I forget where I first saw lighted Christmas balls but it was at least 3-5 years ago. Since I saw them I kept thinking we needed to make some. Now that we have made them, I’ve been just a *tad* obsessed. To all the close friends, coworkers, and family that I have tortured with stories of our light balls, I assure you.. I will stop this discussion after Christmas. Maybe.
Back to the beginning of this story… finally this year Oak offered to help with the exterior holiday lighting efforts, so I thought this is my chance for some balls. Yeah, get your mid out of the gutter. Or, be prepared to make about 900 dirty jokes while you create these objets d’art.
I did a quick google search on how to make them, figuring I would need to go on some kind of crazy hunt for a sphere made out of twigs or something. But, lo and behold, I came across this site. It explains that you can use chicken wire to make the bases of the balls! Turns out, a community in semi-nearby Greensboro does these lighted balls on a grand scheme every year! Their display is so grand, people donate food to the food bank as a charity and they have received over 5000 pounds of donations in food in past years! So, clearly, I’m not the only one who enjoys some light balls.
Anyway, the site has extremely detailed instructions, and even a video,on how to make your own light balls using chicken wire and regular old strings of lights.
Purchasing the lights were an interesting part of the equation. Originally I thought we should do white lights, because we already have white lights around our door. However, none of the stores we went to (Walmart, Target, Kmart, Home depot..) HAD any white lights. Apparently the are a hot and/or understocked item this season. So, we decided to buy some strings of multicolored lights and mix them with some we already had.
They are really pretty easy. The most expensive part of this project, we soon discovered, is the extension cords. We had to get a long cord to go from the house to the big Oak tree in the front, and then another cord with an “octopus” of connectors to hook all the balls up. We made 6 balls this year, but hopefully in the future years to come we can start expanding the collection.
And, it turns out, I like these colored balls a lot. I think they really sparkle and bring interesting depth that white lights probably would have lacked. I highly suggest you try to make some. They definitely have me in more of the holiday spirit! Merry Christmas and happy new year
In the process of widening the wall between our kitchen and family room and re-drywalling half the kitchen, entryway and dining room, we ended up removing a lot of trim. Oak has a rather large assortment of pry bars that he uses to do this. I admittedly do not know much about how he went about removing the trim, but basically we ended up with a bunch of trim pieces with nails still stuck in them. Since the smooth end of the nail was what we needed to pull on, the basic process we started off with was using vice grips to grip the nail, and then wedging the pry bar under the vice grips to pull out the nail. Not too bad, but a little time-consuming.
When Oak wanted to purchase these extractor pliers, I kind of thought it was a stupid man-purchase. $28 for a fricking pair of PLIERS??? I almost rated it right there along with the biscuit joiner. Then, I discovered just how useful this little device was. You grip the nail, push down and the whole thing is out in one fell swoop! I could de-nail a long length of molding in just a few minutes.
Since even Oak complained about my lack of blog posts, I decided to motivate myself to some more frequent posting by sharing my favorite home improvement products. So, over the next few posts (until I run out of steam or ideas) you get to read about the things we have found that we have actually been super pleased with in this home improvement adventure. Like anything else, there are so many silly gadgets you don’t actually need. But then, there are silly gadgets that make life so much easier they are totally worth the investment.
Right now, we are working on getting our drywall and trim finished on the main floor. So, I’ve been working on fixing up all of the doors and woodwork. We have a lot of stained woodwork that just can’t stay that way unfortunately, since it’s so scratched/banged up from 30 years of abuse. So, I’m in the process of smoothin’ it all out and getting it ready for painting. My personal favorite for this is a nice fresh tub of Elmer’s Wood filler. Don’t make the same mistake we did and figure oh, we have like 9000 pieces of molding and 37 doors to putty, let’s buy the industrial size! Unless you plan on doing that task in 2 days (good luck with that), it will dry out. Even our clever idea of putting the putty in a sealed plastic bag – not so great. So buy the smaller container.
(SIDENOTE: This stuff is only for wood you’re planning to paint. It doesn’t accept stain all that well. In fact, what I have learned, for stained woodwork, and my stair-staining experience, is that you’re actually supposed to putty AFTER you stain. They sell tinted putty for this purpose. I’ve used the Minwax putty in a few different colors, and I’m generally not impressed… so stay tuned on that..)
