Scrap Wood Drill Rack

13 09 2015

I recently undertook one of the more simpler projects I’ve done.  But simple in concept doesn’t mean simple in helpfulness.  The workbench in my garage doesn’t have a nearby power outlet, so charging up power tools didn’t work in the area where it made the most sense to store them.  So what is a guy to do?

I saw a similar idea in a handyman magazine and it seemed simple enough.  The concept is a place to hang the drill and my variation from other concepts includes a place to set the battery charger.  It also includes room if I felt like adding other attachments, like perhaps a hook to hang drill bits, or something else that I need to keep handy.

Having completed a number of projects in my day, I have plenty of scrap wood lying around.  I actually didn’t have to cut anything to assemble this.  I had 2 2x4s that were the exact same lenth (about 6 inches or so).  I also had various lengths of 1x4s from a recent project.  After drilling in a few screws, I had a very simple, very ingenious, and very handy place to hang my drill and store the charger.

Made from scrap wood I had lying around.

Made from scrap wood I had lying around.

In a little bonus project, I also mounted a cut PVC pipe to store my electric screw driver.  Just a little ingenuity for a Summer morning.


Toy Box

4 09 2015

I’m back!  After nearly 3 years since my last post, I finally found some time around changing diapers, putting kids to bed, sleeping (or not sleeping), and living life to get around to posting about a project I completed.  It’s not that I haven’t done anything since late 2012, but my wife and I had a son shortly after my last post (something about a toilet), and a daughter a couple years later.  So here I am.  After some heavy duty landscaping, hanging blinds,  finishing a basement, building a bar, and installing a toilet, what is my first long awaited post as a dad?

Building a toy box!

I don’t know where I got the inspiration for this.  We needed to do something about the sorry cloth Mickey Mouse toy bin that has seen the blunt treatment of a 2 year old for far too long.  We decided that we either needed to buy a new, more sturdy toy box, or I could try and save a bit of money by building it myself.  I’ve never built anything that requires such precision, craftsmanship, and imagination before, and I had no idea where to even begin.  So of course, what the heck, right?

My basic design was a box (real creative, I know).  After an initial trial that failed miserably, I landed on a plan that I conjured up all in my head (with maybe some picture concepts to spark the imagination).  I would make it very simple.  I would build a rectangular frame out of 1x4s and then create the sides with 1x4s positioned vertically.  Then I would fashion a lid similarly.

After finishing the box (including screwing in all the 1×4 side pieces) and dry fitting the lid pieces in place, I realized that the box itself wasn’t square.  The lid was supposed to line up along the back with about a 1/2 inch overhang along the sides and the front.  When I realized the problem (the lid was square, the box was not), I attempted to “remedy” the situation by just shaving off a little bit of an angle on the back of the lid, thus maintaining the illusion that the box was made by a professional.  So I lined everything up and drew a line along the back of the lid where I was going to cut off a small piece with my new jigsaw.  What resulted was 2 wasted lengths of 1x8s and somehow one of those sections ended up in 2 somewhat jagged pieces (it slipped, I swear).  Eventually I just went with the “big deal” option (you know, the “it’s not square? Big deal” option) and decided that if my kids want a professionally made toy box, they should have hired a professional.  It’ll be a lesson to them down the road: you get what you pay for.

Anyways, I stained it and applied a few coats of polyurethane, and attached a couple of hinges.  The last thing I need to do is find an appropriate support hinge to prevent the lid from slamming down on little fingers.  The ones I bought from Menards this morning didn’t work like I had hoped.

So goes my first official project (posted on the blog anyway) as a dad.  I hope someday my kids will have fond memories of this toy box and realize that sometimes what you don’t realize you can’t do is the secret to all of life’s success.  Either that or they just remember the toys.

PS. If you are interested in my plan, I can provide you with the dimensions and pieces that I used.

The Big Flush

30 11 2012

The exhilaration I felt after finally carpeting the basement and finishing some of the last odds and ends are finally coming to an end.  It’s been over 2 years since I started the basement, and I’m finally wrapping up the final projects that will make the basement officially “done”.  The last project on this list was finishing the bathroom.  Back in July we set a goal to have the bathroom finished by October so that I didn’t have to spend my time working on it while also adjusting to the adventure of fatherhood.

