As our kids have gotten older, they have outgrown their shared hallway bathroom. So we decided to give them two sinks and some more storage space.
In all fairness, “renovation” is probably not the best word for this project. We didn’t exactly tear down the room to bare studs or anything. However, it did touch on just about every DIY skillset I have! And we agreed that if we were going to do this project ourselves and not hire anyone, we were still going to make sure every aspect was done right.
We used a similar IKEA cabinet with drawers to the one we installed in our downstairs bath update. This is the IKEA Hemnes vanity and wall cabinet, along with the match Odensvik sink. We also used a pair of the Ensen faucets from IKEA. These cabinets are great for storage but be prepared to do some modifications to your plumbing lines as they almost certainly will have to be cut shorter!
However, where that had a pedestal sink, this bathroom had a full cabinet with a closed base. The new cabinet was shorter in depth and also had an open cabinet. Upon pulling out the old cabinet, we immediately realized that the tile was place after the cabinet and therefore didn’t continue beneath it. Angela was able to locate some matching tile used in the bathroom. We had to remove some of the tiles that had been cut around the cabinet footprint. A grout removal blade on a cordless oscillating multitool made this an easy job (I started off trying to remove the grout by hand and it was nearly impossible with the epoxy grout). My son helped out placing some underlayment. The composite vinyl tile used floor adhesive and silicon grout (which is honestly way worse to place than normal tile grout). We were able to mostly match up the grout, though.
For lighting, I added a second light mount in series with the original. The builders of this home used possibly the worst light mount boxes, so I ended up replacing the original with an old work box. I drilled through a couple of studs to run the wire, which was difficult at best1. The other electric work consisted of moving an outlet a few inches out of the corner so that it wouldn’t be blocked by the wall cabinet. I used my multitool again here to quickly cut out the old box and then cut in a space for an old work box about 5″ to the left. Seems like a lot of effort for not much distance, but it makes the outlet much easier to get to.
With the electrical out of the way, it was time to patch up the walls. I’ve learned a bit about drywall repair and I can say from experience that drywall compound is far better to work with than spackle for anything larger than a nail hole. For covering larger openings, also use a metal mesh patch. The one downside to drywall compound is that it’s a ton of sanding and therefore a huge, dusty mess. But the results are worth it. My wife and daughter painted the room a blue-gray once all the sanding was complete.
Next, it was time for plumbing. Unlike our downstairs bath, the supply lines and drains in the wall stuck out too far for the IKEA cabinets. In order to cut back supply lines, we had to shut off the main water supply to the house. We had fortunately never had to do that before so locating it was a headache. In our defense, it’s upstairs in a hall closet where our water heater tank is located and doesn’t look like any other water shut-off valve I could find on the internet! Once we got the water shut off and the pipe pressure relieved by opening a tub faucet downstairs, I could cut the lines. Actually, Angela ended up cutting the second and putting a new shut-off valve on since I had to run to the store to get some more compression rings (the old ones weren’t coming off and I only had one for some reason). The drain was easy to cut back using the multitool again (it’s a great demo tool!). I installed the line splitters and fit up all the drain lines for the two sinks after that.
The open cabinet meant that I needed to place floor trim all along the wall where the old cabinet previously was. I was able to purchase some matching MDF floor molding and shoe molding. I cut it to size, sneaking up so it would make a nice, tight miter in the corner. Of course, the walls were not really straight at all. The one new tool major tool I purchased for this project was a battery powered trim nailer and it made installing the molding a breeze. With that in place, we could hang the cabinet and set the vanity top.
The last thing to do was to hang the wall cabinet with the mirrors. Unfortunately, both Angela and I hadn’t really thought through all the distances. There was enough space for the full cabinet between the top of the faucets and the bottom of the light fixtures, but just barely. That is, you wouldn’t actually be able to put your hand on the faucet and turn it on! We even tried turning the lights to point up (keen eyes may have noted that in the first photo), but it still wasn’t going to be enough space for the wall cabinet.
I had a plan, though. I took the wall cabinet apart and did
some a lot of measuring. I then took the sides and back panels out to the garage workshop. I was going to simply remove the bottom shelf and thereby shorten the cabinet 6–1/2″. The sides were actual stained pine, so I didn’t have to worry about a veneer tearing too much. I made the cuts to length using the miter gage. I then cut about the final inch off of those off-cuts. This would give me a drill template for the dowel and screw holes in the “new” bottoms. I then cut the back panels down by the same amount. The cabinet went back together perfectly. There was even a consistent gap all around the mirror doors!