Application technique is simple, but for the best results follows a similar train of thought to applying drywall mud – thinner is better to save your arm from falling off from sanding later on. (Oak will have to post his expertise on drywall at some point… in the meantime check out DIY Diva’s Drywall central.) Depending on how deep the gouge is, I alternate between using my fingers and a putty knife to apply the stuff. For the doggy-induced crosshatch patterns we seem to have on every door (seriously.. did these dogs ever want to stay in the room the were in?), the putty knife allows you to get a nice thin layer to fill in the thin lines. For deeper gouges, it’s easier to get in there with your fingers.
After that, let it dry and attack your putty with sandpaper. If you’re puttying flat surfaces like doors, definitely pull out your random orbital sander for this, as it saves a ton of time. Of course, you’ll make a dust cloud in the process but at this point I’m pretty sure our house is a perma dust bowl. I have completely given up on trying to clean it up until we’re ready to put the final coats of paint on everything (sorry, visitors). For door and window trim, you’ll have to pull out a sheet of sand paper and go at it by hand. Just think about the muscles you’re toning in the process!
Usually, this takes a few iterations of sanding, puttying, sanding again to find every little knick and get it all smooth. However, it’s definitely worth the effort because when you prime and paint, your door/trim/whatever will look brand new.
*Disclaimer: This post was NOT sponsored by Elmer’s. I did briefly consider buying stock in the company but discovered they are not a publicly traded company. Bugger.
Boy oh boy…. like the upstairs drywall, we managed to find another project that never ends, the wood floor. Lessons learned thus far:
- Relaimed wood, while eco friendly, is dumb!! Luckily Oak has mastered the art of re-adding the tongues and grooves… so our waste level is still pretty low. But, that has definitely added a lot of time to this whole process.
- Wear gloves when you’re sorting wood, otherwise you end up with raw hands and splinters.
- A quality pair of pliers, awesome for removing staples!
- Using the flooring nailer is a great man-workout! haha
- Patience is virtue.
The title of this post is inspired by Oak’s favorite demolition music. I’m sure Marilyn Manson would appreciate my re-work of his lyrics very much. After a year of house renovation, I’ve come to accept that dust is permeating almost every aspect of our lives. Even when I go to work, I notice a layer of dust on my laptop that I have to brush off every morning. Awesome!
So, Oak has been taking out the kitchen floor one section at a time (at my request.. cause I don’t think it’s very good to get the subflooring dirty/wet), but with it and his crazy demolition circular saw comes teeny white pieces of linoleum everywhere along with a new layer of PermaDust(TM). Every possible house project comes with a new layer of dust and/or crazy tools everywhere. I try to keep the kitchen area semi-respectable and non-disgusting, but I’ve pretty much given up everywhere else on the first floor.When I finally clean the front room where we’re currently keeping all the trim pieces, new flooring, etc, I’m betting on a 3 inch layer of dust.
Another dust tidbit: I finally figured out where the term “dust bunny” comes from. Radar’s hair falls out in little clumps that gather up in corners of the room. Luckily he LOVES to be brushed/groomed (most of the time..sometimes he hops away.. haha) so that reduces the shedding a little bit. He’s lucky he’s so adorable. Makes a little better when your shirt is covered in hair after a cuddle session. haha.
As if this weren’t enough dust to talk about, Oak has become preoccupied with dust collection for his woodworking tools. I was a good wife and listened to about an hour’s discussion (over several sessions) of the special types of dust collectors, the cyclone thingy that prevents most of the big chunks from getting to the vacuum, etc. Then finally, I had to throw in the towel and say, I can’t listen to this any more and even feign interest (sorry darling). Then I tried to bore him to death with some talk about scrapbooking tools. That said, I totally support the need for dust collection (yay, not inhaling sawdust particles). In fact, I support it so much that I am sharing these pictures of Oak’s super sweet dust collection setup.
Here’s the dust collection system hooked up to the thickness planer, which funny enough, reduces the thickness of a piece of wood (OMG are you impressed with my tool knowledge OR WHAT!). The shavings go to the garbage can with the home made something-baffle lid that makes a cyclone a la your fancy dyson at home to catch all the big pieces. Then it goes to the final dust collector, which is that white bag looking thing in the background. There’s ALSO an overhead filter to collect any fallout. Apparently we got a super deal from our neighbor for the overhead filter, a $200 machine for $25. ha!
If only there were something that did this for everywhere in the house… Push a button and BOOM! All the dust (and dust bunnies) is sucked off every surface. Sort of like a Roomba, but that works a lot better. Wouldn’t that be suhweet???
Another disappearance from the Blogosphere. I know. It’s not that we haven’t completely stopped with the home projects, I do actually have many more I need to take pictures of to share (like ones that got done months ago), but the momentum on house projects has slowed down in the past month or so because of various social engagements, family visits, etc. Time to gear up again before the holidays!
