Project: Table riser

The Problem

My good friend Nick is an avid board gamer and enjoys hosting game nights at his house. He had helped fund a Kickstarter for the Duchess gaming table. The setup he envisioned for his house was a bar-height table with stools. Essentially, he needed a way to raise his top of his table about 10 inches, and came to me for advice on how to do that.

The Planning

I thought the most stable solution would be to create a box with a lip that ran along the edges so the table couldn’t slide off. I made a quick sketch of that idea, and started brainstorming for lid ideas. I figured since the riser would be a big box, it should have large access panels for storage. I toyed with using a piano hinge to have doors that opened, though I ended up not going that route.

Table riser


I also made a miniature cardboard mock-up of the plan to show him a 3D representation of the riser.

The Project

On the advice of a friend, I used CutList Plus to help me lay out the cuts for HomeDepot to hit with their panel saw. You enter in the dimensions of the pieces you need for your project, and the application figures out the most effective way to cut it from standard size stock. Really, the riser was such a basic thing, I don’t think was necessary, however, if I had a more complex task I would likely use the software again.Rather than taking home full sheets of MDF for the riser, most lumber / big box hardware stores will have a panel saw and can cut the full 4 by 8 foot panels down. This makes transporting the stock materials much easier. I managed to fit all the sections plus scrap into the back of the Subaru.

I love having an Outback. So handy.

I try to start all my assembly projects by organizing the pieces and test fitting before i get out the nail gun or the glue.

MDF stock and tools ready to start assembly.

It’s difficult to see in the smaller pic here, but I have laid out the pattern for the lids. Straightforward geometry, mostly. I think three inches from the short side, and four or five on the long side. I used an old coffee can to get the radius on the corners. It’s not fancy, but it works.

Guide lines sketched onto the riser top.

View of the inside of the riser. All the table’s weight is going to be at the four corners. The table will rest on the MDF top, which rests on the 2 x 4 support chine. (I’m not sure if you would those chines in non-boat-building woodwork, but that’s what I know them as. Woodworkers: please feel free to correct me.)
The point I was attempting to make before derailing myself with lexical semantics, is this riser is incredibly robust. Note that there is a a couple inch gap between the top of the 2×4 and the top of the sides. This gives the lip inside which the table rests, keeping it in place.

2×4 sections nailed and glued to the sides.

Test fit of the top within the box frame. Not much to add at this stage other than I breathed a large sigh of relief when the top slid into place. I’m not used to building with a high level of precision. Most of the things I work with have a fairly large margin of error, so I was pleasantly surprised when this came together so nicely.

Test fit of all the parts. I think this might work!

Next I needed to remove the access panels. I still hadn’t exactly decided on how to affix them. I knew They would need some kind of support from inside to keep them from falling in. Even with a hinge, the panels are pretty long, which would have a lot of strain. MDF doesn’t handle torque very well. It tends to burst if used as a lever. So I would need to make some kind of lip for the inside.

Circular saw plunge cuts for the straight lines. Jigsaw for the curves.

Access panels cut out.

Because I wanted to make the nicest possible product for my friend, I went and bought a router. I know, I was basically broke at the time, but I might have been eyeing routers anyway and I figured there no time like the present to add one to my collection. I wasn’t sure how the MDF would react to the router, so here’s my first two test cuts. I was interested to see how the corners would turn out. As it happens, they turned out great.

A word of advice though when using any kind of power tool on MDF: It makes and incredible amount of dust. Make sure you’ve got a dust collection system running, or you’ll be hacking up MDF for weeks.

Testing how the MDF and router play together. As it turns out, they play quite nicely.

Sometime around this point of the process, I decided to forego hinges, and instead have the simplicity of a single finger hole in each panel. Less hardware, less alignment, more wiggle room. All good things in my book.

Finger hole for door. Routed with a 1/4 round bit for comfort.

I keep buying clamps, and I never have enough of them. It’s silly. I should start asking for them for xmas gifts. To prevent the panels from falling through, I added in small MDF strips on 2 sides of each access hole. The center two run the entire width of the top, offering stability to the lid in addition to keeping the lids in place.

Clamping the side and door supports in place. One can never have clamps.

Access panel test fit.

I didn’t have any images of the painting, but really, who wants to see that? What’s far more satisfying is seeing the table riser in action! Behold!

The finished product in all its glory.

Nick asked if I could put in some holes for running electrical up the leg so people could charge their phones while gaming, and fortunately, I measured accurately. This isn’t like me at all! Look at that fit!

Access hole RIGHT where it needed to be. Hooray for accurate measuring in the planning phase.

