Dec 19, 2016

Last Minute Gifts for the DIYer

DIY gift guide last minute

So, we're counting down the final days to Christmas and it dawns on you that you don't have a gift for that handy, crafty, do-it-yourselfer in the family. Or maybe your loved one is just getting started and you want to help them kit out their workshop. What to buy?

Let me help you out with some ideas at all price ranges - from under $40, to bigger ticket items, to stocking stuffers. I've based it on the tools that we use the most and a few that we wouldn't mind having ourselves.

Gifts Under $40

DIY Gift Guide

1. "Sawdust is man glitter" coffee mug. Tom laughs every time he hears this phrase. It also looks great on a t-shirt.
2. 24-inch bar clamps with trigger tightening. I've talked about these clamps before. I call them my "extra pair of hands." The 2-foot length makes them perfect for any-sized project.

3. Look how flashy these Dewalt safety glasses are. If you don't have safety glasses in your workshop then you should. You really should. You should probably have a few pairs as they're always getting misplaced. These bright yellow ones will easily stand out in a field of off-cuts and wood shavings.

4. My sweetheart, the Kreg R3 pocket-hole jig. For when you want to join boards at angles or along edges. That's pretty much all the time. The list of projects we've used this on is enormous. Pocket-hole screws provide an extremely strong joint and this jig guides you in drilling the holes at the correct angle and depth every time.

5. Do you have a table saw? (If not, see below.) Do you worry about your hands getting too close to the blade while the board is fed through? These table saw push sticks lock onto the board and allow you to keep it in place throughout the entire cut without having to guide it with your bare hands.

Gifts over $100 
DIY Gift Guide

1. The lowly table saw. One of the building blocks of a well-equipped shop. This Bosch model comes with a stand that folds up - a bit like a stroller - for easy storage out of the way when you're not using it. But you'll be using it - A LOT.

2. It only takes a couple of times attaching a screw by hand to realize you need a power driver. And your drill is your go-to hand tool. Ridgid now has this set of 12V drill/drivers that are lighter than the usual 18V workhorses, thanks to the smaller battery. I got them myself a couple of months ago. And once in a while I get to use them because Tom is always borrowing them.

My dorky face the day I got them:

3. It can get pretty boring just listening to the hum of the saw and the sound of your own thoughts. This Ridgid jobsite radio runs on any Ridgid 18V battery or can be plugged in. It has bluetooth capabilities and can be paired with your smartphone. It also has charging ports for your other devices. We have this model - you can see it in the top left of the photo above.

4. Everyone has heard of Dremel. Yes, you have. The Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool does so many things. It can cut (in place!) It can sand. It can scrape. It's one of the tools that you'll grab for just about anything. Especially for smaller jobs - it's so much easier than dragging out your other saws.

5. Perhaps this should be #1 on the list. Keeping your work area neat, tidy, and organized is a priority. And being able to find that hammer or measuring tape or drill makes working on a project so much more fun. This 8-drawer Excel tool chest has space for everything, and it's mounted on rollers for easy maneuvering.

Stocking Stuffers
DIY Gift Guide

Your shopping is finally done but you realize that you still need a few stocking stuffers. The following are some "can't live without" tools that will fill up the stockings and fill out the toolbox too.

1. Nearly every project we do involves countersinking screws. 'Cause who wants to see screw heads sticking up? This combination countersink bit allows you to drill a pilot hole for your screw and bore a hole to countersink it at the same time.

2. I don't like cleaning paint brushes. But I do like taking breaks while I paint. Enter The Paint Brush Cover. It protects your brush from drying out between coats or between sessions. (There's also one for rollers.) The cover keeps the brush usable for up to a week. And it's easy to clean. I love this thing and grabbed a few the last time we were in the US (I haven't seen them in Canada yet).

3. Anyone can change an electrical outlet, right? So why isn't it working? This GFCI outlet tester plugs into the outlet and tells you what the error is through a combination of different light indicators. No more messing around and getting frustrated.

4. Diagonal-cutting pliers (aka sidecutters) are necessary for any toolbox. And you'll want good ones. These ones have a beveled edge for close cutting. Plus the handles are long enough to always be comfortable.

5. Tom recommended this LED flashlight. He uses his Whether it's looking in an engine, doing close electrical work, or figuring out what the dog has in her mouth, again. You'll reach for this every time. You might even want to carry it on your belt like a true professional.

Hopefully these gift suggestions help you out. Because no one wants socks again. Unless they're these ones.

Dec 7, 2016

DIY Scrap Wood Entry Bench

We've spent a lot of time working out exactly how we want to renovate the basement and what the layout will look like. A lot of time. Tom laughs because I can't talk about it for more than 15-20 minutes before my eyes start to glaze over and the ability to make decisions is too much. So we have short "discussion-bursts".

