Continues….

Today was very much more of the same – I broke down the last 2 sheets of 2400×1200 MDF (one 12mm, the other 16mm) using a circular saw and a guide.  I really have a very low opinion of circular saws – dislike using them at the best of times.  The real danger comes with kickback, and unlike a tablesaw where the kickback results in the piece of timber being thrown, when you are using a handheld circular saw, and it tries to kickback, it is the saw that jumps and bucks, and tries to rip out of your hands.  It doesn’t take much to cause that to happen either.  The blade only has to bind just a little in the cut for the blade to stop doing what it is meant to, transferring the power of the motor into the cutting tips of the blade, and instead transferring the motor power into a rotational force that your hands and arms have to resist or risk a runaway saw (and potentially serious damage).  Even if you get away with it, your large sheet can incur some significantly horrendous scars.

I hate circular saws.  It kicked back more than once on me – each time I twisted the blade slightly during the cut.  It was a moderately powered saw – 1800W with a thin kerf blade, so I don’t know what was contributing to the (user caused) problem.  Was it that the blade was thin, so could distort under incorrect loading easier and therefore bind? Was it the saw itself was too powerful vs its weight? Not powerful enough, so it stopped cutting when conditions were less than ideal?  Whatever the cause, there is an underlying cause – I didn’t cut perfectly straight.  I got past that task, but I’ll be happy if I never have to use a circular saw handheld again (and with the imminent arrival of the Torque Workcentre, which has a circular saw mount and can cut a full 1200 wide panel, I’m hoping it means I will never have to).

You might ask why I am using a handheld saw if I dislike them so much, when I have a large tablesaw?  Simple answer – I might have a big saw, but a small shed – I have to break the sheet down smaller to be able to handle it in there.  There is another reason – single-handedly managing a sheet that size through a tablesaw can still result in twisting the sheet (and having the sheet stop contacting the fence), and there is every potential of a kickback in that situation too.  In future, if I have to do it by hand again I am going to take Marc Spagnuolo’s approach, and have the sheet resting on the ground, with a sacrificial board underneath (he uses polystyrene) – it will take more of the variables out of the picture and result in more ability to focus on, and control the saw through the entire cut. (I found I was overreaching near the end, and that is when things were going pear-shaped).

Despite the couple of….issues during the breakdown, things were pretty productive and I got both fridges made, as well as all the doors and tops cut.  Now they are getting close to needing the finer details made and fitted – taps, knobs, handles and the small things that take the build from the ordinary just up to the next level.

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All coming together

Some of the additional details I want to add include the fridge door- adding a shelf (on the inside obviously, like a real fridge), and an egg holder shelf.  It is little, easy details like that which will elevate the overall build to a level I will be happy with giving these to friends.  I still need to cut the stove elements, and the sink cavity, make the stove knobs, door handles etc etc – now that hard work (not necessarily the heavy work) begins.  I’m really looking forward to this part of the project – when it comes to life.

While I was working today, I found myself using one tool (other than the Domino) a number of times – one I find really useful.  It is the Black & Decker PowerFile.  I’ve had it for a number of years, and it is great for getting into areas, minor shaping, quick hinge mortising etc.

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B&D Power File

It is a belt sander, running a finger-wide belt with an exposed end.  Not very clear in the photo, but the notch seen here in the MDF to fit around the cabinet upright was cut on the bandsaw.  I then needed to round the edge, and that is where the power file came into its own.

More Toy Designs

Not sure what other designs you have already seen of mine, but at the risk of repeating myself:

Kid's Blackboard
Kids Blackboard
Microwave
Microwave
Stove
Stove
Sink
Sink

The last 3 are all playhouse furniture, and obviously the last 2 have already been built (if you look at photos of past projects on this site).  The images (and my specific designs) are copyright fwiw.

All done in CAD, so getting dimensioned plans is a pretty simple step from here.  All modeled directly in 3D

Clubhouse Furniture

It may not be every kid’s dream to have a playhouse, but it is for many, and what better than having one fully furbished! A wooden stove and sink make great additions for hours of imaginative play, and quality, handmade wooden furniture beats modern commercial plastic junk every day of the week.

These designs use standard pine stock available from all hardware stores, and can be made without needing a vast array of tools. You can easily customize the designs to suit the range of tools that you have, and your skill level. A table mounted router is not critical, but it certainly will make the job much easier.

