More benchwork today. I started with a tricky section that would be the sub-roadbed where the main layout enters the closet. I spent a lot of time cutting it to dimensions from the plan but didn’t bother to check the angles in this area. Bad idea. It fit awkwardly, and only after a couple of trims. I scrapped the piece and will work on another one later.

I decided to handle the awkward closet junction by mounting a U-girder. I made sure the U-girder was square and level with the layout. From here I’ll measure back to the wall to get the dimensions I’ll need to fit this awkward location.

I made the remaining cuts to the West deck. This was the second attempt at this mammoth 92″ piece. The tricky cuts were around the ends to provide a 3″ bump-out into the window sill. It all fit on the first cuts and I screwed it down.

I used a little pink foam to stiffen up the rounded corner section of the valance. This should help shore this area up and prevent it from possible damage.

It’s been a very productive 3 days. I can really see the layout start to take shape. One thing that has helped is not painting everything before I install it. Maybe, I’ll regret that later, but looking at my progress, I certainly don’t regret it now. :)


A couple extra hours of work allowed me to do a little touch up and finish out the valance frame. I had to recut both valance l-girder ledger boards. They were both too long. I bought some 1/4″ plywood to skin the top of the valance. I cut this funny to correct for the mistakes of my previous cuts and the slightly out of square nature of the corner. I was able to get the valance hoisted up (it’s pretty light) and tacked in some temporary supports. I installed one bracket for permanent support. I’ll eventually add three additional support brackets. A little overkill, but I’ll probably end up storing stuff on top of the valance and I’d like it to hold.


A nice day and generous parents led me to a construction marathon this afternoon. I spent a total of 8 straight hours cutting, trimming, fixing, gluing, tacking, and screwing.

I built the frames for the East and South valance. And I screwed up in two ways.

  1. I cut the East valance at 17″. It should have been 18″
  2. I tacked the skin to the underside of the valance. It was supposed to go on top.

I can live with the narrow valance, because I have a 2 1/2″ ledgerboard that will hide the mistake. I think I’ll need to cut another skin to go on top of the valance frame, so if I put stuff on it it doesn’t punch out the bottom.

I cut the deck for the closet. I used the deck that I had screwed up cutting the West deck. I made the main cuts on the new West deck. I cut the final 12″ section of the East deck.

I installed additional ledger boards along the West and East sides of the layout. I also, added a few braces to stiffen the frame.

I cut the L-girder ledger boards for the valance. The East board is installed. The South board had to be removed because I didn’t cut it correctly. I recut the South board, but haven’t had a chance to reinstall it.

I cut and glued L-girders for the closet frame.

Very productive day. I went through 2 sheets of 3/4″ plywood; 2/3 sheet of 1/16″ plywood; one box of 1 1/4″ brads; one box of 5/8″ brads; one box 1 1/4″ FastTap screws. I also depleted my supply of 3″ Spax screws and 1 1/4″ pan-head Spax screws. I used just about every tool I have: table saw; miter saw; skil saw; jjg saw; router; brad nailer; drill; vacuum; trammel; tape measure; square.

L Girder

 Posted by Greg Amer at 11:59 am  Consctruction  No Responses »
Apr 112012
Benchwork (21)

Benchwork (21)

Primed FJ Pine L Girder for valance. This primed pine is 30% cheaper than Home Depot’s common pine and it’s a much higher quality board. It is straighter than the common Home Depot junk. These L-Girders will act as a ledger board for the lighting valance. I made two of these using the glue and screw method.

I also finaly got some more plywood. I don’t know what happened to the generic $32 3/4″ sheets, so I ended up buying a $45 sheet of Birch; Ouch!

Apr 022012

Progress has really been stifled by rain, sick kids, injury, illness and RAIN. And did I mention rain. So in between the crappy weather and sore body, I’ve been trying to take advantage of a few short sun breaks to drag the saws out to the drive way and cut some wood. I’ve managed to get joists and ledges installed and one portion of the deck. I have a second deck portion that has been cut, but I need to prime paint it before installing.



Lowering the Bench

I got all of the brackets and ledger boards installed and then decided to listen to some advice from Alan in my Shelf Bracket Benchwork 1 Post. I tested the benchwork with my 3 year old son Patrick and it was too tall. I need the benchwork to be tall enough to fit the kids step ladder underneath the fascia. This will allow it to be stored beneath the fascia and also will allow my kids to scoot the top handle beneath the fascia to acheive their maximum reach across the layout. Of course everything looked great with the brackets and ledger board installed and I even put up the old drawer cabinet I made for the old “Halland Yard” layout.