Long story short…

We are finished with the bathroom! (the birth of my son, Connor, on October 19 is the reason I have not gotten to writing anything until now.  Who would have thought that such a little guy would require so much time?)

Short story long…

The bathroom has a long, complicated history.  In July of 2011, I had to dig out the shower drain in order to align the drain with the shower tray.  Starting in about May of 2012, I started drywalling the interior walls and ceiling.  Preceding from there, I tiled the floors in July.  Then in August I finally got around to installing a shower stall that I had bought over a year earlier.  With the help of a carpenter friend, I was able to do the plumbing myself, which saved me well over $300 that it would have cost for a plumber.  Speeding forward, I finished mudding the walls (mudding is still no fun, but at least I had a lot less to do this time).  By the end of August we had paint on the wall and functional toilet.

Installing a toilet is yet another project that is a lot easier than I would have imagined.  The drain pipe was already in place, and the water pipes were installed.  I put the stop valves in place and the last thing that I needed to do was actually install the toilet.  After much deliberation and a lot of research, I one night decided just to go down and tackle the project head on.  There really was almost nothing to it.  The hardest part (which really isn’t that hard) is making sure you get the bowl lined up in such a way that it is square to the wall.  Other than that, I just had to put the wax ring in place, fix the bowl to the flange, and secure the tank in place.  After hooking up the water, I had a brief ceremonial moment before performing the inaugural flush, to much jubilation.  (As a side note, the toilet brand is called “the Diplomat”, which I’m not sure if that label refers to the toilet or the user, but that’s for a different discussion)  Happy flushing!

After that I installed a vanity, 2 mirrors (one was too small, so I had to remove it and install a bigger one, hence 2 mirrors), and a linen cabinet.  The vanity was white and so was the linen cabinet.  However, the linen cabinet was a slightly different shade of white.  Luckily the white paint I used for the trim and the doors was virtually an exact match to the vanity, so I painted the white linen cabinet white (or white-er, I guess) to match.

White vanity, white linen cabinet, white toilet, white trim

White vanity, white linen cabinet, white toilet, white trim

Adding a bit of color to our bathroom.

Adding a bit of color to our bathroom.

I finished everything up in the bathroom with just a couple weeks to spare until the due date our first child.  The bathroom project was in a way a triumph of everything I had done in the basement as a whole.  Not only did I put to use a lot of the skills I learned doing the whole basement (like drywall, mudding, tile, and trim), I acquired a few new skills as well (like plumbing).  On top of this, for the bathroom we actually sat down and mapped out everything that we needed to complete it before hand (including all the parts, labor needs, and resources), and I came up with an estimated budget to go along with it.  Unlike the rest of the basement where I never planned more than one step in advance, the bathroom had a very specific road map that I laid out for myself.  Thanks to this, I was able to keep impeccable records, and actually spent significantly less than what I even had planned on spending along with finishing almost to the day of the deadline I had set for myself several months earlier!  I now have a model with which all future projects can be managed.  Of course, I have no more major projects to undertake so it probably will never be used, but alas, I have a model!

Catching up

12 07 2012

As the summer heats up, a number of things start happening at my house.  The grass starts growing, then gets mowed, then grows some more, then the horrendous lack of rain turns it brown, then it gets watered, then it grows out of control but still brownish, then it rains finally, and the cycle continues.  As the temperature outside rises, the desire to be outside and have fun in the relatively short Wisconsin summers increases; but at the same time, the extreme heat prompts a rise in the desire to be in my wonderfully cool, sub-arctic feeling, cool glass of lemonade feel on a hot day climate controlled basement, where even with the air conditioning not running all that often it is probably a steady 68-70 degrees on even the hottest of days.  This certainly makes it easier to stay motivated when there are projects to complete; and even the Wisconsin summers can, at times, be too hot to handle.  It also tends to make my writing more infrequent.

