Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Making a Cedar Chest

Cedar Chest

Of all woodworking projects, the popularity of the cedar chest has definitely stood the test of time.  It's a piece of furniture that is usually around for many years, often times passed down from generation to generation.  There are also many different styles, shapes and sizes of cedar chests. Some are made with a different material and then have a thin layer of cedar applied to the inside, while others are made of solid cedar boards.  Some are made with the boards joined together vertically, while others are horizontal.  There's so many options that I'm sure there is one to match your personal style and woodworking experience.  Hopefully, this post is easy to follow and makes it helpful for you to build a cedar chest yourself.

Tools Needed:

Before we get started, let's go over a few details first:
First of all, I used rough-cut cedar boards that were approximately 1-1/4" thick and planed them down to 1" thick with a portable planer.  If you prefer, you can buy lumber that is already planed from your local lumber yard.  If you do, make sure to adjust your measurements to account for the different thickness.  
Also, the particular chest that I've built for this post is 18" tall x 26" long x 18" wide.  The method used here will consist of solid cedar boards.  Each board's width varies from 3" to 6".  The boards will be joined together edge to edge, so you'll need enough boards to account for the lengths of each panel of the chest, plus a little extra. 
Now, let's begin........

The first step for me (after I had all the boards planed) was to Lay out the boards for each panel of the chest.  There are six panels: 
  1. Front- measures 26" L x 16" T
  2. Back- measures 26" L x 16" T
  3. Left side- measures 16" L x 16" T
  4. Right side- measures 16" L x 16" T
  5. Bottom- measures 24" L x 16" W
  6. Top- measures 26-1/4" L x 18-1/4" W
 For example, the Front panel should consist of enough boards approximately 17" long (16" + a little extra) that, when put together edge to edge, will add up to approximately 27" (26" + a little extra).  The extra is there to allow us to trim the panels down to exact size on the table saw when ready.  

Now that all the boards are laid out and you enough for each panel, it's a good idea to Run them through the Jointer.  The jointer is a power tool that operates very much like a thickness planer, except that it cuts the edge of a board instead of the face.  The purpose is to ensure that, when the boards are joined together, there are no gaps in between them.

Biscuit Cutter

Biscuit CutterAfter all the edges have been ran through the jointer, you are ready to Cut slots in the edges of the board with the Biscuit Cutter.  This power tool cuts a slot in the edge of the board.  In turn, a wooden "biscuit" is inserted into the slots and this helps strengthen the joints.  This works in way similar to using wooden dowels.  Before cutting the slots, make a mark about 1-1/2" from the end of the boards, and also every 3-4 inches in between.  It is very important to make marks on every board at the exact same locations.  If you don't, the boards may not fit together.  After all the slots are cut, use some wood glue along the edges and in the slots.  Insert the biscuits in the slots and fit the boards together.

Once the boards are glued, biscuits inserted and fit together, Clamp them together!  I used 3 bar clamps on each panel- one placed at the top, bottom, and in the middle.  Let the clamps remain on the panels for at least 24 hours.  This way the glue has enough time to dry.  Repeat the same process for all six panels.

Clamping Wood Panels

After waiting 24 hours, release the clamps and you are now ready to Trim the panels to the final size.  Using a Table Saw, you cut these panels to the final measurements mentioned above.  Now you should have six panels.  Before you start the assembly process, this would be a good time to sand all pieces with a Palm Sander.

Pocket-Hole System

Now that all panels are trimmed to size and sanded, it's Time to Assemble the pieces.  Let's start by making the bottom.  Turn the bottom panel upside down and attach three 1" x 3" boards across the panel using screws, making sure that the screws do not go all the way through the floor.  This will add strength to the bottom of the chest.  Now you can start attaching the four side panels to the bottom panel using finish nails or screws.  The left and right side panels will fit inside of the front and back panels and will attach with finish nails or Pocket-Hole Screws.  I would suggest that you start by attaching the front to the bottom.  Then attach the left side to the bottom, and then to the front along the corner.  Repeat the process for the other side.  And finally, attach the back to the bottom, and then to both side panels along the corners.  After all sides are in place, attach a 1" x 3" board around the top on the inside of the chest.  This will help tie everything together.  Congratulations, you've now built a box!