The last major piece to install was a new toilet. The old toilet was a short height, round bowl (i.e., a “kiddy” size toilet — this photo does not do the size difference justice). We opted for a reasonably priced Delta toilet. I was a bit nervous about the removal and installation, but it went pretty easily and was far less unpleasant than I expected. That being said, the Delta toilet is pretty lousy and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
We hung up some matching hand towel and robe hooks for the kids to finish off the room. So there you have it: demo, tiling, electrical, plumbing, drywall, painting, and carpentry all in one small bathroom renovation! But it really has inspired our confidence to tackle even more projects. I’m pleased with how everything turned out and that I know everything’s done correctly, too.
- In fact, I nearly drilled right into a live 110v line to an outlet using a spade bit. Fortunately, I was going fairly slowly. However, that could have easily gone very badly for me. [↩]
We’ve been working for the past couple of months to update the bathrooms in our house. We started with the simplest update: replacing a pedestal sink with a small IKEA cabinet. We also repainted, updated the lighting, and hung new art & a mirror.
First of all: we’re really bad at taking “before” photos for some reason and it’s not like we had a lot of random photos of our bathrooms, anyway. So there’s not much to show for that. This bathroom never had any storage and our previous clunky attempts at adding some never really solved that issue. So, the main update was to remove the builder-grade pedestal sink and to replace this with a cabinet.
We got a small cabinet with two drawers along with sink & faucet from IKEA. Their Hemnes cabinets have full-depth drawers. This is accomplished by a very shallow sink and a drain that has a couple of hard 90Â° bends to go behind the drawers. Also, this requires that the shut-off values and drain connection extend less than 4″ from the wall. Fortunately, we didn’t have to make any changes to the plumbing connections for this to fit. We did shift the center of the sink away from the wall, so as to not crowd the cabinet into the corner. This gives it more of a “furniture” look, which was the aesthetic we were shooting for (with the Euro-style open base and all). One piece of advice if you choose to do this: give yourself a few inches to paint the wall beside the cabinet. Otherwise, you’ll have to call on your skinny-armed child to come do that and they might not be the best painting labor.
The lighting also needed to move over to be centered on the newly placed sink. The wall box for the lighting was attached to a stud which was right where I need to place the light. So we opted for a light with a larger wall covering. I simply cut a new hole in the mounting plate and wired through that.
The mirror was one we had previously used in another bathroom but would match the white on gray color scheme here. My daughter painted a scene from the movie Spirited Away and I decided to make a frame for it. I got some poplar 1x2 from the big box hardware store. Poplar is a fairly fast growing and therefore cheap hardwood and would be a lost cost, low risk way to practice making a frame. I used a “floating” frame technique by cutting a rabbet along the inside, which gives the painting the appearance of floating (well, a bit of a shadow line anyway). I also got a frame band clamp to help keep the frame together. I had to build in an internal frame of scrap plywood pieces, as the paining wasn’t on a canvas but rather a board. I use whatever white rattle can spray paints I had to cover the frame, which didn’t turn out so well. But the frame was mostly square with tight miter joints!
We painting the bathroom a nice gray (which we’ve now used in all our bathrooms). The whole room feels much larger, even with the cabinet as there is no longer a tower of cubbies for awkward storage next to the toilet. And those drawers hold even more!
After a couple of years of using a portable table saw, which actually belongs to my older brother (thanks, Steve!), I decided to purchase an upgraded table saw for my woodworking projects. I’ll describe a bit of why I decided on this model and what I think of it in this post.
The Old Saw
First, about the old table saw. It’s a Ryobi and it really did serve me well on quite a few projects. I certainly pushed the limit of what this saw is capable of. And for probably 90% of the projects, it was up to the task. Seriously, for a lot of DIY’ers, this is a perfectly good saw. I put a quality blade (a 50 tooth Freud Diablo), which dramatically improves the cut of any saw. I built a cross-cut sled that made a lot of cuts feasible.
