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Quick Tip {Inexpensive, Collapsible Workbench}

Since I do not have a workshop for my woodworking adventures, all of my tools need to tuck away when I’m not using them.  Up until now I have been working on the garage floor–which appears pretty flat until you are up close and personal on it–and trying to make your project square.  My garage floor is NOT flat and I can feel pretty confident telling you that yours isn’t either.  Before I began the Dining Room/Home Office project, I promised myself I would invest in a workbench, but obviously it needs to disassemble and tuck away, just like my tools.  Here she is:

Inexpensive collapsible workbench

Nothing earth-shattering about it–just 2 sawhorses and a hollow-core door on top, but I tell you it has made a HUGE difference for me in terms of how square the cabinets and drawers are once they are together.  In fact, I didn’t want to put this particular post up yet, but everything I go to write in the other posts seems to talk about this new workbench so I needed to be able to reference it in those posts!


I was warned (thanks Bill!) that the hollow core door may not hold up to some clamping applications, but my laziness won out because I already had the door at home and I didn’t want to spend the time taking it back.  I will warn you that the door will sag a bit in the middle if the sawhorses are as far apart as they are in the picture.  This was taken before I had really started building yet and discovered that.  Moving them closer together helped, but when I really wanted a guaranteed flat surface, I put a piece of scrap plywood on top also and built on that.  The bench still saves my back that way!


I got the sawhorses on sale at Lowes for around $28 and the door was about $21.  I put off spending the money on something like this for 2 years figuring that the garage floor was good enough, but I really wish I had invested in this right away.  Well worth the money.

Quick Tip {Painter’s tape as a third hand}

I’m just not sure why evolution hasn’t stepped in and fixed the problem of only having two hands.  Every mother certainly needs more than two.  I mean come on–why does an octopus get eight??!!  I have never seen an octopus simultaneously unloading an overflowing grocery cart and keeping a three-year-old out of the candy bars.  And what DIYer doesn’t need an extra hand or two?  Or eight?

Painter’s tape to the rescue!

Cove molding on the top of the desk hutch

Keep the moulding right where you want it while using a nail gun.

painter's tape as a third hand

This would have been impossible to try to drill into the cabinet without extra help.

Just two quick examples of how I have used it beyond its obvious purpose.  I’ve also seen some examples on the web how others have used the tape for clamping.  Here is a video from where Carrie uses it to construct some 4×4 posts out of mdf.  This bit of genius may be coming in handy for a future project I have in mind for one of my boys.  And Sandra over at recently used it to finish her library.

What about you??  Have you discovered the wonders of painter’s tape?  What have you used it for (because I can always use a hint or two as well!!)

Quick Tip {Painting walls and furniture}

When we built our house we decided that we would do all the interior painting to save some dollars…but then decided we would paint all the walls and ceilings and hire out the trim. That was a very wise decision, because not only did we save a bunch of time (and our marriage), but we got to know our painter and he taught me two very valuable things I still use to this day.

1. Blue painters tape is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I don’t know how I ever lived without it.  That may be a slight exaggeration–I can live without it, but it is still pretty fantastic.  I have got a pretty steady hand when I am trimming a room, but nothing can match the crisp line you get with painter’s tape around all moulding.  One word of warning, however: I tried using it on my ceiling once, and it pulled up the paint on the ceiling (It was not fresh paint).  I have no idea why, but it did.  I now trim at the ceiling with a steady hand and no tape.

blue painters tape

2.  Stu, our painter, taught me that if you are painting with any sheen other than flat, you must keep a wet edge until you come to a corner or end.  When you start a wall, you need to keep going on that wall for its whole surface corner to corner, top to bottom because if you don’t, the sheen will be uneven.  In other words, don’t put your roller extension on and paint the entire top part of the room, take off the extension, and roll the rest of the room–stick to one wall at a time.  Here’ s a picture example from my house where for some reason we painted a portion of the wall and left part for another time.  I think it was because of having to paint by the ceiling on the stairs.

Example of importance of keeping a wet edge when painting a wall

Not a great picture since it was really low light, but you can see to the right of the door, how it shows the edge we let dry before finishing painting that wall. Same paint, same sheen (eggshell).