Inside of Cedar Chest
The next step is to Trim & Attach the Lid.  Just like you did on the bottom panel, turn the top panel upside down and attach three 1" x 3"  boards across the panel using screws, again making sure that the screws do not go all the way through lid.  After turning the panel back over, trim around the lid with cedar boards, making sure that they are 1/4" wider than the full thickness of the top panel.  For example, if you material is all 1" thick, then your full thickness would be 2".  Therefore, your trim pieces would need to be 2-1/4" wide.  Using a Miter Saw, cut the ends of the trim boards at a 45 degree angle.  Attach them all around the lid, using finish nails, keeping the top edge of the trim flush with the top of the lid.  Now you are ready to attach it.
  There are several different kind of hinges to use on the lid, but I prefer a piano hinge, which is a continuous hinge along the entire length of the lid.  If you can't find the correct length of hinge, you can always buy one that is long and cut it to correct length with a hacksaw.  With the lid laying in place on the chest, attach the hinge to both the lid and the back of the chest with the provided screws.

Cedar Chest- Unfinished
Cedar Chest Handles
After the lid is installed and working, it's time to Install Base Trim & Handles.  Using the same size of cedar boards as you used as trim around the lid, trim around the bottom of the chest in the same way.  This gives a nice finished look to the project.  The last item to install is the handles.  You can purchase handles from a hardware store, or do as I did, and make handles out of cedar boards you have left over.  I used 2" wide boards, that were 5" long, and attached them to the sides using screws from the inside of the chest and they worked great!  If you want, you can also Router the edges of the Lid and the Base trim to dress it up a little more.
Cedar Chest- Unfinished
Now that the cedar chest has been constructed and is working correctly, the final step is to Apply the Finish.  I chose not to use a stain on the chest because I wanted to keep the original color of the cedar.  I did, however, apply three coats of polyurethane.  Polyurethane provides a very durable protective surface to the wood, while also giving it a good shine.  These clear coats come in different finishes, such as satin, semi-gloss, or gloss.  Also, if you apply it with a foam brush, it's easier to control visible brush marks after it's dry.
Cedar Chest- Finished

Cedar Chest.....DONE!

Now obviously this project requires a little time to complete, but it's worth it.  Remember that you don't have to make it too complicated.  There are many different methods of construction out there, but not all are too complicated.  It is definitely possible to build this project, even if you don't have an amazing array of tools, or experienced woodworking abilities.  Hopefully this tutorial will give you the confidence you need, and the know-how to make that cedar chest you've always wanted.

As always, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  Good Luck!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Building a Round Reception Desk

Round Reception Desk

Recently, my wife was wanting to do some updating to the inside of her hair salon.  This involved painting the walls, removing an old L-shaped reception desk (that she has always hated) and building her a new one.  She didn't want just any ordinary desk to replace the old one, she wanted one that was round (or oval) on the front.  It took a little head scratching at first but I was up for the challenge.  The desk would be approximately 8 ft. long (or around the oval front), with an 18" wide top at 44 in. high.  It would also have a desk top on the back side for her computer and printer at 28-1/2" high.  Finally, since she is always apt to moving furniture around, it would need to be on wheels.  Although this project was a little challenging at first, it wasn't too difficult.  Best of all, it only cost about $200 for the materials!

If this is a desk you would like to build yourself, hopefully I've done the head scratching for you.  Let's get started with what you are going to need.

Materials Needed:

  • (1)- 3/4" plywood (CD grade)
  • (1)- 3/4" plywood (nicer grade, this will be the top of the desk)
  • (3)- 1/4" plywood (nicer grade, this will be the front of the desk)
  • (10)- 2"x 4"x 8'
  • (2#)- 3" screws
  • (1#)- 1-5/8" screws
  • 1" Brad Nails
  • Paint or Stain (your preference)

