Introduction: The Expanse Inspired Workbench
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I hope you like this project, it’s a useful build onto any standard kitchen cabinet to provide a nice working area as well as a homage to The Expanse sci-fi drama currently entering its fourth season on Amazon.
It certainly gives a bit more flair to a workshop and I can well imagine that there is no reason you couldn't apply other themes to the workshop space in line with your favourite film or show. Of course having just binge watched series 1-3 of The Expanse might have just clouded my judgement process as I decided to go with this and the Rocinante was my favourite, although a Belter makeover was a close second. So Beltalowda and "Till the rains fall hard on Olympus Mons, who are we? MMC!"
Step 1: Design - Free Style or Cabinet Based
Initially I was toying with the idea of creating something from scratch, but decided to use a kitchen cabinet carcass. The advantage of these are that they can be bought quite cheaply and come in various widths. To fit the space I had a 1m cabinet would do the trick and before you buy one, make sure you can get doors cheap. Lots of DIY stores will sell the doors for these at a premium and are often priced in excess of the cabinet itself. I was going to buy some acrylic or roofing twin wall to use as doors, but the height of the doors excludes a lot of the cheaper cuts. I ended up in the end buying some really cheap doors and using those, but had to cut them down as they only came in 600mm width. Had I shopped around a bit more, I could have found a 1000mm cabinet with doors and hinges for less than buying the individual pieces, something to bear in mind for the next time.
Another part of my design brief was to include lights (blue ones as the colourist on the expanse seems to have an uncontrollable fetish for blue light) and to use an EL panel for the red circle of the MCRN logo. This didn’t turn out as excitingly bright as was hoped, but still glows a nice Martian red.
Step 2: Tools and Materials
For a moment I thought this was a fairly simple build, and it
turned out to be monumental marathon task that never seemed to end.
Jigsaw Drill hammer nails screws screwdriver allen key 6mm bolts 6mm barrel nuts 3D printer 20mm PVC Conduit EL Panel RGB Strip Lights LED Cabinet lights USB power mains power strip Mains 2 plug extension Peg Board Hinges Kitchen cabinet Kitchen doors Wood glue EvoStick Gripfill Hot glue gun paint brushes cuprinol fence paint - Iris 15mm Aluminium Channel 20mm PVC channel Scalpel Adhesive backed vinyl Aluminium tape 15mm wood strip
Step 3: Timber and Side Panels
The cabinet as would be expected went together very easily, but
I needed now to include some side panels and a shelf. For the sides and light panel I used 5mm plywood and this was also going to feature in the webbing for the side. The local DIY store (B&Q) also cut sheet wood for you so it’s worth finding out if your local one has a cutting service. Without having a saw table or not wanting to go through the hassle of clamping guides this is a boon when getting straight lines. I made sure that when I had the side panels cut I also had them cut the sheet so that I got the size needed for the kick panel, overhead light boxes and decorative strips on the side as well. I managed to get all the pieces cut from one piece of ply 2440mm x 1220mm
Wood for the side supports is just normal PSE timber, about 21mm thick x 120mm for the suport at the back and 46x21 for that at front.
5mm wood screws hold it all in place and sandwich the plywood sheets.
At the top of each upright I've used a metal corner brace. This when flipped upside down provide a neat way to add a shelf and it can then just sit in these supports.
Step 4: Light Panels
The light panel at the front was again cut from the plywood
sheet and marked up in pencil. Several holes were drilled and then a using a jigsaw the square panels were cut out. To provide a bit more support and to stop the light shining out the front a small strip of ply was glued to the edge and held in place whilst it dried with some small panel nails. On the expanse, the bridge area of the Rocinante (named after Don Quixote's horse?) has some very striking wall panels that are always lit. I created some light panels in tinkercad to emulate these and printed them in transparent PLA and they fitted in really nicely. I printed them with a flange so any wayward lines of the cut outs were masked.
To light these, I bought some cheap RGB light strips from Ebay and glued a 1m strip above and below the light panels. I also used another piece of this under the kick panel as well. The lights are remote controlled and I can use either blue for normal use, white to help when working or Red for battle stations when under attack!