With the basement basically finished and livable, Melissa and I assessed where we stood on the final areas in the basement that have not to be given the Matson Stamp o’ Completion.  The Bar area was still not finalized, and the bathroom was barely even started.  For those not in the know, we are expecting our first child in October, and since it might be a while until he can grow into his tool belt and handle a power tool, we decided that we needed to set some goals for where we want to be once this little handiless-in-waiting graces us with his presence.

We decided that the bar needs to be completely finished with the cabinet and countertop in place, the plumbing finished, and a little learning-experience adventure/mishap with the bartop epoxy corrected.  We also made a plan for the bathroom.  At the very least, by the time the little player to be named later joins our family, the bathroom must have a toilet.

Finishing The Bar

I had a little adventure with the bartop epoxy.  The solution is a mixture of a resin and a hardener.  The two are mixed together and then poured on the surface.  I must not have mixed them together the best, because after about 4 days, there were still some spots that were pretty tacky.  I read up on it and found out that if the epoxy is still tacky after that many days, I probably didn’t mix it good enough and it will never get any better than that.  Perfect.  Who needs coasters when your glass will simply adhere itself to the counter?  I’ll just make a bunch of glasses permanent fixtures on the bar and we’ll just get a bunch of straws!  I chiseled out the effected area and poured a new mixture.  This time, I went all MacGyver on it and fashioned a coat hanger into a fancy mixin’ device and stuck it in my drill.  This made mixing it much more efficient and I think much more thorough.  This final application not only came out much much much smoother, but it completely hid any and all of the chiseled areas that I thought for sure were going to be visible forever.

We also finished up the cabinet and counter.  With the help of a friend of mine, we got the cabinet in place, cut the counter top to length and depth, and installed the sink.  I have since assembled the drain which involved a lot of YouTube-ing and some advice from my friendly neighborhood TrueValue.  The last thing I need to do to put the stamp of approval on the bar is to install the faucet.

I also want to point out that I built the shelf above the microwave.

The ultimate sports bar, or at least it’s mine

The Bathroom

I had started drywalling the bathroom when we decided that I had about 3 months to get it into a working state.  The had been something along the lines of drywall, install shower, drywall rest of shower area, mud, paint, floor, finish rest plumbing (including toilet).  Since our object was altered to make the most important aspect getting a toilet working, I changed the plan to: stop drywall, get flooring in, do all the plumbing at once, (including installing the shower, install the toilet flange), then finish drywall, mud, paint, install toilet.  The reason the shower is important is because a) it actually makes up one of the bathroom walls, and b) I can’t finish the drywall until the shower is in, and I’d rather do all the taping, mudding, and painting at one time.

After learning how to install tile floor in the bar, the bathroom seemed quite easy.  It really only took me a couple of days.  I laid out all the tile that needed to be cut and had pretty exact measurements for it.  I used my dad’s wet saw tile cutter, and I even bought an angle grinder to cut a hole in the tile where the toilet flange will go.  About tile, on an effort to results ratio, it is about the easiest of all the projects I’ve done for the results.  In other words, other than the thought and planning that goes into making sure to maximize the full tile usage, limit the number of tiles needed to be cut, and making sure to cut tiles to the correct size–oh, and making sure the whole thing is square (details)–the actual process is extremely simple and difficult to mess up, even down to the slotted trowel that makes 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch rows of mortar so there is no guessing how deep or even to spread the mortar.  The next step is installing the shower, and the work continues.

Adventures in Epoxy

18 06 2012

Having finished up the hardwood flooring that was to make up the bartop, I applied a coat of polyurethane in preparation for the bartop epoxy that would create a crystal clear sealant/protectant and bring the top to life.  This was the last step before I embarked on a process that would essentially be irreversible, and quite possibly disastrous if done improperly.  The days leading up to my eventual embarkation were ones of slight anxiety and a little lack of sleep.

I had to figure out how much of this stuff I needed.  The product I went with was EnviroTex Lite, and I was able to find it at Menards.  The dimensions of the bartop are about 91 inches by 28 inches, or 17.5 square feet.  According to the product website, this would require about 2.25 gallons of the epoxy (you can look up the product at Menards; it’s not exactly cheap) to be poured onto the hardwood flooring that was trimmed in with a 3/16 in bordering lip.  Piece of cake, right?

