Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rolltop Desk Scanner Drawer

My HP Scanjet scanner has a pretty large footprint. As a result, my rolltop desktop was kind of crowded. My wife, a devoted minimalist has been muttering darkly about my junky desk for some time. Seems it is difficult to dust - a minor, but serious crime in the household of She-Who-Must-Dust-Daily. So as a Christmas present, as much to myself as to her, I decided it was time to get her off my.....I mean, reduce the clutter on my desk.

Despite opinions to the contrary, I do need a scanner that will handle 8-1/2 by 14 documents, so the problem is how do I find a place for the scanner and make more room on the desktop?

The solution I hit upon involves the following materials:

  • 1 - 24 x 17.5 inch 3/4 inch plywood piece
  • 8 - half inch wood screws
  • 8 - 5/8 inch wood screws
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 - 22 inch drawer slides
  • An iron
  • A 5/8 inch band of oak veneer

The lower right of my rolltop contains a couple of wooden modules with drawers and compartments for computers, miscellaneous junk, my power center and a handful of CDs.  I measured the space above the top of the lower drawer module and above the top of the computer and found there was room for the scanner with a couple of inches to spare.

I removed the upper module with the CD rack and the shelf above the CPU as shown.

I moved the CD rack and drawer to the top of the desk beside the vertical stack of drawers as shown on the right.

I test fit the drawer guides, making sure the space above the slide out shelf would give the scanner a good inch of clearance. I measured and marked where the outside rails would go.

I screwed the rail guides to the sides of the inside of the compartment. I used the 5/8 screws where the sides were thicker and the 1/2 inch screws where the sides were only 3/8 inches thick. With the thickness of the rail guide, the half inch screws didn't puncture the sides of the desk.

I test fit the rails that screw to the shelf and measured the distance from inside to inside to get the proper width for the shelf (17.5 inches).

I cut the shelf 24 inches long to accommodate the full length of the scanner and 17.5 inches wide to fit between the rail guides with the shelf guide rails attached.

I screwed the rails in place on the sides of the shelf with the 5/8 inch screws for a secure fit. Make sure the guide wheels are oriented properly. Different rail guides may line up different ways, so test fit everything before screwing things together.

I screwed the guide rails to the sides of the board with the poorer side of the plywood down where the wheels hang down.

Before installing the shelf, I applied a strip of white oak veneer to the front edge of the shelf.

It comes with glue on the back already and is applied with a hot iron. Later, I'll come back and lay oak veneer across the top of the shelf, stain and varnish it to look like the rest of the desk. One day when I'm fully recovered from our move to Washington, I'm going to buy a solid oak shelf and replace the plywood one, but till then, Mama is happy.

All that's left is to slide the shelf onto the side drawer guide rails and slide it into the cabinet. I did have to drive a screw into the inside of the rail attached to the rail the very front of the rail guide. This prevents the assembly from sliding all the way through and whacking the back of the cabinet. Some of the more expensive guide rails come with such a stopper installed.

And Voila!  The desk is less cluttered and she can dust it daily if she wishes.

I still have my scanner which is a highly useful device.

I figure everything I can repair, organize, make prettier or any thing that irritates my Sweet Baboo that I can eliminate is one more bit o incense in my life, spreading the fragrance of peace and harmony in our happy home.

AND I get to show off my clever bit of furniture modification to visiting males of the species.

It is a little know fact that modern man marks their territory with power tools!

Urh, Urh....

Tom King
(c) 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Homemade Doggie Treats for Christmas

(c) 2011 by Tom King

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

If you’re wondering what to give the family dog for Christmas, have I got a fun holiday cooking project for you – peanut butter puppy biscuits. These things are great. My dog loves these better than any dog biscuits I’ve ever bought and I know what’s in ‘em.

Here are the ingredients: 
  • ½ cup hot water 
  • 2 beef bullion cube 
  • ½ cup oil 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 cup white flour 
  • 1 cup wheat flour 
  • ½ cup cornmeal 
  • ½ cup oats 

Here’s how to make them:
1. Drop two bouillon cubes into the ½ cup of hot water and let it dissolve.

2. Pour all the dry ingredients together in your trusty Kitchen-Aid mixing bowl and whisk them up to mix thoroughly.

3.  Add all the wet ingredients together and mix with the dough hook to form a ball of dough. Add a little extra water to achieve the consistency shown in the picture.

4.  Wrap the dough up in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours. The dough rolls flat better when chilled.

