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Scratch Build: Building the Ultimate Computer Desk

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Old 02-11-2011, 08:51 AM   #41
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The last time I left off, I had just finished flushing the sides of the table in preparation to add some trim. I found a nice piece of long maple that was just a little over 8 feet long, a little wider than 1.5 inches, and thick enough to cut some 1/4 inch strips from.

I layed it out, setup the table saw and cut myself a test piece.



Looks good!



Here's a pic of the cutting process. I'm afraid I had some difficulty with this. Actually, let me rephrase - the saw had some difficulty with this. I was still using the same blade I've been using the whole project - which needs replacement pretty badly. Asking it to cut through 1.5 inches of maple, for a length of 8 feet was asking a lot of it.



I made it through eventually, but the whole process left quite a few burn marks on the wood.



I glued and nailed the trim around the perimeter of the desk, which was a pretty straightforward process.



And then took out a hand plane to get rid of most of the excess material and bring the trim down flush with the desk surface. Some neat pictures here.





After some sanding with some 60-grit on the random orbit sander to get everything smooth, I went nuts with the wood filler.







At that point I stood the surface up in the back of the shop and called it a night.

Next update in the loop, I setup some dado blades in the table saw, mmm mmmm, that was fun!

Have a good weekend everyone!

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Old 02-11-2011, 11:13 AM   #42
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I love it, you have access to a router and you still used the hand plane. There is nothing like the satisfaction of doing things the old-fashioned way...

But you could have had those edges flush in the fraction of the time using a trim bit on the router...


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Old 02-25-2011, 12:55 PM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gavinzach View Post
I love it, you have access to a router and you still used the hand plane. There is nothing like the satisfaction of doing things the old-fashioned way...

But you could have had those edges flush in the fraction of the time using a trim bit on the router...

You know, that is rather hilarious now that I think about it. I think that while I was working in the shop for those several weeks, I kept looking at the hand planes hanging on the wall and just waiting for the right moment to use it lol. Anyways - look at those cool curly strips of wood!!

It's been a while since the last update, but basically, I got around to installing the dado blade on the table saw to make some important cuts for the two cabinets, and was able to do a bit of test fitting.

For those of you not really in the know, a dado blade has two regular saw blades (One for the left, one for the right) and some irregular shaped blades of varying thickness that you put in between, until you get the right width. I'll let the pictures do the talking.







The beauty of using dado blades in the table saw (At least I think) is that you can set it up at the right height and width, and then set the fence to the proper width and do all 3 of your supporting boards one after another so they will be lined up perfectly when it comes time for assembly.



I put 3 cuts in each of the 3 supporting walls of the left-hand cabinet. There was a bit of chipping, I should have probably put down some masking tape, but it's nothing major and will be on the inside anyways.



I threw on a bit of wood filler to patch up the chipped parts, and then let these 3 dry while I worked on the right-hand cabinet cuts.



I then had some time to put together a quick test fitting! Not bad! Some of the wood was just a bit crooked, so I'll have to spend some time with the sander to loosen up some of the dado joints.













This pretty much completes the first phase of the project - I won't have any use for any of the big, messy tools anymore.

All that's really left are a few small detail cuts, some holes need to be cut out, the whole thing needs to be sanded to pre-stain state, and then assembly and staining!

I'll be bringing all of the materials back to my place where I'll be doing just that.
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Old 02-25-2011, 12:56 PM   #44
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And, through the miracle of internet technology, I'm bringing you the next update right away!

There wasn't much work done in this update - just thought I'd show everyone where the progress is going to be taking place from now on. The spooky basement in my building!

It's a really old house, at least over a hundred years old, in fact, there's a 12" x 12" solid beam of wood running as the main support member along the entire length of the house, it must be at least 30 feet long. Can't get those any more!!!

My main complaint with the basement is that I am constantly bashing my head on the low ceiling beams, and it's quite cold! Getting motivated to go work down there is not nearly as easy as working in the nice, heated wood shop.

