I Get My Ship Together – Part 1

Where have I been? Have I been working on the layout? Yes, most definitely, although there have been some changes which I will detail in a future post. In the meantime, I wanted to write a sidebar series about a kit which I bought for the layout. It’s Sylvan Scale lake freighter. I looked around and couldn’t find a post or video of anyone actually building one. So I thought I’d try my hand.


The kit is a non-trivial build and is made of resin so right away, I knew it would be a challenge. Being made of resin means it needs special glue, CA (short for cyanoacrylates), the same type as Krazy Glue. The first thing I did was to wash all the parts since resin parts all have a mold-release agent on them, then I laid them out to dry.



Then I dug out the tools I would need. A good hobby knife is essential. I bought a nice X-Acto kit from Hobby Lobby, just over the border but if that isn’t an option, I have found decent sets of hobby knives in the dollar store too. A set of small files will also be needed plus some putty and, of course the CA adhesive. In addition I have a pin drill set that will be needed. I spent several minutes drilling dried glue out the applicator so the drills hav already proved useful. The kit had a lot of flashing left over from the molding process (you can see some in the photo of the drying parts) so I cut and filed it off.

The first step is to assemble the two halves of the hull. There are hull extension kits if you want to make the ship longer but I opted for the stock kit length. I filed the parts where the hull would fit together but after I glued them there was a noticeable seam. I applied some putty and let it dry. Once dry I filed the seams smooth.

With the hull assembled and looking okay, next comes painting. I gathered all various pieces I wanted to paint together. Next time I’ll go over the painting.

The assembled hull, ready for painting.

CRHA GO trip 2019 – Brampton

Our CRHA (Canadian Railroad Historical Association) Niagara Chapter has been running an annual GO trip for about 7 years now and for our 2019 (August 9th) trip we elected to ride to Brampton. We spent the day mostly on the platform of Brampton station watching the trains roll through.

Early morning GO train at St. Catharines Station (5:44 EDT)

Early morning GO train at St. Catharines Station (5:44 EDT)

The day began before dawn as the participants in this trip (11 in all) boarded at various locations ranging from the train’s origin in Niagara Falls to Clarkson. I boarded, with others, at St. Catharines, bleary-eyed, at 5:44 a.m.

After a leisurely 2 hour trip, we arrived at Union Station to grab some breakfast and wait for our GO train to take us to Brampton at 9 a.m.




Our CRHA crew having just gotten off the morning train from Niagara

Our CRHA crew having just gotten off the morning train from Niagara

One of the issues with trains from Niagara is the mandated slow pace through Hamilton due to many industrial sidings and level crossings. Combine this with having to back into West Harbour station and then make all stops from Aldershot on makes for a long trip. So it’s train service, just not fast train service. Still, we would rather be riding a train, even a slower one, than sitting in traffic.





We spent a bit of time shooting some photos on the platform before heading into the station for breakfast. The work on Union Station is on-going but so far has yielded great results. The once-dark and dingy trainshed is now bright thanks to the large glass canopy. This venerable station has been turned into a modern transportation hub. We descended from the York concourse to the newer food court below and purchased breakfast.


Our GO train arrives, ready to take us to Brampton

Our GO train arrives, ready to take us to Brampton

After breakfast, we made our way back to the platforms, after consulting the GO status screen to determine which was the correct one. Our Brampton train rolled in and we climbed aboard for the ride out. We passed the junction where the UP Express splits off for its run to Pearson Airport (the subject of our 2015 GO trip).

During the ride out we noted the amount of infrastructure work (grade separations, station improvements) being carried out by GOs parent Metrolinx. The good news for train and mass transit fans is that we’re living in a rail renaissance. Even VIA has recently contracted for some new equipment.


The locomotive pushing our train gets ready to depart from Brampton Station

The locomotive pushing our train gets ready to depart from Brampton Station

Our GO train arrived at Brampton after a 40-minute trip and we disembarked onto the platform. The mid-morning weather was warm and pleasant, a perfect day for watching trains.