I also make sure that I do all the cutting-in, trim painting first and then roll, and roll as close to the ceiling and other edges as I can.  Don’t worry about a wet edge from the cutting in.  I haven’t noticed sheen differences from any of that in my other rooms, and little things like that generally are blaring, thorns-in-my-side if they show up :)  All of this applies to any painting you do–a cabinet side will show sheen differences too.This will mean that any touch-ups you do in a room with paint besides flat, will show up in sheen differences also, unfortunately.  So keep anything like that as small as you can–don’t use a paintbrush when a Q-tip will work.

I hope these tips help you achieve a professional looking paint job in your home!

Quick Tip {Sanding Blocks}

Hi all!  I hope that it is as beautiful in your neck of the woods as it is here in Ohio!  The weather has been absolutely unbelievable.  With all this beautifulness (boy, the spell checker is going bonkers with that word) I’m sure you have been throwing around the idea of getting out the power tools and building.  And if you are, you will certainly be getting out the sand paper because it is an unavoidable part of the building process.

Have you ever priced the sanding blocks at the stores?  I have.  And they never end up in my cart at the checkout line because of that.  The Hubs and I differ a bit in that area–we are both pretty thrifty, but when it comes to home improvement projects, he doesn’t balk at getting things that might be helpful, whereas I tend to “make do” without them.  So that is how I ended up with some ready-made sanding blocks–they came home with him from the store :)

The ready-made version were great and is it my imagination, or do they seem to last longer without getting clogged up?  Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money when they began to look like this:

3M sanding block

This is an incredibly easy quick tip.  Just cut a full sheet of sandpaper into fourths.

Make your own sanding block

And crease the edges up at the edge of the ready-made block.

Finished DIY sanding block

I’m almost embarrassed to post this, it is so easy.  Almost.  I don’t attach it in any way and it stays in place fine just by gripping the sides.

Don’t have a worn-out sanding block to use and don’t want to buy one?  You can still make some really cheap DIY versions.  I used this option until I found the ones the Hubs had already bought (I cannot recommend snooping in your husband’s garage stuff highly enough).  Use some scrap wood–3/4″ thickness or more.  Buy some cheapo craft foam (the kind that they have in the kid’s craft section at Walmart, JoAnn’s, etc.).  If you want to be all fancy-schmancy, buy the self-adhesive kind, but I just used some scrap from the craft room.  Cut the foam to the size of your scrap wood and use a quarter sheet of the sandpaper wrapped around it.  That’s it!

If you can’t get enough of sanding blocks, here are even more options for your consideration:

As far as the kids’ bathroom project non-progress, I am beginning to have hopeful thoughts.  I got a little jump of excitement in the belly when I was surfing for inspiration yesterday and it is the first that I’ve gotten that.  It is what I have been waiting for, so I hope I can fan that little ember into a roaring fire of motivation.  And SOON!!

Quick Tip {extension cords}

You can’t avoid them when you DIY.  Extension cords.  I had a love/hate relationship with them until I found a way to keep them neat and easy to use.  They were always a tangled mess that took up too much room in the garage closet but who can operate power tools on short cords?  Not these pink toes…

Then a few years ago I started cleaning a house for a friend of mine and I needed a way to keep an extension cord usable every week when I traveled to her house.  I found these cheapo orange wrapper things:

They are nice a light, but they will eventually snap.  I think it was only about $1 to buy though, so if you wear one out it won’t break the bank to replace it.

I have another little trick up my sleeve with extension cords as well.  When you wrap the cord up on the orange thingy, start in the middle or your extension cord.  Wrap the plug end on the bottom only and the outlet end on the top only.  That way when you want to use it you don’t have to unwrap the entire cord, just unwrap a little from each end.

Now you won’t have to dread dragging out the extension cord for your next project!

Quick Tip {measurement accuracy}

Happy Friday!  I’m busy in the garage today working on Pip’s closet organizer.  I can’t wait to get this in there and see the difference!  The part I am dreading is painting it since, I’ll have to work in the dining room to do it.  Way to cold for paint in the garage–and humans, but I’m ignoring that fact and powering through.

While I’m working on a project, I have lots of time to think.  Often I’ll think of some random tip that could help you out when you are building.  I’m trying to write those down as I think of them so that I can pass them on to you.  I’m posting the first one today.

One thing I do when I am building is to make sure I am only using one measuring tape for the entire build–all the way from measuring the room to placing the last nail.  It may seem nit-picky, but I think the action on the metal tip can get loose as it ages.  This would only be a problem if you switch between measuring tapes, but if you use the same one you don’t have to worry about it.

Being as precise as you can during every stage makes the project go much more smoothly!


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