Car Window Regulator Track Fix

A quick summary of some of the things i’ve fixed on the 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP in the past couple years:

One day while driving home from work I rolled down all the windows in the car to get some fresh air.   After the inside of the car cooled down a bit I pushed the switches to rol lup the windows and heard a terrible grinding noise from the rear passenger door.   I knew something was wrong, there was a definite metal grinding noise and the window was jamming.   When I got home I left the car running and went to check the window.   Everything seemed fine but when I pushed the switch to roll it back down there was another grinding noise and the window didn’t seem to be sliding very well.  I pushed the switch to slide it back up and there was more grinding coming from inside the door.   Even using my hands to help raise the window didn’t work, it was stuck in place.  I thought that I had broken the window motor.  I knew it wasn’t the broken switch, fuse, or electrical problem because it was obviously trying to work.

So I went inside and started doing some research on Youtube, as always.  It wasn’t very clear as to what could be the problem, it didn’t sound like a very common thing to happen on cars.  Some people complained about loose wires or faulty motor.  But I was pretty certain that I wasn’t having the same problem they were describing with my window, motor or track.  So to fully understand what was going on I had to remove the inner door panel, so that i could get a look at the inner workings.

Here’s the full video of what i did, over a couple of days, in an effort to fix my electric window.  I eventually got it fixed, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t cheap.

Fix Car Window Regulator Track - GM

I’ve removed the inner door panel of my car before.   A year ago I replaced the side mirror on Karrie’s car.   She also has a Pontiac Grand Prix and to fix the mirror i had to remove the front drivers side door panel.   It’s like everything when it comes to working on cars, the first time you try to fix something takes 5 times longer than the 2nd or 3rd time.  

For the Grand Prix’s you have to pop off a plastic cover plate, remove 2 bolts, then use a thin plastic tool to work your way around the outside of the panel, wedging and popping the metal clips.  There’s about 8 or 10 butterfly wedges which snap into the metal door.  Popping off those wedges is the hardest part.   You know you have to pop them off, but don’t want to break the plastic panel.  You just have to work your way around the door, pushing and wedging plastic tool in, until you hear a pop sound and the door panel is loosened. Here’s what it looked like after the door panel is removed and the plastic dust cover is peeled down.

Just a note, if you’re doing this on a hot day, that black tar sealant is really sticky and you wouldn’t want to get it on anything. It’s best to just completely remove the cover and get it out your way.

how to fix a broken car window, won't work, motor, regulator

There wasn’t a lot of space to see what was the problem.  But I eventually noticed that the wire connection which lifted the window had broken from its plastic mount. You can see that this white plastic piece in the back should be attached at the top of the metal frame, instead it was all the way down in the center of the frame.

car electric window won't work, roll up or down

I wasn’t 100% sure that it was the only thing broken so I checked the other rear door.   I took off that door panel and plastic cover.  That’s when I was sure that the only broken part was the white plastic piece and wire which was attached.

Here’s another view of what it looks like.  The white plastic pies wasn’t really attached to anything here.  It should be securely attached to the top of the metal frame.  You can see the residue where the plastic piece used to be attached at the end.

broken window track, regulator, wire, plastic, gm, pontiac

I decided that there was no way to fix it while it was in place.   I could barley see the broken part, let alone fix it inside the door.  So I had to remove the door track and motor from the inside of the door panel.  The first step was to loosen the bolts and padding which attached the track system to the glass window.  The window track system is technically called the window regulator.  Once those bolts were loosened the window was able to slide up and down freely.  But you want to make sure not to drop it or the window will slide down and break inside the door frame.   So I used masking tape to hold the window in the fully up position, out of the way.

Next I removed all the bolts which held the window regulator in place and was able to remove it from the door frame.  You don’t want to leave just the masking tape holding your window up for 2 reasons.  First is that the tape could tear and the window could fall and break.  The second is that people will know that there’s a problem with the window and could just break right into your car.  So I used a piece of 2x4 to wedge the window up in place inside of the door panel.  And a couple pieces of duct tape were used to hold the 2x4 in place.

how to remove car door panel, clip, plastic, window, motor, switch

At the center of the regulator was the electric motor which attaches to a plastic housing.  Inside that round plastic housing is a spool in which the two wires coil around.   As the switch is pressed for the window to go up or down, the motor turns and the wires are spooled in opposite directions.  Those wires pull the metal track up or down and the window, which is attached, is raised or lowered.

The problem I had is that the plastic piece which attaches to the wire at one end had broken.  It’s amazing how much of this window track system is made of plastic.  With all the torque being put on the window, the motor, and the wires, it seemed like this little plastic piece was a weak point.  I thought I would be able to repair it but had problems fixing to the wire spool.  I had to go in the basement and completely disassemble the plastic spool and the motor.  Inside the wires were all tangled up.  So i had to completely undo the wires just to have enough slack on the wire that needed to be fixed.  Only then was I finally able to latch the broken plastic piece and glue it in place.  I wasn’t sure how well the the glue would hold the plastic to metal.  Here’s what my quick fix looked like.

fix broken window regulator, wire, plastic, motor

Before putting it back into the door frame I decided to give it a try to see if it worked.  I wasn’t sure if I reassembled the motor spool and wires correctly and I wanted to make sure that everything traveled freely before I went to all the hassle of bolting it back in place.  This is the point at which I made a really dumb mistake.  

I had the car ignition turned on and the window regulator plugged in, but when I flipped the switch nothing happened. I didn’t realize that I had the child security window lock switched to the ‘ON’ position and there was no way to operate the window with the rear door switch.  At the time I just figured that I screwed up when I reassembled the electric motor.  So I was settled with the fact that I needed to buy a whole new window regulator system, $70 later I ended up with this.

gm window regulator, pontiac, rear, drivers side

The new window regulator is on the left and the old one is on the right.  Again before bolting in the new window track system I wanted to check to see that it would travel up and down correctly.  I plugged it in, pressed the switch and again, nothing happened.  The only thing I could think of was that I blew a fuse or damaged something else more seriously than I thought.  This is when I need to remember that the simplest answer is always the right answer.   I only realized what was wrong when I walked to the drivers side door and saw that the child window switch was locked on.  After switching it off the window motor worked and the track moved up and down.

I felt like a bit of an idiot spending $70 on a new regulator which didn’t need to be replaced.  I knew that I would eventually be installing the new track system, but I wanted to see if my fix would have actually worked.   So I reconnected the electrical cable to the original regulator system that I glued back together.  When I pressed the switch the track did move down, however when I tried to raise the track, the wires in the plastic spool became all tangled.  A few more attempts to raise and lower the window and the regulator was completely seized again.  I felt a little better knowing that I would have had to buy a new window track system anyways.

I unplugged the old broken window regulator and began installing the new one into the car door frame.  It only needs 3 bolts to attach the regulator to the frame.  Then 2 tensioning bolts at the bottom, which attached the regulator to the window.  With everything in place I replaced the plastic cover and inner door panel.  

Now it all works perfectly, just like it did before.   Sometimes when working on cars you can replace a single part, but in this case it’s an entire “sealed” unit that you have to replace.

Easy Landscape Block Wall and Mulch

The front of our houses has stayed exactly the same for as long as we have owned it.  It’s just a concrete porch with 4 bushes in front.  It looks like there used to be some mulch underneath the bushes, but it’s all gone now.  Replaced with just dirt, which turns into grass.

how to improve a front yard, edging, mulch

Not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen.

front yard original condition

We decided that it was finally time to start looking at different ways to update the front of the house.  We realized that the thing we needed most was some type of edging and mulch.  The edging would add a nice transition between the landscape area and the grass.  Our options for edging were:
  • wood planks
  • plastic rolled edging
  • metal edging
  • concrete blocks
We didn’t like the look of wood planks or the rolled plastic edging.  They seemed cheap and didn’t match the front of the house.  So we ended up deciding to use concrete blocks.

Here’s a video of the entire process of upgrading the front of our house with block walls and mulch.  It was basically 1 long day of work, but we are really happy with the final result.

Easy Landscape - Block Wall and Mulch

Full Version -
Short Version -

Karrie saw an ad in the paper one day from Menard’s.  They were selling concrete retaining wall blocks for $1.19 each.  Unfortunately we don’t have a Menard’s close, but we wondered if Lowe’s would price match it for us.  We had previously looked at the concrete blocks at Lowe’s and liked them.  Although they were priced at $2.50 each.  