GO trains operate in a push-pull configuration, with a locomotive typically facing east (if you’re at Union Station) and the other end of the train being controlled by a specially equipped car which features the necessary controls to run the locomotive and train brakes.

We snapped some photos of the train as it departed to catch the locomotive pushing the train. Built by GMDD in London Ontario in the late ’80s and early ’90s, many of these units have now been retired and the remaining few won’t be in service much longer. The thing about trains is today’s commonplace is tomorrow’s rarity. During the 1990s  and up to 2008, these hard-working locomotives were all one would see on GO trains. Now they’re disappearing. We thought we would take some photos while they were still running.


Over the next two hours, we were treated to a parade of freight trains, VIA and GO passenger trains.

In addition, there is a shortline, operated by the Trillium Railway that runs on tracks that cross the mainline just west of the station. We heard an airhorn an hour after arriving and walked down to the diamonds  in time to catch the small freight. After pausing for another GO train, the short train proceeded south and the crew waved enthusiastically as we snapped photos.

We walked down Main street to an eatery called Wendel Clark’s Classic for lunch. Not the greatest but the beer was cold. Over lunch, we heard two freight trains pass. We returned to the platform for the afternoon for another series of trains.

Before long our GO train appeared to take us back to Union Station. After a short layover there we boarded our train back to St. Catharines where arrived, on time at 7:15 p.m. We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather and the Brampton location was a good one too. We thanked our planner, Paul Chapman for working out all the details. It is a legend in our group that when Paul is present, the weather is great. This day was no exception.

Our CRHA photo line at Brampton

Our CRHA photo line at Brampton

Let’s Get Wired

The New New Project Part 11

Finally! Had you given up on me? My last post was May so I don’t blame you if you had. I’ve still been working on the layout. I actually was controlling a train with my phone the other day, but I’m getting way ahead of myself.

Wiring is one of the aspects of the hobby like carpentry that, for me at least, is not very appealing. Fiddly, mucking about under the benchwork kind of stuff that I avoid when possible. However, if I want to run trains it’s the only way, at the moment, to make that happen. There are new technologies out on the bleeding edge to switch to battery powered locomotives with wireless control. Last summer the Love of My Life and I built a garden railway that runs that way. I plan on posting about that someday too. Battery technology will have to get even better for that to work in N scale. For more on battery powered indoor trains check out this site: https://www.deadrailsociety.com.

I did some reading and research while I was building the benchwork and such. I knew I was planning DCC for control and I had already bought an NCE Power Cab for my last project. There’s a DCC website that has a lot of information (http://www.wiringfordcc.com) plus I spoke to other modellers and read forums. As you might imagine there are as many ideas as there are people, so I had lots of information to sift through. In addition there are many great videos on YouTube. I found a series by Mike Fifer and he, like me, is using Kato Unitrak in N scale so his videos have been immensely helpful.

Warning: Geeky Technical Information To Follow. Reader Discretion Advised

In the end I decided on bus-type wiring with wires coming off at various points using suitcase connecters, running to power distribution blocks and finally to track feeders. If this were a computer network I would call it a star topology. Maybe it would help if I showed you some photos.

If you have never worked with (or even heard of) suitcase connectors before, they are a solderless connector that is used to create connections. The key word for me there is solderless. I hate soldering. I have heard as many people say that hey hate suitcase connectors so opinions vary. How do they work? I can’t say it better than the Micro Mark website where I bought them: Dubbed ‘Suitcase Connectors’ by expert model railroaders, these Insulation Displacement Connectors (IDC’s) let you connect track feeder wires to main bus (power supply) wires without having to strip or solder. Simply place the connector over the wires and crimp the metal tab with pliers. The tab pierces the insulation and locks the wires together. Snap the lid shut, and you’re done! source: www.micromark.com.

For the main bus I bought a spool of 12 gauge speaker wire and to connect the bus I used 18 gauge wire. The track feed wire is 22 gauge. I used Kato’s Unijoiners which are wires soldered onto rail joiners. I fed the bus through the centre hole I drilled on the table sections back in part 5 and ran it down the centre of all the tables. For the parts where I had to go around a corner I used a screw-in hook. I then secured the wire to each end of the layout with staples. I made sure to separate the two wires when stapling lest the staple cause a short. This meant that the bus wire is conveniently located at the centre of each table. So far that’s worked well.

