Tag Archives: creativity

Doors, Wheels, and Headboards

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What do you do when you have a box spring and mattress and no bed set? Why, you make one of course. Bed sets are expensive and then you have to worry about getting matching furniture, a dresser, end tables, dressing table, etc. Who wants to shop through huge department stores offering no interest for five years and the best deals in town? Not me!

Instead of barn wood, this time I am going to use an old five panel door. It was a free door we got from a friend. They got it off of Craigslist. If you are looking for one, I would suggest Craigslist, garage sales, swap meets, or construction areas. People tear down old houses and the stuff is just going to the dump, They are often glad for someone to take it off their hands.

One side of the door I had was covered in a seventies era wavy panel, which much to my glee, came off easily and uncovered that side of the door was unpainted. Therefore, it was easy to sand the edges and prep for finish. After two coats of polyurethane, it was ready to go. I used 2x4s to create legs that could easily be adjusted for height and screwed to any standard bed frame.

Now for the fun stuff. I purchased an old iron wheel on Craigslist which I used for the play Oklahoma. It is a great piece, but what in the world was I going to do with it afterwords? Using the door knob hole, I inserted the axle of the wheel and wired the socket from an an old lamp through the hole. I attached the wheel securely with a bolt and plugged that baby in. We have a headboard with a lamp all ready to go. Check out the video below!

 

Middle Schoolers/ Punks with Potential

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Fine, so middle schoolers aren't really punks per se, but they are a rambunctious lot no doubt. In our local area, middle school is 6th – 8th grade. Our school has high rankings and great comments on all the various websites you use to learn about local schools. We live in a suburban area with an ethnically and financially diverse population. The middle school only offers very few electives: choir, band, and art/tech. Shop classes were cut years ago, which is a travesty. Because of the lack of choices, each program has tons if students, many of whom are not really interested in the class they are taking. And isn't that the purpose of electives, to learn more about topics you are interested in apart from the core academic classes? Choir is full of kids who don't like to sing, but wanted to take the easiest class.

Dealing with classes full of unmotivated kids all day can be very draining. I feel bad for the teachers who must be constantly frustrated. I think over time, teachers lose some of the cock-eyed optimism and motivation they started with. They get to the point of doing what they have to do to get the kids through the class, and nothing more. I don't blame them. No one can swim upstream forever.

The middle school had absolutely no drama program, no class, no club, nothing. The high school offers drama classes and puts on productions, but the program is not huge, well-supported, or well attended. Part of the problem is that incoming freshmen have no knowledge, experience, or excitement to join drama. They arrive from middle school completely ignorant of what drama can offer. It should not be this way! Freshmen should be knocking down the doors to join the drama club and take drama classes. So how can we make it happen?

Myself and two other parents decided to do something about it. We got involved in the choir program and built up some money through the choir boosters. Then we approached the choir teacher to ask for his support. We had to convince him that we were going to do all of the work and take on the burden, but we needed a faculty sponsor to make it official. With some trepidation, he agreed. He had wanted to do something for years, but it is just way too much work and energy for one person.

With his cooperation, we got approval from the school and began planning. It took an entire school year to plant the seeds to actually do the show this year. We chose a show, Oklahoma, and scheduled information meetings and auditions. We advertised through choir, word of mouth, and posters. On our information meeting day, we showed up nervous that the room would be empty. But it wasn't! In fact, it was packed with excited and energized students. Audition day arrived and over fifty kids showed up. Fifty kids were excited to be a part of something new, unique, and challenging. We couldn't believe it. It was really happening!

We sent home information to parents and tried to prep them for just how big of a commitment a full scale production can be. We understood that many students and parents wouldn't believe it until they experienced it, so we prepared ourselves for complaints and long conversations. Winter break came and went and it was time to start rehearsals. We had cast everyone who tried out to give the experience to the largest number of kids. It wasn't easy to set our cast. Middle school boys have higher voices and are much shorter then middle school girls. Our lead boys were at least a foot shorter than their lead girl counterparts. And we only had six boys try out, so our options were few. By rehearsal time, we had already lost around fifteen kids. How many more would we lose before it was over?

