Woodworking

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We just remodeled our kitchen. A few months ago we had an electrician come out to give us an idea of what it would cost to add in under-cabinet lighting. Five fixtures came in at about $1,800 with a few hundred of that going to a circuit extension. I’m a tinkerer, and that just seemed excessive to me, so I decided to do it myself and saved over 95%.

Now, for about $56 plus time, I have a much better lighting system with three zones of under-cabinet lights, each with its own dimmer, and in-cabinet lighting for some of the deeper cabinets. Here’s how I did it.

The Plan

Here’s the main part of our kitchen. The plan is to add lighting in zones in the following order of priority: 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 4, 3, 6.

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  • Zone 1: There’s an outlet for the microwave in here, and I added one for a 12V power supply, which will power all of the kitchen LED lights.
  • Zone 2: These five cabinets (in three distinct sections) should get bright white double-row 5730 LEDs, and will all be controlled by a single dimmer knob in the middle section.
  • Zone 3: Optionally, the drawers should get single-row 5730 lighting when the deeper drawers are opened.
  • Zone 4: Also optionally, each deep cabinets should get single-row 5730 LED lighting when the cabinet doors are opened.
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  • Zone 5: This is a coffee station, so bright white, double-row 5730 LEDs here, on its own dimmer.
  • Zone 6: Optionally, single-row 5730 LEDs to light the lower cabinet — one on each side, that lights when the door is opened.
  • Zone 7: This is a desk, and a computer lives here. We’ll install double-row 5730 LEDs for consistency, and keep them on their own dimmer so they’re not too bright for the monitor.
  • Zone 7: This is our pantry, so I’ll install single-row 5730 LEDs on each side that light up when that side’s door is opened, plus a main switch that can cut these lights off entirely should either of the door switches fail. The bottom doors definitely need it, but these are optional on the top.

Sourcing the Supplies

I order a lot of tinkering supplies direct from China, and this project is no exception. It can take some time for the supplies to arrive that way, but I’ve never had a problem with the quality. With the exception of the one power supply everything is 12V.

From Amazon.com:

Home Depot:

From various AliExpress vendors: (I actually ordered a lot more than I needed for the kitchen here because I’m adding lighting to other areas of the house, too…)

Mounting the LEDs

I cut tiny squares of 1/4″ plywood and screwed the LED channel mounting brackets to them, and then I hot glued those plywood spacers at the front of the cabinet, directly behind the face frame. This extends them just enough so that the shadow of the face frame falls just outside of the countertop itself and provides a little more opportunity for air cooling. (You can’t just hot glue the LED sticks to the cabinet because the LEDs will just melt the glue.)

Hiding the Wires

The wires are pretty well hidden and they look tidy. For the upper cabinets, the wires usually enter the top cabinet right behind the face frame at one side, travel all the way down through the cabinet fastened to the back of the face frame, and exit at the bottom. There, they enter either one of the 70x45x18 boxes if the zone needs a dimmer, or one of the 50x28x15 boxes if I’m just hiding the connectors.

Reworking the Dimmers

I used the 70x45x18 project boxes when I needed to include any of the dimmer electronics, and basically drilled holes where I needed them based on what wires were present and where they needed to enter for each specific location. The original boxes were pretty big and ugly, and the result is much cleaner.

These photos are for the desk lighting (Zone 7). You should probably be comfortable with a soldering iron before you try this modification, that that’s really easy to do.

Zone 1 – Power Supply Cabinet

This cabinet contains the 12V, 33A power supply, which will be the sole power source for all the LEDs in the kitchen. (The currently installed lighting draws 11.73A with everything on.) This cabinet also contains most of the the dimmer electronics for Zone 2, but not the dimmer knob.

Exiting this cabinet are:

  • three dimmer-controlled 12V wires for each of the three sections of Zone 2
  • one 12V wire leaves goes through the wall and into the lower cabinets in order to power Zones 3 & 4
  • three strands of a Cat5 network wire so the dimmer knob can be positioned on the bottom of the corner cabinet. These are very low current wires, and the length does not affect the dimmer functionality.
  • two additional 12V wires go to the different areas of the kitchen defined below (Zones 5 & 6, and 7 & 8).

Zone 2 – Main Kitchen Under-Cabinets

The three network wire strands and the dimmer-controlled 12V wire enter the top of the corner cabinet at the left and exit at the bottom front left. There, they enter one of the 70x45x18 boxes, where the dimmer knob is mounted and the wires are connected. Remember that the dimmer electronics are actually in the power supply cabinet (Zone 1), because this cabinet is the most convenient location to serve the three distinct areas of the zone (left of the microwave, the corner, and right of the sink).

