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.

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!

Black Walnut Live Edge Farmhouse Trestle Dining Table

When I bought my house I eventually got a tall dining table and I’ve hated it for years. It was a bitch to get in and out of the chairs and my legs bumped up against the apron when I sat down. It was definitely getting replaced during the kitchen remodel. After selling the table, we used a card table for a few weeks.

I don’t remember the first time I saw a live edge table, but I’ve wanted one for a long time. I would have loved to build one but as I started working on the kitchen, it was clear time wasn’t going to be on my side. Since the table would be the showcase of the space, I decided to have the top built for me. I found Ron’s Rustic Tables (no web site) on Facebook Marketplace, which showed some awesome work. I give him a call, visited his shop near Wixom Lake, and gave him the job. I love black walnut, especially with some of the sapwood, so that’s what I went with. A few weeks later he delivered this beauty!

It’s 2.5 inches thick, 73 inches long, and averages about 45 inches wide. It’s fucking heavy!

I thought about buying a table base kit online or having one made. We should have this table for a very long time and I wanted some part in it, so I decided to make the base. We’re going for a bit of a farmhouse kitchen vibe, so I went with a trestle base. I took ideas from these free plans as well as some custom tables I found on Etsy and Marketplace and I put my own twist on everything. For chairs we picked up four INGOLF from IKEA.

I still had a stack of the free reclaimed wood I picked up over three years ago and used up most of it for this project. Since there are so many different ways to do a build like this I’m not going to explain everything I did. Here’s a timeline of photos instead.

I bought a biscuit joiner, which I’d been thinking about getting for a couple of years anyway. It was my first time using one and it definitely got broken in. This was a fun project with a lot of challenges, so there were plenty of mistakes, solutions, and learnings. I’m glad I decided to do it myself.

What do you think of the result?

Homemade Christmas Ornament – 2021

Brandi and I are starting a yearly tradition to make an ornament based on something from our year. 2021 was filled with a lot of home remodeling (to her house which is up for sale and our house still being worked on), so I thought it would be neat to make a mini pallet wood wall. It was a team effort and turned out pretty cool.

Cabinet and Counter Changes

After moving the fridge, the corner space was ready for a makeover

I removed the rest of the backsplash tiles around the room. Luckily I didn’t have to be too careful with that process because the walls will all be covered up there.

Then I built an open shelf cabinet.

I’m repurposing the counter and drawer cabinet from the desk, so I put them out to get a feel for the spacing.

I made a bunch of measurements and got to chopping up the countertops. Then I removed several layers of old flooring across the area. I placed some new counter supports along the wall where the fridge had been, and adjusted the one on the right wall, which was pretty far out of level.

Next I worked on modifying the cabinet. I added extra support under the cabinet, removed three of the drawer slides, cut out the cross members, and added pieces to hold up a cover that’ll go over the remaining drawer. I also cut new pieces to extend the face frame higher since this cabinet is too short.

I measured a wine bottle and cut hardboard to box in an area that’ll be a wine rack.

Then I cut a bunch of 1/4″ thick by 3/4″ wide strips. It took some thinking to figure out how to get going, but making a 3-1/2″ square block to act as my spacer was the key, because that’s how large I wanted the lattice openings. I used glue and pin nails for assembly and then made a second lattice.

I cut strips for face frames and used a 45° to help with placement, making sure to maximize the number of full diamonds available while keeping things centered. This will give us space for nine bottles, which is more than sufficient. I made sure it would work with both lattices since they needed to match.

Then I was able to trim the lattice and attach the frame with glue and pin nails again. I used some of the off cuts around the edges so I could attach the frame to the back strips of the lattice as well.

At this point I had to make sure it was going to work. The width was a great fit!

I spray painted these pieces since it would be much harder to paint them when everything was put together. Everything needed several coats.

The cupboard is going right in front of the new outlet I installed, so I cut access holes.

I cut pieces to extend the face frame higher and made a new left side, since it’ll be somewhat visible next to the beverage fridge. I started securing all the different pieces in place. Then I used wood filler on gaps and nail heads.

After sanding I hauled the unit upstairs and had make a few minor mods to get it to fit. Then I installed the two cabinets and the two counter pieces. I guess I didn’t have the drawer in when I took this picture.

I’m so glad I was able to use the counter and cabinet from the desk. This was a lot of work, but it’s a huge improvement to the usability of our kitchen.

DIY Square Ceiling Medallion

After making a custom wall sconce for the kitchen, it was time to tackle the ceiling. When I removed the light above the island I learned the hole and circuit box wasn’t centered and there were a lot of screw holes to patch. Nothing is ever easy is it?

I thought I’d build some type of box attached to the stud to cover everything up. Then the light fixture’s mount would attach to the box. It turns out this is actually a thing, called a ceiling medallion.

At its most basic, a ceiling medallion is a decorative element that dresses-up and enhances the area around the ceiling canopy, where the wiring for a chandelier or other fixture enters the ceiling junction box.

Lamps Plus

A quick Google image search shows some examples.

I didn’t have time to wait for an online order to arrive, so I came up with a plan to make my own. It’s purpose would be functional, but I’d add a bit of design. It would be square to cover the holes in my ceiling and match the shape of my light fixture’s mount.

I cut two pieces of plywood. Then I made a bunch of layout marks for the stud, center of the light, section overlaps, etc. I also cut out areas for wiring. Next I drilled holes for lag screws to mount to the ceiling (and recesses in the back of the smaller piece for the heads of those lag screws and washers) and for screws to attach the two pieces together. I also determined where the mounting bracket would go.

After that I cut a bunch of strips of scrap wood for the outside trim with mitred corners and then glued and pin nailed the pieces to the plywood layers. I used wood filler on any holes and caulked the seams.

Then I did a rough sanding, applied a coat of primer, and attached to the ceiling. With four lag screws and washers holding it to the ceiling and 8 screws attaching the two layers, this thing won’t be coming down!

I caulked the seams at the ceiling and between the two layers. I also used wood filler on the four screw holes that would be seen. Some light sanding, another coat of primer, and then I painted when I did the ceiling. The final step was installing the new light.

We also replaced the dining table light and have a replacement of the same style for above the sink, but I need to fix the lower ceiling area there and paint first. The 60 watt bulbs that came with these lights were not bright enough and had too much of an amber tint (original bulbs in the picture above). I bought 100W equivalent LED bulbs, which are much better. Note that the walls will be getting painted.

For comparison here are the old lights.

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.

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