Time to let the pictures do the talking:





I purchased a new shop vac at Canadian Tire along with a bunch of other stuff during the Boxing Week sales after Christmas. Sweet.



I also setup a plastic wall to help prevent sawdust from going all over the basement, as well as to help keep any breezes contained when it comes time to stain.



Some of my personal tools:











And there we have it! Until next time, have a good weekend!
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Old 02-26-2011, 10:10 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ultimatedesk View Post
And, through the miracle of internet technology, I'm bringing you the next update right away!

There wasn't much work done in this update - just thought I'd show everyone where the progress is going to be taking place from now on. The spooky basement in my building!

It's a really old house, at least over a hundred years old, in fact, there's a 12" x 12" solid beam of wood running as the main support member along the entire length of the house, it must be at least 30 feet long. Can't get those any more!!!

My main complaint with the basement is that I am constantly bashing my head on the low ceiling beams, and it's quite cold! Getting motivated to go work down there is not nearly as easy as working in the nice, heated wood shop.

Time to let the pictures do the talking:





I purchased a new shop vac at Canadian Tire along with a bunch of other stuff during the Boxing Week sales after Christmas. Sweet.



I also setup a plastic wall to help prevent sawdust from going all over the basement, as well as to help keep any breezes contained when it comes time to stain.



Some of my personal tools:











And there we have it! Until next time, have a good weekend!

None of the images are visible ??? Some problem with imageshack asking to register
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Old 02-26-2011, 09:46 PM   #46
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Quote:
None of the images are visible ??? Some problem with imageshack asking to register
They work for me :)
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Old 02-28-2011, 07:56 AM   #47
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This makes an interesting read! :)
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Old 02-28-2011, 11:15 AM   #48
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None of the images are visible ??? Some problem with imageshack asking to register
Weird, there was someone else having an issue viewing the images as well. Yes, they are all hosted on imageshack.us - are they still not working for you?

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They work for me :)
Perfect! ;)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silverj2k7 View Post
This makes an interesting read! :)
Thanks Silverj2k7! Stay tuned, there's plenty more to come!

So, I did a bit of work in the basement the other night, and since the next part of the project is going to be assembly, I decided to give it another shot at test fitting, since the last time I tried it was just loosely put together.

Time to get out the sander with some 80 grit. The hose on my shop vac is a little over 2", and I didn't have an adapter to attach it to the DeWalt ROB Sander unfortunately, so a little tape had to do the job.





I took each piece one by one and sanded down the edges where they slide into the dado cuts. I had to do a surprising amount of sanding, as the fit was incredibly tight.

I also took the time to label each piece (Top, Middle, Bottom, and which side faces the front) so that it could be easily repeatable when it comes time for final assembly.

Almost there. So tight! I needed a rubber mallet to set some of them, and then remove them afterwards.



This shelf was just ~slightly~ warped, and needed a lot of sanding so that one end was nice and snug, and this end actually a bit of free space (Hello wood filler!)



A couple more progress shots:





And, all tightly assembled. I could probably jump on this box...





I spent about an hour and a half doing that, and honestly, it was freezing cold down there and that's about all I could stand for that evening. Until next time!
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Old 03-14-2011, 10:41 AM   #49
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So - it's been some time since my last update (What has it been.. 2 weeks? Geez!) but I haven't been idle at home, it's just that I was really busy (There are kittens running around now!) and I've been working with some staining techniques, which has been a long, learning process.

I did a bit of research and came across a good video over here: Link and I opted to give it a shot, because there apparently, is a tendency for maple to come out a little blotchy due to the tight grain, or something or other like that.

So I picked up some supplies:



Made up a test board - some wood filler, some real maple trim, and one side sanded to 120 and the other sanded to 220:



And, apparently, I was supposed to cut the shellac with some denatured alcohol. Something I was not able to find, and subsequently, I found out that it is actually quite difficult to obtain here in Ottawa. I did not realize at the time, that I could have cut it with methyl hydrate, which is something quite commonly available at the local Canadian Tire.