In the box, the 12V line is split to power the 12 segments under Cabinet 2 (on the left), and the 12 total segments for Cabinets 3 & 4 on the right. (When possible feed the power into the middle of a run like this or else you might start to notice that the LEDs at the end of a run are not quite as bright as the others.)

This zone uses a total of 48 segments (four 50cm LED sticks, with one cut into two parts), and draws 5.23A (62.8 watts) when fully on. This is 0.11A/segment.

  • Cabinet 1 (left of microwave): One 12-segment (50cm) U-shaped LED bar with double-row 5730 LEDs
  • Cabinets 2, 3, & 4 (in the corner): One 12-segment bar of the same for Cabinet 2, and then another cut into one 7-segment bar for the corner, and one 5-segment bar on the right
  • Cabinet 5 (right of the sink): Another single 12-segment (50cm) U-shaped LED bar with double-row 5730 LEDs

Zones 3 & 4 – Main Kitchen Base Cabinets

I haven’t installed these yet, apart from running a single 12V wire from the power supply cabinet through the wall, and then entering the back of the drawer cabinet to the right of the oven. It’s capped off there for later use.

Zones 5 & 6: Coffee Station

The un-dimmed 12V wire from the Power Supply Cabinet is split above the cabinet, with one branch enters the cabinet at the top left and going through to the bottom left, and another branch going through the wall to the back of the lower cabinet (where it’s capped off for later installation). The wire for the under cabinet LEDs enters a 70x45x18 box containing a dimmer (both the electronics and the knob), and the dimmer-controlled output that that feeds the LEDs.

Zone 5 uses a total of 21 segments (1.75 50cm LED sticks), and draws 2.36A (28.3 watts) when fully on. This is 0.11A/segment.

  • One 21-segment U-shaped LED bar with double-row 5730 LEDs, made by joining a 12-segment (50cm) bar with three segments cut from another bar.

Zone 7: Desk

An undimmed 12V wire from the Power Supply Cabinet enters the left glass cabinet at the top left and goes through to the bottom left, where it enters a 70x45x18 box. The box splits the undimmed 12V into two branches: One goes behind the LED strips to the left and into the pantry (described in the next section), and the other goes into the dimmer housed in the same box.

The dimmer has two outputs: One serves a 6-segment bar on the left, and the other serves a 15-segment bar on the right–both made from original 50cm stock. (Note that our kitchen actually ended up with three glass doors instead of four, which is why the cabinet on the left is smaller than the one on the right.)

This zone uses a total of 21 segments (1.75 50cm LED sticks), and draws 1.74A (20.9 watts) when fully on. This is 0.08A/segment. This seems a little lower than it should be, so I still need to debug that. Like before, I try to run the power to the middle of the zone.

  • One 6-segment U-shaped LED bar with double-row 5730 LEDs, made by cutting a 12-segment (50cm) bar in half.
  • One 21-segment U-shaped LED bar with double-row 5730 LEDs, made by joining a 12-segment (50cm) bar with three segments cut from another bar.

Zone 8: Pantry

The pantry wire enters straight into the lower part of the pantry from the junction box in the middle of Zone 7. The wire first goes through a switch that can be used to cut the power to the whole pantry in case any of the limit switches fail closed (on). Then it splits into two: one wire for the bottom left of the pantry, and one for the bottom right. (The upper pantry doors get more natural light than the lower ones, so we didn’t wire those up.)

The wire for each side of the lower pantry first goes through a limit switch wired up as normally closed (NC). This means that when the switch is pressed when the door is closed, the circuit will open and cut the power, and when the door is open, the circuit will close and the lights will turn on.

The in-cabinet lighting doesn’t need to be as bright, so it’s just used single-row 5730 LED bars for these, but two on each side, and again with power going to each set instead of stringing them together. I used V-shaped channels, too, mounted vertically along the inside of the face frame so that the light is projected into the middle of the cabinet instead of toward the back.

This zone uses a total of 48 segments (1.75 50cm LED sticks), and draws 2.4A (28.8 watts) when everything is on. This is 0.05A/segment.

  • Four 12-segment V-shaped LED bar with single-row 5730 LEDs, two for each side.

Conclusion

Not all zones are complete, and I’m not even convinced that we need more lighting at this point. I think I will try to add some of the lower cabinet lighting, though, just for kicks.

Although I spent a more in total on supplies (because I ordered more than I needed for just the kitchen, and there’s still more to install), the total cost of the supplies I’ve actually used in this project is about $56 — just over 3% of the original $1,800 quote. It’s a lot more functional that what was originally quoted, has more fixtures, and probably looks a lot more custom… and I had a lot of fun doing it.

I built this banquette over the weekend, posted it on Facebook, and now I have a few people asking for plans. While I don’t have any plans specifically, I did take a lot of pictures along the way to show how it was build. I hope this is helpful!

