Monday, June 30, 2014

My shovel died

I am the kind of person that has one of each item.  I believe that I only need one, and I take care, and keep track, of that one tool.  Having more than one requires additional storage space, and is unnecessary.  Now, I might have multiple types of an item, say 3 sizes of cookie scoops, or different lengths of phillips-head screwdrivers, but never the exact same part....unless, of course, someone gives me one when I had already purchased one.

Anyways, I had a shovel.  I have used my shovel for SO many digging projects, because digging is a hereditary trait that my father gave me, and it has withstood my up and down weight yo-yo without complaints.

Last summer, my shovel and I dug out a 24'x2' spot for a flower bed, and a 2-ft deep hole for a transplanted lilac bush, and countless other smaller flower areas and transplanted plants.  I love my shovel.  It's awesome.

So, this spring when I decided to put ANOTHER flower bed in my front yard, I was HEARTBROKEN to have my shovel handle snap off barely 20 minutes into removing the topsoil.

When I posted how sad I was about it, a friend asked me what I was going to make out of it.  I lol'ed, but in my head, I had an instant image.

Dad gave me one of his extra shovels, so I was able to complete the flower bed,
but I mourned my shovel and determined to give it a place of honor, somehow.

Last week, I finally had the time to work on it.  First, I cleaned it thoroughly, then I got out my drill and drilled a hole so I could run some hanging wire through the handle. 

Then I gave it a coat of white spray paint.  I just love spray paint.  I can't believe I've done projects for over 20 years without ever trying to work with it.  It's wonderful stuff!

I actually put 2-3 coats of spray paint on it, because the first coat was from a REALLY old can of paint that someone had given me, along with a tub of other random things, and it just didn't want to STICK to the metal.  :((

I wasn't sure how to get the whole, "Twilight Zone"-looking swirls.  I really should have looked up some pics on the web or something, but I'm SO DARN IMPATIENT!  OY!  So, I just jumped in with my black acrylic paint and a small paintbrush.

I went over that a couple of times, then pulled out my stencils and some red acrylic paint.  Here's where it became a LEARNING opportunity. (eyes rolling)

You see, a shovel may be a flat surface on which to paint, but that surface is at some interesting angles.  Trying to get the stencil to lay flat for the painting was next to impossible, so the lettering isn't as clean a look as I would prefer, but I am nothing if not DETERMINED, so I kept at it.  2-3 coats of the red paint for each letter, and the wording was done.  Everything got sealed with my spray sealer, and then it was time to hang.

When I went to hang it, it just lacked a I grabbed an old belt and some work gloves that are actually a little too snug on my over-grown hands, and used those to finish it off.

Now, my hard-working shovel hangs proudly displayed on my front door....warning all who enter what to expect! HA!

Project Cost: materials on hand
Project time: 2 days, to allow for paint to dry

Project Outcome:  SUCCESS!!

This is when I love being the Make-Do Queen!

UPDATE: I added in one very important word. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rug dyeing at home?

So I have this rug that goes around my toilet, you know the kind. Keeps your feet warm in the middle of the night.

Mine was a nice mocha color. Matched my towels.

In a fit of cleaning, I threw it in the wash with some towels... But not my towels. The towels from the girls bathroom.

The girls have a much more...excited...bathroom than I do. All orange, and turquoise, and purple, and green. It is perfect for two teenagers. Shows almost no dirt. 

See what I mean?

Anywho... Their towels aren't monochromatic like mine. And after the wash, my rug was a very questionable shade of green. :(

I got the bright idea to try and dye it back using coffee and tea… You know, like they're always telling you on Pinterest.

So I cleaned out the trashcan, brewed some tea and some coffee, and stuck it all in my bathtub with some more hot water.

I let it sit all day, checking on it every now and then to swirl & swish.

Then I set it in my washing machine to drip dry.

Now I have a mottled green rug. Some parts took, and some saw no change. 

So much for that. 

Project cost: $12 for a new rug 
Project time: 1 day

Result: Dud!
So much for Make-Do.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My repurposed coffee bar

And finally the project I teased almost a month ago!

I have this space in my kitchen.

