I mentioned in my last post that I would be working on something near Gina's desk, but instead took my next project outside. We had a raised garden bed on the ground a couple of years ago, but after having our yard completely re-done and building the desk, we didn't put it back in. I like the grass, and didn't want to rip it all up, so I wanted to building something completely elevated. After watching a few YouTube videos, I had my inspiration.

Pre-build

This was my first time ever building with cedar wood. Everything online suggests it's the best thing to use for a garden bed given it's natural rot resistance. It was definitely pricier than my recent plywood or 2x4 based projects, but it seems like it'll be worth it. The smell of cedar is refreshing when I allow myself to smell it without a mask on.

Build

The first component to build is of course the least intensive. The legs are a 1x4 and a trimmed 1x4 butt-jointed to keep the same dimensions on either side. With all four legs built, I could assemble the short sides. The sides are just four horizontal planks screwed from the back. To ease the transition between boards that are warped or curved, I routed the edges with a very small round over. I tried to use a chamfer bit, but unfortunately it's about a quarter of an inch too big to fit in the router! The round over bit ended up working out just fine.

With both sides finished, time to work on the front and back. This was a bit harder since it spanned such a long distance (~5 ft). At this point it had a bit of a rock to it from warped boards, but that was essentially gone once the second long edge was affixed. The last step was to put the bottom in. I needed to use a thin strip secured to the bottom side board and screwed slats into that. The boards were roughly an 1/8 to a 1/4 of an inch apart to allow drainage.

Post-Build

Finally we could get it outside. I didn't take a picture (because it looked horrible), but we lined the planter with both plastic, to prevent leaching, and landscaping liner to keep the soil in. We mixed top soil and potting soil to keep the soil more akin to an in-ground bed versus a pot. The two plants in the center are bell peppers, hopefully we get some!

Model

As always, this is the model picture I built off of. I originally intended to have a shelf on the bottom to help with stability and have extra space, but after building the rest of the planter, it seemed very stable and didn't need the bottom. Overall things went fairly according to plan. Now that the dust has settled in the basement, time to work on my original project!

Ladder

In our house, we have this little shelf almost 8 feet long and 3 feet wide. Rather than put up decorations, we decided to buy a cushion and make it a little sitting nook. Unfortunately, it is also almost five feet up and completely inaccessible. I couldn't find any strong, stable ladder to put there, so I built this out of oak. It's secured at the top with two metal L brackets that I bent to match the tilt of the ladder and the rungs are dadoed into the legs. Also, aren't those little gnomes just the best?

Desk

Gina was looking for a new desk since her IKEA corner desk had traveled between at least four different homes and was falling apart, so we decided to build one. I had never done any woodworking before, but was excited to try it out. She was looking for a taller desk, around counter height, so she could stand and work comfortably, or while sitting on a higher (drafting-like?) chair. We broke down multiple sheets of MDF and dadoed the pieces for necessary fits. Rather than paint after assembly, we painted the inner pieces first to save time and make it altogether easier.

Glueing the two cabinets up was incredibly painful. The number of pieces that had to come together made this much harder than a simple set of shelves. Between Gina, Gina's dad, and myself, we were still racing the clock trying to get glue on everything and assemble them. MDF loves to soak up glue. To make things more difficult, I had accidentally miscut all the middle pieces by an 1/8 of an inch, so when we tried putting on the back, it didn't sit flush to all of the pieces. In the end, to get rid of the bow in the back, I belt sanded down a lot of the MDF. If I did it again, I'm sure it would've come out better, but overall it was a tough glue up.

When adding the face frame, we had to use every clamp we had access to. The frame was placed on top of the existing MDF and butt jointed at the corners. Doing this again, I'd probably half-lap those pieces so they sit flush and hold eachother on with more glue surface between them, but this worked well enough. We were able to use scraps from the cabinets for the face frame.

Once we had the face frame on and primed, we added the trim. I prepainted this as well with two coats so after assembly I could do a quick coat to hide any putty to fill in nail holes. Rather than a simple, ordinary baseboard molding, we went for one with a design. It was harder to paint quickly, but gives it a unique look. For the upper molding, we flipped upside down base cap molding.

