201 Tips for Woodworkers, Tool Cabinet and Surround
Comments 6

Workshop Wall Surround, Part 4

This project has meant dealing with a lot of sheet goods. For many woodworkers, breaking down sheet goods on the table saw is a challenging affair; even dangerous without the assistance of a shop helper.

So far, I have been working with quarter-inch thick plywood. Even though this thin material does not weigh much, ripping wide sections of eight foot long material is a little tricky. Unsupported thin plywood will sag and in general, it will be uncooperative.

Now I am working with much heavier and more difficult 3/4 inch thick plywood. Just as I did with the quarter-inch plywood, I take advantage of the panel saw at my home center and have the 3/4 stock ripped in half – easy to transport and easier to make additional cuts in my workshop. Since I want to use my table saw for additional rips on these 2 x 8 foot plywood panels, I am somewhat concerned about sending this size stock through my table saw.

Time for a new shop helper.

Time for a new shop helper.

To help support the long and still somewhat heavy stock while ripping, I created a new jig. I had seen it in one of the best Taunton publications I own: 201 Tips for Woodworkers (buy your copy here – it is currently on sale 50% off). Using articles in this publication, I have built a planer cart, two pairs of saw horses, a tapering jig and now the table saw fence extension you see below (click to enlarge).

I made it from some pine I had lying around; used screws to assemble it and clamped it to my saw fence. The fence extension worked like a charm. Easy to make and easy to use and a much more safe option than what I was doing previously.

But the thing does look kind of bizarre hanging off the front of my table saw. Just remember this fence extension is one of Fine Woodworking magazine’s “best ideas from over 30 years” so it has to be good, regardless of how odd it looks.

Adding the Molding

Using the fence extension, I quickly form seven four-inch wide by eight foot long strips of wood. These strips will serve as the vertical elements for the decorative moldings I want to make. I have designed three removable panels to the left of the future tool chest.

Basement 2 Left Panels Highlighted Cropped

I easily add the vertical strips of wood, known as stiles, to the left and right ends of the three panels. Next, I started adding the horizontal rails. For panel 1, there is actually a monster size air return for our first floor heating and cooling system to deal with (not drawn in the illustration above). I need to cut around the air return in a way that enables me to remove the panel easily. Not real hard to do, but I want it to look orderly, so I take my time making the cuts. I create a template and make the cuts with my jig saw, band saw and router.

Prior to adding the rails and stiles; panel 2 removed. Note the cut-out for the air return.

Prior to adding the rails and stiles; panel 2 removed. Note the cut-out for the air return.

The rails and stiles go on with screws. I plugged the screw holes with dowels taking care to plane them flush. I next trimmed the inner edges of the rails and stiles with 1/2 inch pine quarter round. The panel really begins to look good at this point.

Panels 1 and 2; basic construction completed.

Panels 1 and 2; basic construction completed.

A Change in Plans

As work on panel 3 drew near, I became increasingly concerned it was too heavy. And as designed, the panel fits snugly around a large section of ducting. I decided that this panel would be too cumbersome to work with when needing to remove it in the future. And I will need to remove it. We recently had our annual furnace maintenance completed; the guy from the heating and cooling company advised me that he would need access to the lines directly behind this panel for air conditioning maintenance. So, I decided to divide panel 3 in half. See below…

Four panels

Since the frame for panel 3 was assembled with screws, I quickly disassembled the framework, divided it into two sections and built the new frame for panels 3 and 4. This meant about one full day in unplanned work, but I know this change will be appreciated in the future. This alteration does means additional complexity for my method of bringing all the panels into one finished wall.

The framework for panels 3 and 4.

The framework for panels 3 and 4.

Just as with panels 1 and 2, the remaining panels get a series of rails and stiles which form simulated recessed panels. The process is shown below…

The left side wall surround about 85% completed.

The left side wall surround about 85% completed.

I am at the point in this project where some excitement is starting to build. Before I call the left side of the project completed, I need to add the base board molding, add some sort of minimal crown molding, and I want to add air vents to the lower section of panels 3 and 4. Still some work to do, but the end is in sight for the first phase of this large project.

Move to the next post in this series by clicking here.


    • Yep, cutting long boards is a challenge especially if you need really accurate cuts. In addition to the fence extension, I have used my miter saw frequently to cut the long stiles to length. Prior to the fence extension and my new miter saw stand, these were tricky cuts to make. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  1. Dewalt, Makita and others make a plunge cut track saw with tracks of different lengths. the saw fits on the track and has an anti kickback feature. There’s an American woodworker named Philips who is on PBS occasionally who routinely uses a German trsck saw.

    • I was thinking just today what my next power tool purchase would be and a track saw came to mind. From what I have seen, they are extremely versatile. Thanks for the comment.

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