Four tips for simple Christmas decorating

Sarah is here to share a touch of Christmas from Illinois. Her front entrance is looking very festive, and decorating didn’t take her a lot of money or time. She’s sharing her tips for easy, affordable and attractive Christmas decorations below.

I love just about everything about the holiday season. One of my favorite activities is decorating our house both inside and out.

We had never done this before, but Steve asked if this year we wanted to decorate with a theme, so we chose “red and gold.” I think this will become a new tradition. It has made decorating much simpler and everything feels less cluttered and classier.

I used this line of thinking when decorating our front step and chose to go with the gold part of our theme. I thought I would share some tips I have when decorating.

This is the sad view that I started with. What you can’t see is the rotten pumpkins that I had just removed from the steps.

I began by going to my parents’ and helped my mom gather clippings from her boxwood bushes.

Tip #1: You don’t have to buy expensive decorations. Branches from pine, cedar, boxwood and other evergreens make beautiful natural decorations.

I gathered my supplies and laid my branches out in the general shape and size that I wanted to hang from my front door. I used floral wire to tie small bunches of branches together.

Tip #2: When wiring together live branches make sure to tie them really tight. The branches will shrink as they dry out.

I used ribbon for decoration and also to hide the wire that I used. I like to use wired ribbon to help it hold its shape.

Tip #3: I always scour after Christmas sales for ribbon. I can often save 50-75% by doing this.

For my lanterns I wired a few branches from my trees to the handles.

Tip #4: When trimming branches from a tree, look at how the branch is hanging before it is cut. If you want the branch to hang down, but it is curved up on the tree, it will be very difficult to force it into the position you want.

I also added some pinecones that my mom’s cousin had given us. Again I used floral wire to tie them together and tied them to the handle. I took some more wired ribbon and tied a knot to finish it off.

To complete the look, I added a really cute dog.

Merry Christmas from Illinois! I will be back after the New Year.

That is indeed a cute dog. Does the craft store sell Blitzes?

Thanks for all of your posts over the last year, Sarah. It’s been great to see what you and Steve are up to in Illinois. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

Advertisements

Coffee table – Input needed

Car loaded with lumber

I bought materials for the most exciting project on my fall to-do list, our new coffee table. However, before I start construction, I need your input.

I’m going (roughly) with this plan from Ana White.

I love the idea of the drawers. So much in fact that I’m going to be doing four drawers, two on each side.

This addition may end up changing the dimensions of the table a wee bit, so I’m going to take it slow and buy more material as I need them.

The one area where I’ve bought absolutely no material is the top.

In Ana’s plan, the top is made out of 2x6s. A 2-by top seems very heavy to me. Unnecessarily heavy. Plus I’m not sure it’s proportionate with the rest of the table, which is 1-by. Our current coffee table (which is nothing special, but has served us very well for 10 years) has a top that’s half an inch thick.

In fact, our current coffee table isn’t all that different from the Benchwright table, minus the drawers.

So what do you think readers, a 2-by or a 1-by top? What would you do?

How to build a simple toolbox from scrap wood – Free plan

When I was working with my contractor father, every job, big or small, would inevitably start the same way. “You might as well go get the toolbox. Otherwise we’ll spend all our time running back and forth for tools.”

Within a few months of Matt and I moving into our first house, my Dad gifted me with a toolbox of my own.

How to build a simple toolbox

Like most DIYers, our tools are in a variety of places, and we endeavour to have hammers, wrenches, tape measures and whatever else we might need wherever we might need them. However, no matter where we’re working and how I try to spread tools around, we usually end up needing the toolbox as well.

(I might think a screwdriver and a pair of pliers will be sufficient, but the universe usually laughs at my overconfidence.)

After Sarah in Illinois got a glimpse of my toolbox in a post a few weeks ago, I thought I should share it here. It’s an indispensable part of my DIY life.

How to build a simple toolbox

The idea of this toolbox is not to hold every single one of our tools. The idea is to hold the basic tools needed for most jobs. Limiting the number means that the toolbox stays relatively light, so I can easily carry it to wherever I’m working. (When I once complained that the box was too heavy, my Dad’s helpful response was, “You’ve got too much in it, honey. You don’t need all that stuff.”)

