I have ton of short as well as ongoing projects in remodeling, woodworking, and other disciplines. Check out the posts in this section to see the results from start to finish, and learn how to do them for yourself.

A Mounting Board for a French Fry Cutter

Backer made out of poplar.

Backer made out of poplar.

Well this was a fun little afternoon project.  My mom asked me to mount her new french fry cutter to the side of her kitchen cabinets.  They had already picked up an 8′ x 8″ dimensioned popular board for the project, which unfortunately wasn’t wide enough for the task at hand.

The easy solution was to cross-cut the board into two 4′ lengths and glue them together.  After it was dry enough to work with I created the curve on the top and bottom by measuring 1″ in from the corners and clamping a thin piece of scrap to those points and bending it to the top center. I cut the curves on the band saw, routed an edge on the whole thing, and sanded it down with whatever grit dad had sitting around.

The only part I’m not pleased about is the burn marks from the router, particularly where it had to chew through end grain.  If anyone has a solution to avoid that I’m all ears!

Tortilla Press with Homemade Tortillas

Wooden Tortilla Press

Tortilla Press with Homemade Tortillas

I used 2 x 4 scraps and some oak for the handle. The only thing I had to buy were the hinges. Total cost: $3.57

Today’s Edition of Brian Makes Crap out of Slightly Lesser Crap: A tortilla press made out of 2 x 4 scrap!t

I adapted instructions from another person’s video so I won’t bother to rewrite them here. If you want to make one, just check out his video and follow along.  All you really need to make one of these is some thick lumber and a table saw.  However I used my planer (to square up the 2×4 prior to glue-up), a router with a roundover bit to smooth the corners, a sander with 80, 120, 220, and 300 grit paper, and a band saw to curve the handle. The additional power tools certainly aren’t necessary, but they make the finished product a little nicer.

I made mine out of 2×4 scrap that I planed down to 1 1/4″ thickness and edge-glued the pieces together into 12″ wide squares.

I made the handle out of oak for extra strength, but that was made from scrap.  The only part of the project that cost me any money were the hinges, for a total cost of $3.57.

You can check out Steve Ramsey’s tortilla press video here.  Thanks for the inspiration!

A corner shelf I made out of an old door.

Turning an Old Door Into a Corner Shelf

We’ve all seen a door turned into a shelf on Pinterest, DIY Network, an the living rooms of folks who like decorate in the country theme.  I am not one such person.  In fact my decorating philosophy involves heaps of unwashed clothing, dog hair tumbleweeds rolling across vast expanses of floorspace, and horror movie posters.  Yet I have several of the original doors from my 1865 home and absolutely no desire to use them as, you know, doors.

This is an incredibly simple project (even easier if you just buy mine).  Basically you cut the door roughly in half, screw the two sides together, and attach some triangular shelves.  There’s a little more to it than that, but not much.

Measure the Door

This drawing shows the cut line.

This drawing shows the width, height, thickness and the line where the door should be cut.

You could just cut the door in half, but then you’d be an idiot. When you reattach the two sides at a 90 degree angle one side will be longer than the other.  So it’s important to measure and write down the dimensions of your door ahead of time and plan this cut accordingly.  To the side is a rough sketch of my door’s dimensions:

Width: 31 3/4″
Height: 81″
Thickness: 1 13/32

A tape measure will work fine for this job, though I used a micrometer to determine the thickness of my door with a little more accuracy.

Cut the Door

The door after being cut with the tracksaw

The door after being cut with the tracksaw

You can use this simple formula to figure out where to cut your door:

2x + t = w

(Where t is the thickness of your door and w is the width. Solve for x.)

With a door width of 31 3/4″ and a thickness of 1 13/32″, I found that x equals (more or less) 15 3/16″.  Mark your door down the length accordingly.  For a job like this there are two saws you can use: a circular saw with a straight edge clamped to the work piece, or a track saw.  I sprung for a DeWalt Tracksaw two years ago and now I wouldn’t want to live with out it. Whichever tool you use, make sure the door is well-supported on both sides of the cut line, and line up the blade such that the kerf is centered on the line.  This way the waste will be equalized on either side of the cutline.

(Though you might be tempted, I strongly suggest you don’t use a tablesaw.  Most people don’t have a tablesaw capable of safely cutting something as big and irregular as a door.)

You should be left with two sides that, when fastened together, will have equal visible surfaces.

Fastening the Two Sides

The two sides clamped together.

The two sides clamped together.

I decided to fasten the two sides together with 2″ screws, counter-sunk and hidden with plugs.  I measured from the edge of the door 23/32″ (half the door’s thickness) and marked the door 2″ from either end and at 12″ increments in between. Next I used a 3/8″ Forstner Bit to drill about a 1/4″ hole that I could countersink the screws into, then used a regular twist bit to drill the rest of the way through the door.

