My pride, the never-failing vise of tools.

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When I first began tinkering with metal and wood I quickly found that I had a strong need for a bench vise. I also found that I had a strong need for more money in order to buy a bench vise large enough for my projects. As I researched prices and reviews of multiple large vises I found that they ranged between $200 and $3000 dollars and were well out of my price range. Fortunately I was dumb enough to avoid discourage with my lack of funds and felt that I could probably come up with something that would work for the time being. I ended up welding a flat piece of metal to a car jack to act as the moving jaw and then welded that to the flat side of a piece of channel iron. I then welded a thick piece of plate and braced it to the same piece of channel to act as the stationary jaw. I used an old trailer rim as the base of the vise and welded some angle iron for the upright support and braces. The final product (as seen in the pictures) could possibly be the ugliest, dumbest, and most useful thing that I have ever made. I used this contraption for years before I finally bought a bench vise and still opt to use it over a bench vise at times these days. Though ugly, I love this thing and I am extremely proud of how well it works and how it is still as functional today as it was ten years ago, hence the knocked-off Alexander Pope Title.

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P.s. For the left-brained readers Alexander Pope was a late 17th, early 18th century English poet. One of his famous quotes is “Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.” Thanks for reading, please like, comment, and follow!

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$20 Podium Build

 

I have never been excited about nor proficient in the art of sitting still.  My inability to master this skill as a student would at times lead to issues in the classroom, my inability to master this skill as a teacher would lead to the construction of the podium displayed in the photo.  My first year of teaching I was constantly running to my desk to reference a textbook or source during classes when I finally had enough of the back-and-fourth and walking around with open books in my hand.  I knew what had to be done so I went home, got on amazon, and quickly realized that I would be building my own podium instead of spending between $80 and $1000 dollars for one.  I had no experience, examples, or instruction on podium construction so I came up with a design that was simple to execute and made sense to me.  The podium pictured is the exact podium that I built my first year of teaching.  It was very effective in the classroom but now resides in my shop were I still use it daily (hence the dirt, dust, and chipped paint).  Listed below are the materials needed and their approximate cost (not including paint and fasteners) as well as some close ups of how the podium is constructed.

Materials needed:

1 – 2″x4″x8′ untreated ($3.50)

1 – 4″x4″x6′ untreated ($7)

1 – 2’x2’x1/2″ plywood sheet ($6.50)

1 – 1″x2″x2′ wood strip ($2.50)

You will need to cut the 2×4 into four 16″ lengths and three 10″ lengths.

 

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Cut the 4x4x6 to 40 inches in length straight on one side and at a 45 degree angle on the other.

 

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You will arrange the four 16″ pieces of 2×4 as shown in the picture and screw them to both the straight end of the 4×4 as well as each other where they contact.

 

 

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Keeping the top of the boards flush with the top of the 4×4 on the angled end, screw a 10″ long board into each side of the 4×4 as they will support your podium platform. Then screw the third 10″ board to the ends of the other two 10″ boards to reinforce them and give you even more support for your platform.

 

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Next, align and justify the plywood on the supports and angled end of your 4×4 to your liking and screw it to all three 10″ supports as well as the angled surface of the 4×4 upright.

Lastly, align the 1″x2″ strip flush with the bottom edge of the plywood and screw it to the plywood platform. All that is left to do is paint or stain and your podium is complete.

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Stuffed Animal Control (Kind of)

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A few years ago my wife showed me a picture of one of these bad boys online and professed her love for it.  As I looked up from her phone after reviewing the picture I waded toward the front door in our living room knee deep in stuffed animals and went straight to my shop to begin the build.  I knew that I had some scrap 2×4’s and screws so the majority of the materials list was free.  My stuffed animal pen differs from the original that I saw in a few ways, but is very similar to it and others that I would eventually see.  I happened to have four stair rail spindles on hand so I used those for the uprights because I thought it would give it a unique look, but 2×4’s will do and look just as good.  The only material that I purchased for this project was the bungee cord and paint, which can be bought on amazon for around ten bucks (the links below will take you directly to the exact paracord and paint that I used).

