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The digital photo frame frame

News, Woodworking ·Wednesday March 7, 2018 @ 19:36 EST (link)

I've mentioned the photo frame before, but not shown any pictures thus far. The "frame" is a Raspberry Pi with an LCD screen, but alone it doesn't look great and doesn't stand up well (needs to be leaned). I made an elementary stand for the Hedricks to hold it straight and route the power cord out of the way, but my parents got theirs before the idea of one; in fact I was trying to finish it to send it back with them (and had to finish the wireless auto-updates when we came up in January).

This wood frame around the frame is based on an adjustable tablet stand and photo frame by Steve Ramsey (of Woodworking for Mere Mortals (WWMM)), but with minor changes such as leaving off the lower ledge (since I didn't need a tablet stand). This is essentially (not counting a wooden heart for Honey, also made to test my jigsaw table) the first piece out of my workshop, and it is full of lessons that have improved my technique and will improve the other two frames.

For the most part I'm buying tools as I have a need as part of a project (of which many are lined up). For this particular endeavor, Ramsey's first step in his video is to plane down some 3/4" wood to 1/2" so it wasn't so bulky. I did not go out and buy a planer; I'm not even familiar with the local lumber yards yet, so I picked up a small 1/2" oak project board from Lowe's for a reasonable price (about $6) instead. From it I cut some 1" strips that would become the stiles and rails. I ripped them on the table saw, a DeWalt jobsite saw (if I do enough of this I'll upgrade someday to a hybrid/contractor).

As an aside, the saw is one of the first power tools acquired for the workshop and used even before I had power to it via an extension cord from the garage. In fact, it was in part the occasion for bringing power out there, as using it with a work light on the same extension cord caused the light to dim. I plan to write about it more in depth, but to summarize, I have a proper buried 100 A line to a sub-panel with three 20 A circuits (3 receptacles on the left, 3 on the right, 2 at the back) and a 15 A circuit for a couple 4' LED lights in the main shop, a 7" round light in the loft, and a motion light outside. I installed everything except for the buried cable, which I hired someone to do and was done very poorly and required a lot of work to fix (missing ground rod, unusable panel, open neutral, leaky wall, that sort of thing). I eventually straightened it out and it's great to have working power and light, enough to run dust collection and the saw or a heater, etc. at the same time. The first shop project I built was a cross-cut sled.

Ripping such small strips on a table saw didn't feel safe, and as a fan of WWMM I was well aware of Microjig's Grr-ripper (a sponsor humorously introduced at the start of most of his videos) and I purchased a couple of them. A push stick can't simultaneously push down, forward, and hold both pieces toward the fence without pinching, and the Grr-ripper can and did, and although they're a bit pricey ($60) I consider them worthwhile for the added safety. I should mention building this fairly simple frame took me, all told and spread over evenings, about a month; of course now that I know what I know and have the tools I need it should be doable in a couple evenings. I used the table saw's miter gauge to cut miters; it didn't seem worthwhile to build a sled. They were workable but not great, but at least I knew not to try to fix them by removing material at an angle (see), and as I was a little tight anyway (another lesson). In future I'll be checking the angle against the blade with a drafting square. I also cut a strip from the oak board to make a better rail for my cross-cut sled, which was far too loose, and this called for buying a caliper for making accurate measurements. I cut a dado with a router I'd bought for the project (round-overs and rabbets) (table saw doesn't take a dado stack), into which this rail fit perfectly (but when the weather got warmer it required a little sanding and some paste wax to avoid jamming). Then I had to redo the fence.

So… back to the frame. To be able to join the pieces together I had to first drill holes for the threaded rod that would connect to the side supports and star knobs to allow for adjustment. "I just picked them up at the hardware store," he says, but my locals don't carry any and even Amazon is hard up until I find a bag of 10 fairly reasonably, "1/4″", also something about M6, probably an internal model number… nope, it's a metric screw diameter (and "1/4″" is just to get search hits). Finding M6 threaded rod nearby is impossible, but I find some machine screws in the "specialty" bin and cut the heads off with a hacksaw; that works. (In this period I probably bought and returned 50 items to Home Depot, although on net I was probably still worth retaining as a customer.) So, drill a couple test holes in scrap to find out what will make a tight connection—I think 7/64 did it—then put the stiles on the drill press (this I've had a while for a project with gears) (bit low, turns out), then ratchet in the screws to cut threads. Go to glue it up and the glue won't squeeze out: turns out it doesn't like extreme temperatures so it's a big rubber ball; it's late, so head to 24-hour grocer (Meijer) to replace it. Glue, clamp, leave overnight (inside). Turns out decently.