In order to fasten the two sides together I found that it was much easier to stand the two sides vertically and clamp them together.  This way you can make fine adjustments to the fit with your hand or a rubber mallet.  Make sure you put something between the clamps and the wood to avoid marring the surface, and make sure you have the two sides positioned in such a way that the two visible inside surfaces are the same width.

Once the two sides are clamped securely together, run your screws through. Once all of the screws are installed you can remove the clamps and continue to work on it horizontally.

Note: After completing this project, I would change the way I fastened the two sides.  Instead of drilling holes in the visible parts and screwing the two sides together, I think I’d use a Doweling Jig or (if I were rich) a Festool Domino to connect the two sides. The drill-and-plug method works fine, but it’s imperfect and adds quite a bit of touch-up work to the finish process.

Cleanup

I used a scraper to remove loose paint and used a large chip to purchase a match at a local decorating store.

I used a scraper to remove loose paint and used a large chip to purchase a match at a local decorating store.

At this point you’ll want to clean up the holes you just drilled and start thinking about the finish.  I dapped a bit of wood glue into the holes, then inserted a 3/8″ dowel rod into them and cut it off with my dozuki (any saw which you can trim the dowels flush with is fine).

Think about what you want your finished door to look like.  Is the paint chipped?  What type of paint is it?  The original finish on my door was lead-based paint and was flaking off at spots, so I used a paint scraper to remove any lose flakes.  I took a larger piece down to The Decorating Center and they helped me find a good match. I wanted my shelf to look rustic but I didn’t want to risk having lead paint flaking off of it in the future.  So I painted the dowel plugs and the edges of the door that I cut with the saw and left everything else as it was.  I’ll take care of the “loose paint” problem a little later.

Installing the Shelves

Cutting the shelves is pretty simple.  I had some plywood that was sitting against my shed for a while.  The surface was worn  and would match the door, but structurally it was still very strong.  I cut off about an inch of waste on either side so I wasn’t using the junk edges to build my shelves, I cut 90 triangles with sides equal to the inside width of the door (15 3/16″ x 15 3/16″ x 21 5/16″  ). I painted the shelves with the matching quart of paint I had purchased, and then I used my brad nailer to install the shelves at the top, bottom, and two equally spaced on the inside.

Note: This is another aspect of the design I would change if I had it to do over again.  I’d use my pocket hole jig to install them.  Not only would it be a more secure fit, but it would also be reversible of the shelf position needed changed in the future.

Finish Work

After installing the shelves it was time to tackle the flaking paint problem.  I had a gallon of lacquer and applied several coats to the entire shelf.  The shelf has interesting, glossy sheen to it now and I suppose it depends on your taste as to whether or not that’s desirable.  But the original coat of paint is now securely protected under multiple clear coats and won’t flake off.

That pretty much covers it! I’m really pleased with the way this project turned out and plan on selling it to someone who can appreciate the style a little more than myself. If you have any suggestions on how I can improve this process, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The finished trailer from the back

The Frankenwagon

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

About a month ago my uncle had the nerve to ask for his trailer back that I had been using for the last six months.  This act of audacity left me with no way to transport anything more substantial than groceries.  Fortunately for me that very same day my roommate’s coworker mentioned he had one he was looking to get off his property. (Or was it my brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate?)

I went over to look at it.  The deck was OSB and completely destroyed by water, but the tongue and axle were in pretty good shape.  I towed it home and got to work on the Frankenwagon.

Cleaning up the Metal Parts

The tongue and axle were in decent shape but had a little bit of rust and some spots that needed welded.  I put a wire wheel on my angle grinder and in about an hour I was down to shiny, clean metal. Since I don’t have any experience with welding I took it to work, and a coworker fixed a few joints that needed some care. (Obligatory shout-out to SUN Tech, where kids and grown-ups alike can learn to weld like a boss).

Word of Caution: it was hot out and I was using the grinder without a shirt on.  I ended up getting a wire embedded in my skin just below my nipple, and one in my knee.  They were pretty long, and as I pulled them out of my skin I felt like some sort of magician!

Finally I drilled out holes to accept the bolts I planned to used to attach the deck, and painted the entire thing John Deere Green.

Assembling the Deck

Before I actually started, I tried looking for information online about specifications and requirements for building a trailer, but came up empty.  At this point I realized I risk building something that won’t pass inspection, but I decided I’m willing to try.

Using stainless steel carriage bolts I attached pressure treated 2×4’s to the axle and used decking screws to attach the 2 x 8’s I decided to use for decking.  I planed for the deck to be big enough to hold 4×8 sheet stock when it’s finished.  I screwed the decking down at full size and trimmed it all to length with my Dewalt TrackSaw afterwards.

