Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pedal Board for Aaron

My brother-in-law is a musician, and plays the guitar really well. He also has a lot of pedals for his guitar. Without some way of organizing them, they can get a little unruly. A few months back, he sent me a couple pictures of pedal boards and asked how hard they might be to make. Me being me and loving a challenge, barreled straight ahead and volunteered to take a crack at it.

So I did! Here are the pictures he sent me of a design he found online:

It has a bunch of holes, so you can zip-tie the pedals in place, and places for the cords to go too. Once I had the drawing, I printed it out poster style to the right dimensions, and cut it out to show my brother-in-law, as it was pretty big. Wanted to make sure that's what he was looking for. It was. 

I taped it to the plywood I was using, and got to work with the jigsaw and sander.

P.S. I had to make those saw horses before I could get started on the project, because I didn't have any. I also needed them for something else anyway, so this just made me get it done.

I couldn't find anything similar to the metal brackets that were in the original pictures, so I ended up cutting some 2x4's at an angle, and then cutting those in half to give me two supports for the top piece. Also, I didn't get a picture of it, but I only printed the paper template once, so I had to use it twice. Once to cut out the lower deck from the plywood, and a second time to cut out the upper level piece (I had to cut up the paper template to do it).

I routed the edges and sanded them a bit so some of the top layer came off, making a cool-looking feathered edge to it. Then I drilled. I drilled a TON of holes. I did count, but I forgot how many there were. It was around 150-200. Yeah. I drilled all the ones in the picture here by hand, before I was able to borrow a friend's drill press for the rest. That made it a zillion times better.

I finished it off with a coat of natural stain, and a couple coats of polyurethane, the night before we left for our mini-family reunion.

My brother-in-law was pleased. He's already making good use out of it. I showed this to a co-worker who plays as well, and he got really excited, wanting to do something like it for himself.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Window Blinds

In addition to the roller blinds I made (see my previous post!), I also ordered and installed some custom blinds for the window next to our front door, and for the giant window on our landing. They were actually super easy to install. The front door blind provides privacy, and the giant window blind provides protection from the summer heat (that window heats up our upstairs more than anything else), as well as privacy from the neighbors.

No pre-install picture, but you can see how
we didn't have any privacy without this blind
This is pre-blinds on the big window (46" x 92")

And here is the window with the new blinds

Friday, May 26, 2017

More Lighting (2 of 3)

So...I've been slowly chipping away at painting the trim, and every so often going off and doing some side projects. One of those has been lighting. My last post showed how I used some spray paint to experiment with updating a gold light fixture. Well, this time I actually did some electrical work. 

Have you ever heard of the ReStore? Habitat for Humanity has a store with second-hand and unused building materials and furniture, including things like light fixtures, at much lower prices than you would find in a hardware store. It's not good for everything, but it's worth checking out. They had a whole area for chandeliers, and we found one that would wonderfully replace our ugly gold one for just $60 (it was one of the most expensive chandeliers there). We got some other things that weekend, and they were having a storewide sale, so it actually ended up being $48.

So...one night when Kristen was at Young Women's, I decided to pull out the extension ladder, climb up it carrying a heavy chandelier, and wire it into the ceiling. It ended up taking me a lot longer than I'd hoped, because I had to rewire it after I'd gotten it on once. The threaded post it came with was too short, and I needed to switch to the one from the gold chandelier instead. Here's the old chandelier:

And the new one:

I also didn't have enough lightbulbs at the time, so you can see there are two missing. But success! And no electrocution!

I also switched things up with some other light fixtures. I painted another gold dome light (similar style to the one in my last post), and also did this fan. I don't have a wide shot of the before, but this at least shows the color difference. The metal portion is a bronze, and the blades a light brown. I used some of the paint from redoing the cabinets for the blades, and the satin nickel metallic spray paint. I think it looks awesome. :) One fan down, one more to do. 

And in case you're wondering the kind of paint I used, here it is. Rust-Oleum Metallic Paint and Primer in One - Satin Nickel (I actually painted over the top of the silver paint I used in my last post with this stuff - it looked better for the lights). And Dark Chocolate Milk Paint from General Finishes with a Gel Topcoat for the blades (two coats of each).

