Building a Woodshop – Sheathing, Roofing, Trim and a Broken Rib

Holy Schneikes! It’s been months since I blogged about the shop and it’s come a long way since my last post. Since finishing the framing, I’ve worked on the next steps, which are many:

  1. Wrapping the structure in OSB
  2. Roofing: Applying OSB Sheathing to the roof, then tar paper, drip edge and shingles
  3. Wrapping the structure in moisture-resistant house wrap
  4. Installing all of the windows
  5. Putting up the LP SmartSide Panel Siding
  6. Installing trim around windows, doors and panel joints
  7. Installing soffits and fascia
  8. Installing gutters

Continue reading “Building a Woodshop – Sheathing, Roofing, Trim and a Broken Rib”

How to Hide Your TV Wires in 30 Minutes

We all love our flat screen TV’s, don’t we? Such a nice, low profile up on the wall! What we don’t love, however, are those ugly wires that hang down and create an eye sore. Hiding those ugly wires is easy, so fear not.

This post is sponsored by DataComm Electronics. They provided me with a professional installation kit, all other equipment is my own.

DISCLAIMER: This installation process is for drywall only. If you have brick, concrete, or otherwise solid walls, this process will not work. I suggest using a piece of cable channeling instead to hide those wires.

The first thing you need to do is remove your TV from the wall, as well as any wires or plugs. Make sure you have a clean space to work with. Figure out where your studs are using a stud finder. Typically, studs are 16” apart, and you’ll want to work within the empty space (called a bay) between studs.

After you’ve marked where your studs are, mark with the template included in the kit where you want your top and bottom receptacles to go. The receptacles need to be in the open bay between studs, because the wings/tabs on them attach to the drywall, and the stud will get in the way of them. Also, the top and bottom receptacle should be in the same bay as one another. Use a level to make sure the template is straight.

In the middle of the piece you have marked to cut out, attach a screw and use it as a handle, so when you’ve cut all the way around the piece, it doesn’t fall into the wall. Use a jab saw to cut out the square. You can also use a utility knife; score around the square until you get all the way through. Make sure to hold onto the handle as you cut the last side of drywall!

Optional: Some people are concerned about critters getting in the walls and chewing through the wires, or you may want to just make it easier to pass new wires between the top and bottom receptacles later on. I used a 6 ft bilge and pump discharge hose for this. It’s sealed all the way around, and has sections to cut it to size with regular scissors. You can run the low voltage wires through the hose. Connect the hose to the top receptacle using white electrical tape if you’d like.

Make sure the tabs/wings are in first so the receptacle fits in the hold. Drop the electrical wire down as well as the AV tube.I would recommend feeding your A/V wires through the tube at this point. Put the bottom portion of the receptacle in first. It may be a little tight, but will swing in. Once it’s in, use a screwdriver to tighten the wings and attach to the drywall. Pull everything through the bottom hole.

Bottom receptacle: Coil the wires, and push them through the box to keep them contained; then push them with push in connectors, matching each wire with its counterpart (white/white, black/black, green/ground). Push the wires into the box, and use screws to fasten the box to the bottom receptacle. Attach pipe onto the bottom piece with tape.

To install into the wall, put the electrical side of the box into the wall first. Make sure the wings/tabs are in. Push the left side in first to make the right side fit nicely. Tighten with a screwdriver. Drop A/V cables down the tube (if you haven’t already), and plug power into outlet.

PRO TIP: The hose may get jammed when trying to fish the wires through. To help with this, just pop out the top receptacle. Even a flimsy wire will go through the tube.

When you’re done, you should end up with an outlet up top (behind the TV) and you A/V cables spanning between the top and bottom receptacles, ready to plug into the TV and you components!

It should be noted that you can perform this install in an insulated wall as well, just as easily. At a friend’s house, I used the single outlet installation kit from DataComm to do their install in an insulated wall.

 

The trick to pulling your wires through the insulated wall is to use a measuring tape and feed it from the bottom opening through to the top. Once it’s through, you can either tape your wires to the end of it and pull it back through or tape a hose/pipe to it and pull that through, which will make future wire pulling much easier.