As you can see, it's almost wasted space, and the dog is able to knock over the trash can whenever she gets mad about something and spread it all over the house. (Another reason I pulled up the carpet back in November and put in the paper floors.  Check out that blog here.)

I've toyed with putting in a pantry for almost the entire time I've owned the house, but could never decide HOW to do that, on my ultra-cheap budget, and still have it look good.  Then I considered knocking down the top of the wall and opening it up into my living room, so that the two rooms had more connection.  One of my friends did that in her house, and it was SUCH a headache for her, that I decided to not try to take that on, myself.

At some point this spring, I decided to just put a shelf in, at bar height, to allow for more counter space and to better conceal the trash, recycling and dog food canisters.  When I started talking about it to my kids, D2 insisted that I put some real effort into making it look good, not just be functional.  She didn't mind the shabby chic of my back yard, but insisted that the inside of the house look good for her friends.  TEENS!

So, that slowed me down.  I had to figure out how I could build something, on almost no budget, and have it look like it was semi-professional.  I built the box out of that reclaimed plywood, and some old fence materials, but then it just sat in my shed for a month or so while I tried to figure out how to dress it....and how to mount it.

I had bought some shelf brackets at Dollar Tree, but when the kiddo insisted it look GOOD, I had to re-think the support.  I did some research on YouTube and saw that several people advised the kind of wall anchors that would go through the wood, into the sheetrock, and then pivot to provide stability.  So I went to Home Depot and bought a package of the sturdiest looking 3" wall anchors I could see.

When I was out in the shed, last week, looking for something else, I spotted some baseboards that had been left with the house/shed, and started looking at them.  They are actually the right height, and would affix to the box I built easily, and give it a more "finished" look.

Then I realized that I would have to miter cut the ends to fit together.  I have never miter cut anything in my life and was seriously afraid to try. I remembered a friend telling me that my circular saw had little levers and knobs that would allow it to do angle cuts and so I pulled it out and started trying to figure out how to do that.  Knowing that I would do it wrong the first time, I left the baseboard sections about 6" longer than I actually needed them, and then cut.  Yep!  Did it wrong the first time.  Corrected the cut by flipping the board onto it's back, then re-drawing a straight line, then cutting again.

SUCCESS!  Repeat on the next section.

Using wood glue and nails, I attached both pieces to the box....and noticed that my cutting skills hadn't been that precise when cutting the top out of the plywood.  There were little gaps between the baseboard and the plywood and I just stared at it and wondered what in the world I was going to do NOW?

As is my habit, I left it alone and gave it a day or two to let my brain try to resolve the issue while I focused on other tasks.

I was applying for a job at a local home improvement store and they asked about my knowledge of caulk...and I thought, "I can use caulk to fill in those gaps, then paint over it all, and no one will know!"  EUREKA!!

When I got to the caulk isle, I saw that right behind me was wood filler.  Well, if caulk will work, I bet wood filler will work BETTER, so I bought some of that, and saw the poly right next to it, and remembered that my poly at home was rubbish, so purchased a small can of that, too.

Feeling like I might actually be able to pull this off, I started thinking about what I could move to sit on that shelf, freeing up cabinet space or counter space.  As I was sitting in my kitchen, pondering, drinking my coffee, I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to have my coffee stuff moved over there where I could spread it out and not have it be such a clutter that everyone sees the second they step into the kitchen?"

See, I'm a little bit of a coffee addict.  I have the Keurig, a regular drip coffee maker, and a french press, in case the electricity goes out.  Yes, I would boil water in the fire place in a kettle and use it to make coffee.  Yes, I'm THAT bad of an addict.

So, I'm dreaming about making it my own personal coffee bar, and realize there are no plugs on that wall.  HOWEVER, my dad and uncle are 3 streets over and both are relatively competent DIY electricians. :D  Oh, yes, I immediately began talking them into coming over and dropping me a plug right where I want it. HA!

In the process, they also figured out why a particular switch wasn't working and fixed it.  Yeah!!