Building the Sides

I had a bunch of pieces of pressure treated 4 x 4’s leftover from a fence project, so I decided to use them to build sides.  I cut them to 18″ long, routed a 1″ groove in the center of them, and attached them to the deck at the corners and at even spacing along the sides. I screwed 2 x 4 rails across the top of these posts, but offset them so that the top of the slot is open.  This way if I ever need a closed trailer to transport mulch or stone, I can toss in some scrap plywood in a matter of minutes.

For a finishing touch I made some trim that I attached around the bottom of the deck.  I routed the top of the trim as well as both top edges of the railing.

Wiring

I picked up this lite kit and as soon as I opened the package realized it would need some adjustments. The lights ground themselves by being screwed into the metal parts of the trailer. Unfortunately my design didn’t really allow that. I bought longer screws, attached the lights to the trim, ran additional ground wires, and fastened them to the frame with self-tapping screws.

Conclusion

Yesterday I took the first flight of the Frankenwagon.  It’s not street legal yet, but I’ll do an update about the process of getting it there.  The trailer rides fine and the lights work great, and I’d say the total cost of the project was about $300.

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.

When Stupid Attacks: Brian Vs. the Drywall Lift

I now present a product endorsement cleverly disguised as a funny anecdote worthy of America’s Funniest Videos had the events been recorded. The following is a true story.  Names have not been changed to protect the stupid.

Pentagon Tool "Lazy Lifter" Professional 11Ft Drywall Lift Hois

Pentagon Tool "Lazy Lifter" Professional 11Ft Drywall Lift Hois

I bought this Drywall Lift on Amazon just before the holidays.  The product description claims the lift reaches up to 11 feet flat or 15 feet on slanted ceilings, a perfect height for my old house’s 10 foot ceilings.  At the time the lift was priced at $150 with free shipping, a price-point both cheaper than a similar lift from Harbor Freight and a more economical solution than a rental considering I remodel like old people hump: slow and sloppy.

The lift arrived a few days later. It assembled easily and I quickly got to work hanging the ceiling in my soon-to-be office. When I cranked the lift I found the height stuck around 8 feet and, rather than actually reading the manual, I cursed Amazon’s “false advertising” and decided to make the most of the situation.  I constructed some t-braces and lifted the first sheet the additional 2 feet to the ceiling with the first brace, then walked around to the other side with the second.

Before I positioned the second brace the first lost it’s balance and fell along with the 12′ sheet of drywall it held. Fortunately the sheet’s fall was broken by my face, but in my frustration I may have picked up my 2 x 4 brace and smashed it over the drywall lift…

… which stands as a testament to the lift’s sturdiness! Once my tantrum subsided and I sat down and looked at the lift, I realized the it has a clip that needs released in order for the telescoping pole to extend to it’s maximum height. I placed a sheet that wasn’t mangled by my face on the lift and turned the wheel.  Now we’re cooking with freaking gas, people.

The drywall lift is (Pentagon Tool “Lazy Lifter” Professional 11Ft Drywall Lift Hoist) turned out to be an excellent purchase.  Assembly couldn’t be simpler, the lift itself seems quite sturdy and well-balanced, and the only problem I ran into was due to my own rush to use the tool rather than understand it. I highly recommend this lift for anyone doing more than a few sheets of overhead drywall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull a Shelf Out of an old Pallet

I’ve had this pallet sitting in my driveway for months, ever since the hardware store gave it to me a few months back when I came home with a metric crap-ton of Quickcrete in the back of my Civic.  It hasn’t served a purpose in months other than providing a certain pauvre blanc appeal that I try very hard to maintain (unfortunately I can’t afford cinder block yard art…. yet).

So today I decided to do something with the pallet. Just burn it you say?  If only the township would let me.  Fortunately I have far more elaborate and time consuming plans for this thing.

May I present to you, my Shallet… or Pelf… I’m really not sure what to call it. Anyway, it’s made from a pallet and it holds shit.

The good news is I’m very good at buying power tools. My DEWALT DW744X Table Saw was the workhorse of this project, outfitted with a dado set for cutting the grooves for the shelves. I used my DEWALT Finish Nailer to tack everything into place once I had it glued and clamped.

The bad news is, this is my first time building anything that required any sort of precision. Plus the fact that the parts I reclaimed from the pallet were irregular and warped to begin with, well… this shelf will never be accused of being perfect. But according to the country home magazines my mother reads, people apparently pay good money for stuff the looks old and folksy.  I might have a new career on my hands, people.

Anyway, enjoy! Apparently there are other people who have done equally creative and far more attractive things with their old pallets. Check those out too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.