We decided as directors to set our expectations high. These kids were brand new and had no idea what their limitations were, so why set them low? Make them believe they could do whatever we taught them and then put in the work to get them there. It wasn't easy, but we worked and worked until slowly they began to get it. Kids who claimed they couldn't dance were doing dance steps, and kids who were terrified of being on stage were acting and singing. Teachers and administrators would peek their head into the cafeteria during practices and many commented they were amazed at what we had gotten the kids to do. How did we do it? By expecting nothing less. We had the advantage of coming into the school at the end of the day when the teachers were worn out. We were fresh and ready to go.

No one will ever acuse middle schoolers of focusing too much! They constantly had to be brought back and refocused. They find it physically impossible to go more than 30 seconds without talking. They can't go more than 30 minutes without checking their phones. They can look you in the eyes while you talk to them and not know anything you said when you ask them to repeat it back. But they believe they can do anything. They want to learn and want to do well.

Time went on and we needed help. Parents stepped up and volunteered to help with sets, costumes, publicity, etc. things starting rolling as the clock ticked down to show time. Many parents commented on how impressed they were. But we still had our unbelievers. Some parents complained about the time commitment, pulled their kids out of crucial rehearsals, and refused to volunteer. We had to just carry on. We weren't going to let a few ornery parents derail our hard work. On the night before we opened, we had a parent storm into rehearsal to tell us how things were going to be as he proceeded to tell us no one will care because it was only a little middle school show anyway. After resisting the urge to fight back and punch him in the nose, we finished the conversation and he went on his way. I turned to my fellow directors and we agreed we would have the last laugh after he actually saw the show. Let it be noted that he had never done one thing to help.

Opening night was a huge success! People loved it! Proud parents gushed in amazement. Teachers couldn't believe it was their students on the stage. We had a show, a real live honest to goodness show! We packed the house. We had a short run, three shows over one weekend, but it was a huge success. The cast members didn't want it to end. Parents who had been conspicuously absent suddenly appeared asking what they could do to help. Our irate dad offered his version of an apology by expressing how good the show was. Everyone was asking what show we are going to do next year.

So how does this article fit on a DIY blog? People love to complain about problems, but very few people stand up to do something about it. If your kid's school is lacking a certain program, find out a way you can make it happen. The only way our middle school was ever going to put on a play was if we jumped in and did it. If your neighborhood is boring because no one knows each other, plan a neighborhood BBQ. If a local park is dirty, organize a clean-up day. After the show, we sent out a survey to parents to try and improve our process for next year. One respondent said she showed up to volunteer once, but because it was so unorganized, she decided to never volunteer again. That is the lamest excuse I have ever heard! She obviously saw a need. Instead of walking away, she could have stepped up to organize our volunteer efforts, thus solving her issue and greatly helping the show. Sometimes “someone else” is actually you. If it needs to get done, jump in and do it yourself. You'll ensure it gets done, and you can make sure it is done right.

Home is Where You Hang Your Hat

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I'm a hat guy. I'm old fashioned like that. Back in the day every man wore a hat to go outside and your job defined what kind of hat you wore. Cowboys in cowboy hats, farmers in straw hats, business men in fedoras, etc etc. Everyone also knew hat etiquette, when to keep the hat on and when to take it off. Nowadays, the only people who still learn and follow proper hat etiquette are military members. They always take their cover (the Navy's term for hat) when indoors and put it back on when they go outside. Old timers may still do the right thing, but they were raised by hat wearers.

Why wear hats at all? Well, I've worn them for so long, I feel like I'm missing something when I walk outside without one, like my head is naked. Hats protect you from the elements, sun or rain. Hats define what your doing or who you are. Hats complete the “look.” A man in a suit and tie with a fedora looks very put together. Baseball caps are casual or sporty. A pork pie is less serious or professional than the fedora and can also be worn with more casual or trendy attire. The driving cap is a great all around look and can be professional or casual.

The problem with hats is not acquiring them. That's easy! The problem is storing them. I started with baseball caps and have acquired a whole stack, including my favorite sports teams, locations, brands, and more. When I “grew up” and got a real job, I could no longer wear baseball caps everyday. Eventually I made the decision to move on and start getting some hats I could actually wear to work. I can deal with the whispers and funny looks, so that wasn't a part of the consideration. For the baseball hats, I found the Perfect Curve caprack. It can be hung in the closet and can store 18 caps without damaging or reshaping. That is huge!! A hat that gets shaped wrong cannot be worn.

Now for the fedoras and pork pies. They cannot be set down on their brim. Most people do that, but that is a sure fire way to ruin the shape of the brim. To set down temporarily, you place upside down on the crown, but they can't be left that way or you will flatten the crown. Hanging them on a regular hook is ok for a bit longer storage, but you still run the risk of creating an indent from the tip of the hook. So what? I needed something that would store my hats while still maintaining their shape and allowing for longer storage. Summer straw hats spend the entire winter on the rack and they need a nice home.

I had some barn wood still from Grandpa's barn, so I cut out some circles for hangers and arranged them on the finished piece of barn wood. To store more hats in less space, I made the hangers sit at different distances away from the rack so hats could overlap without touching each other. I covered the circles with some faux leather for looks. Someday I would like to recover with real leather or suede. It turned out great. My hats have a great home and the piece looks great. Check out the video below and tell me what you think!

 

 

Santa’s Workshop

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When you enjoy DIY or have some skills, there is no better gift than a homemade gift right? It's more personal, carries more meaning. But at what cost? It has been awhile since my last post, and that is because I have been busy in Santa's workshop. In my case, that's my garage, or to be more accurate, half my garage. The other half is storage. I've never had a car in my garage, at any house. One day when I have a separate workshop and a basement for storage, I might park cars in the garage. But until that day, the cars are relegated to the driveway. At our house, the garage is the main point of entry. It leads into the mud room/hallway where shoes, bags and jackets can be deposited. But when Santa's Workshop is open for business, the garage is closed. All traffic must go through the front door. That also means that I have to get anything that is needed from the garage. This year's present was much too large to just cover with a tarp. It required complete exclusion from garage access.

You know from my previous post that I have a whole stack of barnwood harvested from a local barn. Well, that wood won't do me any good just sitting there will it? Combine a stack of barn wood with Christmas and I have my work cut out for me. When we were first married, I made a kitchen table with a folding butterfly leaf. Our family grew quickly so we never really had the leaf closed up. The table just fit the six of us with no room to spare. It was time to grow and get a table more fitting for our family size. Also, I was never really happy with the previous table top. The table was maple and cherry and I really liked how the legs turned out, but for the top I tried to save money by layering maple on top of plywood. It just never worked out right. I refinished it a few years ago which helped some, but it still bugged me every time I sat down to eat.

Barn wood is great because it is aged and dried. You know there will be no more warping. But that also means the pieces are already warped and misshapened. If I had a planer and jointer, that wouldn't be a problem, but alas I do not. The edges were already rabbeted so using pipe clamps I glued the table top together. No matter how many clamps I used, I couldn't quite get every board to lay flush, but with some cross pieces screwed in from underneath, I could pull all of the boards securely together.

The apron required ripping the boards to width so I used the table saw as sort of a poor man's jointer. The legs are made from a 2×6 board from the barn secured to the apron with corner braces and bolts. It all went together square, but did not keep the table from rocking back and forth. I needed some angled braces for that. One end of the braces is bolted to the legs with a hex bolt going all the way through the leg. For the apron end, I chiseled out an insert for the brace so the actual apron would keep it from sliding or moving. It was then attached by a straight metal brace. It looks great and works really well.

I also decided to build a bench for one side of the table. We always seem to be pulling the piano bench in when we are feeding the neighbor kids or friends so why not just build one up front? You can cram more kids onto a bench than you can individual chairs. I used the same method for the top of the bench and then cut two pieces of a beam for the legs. A 2×6 support goes length wise down the center of the bench and rests on the legs in a cut out notch. I had to use my reciprocating saw to cut the beam for the legs, but just cut the notch on the table saw and cleaned it up with a chisel. The beam is secured to the support brace by a long hex bolt going all the way through.

 

With the table and bench built and ready for finishing I proceeded to blanket the entire garage in fine sanding dust. Every box, shoes, tools, bikes, everything had a fine coat of dust. I didn't sand everything perfectly smooth except for the top. I still want it to look a bit rough like barn wood should. I used a satin polyurethane finish sprayed onto the underside of the table top, the apron, legs, and the bench. Three coats were enough to provide a good solid finish. Then came the adventure of the tabletop.

I wanted a thick finish that filled in all holes and cracks and could also smooth out any uneven spots of the tabletop. You don't want to be sliding a glass of milk across your table just to have it crash when hitting a seam in the wood. And you don't want liquid spills drying in the cracks between boards. Using an epoxy resin, which is very expensive, I coated the table top. I had to take over one of the kid's rooms because it is too cold out in the garage for the epoxy to cure completely. I set up a tarp and a folding table in the room. Come to find out there were lots of seams in the table top not necessarily visible to the naked eye. I ended up having to buy another box of epoxy for the second coat because so much was running through the cracks and off the edges. Once the first coat dried and sealed things up, I applied the second smoothing coat and let that dry.

The following morning when I attempted to lift the new table top off the folding table, I found it was stuck, completely epoxied to the table! I tried prying it off with a pry bar, tried to saw through it, and tried a chisel. Nothing worked. The two tables had become one. I ended up having to use my Dremel to cut out holes in the folding table and then cutting down the edges to match the perpendicular supports. The epoxy and top layer of the folding table are there to stay, adding some great strength to my tabletop. The folding table on the other hand has two giant gaping holes in it and will have to be resurfaced with plywood or something. You should have seen my wife's face when she saw the folding table!

I woke up early Christmas morning as I always do and hefted the tabletop downstairs to assemble everything in the dining area. When everyone came downstairs, it took a moment for her to notice a new table just sitting there, but when she did it was a huge hit! The barn wood looks great and the table fits our family much better. However, Santa's Workshop will be closed for the foreseeable future. It's time to spend my evenings inside rather than out in the garage.

Keep checking my YouTube channel for the how to video. I am still working on editing and putting it together.

Update. Here is the video! It's a little long, but it was a big project. Enjoy!

 

 

So You Didn’t Get a Hammock and Now You Need a Massage

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You sit at a desk all day staring at a computer, or maybe you didn't heed my sage advice and you went camping without a hammock. And now you are paying the price. Your shoulders are sore and your back aches. There's a crick in your neck that just won't go away. I guess pine cones don't make good pillows. But wait! You're one of the lucky ones. You have a spouse or significant other who is willing to give you a massage. There is nothing better. If I had the cash, I would love to support my local masseuses and would frequent them regularly. The few times I have gone for a professional massage, it was wonderful until the hard sell at the end to buy into a membership. Sorry, that isn't in the budget.

What's the worst part about getting a massage at home instead of at a spa? You don't have a face hole in your bed that's what!! Am I right? There is no way to get a proper massage of the shoulders when you have to turn your head to one side to the other just to breath. Even if you try some fancy pillow packing trick, your head will still be at an unnatural angle and you are more in danger of getting another knot than getting a relaxing massage. But we here at the green workbench don't tuck our tails between our legs and raise the white flag of surrender. No siree! We come up with a solution and try it out, that's what we do. You look at massage tables online. Holy guacamole, those things are expensive, and it's just a padded folding table with a face hole. We can build that.

I found hinges at Rockler that are used for folding tables. They lock into place. I grabbed some wood, hopefully you have some lying around from previous projects. I had some foam padding from some packages. All I needed was the vinyl. Vinyl cleans easily and doesn't soak up whatever massage oil or lotion you are using. I just grabbed whatever was on sale, which is why my table is the color of salmon puke. But I was going for cheap. I cut a face hole in the board, and with some staples and some glue, upholstered it. I made the legs adjustable and attached them. Now you can place the folding table at the edge of any bed of any height and create an instant massage table. The hole is placed so that your neck isn't tilted up at a weird angle because it's a gradual rise from your chest up. I also included a small padded “pillow” for your forehead which helps a lot. It is connected with string sewn through the vinyl, foam, and board, but it is tied loosely so it is somewhat adjustable.

