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Lots of questions from a new guy regarding carpentry

Postby Bagong Carpintero » Sat Jan 03, 2015 9:58 pm


I am just starting to get serious with woodworking as a supplement to my hobby. I play on the computer a lot and most of my time is spent with combat flight simulators. Because of this, a typical office desk and chair leaves a lot to be desired. 4+ years ago, I bought a second-hand bucket seat and started making my own cockpits. I have no previous carpentry experience or training and I've basically just followed instructions from websites or YouTube.

2 years ago, I decided to upgrade my cockpit and install a triple-monitor setup. This meant I had to modify my monitor table and make it wider to accept three screens. It has served me well until a few months ago. Because of the way I get into and out of my cockpit, the seat cushion has given out. Luckily, I was able to source a different seat and I have now started work on my third cockpit design.

Up until a few days ago, all I had tools-wise were a cheap jigsaw, a cheap circular saw, and a cheap power drill (handheld). I say cheap because they are £30 or less from B&Q. I found a Black&Decker drill on sale and decided to buy it to save me from having to swap from drill bit to screwdriver head everytime I need to modify my cockpit. The difference between the B&D drill and the cheap one was obvious straight away. This showed me that not all tools are created equal.

I have now purchased a few new toys, namely a JCB 2100W router, a Silverline bit set, a B&D Mouse sander, and a few other bits and bobs. I am hoping to be able to do more complicated designs and truer cuts, plus paint my cockpit in the end so that it looks good. I've never painted anything before.... well, nothing big. I used to game with Warhammer 40K and other minis but that's a totally different scenario.

I work primarily with MDF, 18mm and 12mm. I use the thicker MDF for load-bearing areas such as monitor surfaces and braces and the thinner one for other areas like a keyboard stand. I do not drill MDF-to-MDF but I put in timber which each MDF is attached to with screws.

With that background info out of the way, I am in need of help with questions which I am sure will sound very basic.

1) I am priming the MDF with Dulux Primer & Undercoat (for wood) and so far, I am very happy with the results. At first, I was skeptical regarding smoothness but after sanding the first coat, my confidence in this grew tremendously. However, I am worried that it will take many coats before an even color is achieved. With three coats, sanding in between (120, 180, then 400grit sandpaper), it is still kind of blotchy with some areas whiter and some a bit brown. Is this good enough for painting? I'm going to be using dark grey or even black as my final color.

2) I bought a small tub (500g) of Diall white wood filller to fill screw holes and panel join imperfections but it wasn't what I expected at all. I was thinking of something like thick toothpaste or glue-like, but what I got was powdery, clay-like. Is this normal? Or should I return it to the store?

3) If the wood filler is normal, then is there a way to apply it as minimally as possible? I can't seem to get it perfect, it'll always peel off in one area or another as I try to scrape the excess off. What I've done in the end is put a small mound over the screw hole, wait for it to dry, then sand it flat.... which thankfully didn't take much time.

4) How long should I let the wood filler "cure" before I sand/paint it?

5) Can/Should I use this product on the sides of the MDF to make it nice and smooth? Or should I use something else?

6) When working with the router, I discovered why a left-to-right direction is advised.... I tried right to left and I'd have to manhandle the router to get it back onto the guide. Why is it left-to-right when trimming material but when cutting through it, either because I'm trimming a big part off or cutting a dado, right-to-left doesn't make a difference with left-to-right?

7) I am confused with the depth stop guide of my JCB router. I know I should zero my router by bringing the tip of the bit to the surface of the material, then I zero the depth gauge/depth stop by selecting the lowest position on the step buffer and move the depth stop to that position. Depending on the bit I'm using, the depth stop can be anywhere from the 2cm - 6cm mark. It is at this point I get lost. I wanted to cut an 18mm MDF so I added 2cm to the mark, effectively raising it off the step buffer. But when I cut, it turns out I was only doing 16mm or so as I had a bit of MDF material left attached. Can anyone clarify this procedure for me? I've watched other videos but their depth stop designs are usually different.

8) I was hoping to rout a few patterns but I first started by trimming down some MDF to proper size. Instead of using a fence, I wanted to use a template cutter so I can essentially put my fence (18mm MDF spare) right on my drawing line and cutting there. A few problems ocurred: a) when the bearing just touches the top of the fence, the bit does not go all the way down the material and I'm left with 0.5mm of it. b) Lowering the bit even further means that the black ring above the bearing comes in contact with the fence which makes me doubt how true it is after so many runs. c) The way I am holding the router is a problem because I cannot see where the bit actually is plus only less-than-half of the guide plate is on the fence and some of my cuts ended wavy. Any tips?

9) What is the best way to cut proper/true? I've tried manually, with a jigsaw, and with one of those fancy mitre jigs (manual cutting though). As much as I'd like one with a circular saw, it's just too expensive for me. I was wondering if a cutting template + tenon saw would be better?

10) I like to pre-drill my holes so that I know the screw at least has a groove to ride into, but as of date, I am using a 2mm bit for 4mm screws. I wanted to go out and buy some more 2mm bits but they were out so I ended up with 3mm drill bit. Now I'm worried that the 4mm screw won't find much purchase since the pilot hole is too big?

11) I would like to be able to slide my monitor assembly forward/backward to ease my entry/exit to/from the pit. I was thinking of maybe making some sort of table assembly, then have another, smaller table on top of it and the movement is achieved through drawer runners, either the ball bearing double extension ones or the undermount runners. Each of my three monitors is 4.4kg in weight plus I have a fourth touchscreen weighing 6kg so the screens alone are almost 20kg. The weight of the monitor support assembly should be a good few kg as well. Is this a sound idea? Can I do this? Suggestions would be appreciated. Obviously, the monitors will be secured to the table via scres so they don't tip over when the table is moved!

Apologies for the many questions. Like I said, I'm totally new to this!

Bagong Carpintero
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Gorilla Glue heavy duty grab adhesive

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