Tag Archives: grandpa

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!

 

 

Hey, Do We Have Any Basil? Why Yes, We Do!

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A mediocre meal becomes a masterpiece with the right balance of herbs and spices. Every herb has certain properties and flavor that when used properly, really makes the dish. Of course, on the flip side, you can't just throw in herbs willy nilly and hope they work. You can ruin a meal that way. I know lemon isn't a spice, but it used for flavoring, so I'm going to use it to make my point. Our kids were cooking spaghetti and were trying to follow our example of adding some flavoring to the canned sauce. Instead of peppers (which they don't like), onions and some select herbs, they decided to add lemon juice. They've seen me add lemon to flavor other dishes and figured, what the heck!? Commence vomiting! It was nasty!!

You can buy whatever herbs you want in expensive little bottles. The herbs are decent, but not great. It seems the bottled herbs lose a lot of flavor in the processing and packaging. If you really want to wow the dining table, you've gotta use fresh herbs. There is no comparison. You don't have enough room in your yard for a garden you say? You don't know how to manage soil ph levels, compost, bugs, watering, and fertilizer. Lame. That's right, lame. Stop being a whiner and build yourself this hanging herb planter.

I used some more of my grandpas's barn wood and some of the other materials I talked about in my barn wood mason jar wall sconce post to include the large hose clamps and mason jars. With your board hanging vertical decide how far apart you want the mason jars to hang. Nail the hose clamps on and start to prep your mason jars. Use potting soil you can get ready mixed in a bag and pick the herbs you use most. I decided to grow basil, cilantro, and chives. Plant the seeds in your jars and then secure the jars in the clamps. Figure out a way to hang your little herb garden. I used an eye bolt as you can see in the video below. Turn your jars at an angle toward the sun and all you have to do is water when it gets dry.

One note about using mason jars has to do with the watering. There is no drainage, so if you overwater or don't have a good sunny spot, you may start to get some moss and/or mold growth in the jar. You have to keep an eye on the dampness of the soil. But if your garden is hanging on your front porch anyway, you'll see it every time you walk into your house. That's so much easier than trying to remember to go into the backyard to water!

When your plants start to get too big for their britches, no problem. Go ahead and trim your plants and prep a spot in your kitchen to hang them upside down to dry. Home dried herbs can be saved and used during the cold winter months when nothing is growing, making your garden a year round affair. And home dried herbs retain much more flavor than those store bought bottled ones. As an added bonus, hanging drying herbs looks cool in your kitchen.

So check out the how to video below and make your own mason jar herb garden. Don't worry if you don't have barn wood. You can find a cool piece of driftwood at the beach or just use a nice looking board. No excuses!

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

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.

 

Mason Jar Lamp Shade

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I have talked about my paternal grandparents, but haven't included anything about the maternal side. That shall change starting now. My maternal grandpa was a Naval Aviator towards the end of WWII and a flight instructor during Korea. My mom was born at the Pensacola Naval Hospital while he was stationed there. He was the epitome of a Western man. He loved everything Navy, aviation, or cowboy, and he could back it up. He had a ranch, owned a service station, and fished everyday of his retired life. Unfortunately, all of his memorabilia was kept in the basement of his mountain home in Utah. One particularly wet season, the river rose to historic heights and flooded the entire basement, ruining all of his military and historic stuff. I'm talking his original WWII era bomber jacket. Gone! Ai Ai Ai!!! I was too young at the time to really appreciate the loss, although I knew at some level it was bad.

He told lots of stories when I was a kid and one involved the bomber jacket. He claimed the Navy, after the war, had everyone turn in their issued gear. OK, that makes sense. It belongs to the government after all and should be returned when you no longer work for the government. But here's the kicker: he said the Navy had no use for all of those jackets. It was peacetime after all and they were used. The Navy's numbers went down tremendously. So what did they do with all of those surplus jackets? Tossed them overboard. That's what he said. They were just thrown to the sharks, forever lost to the deep. That makes the flood so much more tragic. He didn't turn it in when he was supposed to, but it was still ruined by water in the end.

My point in telling this story is that there wasn't much left of the stuff he saved from the good old days. After he died, my mom went through some of his stuff with grandma and found a small stamp collection. They were all of the same stamp in either red or green and were all used. It wasn't a serious collection of unused originals preserved behind acid free plastic, but a stack of stamps he thought were cool and decided to keep. They were aviation stamps, which showed his love for flying. As a side note, he rarely flew anywhere after he stopped flying. If he wasn't the pilot, he wasn't interested in sitting as a passenger. I just find that interesting. My mom sent the stamps to me and for a long time they sat in a baggy in a drawer. I thought about it and decided there was no point keeping them in a drawer. I needed to use them and put them somewhere I could appreciate them.

Then came the need and the solution. The mason jar wall sconce I described in a previous post, was extremely bright. The light was amplified going through the mason jar and was way too bright for the space. Why not use the stamps to refract and diffuse the light? Indeed, why not? So that it was what I did.