5.  When the dough is chilled, roll about a third or a quarter of it out on a flat surface. Flatten it till it’s about the thickness of a cracker – I like it about the thickness of Wheat Thins. They cook faster and crisper, though you can make them sugar cookie thick. They come out chewier that way. My sister-in-law’s toothless Chihuahua loves the soft ones. Daisy, my sharp-toothed border collie/lab mix likes the cracker crisp ones.

6.  Cut out the dough with cookie cutters. We used Christmas cookie cutters for Daisy’s Christmas stocking stuffers. They were appropriate. One was a tree, the other was a bow, but if you cut off the dangly part of the ribbon, it makes a little bone. The snowman becomes a postman or UPS guy. Daisy loves a man in uniform. You can also buy dog bone cookie cutters and all sorts of other shapes.
Lay the cutouts on a non-stick cookie tray or lightly greased one.

7.  Cook for 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. After they look done, turn off the oven. Allow the biscuits to cool in the oven and harden.

8. When they’re hard, store them in a zip type freezer bag to keep them fresh.  Makes a nice gallon freezer bag full.

These tasty treats won’t last long. Our dog, Daisy, is always very careful to take them gently from my hand so she doesn’t break them. She eats them slowly, picks up every crumb she drops, and then licks her paws (check the video).

Then she smacks her lips, licks them and gives me the pitiful sad-eyed puppy look till she gets another one. These biscuits are a healthy dog snack with ingredients you can feel good about feeding your pup. My wife says they are delicious (she sampled them). Actually, I like them with a slice of cheese.

They’re a snack the whole family can enjoy! And Daisy’s never been more regular!

Got to go. Mooch is chewing on my hand to tell me she wants a treat

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Second Story Bird Feeder

(c) 2011 by Tom King

If you live on the second floor or you have a second floor bedroom, hanging a bird feeder can be problematic.  Here's an easy to make bird feeder hanger that puts the feeder outside your window.

- Broomstick
- Screw-in hook
- Paint to match the window trim
- Bird feeder
- 2-flag bracket
- Screws
- Drill with Philips driver bit

Step 1
Mount the flag bracket to the trim above the center of the window. You'll have to remove the screen so you can sit in the window sill to attach the flag bracket. I bought a bracket that allows you to hang two flagstaffs from the same bracket, one at a 45 degree angle and the other horizontally.  Screw the bracket into the wooden trim above the window.  Have somebody spot you so you don't fall out the window.

Step 2
Screw the hook into the end of the broomstick.  Paint it the same color as the window trim (it'll just look a whole lot better, trust me).

Step 3
Fill the bird feeder on the hook and stick the flat end into the horizontal flagpole hole of the flag bracket. If there's a keeper screw, tighten it.

Step 4
If you want to add a suet feeder, simple loop the chain over the stick and push it out. To refill the feeder, just remove the flagpole from the bracket. If you don't have the hand strength to do it that way, you can get another long broomstick, screw on another hook and use it to lift the feeder on and off the hook safely.  I recommend the hook and stick method since you are working at least two floors up.

The feeder got popular after the first snow.
I use zero-waste seed that doesn't use millet, sorghum or milo (birds toss that stuff aside anyway).  Keeps the feeder from showering waste seed on everyone below. Also, being so high up it's tough for rats and squirrels to get to AND this one's a squirrel proof feeder. The feeder drops a screen down over the seed cups when a squirrel or other relatively heavy rodent-like critters. It leaves them with a long drop or a tough scramble back up the pole with no rewaard for the effort. Wild mammals can't afford to waste energy on fruitless efforts to find food.

Enjoy the birds.

Tom King  

 © 2017 by Tom King

When we moved to 152nd ST, we moved our flagpole feeder.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pullout Desk Shelves You Can Make

Kitchen cutting boards that pulled out of the cabinet were all the rage a few years back. The same principle works if, like most of us, your desk is piled high with computers, printers, scanners and the myriad other bits of desk debris that are the hallmark of the technical age we live in. I'm lucky. My oak rolltop desk came with, not one but two pullout writing boards, complete with inset mouse-pads. Best of all, I got it on eBay for $250 from a guy who didn't have room for it.

I love my desk.

If you don't have such a handy writing surface, here are three ways to solve your problem.

I. The Handy Dandy Drawer Topper
This one you just shove down under the desk and when you need it, just pull out the drawer and set the writing board on top of it. The 1-by-1 strips glued beneath the board keep it from slipping around.