But we went to the store with the ad and talked with the manager at the counter.  Luckily he said that since we were only buying a small amount they would price match it for us.  Even though it was technically a different brand of block. 

The other two things we needed were mulch and a weed barrier.   Again Karrie saw an ad in the paper for Lowe’s which had mulch for $2.00 a bag.  Typically the mulch is $4-$5 each and there were several other types of mulch there at that price.  $2.00 per bag was a great deal.

I had drawn the layout of our house a few years ago on AutoCAD and roughly knew the size where we would be working.  We used this for estimating the length of block we needed and square footage.

landscape plan, front yard

Here’s a summary of what we initially purchased, size, quantity and price:
  • Retaining wall blocks        11”x7”x4”        47        $1.19
  • Black Mulch                       bag                  20        $2.00
  • Pea Gravel                           bag                 5          $3.50
  • Fabric weed barrier             roll                  1         $11.00
For a final total of everything we spent, length, area, etc. see the table at the end of the post below.

The drawing that i had was only a rough measurement of the landscape area, so we had to guess a bit about the square footage.   We thought that 1 roll of weed barrier fabric would be enough.   But if not, we could always go back and buy more.   Determining how many bags of mulch we needed was a bit more difficult.   On the front of each bag there is a table which shows how many bags you need to cover a particular square footage at a certain depth.

how many bags of mulch do i need, area, calculate, depth , sq.ft.

We figured that we would need about 15 bags to cover 150 square feet at a depth of 2”.   But since it was the last day of the sale on the mulch we decided to buy a few extra.   Worst case scenario we just lay the mulch down a little thicker.   That’s why we bought 20 bags.  And just in case you are wondering, 20 bags of mulch completely fills up the trunk and back seats of 2 Pontiac Grand Prix’s.  

The 5 bags of pea gravel were for the base of the block wall.  We knew that with the cold Michigan winters, frosts would cause the concrete blocks to heave and become uneven.  We definitely didn’t want to put the concrete blocks on the clay soil in our yard, which is why we got the bags of pea gravel to act as a 1” stone base.  

With all the materials we thought we needed it was time to begin.  The first step was to mark out exactly where we wanted the front the blocks to go.   I used a shovel, rake, and an electric edger to cut a curved line into the grass.   Once that line was cut I dug out the existing dirt about 2” down into the ground.   I wanted to get an idea of how the final blocks would look.

test block wall height

The blocks are 4” tall and after testing out a few different options, we decided that we liked the look of just the top 3” of the block.  That meant that 1” of the block would be buried into the ground.  

After our test to see how the final product would look I dug another 1” into the ground because we would be adding and compacting the pea gravel.

how to improve bushes, shrubs

As i went along i needed to use my grandpa’s old ax to cut some tree and bush roots growing near the surface.  Then using a shovel, I dug out the 8” trench where the blocks would be placed.  Once the trench was dug I poured in 1” of the pea gravel.  I tried compacting it as best as i could using a big 3lb hammer and stomping on it with my foot.

fun in the front yard, family project

It wasn’t super critical to get the stone compacted since we would only be putting one layer of concrete block. If this were an actual retaining wall, which was several feet high it would have definitely been more of an issue.

1 day build, front yard

Here’s a closer view of the 8” wide pea stone base.

how to build a concrete block retaining wall

This is what the front looked like with the dirt in piles and the stone in place.

pea stone wall base

Here is another view from the other end. You can see that we also had to deal with the gutter drain pipe.  Luckily though there was enough slope from the house to have it drain over top of the wall into the yard.

cost per foot of landscape edging, grass, garden

Then it was time to start adding the concrete blocks.  First I cut and set a piece of weed barrier fabric in place.  I placed the fabric on top of the stone and cut it as close as i could to the base of the bush.  I then set the concrete blocks on top of the stone and fabric.  I wasn’t too worried about weeds growing in the stone but it also worked to hold everything down and in place.

cheap garden edging

Here is another picture which shows how the process went along.  I would put down the weed barrier fabric and then add the next few blocks in the row.  I repeated this process until all the blocks were set in place.

how to install a block wall, retaining wall

It was important to cover the entire landscape area with the weed barrier fabric.  If we missed a spot, or didn’t overlap enough, it would provide a place for weeds or small trees to grow through.   A little bit of effort here would save a lot of effort pulling weeds in the future.   Weeks after we were done, Karrie’s aunt said that newspaper also works well as a weed barrier.   Although the fabric is suppose to last a lot longer.

cute pretty yard, front yard

Working out the rough shape of the wall and fabric.

front yard ideas

All of the blocks were installed at this point.  We decided that draining the gutter downspout out of the side would be a great option.

cheap concrete block wall edging

Also I forgot to mention that before we started doing all this work, I trimmed up the bushes.   I used a hedge trimmer to clean up the top and sides and used clippers to remove several branches at the bottom.  The three bushes on the left were able to be trimmed and looked just fine.  However the bush closest to the sidewalk didn’t turn out so well.   While trying to trim the bottom branches evenly I ended up cutting too much off and looked really bad.  So we decided to just tear the whole thing out.

how to fix the front yard, easy flower, bushes, garden

We pulled back some of the weed barrier fabric, got the saw out and cut it down to the ground.  We then got the shovel and dug to where the entire root ball could be removed.

fix the front yard problems

In hindsight the turned out to be a good thing.  The area looks much better without that bush blocking the entrance.  For years it was hanging over the sidewalk and people brushed into it as they walked to the front door.   To replace the bush, Karrie went back to Lowe’s and purchased some new plants, two small flowers and another larger bush.

garden weed barrier fabric, newspaper, how

I’m not sure what type of plants they are but they look much better than the large bush which was there originally.  We planted them with some potting soil and then re-wrapped he barrier fabric.

Finally it was time to add the bags of mulch.   We started by adding the mulch near the block wall then filling in the areas behind it, up to the concrete porch.

mulch bag calculation, how much

This almost felt like the fun part of the job, if such a thing exists.  All the stuff before was really difficult, but this was relatively easy and made the area look great.

landscape edging

The main area that you see here is after we emptied 14 bags of mulch.  And like I said earlier, we fill it to around 2” thick.

cost to landscape yard, mulch, price

Here’s a close-up of what the concrete blocks and mulch looked like.  Since the blocks were set 1” into the ground and extended 3” above the ground, the 2” of mulch was 1” below the top of the block.  We thought that looked just fine.

easy yard edging

 The transition from landscape to grass looks much better now.

free block wall for house, concrete, black mulch, lowe's, home depot

It was at this point that we decided that the little triangle shaped area between the sidewalk and driveway should be redone as well.   You can see from this picture that it didn’t look very nice and didn’t match all the work we’d just done on the other side of the walk.

how to improve your front yard entrance

Before we could do anything, we had to create enough room for the concrete blocks to be installed.  So I had to dig out some of the existing plants and move them back about a foot.  I could then dig the 8” wide trench.  At this point of the day we didn’t care what we did, we just wanted to be done.

home landscaping

Then is was one last trip back to Lowe’s for 2 more bags of pea gravel.  Something we did different was this time before adding the gravel, was that we decided to put a barrier down first.  I’m not sure if it makes a difference but we thought it would do a better job of it was underneath the stone rather than above it.

install concrete block wall  yard

Then just as before we cut and fit the weed barrier fabric, placed the blocks, then filled in with 4 bags of mulch.

diy do it yourself landscape mulch block wall

It was a really long day of work, but I’m happy we did it.   We weren’t 100% sure what we were doing at the start but everything turned out fine.   Although I guess we won’t know for sure if we did it right until next spring after the frost melts.

Here’s the final/total summary of everything we bought:

ITEM                                   SIZE            QUANTITY         UNIT PRICE           TOTAL PRICE
Retaining wall blocks        11”x7”x4”                47                    $1.19                       $55.93
Black Mulch                          bag                       20                    $2.00                       $40.00
Pea Gravel                             bag                        7                      $3.50                      $24.50
Fabric weed barrier                roll                        2                      $11.00                    $22.00
Plants                              1 large, 2 small             3                     $10.00                    $30.00

Total Cost                            172.43    + 6% tax =    $182.78
It’s nice to know that just one day of hard work can really transform the yard.  Instead of that ugly jagged edge between grass and dirt we now have a nice block wall and clean looking mulch area.  It makes the front of our house look loads better.

landscape mulch, easy home improvement

Yet again, another project around the house that after we finished i said, “Why didn’t we do that a year ago?”

how to install block wall mulch

Weekend at the Lake

A few weeks ago we all went up to visit Katie, John and Ryan at their cottage.  The weather was great and we spent most of the time down sitting by the lake.

