Hobby & Leisures

Project Leather Milk – Building Your Own Lighted Display Shelf

I promised one of my US suppliers, Mr Snow that I will make a display shelf for him when his goods arrived in my retail store. My initial estimate for the completion of the shelf was a week but I soon learned that my optimism will always be the root of all the planning fallacies. The shelf was eventually completed after 2 months.

As with any carpentry projects, sketching out the product is very important. It gives you a good idea on how much materials you will use and the limitations you may encounter.

My first sketch was in 3D, basically to nail the type of shelf design.

3D Sketch for Project Leather Milk
So, after a quick vote from everyone in the company, we decided to go for the right most design. It’s got a more ‘Western Bar’ look. I actually liked the left most design, but we are a democratic company. So, Western Bar it is.

Next, we take the right most design and came up with a few more iterations.

Project Leather Milk - Sketches

The sketches becomes more serious as we start considering the measurements. We don’t have a huge retail front, so every inch matters.

After about 3-4 days on the drawing board,  I moved on to the next phase- material sourcing. If you are looking for a good place to buy plywoods and wooden materials for your carpentry work, I recommend Kee Lek. It’s a bit out of town in an industrial area between the border of Balakong and Kajang, but the trip there is definitely worth it as there’s a nice variety of materials to choose from. Besides, you don’t get much choice from the hardware suppliers closer to the cities.

Project Leather Milk - Kee Lek
Project Leather Milk - Kee Lek
Just look at all the range of pre-cut woods they have… feels like Legoland.

Project Leather Milk - Kee Lek
Project Leather Milk - Kee Lek
Project Leather Milk - Kee Lek
Project Leather Milk - Kee Lek
Just be sure not to wear your dress shoes to the warehouse, because you will be walking through thick saw dust. And for just RM50, you can get Kee Lek to send your order to your doorstep. I estimate my order to be at least 150kg, so RM50 is really a bargain.

Transporting the Wood
For a little warm-up session, I made 2 coffee stools with some leftover plywoods from previous projects.

The first step after our little warm up is to cut the boards according to the measurements. Because I am not a full time carpenter, I would have to stick to my little Makita jigsaw. However, after sawing all these plywood, I am really looking forward to upgrade to a full-blown circular wood cutting machine. It should speed up the progress of cutting these plywood by 80%. Well, I am just a hobbyist for now.

For this project, I acquired a new machine- the Dongcheng Orbital Sander. This machine sets me off by about RM150, but I reckon it will save me hours of sanding. I wanted to get the Makita sander but the hardware store near me don’t carry them anymore… so I guess Dongcheng would have to do.

I used to sand manually with sandpapers wrapped in Styrofoam brick. With this new sanding machine, I could sand the plywoods in an hour. I estimate if I am using the Sytrofoam brick method, it might take me at least 4-5 hours. An important tip, when sanding with the orbital machine, always do it outdoor. I realized my folly after my entire pantry is covered with pepper-fine wood dust. I was ordered to sand outside the office from then on.

After sanding, you would still need to get rid of the wood dust with a wet cloth to remove any debris that will get in the way when you apply the wood varnish later on. I even used a vacuum cleaner to make sure it’s totally dust free.

Once the woods are dust-free, we move on to the varnishing act. I got the ‘Oakwood’ color from Nippon Wood Varnish series. Because my project uses plywood instead of real solid wood (out of budget), I have to apply 3 layers to make it look like ‘Oakwood’. Unfortunately, it was only at this phase I realized that one of the plywood surface has got some ‘blisters’. So, lesson learned, next time choose your plywoods on the spot and have them shipped exactly the ones that you’ve examined.

The varnish phase is also the most time consuming one because it takes about an hour for each coat to really dry, and you can get really high smelling the fumes from the varnish. My suggestion is that you take a break after every 30 minutes to reduce the high.

If there’s a coating machine to apply the varnish, I would seriously consider it. Paint brushing all these surfaces is literally a pain-in-the-neck-back-ass chore.

Next comes the assembly phase. I started by joining the horizontal planks with the top-most and bottom-most levels. I was thinking by doing that, I would have a rectangular frame which would be easier to work on. However, that was not the case.

If I was to do it again, I would start off with the middle most section and working my way out to the bottom-most and top-most level simultaneously. By doing so, I would be able to ensure that each individual planks will be as level as possible without having to compromise for the rigid rectangular frame. This miscalculation has indeed caused the mid-section planks to less level than I’d aimed for. But it wasn’t so bad that flat-bottomed products will start rolling from side-to-side like a boat ride.

Once the main planks are assembled, I am faced with the next critical issue- racking. This means that even with the screws securely drilled into each plank for maximum rigidness, the whole shelf as a whole will still sway left to right like a man after 6 pints of beer.


Fortunately the solution for racking do not require a degree in rocket science. You just need more woods. In this case, 2 big piece of plywoods nailed as a backboard to the rack. Not only will these plywoods stops the swaying, they will also add to the aesthetics of the shelf. So, it’s only prudent that I put additional care in preparing and treating the backboard.

