Step for sore puppy

Our dog Bella is about 9 years old now, and she has arthritis in at least her back hips, and I suspect her front ones are developing it as well.

So, my wife and I figured she needed some kind of step to help her get up onto her favourite chair, so this past weekend  I made her a step to help her get onto her chair.

All projects begin with some planning. Design wise, it’s pretty basic. It is just a wooden crate. Sketchup is fun and easy to use for sketching out designs like this. I began using dimensions from pine timber at Bunnings, but due to there being a surprise amount of timber needed to go into it, I decided to use what I could scrounge up around the house. Free is always good.

This is a rough cut and screw together project. There is no fine woodworking happening here!

Screwing sides together

Screwing sides together

In order to avoid bothering with trying to glue up a bunch of not completely straight pieces of timber, I went with screws. The strips of timber on the ends hold the two side pieces together. They are also decorative. Width wasn’t particularly important, and these were offcuts from ripping the timber for the thin strip on the top of the side.

On a side note, It can be a pain to rip a board that is already cut to length with a hand held circular saw, as the fence runs out of timber to guide it. It is easier to do if the board is longer than needed though.

Screwing the sides together


Sides done, now working on the top



Job done, Bella testing out the box. Apparently it makes a good pillow


For anyone interested in building something similar, Here is a picture of the sketchup drawing of my project. Please note that I made this to suit the timber I had lying around, and to match about 1/2 the hight of the chair, so if you are making this for a similar purpose, you may need to adjust your sizing to suit your chair, and the timber you are using. You could also turn this upside down, and it makes a fairly sturdy storage crate.

sketchup layout

Sandpaper storage shelf (aka, I got a saw for my birthday, and needed an excuse to cut stuff)

Here is the completed shelf in its current location.

Here is the completed shelf in its current location.

I turned another year older recently, and for my birthday, my wonderful wife bought me a Ryobi One+ battery powered circular saw.

Of course, If you get something like a saw for your birthday, you instantly need to find something to cut.

I had to sit through an entire day of work before I could play with it, so after work, I stopped off at Bunnings on the way home, and bought a couple of sheets of MDF. I had an idea to make a shelf to store my sandpaper neatly.

Every time I make something like this, I always manage to stuff up in my measurements, and this time was no different.

When measuring up the MDF for the sides of the cabinet, I seemingly picked the narrow sides, instead of the long sides.

However, I measured and cut the the top and bottom with clearance for the sides Plus the sandpaper, but the front and back only had a little extra leeway, and the paper wouldn’t fit if I added the sides in the same way.

I didn’t have enough MDF to cut 2 new sides out, so instead, I used the sides, and the bottom, but cut another top that was the width of the bottom, Plus the thickness of 2x sheets of 12mm mdf. this meant I wouldn’t eat into the size of the top shelf.

The bottom was slightly larger than the rest of the compartments, as A: I was lazy and B: I wanted to try and make a little drawer for other bits and pieces, so I got away with using the original bottom.

I cut the slots for the 3mm MDF with the saw as well. If I did something like this again, I’d probably try and get a 3mm bit for my router, as for each slot in the MDF, I had to do 2 overlapping cuts with the circular saw. A lot of people do this kind of work on a table saw, but as I don’t have one of those, and I do have the hand held circular saw, that’s what I used.

As it was, Come assembly time, I discovered I wasn’t quite accurate enough with my slots, and while some were OK, a couple were a little too tight. While trying to tap the shelves into position, I was actually driving the sides apart. with a few knocks from a mallet, and some clamping and extra glue, I managed to get things to fit up well enough again. I’ll have to be a bit more careful next time. Its all a learning experience.

So, its not exactly an action shot, but

So, its not exactly an action shot, but here is the saw after cutting the slots for the shelves

I was impressed with the performance of the saw. After a couple of hours of working with it, not working full time obvously, but working it enought that I thought I might have dropped the battery a bit, the battery was still reading fully charged on its built in meter. I think I’m going to like these 5 amp hour batteries that I bought to go with my Ryobi One+ gear.

Out of glueup, and the shelves fitted.

Out of glueup, and the shelves fitted.

Cat Climbing Tower

Recently, my wife and I embarked on a project to build a climbing tower for our cat Dizzy. After watching a show about troubled cats, we learnt that cats like to sit in high places, and overlook their domain, so we were aiming for a fairly high tower, that you just can’t buy (not without spending a lot of money anyway).

Inspired by the design at, I fired up Sketchup, and began working out what would fit best for our needs, and that resulted in a nice set of plans to guide us in construction.

The sketchup design

The sketchup design

we had an idea of what we needed, so off we went to the hardware store to get the timber and some other bits and pieces needed. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we had to hurry to get in before they closed. Returning with a car load of wood and MDF, it was time to get started.

The key to any successful project is good plans

The key to any successful project is good plans

Insert building montage here….

So we didn’t get many pictures between starting, and finished construction, so you’ll need to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. I think I need to work out a way to take time-lapses for projects like this.

From recollection, we went to the hardware store at about 3pm on sunday, and managed to have a standing cat tower by dinner time. I think we did well.

In no time, we're finished

In no time, we’re finished

As we ran out of time for the weekend, we bought the tower inside, and Dizzy got an opportunity to try out the tower unfinished for the week. She likes the 2nd highest shelf the best.