Obviously Ryan was the center of attention and he did his best to entertain us.





And Outside
Thumbs up


No shirt, no problem




A couple of years ago we were up there and i took some pictures of Max jumping off the dock.

dog dock jump

And i also used my homemade ND Filter  to take some pictures of the lake.

floating in the lake

I tried the ND filter again this year.  It’s been a while since i’ve use the ND filter and i forgot to set the camera to RAW.  This same thing happened when Karrie and i were in Tennessee.  I took a bunch of pictures of a waterfall and forgot to set the camera to RAW.  The problem is that with my green tinted homemade filter it needs to be in RAW mode if i have any chance of correcting the color.  RAW lets me adjust the white balance and tint from the start.  I have some presets that i saved where the green tint is completely removed.  But if i forget, like i did this time, the pictures are somewhat useless unless i convert them to black and white. 

Luckily i realized that i screwed up on Sunday morning and had time to change the camera settings and retake the pictures.  They weren’t as good as the sunset on Saturday night but a few turned out alright.  Here’s a couple of them.

peaceful lake weekend

I thought that most of them looked better as black and white, with the calm lake water.

black and white dock, lake, cottage

nd filter lake water calm

boat on calm water

Another thing that i’ve wanted to try for years was to helmet mount the GoPro Hero camera that Karrie bought me for my birthday a few years ago.  When i originally got the GoPro i made some homemade mounts and handles for it.

This is the simple handle i’ve used for 95% of my recording

easy gopro handle

It’s how i recorded our underwater ocean walk down in Mexico.

gopro ocean, underwater

For doing kite aerial photography (KAP) with the GoPro i needed it as light as possible so that the kite could get off the ground, or ice in that case.

gopro KAP

So i used one of those custom aluminum mounts and attached them to a foam bike helmet i bought at Salvation Army.  The first mount was nice and solid.  I screwed the aluminum mount directly to the helmet with 6 screws.  I forgot to take a picture of the setup, but it looked something like this, except instead of a strap, i just screwed the mount right into the foam.

gopro bike helmet setup

This would be for a forward facing view, kind of a first person perspective.  Another mount that i wanted to try was to have the camera about 12” in front of my face looking backwards.  This gives a sense of scale and shows the expression of the person.  Again i forgot to take a picture of it, but here’s the basic idea. 

gopro 1st person view

The camera is out in front of your face looking back.  Because the GoPro has such a wide angle of view it can record at that close of a distance.

gopro field of view, viewing angle

Like i said i don’t have any pictures of my actual camera setup with the bike helmet.  It’s still a work in progress.  When i get it worked out i’ll have to post some pictures of it.

My idea was to have my sister pull me water skiing while wearing the helmet and this second camera setup.  Karrie said it probably wasn’t a good idea.  She was right, had i fallen while wearing it, the wood bar and metal mount would have probably smashed into my face.  So instead i mounted the helmet on top facing forward, like the 1st setup. 

how to water ski, slalom

Here’s the video that i recorded.  I used the 3rd setting on the GoPro Hero which is 720p at 60fps.
GoPro - Water Skiing

The video turned out great.  The GoPro works really well on sunny days where there is lots of light.

gopro water ski, slalom ski, boat

The only big problem i noticed is that i forgot to wipe off any water droplets.  There were a couple that were on the lens the entire time.  I’m still working on the second camera mount setup, trying to get the balance right.  Maybe i’ll go bike riding with it on.  Something were i’m less likely to have it smash into my face if i fall.

But we all had a good time and the 2 days flew by.


Pretty soon Ryan will be the one skiing behind the boat.


Pool - Level Ground and Setup 2014

Last year we bought an old pool on Craigslist.   We did get a few good days out of it, but it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.   We had problems with the filter, leaks, seeds and leaves falling in, chemicals, and uneven ground.  Here’s what the pool looked like a year ago.  Naively we just started filling it up on the ground that “looked” flat.

fill up, inflate, intex pool, bubble pool, rubber, amount of water, time

And here’s the pool rings we made.  They served a dual purpose to keep out some of the leaves and to try and warm up the water.  Our backyard is surrounded by leaves and only receives sun for a few hours of the day. 

diy pool ring, pool rings, heat rings, sun, warm, cover, diy pool cover, make

This year i knew that i had a lot of work to do before even thinking of turning on the water.  Probably the biggest problem was that we set up the pool in an area that was not level.  

The previous owners of our house had an area of the yard where we could tell a pool had been set up before.  I thought we could just set up our pool on the same area without a problem.  But when we set up the new pool it was much larger and the rubber edges hung over the leveled area of dirt. Unfortunately one of those ares of dirt was much lower, which meant that the water was right up to the top at one end and very low at the other end.  The bad part was that at the low end of the pool was where the filter was located and it was not able to clean the water properly.  That meant that throughout the year we had problems with dirty water.

The second problem we had was with the Intex pool inflatable ring.  The top of our pool has an inflatable ring that is inflated in order to keep the sides up.  I looked and looked but i could not find the leak.  But this was a problem that i would try to fix after the pool was all set up, because it will still stay partially inflated and the water should hopefully not pour out.

So before I did anything this year I knew I needed to level the pool area.  We have an 18’ x 4’ Intex rubber “bubble” pool.  I got out my measuring tape and marked off an area of 19 foot in diameter.  At first I just used the shovel and eyeballed the ground level.  I knew from the year before that the area by the wood fence was high and the area by the back of the yard was low.   So using a shovel and a wheelbarrow transferred much dirt as I thought necessary to the low-end.  I also knocked down some of the high spots in the old existing ring of dirt.  Here’s what the pool area looked like.

level dirt pool area, how to level a pool, flatten pool, yard, backyard

Luckily I also own a laser level.  It wasn’t bright enough to work during the day but I checked the level with it at dusk.  It turned out that the eyeball test was pretty good.  I was only off an inch or so from the highest point to the lowest point.  But I’m glad I used the laser level to check every few feet or so.  There were some spots where it fluctuated.  I used a rake and shovel some more to knock down the high points and level everything out.

Here’s another picture of what that area looks like after I moved a few yards of dirt to try and level it out.  Exciting i know…

backyard pool area, flatten dirt, dirt for pool level, sand, how to 

With the pad level it was finally time to start setting up the pool.  This picture shows are filter, pump, chemicals, cover, and tubing.  We also needed a bag of fine sand, which gets added to the pool filter. It’s not the original filter that came with the pool, the previous owner upgraded because he was tired of cleaning out the small cloth filter.  And the cover was something i picked up on clearance over the winter at Meijer.  They are surprisingly cheap in the middle of February when they need shelf space.   I’m really glad I got a pool cover because the seeds which fall down from the large tree in our backyard really wreaked havoc with the pool and its chemical balance.  Not to mention having to use the pool strainer to clean out everything every time we swam. 

common pool supplys, how much, cost, typical, filter, make, made

I used a metal dolly to carry the heavy rubber pool from the garage to the back yard.  Here you can also see the special filter pools sand we needed to use.

how to pool, cover, dolly, sand, pool filter sand

It took about a day to fill up, but this year went much faster and turned out a lot better.  We didn’t have problems half way through, realizing it was out of level.

intex 19 foot pool, 18', 18 foot intex pool, price, cost, size, diameter

Also there was a bit of a learning curve the first year with how to set up the filter and pump. There was weird hose clamp and rubber tube connections that took us a while to understand.  But this year I remembered how it went together and it all went together smoothly.

There are still some problems though. The inflatable rubber ring which goes around the top of the pool has one or many leaks, i’m not sure.  I’ve checked it several times this year but still cannot find the leak.  I even used soapy water to spray over it, in hopes of finding an air bubble, but nothing.  After reading some more i realized that this was a common problem with many other people.  Some people said that it could be from microscopic holes in the rubber which happens when the rubber is exposed to sunlight over time.  We tried filling it up every three or four days but it became pointless exercise.