Here’s some info on the current status….
I’d say our upstairs is currently at about 90% complete for what we’re planning to do for the near future (other than the guest bathroom, which we haven’t touched yet). We’re doing what I’d consider “fit and finish” things at this point – getting window coverings, hanging doors and pictures, etc. Things that take thought and consideration before doing them – like, oh where should I hang this?? Then oh, I need to buy a frame for this, or I need special hardware, etc etc. It never ends, I tell you!
Downstairs is pretty much in “construction” phase, we’re slowly making progress on putting the wood flooring in the family room (for which, we’re not enjoying our eco-friendly choice of reclaimed flooring, more on that later), deciding what we’re doing with the fireplace, etc.
Outside we made some progress last weekend on our “moat”, aka the drainage ditch that directs some of the water from the gutters away from the house. We started that project in oh, April and then it began being about 115 degrees out every day. I say “we” but really, how much help am I with digging ditches and plumbing?? I try, really I promise. (I will at least give myself credit for a) nagging the project along and b) moral support.. haha, oh so valuable) Anyway, the moat got its drainage pipe, water line, and conduit for electrical line buried. No more worrying that stray alligators will decide to live in our front yard. Dave gave us a very good piece of advice… whenever you have a ditch dug up for whatever reason — think about anything else you might ever want to bury in that same spot before you fill it in! That’s why we buried this extra stuff… a great way to get water to the side yard and electricity should we ever need it for anything. Ding!
Hope everyone has a safe & happy halloween!
So, as you remember, I am capable of doing a “real” refinishing project. But, we have a TON of woodwork that is scratched, worn, and/or generally dull, but the finish is generally intact. The thought of refinishing curvy stair balusters — NOT appealing whatsoever. I was reading some other home improvement blog (which one is totally escaping me at this point)), and saw this product mentioned for restoring vintage furniture finishes:
Just apply it with some ultra-fine (00) steel wool, and your finish is restored!
This could not be true. It took a few weeks to find it, though it totally wasn’t hard to find in the stain section at Home Depot. I kept looking in the cleaning area — whoops The walnut color seemed the closest match to most of our woodwork, so we got that and the special steel wool.
For a $12 investment on both these items, what a difference it makes! The white overcast on the finish completely goes away and any chips or scratches in the finish are disguised. So far I have done it on: the front stairway upper baluster, bonus room cabinets, first floor bathroom mirror, and a few chairs Oak scored at the thrift store. All with a considerably improved appearance as a result!
How to use it:
- Cover any carpet or surrounding area that could get hurt by the dark liquid. I find it does wipe up but still be careful!
- Pour the restor-a-finish into a wide mouth jar, only a small amount at a time (I used an old Bonne Maman jelly jar… about a 1/4 inch in the bottom of the jar is good).
- Put some gloves on – doesn’t hurt to avoid getting a rash!
- Dip an edge of the steel wool into the jar to pick up some of the liquid.
- Rub on your surface following the wood grain. Marvel in the amazing results!
- Wipe off the excess with a rag.
So there you have it, a sanding and dust free way to improve the appearance of your already-finished wood surfaces! Sweet!
So, I kinda realized that the garden has officially exploded:
It’s huge. Way above the deer containment device. We even have had some veggies out of it! Mostly tomatoes, with a few squash, peppers and okra thrown in there for fun. We’re kind of busy to bother with the garden this year, but it’s doing well considering its state of somewhat-neglect. One great idea Oak came up with was to run a hose out there with a soaker hose attached to water everything. Luckily we’re still getting our produce box on a weekly basis, which definitely keeps us on the fresh produce train too.
So, you’ve got your stairs all sanded. Think you’re ready to slap some stain on there? Not so fast….
1. Get rid of the dust particulates.. After you suck up all the big sawdust type stuff with your shop vac, it’s time to “de-bubble” the space, that is, remove all the crazy plastic you put up in an attempt to contain the dust. And oh, the dust isn’t only in the spots where you first think to look. It’ s likely stuck to your walls and on any teeny space you can imagine, like the stair spindles. So do a quick vaccum on those and then go over EVERYTHING with a tack cloth. A tack cloth is basically like a really sticky piece of cheesecloth, and it will get up all the fine dust particles.
2. More cleaning… My stain container recommended going over the entire surface with mineral spirits so I dampened a rag and did a quick swipe over everything. Probably helped pick up any remaining dust too.
