It hasn’t taken long to get too much work to keep me busy. Unfortunately, circumstances and administrative distractions took a toll on my time in the shop lately. It became apparent that I needed to hire someone to help me. The last thing I want is to turn away work, if possible. I spent the week looking for an employee and got several great responses. After many interviews, I was contacted by a woman, Miranda, who seemed very eager to apply and interview for the job. We finally met and talked and I learned that she was easily the best person for the job. I was impressed by her the fact that her father had taught her a solid set of cultural values and a great work ethic. Her Native Alaskan small island community upbringing proved very interesting and admirable. She also had a good amount of woodworking experience as well as other skilled experience. Above all, she loves woodworking and it’s apparent. We are thankful that she is part of our venture now.
To begin with today, we built a much needed dead-flat surface for the shop. There are plenty of surfaces in the shop, but none were reliably flat and they are advantageous for many reasons like wider assemblies and projects like door construction, among other things.
The idea was to make it light so it can be stored easily when not in use. That made it easy to choose torsion box construction. For those not familiar with torsion construction, it is basically a hollow- type, grid or honeycomb core, often using cardboard material. It’s light, and it’s incredibly stable and strong. Since there is no nearby, reasonable source for honeycomb core material, we had to decide what to use. My first thought was 1/8-inch hardboard. It’s cheap and easy to work with. Just to make sure it was strong enough, I cut 4 pieces @ 3″ x 12″, interconnected them, and stood on top of the little assembly which was rock solid – no racking or give whatsoever. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my Freud industrial 24-tooth rip blade was just the exact width required to fit the interconnected slots also.
Miranda Preparing the Frame Stock
After a trip to my supplier for hardwoods (frame) and HD for the rest, we got to work. First thing required was to prepare the hardwood frame. We bought some of my suppliers “Hit and Miss” red oak since it’s economical and an excellent hardwood. The frame was going to fit on full sheets of construction plywood.
Since the frame is going to be “locked in” with sheathing, it wasn’t necessary to worry about creating strong corner joints.
Basic Frame Butt Joints
Once the frame was fastened together, we secured it true and square with a sheet of 4′ x 8′ x 7/16″ OSB. Since it was the bottom, I wasn’t concerned with the process used to attached it, so we just drove a healthy amount of screws every few inches along the edge.
Cutting the Interconnecting Slots
After that was finished, it was time to prepare the grid. The inner-part of the assembly is 3″ deep so we ripped an entire sheet of hardboard into 3″ strips. I pulled 7 aside from the pile of nearly a couple dozen and trimmed them to fit long ways, 94″ to be exact. We took the rest and cut them to fit across @ 46 1/8″. That gave us one more than enough to interconnect every piece at under 5″ spacing between all points.
Assembling the Grid
It was much quicker to cut them in bundles which went well, esp. with assistance. It also ensures even spacing and assembly, which is, at the least, far more difficult when cutting individually. We were able to cut the longer ones in one batch. The rest were much easier to cut in two batches. This presented a problem with ensuring exact cuts between the two batches. The answer came to me though. Take one from the first batch and trace each cut slot onto one from the next batch. Next, cut through the tracing accurately. This worked perfectly.
Assembly went well and it was very satisfying to have a perfect fit on the first try.
Close Up of the Grid
Once the grid was set, we sheathed the top, smooth side up, further locking in the frame. This part required a bit more accurate attention to ensure a good, flat fastening. We didn’t want to work from the ends toward the middle cause that could cause a bit of possible creep inwards from slightly skewed screws or other reasons. The way to prevent any issues was to simply work from the middle of each side, set each screw one at a time towards an end alternating each side, return to the middle and then work to the other end.
A Nice, Dead-Flat, Strong Surface
The overall result couldn’t be better. The top will likely get a sheet of hardboard and we’ll put handles on the sides to move it around easier.
All in all, this was a much needed, excellent build. Having a dead-flat surface in the shop is a total bonus. The total cost is minimal, the weight is nominal, the strength is considerable, and the utility is priceless.
Thanks for reading!
Your Arctic Woodworking Friend,
-- Troy Bouffard || Master Sergeant, US Army (Retired) || http://www.birchhillwoodcrafts.com