But the saw is very lightweight, and sometimes pushing the sled into the blade would actually start to tip the entire saw! Also, the fence while actually pretty accurate, isn’t great. So, if you’re just ripping medium size pieces or making small cross-cuts, this saw can manage it. I actually even managed to rip down bed rails from a full size 4’x8’ sheet of 3/4″ maple plywood on this little thing! One place where this kind of saw just completely fails, though, is in dust collection. That is, there is none other than gravity generally making a giant pile beneath the saw.
New Saws Out There
I did quite a lot of research on table saws. I did consider a “job site” saw and putting it on a mobile base (or even re-building my mobile workbench). These are some pretty great saws in the $250-$600 price range. The next jump up in price range is a “hybrid” table saw, which is nominally portable (if “portable” only means having casters and weighing under 250 lbs). These have the larger table of a cabinet saw and typically better fence systems. These tend to be in the $700-$1,200 price range. Of course, there are cabinet saws for professionals which cost far more, typically require 220v power, and are far more saw than I could ever justify. And there are Saw Stop saws in all these categories and while their flesh-sensing system is amazing, I also can’t justify the cost for those. Really, Saw Stop sort of sit in a class of their own, in my opinion.
Within the hybrid saw class, most of the saws are really around $1,000 and up. There are some great saws in that price range. The big box stores have a couple of “entry” level models, though: the Ridgid and a Delta (why Lowes hasn’t label-slapped this as a Kobalt, I don’t really know). Between the two of those, the Delta seemed to typically get better reviews and was a bit cheaper at $600 at the time I purchased it (July 2020). Further, the Delta just got a newer version released with some decent improvements. Home Depot actually does also carry the Delta, but at $300 more.
The Delta 36–725T2
So what kind of table saw do you get for $600? First of all, a Biesemeyer fence system, which can cost over $400 separately. The center of the table is cast iron and the wings are steel. I found that the top may have a slight dip to the middle (that is, I could see a slight bit of light beneath a straight edge laid across it), but is more than flat enough for anything I’ll ever want to make. The wings aren’t stamped sheet metal, but actually steel plate, similar in thickness to the angle rails and square tube used for the front fence. Even the blade that is included is pretty decent. I ripped two 4′ lengths of 3/4″ plywood to make some French cleats and it was a clean cut on both. And while the dust collection isn’t perfect, it’s actually quite good. Also, the mitre included has a nice steel bar and heavy plastic body.
The entire saw took me about 2–1/2 hours to assemble, and that includes having to take apart almost the entire thing to swap the side the swivel caster was on. Also, I should have paid closer attention to the hole patterns on the wings, as I had to turn those around and re-level them. If I’d paid closer attention, I could have easily been done in under two hours without rushing. My wife did need to help me get the box out of the back of our SUV by lowering one end down to the floor. Otherwise, I was able to put the saw together by myself, including tipping it up (I used an extra scrap 2x to help tip it easy so I could get my hands under the cast iron top and just squat lift).
The scale on the rail was nearly spot-on out of the box. Similarly, the saw was very close to parallel to the mitre slots. How close? Well, I couldn’t actually measure the difference with a quality sliding square, but I could hear a tooth rubbing the end more at one end than the other. So yeah, pretty close. The fence is pretty spot on and super easy to adjust. I saw a few reviewers commenting that the angle gauge was off, but mine was within 1–2 tenths of a degree. It’s also easy to adjust (and, honestly, I have a digital angle gauge so I’m more likely to rely on that anyway). I haven’t run into anything about the saw so far that I couldn’t quickly tweak.
The saw is a bit bigger than I’d hoped, though (hold on, I’ll explain). I had planned on just rolling it beneath my fixed work bench. Since I couldn’t, I ended up having to re-arrange a lot in my garage. This was my biggest worry, but it ended up just fine and frankly, having to clean up the garage wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Fortunately, the casters are pretty good and the saw rolls & turns very easily despite weighing 220 lbs. I’ve moved it in and out of the “parked” spot several times for use now and it’s not been a bother.
