Tank Heaven

When you’re riding your jigsaw around the curves, guide the blade smoothly so you don't create bumps and dings that you’ll have to sand out later.  Many jigsaws have a dial that allows you to adjust the stroke of the blade to be either gentle or aggressive, depending on the wood you’re manipulating and the mood you’re in.

When you’re riding your jigsaw around the curves, guide the blade smoothly so you don't create bumps and dings that you’ll have to sand out later. Many jigsaws have a dial that allows you to adjust the stroke of the blade to be either gentle or aggressive, depending on the wood you’re manipulating and the mood you’re in.

At least once a year I knock something off the bathroom counter, right into the toilet. It’s usually a highly non-disposable item, like my favorite hairbrush. There follows the humbling act of fishing the item out of the bowl. Then the challenge of cleaning it off. The dishwasher is tempting, unless you live with nosy people who’d want to know why your hairbrush is in the cutlery rack on Sani-cycle.

I don’t blame myself for knocking stuff into the toilet, because it’s society’s fault. In the old days, a single bar of soap served as shampoo, shaving foam, skin care regimen and deodorant. Washing was a once-a-week proposition. People smelled a bit but they spent most of the day behind a horse who didn’t seem to mind. Folks got cleaned up on Saturday night to prepare for the next morning, when being crammed into a church pew was the social event of the week.

In contrast, today’s society is a teeming 24/7 press of bodies, with people crushed together in buses, offices, restaurants and movie theaters. We don’t do much of anything alone and we can’t afford to smell like it.

A Veritas cornering tool makes short work of softening the edges of pine. It acts as a miniature plane, leaving a smooth radius in its path.  If the blade chips or binds, then you’re working against the grain. Try pulling from the opposite end of the board. Grain lines always get wonky around knots, so you may have to change direction several times, but it’s still faster than sanding.

A Veritas cornering tool makes short work of softening the edges of pine. It acts as a miniature plane, leaving a smooth radius in its path. If the blade chips or binds, then you’re working against the grain. Try pulling from the opposite end of the board. Grain lines always get wonky around knots, so you may have to change direction several times, but it’s still faster than sanding.

And here’s my huge, salient point: there just isn’t adequate surface area in modern bathrooms to contain all the tools families require for personal grooming. Many families have an arsenal of products perched around the sink, the edges of the tub, and atop the toilet tank.

Society gave us this clutter. But God gave us elbows. So on a bad day, one of those personal grooming products is going for a swim.

My answer to society and my elbows was to build a pine tanktop shelf-unit. It hangs in the unused space above my toilet tank, holding every pomade, soap and lotion I’ve accumulated in years of smelling nice.

This unit is a great beginner’s project with some easy options for making it look professionally hand-crafted. To build it you’ll need only a few basic tools, my favorite being the jigsaw.

Tool’s Errand
If you’re new to woodworking and you’re only planning to get one saw, make it a jigsaw. They generate about as much noise as a sewing machine, so they’re soothing to use, plus they perform almost every kind of cut, from straight to swoopy. I recently got the cordless purse model so I’m ready to jig anytime, anywhere. And while we’re talking about tools; for sheer tingle factor, whenever you have a birthday or anniversary coming up, ask for clamps. You just can’t have too many clamps. You’ll need at least one pair of clamps for this project with a minimum span of 20″. If you don’t have clamps, you’re going to have to engage a helper. Clamps are more useful than most helpers, unless the helper brings beer.

Shellac has to be applied with a patient, steady hand in smooth, long strokes that don't overlap.  Because it’s alcohol-based, it dries extremely fast, so there’s little downtime.  If you’re mixing your own shellac, use a good solvent procured from a reliable woodworking supply place.

Shellac has to be applied with a patient, steady hand in smooth, long strokes that don't overlap. Because it’s alcohol-based, it dries extremely fast, so there’s little downtime. If you’re mixing your own shellac, use a good solvent procured from a reliable woodworking supply place.

And finally, to make your shelves look especially perky, consider buying a plug-cutter bit. This is a cool little device that fits in your drill just like a regular bit. It cuts tiny cylindrical wood plugs that camouflage the screw heads, so the finished project looks tidy and sleek.

Cut it Out
Lumber is personality-related, so know yourself. Clear pine is slick and cooperative, but the knotty stuff has more character. Also, if you have a low irritation threshold, avoid boards that are twisted, cupped (the ends of the board are crescent-shaped), split, or sporting “pitch pockets,” dark spots that ooze sap and defile your work surface, tools and mood.

Take your time in the lumber aisle and use the “eyeballing” technique: Pull a board off the rack and put one end of it on the floor. Then, holding the other end at eye level, scrutinize your subject for twists, warps and wows. Flip it authoritatively, glaring down the length of each surface of the board in turn. If the board is clean and straight, put it on your cart. If it isn’t, set it aside and move on to inspecting the next board.

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