Toilet Paper Holder and Towel Holder with Shelves

Last month we remodeled the small bathroom on our main floor and we’ve been living without some important things in the room, toilet paper and towel holders. The roll of TP has been sitting on the floor and a towel has been draped over the edge of the sink. Time to change that.

When I remodeled the living room, I bought some railroad spikes with the plan to incorporate them in to some designs. I didn’t use one. As we talked about ideas for the bathroom we thought it might be neat to use some of the spikes. Brandi found these examples on Pinterest for inspiration.

Of course I would make my own versions, especially since these cost $98 and $104 respectively! When I milled up the black walnut for the ladder, I did a second board to make these holders. To see the grain I had rubbed some water on the pieces.

The big challenge was attaching the spikes to the wood. Since I like to learn new skills I wanted to see if I could bolt them together. I cut the spikes to length and sanded the ends square-ish. Then it was over to the drill press to put a 13/64 hole in each end. Things weren’t perfectly straight, but the spikes are far from straight anyway, so it was fine. I finally got to use the tap wrench I received for Christmas a few years ago, which was just big enough to fit a 1/4-20 tap. It worked and I was so excited!

I used different bolts with washers in the final assembly but didn’t get a picture. After cleaning them up the spikes with a wire wheel on a bench grinder, I drilled some holes in a scrap piece of wood, mounted them, and spray painted them black.

I drilled a hole near the heads where I used epoxy to put in a pin which would keep the rail in place. I didn’t get a picture of this, but I do have one at the end of the post to show how the TP holder works. Meanwhile, I had cut all of my pieces of walnut, drilled holes for mounting and assembly, rounded the edges on my router table, and sanded through the grits.

To keep the finishing stage simple I sprayed on 4 coats of lacquer from a rattle can and applied a coat of Linseed Oil & Beeswax Polish.

The bathroom is finished and fully functional.

If you’re curious about the sign, I bought it on FB Marketplace about 2 years ago. Yes, toilet paper definitely goes over.

Decorative Ladder with Shelves for Rungs

Several years ago I thought about making a ladder to hang blankets on next to the fireplace. Then last month Brandi asked if I would make a ladder she could also hang our Christmas stockings on. I’ve had some black walnut on my lumber rack for a couple of years and this seemed like a perfect project to use some. I hadn’t done much woodworking this year, so it was also a great project to over-engineer the design and try some new things. Here are some pictures taking during the build.

The feet of the ladder are cut at a 10° angle, which provided the opportunity to experiment. In order for the rungs to have the option of also being shelves, they needed to be attached to the sides at this same angle as well as have the long edges cut at a bevel. For strength and ease of assembly I decided to cut dados in the sides of the ladder at that 10°. This was all new to me and the method I used produced amazing results.

First I used an angle gauge to mark lines on each side for the top of each rung. Then I clamped a straight board down, put the rung up against it, and clamped another board snugly against the rung. From there I was able to pull the rung out and use a router with a pattern bit to hog out the dado. All 10 ended up so perfect that I had to use a rubber mallet to disassemble it after my dry-fit.

After a ton of sanding and the glue up, the ladder was plenty strong enough, since it would never be used as an actual ladder. I knew I didn’t want to add screws to the joints and even though I didn’t need to, I decided to add dowels for the practice and the look of the contrasting oak. I made a little jig to line up and drill out holes in to the edge of each rung. Everything got finished with three coats of Minwax Wipe-on Poly and a coat of Linseed Oil & Beeswax Polish.

This turned out to be one of the nicest pieces I’ve ever made.

Wood Brackets

During the pandemic I bought a sheet of dry-erase material that I stuck on a piece of hardboard.

As you can see in the picture there were a lot of wrinkles because the sheet wasn’t very good. It worked alright for over two years, but it was time to make an upgrade for the garage gym. A few weeks ago we picked up a 2×4′ Dry Erase Handi-Panel (Menards) for less than $10. I didn’t want to put any holes in it, so today I finally made some simple brackets.

The three bottom brackets have rabbets for the panel to sit in. These were screwed in to the studs. The smaller top pieces were simply pin nailed to the 2×6″ already on the wall.

Markers work much better on this new board too. Very quick project, but will be a big improvement for fitness time.

Bathroom Remodel

After the kitchen project I needed a break. With fall arriving it was time to dive back in to something and the small bathroom was next on our list. It’s the last room on the main floor to get a facelift. Look at that lovely style!

