Monthly Archives: March 2021

A Storage Cubby for my Son’s Bedroom

One thing that seems to be a universal truth about having kids is that they come with a lot of stuff. That stuff needs to be stored somewhere, and so I found myself building a storage cubby for my son’s nursery.

As always, I started out by modelling the cabinet in Fusion 360. When I started wood working, I had a bad habit of building stuff that was too small. I’ve found that modelling my pieces in a CAD program like Fusion helps me get the proportions of the piece correct and forces me to think through the joinery. This way, I get a chance to fix problems with the design before I cutting a single piece of wood.

The carcass of the cabinet, made from 3/4″ baltic birch plywood

The cubby is sized to fit a set of cloth bins that we purchased on Amazon. The two bottom cubbies will accommodate taller cloth bins, the middle two cubbies can hold the shorter of the cloth bins, and the top shelf is designed to hold a row of children’s board books.

I built the cabinet carcass out of 3/4″ baltic birch plywood. This is the first time that I’ve used this product, and I have to say that it is a fantastic product. Expensive, and heavy as hell (it’s about all I can do to wrestle a 5′ x 5′ sheet of the stuff around my shop), but beautifully flat and smooth, and free of annoying voids.

Wherever two pieces of plywood meet at a right angle, I cut a dado at the table saw that is sized to accommodate the perpendicular piece of wood. This adds significant strength to the glue and screws that tie the pieces of the cabinet together. I made sure to countersink the screws so that I could hide screw holes, and cut a piece of 1/8″ plywood to form the back of the piece. The backing board sits into a rabbet, and is flush with the 3/4″ plywood that makes up the side of the cabinet.

Two oak boards, glued together to form the top of the cabinet

To top the cabinet, I glued together a couple of boards of red oak. I drilled holes for three dowels in each of the boards. The dowels help to orient the boards and ensure that the seam between them stays flat while the glue dries.

The top of the cabinet, sanded and finished with Osmo Polyx Oil

Once the glue dried, I removed the dried excess with a chisel and hand plane, gave cut the cabinet top to size, put an 1/8″ round over on the edges with a palm router, and sanded the entire thing down to 220 grit.

I used Osmo Polyx Oil as a finish. This product has become my go-to finish for hardwood projects over the last little while. It leaves a matte finish that is soft to the touch, and does not leave a plastic film or discolour the wood in the way that polyurethane does.

The cabinet carcass, pictured with the first two coats of white paint applied

Once the glue was dry on the cabinet, I cut some poplar strips and tacked them onto the front face of the cabinet to hide the edge of the plywood. Some wood filler was used to plug up the screw holes and tighten up the joinery on the face frame.

The cabinet was painted with three coats of a white latex paint. I tried to keep the coats thin and avoid drips. In between the first and second coats, I lightly sanded with 220 grit paper to remove as many brush strokes as possible. The result is a smooth, glossy finish. It isn’t quite as good as a spray finish, but for brush work, it’s not half bad.

The cabinet skirt, made from red oak, seen here prior to receiving routered edges

The last piece that needed to be built was the skirt of the cabinet, again made from red oak to match the top. The skirt consists of an inner frame that is glued and screwed together, as well as an outer frame that is glued on and sports decorative miter joints.

The cabinet skirt, sanded, routered, and finished with Osmo Polyx Oil

After the glue dried, I used my hand plane and palm sander to clean up the surface, and applied a decorative ogee profile to the upper edges. Finally, the piece was finished with a coat of the same Osmo Polyx Oil that I used on the cabinet top.

Later on in the process, I cut one of the long edges off of the skirt so that the cabinet can sit as close to the wall as possible. If I had been thinking at design time, I would have allowed the top of the cabinet to overhang the back so that it sits flush with the wall. As it stands, there’s a gap thanks to the baseboard in the nursery.

The finished cabinet, loaded with books and toys

Once the paint and finish dried, I connected all of the pieces with some #8 1-1/2″ screws. Because I expect that the oak will move with humidity while the plywood stays stable, I fed the screws through 1/4″ holes in one of the pieces so that there’s room for one piece to move without cracking.

The finished cabinet looks great in place in my son’s nursery, especially because it shares a colour scheme with the crib that I built when he was born. I’m really proud of this one.

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Installing Ubuntu on a Raspberry Pi 400 from Windows 10

I recently picked up a Raspberry Pi 400 for my in-laws. Having gifted them many a hand-me-down laptop over the years, I was immediately struck by the simplicity of the new offering from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and at $140 CAD, the price point couldn’t be beat.

The box that the Raspberry Pi 400 ships in, about the size of a standard shoe box.

When the Pi arrived, I continued to be impressed by the packaging. The box contains everything that you need to get started (aside from a wall outlet and an external monitor with an HDMI input), and apart from the included mouse, all components feel well made and are pleasant to use.

Setup was simple – just plug in the power cable, the monitor, and the mouse, and the machine comes to life. Like previous iterations of the Pi, the machine boots from an SD card, and it doesn’t have a hardware power switch, so it turns on just as soon as power is connected.

The entire kit set up and plugged into a spare monitor.

The SD card comes inserted into the Pi, and is flashed with Raspbian GNU/Linux 10 (buster). On first boot, it asks for some locale information and prompts you to change the password for the default pi account, after which it downloads and installs updates.

Now, my in-laws have only just started to learn basic computer skills in the past few years. I have installed Ubuntu on the laptops that we’ve given them in the past, and I wanted the new Raspberry Pi to present a familiar user interface, so I opted to purchase a 32GB SD card and flash it with Ubuntu 20.10 to ease the transition to the new machine.

The Ubuntu blog confirms that the latest release of the OS can indeed be installed on the Raspberry Pi 400, and the article links to a tutorial for flashing Ubuntu onto an SD card destined for a Raspberry Pi 4. Presumably, the internals of the two models are similar enough that the same binaries work on both.

I downloaded the Raspberry Pi Imager for Windows, launched the app, chose Ubuntu Desktop 20.10 for the Raspberry Pi 400, selected the SD card to flash, and clicked the Write button.

The Raspberry Pi Imager v1.3 for Windows, pictured writing Ubuntu Desktop 20.10 to an SD card.

One of the great things about a machine that boots from an SD card is that there’s really nothing to install. I just popped the card into the Raspberry Pi, powered it on, and it immediately booted into Ubuntu.

From there, I followed the steps on screen to configure the system, installed updates, and it was ready to go.

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