Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!)

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Trimming the Drawer Faces

Postby ultimatedesk » Mon Jan 17, 2011 3:23 pm

Had another really busy weekend and unfortunately, wasn't able to post the update on the weekend like I originally wanted to...

BUT! Made a new friend - meet Mr.Air Nailer.

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Nice and fast, no need to clamp everything down, and I can get a lot more trim done a lot quicker.

I really did a better job of being picky with the trim, and selected cuts that matched the colour a lot better:

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Compared to the first drawer face that I tried:

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That had to change, so I took my most subtle and elegant tools:

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And, replaced the two mis-coloured pieces with nicer ones.

Anyways - this is what my trim production line looked like for the day:

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First, I would mark off the lengths on an appropriately coloured piece of trim just using a pencil and holding the trim against the piece:

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Take it over to the miter saw and trim it to within a sixteenth of an inch or so on both ends:

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See that cedar log in the bottom right? Remember it being longer? Mike was in the shop today turning them into table legs, which partially explains the big mess!

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I then took the piece that is being trimmed, as well as the trim, to the little sander. I would sand to a good 90 degree angle, and get the length just right.

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Glue down, and nail down!

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Occasionally, I'll crack the trim with the nailer... which means it has to be removed, and re-done with a new piece of trim:

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After some sanding:

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I finished all 3 drawer faces and then got started on the actual drawers. They look pretty decent. Not perfect, but they look nice.

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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby skier » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:48 pm

good effort! most people (Like me on most projects that aren't speaker-related) would just leave the slightly cracked trim 8-[
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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby ultimatedesk » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:40 pm

skier wrote:good effort! most people (Like me on most projects that aren't speaker-related) would just leave the slightly cracked trim 8-[
Hehe, thanks skier, we'll see how the patience pays off later!! ;)

I used a fairly similar process as the drawer faces, I started out by cutting myself some fresh trim strips from this piece of maple:

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Hit the miter saw and sander, and lay down some glue:

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Then with the nailer. Whoops, one more split.

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Here's a before and after shot from the sanding. You'll notice the maple strips got burnt pretty badly when I put them through the table saw (The blade is getting a bit old). After a bit of sanding, they look as fresh as ever:

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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby ultimatedesk » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:44 pm

After trimming all of the drawers and faces, I had to get some wood filler to fill in all of the screw and nail holes, as well as the small voids between the plywood and solid wood. All in all, this process went OK - not as nice as I would have liked.

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For the mostpart, I used Elmers Natural Colour Wood Filler. While it did the job, the colour matching wasn't exactly... inconspicious, to say the least. I also tried mixing some sawdust from the random-orbit sander with some wood glue, with not so great results.

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You can clearly see, in the end result, that the sawdust/glue filler looks more like glue. It has an almost transparent look to it. I guess I should have used more sawdust?

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Anyways, I finished up the rest of the voids and holes with the regular Elmers stuff:

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And then sanded it it all up:

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Anyone have any tips on how I can further hide the holes? I will have to go over them again with some more wood filler just to smooth them out completely, but even so, I have a feeling that the stain will accentuate all of my filling, which is not the desired effect, to say the least!!

I have ALMOST determined the stain / technique I will be using. I'm getting some very nice, richly coloured red mahogany / cherry right now on my test boards. With that in mind, has anyone used darker wood filler than the natural wood, when staining dark with good effect?

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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby Sporg » Mon Jan 24, 2011 5:59 pm

Wood glue and sawdust mix is what I've always used to try and hide things. I have a friend who's a builder and cabinet maker and see what other tips he has.
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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby ultimatedesk » Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:02 pm

Sporg wrote:Wood glue and sawdust mix is what I've always used to try and hide things. I have a friend who's a builder and cabinet maker and see what other tips he has.
Thanks, I'd appreciate that Sporg. I'm going to have to do some testing with various wood fillers with stain on top - turns out I may need to go with a darker wood filler so it doesn't stand out as much after the stain, so we'll see - experimentation time!

No update today - in the next few days I should have something though, been too busy with work lately for an update

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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby skier » Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:41 am

you should use the sawdust from the specific type or even piece of wood and pay attention to the grain color and of course direction in the particular area you are covering (if it is a deep colored section of maple, use darker sawdust etc.) and mix the sawdust with either woodglue or the filler itself, IIRC i mixed the sawdust with some kind of filler back in my woodworking days (took woodworking twice to make more things) but a majority of the wood I used was pine and maybe one piece of 3/8 plywood

more recently on the touchtable i built I used the MDF and plywood with 2x4's but that I just painted white latex because the interior had to be the brightest white we could make it. didn't even touch the exterior as it was just a prototype
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New Sponsor - Crucial!

Postby ultimatedesk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:57 pm

skier wrote:you should use the sawdust from the specific type or even piece of wood and pay attention to the grain color and of course direction in the particular area you are covering (if it is a deep colored section of maple, use darker sawdust etc.) and mix the sawdust with either woodglue or the filler itself, IIRC i mixed the sawdust with some kind of filler back in my woodworking days (took woodworking twice to make more things) but a majority of the wood I used was pine and maybe one piece of 3/8 plywood

more recently on the touchtable i built I used the MDF and plywood with 2x4's but that I just painted white latex because the interior had to be the brightest white we could make it. didn't even touch the exterior as it was just a prototype
Hmm, that's a good idea, I didn't even think about mixing the sawdust with the filler. The glue was a little difficulty to work with. It sounds by all means, like I'm going to have to do some experimentation no matter what. Thanks for another tool for my arsenal ;)

Received a nice package in the mail a couple weeks ago that I've been meaning to show off...

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What could it be?

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Woohoo!!!