I had Melissa help me.  The plan was to mix two of the one gallon kits in separate 5 quart ice cream buckets, and then pour them on.  I did my best to tape up any area underneath the trim that I thought could potentially be a place of leakage.  So Melissa and I poured the resin and hardener into our ice cream buckets, stirred for two minutes, and then poured the mixture as evenly as we could onto the surface (I then quickly mixed up the additional quart and poured it on as well).  It did it’s thing and found level, filling out all the way to the edge of the top without any human interaction.  Then the fun began.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cutter of the Sod

4 06 2012

It’s a never ending project owning a house. Where one task ends another begins. Where one leaves off another takes over. To me this is the excitement of home ownership; there is always something for me to do. The project this time was more landscaping.

We have done some landscaping each summer we’ve lived in the house. First was in front of the house, the second time around our egress windows, and this time we expanded those two areas. The south side of our house gets baked in the sun all day long, so the grass doesn’t grow the greatest there. And there was another area on the north side that we wanted to have plants instead of grass. All told, we had about 150 square feet of area to cover.

Last summer, we did some landscaping that required me to remove a lot of grass, and I did it with a shovel. Never doing that again. This time, I rented a sod cutter for the Krueger TrueValue for about $50. I towed this tool home, fired it up, and in about 30 minutes, I had cut out more sod than I did in about 6 hours the previous summer. For jobs of almost any size, I would highly recommend this route as it saved a ton of time and really saved on my back.

With the sod cut, I was able to just roll it up or in some places just pick up the chunks of sod and all them off. With my dad’s help, we cleaned up the area as best we could. When digging the holes for the plants, I unearthed a number of large rocks that were oh so fun to bring to the surface (more on that later). We cut the trench and laid the edging and laid out and staked down the fabric. After putting the mulch down, another project finished up with a nice touch.

Along the garage, we planted geraniums, a burning bush, some ornamental grasses, and a dogwood. Along the northside egress window, we planted some hostas as 3 endless summer hydrangeas. Along the garage, I washed off the rocks I had dug up from the ground and made a little “rock garden” formation bookending the grasses. Hey, they took me long enough to dig up, I might as well put them to work.

The garage area before

The garage area before

The garage area after

The garage area after

Egress window area before

Egress window area after

view of the two “rock gardens”

A Unique Counter

24 05 2012

I gave a sneak peak of what the bar top was going to look like a few weeks ago.  Instead of a boring old kitchen counter top, I went with a design of hardwood flooring.  Now that this phase is done, it looks really good.  It wasn’t without adventure, however.  I bought a bundle of unfinished hardwood flooring in a quantity of about 20 square feet, which should have been plenty considering the dimensions of about 7.5 feet by 2.75 feet.  All told, the area of the bartop is about 18 square feet.  I should have had plenty of flooring, right?  Well, not really.  Here’s why.

The design was a series of diagonal zigzags.  So every place the flooring met the edge of the bar resulted in a triangular piece of waste.  The implications of this didn’t make itself apparent until I started getting close finish.  At one point, when I had only 2 long pieces of unused wood left, I calculated that I had about 330 square inches left to fill in on the bar top.  I then calculated that I had only about 310 square inches of  uncut wood left.  I was able to use some of the triangular scraps to fill in places and do it in such a way that it looks natural.  Not it only did I end up with enough, but the result of this particular area looked much better than if I hadn’t used the scraps.

With that said, the next step is applying a couple coats of polyurethane on the sides and applying the bar top epoxy to seal in the hardwood floor top.  Until then, cheers!

What a look

The angles give the top quite the character

Workbench Redux

7 05 2012

Back in September of 2010, my dad showed off his carpentry prowess by building me a workbench in my garage. I noted this in a blog post titled Built Dad Tough. The skill is starting to rub off.

I took a somewhat spontaneous break from my bar to build a workbench in our utility room. It started for two reasons. One, I had a miter saw in my basement that I was borrowing from a friend for the bar, and I figured I’d at least cut the lumber I would need for the workbench. The other reason was that Melissa wanted to clean out and organize the utility room once and for all. That room has been an unmitigated disaster that has essentially resulted from dumping anything in there to get it out of the way as we built the basement. It was very dusty and very cluttered in that room. I knew I wanted a workbench in there, and the shelf shelf will be a help as well.

