Good morning! One of our Harmony Hut friendos reached out to me on Instagram to ask if I’d please share a little more about how I prepped my pieces, specifically for the hutch. I’m going to do a tutorial on that kit specifically, but first I thought I’d offer some general tips that can be used with every build.
Chrysnbon kits are great, but they do need some work. Your best bet, in terms of getting the most out of each build, is to carefully prep each piece even before you begin your sub-assemblies. For the most part, following the instructions as written is also a mistake; they don’t account for any painting and etc you might want to do. Instead…
Start with a tidy, CLEAN workbench! I operate on a pretty simple philosophy: make a plan, then stick to the plan. In making terms, this means–among other things–cleaning up, 100%, at the end of every day. I want to sit down, the next morning, knowing I’m squared away and ready to go. My workbench (which is actually a desk from IKEA) might be stained and, overall, fairly gross but it’s clean enough to eat on. You don’t have to go as all out as I do, but a tidy space leads to a tidy mind. I, personally, have little enough bandwidth to waste any on wondering where I put that clamp.
Craft stores are stupid; for supplies, head to Home Depot. You can also get some great stuff in the automotive section at Walmart. There are a couple of hobby shops I like, too, both of which ship internationally, but really only for certain specialty items. Yes, Michael’s or Hobby Lobby or wherever DOES sell sandpaper but a box of Norton 400 sanding sponges from virtually any automotive aisle (or shop) anywhere is going to cost half as much and work twice as well.
Additionally, pictured, are a:
- Dremel Stylo
- Nail file (I’m using one of those fancy, cushiony ones here but literally any kind will do)
- Sprue cutter (available here)
- Seam scraper
- Set of finishing pads
- Glue dripper
Now, before we move on, a few points. First, SEAM SCRAPERS ARE DANGEROUS. The kind I use is for pros who don’t mind slicing and dicing their fingers once in awhile. I forget if this one came from Squadron or Trumpeter, but Squadron also makes a less dangerous model. Like most tools, these double as weapons; scrape away from yourself, like you’re peeling an apple.
And remember: there’s no shame in your game, sticking to sandpaper. Back when I was a journeyman cabinetmaker, I put an awl through my palm. In addition to the Norton 400’s, which somehow didn’t make it into any of these shots, I’m also fond of fine finishing sets. I got the one above from Rockler Hardware. These aren’t so much for sanding but, as the name suggests, refining the finish on a piece once you’ve already shaped it to your liking.
I own every single Dremel product (yes, really) and what I like about the new Stylo is that it’s super, super weak. With my “real” Dremel, I have to be a lot more careful about things like not pressing too hard and accidentally turning my current piece into the Sarlac pit. The Stylo, meanwhile, is incredibly easy to control–although I still use it on its lowest setting.
I’ll get back to the glue dripper later, when we actually start assembling things, but it (and some decent glue) are good to have on hand. Again, you can find these at almost any hobby shop. Now, though, let’s get going!
In the above picture, I’m about halfway through sanding the piece on the left. Like all vacuformed pieces, they’ve got some divots–which are extremely unsightly! Our goal for this first part of the project should be to, before we even THINK about assembling anything, prep each individual piece by removing as many manufacturing “ghosts” as possible.
I start by using a sprue cutter to remove each piece, putting aside the handles, knobs, accessories, and etc for later. In a pinch, you can sub in some nail clippers–just don’t twist and pull! Twisting and pulling, while a popular method, deforms the plastic.
During this process, I don’t worry too much about perfection. If anything, I leave a bit of a gap. It’s a lot easier to sand off some extra sprue, than fix a piece that’s been accidentally shaved!
The next step, after all the major pieces have been separated, is to tackle them one at a time. Just like with wood, or any other surface, that means going from macro to micro. With my Stylo, I’m using one of Dremel’s fine grit sanding barrels, on the lowest setting. Instead of pressing, I’m really more guiding it over the surface. With this, or any, Dremel, some additional tips are:
- Wear a mask. Don’t be a pussy. Most manufactured materials are full of carcinogens and even so…does anyone actually enjoy eating plastic?
- Sand in the direction of the grain.
- SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE. Sanding–with a rotary tool or otherwise–is like applying acrylic paint. One big, angry pass is going to leave you with the same underwhelming results as one thick, gloppy coat of color.
I keep going with the Dremel until I’m satisfied that the divots are gone. How do I tell? After each pass, I wipe my piece off with a (very, very slightly) damp rag and inspect my progress. This usually involves running my fingertips over it and, if necessary, examining it under an extremely bright light. Sometimes, you need a brighter light for this kind of thing than is actually useful to work under.
Next, I switch to a piece of Norton 400 (I tend to precut each pad into smaller, more useable pieces) and start smoothing things out. The Dremel leaves quite a rough surface; a sanding sponge brings that down to something more civilized. Sanding sponges lose their grit pretty quickly, which is why you really only need one grit: by the time I’m done using my little inch or two square, I’m actually using something closer to an 800.
The “inside” pieces usually have these, like, mega divots. You can fill them in with putty but, in this tutorial, I’m not going to bother. Why? First and foremost, because the end result won’t look any more natural. Second, though, this is a LOT of work for something we’ll literally never see–and that, moreover, only works with painted surfaces. Most putty is somewhere between gray and white, which is fine if we’re painting over it. For example, I use a LOT of this stuff on the bathroom kit.
Chrysnbon’s “wood,” however, doesn’t lend itself to too many finishes as it has that bizarre, overly deep “grain.” Which…you can take two approaches. The first would, I suppose, to skim every single surface with putty but at that point why are you even building this particular kit? You’d cry less starting from scratch. I prefer to, as they say, lean in and beat that grain into shape until it works for me.
Friendos, we’ll pick this project up again soon. In the meantime, though, I’m ending this post on a personal note. Two years ago this June, within the space of a month, we found, bought, and moved into our forever home. Our son started out in the public school system here but, for various reasons, that turned out not to be a good fit. We’re currently homeschooling, which severely curtails my ability to do anything else. Our plan, like all good plans, is adaptable but we’re starting off by working together in the mornings. Somewhere between lunch and dinner, we break apart to do our own thing so I mostly work while he plays.