The very first part of the process is to come up with the correct radius for the front.  I built this particular desk to be roughly 8 ft. around the front.  This way, there would be no seams in the plywood anywhere.  You will need to frame a wall that is 39-3/4" tall.  In order to make the wall round, you will need to use the 3/4" plywood for your top and bottom framing members.  By using a string or a scrap board, draw a 60" radius (kind of like a giant protractor).  Once you draw it, make sure it is 8' from one end to the other.  Now you will need to draw one more line that is 3-1/2" from the other.  This will make it the same thickness as the 2"x 4"s you will be attaching to them.  Now you have drawn what will be a curved bottom plate for your wall.  After drawing this out on the plywood, cut it out using a Jig Saw.  Now, trace it out and cut out another one (duplicate) to be the top plate.  Once the plates are cut, you will need to mark where the studs will go (just like an ordinary wall).  For this project, I prefer to space them 12" apart.  Next, cut the 2"x 4"s to 39" long using a Miter Saw or Circular Saw.  Attach these boards (studs) in between the plywood top and bottom plates using 3" screws.  You now have a curved wall formed and the main part of the desk is together!
Curved Wall Framing

On the ends of the wall, you will need to frame a small wall section that will come back in at a 90 degree angle.  Allowing for the thickness of the curved wall with the plywood that will be on the front, this wall will need to be 11" long.  Build these two walls just as before, only you can use the 2"x 4"s for all parts (top, bottom and studs).  Once they're assembled, attach one to each side of the curved wall using 3" screws.

The next step will be covering the front and sides with plywood.  Because it's extremely hard to get 3/4", or even 1/2" plywood to bend, you will need to use 1/4" plywood to wrap around the curved front.  Start be cutting the plywood to 40" wide using a Table Saw or Circular Saw.  This will allow for the plywood to hang over the bottom of the framework by 1/4".  Using a Brad Nailer, attach the plywood to the front of the curved desk with 1" brads.  It's a good idea to use some wood glue for some extra holding power.  Once this is done, apply a second layer of 1/4" plywood using the same method.  Using the remaining 1/4" plywood, cut out pieces and attach to the sidewalls, as well as the end of the sidewalls too.

For the top of the desk, you will need to use a nice piece of 3/4" plywood.  I used birch and then painted it.  Choose your material depending on whether you wish to paint or stain the desk.  To get the right curve for your top, you can lay the whole piece of plywood on top of the desk with one edge hanging over by about 2".  Once you have it placed accordingly, trace out the front edge.  Now, moving the sheet of plywood forward 18", trace it again.
Round Reception Desk Shape
Your Top will look like this!
This will give you an outline for a top that will match the desk, while giving you a 3/4" overhang all the way around.  Cut this out using a Jig Saw.  Using a Router, you can put a decorative edge around the top for a nice touch.  Once the top is cut and the edges are routered, anchor it to the desk by using 1-5/8" screws from the underside of the top plate.  This method will keep you from having any screws showing in the desk top.  Now, using the remainder of this piece of plywood, cut out a piece to fit inside the desk.  This piece will go along the inside of the curved desk and will also make a straight line from one end of the desk to the other (see pictures for clarity).
Round Reception Desk
View  from Behind the Desk

Using metal shelf brackets underneath both the top and lower desk tops will help ensure they are good and sturdy.

Final touches on the desk can be totally up to your preference and style.  As you can see, I used outside corner trim on the corners.  Also, my wife really wanted to install trim on the front of the desk in three sections.  It's cut and installed like picture frames.  As always, she has a great eye for these things and this was no different.  I think it really made it look great!  She decided to paint this desk a creamy white.  We also applied a water-based clear coat to the top to ensure it would be durable and long-lasting.  The final step to this project was installing four 2" swivel casters with locks.  Like I said earlier, my wife is always moving things around.  This should definitely help her out whenever she feels the need to change things up!

Round Reception Desk
Side View

Thanks to my wife for the opportunity to do this project!  As always, I look forward to any comments you may have regarding this post.
Round Reception Desk

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Build a Deck- Part 2 (Rails)

Deck Handrails

OK, so now you have the deck framed and the flooring laid.  The next step will be to install the handrails.  Before we talk about how to install them, let's take a look at a few different methods and styles of handrails.

These are just a few methods, but the one we will discuss will the first method.  To build these, you will need the following.