To the router for rabbeting. Fairly new at this; all I've done is (with the fixed base) route a 3/4" dado for the cross-cut sled's rail. I got a router table from Craigslist (a little before I even had a router, but I had a good idea of which one I'd get) at less than half the best online price, so I set up the router in it (on the floor; I need to build a base; for now I'm kneeling). I also got a dust collector from Craigslist and it's worked well with the table saw and now the router table with a 2 1/4" to 1 1/2" adapter. So: against the turn of the bit (most of the time): it's left to right hand routing, right to left in the table, except inside a shape where it's right to left again. 1/2" dado 3/8" high, goes well enough, corners are of course rounded, which I thought was fine since the Pi display is too, but the display's rounding is negligible, so bring out the chisel. I also needed a little more vertical room, so another bit. (It also turns out I hardly use the cheapo set of Kseibi bits I bought and just use the somewhat better ones I bought for specific purposes.) Also rounded over the outside front (straight edges and test pieces to avoid leaving a ridge). Laid that aside.

Side supports next. There's a 1:1 template in the WWMM (free) plans PDF; print a few copies, cut them out with scissors, cut some rectangular blanks from the oak board, stick the paper template to a blank with packing tape. Realize that I'm not going to be able to cut this with the jigsaw I bought for the purpose (too small a piece to cut unsupported). Turn it into a "jigsaw table" (poor man's bandsaw) by unscrewing the lower plate and using a drill and the jigsaw itself to cut holes for it into a foot square piece of 3/4" plywood. (Remember the M6 threaded rod? The screw for the jigsaw is also an M6; of course it is, Bosch is a German company.) Route a countersink for the machine screw (large enough for the socket) so it doesn't sit above the table. For now, I'm using it clamped to my workbench (a far earlier project; there's probably a post about it). (Later I'll cut some legs from the same plyboard, acquire a compressor and brad nailer (good deal on a DeWalt kit at Home Depot), and glue/tack them and take back my clamps. Tiny bit of sanding on one leg to level.)

From there I cut a template into some particle board shelving (unsuitable, so it joined the scrap pile), traced the template to the blank, and cut loosely around it. The plan was to use a pattern bit (got one with both top and bottom bearings) in the router table, but it didn't feel safe at all (especially after it whipped it out of my hands) so I screwed the template to some scrap wood, clamped the scrap wood in a bench vise, attached the workpiece to the template with double-sided tape, and used the plunge router base to hand route. There wasn't always as much area for the base to rest on as I'd like but it generally went well. Since then I've picked up some ideas from Tom Silva on an episode of Ask This Old House: attaching the workpiece and template to a larger piece of scrap wood and either attaching a "sled" to the router base for it to ride on (disadvantage: can't rotate it as far) or attaching a rail of the same materials/thickness so the router can ride along it and the workpiece; Rockler also makes a "small piece holder" jig that would make copying in the router table safer. Sand by hand, not great. Follow WWMM and pick up an oscillating spindle sander (Wen) which is much better. Round it over, drill a hole for the screw (loose enough for it to rotate this time). The end is in sight.

Finish is going to be spray lacquer (also inspired by Ramsey): sand, clean with tack cloth; with the doors open for ventilation, apply lacquer, two coats outside, one inside. I'm excited to see the finish product so I assembled it—put the screws back into the side of the frame, washers, supports, and star knobs—and put the Pi in the back and tacked it in with a Logan Point Driver, which worked great. Despite the flaws, I'm fairly happy with it and more with what I've learned and expect the next two to be considerably faster and better quality.