My layout isn’t large enough to warrant ‘power districts’ whereby there is a separate DCC booster for each area but the layout is broken up into a series a blocks to allow for more feeders and separations. This helps to isolate for trouble shooting. At Mike Fifer’s suggestion I insulated the two ends of each turnout (unless it’s connected to another turnout). This avoids most power routing issues but means more blocks and feeders are required.

There are different ways to do power distribution blocks but the way I settled on was to use terminal block barrier strips (hey, I didn’t come up with the awkward name). Then I run a back jumper wire connecting half the terminals and a red jumper wire connecting the other half. This means you can connect the feeder power to any of the appropriate coloured terminals and the track feeders to the rest. Typically they have 12 terminals which means you can have six blocks being fed by one strip. You can see the finished product in use above. It does mean making 5 short jumper wires of each colour but it’s a task easily carried out while watching television. The giant lobster claw is holding an example below.

To connect everything up, I feed the wires down through holes in the table, after cutting off the plugs that they come installed with. Then it’s a matter of putting all the pieces together. For work under the table I sit on a low stool and use a flexible desk lamp. This has made the awkward task somewhat less so.

Once I got the first area hooked up I, with sweat on my brow, placed a locomotive on the track, connected up the throttle (Oh yeah, forgot to mention, the throttle just wires into any power block.) annnnddd…it worked! I had one small problem where one of the block feeder wires wasn’t properly connected but once I sorted that out everything ran fine. Whew!


The New New Project Part 10

Okay I said I would be discussing wiring but I also said I was avoiding it, so no wiring this time either. I have been busy, though, just not busy posting. The good news is, I did get to the wiring and it works (yay!).

You may have gathered from the groaner of a pun in the title that I was writing about the layout facia. For those who don’t speak model railway, the facia is the nice wood trim we attach to the sides of our benchwork (layout tables) to give them a nice finished appearance and to install holders for things like throttles, car control cards and of course scotch beer uhh beverages. I thought that I would do this before wiring to allow for the installation of the aforementioned throttle and its plug-in panel.

I settled on a height of 8-1/2″ for most places since this would cover the table side plus all the layers of foam and stick up just enough to catch any overturning trains (I hope). Once I had all my measurements in hand I travelled to the home improvement store and bought a 4′ x 8′ x 1/8″ sheet of hardboard. The friendly panel saw man cut it into 8-1/2″ strips leaving a small piece.

Once home, I measured the lengths I wanted and cut them on our trusty chop saw, I then layed them out on the table.

I knew there were some areas that would need more work such as the two road tunnels, the down-grade and double-deck areas. I started with the easiest areas which involved screwing the pre-cut panels on.

When I was thinking about how to attach the panels I settled on wood screws since they provide a positive hold and allow for easy changes. I chose little #4 X 1″ screws. When I went to attached them I found I didn’t have a #4 roberston (the square one) bit for my power screwdriver. Soooo back to home improvement store to buy some #4 bits. Then I began to fasten the panels on.

The tunnels involved some careful measuring, drilling and cutting with a sabre saw. They’re not exactly square but I will probably add some trim later. For the down grade I took a marker, rested on my finger and with the panel clamped in place, traced the slope onto the wood.

Once cut with the sabre saw they matched the slope pretty well. For the double deck area I clamped the panels in place to test the fit them carefully measured where I wanted access holes. Again I drilled and sawed the holes and again, they’re not perfectly square but they do the job.


The final step was to make a hole for my throttle plug panel. This meant I needed a hole in the hardboard and the side of the table. Since the throttle has a long cable I decided to put it right in the middle of my long table. From there I reach trains on all locations. I have the option of adding more plug-in panels later should I need to.

I measured where I wanted the panel to go, drilled a holes and sawed through the hardboard and table side. I fitted the panel and, who knew, it worked! I sanded the rough edges down and attached the panel.

I will probably paint the facia later but even as it is, the layout has a more finished appearance.

