Monday, August 22, 2016

Miscellaneous Projects

I've been plugging away, making little things out in the shedshop, having a blast. Nothing really noteworthy, just... "stuff"

 This box I threw together from scraps... It's almost square! :)

 Here I'm starting a shelf-thingy designed to hold finishing stuff, spray paint, wax, stain, etc. Finally got to use my pocket hole jig after I built the accessory box for it.

 Here's the frame with the back, and then below, you can see it in place (hanging via french cleat) with a few items in it.

I'm _almost_ ready to tackle the dresser conversion/project thing. More on that later...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cleats and Tool Storage

Not that I have an enormous collection of power tools, but each one I have came in a hand plastic carry case. Those are great -- when you need to carry the tools around.

But now that I'm doing most of my work in the shed, those plastic boxes get in the way and take up valuable space.

So I decided to make a "french cleat" storage rack and some shelf/boxes to attach to it, and use that to store my tools. I've made all of this from scraps, which kind of explains how rough they look.

The idea is that I can just put the tool and maybe some of its basic accessories in a custom sized box hanging from the cleat and just put the plastic carry case somewhere else (in case I need it) or even toss it.

Here's the one I built for the small router. It's not exactly beautiful, but it was fun to make and it does serve its purpose. I cut a hole in the center of the bottom of the shelf/box so that the router can fit even if there's a bit inserted.

So far I've built three of these, one for the router, the jig saw, and the sander. I'm thinking about making one for the drills and charger next.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Adirondack (Pt 2)

Here it is waiting patiently for paint:

And then here it is "in situ"

I love the color. I wanted something really bright, but we _almost_ went with a forest green.

Glad yellower heads prevailed.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Scrap Pile Project: Kreg Jig Storage Base

I noticed that after I went through the garage, the rafters, and the storage shed, I've managed to build up quite a pile of scrap wood: cutoffs, mistakes, extras, etc.

I saw a really cool project here ( and decided to pretty much copy it as best I could with the leftovers I have.

Here it is while I was spraying it with some clear shellac. I had already put the hinge on when I decided it needed another coat.

The lid is a somewhat warped piece of cheap pine I've had for a while, but I think it will work fine.

Again, shamelessly copying the one I saw online. Turns out that once you put the jig itself up on the lid of the box, you don't really need much space inside the box for the accessories! :)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"Japanese" Toolbox from Make Magazine

A few years ago we received Make Magazine issue #34 in the mail and I really liked the toolbox build project it contained. This was back when Make wasn't _all_ electronics... :)

Anyway, I always meant to get around to trying to make it -- I love the sliding "locking" lid mechanism. I even went so far as to buy the wood I'd need. But after a year or two I forgot about it and the magazine got buried in the pile of subsequent Makes.

Recently, though, I went through the stack and found the issue and decided to try to make the toolbox. I pulled the wood down out of the rafters in the garage. Some of it was a bit warped, but it's just a toolbox for myself, and it won't bug me if things aren't perfect.

I used my slightly accurate table saw cross sled for many of the cuts. It works well! That said, I must have done something wrong when I put the riving knife back on because wood _always_ gets pinched between the blade and the fence when I'm not using the sled...

After I cut all the wood to length, it was time to make a real mess.

 The box is finished, time to make the lid...

It came out ok -- I'm certainly happy with it. I still need to sand it down and get rid of the rough edges/splintery bits, but the lid works, and I'm sure it will hold whatever I put in there.

Not sure if/how I'll finish it. Just sand it down? Maybe some oil/wax?

If I were to make it again, I'd use better wood and maybe some more interesting methods for fastening it together. I think making one slightly smaller (this one is 26 inches long by almost 9 tall) might be fun as well.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Scrap Wood

I found a use for some of the scrap wood I recently picked up for free: a small lumber rack/shelf.

This was a very easy one, and I'm sure I could have made it about 20 different ways, and several of those would likely be better, but here's what I ended up with:

It's not much to look at, but it'll do the job. Next, I'm hoping to make a toolbox...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Puttering Around...

I've been doing small things out in the shedshop recently, just kind of getting used to the space and the idea of it being there all the time. I organized my very small collection of clamps...

