We are still alive…

…despite the thunderous silence from my blog the past couple months. It has been a crazy new year so far at home/school/work. I started and finished a project over this past weekend I thought I would share.

The basement stairs had one side open. The only railing was a 2×4 handrail, and we were worried about kids falling out the side. I will add a more detailed post later (hopefully). I also still need to paint.

I tallied the total cost last night.

  • Tools: $49
  • Materials: $89

That is what I bought. I ended up a bunch of cable and  Spax screws left over for future projects. The bolts you see are elevator bolts that I had left over from another project.

As you can see there is still some organization yet to do. That is a future project.

Old Gear Review: Campmor 300 weight Fleece Jacket

This fleece isn’t new, or even still available. I wanted to share my experience with it anyway. I bought this in the fall of 1995. Yes I am reviewing a 16 year old jacket. It has served me well, and I only bought a new one last year. I have a feeling that this one will still get used. Good quality fleece lasts a long time, and wearing out isn’t a big problem like with a shell jacket that can lose it waterproofing. I am on my 4th shell jacket that I have used with this fleece.

Back in the day Campmor had clothing with their brand on it. You didn’t get a fancy brand name, but got a good article or clothing with some top end features for a good price. I wanted a 300 weight Polartec jacket and this one was a good deal. I seem to remember paying $39 for it. It has pit zips for good venting and has kept me warm when I needed it.

This jacket hasn’t been perfect though. Right away, the flap that backs the zipper kept getting snagged when zipping the jacket, so my mother (I was only a freshman in high school at the time) ran a couple lines of stitching down the flap and that took care of that. Also a few years ago I was having issues with the sleeves being too short. Not sure if they got shorter or I got longer arms. Anyway, I added some fleece to the cuffs to extend them.

This jacket has kept me warm for many years, and still has more life left in it. I hope all my jackets last this long.

It’s been a long time

I realized I hadn’t posted anything in a while. Turns out it has been a couple days short of two months. I blame school!

September hit us like a hurricane. New childcare, Eli is in school all day now. Every night we all all beat when it’s time to hit the sack. I hope to get some posts going in the next week or so. I have a few drafts I need to get finished up and out.

Knives for Emergencies

I recently finished a batch of knives. Some were for gifts, but every once in a while you have to make something for yourself. I decided to whip up a pair of PFD (aka life jacket) knives for the wife and I. Sometimes when paddling it is important to have a knife close at hand. It could be something like fishing line string across the river, or could be that you are tangled in a rope underwater. In either case a knife that is easy to get to can save the day (or your life). I always have a folding knife clipped to my pocket, but to have something right on my chest that just needs to be pulled out should work well.

I must admit I copied the design a bit, but not exactly. I went with a sheep-foot blade and the other a claw shape. I had to rush to finish them, and made the sheaths two nights before leaving on vacation (a canoe trip). There is still a bit of finish work to knock out before I can call them done, but they worked well on our trip.

The sheaths hold the blades in securely. So secure in fact that Bridgit asked me if there was some trick to get it out. The sheath is then securely affixed to the PFD lash tab with a couple of sex screws, so it won’t fall off.

Some Canoe Work

We got the chance to get out canoeing a couple last weekend, but those canoes sometimes need maintenance. Luckily I also had the time to get some repair work done this week.

Adding screws

Our Swift Kipawa is about 13 years old. I re-finished the wood back in 2003, but now some of the screws in the gunwales weren’t holding properly. Tightening them didn’t work and when I would sit in the canoe or carry it by the yoke there was a noticeable shift between the inner and outer gunwales. That meant I had to add some screws, so I added a handful on either side spaced between the existing screws. I haven’t gotten a chance to try it out and see how it works yet. I wanted to order some square drive (what those crazy Canadians use) to match, but ended up using phillips because I had the proper screws on hand. I figure since there are phillips elsewhere on the canoe anyway it wasn’t going to inconvenience anyone.

Removing the cane and spline.

Our Penobscot takes a beating, but that is why I bought it. I wanted something to be an everyday canoe and take some of the wear off the more expensive boats. When we bought it 3 years ago the bow seat had a hole in the cane. When I replaced the center seat with a yoke I used the center seat to replace the one in the bow. Soon the stern seat had a hole in the cane and I replaced the cane with webbing. Well now the bow has a hole. So I pulled out the original to continue the game of musical canoe seats and set to work.

First thing I do is use a chisel to take off the cane and level the spline that holds it in. Then I fill in the gaps around it with an epoxy/sawdust mix. I like a bit more comfortable seat so I used a spokeshave to put more of a radius on the edges of the seat (both because the seat gets

Filling in the holes with thickened epoxy.

sat in both ways). Then some scraping to get the varnish off and a bit of sanding.

There are two types of canoe finishes: oil and varnish. I am in the oil camp for most canoe related things. I prefer the feel of oiled wood, and the ease of repair. Varnish has to be stripped and then re-applied, and can trap moisture in the wood. I use Pure Tung oil diluted with mineral spirits. A couple of coats and the seat is ready to web.

Vice-Grips helping out.