It could all use some trim too but it’s done for now. So more excuses, the wiring comes next!

The World Is Not Pink (Or Blue Either)

The New New Project Part 9

Now that the foam was complete (plus two plays, Christmas and New Years over), came the final step before track. I wanted to put a coat of paint over the foam as a primer for eventual scenery and to cover up all that pink and blue.

I thought I would pick up a couple of bottles of cheap acryliuc paint and brushes from the dollar store and Bob’s your uncle, I’d have that done in no time. I was wrong. Wrong about a few things.

I wanted to paint the surface an earth tone and found a burnt umber at the dollar store which suited my purpose, plus I picked up a package of foam brushes. I went through both bottles and ended up with one table cover in blotchy dark brown paint. Sooo I went back and snapped up 6 more bottles.

I found out that, just because the shelf label says burnt umber, it doesn’t mean that all the bottles there are that colour. I ended up with bottles of cinnamon brown blended in with the burnt umber. I attacked the painting task again resulting in some more blotchy tables. Eventually I catch on and so I got the brilliant idea to buy a small roller and tray, a small brush, plus more paint (verifying this time that I was actually getting the burnt umber) plus some hunter green for the harbour.

Wow. I realized that I should have bought the roller in the beginning. The paint went on the way I orginially thought it should. In the time it took to slop paint on one table, I had them all covered and covered well. I painted the harbour area with the green (which I will eventually put resin in to simulate water) and now I was ready to lay track!

The Kato Unitrack mainline only took minutes to assemble but then I noticed a few problem areas. Where track crossed table joints in a few spots, there were gaps under it because the joint was higher than the surrounding table. In one spot I goofed and the subroadbed curved the wrong way. There was a small section with a noticable gap under it.

Now I had to break out the plaster to prop that area up and then sand down the offending joints.

I filled in the gap and used a piece of foam to make it as flat as possible. When it dried I sand it down plus the offendin table joints.

I then put the track down and check it. Not perfect but 99%, close enough. Any remaining issues could be dealt with using shims. I repainted the sanded areas and laid the mainline back down.

Now I had to deal with an issue I had kind of been avoiding…wiring! That’s a topic for next post.

Habouring A Secret

The New New Project Part 8

My last post was over two months ago, life has kept me busy in that time. I got married to the Love Of My Life, I am rehearsing for two plays that I’m appearing in later this month (November 2016) and my new wife and I built a karaoke system. So while I have not been working on my layout, I have been busy.

The train room is being used for temporary storage right now but there has been more work done that I haven’t shared yet. So, I’ve been referring to how the layout sub roadbed gets more complex as we move around the table. Finally we arrive at the most complex part. Really, though, as train layouts go, it’s not that complex.

To provide continuous running via a loop and allow for some really interesting scenery I opted to have the mainline dip under the surface and continue, hidden around the wall. This meant that under the area I have designated as the East waterfront another set of tracks would be running underneath. You saw in my last post how the grade was descending. I had to design so that tracks would have adequate clearance and the above layer would be sturdy enough to support track and structures.

I used some old Woodland scenics grade kits turned on their side, since they provided the right height for clearance at 2-1/2″. I curved them so that the track could curve around them. They cracked in a few spots since I was bending them the wrong way so I filled in the gaps with spackling plaster. I laid out the grade going back up along the back wall. I then filled in the middle with various pieces of foam and more Woodland scenics unused grade kits along the back.


Curved grade kits being misused. The pink is the spackling plaster. It goes on pink and dries white.

Below you can see the completed downgrade in the first photo and the return upgrade along the back. Also in the other two photos you can see the bent Woodland Scenics grade kits plus cut foam to fill in the middle section.

The next part would be the top layer. I wanted to make sure I could have a cut-out section to allow for the watery part of the waterfront (I hope to have two ships there) plus the track areas. So I decided to use a base of sheet metal with a final 1/2″ layer of foam. This would allow enough rigidity and the cut out area. I found some pieces of pre-cut sheet metal at Home Depot that would work. I crafted some wooden posts to hold up the sheet metal and foam.