There are common elements to both units, and so you will find that it is much easier to make both at the same time, rather than making one after the other. No doubt, once you finish these units, you will have requests by other children (or their parents) for more of these, but at the very least, I would expect an invite to a (playhouse) dinner!

The basic construction principle is frame and panel, and is joined together using your favourite technique. I used biscuit joints throughout my version, but you could use dowels, pocket holes, or even butt joints reinforced with wood screws. The raised panels themselves can be made with specialist rail & stile router bits, or more simply with a half-lap frame, or even a mitered frame.

Exploded CAD view of sink

CAD view of Sink Unit

To start, create the side walls, using 42x19mm pine, and 90x19mm pine for the base. The panel is cut from a sheet of 6mm plywood. The panel is fitted by rebating a 10mm groove all round the frame, and the panel is cut 20mm oversize, so it fills the rebate completely. The back of each unit is made the same way, sized to match the unit. I made the sink unit wider, so I could fit 2 smaller doors, rather than a single large door. As I decided to decorate each door with a 3D pattern (the Dolphin, from Carb-i-tool), this dictated the minimum width of each door, and therefore the width of the cabinet overall.

Detail of Door

The front of the unit is a pine frame, made in pretty much the same way as the side and rear panels, but without the insert. The doors were then attached to the front using self-closing hinges. This meant the doors would not tend to swing out on their own accord, and I didn’t have to add extra hardware to keep the doors shut. The doors themselves are a mini version of the side panels, with commercially produced wooden knobs.

The stove is a little different, as there is no frame for the front. Instead it has the control panel at the top, and a baseboard holding the sides together. Wooden wheels are used as dials (made using the Carb-i-tool wheel cutter, but you could also use a holecutter equally as well), and another is cut down to provide a latch to hold the oven door shut. The lower panel has a 45 degree taper, matching a 45 degree taper in the bottom of the oven door.

The oven door is made by joining two boards together (using either biscuits or dowels), then the oven window is cut out with a jigsaw. You could, if you chose, make a replaceable insert to fit behind the oven window, and on this glue pictures of what is currently cooking, so the child can change the picture, depending on the meal. The handle is easily cut with the jigsaw, and attached by glue and screws. The 45 degree taper on the lower panel and the door is very important. Firstly, so the oven door can open (very important), and secondly for strength. When the oven door is fully opened, the tapers meet, providing extra support for the hinges. When the child then climbs on top of the door to clean the oven, it helps to stop the hinges from breaking off.

Stove Unit

Oven Detail

The floor is made of 19mm pine, for the extra strength needed if the unit is used in a game of hide & seek! Under the floor are support uprights, to transfer any weight directly to the ground. You can leave the bottom of the units flush with the ground, or use a jigsaw to cut a bit of a decorative lower edge.

The top of the stove and sink are made with either 19mm pine, (which needs to be joined to get the required width), or 12-15mm plywood. In the photos, the sink is pine, the stove is ply. The stove elements are made using a jigsaw and a home made circle cutting jig (simply a board with a nail that the jigsaw is affixed to). You could also do this with a router, a scrollsaw, or ideally, a bandsaw.

Sink Unit CAD

For the sink unit, an opening is cut with a jigsaw for the sink itself. The taps are again made with a wheel cutter or holecutter, and the faucet cut with a jigsaw.

Sink Unit

Sink Cupboard

The sink itself is a real feature of the entire set. You could buy a plastic container to be used as the sink, or you could do what I have done here, and make your own. It is made by cutting a number of U shapes (these do not have to be accurate at this stage), which are glued together to obtain the required width of the sink. If you were really keen, you could use a different wood for every second U shape which would produce a stunning effect. Once the shapes are glued together, you need a bandsaw to cut out the inside of the sink. If you do not have a bandsaw, you need to cut the U shapes very accurately so you are able to avoid this step. Next, glue the front and back onto the sink, and when dry, cut the outside of the sink shape. That is it to get this stunning sink. If you intend to let the sink be filled, you need to use a waterproof glue, and provide some form of drainage, and to seal the sink so water cannot rot it.

Exploded CAD View of Sink Design

Depending on access to the individual components, I round all corners off to remove sharp edges, and potential splinters. The finish is a matter of personal preference. In this case, I left the cabinets unfinished, so the parents of the child they were for could choose whether to paint, stain and varnish, poly, or leave as raw timber.

All in all, it is a very satisfying project, that is not particularly difficult, and can be made in a weekend.

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