Beer Chess

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One of the things that amazes us about the game of chess, is the array of people who play it.   We have met five-year-olds, who know the basics,  and yet their parents don’t know the first thing about the game.  There is the smartly dressed business person enjoying a congac and a game with a colleague, or the grease monkey who crawls out from under a beat up old car to make their next move.  Kids pick it up in school from friends, teachers, and Harry Potter.  It is played all over the world, and by people from every walk of life.  This is just amazing.

Equally amazing is what people will do with the game to make it their own.  Which brings us to today’s topic: Beer Chess.  There are as many variations to this game as there are players, but I’ve posted some general rules below.  It can be played with shot glasses full of beer as the pieces, or simply using the cans as pieces.  There is a suggested board setup below, but just use your imagination.  Megachess.com has a set of plastic tops for beer cans, and we are working on a cedar version to match our chess peices and board.

Now, in our mind, what can be better than a sunny afternoon spent on the back deck, with good friends, a barbecue, and a few intense games of Beer Chess.

Cheers everyone!

Boston Beer Chess Rules

This was printed in the ‘Boston Half Baked’.
Beer Chess is chess played with beer as the pieces.  Beer chess is the  unification of the intellect with the inebriated.  Beer chess is stimulating brain cells as you kill them. Beer chess was created during a weekend retreat at the McEnaney Estate in Jackman, Maine, thus making Jackman, Maine the Beer Chess capital of the universe.

PLAYING THE GAME
Beer chess is played with beer, a lot of beer.  One side uses Light  Beer (white), the other side uses regular (black) of the same brands. (see  list below)  Our research and development team has concluded that one can  expect a standard Beer Chess game to last up to five hours, assuming neither  player passes out.  Intermissions, however, may be declared on a bilateral  basis.

BOARD CONSTRUCTION
As you may have realized, this game requires a big board.  While beer chess boards are now commonplace in Jackman, in other places their availability is still limited.   Again, our R+D team has arrived at a clever solution: bathroom tiles-large white bathroom tiles. Placed on a darker table at regular intervals, one can quickly construct a professional looking Beer Chess set. For and even cheaper board, cardboard coasters, available at most bars, serve as  impromptu, portable boards.

PIECES        White:                                        Black:
8 pawns:        Bud Lights (8oz can)             Budweiser (8oz cans)
2 Rooks:        Miller Light (12oz can)          Miller Genuine Draft (12 oz Can)
2 Knights:      Busch Light (12 oz Can)        Busch (12 oz Cans)
2 Bishops:      Coors Light (12 oz Can)        Coors (12 oz Cans)
Queen:           Michelob Light (Bottle)        Michelob (Bottle)
King:              Bud Light (Bottle)                  Budweiser (Bottle)

STANDARD RULES:

1.      When one moves a piece, one must sip from the piece moved.
2.      When one’s piece is captured, one must drink the entire piece.
3.      Castling requires two sips: one from the King, one from the Rook
4.      En passent requires only one sip (as in a standard pawn move)
5.      When one’s pawn reaches the eighth rank, and is exchanged for a queen (or other piece), one’s opponent must drink the remainder of the pawn.
6.      Once a piece is sipped, that piece must be moved. (taking back moves is not allowed)
7.      One may take as long as one wants to drink a captured piece, but the  piece must be quickly consumed when a second piece is captured.
8.      After each exchange of pieces, the players must toast each other’s  health with the exchanged pieces.
9.      When one is put in check, one must sip from the King.
10.     Passing out constitutes a resignation.
11.     A player may not go the the bathroom before his move.
12.     When one is checkmated, one must drink:
1)  The remainder of one’s King
2)  The remainder of opponent’s King
3)  The remainder of one’s pieces.
(That’s a lotta beer)

GENERAL HINTS:
1.      Take big sips out of pieces you expect to trade, when moving those  pieces.  This technique evenly distributes the amount of beer you will consume, and decreases the amount you will have to drink from that piece when it is  traded or captured.

2.      If you are a light drinker, avoid exchanges (especially if you are down a piece)

3.      Avoid sacrificing pieces for position.  A sacrifice will only force you to drink more.  Remember, in this game, you can be beating your opponent, not only by the fact that you have a greater number of pieces left on  the board, but also by the fact that you have a greater number of surviving brain cells left.

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A Shoe Rack for the Closet

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It’s spring, finally!  And, one of the jobs which has to be addressed is cleaning out the coat closet.  The parkas get cleaned and stored, the spring coats are brought out, and winter boots are traded for running shoes.  It’s when digging out the boots that my wife starts to casually mention that we need a new shoe rack for the floor of the closet.  Within a few days the comments become more of an ultimatum.  So this is how you get this weeks blog.  We’ll be building a shoe rack.