When you’re done, you should have a sweet, clutter-free wall under your TV. W00t W00t!

I’ve done a similar install in another room in my house using simple open ended face plates and then manually installing an additional outlet. I have to say, using the kit was way easier and faster. The installation at my friend’s house took 30 minutes, including the time it took to shove one of those humungoid original XBOX A/V plugs through the receptacle (it barely fit).

Got any questions, comments or suggestions? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Check out the video of the install here:

 

$100 DIY HD Projector Screen

 

After finishing my basement recently, we were ready to put the projector up and a screen for a little theater area. I started researching projector screens and all of the screens I saw were either smaller than what I wanted or super expensive. My projector could handle an image just over twelve feet diagonally. The total measurement was 147” so I needed a pretty big screen and wanted one with a good material.

I called a friend of mine who I had worked with in the past who runs a very successful home theater installation business. I explained to him that I needed a large screen and that I was hoping to get a motorized screen so that when I turned the projector on, the screen came down on its own. He quickly talked me out of the motorized version explaining that I’d get a lot more bang for the buck using a mounted screen and also telling me about the expense of replacing parts on a motorized screen down the road, which made sense. He then told me about using a grey material rather than white, which I had never seen. This guy knows his stuff so I took his advice and got some material on Amazon called Carl’s FlexiGray and I have to say – he was totally right. All I needed was a frame for it, which I built in a few hours and then mounted on the wall. The results? Pure awesome. The picture looks sharp, the material looks good even when the projector is off and family movie night is a regular occurrence at our house.

For the project in this article, I’m working at my buddy’s house where he’s got a projector all ready to go and he just needs a screen for it. Here are the steps we went through to build the frame with a screen.

Measure

Start out by projecting the full size of the image onto the wall where the screen is going. Make sure everything is plumb and straight so that you get a nice rectangle and then get the horizontal and the vertical measurements.

Cut

For this project all you really need as far as material are one by fours. They’ll typically come either pre-primed or unfinished but it doesn’t really matter which you get. You can usually pick these up at your local big box hardware store. Here’s how to figure out how much material you’re going to need. You’re going to have a top and bottom rail, each of which will be at the full width. Then your sides and your two supports will be at the full height minus the board width of the top and the bottom, which would be 7 inches if you’re using 1×4 material (1×4 is actually 3 ½” wide). Once you have your measurements, measure out and cut each piece.

 

Assemble

You can use either Pocket Holes or ‘L’ Braces to assemble the frame.

As far as assembly goes, you’ve got several options. The two I want to show here are using corner braces with metal braces and using a pocket hole system, which is what I’m using to build this frame. We’re going to add two pocket holes to each of the ends of the vertical pieces. We don’t need any in the top or bottom rail. Pocket hole systems start at about $40 for the simplest version. The system you see in these images is the K4 Pocket Hole system and that one runs about $95. They have a deluxe version for about $155. You’ll find links for all products below. Next take your boards to the room that you’re going to be mounting the screen in so that you don’t have to carry a fully assembled screen through the doors, which may or may not fit. Lay out each of the pieces on the floor then mark the ⅓ and ⅔ points of your top and bottom rails so that you can put your support rails in place. These don’t have to be super accurate.



The most important part on this next step is making sure the face is nice and flat. Check to be sure that the pieces you’re lining up are flush with one another so that you don’t end up with a lip where you don’t want it. Here I’m using a Kreg right angle clamp but that’s totally optional. If you’re assembling your frame with braces, make sure you’re using countersink screws and make sure they’re short enough that they don’t pierce through the other side of the material. Once the frame is assembled move it out of the way and lay out your screen material, face down. I’m using Carl’s FlexiGray projector screen material, as I mentioned before. It’s got a nice flexible backing like rubber so that when you stretch the material over the frame it’s actually pretty difficult to end up with any creases or wrinkles in the material. Lay the frame face down on the material for the next step.