Check out the video and let me know what you think in the comments. So if you have a sore aching back and shoulders or if you just want an intimate candlelit evening at home, there's no need to waste your fortune on visits to the masseuse or fancy tables, just pull the folding, adjustable massage table out from under your bed and you are ready to go.

 

So You Want to Write a Book, Just Like Everybody Else

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It seems everyone has aspirations to write a book. Does that mean everyone has something totally interesting and unique to say that the world needs to hear? Ummm, I think not. If the comments section of blogs and news sites are any indication, there are people who should never be allowed to type anything readable by the general public, and not just because of atrocious grammar and spelling. Some people are just ignorant. Of the people who claim they want to write a book, how many of those actually sit down and take the time to write the first chapter, or even the first page? Not many.

Have you ever been to a library and just wandered through the aisles trying to take in the sheer number of books on the shelves? Maybe your local public library isn't that impressive, but think of a university library. There are hundreds if not thousands of books on the shelves that have never been checked out. And it is probably getting worse instead of better. There is no need to check out that obscure book for a school paper when the same information is easily found on the Internet. Even if you can surmount the odds of getting your brilliant book accepted by a publisher, you and your editor may be the only two people who ever read it. Oh, and your mom. She'll read it just because you wrote it.

What are the odds of writing the Great American Novel? Let me put it in a bit of perspective. Take all of the people who claim they want to write a book and put them in a room. Now only those who actually start writing can move on to the next room. Huge drop! Now only those that actually write more than a chapter or two can move on, then only those who actually finish. From there take those who have the guts to show their work to someone, be it a publisher or just a friend. Your room gets even smaller still. Now here is where you can choose the traditional path of shotgunning your manuscript to every publisher you can find an address for or you can decide to go it on your own. That's right, self-publish.

That takes what amounts to a tiny percentage of the starting crowds and divides them even further. For the sake of this article, we'll travel down the self-publishing route. But don't get too excited. The self-publishing room is much more crowded. It's easier and allows you to publish your work, even if it sucks. There is no professional quality control or editor deciding if your book is marketable. It may just be the worst thing ever written and you can still publish. A very small percentage of the room will have the capital to self-publish a physical book. We'll let those hoity toity types go off into their gilded room. The rest of us will be milling about aimlessly in the self-published ebook room.

There was a time when ebooks were just a fad. Experts and bloggers predicted ebook readers would be the garage sale items of tomorrow. But with some powerful companies standing behind the ebook like Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble their popularity has only grown. Those companies have also seen the importance of allowing their books to be read on multiple platforms, like ebook readers, tablets and computers. Gradually, e-readers have become a staple, recognized and accepted by the general population. They are easy enough to be used by grandma and hip enough to be used by the cool kids, or at least the cool kids who want people to know they read.

So what are your options in self-publishing your ebook? They are many, but I'll focus on the Barnes and Noble Nook store and the Amazon Kindle store. For both, it's actually a very simple process.

Each store has a similar process. You upload your ebook file and they convert it, B&N to an ePub file and Amazon to their proprietary Kindle format. You enter in your title and synopsis and upload your book cover. You enter all of your personal information into your account so they can send you any money you earn and also send you tax information at the end of the year. At first I uploaded my book to both, but it is now only in the Kindle store.

I'll tell you why. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers some benefits if you commit to only sell your book on Amazon, which is called KDP Select. They allow you to add your book to the Kindle Lending Library so that anyone with the popular Prime membership can borrow your book for free or buy it and lend it to their friends. You don't directly make money when someone borrows your book, but at first the important thing is to just get people to read it. If it is good and stands on its own, they will recommend it to friends and hopefully spread the word that yours is the book to read on the beach this summer. And with KDP Select, you get a piece of the KDP Select Global Fund, which basically means you get paid a percentage of the fund each month based on the number of times people borrowed your book. It is not a direct royalty per book sold, but rather a piece of the larger pie.

With KDP Select you can also manage five promotional days per quarter. You can choose which days you want your ebook to be free and Amazon automatically adjusts the price on those days. It is a great way to once again get people to read your book. I've found, at least in my own experience, that there are downsides to free books. People tend to get all of the free books they can just to add to their collection, but don't necessarily read them. There is much greater chance someone will read a book they had to pay for.