Solid oak shoe rackOak shoe rack sketch

First we’ll measure the available space in the closet.  Then it’s out to the shop to figure out what we’re going to do.  There is a bunch of scrap oak left over from Rosemary’s Cupboard so we’ll use that.  I want to avoid plywood, so the rack will have to be made of slats.  A simple lap joint should hold the slats in place.  Arbitrarily I chose 1.5″ as the width for all the pieces.  And instead of being a single unit with two shelves, I’ll make two independent and stackable shelves, just in case  we want to use them for something else.  This is a one time job, so I’m not going to draw up a plan, just a quick sketch to help me visualize the finished product.

And here we go! The edges and slats for the tops are cut to length.  In this case the edges are 43.5″ and 12″ long, and the slats are all 9.25″ long.  Then a quick pass over the table saw to rip each piece down to 1.5″. 

The Edges:

Edge pieces and slat showing overlapThe edge pieces will need to be routered for the slats to overlap.  Install a  5/8″ straight bit on the router, set 3/8″ high.  Oak likes to splinter terribly, so to avoid problems make several shallow passes until the lap edge is 3/8″ deep.  You probably already know this but set the fence for the first shallow pass, and cut all of the edge pieces.  Then shift the fence back a bit and recut each edge piece, deepening the lap.  Repeat this until the lap is deep enough on all the pieces.  Switch out the router bit for a 1/4″ roundover bit,  and rout all the corners except the lap.

The edge pieces then need a 45“ mitre at each end so we can make the frame out of them.  To secure the corners, we drill pocket holes on the mitre and secure them with 1-1/2″ screws and glue.

The Slats:

Slats roughly laid outRepeat the routering process with the straight bit as with the edge pieces, this time putting the lap on the ends of the slats.  Use a piece of scrap as a push block to avoid tear out when the router exits the wood and as a way of maintaining the right angle as you move the slat across the bit.  As before, do several shallow passes until the lap is 3/8″ deep.  Switch the bits and roundover all other edges.

The Legs:

Legs showing pocket holes and light braceThe legs are 5.5″ x 8″ pieces of oak.  To make them look a little better, we cut a half circle out of the bottom with the band saw.  We rounded over all edges which wouldn’t be in contact with the top or the ground.  Then we added a couple of pocket holes which we will use to attach the legs to the top.  As a final touch, we cut a couple small triangles which will be glued in place as a light brace.

Assembly:

Assembled rack showing ratchet strap clampStart with the top:  Screw and glue the edge pieces together to create the top frame.  To keep everything in place while setting the screws we use ratchet straps.  These are just the ordinary webbed straps sold for cars, trailers, etc. and they are fantastic for clamping odd shapes or large pieces.

Evenly space the slats within the edge frame.  I simply glued them down, but for a stronger joint you may want to secure them with a small brad or finishing nail.

Both shoe racks drying up for the nightFlip the top over.  Position, screw and glue the legs in place on the short edges.  Glue the light braces into place.  Let the entire assembly dry up overnight.

Finishing:

Sand the entire piece and wipe clean with a cloth.  Apply the stain of your choice and finish with a couple coats of Danish Oil. 

Now you’re all set to shove your beautiful solid oak shoe rack into the deep recesses of your overstuffed closet where it will never be seen again, but you can be satisfied knowing that you produce a useful and beautiful object that will make your home a better place (if only subconsciously).

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about this post please share them with us.  Thanks for visiting.

Rosemary’s Cupboard – building with oak

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I like getting the odd custom job to figure out, especially when it involves materials, equipment, or techniques which I haven’t used before.  Just such an order was Rosemary’s Cupboard.  During a visit a while back, Rosemary requested a cabinet to fit beside the fridge in her kitchen.  We assessed the existing cupboards and measured up the space, then figured out what purpose the new cupboard was to serve.  We were also able to take one of the existing cupboard doors home for style and color matching.

Rosemary's Cupboard Sketch Plan

After a bit of sketching, and pondering, we came up with a relatively simple plan which would allow us to try a few new things.  The PDF of our sketch plan is available for download.  It is not by any stretch of the imagination a complete plan of the project as I tend to do a lot of work in my head rather than on paper.  But, it’ll give you the basic idea of what I was after.  This design relied on european-style hinges, drawer sliders, and rail & stile router bits.  [This means we had to go buy some more tools from Lee Valley– Yaay!]

