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Category Archives: Carpentry

Happy Handiversary

Thumbs Up_bandaged

It’s been one year since I accidentally sliced my hand open with an xacto knife.

While hanging pegboard, I had about had it with a drywall anchor that wouldn’t sink flush with our stubborn old plaster walls. This was like the third or fourth one and I was losing patience. The plastic form would get about halfway into the wall before it would smush to the side. I had had enough of it, so I reached for the craft knife on my desk a few feet away.

Now, keep in mind, I have spent hundreds of hours of my life meticulously cutting intricate designs from paper without a problem. WHICH IS KIND OF AMAZING considering that I am quite the klutz in real life. Needless to say, this wasn’t my first rodeo; I was comfortable wielding this tiny weapon.

Ok, so then it happened. I cut the anchor successfully but was using my left hand to brace the wall. Instead of doing the right thing and cutting away from my body, I did the other thing and the fresh blade incised just below my left thumb. It was a very long second before the blood rushed to the surface and I screamed.

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was the only one home. Thankfully, we live literally across the street from an emergency room. I can only imagine the mess if I would have had to drive myself to the hospital. Phew.

I had a few very clear thoughts:

  • I need a towel to wrap this.
  • I need to make sure the dogs are inside.
  • I need my keys.

And then I walked over. Surprisingly, for me, (I can be quite dramatic) I was playing this very cool. Upon walking into two wrong entrances and calmly explaining my situation to two different sets of receptionists on duty I dry-eyed made my way across to the ER.

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“I’ve cut my hand open with an xacto knife.”

“Here, fill out this paperwork. Do you have your insurance information?”

“No, but I can get it.”

I called Drew and balancing on a breath I managed to spew out the words “um so I need our insurance information?” My pitch increasing with every syllable, “I’m in the emergency room. But everything’s ok… you don’t need to leave work.” I sounded like a pubescent boy by the end of the sentence.

Good thing he knows better. Before you could finish cooking a pot of rice he was in the ER room holding my good hand.

While waiting for him, however, I called my mom to let her know that I wouldn’t be able to email her that thing before 5 o’clock. Told her what happened but not to worry. Ha.

She said she ‘happened to know’ somebody ‘who had the same thing happen’ and the doctors weren’t careful and “THEY HAD TO AMPUTATE.” Cue my freak out.

Like a minute later the doctor walked into the room, with me now full-on blubbering, asked me “What’s the matter with you?”

Through blurry snot-and-tears I just kinda cry-yelled “I NEED BOTH OF MY HAAAANNNDS!”

It’s no secret with my friends and family that I love making things by hand and dream of hosting my own tv series teaching people how to make things too. Like Martha, but with a splash of Rachel and a little bit of Alton. You know. But to get that gig, I really need to have a ‘tv look’; preferably, that means pretty hair, big smile, small waist OH AND two of each extremity. Preferably.

I’m sure there’s some progressive studios out there and that’s cool, but really, who wants to see craft demos by the one-handed lady? I mean, yeah for a second, but then it would get weird and everyone would feel uncomfortable. Whatever. Ok, I’m just really glad I have two hands.

OK SO, the doc zapped my hand with some drugs and proceeded to thoroughly clean my wound and stitch it back together. Although I couldn’t feel it, I could kinda almost stomach watching him sew my flesh back together. Pretty soon he was done and writing me a prescription for painkillers– which we quickly filled and accompanied with lots of ice cream.

A lot of nerve endings were cut, so the whole base of my thumb was numb for several months. A year later, I have most of the feeling back in the digit that separates us from apes. When it was healing and I’d have to wash it out and change my bandages, I’d look at it and break down. Now, I’m sure that a lot of this sadness was a side effect of the prescribed opaites. But some of it was really real.

I would squirt the cucumber melon scented foaming soap onto my scar and gently rub it with my right fingertips. The sensation of feeling the stitches and seeing me feeling the stitches but not feeling me touching the stitches was upsettingly trippy. Cue my sporadic sink-side sobbing.

My pretty hand would never be the same again. I’ll always have this mark. I’ll never be the same.

Damn right.

I have never held a tool the same way again. I’m even timid around wine openers, seriously. Not out of fear, now out of respect. I look at the scar on my hand with pride and caution.

The funny thing is that I’ve always talked about getting a craft knife tattooed to my forearm. Well, now I don’t have to. I’ve got a much more badass scar instead.

This is my scar today.

This is how my scar looks today.

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Ok so, because I love you and I respect your possible desire to NOT want to see bloody gory nasty photos, I did not include them in this story. However, for all you freaks out there that wanna see the gushy stuff, those photos are below.