I made two jigs. First was a "door board" for cuts up to four feet long with the circular saw. Next on my list was a cross cut sled for my crappy table saw.

I realized that my table saw is just not very "true" and in fact, there is no way to get the blade to a true vertical 90 degrees. I used a digital angle finder and the closest I could get the blade was 1 degree off of 90.

Anyway, the cross cut sled makes using the table saw safer and should result in slightly more accurate and repeatable cuts. Of course, it's me making this thing, so let's just say I don't have super high expectations... :)

First step is to cut some runners:

I stacked a few coins in the slots to raise the runners up high enough to glue them to the sled. Once I had that done, I was ready to add the front and back fences.

Or, I _would_ have been ready, but somehow the runners went from a PERFECT fit to a very sloppy fit after I glued them in place. I was very frustrated at this point because I had spent so much time being very careful to make such perfect cuts.

I ripped one of the runners off and replaced it with a store-bought aluminum track made just for this purpose. Once I attached that to the sled, the thing fit perfectly and I was back in business. I coated the back of the sled with paste wax to help it glide. I'm sure it won't last long, but I love the smell and feel of paste wax.

Finally, I installed the front fence and made a partial cut through the base of the sled. I used a square to get the rear fence, the important one!, as square to the blade as possible. I triple checked it as best I could, screwed it in place and then cut some test pieces. I did this thing where you cut a piece of wood 5 times, rotating the cut side to the fence after each cut. Then, you save the off cut from the 5th cut and measure both ends of it. Divide that distance by 4 and that's how much off of perfectly square your fence is. (It's called "the 5 cut method" and I did a terrible job of explaining it)

Anyway, despite all of my careful measuring, I'm still off by .0125 inches. Well, that's what I'm "guessing" as I don't have any digital calipers. Could be more than that, could be a 64th of an inch.

Still, I suppose it will be good enough for now, as I think the fence is straighter than the blade itself.  :)

Here it is hanging on the wall:

That redwood 2x4 screwed to the rear fence is there to remind me to NOT put my fingers there. I may have made the sled a bit too large, but only time will tell.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Reclaimed Wood Trellis

Part 2 of the adirondack chair will have to wait as I don't have the paint yet (but I've sanded and primed it already).

In the meantime, we did do a little mini-project over the weekend that I thought I'd share.

We built this trellis from scratch, using some old broken fence boards. I ran them through the table saw and managed to get a few long 1"x1" strips of redwood. The outer face was really worn and the wood itself was splitting from age and sun damage/neglect. We had salvaged a few of them when we had to replace some of the fence earlier. I used a few of the boards as bottom shelves in the raised bench/boxes (in the background of this picture).

Anyway, it felt really good to find a way to salvage some more of the wood rather than just let it rot away. The whole thing took less than 30 minutes, and that includes digging out the board and setting up the saw, then cutting some to length and then attaching them to the fence. Hopefully that star jasmine will take off,. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Adirondack (Pt 1)

I tried making an adirondack chair about a year ago. It was a dismal failure, but I vowed I'd try again.

I found some plans for a much sturdier chair online and set about making it in the new shedshop.

This one is made from basic 2x4s and 1x4s and doesn't require special tools or anything. Here it is, sans armrests:

It is very sturdy and taking my time with the cuts has really paid off. I decided to use the router on some of the rough edges.

Next up: prime and paint...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Making... Miter Saw Station

It's been a few weeks since we installed the shed, and I've been busy!

First things first, I wanted a miter saw station. I've noticed that my better work comes when I can really see the cuts I'm making and lately I've been making most of my cuts on the ground. That's been leading to sloppy measurements/cuts.

So I looked at a lot of pictures of miter saw stations, benches, etc. And I watched quite a few videos. One idea is to make a small rolling cabinet with "wings" that fold up on the right and left sides to support the work piece. Mount the saw on top of that and you can roll it out of the way when you're not using it.

And I very nearly went with something like that. But in the end, I decided to make an 8 foot bench with a spot for the saw and lots of storage underneath. The bonus is that I can use it as a regular old bench too.