Project: Pegboard organizers

The Problem

My workspaces are typically messy. I often say if there’s a horizontal surface, I will fill it with things.

I will clean this up when it’s not 20 below zero in my garage… I promise.

To remedy some of this cluttering habit, I try to get things “up”. I’ll use hooks, pegboards, and what-have-you to get items up and off the horizontal surfaces. Getting items up solves two problems:

  1. Everything is now in front of my field of vision. Nice!
  2. It’s harder to bury things on a vertical plane. It can be done, but not as easily.

So, those are great virtues, but pegboards can still get ugly. Especially considering store-bought solutions rarely fit your needs (or tools). Case in point, I had recently purchased several new tools: screwdrivers, spade drill bits, and chisels. They didn’t fit nicely on the old wire pegboard hooks, so I decided to make my own.

The Planning

I didn’t have to plan at all for this one. A former colleague of mine, Ben Brandt, had a video of some custom pegboard shelves he made. Thank you, Ben for the great idea!

I highly recommend checking out Ben’s videos if you’re interested in woodworking, making in general, or getting insight on how makers approach problems.

The Project

Just as Ben described in his video, I picked up some L-hooks, and used whatever scrap I had laying about. I first made a block to hold the spade bits by organising them by width, and then marking the positions on a chunk of scrap 2×4. I beveled the back edge to allow it to come on and off the board.

L-hooks: Little, silver, different.

Test fitting the bits.

Block cut down to size.

Blurry pic of the bevel and L-hook.

Onto the board you go!

I’m planning to re-do the block holding these bits. I had hoped that a double stacked design would be condense the space they took up laterally. Unfortunately, it makes the rear row difficult to access. As I detest unnecessary hindrances to my tools, a redesign is in the cards for this piece.

My second step was making a organizer for all my screwdrivers. I had several with varying size shafts, so I lined them up by type and used my fancy new spade bits to make an organizer for them. I decided to add the chisels to the end of this section as well. What’s really nice about these organizers is they’re incredibly easy to make, and very inexpensive. If I want to add tools, I can either modify what’s there, or fire up the drill press and make a whole new one in about 10 minutes.

Organizing the screwdriver order.

The finished product.

The final organization piece on my pegboard that’s a DIY job is my wrench board. I may have posted about this before, but figured it belongs in this post as well. Again, I used scrap plywood and nails. I laid out the wrenches while it was horizontal to determine best fit and nail placement, then painted it white and screwed it to the wall.

SAE along the top, metric along the bottom.

My scribble to say what wrench goes where.

As per usual, writing the blog post about a project has given me other ideas for further improvements down the road. I think that means this practice is working as it should.


School is about to start up so it’s been a whirlwind of projects getting finished. One of said projects is a desperately needed garage cleaning.

Really, this post is intended for former co-worker and maker of interesting things; Ben Brandt. I recommend checking out his YouTube channel where he posts videos of his various projects. Recently he needed to dismantle his workbench and asked if others have ideas for the new one. Since I have a semi-fancy workbench, I figured this would be a place to showcase it. So, without further ado:


Behold! The back of my garage, hundreds of times cleaner than usual!

Behold! The back of my garage, hundreds of times cleaner than usual!

The frame of my workbench his hinged both in the back and front.

The frame of my workbench is hinged both in the back and front.

And a closer inspection of the back reveals a piano hinge running the length of the bench.

And a closer inspection of the back reveals a piano hinge running the length of the bench.

Gently lifting up on the surface and pushing the frame to the right.

Gently lifting up on the surface and pushing the frame to the right.

Ahhh... Push it!

Ahhh… Push it!

Ahhh... Push it!

Ahhh… Push it!

Puh-Push it real good!

Puh-Push it real good!

Once the frame  has passed the hinge....

Once the frame has passed the hinge….

The surface is free to fold down.

The surface is free to fold down.


(The was the top of an attorney desk from my old firm....  Don't ask.)

(The was the top of an attorney desk from my old firm…. Don’t ask.)

Bench in final folded position

Bench in final folded position

Last step: Wipe off hands like you just did a lot of work.

Last step: Wipe off hands like you just did a lot of work.

So that’s my garage work space. I opted for the folding table because I have had lots of extra crap to store back there in the winter. Snowblowers and motorcycles and all the like. I’m thinking that the gas cans need a new home. The white plastic shelves are an addition since yesterday, and thus moved the gas closer to the bench (and electrical stuffs) which worries me slightly…

Oh yeah, if you’re wondering why there was a blue bucket in that first pic, it’s keeping the excess chain from my hoist out of the way:

This is how I get Serenity up into the joists in the winter.

This is how I get Serenity up into the joists in the winter.