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Last warning, if you don’t want to see the bloody stuff,

STOP HERE.

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Kitchen Makeover Part Two: DIY Wooden Countertops

Kitchen Makeover Part Two: DIY Wooden Countertops

Hey There,

Our kitchen had some outdated linoleum countertops that were already starting to peel off. We went to the home improvement store to check out what options were available, and I’ll be darned, I must have great taste… because every surface I gravitated towards was like a million dollars a square foot. So instead, Drew had the idea of doing wooden countertops like we’d seen in magazines. I am so pleased with the result and excited to share this tutorial with you!

Keep in mind, this is part two in the Kitchen Makeover post. If you’re interested in how we refinished the existing cabinets, click here.

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project:

Tools:

Chisel

Mitre Saw

Palm Sander

Sandpaper:

  • 40 grit – extra coarse
  • 100 grit – coarse
  • 150 grit – medium
  • 320 gril – fine

Drill

Hand Plane

Hardware & Supplies:

Wood

1.5″ Screws to attach frame to base

1 tube of Liquid Nails

2″ Paint Brush

1 qt. Sanding Sealer

1 gallon Tried & True Danish Oil

The Process:

1. Remove Existing Countertops

For us, this meant stripping the linoleum using chisels and hammers like so:

2. Get the Glue Off

Using a very coarse sandpaper (we used a 40 grit) and a palm sander, exfoliate off any remaining adhesive from the base wood of the countertops.

3. Frame The Counters

Cut pieces of your selected wood to the length of your countertop. Using a drill, screw each one into place. Leave a lip the depth of your wood, for us it was 3/4″ like so:

4. Lay it out:

Start in the corners and work your way out.

5. Glue it down:

Apply a liberal amount of Liquid Nails on the base wood, then add pieces of wood one by one. I just cut a bunch of pieces in various sizes between 8-20″ for variation. As I got to the end, I cut pieces to specific sizes.

6. Even it out:

If you have some areas that are drastically uneven between boards, use a hand plane to shave off the top. Make sure to go with the grain of wood, this will help avoid taking off big chunks. Beware: there is a razor on the bottom of this thing. It’s REAL SHARP. Be very careful!

7. Apply Sanding Sealer:

With a dang respirator on your face, paint on a generous coat of sanding sealer. After it dries, it will feel rough to the touch. That’s totally fine. It will all come off in the sanding process.

8. Sand Until Smooth:

Start with a coarse grit of 100 and work your way up to a fine grit of 320 until that surface is smooth like butta. Between each run of the sander, rub the sawdust into the cracks. This will help seal in any gaps in the end.

9. Oil Lavishly & Rub it in:

Apply a generous coat of Tried & True Danish oil. With a clean, lint-free rag wipe the excess into the wood. Repeat until satisfied.

10. Stand back and Admire:

Just look at how pretty they turned out! For about $300 in materials, these wooden countertops have a big impact. Depending on the size of your countertops, each step may take a while– but the techniques are simple and super gratifying.

And finally, let me just say…

When we began discussing countertop options, I was very hesitant to the idea of preparing food on wooden surface. Not only was I worried about germs and stuff, but I was also concerned about how stain-resistent it might be. Red wine, coffee, grease all sounded like potential threats to a beautiful wooden countertop. But my sweet husband just said, “Trust me. If it doesn’t work, we’ll rip it all up and try something else.” And with trepidation, I said okay.

Here we are, six months later and I can tell you these countertops have seen it all– red wine dribbles, cold-brew-coffee-so-strong-it-could-be-used-as-self-tanner, bacon grease and condensating beverages. And I tell you what, they look just as gorgeous as the day we finished oiling them. So, without further ado…

Honey, you were right.

What do you think?

Do you like the way they turned out? Do you think you could/would/should try this at home? How about the post– do you like having all the photos between steps? How can I make this better? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

love, liz.

DIY Kitchen Makeover Part One: Refinishing Cabinets

DIY Kitchen Makeover Part One: Refinishing Cabinets

Hey friends,

The Mister and I bought our home last summer and moved in late September. And we had one very ambitious goal– to host Christmas dinner for our families. Now that might not sound like a lot, but that meant we needed to replace all the appliances, refinish the cabinets, lay down new counters oh and prepare the meal. That’s a good chunk of work. (But we love it!) Here’s how we turned this greasy outdated mess into a bright, clean and lovely kitchen– just in time for Christmas dinner.

