DIY Wall Sconce/Light

I’ve started to remodel the kitchen and we’re getting all new lights. This one almost never gets used and is in a weird spot, but it had to go.

We determined something like this is generally called a sconce, so naturally went searching for a replacement on Amazon. We found this farmhouse steampunk light we really liked.

I knew I could very easily make something similar. I picked up 3/4″ pipe pieces and a lamp socket from Menards, along with some metallic hammered spray paint.

I used some sandpaper on the end of the light socket (bite for the bonding), wired it up, screwed the pipe pieces together, and attached the light socket to the pipe with epoxy. Then I did several coats of spray paint. I also did some matte clear coat, which I think was after this picture was taken; I wanted to knock down the shine.

We picked out a piece of pallet wood, of course.

After we picked out our new kitchen faucet, which has some bronzed edges, I ended up grabbing some bronze metal paint, which I used on some of the edges, though it’s subtle and hard to see here.

I reused the bolt from the previous light, and put it all in place to figure out where to cut the board.

Then I drilled holes for screws and the mounting bolt. I had to route out some of the back side to make room for the circuit box and brackets sticking out of the wall. I guess I forgot to take a picture. I painted the screw heads and bolt and touched the edges with bronze.

I love how it turned out and can’t wait to see what it looks like after the walls get painted though.

Pallet Wood Art/Shelf With a Hidden Dimmable LED Light

When I first had the idea to do pallet wood walls in the living room, I wanted to create some type of art piece for the wall opposite the TV. I stumbled across this shelf on Etsy when searching for pallet wood art.

After getting rid of my old recliner and lamp (as part of the living room updates) I quickly realized a light was needed for the new loveseat. I thought it would be cool to integrate a light in to my shelf and as a bonus it would be hidden. It would be a fun challenge to work on. Here are the last models I had mocked up in SketchUp before starting on the build.

Some of the inspiration for the light came after watching someone create a reading lamp by using quad row LED strips. I ordered a roll of the LEDs (quite expensive), a power supply, and a board to use as a dimmer. After doing some testing and reading more of the specs, I ended up getting a much beefier board to handle 10 Amps. I was also melting some of the insulation on cheap electronics wires, so I also grabbed a spool of 18 gauge wire.

This initial testing was done using a very simple limit switch, but those are only rated for very low currents and would quickly burn up with the requirements of the LEDs. It took some searching, but I finally found a limit switch that said it could handle 10 Amps of DC. The big controller board for the dimmer and this much bigger limit switch introduced some new challenges to my build.

We picked through the wood leftover from the walls to find an assortment of pieces to use for the backer.

I played around with the arrangement, shortened the length of some boards, and ran everything through the planer to get an even thickness. Then I stained five of the boards and glued the pieces together in several steps.

To make the pull-out part of the shelf I started with a piece of plywood. I cut up scrap sheet metal I’d saved from the drop ceiling light fixtures I removed from my shop several years ago. This would be used behind the LEDs so any excessive heat they produced wouldn’t burn in to the plywood or create a fire hazard. I screwed the metal to the plywood and used some white spray paint on it.

I cut scraps of wood for sides and a divider. Then I cut some slots through them, using the table saw, where the light covers would slide in. I also made a face for this piece, leaving it oversized for now. I attached the sides and front face with glue and pocket hole screws from what will be the top side.

I bought two 10-inch full extension drawer slides and attached them to the top. I filled the pocket holes with plugs and wood filler. Sanding would be done later.

Perhaps the most nerve-wracking step of the project was cutting and positioning a scrap piece of 2×4 to the backer boards. This will hold everything together and allow me to attach the surrounding pieces of the shelf. Thankfully I remembered to cut one end short before glueing and screwing (from both sides) it in place. This is where the dimmer knob and board went. I cut a scrap piece of wood (later replaced with thinner plywood) to prop it up a bit so the knob would be easier to handle.

I put a straight bit in my trim router and cut a channel down the back of the longest backer board. This will be where the power cable runs down and behind the loveseat. It’ll never be seen, so I wasn’t concerned with how it looks.

Next I milled up some boards and glued them to make the top and bottom of the shelf. I tinted clear epoxy with black paint and filled in some holes. I also milled and cut a couple of pieces for the sides of the shelf.

I trimmed all of those to the sizes I’d need. Then I cut rabbets in the sides so the edges of the top and bottom wouldn’t be seen and there would be more support. To fit properly around the dimmer switch I had to notch out some areas and drill a hole for the knob shaft.

