I didn't have an image of what I wanted the end result to look like when I started this project. I often don't - I really like projects that come together as they grow. I knew that the first thing I wanted was a space at the bottom that the cat could enter the tower in and give the tower a base - the bottom drawer was going to be left in the final build of the tower.
The first thing I did (after removing the knobs that would come off easily from the drawers), was remove the bottom drawer and make a hole for the cat to enter the tower. You can see the pencil marking I made for this first hole above, and the cut out hole below. I cut it out by drilling a starter hole with the biggest bit in my power drill, which was just big enough for my hand jigsaw blade to fit through. Then I used the jigsaw to cut out the hole - the first thing my jigsaw cut! I hadn't used a jigsaw since middle school (or maybe early high school), so it was a lot of fun. I got my jigsaw and my circle saw (both handheld) from DeForest for Christmas last year - thank you, dear! They are fabulous and open up my crafting opportunities so much. :) I couldn't have done this project without them (certainly not in a month, anyway).
These next few pictures are of me taking some of the drawers apart! I wasn't going to use all of them as drawers (in fact, I only ended up using one as a drawer), so the rest of them needed to come apart so I could use the pieces for ledges and ramps. You can get a small taste of the mess I made each time I worked on this project with the sawdust and wood everywhere (I swept after every time I worked on this!).
Below you can see me pounding all the old nails out of the edges of the drawer pieces. A lot of those nails got reused later in the project, though the bent ones got thrown out. I like to reuse old pieces of things and minimize the amount of stuff that I throw out and consume brand new.
To make the ramp, I needed a wide stable piece of wood. I liked the width of the front of the big drawers, but all of them had cracks running down the center because of the grooves in the wood design. To steady that, I used the back of a drawer to back the front piece. It didn't have the width of the front piece, but it was really solid so it would hold it all together nicely. It was held together with wood glue and then clamped overnight.
After being clamped overnight, I wound the piece with sisal rope (no pictures of me doing that with this piece). To wind with sisal rope, first put on work gloves. A website had told me this, and I forgot - don't forget work gloves!!!
My hands got tons of tiny scratches and slivers before I remembered to put on gloves, ouch. So, work gloves, check (or not, as my case may be). Then nail the rope as you wind it around the first time - say, four nails as you go around. Make sure the nails are all the way in, so that the cat's nails won't be able to snag on the nails. Then cover the surface with non-toxic glue and wrap really tightly, pulling it tight after each time around - the goal is to see no wood when you're done (I almost made that goal happen). Nail down the very end of the rope when you get there.
Next, we dealt with the bad side seam by squeezing wood glue into the crack, applying a couple of new nails, and then weighing it down overnight. This was done on both sides of the project. It was actually really annoying, because I wanted to get going on changing it, but I had to be patient so that the tower would be stable enough in the end.
We also added cross-pieces to the bottom of the dresser. See the wood pieces going at 45 degree angles? Those weren't there originally, and we also added them to the other side in the bottom. I could not have done with part without DeForest's help, as one of us had to hold them steady while the other one nailed them in. You can also see a lot more gluing and clamping going on, and more waiting overnight for glue to dry.
Above you can see as we glued the bottom drawer more firmly into the bottom of the dresser.
I forgot to take pictures as I put the ramp in (it's in the above picture, covered with newspaper so that wood glue wouldn't drip onto the sisal rope). It had a piece of wood put at the bottom (nailed to the bottom drawer) so that it couldn't slide, and then was glued in and weighed down overnight. The next ledge was made using the bottom of a drawer and can be seen in the picture above. Before adding in that layer, I nailed a little wooden ledge to the back wall for it to rest on - the side and front already had built-in ledges from where the drawers would rest. Also in these pictures (above and below), you can see the next two ledges that I'm started to build. I put in pieces along the back wall for those to rest on, too, only I made them bigger this time. They have several large nails coming in from the back into them, and are also glued and feel quite sturdy. DeForest helped a lot here, too - one of us had to push really hard against the back wall while the other pounded the nails.
Then I added the next two ledges! They are made with the very sturdy pieces of wood from the side of the drawers. The bottom one is made with one edge from a big drawer and one from a small drawer, and the top ledge is made with two edges from a small drawer, so they are different sizes. They were glued and nailed in, and then weighed down and clamped overnight. You can see my cleaned-up area in the picture above - my tools and wood pieces resting on top of the dresser and the area nicely swept. The rug I put under this project was definitely necessary, and I'm glad I used one I didn't like much - it ended up getting wood glue all over it and pieces of newspaper glued to it. It's in the hamper now to be laundered - we'll see how much it recovers. There's a good chance this rug will now be a "craft rug." Craft rugs are nicer than digging out newspaper for each project, though, so I'm not too sad about that.
Before changing any of the rest of the tower, I noticed that the second level (above the sisal ramp) wasn't as sturdy as I wanted it to be. The bottom part of the drawer that I'd used for this level was bowed a bit, and adding pieces below it to stabilize it wasn't really working. Instead, I did what I'd done with the other two ledges - I layered on pieces from the sides of the drawers, as those pieces were very straight and much sturdier. You can see in the picture below that two large drawer sides covered the main part of the ledge (with one clamp gluing it to the bowed portion of the layer beneath it), and one small drawer side covered the portion of the level near the sisal ramp. These pieces were all glued and nailed in before moving on to the next part below.
DeForest had the lovely idea to open up the space more by removing some of the bars, and I agreed wholeheartedly with him! The picture above it from the first change, where I sawed off the big ledge and then put a piece of it underneath it to support it. To aid in gluing it down, the two weights were actually wedged tight between that ledge and the bar above it to press down harder. This piece had no nails in it, as there weren't any really good ways to put them in, and I didn't think at the time about adding a bracket to this part. I ended up using all the brackets elsewhere, so I never did add anything but glue to this piece of the tower...
For the top ledge, I cut off the bar and then added it with two brackets, using the power drill to create holes for the screws.
Finished ledge! You can see the sisal ramp coming up from the bottom!
And that's all for this post! Whew, are there a lot of pictures in this big project. Today you saw how all the levels in the bottom portion of the project were added, along with the sisal ramp! Next post will finish up all the woodworking for the project. :)
Here are links to all the parts of this project: