Tag Archives: wood

Cords Cords, and More Cords

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Flat screen televisions are great. You can hang them on the wall, above the mantle, or use the stand to put them on a cabinet. They don’t take up too much room, but their picture quality is excellent. Plasma, LCD, or LED, each has their pros and cons. It used to be if you wanted a big screen tv you needed a large room because the bigger the screen, the bigger the tv. Rear projection tvs were big, but the picture quality was bad and it seemed like you constantly had to adjust them to get the best color mix and sharpness. Tube tvs are rarely seen anymore. Flat panel tvs are light, easy to move, and easy to adjust.

But they still require lots of cords. One day someone will come up with a working high quality way to transmit HD video wirelessly, but until then, we are stuck wiring up all components. If the owners of the house were forward thinking or you own the house, you can hide the wires inside the wall. Many new houses come with an outlet and cable jack high up on the wall where most people would put the tv. You can buy boxes to easily install and run cords through the walls behind the drywall.

But what do you do when you are renting or decide to hang a tv in an unusual place? You can’t or don’t want to run the cords through the wall. What can you do? You can use cable runners, which stick on the wall. They usually come in white and are paintable to match the wall color. If you can run them on top of some molding or chair rail, you may be able to camouflage the runner from a casual glance. But at the end of the day, it is still visible. Also, what are you going to do at the end of the run? The cords have to come out somewhere. Do you have a media cabinet or shelf to put them on? Is that hidden from view? If you have a good system, you may have everything running through a receiver and only one HDMI cable going to your tv. You still want to hide that cord. My receiver is old, so it doesn’t have a way to run HDMI.

What components do you have running to your tv: Apple TV, Xbox, Playstation, Fire TV, DVD player, Bluray player, cable box? I have some components onside an old antique radio under the tv and some on shelves hidden by a privacy screen. So I had a lot of cords running all over the place.

To solve the problem of the cord nest in a stylish and designer approved way, I turned to my stash of barn wood I still had from taking down the barn. I made a frame out of 1×2 boards to start. I took the barn wood, cleaned the boards with a power washer, and ripped them to the same width. I then nailed them to the frame at an angle. I took my circular saw and cut them to the frame, then cleaned the line with a flush cut bit on my router. I nailed some perpendicular pieces across the boards on the back to strengthen it up and cut out some channels in the frame where the cords drop from the tv and out the sides.

Using a level and a stud finder, I prepped the piece to hang on the wall. It took three people to hang, two to hold and one to run the cords. I pushed it up against the tv and screwed it to the wall. It created four screw holes in the wall, but that’s no different than hanging pictures on the wall and can be easily patched. Now I have I great decorative piece on the wall that also hides all of my cords. Mission accomplished. Check out the video below and try it out for your house.

 

 

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!

 

 

The Good Old-Fashioned Barn Razing

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I have mentioned in previous posts the use of barn wood from my grandpa's barn. There is some extra meaning in all of those projects because everytime I look at the finished product I remember days spent playing in the hay loft, mucking stalls, feeding the cows, stepping in manure, and playing in the corral. Unfortunately, I am out of that wood, but I still have lots of projects I want to complete using barn wood. How could I find more? The price of barn wood is super high when you try to buy it from reclaimed materials stores. Once in a blue moon something may pop up on Craigslist, but is gone almost immediately. Without knowing the land owner, it's almost impossible to get to a barn in time to harvest the wood before the whole thing is gone.

But recently my luck changed. A friend mentioned to my wife some small projects he built out of wood from an old barn on the property where he works that the owners are planning to tear down. It is no longer needed as a barn and the land is more valuable than the building. She immediately became interested, knowing I am always on the lookout. The discussion involved getting me to help build a stable for the church Christmas party live nativity, and know she knew they had a hook to get me to say yes.

And of course she was absolutely right. The time it will take to build a simple outline of a stable is well worth all of the free wood I can harvest! The company has already contracted someone to tear town the barn, so it was only a matter of weeks until my chance was gone. The contractor just had one other job to finish first. We set up a time with my friend and we met him at the barn to take a look. It was fantastic! There is wood of different dimensions, doors, and windows. So with a hammer and crowbar we set out to work. I took out a window that is still mostly intact and started in on some wall boards and doors. The giving was slow and the sun went down before we could really get all we wanted.

Every day was one day closer to the bulldozer, so I had to hurry back before it was too late. I decided the job needed to go faster, so I got a reciprocal saw for the return trip. Man, did that make a difference! Instead of trying to pull out multiple nails on multiple studs for each board, I ripped down one side inside the stud and then could just pry the board off the wall. I took down an entire wall, and then the walls of two pens. With another van load cut down, my garage now has a huge stack of barn wood ready to go.

I would talk about my plans for the wood, but that would ruin Christmas now wouldn't it? You will just have to wait and see with everyone else!

 

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.

 

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.