Tom has decided that he wants spray foam insulation in the basement walls - meaning we had to remove all of the previous framing as it was too close to the wall. There needs to be a gap between the concrete exterior and the framing so that the foam can act as a vapor barrier to moisture.

So we spent a weekend tearing it all down and hauling old lumber out to the burn pile. But plenty of the wood was still in good shape so I asked Tom to keep some of the better pieces for me. I ended up with about eight 2x4s with 3 to 4 feet of usable wood on each board.

I decided to build a bench for the front entryway. There isn't a lot of space there so it had to be small - just a place to rest your butt while putting on your shoes.

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

The dimensions of my bench ended up being 40" x 10½" and 19½" high.

Cut list:
3 @ 38 inches (seat boards)
4 @ 7 inches (spacers)
4 @ 18 inches (legs)
1 @ 31 inches (stringer - match to exact distance between legs)

2 @ 8½ inches (braces)
2 @ 10½ inches (end caps - match to exact depth of your bench)

Other Supplies:
12 - 1½ inch screws
28 - 2¼ inch screws
Wood putty
Paint or stain

To build:
Cut three 2x4 boards to 38 inches each. Lay them flat in position, upside down, and clamp them together. We use these 2-foot long trigger clamps and they are awesome. They're long enough for just about any project and they tighten with a trigger instead of a screw. There is also a simple let-off lever for when you need to loosen/remove them.

Cut your two cross braces to 8½ inches each. Pre-drill three countersunk holes into each brace, lining them up with the centers of your three seat boards. Attach your braces about a quarter of the way in from each end of the bench using 1½ inch screws. Once your braces are in place you can remove the clamps.

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

If need be, trim the ends of your boards so that they're flush with each other. Measure and cut your end caps (about 10½ inches each). Pre-drill three countersunk holes into each board, lining them up with the ends of the three seat boards. Attach the end pieces with 1½ inch screws. Sand down any rough or uneven edges.

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4
 Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

Decide the height you'd like your bench to be. I wanted ours to hit just below the knees, which worked out to about 20 inches - so 18 inch legs. Cut four 2x4 boards to 18 inches each. The legs will be connected to each other at the top and the bottom with 2x4 spacers. Cut four 2x4 spacers, 7 inches long each.

With your bench top still face down, center one of your spacers cross-ways, about an inch in from the end of the bench - just far enough in that it clears the end cap. Attach it to the underside of the bench with four 2¼  inch countersunk screws (two near each end). Be sure not to countersink these too much as you don't want the screws to come through on the other side.
Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

Position one of the legs so that the flat side is against the cut end of the spacer and the leg and spacer are flush with each other along the sides. Attach the leg with two 2¼ inch countersunk screws. If you need stability while using the drill/driver, clamp the leg and spacer together while you work. It's like having a spare pair of hands. Repeat with the other three legs.

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4
Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

The two bottom spacers are flipped up on their edges and attached along the inside edge of each leg rather than centered between the legs like the top ones. Measure up from the bottom (or down from the top) the same distance on each  set of legs and attach the spacers with two 2¼ inch countersunk screws through the outside of the leg.

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4
 Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

The final piece is the stringer between the two sets of legs that keeps them from swaying side to side. Measure the distance between your two bottom spacers (about 31 inches on mine) and cut a 2x4 board to length. Center the cut end of the stringer on the inside of one of the bottom spacers and attach them to each other with 2¼ inch countersunk screws. Repeat on the other end.

Putty each of your screw holes, sand all over, and paint or stain the bench as desired.

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4
Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

I haven't decided yet how I want to finish the bench. I kind of like how rough it looks now and have to keep talking myself out of puttying every imperfection.

Here you can see just how small the front entry area really is. One of our future projects (pending an architect's - and the town's - approval) is to add a bigger entry onto the front of the house and extend this area outwards. 

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

This was the first project I've ever done completely by myself. I made a few mistakes (like trying to force a screw through another screw!), and a couple of times I wanted to ask Tom for help just because it would have been easier, but I pushed through. I'm proud of this little guy. And now I feel confident enough with the power tools to try my hand at something more complicated.

Scrap wood entry bench 2x4
Scrap wood entry bench 2x4
Scrap wood entry bench 2x4

Nov 22, 2016

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Ideas

Are you gearing up for Thanksgiving? Have all your plans in place? Here in Canada, with our October Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror and snow now starting to fly, it's hard not to focus on Christmas. But I know most of you have a whole lot of turkey and football to get through first.