Dizzy trying out the uncovered tower

Dizzy trying out the uncovered tower

The following weekend, we had some more time, so off to the craft store to get everything to finish painting. The wood is painted with acrylic artist paint, and the shelves covered in purple fuzzy fabric. In the picture below you can see Dizzy trying out her new favourite place. We have since sat a pillow on the shelf to make it a little more comfy for her, and its now her place to sit.

Painted, covered, inside. Dizzy approves.

Painted, covered, inside. Dizzy approves.

All in all, I think we spent under $100 for everything we needed to make the tower, it was a fun project to make, and Dizzy loves it. I’d call that a success.

Recycled Wood Coffee Table

After replacing some of the fence palings with new ones at our house, I had some old ones left over, some of which were OK enough to warrant possible re-use.

At the same time, we were in need of a bigger and better coffee table for the lounge room, so an idea for a project was born. I will build a coffee table!

I began by sorting the boards, picking usable ones. There was lots of rough ones, split ones and rotten ones. Eventually, I found enough lengths that were good enough. At that point I got to work cutting them all to length.

At this point, I used a belt sander to try to remove as many of the splinters and rough surface as possible. If pieces weren’t fitting beside each other very well, I would plane them down with a hand plane, until they fitted better.

The boards, cut to size were then screwed to a couple of thicker pieces of timber, sourced from an old shipping pallet that was kicking around at home. Skirting boards were also screwed to the pallet timber.

There was a bit more planing and de-splintering done at this point, getting ready to apply a finish to the timber. Once everything was satisfactory, It was time to apply several coats of varnish. I think I applied 3 fairly thick coats over the course of a couple of days. I figure that should help hold the timber together a bit, and stop it from splintering.

With the table top sorted at this point, it was time to work on the legs. I used a length of 25mm square RHS steel. The joints were mitered by hand with an angle grinder, then tidied up the old-fashioned way, with a hand file. It would be nice to have a better method to cut things like this, but I can’t justify a bigger cutting method. A horizontal band saw, or a drop saw of some description would be really handy here.

Of course, the old-fashioned way requires lots of checking. Getting close, but still needs a little more work.

Here we can see the rough little welders square I made to hold the legs square. It wasn’t perfect, but was close enough for this task. I think I’ll have to try again for future projects. By allowing me to clamp the pieces together, it made it so much easier than it would have been if I had to take the pieces while they were loose.

It’s a little of a jump step again, but once I had the legs welded up as square as possible, and ground flush, I joined them together with a couple of pieces of 30mm angle iron. Tacking, and measuring  and adjusting , re-tacking, measuring .. etc…. I eventually got it pretty good. The legs weren’t exactly square, but it’s visually un-noticeable in the assembled product.

And then the legs were screwed to the pieces of timber at each end, holding it all together. Now, all I need to do is pull the legs off it, and paint them black. The paint has been purchased, so it shouldn’t be too long before I can call this one 100% complete.

And that’s it for this post. Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately, things get busy, and this year has really flown.  I hope you’ve enjoyed.

Bye for now.

Dumpster Saw Update: It works!

Yesterday the new brushes for my saw were delivered.

I opened one of the boxes to have a look, and compare with the originals. The new ones are very similar, the carbon block is the same size (but longer obviously). The metal end cap is similar, but made from slightly thinner gauge steel

Here are a couple of photos:

The old brush, and the new brush!

You can clearly see the only difference is the lighter gauge metal used in the contact end. They still fitted in and worked like new!

I had a chance this morning to put the new brushes in, and was delighted when the saw whirred to life. What else was there to do other than make something? so I grabbed some wood, and attempted to make a very crappy (and very shallow) mitred box. Mitres are always tricky to get right in my experience, as a degree or two out, and you end up with some gaps. I ended up with some gaps in this one.

The saw, and the first item I made with it! Yea!

Dumpster Diving

What does $0 get you these days?

It got me a mostly working ryobi compound miter saw.

What does $4 on ebay get you? new brushes for the mostly working compound saw, which will hopefully yeald a completely working saw!

Here is a picture of the saw. A pretty good find if you ask me!

While walking past a dumpster at a construction site, I saw the miter saw sitting in with the other building rubble. I came back later and grabbed the saw, and after seeing it was complete, I gave it a quick test. the saw spun up to life, so I loaded it up and took it home.

Getting it home, I clamped it to a bench in the shed, and dug out some scrap bits of timber to test it with. Pulling the trigger, the saw whirred to life, and cut through the wood nicely. I noticed that the the motor was arcing alot internally, and was acting a bit odd, pulsing and such. I figured it was the brushes on the motor, so I unplugged the saw and pulled out the brushes.
Upon pulling the brushes, it was clear they were worn out. No problem, they shouldn’t be hard to replace. I called the local authorised repairer, who contacted ryobi to see if they were available. They called me back a few minutes later and it turns out new brushes aren’t available. I thought thats kinda silly. Even if its a few years old, I would have thought there would be a stock of the consumables. I guess they want you to buy a new one instead of fixing the old one.

I had a few sets of brushes from cheap chineese angle grinders (which is nice, even though i don’t really expect a $25 grinder to outlast its brushes) but, not supprisingly, they are much smaller. They are for motors more than half the power of this 1800 watt saw.

Next stop, the internet. Ebay is a marvel for things like this.
I was expecting to have to find a larger set of brushes and file them down to size, but upon browsing thru a few results I came across the perfect fit. in this case, 16.5×6.xmm brushes. No fileing needed. SCORE. and all for the price of about $4 au.

Now its time to sit back and wait for the brushes to arrive.