To finish up the screen, use a staple gun to place staples about every 2” or so. I like to use a lot of staples so that I’m not putting a lot of tension on any one spot. There are several schools of thought on where to start and how to proceed on this part but I’ve found that it doesn’t much matter whether you start on the corner or in the middle of one of the sides, so long as you’re aware of how things are going and you make certain to keep the material taut. Choose a starting point and then work your way around the screen. When you get to the corners, just fold the material in on itself and staple it under. That way you don’t end up with any material sticking out on the side of the screen. When you get to the last section, check again to make sure the material is stretched evenly across the screen and you’re good to go.

 

Mount

Once you’ve finished assembling the screen it’s time to get ready to hang it. You can make the marks for where the corners of the projector screen ought to go to make sure that the actual image is centered on the screen. Next, use a stud finder to mark where the studs are and drive at least two screws into the top about 3 ½” down from where it needs to go. That way, when you hang the screen, it’ll sit exactly where you want it to be. Leave the screws protruding about a ½” from the wall, which is less than the thickness of the frame. Finally, hang the screen and check out what an awesome picture you’ve got!

I hope you found this info helpful. If you’ve got any tips, tricks or suggestions, leave a comment below. Thanks so much and be sure to check out my YouTube video as well!

Watch Video

 

Standing Desks: Everything You Need to Know

Standing Desk
The first thing you need to know is that there are three main types of standing desks: the fixed or traditional standing desk, the Riser and the adjustable-height desk.
  1. The fixed standing desk or rig is any setup that allows a person to stand or be upright while working but doesn’t give them the option to sit down. This is a really common configuration and is the kind of desk that really started the standing revolution. Quick side note, this is actually how I got into standing at work. I made my first standing desk for about $28 from a couple of Ikea end tables and a shelf. I made a video about it several years ago that you can check out here. After a year or two with that setup, I built a coffee table version to have a little more desktop space. This second setup, including the stool, only cost about $60. In addition to the traditional standing desk, this genre also includes some more aggressive desks designed to help you get some light exercise while you work, like treadmill desks and even elliptical desks. Besides full desks, there are also rigs that raise your computer and monitors off the desk but don’t allow for them to be quickly or easily lowered again. The price range for a fixed standing desk or rig starts at Free.99 for a simple DIY setup using books, boxes, crates or anything else you can get your hands on, and might cost as much as a few hundred dollars for a higher end DIY standing desk. On the commercially available side, traditional standing desks start at around $150 but are generally in the $250-500 price range.
  2. Next up is Risers. Risers are an addition to your existing desk that give you the option to quickly go from sitting to standing or vice versa. They come in a wide range of sizes, materials and options and are harder to make yourself but not impossible. In 2012 I set out to make my own desktop extender that I could lift up and down at will. I came up with this one and used it for several years but it required two people to lower it, so it wasn’t very effective. Fortunately, there are many commercially available options. As far as price, a DIY version of this type of desk is likely going to set you back at least $50 in supplies and parts while commercial options for these risers typically range from $200-$500. If you just need to lift a laptop, not a larger area, you can pay as little as $40.
  3. Last up is the adjustable-height desk. Much like Risers, these can quickly go from sitting to standing height but these are desks where the entire surface of the desk moves up and down, either electronically or manually. This is a great option if you either don’t have or want to replace an existing desk and want the added advantage of having a nice, large surface that moves up and down with you. Adjustable height desks, like risers, can be complex to build on your own and would likely cost $50-100 on the low end for a DIY version. The commercially available options start as low as $250 (even for an electronic, motorized version) and can cost as much as several thousands dollars.