  • Treated 2"x 4" lumber
  • Treated 2"x 6" lumber
  • 2"x 2" Treated balusters or decorative spindles
  • 3" Exterior screws

  • Circular Saw or Reciprocating Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Level

The first thing you'll need to do is cut the deck posts to the correct length.  The height of the handrails should be 36" from the deck floor.  Since we will be using a 2"x 6" cap on the rails, we will allow for this on the posts by subtracting 1.5" from the height, which leaves you with 34.5".  Measure this on all posts and cut to length with either a Circular Saw or a Reciprocating Saw.
Deck Handrail Components
Now that the posts are all cut off at the same level, you can install the top rail and bottom rail all around the perimeter, except in between the posts where the stairs will go (we'll get to that in the next article-  Part 3).  These will be installed horizontally from post to post and attached to the inside edge of the posts, but even with the outside edge using 3" exterior screws.  The top rail should be even or flush with the top of the posts, while the bottom rail will be set at 4" from the floor.  This allows room to sweep debris from the deck onto the ground if needed.
Once the rails are installed, it's time to put in the balusters.  You can either rip 2"x 4"s in half on a table saw to make them into 2"x 2"s or just buy them from the lumber yard or home store already cut to 2"x 2".  The balusters should be all cut to length at 30.5".  You can also cut an angle (30 or 45 degrees) on the bottom of the balusters to make them look more decorative if you like.  These balusters will need to be installed on the outside of the top and bottom rails in a vertical manner using 3" exterior screws.  It's important to make sure that the spacing of the balusters does not exceed 4".
After all of the balusters have been installed, the last step remains, .....the cap.  I like to use a treated 2"x 6" as my cap.  It's wide enough to cover the top edge of the posts, rails, and balusters, and still leave enough to let it have about a 1/4" overlay on each side.  These should be cut to fit all around the rails, again using 3" exterior screws.  Make sure to join the corners of the rail by mitering the top cap at a 45 degree angle.
Mitered Handrail
When your all done, it's a great idea to give the handrail system a good sanding, especially the top cap-  Nobody likes splinters!
Now that you've already learned Part 1- How to Build a Deck (Framing), and now you've been through this Part, be sure to check out the next in the series...How to Build a Deck- Part 3 (Stairs).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to Build a Deck- Part 1 (Framing)


A deck is a great place to enjoy the outdoors at your home.  It can also improve the value of your home, as well.  If this is something you have thought about doing but figured it was too much of a task to do by yourself, I'd like you to think again.  Sure, decks can be of many different sizes, styles, and can definitely require different skill levels.  If you follow some simple guidelines and suggestions, building a deck can be an enjoyable experience and definitely be a DIY project for you!
Before you get started, here are a few things to keep in  mind:
  • When deciding the dimensions of your deck, think about the lumber you'll need.  Lumber is usually sold in 2 foot increments (8', 10', 12', 14', 16', & 20').  Keeping the deck as close to these dimensions will help the overall cost of materials.  Also, the length of you floor joists will determine was size boards you will have to use.  For example, with joists spaced at 16", a 2"x 8" can span up to 12'.  A 2"x 10" can span up to 15' and a 2"x 12" can span up to 18'.  This can definitely affect the cost of materials as well.
  • How high will the deck be off the ground?  The higher your deck is off the ground means you'll need longer posts and more steps to build.  The lower your deck is to the ground means you can get by with shorter posts and less steps.  If you build the deck close to the ground, you may not even need rails.  
  • What materials do you want to use?  The most common used material is treated pine, which is also the most economical.  With a little more cost, you could go with cedar.  Cedar looks good and is naturally resistant to rot.  The latest product on the market for decks is Composite Decking material.  This is a great product because there are no splinters and it never rots or needs to be painted.  The downside of it is the cost.  Composite deck material is very expensive, but over time, can save you money because of it doesn't need to be treated periodically and because of its overall longevity.
Tools Needed:
  • Hammer
  • Framing Square
  • Tape Measure
  • Level
  • Circular Saw
  • Drill
  • Posthole Digger
  • Ratchet Wrench
Materials Needed:
  • Deck Lumber
  • Joist Hangers
  • Concrete (Quickrete)
  • Screws
The most important components of a deck are the posts, beams, ledgers, and joists.  These parts support and distribute the weight. (See Picture Below)