Using the Saw
So I’ve used the saw for several different cuts now. As I mentioned earlier, I did several long-ish rips of plywood to make some French cleats. I also ended up having to cut down sides and back panels of an IKEA wall vanity (pine and hardboard). I used the mitre gage to make the cross cuts on the side panels as I haven’t made a new sled for this table saw yet. However, the mitre gage worked great for this purpose. I cut about half-way through the side piece, flipped it over and repeated. This reduced tear-out on both faces (and by reduced, I mean there was zero). But of course, to do this you have to have the blade dead parallel to the mitre gage and it was (again, right out of the box!).
The fence has a small rail that folds out on the right-hand side to make cuts on thin stock, such as the hard board back panels. This works perfect and prevents the material from sliding under the fence (which sits about 1/8″ above the table top). I also used the table saw to cut an angled dado into a poplar board, which was used to make a tablet/phone stand. I also used the saw to cut down some 1/4″ underlayment boards for a tiling project. So, not a ton of use, but a pretty good variety of types of cuts and everyone has had me even more happy with the purchase.
I do wish I’d cleaned and waxed the cast iron top as soon as I got it put together, though. It took only about 2–3 days for the Tennessee summer humidity to charm some rust out of the cast iron. I’ve since sanded, cleaned, and waxed it, but now there are some stains in the cast iron. They don’t in any way affect the saw, but good tools are worth taking good care of.
Lastly, one feature I didn’t know that I’d like so much is just how quiet this saw is. The magnetic start button is great and the saw is so much quieter than my shop vac, I can barely hear it!
A couple of things I had been curios about before getting it, so I’ll answer those here just in case anyone else is interested:
- The box is 30″ x 24″ x 19″ and includes everything, including the rails (I think the larger top version has a separate box).
- A Lowes employee helped me load the box onto a flat cart and a couple of others loaded it into my vehicle for me, but my wife and I were able to slide it out and down out of the back of the SUV. Beats paying a $60–70 delivery fee!
- The length of the rear rail is 54 3/8″ and the distance from the spreader bar to the end of rear rail is 2 1/2″. The front rail is 62″. I think I was able to look up all the other dimensions online.
- The tubular frame is crazy strong (like, I’m a structural engineer and I’ve seen buildings with smaller tube members); though it is rectangular. That is to say, you can rotate the lower half so the swivel lift caster is on the left or right, but not the front or back.
- The three caster wheel occasionally “tips” a bit, but the corner of the frame prevents it from tipping more than just a few inches. So, the saw isn’t going to fall over on you; just occasionally catch if you make some aggressive maneuvers while moving it.
I made a small, wooden box using finger joints to store my resistors used for electronics projects.
Iâ€™ve been hoping to practice using box joints for quite a while. My sanding accident back at the end of 2019 was in trying to make a box joint jig for the table saw sled. When I finally did make that, the results werenâ€™t great. So I decided to purchase a commercial box joint jig for a router table from Rockler. After a quick test, I also purchased some longer, straight cut bits.
The first step was to use my (new!) table saw to cut the 1/2â€ plywood pieces. I also cut the slot in each side to accommodate the 1/4â€ plywood bottom. Iâ€™m not sure this last step wasnâ€™t a mistake in my order of operations, though. I ended up getting some really bad treat out from the router on that little strip of wood on two of the sides. I do think now that a spiral down-cut bit may also help with this.
So, this box joint jig is intended for a router table. A router table, in brief is used to mount a router upside down below. This then allows you to bring the workpiece to the tool, rather than taking the router to the piece. This is essential in smaller pieces and for many jigs. Now, my router â€œtableâ€ is just a piece of 3/4â€ MDF scrap I clamp to my workbench. I can then clamp the jig to that. I used a few more scrap pieces to clamp the shop vac hose as dust extraction. I did several test cuts on some scrap to â€œdial inâ€ the finger width to get a good fit.
After the pieces were cut, I had some repair to do. While plywood is a great material, itâ€™s not the best choice for this particular method of cutting box joints. There was a lot of tear-out. I was able to use some glue & sawdust to fix some of these before flying up the box. Glue up for box joints isnâ€™t hard, but I could see if being difficult on a large piece with all those fingers. But itâ€™s at least easy to keep things square.
Once the glue cured, it was time to sand down the fingers flush to the box faces. Here again, plywood isnâ€™t very forgiving. The thin face veneer sands away quickly on the disc sander. Next it was time for wood filler. Those slots left 1/4â€ holes in each corner. And the plywood tear out had numerous gaps. So I went a little crazy with the wood filler. This then left me with another round of sanding. By this point, the birch veneer was completely gone in some spots around the fingers.