And, this is where things start to go wrong. Here is the shellac applied:



Ok, not bad. Full strength. Ended up closing the grain structure completely, most likely. Here is the gel stain I chose:



And, onto the wood:



Wait 5 minutes, wipe off...



Gross. Seriously? This is why you test on samples first. Look at that colour - it's practically pink!

How about a second coat.



And why the heck not, we'll stain the back as well, where it hasn't been shellac'd.



Huh...





Now really. That was not quite what I was expecting. Time to get a new sample piece - no shellac, but sanded properly to 120.







What's going on here? This is not really the expected "richness" of a dark gel stain like this, is it? Hmm..



Doh! Looks like keeping the gel stain in the basement, where it is freezing, separated the contents. There is a visible layer of clear liquid on top of the stain - that shouldn't be there.

Staining attempt number 1? Failure.

1. If you're using shellac to seal, to avoid streaking and blotching - you MUST cut it
2. If you're going to use a gel stain, don't keep it in a cold environment before you're about to use it.

Well, time to put the stain upstairs for a little while, and maybe another trip to the hardware store... And just an fyi, this took me about a week just to do the 2 samples, since it's so cold, I can only do 1 coat per day, as it takes a long time to dry.

And here's a little something else:



Cute, no? A litter of 5 - the first one was stillborn, so we've got 4 kittens, pretty exciting stuff. ;)
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:54 AM   #50
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Some of you may have wondered - "You stained 2 small pieces of wood in the past 2 weeks?! That's all you have to show for progress on THE ULTIMATE DESK?!"

Well, not quite... Really - I did more, I swear.

As you all know, the first staining attempt went really poorly, so I immediately went out and started on a second staining attempt. This time, I purchased some pre-stain wood conditioner, as well as a traditional oil-based stain. I also set out to do this the right way. If I'm going to spend a week staining small samples, I might as well have something to show for it. I cut 8 small blocks of wood, and sanded them all to 120 grit, just like before, and tacked them all off.



I had a plan this time - I was going to see what kind of colour combinations I could get with just 2 stains, and 1 wood conditioner (The gel stain, for what it's worth, had been mixed several times, and had been kept upstairs for a few days). Here is the wood conditioner I used. You can see in the background that it tints the wood just slightly.



Here is the oil-based stain I picked up. It's a Minwax product, Red Mahogany.



And of course, the Varathane Gel Stain that you've already seen, also, Red Mahogany.



In this picture you can see a bit how the oil stain reacts to the wood conditioner. The wood conditioner seemed to have hardly any effect on the gel stain, most likely because gel stains don't really penetrate the wood the same as an oil stain.



And in this picture you can see the whopping difference between the oil stain and gel stain, which are, strangely enough, supposed to be the same colour. The one on the left is the Minwax, and the one in the middle is the Varathane. Neither the first or second piece have wood conditioner on them. The piece on the right is wood conditioner + the Minwax oil stain.



Here's the production line, the stain is still wet, I haven't wiped off the excess yet.



And here is the result of 2 days of staining. (First day sanding, tacking, wood conditioner, first coat of stain, second day some of them got a second coat).

From left to right, here is what I did to get the different results (Some of them obvious, some of them pretty darn subtle).

1. Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain
2. Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain
3. Wood Conditioner + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain
4. Wood Conditioner + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain
5. Wood Conditioner + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain
6. Wood Conditioner + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain
7. Wood Conditioner + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain x 2 Coats
8. Wood Conditioner + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain x 2 Coats

Wow! It's pretty amazing the different shades you can get when using just 3 pretty simple substances.