For supplies I used:

  • Kreg Pocket Hole jig with 2.5-in screws
  • 8 96″ 2×4 Whitewood Stud
  • 24′ 1×4 Primed Pine (for top/bottom molding)
  • 30″ Nickel Piano Hinge
  • 48″ Nickel Piano Hinge
  • 40′ 15/16-in White Batten (for panel molding)
  • 5mm (1/4″) Utility Panel (face)
  • 23/32 (3/4″) A/C Arauco Radiata Plywood
  • 1 Qt eggshell paint color matched to cabinets
  • 3/8″ flathead hardwood plugs
  • About 20 2″ screws

Supplies were about $200 total, but because you don’t use a whole box of screws or sheet of plywood, the actual expense was about $140 of that.

I started by framing the bench with 2x4s. I ripped one to 2×2, but that was a mistake. Instead orient this 2×4 the way you see it here on the other bench. This provides support for both sides of the hinged plywood. The benches are designed to put you at about 18″ off the ground with sitting on a cushion, assuming a 2-inch cushion that compresses to about an inch. The wooden frames are 16″ high, and come out about 20″ from the wall to provide space for pillows at the back.

I got a sheet of 3/4″ AC plywood (pretty clean on one side) and 1/4″ primed plywood for the sides. Most home centers will cut these for you to size.

I cut the 1/4 plywood to size for the side panels and taped them in place until I got them all fitting properly.

I cut the lids to size also, before ripping them for the hinges. I usually dry fit everything before I fasten them.

I spaced out the lids with sheets of cardboard.

I ripped the back edges of the lids to place the hinges. In this picture you can see that I repaired the mistake I noted above (with the 2×2 instead of the 2×4).

Installed all the hinges (cut to size with a hack saw) with just a few screws each in case I needed to readjust them.

I used 1×4 primed pine for the trim, working my way around and mitering the outside corners — starting on the bottom. I attached them with a nail gun, and used pieces of card stock to lift them a hair off the ground. (I wanted to make it easier to protect the floor from paint.)

On the top, I wanted to leave a little lip to contain the cushions and help keep them from sliding off the lids. The boards extend about 3/4″ from the top of the lid. At this point, I had to keep one lid open all the time or I’d probably have to use a vacuum to get it back open, so I attached a piece of string stapled to the bottom of one of the lids.

I also made a trim piece to cover the outside corners, and you can see that I did a test fit of the decorative molding, which is just taped into place.

I cut the cut the batten to size carefully so they were all the same size.

I glued them on and held them in place with tape while the glue dried.

I drilled 1-inch holes for finger pulls.

The top trim board is likely going to see a lot of weight, so I reinforced those with some inset 2-inch screws, filling the holes with glued plugs, and then later flush cutting them with a Japanese saw.

Next came the paint, which I had matches to our new cabinets. I started by sliding some card stock under the bottom molding to protect the floor.

Here’s the finished banquette. Next we need to make some cushions!

Technical Information

Files are resized with imagemagick, using: magick convert *.jpg[1000x1000] -interlace line -quality 85 -gravity SouthEast -font Arial -pointsize 14 -fill black -annotate +2+2 "(c)2019 theFrankes.com" -fill white -annotate +3+3 "(c)2019 theFrankes.com" BanquetteZ%03d.jpg

We got a Mazda CX-5 and so far we’re pretty happy with it. We wanted an organizer in the back, though, to help prevent things from falling over and rolling around, and we wanted it to be easy to collapse if necessary. Here’s how we made one for less than $15. Add a few extra dollars for bungee cords to hold the organizer in place if you want. (Mazda recommends that you secure the stuff you put in the back.)

The bins were designed to accommodate our reusable grocery bags, with some tight nooks in the back for things like baseballs, pencil kits, and books. (The kids can open up the middle section and reach back.) Placed close to the back seats, this design still allows access to things stored with the spare tire. It can be disassembled pretty quickly if necessary. 

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Supplies:

  • 1 piece of 1x6x10′ pine (whiteboard) lumber, and be sure it’s not splitting at the ends. This should cost about $10 at the home center — ask them to cut it in half for you and you’ll be able to fit it into the CX-5.
  • 1 can of flat black spray paint. I got Painter’s Touch, which was labeled “primer + paint” for less than $4.
  • 2 bungee cords, approximately 18″ long unstretched. We had these laying around from a Harbor Freight assortment kit we got a while back. They’re probably about $1 each, and are use to secure both the organizer to the floor, and secure bags in the two outer bins.
  • 4 3/4″ felt pads. These are really optional, but might help prevent damage to the interior of the car. We had them on had, but you can also pick them up at the home center for a couple dollars.