3. OK, FUN TIME! The actual staining. The moment you’ve been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for. We actually made our first purchase at Sherwin-Williams for this project. And let me tell you, it was great because the guy in the store just got everything we needed out for us instead of us standing there staring at all the products like, “d’oh” (our normal Home Depot/Lowes experience). I picked out a stain color. He recommended doing the staining with two old t-shirt pieces – one to apply and one to wipe. How economical! No stupid “lambswool pads” needed. I discovered a few awesome things doing the staining. One – staining is super fun and satisfying!! Two – stain actually stains your skin. Great if you’re going for a splotchy fake tan look (a la “Snookie”), not so great for everyone else. Three- Because of “two”, you need some gloves. I used cheap plastic gloves though, and they actually disintegrated on my hands and turned them brown anyway. Fun times.
4. Staining tips: Admittedly, there’s not much to staining. You spread it on. Spread it thick. Wait 10 minutes (or as directed on your stain) and then come back and wipe away the drips. Given this process, you can only stain a few stairs at a time. There’s a lot of waiting around with icky hands. Have a TV show or something ready. Oak took some uber flattering pictures of me staining… Can someone remind me to get some more stylish and slimming home improvement clothes? How do all these other home improvement bloggers look all cute doing their home improvement stuff? It’s like they actually take a shower and put makeup on, and THEN get all nasty doing home improvement stuff. Uuuuh, no thanks. That’s way too much trouble. I will only allow this cropped picture to capture the staining experience:
5. Wow, this stain looks great!! I think I’m done! I seriously thought I could be done after one coat of stain. It looked pretty darn good, a whole lot better than the un-stained stairs. Trust, me just put another coat on. It makes a HUGE difference in the overall even-ness of the finish. So, go through that whole process again. Yeah.
6. Stop: Poly time. Our Sherwin-Williams dude recommended this polyurethane for the stairs, which I got in a satin finish: Since we bought it, I’ve read some mixed reviews on Minwax floor polyurethane (apparently there are some pro versions that are better), but it’s seemed OK so far. The trick to polyurethane is to apply it EXTRA thin with a natural bristle brush.
Keep spreading until you don’t see any more coming off the brush. You’ll reload about half as often as you do with paint. This should minimize any drips, which you can definitely run into (pun semi-intended) on the vertical surfaces. Because it’s all oil-based, you have to clean the brush with mineral spirits. I apparently did not master this practice because my brush turned all hard and crusty after a few days. Luckily, I did all the poly in one day because the label says to recoat it in 4-6 hours, which I did. If you allow it to dry more than 12 hours, you have to sand again (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!).
7. Admire your hard work so far. Soooo pretty!
This might look “done” , but, you might notice some tape still on there. If you’re like me, you likely got some stain on the skirting, a.k.a. the “white part on the sides of the stairs.” Ours also needed some dings sanded out and a fresh coat of paint, so stay tuned for the “final reveal” in the next installment! Thanks for tuning in!
OK so the crazy thing with our house is that we have not one, not two, but THREE freaking sets of stairs! One set in the entrance that goes from the main floor to the second floor, a set that goes down to the basement, and a third set that goes through the back of the house from the kitchen to the bonus room (which is over the garage). The bonus room stairs are probably in the middle as far as condition of the stairs go – the basement stairs being the best and the front, most visible stairs being the worst (can we say disgusting dust and grime-half-coddled-togetherness? Yes. but that’s for another post..). So, I figured, not being all that visible, that these bonus room stairs were the first to try my hand at refinishing. Here’s what we are working with:
Lovely eh? They’re really not the quality of stair you’d normally refinish, but they are workable, especially being in the back of the house and not all that visible. Oak thinks they are combination of himself (oak wood.. haha) on the treads, with pine risers.
As much fun as we have working together on projects, this confined space isn’t exactly comfy for two people. So while Oak has actively contributed to the stairs, I feel that I can call them “my project.” At least for the really annoying and getting dirty parts.
Here we go…
- Spend many evenings pulling staples out from the stairs. Apparently they were carpeted at one point or another. You might be asking, if they WERE carpeted, why not just carpet again? Well, besides how gross and dirty carpeted stairs can get, it costs something ridiculous like $50/stair to get done because of all the extra work involved. Yeah. I think we paid that just for the little part where it wraps over the top of the top stairs. Best tool to use for removing staples, I discovered, is needlenose pliers. Especially for those icky really small and strong staples. Find even more staples when you improve the lighting situation with a giant work light. Almost fall down the stairs trying to use entire body to get stubborn staples out.
