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Posts from the ‘WoodWork’ Category


Closet Renovation

At some point in time, about 20 years ago I built some closet organizers. No doubt at a time when my wood working abilities were at a level that was lower than my demolition abilities.

I seem to recall I sort of knew how to dado a board, apply glue and plenty of nails in the hopes that things would magically stay together. More because of the nails than any faith I had in glue. When I removed the old closet, this proved that fact beyond a doubt.

So at the onset, we had this odd duck shaped reach-in, walk-in closet in the master bedroom. The reach in side looked like this:

Old Left

The walk-in side looked like this:

Old Right

Considering the years ago that I made them, I found it remarkable that they never had budged an inch. I built them “California Closet” style so they didn’t touch the floor. Literally boxes hanging on walls. Cause that looks normal. Well, twenty years ago any way.

When Carol and I started to take them off the walls, well, I think the reason they never budged is because I must have gotten a special on joint caulking because it ripped the drywall off with the cabinet. And this is the least damage picture. Ugh.

Old removal

Swell. First order of business was to replace the ceiling “light” (dare I call it that), a dingy looking “golden glass” globe with what looked like a yellow bug light in it. The bulb is that old. I swear a single firefly gave off more light. I think I could measure the light output in “LUMEN”. As in a single lumen.

We found a six foot track light, flexible so we could bend the thing to go where we wanted it. It held 6 GU10 bulbs, and designed for Halogen 50 watt ones. Any one who has ever stood under a halogen will recognize the familiar heat rash on the top of their head from those, not to mention that they don’t venture into the realm of energy efficient.

I have a bunch of GU10 LED bulbs here so we pressed those into service. I used the “daylight” ones (5000K) not the 2700K (yellow like an incandescent) or 3100K like a Halogen. Nope, bright white. Actually looks nice.

The electrical who wired the house, apart from not wanting to put lights where he was paid to put lights, managed to get even with me by installing the light switch inside the closet. You know, cause you walk into a dark room to turn on a light don’t you? Yeah, not so much. I just flipped the junction box around to move it to an outside wall. Easy. Should have did that years ago.

Light switch

Then it was off to Home Depot to get some wood. I wanted to use real wood, you know the stuff that came from a real tree? Not the stuff that was made from the sawdust of said tree, mixed with glue and who knows what and pressed into flat boards. Carol didn’t want to spend time “finishing” the boards so…I caved. She picked the boards and we loaded up the van. With 21 of them (97″ x 15.25″ x 5/8″).

This is some of the left over pieces because we were going to build more more cabinets than we ended up doing.

Wood pile

We measured about 80 times and came to the conclusion that we couldn’t make the full depth of 15.25″. Our old “cabinets” (were made of sparse density fibreboard) were 11″ deep so we decided on 13″ for depth. I was going to have a fun time shoving 21 boards through a 10″ Bosch portable table saw.

For accuracy, I decided to see what my Festool track saw would do.

Board trimming

Couple years back I started with one Festool. I have most of them now. Yes, they are stupid expensive. No argument from me at all on that note. They are also the nicest power tools I’ve ever used. Dust collection is amazing, and there’s no “finishing” cuts, your first cut is your finishing cut. I stuck two tracks I had together and clamped them on the planks and in a few seconds I had the board at proper width. I used a measuring bar from another Festool product to duplicate my setup with each board. I may just never use the table saw again.

Even with Festool’s fabulous dust collection, when I finished the boards I did notice a fog of dust drifting around the garage. The MDF I was cutting is dusty stuff for sure but it was nowhere near as porous as the MDF was 20 years back.

When Carol and I laid out the basic blueprint for the cabinets we were going to make each one a custom size so it would maximize the space it fit in. Now I say basic blueprint, 80% of the blueprint is in my head with a few measurements on paper for good measure (was that a pun?). Thus I don’t do isometric drawings or detailed blueprints, I see all that in my head. Just the way I do it. Probably been a software programmer too long…

After tossing ideas around for a day we both came to the conclusion that the best way to maximize anything was to make them all the same side. So interchangeable. Shelves, rods, whatever. I wasn’t going to put backs on the cabinets so the only requirement was a “semi” fixed middle shelf to hold the sides together.

