My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.
Objective of Making an Overlocker Cover
The main objective was to make a protective cover to prevent our cats from playing with the threads of the overlocker. Each time our cats play with the threads and breaks or tangles them, my wife then has to rethread the overlocker, which is fiddley and time-consuming.
The other objectives I set myself was to use recycled wood to keep the cost down, make it more than just a simple box so that it would be aesthetic, and make it multi-functional.
What Is an Overlocker?
An overlocker (or serger) is a specialised sewing machine that uses four threads to produce a stitch that sews over the edge of one or two pieces of material for edging, hemming and seaming.
The two main constraints were size and weight.
My wife keeps her overlocker on a tea-trolley, which is just a couple of inches wider than the overlocker itself. So the first constraint was that the inside measurement of any protective cover couldn’t be much smaller than the width of the trolley top so as to give adequate clearance when placing the cover on top or lifting it off.
The second constraint was that it couldn’t be too heavy for my wife to lift when removing or replacing it over the overlocker.
Upcycling and Recycling Wood
When doing DIY projects, I like to recycle or upcycle materials because it’s good for the environment and saves money. For this project, the scrap wood I recycled and upcycled included:
- Two folding tables
- Part of a wooden drawer
- A cat motif fruit bowl
- A wooden mouse
The folding tables and wooden drawers were pine wood and the fruit bowl was MDF.
We were originally given the folding tables from a friend, who no longer needed them, and for a while used them as sofa tables for our evening meal when watching TV. Then I replaced them with two bespoke tables, one I made by upcycling an old solid oak valet stand that we’d been given. I then added the folding tables to my wood store in my workshop for future recycling.
The solid pine wooden drawer came from an old wardrobe that a friend gave us for scrap wood because he no longer needed it.
The 12mm plywood I used in this project was originally the door to my garden tool shed, but became surplus when I replaced it with our old front porch door that I salvaged when we had our house re-doubled glazed with new uPVC windows and composite doors.
The 9mm plywood was from a piece of surplus homemade furniture a friend gave me for use as scrap wood, and the 4mm plywood was offcuts from previous DIY project.
The cat motif was from an MDF fruit bowl that had broken that my wife was going to throw out, but I had salvaged it for future use.
The wooden mouse was from an old cheeseboard.
Other Uses for the Cover
When making something for the home, I like to make it multifunctional if possible. In this project, I saw the opportunity to make the anti-cat overlocker cover to double up as a stool and or coffee table.
The concept being that if at any time we’re in the conservatory with guests (where the sewing machines are), and thus able to keep an eye on the overlocker. We’ve also got the option to use the protective cover as extra seating or a coffee table.
The last thing I wanted was just a wooden box; it would just look too naff. I wanted something with a little bit of character or style. Hence my delight in the prospect of incorporating the cat motif from the fruit bowl and the wooden mouse; I thought it would be poetic justice in that the box is designed as an anti-cat protective cover for the overlocker.
Another consideration for the aesthetics is that as the protective cover would be made from a mishmash of recycled scrap wood that a rustic look might be appropriate; especially as it is a finished look that we like in some furniture.
If a piece of furniture is made from quality wood, usually a hardwood such as oak, teak or mahogany, then yes it should be finished to a high standard to show off the beauty of the wood.
However, although you can achieve a good finish by wood staining cheaper (softwoods), such as pine and or plywood, it can sometimes look contentious (false); and we don’t like painting wood because it just hides the natural beauty of wood. Therefore, we sometimes find it more pleasing to see a rustic finish, as it’s a more honest statement; just as some people like to see the patina of old furniture.
In accordance with the objectives and constraints, including the desire to make it from recycled wood, aesthetically pleasing and multi-functional, my first task was to take detailed measurements of the overlocker, and the tea-trolley it sits on, to be able to draw a sketch plan as a guide.
Having sourced the recycled wood I then needed to clean and prepare it for construction by:
- Disassembling the old pine folding tables
- Removing the broken centre piece from the fruit bowl
- Using the belt and orbital sanders on salvaged plywood
Construction and Assembly
Having all the materials I needed, the main phases of construction was:
- Make the two sides
- Cut the front and back to size
- Assemble the box
- Make the top
For this project I used 12mm (half inch) plywood for the front panel, 9mm (about 3/8 inch) for the back panel, and 4mm (about 1/8 inch) for the two side panels.
The intention of using thinner, rather than thicker, plywood where possible was to keep the overall weight of the box to a minimum (while not compromising on strength too much) to make it easier for my wife to be able to lift it over the overlocker when putting it in place or removing it.
A more detailed description of each phase of construction is as follows.
Making the Side Frames
- Cut what were the legs of the old folding table to size to create a simple frame.
- Glue and screw the frame together.
- Temporarily screw (or clamp) the bottom cross bar of the frame to a firm surface, to hold it flat and in place.
