Panel No. 5

Once the glue had cured on the panels for our shelf unit, it didn’t take too long to dress them true.  While the #4 was fine for the actual shelves, the sides definitely require the #7 jointer plane.


And now we’re going to take a brief tangent from the overall build.  To size everything to the correct dimension, I prefer to use a gauge rather than a pencil.  The only problem was that in this case I had a panel that needed to be over a foot wide, and my gauges maxed out at rather less than 6″.  What I needed for this particular application was something called a panel gauge.


While it’s a lovely tool, it clashes with my cheapness.  So I decided to make a quick and dirty (and cheap!) version.  I rummaged in my scrap bin and dug out a couple of pieces of pine.  One of them I cut a housing dado in to be the stock.IMG_20170713_173516_353

Then, I fit a piece of stiff yellow pine in it to be the beam.  I don’t really know how long that piece is, just that it’s long enough.


Once the glue cured, I bored and countersunk holes for the cutting pin (a screw) at the appropriate distance.


You can see that the pin protrudes just a bit from the stock, deep enough to score the fibers, but no more.  You can see that I’ve marked what measurement that particular hole is because I can then bore multiple holes if I need different size panels.  Indeed, on this project the sides and top are ½” wider than the shelves, to accommodate the back panel.


Finally, I  cut off the excess and cleaned up the edges with the jointer, and now the shelf is ready to be joined, a process we’ll start next time.



Ammo can’t?

Today we’re going to start in on a new project!  And there was much some non-zero rejoicing!

The specs for this new build revolve around the venerable (and ubiquitous) .50 caliber ammo can.  Almost every veteran out there has a couple kicking around somewhere.  They’re watertight, sturdy, and easy to find since the military uses the same size can for 9x19mm, 5.56mm, .50 caliber, and a few assorted kinds of pyrotechnic devices.  Filled with your preferred flavour of ammunition, they can weigh up to 40 pounds (roughly 18 kilos for those living in countries that didn’t put a man on the moon).  While they stack nicely, it’s a real bear to try to get to that can at the bottom of the stack.  Thus, a shelf unit was commissioned that would allow access to the whole stack simultaneously.  Furthermore, my task was to gin up a design that would be both not only sturdy, but also economical.

The criterion was that it would hold as many cans as possible in a space roughly five feet tall and 22″ wide.  And so, with a little math, I arrived at the idea that this shelf was to hold eighteen cans.  Since I was restricted on budget, I decided to use regular construction lumber from the big box hardware store, knots and all.  Yellow pine is plenty strong at that thickness, and will make a good shelf unit that will hold up to the potentially 700 odd pounds that can be contained inside it.


Since a .50 caliber ammo can plus the back will be somewhat over the 11¼” of a 2×12, I had to laminate a few panels together to make the required depth of shelf.  While this does take a little bit, it conforms to the “as economically as possible” portion of the design.  I could have used 1″ oak (my preference), but this was cheaper overall.  And though it might look a tad chunky, it is a utilitarian design for heavy work.  In this case, beefiness is a virtue…



Not a lot of woodworking going on at the moment.  I’ve been clearing up some other things around the property as of late, chores that I had been less than timely in accomplishing.

Yes, that means I was slacking.

So although another project is in the works, I’ve been labouring under my old landscaping hat rather than the workshop one.  An example:


I’ve laid a layer of cardboard under the mulch as a biodegradable (and cheap!) weed block.  It’s pretty effective (and cheap!) at keeping the weeding down, which is good because I hate doing it.  It also keeps my recycle bin from getting overwhelmed (and cheap!) with packaging.  In the winter I could burn it, but in the summer that’s not so inviting.  Just make sure to remove the plastic tape before you bury it because it doesn’t decompose and is a real mess later on.

OPSEC, and taking credit

So this post is a little late due to some of the considerations that went into the construction of this FIFO unit.  So we’re going to start tonight by talking about OPSEC.  That’s the acronym for “OPerational SECurity”, and in my former life (carrying a light machine gun for a living), it was a big deal.

The basic idea surrounding OPSEC is that enemy forces (whatever colour/religion/ideology they might be) can have you under surveillance at any time.  If you talk or write about operational details, that can give the enemy intel on where you might be or how large your forces are.  This is a bad thing, and should be avoided.  The military has been (and continues to be) paranoid about this for some time, though it reached its most publicized peak in the Second World War.


I can hear the mutterings now: “Great, is this on the test or something?  Who cares and what does this have to do with chopping mortices at all!”  Well, it has nothing at all to do with the mechanics of woodworking, and everything to do with the patrons of woodworking.

If you recall a while back, there was this TV show called “Doomsday Preppers”.  It highlighted all sorts of crazy folk really very nice people who felt that one way or another, the world as we know it was going to crash and burn and we were going to be in Mad Max/Omega Man/The Walking Dead.  ANY DAY we could wake up and it was going to be DAY ZERO.  WOLVERINES!!!!