- Pleadingly ask husband to pull out supper bugger icky staples. OK, so I almost developed carpal tunnel pulling out all these staples. By the end, my hand was blistered and swollen, and I JUST COULD NOT PULL ONE MORE STAPLE! (dramatic collapse at like 11pm one night). Mark these staples with blue tape so he can find all of them. Miss several … only to be discovered later on..
- After the last marathon staple pulling session, cover all the holes and imperfections with wood putty. Read online the next day that you should NEVER use wood putty when you’re going to stain something. BUGGER!
- Create a sand bubble in which you will be spending several hours. This was accomplished by attaching plastic on the top banister of the stairs, and taping to the wall. Apparently spreading plastic is a talent I am COMPLETELY lacking in…. thanks to the hubby again for this one..
- Let the sanding begin. 80 grit paper,cause that’s what the internet told me. Start out with mouse sander. Remember that heavier dutier (read MANLY) DeWalt Orbital sander is also available. Orbital sander kicks mouse sander’s ass. Quickly become covered in a thin layer of fine dust. Not quite as annoying as drywall dust, but enough to call yourself “Dusty”, which is also the name of our neighbor’s cat. Feel very fashionable with the glasses/headphones/dustmask combo. Stupid “safety” and “not losing your hearing” interfering with looking awesome while being holed up alone in a stairway.
- Get about halfway through the stairs, and realize that, hmm.. how am I going to get this pesky paint off the edges of the stairs? The orbital sander obviously doesn’t get in corners. So I try the mouse, which is suppose to get into corners. Fail. Consider spending the next 35 years holed up in this stairway with a sanding block. Consider painting stairs instead. Husband thinks of the multi-tool that is currently being loaned to us, which, coincidentally, ALSO IS A mini SANDER!
- Try mini sander multi-tool. Works well. Finally there might be an end to the edge sanding conundrum! However, the tool runs on a battery and said battery has about 10 minutes of battery life + 30 minutes of battery charging time. Go through this process about 3 times for 3 stairs.
- Realize, that for the first time ever, you want to purchase a power tool of your own. Yeah… I know, buying power tools is for boys. What I realized is tools were invented to make your life easier. I could spend the next 5 months sanding these stairs, or I could get it done in a few weekends. Sorry ladies who oppose man tool purchases… I actually kind of get it. (However… the jury is still out on the biscuit joiner… sorry darling.)
- Go to Big blue. No, not your place of employment, the blue home improvement store. Marvel at the very FEW choices in mini sanding tools. Finally Oak asks some employees and they take us to a new SHINY SPECIAL display where this beauty is displayed. It’s everything I could want in a detail sanding tool. And, it’s a multi-TASKER! It can cut, it can grind, and who knows what else. Alton Brown would approve.
Feel a little comforted by the fact that it’s called the soniCRAFTER. Surely this means that it can also be used in scrapbooking and other crafty pursuits. This isn’t a pure man-tool now is it? It even comes in a cute little purse. How fashionable!
- After picking up the sonicrafter and being satisfied with the help received, it’s time to go home and get back to work. Oh BUT WAIT! It’s time to hear the LIFE STORY of the guy that helped you find the multitool! Well, actually the entire story of this family heirloom antique armoire he restored for his daughter, who lives up in Washington DC. Apparently she’s finally getting it a year after he promised it to her because it’s been such a pain to work on. Actually he was helpful and had some good ideas, but we swear, Oak has “the face” where people just want to talk to him. This from a blue store guy on a SATURDAY. He must have spent at least a half hour with us. haha
- Continued fun with the 80-grit sandpaper. 80 grit definitely helps with the paint removal. Develop a large pile of worn sandpaper pads. Marvel over the wonderful functionality of your newly purchased tool. Get covered in dust again.
- Unexpected improvements made by hubaroo. Early Sunday morning, he decides to eliminate the creaks in the stairs with some screws and wood plugs. How fancy. I wake up to realize that these plugs need to dry because they’re glued in and need to dry before I can sand them down to be even with the rest of the wood surface. Oh bummer, I don’t get to sand more?
- OK, now you can sand more. Oh, you thought the sanding was over? Do the entire thing over again with 100 grit paper! WOOHOO! Find some more staples. Whoops.
- Time to semi-dedust. Hopefully you hooked your big sander to your shop-vac to eliminate some dust, as I actually did because Oak told me to. Go over EVERYTHING with the shop-vac again and then tack cloth to pick up the pesky super dusty pieces that even the vaccuum can’t get.
Next time:Let the staining begin! Stay tuned…