Blog Chain Letter

Did you ever, as a child, get a chain letter? I remember receiving them from camp friends and they were always accompanied by appropriately crazy girly threats like, "if you don't send this on to seven friends you will die!" Well, guess what...I always broke the chain, because I was lazy and far preferred watching Brady Bunch reruns to writing chain letters.

But that was then. And this is now, so when I received a blog chain letter from Shannon that was making its way around, I bucked up and got busy. Shannon writes the always interesting (no fluff) blog 8FOOT6. I love her style and straight forward manner, and she also has the most amazing instagram feed (be prepared to be feel inspired and inadequate all at the same time) which often features incredible meals she churns out on the daily.   

From what I can tell (this chain letter thing is a little like the game telephone in that the original statement gets garbled along the way), the intent if the letter is for the receiving blogger to share a real-time home tour and answer four questions and then pass it on to someone else. Well, the tour ain't happening, because I'd rather be watching Brady Bunch (kidding, my house is a total mess) but I have compiled a series of photos that I do think illustrate what the gist is of my blog and home. OK here it goes.

Why do I write/create what I do?

Because it's fun! My blog helps me prioritize making stuff and doing projects. That's what I want to be doing anyway, so it's a great external excuse to let the laundry pile up because I have to "create content" for my blog. I also blog to be part of a community of like-minded people. I guess I'm a voyeur...I like to see what satisfying stuff other people are doing and I like to get feedback on the projects I'm working on.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?
So there are many, many of us who write DIY/ Design blogs. I'd like to think that the projects that I work on and blog about are unique, visually interesting, honest and full of relevant information. Perhaps my blog is a bit different because I have strong technical skills that I draw on heavily. On my blog you'll see homemade items, dumpster dives and wavy glass harvesting.

You'll also see not so pretty scenes that I hope inspire readers to take on repairs themselves.

How does your writing creative process work?
It is really quite simple. My objective is always to write a narrative of what I've been doing/working on. That, in turn, is based on a story that I've laid out with photos. I try to write as clearly as possible and give pertinent detail without droning on.

What am I working on now?

That's top secret! But let me put it this way, too many things at once! Stay tuned, projects involve: pigmented epoxy, spray paint and sidewalks, and gaffers tape.

I am passing this on to a great blog across the pond, Little House on the Corner written by Christine and Jan. They are super bold in the projects they tackle in their cool edwardian home outside Manchester, UK. We're talking demo-ed walls, stacks of bricks, ancient garage roof rebuild, floor rehabs, painting, stripping, etc!!! All great stuff.


Work Area Impovements

On the sly, I've been making our workspace in the garage a whole lot better over the past several weeks. It was a bit of a domino effect upgrade.

I added a second pegboard wall and installed an upper shelf and even did a little paneling to make it look good. You can see how I build the workbench here and here and the first pegboard install here.

It all started with this pile of scraps from my former picnic table (R.I.P.). I couldn't let this beautifully patinaed wood go to waste.

The wall above the concrete here was just plain ugly so that seemed like a perfect place for it. There is a shear wall behind the drywall here in the garage so I was able to nail into that as well as the studs to try to get these warped boards as flat as possible.

As you can see, I still haven't repaired the ceiling from the rat escapades. I left a small gap where the gypsum can slide in when we repair it. Repairing the ceiling has been on the list for a year now and really needs to be done, I'm just not sure I'm up for the job and need to figure out if I can get smaller cut sheets of the fire rated stuff at DBS, my favorite local place. Ideally I'd repair the ceiling and paint the whole thing but ooof, that's a big job. 

I made the shelf from the 1" ply off cut from the picnic table top. I rolled out both sides in leftover black high glass Rustoleum but left the edge unfinished. This piece of ply is pretty warped, I'm hoping it flattens over time.

I got these no nonsense steal brackets from my local Ace. I installed them upside-down to avoid having to drill into the concrete wall. Having the bracket cross the shelf was a worthwhile design compromise to avoid the much dreaded drilling into concrete. Obviously the wall screws had to go into the studs -they had to be super long to go through the paneling, drywall, shear wall and then to the stud.