Bungee Cord on Amazon

Chalk Paint on Amazon

 

The project was very simple and straightforward (basically assemble two wooden frames then attach them to upright supports, one at the top of each upright, and one at the bottom of each upright), and my girls loved their new animal pen.  Having a fun place to store their stuffed animals encouraged them to pick them up and put them where they belong.  The dimensions of my animal pen are 36″long x 24″ wide and 36″ tall, but I have seen them built both larger and smaller.  Apart from using different uprights I also deviated from the way most people build these by using a different method to secure the bungee cord.  Most builds include eye hooks that are screwed into the inside of the 2×4’s and have the bungee cord tied to them.  I found it easier and less of an eye sore to just drill countersunk holes through horizontal 2×4’s and tie a knot at each end of each piece of bungee cord.  This keeps anything from protruding out of the lumber and potentially poking or scratching a kid.  The best things about this project are that it is so easy to customize and so hard to mess up.  The build was fun and the final product is practical and appreciated.  Below are a few more pictures as well as a generic materials/rough price list to build this yourself.

5- 2x4x8 untreated lumber – $15

50ft Bungee Cord – $12

2lbs Wood Screws – $10

Paint – $12

If you have none of these materials lying around your house you can still build this animal pen for around $50.  Depending on what you have around your house or shop you could build this animal pen for $0-$50.  My build cost me about $25 but I could have cut the cost by over half had I used some of the paints that I already had.

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Top of animal pen where 2×4’s are screwed to vertical support (upright)
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Holes for the bungee cord. I drilled all the way through the 2×4 with a 1/4″ drill bit then went back with a 1/2″ bit about half way through the 2×4 to widen the hole enough for the knot on the bungee to be some what concealed.

 

 

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That thing is packed.

 

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This is a view of one of the shorter sides, and also of a few stuffed animal butts.

 

If you enjoyed this post please be sure to like, comment, and follow my site.  Thank You!

 

 

 

Repurpose Old Windows

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I was at a little hole-in-the-wall flea market a few years ago and came across three or four old house windows that I thought were awesome.  These old windows are not particularly difficult to find here in South Louisiana but asking prices for them can vary quite a bit.  I was fortunate enough to buy the windows for just five bucks a piece. These windows are not hard to find but a use for them can be.  With so much character I could not pass them up knowing a fun use would come shortly with just a little thought.  When I got home and showed them to my wife it became clear that these windows would live a beautiful second life as canvases for my wife’s paintings.  I really enjoy this painting in particular and love the symbolism it displays.  If you are an outdoor lover like me all you have to do is hang it on the wall and imagine that you have the ability to look out of your window into the beautiful Louisiana swamp.

When Pigs Fly….

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At some point in my life my mom fell in love with, and began to collect, flying pigs.  My entire life she has been ultra creative, crafty and quite handy.  As a serial diy’er she also has a great appreciation for the creativity and craftiness of others.  I do not know if I got this trait from her genetically or if it was a product of environmental learning, but I do know exactly who my passion to make, build, craft, and create came from.  The greatest benefit of sharing this quality with my mom is that it often affords me the opportunity to have a lot of fun creating, opposed to buying gifts for her come birthday and Christmas time.  Some years back I began to learn a little welding and with my mom’s birthday a few months away I saw a good opportunity to put my developing skills to use.  I made this flying pig for her out of some old metal that I had around my shop and had a lot of fun doing it.  It is not perfect, but I did not want it to be.  I wanted it to look hand-made and somewhat crude and it does indeed.  My mom loved this gift and has it proudly displayed in the foyer of her house as shown in the picture above.  With a little creative thinking, time, and effort anyone can make gift giving more enjoyable for not only the recipient, but themselves as well.  Below are a few more pictures of the porky present.

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I will have a post coming soon to describe the materials and tools that I used to construct this flying pig.  If you enjoyed this post I would greatly appreciate it if you would like, comment and subscribe to my site.  Thank you, and Merry Christmas!

Subfloor Stress Saving Tools.

