How To Make a Plinth Pedestal Podium or Box & How To Paint It

Ok I’m going to do something which I’ve been meaning to film for a while. And this is in relation to my day job as an art and design technician. I get an abundance of questions about making plinth, pedestals, podiums and boxes. And this video is going to try and address some of those questions and illustrate the process you might follow to build a simple plinth, pedestal, podium or box. For this I already cut my pieces out. I’ll explain the measurement in a second and in terms of tools and material, these are MDF. I’m using MDF because that takes paint really well. I’ve got myself a metal claw hammer, so don’t use a wooden or rubber mallet. I’ve got a couple clamps. This is not for clamping the pieces together. This is for supporting the panels so they stay upright. I have some nails. These ones are a little bit shorter than what I would normally use. I’d probably go for 30-40mm and these look like 20-25mm. I have a marking gauge and some glue.

Ok I’m going to do a quick drawing of the plinth, pedestal, podium or box and explain some of the variations. If you are making a plinth to put a piece of sculpture on top, you don’t want to use mitres. You want to do straight cuts and use a but joint to join everything together. Mitres are just too fiddly and if you’re going to paint it you’re not going to see that anyway. I mean the problem with mitres is it’s difficult to get machine set up to do mitres accurately. For example some panel saws, if I draw the saw. That’s the blade. The track or the guide fence may only be positioned on one side of the blade. Now if the blade can only move in that direction, for example, the problem you have. If you see this drawing here. This is the blade and that’s your fence. When you start to cut your pieces, the corner of the mitre can actually feed underneath the fence, and that can skew the angle of your panel. I know a lot of felda saws are like this you do rip cuts on this side and a table or mitre table on the left hand side that you’d use to do your panel cuts. So rips on the right and panel cuts on the left. Anyway to make my life easier and anyone who plans to do something similar don’t do mitres. Avoid the mitres. The folly of mitres. You’d be wasting your time. The other problem with mitres is if you made a little bit of a mistake and start sanding you make the problem more obvious. So every time you sand a little you start to expose the end where you made the mistake. To get it right you need to make sure the machine is set up correctly and you are working to a high tolerance and most people cannot work to a high tolerance so again, don’t even ask about getting a mitre cut done for plinth pedestal or box – screw that.

There is a method to putting together a plinth. If I draw from the top you get a better impression. So these two sides are the same and those two sides are the same. When you’re doing your cuts whether it’s on a large bandsaw or I’m doing it on the table saw or panel saw, you want to make sure you batch your cuts. So don’t move the fence between cuts so you minimise the chance of getting an error. The reason you do this is to reduce errors and to get a square plinth or box. The thing that students often forget is to subtract the thickness of the material from the overall size that they want. so if this plinth is meant to be 220mm your going to get 196mm. So it doesn’t matter if you’re usng 18, 12, 9 or 6mm. Obviously if you’re trying to make a pedestal to put something like a sculpture on top you don’t want to use 6 or 9, you want to use a minimum of 12 or 18mm. 12 is fine for most things and can take a lot of weight. And then you’ve got your top piece and that fits on there. When you’re assembling your plinth, you normally do three sections first, then the lid and then the final panel. The first assembly is with the two shorter pieces and the long one. Anyway that’s the theory. You can see I missed my perspective class. These two pieces here are the wider panels and the short ones go in there, and then you’ve got the lid and if you were planning to put a projector in this or or DVD player, or turn one panel into a door, what you would… or you wanted a shelf for example, because you’re going to have flyers or something, you’d follow the procedure and make one two of the shorter pieces and one of the longer, and then your top, then you would add your bit of timber in there making sure if was nice and square, put your shelf in there. And instead of having a full panel on the end you’d cap that off with whatever height matches up with that shelf. If you put a panel on that you want to hide something on the inside, you could use magnetic latches, or you could screw a bit of timber in and screw the panel in. And the rule generally with fixings is if you do them evenly, they become invisible if you do them haphazardly they become obvious.

I’m using the clamps to hold the two side panels up. What you can do with your marking gauge is mark 6mm on that and scribe a line which is where your nails will follow.