Also there’s holes in the rubber pool itself which needed patching.  They are small, slow leaks that they become annoying wet spots in the back of our yard.  My method for fixing the leaks is to heat up our hot glue gun, unplug it, then run out there and squeeze as much hot glue in the puncture as i can before it cools down.  Immediately when the glue touches the water it hardens, but it works pretty well.

We say that this might be the last year of having in setting up a pool.  Our great $75 Craigslist purchase has been fun at times, but it’s also lots of work.  Not to mention three or four times that cost in water bills, chemicals, cover and electricity.

Bamboo After Cold Winter

I planted bamboo in my backyard many years ago.  Here’s some of the previous posts in case you are interested:

Bamboo in Heavy Snow - pictures after a big winter ice storm
Bamboo - 2011 - a much harsher winter meant lots of dead leaves in the spring
More Drain Pipe - trying to route a roof gutter drain around bamboo roots
Bamboo 2 - the first winter, hoping my small trees survive
Bamboo - the original grove of trees in West Virginia where i brought the trees home from
Bamboo in Cold Climates - a summary of how it’s grown here in Michigan

I have two different types of plants, which i brought back from West Virginia and Kentucky.  Over the years it has been a struggle to keep the plant alive here in Michigan’s cold winter weather.  In West Virginia the bamboo grew year-round and reached a height of about 50 feet tall.  However in Michigan that same plan can only really grow for a few months before the weather gets cold and covers the ground with a foot of snow.  This was one of the coldest winters, usually the leaves stay green all year, but this time they all turned yellow and died. 

yellow bamboo, cut down, dead, die, kill, bamboo

In previous winters I was able to keep the plant alive by putting layers and layers of grass clippings, leaves and mulch on the roots.  After doing some research I believe that the large bamboo I have in my yard is Yellow Groove bamboo and reading about that specific species, I learned that it may be killed if the weather dipped below -15°F.

cut and clump bamboo, stalks, tree, lumber, wood

In 2014 the temperature was below -15°F on multiple days.  When spring came I knew all the parts of the bamboo above ground were dead. So I got out my hand clippers to cut all the stalks down to the ground. My dad came over and helped cutting and stringing all these branches in bundles.  One nice thing though is that the bamboo stalks themselves are pretty light, since they are hollow.

Another great thing about bamboo, which some people also hate, is that they are hard to kill.   The bamboo plant stores energy in its roots, which are called rhizomes, and use that energy to grow new shoots in the summer.  So even though it looks like the plant was a goner this spring, I knew there was a good chance it would come back as the weather warmed up.

One spring day in May I went out and noticed several new shoots coming out of the ground.

new bamboo shoots, month, when, seeds

As you would expect they were coming up close to, or right next to where I cut down the dead stalks. Usually these new shoots have to compete for light with the main plant, but these new shoots were able to collect all of the sunlight.  Although that’s not really a big deal because as far as nutrients go all of the shoots are connected together and work as one.  Bamboo is the same as the grass growing in the yard, it looks like many individual blades of grass, but it’s really interconnected clumps which support each other. 

what type of bamboo, grow, type, species, cold, zone, zone 4, zone 6, zone 5

Here’s what it looks like now, it’s actually hard to notice a difference from a year ago.  The bamboo is such a quick growing plant, it goes from nothing to full height in about a week.  Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world.

how to grow bamboo, how to remove bamboo, type of bamboo

The only downside is that there’s not as much nutrients going into the roots this year, since there are less leaves absorbing sunlight.  But actually I think I could probably just cut the plant down to the ground every year and it would grow back good as new.

hardy bamboo, harty, bamboo, michigan, cold climate, type

Organize Parts Storage Stacking Cases

It all started with this video from Tested.

tested, adam savage, sortimo, sorting cases

And in case you are wondering what the final result looks like, this is my rolling case to organize all my parts, screws, bolts, brackets, etc…

organize parts, storage stacking cases, harbor freight, 20 box

You can watch the video of the build here, but for more pictures and explanation continue reading.
Organize Parts - Storage Stacking Cases

For some reason i recently became interested in organizing everything in the workshop.  I saw pictures like this one and just got really motivated to clean all the junk from my basement shelves.

how to organize your shop, organize bins, sorting, organize, shop, workshop

Here’s a picture of a portion of Adam’s shop.  He has spent years arranging everything the way that he prefers, but he is still changing and making it better.

adam savage workshop

I’ve talked before about how much I like watching the Tested channel on YouTube.  It’s hosted by two guys Will and Norm, but the main attraction to it is Adam Savage from Mythbusters.  There’s lots of really great videos which show Adam working on different projects and making really cool things in a shop.  A couple of months ago I built a folding case for my nail guns.  I was inspired by the case that adam built on Tested.

folding toolbox, tool box, nail gun case

One of the earliest videos on the Tested YouTube page was one which showed how Adam sorted and organized all of his parts/hardware. 

mythbusters shop, how to organize bolts, washers, nuts

Lots of people use jars or trays, sometimes you’ll see a whole wall rack with different compartments for the nuts or bolts.  These types of systems seem like a good idea at first.  But then you start adding parts and pretty soon they get over filled and become just as difficult to find things as a big jar.

harbor freight colored trays, sorting, bolts, shop

Or if you’re like me you had everything spread over your garage and workshop in coffee cans and buckets.  I’ve had this gray set of drawers for many years and it did work really well.  I’ve just accumulated more stuff then will fit in the drawers.

sort bolts, screws, nuts, washers, parts, how to sort, stay organized

But Adam had a system by a company called Sortimo.  It’s individual cases which have modular compartments on the inside.  Basically modular cases inside of a larger case.  For example one case will hold all different sizes of bolts.  Those bolts are separated into individual cups which can be moved or removed from the case.  Also these cases are designed so that when they are turned sideways or upside down everything stays in place.

sortimo tbox, tboxx, case price, review, price, sale, compare

Adam had about 20 of the Sortimo cases on a rolling rack in a shop.  I thought it was a wonderful way to stay organized and easily get to any part you need quickly.  No more having to search through piles and piles of junk all mixed together in one container.  One big downside of the cases and rack system that Adam used is the price.  I looked online, the Sortimo cases cost more than $50 each and the rack was several hundred dollars.  That meant that if you wanted to purchase the same thing that Adam had, you would have to spend close to $1000.  So i decided to come up with a cheaper alternative, which worked the same way.  The first change i made was with the case itself.  There are other companies that make these sorting cases. Lowe’s has cases made by the company Kobalt which cost around $12.  But i decided to buy my cases from Harbor Freight.  They had three different case sizes and i decided to buy medium sized case.

harbor freight 20 bin portable parts storage case, review, build, cart, box

The original price of the case at Harbor freight was $10.  Although 99% of the time you can purchase it in the store for $7.50.  Then on top of that, you can always print out a 20% off coupon for one individual item, plus you can print out another coupon for one free item.  Luckily I have a Harbor Freight on the way home from work.  So I printed out eight 20% off coupons and eight free item coupons.  Each day I would go to the store and grab one plastic case and either a free flashlight, free measuring tape, or free volt meter.  So I was getting the plastic sorting case and flashlight for just $6.40.  Which is half of the case at Lowe’s and way less than the Sortimo case.

After buying eight cases and getting 8 free items I got a little impatient.   I realized that although right now i only need 8 cases, over time i would probably need a lot more.  So i ended up buying a total of 12 cases from Harbor Freight.  

Now before I begin talking about building the rolling organize cart, I want to mention the actual Harbor Freight sorting case.  All of those type of  cases come with a clear cover so that you can see everything inside.  However with Harbor Freight 20 box case there is a large sticker which is attached to the front, which is impossible to get off.  After searching online i realized that many people had the same annoying problem.  One solution that someone had was to peel off the thin plastic coating with a razor knife, then using carb cleaning fluid or transmission fluid, dampen the paper sticker until the glue breaks down and it could be easily removed by scraping with a flat razor knife.  That method worked really well and i was able to remove all 12 of the stickers.