In my previous post I talked about my summer adventure ripping out and replacing the subflooring in my house.  In this post I will list and briefly discuss ten tools that I feel are absolute necessities to accomplish any subflooring repair or replacement job on the planet.    Though some tools on the list are probably more useful than others on the list, they are not listed in any particular order of importance.  This list is primarily discussing the tools that were most important in the removal of old subflooring, however I did use/need each one of these tools in the installation of the new subflooring as well.  Each tool listed in this post can be bought or researched by following the link provided below each picture.

#1 – The oscillating multi-tool

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Purchase Here

I did not own this tool when I started the job, but I do not think that I could have done/finished the job without it.  Oscillating multi-tools have many different functions and are compatible with many different attachments from sanding to cutting wood and metals.  These tools allow you to cut subflooring flush with walls and thresholds.  Demolition blades that cut both wood and metal allow you to move nail infested boards with relative ease.  This is the exact tool that I used for my project and although it was one of the cheapest oscillating multi-tools that I could find, it was worth its weight in gold.

 

#2 – Reciprocating Saw

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Purchase Here

Reciprocating saws perform similarly to oscillating multi-tools with the exception of having considerably more power and not being able to cut flush with walls or thresholds due to the blade not being offset like that of the multi-tool.  Like the multi-tool, demolition blades made for cutting through wood and metal can be purchased for this tool which make cutting through nailed and screwed lumber a much easier task.  When cutting along walls and thresholds I would typically cut as close as I could to the threshold with the more powerful, quicker cutting reciprocating saw and then come back with the multi-tool for a flush, more precise result.

 

#3 – Circular Saw

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Purchase Here

A circular saw is the way to go to remove subflooring when working in an open area away from walls, thresholds, and other tight areas.  They cut faster than a reciprocating saw and more accurately than a multi-tool.  Typically circular saws have guide plates that adjust for different depths of cut.  This is a very handy feature when you know the thickness of your subflooring.  For example, if you know that your subfloor is 3/4″ thick, you can set the depth of cut on your circular saw to 3/4″ and cut our a lot of material quickly without having to waste time being cautious not to cut through any of your floor joists.

 

#4 – Pry Bars

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Purchase Here

When both removing and replacing subflooring it is often required to remove any baseboards and floor trim in the area in order to cut the old subflooring flush with the wall.  You will likely need more than one pry bar in order to do this without ruining your trim and baseboards.  Pry bars are also needed to pry up old subflooring, move new subflooring into place, and removing protruding nails that will not allow new subflooring to lay flush.

 

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Purchase Here

I like to think that this one is pretty obvious, so I will not insult anyone’s intelligence with an explanation.

 

#6 – Hammers/Maul

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Purchase Here

In some areas of my house the subfloor was so rotted that I just knocked it off with a hammer.  Hammers also come into play in positioning new subflooring into place, removing nails, and believe it or not hammering nails in.

 

#7 – Chisel

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Purchase Here

This chisel came in very handy when working in tight corners and places where the subfloor terminated under a wall where I could not get to it with the reciprocating saw or the multi-tool.  When that was the case I would just cut flush with the wall then use a hammer and chisel to remove the remainder of the board that lay between the wall and the floor joists.

 

#8 – Impact Driver

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Purchase Here

Impact drivers are great because they eliminate the need for predrilling a pilot hole before you screw into wood in most situations, which speeds up the building process greatly.  For subfloor removal purposes any type of drill (not specifically an impact drill/driver) will likely be needed in order to remove wood that is screwed to the floor joists.  Prying screws up with a pry bar can damage and split the joists, compromising their integrity.  I would specifically recommend an impact drill/driver for the installation of subflooring due to the fact that it will save you tons of time on drilling pilot holes and will not split your wood without them.

 

#9 – Headlight

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Purchase Here

This may seem a little off of the wall, but my house is not the best lit place in the world and although I did use a work light, I was often working in several rooms at a time and climbing up and down from below the house to back inside the house and the light refused to follow.  It is not practical to carry a flashlight around and I often found myself praying to grow a second, third, fourth, ad fifth arm out of necessity for holding boards and other tools anyway.  A headlight was invaluable to me on this project due to the amount of hands-free portable light that it provided.