The wall sconce now serves as a reminder of grandparents on both sides of the family and still cost nothing! I had all of the materials at home. Here's the video explaining the process.

 

Barn Wood Mason Jar Wall Sconce

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It's time to post my first project. I talked a lot about woodworking and building amazing things in my introductory post, but that is not all this blog is about. It's about building complicated things and simple things. Sometimes a simple design element can change the look of a room or feel of a house. I'm not a professional designer and many people won't agree with my design choices, but that's the point isn't it? If it is supposed to be unique to me and my home, then who cares if it's not for everyone!

Currently, we are on a vintage folksy kick in one room. We have bookshelves made from old apple crates and an antique radio. So I needed to keep with the theme. I mentioned my grandpa's barn in my first post. After he died, my dad was put in charge of preparing his land to sell. The proceeds would go to the kids and grandkids as an inheritance. His house would ultimately be passed down to his oldest son when grandma moved to a home, and developers could turn the alfalfa fields, gardens, and barnyard to homes. My dad and brother were in charge or taking down the barn. OK, so really they were the only two in town who could be trusted to do the work, but this is not a post about family dynamics. They were smart enough to save a bunch of the old barnwood. Barnwood is very popular now, but this was 12 years or so ago before it was a fad. They had a few wise souls drive up and ask if they could take the wood, and luckily they said no. I got a share of the wood and have used it on different projects over the years. I never had enough to build anything big because I move around a lot and can't take a pallet of wood with me whenever I move.

I also had bunch of mason jars sitting around the house. One of my favorite things when I went over to grandma's house, was to go down into the fruit cellar (different than the root cellar) and get a bottle of canned raspberries. Canned raspberries in a bowl with milk is AMAZING, I mean life altering! So a mason jar is meaningful to me because of the memories. What can I do with barn wood and a mason jar? I looked around and saw some different uses, and liked the lamps I saw. The bay window in our family room has been designated as a reading area. I built a bench, which will be covered in a later post, but the lighting was horrible at night and during the winter. It hit me!

I had a large hose clamp and an old lamp laying around, so I put the materials together and created a barn wood mason jar wall sconce. This was at about the time I decided to start recording my projects and uploading them to YouTube at the recommendation of friends and family. This was my first “how-to” video, so the sound quality and editing is not great, but it is a very cool project. Here is the video:

It was a pain to reach up to turn the lamp on and off so I decided to install a switch on the cord:

I also built another one with the barn wood going side to side instead of up and down with two lamp shades. They turned out great and provided much needed light in the room. I'll show that one in a future post because it has additional details. And the best part about the first wall sconce? It was free! I already had all of the materials.

 

What’s Up With The Green Workbench Dude??

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Now that's a decent question. Why in the world would I have a green workbench? Why indeed. The easy answer is because they were free. Yep, that's right. There is more than one. There are three green work benches! My father-in-law had a strawberry farm, an honest to goodness he planted, grew, picked, and sold the berries farm. The farm included a roadside fruit stand where he sold his berries as well as other fruits he got from local farmers and the Los Angeles fruit wholesale market. The stand had workbenches for the people inside to cut, package, and prepare the fruit, and also to present the fruit to hungry shoppers.

Green is simply the color one uses when trying to sell fruit. Imagine walking into the grocery store and having all of your fresh produce presented on a brown, blue or red, table. It just wouldn't work would it? I declare green to be the official color of fresh produce, starting … forever. Also, the tops were made of a plywood that really needed to have some sort of finish or sealer, especially when they were going to get wet. Green paint was the answer.

Unfortunately for my fruit cravings, but fortunate for his back, he decided to sell the farm. It was too much work and effort when he could just go to the wholesale market and then resell the produce at trendy farmers markets. So the booth had to come down, and with it the tables. I, of course, couldn't let three good tables to go to waste, especially because I was just starting out in married life and essentially had nothing but some old hand me down furniture. I graciously accepted the benches and have been using them ever since.

The green paint isn't quite as useful for wood projects as it was to sell fruit. I learned quickly to lay down something under a project when I was sanding and prepping it for finish. If I don't, I end up with green paint transfer on my nice smooth virgin wood surface. Not good. Someday I'll replace the top, but for now, I have drill holes, spots for clamps, and most importantly, an intimate knowledge of the complete surface of the table top. They were free; they are solid; they've given me years of service; and they define my garage. If my mantra to is to save, reuse, repurpose, and reinvent, what better way to be inspired than to use repurposed fruit stand tables for my workbench??!!

The Floating Brain Bulb

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That lightbulb over your head: is it a CFL, an Edison, halogen? Nah, just another crazy idea. As you learned if you read my first post, you know I had a high school teacher who let us build whatever we wanted. I believe that was a great foundation for ideas. Whenever I walk into a room, I see ideas and potential. The only limits are the tools I have at hand, but those ideas can be put in the idea vault till the time comes and the proper tools are available. So where do the ideas come from?