Directions:

  1. From each 5-foot length, cut one 41″ board, and one 17″ board.
  2. On both 17″ boards, measure in 1 3/4″ from each end and cut a 3/4″ slot across half the width of the board. Cut both boards together.
  3. On both 41″ boards, measure 13″ from each end and cut a 3/4″ slot across half the width of the board. Cut both boards together.
  4. Also on both 41″ boards, measure about 2 1/2″ from each end and drill a 1/2″ hole so it overlaps the edge of the board enough to fit a bungee cord. Do this on the opposite side from the slots if you want the 41″ boards to hold down the 17″ boards, or on the same side to make the weak ends of the 17″ boards a little more protected from accidental breaks.
  5. Sand, assemble, and paint.
  6. Attach a felt pad to the middle of the end of each 41″ board, and install into car. Run the bungee from the back hook, through the drill holes, and up to the front hook. You can tie a knot in the bungee where it passes through the board to help keep it in place if it slides.

Boards

It’s important to note that the small sections of 17″ board on the outside of the 41″ boards will be weak because there’s only 2.5″ against the grain holding them in place. If you’re going to be disassembling/reassembling this a lot, you might want to glue some blocks to those weak areas to strengthen them.

Here’s a great, free, and easy to use online cutting list optimizer and generator for panels or boards. Input cut setting like kerf and trim sizes, the sizes of the stock panels, and the parts you need, and it’ll generate an exportable cut list that uses the stock as efficiently as possible. Props to the find folks at Optimalon Software for making this available to use online.

Linky: http://www.optimalon.com/online_cut_optimizer.htm

 

 

At our last 3D Printer Club meeting, the kids on the team started cutting threaded rods. We were clamping the rods to a table with a standard bar clamp to keep them in place. The problem was that they were slipping a lot. One of the adults had to sit on the end of the rod to keep it still. That didn’t seem very safe to me, and so I figured there must a better and safer way to hold them still while they’re being cut. The classroom doesn’t have an appropriate vise to use, so this seemed like a great project for a custom 3d printed object!

I used OpenSCAD, which is a free and open source CAD software tool, to design a simple attachment. The attachment has a v-groove on the bottom to hold a rod in place. (The v-groove is useful because it allows us to use it for different diameters of rods.) It also has a lip around the top to hold it in place on the clamp jaw.

This clamping attachment is going to need to take a lot of pressure, so I printed it with ABS plastic, three perimeters, three top and bottom layers, and 25% honeycomb infill. You can find it on thingiverse here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:44588

Bar Clamp Rod Adapter

It’s not easy to find metric drill bits in the United States. For a lot of applications, letter, fractional, or wire gauge drill bits are accurate enough, are more commonly available, and are much more reasonably priced. This tables shows the closest larger drill bit size for metric sizes from 1 to 10mm. You can also view the spreadsheet directly.

I’m still not fully convinced of the wisdom of a wooden soldering station clamp/vise, but it’s been serving me well nonetheless. It’s my DIY PanaVise! Why buy something if you can make it yourself, right? 🙂

The frame is made from some scrap 3/4 maple, with a steel rod from an old printer’s carriage mechanism and a $3 threaded rod from Home Depot. The legs come off for storage, and they’re scraps from a Dell server shipping pallet. The jaws were originally maple wainscot from a nearby remodeled clubhouse.

 

DIY Wooden PCB Clamp

DIY Wooden PCB Clamp

I didn’t have the right size metric drill bit for the steel rod, so the clamp isn’t perfect — it’s a little loose and as a result grabs better at the back. I’ll remake those at some point (when I get the right drill bit), and probably make them a bit wider as well. Also it’s just clamped with a little hex nut right now, which is a bit annoying, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

The bit held on with a C-clamp allows me to flip the work up and hold it here if necessary. It’s pretty easy to work with.

Wooden PCB Clamp, Lifted

Wooden PCB Clamp, Lifted

We ran across a picture of a little pig online and my little girl fell in love with it, so we grabbed a sheet of paper and tried to make it. Here’s how it turned out.

Below the photo is the template we drew up to cut out the pieces; it should be pretty obvious what to cut and how many. Enjoy!

Wooden Pig Craft

Wooden Pig Craft

Wooden Pig Template

Wooden Pig Template

If the hot shoe (flash mounting point) on your Canon Digital Rebel camera is loose, then your flash might not be stable on the camera or operate properly. It may not be immediately obvious how to fix it. This video shows you how to do it with a couple of flat screwdriver tips and a tiny PH000 Phillips head screwdriver. (They often sell these in sets of five or seven.) The trick is to lift up on the clip so that the front lip clears its catch and it can slide back. You may need to lift it over the screws as well if they’re really lose.

(Yes, that’s a Spider Man bandage. I have an excuse; I’m a daddy.)

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