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Hello, Husqvarna. We’ve broken you in.

August 11, 2015   //  Posted in: Backyard   //  By: Emily   //  3 responses
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For the last few years, we’ve been focused on forms of efficiency, namely energy efficiency (LED bulbs, tankless water heater, new appliances, Nest), and time efficiency. Anything to have more hours in my day.

As much as I enjoyed pacing the yard to mow (and we push mowed our acre for a year and a half before affording the upgrade, including me during my entire pregnancy because I insisted and insist that it’s a great workout) we knew that one of our big investments would be in a riding lawnmower. For speed. For time. For rage-ability. For the hitch, to which we would obviously attach a trailer and then drag tons of branches/cement/flagstones/soil through our yard.

It was a pretty good plan, that plan we had to upgrade from push to our first riding mower. I can’t take any credit for the model we bought which is a Husqvarna YTH22V46 (46″ deck) mower, I just remember that Pete had made his decision, waited-waited-waited, and then jumped on it when it went on promotion mid-season at Lowe’s, had it delivered, and voila, was found inspecting his new toy in the driveway. I myself know very little when it comes to riding lawnmowers, mechanics-wise, thankfully my husband has his finger on the pulse and is happy to teach me things like which gas or oil or gas/oil can I should be using. I can do math, and I know that a wider deck in a yard like ours will be better for cut time efficiency which is why we splurged for a 46″ model, so that’s cool, but I also know that every last friend and family member who has owned a riding lawnmower has at some point burdened by obnoxious wear and tear and muttered obscenities over having had to send their rider to the shop for a new X, Y, or Z. To combat the latter, we did get a 4-year super premium warranty, the only anything either of us have ever decided on which to extend a warranty.

Our new Husqvarna riding mower, summer 2014.

I thought about doing a review of the product or the overall purchase last summer, but by now you should realize that my product knowledge is limited to the fact that it had a pretty comfortable padded seat, was easy to switch between FWD>REV, and had a nice cup holder (which our baby stroller does not–mower FTW)… so as to say, I really had no qualification to give a review. And really, still don’t, so as much I think it’s fun to mow sitting down with a beer on a Saturday afternoon, don’t take my thoughts on this powerful tool too seriously, just do some independent research?

When one of the belts on the mower broke early this summer, I kind of figured that was routine maintenance; maybe a little premature, but inevitable. Pete bought a new belt at the store and replaced it himself, practically without me being aware of the matter. And then, while I was literally sitting inside starting to write this post, Pete was mowing and WHAM, a sound that triggered the thought “he definitely broke the mower this time.” And he did – the blade impaled on an exposed tree root, as we’ve both probably done dozens of times in our large tree-riddled yard, and all of a sudden the blade was dangling free beneath the deck, resting flush on the ground.

Broken blade and deck on a Husqvarna riding lawn mower.

Well, crap. And as you warranty-realists might expect, not one of the damaged pieces are covered by the 4-year mega warranty (only covers maintenance parts – and come to learn that the measly belt we replaced a few months earlier would have been discounted 25%). It was a time when saving all of the paperwork really paid off, because within there was a map listing all mower components and ID numbers and within an hour Pete was able to raise the deck, ID the effected parts, troubleshoot the warranty coverage with the manufacturer, and place an order for replacements via Amazon for $45, which is a lot less than we were expecting to have to pay a mower mechanic. The spindle/mandrel housing is apparently a piece “intended” to break off (like a much larger version of a snowblower shear bolt, which we’ve also broken twice in a single season… another quasi-tool review for you). We added a set of 2 new blades and a keeper belt to our order to make the mower good as new (fingers crossed).

And I’m happy to report that it was a repair we made ourselves, so we can go about our business without expending extra money on repairmen.

Pete fixes the riding lawn mower spindle/mandrel housing.

Gotta go mow, and then I’ll be busy continuing to can our mass amounts of CSA crops. Starved for time, not starved for green beans! I’ll ttyl.