Then it was time to begin sorting all of my nuts, bolts and miscellaneous parts I had lying around my workshop.  I had things in coffee cans and jars, in bowls and just lying on the shelf.   I did have a nice little sorting box which I’ve used for as long as I can remember.  It was great when I was a kid but I definitely filled it up years ago and needed more space.  So I dumped everything out on the table and began sorting.  The whole process took 3 days and i filled up 9 of the 12 cases.  This is what it looked like after i had purchased just 5 cases. 

sorting parts into cases, workshop, tools, how to organize

It was very enjoyable going through, dumping everything out, sorting them into their own tray, then deciding what trays should be grouped together into a case.  I was finding things that i never knew i had.  Also it was great knowing that i would never have to spend minutes each time having to look for just the right sized bolt.

harbor freight case, garage, rolling cart, case, adam savage

So now I had all the cases sorted and it was time to build the mobile stacking cart to keep it all together.  I drew several different sketches of how I thought the cart showed work.  At the end I figured that the simplest design would be the best.  Just a wooden 5-sided box with wooden sliders for the cases to rest on.  Then i drew the cart up on AutoCAD.  Using the computer to design, really helped with getting all the dimensions.  It forces you to think more about what all the board dimensions will be and all the spacing.  Here was my final design.

plans for a rolling cart, case, workshop, toolshop, woodshop, dimensions, case, sortimo

The dimension of the rolling case itself was based on the size of the Harbor Freight cases.  I gave about 1/2” room on either side, it didn’t have to be the exact size of the case.  However i did design it so that the cases were flush at the front.

plans, build, how to, boards, make, cart, wood, rolling

The wood I decided to use was 1/2” OSB.   I’ve used this wood many times before on different projects, basically for the same reason.  It’s adequately strong and as cheap a 4’x8’ board you can buy.  The 4’x8’ sheet of OSB is only $10.  Compared to a piece of 1/2” plywood which might cost $35.  You can see in this picture the sheet of wood that I started with.  The best thing is that i had already used this board on a previous project.  Luckily there was enough of the board left, that I could cut out the top, bottom, back, and the two sides.

osb wood, 4x8 board, layout for organize cart, case

I still have to improve my technique for cutting a large sheet of wood on the table saw.  I probably should have used a circular saw with a straight edge.  But I was able to cut the rough dimensions and then later i recut it exactly to the right size with the table saw and 90° fence.

table saw, cross cut, osb, craftsman, guard

Here are the wheels that I was planning on using.  They were a little pricey at $4 each, but they’re really nice and roll quietly.

harbor freight wheels, rollerblade wheels, smooth, quiet

For the small boards that the cases would ride on, I used a piece of 1”x2” pine.  Again these come in 8 foot pieces and only cost $1.00 each.  I cut them down to size, 13”, then attached them to the sides.

glue slats, 1x2 pine, how to clamp, cart

The method used in attaching them to the side boards was a little bit complicated.  First I added glue to the slats and clamped them to the side.  Then I flipped the whole side piece over and nailed them from the outside.  Once they were nailed in place I could remove the clamps and move to the next piece.  This process was repeated over and over until all of the eleven 1”x2”s were attached.

nail gun, bostitch, build cart, shop rolling cart

Here are the completed side boards waiting for the glue to dry.

side boards, bostitch air compressor, dimensions

Well my plan was for them to be set to the side and dry, but instead I decided to build the whole case that day.  That’s the great thing about using a nail gun and glue, normally I would have to wait for the glue to set for 24 hours and have to use several clamps.  But with the nail gun it’s all held in place and I can continue to work.  Here’s how I attached the other pieces.  With everything lying flush on the ground I glued the top on and nailed it together.

building the case, wood case for shop, tray, verticle, stacking

I then repeated that step for the bottom piece and the back.  And here is what the case looked like at that point.  Only then did i leave it and let the glue dry overnight.

vertical stacking case, cart, rolling

The next morning I tested the plastic cases to see how they would slide in and out.  It was a little bit of a tight fit so I decided to round over the edges.  I used to wood rasp to knock down the sharp edges of the OSB and 1x2’s.  This helped a lot and allowed the cases to slide smoothly on the wood rails.  Next I did pass over everything with the belt sander.  I didn’t spend too much time sanding, but I did knock down all of the sharp outer corners as well.

Then it was time to start painting the case.  As with many of my other projects, I just use whatever leftover paint I have in the basement.  This time the old paint was a sort of a whitish lime green color.  It was leftover in the basement from the previous owners of the house.  I don’t think the company which made the paint still exists.

paint shop cart, stacking case, mobile, wheel

Here’s what it looked like after the first coat.  I wasn’t real happy with the lime green paint so I decided to give it a little more weathered look.

painted, white, wood, cart, case, wood, cheap, free, clean, organize

On the right is the lime green paint I used, on the left is polyurethane.  To do the weathering all I needed was the brown and black paint in the middle.  I’ve done weathering techniques before on my nail gun case and tool box.  I got the idea from Adam Savage and his YouTube videos.  The tool box i weathered looked way better after it was old, dirty and scuffed up.  I thought the organize case would look better weathered as well.

paint and polyurethane, how to weather, weathered wood, adam savage

The way to weather something starts with wetting down the surface, then brush on the brown or black paint.  I try to get the dark paint in all the nooks and crevices.  Then take a rag and try to wipe off as much paint as possible.  Weathering OSB has a definite look to it because it is not a smooth piece of wood, it’s actually several pieces glued together.  Filling in those cracks with dark paint gives it more of a textured look.

how to weather a case, give something character, osb, paint

I had never weathered something this large before, it turned out all right, but not as good as the other two projects I had done.  Although I definitely like it better than the solid lime green paint.

stacking vertical wood case, organize, plans, build

After the weathering I added two coats of polyurethane to protects everything.  The last step was to add the 4 wheels.  This was the first time i got to use my new cases.  I had to find 16 screws to attach the wheels and they had to be the right size.  It was so easy finding just the right size screw to use when everything is neatly sorted.  Normally I would have to dump out coffee cans on the floor and try to find screws that were roughly the same size.  You can see here how easy it is when everything is in its place.

harbor freight, case, organize, wheeled cart, vertical cart, box, wood, plans

Here is what the final case organizer looked like.

great organize cart, pinterest, cheap, harbor freight, case cart

I’m really happy with how it turned out.  I do realize it’s not the most complicated thing in the world.  Just a square box with some wood slats glued on the inside.  But it didn’t need to be any more complicated then that.  It’s simple, strong and works great.  So far i’ve used the cart a few times to find bolts or washers and it’s saved me lots of time.  If I need a specific piece I can just pull out the labeled box and find the exact one I need.

pinterest how to organze shop, organize, fabric, screws, man

Yet again this is one of those projects that I wish I had done years ago.  I can just imagine how many hours it would’ve saved me over the years.

cool cart, case, organize, sort, neat, compact, woodshop,

Baby Room Remodel Idea

A big step in getting ready for a new baby is preparing the room.  We decided to convert one of the spare bedrooms in our house into being the new baby room.  It’s approximately 12’ x 12’ and you can see from this picture that has hardwood flooring, ceiling fan, and a window.

baby room remodel, wood floor, paint, fan, curtains

We installed the new ceiling fan a few months ago.  Here’s what the room looked like before we began.  The walls were taupe, the wood frame around the window was painted white, while the baseboard and frame around the closet and door were a dark brown color.

how to prepare a baby room, remodel paint color

The first step was to remove the old baseboard. We still have 200’+ of white baseboard that we bought from the Gibraltar home auction.

It’s a nice touch to put in new baseboard, it really makes the room look more modern.  So using a hammer, crowbar, and a couple of flat bladed screwdriver’s I was able to pry the old baseboard off the wall.  You can see the different layers of paint on the top edge, which also added to it’s ugly look.

how to remove base board, install baseboard

We decided that instead of having mixed matched brown and white trim we should just make everything white.  The new baseboard was already white, but that meant we needed to paint the door trim then remove the closet doors and paint them white as well.  The clear finish on the doors meant that it would require a few coats of white paint before the brown was invisible anymore.

easy room remodel, freshen up, paint, white

Karrie had been looking for ideas on Pinterest.   She ended up liking the idea of painting chevrons, or a zigzag pattern on one of the walls.  We watched a few videos on how it should be done and then went started to work.  The first step was to paint the wall white.  That would also be the base course for the zigzag pattern.

how to paint chevron on wall, zig zag

Here’s what that wall looked like after two coats of white paint.  It didn’t matter that we got too much paint on the walls to the left and right because we would be painting over those walls with a different color.

white wall base, coat, color, chevron, zigzag

We also used that same white paint for the ceilings, doors and closet trim pieces.  Again neatness was not an issue since all the walls would be repainted.

paint baby room

You can see from this picture the type of coverage that white paint had on the room door and closet doors.  The closet doors in the back have had two coats of paint by this point, whereas the bedroom door has only had one coat.