If so, what is the optimum price point? $.99? $1.99? $5.99? That I am still trying to figure out. I can say there is a pyschological effect when charging a higher price. People tend to think it is of greater quality if it costs more, (thinks cars or clothes) but they are unwilling to gamble on an unknown author above a certain price. Maybe $5.00 is that magic number. I don't know. You can change the cost, so feel free to test things out at different price points to see what happens.

How did I end up writing a novel? Good question, although I don't really have a great answer. I was sitting in a hotel room on an extended business trip with my laptop and I opened Word and started to type. It was really that simple. I had no plot in mind, no synopsis, none of things you learn to do in school. I started to write and it just began to flow from my fingertips. The story just came out. I started writing everyday and it just grew and grew. Now I've scared you all off from ever reading my book.

“If he didn't work for months on his plot line and character development, I'm never going to read it,” she said with her nose firmly and snootily pointing towards the sky.

Guess what, the process is not the same for everyone. My book may not appeal to you or it may be your favorite book ever. You'll never know until you try. Although I had friends and family read it to help me edit, I know there are still some small things that need editing. With KDP, I can upload a newer version and it will be pushed out to everyone who has purchased the book so they can download the latest version. It is almost impossible to catch all of your own mistakes and I have found that going back a year later, when things are not so fresh in my mind, I have found mistakes that I missed multiple times before. It's about time for me to go through the entire book and make corrections. They are small and insignificant to the story, but I want my book to look professional.

Here's my chance to throw in a pitch for my book. It's called “The Flaming Grenade.” There is the normal version which I would rate at PG-13 lite and a Teen version which is a solid PG. I created the teen version so I could comfortably let my kids read it. I am pretty conservative in what I allow the kids to read, and I would let an 11-12 yr old read the teen version. The book has action, adventure, travel, love, suspense, history, and a little sci-fi/tech. Something for everyone!

For extra incentive to my blog readers, I have set my promotion period for next week, 05-09Aug13, so you can grab it for free. If you are itching to start sooner, which I recommend, you can always go ahead and buy it!

Read my book, start writing yours, and don't forget to leave positive reviews on Amazon!! Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

So You Want to Make Money Online

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You gets ads in your email inbox all the time telling you how much money you could make online. You see guests on the daytime talk shows you watch while filling out resumes. They talk about how they make $10,000 a day online and you can too. You’ve read blog entries and tried websites. You’ve taken surveys online and have some great ideas for YouTube videos that you are sure will go viral. Well, I’m here to exhort you to enthusiastically pinch yourself awake and get a life. Can you make money online? Absolutely! Will it be quick or easy? Not a chance.

If you were starting your own business, you wouldn’t expect to show up on your first day, unlock the door to your newly rented office spaces, and have a line of customers around the block. You wouldn’t print your own diploma, put it in a nice frame and start seeing sick patients! OK, so maybe you would, but I’m hoping the majority of my audience is made up of better stuff. So why do people think going online is any different? Why do people think it takes less effort to be successful online? It’s like the Internet makes people stupid.

I am here to tell you that it takes time, energy, and hard work to make money online just like it does in real life. I am going to dedicate a series of posts to online money-making ideas because I dabble in a few. I don’t expect to make big money and I haven’t really put in the time or investment to do so. I do it more for a little extra cash now and then. Some of them could be bigger money makers if I really invested the time, but I have a good stable job and I don’t depend on my online activities to pay the bills. If I can make a few bucks doing what I enjoy, then why not!?

I will dedicate the first entry to my Zazzle store. Zazzle.com is a website where you can submit your own designs and they will print those designs on a multitude of different items to include shirts, hats, bags, stickers, key chains, iPhone cases, speakers, coffee mugs, plates, clocks, etc, etc; you get the idea. You take your designs and manipulate them on the Zazzle template specific to each item and then post your creation for sale in your own Zazzle store. You can design and post each item separately or do a bulk creation. There are pros and cons to each. Separate creation takes time. You have to create the template for each item, choose the color, write the title, write the description, pick a store category, pick a Zazzle category, and choose tags. But each item is uniquely designed to look its best. With bulk creation, you get your design onto a lot of products quickly, but your image may not be positioned where you want it and the colors or text may not be just right. I’ve done both and greatly prefer individual creation despite the added time commitment.

