretty tough, and I broke about half the balls I tried to drill. Fortunately, they came in a fairly large bag.

    Next, I drilled holes for the two steel rods. One went through the bottom set of dowels, the other through the top dowel, into the intermediate piece, and then up through the head of the key. The bottom rod goes through the bottom ball and juts out a little, so that when you rest the staff on the ground, it rests on metal.

    Steel placement:

    Drilling holes for the steel rods was the toughest task. I clamped the pieces in the vise, and took my time drilling and readjusting the alignment. For pieces that had to be drilled all the way through, I drilled separately from the two ends. Despite this, the holes weren’t perfectly aligned, but I tried to match angles when putting the thing together so the errors offset one another.

    Once this was done, I drilled out the last (2″) ball to fit the rod and a bit of the last dowel through it, and attached the four pieces of dowel together. If I recall correctly, I used epoxy.

    One more task for the body was to drill notches adjacent to each ball. To get a reasonably even pattern, I clamped the dremel in the vise, and then rotated the dowel against the blade.

    Key Jigs

    I cut the key jigs out of 1/4″ plywood, and attached them by dremeling out notches in the staff, then gluing the key bits with epoxy. This was pretty uneventful, aside from one moment when I drove a saw through my hand and used up all the earlier mentioned friends’ gauze. The epoxy has held admirably over the years. (And I had scars for a while, but can no longer find them.)

    One of the few photos I have of progress:

    Staff body at the bottom, printed out schematic at upper left, head of the staff left of top center.


    The carved part at the top of the staff was a pain. I made it out of a 4×4 piece of pine which I first sanded down to a tapered piece, then dremeled out to carve the grooved shape. It took forever, and the result isn’t terribly even, but it’s okay. I also drilled a hole all the way through this piece for the steel core.


    The head of the staff is a single piece of oak, hand-sawed, then sanded and dremeled to coerce it into the right shape. Quite tough work.

    Attaching the capital and head

    I attached the capital and head the same way as the bottom sections – steel rod through the center, glued together with epoxy.

    Another random progress shot: trimming the steel rod to match the size of the head piece.


    The red gem was easy — it’s just a christmas ornament painted on the inside. The technique was well known even at the time, and works nicely.

    The yellow gems were a pain. First, it’s not easy to find plain-colored marbles. I eventually got some translucent-beige ones you see in the above photo. Fitting and attaching the small 1/4″ one was no problem.

    However, attaching the 1/2″ large ones proved problematic. I tried a variety of glues (epoxy, superglue, etc.), but the marbles are heavy for their size, and the surface (even sanded down) doesn’t take glue well. They’d stick, but every time my wife would smack the staff against the ground (even lightly), the marbles would scatter everywhere. The third time this happened, I decided something tougher was needed.

    To attach the marbles better, I decided to drill holes in them and use heavy guage wire (nails with the heads snipped off) to connect them. This meant I needed opaque marbles. I tracked down some yellow ones, but could only find the 1/2″ size, not the 1/4″, so now they don’t match. :/ If anyone finds a 1/4″ matching yellow marble, do please let me know.

    Drilling was very tough. Even with a glass drill bit, I had trouble making headway, and a bunch of marbles cracked and split. Still, I was able to get it done.

    Nail placement:

    Gluing this together with epoxy worked out quite well, and none of the marbles have popped off since then.


    The final step was to paint. (Actually, it was a couple of steps earlier, but logically the last step.) I used a nice blue metallic acrylic paint from Michael’s. Nothing fancy, and when you look close, you can see wood grain. From a distance, however, it looks perfect.




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