  • Wooden butcher board or 1 inch thick flat board at least as wide as your drawer
  • 1-by-1 strips
  • Table Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain
  • Varnish
Step 1
Pull out the top right hand drawer of your desk till it stops. Most desks have a built-in stop that keeps the drawer from falling all the way out. If your drawer doesn't, just find a place where you can stop it and it sits level.

Step 2
Measure the width of the drawer and the distance from the front of the drawer. Cut your writing board to fit in the space between the drawer and the desk.

Step 3
Measure the width of the drawer. Cut two 1-by-1 Lay the board on top of the drawer and “Voila!” you have a place to write or to at least move aside the I-pods, calculators, laptops and paperweights so you can write on the regular desk. The drawer front may get in your way, depending on how high it is, but if your writing board is thick enough, with a lot of desks this type of add-on writing surface may be even with the drawer front. You will have to make sure not to put too much junk in your drawer so that it sticks above the top of the drawer sides.

 II. The Drawer Replacement

This one costs you a drawer, but if you need the extra space it may be well worth the sacrifice. This really only works well with wooden desks and drawers.

  • Wooden cutting board or 1-inch shelving material wide enough to fit in the drawer space.
  • Table saw
  • 1-by-1 inch strips
  • Carpenter glue
  • Screws.
  • Drill and bits w/ screwdriver bits.
  • Hinges with screws
Step 1
Pull out the drawer and take off the front of the drawer. Screw the hinges to the base of the drawer compartment and to the back of the drawer front. The drawer front will fold down to allow the writing drawer to slide out.

Step 2
Remove the drawer slide mechanism from the sides of the old drawer. Cut down the sides of the drawer leaving only enough to screw the slide mechanism to. You can do this by turning the drawer bottom on it's side and cut along a line just above the top of where the drawer slide mechanism attaches to the drawer. Leave the bottom of the drawer attached.

Step 3
Reattach the drawer slide mechanism to the bottom of the drawer and reinsert the drawer in the desk. Test to make sure there is enough clearance for the drawer front to close. You may have to add a magnetic catch or something to keep the drawer front closed.

Step 4
Pull out the drawer bottom to where it is level and presses against the drawer stops. Measure the width of the compartment and the depth of the drawer bottom. Cut the writing board to fit those dimensions .

Step 5
Cut two 1-by-1 strips to fit inside the drawers from front to back. Glue the strips to the bottom of the writing board so they fit just inside the drawer sides on either side. Allow to dry.

Step 6
Set the writing board on top of the cut down drawer bottom. It's not necessary to screw the board in place as the 1-by-1 strips will hold it securely in the drawer and the board itself rests on top of the cut-down sides.

Step 7
Stain and varnish the writing board and allow to dry. Push the drawer in and close it.

III. Pull Out Writing Board.

If you have a section of your desktop that doesn't have a drawer, simply build a compartment underneath the desk and slide a writing board into it.

  • 1-by- 8 shelf board
  • Wooden cutting board or 1 inch thick board the width of you desire
  • 1-by-1 inch wooden strips
  • 1-1/4 inch screws
  • Drill and bits and screwdriver bits
  • Table saw
  • Carpenter glue
  • Tape measure
  • Square

Step 1
Measure the width and depth of the space you have for your writing board compartment. Cut a piece of the shelf board 8 inches deep by the width of compartment for the shelf drawer bottom.

Step 2
Glue a 1-by1 wooden strip on the top of either side of the shelf drawer bottom, running front to back, flush with the edge of the drawer bottom. When the glue is dry, pilot drill the 1-by-1 strips and screw them into the drawer bottom. The drawer bottom is now a flat “U” shape.

Step 3
Glue the top edges of the 1-by-1 strips to the bottom of the desk with the drawer bottom centered in the space beneath the desktop you've chosen for your drawer. If you can turn the desk upside down for this it's easier. The pilot drill through the drawer bottom and the 1-by-1 strips and halfway into the desktop. Don't drill through the desktop. Screw 2 inch screws into the sides of the new drawer compartment to hold it to the desktop bottom.

Step 4
Cut your writing board to fit the width of the new drawer compartment and the length of the space behind it if possible. This allows you the maximum workspace.

Step 5
Stain and varnish the writing board. When dry push it all the way into the compartment.

