Kids Bathroom Renovation

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.

Wall cab­i­net in place and bath hard­ware mounted

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. 

Begin­ning demo — the clos­est thing to a “before” picture

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.

Ains­ley and Angela paint­ing trim

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.

Cab­i­netry being mount­ed using three lag screws

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. 

New toi­let installed and old toi­let ready for the dump (pun intended)

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. 

  1. 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. []

Bathroom Update

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.

Our updat­ed hall­way bathroom

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. 

The old sink pulled out and donat­ed to our local Habi­tat for Human­i­ty ReStore

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 90° 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. 

A hole saw allowed me to cen­ter the light bracket

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! 

The fin­ished hall­way bathroom

New Table Saw

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.

Cut­ting angled dados

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. 

Ryobi Job Site Saw
The ‘lil 15-amp champ that I’ve used for about 3 years.

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.

Same saw at two very dif­fer­ent prices at the big box stores.

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.

Dust after rip­ping 8′ of 1/2″ birch plywood

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). 

Ful­ly assembled!

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. 

Angle between blade and top at just past the 45° mark

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!).

Set­ting up for some cross cuts using the miter gage

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! 

Misc

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.

Resistor Storage Box

I made a small, wood­en box using fin­ger joints to store my resis­tors used for elec­tron­ics projects.

A small ply­wood box using box joints

I’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 weren’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. 

Yes, I even make plans for a small box. 

The first step was to use my (new!) table saw to cut the 1/2” ply­wood pieces. I also cut the slot in each side to accom­mo­date the 1/4” ply­wood bot­tom. I’m not sure this last step wasn’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. 

This is why you cut the slot after the fin­ger joints. 

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 “table” is just a piece of 3/4” 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 “dial in” the fin­ger width to get a good fit. 

My router table is a 3/4” scrap of MDF clamped to my workbench

After the pieces were cut, I had some repair to do. While ply­wood is a great mate­r­i­al, it’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 isn’t hard, but I could see if being dif­fi­cult on a large piece with all those fin­gers. But it’s at least easy to keep things square. 

This was the eas­i­est part.

Once the glue cured, it was time to sand down the fin­gers flush to the box faces. Here again, ply­wood isn’t very for­giv­ing. The thin face veneer sands away quick­ly on the disc sander. Next it was time for wood filler. Those slots left 1/4” 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 it’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 I’m not even dis­ap­point­ed in the final result, despite the flaws. 

Pilot Towing Update

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.

IKEA Truck and Trailer
Our Hon­da Pilot tow­ing a trail­er for the first time… to IKEA!

Update 2020-07-18: We rent­ed a trail­er for our trip to IKEA to get some bath­room cab­i­nets & counters. 

Rolling Workbench Update

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.

Shop Vac Dust Collection

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.

Rigid shop vac with dust collection
My roller board attached to the shop vac

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.

Plywood cut to fit bucket
I used a jig saw to cut out the plywood

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″).

Sizing up the fit and height
Siz­ing up the fit and height

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.

A set of counter-sink bits is a good purchase

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.

Plat­form attach­ment to shop vac

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.

Shop vac with attached dust col­lec­tion fits 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. 

Raised Bed for Gardening

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 raised gar­den bed with some veg­eta­bles planted

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.

Deck­ing boards and alu­minum angle from the big-box hard­ware store

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. 

The band­saw eas­i­ly cut through 1/2″ of aluminum

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.

A cou­ple of pieces of wood in the drill press clamp held the angle for drilling

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. 

A view of the screw pat­tern and the angled steak end

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.

Ains­ley water­ing down the soil before planting
  1. 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. []

Wheelbarrow Repair

Our old wheel­bar­row had been sit­ting long enough that the han­dles had more-or-less turned into mulch. Iron­ic, as mulch is pri­mar­i­ly what we’ve car­ried around the yard in the wheel­bar­row. I had con­sid­ered mak­ing some new han­dles out of pres­sure-treat­ed pine, but replace­ment hard­wood han­dles weren’t ter­ri­bly expen­sive. So I ven­tured out to the big-box hard­ware store to get some (where I was in the vast minor­i­ty by wear­ing a face mask!). 

Rotted Wheelbarrow handle
The han­dles for the wheel­bar­row com­plete­ly rot­ted away at the end

This project would have been just about impos­si­ble if I did­n’t have some Liq­uid Wrench to loosen up the rust­ed nuts. It took about 5 min­utes for it to work into the bolts and almost every­one came right off.

Liquid Wrench
Liq­uid Wrench to the rescue

Once I got the entire wheel­bar­row apart, I traced over the bolt hole loca­tions to the replace­ment han­dles. My assis­tant was there to ensure that all mea­sure­ments were accu­rate and well-sniffed.

Hargie helps with measurements
Hargie helps with measurements

I used the drill press and a 3/8″ forstner bit drill the holes. I have a fair­ly cheap set of Ryobi bits (which pair nice­ly with my trusty Ryobi drill press!). I can def­i­nite­ly see pur­chas­ing a much nicer set of forstner bits as they are fast and clean.

Drill Press
Han­dle bolt holes with the drill press

I did spend a few min­utes clean­ing off some sur­face rust from some met­al parts with a wire brush and some min­er­al spir­its. I hit all of them with a coat of black spray paint to hope­ful­ly reduce some future rust. I did­n’t spend a lot of time and did­n’t even wait for the paint to dry before I re-assem­bled everything.

Wheelbarrow Parts
Dirt and rust on some met­al parts

I re-assem­bled the wheel­bar­row minus a cou­ple of wood­en shim pieces. They had almost lit­er­al­ly turned to dirt at this point and would have been a pain to re-cut. I also need to get some zinc-coat­ed bolts and wash­ers at some point since the exist­ing bolts are now too long with out that shim in place. But it’s a 100% func­tion­ing wheel­bar­row again and looks pret­ty great actu­al­ly, as far as wheel­bar­rows go.

Wheelbarrow Glamour Shot
Looks bet­ter than ever