The first step to webbing is to figure spacing. I have a big roll of 2″ poly webbing that I use for sewing projects. any width could be used though. I start with the short direction and 5 widths of webbing leaves a bit too much gap, but 6 works with just a bid of side overhang. I cut my strips to length, leaving a bit of extra to pull on, and use a flame to seal the ends.

All done, and ready to be attached to the canoe.

Attaching the strips is pretty simple, but can be like

wrestling a bear. I staple the first end and use a small pair of Vise-Grips to pull it as tight as I can and another set of Vise-Grips to hold the webbing in place while I staple it in. Keep going in that direction and then figure out the spacing for the next direction. I used 3 strips with about 1/4” between them. Weave them in and then staple.

The Garage: The Workbench

My main workbench.

The cornerstone of any shop is the workbench. Every project makes its way across your bench, so having the ideal setup is important. Different uses call for different benches. A woodworking bench is very different from one for a metal shop. My garage came with a workbench that was made of hardwood floor, likely left from the construction of our house. It was OK for a while, but it wasn’t very flat and it was high. I like a higher than average work surface, but it was really high. Continue reading

The Garage: Wood


Hardwood storage

Storing wood is always a pain, it doesn’t matter if the pieces are long or short. Trying to figure out what to do with all that wood is a pain because it there is usually a bunch and they run from tiny chunks a few inches long to full sheets of plywood.


Here is what I decided to do:

  • small chunks went into a plastic bin
  • short-medium stuff went into the cavities between the wall studs
  • long stuff goes on a rack above the workbench
  • full and partial sheet goods go on a new rack

With a plan decided I just needed to go ahead and put it into action. Continue reading

The Garage: Shelves

Installed and filled, but not clean.

Garages are a place where stuff gets stored; it’s a fact of life. Previously I had one of those plastic storage shelves in the garage and it was full of random stuff. In our basement we used IKEA BRODER shelves and they worked well, so I decided to use them in the garage. My wife and kids were gone for a couple of days so I was able to come home from work and spend all the time I wanted on them without being interrupted. It was nice. I also managed to make a pretty big dent in cleaning of the garage.

Since I am cheap I decided to only use the hardware from IKEA and use plywood for shelves. To save about $20 I went with sheathing grade DD plywood instead of BC. I don’t think my motor oil will complain too much. My original plan was to use mostly 24″ deep shelves, but as I started cleaning I realized that I didn’t have many deep things that would need deep shelves. Besides, 24″ deep shelves are twice the cost. I considered making shelves, but buying this type of shelving is easily adjustable. I figure that $175 to cover a 12′ wall in shelves isn’t that bad of a price.


Item Ikea Number Quantity Cost
51″ suspension rail 301.201.24 3 $24
85″ wall upright 801.171.24 5 $60
10″ front bracket
15 $33.75
22″ front bracket 001.171.37 4 $20
4×8 DD Plywood 2 $38
Total $176.75


What I ended up with was a light duty work/potting bench in the shelves. underneath are a couple deep shelves for random stuff and the vac underneath. Of course my new work area is covered with stuff (I’m not done cleaning yet). To finish it off I ran a round-over bit over the front edge of the bench. Paint may be in the future. I do have my huge bandsaw on the wall so there are only 2 shelves on that section. Now I can see and actually get to oil and other auto fluids, paints, auto-jack and stand, gardening supplies. I was surprised how quickly I managed to fill the shelves up, but stuff from all over the garage that was homeless migrated to my new shelves as I cleaned.

I picked up a center shelf bracket (seen above the bench) that I thought would work well for mounting pegboard or battery chargers to. That is still on the to-do list.

I still have more to do in the garage, but having the new shelves in feels so good. I need to get everything cleaned up more, so my pictures look better.

This article is one in a series of articles entitled: The Garage. To see all the parts so far CLICK HERE.

Preparing for Zombies….or just life.

Laundry and freezer on left, new shelves on right, old shelves center

As part of our basement remodel that took place over the winter we also redid the laundry room. It wasn’t a total remodel just a wall where there wasn’t one before and some new storage.

We used to have shelves under the stairs that stored all the junk we never use, but I took those out. To shelve all exiled kitchen and pantry stuff I put up some BRODER shelves from IKEA. I had looked for something similar, but couldn’t find anything at a price I liked and then found them on the Ikea web site. Total cost was about $100 since I reused 1×12 boards that were part of the old shelves. After purging everything we haven’t used since we moved in the rest went on the new shelves. Now we can actually see what we have and get to it easily.

The metal shelves along the far wall came with our house and used to hold paint cans, old light fixtures, and other miscellaneous stuff in another part of the basement. Now they hold lots of food. The wood wine racks hold about 50 bottles and are pretty full now. Along the floor are 5 gallon buckets of grains (oats, rice, lentils, etc.) and milk crates of potatoes and squash from the garden (empty now). Notice all the Jars? They are mostly empty now, but canning season is almost here. We used to store empty jars in boxes, but I got tired of storing them. This year they are going back on the shelf empty. Then we fill them and put them back on the shelf. That way I don’t need to store them in two locations.

As you have probably figured out we buy a bit of bulk