Step 6
Screw a length of 1-by-1 inch strip to the bottom back edge of the writing board. This prevents the writing board from accidentally pulling completely out. Don't glue the backstop strip in case you ever need to remove the board for repair or replacement. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Adding a Secret Compartment to Your Rolltop Desk

Okay, I'm giving away my secret hiding place. I'm not terribly worried about it. To find my hiding place, the average burglar would have to hit more than 200 million homes in the United States to find mine. The main reason to make such a hidey hole is to keep your wallet out of the hands of your sticky-fingered teenager or to provide a place for the keepsakes your wife threw out when she cleaned your desk and you retrieved from the garbage, but didn't want her to know you had retrieved them from the garbage.....

Not that I ever did anything like that, mind you.

Not really!

Anyway, roll top desks lend themselves well to creating little secret compartments.The easiest place to make one is behind the drawers in the upper part of the desk. Notice in the second picture that the space behind this upper drawer is quite deep. 

If you measure the drawer and the compartment, you will likely find about seven or eight inches of unused space behind the drawer.  This space is ideal for making a false back secret compartment.

Tools and Materials:

A few 1x4 boards made of the same wood as your desk. In my case, I'm using oak. 
Table saw
Carpenter's Glue
Tape measure
Small speed square
Stain to match your desk
Varnish or polyurethane clearcoat, gloss or satin to match your desk

Step 1
Remove the drawer and measure the drawer opening

Step 2
Measure the depth of the compartment. That's my wallet back there. There's plenty of room for it behind the drawer as you can see.  It was stuffed back there before I opened the drawer.

Step 3
Measure the length of the drawer

Step 4
Cut a piece of oak from the 1x4 that just fits flat inside the compartment to make the false back.  Trim it and sand the edges so the piece of wood will slide smoothly into the space as far back as you need it to.

Side Note:
If you test fit the piece against the back of the compartment, like I did, you'll need something sticky on a pole to fetch it back out again, so you might want to try this trick.  Screw a short screw into the back of your false back, turn it around and test fit it that way till you get it right. That way you can use the screw as a handle to pull it back out without marring the front face of the board.

Step 5
Figure the difference between the drawer length and the compartment depth that you measured above.. Cut two side pieces as tall as the compartment and as wide as the empty space, minus 3/4 inches for the false front.  Miter the back edges of the two sides at 45 degrees facing each other so the back piece can be glued in place with mitered corners.  Leave the front edges of the side pieces flat to fit against the false back.

Step 6
Measure the width of the compartment and cut a back piece that is not quite as high as the compartment (allowing room for it to slide in and out) and cut it 3 inches narrower.  Miter the corners

Step 7
Glue the side pieces to the back of the false front one at a time.  Test fit the pieces.  The sides should inset from the walls of the compartment at least 1-1/2 inches on both sides. Once you have them all glued in place, clamp or bungee the pieces together till they set and dry. 

Set 8
Now turn the assembly flat on its face and measure the inside of the compartment.  Cut a piece of 1x4 to fit inside the compartment to make a bottom for the box.  Blue it in place.  If you want to secure the bottom with small nails or screws, predrill the holes to keep them from splitting.

Step 9
Stain and varnish the false compartment back. To be really detailed, stain and varnish the whole thing, inside and out. It will make the compartment look like it was part of the original desk design. That way if you get caught with something in your secret compartment by a nosy spouse, you can always plead ignorance.

Not that I've ever done that sort of thing.....


Step 10
Test fit the false back and secret compartment into the compartment.  It should fit smoothly and securely when pressed all the way back and look just like an ordinary compartment back

Step 11
To open the compartment, just open the drawer. Press against either side of the false back. This will tip the assembly and allow you to open it.  If you fit the false back really closely, you may find that you have to sand or miter the back edges of the sides of the false back to allow the compartment assembly to cant and open. You can make your compartment a little more secure by only angling one of the sides so that the only way to open it is to push on just one side as shown in the diagrams. 

The assembly shown will only open if you press the left side. The right side may move when pressed, but won't open freely.

I've got 4 drawers I can use to make secret compartments on my roll top.  I plan to create false backs for each, just so they'll all look alike and not be as suspicious.  Check out these before and after pictures (left) to see how inconspicuous your new hidey hole will be.
 The top picture is the one with the fake back.
Of, course If you're lazy you can just stuff things behind the drawers.  In the picture below, I have my wallet shoved behind one of the drawers. It's an easy secret compartment that will defeat a cursory search of your drawers, but the false back secret compartment is way cooler.


The poor man's secret compartment.