The Body

The body of the cupboard is easy.  It’s just a simple box.  3/4″ oak plywood for the sides, top, bottom, center, and the toekick/base.  1/2″ oak plywood for the back.  The spacers, and crossers were each cut from 3/4″ oak plywood, the spacers being affixed to the sides prior to assembling the rest of the body.  Holes for the adjustable shelf pegs were also drilled.  Then the rest of the pieces were glued and nailed into place.  The 3/4″ plywood crossers being placed last.

Shop Tip:  The hardwood plywoods like to splinter when being cut.  Masking all cut lines with painters tape will reduce this a little, but to ensure good clean cuts invest in a proper cabinetry/plywood saw blade.  Unfortunately, they can run from $85 to $150 but are totally worth the investment, saving you time and waste from bad cuts.

Solid oak trim pieces were cut to create the face of the cupboard body.  These pieces will dress up and hide the plywood edges and make for clean edges.  My original plan was to drill pocket holes and screw these pieces together before attaching to the rest of the body, but I could be more accurate by just gluing and nailing to the plywood directly. 

This basically finished the body.  I would like to note the small indent at the back of the toekick.  This solves a small pet peave I have with most purchased cabinets – getting around the baseboards.  Why should the cabinet have a huge gap behind it?  Anyhow, on to the shelves.

Adjustable Shelves

The holes were drilled in the sides during the body assembly,  so all that was left here was to make the shelf itself.  It is just a piece of 3/4″ oak plywood with a 3/4″ piece of solid oak trim on each side.  The trim again hides the plywood edge, but also gives it a little extra strength to resist sagging across the 43.5″ span.  One shelf is made for the bottom cupboard, two are made for the top.

The DrawersDrawers

Basically there are two drawers here. One is roughly 6″ deep, while the other has no depth at all being just a pull-out shelf. Lets look at the pull-out shelf first. 

It is nothing more than a piece of 3/4″ oak plywood.  The drawer slides are attached on either side and a faceplate is fashioned from a piece of solid oak to cover the opening.  The faceplate is attached with screws through the front.  Plugs are fit into the screwholes after finishing.

The 6″ drawer consists of 3/4″ oak plywood sides and a 1/2″ oak plywood bottom.  Dadoes were cut into the sides to receive the bottom piece.  The drawer slides are attached to either side and a faceplate fashioned of solid oak.  The faceplate this time can be attached with screws on the inside of the drawer.

The Doors

This, I was expecting to be the hard part.  Each door required two rails (top and bottom), two stiles (left and right), and a 1/4″ oak plywood panel for the center.  The rails and bottom stile were cut from 1″x4″ oak, while the top stile came from a 1″x6″ oak piece. I cut a template for the top stile, traced it onto a 1″x6″ piece and rough cut the curve on the band saw.  Then it was time to play with the router and the new rail & stile bits.  If you’ve never used them, this is a two bit set where one bit is used to create the inside profile, while the other creates the counter-profile so that the stiles will butt cleanly against the rails.  The top stile was my main concern so I started there.  The bits have bearing wheels so they will ride against a template and act as a trim bit while shaping the edge. I taped my template to the rough cut piece and routered the inside edge. While this bit was in place I slid the other stile and rails through it. I set the other bit in the router and profiled the ends of the stiles. It was very important to use a sacrificial push block here, as the oak chips like crazy near the ends.  Test fitting  the pieces was truly satisfying as they locked tightly together.

The panel was cut from 1/4″ oak plywood.  It slides into a groove created by the rail & stile bits, so very little had to be done to it.  The curve only needed to be rough cut on the bandsaw.  All the pieces were put together, the joints of the rails and stiles were glued, but the panel was left to float.  Clamps were applied and the doors were left to cure for the night.

The HingesUnfinished Cupboard

The last structural component.  The european style hinges are again, remarkably easy to install.  They have a bit of a tolerance for error, and are easy to work with.  Do some research before buying them though.  Aside from different hinges opening at different angles (I used 107° overlay frameless ), there are different hinges for how your door is going to sit on the frame (overlay, offset, inset), and for the type of frame your mounting on (face frame, frameless).  Once you have the correct hinge just follow the instructions.  For mine, I drilled a 1-3/8″ hole with a forstner bit into the rail of the door and mounted a small clip onto the body of the cupboard for each hinge.  When they were all in the right place, I just needed to hold the door up and clip the hinge pieces together.  A few small adjustments to small screws on the hinges made sure that the doors were hanging straight and properly aligned.

