These are the scraps I was talking about. A literal wheel barrow full of oak and walnut off cuts. Truth be told, I only used a small fraction of this pile for this project. Keep an eye out for a new project from me in the near future where I use the rest!
How to Build a Pet Dish Holder Out of Scrap Wood
I don't know about you, but I have a bit of a DIY addiction and as such I have a pile of unused wood off-cuts cluttering up my workshop. I also have a little cat who's tired of eating and drinking out of bowls placed directly on the floor. This week I made it my mission to tackle both of these problems with a single project.
Before we get into the project, I'd like to take a second to plug my Instagram page. You can find it at https://www.instagram.com/zacharyms/ I post frequently on the latest projects I'm doing as well as DIY tips and tricks to make your next project go that much smoother.
Alright, enough social media plugs, let's get into how I built a pet food bowl holder for my little kitty Bing.
The first step was to mill all of the wood down to a uniform size and cut off any defective bits (like knots and cracks). Remember this was all scrap wood, so it wasn’t in the best of shape. With most pieces, I had to cut 2 sides of the wood before I was left with anything usable.
I cut most everything to 1″ x 1″, but there were some pieces that were too small for that dimension. I cut a bunch of smaller scraps down to 3/4″ x 1″ and that’s the stock I used to make this bowl holder. This was actually a fun exercise in optimization, I had to figure out what was the optimal way to cut each piece to yield the most usable wood.
Now is probably also a good time to mention that I was an economics major in university, which might explain why I find optimization problems so enjoyable
It's glue up time! I covered my work surface in some 6 mil poly/vaporbarrier because this is going to get a little messy.
I proceeded to lay out all of my pieces of wood on the table. I applied a generous bead of wood/carpenters glue onto each piece. A good practice here is it spread the glue around with a brush (or even just your finger) to make sure you get good even glue distribution. Once the glue was applied I rolled them over and pressed them together.
Using a set of 6 F-clamps I clamped the whole thing together.
Recently I questioned my Instagram followers about what techniques they use for glue-ups. Most people got their best results by tightening the clamps just past to the point where the glue is being squeezed out and all gaps between pieces are closed.
That’s what I did here and I’m very happy with the results. I used to tighten my clamps as much as I could, working off the assumption that if some pressure is good, more must be better. In the future, I think I’ll be sticking with this technique. After the clamps were set I went home for the night and left the glue to dry.
Side note: this is probably the best part of sharing my work on social media and the internet. I get to interact with so many different and I end up learning a ton of stuff from other people. I do my best to share my knowledge with people, but I still have a ton of learning left to do myself as well!
12 hours or so hours later and I’m back to work. Don’t you just love the smell of freshly planed wood in the morning?
After removing the clamps I ran my glued-up board through the planer to remove any variations in height between the pieces I glued together. I love this part of the process. The wood goes in all uneven and bumpy and comes out perfectly smooth.
If you don't have a planer, dont worry, this could easily be accomplished with a palm sander or hand plane.
My bowl holder is made of 3 distinct pieces, 2 legs and a midsections. At this point I still just had 1 big piece.
I traced 2 lines onto surface of my wood that divided it into 3 pieces. Each of the legs is 6" long and the mid section is 16" long.
I wanted the legs to sit at a 60-degree angle, so to make the miter cuts necessary I set my table saw to 30 degrees. For a miter joint, you cut both sides of the wood at half of the total angle. So 60-degrees, divided by two cuts, equals two 30-degree cuts. Make sense? I’m not even sure that makes sense to me and I just wrote it. I hate angles.
Cutting along the lines I had just made I made a total of 6 cuts. In order to get my angles right I had to cut along the same line twice in some cases, flipping my piece of wood over to invert the angle of the cut.
See what I mean? This is the left leg and the left side of the midsection. Once that leg is reattached to the midsection it will sit at a 60-degree angle.
You guys ready for the drill press? It’s been a long time since I’ve had a need to use a drill press in one of my builds, I’m kind of excited!
I cut 2 large 6″ diameter holes in the center of the midsection using a huge hole saw. The dishes I bought for this project have a diameter that is slightly less than 6″ so they’ll slot right into these holes (the lips of the bowls are greater than 6″ though, don’t worry they won’t fall right through)
I clamped my mid section to the platform of the drill press and, slightly nervously, flicked the on-switch. I wasn’t sure if this giant hole saw would be too much for my trusty old drill press, but luckily it held up just fine. Didn’t skip a beat, even with all that cutting area. Old tools are the best tools! Except for all the crappy old tools, luckily those all died a long time ago so we’re only left with the good ones. It’s called the survivorship bias, its basically the reason everyone thinks old tools were so much better than modern tools haha.