Step 5: Panel Detail
Just to add some interest to the end panels, I also added small
offcuts of ply painted red, with the obligatory spaceship styling of having the corners cut off. Thin ply strip was glued to the edge and pieces cut to make it look as if it is braced. A thin strip of wood was covered in aluminium tape, smoothed down and glued on the back support.
To finish off the front, i then got some 15mm aluminium channel and glued these with Gripfill to the front of the cabinet. This should provide some protection to the edges, and also improves the look without exposing the edges of the plywood. Gripfill by Evostick is now of my favourite glues, it goes off like rock once set and is nice and thick as well. I've even glued wood to a concrete wall with this stuff and been able to use it as a bracket for hanging tools. I use the low odour variety and after 24hrs its set and can be painted over easily.
Step 6: Paint Finish
Now that the design is firmly
established it definitely needed a suitable colour scheme, and I was lucky to almost immediately find a perfect colour from Cuprinol. Iris has a nice industrial feeling to it, and is also pretty cheap as it is intended mainly as an outdoor fence stain. 3 coats of this worked really well and there is no odour to it either as you'd sometimes get with fence paint. Much cheaper than interior paint and the colour range suits these type of builds a lot better as well.
Step 7: Peg Board and Graphics
The back of the cabinet is filled in with a sheet of pegboard and I just painted in a satin white. To give it the Roci treatment, I used a logo and enlarged that with the service from https://rasterbator.net that converts images into poster sized PDF's and printed out the A3 sheets, trimmed them and used PVA glue to stick this to the peg board.
Step 8: Expanse Door Handles
Another feature I wanted to
include from the Rocinante was the handles that you can see in a lot of the spaceship interior shots. I've copied the style of these and printed them in ABS and used 20mm PVC conduit pipe as the handles, I just painted the pipe silver and the handle ends in Matt black. To make sure they fix on the door, I have used 6mm bolts and furniture barrel nuts. These you normally find in furniture flat packs and can be bought online quite easily. It’s much easier to use these instead of nuts and they provide a fair bit of surface area as well so less likely to damage whatever you are screwing them into.
Step 9: Lighting and Wiring
The RGB lights that you can get don't have to be wired serially , i.e in one long strip. You can cut them down and then wire just each segment separately . I have separate runs for the overhead lights and the kick panel lights. To keep things neat I am using Telephone cabling as this handily comes in four core and is pretty cheap. Its disadvantage is that its solid core, but if you never move it (I've hot glued it all in place) then its fine for these types of runs.
I then also screwed and glued a breakout strip to the back and plugged in the overhead lights, the EL panel light transformer, the USB adapter and RGB lights. The rx for the lights is poked through a hole in the bread board and I bought an EL transformer that has a remote switch which is glued to the top shelf. The lights inside came from IKEA as a pack of four and were screwed to the bottom of the shelf.
Step 10: Work Surface
For the work surface , I ended up going for an IKEA work surface that is matt black and rubberised that works really nicely. I managed to cut it with a Jig saw and a T101BR blade. The R stands for reverse cut which means it cuts on the down stroke, so when you cut from the work-surface side it doesnt chip the work surface. Masking tape on the top and bottom also helps stop any chips and scratches to the surface from the saw. I also glued some 15mm aluminium channel to the edges of the bench to finish off and eliminate the wood edges.
Step 11: Stencil, Stencil and Stencil
First attempt was with freezer paper and it looked promising. I Cut the stencil out and
ironed it on and although it gave a really nice sharp print it left lots of the paper glued behind so had to abandon this and start again. Next attempt was with stencils again cut from the freezer paper, and a low tack adhesive sprayed on. This worked to an extent, but the low tack glue left an almighty mess behind, no solvent I had would get rid of it. Bought some adhesive remove that sort of worked, but the paint is water based so it did a fair job of lifting some of that. In the end I scraped it all off and then just repainted.
The final attempt was to just trace the letters onto some matt vinyl and cut that out with a scalpel and then stick it on. I'm certainly thinking of investing in a vinyl cutter for the future.
Step 12: Finished
In the end it all worked out OK and it's now being used and not only is it handy for working on, but also functions nicely as a photo booth area for projects.
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