easy free baby room, paint color

Before we begin laying out our grid pattern on the walls, I measured the room and drew everything on AutoCAD.  Then I drew several different chevron designs on the wall.  I showed carried the different designs and let her pick the one she liked best.

chevron zigzag wall design, pattern grid, how to

To paint the zig-zag wall pattern you first have to create a grid on the wall.  Then you basically connect the ‘+’ with angled lines.  You don’t want the lines you draw for the grid pattern to be permanent so you use chalk, which can be wiped off later.  Another tip that Karrie found was that instead of measuring every square, we could use a piece of cardboard as a template.  Since every square on the wall was the same size the cardboard template could be traced in a repeating pattern vertically and horizontally.   Once the cardboard was traced with chalk the intersection points were marked, Karrie was able to use green frog masking tape to lay out the zigzag chevron pattern.  Since it’s important to have really crisp straight paint lines, we decided not to skimp and bought the expensive masking tape.  It did a good job of not allowing the paint to bleed through.

grid for chevron, how to paint a zig zag wall

Here’s a close-up of what the wall looked like at this point.  You can see that we used yellow chalk to lay out the grid.  The yellow chalk did a good job of being visible up close but not too dark that it would ruin the white paint as we wiped it off with a wet sponge.

easy chevron wall pattern, zig zag wall paint design, tips, how to

Another tip we learned while doing this was to use a laser level.  We were lucky enough to have a rotary laser level and this laser level which attaches to the wall.  It helped us in getting a nice vertical and horizontal lines.  We also realized that instead of tracing around the entire box, the intersection point is the only thing that we really needed.

zig zag wall paint

Karrie decided to add another step in between the chalk lines and the masking tape.  She used a straight edge and a pencil to draw the diagonal zigzag lines.  This isn’t really needed but helped us to make sure the layout was correct.

baby room zig zag wall paint pattern

Again here is what the wall looked like at this point.  If we did this again we would skip the step of drawing the pencil lines, but since it was our first time we didn’t want to use the entire roll of tape before realizing that we screwed up.

step by step guide for chevron zig zag wall paint pattern design

While Karrie was working on that wall I started painting the other three.  We picked this blue color for the other walls in the baby room.

best baby room color, paint, wall

By the end of day two we were already at this point.  The first coat of blue paint on the walls and the zig-zag pattern was all laid out with tape.

how to paint a zig zag wall, chevron, easy design

You can see from this close-up, that the chalk marks were still on the walls.  We would wipe it off before we started painting.  Also Karrie wrote the letter ‘P’ in the areas where we would be painting gray.

masking tape pattern on wall, cool, funky, easy, free

Here is another close-up of the wall and door trim.  Remember from the earlier picture where I painted all the door trim white then afterwards I put masking tape on the edge so the blue paint would be nice and straight.  However after removing the masking tape it didn’t tear as nicely as I hoped.  We were left with this horrible jagged at edge.

crisp, clean, easy wall paint, corner

That’s when I remembered we had a special tool for painting corners and trim.  It’s a red plastic pad with rollers on its edge, the rollers allow it to get close to the trim without leaving streaks.   Next time i’ll have to remember to forget the masking tape and just use the red painting tool.  It does a much better job and it’s a lot quicker, not having to tape everything off first.

how to paint a straight edge on a wall, corner, trim

While I was working on the trim Karrie began painting the gray chevron pattern.  She found that using a small roller was the best tool.

zig zag wall, chevron, baby room,

It took some time to paint the entire wall since she had to go slowly and make sure not to roll over the 1 inch green masking tape.

great baby room idea, baby room wall design, paint

Another close-up of what the wall, paint, and tape looked like.  You can see that the critical edge is the inside one where we would peel the tape away.

close up wall pattern design, paint, how to

This is what it looked like as we were finishing up the first coat of gray.  We had to paint part of the cold air return cover as well since it landed the gray section of the wall.  Luckily the outlet covers landed in the white portion so we left those white.

one day wall paint, paint design, pattern, grid, geometric

We put on the second coat before removing the masking tape.  Then here’s what it looked like as we peeled away the green frog tape masking tape. You can see that the line was pretty crisp, although we still needed erase the chalk line and pencil lines.

masking tape clean straight edge, how to paint a straight edge

After all the tape was removed, the chalk marks were wiped off, and the pencil lines were erased, this is what the wall looked like.  You can see from here that only one small corner of the cold air return was painted white and one small corner of the coaxial cable cover was painted gray.  The bottom of the wall was left rough because it would be covered up by white baseboard.

zig zag wall design, how to, steps, geometric, grid

And here is what it looks like up close again.

paint wall design, geometric, grid

Not all areas turned out perfect.  Here was the very first corner we did. Obviously this needed a second coat of white paint to cover up a rough mark and pencil lines.

fix a bad paint job

But when it was all done it looked really good.  The contrast between the gray, white and blue walls looked a bit much when the room was empty, but with all the furniture in the room was perfect.

After all the painting was done it was time to add the white base board.  The first few times I had to install baseboard I used a hand miter saw, a hammer, and a box of nails.  It didn’t turn out very well and took a long time.  But since then I’ve purchased a few nail guns, an air compressor, and the power of miter saw.  These new tools make installing baseboard a whole lot easier.  My cuts with a miter saw are much more precise and attaching the baseboard to the wall and nail gun’s takes just a few seconds.

install baseboard, how to, bedroom remodel, baby room remodel

Here was the first board I attached.  In the corners you need to cut the boards at a 45° angle however at the door jam it just needs a straight cut.

tools to install baseboard, base board, easy, guide

Not all of the joints were perfect.  Even though I cut them at 90° I’ve learned that the walls in our house are not 90°.  Corners in our house range between 88° and 93°.  That’s where spackling comes in.  Another thing I’m really glad we did was install new outlets, switches, and cover plates.  Instead of leaving the 50-year-old electrical plugs, we decided to switch them with new ones.  We started doing this when we remodeled our family room.

The great thing about replacing them is that they only cost only a few dollars, but make a huge difference. The outlets are only $.50 each, cover plates are even less, and the light switch is something like $1.00. But when you’re all done really makes the room look like new.

replace wall outlet, electrical outlet, cheap fix

Here’s the new lights switch we put in.  After making sure the power was turned off at the circuit breaker, I removed the old switch and screwed in wires to this new one.  The whole process took about 3 minutes.

easy room fix, remodel, electrical, light switch

Here’s another finishing touch, putting sealant caulk along the baseboard edge.  It’s these small details that make a lot of difference.  Had we not done this you would have seen a black line running around the room at the top of the baseboard.  But by adding the caulk it doesn’t show any seam at all.

caulk baseboard, dap, trim, sealant, molding, crown molding, how to

And while we were spackling the corners of the baseboard we also filled in the nail holes.  After the spackling dries you just need to use a slightly damp rag to wipe it flush.  I used to use sandpaper but a damp rag is quicker, easier, and leaves no mess.

spackle, nail holes, finishing touches, room upgrade, remodel

Depending on where you shop, curtains and curtain rods can be quite expensive.  We learned this lesson after buying hundreds of dollars worth of curtain supplies at Bed Bath and Beyond.  The prices there were crazy, everything was $30 or more.  So if you needed 2 curtains and a curtain rod it would cost you close to $100.  So instead of going there, this time we got curtains and a curtain rod at Homegoods.   They don’t have the same variety and you never know what they will have in stock, but if you get lucky you can find something for 1/4 of the price.  When hanging the brackets I try to attach screws directly into the studs.  But sometimes that’s not possible and you have to use those plastic anchors.

how to hang a curtain rod, curtain rod, wall hangers, metal

The gray curtains on the outside were ones we took from our dining room.  The sheer curtains center were once we got for around $10 from Homegoods.  For a baby room we knew it was important to block out as much light as possible for when the baby sleeps during the day.  With the dark gray curtains pulled shut it does a pretty good job of blocking the light.

baby room colors, curtains, paint, blue, gray

Here’s what it looks like from a different angle showing zigzag wall and the baseboard.

baby room, bedroom, wall, colors, paint, boy, girl, idea, chevron, remodel

We decided to assemble the crib and try to figure out where we were going to place it in the room.  We got this Fisher-Price crib on sale at Meijer.  It also came with a free changing table, which we have on the first floor.

assemble fisher price crib, baby room, pack and play

It was slightly more complicated to set up than I thought it would be, but still only took about 45 minutes to put together.

how to assemble put together a crib, fisher price

Here it is about two thirds of the way through the assembly process.  It seems sturdy enough, especially after adding the steel frame to the inner portion.

best crib, baby room crib, assemble, how to

We ended up liking the crib in the center of the room.  That gave us space on either side for a chair and other things.

crib in baby room

Next we put in the wood dresser.  It’s a little hard to see in this picture, but the dresser is a really nice one we got from Craigslist.  The woman said she paid $300 for it new, but she was selling it for just $75.