Sitting vs Standing

Tons of research has been done on the effects of sitting vs standing. I’ve read dozens of articles on the subject and one of the best resources I’ve found on the impacts of sitting vs standing at work is a study from Cornell University on ergonomics. The study concludes the following:
  1. You shouldn’t sit all day. Sitting for more than one hour at a time leads to fat build-up and is related to heart disease risks. Sitting for 8-10 hours/day for years on end is extremely unhealthy.
  2. You shouldn’t stand all day. Extensive standing increases the risk of varicose veins and is harder on the circulatory system, particularly for the legs and feet. It fatigues us about 20% more than sitting (for me it feels more like 40%). Also, it decreases our fine motor skill abilities, which, depending on your occupation, could be problematic.
  3. Sit/Stand Desks aren’t an easy fix. People with sit/stand desks tend to spend most of their time sitting within about a month of getting their desks. Also, when people do stand, it tends to be for only 15 minutes or so.
  4. So what do they recommend? The pattern I’m about to introduce you to changed my sitting and standing behaviors at work for good because not only does it make perfect sense but it’s also very reasonable to accomplish. Here’s their advice: “Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 8 minutes AND MOVE for 2 minutes.” That, my friends, is the key. Get into a habit of standing and then walking every half hour. The movement only needs to be a couple of minutes and the standing only for eight. That’s extremely doable and a sit/stand desk or riser makes this possible. Check the description or my article for links to apps that help you keep track of time intervals for this method.

Posture

Posture while standing is as important as standing itself. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you’re standing.
  1. Your elbows should be at a 90° angle while you type. Your monitors should be within arms reach and should be at a height where you can see them easily without looking up, and they should be slightly below eye level.
  2. Alternate positions. It’s important to change your posture while you stand. Lean on different feet… don’t lean at all… put one leg up… switch legs. Keep changing to keep moving.
  3. Avoid leaning over on your desk or doing anything that would be stressful on your back or neck.

Mats are Critical

Buy a decent mat or two for work and it’ll make standing way easier. Costco sells a $20 mat that is actually pretty decent and is one of the more affordable options out there. Nicer Anti-fatigue mats are upwards of $100 but if you stand a lot, they’re worth it. Try doubling up and using two or more mats. You don’t want to be standing in a foam pit, but you definitely don’t want to be standing on a concrete floor either.

Footwear Matters

Wear comfortable shoes if you can. Choose shoes that are supportive and that won’t bother you after several intervals of standing. If wearing comfortable shoes isn’t an option, don’t wear shoes while standing. When combined with a good mat, being barefoot is really quite comfortable.

Use a tool or app to help you keep track

There are apps for desktops that help you keep track but all of the ones that I’ve tried are very manual and I found that I lost interest in using them. There are watch apps if you use a smart watch and this can be a great way to keep track. Personally I use a phone app that reminds me every twenty minutes and then again after ten minutes. None of these options seems like the perfect solution, however. I think a sensor driven device would be ideal – maybe one that would keep track of the time that I’m at my desk and if it’s raised or lowered. Better yet, a way to keep track of when I’m sitting, standing or moving throughout the entire work day. If you know of such a thing, please leave a comment and I’ll update the description.
So that’s standing desks in a nutshell. They’re a great way to be more active at work and to reduce the time you spend sitting. Of course, standing and sitting are only one part of being healthy during the work day. There’s a lot of great info out there about staying active in your office, like these 10 Office Workouts You Can Do To Boost Your Productivity, for example. Do you have any tips about standing desks or standing at work that you’d like to share? Help us all out by leaving a comment below!

The Best Way to Put Up Christmas Lights

best-way-to-hang-christmas-lights

Please note – you’ll find the links to the products from this article at the end of the text.

Putting up Christmas lights kinda sucks. It’s a pain that we have to deal with every year but I love Christmas and think it’s worth doing. After my wife and I spent about 8 hours putting up Christmas lights last year using hundreds of clips and moving the ladder around dozens of times and then not even being all that pleased with how it turned out, I decided there’s gotta be a better way.

tangled-christmas-lights

 

I’m going to show you the method I use that, once you get it set up, allows you to put up Christmas Lights in about an hour each year – and the best part? Once it’s set up, areas that are less than 25’ high don’t even require a ladder.

best-way-to-hang-christmas-lights

Here’s what’s involved:

  1. The first year you spend some time to set up your sections of lights for your house using 1/2″ PVC, zip ties and, of course, your Christmas lights
  2. You install small hooks and white clips around the house
  3. Every year after that, you use a ladder or for areas less than 25’ high, a pole to hang your section joints from the hooks at the peaks and corners of your house
  4. Once you have a section up, use a pole or ladder to snap the sections into their clips
  5. Position the lights if necessary by pushing or pulling a bit
  6. Plug it in and you’re done!
  7. Then, at the end of the season, just use a ladder or a pole with a hook on it to take them down and store them in the garage until next year.