Monday, February 6, 2017

Lighting (1 of 3)

I am currently working on updating all of our outdated trim, and it's taking longer than expected. I also want to paint the walls before I reattach said trim, so it may be a while before I have something substantial to post on here.

Also, I've been getting a little disheartened that it is taking me so long to finish this project, and I've been having a tough time staying motivated (which just drags out the timeline more). So I thought there might be some "quick wins" I could attempt that would help keep me motivated. Here is the first one.

Our lights are outdated. And gold. Yup, gold. We have a few dome lights, some mushroom lights, and a globe or two. In the bathrooms we have hollywood lighting.

Needless to say, updating the light fixtures is on our list, though it won't be for a while.

Anyway, I found a tutorial that talked about using metallic spray paint to update your fixtures (take off the glass and light bulbs, put up paper on the ceiling around the light and around the internals, then spray). Since I am already planning on replacing them, and I just happened to have metallic spray paint in my cupboard, I thought, "Why not?" Here are the results of my 15-minute experiment. What do you think?

I like it, but will probably grab a can of "satin nickel" for any other updates (ceiling fans??) instead of the "silver" I used here. I think this is a little bright.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kitchen Cabinets

This is a follow-up to my last post on the bathroom cabinets. Redoing those gave me courage to refinish our kitchen cabinets. We have a big kitchen. I counted our cabinets, and we have 11 drawers and 27 cabinet doors, so this was a big undertaking.

I had some time off of work coming up, so I planned to get it all done during that time. I almost did it, too. If only the sanding had taken less time. I only planned for one day of sanding, but ended up taking three.

The process was essentially the same as the bathroom cabinets. First I took all the doors and drawer faces off, then the hinges and handles (which ended up taking about two hours just for that). This time I left the slides on, though, because the soft close slides take a lot more effort to take off / put on than the ones we have in the bathroom. Then I sanded.

All the doors and drawer faces off and sanded (along the wall)
I bought a quarter sheet sander, and spent three part days (about 4-6 hours each day was all I could take) sanding the cabinet doors and drawer faces, and then the faces of the cabinets themselves. It was quite an undertaking, and I listened to the cast recording of Hamilton about four times. Kristen helped me wipe them down, then I taped down plastic to the dining room and living room floors where the drawers/doors would be.

My original plan was to do two coats the first day - one first thing in the morning, and then one about 8 hours later. However, the first coat ended up taking me about 5 hours, instead of the expected 2-3, so that was out. I did the second coat on day 2 (took about 3.5 hours that time), then took a break on day 3 and did the third coat on day 4 (about 2 hours). I then finished off with the final coat on day 6 (about 2 hours).

After one coat
Four coats, before I painted the sides of the cabinets
I let them dry for five days before applying the two top coats. I decided to apply the finish on one side and let it dry before flipping it over, instead of using the painter's pyramids to do both sides in one pass. That way, there would be no marring of the finish from handling it (though it added some time). I originally wanted to finish the cabinets before Christmas, but that didn't happen. So then I wanted to be done before we left for Portland on the 29th - also didn't happen. But I did get two coats on the front and one coat on the back before we left. After we got back to Minnesota, I did the final coat and reattached everything.

Shiny topcoat v. no topcoat
Now, I also have laminate portions of the cabinets. Instead of real wood, they put up laminate on the some of the sides. For that, I put on two coats of General Finishes Milk Paint (the Dark Chocolate color matches their Java Gel Stain), then added a couple topcoats of the polyurethane gel (even though the paint says it doesn't need a topcoat). And there we have it - refinished kitchen cabinets! Here are a couple angles.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bathroom Cabinets

We have a lot of honey-colored oak in our house. And while real wood is nice...I'm not a huge fan of the color. After a lot of research on the internet for changing wood color, I happened upon General Finishes Java Gel Stain. It is a very, very thick, dark gel stain (like a cross between a stain and a paint). If you've ever looked for a way to make oak look like a darker wood, you might have seen it. There are tons of tutorials (this one was the best I found).

I decided that before we changed our entire kitchen, we would try it out on our bathroom first, since it was smaller and less visible to people. This was actually pretty simple to do. The first step was to take off all the doors and drawer faces, and then remove the drawer slides and the hinges so I could get at the wood. I sanded off the shiny top coat first, which ended up being no small task with the grooves on the doors.

