Deep Thoughts

Why Hand Tools?

This is a question I get asked on a fairly regular basis.  When I told my Dad I had sold off my power tools (extensive collection of a radial arm saw and a table saw), he asked how’d I’d ever get any work done and how I’d make anything square or decent.

Yet for a vast majority of recorded and all of unrecorded history, woodworking was done with hand tools.  First stones then varying metals throughout the ages.  Many tools were made of wood themselves (wedges, planes, mallets) and all of them were powered using muscle and expertise.

That connection to the past, when furniture was utilitarian and often served more than one purpose.  A dining table might have had storage underneath for cutlery and plates.  A chair would have had slots on the back to hold candles.  Barring furniture meant for the upper classes, it was simple and to the point.

And each maker had their own style that came through.  Now, you go to furniture stores and the only difference you see between brands is the name on the price tag.  There is no difference between those items and the ones you find in Target or Wal-Mart.  Many are even made in the same factory by underpaid workers in China and with modern plastics, it is offen impossible to tell the difference between wood and plastic at first glance.

With every cut I make, I reach back hundreds of years and pull knowledge back into the present.  I don’t try to replicate woodworking from then, modern lumber, tools and customers are different, but I do learn from them.

Ultimately, working with hand tools gives me an incredible satisfaction.  Using my muscles to push steel through wood allows me to learn about each board, where it was in the tree, how wet it still in, how fast it grew.  With hand tools you have to closely work with the wood; with machines you force the wood into shapes.



Remodeling on a Whim: Bathroom Update Part 3

And so it comes, the conclusion to the Bathroom Remodel series.  At least for now.  I still have a bit of trim to stain, finish and install but as of now, we have a fully functional bathroom!  The trim is coming this weekend where there is no kids and no Lady Friend.

In the picture of the previous post, you can see the drain plumbing for the sink sticking out of the wall.  You might think, “Hey, that’s sticking out a ways into a small room, might want to remove that.”  Your thinking would be smart.

Early Sunday morning, I went to squat down to check out the floor and sat on the drain pipe.  It turns out, PVC is not that sturdy if your putting weight on it and SNAP, I suddenly had to figure out plumbing (which I hate).  So I studied the broken off piece and it said it was inch and a half pipe so I trekked back over to Menards in Clive there and got the pieces of plumbing I needed and proceeded to start in on the floor.

Since there was quite the smell of stale urine when I pulled up the old floor I figured I’ try some odor neutralizing tactics.  The night before I sprayed the floor good with Lysol hoping to kill any bacteria or mold growing and by morning the floor looked like new so now to ensure any remaining pee smell was gone I dumped a box of baking soda on the “plywood” and brushed it around to get it everywhere I could.  With that done, the laminate laying begins.

With a laminate floor, it “floats” on the sub-floor.  That means that there’s nothing that directly attaches it to anything else, just the sheer weight and friction keep it from going places.  Now, that means it will move a tiny bit and to control that sound (along with provide a moisture barrier and some degree of insulation) you place a sheet of plastic  under it.  Well, a sheet of plastic is probably a bit simplistic.  There’s various ones for sound/moisture/insulation benefits and they are a bit more pricey than your regular sheet of plastic.

Since this was a bathroom install, went with the product rated for moisture and cut and laid it to fit.  From there the Mohawk laminate was easy enough to lay and, even using a hand saw, easy to cut without significant chip-out.  When I cut it, I went for the tightest fit I could get around the edges.  Reading around it appears you do want some space for expansion and the like.  We’ll see how it holds up.  First few days its going well though.

Toilet and vanity install went great, along with the mirror and parts of the trim.  No issues, took the drawers and door out of the vanity and installed the handles, again, no issues.  Then there was the plumbing.  Have I mentioned I hate plumbing?

My guess is there is 1 1/2 inch outside diameter and inside diameter pipes.  I bought the OD pipe and needed the ID pipe…pro-tip: when dealing with something that you have limited knowledge in, bring the old parts into the store with you.  At the very least, you can compare the two.  I finally did this on a different day and got the pieces I needed and got it working.

So back to Sunday, I installed the faucet and went to hook up the water lines but didn’t get one of them fully seated and locked in and proceeded to waterboard myself when I tested the connection.  Have I mentioned I hate plumbing?

But now I feel confident in saying I can remodel half-bathrooms and that is one of the reasons I love doing work on my house.  Granted, I haven’t had a weekend of doing nothing in ages, but each project is a learning lesson so I can make the mistakes in my own home, learn from them and apply those lessons to customers’ homes.  Plus I get a clean, modern looking bathroom for a fraction of the cost.


