Introduction: Kitty Container
Runner Up in the
Cat Challenge 2016
We have a nice recliner-type chair in the study. It's from a flee market, refinished and relined by my fiancee Iida and incredibly comfy. Naturally, we never get to actually sit in it, since our furry overlords have deemed it suitable for constant napping. That's why we decided to make them a throne worth fighting over.
The cat playhouse/nap nook/side table is made out of a piece of cabinet board, with basic hand tools. It has two functions: when resting on it's side a sidetable/cat playhouse. When set on the truncated corner (with a piece of plywood plugging the hole) it is a cool-looking cat bed.
The total cost of the container was ~28€.
Step 1: Design & Preparation
Iida spent an evening drawing out different designs for the container: we were going for something that would be aesthetically pleasing, easy to build and multi-purpose. Without a jig or a table saw at hand, the resulting design was a simple box with an open corner, as more complex geometric shapes would have required very precise cutting of the pieces.
The drawing shows how we cut the pieces from the board, along with the placement of the screws. The sides of the box all take into account the thickness of the board, so that the inner dimension of the box comes to 400*400*382mm. The open side of the box is drawn in red.
The only parts we didn't have at the house were the wood and sufficient screws.
- a piece of board, we used a 400*2100*18 mm piece of pine furniture board (22€)
- torx-head counter-sink screws, far superior to other types so why use anything else?
Also, self-drilling type, saves you the trouble of drilling a pilot hole when you don't have access to a drill press. Length of screw should be roughly twice the thickness of the board you use.
(6€ for a box of 200)
- a handsaw, preferably a backsaw with a lot of teeth for a clean cut
- a straightedge
- medium grit sandpaper, fine grit sandpaper, optional steel wool
- a screwdriver (electric one saves you from carpal tunnel, ours was 10€ in a local hardware store)
- a counter-sink tool would be nice, but in a pinch, a steel bracket with a reasonably sharp corner will do the same thing
- bit of board or plywood for the bottom
-optional: furniture wax or other finish material, we used a semi-opaque gray wax left over from a previous project to coat the outside of the box.
Step 2: Cutting the Pieces
Before cutting, mark the piece very carefully: as with all woodworking, measure twice etc. Cut with the backsaw, carefully, steadying the blade's side on the thumb knuckle of your non-sawing hand when starting to ensure you get the cut started right where you want it. Cut with very little pressure, in a slightly rocking motion so that when sawing forward, the teeth don't cut the bottom surface of the wood (this prevents tearing the bottom edge of the cut).
After cutting the first piece, check the edges with your straightedge to make sure you got it clean and straight (and 90 degrees where necessary). If so, mark the next piece and repeat.
The piece of wood we used was slightly too small to get the hole-cover (equilateral triangle piece) so we used a bit of plywood we had in the storage room. You can use pretty much any bit for this, as it's going to be under the cat bed when in use.
After all the pieces are cut and verified (for the third time, the first two checks should be done before you cut!) sand down the edges with a bit of sandpaper, getting rid of the burr from the sawing, and smoothing the cut. Also sand off any errant pencil marks or irregularities on the surfaces of the pieces. Fastening the sandpaper to a flat edge of a bit of wood will make your sanding easier. Optionally, for an extra-smooth finish, use lastly a bit of steel wool to polish the surface.
Step 3: Finishing the Wood
If you are going to use a finish on the wood, now is a good time since you can do it with the pieces flat on the floor or table. This eliminates drips when using a heavier coating, and even with wax, it's faster to apply at once with all the surfaces facing up as this will allow them to dry off at the same time.
Apply masking tape on the edge of where you want the finish to stop, we didn't want to get any on the inside surface (strange smells are a big turnoff for cats, so even doing the outside will probably make the adjustment period longer for our kitties.)
Spread the wax with an old bit of fabric, a worn out (clean!) cotton sock is good for this as most of the loose fibers and fluff from it have already become the fuzz you have to rinse from between your toes when taking a shower. Spread a small amount of wax with long sweeps along the wood's grain. We skipped finishing the plywood bottom part, since plywood tends to drink up so much wax and it doesn't even show when in place.
Step 4: Construction
Carefully pencil out the positions of the screws according to the drawing. (they are always 1cm from the nearest edge and 3cm from the other, to avoid splitting either part.)
Once all the screw positions are marked, you can make sure that you got them right by quickly assembling the box with masking tape and checking that the screw marks line up with the end-grains of the other pieces. Take off the masking tape and make small starter holes for the self-drilling screws, with a screw or a nail or a pointed knife.
Now, screw a screw into each marked position, here the electric screwdriver helps a lot as it allows you to concentrate on keeping the screw upright as you screw. Once you get the screw going in in a sufficiently perpendicular fashion, put a thumb under the board and feel for the screw as it goes through. When you feel the point starting to bend the bottom grains of the piece, stop and unscrew completely.
Next take your countersink bit or sharp bracket and make a counter-sink bevel around the screw hole. Put the screw back in so that the tip barely pokes through the other side. This will help you align the pieces together during construction, and not going all the way through just yet keeps the wood on the other side of the hole from cracking.
Once all the screws are in place, start building. It's easiest to set the pieces upright on the floor or table, and use the slightly through-poking tips of the screws to align the two pieces before screwing them partway in. You can with some effort strut them at a 90 degree angle with your straightedge. After getting the sides tacked to one-another, set the top part on the table upside down and flip the box on top, and tighten the top screws.
When the whole box is tacked together like this, go around and tighten/readjust the screws so that as few cracks between pieces as possible are visible.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
Finally, put the hole cover in, set up a nice cat bed inside (ours is just a folded sheepskin from IKEA) and watch with satisfaction as your cats carefully avoid showing any interest in the thing for the next two weeks, instead lounging in the cardboard box you had your tools in before the project.
Step 6: Usage
As of now, the container seems to get more feline visitors in it's side table form. Time will tell which one claims it into her domain as a napping place. The recliner has not been liberated, yet.
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.