Monday, November 16, 2009

Sock Box

I have an old pine chest that is pretty beat up. My family has had it for probably 20 years. We originally used it as a coffee table/sock box. I've always liked it, so now that I've become Mr. Handyman around the house, I thought I would recreate the box in something a bit more durable than pine. As you can see, the handles on the sides are missing and the top has a crack in it along the length.

When my cousin Christie announced that she was getting married, I thought it would make the perfect gift. Unfortunately, it's taken me a lot longer to complete than I thought. She was married over a month ago and I'm still not done yet.

The inside dimensions of the box are 1' x 1' x 2' The trim pieces on the outside are from 1/2" pieces. I routed mine with a more elaborate profile than the one on the original. The corners are covered in copper.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Saved Over $200

I purchased a rekey kit from Change-A-Lock and it arrived in the mail today. I have 5 kwikset locks and one Masterlock, which meant 6 different keys on my keychain. After about 30 minutes of work and the $15 rekey kit, I was down to 2 keys, 1 Masterlock and 1 Kwikset.

I stopped in at a locksmith yesterday and asked about getting my locks rekeyed, $95 service call just to show up at the house, then $32 per lock for the rekey service. Ouch!

I Love My Driveway

We've been in our house about 12 years and I've never done anything to the driveway. The asphalt was starting to get wavey, creating a rut where our car tires go and cracks were forming. My father-in-law passed along a copy of "Family Handyman" magazine and they recommend sealing the driveway every 5 years, Woops! I spent a day powerwashing the driveway and then filling the cracks with a rubberized crack filling compound.

I bought a bunch of 5 gallon drums of 10 year driveway sealer, it was the best stuff they had and came with all sorts of good stuff like sand and urethane gel...If you're going to do this for your own driveway, definitely spend the $6 and buy a mixer from the paint section.
I didn't initially buy one and it was a real chore mixing the sealer. I bought one for the second coat and it made things so much easier. BTW, I drilled a hole in one of the lids, and pulled the mixer through it before connecting it to the drill, that way it wouldn't splatter everywhere.

I went for a 2 hour bike ride between coats and when I came back, it was ready for the second coat. Here's a before (you cant see it, but the driveway had lots of paint stains, dirt, and believe it or not toe nail polish.)

And an after

I know, it might be hard to tell from these two photos, but if you look at the before, I had grass growing in the crack at the bottom right hand corner of the picture. My plan was for two thin coats, but the first coat went on a little thick, mostly because it hadn't been done in so long that there were a lot of cracks and crevices that needed to be filled up (it also used almost an extra 5 gallons more than I expected too). Since the first coat had left a much smoother surface, I used a lot less sealer on the second coat. It looks so good right now, I find myself drawn to the window to look at it. Sad, I know.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beat The Drum And Hold The Phone, The Sun Came Out Today


My solar thermal domestic hot water system is up and running. One of the panels was damaged, so we couldn't install it on the roof late last year. The company I purchased the system from sent me a replacement part. They told me that I had to squish the sides together before installing the part. So, I built this clamp to hold the sides together.
I put the top 2x4 piece on after I finished the repair just in case.

The contractor started Monday morning and after a couple false starts, managed to get the panel up on the roof. The plumber then finished up.

After filling it up with distilled water, we had just enough sun to test the system and it worked well. Then I had to wait and wait and wait as we had rain Tuesday and Wednesday.

Finally, the sun came out today and we had solar heated water. The water from the street comes in around 60 degrees and after the sun came out the water topped out at about 130 degrees.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Table Saw

During construction, I borrowed my Brother-In-Law's table saw. It was so handy and versatile, I really hated to return it. This past week, as I was preparing to fix the solar thermal panel, I tried using my circular saw to cut a 2x4 in half. It couldn't get through the board. I had to finish up with a handsaw. So, I went out to Lowes, bought a new blade, then attempted to take the old blade off. It had been torqued way too tight and wouldn't budge. OUCH. It was an impossible task. I ended up buying some penetrating stuff that's supposed to loosen the bolt up. Who knows if it will work.

Meanwhile, I needed something to cut up a 2x4. So I bought a Skil Table Saw at Lowes (we have Lowes Gift cards from B'Days and Christmas)

Friday, February 6, 2009


I thought the stairs would be the hard part, but the railing turned out to be the hardest part. All the parts came from Lowes. I sanded and applied polyurethane to the wood parts. I tried the water based polyurethane, but I wasn't happy with the results, I'll be sticking to the oil based versions of Minwax next time.

The directions (see hyperlink above) are like a choose your own adventure. The problem is on top of bouncing back and forth, the nomenclature is confusing and difficult.

In my particular case, the original railing that goes the rest of the way up the stairs is NOT parallel to the kneewall (the part the lower railing is resting on). The only piece that didn't have to be cut with an angle was the first starting newel (post at ground level). That means that the bottom shoerail (piece that holds the bottom of the white posts) is at a different angle than the railing. Which means the newel posts at either end are different sizes and we had to be careful cutting the white posts to make sure they fit.

This literally took my father-in-law and myself all day for a 4 foot section of railing -containing 10 pieces of wood. I'm happy with the way it came out. The old railing was a hideous steel POS.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Housed Stringer

I've been sanding, staining, and varnishing the wood I bought from Lumber Liquidators for several weeks now.

Side Note: Lowes price on the steps was at or below Lumber Liquidators (LL) price, I didn't find the wood at Lowes until after I bought from LL. I had issues with LL. I thought I wrote about this previously but I couldn't find the post (must have been in my imagination). Here's the scoop. I went to LL and they were seriously understaffed. The guy who seemed like he was running things acted like he had been building wood floors for 50 years, but was most likely spouting off things he had learned at the LL employee training program. There was a couple asking about laminate and he made them sound like idiots for even considering it. He was of course pushing them to buy the more expensive hardwood (the real deal, not the hardwood laminate). In the end, this guy reminded me of the stereotype of a used car salesman. When I came back to pick up my wood, there were a bunch of salespeople and the actual store manager was correcting "used car salesman" guy in a "I'm tired of dealing with this guy" manner. Your Experience May Vary.

The sanding, staining, and varnishing paid off big time, the wood looks beautiful. My In-Laws showed up yesterday, as always my mother-in-law watched the kids and my father-in-law helped me build the new steps. First of all, I have to say, the amount of dirt that had worked through the carpet onto the stairs was disgusting. Every time I pulled up carpet, there was always a ton of dirt underneath the carpet and the stairs were no exception. Carpet is porous, so the dirt just filters down to the wood underneath. I know that's not a revelation, but the amount of dirt was startling.

As you can see, the stringers have been routed out so that the treads and risers just slide in to place. Wedges keep them aligned properly. This is known as a housed stringer-I bought a book about stairs and there was only one image in the whole book on housed stringers. These stairs were assembled at a factory somewhere and shipped to the site when the house was being built. Because they were assembled off site, We knew we were going to face some issues with the top step and riser as well as the bottom riser, we are expecting the old HVAC unit to be in the way at the top. But, as it turns out, the header holding up the stairs was in the way as you can see in this image next image.

We ended up routing out the channel enough to slide the step into place. We then screwed 2x4s into the stringer to hold up the step.

Unless you're a rockstar, you may never get the chance to take a chainsaw to your house.

The end result was beautiful:

I still have the top riser to put in place, the riser I had was too short by about an inch. The top riser will get glued and screwed to the old riser to hold it in place (the same thing we did to the bottom riser).