Here's the brush I started with. It's hard as a rock.

Cheapskate’s Guide to Reviving a Dead Paintbrush

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Good paintbrushes ain’t cheap, which is why you should wash them right when you’re finished using them.  But every once in a while laziness makes fools of us all, and we find ourselves with a good brush gone bad. This is the process that I use to bring a brush back from the dead.

1. Soak a Stiff Brush in Boiling Vinegar

If your brush is encased in dried paint or stain, never fear! You can use good old-fashioned white vinegar to loosen it up. You’ll probably be doing this in your kitchen, so make sure you have a fan in a window of otherwise ventilate your space as well as you can.

It’s probably best if you find an old pot or pan that you don’t plan on cooking in again since you’ll be removing some pretty nasty chemicals form your brushes.  Fill the pain with an inch or so of white vinegar and bring it to a boil.  Let the brush soak until it begins to loosen up, then begin to swish it until the dried material loosens up.  Eventually the bulk of gunk on your brush will flake off. Once the bristles of your brush bend freely in the pan, you’re done with this step.

2. Scrub with Wire Brush or Painter’s Comb

Now that your bristles are soft enough, begin scrubbing the brushes with a wire brush or painter’s comb parallel to the bristles. When there’s no chunky residue left, you’re finished with this step.

3. Soak in Brush Cleaner

Make sure you use some common sense and wear goggles and gloves when handling these cheminals. Put enough brush cleaner in a mason jar or metal bucket to submerge the bristles but not the metal band. Let it soak for a few minutes, then gently begin swishing the bristles so the liquid can soak in between them.  Eventually the bristles will regain the flexibility they had when the brush was new.

4. Comb the Brush

In a sink under warm water, use a painter’s comb to remove any remaining material from the bristles.  Make sure to get deep into the center of the brush.  The bristles will eventually regain their flexibility and original color.  Make sure to take your time on this step so that you remaining crud dries in your clean brush and ruins your next finish.

5. Spin Out the Water

Companies make tools to do this, but I find that if I keep on the gloves from the last steps and rub my palms together with the handle of the brush between them, I can spin it fast enough to shake the bulk of the water out.

6. Wrap Brush and Let it Dry

Finally, wrap the brush with a sheet of printer paper or newspaper and tape it shut. As the bristles dry they’ll dry straight.


Fixing the Roomie’s Bed Frame

Completed side rail

Completed side rail

(First off: I apologize for not getting pictures of the process.)

A week or so back one of my roommates texted me in the middle of the night apologizing for the noise I may or may not have heard above my bedroom.  I can only assume this is what was happening when his bed broke, but regardless of what nefarious things were going on above me I offered to repair the damage.

The Damage

If I had been motivated enough to take a “before” picture you’d see that a side rail split completely down the middle.  From the yellowish red color and grain of the lumber I’m pretty certain his bed was made from douglas fir.  I had some on hand (it was the same stuff my old floors were made from), but I concluded that none of the material I had on-hand would stand up to the rigors of modern bachelor life.

The Repair

I decided to make the new rail out of oak.  I knew  it was never going to be a perfect match, but hey–if the finish was going to get splashed with booze and seminal fluid on a regular basis anyway, why worry about a perfectly matched finish?

The rail is a little over 8″ wide with curved lifts at either end and an additional strip at the bottom notched for slats that run perpendicular and hold up the box springs.  I cut everything to size and glued and screwed the bottom strip.

The rail had a groove cut in the end grain to accept the metal hardware.  I’m not sure how the original was accomplished, but I did this cut as a bridle joint on my band saw and then cut and glued filler strips to close the ends back up at the top and bottom.

In order to create the curves on top of the side rail I traced the original on a piece of 1/4″ plywood and made a template.  I rough-cut the new pieces on the band saw and then completed the curve with a flush trim router bit.  I edge glued and clamped the curves to the main piece and left it cure.

Once the glue was dry I scraped both sides clean, then used a roman ogee bit to put a decorative edge on the new piece. It wasn’t an exact match for the curve on the old piece, but I didn’t feel like buying a new bit to match a piece that wasn’t going to match the original anyway.

I fail on matching the finish.  I was told the original finish was Old English which translated in my brain to Early Colonial which I had on hand.  Nope. Totally different. Sue me.

The metal hardware was pinned to the rail with metal dowel rod and unfortunately a few were missing, I bought a new piece of 1/4 metal dowel and made a jig to make it simple to cut off pins of a uniform 3/4″ length.  I softened the edge of the pins on my grinder and put everything together.

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking, Book 1: Joinery

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Joinery

I’ll admit it: I haven’t even finished the first book in the Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking
series yet. And I suppose halfway through a book is the wrong time to be writing reviews and making recommendations. But hell with conventions.

After 55 pages I feel like this is the manual that should have come with my wood shop. Danish craftsman, teacher, and author Tage Frid introduces us to the properties of wood as a building material and how it reacts to tooling, drying and other stresses.  He introduces us to basic hand tools including a variety of saws, hand planes, and measuring tools and explains in extremely simple terms when each is appropriate to use.  Ever the pragmatist, Frid covers essential power tools as well.

What I like about Tage Frid is that he approached woodworking from the position of a master craftsman who wasn’t threatened by modern technology. He focused on the finished product and saw no benefit in selling a “hand-crafted” piece of inferior quality instead of a high-quality piece made with power tools.

Even still, taking the journey through the first 50 pages of this book is incredibly humbling. Frid teaches us not only how to use hand tools to rip, crosscut, joint and plane stock but how to do it safely, and how to care for those tools as well.  Then he brings us full-circle back to performing the same operations on motor-driven equipment.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Tage Frid is Roy Underhill had Roy been molded by apprenticeship and the realities of industry rather than the luxury of intellectualism and idealism he enjoyed in a university atmosphere and a career driven by television.  Underhill continues to teach the woodworking craft as it existed before the invention of electricity. He’s still a hero of mine and I think the history and skills he passes down are important. Roy’s knowledge and philosophy will always have a place with those among us who crave a hobby that lets us feel closer to the natural world and more like the creatures that nature crafted us to be.

But every once in a while, someone just need a thing built and–as Frid says–“he can make it with his teeth or a machine, it is still the final product that counts.”

Stay tuned for part two when I actually finish the book!

Cold Steel Two-Handed Machete

Cold Steel Two Handed Machete

I inherited my Cold Steel Two Handed Machete years ago from a friend who spent his youth collecting knives, swords, and other things that were sharp and bothered his parents.  Since that day 10 years ago it’s gone from my favorite “zombie apocalypse” novelty to my favorite outdoor tool.

The Cold Steel Two Handed Machete is incredibly useful, rugged, and fun, and it manages to be all of those things in spite of it’s low price tag.  I use my mine to cut brush, remove tree limbs two inches or more in thickness, trim shrubs, and pretty much any job that requires one thing to be cleaved from another. I’ve used my machete for plenty of jobs it’s not meant to do simply because I want an excuse to play with it.

The Cold Steel Two Handed Machete weighs in at 2.2 pounds and has a total length of 32″.  It feel incredibly lightweight and easy to control, and yet you won’t have a problem hacking through substantial brush with it.  The polypropylene handle isn’t that comfortable, but it’s incredibly durable.  The blade itself sharpens well and will serve you well for many, many years.