Over the course of a weekend we:

  • Took the door off its hinges
  • Pulled all of the trim
  • Removed the towel and toilet paper holders
  • Moved out the toilet
  • Tossed the vanity in the trash
  • Installed shut-off valves on the sink’s water lines
  • Took down the mirror
  • Pulled up the tile floor, mortar, and a layer of subfloor
  • Removed wallpaper
  • Tossed the light fixture in the trash

The flooring and wallpaper made for a very long and exhausting Sunday.

It was nice to have a blank slate. We scrubbed the walls to try and remove any remaining wallpaper glue, which took about an hour and a half. Then I worked on repairing drywall. The old toilet paper holder was inset, so I had a pretty large fix there. In the above picture you can see all the glue left on the wall from the backslash. Sanding glue never really works, so I took a blade to cut around the area. Then I used a putty knife to take off some of the drywall paper. After that I sanded a bit, applied primer, and then several rounds of drywall with sanding in between. I learned this technique in the kitchen when some pretty large areas of drywall paper peeled off. Works great!

We primed the walls. While painting Brandi had a good idea to do the ceiling, which made it much easier not having to cut-in. We painted two coats. I cut 3/4″ plywood for the subfloor.

The toilet flange was sticking up above the old floor and while removing the tile and mortar I must have jostled an old leak in the drain pipe, which I figured would happen. I tested by pouring some water down it was definitely dripping. Good time to fix both issues while the floor was gone. After buying some PVC parts I got home and realized the lower piping was 3″ thin wall (Schedule 30) PVC. Of course that’s a different outside diameter than standard 3″ Schedule 40 PVC and needs a special coupler. Nobody carries that part anymore so it’s a special order. They do carry a 3″ Schedule 30 to 4″ Schedule 40 coupler though, so I got one, a length of 4″ pipe, and a 4″ toilet flange. Check out the old $1.00 price tag on the coupler I cut out!

Things went pretty smooth from there. I wired in the new light (Menards) and ordered brighter LED bulbs (Amazon). I installed the same Sam’s Club flooring I had used in the living room, kitchen, and hallways. Then I was able to attach the toilet flange over the top of the floor as it should be. We installed the vanity and sink (Home Depot), hooked up the new faucet, and reinstalled the toilet. After only 8 days we were happy to have a functional bathroom again. It was two exhausting weekends though!

Over the next several days I picked away at the remaining items:

  • New switches and outlet
  • Peel & stick backsplash tiles (Menards) with caulk around the edges
  • Refreshed the stain on the door trim and nailed it up
  • New prefinished floor trim
  • Hung the mirror

So much cleaner and no longer cramped. I’m going to make towel and TP holders with shelves in a couple of weeks.

Using Old Leftover Flooring in a Bathroom

A few weeks ago I noticed a wet spot on the ceiling below my bathroom toilet. It turned out that I was able to lift the toilet right off the floor because the bolts didn’t have any washers! The wax ring was almost nonexistent as well, which must have been causing a slow drip. It could have been much worse. So I figured I might as well tear up original linoleum and the cheap stick on tiles I put down five years ago. Here’s how those layers looked.

With the trim removed and old flooring pulled out, I noticed the subfloor was pretty rotted from old leaks of some kind. Also check out the old wallpaper I found under the trim!

I removed a layer of subfloor and replaced it with new plywood. Recently when cleaning out a closet I found nearly a full box of flooring Dad and I installed in the kitchen back in 2013. The whole master bathroom and closet need a major remodel so I figured I might as well use this to buy time. After a bit of maths I thought I had exactly enough for this little area. I couldn’t afford to make any cutting or measuring mistakes and it worked out. I cleaned and refreshed stain on the trim and gave the register fresh coats of primer and white paint.

I also bought a LED light strip that can be toggled between activation manually by a button or automatically by motion. It’s the perfect solution for trips in the middle of the night.

Old 40 Amp

The range we put in last year tripped the breaker whenever we ran the quick boil burner and oven together. I checked the manual and the unit runs best off a 50 amp breaker, so I finally got around to replacing the 40 amp one along with 6 gauge wire to replace the 8 gauge.

Hallway Flooring and More

After the living room and kitchen, the plan was to run the same flooring through the hallways. When we bought the flooring for the kitchen we get enough, so it had been piled up in my office since November. Here’s the old flooring my dad and I had installed in 2013.

Needed a bit of a break after the kitchen project, so after a few weeks we finally got started. I removed all of the trim and some doors that were in the way.