Preparing the Backboard and Spoilers
Another weekend gone preparing the backboard, and a few ‘spoilers’ for the edges of the planks.

Preparing the Backboard and Spoilers
Just by nailing only half the backboard, the shelf has decided to stop alcohol for good.

Preparing the Backboard and Spoilers
Next up, we are going to power up the shelf with some electricity. After investing so much on preparing the wooden surface of the shelf, I am not going to spare any resources that will enhance the showcase effect of the products. I’ve planned from the beginning that each rack will be lighted. And so, we start off with the basic stuff- Live, Neutral and Earth wires.

Lighting up the Christmas Tree
This is how it looks with the T5 LED.

Lighting up the Christmas Tree
These are the spoilers I prepared earlier to clean up the edges of the planks.

Lighting up the Christmas Tree
Let there be light (not explosion)!

Lighting up the Christmas Tree
With all racks lighted up, the whole display shelf is beginning to come to life.

Lighting up the Christmas Tree
Now, throw in some cow hides imported from India. These 2 pieces set me back by about RM300.

Putting in the Products
Let’s try arranging some of Mr Snow’s products on the shelf.

Putting in the Products
Voila! It’s finally complete. 2 months of work, probably about 30 hours in total.

Putting in the Products
There you go, the whole process of building a display rack. Not a bad adventure. I would love to try my hands on real wood next time. Real wood would definitely add a whole lot more character to the project.

You might ask why didn’t I just buy the shelf from IKEA or furniture shop. Of course, that’s totally a possibility but my purpose here is not to safe time or money. The whole objective here is to train my grit in getting a project from start to finish. It’s akin to why people climb Mt Kinabalu. They could have just take a helicopter to the peak right? I definitely learn more from this project than if I’d just followed the Billy manual from IKEA.

There are people who just don’t like to read the manual while some must read the manual from front to back before they start. And then there are those who prefer to write their own manual.

2017-09-30T16:48:31+00:00 September 28th, 2017|Daily Observations, Hobby & Leisures|0 Comments

High-rise Farming: Project Rempah

After failing miserably on my first attempt (Project Popeye), another project was unexpectedly showing pretty good results. In less than 3 weeks, it has grown about 2 feet.

These are the chili plants when they are about 3 weeks old. They need all the sunlight they can get in the day.

These are the chili plants when they are about 3 weeks old. They need all the sunlight they can get in the day.

After about 6 weeks, the labor finally bore the first fruit.

Spotted the first chili from amongst the 6 plants Ive planted.

Spotted the first chili from amongst the 6 plants I've planted.

And here’s the same chili fruit after about 6 days it was first spotted.

Looking really healthy for the harvest.

Looking really healthy for the harvest.

Due to the fact that these chilies are grown in a rather ‘high’ altitude, it’s quite difficult for natural agents, such as bees or ladybirds to pollinate them. Hence, lots of the initials flowering withered without bearing any fruits. After doing some research, I realized that you can actually ‘self-pollinate’ them simply using an art brush.

Self-pollination is done either using your fingers to rub on these flowers or by using a small art brush.

Self-pollination is done either using your fingers to rub on these flowers or by using a small art brush.

And here’s an interesting picture that shows how the flower transforms into a baby chili.

Its amazing to see how nature transform. From what looks like an attractive flower a few days ago, the chili starts to form its way out from the very same place.

It's amazing to see how nature transform. From what looks like an attractive flower a few days ago, the chili starts to form its way out from the very same place.

Finally, after about 8 weeks since the germination, I harvested my first chili fruit.

You reap what you sow! But honestly, I remembered taking the seeds out from a red chili fruit. Hmm...someone hasnt been faithful...

You reap what you sow! But honestly, I remembered taking the seeds out from a red chili fruit. Hmm...someone hasn't been faithful...

Well, I can’t say it’s 100% organic, since the level of pollution in Petaling Jaya is not exactly at a very healthy level. But if compared to the chilies I get from the supermarket, this ‘home-made’ chilies definitely beats them hands down!

And who says you can’t start a farm in a high-rise apartment ;-)

2009-09-20T01:25:07+00:00 September 20th, 2009|Daily Observations, Hobby & Leisures, Mother Earth|1 Comment

High-rise Farming

If you have been getting your vegetable supplies from the supermarkets, you would have probably notice the surge of organic produce on the shelves of major supermarkets. You can find them in a special section, where I suppose the term special was reserved for the ‘price tag’. These so-called organic produce usually cost almost 2-3 times more expensive than their non-organic counterparts.

There’s generally no easy way to tell whether if you are really getting the real deal, since not everyone has the same definition of organic. Even if we can agree with what makes a produce organic, most of the products that I have seen so far on the shelves are not certified by the Organic Alliance Malaysia (OAM). I think OAM has to take a more active stance on protecting the consumers of organic produce by spreading the awareness on how to tell if the produce that we are paying 2-3 times more than the market price is truly organic.

If you are into growing things, you can also start your little farming project as an alternative to buying organic produce. Of course, unless you have a huge piece of land, don’t expect your hobby to be able to sustain your consumption. And if you are like me who lives in a high rise apartment, your available land for cultivation is even more restricted. However, if you really enjoy seeing seedlings sprouting into edible produce, these restrictions should not hold you back.