I was able to do a dry fit and then had to make a bunch of adjustments to make everything fit better. After a shitload of sanding I stained one coat of Red Mahogany.

The next morning I was able to glue and pin nail the bottom and left side to the backer. The top and right will be screwed in place in case I need to take things apart to troubleshoot or replace the electronics.

After giving the stain several days I masked off the dimmer board and used my paint sprayer to apply four coats of water-based poly.

The next day I put in the LEDs and switch, wiring everything up. I had to make one more piece of wood that would trigger the switch when the “drawer” was pulled out.

I painted the wires white. A bit of hot glue was used to keep them in place and provide strain relief. I also used hot glue down the back side to hold the wire in the groove.

The final step was to figure out where to cut in keyhole slots.

This turned out to be a bad idea. The shelf was just too heavy. So I drilled all the way through the cross beam and drove two long lag screws through and in to the studs.

We picked up some cool pieces at the Freeland Antique Mall for decor.

Here’s a night comparison which shows how bright the LEDs can be.

This video shows everything in action.

This project ended up being a lot more work than I expected. I’m really happy with the results though and we now have a one-of-a-kind piece in our living room.

We got a blackout top down bottom up shade made from SelectBlinds for the window, which came in over the weekend. They’re really easy to install. Now the living room is complete and I can focus on the kitchen remodel.

We bought an old milk can at an antique mall for the corner of the room too.

Living Room Updates

Last week I was finally able to finish the living room project, before going to Puerto Rico last week. My three month sabbatical started, which gave me a lot of time to work on it. This was the final big phase of a living room remodel. Here are the before and after pictures.

Before
After

Actually that’s not a true before picture because there used to be an old A/C unit built in to the wall. Below is the only picture I could find, which shows the cover that was over it.

Last July or August my Dad and I removed the unit and patched up the wall. Then I had three Mitsubishi mini-splits installed around the house. In April, my Dad and brother came down for a weekend. We took out the sliding glass doors, removed the sunroom, and installed a 5×6’ window.

I had a gas fireplace insert installed a month earlier actually. I put black painted plywood up on two walls, and I installed Select Surfaces Barnwood Spill Defense Laminate Flooring from Sam’s Club. It’s really nice flooring and easy to install.

Bought a new loveseat, the Sonos Arc soundbar and Sonos Sub, and two IKEA bookshelf speakers (Sonos compatible). I’ve put several other speakers throughout the house as well and am really enjoying the Sonos system.

I found an awesome mirror on Facebook Marketplace, which had been in an old farmhouse for over 40 years. It’s in really good condition. The room was really starting to come together.

It was several months before I could spend more time finishing the room though, because I had to fix up the outside wall of the house and build the outdoor gym area. During the peaks of the pandemic last year, my Dad collected and processed a lot of awesome pallet wood, which he gave to me.

I sorted through it all to take out the really twisty stuff and to organize it in to wide and narrow boards. Then I jointed an edge of everything, cut the ends square, ripped to two common widths, and did a rough surface sanding. I wanted to bring out more of the wood’s character, while keeping it rough.

Brandi helped me pick out some stains and we stained about a third to a half of the wood.

After seeing how long it took to stain this stuff I bought the HomeRight Super Finish Max HVLP Paint Sprayer. I laid plastic out on the driveway and gave all of the wood three coats of water-based polyurethane on the face. It only took about 10 minutes per coat, which saved hours of time.

The next day I started at the top of a wall and tried to create a random-ish pattern as I used an 18 gauge nail gun to tack boards to the plywood walls.

I continued the process for the second wall. Then I was able to finish the light switch and outlets. I bought a 65″ Sony A80CJ Series 4K OLED TV from Costco and hung it on the wall with a full-motion mount from Harbor Freight. The mount was easy to use and will allow us to keep the TV pointed directly at the loveseat, where we normally watch TV, or rotate it towards the couch when we have company over. The soundbar hangs under the TV with the Sanus WSSATM1-B2 extendable soundbar TV mount, which was also easy to use.

Now I was able to finish off the floor trim behind the loveseat. I also picked up some rustic looking quarter round for the pallet walls, which blends in well.

To frame in the window, I processed some old 5″ wide oak flooring and gave it three coats of the same water-based poly. For the trim, I used some of the leftover narrow pallet wood.

I really love how the room turned out!

One other little touch was building a shelf/cubby/table next to the loveseat. I wanted a place to put the left channel speaker, store laptops, and set drinks or snacks. My original idea was to have a couple of horizontal slots for the laptops. I was discussing the space limitations of the area with Brandi and she had the idea to make vertical slots instead, which worked out really well. Here’s the SketchUp model.