I then set about the next 4 or 5 days applying one coat of high gloss polyurethane each day (That was a long and boring process). Basically, get home from work, go downstairs for a whole 5 minutes, do a quick sanding, tacking, and another light coat of poly, done for the day, wait for the next day.

Here's the final result of Staining Attempt Number Two. Please keep in mind, they are not in the same order that I mentioned above.





There's no doubt that I will use this method again in the future. I also now have a great set of staining samples for maple plywood that I will surely fine handy in the future (They are all marked on the back what the process / stain used was).

Guess what though. None of them really came out the way I wanted. I'm still in search for that rich, deep, red mahogany / cherry look, and these just won't cut it (Though I admit, I do like #5 and #6, but maybe only because of their really spectacular grain pattern).

See you next time for Staining Attempt Number Three! *sigh*



Oh - and here's another snap of the kittens - they are 20 days old when this picture was taken, and they had just opened their eyes only a couple days beforehand.



I won't be posting another update until next week, as I've decided to take a trip to the East Coast to celebrate St.Patricks day! I'll be in Halifax if anyone wants to go for a few pints! Have a great weekend everyone!
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Old 03-15-2011, 11:11 AM   #51
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When I was into my wood-turning, I never really managed any truly successful staining. Like you, I found a lot depended on both the type of stain (oil or water-based) and also the wood itself - Pines and Maples tend to be resinous woods, so staining would be harder than a more absorbent wood like Beech or Oak, for example.

I'm only part Irish so I'll only be having a couple of pints of Guinness on St Paddy's Day, have a great weekend yourself
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Old 03-15-2011, 06:23 PM   #52
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Maple is a wood that is best left light. I would only do light staining, possibly a golden oak coloration, or possibly dyeing. I am a firm believer in using stain to enhance the natural color of the medium, not change it. But I do understand, mahogany is very expensive!
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Old 03-16-2011, 06:42 AM   #53
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To get the color you want you may have to do some mixing of colors. When I stained the woodwork for my home I used 2 parts "Early American" to 1 part "Cherry" (Minwax).

Only in rare cases have I ever seen a professional painter use any type of wood conditioner.....I can see the use of such a product if you are going to spray the stain and not wipe down afterwards. For a deeper color allow the stain to set longer before wiping....trial and error will be the best guide for time. Gel stains are not my favorite and I avoid them.....I like the thinner liquids that will soak in but allow extra "soak time" for depth of color. If you find the wood hard to wipe you can use a rag dampened with paint thinner (mineral spirits).

Any finish should be applied in very thin coats. Be careful with the polyurethane if using in high humidity......the humidity is what sets the finish and you can ruin it by overworking. Laquers will turn milky in high humidity.......
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Old 03-16-2011, 11:38 AM   #54
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I agree with SABL. I will only work with liquid stain, they are much easier to mix, apply and they give the wood a much more natural color. I prefer spraying my stains as well.

be careful around seams... wood glue will show up like a sore thumb if it wasn't cleaned off properly!
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Old 03-20-2011, 02:47 PM   #55
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you are very talented ,but were is the finished product?
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Old 03-24-2011, 01:43 PM   #56
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To get the color you want you may have to do some mixing of colors. When I stained the woodwork for my home I used 2 parts "Early American" to 1 part "Cherry" (Minwax).

Only in rare cases have I ever seen a professional painter use any type of wood conditioner.....I can see the use of such a product if you are going to spray the stain and not wipe down afterwards. For a deeper color allow the stain to set longer before wiping....trial and error will be the best guide for time. Gel stains are not my favorite and I avoid them.....I like the thinner liquids that will soak in but allow extra "soak time" for depth of color. If you find the wood hard to wipe you can use a rag dampened with paint thinner (mineral spirits).