Here's what it looks like:

It's on wheels so I can move it around.

I'm very happy with how it came out, considering that I designed it to fit in the space I have and to use standard materials. It's difficult for me to haul around full sheets of plywood so I just bought quarter sheets and designed the structure around that. I put a 1/4" sheet of melamine on top since I had it sitting in the garage for 5 years.

One issue is that while the shelf for the saw can be moved up/down if necessary, it can't be widened without taking apart most of the right side of the bench. So, if I ever do need to get another saw, I may run into issues.

I'm happy to say that I've used it quite a bit so far and it's worked just fine.

Next time? First project!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Aaaand here we go:

I've already started moving in... I need to build some kind of combination bench/mitre saw/router table combination next. Can't wait!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Progress Around the Yard

No pictures this time, but this turned out to be quite a productive weekend.

After much discussion, we're leaning toward a 10x10 shed, rather than the 10x12. Why? Well, because the existing cement pad is 10 feed wide. If we go over that width, I have to move twice as much of the existing irrigation/sprinkler system. Keeping it to 10x10 means that I'm done with the lawn removal AND the irrigation changes. In other words, all I need to do now is put in the (much smaller) gravel pad and we're all set.

That means I'll go order the shed this week, if everything works out.

We also planted a ton of stuff. We had a large supply of expired partial packets of seeds, so we threw in lots and lots of seeds, hoping at least some would sprout. In addition, we bought a couple small plants (mostly peppers/etc.) and planted them as well.

We pulled about 25 pounds (no, really!) of weeds and now the front yard looks somewhat respectable again.

We have a "major" issue with the pavers on the side of our house, and fixing that will take a full weekend. We'll need to remove them all, then the sand below them. Then we'll need to fill in the voids below caused when the ground cracked due to the extreme drought. Then we'll put down some good landscape fabric (which should keep the weeds down and hopefully keep the sand in place) before putting it all back in again.

Oh, and while the pavers are out, we'll remove the jungle of weeds that managed to sprout up in all the new spaces between the pavers. It's in the hottest part of the yard, so I've been coming up with some ways to beat the heat and hopefully get the rest of the family to help. It would take me way too long to do it by myself.

And... that's it! Ordering the shed this week if I can swing by the place. Can't wait!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Goodbye Old Compost Bins

Ok, moving right along to the next project! I moved the old compost to its new home and then dismantled what was left of the old bins. That area had become infested with tree roots and the scrap lumber I used to put it all together had finally begun to rot.

I had these two old plastic/rubber compost sleeves that we bought at Home Depot about 10 years ago. I tried to give them away on Freecycle, but folks weren't biting. Not sure what I'll do with them.

I've scraped out a bit more lawn since then. Unfortunately, we have a lot of rain on the way, so I may not get any of the irrigation moved for a while (I really dislike digging in the mud).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Also, Tree

Even though I was really beat near the end of the day after building the compost bins, I had one more chore to work on: the neighbor's tree.

The tree has long been a pain in our... gardening. Its roots found the compost bins and the raised garden and the tree itself blocks much of the morning sun.

I had trimmed as much of it as I could (safely) reach, but there was still a lot I couldn't get to. Plus the neighbors have a creeping vine that has climbed up into the tree and is wreaking havoc on the fence as well.

Then, after 4 years of serious drought, one of the larger branches shading our garden partially broke. It kind of cracked and sagged down until it was resting on the fence.

I spent a while out there with the loppers cutting off as much of the branch as I could. The area's better now, but there's still quite a bit of tree in the way.

The shed will go where we used to have our raised beds, so the shade won't be as much of an issue, as long as the roof fits under there and doesn't get damaged.

Monday, February 22, 2016

New Compost Bins

This weekend was an interesting study in motivation. Or, to be more specific, my motivation vs my laziness. 

I really do want this shed/shop, and I think it will be very good for me. But sometimes I get up in the morning and just don't feel like doing the stuff I should do. As a teenage/early 20's guy, I let this kind of thinking kind of run my life. Luckily I (mostly) grew out of it and became a (mostly) responsible adult.

