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What’s in Your Toolbox: with Some Tips and Tricks for Building

06.10.11
Project Image

We talked about my secret weapon in the last episode of WIYT (that article can be found here) and I showed you why I love that tool so much. Yesterday I had the fabulous experience of building with my Sis in Law and I got to show her the power of the Kreg Jig! To say that it was blowing her mind is an understatement! She was IN LOVE! and will be ready for her own sometime this week! I think she should move right into the Master System, because I am fairly certain I have just helped her develop a new addiction and that it will get plenty of use! I’m curious how many of you have the Jr. and how many have the Master System? I think we should take a poll this afternoon…stay tuned for that! Just for fun of course…

Many of you were asking about my clamps that were seen in the photos, that would be one of my other secret weapons! I wrote an article for The DIY Club a while back talking about them and I will share bit of that with you all now! The article was not only about the clamps, but about what to do once you have the plans… how do you actually get started with your build, and some of my tips and tricks for building, along the way:

 So You Have the Plans, Now What? How to Actually Build a Rustic Raised Toy Box”

The plans had been drafted for the Rustic Toy Box for a month or so, but I wasn’t ready to tackle the build until my Adjustable Clamp It Kit from Rockler arrived along with my Gorilla Glue.  Once those beauties were safe and sound in my hot little hands, it was time to start building!

When you are working with a structure that involves a basic box formation, making sure you are building a perfectly square box is crucial. Sound simple? Trust me, it’s not… To make matters a bit more challenging and fun, when you raise that structure up on 4 legs, a seemingly basic build becomes a lot more complicated. Finding a product like the Adjustable Clamp It Kit from Rockler was precisely what I needed to feel confident in my ability to get this done without any wiggle wobble. Any of you who build, know exactly what I’m talking about! Below is the basic construction plan for this project. I chose to use 2 – 1×8 boards stacked, on the sides, rather than plywood or MDF, to give my piece a bit of that extra rustic and retro style I was going for.

When you are attempting a build, in addition to making sure your sides are squared up, you will also need to be sure your boards are perfectly sized, especially if they will be stacked 2 to a side as mine were going to be. My general practice is to chop, sand, paint and then adjust for perfection. That is simply my personal process and everyone should find a process that works for them. I choose to paint the boards prior to assembly, at least for my basic base coat, because I tend to end up with a more perfect finish, even if that finish will be rustic or weathered later. Note: Weathered does not mean terrible paint application (just something to keep in mind, hint, hint) so avoiding corners and drips works best for me. A touch up later along with a bit of refining for my finish, where I might need more paint, is ideal.

In the image below you can see that as I am ready to begin my build, I have a slightly uneven length for 2 of my adjacent boards. A bit of sanding or a few additional cuts will fix that right up, but this isn’t something to take lightly. Not adjusting for precise measurements will throw me off square no matter how well my adjustable clamps work, since having one board be longer than the other will send my legs askew.

How is that for precise…yep, in the image below it looks perfect. I just used my sander, but only because my workshop (a.k.a. garage) and my saw, were slightly tied up in the middle of a spring cleaning crisis. It would have been faster to use a saw to do this kind of adjusting (without doubt).

Once your boards are ready to be assembled and all systems are go, you will want to put a good smear of Gorilla Glue Wood Glue along your edges, where they will form a joint.

My personal style of Gorilla Glue placement is to run a line along the edge in question, then run my finger along that line to spread the glue across the edge of my board, a bit more evenly. I do this to keep drips from occurring and to ensure that I have glue along the entire edge and I don’t end up with a spotty attachment. Drips along corners and edges are really tough to sand off, or stain over, so avoiding them is ideal!

When your boards are perfected, your glue is in place, you are ready to pull out your adjustable clamps and set them for a 90 degree angle. This will help you fasten your pieces together, without the worry that you are joining your boards at an undesirable angle (as in, anything other than 90 degrees, if you are building a box).

It took me a bit of practice to eyeball about where the clamp needs to sit in order for the perpendicular board to hit at the right spot. The image above is not that right spot, but a bit of easy adjusting and I was ready to roll! The clamps are so simple to use and adjust so easily for the appropriate width of your pieces and for placing or adjusting the location of the clamp to make your right angle. Simply turn the handle in one direction to loosen the grip, then turn again in the opposite direction to tighten it back up when you have it in the right spot. Rock out the gripper at the opposite end of the clamp bar to allow for extra wide pieces, then turn the handle to adjust to tightness. Easy Peasy… Since I was unable to reach my trusty Pocket Hole Jig in the spring cleaning process, I turned to my other trusty friend…the countersink bit and pre-drilled for my screws.

With everything lined up perfectly, and at a proper 90 degree angle, it’s time to make the magic happen! It is just a process of step and repeat until you have each board fastened to each leg.

This simple little item made a seemingly simple build, truly simple. I will honestly say that I will use these clamps until I kill them, if that is even possible…which it most likely isn’t, given it’s make up of amazingly durable hard plastic. I have already tried to kill this a few times (not intentionally, but it’s fairly common practice for me to drop things, kick them underneath something, and then knock that something over on top of them) and to my delight…not even a slight scratch!

Didn’t it turn out amazingly well? Now let’s see if my toddler will actually use it…to be continued on that front! If you might like to give this plan a try, head over here to view the full set of plans, with Cut List and Materials required. Have you been bitten by the building bug? Not to worry…you will be, if you haven’t already!

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