Deck Components

To get started, decide on where the deck is going to be located and attach the ledger board (2"x 8") to the house.  This should be attached using lag bolts and they need to be long enough to reach the rim joist on the house and/or the studs of the house.  Make sure to attach a piece of metal flashing between the ledger board and the house, with the flashing extending behind the house siding where it is above the deck.  The ledger will serve as a reference for laying out the concrete footings that are needed for the posts.  A good practice for this is using batter boards and string (See picture).
Post Layout
While doing this, you should check to make sure your layout is square.  The best way to do this is to measure from one corner to the opposite corner diagonally.  After this, repeat the process for the opposite diagonal corners.  Make adjustments if needed to ensure the two measurements are equal.  Once the two measurements are the same, the layout will be square.
At the corners of the layout, you will need to dig a hole for concrete footings.  These footings will help support the weight of the deck coming down from the deck posts.  They will also need to be deep enough to be below the frost line so
Deck Components
that the deck doesn't move when the ground freezes during the winter.  Frost lines vary depending on the region you live in so make sure you check with your local building codes to determine this depth.  You should have footings for posts on every corner, as well in between the corners, not to exceed 5' between them.
Once the footings are poured and have dried, you can now attach a metal post bracket to the concrete.  This will need to be in the right place so that the post will fit in the corner perfectly.  After all brackets are in place, cut the deck posts (support legs) long enough to reach just above handrail height.  Now install all posts in the brackets.  You should make sure they are plumb and hold them in place (vertically level) with 2"x 4" braces going to the ground.
Now that the ledger board is up and the posts are standing and braced off, attach the rim joists (boards going around the perimeter of the deck) to the posts and ledger using 3" exterior screws.  These will also be 2"x 8" boards.  A 4' level will help to ensure that they are level all the way around.  Once the rim joists are in place, start measuring your layout along the ledger board and the outer rim joist (the board at the opposite end from the ledger).  This layout will show you where the floor joists will be placed.  All floor joists should be, at minimum, 16" on center.  This means that, from the center of one joist to the center of the next, there will be 16".  Spanning the joists further than this will allow the deck planks on the floor to sag and bounce.  2"x 8" joist hangers should also be used on the inside edge of the ledger and rim joists to allow for the floor joists to lay in and fasten to.

Joist Layout

Once all of the 2"x 8" floor joists have been installed, you will now need to install bridging (sometimes called noggin) between the joists.  This is to strengthen the frame and is usually done by using up all the scrap material and cut-offs.  These will be boards placed between the joists and should not exceed 8' between them.  You are now ready to start installing the flooring.

Deck Planks
Flooring can be done using either 2"x 4"s, 2"x 6"s, or treated deck planks (these are typically 1"x 5.5").  These planks can be installed either perpendicular to the joists or at an angle.  The most common way is perpendicular.  It is a good idea to start the flooring along the outside edge of the deck.  All planks need to extend past the rim joists by at least 1" to 1.5".  Make sure you leave a 1/4" gap between these planks to allow for water to drain.  You will also need to use a Jig saw to cut a notch around the posts.  By starting at the outer edge, usually the notch around the post will be done with the first two rows.  Attach the planks with 3 exterior screws at each floor joist.  When you get to the last row, you will need to rip the board down to the size needed to fit next the the house wall.

Please look the for the next post How to Build a Deck- (Rails) where we will discuss different types of handrail systems and how to install them!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top 5 Residential Siding Options

Residential Siding

Are you planning on building a home soon?  If so, you've probably already been overwhelmed with all of the different choices and decisions that go into the building process.  Starting with the floor, you have to decide whether you want a wood floor or concrete floor.  There's also what kind of roof?, what kind of insulation?, Trim?, Doors?, Floor coverings?, Cabinetry?...........you get the point.  I'm not trying to scare you, but hopefully educate you.  My intentions here are to give you some insight, as well as pros and cons, that will possibly help you make good decisions.  Decisions that you'll be happy with in the future.

This post is going to be focused on the exterior of your house.  Have you already made your decision?  If not, let's take a look at some different options.