Lastly, I used the Cricut to create some vinyl stencils for the large omega (the symbol used in electrical engineering for resistance). The stencil worked great, but the adhesive back ended up pulling off some small veneer fibers. So yet another drawback of plywood here. The final step was to use some wipe-on gel polyurethane finish. I think maybe doing the stencil between two layers of finish would have helped prevent the fibers lifting.
One of the reasons to make this is that itâ€™s not a show piece. This is just something to replace the cardboard box I had used for a couple of years to store resistors. That way I can learn and practice with no pressure. I definitely did learn a lot and Iâ€™m not even disappointed in the final result, despite the flaws.
We lost a giant among men today. I just watched the documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble a couple of weeks ago. Though his life took him from rural Alabama, Nashville, Atlanta, and the to D.C., he moved the nation forward along his journey. This clip from when he won the National Book Award gives me some sense of the scale of how far he came in his life.
Letâ€™s all remember the debt we owe Congressman Lewis and more importantly, that it isnâ€™t yet paid. Even ‑or, perhaps especially- white folks like me owe him a debt of gratitude. Through his leadership and nonviolent protests, he forced us to see Christ in those that do not look exactly like us. As this country pulls down monuments to those whose deeds betrayed the nationâ€™s ideals, let us consider that statues should instead be erected to those who made the nation greater than the one they were born into.
Last year, I added a towing hitch to our Honda Pilot in order to haul bikes. However, it only made sense to go ahead and add the necessary wiring for pulling a trailer (brake lights, turn signals, etc.). So I ordered the OEM kit from HondaPartsGuys.com (great site for Honda and Acura owners!). Again, it warns that this is not a DIY kind of job in the instructions, but it really is very easy to do. The worst part was that I had to remove the hitch, bolt on the wiring socket, and then re-install the hitch. Otherwise, it went off without a hitch (no, wait, that’s not right).
I got a 7‑pin to 4‑pin adapter (most U‑Haul or other small trailers use the 4‑pin as they don’t have brakes and reverse lights). It also has a handy-dandy light tester in it, so I could verify the brakes and turn signals both work. A lot of tight spaces to work in, but kudos to Honda for designing a very easy to install system here.
Update 2020-07-18: We rented a trailer for our trip to IKEA to get some bathroom cabinets & counters.
I built the “Basic Mobile Workbench” following Steve Ramsey’s design about two years ago. Having a workbench on wheels ‑along with the a roll-up extension cord in the middle of the garage- really changed the entire way I make anything in the garage shop. But I put some pretty tiny little casters on it, and though it rolled ok, I’d always wanted to improve it. However, since I built it at the height of the table saw, there was not way I could raise. Well, with a new table saw (more to come on that soon), I decided now was a good time to put on some bigger rollers.
I cut off the legs below the cross members using my late father-in-law’s old reciprocating saw. That old Craftsman is crazy powerful and made short work of it. I also cut some support bases out of 3/4″ construction plywood to level out those cuts and give the lag screws something meaty to attach to. The overall effect was to raise the top surface about an inch and it rolls better than ever.
I built an out-board roller support for my dust collection for use with my shop vac. For a cheap project made from scraps, I’m very happy with the results.
I’ve used the same Ridgid shop vac for dust collection for about 16 years. It continues to serve me well, but last year I purchased a Dustopper from Home Depot to use with a 5 gallon bucket in order to collect saw dust and other debris. This saves on the filter, as most of the dust gets deposited in the bucket before it actually gets to the shop vac. This also makes emptying out the waste a lot easier.
Well, in theory, anyway. First of all, there are other cyclonic dust collectors that are for use with shop vacs that no doubt work a bit better. This was a cheap (around $25) option and it was lower profile (more on that further down). But it was a huge pain to drag the entire setup around the garage! The hoses kept coming undone. The bucket handle at one point pulled off the bucket. I tried zip ties and ratchet straps, but it just wobbled around and tipped over on me.