You earn money by getting paid a percentage of the cost of the item. You can even choose your percentage. For example, you can increase your profits by electing to receive a higher percentage. However, the cost of the item will go up, thus potentially reducing the number of sales. Zazzle takes its cut no matter what, as it should.

The trick is to find a unique design that has wide appeal. Create a niche product so that anyone searching for your tags will be taken to your store. For example, one of my best-selling designs is of Sicily. There are a few other sellers of Sicilian themed items on Zazzle, but I spent a long time in Photoshop creating a unique and high quality graphic. Sicily may not be one of the most common search terms on Zazzle, but whenever it is typed in, my designs pop up close to the top.

Zazzle items are high quality and worth their cost. There is real money-making potential. They add new product lines all the time and it takes time to keep up. If you want your design on every available product you are going to spend hours and hours. Add a second or third design and compound your time accordingly. Zazzle submits a payment as soon as you reach the minimum threshold of $50. You will then get the money deposited by the 15th of the following month. You can also choose to keep the money in your Zazzle account or spend it on Zazzle products. Zazzle sales go up dramatically during the Christmas holiday and there are smaller peaks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, and other special occasions.

As a member you get frequent email promotions for great discounts. I have used my earnings and discount codes to buy some awesome gifts.

I’ve had a store on Zazzle for about 4 years and have made around $1500. I have, in spurts, worked on and created a few graphics, but really haven’t consistently invested that much time into my store. I’ve also spent very little time promoting my store through connections with other Zazzle retailers or through social media or websites. I’ve selected a more passive role in just letting users find my store through search terms. If I can make fifteen hundred bucks doing essentially nothing, think what I could do if I really started promoting my store!

Check out my Zazzle store, search through the products they have available in other stores, and try your hand at creating a product to sell. Who knows, with a lot of work and time, you may just beat the odds!

Tell me what you think in the comments.


See other gifts available on Zazzle.

Lazy Summer Days on the Porch

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The front porch, a place to sit with a glass of lemonade, talk to the neighbors, and watch the kids zoom up and down the street on their bikes. It's a perfect place to watch a summer lightning storm or read a good book. If you are lucky, you have a large wrap around porch complete with a porch swing. If you have spent a little time creating the perfect porch, maybe you have a cooler and some speakers to blast summer hits from the Beach Boys.

Shift scenes to a city park. You have all seen the iconic pictures of old men playing checkers or chess in the park right? Ringers sit and wait for unsuspecting challengers. Old men while away the hours until their wives call them home to supper, talking about the good ole days and swapping stories and jokes. People walking their dogs stop to watch the action and say hello to the regulars. Runners wave as they pass and skateboarders zoom by with headphones blasting deep bass beats.

How about combining the scene at the park with the relaxing atmosphere of the front porch? Create an outdoor checkerboard the perfect size for your front porch and discover the secrets of lazy days shouting “King me!” and scoring multiple jumps. For this checkerboard, all you need are pieces of scrap wood, preferably a 4×4, some paint, and some patience. Don't worry about your board being perfectly level or smooth. You are going for the outdoor homemade look. You want something that would sell for big bucks at a folk art store and would be the upscale envy of any Cracker Barrel customer. A steady hand and some paint complete the board.

So what, pray tell, would you use for pieces? You could always steal pieces from your game closet, but what fun is that? Instead, collect some bottle caps of your favorite beverages. We went with the epic battle of cola vs root beer. You could do Coke vs Pepsi or even use caps from something a little stronger. The best thing about it? Someone just has to drink the sodas so you can use the caps. Tough life eh?

Check out my how to video below and then fire up the saw. Summer's half gone!!

 

 

 

Learn By Doing. No More Excuses!

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You just aren’t handy.  You are not good with tools.  You don’t know a hammer from screwdriver.   You would rather just pay someone to fix it.  You are too busy with life. Yawn yawn spit cuss.  One excuse is as good as another.  Are you truly all thumbs with no coordination?  Well, guess what, you can get over it.  Do you think certain people were just born with handyman skills?  They started walking one day and ripped a board on a table saw the next?  Learning to use tools is no different than learning to ride a bike or play an instrument.  It takes patience and practice!