Brick Siding

1.   Brick or Rock
Brick and/or Rock is a very common choice when building a home because of its durability.  Brick will last for many decades and will probably last as long as the structure does.  Light maintenance is all that is usually required with that being the occasional power washing.  The downside to using brick or rock as a siding option would be the cost.  This is usually at the higher end of all siding options.  But once it's done,...it's done! 

Vinyl Siding

2.   Vinyl Siding
Vinyl siding is probably the most popular siding that has been used for the past several years, mainly because it is mostly maintenance free and also its relatively low cost.  Vinyl siding is easy to install and will not rot and doesn't have to be painted.  It now comes in many, many different styles and colors.  The downside to vinyl would be that the color can fade over time and it does need to be cleaned periodically.  Typically a vinyl siding detergent and a power washer will take care of this every year or two.  This can easily be a DIY project as well!

Log Siding
Cedar Siding

3.    Wood Siding
Wood siding has many different options in itself.  Cedar is a very popular wood of choice for siding purposes.  It is naturally resistant against rotting and can be installed in different ways, such as Lapped horizontally, Board & Batten, and also by using Cedar shakes.  For several years now, there has been a Log siding on the market, which gives the look of a traditional log cabin, but still using traditional building methods.  This too is at the higher end of cost to install, but it also has a high cost of maintenance as well.  Wood siding has to be treated with water sealers periodically and thus the costs to keep the siding in good shape will continue over time.  

Fiber Cement Siding

4.    Fiber Cement Siding     
Fiber Cement Siding is a good option for the fact that is NOT wood, and therefore, is termite-resistant and water-resistant.  It comes in an array of forms and textures and is installed the same way as actual wood siding.  It will typically cost more than vinyl siding but less than wood siding.  It is NOT totally maintenance free though......it will require painting.

Stucco Siding
Stucco Siding

5.    Stucco Siding
Stucco is a type of cement mixed with other ingredients, such as sand and lime.  It is typically spread over metal screening that has been attached to the walls.  It can also be spread over a masonry surface.  It can be tinted when mixed to achieve the desired color or even painted afterwards.  Stucco has been around for many years and, although it is not very common in all regions, it is a good siding option.

Although there are many more siding options, these are probably the most popular choices of today.  Some things to keep in mind when deciding are:

  • Installation Costs
  • Costs Over time
  • Return on Home Value
  • Individual Style You Prefer
If you don't plan on living in your new home permanently, then the upfront costs should be important to you, as well as the return on your home's value when you decide to sell.  If this will be your home for many years to come, then the cost of maintenance over time should definitely be considered, along with your personal style and taste.  Sometimes this can be worth more to someone than the overall costs.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

PPE for Do-It-Yourselfers


When you hear the acronym PPE, what does that mean to you?  Have you even heard of it before?  It stands for Personal Protective Equipment and I first heard of it during some safety training for a former employer years ago.  That's just it!  Most people probably think that these things are only important while at work on a construction site, in a factory, or some environment like that.  The reality is that personal protective equipment is important at home as well.  Just because we have come to call these projects "DIY projects" doesn't mean we shouldn't think about safety, or perhaps even practice using PPE.  Whether you are working on a project around the house or in the yard, wearing the appropriate PPE can keep you safe.  So what is PPE?  Let's take a look at a few examples and why they are important (even for DIY projects).

1.   Safety Glasses 
Safety Glasses

Eye protection is important wherever there is even the slightest chance of an eye injury, such as:  grinding, sanding, using power tools, Nail guns, lawnmowers, and weed-eaters.  Safety glasses are now available in a variety of sizes and styles.  You can even get them in clear or tinted.  To make sure they are actually rated for "safety", check the inside of the ear piece.  They should be stamped with "Z-87" or "Z-87.1".  You eyes are extremely important, so don't take them for granted!

2.   Ear Protection
Ear Protection

Unlike most parts of the body, when you damage your ears it doesn't always cause pain.  Being exposed to loud noises over a long period of time can cause hearing loss without you even knowing it.  Hearing loss affects your quality of life and is irreversible.  There are many forms of ear protection on the market.  There are Ear Plugs and Ear Muffs and both come in different styles.  The main thing to remember is to pick the one that is rated for your task and make sure you where them correctly.