I was also aware that laying track would be difficult once the ‘lid’  was on. My plan was to paint the area black since it was backstage, so to speak. I used dollar store acrylic to paint the area black, glued the posts in place and glued the metal onto the foam and posts. Then I laid down the final foam layer with lots of weight (look at the photo, I’m not kidding).

The last bit was to cut out the area for the ships to float in. I cut out a large enough section to accommodate two N scale ships and then lined the harbour bottom with plaster. This way I can later paint it then add water in the form of resin.

After all that I realized that I should paint the upgrade area black as well but, as I said above, I’ve been so busy I haven’t gotten to that yet. I hope to be back working on it next month (December 2016) so be patient.

In the meantime, here's a photo of a fun Union Station clock face I made plus...

In the meantime, here’s a photo of a fun Union Station clock face I made (once the glue dried the wrinkles went away, I promise) plus…

...Union Station as it appears today annndddd....

…Union Station as it appears today annndddd….


…the east waterfront area now. Both as seen from the CN Tower. Very different from the era I’m modelling (1962).


The World Is Not Flat

The New New Project Part 7

In this installment we get to the more difficult parts of the track surface, or sub roadbed. The next two areas have grades and in the final area, there are two levels of tracks. This meant cutting and layering plus the installation of grades.

Warning: The next section may contain boring technical information. Readers not using caffeine may experience drowsiness. Operating a motor vehicle or heavy construction equipment is not recommended after reading this. Read on at your own risk.

For track grades I like to use Woodland Scenics grade kits. They are flexible and they take all the guesswork out of creating a reliable grade. My design called for a 4% grade. This means a 4″ rise for every 100″ of length. Woodland Scenics cheats a bit. They create their grade sections in two foot lengths so that they accomplish the total rise in 96″ as opposed to 100″. I find this works well in practice. I usually buy the grade starter kits as they are the first section only (meaning 0″ to 1″). I use them with the pink foam and I find this gives me more flexibility.

End of boring (well, more boring than usual anyway) section.

I planned to have one set of tracks drop down 3″. Using the 2 foot sections of the grade kits meant that each section dropped 1″. I then used the foam to create a terraced effect.



Terraced effect. Tolkien is clearly not impressed.

To achieve this I needed to work from the bottom up in 1″ layers. Using my drawing to temporarily layout track and pinning the grade kits in place I determined the areas where I need to cut out sections of the foam to accommodate the rising track. I traced it out on foam and cut out the required piece.


I then used the removed piece to start the cut on the next layer. I also repeated the process of layout out the tracks and grade kits. It looks something like this:

Yadda-yadda-yadda and I had created the rise from 0″ to 3″. The end result, with some plaster filler looks like this:


A bit rough, yet but it gets better.

So what about the 2 layer area? More on that next time.

Confessions Of A Foamer

The New, New Project Part 6

In this post I discuss how I installed foam and got closer laying track. Before I get into that, though, let’s deal with the word ‘foamer’. Foamer is a label the rest of the world applies to railfans or train spotters. The joke being that when one of us sees a train, we foam at the mouth. Very funny, sorry for having a hobby and interest but, hey, I brought it up didn’t I?

In this context I’m referring to my use of insulating foam, also known as extruded foam for sub-roadbed. In other words the ground upon which I will be building my layout. Over the years model railroaders have used verious methods for this part. Many use an open-grid style and run the tracks on risers, using using plywood or other materials for sub-roadbed. This means scenery has to be built up using a shell method. Another way is to have a solid table top using plywood and/or an obscure material called homasote which is made from pressed paper.

I have elected for the tabletop approach since my layout is mostly flat. I have used homasote in the past but I don’t really like it. It’s hard to find, hard to cut, extremely difficult to sculpt or shape and it distorts with moisture and humidity. Enough reasons not to use it? I think so. Extruded foam is a form of styrofoam but it’s much finer. It’s easy to cut, sculpt and sand and readily available at your favourite hardware store. It doesn’t hold track nails very well but since I’m using Kato Unitrack, that’s pretty much  non-issue.