I thought I'd give you a couple of last-minute ideas for decorations and dessert, two areas where people are always looking for something new and different. These are recipes/crafts I've posted previously and they're still some of my favourites. Click on the title or the picture to go to the original post with full instructions.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

This is a no-bake dessert that has all of the "autumn-ness" of pumpkin pie, with the light texture of mousse. And cookie crumbles for a bit of crunch. It takes no time at all to whip together, and then it can go into the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.

Dryer Vent Turkey Centerpiece

This craft came about when I had leftover Halloween dryer-vent pumpkins laying about. I loved them so much that I didn't want to pack them away yet, so I found a way to re-purpose a few.

I love decorating with leaves and cinnamon pot pourri. This is a craft that utilizes all of those bits and pieces you have laying around - twine, sauce jars, and tealights. The warm glow of the candles through the leaves is beautiful and the jars would look so pretty arranged along the center of your dinner table.

I hope you all have a terrific Thanksgiving!

Oct 30, 2016

Reversible Scarecrow/Snowman Sign

I think it's about time to take a break from house renovations and dive back into some arts and crafts. I've had this idea saved on my Pinterest board forever. Last fall we were in the midst of selling our house/packing everything up, so there wasn't an opportunity to make it, or to decorate at all for that matter. But this year I am bound and determined to make the house look festive through the fall and winter seasons.

Enter the double-sided (i.e. reversible) scarecrow & snowman sign. You have a sweet fall scarecrow sign, and then also have a jumpstart on winter decorations with the other side.

reversible scarecrow snowman sign

We even managed to get our pumpkins and decorative gourds in place for (Canadian) Thanksgiving. We found a local farm, just minutes from our house, that sells every possible size of pumpkin, squash, and miscellaneous gourd that you could want. They're all arranged by size/price, and the owners provide little red wagons to haul your choices around as you decide. How adorable does Tom look with the wagon?

My aunt provided the pie-sized pumpkin that is the star of our table centerpiece.

fall thanksgiving centerpiece

But back to the scarecrow/snowman sign. This project was so much fun. And cost nothing in new materials. I used scrap wood, plus paint and decorations that I already had on hand. I even grabbed some clippings from random plants and bushes on our property to add a natural touch.

I started with a 1"x4" board that I cut into three pieces - 20" each. I then used Gorilla Glue to attach them to each other and clamped it all together overnight. You could use a pocket hole jig (Kreg is my favourite) to screw them together, but since the boards are so thin, I didn't think it was worth it this time. Plus the brim for the "hat" is screwed on, which helps hold it all together.

reversible scarecrow snowman sign
reversible scarecrow snowman sign

Once the boards were glued, I cut two strips from a spare sheet of 1/8" plywood for the angled hat brim - 1½" x 16" each.  I just played around until I found the angle I liked and screwed them into the sign with countersunk screws - one in each sign board section (six altogether).

reversible scarecrow snowman sign

I painted one side of the sign white with a black hat for the snowman, and the other is yellow with a brown hat for the scarecrow. I used poster paint - two coats for each section.

I started with the snowman face (because it was the easiest). I drew it in pencil on a piece of paper, erasing and correcting until I had exactly what I wanted. I flipped the paper over and held it up to a lampshade (you could also use a window in the daytime), and lightly traced the face on the other side of the page.

Back at the table, I went over the tracing again, pressing harder with the pencil this time. I then laid the page on the sign, tracing-side-down, and drew over my original sketch, pressing firmly. This transfers graphite from the back of the paper onto the sign so that you have an exact replica of your original drawing.

reversible scarecrow snowman sign

Then it was just a matter of filling in the features with paint. Once everything was dry I flipped the sign over to do the other side. Same drawing procedure as before. One final step: Give the sign an extra layer of protection against the weather with a couple of coats of matte spray lacquer.

With the painting all finished, I dug out all of my ribbon and crafting bits and pieces, plugged in my hot glue gun, threw on a movie, and got down to decorating the hats and bodies.

The focus of the scarecrow side was that big honkin' flower. What scarecrow doesn't have a floppy flower hat? I added some scraps of burlap and dried grasses from the yard.

reversible scarecrow snowman sign

The snowman side has bows made of sparkly blue snowflake ribbon and dried sprigs from the garden. My favourite bit is the piece of white glass I glued in the center of the bottom bow. It looks just like a piece of ice!

reversible scarecrow snowman sign
reversible scarecrow snowman sign

With the pumpkins from the farm and a potted mum, the front of the house is starting to look a little festive. Mr. Scarecrow fits right in. I can't wait until Mr. Snowman gets his chance, too.

reversible scarecrow snowman sign
reversible scarecrow snowman sign
reversible scarecrow snowman sign
reversible scarecrow snowman sign

Oct 26, 2016

Installing Craftsman-Style Door & Window Trim

Craftsman-style Window Trim

Now that the ceiling in the bedroom is fantastically smooth and the walls are painted, it's time to move on to the window and door trim. Like most of the other finishes in this house, the original trim was inexpensive, badly installed, and paint spattered. With the new paint on the walls (BM Edgecombe Grey), there was no way the trim could stay any longer. The strange window trim was the first to go.