One Board Challenge: Make This DIY Floating Corner Shelf

July 17, 2015   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses
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A roundup of projects made from a single 1x8x8 board.

I was invited to participate in this challenge that required me to make anything using a single board, and I said yes because there was one project that came to mind: the beautiful Kulma framing shelf by Martina Carpelan.

How to make a floating L-shaped shelf.

Martina’s shelf is €95 and undeniably flawless, and you should check out her shop if you just want to buy. Thumbs up.

A few years ago, back when I was making and selling rustic picture frames as an Etsy side-biz, I became pretty proficient at planning measurements to make the most of the reclaimed boards I had inventoried. When the boards are consistent front and back (same finish, same texture), it’s easy to use this method to plan for mitered cuts. Measuring for mitered cuts is a little more complex than it would be if you were slicing straight cuts with the chop saw (if you’re not careful it lends to more waste), but nice joints have a certain appeal and look more professional. I do most of this planning as a sketch on paper–or on a paint stirrer–to visualize how to simplify the cuts and minimize waste.

How to easily measure mitered angles and multiple cuts out of a single board.

The notes on the stick you see above served as my cut list for this shelving with mitered inner corners. I cut the pieces from a single 1x8x8 poplar board. If you’re not into the complexity of mitering, you can execute a similar piece with butt joints (forming the right angle by butting two flat-ended pieces to create an “L”). I suggest cutting the following pieces from your board to construct with a butt joint:

  • (2) 24″ boards
  • (2) 9″ boards
  • (2) 8″ boards

You might wonder why I didn’t miter all of the joints (notice above that the vertical pieces are just butted); I know from previous experience (making this couch arm wrap) that strong compound joinery is really hard if you’re not a pro at splining, which I’m not (yet). I used metal brackets for that project to make that project secure (namely because they would be hidden), but for this project I didn’t want any exposed hardware that would detract from the clean lines and natural wood construct.

Desire to avoid using metal brackets and screws means that this shelf was assembled with biscuit joinery (no nails, no nail gun, just wooden tendons, wood glue, and clamps).

The tool/material list:

  • Miter saw
  • Biscuit joiner
  • #20 Biscuits (12 total, 2 at each joint)
  • Palm router
  • Keyhole bit
  • Wall anchors
  • Screwdriver
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Sandpaper / palm sander
  • Stain

Cut mitered angles in a board of wood.

Make the cuts as outlined above, paying special attention to the mitered angles. When the mitered edges are cut and line up perfectly, trim the straight end of the boards at the same time so they are perfectly even in length.

Trim the edges of the boards to make sure they are even lengths.

My palm router is one of my favorite tools, and testing a new bit is like Christmas morning. The keyhole bit is one that I hadn’t tested yet, so I clamped a piece of scrap to maneuver the palm router at least a dozen times while I got comfortable with the motions. For the most part, it was pretty easy, and I’m glad I know how to do this because it would make installing all kinds of floating shelving and heavy items a lot easier. Of course, as it would go, the holes plunged into the finished cut boards were way wonkier than I would have liked because I’m human and I probably got too confident after having carved 10 perfect holes in a row in my scrap and the universe had to re-ground me, but they are still plenty strong, just not as pretty.

Test methods for using a keyhole router bit.

How to use a keyhole router bit.

The strongest biscuits in my workshop are #20 (2-5/8″ x 1″, adequate for the heaviest projects that will be under greater stress). I used the joiner to cut in spaces for two at each joint. Consistency is key when you’re cutting joints that need to line up vertically and horizontally. My technique–lining of the joint, using a pencil line to mark perpendicularly over the joint where I want the biscuit to be embedded, and then lining up the joiner at a measured and locked depth to bore in at those pencil marks– has been foolproof.

Use the joiner to cut spaces for #20 biscuits to connect all pieces.