Any finish should be applied in very thin coats. Be careful with the polyurethane if using in high humidity......the humidity is what sets the finish and you can ruin it by overworking. Laquers will turn milky in high humidity.......
Thanks for the comments, SABL. In my experience so far, I certainly have a preference for a liquid oil-based stain as well. They seem to highlight the grain much nicer, however, I have had a difficult time getting the right depth of colour, unfortunately. You'll see below that I sacrifice a bit of grain highlight for a really rich colour with a new gel stain that I have tried.

Quote:
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I agree with SABL. I will only work with liquid stain, they are much easier to mix, apply and they give the wood a much more natural color. I prefer spraying my stains as well.

be careful around seams... wood glue will show up like a sore thumb if it wasn't cleaned off properly!
I am sort of worried about how the wood glue and wood filler will show up with this new stain. We'll just have to cross our fingers though I guess!

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you are very talented ,but were is the finished product?
Hehe, it's getting there, it's getting there, ok! ;)

gavinzach, I know what you mean about letting wood be naturally beautiful on its own, but I really had my heart set on a nice red colour, so unfortunately, budget-wise, this is the only way to go.

WereBo, thanks for the comments, it seems to me that many wood workers detest the finishing aspect. It would be incredibly frustrating to spend a 100 hours on a project, only to ruin it in a half hour after applying a stain! I had a great St.Patties day in Halifax - make a trip down there sometime. Most pubs per capita in Canada, if I'm not mistaken!!!

For those of you interested in seeing how the kittens are doing, I've been keeping a bit of a video log on them - ie. I have been taking quick video clips of them every few days, since day 0. You can check them out here:
YouTube - MrAderome's Channel

Also, here is a bit of a sneak peak, as far as actual computer hardware is concerned - I've been slowly acquiring bits and pieces, since I'm still not entirely sure what will end up in this Ultimate Computer Desk.

Kingston has decided to sponsor me, and has sent me this really fantastic SSD drive. I am PSYCHED!





As you are all aware, my first 2 staining attempts were successful in the sense that I learned a lot, however, I was still not achieving the result I originally wanted.

I decided to try something other than the tried-and-true local Home Depot, and I hit up a custom furniture store - Randalls. Let me tell you - it was a truly great experience, and I will be returning there many more times in the future due to the incredible service I received there.

I walked in with my backpack full of my 2nd attempt samples, and immediately a salesperson started talking with me about what I was there for. I explained to her the stains I tried, along with the techniques, and she asked to see my samples.

I pointed out the ones I liked, and why, and why I didn't like them, and she came back in a few minutes with a couple stains that might interest me. She then asked if she could do some sample stains on the back of the pieces I brought in. She took the pieces behind the counter, sanded them down, stained them, and came back in a few minutes with actual, real - this is what they're going to look like - samples.

How cool is that? I could have just gone there in the first place and spent the whole extra 2 dollars, but would have walked out with 1 product - the right one - the first time. Amazing - I'm really happy I discovered that place.

I can't imagine Home Depot opening up any of their products for a test piece.. I've never asked though, so who knows. Randall's is my goto place for stains now, however!



Once again, I decided to see what variety of colours I could get with what I had on hand, so I setup 8 samples once more:

1. Old Masters
2. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters
3. Wood Conditioner + Minwax + Old Masters
4. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters + Minwax
5. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters x 2 Coats
6. Old Masters x 2 Coats
7. Wood Conditioner + Varathane + Old Masters
8. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters + Varathane



I worked on the samples for about a week (1 coat per day, did 5 or 6 coats of poly on top, light sanding between poly coats)



Here are a couple close up shots while staining was in progress





And a comparison with the previous samples, once everything was nicely glossed up



Look at the difference in colour! Now that's more what I was looking for. There's no question that the gel stain has "muted" the grain a little bit, however, the colour is unquestionably closer to what I was looking for originally.

Here is a shot of my previously favorite samples from the 2nd round, against the new samples



And a closeup of the 2 samples I think I like the best. The differences between this batch are quite subtle, as the Old Masters gel stain has a very strong dye which mutes out the effects of conditioner, or any other stain applied before or after.