A couple of weeks ago I sketched out a rough idea of supporting the bucket dust collection with another caster. A lot of other DIY’ers solve this problem by making a vertically stacking cart, with the dust collection on top. However, I store my shop vac under my work bench and I needed a low profile solution. Also, I felt like I could build a minimal system here and only need to purchase a caster. I also purchased one of those “cut to your own size” shop vac power tool attachments, but it ended up not being nearly rigid enough to make a solid connection.
I used some scrap 3/4″ pine plywood (like construction grade stuff). I measured out the curve of the shop vac body as well as the bucket and cut that to fit the profile.
I propped it up on some other scraps to check the fit, trimming a bit more to fit the curve of the body. I also measured the height from the floor to the bottom of the plywood (about 4 1/4″).
I cut out some scrap MDF pieces to make a riser for the caster. The caster measures 2 1/4″ tall, so I needed about 2″ total. This was two 3/4″ and one 1/2″ thick pieces of MDF, cut down to about 3″ by 3 1/2″. I glued them up and then sanded the edges to clean everything up a bit. I also sanded all the edges of the plywood platform, thinking that will reduce shin splinters in the future.
I then attached the riser to the plywood using 1–5/8″ decking screws. I counter-sunk the screw heads on top, just to keep the surface flat for the bucket.
As I mentioned, I used one of those rubber, cut-to-fit hose attachments. The idea here was that I would nest this into the shop vac attachment storage slot on one of its casters. Then I could screw the attachment to the plywood. I really shouldn’t have bothered. The soft rubber just didn’t give me any confidence that the connection was solid. And the whole platform could wobble too much side to side. So, I grabbed a couple of galvanized metal building clips (basically, a small angle with some pre-drilled holes). I mounted those on the underside of the plywood and screwed a 5/8″ screw on each side into the shop vac body. This may result in some lost suction, but I can always go back and seal off those screw holes with some silicon if so. So far, though, I can’t tell any difference.
Lastly, I took a second bucket and just screwed it down to the plywood. The dust collection bucket can then nest inside this one. It makes for a very solid connection that I can pull on, but also allows the dust collection bucket to swivel. And, the final test: the entire thing easily rolls up under my work bench.
Of course, I promptly pulled the vacuum back out to clean up the garage! It works great. And all for the cost of a 2″ swivel caster. I did blow about $10 dollars on that vacuum connection piece. I may get a more rigid flange connection to replace it, though (Woodcraft has one for about $5). I’m considering also painting the wood pieces gray and black to match the shop vac, which would be an excuse to take it apart and make that connection better.
We’ve been doing a lot of sprucing up in our yard in the past few weeks. Angela has wanted a raised garden bed for a long time and Bob of I Like to Make Stuff has a really great, simple design which he recently built that I liked a lot. I will confess that I might have bought a kit if one had been available. The price of the materials ended up being about the same and it was a fun project.
The materials for this were four 8′ decking boards, a 4′ section of 2“x2” aluminum angle, and some decking screws (which I already had). I cut the decking boards into 4′ lengths, two for each side.
Aluminum is soft enough to cut with most woodworking blades, so I cut the angle into four 1′ lengths1. I then used the bandsaw to cut 1–1/2″ angles to one end of each length. These will act as spikes to hold the bed in place. I used a simpler cut than Bob’s, figuring it would still stick in the ground well enough. I also used the bandsaw and disk sander to round off the corners. I left an inch gap at the top, as well so that the corners wouldn’t scrape any knees or shins.
I worked out a screw pattern to attach the corners to the boards. The decking boards had a couple of thinner channels on the underside, so I tried to put the screws into the “meatier” sections. The corners are overlap joints, so the screw pattern isn’t symmetric on either side of the corner. Once I worked out the pattern and “dry” fit a corner section, I used the drill press to drill a set of holes. I messed up a couple of hole locations but another dry fit had the pattern finalized. I drilled and countersunk 32 holes into the aluminum.
Then it was time for assembly, which meant pre-drilling all those holes into the decking. I probably didn’t have to pre-drill them, but as the holes were very close to the board ends, I wanted to make sure they didn’t tear out.
Angela helped me carry the assembly into the garden where it was time to load up with soil and plants. Ainsley helped her plant some vegetables. Some of these were seeds, so it looks more empty than it is.
- Bob’s design has longer corner pieces, but he also apparently had more aluminum on hand than I could get. These aluminum pieces aren’t especially cheap, either. [↩]