After that, I pulled out the stain. It is SUPER thick. I applied it with an old sock (worn on a gloved hand, so no stained fingers for me), and I put FOUR coats on to get it to the color I wanted. You really only need to let it dry about 24 hours between coats, but because I was doing it in the evenings and we had a new baby, sometimes it was longer. Also, because it is winter, I had to let it dry inside. I set up a table in our half bathroom, but it only fit some of the pieces, which means the whole process took me three times as long as I wanted it to.

Comparison: sanded v. one coat of stain 
In process: first coat
Rare action shot: finishing up coat #1
The fourth coat ended up being more of a painting process than the usual wipe on / wipe off of stain. After the fourth coat, I let the pieces dry for 5 days before applying two top coats of a satin polyurethane gel.

No top coat on left | Top coat on right
Then everything was put back together. I think it turned out really well, and determined I would also do the kitchen cabinets, as well as the upstairs bathroom and the banister. I may also end up doing the kitchen table and chairs too. Those are all way down the line in my priority list, though.

Finished product
(planning to paint the trim white)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Roller Blinds

At the end of 2015, I made a plan - it had a bunch of house projects on it, and they were grouped together into months. The idea was to complete each project in its appropriate month. I even gave some projects multiple months, because I knew I was under-estimating the time it would take to finish them.

Well, I'm done with January's projects (soft-close drawers and cabinets / king bed headboard) and February's projects, which I'm going to tell you about today. But March? April? Nope. May/June? Started on it. July? Half done! August? Not even on my radar anymore. September/October? Maybe one part out of five. November/December? Not likely.

Of course, I got a whole bunch of other side projects done. Like car stuff, the loft bed, picture frames, the sewing table, toilet fixed, kid book shelves...pretty much everything else that I've posted about on here. Oh well.

Anyway, so ever since I saw The Holiday, I have wanted motorized blackout roller blinds. You know, from this part:

Now, I didn't go that far - no motorized blinds (I looked into it, and it'll happen someday). However, I did install custom blackout roller shades. "But Adam, aren't those expensive if you buy them custom?" you ask. They sure are, if you buy them! But I made them! "Wouldn't it have been easier and taken far less time and effort if you bought them, though?" Stop asking silly questions.

Anyway, on to the windows. Kristen and I like it dark when we sleep. It also helps when Kristen gets migraines to be in a super dark area. So what I did was make roller blinds that would fit our bathroom window and our sliding glass door (the two areas that let in light to our room). Then I did the same to our spare room and the girls' bedroom upstairs. I left them off of the office window (fourth bedroom).

To start, I did a ton of research. The key components to a good roller blind are:
1. Tube: preferably aluminum, which is expensive, so I ended up going with PVC) - I bought this at Lowe's
I used PVC pipe for the roller blind - you can use any
diameter you want, as long as it fits your clutch hardware.
2. Roller blind clutch and attachment hardware: this is the part that is inserted into the tube on either end and has the string that lets you pull it up and down - I bought this online from China for less than $2/set
Clutch hardware from China
3. Blackout fabric: not "room darkening" fabric - bought this at JoAnn's with coupons (as it can be pricey)
This is the fabric rolled out using tape to temporarily connect two pieces.
We ended up doing the sliding doors as two separate roller blinds.
4. Channel: this is for the blind to roll down in, to block out light at the edges - I accomplished this with vinyl "J channel" and T channel (used for tile floors), epoxied to the old PVC vertical blinds I took from the sliding glass door area, cut to fit the windows

Channel is the key to a dark room, and is the trickiest part.
I'll spare you most of the details, but I cut the tubing, mounted the hardware, had to jury rig the clutches to fit (dang mm-to-in conversions), experimented with making and mounting the channel, had to drill out a rusted bolt from my sliding glass door so the handle wouldn't obstruct the blinds, be super careful about cutting the fabric, and deal with all kinds of other complications. But...I finally got them up and they work great.

Pre-channel mount in the bedroom
Final blinds with curtains as well
Now, I'm fully aware that my solution isn't perfect - it doesn't completely block out all the light, and it's not nearly as pretty as the professional ones. But it still works pretty good, and I did it for a small fraction of the cost of the custom blinds I will someday have in a future house.

This is the brightest time of day, without the curtains too