I am so excited to finally share this fretwork console plan with you. I feel like I started it ages ago, before a crazy bad winter, a car accident, and enough weirdness to film my own lifetime movie. But the only drama here, folks, is the loveliness of this awesome fretwork console.
I feel like the best way to introduce this beautiful console is to tell you that it is the brainchild of Jen Woodhouse, who’s crazy talent really doesn’t need introduction. But if you have been living under a rock, or are new to the DIY world, you should take a little stroll over to jenwoodhouse.com and check out her work.
But before you go, check this out.
10 – 1x2x10′ boards (I used poplar. Pine is cheaper. Use whatever works for you.)
1- 3/4″ sheet of hardwood plywood
3/4″ veneer edge banding (Amazon has some good prices on whatever type of banding you need. Here’s birch and walnut.)
paint or finish
table saw or circular saw
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Trust me on this one, you are going to want to check your miter saw and make sure it is square. You are going to make 96 cuts at 45 degrees. If your saw is even a little off you will have to use a lot of filler, and filler means sanding, and sanding is…bleh.
Read through the directions all the way. I recommend that you cut all of the pieces for the squares first before assembling. Set a stop block to ensure that all of the pieces are precisely the same. If you are not familiar with what a stop block is the idea is to set a stop, which can be as simple as a piece of wood screwed into your work surface that insures all of your cuts will be exactly the same. There are also some great systems out there as well, like this one by Kreg Jig that is on my birthday list.
Okay, let’s build. There are going to be like a gazillion photos. I’m sorry. But if you are going to do this you’ll thank me. I think.
1. Cut the pieces for the squares
**Note: If you are going to paint the console as opposed to staining it may be helpful to prime all of your pieces before cutting.**
I cut the 2″ pieces first. Notice the piece of wood screwed into the workbench top at the right. It is clamped to the saw to further hold it in place. I’m nothing if not fancy, guys. But seriously, I cut out all 42 pieces in no time flat with this method.
To set a stop for the angled pieces I used another piece cut at 45 degrees going the opposite direction. You can see how that works in the photo.
There you go, 90 pieces of wood, ready for assembly!
2. Form the…frets?
The squares, the designs, I don’t know. Call them what you will.
To make sure all of the squares were even I put a tic mark at the center of each. Tip: mark the outside edges on a blank piece of paper, with another mark at dead center. Then simply line up each piece within the markings and mark the middle.
See how all of the pencil marks line up?
You can use pocket holes to attach all of the pieces. My preferred method was to leave the design as clean as possible, so glue does the heavy lifting. I insured that the pieces would stay put while drying by using brad nails to attach the pieces together. Tip: have a second person assist with this so you can be sure that each section is right where you want it and while nailing. I just took this photo to show we lined them up – really my husband and I did this part together.
Again, having one person to hold it all stable while nailing is important. You’ll need to glue the joints first, and that makes everything slide around a bit.
There you have it – a completed fretwork section. Now do five more just like it!
You’ll want to do any touch up sanding and filling as you work. I used this stuff, and it is awesome.
3. Cut the side pieces
Measure the fretworks you made before cutting the long pieces. For whatever reason – variations in wood, human factors, etc, the lengths you need may vary slightly. Ours needed to be slightly longer, I think by 1/4″. You want the fretwork to fit in tightly with no gaps. Dry fit all the pieces together before attaching any of the frame. We found it helpful to clamp two sides to the table so we could snug the rest of it in tight and clamp it as we glued. By the time you put glue on the final piece of the frame and nail it in place you will not need clamps, it will hold itself together. That probably doesn’t make any sense, but it will when you do it.
I’m not going to lie – this step took a long time. We really worked to make everything line up. And I mean we – my husband deserves a huge shout out.
We let the main section dry for a full day or two, then attached the side pieces as it says in the instructions. Tip: Prop the entire section up on a couple pieces of wood so that seeping glue won’t adhere the entire thing to your work surface.
It’s hugely rewarding to have it all stand on its own!
Important note: those sides have some give to them until the top is put on. I wanted to paint this with a sprayer, so we chose to hold off on adding the top. In order to keep the sides where they needed to be and looking seamless we screwed a long piece the exact length of the console to the front side top, as in the photo below. This prevented the side panels from moving and creating lines in the paint.