Of course, the project grew from there. When we removed the double doors from the hobby room it really brightened up the space.

Since we never close those doors we decided not to put them back up and with the hallways having wallpaper I’d have to do something with the door jamb. With the closets empty we noticed how bad the walls were, so it was a good time to refresh the paint. The shelving in the broom closet was terrible so we’d install all new adjustable shelves. My DIY automated lighting in there had failed, so I found a LED strip with motion sensor on Amazon for about $25 that works great. Of course I had to run a new electrical line up from the basement and install an outlet. I had also wanted a place to plug in the Ryobi 40v batteries used for the snow blower and lawn mower, so it worked out.

It was fun trying to figure out how to piece flooring around the stairs.

I chopped the top off of the shoe rack I had made for workout shoes and moved it from the broom closet to the coat closet. We have a lot of shoes!

There was a lot of finishing work with trim and new quarter round, but we’re so glad to have it all completed.

Review: Hychika 3.6V Cordless Screwdriver

Last week I was contacted by Hychika, who asked if I’d like to try one of their tools in exchange for a review. They offered their 20v Drill/Driver, a small tire inflator, or a small cordless screwdriver. I’m set on drills and impact drivers with my Ryobi collection of tools and I don’t have a bike, which would be the ideal use of the inflator. The 3.6V Cordless Screwdriver caught my eye and it arrived in a couple of days.

The set came with an injection molded case, which I usually think are a waste because they’re junk; the parts are always hard to get out and put back in. This case is really no different than my other experiences with them, but for how I’ll use this screwdriver, I’m actually glad to have it. It’ll make the set easy to store in my hobby room.

At only 3.6 volts and 180 RPM, this is not a powerful screwdriver by any measurement. I won’t be driving screws in to hardwood that’s for sure. I’ll keep it in my hobby room where it will get a lot of use working on electronics and small appliances/machines. It’s the perfect size and muscle for that type of use. I did pull it out today when I had to take the face plates off some outlets and was able to remove the outlets too, so it may prove useful in the kitchen or garage when I don’t want to run downstairs for a full size driver.

The kit comes with a USB charger, a mini wrench, and a nice assortment of sockets and bits. The screwdriver itself has a couple of nifty features, like a flashlight, rotating head for use in two orientations, and a quick release chuck. The quick release chuck seems similar to the one on my 18V Ryobi impact driver and I love that thing.

I did a quick search and Ryobi makes a four volt version of this tool, which seems almost identical. Overall this Hychika screwdriver seems like a decent tool for what it’s designed for, but I’m curious how it’ll hold up over time.

Recap: Kitchen Remodel

During my three month sabbatical from Automattic I started remodeling the kitchen. The first work I did was on October 28th, I didn’t touch the kitchen for over a week when I went back to work on January 4th, and we finished the project on March 23rd. It was a long process and I’m glad it’s over, but it was well worth it. I put together a short video to show the before and after.

Here are the individual pictures.

The area is so much brighter and inviting. The most impactful change was when we moved the fridge and put a new counter there. It made an incredible difference in how we’re able to do our cooking, with Brandi and I both being able to work at the stove together now.

My favorite step was refinishing the counters with epoxy. That was really cool and I could see doing it again for a bathroom. We would definitely do some testing on a small sample first though.

The worst task was sitting on the floor to remove hundreds of staples from old flooring. My back was not happy with me that week. The phase of the project I enjoyed the least was painting the cabinets because there were so many steps to the process. If I was doing it again I wouldn’t waste the 30 hours it took to apply grain filler and sand it down.

If you’re interested in more detail about any parts of the project I wrote about it every step of the way:

I didn’t research what it would run to contract all of the work out and I didn’t keep track of total expenses or hours of work. It’s something I wanted to do myself and it wasn’t about money or time. I made a lot of mistakes, but nothing that couldn’t be corrected, and I learned a lot of new skills and techniques. One of the most enjoyable things about a large project like this is all of the problem solving I have to do.

My dad is a real estate agent, so he’s seen a lot of houses. It felt pretty awesome when he was impressed with my work. He said he knows professionals who wouldn’t do this nice of a job and I should be very proud.

Each morning when I walk in to make a cup of coffee I look around and I do feel an immense sense of pride. We did this!