I attached the shelf by drilling completely through the ply and using a bolt, nut and washer.

I'm using this shelf to store random hardware, of which I have jars and jars...

Next up was installing the pegboard. I had a piece cut down and bought some 1/4" shims to back it. (ICYDK, You've got to have clearance behind the board for the hardware to poke though). 

I've seen some people use double stick tape (that turbo 3M bonding stuff) to affix their pegboard and shims to the wall. That would be a whole lot easier in this case, but I am still a sceptic about the long-term hold of that stuff (I just don't have any experience with it). So I drilled. into concret. which is a. pain. in. the. ass.
When drilling into concrete or doing any major house DIY, adhere to the woodworkers mantra which is "use the right tools for the right job and things will go great". In this case, "great" is relative term because it's still loud and unpleasant. However, want to experience utter misery? Try drilling into concrete with a regular drill. (I know, I have, in a moment of complete, desperate, weakness).  The hammer drill is the only way to go and also only use a hammer drill bit for masonry so the thing doesn't snap on you. I know, I know, no one wants to lay out cash for these completely unsexy items, but it is so, so worth it. Also as a technical tip, always vacuum out the concrete dust prior to putting in screws, the dust really builds up in there.

I painted the pegboard the same matte black as the other.

My son Ethan installed this very cool fluorescent light fixture he made to the bottom of the shelf. I like to have my workspace lit like the sun. 

I'm storing all the woodworking tools on this side, whereas the other side holds all the bike tools.

 Looking good, right?


For the Love of Gaffers Tape

This project has been simmering for about 6 weeks now. I am still contemplating the colors and layout.
This is the little closet with the yellow door that is under the staircase on the main floor. I also plan to stripe the ceiling. Yes, I'm striping the whole thing, it's going to be crazy, which is ok because it's only a closet.

I'm using real gaffers tape. I found a good relatively cheap source on line. It's really nice to work with because it is cloth and you can rework it and move the strips around. It is not at all plastic-y like duct tape. I'm thinking I should add some red or kelly green and possibly nix the royal blue (it looks like painters tape).

Any thoughts?



Guess what? I actually won! My shed won Best Amateur Office space on Remodelista.
A huge, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. Some of you voted every day and for sure carried me across the finish line. I could scream, I'm so happy! I have always admired Remodelista so I feel extra lucky to have my work featured there.  You can see the whole story here

Cheers and thanks again :)


How to Build a Picnic Table: Part Two

Earlier this summer, I posted about this picnic table base that I built, but left a teaser about the concrete top. Well, here it is finally completed.
I chose to go with concrete because I wanted something that would look good and weather well. I considered zinc or copper, but this table is located in a very sunny location and I was worried about it being too reflective.

My main concern about concrete was the weight. I didn't want this table to be un-moveable and anyone who has ever hauled a bag of quikrete knows how heavy that shiz is.

To keep the weight down, I poured and troweled a thin layer of concrete on top of a 1" plywood base. This is 3/8" thick, which is the minimum thickness that the quikrete countertop mix calls for. This mother is still heavy -the top is 30x96", so it required one and a half 80 pound bags or 120 pounds in concrete alone. I chose not to use any reinforcement and I'll go into that in a minute. 

I used cedar 1 3/8" lath to create a boarder around the plywood top, which was already screwed to the table base. I was hoping that the pieces I used for holding in the concrete would survive the concrete pouring process and not need to be replaced with fresh pieces so I took extra care in their placement.

I also blue taped everything and tarped over the base. Good thing too, because the whole pouring and troweling thing is a messy, frantic process.

My personal experience with quikrete is that it requires a lot more water when mixing than the directions say. This was the case here and also when we poured a bunch of slabs as door stoops. We used one of those mixing whisks on the end of a drill and a shovel, and mixed one bag at a time. Oliver mixed the second bag while I was troweling. I didn't use any color pigment so mixing one at a time was ok.