Finishing

Of course, just when you get it all together and working you have to take it all apart to make it pretty.  Everything was sanded starting with 100 grit and moving down to 200 grit.  As an afterthought, all the doors and drawer faces received another pass on the  router to put a Roman Ogee profile on the outside edges.  In order to match the existing cupboards, all I needed to apply was a good coat of satin polyurethane.  If you read my previous post regarding Spray Gun Fun then you know how that went.

 Completed Cupboard

Completed cupboard interior

  And here it is, the completed cupboard.  Everything works the way it is supposed to.  It was all the correct dimensions.  A quick trip to Innisfil to deliver and install it in Rosemary’s kitchen and we were finally done.  The last thing we did was to install the anti-slam devices on the door hinges.  

We are happy that with the way it worked out.  It works very well.  It fits the space, and brings a lot more storage to the kitchen.  The construction was relatively easy, and yet it is quite attractive.  If anyone has questions or comments regarding this cupboard or the techniques used in its construction, please do so below.

Cupboard installed in kitchen

The Magical French Cleat

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showing how a French Cleat works.If there is one small trick you pick up along the way, let it be how to use a French Cleat. It is an amazingly strong, versatile, and easy mounting system for almost anything. We use them for hanging awkward pictures, window boxes, birdhouses, and odd and ends around the shop.

The concept is simple. Start with a strip of wood, 1″x3″ works pretty good.  Put a 45° angle on your table saw blade and rip the strip of wood down the center.  This will give you two roughly equal-sized pieces with a 45° bevel on one edge.  One piece will be attached to the wall, the other gets attached to whatever your hanging up.  Then just hook the pieces together as shown in the diagram at left.   That’s about all there is to it.  If you’re hanging a very long picture, you may want to mount another block near the bottom of the picture so that it hangs clean and straight.Showing French Cleat in action

To the right is a photo of  a couple of our drying racks.  We’ve mounted a long strip to the wall, and short strips to the racks.  This way we are able to adjust the spacing of the racks to accomodate different sizes if necessary.  We also have hangers for other purposes that will mount on this cleat, making it very functional and versatile.

These cleats are perfect for hanging cabinets or cupboards.  First, you can level the cleat on the wall, without having to fight with the cabinet. Second, the cabinet is held in place while you secure it to the wall.

Here’s a nice video blog that uses the french cleat as the basis for an entire storage  rack.  http://lumberjocks.com/thewoodwhisperer/blog/11932  Well worth watching in my opinion, he has some good ideas and quickly demonstrates how easy french cleats really are.

Floating Shelves

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We are finally reaching the end of our re-design of the boy’s room. The last step is to hang some shelves across one wall. After looking into a few styles, we decided it would be a good time to try Floating Shelves. The look of them fit into the style of the room, and they have been a bit of a curiosity for us.

Floating ShelvesThere are plenty of descriptions and free plans online to explain how to build and install this style of shelf, so we only spent a few minutes looking them up. Here is one link with some decent videos which was helpful: Ron Hazelton’s Housecalls.

We played with the layout of the shelves, using painter’s tape. After several tries, we finally decided on one long shelf across the top with two lower shelves pushed to the far left. A little time spent finding and marking the studs and we were able to cut and attach spruce 2×2’s to the wall where the shelves were going to go. Then it was out to the shop to start making the shelves themselves.

We ripped some 1x pine into 1.5” strips, then chopped them to the lengths we needed for our frame. Following this, we ripped some 3/8” plywood for the shelf tops and bottoms. And finally, more 1x pine ripped to 2.25” for the facing pieces.

The lower two shelves were easy to figure out – build a frame leaving 1.5” at the back of the shelf for the 2×2, cover it with 3/8” plywood, attach the facing pieces, round over the edges, and sand. Actually, it was a lot easier than we expected. Then, it was on to the top shelf.

The top shelf was to be an 11’ span, from corner to corner, and we were instantly concerned that we wouldn’t be able to maneuver the shelf into place if it was one piece. So, the simple answer would be to split it in half, hang two shelves side by side. We chose to modify the frame for these shelves to accommodate an extra brace to go between the shelves, tying them together. Then, we added overlapping mitres to the facing pieces to make the seam between the two shelves a little less noticeable.

When it was all said and done, these shelves were very easy to make, which makes us wonder why we waited so long to try them. They look good, and seem more than strong enough for general use. And so, from one Woodworking Hobbyist to another, try building a Floating Shelf, even if it’s just for your shed or garage. You will be pleased with the results.

If you do try it, or have built them in the past, please leave a comment. Let us know how it went, or any tricks you picked up along the way.