Originally we figured that we would have to purchase an ordinary dresser and tried to make it work in the baby’s room.  But we got super lucky with this one, it’s really nice and even has the platform to put a changing pad on top.

baby room remodel, how to, ideas, design, new, modern,

This is what the room looks like with a little more furniture in it.  The basket on the left is for odds and ends, the rocking chair and nightstand are in the other corner.  The rug in the center of the room is real nice and soft, we also got it fairly cheep at Homegoods.  Both of the blankets in this picture are ones we made. The blanket on the chair was made by “knotting” together two pieces of fleece.  That blanket was quite easy to make and only took about an hour.  However the blanket on the crib took several weeks.  First we had to look on YouTube to learn how to crochet.  It’s made of two - 1 pound spools of yarn.  We messed up a lot while making it but it turned out really nice.

remodel baby room , bedroom, convert, how to, ideas, pinterest

Here’s another angle of the room as we were setting up.  You can see that with all the furniture and curtains in the room the chevron wall isn’t as bold as it was when the room was empty.

new baby room, ideas, carpet, color, chair, crib, chevron, zig zag, boy, girl

We were both really happy with how the baby room turned out.  I was expecting the whole process to take a few weeks, but it only took a total of five or six days.  We worked all day on the weekend then at night after work.  As people are giving us gifts and things for the baby room is filling up with lots more stuff.  We might have to make shelves in the closet to hold everything.

The big day is now about three months away.  Even though the room is done we still don’t feel like we’re ready.

20% Off at Lowe's and Home Depot

Like most people, we go to Lowe’s and Home Depot to buy everything we needed for project around the house.  The past year we have done several projects big projects which cost quite a bit.  Here’s some of the projects we’ve done recently.

But luckily we learned that there is a way to save more than 20% on your total purchase … every time.   This is a really easy 2 part process.  The first step is picking up a 10% off coupon and the second is buying gift cards at 7% - 12% off the full price.  So here’s how it’s done.

Part 1  -  The 10% off Coupon
The first step is to go to the nearest Post Office and asked for a “change of address packet”.  They have these behind the counter and will hand them to you in a second.  Inside the envelope are a bunch of coupons, one of them being 10% off your total purchase at Lowe’s. The great thing about that is that Home Depot honors Lowe’s coupons.  They said they won’t match any computer print outs, but any real coupon that they can scan, they will honor.  So right there, any purchase you make from those 2 stores you are getting 10% off your total purchase.  Although Home Depot will only honor the coupon up to $50 off.

Part 2  -  The 10% off Gift Card
This step takes a little more time.  Online there are stores that act as middle-men between people buying and selling gift cards.  For example someone may have a $100 gift card to Lowe’s.  That person will sell the cart to one of these websites for $80 cash.  Then that site turns around and sells it to someone else for $95.  There’s lots of websites which have this system:
Here a screenshot of CardExchang’s website (although they all look the same) and this is just a few of all the store gift cards they sell.  You can see Home Depot is 7% off and Lowe’s is 5%.  There are lots more stores and restaurants which have an even better rate, like JCPenney’s at 20% and Jo-Ann Fabric at 15%.

how to gift card exchange, how it works

But to get an even better deal than the 7% off we went to  Every month or so SlickDeals posts a Promo Code for one of these gift card stores.  Using that code at check-out we were able to get a total of 11% off the total price.

For example, when we needed to buy tile and the materials needed to redo our bathrooms, we bought 2 - $200 gift cards.  The total value of the cards was $400, but we only spent $365.  The total price at the check-out line at Home Depot was right at $500.  We handed them the Lowe’s 10% off coupon, they price matched it and the total became $450.   Then we swiped our two gift cards, saving us another 11%, then paid the difference with the credit card.  The total savings of our $500 purchase was $105.

When we purchased new carpet from Home Depot for our living room and dining room we did the same thing, except we needed a lot more gift cards.  We were a little nervous, but we bought $1100 in Home Depot gift cards, which cost us $979.  Normally at check out they limit the Lowe’s 10% off card to a maximum of $50 off.  But after talking to the manager, we somehow got lucky and they changed it to 10% off the total purchase.  The total we would have spent was around $1,400 but we only spent $1,000.  A savings of $400.  Not bad.

Now this isn’t something we do all the time.  In fact we’ve only bought the gift cards 3 times.  But if you are planning to purchase anything over $100 i would say that it’s definitely worth it to stop into the Post Office and pick up the change of address packet.  As long as you don’t have to stand in line for too long, it’s definitely worth it.

One final note is that if you are purchasing something from Lowe’s, there is also something called a  Promo Code Generator.  It’s a script that someone wrote which generates possible promo codes for Lowe’s.  It turns out that the promo codes that Lowe’s creates are very similar.  They are usually a 15-digit number series usually something like 4700xx072xxxx34. 

Here is the direct link to the Coupon Code Generator itself.  Just click on the link and the code is generated for you.

Here’s a SlickDeals Lowe’s Coupon Code Thread which has a lot more discussion about the generator and more promo codes are posted as they become available.

slickdeals lowe's, promo code generator

So good luck with your future purchases.  Hopefully this will save you some money next time you need to visit Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Folding Tool Box - Nail Gun Case

 After buying a lot more tools recently I realized that i’ll needed something to carry them in.   At a couple job sites I saw guys that had cloth or canvas tool bags.  These have replaces the old heavy steel tool boxes that have been around for a decade.

cloth tool bag, case

I really like these and I still think I might buy one in the future.   Also they are light weight and have many internal pockets.  I just built an old fashioned wood tool box to hold small hand tools.

wood tool box, weathered, old, rustic

Here’s a link to that blog page in case you want to see how i built it.   Wood Tool Box

The other thing that I am still interested in is a YouTube channel called Tested which has Adam Savage, one of the hosts of Mythbusters.  I’ve watched many of those videos several times including one where he made a wood case for one of his homemade prop guns from the movie Blade Runner. 

adam savage, bladerunner case, felt, leather, make, build

It has multiple hinge points to open up completely.  Plus a drawer on the bottom for additional storage.

fold, folding, leather case, gun

Here’s a link to the 30 minute video where he builds the case over the course of 8 hours.

I thought it was really cool how he built the case, wrapped it in fake leather, and lined the inside was felt.  I decided that a great project would be to make a case for my new nail guns that bought a few months back. 

nail gun storage, case

Since buying my six  gallon air compressor Kit which came with two nail guns and a staple gun, they have been just sitting in a plastic milk crate or a red tool box which is too small.

bostitch nail gun, milk crate, storage, protect

So over several weeks I drew different designs of boxes that would hold the nail gun’s.  But none of the designs seemed right, they were either too big or too boring.  I didn’t want just a plain square box with hinges, lid and handle.  Then while looking at some examples online I noticed a really unique toolbox that a guy named Jeremy Broun made.  He called it a compact toolbox and it was a clam-shell design made of wood.

jeremy broun, folding wood case, clamshel, tool box

At first sight it doesn’t look that exciting.  But you’ll see in a bit how it opens and what makes it so cool.  I immediately loved the design in its simplicity and usability.  As he says in his YouTube video, big problem with toolboxes is their accessibility.  And I agree that sometimes things are getting the bottom of a tool bag and you won’t be able to find it. 

I thought this foldout design would be perfect for my 3 nail guns, I could put the two smaller nail guns on the walls and fit the larger one in the center.  So it started with me measuring the three guns side-by-side and determining the smallest shape box I could make and have them all fit.

bostitch nail gun measurement, case, size

One of the problems I was having with my original design of making a square or conventional box case, was how the nail guns would be stored.  With this new clam shell design the problem basically solved itself.  The nail guns would sit vertically and be held in place with little latches.

