Corbin's Treehouse - Corbin Dunn, Santa Cruz, CA
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Utility sink counter top: The Sculpin IPA Counter

I wanted to touch up some of the areas next to my newly remodeled bathroom, and the laundry room needed a new utility sink. The plastic piece of crap I had was junk and I couldn’t find anything that would fit in the space I need. So, I made a custom cabinet, and planned on a nice concrete counter top similar to my last one.  This time I decided to do a more complex mold:

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I did a 3D design in Sketchup and made a template to go off of (based on my real top). The above shot is what it looks like in the mold, so it is upside down. The mold was quite tricky because I wanted a large overhang, and a backsplash that was all one piece. The sink itself is a stainless steel undercount sink that I ordered from eBay.

For the color, I picked Cheng Concrete’s PLATINUM color. I decided my specialty for this countertop would be to use brown IPA beer bottles as accent pieces. I had to drink a few six packs of Sculpin IPA, and scrape the labels off as a starter for this project. I broke up the bottles, and tumbled them in my cement mixer for a bit to get them to have soft edges. After a few minutes of tumbling, I could stick my hand in the broken glass and there were no sharp edges to cut me. I dropped broken pieces in the bottom of the mold and mixed a TON of them in to the main mix, hoping they would show up. 

Here’s a shot of the top right off of the mold, but before the bottom was removed (again, remember it is upside down):

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The Platinum color turned out a lot more gray than I expected. If I were to do it again, I would try to use a different color. I think the green would look really nice with the brown bottle pieces. Or, a color without aggregate (i.e.: don’t use Secrete, and custom mix your own concrete, or buy the D-FRC from Cheng). I will definitely do experiments before I ever do a kitchen top, because I want more control.

Here’s a shot of the top outside of the mold and turned over:

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There were some big holes from the glass pieces preventing concrete from settling just right, but I did manage to prevent a lot of smaller holes. I didn’t spray-glue the glass aggregate down on the “bottom” of the mold like I did for the last one. this helped with preventing extra holes, but probably was a mistake, as it allowed the glass to move as I poured the concrete in. I worked a lot of the concrete down with my fingers, doing shallow layers. The first layer was less than the steel re-enforcement. Another “new trick”  I did on this top was to weld the re-bar together. I welded it into just the right shape, as opposed to bending. This worked awesome!

I didn’t take hardly any pictures this time. Here it is all ground and sitting on top of the counter:

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The gray makes it look a *lot* more industrial than I expected, but I like the effect. I wish I could have gotten more glass to show up, and if I do it again I will explicitly lightly glue pieces of glass to the mold (or use caulk) so I can control the placement of them.

In the pictures, you can notice that I ground the horizontal plane *a lot*, and the vertical planes very little. This was intentional to create the effect of industrial style.

I made a mistake with the placement of my sink knockout; it is slightly off for some reason, and I have to move the sink back ¾” or so to make it fit. I don’t know what I did wrong..but I should have double checked a bit more!

Luckily, the costs of this project were very cheap. The colors were about $70, concrete about $10, and the reset of the stuff (including the mold parts) I had leftover from the first project. Oh, Sculpin IPA was expensive..but worth it! So, for under $100 I had a nice custom top.




Aqua Coat water based wood finish on my utility cabinet

The next project after my bathroom vanity is a small utility sink cabinet made out of hard maple. Serendipitously I got a message from Aqua Coat asking to review their water based coating right when I had just finished putting the cabinet together. I am a big fan of water based coatings because they are eco-friendly. When you spray traditional coatings they emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are bad for the environment and highly volatile. Water based coatings like Aqua Coat won’t combust, and are generally safer for the person who has to work with them. Aqua Coat sent me a quart of their Clear Lacquer in Satin — my favorite sheen of choice, and just enough product to finish this small cabinet:

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Right off the bat they sold me on the container: it has a screw on re-closable lid!  This is so much easier to deal with than paint can style containers. 

I had to warm up my garage from the mid 50s to about 63-65F to ensure it was warm enough for spraying (60F minimum is required). I then stirred the container and poured some into the gun for my HVLP (A Fuji Mini Mate). I adjusted the spray and put on a coat. It seemed to flow really well, and leveled out quickly.  It also felt easier to spray; it didn’t seem to want to drip as easily as some other products. Although, I did get it to drip a bit when I put on one coat a bit too heavy. I find it easy to touch up with a small brush if you catch it early enough. 

The Aqua Coat also dries very fast. After about 45-60 minutes it was more than dry enough to sand and smooth out minor imperfections. I probably should have shot a first coat with some of their sanding sealer, but instead I just went straight for the lacquer. I put on four coats total, and the finished cabinet looks great! The finish is super smooth and has a nice satin sheen. Here’s a shot of my maple door:

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There’s not much more to say. Water based finishes also mean easy water based cleanup!

The container alone is a reason for me to switch from some other water based coatings, and I’ll definitely be using their products on some of my future projects. I recommend others to give them a try!


Bathroom Vanity: Completed!

My bathroom vanity is complete! This is a picture before I fixed the sink on. I originally had a different more square sink, but it was simply too white. This sink is an off white basque / biscuit / almond type of color, and doesn’t stand out as much against the light green counter top. Things are now done and it is working well! That’s me in the mirror. I’ll post a walk around video soon.