By the way, do you like my snazzy IKEA train room fixture? It provides lots of warm light and is on a dimmer. The individual LED lights can be positioned to provide light where ever I need it. Neat eh? Nothing to do with foam but I thought you might be getting bored.

The only issue with my approach is that, in one location I have a grade which drops 3″ down and goes under a part of the layout. That means that the wooden table top is elevation 0″ which in turn means most of the layout has to be built up to 3″ high. This creates an opportunity to do something interesting which I will expand on later.

I searched for 3″ thick foam and found that it does exist but is really hard to find. I did locate 1.5″ foam so I purchased some of that with the intent of building it up in two layers. I bought more in other thicknesses to accomodate some other things I need to do as well. I bought blue and pink foam. I noticed that the blue is much more expensive than the pink.

The one thing I had to watch when layering is that the glue adds to the thickness so I spread it on sparingly and used lots of heavy stuff to weigh the foam down. I bought the foam in 24″ widths so it fit most of the tables with no need to cut for width. For the one wider table I had to use multiple pieces.


For the top layer I oriented the seams the opposite way, seemed like a good idea.

The two layers being weighed down with heavy stuff.

With the first area, the Bathurst bridge and roundhouse area being finished to 3″ high, it was time to move on to the second.

What I found as I went round the tables was that each area got more complicated and took longer. This also meant that they got more interesting. The second area was the Union station area. Since I was creating these layers of foam, I came up with an idea. I could build, right into the layout, the two road tunnels which bracket Union Station. This would be York Street and Bay Street.

I created the layers so that there would be two holes under the top layer which I would later build insertable streetscape scenes. At least that’s the eventual plan, we’ll see how it works out. So I figured out about how much vertical and horizontal space I would need. After doing some research I figured 1″ high and about 4″ wide would approximate the sizes. I put in base layer of 1.5″, a layer of 1″ which I would leave the two 4″ wide gaps. I finished it off with a .5″ top layer giving a 3″ height.

The two bottom layers with the tunnel gaps (neatly labelled too).

The other thing I had to keep in mind was the ability to dismantle and move the tables so the foam had to have a seam where the table edges met.


Showing the seam at the table’s edges.

Then I capped the whole area with a .5″ piece of foam, again leaving the seam.


The top layer being weighed down, giving the 3″ height.

As mentioned previously, the next two areas got more complicated and took longer. More on those next time.

Levelling And Finishing The Tables

The New, New Project Part 5

Now that all the table frames are assembled, there’s a few things left to do before we call them complete. They would need to be levelled, fastened together, holes drilled for wiring and table tops would need to be installed.

I designed the tables to be moveable but I also needed them to be stable. I decided the best way to do this would be to screw them together. This would also give me an oppotunity to make sure they were even. This also be a chance for me to test my adjustable legs. They worked perfectly and I was able to adjust them with a minimum of bending down and subsequent head rushes.

You can see the before and after in the photo. I levelled all the tables then screwed them together where the sides or ends touched. They were now level and sturdy. I did a couple of shake tests and they barely moved.

I knew that when I got to wiring all those extra sideas and ends, due to the modular design, would create obstacles. I thought I should make some holes to faciltate the running of wires. I first tried using a hole saw like you’d use for a door lock but it was a lot of work and made a massive hole, much larger than required. (Too embarassing to photograph. Sorry if you’re looking for a picture).

I settled on a 3/4″ boring bit. This does not imply that this bit is dull at parties but instead refers ot its ability to bore holes, usually in wood. I did a test hole and it was much better. Proceed to bore three holes in each crosspiece all the way around the room. I put them near the top since that’s where the wires would be coming through. The three holes just gives me more choices when running wires.


Sometimes the things that make it look like I’ve done a ton of work are the easiest. The table tops fall into this category. Armed with a cutting plan I ventured down to my local building supply and bought two 4′ x 8′ x 3/4″ pieces of plywood. Then the helpful man on the panel saw cut it according to my plan and I came home with the tops all ready to fasten on.

The only complication at all was the one wide (29″ x 38″) table where the roundhouse will be. I had two 14 1/2″ x 38″ pieces cut for that one. After a number of sessions with my handy drill and power screw driver, the tops were fastened down and the tables were finished. Huzzah!