Folding Tool Box - Nail Gun Case

Before i built anything out of wood i thought that to get a better idea of size and shape, i could make them out of cardboard.  So in about a half hour i built two different shapes.  Here’s the first one, this was a square box.

cardboard template, tool box, folding, case

The second one i thought about tapering the upper portion and make it sort of a “house profile” shape.

test fit tool box, cardboard, wood, nail gun

After looking at them for a week or so i decided to make the square version.  It would be easier to build and i wasn’t really saving any room by building the tapered version.

tool box test, cardboard, template, plans, pattern

So I bought a sheet of the cheapest wood I could find, 3/8 inch OSB.  This is the same type of boards that I used to make my wooden storage shelves except slightly thinner and lighter.

I measured and cut out the pieces using my circular saw but then the project stopped for a while.  I started working on other things and the boards just sat on my workbench in the basement for months. That was until I bought a new Craftsman table saw.

craftsman table saw, sears, 10

After buying the saw I re-cut the pieces so that the edges were nice and straight  It makes a huge difference, cutting board on a table saw versus a hand circular saw.  I started to assemble the boards and tried to determine how the hinged system would work.

folding tool box frame, nail gun case

You can see from the picture above that i decided on using a copper pipe instead of a piece of wood for the handle.  If i were to make this case again i would have used wood and maybe tried to dovetail it into the side boards.  The metal pipe is ok but i don’t like it as much now as i did originally.

Another thing that i should have changed is the hinge system.  I probably should have gone with a couple of normal hinges on each side, but the original design use just a single screw on either side, so I decided to do the same.  For simplicity it worked, but it had its drawbacks.   The main drawback is that the boards are not flush at the bottom, for it to swing open you need to have a 1/4” gap.   It wasn’t a huge deal since this is just a toolbox.  But it’s something to know if you are trying to make something very nice and realize that there will be this big gap between the boards at the bottom.  

Here’s the side panels.  The small square blocks are where the hinge screws would attach to.

sides of the case, wood, screw hinge

The next problem I had was how to mount the nail guns. The obvious answer was to make a wooden mount, which would be a  custom cutout of the inside of the handle.  So I set the nail gun a piece of paper, traced out the inner void, then transferred that onto a 2 x 4 and cut it out. 

Let’s just call this pattern version 1.   I realized that it didn’t need to be so accurate all I wanted to do was support the nail gun not make a super flush mounting piece of wood.  That’s how pattern version 2 came about.  This time I rounded over some of the sharp edges and left off some of the indentations.  I thought this one worked pretty well but it was still too tight.  The whole point is that it should be rugged, quick, and easy to use this one seem to find a precision and wasn’t easy for the nail guns to slide on and off.   So finally I made pattern version 3. 

Here’s the three versions of wood mounts i made.  You can see that each time they got smaller and more rounded over. 

wood nail gun mount, version

And here’s that version 3 set inside of the nail gun.  Looking back i probably could have used just a square block of wood. 

test fit nail gun handle

So I made a another version 3 and glued them to the sides using some weights to hold them in place.

clamp wood handle to tool box

At this point i could see the overall shape.  But there was still a lot of things to add to the inside.

folding tool box, case

Next i started working on the center nail gun mount.  The strongest and easiest solution was to just attach a 2x4 to the bottom panel. 

how to build a case, nail guns, 3, tool box, clamshell

Again, sticking with the simpler is better motto, i made latches for the nail guns by using just a screw and piece of aluminum.  It’s basically just a square piece of aluminum with a whole for a screw.  The key is to tension the screw hard enough so that it stays in place but not too hard so that it can’t be turned.

easy tool latch

One of the last pieces of hardware was to make a locking latch to hold the sides together.  I used basically the same concept that I held the nail guns in place, but this time I added a small knob and screw which it could lock to.

metal latch, homemade, diy, simple, easy

The great thing about aluminum is that it’s strong yet can still be shaped using a metal file.  To make this latch it took lots of cutting, filing and to attach the handle i had to drill and tap it so that a bolt could lock it in place.  But i think it turned out great.

So this is everything basically finished.

nail gun case, box, safe, transport, carry

One final thing i forgot to mention was that my original concept was to use magnets to lock the sides into place.  If you look closely in this picture you can see the round magnet in the upper corner of the center board and a metal bar on the inside corner of the side.  But i learned that the magnets would not be strong enough to hold the sides in place and that’s why i had to build the aluminum latch.

how to build a folding tool box, case

There was no real reason for deciding to paint the case white, just that i have a bunch of old cans of white paint in the basement. 

finish, paint, case, tools, box

Although after making the wood tool box that i mentioned in the beginning, i did want to weather the case and make it look old.  

So i did the same thing in terms of finishing.  I applied two coats of white paint, but this time instead of using wax i did two coats of polyurethane.  Now it was time to add the weathering.  If you want to see in more detail how i did it, go back and look at the wood tool box post.  Like before, i used some black and brown paint, brushed it on, then wiped it off. 

weathering techniques, how to, best, easy

This had a huge effect since the wood in this case is OSB and isn’t smooth.  The dark paint got deep into all the crevices of the boards.

how to weather a tool box, adam savage

I think it made it look loads better.  It gave it character and a kind of warmth that it didn’t have being painted just plain white. 

wood tool box, easy, design, best

Overall i like the case.  It should last a long time.  I still want to make a real nice case with a leather wrap on the outside and felt on the inside, but i haven’t found a reason to make it yet.

nail gun case, easy access, design, wood, build, plans

California Vacation - Legoland - Ocean

A couple of weeks ago Karrie and I flew to San Diego to visit Kristina, Kyla and LaRoun.  They live in Chula Vista.  When we checked for things to do in the area, Legoland kept coming up as a popular place.  So we got tickets to the park.  It turned out to be good for 2 days.  I wasn’t sure if we would even want to do 2 days, but i was wrong.  The place is huge.  It has an aquarium, rides, and water park.  The first thing we did was the aquarium.

legoland, aquarium, kids, california

It was pretty good.  They had a big shark tank.

what to do in legoland

We spent a few hours in there before we went to see the rest of the park.

legoland aquarium, waterpark

But before we did that we stopped and had lunch.  We brought stuff to eat and it wasn’t too much of a hassle to go out to the car and grab the cooler.

best places to eat in legoland, food, california

Since it was over 80 degrees, we spent the rest of that first day in the water park.  It was great.  They had lockers and changing rooms for everyone.  Then there was lots to do like lazy rivers, padded bottom shallow pools for the kids, water slides, and big play areas.  I didn’t get any pictures while we were there, i should have brought my GoPro with me that day, but i forgot.  

On our way out we stopped at a couple of rides.

best rides in legoland, california, san diego

The next day we went back to the park and did some of the bigger rides.  They were ok, not Cedar Point but pretty good.  The first day was a Friday and it wasn’t too busy.  This second day was a Saturday and it was really crowded. 

fun to do at legoland, park, amusement

Inside the park i noticed this groove of bamboo.  I think it’s Moso but i’m not sure.  They were about 50’ tall and 4” in diameter.

california moso bamboo

The third day we drove to the ocean.  We walked around La Jolla California, apparently it’s one of the wealthiest areas in the US.  We jokingly tried to guess at what some of the houses were worth.  My guess of $2 million seemed reasonable, until i checked and saw that the houses for sale ranged between $12 and $22 million.  We walked along the rocky shore for a while.

pacific ocean view, la jolla california

Then we went to check out the sea lions.  There were about 100 of them just sitting by a little pier. 

sea lions la jolla california

Apparently the entire area stinks really bad because of the animals. 

smell from sealions

Here’s another view of the coastline.  The temperature there was about 5-10 degrees cooler then inland because of the breeze. 

la jolla california, ocean view

We drove a little further south to Mission Beach which is several miles long.  There was tons of people and things to do there.  We stopped at a place right on the beach for lunch.  

Here’s a panorama picture i took of the beach.

mission beach california, beach view

After getting back to the condo Karrie, Kyla and I went down to the pool to go swimming.  After the water park at Legoland, swimming was all Kyla wanted to do.  

This time i took my GoPro camera with me and it was great in the pool.  The camera is best when there’s lots of natural sunlight.

Swimming in the Pool - San Diego

After swimming Kyla and i drew some things with sidewalk chalk. 

sidewalk chalk, cheap fun

We wish we could have spent more time down there then 4 days, but it was fun.  And having the 80 degree and sunny weather every day wasn’t bad either.