Finally we could put the desk "together" and see how it looked. We added a curtain made out of poplar to give some extra rigidity to the desk top. It was going to span a few feet, so we didn't want it to start to sag over time. Importantly, the curtain is only glued onto the top and not the cabinets so we can actually move the desk. We also rounded over the edges to soften the feel while working at the desk.

All of the work up till now was at Gina's parents house. When we got it to our garage, we painted the sides of the cabinets and top and bottom of the desk top. Every surface had at least one coat of primer and two coats of paint. The desk top had two coats of primer with heavy sanding after them to get the smoothest possible surface and finished with three coats of paint.

I'm actually missing a picture of the finished project where the face of the cabinets are painted as well. I'll include a picture when I post something about my current project!

I make a sketchup drawing for pretty much every project. Being able to see what I'm building before I actually start helps me make sure I know what I'm about to build. I learned how to use SketchUp in freshmen year of high school in a graphic design class. I struggle with traditional CAD and can't draw, so SketchUp is a nice middle ground.

Recently we've been working on other kinds of projects. Here are some pictures of the deck we built. We originally had a deck, but it was splitering and falling apart after only a year. The builder used some really rough materials and littered it with nails to try to get it to stay together. We took the opportunity to make an even bigger deck while we had it all disassembled. We went for a simple design, 16' by 16' with composite wood decking.

Pre-build

Some family friends came over and removed the old deck. They pulled everything off the house, leaving just the old footings and the ledger board. We ended up replacing this ledger board since it was all marred up from the old deck. This was almost all the materials. We ended up needing some more/different 2x4s since the onces that were picked out were in rough shape. I tried to dig the footings by hand and with an auger, but the home builder left/added in far too many large rocks, so I rented an excavator to make short work of that.

Build

Once the holes were dug, we started work on the frame of the deck. We first laid out the upper frame and the basis for the beam over where the footings were supposed to be, and then filled the footings with concrete. This made it a little harder to fill the tubes, but it made sure the deck was square before it was impossible to move them and let us get it level for the posts the beam rests of.

With the frame complete, we could work on adding the joists and decking. We first attached the joists to the ledger board with joist hangers, then nailed them through the rim joist. We then added the hanger on the rim joist side. After the joists were in, we could start adding the decking boards. We used hidden fastners since we were using composite boards. They took a bit more effort and technique upfront, but the markless boards look great.

After all the decking was in place, we could attach the railings and balusters. This math was a little difficult to make sure we did not exceed four inches between the balusters, but had as similar as possible gaps for all sections. Since the balusters needed to span inconsistent sized sections, this took a little while to convince ourselves the math was right.

Post-build

To shade ourselves during the summer heat, we added an awning overhead. Luckily, our family had just pulled one off of their house, so we could recycle it on to our own, and it roughly matched. To mount the brackets, we needed to get some nylon spacers so we didn't need to remove the vinyl siding. We found a thickness that was slightly larger than the depth of our vinyl siding and mounting it towards the top of each piece so it wouldn't squeeze the siding. After mounting the awning, it took a bit to actually get the awning balanced. Some set screws in the arms of the awning move each side up and down separately.

The deck remained empty through the winter, and in the Spring we finally added furniture. To get an idea of what could fit, I made a really rough model of the deck in SketchUp and tried to see if everything we were looking at buying would fit. It ended up working out pretty good, and our size estimates were even oversized which made it easier for everything to fit. We tried to match the furniture to the decking color since the awning and house took on the green color. We ended up moving the grill closer to the sliding door, but we kept the couch and sectional in those spots. We ended up adding extra padding to the sectionals pillows since they were incredibly lacking. Also, we added connectors to keep the sectional pieces together.

Bonus!

We added some lighting! I took an extension cord, cut it in half, wired it into an outdoor box and then plugged some lights from Target into the newly-switched extension cord. Adding this switch makes it match the controls for the awning (it's powered in and out).

We got hornets! This wasn't the only nest either. We had both yellow jackets AND bald face hornets. We ended up getting an exterminator to remove both nests since consumer spray didn't seem to be doing anything. They ended up getting in a full protection suit and spraying into the nest directly, ripping the nest out and spraying the remains. On the bright side, we haven't seen anything since!