I don't have a picture of the first part of our pour because it took both Oliver and I to tackle this. After lightly moistening the plywood with a spray bottle of water, dump a mound of concrete onto the surface. Wetting the plywood prevents it from sucking moisture out of the concrete. Lay a long board on top of the slab framework (in our case those slats) and draw it side to side while spreading the concrete. This levels the concrete and gives it a relatively even thickness.

After that, trowel like mad. It's ok to spray the top a little with water to help in troweling but don't use too much or the texture of the concrete will change. 

I was able to trowel for about an hour before this set up and I was working in the sun.

Unfortunately the blue tape didn't really work. The shuffling of the leveling board chewed it up so I ended up having to redo the cedar border.

Now back to that reinforcement issue....Yes the top cracked. I'm not entirely sure why this happened and whether some chicken wire embedded in there would have helped. Two things happened here. First, the plywood sheet warped. In the back of my head, I knew that I should have sealed the underside of the ply with paint to help with this. Any wood (even ply) will dry and move unevenly if one side is sealed and the other is unfinished. It just has to do with how it is absorbing and releasing moisture. So the plywood base warped away from the concrete and then (the second probable cause) Kit was using the table top as a diving board for the trampoline. 

Anyhoo, next came patching those cracks. I used Quikrete patch compound which worked great for filling the cracks but the color match wasn't great so I had a small problem. 

 It looked like I was going for a faux marble job. Yuck!

So I skim coated and lightly sanded the entire top twice to even out the color. I watered down the product pretty heavily to do this but the adhesion was still fine.

After about a week of drying time, I sealed with Cheng's water based sealer which is also food safe. 

I would have liked to not have had to seal the concrete at all (I've come to realize I don't really like overly shiny concrete) but I think staining would have been a big problem. The sealer I used is a satin finish so it's sealed but not too plastic-y.

This has been a hugely satisfying project. I just love this table. This table was built with only a chop saw and a drill press for major machinery. 

Up next are benches which I'm having a hard time deciding on the design. I think I'll build again in cedar but am still unclear on everything else design wise.

I hope this inspires someone to go out and build something!


Getting At Least One Thing Done

I have been working on a handful of projects around the house lately which are all in a state of half completion. This kind of drives me nuts, it makes me feel scattered.  The other morning I cranked out this little fix for a little instant satisfaction.
A while back, like at least 4 months ago, my neighbor gave me this passion flower vine and the lattice from her yard.  I transplanted it into a big pot on the roof and hacked it back to a nubbin eons ago.

This project was precipitated by the fact that the vine is taking off and starting to bloom.  Those little curly tendrils will grab anything and were starting to grab onto the jasmine next to it.

I trimmed down the two lattice pieces to fit the space and nailed them up. I had to hang the top one backward to get it to fit snuggly to the shingles but once the vine grows no one will be the wiser.

The very sad large pot in front is a project for another time.  It was/is full of succulents and was once very beautiful. Over time, the dirt has compacted so the plants sit way too low in the pot now and it has been invaded by oxalis, which is impossible to weed out between the tightly packed succulents. Curse you, oxalis! I'm going to have to take everything out and carefully remove all the weed roots and replant. 


Summertime is for Salads

Summer is the time to eat lots and lots of salads. A few years back, Mark Bittman wrote an excellent piece for the New York Times in which he profiled 101 simple summer salads. His list of salads encourages winging it on ingredients and it has some great combos of fruits and veggies that I'd have never thought of on my own. Have a look, you'll love it. Here are some of my standbys that we've had lately. Produce is at its peak right now, so I'm going to revisit that list myself!

 Tomato and watermelon with basil and red onion.

 Tomatoes with Stilton with grilled figs on the side.

 Corn salad with tomatoes, cilantro, red onion and lime.

Straight up tomatoes with basil and olive oil.

Caprese salad and oranges with red onion, basil and olive oil.

Got a good source for summer salads? Send it my way.