I took everything down today and reinstalled two inches lower. The new layout height will be 53 3/4″ or 54 1/2″ tall instead of 55 3/4″ or 56 1/2″ tall. I have a 3/4″ range because I haven’t decided weather to lay a 3/4″ cleat board below the deck. This board will be a better attachment point for the fascia around the drawer openings and also allow me to secure the deck from beneath the layout (which should be helpful when I want to rip this layout up.

I also took the drawer cabinet to the garage to paint it “Stealth Jet” before reinstalling.


Stealth Jet

In my quest for colors, I thought I’d found the ultimate in Behr “Starless Night” however it turned out to be too blue. I wanted something more dark gray. I found “Stealth Jet” Ultra Flat Enamel. This will be the color for the underside of the layout and the fascias.

Feb 232012

Behr UL230-1 Starless NightBehr UL230-1 Starless Night

Fascia Paint

I bought one gallon of Behr Starless Night UL230-1 Satin. I’ll paint the fascias and underside of the layout this color. I bought satin, hoping it’ll be more durable. I’m questioning that decision because I tend to like a flatter finish.

I wanted a dark blueish gray and the color sample looks like what I want. I hope this color comes out the way it looks on the sample card. I painted it on a few boards tonight but it looked a lot blue and very little dark gray. We’ll see how it turns out when dry.

I’m going to try to paint the bench-work before installing it.

Going with 2×4′s

I went shopping for 1×4′s and decided to buy 2×4′s. I know they’re thick and heavy and big, but they are also only $1.92 for kiln dried straight 8′ 2x4s; crappy and crooked 1x4s are $5.62 a board, the slightly better but still crappy premium pine is $7.48 a board.  Is it really that hard to make a quality board and charge a decent price for it? I was also considering ripping some plywood, but I’m going to need to screw into the ends to much for that to be a good solution.

Starless Night Update 2/23/2012

I painted up several boards with the Behr Starless Night paint and I really don’t like the way it looks. Here is a photo sitting on top of my black tool chest for comparison. To me it looks all blue and not really gray. I’m going to get a different color. Perhaps just a black or Behr Stealth Jet 780F-7 (which I already have a little of.)

Paint Sample Behr Starless Night

Paint Sample Behr Starless Night

Paint Comparison Stealth Jet vs Starless Night
Paint Comparison Stealth Jet vs Starless Night

The Stealth Jet color sample is very similar to the gray on this website.

Behr UL203 Stealth Jet

Behr UL203 Stealth Jet

Feb 202012


I started benchwork today. I’m using angle brackets from Home Depot; 16″ brackets along the east wall and 12″ brackets along the south and west walls. Sitting atop the brakets is a 1×3 pine ledger board that I cut down to 2″. I also cut 2×3 boards down to 2″ to mount to the brackets.  The brackets are mounted to the studs using 2″ lag screws. Some of the brackets required shims to keep them level. The ledger board is screwed down with 1 5/8″ self tapping self setting screws.

I painted the ledger boards white. I plan to paint the complete underside of the benchwork. Not really worried about warping, I just want a nice clean looking surface below (of course it probably would have helped had I used nicer wood.)


  1. I over tensioned one lag screw to the point that it snapped the head off.
  2. I ran out of lag screws and had to go back to Home Depot mid-day for more.
  3. I hit an existing hole or maybe a knot hole in one stud and couldn’t get a good grip for the lag screw. To make things worse, the second lag screw hit a nail stop. I had to move that bracket.

Using Scrap

  1. I’m using as much “scrap” wood as I can. I always have extra boards lying around and I want to use them up.
  2. I’ll be using as much “scrap” paint as I can. That’s where I’m getting the “white” paint for the underside of the layout.
  3. I’ll be using as much “scrap” hardware as I can. I had to buy the 2″ lag bolts, the 3″ ones I already have were overkill.

What’s Next?

I need to cut two more boards to move on to the west wall. I’ll be placing two brackets on the west wall and spanning a six foot window with the ledger board and a parallel block to help stabilize this section.

The east and south walls have all brakets and ledgers in and will next mount wood to the brackets. I have these cut and predrilled, but they aren’t as pretty as I’d like them to be, I may need to do some new boards for this.

© 2012 Greg Amer
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