If you look at closet organizers or wardrobes you’ll see an abundance of holes to make them adjustable. That’s what we decided as well. Now imagine taking a hand drill and drilling 600+ holes in a series of boards that will line up perfectly when you assemble the boards into carcases (shells of the cabinet). Yeah. Recipe for failure.

One word popped into mind. Festool. Turns out Festool has what they call an LR32 “system”. You can look up all about the 32mm system but essentially every kitchen or cabinet in Canada has used it for a long, long time. With good reason. It’s interchangeable. Of course, the Festool offering is silly expensive and it requires you use their plunge router as well, but I already have and love the 1010 router. So…in for a penny.

Sides LR32

The router goes on a “32mm holey” guide rail and you need a brad 5mm bit. It takes about 40 seconds to do 50″ of board with holes. The LR32 comes with guide attachments so it will match up front and back holes. Lots of YouTube videos on this system and apart from drilling a LOT of holes, I would not waste my time doing it any other way. I don’t care what it cost. When I assembled my boards into cabinets every shelf sat absolutely perfectly flat. Nice.

To assemble the cabinet in the old days I would have cut a dado. Which would give me a bit of a joint because of the butt end of the horizontal board pressing against the vertical board. Or I could have made a couple of half lap joints for maximum glue area. Least that’s what I used to do. Few years back I started using a biscuit joiner for these MDF covered projects. Worked okay.

Which lead me to a Festool rig called a Domino. It creates a floating tenon. Dead on simple to use, accurate as heck and uses beech wood tenons (called domino’s). So that’s what I did. In the photo here you see me cutting the domino into one board, I then lay it flat and cut it into the other board so it mates perfectly. There are guide stops on the tool for a reference cut and it’s a joy to use.

If you only ever buy one Festool, my advice is to get the DF500 Domino cutter. You’ll use your old biscuit joiner for a door stop. And yes, the DF500 is not cheap. To which I will say you get what you pay for.

Festool domino

After assembling the first cabinet Carol and I lugged it up and installed it.

First piece

There’s a hidden board at the top that attaches to the wall studs with a screw to stop the cabinet from moving around and there’s a 3″ kick on the bottom with shims to keep it slightly tilted back. The shelf in the middle is attached with L brackets to the sides so, four 5mm screws and it’s off or move it to where you want it.

We both couldn’t wait to get the second piece built, really because we had clothes strewn all over the place during this build. So together another one went and Carol loaded them up.

Second piece

Since then, she’s changed the lower section of the inner most one to all shelves. Ah the beauty of interchangeable stuff…

Next it was over to my side (I get the walk in side; not sure why)…we put in the three cabinets.

Over half shelves

We had originally intended to put in a small 18″ unit between the two racks just behind Carol but after doing some testing with layouts, we decided against that. This is what we ended up with in the final configuration.

Right side loaded

Lots of space, scads of empty shelves and a job that is very rewarding to us. Plus, if we don’t like it, change it. Now that’s what makes it really worth while.

On the off chance you’ve wandered off and checked out the price of the Festool line, and managed to pick your jaw up off the floor, I will agree they demand a premium dollar. Just like a USA made guitar or a luxury automobile for that matter. I’ve owned top of the line Craftsman, Black & Decker, DeWalt, Makita, Bosch, Hitachi and Delta. And I can’t name one of them that will out perform any of my Festools. In much the same way as I can’t name any one of my guitars that will out perform my USA made Fender or Gibson. Simply no contest in my mind.

If there’s a stumbling block to Festool, other than the price, it’s the new ways you’ll end up learning to do things you used to do. Like my track saw vs a table saw. But do those things a few times and you’ll soon be doing them as if you’d always done them that way.

Yep, I’m a Festool fan and glad of it. On the slight down side, when things do screw up, sadly I can’t blame the tool…