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Bathroom Vanity: Counter Top (part II)

Some pictures of it roughly installed:

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Bathroom vanity: counter top

The project continues with a nice counter top. I wanted to go for concrete as I’m fascinated by it, and got two concrete counter top books by Cheng and some premixed stuff from his website (more on this later)

Based on the books, I built a template – but I used cardboard since I had it laying around:

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I built a mold based off information from the books. Sprayed some sticky stuff on it, and tossed down a bunch of aggregate that I also got from Cheng’s site.

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Notice the custom side inlay on the far side; a bike sprocket piece!

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I think the pour is a little too wet, but it seems strong enough so far. Now, it looked a lot greener than I was expecting. I had ordered Mohave Gold (more later).

Here’s a time lapse of me doing the pour:



And then releasing it from the mold 4 days later:

I thought I got Mohave Gold; but the package simply had an “other” color checkbox marked. I ground and finished it based on the book:

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Still really green! I was hoping for this:

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and looking on the site I see Olive:

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I have a feeling that they simply sent me the wrong color! I’m still happy with the end result. More details in the next post…



Bathroom Vanity: Sanded, and starting to finish

I finished up the drawers. I used the Bessey clamps to keep things straight and tight, and also to pull close any gaps on the end:

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After that, some still had some tiny gaps…I mixed some sawdust and glue together and filled them with that.

Then everything was sanded with 150 and 200 grit paper:

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And the first coat of water based polyurethane:

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I was having trouble getting it to spray to the thickness I wanted. I think I’ll let this first coat dry overnight and sand it down with 200 to knock off high spots.

Bathroom Vanity: Taking shape

My bathroom vanity is starting to finally look like something. 

Here it is dry fitted before glue up:

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The process will be to put one side on

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The back, and then the other side:

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Then lastly the front can be slid on. It went together pretty well!


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Front door glue up didn’t go quite as well; I had some alignment issues. I forgot that the last time I made glued together doors I had made a right angle jig to clamp them too. This had allowed me to get everything aligned and clamped straight. The main problem I had here was I had flipped one board, so I had to pound it off and put it back on right — all while the glue was starting to set. 

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The drawer fronts are a solid piece of maple with a groove cut in with the router table:

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Next step is to make the drawers. I milled the wood to ?” and then used my jig to cut some half blind dovetails:

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Next I’ll run a ½” bottom groove for the drawer bottom. Then some sanding and glue up. Getting close to being done!



Bathroom Vanity Notes

These are mainly notes to myself on building my downstairs bathroom vanity (cabinet).

Face frame construction was normal pocket hole screws and works well for the face and back frame (back side seen here):IMG 4529

In the above photo, you can see the stopped groove for the bottom sheet of ½” plywood. I learned from prior projects to always stop the groove at the pocket hole screw locations. You can’t see the pocket hole screws, because they are on the back of the cabinet. The tongue will get trimmed these points.

On the plans and Sketchup model I didn’t draw in the joinery, thinking it was easy. I originally planned to tongue and groove the side panels together, and also use some pocket hole screws to hold it together; the screws would be impossible to see on the bottom raise, and on the top rail you will be able to see them, but you would have to stick your head in the cabinet. I was going to tongue the plywood and groove the the frame. I realized I had a flaw; if I grooved the bottom rail, it would intersect with the groove for the bottom plywood, and effectively allow the chunk to fall out. So, I ended up using some biscuit joints to do the job, which can be seen here:

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If you know woodworking, you understand you can ONLY do this with plywood, as it is dimensionally stable. If it was a solid wood panel, the glue up would tear it apart when it swells in the horizontal direction. 

Now, I’m not fond of this technique. The glue-up took a long time because of too much squeeze out. Plus, one side of the plywood had some small nicks from ripping on the table saw. It also took a long time to sink in the pocket hole screws.

I’d rather embed it by cutting a ½” groove. Originally I wasn’t going to do that because I wanted it flush on one side, but after playing with the inset I ended up not having it flush, and doing a small (less than ?”) reveal on the outer side. I have to do the other side the same way, as I already cut the plywood, but the door plywood is still oversize and will allow me to do it better. 

Finally, a picture with clamps:

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Kickback! and the bathroom vanity cabinet

I started planing some wood down to ¾” thickness for my bathroom vanity cabinet:

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As I was ripping one pice to width a small sliver came loose; there was a crack in the end of the wood, and as soon as it was free it caused some HEFTY kick back. Luckily I never have my body directly behind the wood while ripping, and the SawStop’s awesome splitter prevented it from actually kicking back. It pushed back in my hand about 5 inches. I am really happy with the SawStop. 


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I’m starting to get some of the pieces ripped to width:

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Next it is some crosscutting and then pocket hole screws.

Bathroom cabinet: Free Sketchup model download!

Here is my downstairs bathroom cabinet design in Sketchup:

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A quick rendering:

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And placed in my bathroom setup:

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Download the free cabinet sketchup model: Downstairs bathroom cabinet 2015.skp



(c) 2008-2017 Corbin Dunn

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