Now that's what I call progress! I think I can call it quits for testing stain now. Time to move on to the dreaded motherboard tray / I/O Slot stuff...

Until next time!
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Old 03-24-2011, 05:15 PM   #57
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Love the color selection.
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Old 03-31-2011, 02:17 PM   #58
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Love the color selection.
Thank you sir! I am a big fan of the newest batch as well! ;)


Sorry about the lack of updates everyone, it's not that I haven't been working on the desk much, but it's more that I've been using the camera a lot (You know.. kittens) and I haven't had time to sit down and sort through all the photos, re-size, crop, etc for some real proper updates.

I've had this update sitting on the back burner for a little while now and I've been meaning to squeeze in it somewhere. I had been talking with some folks at Danger Den because I was looking at their motherboard trays and I/O panels, and they've decided to sponsor me!

Big thanks go out to Danger Den, as these are critical components required for a professional end result - you've all seen the mangled results of the cases I tore up earlier in the project.


Let us help you be cool!



Everything came very nicely packed - not much loose play, and plenty of foam to absorb any shipping issues.



I had these PSU support brackets custom made:



I sent them a higher resolution image of this, that I threw together in Sketchup:



Also included in this little shipment were some momentary switches for power and reset. (These are really popular these days, aren't they?)



And some real nifty motherboard trays:





All the acrylic is 1/2" clear - I will leave them wrapped up until the project is close to completion. With these parts -finally- settled, I can cut some holes in the cabinets and actually put them together -for real- !!

Stay tuned, I'll sit down this weekend and sort through the next round of updates ;)
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Old 04-02-2011, 03:19 PM   #59
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Nice job so far!! Clearly evident that CnC was involved with the custom cuts.....if I had to do the same it would invlove the use of templates that would have to be custom made. Far more time consuming with templates.....CnC is controlled by servos and do not need a physical "guide" to replicate any part. Looks great and color is nice....pretty close to Mahogany.......and I have worked that wood many times. Also to note that there is more than one type of Mahogany.....but your sample looks fine.
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Old 04-12-2011, 09:32 AM   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SABL View Post
Nice job so far!! Clearly evident that CnC was involved with the custom cuts.....if I had to do the same it would invlove the use of templates that would have to be custom made. Far more time consuming with templates.....CnC is controlled by servos and do not need a physical "guide" to replicate any part. Looks great and color is nice....pretty close to Mahogany.......and I have worked that wood many times. Also to note that there is more than one type of Mahogany.....but your sample looks fine.
Thanks, the trays and psu brackets are indeed done with CnC - wouldn't that be a nice local modding resource to have!

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Originally Posted by good710 View Post
Thank you, for answering. But this method works for me only with .. In all other cases I get only strange results, like those below
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Hehe, to each his own I guess!!!


So - it's been sometime since I've posted an update - apologies, things have been very busy lately.

With the parts from Danger Den having arrived, I could now move on to some more specific details with both of the cabinets that will contain the computers.

Once again, I started with a test fitting, this time, it was a very accurate fitting, requiring quite a bit of sanding and fiddling around to get as close to the final product as possible.







I then placed some test parts for fitting, and traced some outlines on the wood. The motherboard tray was placed on some thin strips of packing foam that I cut up, to help isolate any vibration from the CPU Heatsink.





Installed some new blades on the jigsaw, put my biggest drill bit in the drill, and went to town!





After doing the rough cut with the jigsaw, I took out the router and free-handed with a straight bit to smooth out the edges.



The semi-finished air intake for the left-hand cabinet:



The power supply rough cut:





I decided that the PSU bolts will need a little more clearance around the screw holes.



The I/O Shield cut out was a bit tricky to measure, but I think I did a pretty decent job:







And a final shot from above and below:





Next update, I'll have pics of actual assembly of the left hand cabinet, and then more cutting, and biscuit joining on the right-hand cabinet.

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