Seriously, I spent some serious time with the sander and some filler at this point. Actually, three sanders. I hit it up with the orbital sander where I could, then used the Ryobi Multi-tool with the sanding attachment to get in all the nooks and crannies. I cannot recommend that highly enough. Finally, I finished it off with a sanding pad. I know, I know, hand sanding. I’m sorry. But not as sorry as you’ll be if you don’t sand properly, peeps.
4. Paint (skip this step if staining)
This would look beautiful stained or painted. I decided to go with a semi gloss paint because
I’m crazy I wanted a more modern look. To get the smoothest possible result we went with an oil paint. Oils dry slower but cure faster. That means they have more time to even out and the paint hardens in a week (compared to a month for latex). We primed it with Sherwin-Williams ProBlock and painted with ProClassic in Pure White. We used our HomeRight sprayer to get in all the nooks and crannies.
Clearly it’s time to invest in the HomeRight spray shelter as well. But in a pinch you can make a pretty handy spray area in your garage by hanging tarps from the garage tracks. Just don’t forget they are there and try to open the garage. Not that that happened, of course…
My husband is kind of a mad genius when it comes to using the paint sprayer, and I was happy to let him show off his skills. If you decided to go this route think several thin coats and lots of dry time between.
5. Cut the plywood, fit
You are almost there! A piece this lovely deserves to be crowned with something that will really shine, so I was thrilled when Jen was as excited as I was by the idea of using a walnut top. Walnut is, however, not inexpensive. This is when I learned that PureBond makes walnut veneered plywood. Whaaaa?!?! Guys, I love this stuff. I use PureBond for a number of projects, most recently when I upgraded and expanded my stationery workbench (loooove the maple).
Plywood is a much more budget friendly option than opting for full-blown hardwood, and it looks amazing. There are a few tricks for cutting it. I used my circular saw to do the cross grain cut first. You’ll want to tape the line before you cut. I taped both top and bottom. This will help prevent tear out of the veneer. Circular saws cut up, so cut with the top side down so that if there is any tearing it will be on the bottom. Place long 2x4s under the wood to support the entire piece while cutting. Set the blade to an inch so it will only extend about 1/4″ past the plywood. Use a guide to insure a straight line cut.
To rip the long side you can use either a circular saw or table saw. We opted to cut the long side on the table saw. The difference is that you’ll need to cut with the top side up this time, as the blade cuts down. Additionally, our saw is fitted with a zero clearance insert, which is important in insuring that plywood does not tear out. Finally, we put fresh blades on both saws, both of which were thinner kerf blades suitable for cutting plywood. That all sounds like a lot, but it’s worth it. To be fair, our table saw blade was long past needing replaced. You can definitely cut with just the circular saw. The blade for that set us back only $6.
Anyway, once you have the piece cut apply the banding according to manufacturer instructions. Then attach the top with some glue and a few brad nails.
Fill the holes, let them dry, then oil it up. I used Salad Bowl Finish by General Finishes. Awesome product. I mean…look.
How incredible is that?!
The final step is to put this thing in a place of honor in your home and stand back and stare at it every chance you get. Also, be sure to point it out whenever company comes by and bask in the glow of their admiration. You made that, you stud you. It maybe wasn’t the easiest thing you have ever done (or maybe it was, okay, cool), but you did it. You can’t get that feeling buying something from Target.
…Which brings us to the cost. Here’s what this baby will set you back, give or take:
Fretwork Console Estimated Costs
-lumber: I spent $69.30 for poplar boards. Pine would have run $35.40
-plywood: You can get a full 4×8′ sheet of birch or maple for $50. The good folks at Purebond graciously sent a beautiful walnut panel for this project, which you can get in a 2’x8′ size at Home Depot for $47.25. (Psst, this will totally give you extra wood to play with for other projects!)
-glue, filler, and finish nails: already had on hand
-paint and primer: $32
Don’t forget to pick up the plans for the Fretwork Console here and check out Jen’s other amazing build plans. Okay then, all that is left to do is to share some photos of the finished piece. I hope this lengthy tutorial was helpful to you. If you have any questions leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, if you build this gorgeous fretwork console be sure to share a photo!
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