Each side of the casing was made up of two pieces of wood, offset from each other, and angled in towards the window. With that angle, any moisture would collect against the window instead of away from it. I'd love to know the reason - it was obviously intentional as all of the windows in the house are done this way.

It took some elbow grease and finally the Dremel Multi-Max to remove it. It was glued and screwed in place, as well as every seam being caulked. In fact, Tom worked away on it that entire first day that I attempted to scrape the popcorn ceiling.

The door trim was easier to remove - the pieces were barely attached to the wall, so they came off with no damage. Look at those paint splatters! I can't tell how old the paint is - maybe they were in a hurry to get it done before listing? There are also paint drips on the baseboards and carpet.

When we started looking for door and window trim, I couldn't really find anything that spoke to me. and I looked, a lot. At one point I even picked out some ready-made trim and had it in my cart at the store, but something deep down was telling me I wouldn't be happy with it. I did some more searching on the internet (right there in the lumber aisle) and was drawn over and over again to a simple, stacked Craftsman look.

My favourite style of house/architecture, hands-down, is Craftsman.  I love the wide, yet streamlined, door and window casings, built-in bookcases, natural wood tones...and I'd give just about anything to have a large front porch with stone and wood columns.

So everything in my cart went back on the shelf and I started again. We decided on a 1" x 4" top, side, and apron (below the window sill) casing, with a 3/4" x 1 1/4" casing cap and 1/2" x 1 1/4" fillet. The stool, i.e. the bottom sill, is 1" x 10". Yes, I even learned the terminology.

Craftsman-style Window Trim
Craftsman-style Window Trim

Those seem like some crazy measurements, but all we had to do was buy 1x4s and 1x2s, then plane them down as needed. (Keep in mind that 1 inch boards are really only 3/4 of an inch thick.)

Installing the trim was a simple matter of attaching each piece one at a time to build the pattern that we wanted.

Craftsman-style Window Trim

With the window, we also had to add new interior trim to replace those funky angled boards.

The door frames begin with a simple rectangular plinth block at the bottom, then the 1x4 side trim, followed by the stacked header trim.

Craftsman-style Window Trim

Each of the thin header pieces are nailed into the board below (or above) rather than into the wall. I'm still wavering on whether or not to build up the top with some decorative molding, but we're planning on adding crown molding at the ceiling so it might be overkill. It's always something that can be added in the future though.

Craftsman-style Window Trim

The window sill is all one piece, 10 inches deep, with a 2" overhang at the front and a 1" overhang on each side beyond the side trim. That piece went in first, and then we built up and down from there. The window header pattern matches the door headers exactly.

Craftsman-style Window Trim

We put them in place with just a few finishing nails to make sure we liked the look. Once everything was in place and the proportions were right, we took it all down (mark your boards!) and gave them a couple of coats of primer. The trim is so much easier to paint when you can lay it all out like an assembly line.

Then it went back up on the walls. Once everything was in place, I caulked all of the seams - between boards and between the casing and the wall. I love a seamless look. I also puttied and sanded the nail holes to prepare for painting. All of the trim was painted in a bright untinted white, Behr's Premium Plus Paint & Primer, in semi-gloss.

Craftsman-style Window Trim
Craftsman-style Window Trim
Craftsman-style Window Trim

We still need to put in the base trim - which we've already designed - but we want to wait until the carpet is replaced as it will all have to be removed anyway. I also didn't caulk the plinth blocks so that they could also be removed for carpet installation. But that can't be done until we finish the basement so that there's a place to put everything while the carpet is installed. One project always leads to another.

Craftsman-style Window Trim
Craftsman-style Window Trim

But for now we're really happy getting the trim up. It lightens up the room so much, and the Craftsman style fits us so well. We're planning on replacing all of the doors and door frames, as well as widening the closet entry, so this was kind of our practice run at custom trimwork. We know part or all of it will have to be removed but I couldn't bear to have the room look half-finished forever.

Craftsman-style Window Trim

I'm really looking forward to new carpet and a renovated closet. We've sourced Craftsman-style interior doors as well, so as soon as we're ready we can get those in too. One step closer every day!

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