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.

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

The Garage: A few updates

No real posts about the garage this week. I have been too busy working in the garage to get much work done on the garage. I have worked on it though. I plan to get some shelving this week and have worked bit by bit on improving my workbench area. Most importantly I have made some progress in getting things a bit cleaner.

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

Cool Thermostat Stuff

You may recall that we got a nifty new thermostat for Christmas. Since it is Wi-Fi enabled I can control it from my phone or computer at home or work. Recently I have geekd out and getting some logging going.

I needed a computer to periodically check the temp, but didn’t want to have to keep a computer on and running all the time. That would defeat the point of conserving energy. So I set my web server to poll the thermostat every 15 minutes for the inside actual temperature and set temp as well as check the weather for the outside temp and save that information. I was then able to set up some Google Docs action to set up a cool interactive graph that will display the data.

The amount of data will eventually exceed the limits for google docs. If I keep collecting every 15 minutes doing every 30 will cut that down without sacrificing too much trend data. I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

I also set cooking up another script that runs only daily and tracks the amount of time our HVAC system spent heating or cooling the house. It will also check the Forecast High and Low Temps for some comparison. Since it tracks time spent heating or cooling I don’t have much data for it. We only run the AC a handful of days each summer, so the best data will come this winter.

If anyone has this same thermostat, my work is shared on a Wiki dedicated to programming with them. HERE

The Garage: Belts

On of my hobbies is knife making, so sometimes the garage turns into a giant ball of metal dust. The tools can be be tucked out-of-the-way, but all those pesky belts end up littered around the shop. I keep 2 sizes in about 6 different grits and I used to store them on some pegboard above the workbench, but it took up a bunch of valuable wall space.

The Belt Rack

I looked for some options, but didn’t really find anything that fit my needs. Then I remembered seeing a post online about someone who used magnetic strips to hold tools, but not on the wall. He put them on the garage door. GENIUS!!! Using some 1 1/2″ PVC and some 2x3s I had lying around I cam up with a solution.

They are accessible with the door open or closed and are now living in a space that would have been wasted.  I love it.

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

The Garage: Small Things

Akro Bins

Small things are just that small, but they add up. Ever hear of the straw that broke the camels back? Well in most shops/garages nuts, bolts, washers, nails, screws, and all sorts of hardware collect. Our grandfathers used jars with lids attached to a board. Not a bad option, but we use our jars for food, and it isn’t very easy to move them around if needed. This is where Akro Bins come in. They are designed for holding small things in industrial or commercial settings. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. They even have a line of recycled boxes that come in earthy colors. I was given some of these bins and they have been awesome at doing what they are intended to: store small stuff. The hard part was hanging them. Akro makes rails and panels to hang them, but at $30 for a 4′ rail it would be pretty pricy. I would need at least two, maybe three. I considered some 1/8″x 1 1/2″ steel bar which is less expensive, not not cheap. I found this instructable that uses drywall J-Channel, but was concerned about strength with the larger bins. The guy was using the tiny size and I have some that would torque the channel right off. I also needed to install them on bare studs, having to install plywood would only add to the cost.

10 ft. Metal Furring Channel

I ended up finding some furring channel at Home Depot that was $7 for 10′ and was perfect. It had a lip for the bins to clip on, and the width to support the back to keep it from tipping forward. I decided on a 2′ wide section of wall above my work bench between two studs. I cut the channel into 5 2′ lengths and put one up. It worked fine only supported to on the ends with smaller boxes, but the 22.5″ unsupported span flexed with some heavier and larger boxes. I installed a false stud between the two and screwed the channel in the middle. The extra support made a big difference. I spaced the 5 rails with 1″ of gap between. It seemed like a good amount of room to remove boxes without knocking any others off. The channel supported the back of

All attached

Close up

the shorter height boxes well, and the spacing allowed the taller boxes to be supported by the rail below. It all worked out to be the perfect amount of rail for the boxes I have. If I need more I can get more bins and rails.

HF Organizer

For the really small things that I only have a few of I bought a set of little drawers from Harbor Freight. On sale it was $13 and I filled it about halfway with small screws, washers, etc. I also printed out little labels for

the drawers that included pictures. Hopefully it will keep me from having to open half the drawers to find what I need.


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

The Garage: A multi-use room

The Garage

So like most people my garage is in a constant state of chaos. It is pulled between a place to keep stuff, a workshop, and storing a car. So a bit of background. We have an 1.5 car garage that is about 60 years old. It has the foot print of  a two care garage though with one of those weird garage porch things on the side.  It has been reinforced to keep it from falling apart and the door needs replacing. If I could afford it I would raze the garage and build a new one. It is that bad.

Some of the problem stems from the fact that the garage was designed to hold a car and I want to do more. I want it to be my wood and metal shops, bike storage, canoe storage, garden shed, and hold a car.

Trying to fit it all in is an adventure. There was a time when we could fit a car in with 4 canoes. The canoes (most of them at least) have moved to a rack on the back of the garage, so there is only one inside now. Hopefully the 5 will become 4 and they can all go outside. We recently remodeled the basement and almost all of my tools have moved to the garage. Additionally it has all the other garage stuff like garden tools, lawnmower, oil, windshield washer fluid.

Since it is such a big task, and still a work in progress, I am going to do a multi-post and break each section down. Look for them to come soon.

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