- Measure diagonally across from one corner to the opposite corner, repeat for the other two corners; then push the top half of the frame slightly in one direction or the other until both sets of measurements are identical. Make a final check, and if both sets of measurements are identical then the frame is square.
- Once you’re satisfied the frame is square, clamp in place and leave overnight for the glue to set.
- Repeat steps 1 to 5 above to make the second side frame.
Making the Panels for the Side Frames
Once the side frames were made, I then measured thin plywood to fit, and cut to size before fitting them in place with wood glue and invisible nails.
You could tack it in place with panel pins, but the staple gun I use also takes thin wire nails that are almost invisible once the wood is stained. Alternatively, you could just glue the panels to the frames and hold firmly in place with clamps until the wood glue has set.
Cutting Out the Hand Holds in the Side Panels
The purpose of the hand holds is to make it easier for my wife to lift the box when placing it over the overlocker or removing it.
As the hand holds would be in the side panels, made from just 4mm plywood and therefore not strong enough, I also fitted wood from an old pine drawer along the top of the side panels (where the hand holds would go) for added strength and rigidity.
The steps for cutting out and finishing the hand holds:
- Measure and mark where the hand holds will go on the side panels.
- Use a saw hole cutter in your electric drill of a suitable size, e.g., 2 inches in diameter, to cut a hole on both sides of where the hand hole will be.
- Use a jig saw to join the two holes by cutting between the holes, top and bottom.
- Then either round off and sand smooth the edges of the hand holes with a sander and sandpaper, or use a router for a suitable decorative finish to the edges.
Making the Front and Back Panels
While I was able to use thin plywood for the side panels (to keep the weight down) because they were fixed to a frame, the front and back panels needed to be thicker for rigidity; and the front panel needed to be thick enough to securely fit the cat motif.
Therefore I used 9mm plywood for the back panel, and 12mm plywood of the front panel. For additional rigidity, I also added a piece of timber to the top of the front and back panels.
Once cut to size and sanded, and the support timber fixed to the top of the back panel, it was ready to glue and screw to the side panels.
For the front panel, where I wanted to fit the cat motif to add a bit of style, after having sanded the salvaged plywood, the steps in making and assembling it was were:
- Measure, mark and cut the plywood to size.
- Use the cat motif as a template to mark an inner circle.
- Drill a hole on the inside line of the circle to insert a jig saw blade, and then use the jig saw to cut out the circle.
- Cut and fit a piece of 3mm plywood to the back of the panel to cover the circle.
- Glue the support timber to the top of the front panel.
Assembling the Panels
Having made all the panels, the next stage was assembly:
- Glue and screw the two sides to the back panel.
- Glue and screw the front panel to the sides to create a box.
- Add wooden decorative trim to the side panels.
Making the Removable Top
As coincidence had it, the top of one of the folding tables I used for the wood to make the leg frames for this box happened to be exactly to right size required. Therefore, all I needed to do was to secure pieces of scrap wood to the underside of the table top keep it in place when it’s placed over the top of the anti-cat overlocker box cover.
If the table top had been too small then, as the box is intended to be multi-purpose, e.g., double up as a stool and coffee table, I would have had to find plywood (or other suitable wood) strong enough to take the weight of being sat on. One consideration would have been to make the top from oak or pine floorboards.
Having made the box, the final steps to transform it into a piece of furniture that’s aesthetically pleasing were:
- Being made from scrap wood, fill in any unwanted imperfections with wood filler.
- Once the wood filler is dry, give the whole box a good sanding.
- Wipe the whole box clean with white spirt on a cloth.
- One the white spirit is dry, apply two coats of wood stain; waiting for the wood stain to dry between coats.
- Give the box a light sanding by hand, and quickly wipe clean with white spirt before adding the third and final coat of wood stain.
- Once the wood stain is dry, give the box a good polish with beeswax polish, that does not contain silicon.
Fitting the Cat Motif
The pièce de résistance was fitting the cat motif:
- Applying wood glue to the back of the motif.
- Clamping it in position.
- Screwing it in place from inside the box so that there would be no visible screws.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on January 19, 2019:
Yep, I agree, there’s never enough time. I’m just as busy in retirement as I was when I was working full time. Which is the way I like it; I’d hate to be idle.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 18, 2019:
I make lists and I prioritise, but the one thing I never have enough of is time.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on January 18, 2019:
Yep, that was my experience to.
Although at home I use my computer as a tool where it’s beneficial e.g. simple Task Lists in Excel for all those jobs around the home, so that I can Prioritise, Plan and Schedule for the year; to get all those DIY and Gardening jobs etc., done.
The main advantage I find in keeping simple Tasks Lists to Prioritise, Plan and Schedule for the year ahead is that it does discipline me into ensuring DIY Projects get done on schedule, rather than forgetting about them or putting them off to another day as so many of my friends tend to do.