Sorry.  Anyway, the show was basically people going on television and showing everyone on earth what their name was, and what their house looked like, and what kinds of fancy gear they had, as well as their 47 cases of Dinty Moore.

This was extremely poor OPSEC.

So now we come to my shop.  The client I built this FIFO for was not inclined to make the same mistake.  On the other hand, he understood that I publish pictures of my work, and that I would like to post a final picture so all y’all could see how it turned out.  So I took my pictures, which I edited a smidge, and then submitted for his approval.

This is important because my patrons deserve respect, and because I feel it is important that they trust me.  If I didn’t show them respect, I’d find myself without work in no time.  That’s purely pragmatic, and ignores the important ethical responsibility that I have towards others (which I actually find more compelling).

So here is the final, vetted picture of our FIFO build.  It holds twenty cans of mushrooms, and though it is five feet tall, takes only 4 ½” square of space, which allows it to be shoehorned into some mighty tight spots.  It will keep your stock as fresh as can be with a minimum of effort.  Hope you enjoyed this series, and maybe it can be helpful if you too want to keep months (maybe years!) of fungus on hand.


Magazine clips

Once the FIFO unit I’d been making was together, I went ahead and gave it a coat of paint.  It might not have been strictly necessary, but I wanted the protective qualities and I also wanted it to draw the unit together visually into a cohesive whole.  Yes, knotty pine drives me insane.


To attach this unit to the wall, I’m going to use some aluminium clips.  These are sort of like a metallic French cleat.  There are a few different styles, but I these ones from Menard’s were both readily available, and inexpensive.  You’ll find them in with the picture hanging supplies.


It was cheapest per inch to buy a 30″ length, but I only needed about 4″.


The flatter part gets screwed to the FIFO unit.  Make sure it is oriented correctly, and square across.


The piece with the cylindrical portion in the middle goes on the wall.  That bit of cylinder holds a little bitty (included) level.  Not strictly necessary for me, but nice for the unequipped.  Make sure that the maths work out for where the clip is screwed to the wall and where it is on whatever you’re trying to hang.  If you get it misaligned, it’s a real pain to fix.  I’ve attached these clips to a piece of 1×4 that I’ve run across the drywall and attached to the studs with very long screws.  This allows me to use every stud in the wall space provided, and not have to be restricted on where the FIFO can be hung.  In theory, I could have angled the top edge of this rail and used it for the cleat directly.  But I wanted a little air circulation between the FIFO and the wall so that it didn’t moulder back there.  That is not a surprise you want to find later.


Back-channel negotiations

Last time, you saw that I had ripped a piece of 1×6 to fit the width of the FIFO unit.  Once I cleaned up the kerf marks with my #7 jointer plane, I used a moving fillister plane to cut a long rebate on both sides of the back.  This provides a more secure defence against racking under load.


Then, I attached the back to the carcase.  Since the unit will hang on the wall supported by this back, I may have gone a teensy bit overboard in that.  This is glued, nailed, and screwed to the carcase.  But it was nuking it from orbit the only way to be sure.


Once the back was on, I needed to put a front on as well.  Since this isn’t load-bearing, I just used a few nails.  I cut it short enough to clear the mushroom cans on both the top and bottom, allowing for both withdrawal and replenishment.


The last thing for today was that I felt that trying to wiggle a can out of the rack might be difficult as it was.  So I used a big 2″ Forstner bit to cut recesses out of the bottom sides (later cleaned up with a rasp) to allow for even my old busted up fingers to get to them.  Small, agile fingers should have it even easier!


Canned laughter

Well, the time had come to start working out the joinery for our FIFO unit.  Since the space I had would fit twenty (!) cans of mushrooms, and all of that weight would need to be supported by the corners, I decided to use dovetails for strength.  For expediency, I gang-cut the tails.


This FIFO unit was made to be fairly inexpensive.  It’s purely utilitarian, so I used white pine.  One 10′ 1×4, and one 10′ 1×6 was all this took, along with a few nails and screws and a dab of glue and paint.  And since I was using paint, I could use some non-primo pine too.  Altogether it was about fifteen dollars in materials.  To keep the shop time down, I decided to use the lumber as it came from the lumberyard, 3/4″ thick.  I probably could have made it a little thinner, but it was faster to do it this way, and stouter too.

The top and bottom got fitted to the sides in short order.  They did look a little disproportionate, but it will come together in the end.  Do take note that the tails are on the sides.  This positions the mechanical lock in the dovetail to resist the weight of the cans.


Finally, I got a jump on the next portion of the build, and ripped the front and back to width.  It is very quick to rip through this narrow pine, so be sure to keep your saw from wandering.  Next time we’ll see how these will go on to the carcase we just joined.