Bathroom Remodeling on a Whim: Part 2

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-28,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-veThe reason I started doing handyman work and woodworking in Waukee was because I hate sitting behind a computer. The reason I’m slow to update my blog is because I hate sitting behind a computer. Notice a trend? The bathroom has been complete for almost a month and I still haven’t gotten around to Part 2. Check out Part 1, where I impulsively dove into this remodel.

Here goes.

For the remodel once I started getting, the Lady Friend came home and we picked out (read she picked out) the new fixtures. The only thing not getting replaced was the toilet. (seriously though, unless it’s a gaudy style, those things should last a century or more)

Once we got back from the store, it was decided some relaxation was in order after patching nail holes and starting the texture on the walls.

For those of you who don’t know what texture is, it’s the bumps or random patterns on your walls. If you have scratches on the wall, poor painting or drywall work but the purpose of the texture is to provide some depth and hide defects in the walls. Even the best done walls will have waves or bits were the installers weren’t perfect so the texture gracefully hides those imperfections. Maybe I’ll do some more research into it and do an article on it. Also, I’ll have more on texturing when I get around to writing up my recent painting.  Here is an example of a wall without and a wall with texture:

After a good night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast, demolition continued with the sink, vanity top and cabinet removal. That left me with nothing but the toilet and lineolium floor. I left them both because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to mess with them or not. I’d later rue my hesitency.

Painting of this beautiful light blue began. We chose Dutch Boy semi-gloss mostly because it was on sale and I love their twist off lids and easy pour can.


After paint I moved onto flooring. For that, we chose laminate because of price and ease of installation. I’ve done tile before and without an actual tile saw, it becomes a bigger hassle than it is worth (and I don’t feel like spending a few hundred bucks for a nice wet saw). Oftentimes, when going over linoleum floor, it is easier and just as durable to go directly over the floor rather than removing the linoleum since often linoleum is glued down to the substrate everywhere.

The builders left a cutout where the old vanity was and upon inspection, there was some extra plywood the linoleum was glued to so off it all went which meant the toilet had to go as well. This is the moment where I figured out, I should have just done it to begin with. Would have made painting and texturing and working in a small space a hundred times easier. Well, something to be learned on each job.

Under the toilet was gross as hell. The wax ring had hardened slightly and years of kids missing the toilet left it smelling of piss. But I went to Menards over in Clive and got a new ring (this one made of foam, we’ll see how it holds up (but it is far cleaner to install)) for the toilet.


Called it a night at that point. It was 10:00 at night and I was tuckered but only the vanity, mirror and lights were left to install. Sunday’s installs will be in another post.

That odd shaped spot is behind the water closet. It’s invisible when the toilet is in and gives a neat history of the paint done. Next time, just remove the toilet right away.

Bathroom Remodeling on a Whim


Last summer, I purchased a home in a local suburb with the idea of getting an out-

of-date house, doing some work over the years and selling it when the kids got older for more than what I put into it.  What I didn’t realize, was how many rooms of the same house could smell like piss when doing renovation and not have a general piss smell throughout the whole house.

The Lady Friend and I have been discussing doing some extra work around the home instead of solely working in my dungeon workshop. I redid the floor in a couple of the closets last fall, the deck last summer and the living room prior to Thanksgiving (minus flooring).  This time, the bathroom was next up on the docket for remodeling, even if neither her nor I knew it last Thursday.

The bathroom wasn’t bad, it just screamed builder-grade, late-90’s (even though the house was built in 2004), and a desperate home-owner that hadn’t done a thing to a house in 11 years trying to salvage some resale value through sloppy updates (side note: it didn’t work).

Thankfully, they didn’t touch the bathrooms much outside of hurried paint jobs.  This is good as everything else I have fixed in the house has all been their work (my god, how do you manage to screw up laminate floor).  Unfortunately, I’ve been forced to live with a God-awful pee-yellow bathroom since June 2017.  Last weekend, that all changed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be detailing out my process on remodeling the bathroom, including what I did, why I did it and how much stuff I messed up (not a ton (spoiler: it’s mostly that I didn’t take enough before pictures), but it’s only a 30 square foot room).

Next up will be the extensive planning that I didn’t do.


Deep Thoughts

The Urge to Create

There are times where I’ll finish a project and have to think of the next one or have other projects to complete around the house and it takes me a few days to get back into the shop. These times always find me itching to get back into the shop to create something, even if I don’t have a clue what to create or the funds to get the lumber.

So I’ll putter into the shop and grab a scrap piece of wood and, usually, a chisel and start going to town just screwing around with it just to see if I can make a certain shape or a mortise or who knows what. Ultimately, I go to bed unsatisfied and longing for more time in the shop.

Thankfully, recently I got some extra money and purchased some supplies for shop projects to fill this time. I always need another drawer for tools or to start on a tool cabinet and now, after I finish The Ugly Box (post to come on this one), I’ll have more than enough lumber to get me through until I need to get my next project going.

Hopefully one that makes me some money.