Now let’s take a look at how you get everything set up and some of the pointers that will save you a lot of time and frustration.

the-crevier-christmas-light-system

I started out by researching what others had done and I discovered the Crevier System on YouTube and wanted to try it out but I couldn’t help but think that I could be just a bit lazier and not use a ladder at all. I live in a one-story rambler and, using my new method, was able to put all of my lights up without using a ladder at all, once the initial setup was complete.

The first step is to go around and measure all of the sections where you want to put lights up. Keep in mind that you need to measure the areas of open line, where you don’t want lights but where the line needs to extend from one section to the next, like from a horizontal roof line to an eve.

putting-up-christmas-lights

With our dimensions listed out, it’s time to cut 1/2” PVC pipe to match each section. You can cut it with any type of saw, or you can use a $12 pair of PVC pipe cutters. You can buy 1/2” PVC pipe in 10’ sections for about $2, and don’t forget to pick up a few 1/2” couplings in case you have sections that are longer than 10’. As you cut each piece, I recommend labeling them with their length and their order to make it easy to line them up later.

measuring-pvc-for-christmas-lights

Once the pipes are cut into sections, it’s time to strap the Christmas lights to them. For this project, I highly recommend getting separate lines and bulbs. By doing so you can replace the bulbs any time and you can even reconfigure the colors. It’s also to customize the lines – like if you need to split off to go up to an eve while the main line continues on, for example. You can also easily remove a light socket or two as needed. I shopped around and found a pretty decent deal on Amazon for 100ft sections of 12” spaced C9 stringers as well as Red and White C9 LED bulbs. That said, standard lights will work just fine with this method as well – including icicle lights or any other kind that lays out in a line.

attaching-stringers-to-pvc

To attach the lights, start at the end with the plug and work your way down the line, making sure to keep your pipe sections in order, and remembering to leave spaces of line where you need to. I tried using 4” zip ties at first but found that 6” ties work way better. I also really appreciated being able to use a zip tie gun as it saved my fingers from having to tighten and clip the hundreds of zip ties involved in this kind of project. It was well worth $15. At the end of the line, just cut the cord and apply a waterproof wire nut to seal it off.

the-best-way-to-put-up-christmas-lights

If you do end up with section where you just want the power line and don’t want the sockets, you actually remove the sockets pretty easily with these types of stringers. Just squeeze the back of the socket off and they should pop off, leaving the power line in tact.

removing-extra-sockets

With our sections of pipe cut and all lit up, it’s time make clips. As it turns out, 3/4” PVC makes an excellent clip for 1/2” PVC to snap into. To make the clips, we first need to remove a section of the pipe. I played around with cutting out different amounts and found that removing about 1/3 was perfect. I used my sliding mitre saw to cut two parallel lines in the pipe but you can also do this with a hand saw, hack saw, table saw, skil saw, dremel or a router – whatever you have handy. If you know someone who has a sliding mitre saw, however, it does make this job pretty easy. Once you’ve removed the section from the 3/4” pipe, you’re ready to cut it into 1” sections to turn it into clips using either a mitre saw or the PVC pipe cutters.

cutting-christmas-light-clips

The last thing we need to do before our clips are done is to predrill them a countersink screw, so that the screws don’t jut out into the clip. I recommend drilling the holes close to the open side, rather than in the middle. That way, when you attach them to the house, the opening can point downward, which makes it easier to clip the pipe sections in from the ground.

pvc-christmas-light-clips

Now it’s time to prep our eves. Get the ladder out and predrill and insert some 3-4” hooks at the peaks of the eves and on corners to hold the various sections in place. Think about how the sections will hang and place them on corners and areas that make the most sense. While you’re up there, attach the clips every 3 feet or so. Remember to point the opening downward and try to keep them nice and straight. Also, be sure to give yourself enough room around obstacles, like gutter drains and light fixtures.

