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Troubleshooting the Build and Working Around your Kiddos

09.01.11 By //
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I just finished the very long process of painting my V-Frame Shelf (plans for this are here) and spent some time thinking about some pretty funny and frustrating occurrences that might take place during a build.  Inevitably it seems the finishing portion of my projects is truly the most lengthy.

In my house, there are some frustrating and tiresome tidbits that always seem to pop up, and likely will for you at some point as well, at least if you happen to be like me, and you are limited on time and resources and you tend to purchase materials in sizes and quantities that can be used for multiple projects and future builds rather than the simple project at hand…of course, if you are wrangling a kiddo in the process, you will definitely have quite a bit of stop and start.

It never fails that things will go wrong or not as expected, and you will run out of what you need, just before you need it, or that just when things are working themselves out and you think you found a way around your problem area, the little green monster of toddler terrorism rears it’s head and takes you for a ride down difficult lane.

This particular project was one of those projects for me…every single thing that could go wrong, did!  I am not even exaggerating to say so.

I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to share some of those experiences with you and to show you that even when the going gets tough, that you shouldn’t lose confidence and there is always a way to troubleshoot and attempt to rectify… to show you that not every build goes smoothly and sometimes things just turn out terribly and are completely out of your control, but that it’s ok, and really doesn’t matter much in the end.

If you are scared to build and unsure of your abilities…this article is for you!

so…let’s talk about some of my troubles…

Where do I begin…the first of my problems began when I couldn’t find any of my trusty tools or “go-to” items, thanks to the hubs and his willy-nilly reorganization of the garage earlier this month.  We needed to replace out garage door after it randomly crumpled in on itself, and the ‘garage door man’ (I’m pretty sure that’s his real title…) needed a 15 foot clearance to replace the door.  That’s a big request when you downsize by 1600 square feet and much of your “stuff” is still boxed in the garage, to save space in the house.  I am sure you will have no problem imagining that this “request” resulted in floor to ceiling piles of “stuff” that were no longer in any type of order or  rationale.

Amongst the missing tools, that had become part of the chaos, were my clamps, wood filler, and sandpaper for my sander. After running out of 1 1/2″ pocket hole screws, I later discovered this list also included my regular drill/driver bits, and my countersink bits.  Pretty much all of my tools, were nowhere to be found.  I wouldn’t have needed the 1 1/2″ screws in the first place, if I was able to find my good clamps for using with  my Kreg Jig Jr., and if I hadn’t had so many issues getting the unit to stay in place, while I drilled my pocket holes.  I am pretty sure the clamp I was attempting to use might have been a toy, and if not…it probably should be.  Every time I started to drill, the power of the bit and the drill sent my jig scurrying across my board or right off the edge.  This happened every single time, regardless of how tight the clamp was, what it was clamped to, and how hard I tried to get that bad boy to sit still.  Of course I couldn’t simply stop what I was doing and head to the store to buy what I needed, because my kiddo was sound asleep (on the family room floor no less) after fighting me on taking a nap for 2 hours…I wasn’t about to wake him up!

Somehow this clamping disaster threw off my settings and placed the pocket holes just a smidge out of range for the more appropriately sized, and more adequately stocked, 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.  I had no choice but to move up a size and hadn’t accounted for this since I only had about 6 pocket hole screws in this “new” size…as I mentioned a second ago, I didn’t have my regular bits to use with my wood screws so I was forced to use really long pocket hole screws from the outside (ugh, and visible) to fasten portions of this shelf together..AFTER I had already created all of the pocket holes for the entire project, and of course a few extra pocket holes were made, in an attempt “fix” the problematic length of screw I needed.

I was basically left with a zillion visible pocket holes to fill, visible (and protruding) screw heads, and dozens of other areas that needed to be filled or sanded down for various reasons…I was in need of an extreme amount of wood filler on this piece.  I am talking boat loads of filler, just to bring this piece up to par and make it a bit less terrible…and swiss cheese like.

Which brings me to my next problem.. I couldn’t find the filler.  sigh…one problem after another and lot’s of frustration at my hubs and his method of organized chaos.

With a kiddo in tow, it isn’t always easy (and sometimes impossible) to rush out to the hardware store, and get the supplies I need, when I need them.  Not to mention, the cost of these supplies adds up over time, and when you know you already own these things, the idea of spending money to replace them, can feel a bit unsettling.  Of course, I tried to wing it, only to come to that inevitable conclusion that there are just steps to the process that can’t be skipped, and shouldn’t be altered and any attempt to sidestep them, will result in sending you back to the starting line without letting you collect $200 without a get out of jail free card.

Alas, all of these issues came to a boiling point, and I needed to either find the missing tools, or purchase replacements.  After my wholehearted attempt to prime my way out of these dilemmas failed, I decided this way of building was just not working, not even a little bit.

After an expensive trip to the store, with wood filler in hand, and sandpaper in the queue, I was armed with the tools necessary for attempting to disguise the fact that I had ultimately assembled and fastened this piece together using several pocket hole screws as though they regular wood screws and without their pocket holes.  I attempted to neatly fasten them in such a way as that they might look purposefully placed, but since I knew they would ultimately be covered in paint, they could never completely look purposeful or decorative .  This was a long project…have I mentioned that yet?

It would seem that by a silly string of events, I was going with a rustic look, whether I wanted to or not!

When you have screws that will ultimately show, it is all the more necessary to place them well, and to consider how they may best seem as though they were meant to be there.  If you notice in the picture above I did a moderately decent job of keeping them in order and placed them where one might if  they were giving this shelf a rustic look, and the screws had a decorative purpose, even though they definitely didn’t.

I did my best to slather this bad boy with filler, and made it through 3 rounds of filling and sanding, before deciding that I was too impatient to continue on in this careful manner, and went ahead with the sanding process for prepping my finish.

A good sanding can be the difference between a decent build and a fabulous build and finish.  You can fix or disguise slight errors that have been made, to a certain extent, and smooth your surface to allow for a well painted finish.  I sanded for almost 2 hours in total, and ran the gamut from moderately coarse to extra fine paper and the results of my work took my problematic build, to a decent finale.  I couldn’t sand off the screw heads, unfortunately, but I wasn’t willing to remove them and start again, so this baby turned out beautifully considering…

The moral of this story?  You WILL run into problems or hiccups along the way if you tackle multiple projects…it’s how you choose to handle them, that will make or break you.  You will learn and you will laugh, and perhaps you will even cry a bit, but frankly it won’t matter much when you have something beautiful to look at, of your own making, a true work of creation!  Hopefully you can even add saving quite a bit of money to the list of accomplishments, and you will have a custom piece, in the color and finish of your choosing.  No more living at the mercy of the retailers.

I would love for you to share your own funny or frustrating experiences with us…please email me with your stories or post them to the forum!  Most of us can relate and we love to know we aren’t alone in the silly department!

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