And here are some pictures from the first farming project: Project Popeye.

Overcrowded spinach sprouts.

Overcrowded spinach sprouts.

These spinach sprouts definitely looks very promising in the beginning...

These spinach sprouts definitely looks very promising in the beginning...

You can literally see life in these little seedlings.

You can literally see life in these little seedlings.

Unfortunately for these cute little spinach sprouts, the funding for the project was stalled and all these baby sprouts was exterminated. Just kidding.

Under the hands of an inexperienced farmer like myself, these little spinach sprouts will eventually meet their doom in the next couple of days.

Under the hands of an inexperienced farmer like myself, these little spinach sprouts will eventually meet their doom in the next couple of days.

Actually, the real cause of crop failure was very likely due to insufficient sunlight and soil issues…

In the next post, I will be showing you another project which I have managed to harvest just after 2 months.

2009-09-18T02:29:19+00:00 September 18th, 2009|Daily Observations, Hobby & Leisures, Mother Earth|0 Comments

ArtSentral.Com Live!

The artsy-fartsy people I’ve known since my university days just launched their website- www.artsentral.com! Last I heard, they just hit 1,000 visitors barely one week after launching the site.

ArtSentral.com Live!

If you are into computer graphics (CG) and 3d animation, this is a great place to network and attend local events and seminars that are receiving very little exposure in the mainstream medias. What to do… we live in a country where artists are still considered “weirdos”…

A “must-subscribe” for students who are serious to venture into the CG industry.

Man and partner, keep up the great effort!

Back from East Coast

Left the busy Klang Valley and was away to the East Coast. Amidst the rising flood water, the East Coast seems pretty much undisturbed, as the trademark sunny sky and soft sandy beach continues to sets the mind at peace. The waves was much more energetic at this time of the year. You can see local surfers having a splashing good time along the usual surf spots.


Keropok lekor and sata stalls line the 20 kilometres Kuantan-Kemaman coastway. Keropok lekor is a local snack made of flour and fish paste, which is deep-fried and served with sweet-spicy chili sauce. You can find them in stalls throughout the country, but none of them comes fresher and tastier than the ones lined up along the east coast roadside. Sata, not as well known as the lekor, is similar to a otak-otak (a pasty prawn-ish snack that is hugely popular in Muar), is not as easily available. It’s fish meat wrapped in pandan leaves and then barbecued with red hot charcoal.

And don’t forget to visit Bandar Chukai for their famous stuffed crab at Restaurant Tong Juan.

The year 2007 has been very rewarding and 2008 would start off with a few more trips up North. I am not sure about you, but yours truly has never stepped into Cameron Highlands. I have avoided it like the Moria, but this time, I am going to get my armaments ready for this 1,500 metres above-sea-level ascend. By the way, no strawberries for me please :-P

I hope to stretch the trip to Penang, if my schedule permits.

It sure is great starting the year with a road trip!

2008-01-03T00:51:54+00:00 January 2nd, 2008|Daily Observations, Hobby & Leisures|1 Comment

Terry Fox Ran

terry-fox-sidebar.jpgOkie, here’s a quick post-up on this morning’s Terry Fox Run.

I arrived there with my man-powered bike, and there was no sign showing where the Assembly Area is until you actually reach the Assembly Area (duh!), and the marshals I asked obviously had no idea either. Wasted about 10 minutes just to find the starting point, before I park my bike. Suppose to rendezvous with a few friends but the run already started. There was such a BIG crowd, like white ants trail going off from the Starting Line. So I started the run anyway, hoping to meet up with a few familiar faces later on.


Yours truly took the Long Run, shown on the map in green line. It was a pretty steep uphill climb, and for first time Lake Garden runners like me, I had to control my speed in case I “pancit” half-way up the hill.

LensaMalaysia’s photographers are everywhere, trying to catch candid shots of runners. The marshals did a great job also guiding the runners along the route. A few fella runners didn’t notice the extended Long Run and ended up running 2 rounds of the Short Run to make it up.

After finishing the loop, there was a lot of freebies for runners- High 5 Breads in variety of flavors, bottle waters, bananas, and of course, the Milo Van. I regretted taking the Milo, which gave me a terrible stomach ache…

The crowd began to disperse at around 11 am.

Outside at the parking area, travel buses should be informed about the event and they should avoid entering the Lake Garden area since these over-sized vehicles is the main traffic-cloggers. I have seen a few cars scratched and knocked on the sides by these buses as they maneuver their way between double-side-parked roads, and of course, ran off with it…

It was a great event and outing. Even as the run ended, over here at the Terry Fox Web Team, we are still getting enquiries from people who are asking if they can just buy the T-Shirt and contribute to the charity cause. A caring and selfless society we still have, amidst rising crime rates.

This event is definitely in my calendar every year.

2007-11-05T01:31:24+00:00 November 5th, 2007|Daily Observations, Hobby & Leisures|0 Comments