My head. Really there is no other way to explain it. There have been many times where I started working with just an idea and it evolved as I worked, fully formed only when it was complete. I think I have built maybe four large projects using a plan. Material lists and cut lists are formulated in my head as I stand in the aisle at the hardware store, repeatedly turning down offers of assistance, staring blankly at the lumber.

I am a fairly regular visitor on Pinterest, Houzz, and Instagram, and I do get some good ideas there, but really it is more about what we need and the materials I have on hand. I always keep scraps, especially of hard wood, and I wait until there is a need and then figure out if I have the materials to build it. A good example is the entertainment media cabinet for lack of a better term. I was sick and tired of the kids pulling out all of our DVDs trying to find the one they wanted to watch. Mind you, this was when they were younger, but it was extremely annoying and every day. I also wanted to keep the DVD player and other components away from sticky little fingers. Graham crackers don't really play well in the DVD slot. So I designed a media cabinet that included heavy duty drawer slides, a large capacity lazy susan, magnetic lock and drawer. I'll leave the details to another post, but you get the idea.

Sometimes there isn't a need, just an idea or a material I want to use. I generally leave it sitting in the garage until an idea pops into mind. I have this grey matter filing cabinet that keeps track of the materials in my head. I don't think it is a special skill or talent, just an open mind and a belief that anything can be made, designed, and built.

Where do you get your ideas?

 

The Birth of a Home Workshop

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I'm just a guy who likes to putter around in my garage, and try to build the ideas that pop into my head at unplanned, unforeseen moments. I guess the two questions most asked is where I learned how to build things and where I get my ideas. So I am going to devote my first two posts to attempt to answer those questions.

My grandpa was a carpenter and gardener by hobby and necessity. He grew up in a time and place where everyone was a farmer, even if they had a “city” job. He was the manager at the local hardware store and was often mistaken for the owner he was such a fixture at the store. His garden was a big corner lot on a fairly busy street and everyone in town could give directions by referencing his garden or his old barn in back. He grew up in the depression and never threw anything out that could be used in the future, He was recycling, repurposing, and upcycling before it was hip.

We lived next door when I was young and he was already retired from the hardware store. We loved to run through the corn and alfalfa fields, gather eggs from the chicken coop, or feed the horse. I loved to pick (translate eat) the raspberries. In the backyard he had a shop with a root cellar underneath which made a great haunted house by the way. During the winter months when nothing was growing, he could invariably be found in the shop building or fixing something. During the month of December, we kids were not allowed in the shop because he was working on wooden christmas toys. I remember grabbing apples from the root cellar and bringing them into the shop where we roasted them in the wood stove for a winter treat. Yum! At one point I took some scraps, nailed and glued them together, and colored them as Santa Claus. That Santa hung from the rafters in his shop until the day he died. I wish I had grabbed it or at least took a photo.

My dad had learned from Grandpa and when something broke in the house, you fixed it. You didn't go out and buy a new one or hire someone. My dad, grandpa, and uncle even built the house we lived in. Fixing things and working with tools was a part of everyday life, so naturally, when I hit jr. high, I signed up for wood shop. We made the tic-tac-toe board, broom holder, key ring holder, and jewelry box one would expect and I was hooked! I got special permission and built a toy chest for my baby brother during lunchtime, and asked for tools for Christmas. I still have the drill and portable workbench from that Christmas.

Wood shop continued through high school and I had an extraordinary shop teacher who devoted all of his time to the shop. His mantra was that you could build anything you wanted as long as you finished it and entered it into the county fair. And he literally meant it. We had a full size stage coach, grand piano, full wall entertainment centers, roll-top desks, a british style phone booth, and my senior project, a violin. I originally submitted plans to build an electric violin from exotic hardwoods. There were colleges and apprenticeships to learn to build an acoustic, so I figured an electric violin would be the most I could do. No, no no! “Why aren't you building an acoustic? he asked, and asked seriously! He ended up driving me an hour away after school one day so I could go talk to a violin maker and get tips and tricks to help me, all on his own time and own dime. During the last month of the year, the shop was open 24/7 so procrastinating high schoolers would have no excuse to not finish their projects. I spent more than one night picking up the papers for the family paper route on the way home from the shop, then turning around and going back to school after delivering papers and taking a shower.

Finally, in college I worked as a student carpenter. We were responsible to take care of repair tickets submitted from all of the non-academic buildings on campus and when something wasn't repairable, we built a new one. The greatest part was that all scraps were saved and could be used for personal projects. If a project required 2/3 a sheet of plywood, the ordering department paid for an entire sheet, and the rest was extra. We could clock out and stay in the shop to work on our own stuff. For a poor college student, it was the ultimate goldmine! I built the kitchen table we still use 15 years later, a gliding rocker, curio cabinet, and more.

That was quite the introduction! Over the years I have purchased tools as I have needed them, although I still don't have everything a full shop would have. I was spoiled working in a university shop and a premier high school shop. I make due and plan around what I have even if projects take twice as long. That's life. There are limits to what I can do given my tools and time constraints. I still gotta work for a living after all! But if you have a need and can think of a way to solve it, go for it! But that's a discussion for the next post.