One big question I had going into this project was how I was going to connect my miter joints. Previously I’ve used biscuits (wooden waffers cut into channels in the wood) and a lot of glue to connect miters. To be fair to that method, its always worked well for me. Never the less I still had the urge to try out a new technique.
Recently I saw a video of someone using pocket screws to connect a miter and thought “oh that looks cool, I’m gonna try and do that”. It’s not really how pocket screws are meant to be used, but it looked like it would be quite strong if done right.
Normally pocket screws are meant to hold joints that are butted together flat. Because I was going to be using them on a mitered corner I had to be very careful about the location of the holes and the length of my screws. A poorly positioned pocket screw hole or a screw that was too long would mean the screw would poke out the other side of the wood. I experimented on a bunch of scrap pieces until I perfected my technique.
I don’t think this technique would work on a 90-degree miter corner unless the material was quite thick, but because my corner was only 60 degrees there was enough “meat” to catch the screws on the other side.
Continue my theme of trying out new techniques I bought a Kreg jig for this project. This is my first time using a Kreg jig, or any store bought jig for that matter. Normally I like to make my own jigs, or if I’m really looking to screw things up, I’ll try and do it freehand.
There’s something to be said for quality jigs. They can help you work more efficiently and reduce the chance of you making an error. That being said I still really resent paying 40 dollars for what is essentially a cheap piece of plastic. Kreg tries to soften the blow by packing in a bunch of screws and drill bits. It still feels like it could be 25-50% cheaper though.
4 pocket screws per side. That ought to hold it! Everyone knows cat food bowls are really heavy so the structural integrity of this joint was really important to me.
Oh, what? Cat bowls aren’t that heavy? Ok so maybe I just wanted to keep practicing using my new jig.
First I applied a generous bead of glue on both sides of the miter. Maybe the screws would’ve been enough to hold everything on their own, but I feel better knowing that there’s some glue in the joint too. I used regular old carpenters glue, the same glue I used to do the glue-up in the first place.
Using my right hand I applied downward pressure on the leg, keeping it locked in position, and sank the pocket screws with my left.
Is it just me or does anyone else feel like a complete badass when they’re holding an impact gun or drill upside down? I imagine this is how gangsters feel when they’re shooting a gun sideways.
Almost done now!
I decided to use a satin floor varnish as my finish. I picked this finish for a few reasons. For one it’s really strong and resistant to scratches, probably owing to it being a floor varnish. Two, it’s a hybrid oil and water product that dries really fast, which means that putting on multiple coats is a much easier affair. Third, and probably most importantly, I already had a can of it on hand from another project .
The application was dead simple. I used a mini roller and tried to roll on very thin coats as quickly as I could. I find that many thin coats are the best way to apply any clear coat. Don’t worry about getting it perfect on the first try. Just roll it on thin, sand lightly with more 220 grit sandpaper between coats and layer up the coats until you have a nice finish.
After that, all I had to do was let the clear coat dry and drop the bowls in place.
Here's how it looks all setup back at home. I'm so happy with how it turned out and I'm really happy I was able to do a project at almost zero cost. My using a bunch of materials I already had I saved a lot of money and cleaned up my shop a bit. It's win-win!
One thing I did have to buy was the silver bowls, but that was a small cost and really helps to finish off this piece so I didn't mind doing it.
Oh ya, and for those of you that don’t know, this is Bing (otherwise known as Bingy, Bing-Bing or Bing-A-Ling), the new owner of the bowl holder. If anyone has read my blog before she's usually hang around in the background of a lot of my photos. As near as I can tell she enjoys it, but it’s so damn hard to tell with her. She’s a locked box when it comes to her feelings. Just kidding, shes actually an incredibly sweet and affectionate cat.
As a guy in his 30s without any children yet I find myself pouring a lot of my excess love into this cat haha. Maybe this isn’t healthy, damn biological clock.
Looks like Bing is getting hungry, so we better let her eat. If you have any questions or comments leave them below and I’ll do my best to get to them all.
If you want more detailed instructions on how I built this, checkout my blog (link below).
And again, if you get a chance, check me out on Instagram @zacharyms
- Walnut scraps (Local mill)
- Oak scraps (Local mill)
- Kreg Jig R3 (Amazon)
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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!Go