There’s a main area that holds the bulk of the tools. (And yes, there are two hammers here, because Matt and I each have our own.)

How to build a simple toolbox

My Dad added a partition on the one side that makes a spot for blades–a couple of utility knives and a large and small hacksaw.

How to build a simple toolbox

On one end, a “pocket” holds a chisel, pencils, crayons and earplugs. How many times have you found yourself pencil-less in the middle of a job? Just me?

How to build a simple toolbox

And finally a bar on one side of the box holds screwdrivers. This bar is one of my favourite features. It keeps the screwdrivers out of the jumble of the rest of the tools in the bottom of the box and makes it easy to find the one I need.

How to build a simple toolbox

I like that this toolbox is open. I don’t have to deal with latches or trays. I can simply reach in and grab what I need. Plus, if I know I’m going to need more wrenches or sockets or another tool that doesn’t normally live in the toolbox, I can easily toss in the case, and carry it to the worksite.

Here’s what I have in my basic toolbox:

  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Speed square
  • Pliers (regular, needle-nosed, side cutters, adjustable)
  • Vicegrips
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Electrical tape
  • Stubby screwdrivers (slotted, Robertson red and green, Phillips)
  • Nailsets
  • Awl
  • Screwdrivers (Robertson, Phillips and slotted in various sizes–12 in total)
  • Trowels (medium and small)
  • Chisel
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Earplugs
  • Hacksaws (large and small with spare blades)
  • Utility knives (two with spare blades)

If you’re interested in a building a toolbox like this for yourself, I’ve sketched a plan that you can download. Since this is built using scrap wood, adjust it for what best meets your needs.

How do you store your tools? Anyone else have a DIY toolbox? What are your indispensable tools?

How to live with your kitchen until you’re ready to renovate

Ugh, our kitchen. Our poor, poor kitchen. I’m so excited for the day that we finally renovate this room. However, I’m a bit scared too because I feel like we’re going to uncover so many issues when we pull everything apart.

One of the hinges on our cabinet doors had come loose (not unusual, all of our cabinets are falling apart).

Cabinet hinge with stripped screws

Repairing a stripped screw hole with toothpicks and glue

As I was putting it back together last week (wood glue + toothpicks = repaired), I was thinking about how we’ve lived with this kitchen for 5 years and will continue to do so for awhile yet.

Kitchens are important rooms. We spend a lot of time in them, so we want them to look nice and work well. But they’re also expensive and disruptive to renovate.

As a result, many of us live with lackluster kitchens, waiting until that magical day when we pull out the sledgehammer and start to forge the kitchen of our dreams.

For me, I hate to invest time or money into a space that I know I’m going to gut, even if that gut isn’t going to happen for 5 years or more. However, there are a few things that we’ve done in our kitchen that have made it more liveable, more functional and more attractive.

I thought I’d share them today in case they help someone else living in a similar kitchen situation. And I’d love to hear your ideas too for making a less than ideal kitchen work for you.

Paint

Between cabinets and appliances, wall space in a kitchen is often minimal, so giving your walls a fresh coat of paint is quick and inexpensive. With our open concept main floor, painting the kitchen, living room and hall the same colour made the spaces cohesive and the light colour that we chose brightened up the rooms a bit.

Painting cabinets is another update that can have a big impact. I did this in our first house and it was a great transformation. However, it was also a bigger job than I expected, so I was in no hurry to do it again–especially since our cabinets are falling apart and I feel like paint will not help the situation.

Hardware

Updating cabinet hardware can be another quick way to inject some style and personality into your kitchen. I spray painted our hardware for a mini update. The results have been mixed. The paint has chipped off some of the handles, but others have held up pretty well.

What is this?

The nice thing about a hardware update is if you truly love the handles or knobs that you choose, you can easily reinstall them in a new kitchen down the road.

Lighting

Just because you don’t have your dream kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t have your dream lights. I loved the idea of a pair of schoolhouse style pendants over the island, so I went and bought them.

We only had one light fixture in the kitchen and it wasn’t positioned quite right, but I didn’t let that stop me. I put up one of the lights anyway. Maybe a single, randomly located pendant looked a bit weird, but it made me happier than the boob light that was there before.