I like to use nails because it reduces the sanding involved when finishing a plinth. The other thing you should do when you’re putting nails in is not to start at the edge otherwise the MDF will split. So start maybe 3 fingers in. Keep checking with your thumb and finger to make sure you are level between the two pieces, and then you can follow your line. I’m going to put four in here. When you use nails, to add a bit more strength to the join, you can pivot the nails into angles like this and that will make it harder to pull apart. The other thing you do is work from one side to the opposite, and the reason you do this is because if this was at a larger scale, there may be a little flex in the material and you can compensate for that by pushing and pivoting the panels. So this feels like the bottom is a little bit further out so I’m going to pull the top across, so that’s really flush there now but I’ve got a lip there. That doesn’t matter as I’m only fixing this section here. And as you go along you stop every so often as you hammer the nail, and check that your line is nice and flush,  and you nail isn’t coming out through the MDF.

So I’m resting the top panel on the edge of this side panel, and I’m giving myself enough room just to put another bead of glue down. This can go on like that. I’m not too worried about the glue splurges.

I can now take the clamps off and lift this up. (Do it carefully). Take my top panel. Scribe a line and then put a bead down. If you find it difficult to squeeze the glue out of the tub it might be because the nib is stuck. So don’t squeeze it until it explodes. Number one rule. Don’t use excessive force when doing anything, stop, have a think, you’ll probably realise you’re doing something stupid before you do something really stupid. And the top goes on. So do the face with the widest panel and then turn it around and square the base against the top. This only works if you’ve cut everything square. Obviously if you’ve cut everything on the piss you’re going to follow your error. Ok I spin that around. So I’m using my thumb and finger to pivot the board so it’s nice and flat over here,

Now I mentioned earlier, if you wanted to put a shelf in this is when you would do it. You would take some strips of MDF (or timber) you’d take square, draw your line all the way round, follow it over. You would glue and nail all those on the inside, place your shelf and then potentially add a shorter panel on the side, where you can still see into your shelf and have your paper work in there or a projector, or something like that. For this one we’re going to literally put this panel right to the end and enclose the entire plinth. So take the marking gauge again, scribe a line there, scribe another there. I’m going to… put a bead up there, and there… and close the box off now. So when I’m doing the final panel, I’m actually pulling it this way with my figures to make sure I don’t get a gap along the top.

Alright, I’m going to make a mistake now. I’m going to hammer this nail through so it comes out the end here. Oh no, the nail has come out. What should I do? What you don’t do is try and sand that flat, alright. Coz you’ll bugger up the sanding pads and that will really annoy me. What you do do, is get a punch. So place the flat of the punch on the point of the nail, and just wack it a few times so the head of the nail pokes out. You can then take the… where are you, follow me follow me, the claw of the hammer, and leaver that nail out. Don’t reuse the nail, and don’t reuse the hole. Make a new hole. Right next to the old one. And the final side, everyone who does this for the first time always forgets to put the nails on this last section here. It doesn’t matter as long as you’ve got glue there but I will judge you. Hmmm. Now you take your punch and hammer the nails about half a mm or 1mm down. And the reason you do that is so that the heads of the nails do not rip the sand paper on the pad, and also when you go to paint it, you have a bit of space to fill the head and prevent the metal potentially rusting and coming through the paint work over time. NOW PUT YOUR TOOLS AWAY. I’m going to sand the box now, it’s not going to take very long and I’m going to make sure I’m wearing goggles and my coconut ear defenders. I don’t expect to see anyone not wearing goggles or coconut ear defenders when doing this. I’ve also got the sander on an extractor. I’ve got 80 grit paper.

You can, and what I would prefer to do is actually use a flush trim bit on a router instead of sanding but if you’re careful when assembling you won’t be doing ether for long. Anyway that’s how to make a pedestal, plinth, podium or box. If you were to make a podium, you’d make it the same way but adding some timber inside or additional panels to distribute the weight and reinforcing the joints. In the next video I will show you how I would paint it. So until then please sacrifice a thumb to the algorithm gods, let me know what you through in the comments section bellow, and you’ll catch me in the next one. Thanks again. And that’s all the sanding you need to do, no more than that.