3.   Dust Mask
Dust Mask

Anytime you are working around dust that can be inhaled, a dust mask should be worn.  Projects such as sanding (whether wood or drywall), painting, or even mowing the lawn, protection from dust is important.  Inhalation of dust can cause respiratory problems or even worse health problems.  If your using a mask like the one pictured above, be sure to form the metal strip on top to fit the bridge of your nose.  If you don't, dust can still get in and you won't be getting the protection you need.

4.    Gloves

Gloves not only give you a better grip at times, they do protect your hands, as well.  They prevent cuts, scrapes, and blisters when handling sharp or rough materials.  Gloves come in many different forms.  They are made of various materials for different uses.  A lot of construction work gloves are made of leather, canvas, or cloth.  Latex or rubber gloves are often used when working with chemicals.  Kevlar gloves are typically used when working with knives or other sharp objects.  Make sure to wear the appropriate glove and also make sure it fits.  A glove that is too big or too small can cause more problems.

I've only listed a few examples in hopes to get the message across.  In fact, there are numerous other forms of PPE available.  Hard Hats and Safety Toe Workboots are a couple of main ones.  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) require the appropriate PPE on construction sites and all workplaces in the country.  Even though you may be just working on a project at your house, I urge you to think about two things:  What you are doing, and What the potential hazards are.  If there is anything you can do to prevent yourself of injury (like wearing PPE), it would definitely be worth it!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Safety Tips for Using a Ladder


Do you use ladders often around the house?  Maybe you're a handyman (or handywoman) yourself and ladders are a regular tool that you use.  Do you think about ladder safety when you use them?  I know it can be easy for some to take ladders for granted, but the simple fact is that improper use of step ladders and extension ladders cause many injuries.  In an effort to create awareness for safety on the job or around the house, the following guidelines will help you use a ladder safely:

  1. Don't use aluminum ladders around energized lines or equipment.  Use a ladder made of a non-conductive material such as fiberglass.
  2. Inspect your ladder before each use.  Look for any missing, loose, or cracked parts.  If the ladder is not in good condition, do not use it!  This is how many accidents happen.
    Step Ladder Parts
  3. Always place an extension ladder at the proper angle.  It is suggested that you place the ladder so that the bottom of the ladder is about one-fourth the vertical height from the structure it is up against (1:4 ratio).
  4. The ladder should extend at least 3 feet above the top support when placed against a structure that is not as tall as the ladder (for example, a roof).  Since ladder rungs are approximately 12 inches apart, a good practice would be to make sure there are at least 3 rungs of the ladder above the roof.
    Proper Angle for a Ladder
  5. Set ladders on firm footing and tie them off where possible.  Avoid shimming the ladder up with rocks, boards, etc.
  6. Use the 3-Point Rule.  When climbing up or down, make sure you have three points of contact with the ladder all the time (either 2 hands & 1 foot, or 1 hand & 2 feet).  Make sure you are facing the ladder while climbing also! 
  7. Make sure to open a step ladder up all the way and lock the spreaders in place.
  8. Keep hands free of tools while going up or down.  Tools and materials can be pulled up with a rope.
  9. The top two rungs are not for standing on a step ladder.  Standing on them may cause the ladder to fall, resulting in serious injury to you.
  10. Do not leave materials or tools on top of a step ladder.  They can fall off and injure someone.
Ladder to the Sky

While safety requires personal responsibility in more ways than this, these guidelines will help you remain safe while using ladders and, hopefully, help create a safety culture in the way you #DIY!  For more information on #safety, be looking for my upcoming post on PPE (personal protective equipment)!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to build a Workbench


How important is a good workbench?  Extremely!  It doesn't matter if you're working on a woodworking project, automotive project, or any other kind of project.  Having a good bench to work on will make your job a lot easier.  And if you need, you can also incorporate shelves into it as well (who doesn't like extra storage space, huh?).  The intent of this post is to show you my idea of a good sturdy workbench and how to build one yourself.