A year or so later when we had an electrician in for some other work, I had him move the first light and install a second. The electrician’s labour was relatively inexpensive.

School house pendant lights over the kitchen island

Even if you’re planning on reconfiguring your kitchen down the road and will need to move lights again, the investment in an electrician is not that significant. And assuming you still love your lights, you can reuse them.

Island

The biggest addition to our kitchen has been the island. I bought the doors at Habitat for Humanity and we DIYed the countertop. Having a cabinet maker build the boxes was still a bit of an investment, but worth it for us for the storage and prep space we gained.

Kitchen island painted white with wood countertop

I can’t imagine working in the kitchen without having this extra space. And I’m hoping that we can reuse the island in our future kitchen.

Accessories

Just because a kitchen is a utilitarian space doesn’t mean you can’t decorate it. Accessories can add function to the room as well as style. A long towel bar on the end of the island gives us a space to hang oven mitts and towels within easy reach. Plus pretty towels inject some personality and colour. We also removed a wine rack that was above the fridge (we don’t drink much wine and I can’t reach the space anyways) and put a fun country rooster and our kitchen scale on display.

Organization

No matter what your kitchen looks like or how large it is, keeping things organized can dramatically improve how you feel about the space.

In adding the island we were able to add storage for a few key things: cookie sheets, cutting boards and cookbooks. Our kitchen is lacking in drawers, so we also added hidden drawer to the island.

The few drawers that we do have are too small for most organizers, but I found a plastic organizer that I could cut to size with a utility knife, so I was able to keep our cutlery sorted.

Narrow cookie sheet shelves in island

Making a kitchen work until you can do a full reno is about trade offs. What can you live with and what can’t you? How many repairs are you willing to do? How much money are you comfortable spending, knowing that whatever you add may end up in a dumpster? For us DIYers, how much time and effort are you willing to invest knowing that you may be ripping out your hard work down the road?

For me, I think I’ve found a balance that is tolerable.

What are your tips for holding a kitchen together? How do you feel about mini renovations to tide you over until the big one? Have you made any improvements to your kitchen that have made a difference in how it works or looks?

Denise at Happy Haute Home (who often comments on my posts) recently renovated her kitchen for the One Room Challenge. While it’s a much grander space than ours, she embraced a very similar philosophy to mine. She shared her tips for how to update a kitchen on various budgets in her reveal post.

How we cleaned our chimney ourselves

Alternate title for this post “That time Matt’s Dad didn’t suffocate and fall off our roof.”

If you’ve been reading along here for any length of time, you know how much we enjoy our wood-burning fireplace and have fires nightly as soon as the weather turns cold.

It’s been three years since the fireplace was rebuilt and over that time we’ve never cleaned the chimney.

Before we fired anything up this year, I knew I wanted to address that.

Red brick chimney

Our go-to was Matt’s Dad. He heats his entire house with wood and cuts and splits all his own firewood. He’s our resource for all things fire.

He initially suggested dropping a heavy chain down the chimney and using it to knock off the soot. I was skeptical, but after a quick online search it seemed like that was a legit method of cleaning a chimney. However, consensus seemed to be that a brush was a more legit method.

Onto my Dad. I was pretty sure I remembered seeing a chimney brush and poles up in the rafters of the garage. After spending some time on a ladder peering around the garage, I found the poles but no brush.

So onto the store. I found a brush that I thought would probably fit our chimney and brought it to my parents’ house to try it on their poles. They didn’t fit together.

Back to the store, where I bought a handful of poles guessing at how many might be needed to reach the full length of the chimney.

Chimney brush in front of the hearth

Once we had the equipment, we needed to prep the inside of the house. I cleaned out the hearth, opened the damper and then covered the mouth of the fireplace to prevent dust from coming into the house.

Covering the fireplace to prevent dust during chimney sweeping

Covering the fireplace to prevent dust during chimney sweeping

Then it was onto Dick Van Dyke Matt and his Dad. (I asked for a Mary Poppins rooftop routine, but they were not in the mood. Although Matt did give me a strong man demonstration.)

Matt goofing around while cleaning the chimney

They popped the cap off the chimney and took a look.