Kitchen Remodel: DIY Pallet Wood Backsplash

The last big stage of remodeling the kitchen was a new backsplash. Last year we watched John Heisz’s End Grain Backsplash video, since I’m a subscriber, and I think it got the wheels turning in the back of our minds. Sometime after doing a couple of walls in the living room and making a shelf/light out of pallet wood, Brandi suggested we do a wood backsplash. We looked up some examples, I thought about the process, and we decided that would be the plan.

Several months ago my dad brought me another load of pallet wood and it took up space in my shop, waiting for us to get started. In late February I finally started milling the wood. This load was in much worse condition than the larger load I used for the living room walls, though I was able to use some leftovers from the earlier projects. First step was trying to get a flat face and a flat edge on every board, while discarding any pieces that were too twisted. I took a lot of passes at the jointer, cut some boards in two, and trimmed off bad sections.

While working on the rest of the kitchen we kept discussing ideas for the backsplash. Something we kept coming back to was using a shou sugi ban technique to burn the face of the wood and then potentially staining the wood. I cut up some scraps to do some samples. We bought a couple of new gray stains at Menards and tried various combinations.

We didn’t like how dark the burnt wood was turning out and it would have taken so much time to do on all of the pieces. We decided on this gray gel stain.

B offered to help with the rest of the wood processing, which saved a lot of time with so many pieces of wood. I cut everything to a width at the table saw, while she grabbed the pieces coming out of the saw and stacked them up. With so much hard wood in the mix, I ended up overheating another general purpose blade, which I had done while processing everything for the walls. This time I learned though and picked up a cheap ripping blade from Menards, since it was the only one they had in the size I needed. This blade made an incredible difference, allowing me to finish cutting to width. Then I stood each board on it’s flat edge to run through the saw, so I’d get two boards out of each and have much thinner material. This process is even harder on a blade but it went smooth. Here you can see how burnt some of the edges were before I switched blades.

After lining everything up on edge like this I noticed the widths had too much variance, so I ran everything through the table saw again to get more consistency and cut away those burn marks. I also trimmed/squared the ends on the miter saw at some point. I set up the planer and we ran each piece through twice on each side. With Brandi grabbing boards on the exit side I was able to keep feeding the input side, which cut the work time in half. We ended up with 83 pieces, which would be more than enough, according to my math.

Next up was everyone’s favorite step, sanding. We did it assembly line style with me using 120 grit and B doing using 180. It took us 1-2 hours.

Since the gel stain needs to be wiped off pretty quickly, we used an assembly line for that as well. I applied the stain with a staining pad, B wiped it off and transferred the piece over to the drying rack, which I’m so glad I didn’t break down after painting the cabinets. I had only found out about staining pads while researching gel stains that morning and it worked really well. We knocked out this step in two hours.

Something that stuck with me from Heisz’s project was how he said he’d create panels if he ever did it again. I definitely didn’t want to have to apply poly by hand after putting up the backsplash so panels would allow me to use a sprayer outside and put on a lot of coats to seal things up. I used 1/4″ plywood to cut all of my panel backs.

Then we glued individual boards to the panels row by row, using clamps along the edge and a lot of weights from our garage gym. There was a lot of trial and error through this process.

I had to cut the outlets and a couple of notches for some window trim. Then we did a final fit in the kitchen and trimmed to final lengths. This was really the first time our entire vision of the kitchen came to life. With something as unique as the backsplash, we had no idea if we could pull it off. It turned out better than we visioned and we couldn’t be happier with our color choices! While everything was in place for the test fit, I cut trim from extra boards.

Some of that needed a little edge sanding and stain. We let that dry for a day and then sprayed five coats of water-based polyurethane.

In between coats we fit some of the extra boards inside the open-shelf cupboard I’d made and sprayed those with three coats of poly. It was a beautiful day in the 50s with a slight breeze and clear sky, so the coats were dry within minutes. After the final coat on everything, we went for a walk and then started installing pieces. First up was the cupboard. I had not made a panel here so it was easy to just tack the boards up with a brad nailer.

Since I used hardboard to cover the beat up (due to removing tile) drywall and these panels were about a half inch thick, I used outlet extenders everywhere. I also installed GFCI outlets everywhere within six feet of the sink.

I brad nailed all of the panels up and used pin nails for the trim. I finished other odds and ends like making a new ledge for the big window and adding the white trim around the cupboards and big window.

We are thrilled with how well the backsplash turned out!

That’s a wrap on the kitchen and I’m so glad it’s done. In a couple of days I’ll post a full recap.

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