Hey! I’m hesitant to call this carpentry. Surely this audience wont mind my using it, but in my mind; carpentry is a sacred skill using on wood on wood joinery. We’re all capable of true wooden joinery if given a million hours, but we’ve got serious dead lines. This is certainly wood working, and likely cabinetry.
I decided to make my first project ‘stain grade’, as a proper challenge. This means that the wood used and seams seen are fine enough to be visible and even accentuated. Best way to learn in a hurry is to get in over your head, after all. The sides are MDF (medium density fibre), as they will be covered with mirrors/tables/more cabinets. The drawers and large forward panels are birch plywood. Everything else is Oak. With something ‘stain grade’ you’re forced to think about grain direction and ‘the good side’ and triple check your cuts, as materials are pretty costly. The idea is to go big so that when we cheap out and paint everything else, I’m over qualified to do so. There’s a saying in the fabrication world that offers familiar insight to these craftsmanship levels- “A grinder and paint makes me the welder I ain’t!” – This is to say, if you have produced a crap seam, you can always sand it down and paint over it! I of course aim to produce nothing crap… Here’s how!
I’m all about pocket screws. They are cheap, easy to mock up, fast to assemble, and hella strong. We’re using almost exclusively the Kreg system as joinery. A micro k4, and the ‘regular’ size. I highly recommend getting an impact driver of any brand in conjunction with these systems. When transferring bits (which you do constantly) they’re the only tool with one handed instant bit swap. I got sick of chucking my big ‘ol 1/2″ drive two handed drill within minutes.
The project started with the side panels, as they needed to be incredibly well contoured to the ceiling. There’s no easy way to do these. I made a ‘roof radius’ template weeks ago to give myself a starting point, but it’s pretty well trim, try, trim, try, a hundred times and repeat. Surprisingly, the ceiling isn’t even uniform. from panel to panel, there’s a lot of variation that you’d never visually notice. Again, I’ve never worked with wood with any degree of skill, so I started making it all the shelving out of MDF, but decided it was way too heavy to continue that practice, and cut it out in favor of hardwoods, pine in the back, oak up front. Bonus glamour shot of my getting into character.
The bus has a lot of variation as to the idea of ‘level’ as well. It’s on a dirt floor, on 50 year old nylon tires, a live suspension, and has been chopped all to crap. So rather than relying on ‘level’ I measure a starting point based on the window frame’s idea of level and use blocks cut to the desired dimensions as spacers. This is consistent enough for us.
Then I made the first drawer boxes. My first two actually weren’t good enough to even use and were scrapped all together, but I soon nailed it. After that, I learned it’s incredibly difficult to mount drawer slides alone. The first three drawers took probably 2 hours to mount and get ‘just right’, and then the last four took maybe 20 minutes. This is of course the learning curve in action. My boxes got squarer, dimensionally accurate, and stronger. In addition, I really began to understand the tools I have available. Some oak planks were added for beautiful factor and I had a go at building the big sliding panels. As things scale up, staying square seems to get harder. I’m not sure I’m 100% satisfied with these, but there are a thousand more things to do and these can be revisited any time.
Second verse, same as the first. With all my knowledge, I gave the rest a go the next day (why pictures are so bright and nice). Made four bigger boxes first try, hella clamped them to find square, set the slides, and attached the pretty oak planks.
With it all tied together, I threw a little stain on it, for satisfaction’s sake. Of course it needs handles, which we haven’t fully decided on too. Overall I enjoyed the time spent, learned a lot, maybe spent a bit too much, and got an awesome piece of furniture to keep our socks in. I’d encourage anyone else to do the same! Please go scratch that itch, whatever it is.
Seemed silly not to throw a picture of dinner in there! Thanks for reading – Hunter