Just for fun I threw down some track and ran some trains. I’ve included a link to the video on Facebook but I’m not sure it will work:

Next time, the thrill of gluing down foam!


I Assemble a Table

The New, New Project Part 4

Now That I had a suitable design, it was time to go to town building the tables. I reworked my original design to allow the tables to be smaller and more moveable but his meant I would need more wood and legs.

The issue now was that since I had side pieces cut from plywood and I only needed a few pieces, cutting up a large sheet of plywood would be wasteful–and expensive! So I opted, instead to use a few pieces of 1″ x 4″ dimensional lumber (I will rant more on that later).

Table Assembly

To start assembling a table I lay two legs down with the top end piece across them. Even though the photos show me using the floor, I prefer to use something higher, like a work bench or even another finished table. This saves all the bending over and subsequent head-rushes when standing up.


Next I try to square up the side piece and legs as best as possible, I use both an inside and outside square for this (plus that lobsterclaw that keeps showing up in my photos).

Once I have it more-or-less where I want it, then I drill a 7/64″ pilot hole then drive in a #8 1-1/4″ wood screw. Being a Canadian, I always buy Roberston-head screws (the square ones that just work). I drive the screw in so that the head is just below the surface. This works since I’m using softwood but if you were using hardwood, you’d need to actually drill a countersink when drilling the pilot hole.


Recommended Tools

I have an old drill that I’ve had for many years (it outlasted my marriage!)  and I also have a cordless screw driver. Using these tools in tandem makes the job go quickly. In addition I have a tri-square and a plastic square for lining things up; plus bar clamps (owned by The Love Of My Life) who’s usefulness I will demonstrate later.


Power tools, approved by Dave.

Once the side piece has been secured, I mark out a line 6″ from the bottom of the legs for the bottom side piece. This allows support while being high enough up not to get kicked. Once the bottom support has been secured, I set the end piece aside and repeat the process for the other end piece.


The two end pieces. The right, bottom support piece is dimensional lumber.


Dimensional Lumber Sidebar Rant (skip if you don’t care)


The wood is at full warp, captain!

You can see from the above photo, the noticeable size difference in the pieces I had cut from plywood and the dimensional lumber. My custom cut pieces are 4″ wide by 11/16” thick (nominally 3/4″). The dimensional lumber is nominally 1” x 4” but is actually 11/16” x 3 5/16”. So you aren’t close to its advertised size. Plus it is near impossible to find straight pieces. They are warped in all directions. So while my custom cut pieces are more expensive, they are more predictable. Some recommend MDF (particle board) but I find that it is brittle and can crumble. Anyway, back to the text.


Assembling The Frame

Time to put it all together. I take one of the end pieces and clamp it to one of the long, side pieces. When I designed the tables I sized the end pieces so that, combined with the side pieces the width would be 24″. This meant that I designed the end pieces to be 22-5/8″ long to compensate for the thickness of the side pieces.

What’s that? I’m a genius? Oh you’re only saying that because it’s true!

Anyway, this is where the bar clamps, supplied by The Love Of My Life come in really handy. I clamp a side piece to one end piece, then clamp the other end piece to the other end of the side piece. Did you follow that? Well here’s a photo, maybe that will help.


The bar clamps in action. Handy, huh?

Unless, you’ve got an assisstant who can hold things in place, these things are great! I’ve asked Dave to help but he insists that his role is supervisory. As for Tolkien? Pul-lease. He’s the president and CEO, not a worker.

Once again I try to square up the ends as best as possible. Then I can drill and drive a screw for the top left side, remove the left clamp, then drill and screw the lower left side. Then I repeat the process for the other end and we now have a self-supporting frame. Then it’s a matter of repeating the process for the other side.

To do the bottom-side supports I invert the table, again to avoid bending over. Using the 6″ off the floor measurment, I attach the bottom-side pieces.

Now I put the finshed frame in place (it’s actually the final one). Next comes attachment to the other tables and levelling but I will cover that next time.


Ta-da! The finished table in place.

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