Now, your workbench can be built to any dimension.  The main thing is to build it to accommodate the work area you need it for, while making sure it's at a comfortable height.  The particular workbench I've built for this post is 16' long and 24" deep.  It also has a shelf below that is 18" deep.  Before we get started, let's talk about what you are going to need, such as:


  • Circular Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Cordless Drill
  • 4' Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Chalk Line
Material:    *These amounts are for the particular bench described in this post.
  • (2)- 4" x 4" x 8' Posts
  • (7)- 2" x 4" x 16'  Lumber or (14)- 2" x 4" x 8' Lumber
  • (2)- ¾" Sanded Pine Plywood
  • (3#)- 3" Screws
  • (3#)- 1-5/8" Screws

To get started, let's make some measurements and mark them on the wall and floor.  To make this workbench at a comfortable height, it will be 40" off the floor (again, this can be whatever height you like).  To allow for the thickness of the plywood (¾"),  make a mark on the wall at 39 ¼" from the floor.  Make this mark at both ends of where the bench will be.  Once both marks are made, use a chalk box and snap a line from one point to the other.  This mark will be for the bench top frame.  Now for the shelf frame, let's chalk a line at 19 ¼" from the floor.  This will put the shelf below at 20" high, and half the distance as the bench top.  Now that all the marks have been made on the wall, you can start building the frame.

 Let's start with the middle shelf, and using the miter saw, cut two 2" x 4"s to 16' long.  Next, cut 13 boards to 15" long.  This will make the joists (or framing members going from front to back) for the frame.  These boards will be attached in between the long boards every 16 inches (or 16" o.c.).  Once this is put together, attach it to the wall at the lower chalk line with 3" screws into the studs in the wall.  Temporarily hold the outside of the frame off the floor with scrap boards.


Now that the frame for the middle shelf is attached to the wall and propped up by scrap boards, cut your 4" x 4" posts into 4 pieces at 39 ¼" long each.  These will be the legs for the workbench.  You can lay these posts inside the frame, on the backside of the front board.  Try to keep these posts evenly spaced and no more than 4' apart.  With posts in place, use a 4' level to make sure that they are plumb (plumb means vertically level, or level up and down).  Once they are plumb, anchor them to the frame with 3" screws.

Jig Saw PlywoodWorkbench

Since the middle shelf is going to be 18" deep, use the circular saw and cut one piece of ¾" plywood down to 18" wide by 8' long.  This will be enough to cover half the length of the shelf so you will also have to cut a second piece of plywood to cover the entire length.  Before you install the plywood, you will need to measure and mark where the posts are, and cut the holes out using a Jig saw.  Once cut, you can lower the plywood over the top of the posts and down onto the frame.  Attach the plywood to the frame using 1-5/8" screws.  Congratulations, you are half way there!


After building the shelf, the rest of the process should be easy!  Just like the middle shelf frame, cut two 2" x 4"s to 16' long.  Next, cut 13 boards to 21" long to make the joists (this is because the top of the bench will stick out 6 inches more than the middle shelf).  Just like before, attach the joists between the 16' long boards every 16 inches (or 16" o.c.).  The only thing different that you'll want to do on the top, as opposed to the middle, is to attach another 16' long 2" x 4" across the posts at 35 ¾" from the floor.  This is called a ledger board and will sit just below where the top frame will need to go.  After doing this, the top frame can attach to the wall with 3" screws at the original line you made at 39 ¼".  The front will sit over the top of the ledger board and will be screwed into it with 3" screws also.  The ledger board adds strength to the top shelf, and is needed since it will be hanging out over the posts.  Once the top frame is installed, you can cut the plywood to fit (which will be 24 inches wide this time) and installed using the 1-5/8" screws.  The last thing that I would recommend would be a good sanding across all parts of the bench, especially the top!

Now you can step back and look at the work you've done.  One advantage to this bench is that the top is cantilevered over the legs.  You should now be able to freely walk from one end to the other without tripping over the legs!  Another cool thing about building a workbench is that you've now built something that can help you build something else!  Cool, huh?

I cannot end this post without giving some credit.  I first got the idea for writing this post after reading the blog- Flipping The Flip.  The author, Becky, wrote a great post about building a workbench, along with many other projects.  I encourage you all to check out her blog when you have a chance! A lot of good stuff there!   As always, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think about this post, or any others of mine!