installing-pvc-christmas-light-clips

The last step in our preparation is getting a pole ready with three types of endings. I used a 3/4” PVC section duct taped together for grabbing and pushing the pipes into their clips. I used another 3/4” PVC section shaped with a small opening to grab the zip ties between lines and hook them into the mounted hooks. Lastly, I fashioned a small hook out of some angle brackets to use to take the PVC sections down. For the pole, I just used a 10’ metal electrical conduit and used a second one with a coupling for the really tall areas.

huge-reach-with-conduits

With the sections wired up and the clips and hooks in place, it’s time for the fun part – putting the lights up. I find it’s easiest to have someone helping out by holding the bulk of the sections of pipe while you hook one joint at a time onto the corresponding hook on the house. You can even reach some pretty tall areas with the two poles together. I mostly focus on getting them all in place first, them I go back and use the first attachment to push the pipes into the clips. From there, I push the lights that need it into position, and we’re done!

easiest-way-to-put-up-christmas-lights

I recommend storing these in the garage or attic on some hangers. Keeping your sections no longer than about 15ft is ideal for storage.

That’s it! These lights take a little while to set up the first time but after that, putting up the Christmas lights each year will be way easier than it used to be.

pvc-christmas-light-setup

If you have a way to make this process even better or easier, leave a comment! I don’t claim to have all the answers and would love to hear what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Resize a Watch or Adjust a Metal Watch Band

how to resize a watch

Project Time: 20 Minutes • Project Cost: $0-7USD • Project Difficulty: Easy

How to resize a watch

Watch band too big? Here are two ways to get that sweet new time piece fitting perfectly in no time.

Method 1: The Ghetto-licious Way (It’s how we do)

The first method uses items you have around the house and just takes a few minutes.

You’ll Need:

  • Hammer
  • Push Pin
  • Needle Nose Pliers (could be regular pliers, or even tweezers possibly)
  • Scrap wood (a surface to thwack on [yes, that’s the technical term])

Step 1: Put the watch on and determine how many (and which) links you’ll want to remove. You might want to mark the links with some tape so you don’t get them mixed up. Remember to keep things centered; if you need to remove four links, take two from either side.

how to resize a watch - line up the band

Step 2: Place the watch on the wooden block or scrap so that the link that you want to remove is either over a hole in the block or hanging just off the edge.

how to resize a watch - thwack the pushpin

Step 3: Line the push pin up with the first pin that you’ll be removing, then give it a good thwack. You may need to hit it a couple of times but the goal is to get it to peek out the other side, enough that you can get a hold of it with the pliers/tweezers.

how to resize a watch - remove the pinStep 4: On the other side, pull the pin all the way out. Put the pin somewhere safe where you won’t lose it.

Step 5: Take out all of the links you need to.

how to resize a watch - the resized watchStep 6: Now for the glorious finish! Line the trimmer watch band back up and put the pins in part way until you can get them to line up perfectly. A couple more thwacks with the  hammer and you’re good to go! Check both sides to make sure the pins are flush in the band. Pokey pins snag on everything.

If you are feeling wealthy and have a few days’ notice before you have to adjust your new watch, check out method #2.

Method 2: The ‘Tim “The Toolman” Taylor’ Way

If you’re not comfortable thwacking push-pins, it’s time to buy a nice little Watch Link Remover Tool (about $6 USD) or even a Watch Repair Kit (about $7 USD).  I’m linking to ones that are available for Amazon Prime because some of the really cheap ones take weeks to arrive.

Step 1: Refer to Step 1 above.

how to resize a watch with a link removal tool - line up the pinStep 2: Put the watch band in the remover tool and line the pin up with the knockout pin.

how to resize a watch with a link removal tool - push the pin outStep 3: Twist the handle to push the pins out, then pull them out the other side, freeing the links. Save those links – you might need them again after the holidays.

Step 4: Repeat for the other links you want to remove.

how to resize a watch with a link removal tool - reassemblyStep 5: After lining the watch back up, sans removed links, put the pins back in via the same method, just in reverse.

And you’re done! Nice job, you. You deserve a pat on the back. Wear that watch proudly because you made it fit. The video below shows the whole process, using both methods. I hope this was helpful and please feel free to comment, like, subscribe and share.