For the top I processed more pallet wood, glued it together, sanded smooth, applied stain, and did three coats of wipe-on poly. For the cubby unit I used whatever scrap plywood I could make work and painted it black. I didn’t care much about the base since nobody will ever see it unless they’re really going up to inspect it.

I’m so glad to have this project finished and we’re loving the way it turned out. I do have one more thing I’m working on for the wall above the loveseat (done now!) and hope to finish this week or next. Then I’ll be spending the rest of my sabbatical to remodel the kitchen and dining room area.

Pallet Wood Bedroom Art: It Was All a Dream

For years I’ve wanted something to hang above my bed. I always thought a large black and white photo would be cool, but never looked for something. A couple of weeks ago I got an idea to make an art piece, so I went through my wood rack and picked out some pallet wood.

I swapped out some pieces and then sanded off most of the dirt and rough edges.

Testing whitewash during the bathroom shelf project paid off on this one. I knew I wanted a backing of gray primer before applying white paint with the scraping method. I went real light with the gray.

Below are the pieces after the first coat of white.

I think I applied three coats to get the look I wanted. I used wood glue and pin nails to attach the horizontal pieces to the verticals.

My original plan was to have my 10-year-old niece write lowercase cursive letters that I’d paint on, but she couldn’t get the proportions right with big letters. I found this cool stencil at Michael’s for $8.

I did a bunch of measuring and used blue tape to map out the word placement.

Then I did a quick test with pencil on kraft paper to get a feel for the letter spacing.

I painted 3 different letter widths (A, I, and M) on a piece of cardboard and cut them out. This was the mask I used over the top of the stencil to prevent overspray.

Finally it was time for the nerve-wracking part of actually painting on the words. In order to limit the possibility of smearingn I did one letter, hit it with a blow dryer, and moved to a letter on the next row.

All that was left was to drive some screws in to the back, wrap wire between the screws, and hang it on the wall.

I love it.

DIY Custom Michigan Rummy Board

Our family always had fun playing our own version of Michigan Rummy (there is also a version called Tripoly) as kids. Then last year we played it almost every night on our family vacation, using a modified board. It gave me an idea to build a custom board for my Mom.

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As soon as I saw this case with two decks of cards at an estate sale several months ago I knew it would be neat for the board. I think I paid $1. The copyright date is 1947!

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I’ve been wanting to build something with pallet wood and thought it would give the board a neat look. You can get free pallets all over by looking on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

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With the help of my pallet buster and some brute force, I broke down the pallets.

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These containers with covers are from Menard’s, free after rebate. Another perfect piece for the project. I laid everything out to get a feel for the size.

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After taking measurements, I mocked up a 3D model of the board’s top layer in SketchUp. It would be about 24×16 inches.

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I also printed out the text using Arial Black for the letters/numbers and Futura for the suit symbols.

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I trimmed, planed, and jointed a bunch of boards.

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Then glued up panels that would make the top and bottom of the board.

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I measured and marked a bunch of lines and then placed everything where it would end up to get a better feel for the size and layout. I liked it.

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I finished drawing in more details and did a rough cut of the outer shape with my band saw.

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The scroll saw got heavy use cutting everything out. I also cleaned up the holes and edges with various sandering. You can see a couple of places where I started to carve in the text. It didn’t take long to scrap that plan though; it was going to take forever and some of the wood was really soft so I wasn’t happy with how it would turn out.

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I decided to use raised letters that I’d glue on. After doing a bunch of work, I realized this would be much better because the containers would be up above the board, so it would have been hard to see the recessed lettering.

I used the band saw to cut all of the letters. More sanding to clean them up and then some spray paint.

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I didn’t get any pictures of the next steps, which probably took the longest. I used a bunch of the cutoffs to build up an outer support ring as well as eight stacks in the middle to prevent something heavy from breaking the top or bottom panel. There was a lot of gluing, clamping, and band saw trimming. Finally I had enough layers and I was able to glue on the bottom panel.

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After the glue dried I did a lot of sanding on every surface. I had tied in a piece of bungie cord earlier that would hold the card case in place. Then I drilled shallow holes so I could glue in (with epoxy) rare Earth magnets to hold the containers in place. I used CA glue to attach all of the lettering.

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It was finally time for some finish. I used three coats of shellac (with light sanding after each coat) and a coat of wax polish. I spray painted the Michigan map on half of the containers and gave them two clear coats. The last thing was to stick some of those felt pad circles to the bottom and it was done. I really like how this turned out.

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The layering you can see from the sides is a neat look.

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