 

#10 – Wet/Dry Vac

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Purchase Here

Installing a subfloor on a new construction home would likely eliminate the need for this tool to be on the list of necessities.  I was not installing a subfloor on a new construction home.  I was sawing, cutting, throwing, flinging, hammering, nailing, and screwing all in my one and only home, the place where I live, the place where my wife lives, and the place where my three kids live.  Needless to say if I worked in a dirt and dust production factory I would have been employee of the month.  This wet/dry vac made life a lot easier than it would have been without it.  I still used the old faithful broom and dust pan quite a bit, but the vac not only eliminated the need for them often, it did the job much quicker and more efficiently.

 

I would not attempt to tackle any subfloor replacement job without any one of these tools listed above.  The job could be done without them, but the time and effort that they will save you make it highly impractical.  Should you find yourself facing the task of replacing subflooring I hope that you do not find the need for these tools the hard way as I did.  If you found this post useful or simply liked the read I would appreciate it if you would like, comment, and subscribe below.  Should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me.  Thank you!

 

Summer of the subfloor.

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As a middle school teacher and coach I find myself at a loss for leisure time during the months of August through May.  As May 2017 was rapidly running out of days I was beginning to get more and more excited about the relaxing summer break that would soon be upon me.  June was spent mostly catching up on rest and time missed with the family during the busy school and sports year, as well as putting off the replacement of some recently buckled flooring in the pier and beam house that my wife and I bought in November 2015 .  With the arrival of July also came the reality of only having a few weeks left of summer to start and complete my flooring project.  Though planning is not really my strength, I decided to turn over a new leaf.  I researched flooring and installation online, spoke to professional flooring installers, priced and compared materials, and even made a price list.  Once I was satisfied with the data I accumulated I took my $500 end of the year bonus down to the nearest home improvement store and bought some nice premium engineered vinyl plank flooring along with underlayment and a few tools to help the job go as smooth as possible.

 

Just as I had reached the me loving some well-prepared me peak, I began to pull up the old vinyl tile flooring in the utility room.   Now I have heard the quote that “everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face” numerous times throughout my life, but as it turns out plans also go out of the window when you are punched in the gut as well.  With every tile that I pulled up I discovered another section of spongy, rotten subfloor underneath.  I frantically removed tile after tile until I found myself no longer in the utility room, but halfway down the hallway still searching for solid subflooring.  I was in denial for about 2 days before I eventually came back to reality and realized that our entire home was resting on a rotten subfloor.  Uh-oh.

 

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The rest of July and the first two weeks of August I did nothing but demolish and replace subflooring as well as address some water issues that were occurring under my house.  It was a lot of hard work, and I am not nearly finished with the entire house, but it was a great learning experience for me.  I am pretty handy, and even more determined, but it was definitely a challenging job.  Our house was built in the 1950’s when it was very common in our area to use tongue-and-groove 1×6’s run diagonally for a house’s subfloor.  Though this technique makes for a nice, thick subfloor, it also becomes a nightmare to replace when the wood rots.  With a plywood subfloor you can simply cut out the bad sections of the wood, block underneath, and cut a piece of plywood equivalent in thickness and replace.  The 1×6’s on the other hand have each board spanning at least half of the house.  Even if there is one solid board in a rotten area it must be cut out to replace the other rotten boards.  These 1×6 boards also make replacing subflooring one room at a time nearly impossible due to the fact that the board may be very rotten its entire span, so as you try to cut it even with the wall or entrance of one room, it may be crumbling under the adjoining wall or entrance of the next room, making it necessary to begin replacement in that room as well.

 

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I cannot honestly say that I enjoy the discovery of my rotten subfloor or the money that I had to spend on materials to replace what I pulled out, but I can say that I enjoyed the construction process overall.  I am nowhere near finished with the job, as the majority of our house will still have to have its flooring ripped up and subfloor replaced, but at least I am not completely oblivious to the problem that exist.  I plan on tackling the areas that are in the worst shape this coming summer which will be the master bathroom and living room.  May 2018 may not be filled with daydreams of a lazy, relaxing summer the way its 2017 counterpart was, but at least July 2018 will not hold the same nasty surprise its 2017 did.

 

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Please disregard my butt in the background.  I will have a post about a few tools that made this job infinitely easier than going at it without them shortly.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via the email address on my contact page.  Thanks for reading!