But Saturday AM I just was not motivated to work in the yard. 

Alas, the old compost bins/area would be in the way of a new shed.

I rationalized my laziness by saying that it was still a bit muddy outside from Friday's drizzle. Also, I had a lot of other things to do and blah blah blah. I told my wife I wanted to move the compost next, and to do that I would need to build a new set of compost bins. Our old ones are 15 years old, and consist of some black plastic-y stuff hidden behind an ancient and decaying Home Depot picket fence. 

You can see how bad it is in the picture below.

So I had a plan to build the new bins. It was all just a matter of doing the work. Well, on Saturday, my laziness won! I did go outside to measure all of our old scrap lumber though. I used that as my "get something done" act of the day. Laziness...

But Saturday evening I felt terrible about wasting the day. I sketched up some plans for what the new bins would look like, then redrew them and reworked them until I only needed tp buy a few (3) boards and the wire. 

I got up in the morning, took a quick walk, and then drove off to the store for materials. Then I lugged out my saw and the rest of my standard "building rough structures in/for the yard" tools and got to work. 

I built three 3' x 3' frames and then held them all together with 4 6'3" stringers. I had some old redwood 2x4s so I used them for the parts that would be touching the ground. The rest were cheap 2x3s that cost <$2 each. The wire was $45... Ouch. At least we have some left over for use on other various chicken-related projects.

My hands are a mess today, lots of sore muscles and cuts/scrapes. Working with that wire is tough, even with gloves.

Next, we'll move the old/in progress compost to the new bins, much out the chicken run, and disassemble/scrap the old compost setup. 

After that, rerouting plumbing (see that water line standing up there in the middle of the picture?) and then building the gravel pad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Next Few Steps

As you can tell from this photo, I have a few things to take care of before we can get a shed in there.

I'll have to build a gravel pad in front of that (very) old cement. Then I'll have to move our compost piles, herb tower, and blueberry.

The compost pile is in a terrible spot, feeding the roots of the tree on the other side of the fence. I need to move to to someplace where tree roots won't get to it. Likely on top of a small, unused cement pad off to the left. The "herb tower" is silly, but it was fun to make and we can find a place to put it, likely up against the shed. 

The blueberry is in a large plastic planter at the moment, and it does just fine over there in that corner. Unfortunately, while it won't be in the way of the shed, it will be in its shadow. So we'll likely move it to the front of the shed once it's in place.

Digging out that section of lawn won't be too hard, but the lawn is actually higher than the concrete pad so I'll have to remove a lot of dirt if I want a gravel pad there.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Moving the Raised Beds

Step two in the plan to get a workshop/shed installed means moving the raised beds/bench/boxes to the other side of the yard.

The problem is, they're all filled with wet dirt. That, and lots of tree roots from the neighbor's tree and the recently removed pomegranate tree had found their way into the boxes from below.

But the move went okay. I took my time, did it over a Friday/Saturday/Sunday span, with a few hours each day so I didn't kill myself with all the shoveling.

Moving the boxes to the far end of the yard meant I could re-assemble some of the pieces I didn't like and while it's not as level as we'd like, it's actually in a good place in the yard. Eventually we'll replace most of that lawn with paths, boxes, benches, and maybe some dwarf citrus. I will not miss having to water and mow the lawn!

The next step in the process will be rerouting/capping/re-purposing the existing sprinkler lines/irrigation. That will mean lots of digging and "figuring" stuff out.

Then I'll dig out some room for a gravel pad and we're in business!

Looks like I should go order the shed soon!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Farewell, Pomegranate Tree

This was step 1.

It took quite a while to find someone willing to take a free 10 year old pomegranate tree, but we managed to get it done today. Now that corner of the yard is wide open, and spending the day out there digging in the mud really jumpstarted my itch for gardening this year.

The plan is to move the raised beds/raised boxes/benches over to the other side of the yard. We'll have to take most/all of the dirt out in order to move them, but that's fine, it'll give us a chance to get some compost mixed in/etc.

Then! Then I'll move/reroute/stub/etc. the sprinkler/irrigation lines, extend the cement pad with some gravel, level it all out, and get a shed!