So, back to the wood filler.  I read the instructions carefully, and squeezed a bunch into the gaps, trying to use the putty knife to get it even.  It was so hot that the stuff was hardening quickly, and I wound up just using my fingers to get it where it needed to be.  Wait 2 hours, sand, add more to fill in the deep spaces, wait 2 hours, sand, repeat.  After it was built up to a satisfactory level, I started painting with...yep, the RED. Ha!

It took multiple coats, again.  Paint.  Wait an hour, reapply, wait, paint, wait, paint, etc.  About the 4th coat had the wood filler completely covered and blended, and the place where the miter cuts met looked really good thanks to the wood filler.

I REALLY wanted to stencil something on it, but my stencil skills are SERIOUSLY lacking.  I was almost resigned to installing it with no decoration, when I figured out that I could do a reverse stencil on it.  So, I used some peel and stick letters, some painter's tape, and an odd piece of flooring to keep a straight upper line and painted over it in black, the same color as the legs.

After waiting an hour or so, I did another coat of black, let dry, then removed the letters, tape and flooring.  I borrowed a small paintbrush from my artist of a daughter and went back over the edges with some touch-up paint to get the lettering as clean as possible.

Let it all sit and dry for an hour or two, then applied the first coat of poly.  Wait 2 hours, reapply. 

Here's the thing I'm learning in all of these projects. My push to get things DONE, isn't always the best way to do them.  I really should have allowed for more time to let it all sit and dry and harden before trying to install it.  Just because it's horribly hot outside, and the paint and poly is smooth and dry to the touch, doesn't mean its HARD and ready to move around.

Called Dad and Uncle to help me get it installed, and as I was trying to communicate with them the way I envisioned it being affixed to the wall, we managed to bump it a couple times, and there are now a few little nicks on it.  It's not huge stuff, but I'll always know its there if I don't go back and fix it.

I let it sit for several days, after I saw that, and then moved in.  I was just given a sign from an old church coffee shop, and I mounted that on the wall to cover the old telephone jack.


I'm going to go back and sand, touch up and re-poly the couple of spots that bother me, and realized that when I measured and built the box, I didn't allow for the extra 3/4" of the width of the baseboard, so that needs to be painted/hid.

But I like it.

Total cost = $28 (wood filler, wall anchors, poly, new switch & faceplate)
Total time = TOO long  (weeks?)
Outcome = The kid doesn't hate it, so I call that a SUCCESS!

Hope Chest Hutch

As I mentioned in the previous post, I recently created a space in my bedroom for a home office.  As a result of the transition, I realized a drastic need for more shelving. 

I knew I would have to build something, as I simply can't afford to go buy stuff, but I knew that I wanted it to look good and be sturdy.  Not sure if I've mentioned this, but my skills are almost zero. I learn on every single project and make mistakes on every single project.

I decided on attempting to build a hutch that could sit on my hope chest.

Several months ago, I came across some old cabinets that someone had disassembled and put by the dumpster.  I talked to the building guy and he gave me permission to take anything around their dumpster that I thought was of value.  Since the cabinets were built out of 3/4" plywood, something I desperately needed, I had grabbed the 3 best looking sections, loaded them in my mom-mobile, and brought them home.

In order to use them, I had to cut off the bad spots, and pull out all the previously existing nails and hardware, then sand them down, THOROUGHLY.

I measured the width of my hope chest and decided on the total height, then cut the plywood into 4 sections, 6" wide.

Two sections for the vertical and 2 sections for the horizontal.  Sanded every section, again, then used screws to assemble into a simple shelf.  When I got it put together, I was a little nervous about the true stability of the middle shelf, so cut another piece to act as a brace in the middle.  Then realized it might tip over easily if I didn't offset some balance, so added a small 2" cross bar along the back bottom to provide additional support.

That seemed pretty stable, so I started painting it.  Because it was already blue, and I was using the red I've grown fond of, it took MULTIPLE coats to cover.  I would paint it, then let it sit for 4-6 hours in the heat of my shed, in the back yard, in the middle of May, in Texas, then go back and put another coat. 

When I was comfortable with the coverage of the red, then I decided to seal it, for good measure.  I had some old polyurethane that came with the house and shed, so opened it and applied it.  Evidently, sitting for over 4 years in the extreme heat and cold, reduced the efficacy because it never hardened, just stayed tacky to the touch.

So I pulled out the spray sealer that I used for all the glass bottle projects back in the spring, and put a couple of coats of that on the shelves.

After letting it dry/harden for 24 hours, I moved it inside. 

It's not something you'd find at a fine furniture store, but for the cost of my time, I'm actually pleased with it.  And it is certainly sturdy enough to hold everything I've stacked on it.  At some point, I've seen cute little folding baskets from Dollar Tree that I'll buy to put the files and junk in, but until I know what my job situation is going to be, I'm hesitant to spend much on non-functional stuff.

Total cost = materials on hand
Total time = 3-4 days, allowing for drying times
Outcome = Success

Fence Picket Floating Shelves

I had to rearrange my room to make space for a home office, and in so doing, I some of my shelf space.  Suddenly, I had to put supplies for an office in the spaces I had used to display my kids' artwork.  After I got all the furniture placed, I realized I had a completely blank area in which I could hang small shelves.  A quick search of Pinterest, located floating shelves, but when I saw the labor intensity and the hardware I would need to buy to pull them off, I was disheartened.

Then I came across this post, and had a flash of inspiration.

I had to replace some pickets on my fence because I have a black lab who thinks she's in training as an escape artist, and I bought the 8' pickets from Home Depot, and cut off 12" so I could have a slightly higher fence in that area of the yard.

I grabbed my circular saw and cut 1" strip off the length of each 12" section.  Then sanded each piece with my sanding sponge.

I hate nails, so tried to use screws to attach the sections in an "L" shape, and split the wood.. :( That didn't work!  Pulled out some small nails and my hammer and, using wood glue, made quick work of the little ledges.

Then I covered with 3 coats of a nice red paint that I've been enjoying.

(That blue/red piece at the top is another, much larger project, that I'll be posting next.)

When dry, I used the same nails, made sure they were level and nailed to my wall.

SO easy, and I think they turned out GREAT!

Total Cost = materials already on hand
Total Time = 1 day (waiting for paint to dry)
Outcome = SUCCESS!

Plastic Bags bag

So, I see all these cute things on Pinterest that people have made out of their plastic shopping bags, and being someone who highly prizes repurposing and reusing things, I thought I would try to make something.

I started out by folding a bunch of the bags, longwise, and placing books on them to help flatten.

After several weeks, I had people over and needed to clean, so had to finally DO something with them or give up the project.  So I wove several together, and then pulled out the iron.

I was overly cautious, at first, and used an old towel to protect the iron (or maybe it was the bags) from the heat, and had the heat on low.  I quickly figured out that those bags were NOT going to fuse or melt unless I kicked the heat up a bunch.  I kept turning the heat up, placing the towel on the section I wanted fused, and then placing the iron on it for 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 seconds.

By the time I got it to work, the iron was all the way up to high, and 10 seconds was just about perfect.  Of course, I gave myself a wonderful little memento of the attempt that, even 4 weeks later, is still healing. (Sad face)

I kept weaving more bags into the "fabric" and fusing (melting) with the iron.  After I got about a 3'x1' panel all fused, I looked at it and thought, "now what?". yeah, I hadn't really thought it all the way through.  "Ah, ha!  A bag!  I'll make it into a cute little beach bag!" I thought.

I folded the "fabric" in half and added another bag to each end to act as the joining piece, then went back to towel, iron, count, check, repeat.

I used scissors to try to even the top all the way across, and then realized that I still needed to figure out handles.  By then, I had spent almost 2 hours on it, and was getting tired and frustrated, so decided I'd line the bag with cloth and sew the handles to the cloth part of the bag.

My sewing machine isn't cooperating so I took everything over to Mom's to use her fancy stuff.  When I got there and started explaining what all I wanted to do, everyone looked at me like I had turned purple and sprouted horns.  I looked at them, I looked at what I had already done, and I made a decision.

From now on, I am just going to take those shopping bags back to Walmart and put them in their recycling bins.  This was NOT worth all the effort.

Total cost = Iron burn
Total time = 2 hours
Outcome = Dud