Before you totally dismiss the premise of my post, let me concede that everyone has certain talents and strengths unique to them.  The world would be boring if we were all good at the same things.  People have different likes and desires as well.  I get that.  I’m talking to those of you who want to be handy and build things but are convinced you don’t have it in you.  Developing a talent is all about work and desire.  Do you really want it or has that become your excuse when you are in the presence of someone who acts instead of talks about acting?

Realize that the first thing you build or design is gonna suck,  Own it and get over it.  You will have this grandiose vision in your mind of what the final outcome will be and your finished product won’t even be recognizable.  You’ll be lucky if it is even useful.  But guess what?  You learned something and will do better next time.  You will identify your strengths and weaknesses.  Design to your strengths and incorporate your weaknesses.  So many cliches come to mind, but practice truly does make perfect.

I remember as a kid, we moved to a different state and somehow my baseball glove was lost.  We didn’t have the money to just go out and buy another glove, so while I saved and wrote letters to Santa, I decided I could make my own out of plastic bags and stuffing.  I planned it out in my mind for hours while laying in bed trying to fall asleep.  In theory it should work just fine as an interim replacement glove.  They really aren’t that complicated.  So I cut out the shape of a glove and taped everything together just so.  What a disaster!  It wouldn’t even stay on my hand let alone catch a fly ball.  I didn’t take into account the properties of leather and stitching.  Stupid kid you may say.  NO!!  Brilliant.  I had a need and tried to come up with a way to fix it.  I learned more by failing than I would have by not even trying.  I also built up a habit of learning by doing.

If there is a project you would like to build but haven’t had the cojones to take the plunge, do it!!  If it turns into an epic fail,so what!!  You’ll have a great time in the process and will build confidence for future projects.  Dive in and make mistakes.  Be willing to fail.  I’ve never met someone who regretted failing, but have met many who regret they never tried.

 

Disclaimer:  Read operating manuals to learn tool operation and safety guidelines before diving in.  You wouldn’t dive into a pool without knowing how deep it is would you??

The Magic Floating Book Shelf

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I love books. I love reading. I love bookstores and libraries and covet homes with big floor to ceiling book shelves with a rolling ladder. One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is to sign up for a library card. I especially love old books. I love the smell of books and the feel of books. But books are heavy and books take up a lot of space. Books are hard to move around from place to place, especially if they are not being read regularly.

Then came e-readers. E-readers like the Kindle and Nook are awesome. You can fit thousands of books on a single device and the battery lasts forever. You can use a tablet, but the e-ink on an e-reader is easy on the eyes and can be read in bright sunlight just like a real book. I used to have the problem when I traveled for work of loading down my suitcase with books. If I was going to be away for a week I would have to pack four or five books in my suitcase. I couldn't afford to just buy new books, especially when there is a library full of free books at home. Now I can pack one device, smaller than the average paperback, and carry more books than I'll ever read on one trip. You lose the feel, smell, and experience of holding and reading a real book, but I can live with the trade off in convenience and size. I can check out e-books from the library even easier than going and checking out real books.

I'm also a big fan of the audiobook. Download a book from the library on your phone or MP3 player via the Overdrive app and you can make your commute enjoyable and educational. I'll get to the end of a long road trip and want to keep going because the book isn't done yet!

So how do I incorporate books into my home design and decorations? There are a certain number of antique books that I will never get rid of. Some were passed down from my parents or grandparents. Others are just cool books I have found at garage sales or thrift stores. They need to be displayed for others to see and enjoy. I can't keep good books hidden away on a shelf or in a closet. I also had some books that I knew I would never read again in paper format. If I do decide to revisit them, I'll load them onto my e-reader. Instead of throwing them away or recycling them, I decided to use them to build shelves. This design uses a hard back book and an “L” bracket to create a floating shelf. When other books are stacked on top, it creates the illusion that the books are floating on the wall. It is a great effect and has been a huge talking point for friends and neighbors visiting the house. It is a simple project requiring only the purchase of the bracket, a book, some glue, and some screws and can be made for well under $5.