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That's:
4 x 2 GB of 1600Mhz CL7 Ballistix RAM from Crucial and
2 x 2 GB of 1333Mhz ECC, Registered RDIMM RAM from Crucial!

So it looks like for the main system I will have some options. Currently I'm thinking either a socket 1156 Core i5/i7 or a newer Sandy Bridge socket 1155. The only issue that may occur with the Sandy Bridge is that those Crucial Ballistix are rated for 1.65 Volts, which I understand is a bit over the recommended voltage for RAM for the 1155 boards. There is a possibility of looking at an AMD AM3 system as well with a Phenom x4 or x6 - I have not made up my mind entirely yet.

For the server system, I am almost definetely going with a Xeon processor - which motherboard is still in the air.

Aren't they so nice? ;)

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Can't wait to open them up and test them out! It'll have to wait for now, however.

So here's a distraction - my cat! She's going to have some kittens soon!

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Big thanks go out to Crucial, who are officially the first sponsor for The Ultimate Computer Desk

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http://www.crucial.com

Stay tuned, lots of updates in the pipeline!

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Trimming the Desk Surface

Postby ultimatedesk » Thu Feb 03, 2011 1:54 pm

Last time I left off, with regards to the table surface, I had just finished gluing and screwing it together. I put it on the backburner for about a week to dry while I worked on the drawers, and now I'm going to take it down in preparation for putting the outer trim on it.

Here it is:

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All 4 sides were a bit off, with regards to the flushness. This was expected, as the initial sizing cuts were pretty rough, and it's better to have extra material than not enough.

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Took out a straight-cut flush bit for the router, and some 60-grit sandpaper for the random orbital sander, and got to work. I did two passes with the router, because since the bit is not 1 1/2" tall, I couldn't trim the whole side of the table with just one pass.

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And, after a bit of work, the final result:

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The next step is to take a long strip of maple and turn it into trim for the table surface.

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Adding Trim to the Desk Surface

Postby ultimatedesk » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:00 am

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.

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Looks good!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby lordvic » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:45 pm

Wow your desk is really coming along great!
Ahh..the good'ol hand plane :)
Haven't done any woodworking in the past couple years; after following your build, I'm thinking about it...

Keep it up & keep your project updated! :drinkers:
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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby Major_A » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:47 am

Cool build. I am extremely jealous of your woodworking skills. I went with a family member to a woodworking show and saw this little CNC machine. They let me play with the software and it seemed pretty easy.
http://www.carvewright.com/2010CWweb/index.htm

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Dado Cutting

Postby ultimatedesk » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:29 pm

lordvic wrote:Wow your desk is really coming along great!
Ahh..the good'ol hand plane :)
Haven't done any woodworking in the past couple years; after following your build, I'm thinking about it...

Keep it up & keep your project updated! :drinkers:
Thanks lordvic! It's a bit slow lately, but things are picking up. Should have some fun updates soon!

Major_A wrote:Cool build. I am extremely jealous of your woodworking skills. I went with a family member to a woodworking show and saw this little CNC machine. They let me play with the software and it seemed pretty easy.
http://www.carvewright.com/2010CWweb/index.htm
Thanks Major_A! I checked out that link too, how cool is that stuff eh? I think I could find some neat uses for something like that.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Basement Move

Postby ultimatedesk » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:30 pm

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:

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

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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.

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Some of my personal tools:

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

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Quick Test Fitting

Postby ultimatedesk » Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:40 pm

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.

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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.

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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!)

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A couple more progress shots:

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

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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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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby smack323 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:31 am

I saw these the other day and thought about your project.. another option for mounting your PC.

http://www.amazon.com/MYOPENPC-Transparent-Computer-Mainboards-compatible/dp/B003CTR3ME/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1298982316&sr=1-1
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First Staining Attempt

Postby ultimatedesk » Mon Mar 14, 2011 11:54 am

smack323 wrote:I saw these the other day and thought about your project.. another option for mounting your PC.

http://www.amazon.com/MYOPENPC-Transparent-Computer-Mainboards-compatible/dp/B003CTR3ME/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1298982316&sr=1-1
Hoo boy, you're on the right track - thanks for that excellent find! You'll see what I've managed to scrounge out for the mobo mounts pretty soon...

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: http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=3&sqi=2&ved=0CCwQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthewoodwhisperer.com%2Fstaining-maple%2F&rct=j&q=the%20wood%20whispere%20staining&ei=cUJLTd2VJoidOo3LnUI&usg=AFQjCNGo_NcP_Jil7EwTpPVmTP7DMhxJew&sig2=kA_qSml-d2YW4s6XJcHQ-A&cad=rja 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:

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

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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:

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

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And, onto the wood:

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Wait 5 minutes, wipe off...

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

How about a second coat.

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

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Huh...

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

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

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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:

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Cute, no? A litter of 5 - the first one was stillborn, so we've got 4 kittens, pretty exciting stuff. ;)

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Second Staining Attempt

Postby ultimatedesk » Tue Mar 15, 2011 11:55 am

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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Major_A
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Re: Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk (56k Warning!!

Postby Major_A » Tue Mar 15, 2011 8:25 pm

My favorite stain has always been Minwax's Early American. I see though that you are going for the darker stains so that's out. Keep up the good work.

ultimatedesk
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Third Staining Attempt

Postby ultimatedesk » Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:58 pm

Major_A wrote:My favorite stain has always been Minwax's Early American. I see though that you are going for the darker stains so that's out. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Major_A - I'll have to give that Early American stain a shot someday, in a future project.

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:
http://www.youtube.com/user/MrAderome#p/u

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!

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http://www.kingston.com

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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!

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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

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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)

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

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

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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

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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.

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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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