How To Paint It:

In the last video I explained how to assemble a plinth pedestal podium or box, and in this video I’m going to paint it.

I’m now going to prime the MDF with PVA or wood glue, mixed with some water. It’s about 30% PVA and the rest water. I get my chopsticks. You can use a roller but I’m going to use a brush. It’s quicker with a roller. If you are going to use a roller the secret to doing a good job, is to start from the top, work your way down, stop, don’t roll up. And always work to a wet edge. As your working, be systematic, I know it’s boring and work you way around like that. You’re going to need a few coats, especially with the top coat. But for now I’ve got my brush and my PVA water mix and I’m just going to paint it on. I’ve put this board down so I don’t ruin my table saw. Obviously be considerate where you’re working as some people have to eat there. The reason you do a primer first is it reduces the number of top coats you need. This is obviously cheap is not free, while the paint may cost a little bit more. I put that on one side, and that side there. And this will help it dry a little bit and prevent this getting stuck to the table.

Ok I’ve got some white emulsion paint. It’s water based. You want to really make sure you get the right paint to paint your plinth. Don’t use oil based paint. You don’t want it to look like it belongs in a toilet. And the main thing is, this stuff will dry very quickly and you’ll be done in a day while if you use oil based you’ll be doing this for a few days if not a week, and also oil based paints stink. They produce a lot more VOC, volatile organic chemicals and it is noticeable. It’s not nice to work with oil based paints. It’s also easier to clean this stuff up. Also read the tin. If is says stir, it stir it, if it says not to stir it, do not stir it. So I’ve got my chopstick and give it a good mix.

So a little tip when it comes to using your paint tray. If you pop a bag over it like this you can then pour your paint, when you finish up you don’t have to wash up. You can just fold everything up and throw it away in the bin.

I don’t know why they just don’t put paint in bottles. It’s stupid.

That’ll last a week or two. Maybe even more.

So I’ve left this drying for a little while. It’s had a primer and a first coat. I’m now going to apply some filler to the nail holes. Just get normal wall filler. It takes about an hour or two too dry. I would suggest not to use two part filler. That stuff is very smelly. It has a lot of styrene in it. It’s actually not very good for you. This stuff is more than aqueduct and the reason I’m using this at this time, I want to minimise the amount of filler, and sanding that I use and have to do. So I put just enough to flush fill any holes. The reason I’m flush filling is, as I’ve said, is to avoid having to do too much sanding.

Still going to have a few more coats of paint to put on top. A combination of the filler and once it dries it will dip in a little bit but the paint will fill that gap up again. Filling and painting is a bit of an optical illusion. You’re trying to create the effect of a even, clean, solid surface. You don’t actually need that. You just need to think where’s the light source coming from. Where can I see shadows. And if you focus on those areas you will, quickly get an even clean surface. And the other thing to remember is nobody is going to looking at the plinth. They’re going to be looking at the things that’s on it. So as long as it’s not too bad, you just want to defect attention from the thing you just made to display the thing that is the focus of attention.

Ok this is two coats of paint. Sometimes filling and sanding and painting, can take a lot longer than making the thing itself. There’s still a little bit of a lip or gap. I didn’t get it as perfect as I’d like. You can kinda see the seam there. This room is also quite damp so it’s not the best condition to make anything out of MDF. The errors just seem to manifest a little more easily but this is a good time to do the second (emergency) sand so where I can see the seam is where I will concentrate.

I’ve done several more coats of paint and it looks pretty good. I prefer to fill as I go along and paint over with the following coat, just coz it saves me on sanding time.  You don’t have to sand parts which look fine. The last thing you can do is add a shadow gap, and you can do that a couple ways. You can stick a couple (four) feet in. A bit of 2×2 or 2×1 or make a slightly smaller box that you glue in, and that just ever so slightly raises the box so you get a shadow like that. And it essentially ready to put something on top.


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