I took the overall design pretty much directly from my dad’s design. I built the two frames for the top and the shelf, and assembled them into the wall. The key, according to my dad, is having the top frame sit directly on top of the legs, as opposed to having the legs come up the side. This gives the bench the greatest strength; when doing something like pounding a nail or putting a load of weight on, the stress will be directly over a straight 2×4 which would be much stronger than a if the top was screwed to the legs from the side.

Now I just need to get a plywood sheet to rip and screw into place. That could be an adventure all it’s own.

The student has become…well, still not the teacher, but maybe a B student instead of a C student.

Bar Top Preparation

1 05 2012

Through the process of planning and dreaming up the bar, I found that the design is really only limited by your imagination.  So when it came to figuring out what to do for a counter top, I was pleased to find out that expense wise, there were lots of options to choose from.  I initially thought that regular old kitchen counter tops were going to be the easiest, and cheapest.  It turns out that while this might be a simple solution, the look can leave much to be desired.  When learning that something like using hardwood flooring was not really any more expensive than laminate counters, we decided to go that route.

You can see pictures from the previous post, but the bar has a dark finish to it.  So I figured I’d contrast the dark with a brighter stain for the top.  I bought unfinished oak hardwood flooring from Menards, and stained it with Minwax Natural wood finish.  We are going to assemble the “flooring” in a sort of zigzag fashion to give the top some character.

Once the top is assembled and in place, we’ll seal it up with an epoxy designed for table tops.  This will finish off the top with the equivalent of about 50 coats of polyurethane and will make a nearly indestructible finish.  The trim around the edge of the top will allow for the hard wood flooring and then a 3/16 inch layer of the epoxy.  (Here is a YouTube video of what this will entail).

The hardwood flooring that will become my bartop. Sanded, stained, and sitting in my garage.

Raising the Bar: Part 2

29 04 2012

With our basement officially finished, I continue on some of the other basement projects that help make the space that much more enjoyable.  Case in point…the bar!  We framed out the bar before putting in the carpet, and now that the carpet is in, it’s time to move on.

The bar is going to have stained oak plywood sides and an oak hardwood floor top.  With a help from Jon, a friend of mine who is doing most of the thinking on this project, we got the sides cut, stained, and in place.  An interesting point I learned that “shop rags” that they sell at Menards are nothing more than t-shirts cut into pieces.  So I took a bunch of t-shirts that I just happened to set aside just recently to go to Goodwill and made a small truckload of shop rags.  Which was good because staining requires a lot of rags.

So on to the bar.  Melissa and I had gone back and forth on color.  We had painted the walls a fairly neutral color, and we picked out a fairly neutral carpet color.  We initially were looking at stain colors that were somewhat neutral as well.  After thinking about it, I decided that eventually we needed to do something bold in the basement.  So we went with a pretty dark stain color called Dark Walnut.  I am very happy with how the color turned out, much more satisfied than if I did another fairly neutral color.

Also, while I came up with the overall concept of design as far as how big I wanted it, Melissa had an idea for sprucing up the sides.  She thought of framing the sides with a series of picture frames.  After putting it all up, it looks darn good.  I have some touch ups to do still, but all in all, it’s looking pretty good.

The next step will be the bar top.  The top is going be hardwood flooring, stained a more natural color to contrast the dark sides and trim.  Then, we’ll use a bar top epoxy to create a thick, glass-like film to completely seal the hardwood flooring and create a nearly impenetrable surface.  That’s my next process.


The top is trimmed with a lip to account for the hardwood flooring and a 3/16 inch layer of epoxy

You can see the picture frame trim that gives the face some character

We laid the tile behind the bar. There will eventually be a counter top over the fridge as well as a regular cabinet with a sink to the right. The shelves seen here will be stained the same as the rest of the bar.

With a little creativity, anything awesome can be made more awesome!

We’ve already had our first successful basement party, making use of the bar in a state slightly earlier than the pictures above.  And because I can, I watch Brewer games from my bar, just because I can!

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