Less is more when it comes to wood glue; I dripped a small dab into each cut biscuit space, and a precise “finger smudged layer” of glue along the edge of the board itself before plugging in the biscuits and forcing the pieces together until death do them part. The fit in this case was pretty RIGHT ON on the first attempt, and it really didn’t require much clamping, just enough to keep the two boards level while the glue dried.

Clamping mitered angles for DIY shelving.

Connections aren’t always so smooth, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with my own skill set, and because the board sometimes has an ever so slight natural curvature to it, even when you spend twice as much buying it from a millwork where it had just been planed to perfection. Woodworking is a beautiful thing, but I’m not a pro, and sometimes a rubber mallet comes into play to get those joint to conform to my expectations. Whack. Put a little piece of scrap between the black mallet and your good board to avoid black smudgies, and to distribute the force of the blow.

Assemble vertical walls on shelving: lap joints with biscuits

You can catch a peek at one of the wonky keyholes from this angle, and better see how the biscuits fit into position to join the shelf pieces together without screws. Do what you will, just make sure it’s all clamped together tight, and square, while the glue dries to lock the biscuits in place.

Attach the top of the shelf.

Most of our “good clamps” are missing, which is probably because our basement workshop just got reorganized and I didn’t make a key and map of where I put everything… so I got creative.

Clamp a shelf together if using wood glue, biscuits, and no screws.

Once the glue had dried, I went over every joint and edge with a palm sander, which corrected any places where you could feel and see if a board was a half-a-millimeter out of position.

I tested a few stains to determine which finish I liked best for my finished shelf. “Natural” won out; not too yellow, not dark, and brought out a lot of the beauty of the poplar’s coloring.

Sand and stain the shelving to suit.

As I said, it was my first time using the keyhole bit and also my first time trying to hang something using a keyhole, and it worked quite well. The way in which the hole was bore plays a big part in the overall positioning of the screws in your wall, and to mark exactly where the screw would sit, I flagged with a very direct arrow made of tape.

Marking holes to install a shelf that relies on keyholes.

Heavy-duty wall anchors are a must-have if you’re not going into a stud, and these babies hold 50-lbs each. When you think about using these anchors for other projects, the screw usually goes through the item (a bracket, for instance) and then into the anchor, so I knew that if the screw protruded out by 1/4″, I could hook the screw into the keyhole on the shelf, and expect it to remain rigid and strong.

Use anchors to support a weight of 100 pounds total.

I really hate messing up when it involves putting holes in my wall, and putting unnecessary holes in flawless wallpaper in my entryway would bring out a whole new level of rage. For planning purposes, I began by leveling the shelf in the corner, marking where the holes would need to be for both screws, and tapped two tiny brad nails into the wall to double-check the positioning and level. Smart move; the left side was a hair off, and I was able to correct it before installing the heavy-duty anchors.

Install the shelf on pins first to ensure level.

It’s a pretty good feeling seeing the shelf hung on the wall, looking and fitting so well. Note that you may need to tighten the screws into the anchors a little bit more based on how deep the screw fits into the keyhole. Remove the shelf, tighten up a half/full twist, and try again.

Install a floating shelf on a wall.

As an entryway feature, the shelf gives us a place to drop our keys; extra space is being used for our stash of thank you notes and stamps.

How to make a DIY floating shelf that's L-shaped.

hero_floating_wall_shelf_one_board_4_900

Make a floating shelf using a single board.

Check out more projects from this One Board Challenge – here’s everyone who participated:

House of Wood

The Space Between

Pneumatic Addict Furniture

The Ugly Duckling House

The Kim Six Fix

Sawdust Girl

Sawdust & Embryos

My Altered State

Her Toolbelt

My Love 2 Create

Build-Basic

Decor Adventures

Fix This Build That

Pretty Handy Girl

That’s My Letter

Addicted 2 DIY

DIY Projects made from a single wood 8' board. Get great inspiration and woodworking project ideas here!