Let me also add that we did this on a small budget. Oh lordy, I wish we could have afforded to replace all the cabinets and countertops with nice new stuff from the home improvement store, but do you know how much that stuff costs? Like thousands of dollars. And y’all, I must have such good taste, because all the things I liked the were the most expensive. HA! So we used what we had and made it better. With our own two (four) hands.

First things first…

The kitchen needed a serious de-greasing. I mean, it was pretty much deep-fried from the cabinets to the appliances– everything was just covered. We’re pretty sure whoever lived here before us cooked a lot, but didn’t clean a lot. Actually, it was pretty amazing. Here’s some photos of the build-up we had to deal with. Buhhhh… I’m not even gonna show you the inside of the dishwasher or refrigerator cause I like you guys. Just know that it was bad. Real bad. (shudders)

Under the hood

Close-up of the top of vent hood. Kind of amazing, right?

Yeah, that’s what was built up right under the heat source. It’s amazing our home didn’t catch fire before it was ours.

Super-close-up of that nast.

If the oven face is this greasy, just imagine what the wooden cabinets felt like…

buhhhhhhhhhhh…

Check out all that grease just dripping down the sides of the stove. My tummy hurts just looking at it.

Gah, isn’t he a cutie? A pallette cleanser for sitting through all those photos.

So we replaced all those bad boys and will soon pay off those credit cards 🙂 Thankfully, I worked for a badass company that offered very nice discounts on one of our client’s line of appliances. Thank you unnamed maker of our new oven, dishwasher and laundry machines. That was totally awesome.

To re-finish the cabinets, we needed to put on our respirators and de-grease all faces of the cabinets, inside and outside. First we used a citrus degreaser, which should be fine in most cases. But for us, we still had a lot of gunk, so we had to bust out the big guns. TSP stands for Trisodium Phosphate and it used to be in lots of detergents and dishwashing liquids until we realized just how bad they are for us. It’s really nasty stuff and absolutely wear a respirator mask and open all the windows when using this stuff. You can read more about it here. Unfortunately that is just how intensely gross our kitchen used to be. 

The Steps:

  • De-grease using a citrus degreaser or, if need be, TSP.
  • Remove cabinet doors and any hardware from the shelving.
  • Label all your doors using a alphanumeric system. This will help reduce confusion as you try to figure out which-cabinet-goes-where in the end. A lot of times doors will look similar in size but end up being wrong– and if you don’t label them, you won’t find out until it’s too late and you’re cussing at inanimate objects. Don’t cuss at inanimate objects.
    • I assigned each segment of cabinetry a letter (West side = A, South = B, East, C) and then in clockwise order, I assigned them a number. So I know that A4 is the fourth cabinet door on the east wall. Ladies, your loving husbands might say this is an unnecessary step and that he’ll totally know which ones go where. When this happens, smile sweetly and do it anyway. He’ll thank you when you’re not scratching your heads.

  • Paint on a layer of sanding sealer.
  • Sand by hand with a medium grit sandpaper, 150 is fine. (Also, sponge sanders are helpful for the beveled curves)
  • Repeat last two steps until satisfied.
  • Paint on a primer like Kilz.
  • Using a basic indoor paint, go nuts on your cabinets.

Once we were all done with sanding, priming, painting and drying, we re-hung the cabinet doors and enjoyed the new look! Just in time for Christmas dinner.

Coming up next…

I’ll be posting Part Two of this makeover soon and show you how we did these awesome wooden countertops for about $300 bucks!

Trust in your hands.

DIY Closet Makeover

DIY Closet Makeover

So check it out. I love clothes, right? Right. Well I have a pretty normal sized closet that had a lot of unused vertical space–as in a whole 32″ of vertical space. That’s a whole lot of purses, scarves and belts if you know what I mean. At 5’7″ with a long torso, I’m a tall lady with tall clothes. So all that underutilized space was just not gonna fly. Here’s how I transformed my closet from “blah” to “ta-da!”

Before:

Before

To start, I took measurements. The height, width and depth of the closet itself– which came out to 68″ wide, 100″ tall and 24″ deep. Pretty reasonable. Then, I measured how much space each type of clothing I needed and planned accordingly. I went with 22″ for dresses and 36″ for my double-stacked racks of tops and bottoms. In hindsight, I should have spared like four more inches from the tops/bottoms side and given more room to my long portion.

