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Scratch Build – In Progress The Ultimate Computer Desk - 2 Integrated Desktops (September 1)

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by ultimatedesk, 29 Nov 2010.

  1. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk What's a Dremel?

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    Quick Test Fitting

    Thanks Yaka - you're right - I've been using the sander with the vacuum attached and it makes a very noticeable difference. I'll have to do a massive cleanup of the space and all my tools before I do the staining, and I'm sure I'll fill the shop vac with sawdust!

    Thanks Overheated :)

    Thanks PureSilver!

    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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!)

    [​IMG]

    A couple more progress shots:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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!
     
  2. Samaya

    Samaya Lion Country

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    What you complaining about? Its 27'C inside and about 6'C more outside. I'm sweating like pig in heat here... And its evening already.:jawdrop:

    Love your mod, it is coming together nicely
     
  3. Knighthammer

    Knighthammer What's a Dremel?

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    Looks awesome - subbed!
     
  4. RinSewand

    RinSewand What's a Dremel?

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    Very nice! Will keep an eye on this..
     
  5. matt...

    matt... Slacker

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  6. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk What's a Dremel?

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    First Staining Attempt

    lmao, maybe in Africa!! Here in Ottawa, we were hitting -40C with the windchill - FREEZING!

    Thanks Knighthammer!

    Thanks RinSewand!

    Thanks matt ;)

    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: Link 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:

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    And, onto the wood:

    [​IMG]

    Wait 5 minutes, wipe off...

    [​IMG]

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

    How about a second coat.

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    Huh...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

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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..

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

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

    Javerh Topiary Golem

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    You could also try to make the shellac from flakes and determine the proper cut straight out without using a readymade formula for base.
     
  8. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk What's a Dremel?

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    Second Staining Attempt

    That's true, but doesn't that require denatured alcohol as well? The problem was I wasn't able to find that locally. Could I use methyl hydrate for that process as a substitute?

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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!
     
  9. Silent_Raider

    Silent_Raider What's a Dremel?

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    Having worked with the red mahogany stain before, I would recommend getting a small sample of Minwax Red Chestnut 232 and/or Cherry 235. You can mix them into the red mahogany to get a redder look to it.

    And don't condition the wood first :) Just use a few coats.
     
  10. PureSilver

    PureSilver E-tailer Tailor

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    KITTIES
     
  11. Javerh

    Javerh Topiary Golem

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    I guess you could use methanol in a pinch. Unfortunately, it is a lot more toxic than ethanol.
     
  12. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk What's a Dremel?

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    Third Staining Attempt

    Thanks for the tips Silent_Raider - so far I actually DO like oil-based stains more than gel based, but as you'll see below, I think I've found the right stain for this project already. I'll have to try out the mixing of stains for my next project!

    Lol, you'll like the link I post below ;)

    Heh, yeah, mmmm.. Not sure where I would pick that up either actually ;)

    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!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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!

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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)

    [​IMG]

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

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    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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!
     
    Nanosec likes this.
  13. Nanosec

    Nanosec absit iniuria verbis

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    So I don't normally browse through the project logs, most of my BT time is at work and the pics just don't load well at work, damn corporate firewalls !!!
    Anyway, I stumbled upon this log, and WOW what a great project.

    Sub'd

    Nano
     
  14. Cei

    Cei pew pew pew

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    Screw the build. MORE KITTENS.

    Actually, love the concept of everything built in to the desk, mine drives me mad. Cant wait until you start installing the hardware!
     
  15. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk What's a Dremel?

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    Some New Hardware

    Thanks Nanosec :)

    lol, I've started receiving a lot more messages ever since I started posting those kittens - go figure ;)

    Sorry about the lack of updates everyone, it's not that I haven't been working on the desk much, but it's more that I've been using the camera a lot (You know.. kittens) and I haven't had time to sit down and sort through all the photos, re-size, crop, etc for some real proper updates.

    I've had this update sitting on the back burner for a little while now and I've been meaning to squeeze in it somewhere. I had been talking with some folks at Danger Den because I was looking at their motherboard trays and I/O panels, and they've decided to sponsor me!

    Big thanks go out to Danger Den, as these are critical components required for a professional end result - you've all seen the mangled results of the cases I tore up earlier in the project.

    [​IMG]
    http://www.dangerden.com

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    Everything came very nicely packed - not much loose play, and plenty of foam to absorb any shipping issues.

    [​IMG]

    I had these PSU support brackets custom made:

    [​IMG]

    I sent them a higher resolution image of this, that I threw together in Sketchup:

    [​IMG]

    Also included in this little shipment were some momentary switches for power and reset. (These are really popular these days, aren't they?)

    [​IMG]

    And some real nifty motherboard trays:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All the acrylic is 1/2" clear - I will leave them wrapped up until the project is close to completion. With these parts -finally- settled, I can cut some holes in the cabinets and actually put them together -for real- !!

    Stay tuned, I'll sit down this weekend and sort through the next round of updates ;)
     
  16. Dackman

    Dackman What's a Dremel?

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    Epic build.
     
  17. Mosquito

    Mosquito Minimodder

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    I love this build. I have wanted to do something like this for years, but I haven't had any of the a.) time, b.) money, c.) tools, d.) skills. I'm starting my first real mod project this weekend, and maybe this project will happen sometime too! Excellent job, perfect attention to detail and doing things right. I'm sure this will turn out fantastic, and am definitely watching!

    Also: First Post! ;)
     
  18. BigBenja

    BigBenja What's a Dremel?

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    So cool !! I can't wait to see it finished!
     
  19. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk What's a Dremel?

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    IO Slot Cutting Part 1

    Thanks, Dackman!

    Hehe, congrats and welcome to Bit Tech! Glad you're enjoying the project. It is a bit of a pain to get started in woodworking, but you'd be surprised at what you can do with some small tools and a lot of patience!

    Thanks BigBenja, I can't wait, too!!!


    So - it's been sometime since I've posted an update - apologies, things have been very busy lately.

    With the parts from Danger Den having arrived, I could now move on to some more specific details with both of the cabinets that will contain the computers.

    Once again, I started with a test fitting, this time, it was a very accurate fitting, requiring quite a bit of sanding and fiddling around to get as close to the final product as possible.

    [​IMG]

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    I then placed some test parts for fitting, and traced some outlines on the wood. The motherboard tray was placed on some thin strips of packing foam that I cut up, to help isolate any vibration from the CPU Heatsink.

    [​IMG]

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    Installed some new blades on the jigsaw, put my biggest drill bit in the drill, and went to town!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Part 2 coming right up!
     
  20. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk What's a Dremel?

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    IO Slot Cutting Part 2

    After doing the rough cut with the jigsaw, I took out the router and free-handed with a straight bit to smooth out the edges.

    [​IMG]

    The semi-finished air intake for the left-hand cabinet:

    [​IMG]

    The power supply rough cut:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I decided that the PSU bolts will need a little more clearance around the screw holes.

    [​IMG]

    The I/O Shield cut out was a bit tricky to measure, but I think I did a pretty decent job:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And a final shot from above and below:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Next update, I'll have pics of actual assembly of the left hand cabinet, and then more cutting, and biscuit joining on the right-hand cabinet.
     

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