A $40 Midcentury Bedside Table Throwdown

July 08, 2015   //  Posted in: Bedrooms, Being Thrifty   //  By: Emily   //  3 responses
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Great furniture finds at ordinary garage sales make me want to fist bump everyone in my path, which is exactly what I did when I found these gems:

Midcentury heritage bedside tables found at a garage sale.

I passed by them initially as they sat covered by old VHS tapes and assorted Wii gadgets figuring that they were small tables being used to display merch, but at second glance saw a tag that said make an offer and then quickly entered that rollercoaster/vortex that best describes the emotional side of garage sale shopping; hovered my entire body over the tables like a lion over her kill while I did speedy research in an effort to ID the items on my phone to gauge value. Quickly realized they were amazing finds, named my offer calmly to hide my outrageous level of excitement from the seller and other shoppers, begged the seller to hold them for me while I left to get more cash and a Jeep with more space to carry them, and then flailed about in glee and ran out of that sale like I was escaping a wildfire.

Garage sales are fun, no?

Midcentury heritage bedside tables found at a garage sale.

Bedside tables hadn’t even been on my list of items to replace/upgrade/buy; we had still been using the CB2 Harvey tables that I found a few years ago, a set that I still really like a lot no matter how many times we slam our elbows into the corners and curse when our phones metallically sound off when left on ‘vibrate’ mode. The finish has held up really well over the years, and despite lots of wear, no dings, scratches, or chips.

Upgrading our small bedside table to something better sized for our king size bed.

As timing would have it, we just upgraded ourselves to a new king mattress last month and it wasn’t until I put one of our new walnut tables next the bigness of that bed that I realized how dwarfed those two red tables really seemed in comparison. The bigger tables are a much better fit for the size of the bed, and for the overall scale of our large (and still relatively empty) bedroom.

Upgrading our small bedside table to a larger scaled mid-century table that's a better sized for our king size bed.

Researching the tables themselves took me down a windy rabbit hole. The word “Heritage” is marked on the inside of the drawer, which to many furniture enthusiasts would imply “Drexel Heritage” or “Henredon Heritage.” I found several of these items on both eBay and auction sites claiming to be from the Drexel and/or Henredon family of products–walnut, similar markings, comparable size, lines, and shape–though none of them were an exact match for this table’s design with its tray top.

Paine Furniture Heritage Natural Walnut Bedside Table – from the 1960's?

I suspect but obviously can’t say for sure that many of those listings aren’t completely accurate, because the product photographs don’t clearly depict the logo branding inside the drawers matching what you would see on a legit Drexel Heritage or Henredon Heritage product. Probably not the seller’s fault–if their products had the original stickers inside the drawers, they might realize that the tables were from American manufacturer Paine Furniture Company.

Paine Furniture Midcentury Sticker – Genuine Walnut

Going further down the Paine Furniture Company research path, I did find somewhere that the manufacturer did have a Heritage line of products (circa 1960), and that line appears to have some similar features as these two tables, including the Walnut construct, labeling (as shown two photos above), and lo-and-behold, the same wooden handles.

The tables themselves aren’t flawless, but they’re solid as can be. There are a few small (dime-sized) areas of water damage, and a few scratches along one lower edge, but nothing that can’t be dealt with, and considering that I already tipped a glass of water onto it, I suspect it’ll see worse and am reminded of why I like to buy inexpensive garage sale items instead of brand new. When I brought them home, I cleaned the set gently with a damp rag and Murphys Oil Soap which helped to lift dust and polish them up, but for now I don’t think they need extensive refinishing.

At first glance, we expected that the walnut would contrast too much with our natural maple floors; we’ve been trying to keep our buys to a blonder wood style, venturing as dark as oak but not much deeper. The walnut actually coordinates well with some of the darker streaks in the natural maple flooring, so the contrast really isn’t anywhere near as eye catching as if the tables were a darker brown.

watermarks on our midcentury bedside table, and demonstration of contrast between natural maple and natural walnut wood.

The garage sale scene has been excellent this year. I promise a recap of some of my favorite finds soon!