The Measurements

Shopping List:

  • Closet Rods:
    • I went with two chrome rods, one was 72″ and the other 36″ and the nice people at the hardware store cut it down to size for me. Keep in mind, I chose chrome because, well, it’s pretty. But frankly, I spend about $30 more than I needed to if I had gone with another type of rod. But because I wanted to show it off on these here internets, I splurged. So, it’s up to you, lovelies.
    • *Don’t forget to account for the size of the hardware and cleats.
  • Closet Rod Holders
    • Can be found in both the closet and bathroom sections of your local hardware store.
  • Wood for shelves and dividers:
    • Pine boards come in different qualities and are priced accordingly. Nice pine is smoother, has fewer knots and is less warped. The lower quality variety is rough to the touch and you have to inspect all the boards to find the least-knotty and least-warped ones in the pile. No bigs though, nothing a little sanding can’t solve.
    • The pine at my local store came in a variety of lengths but only a few depths, 6″, 8″ and 10″. I went with two 72″ x 10″ boards for the horizontal shelves of the cheaper pine and one nicer quality at 8 feet tall by 10″ for the vertical divider.
  • Wood Cleats:
    • To anchor the new bars, you’ll need some strips of 1×4″ pine to screw into the studs. I bought 1 x 3″, but I should have gotten the wider size to account for the size of the rod holders. This is why you let me make the mistakes for you. Get enough to go along the perimeter (except for the opening) of your closet.
  • Paint & Supplies:
    • I got a pint of semi gloss white paint and that was plenty. You could probably get away with just a couple sample jars of your preferred color.
    • A small roller and tray will be just fine.

Now for the fun part.

Take everything out and get ready to paint. This means removing any existing hardware, sweeping and wiping the dust off the baseboards (you don’t want that stuff getting mixed up in your paint.) Tape off your baseboards, trim and ceiling. I like to use kraft paper as a drop cloth because I can fold or cut it to the exact size and it doesn’t get all wrinkled up under my feet as I work.

Start by painting the edges and corners. The trick to a nice clean line when painting along tape is lightly brushing a small amount of paint first, letting it dry then going over it with a thicker layer. This locks the line between the paint and tape with out any paint seeping through the edges of your painters tape. Then, go nuts.

Tape it off

Painting on the Edge

Painted and Ready

Prepare the Wood:

Cut all your pieces to fit. I used a miter saw, but a circular saw will also work. My cutting list looked like this:

  • Top Shelf: 58 x 10″
  • 1″ x 3″ Cleats: (Again, should have used 1″ x 4″)
    • 1 – 21.25″ (take off 3/4″ to account for the depth of the side pieces)
    • 2 – 35.25″
    • 3 – 24″ for the sides
  • Vertical Divider:
    • 1 – 74.5″ x 10″

Using a palm sander, smooth down all your pieces. You don’t want any of your beautiful garments to get snagged on the closet where they live. Start with a coarse grain (the lower the number, the coarser the grain), I used 100 grit to start and worked my way to a nice smooth 250. Keep going til it feels like butta.

Using a brush, prime the wood. I used good ol’ Kilz to make a nice finish for the paint to adhere. This is a totally optional step. As landlords, we always have a gallon or two of Kilz on our hands.

Paint your pieces using a small roller. A couple coats should do just fine. Let dry for an hour or so, depending on how hot it is outside, you may be able to get away with less time. But hey, nothing like letting paint dry while you cool dem heels.

Installation:

Find your studs, affix the 1×3″ cleats at the height of your shelves, like so:
Brace Yourself

Don’t forget to leave room for the vertical divider. For that piece, I screwed a 1 1/4″ hole for the top bar to run through. Check it out:

Top Rod

Install the new rods, I did an extra one at the top to hang purses on hooks like I saw on pinterest, then one at 74.5″ high for shirts and dresses, and the bottom one at 34.5″ for pants and skirts. Since your cleats are installed all nice and level and you cut your shelves oh so perfectly, the shelves should just sit snug on top.

*If you live in an old house like ours, and I don’t know, maybe the your house might be sinking after nearly 100 years of being on Southern silt… then level may be more like “level.” Oh, also our walls kind of curve. Hooray for added challenges. That being said, there was some cursing and re-cutting in order to make all my pieces fit just so.

But then, once you’re all done installing the cleats, shelves and rods you can go put all your pretty things away! I’m a big fan of color order. For me, it’s the only way I know where anything is. I got some cute bins for belts, scarves and small purses to go at the top. I have yet to find shower curtain hooks that will fit my big chrome rods, so that’s why all the purses are snuggling up on each other. Still way better than the hot mess of piles they were in before.

After:

After

This is the part where I just stand and stare at my work. This step usually involves a glass of wine.