Taking the cap off the top of the chimney

The chimney wasn’t too dirty. You can see the flakes of soot on the flue.

Soot on the inside of the chimney flue

They screwed the brush onto the first pole and got ready to sweep.

Chimney cleaning brush

Then this is where the suffocation comes in. Before he stuck the brush down the chimney, Matt’s Dad stuck his head in a large plastic bag–probably one that has a suffocation warning printed on it.

Cleaning the chimney

When he cleans his own chimney, my FIL does it from a ladder, which doesn’t give him much maneuverability. Therefore, there have been times where the wind has blown soot back in his face. The plastic helps to protect him from getting entirely dirty. On our roof, they could move around to avoid the wind if necessary.

The next stage was–to quote Matt–“dunk and scrub.” (My husband loves his movie references… although the line is actually “plunge and scrub,” but my darling husband maintains that “dunk” sounds better than “plunge”… or at least it does in his version of an Irish accent.)

My FIL dunked plunged the brush up and down in the chimney until the soot was removed. As he reached the end of one pole, he and Matt screwed on another section.

Attaching chimney sweeping poles together

Once they’d done the full length of the chimney, that was all there was to it. They put the cap back on top, came inside and pulled the plastic off the opening, swept the wee bit of dust out of the hearth, and we were ready for a fire.

Logs burning in the fireplace

Cleaning the chimney turned out to be pretty easy (so says the woman on the ground… but seriously, I know I could do it and you can too). I’m very grateful to Matt and his Dad for their work.

Here are my tips to clean your chimney yourself.

  1. Find a brush that fits your chimney. Our chimney has a 12 inch square flue. Most of the brushes I found in different stores were smaller and round. That works for my FIL’s woodstove, but not for our masonry chimney. Eventually, I found a brush that was an 8-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Even though it wasn’t the 12 by 12 that I originally had in mind, Matt’s Dad said that it worked very well.
  2. Buy extra poles. It turns out that two poles and a long arm (to quote Matt’s Dad) are enough to do our whole chimney. I bought five because I did not want to come up short. I’ll be returning the other three.
  3. Lubricate your poles. The poles screw together so that the handle of your brush gets progressively longer as you proceed down the chimney. Before he went up on the roof, Matt’s Dad gave the threads a shot of WD40 to ensure they’d easily screw and unscrew this year and for the years to come.
  4. Cover up inside. Tape a sheet of plastic over your fireplace opening. If you have doors on your fireplace, this step may not be necessary. With our open hearth, there was a good chance that soot and dust dislodged during cleaning would float into the living room. Covering the opening with plywood or plastic helps to contain the mess in the fireplace, where you can sweep it up later.
  5. Dunk and scrub (or plunge). Jostle your brush up and down inside the chimney. Be relatively vigorous–you want to knock off all the soot–but a bit gentle–you don’t want to damage your chimney.
  6. Watch which way the wind blows. It’s probably not necessary to don a plastic hood and face shield à la Matt’s Dad. However, chimney cleaning is a dirty job (another Mary Poppins clip, anyone?), so wear old clothes or coveralls, gloves and try to choose an angle where you won’t have soot blowing in your face.
  7. Do this yourself. Chimney cleaning is an easy DIY. It took about a half hour start to finish and in total our investment in the brush and the poles is less than $100. We’ll have the equipment for years. We didn’t get a professional quote on cleaning the chimney, but I’m certain that we would have spent more than $100 if we’d hired this out.

Now we can enjoy the fireplace, confident that it’s safe and clean.

How we cleaned our chimney ourselves

Trials and errors in Illinois

Sometimes, we cross our fingers and give something a try. We’re hopeful that it will work, but not quite sure how it might turn out. That’s the case in many aspects of life, but especially DIY. Sarah in Illinois is back today to report on the results of two experiments.

There have been a few projects in the past that I have posted about and said that I would report back how they turned out. I thought I’d report back on two of them today.

The most recent was the storage tomatoes. You can see the process I used here. But unfortunately, it didn’t work at all. Two weeks after I put them away, they looked like this:

My best guess is that the garage that I stored them in was too warm. Next year I plan to try again but find a cooler storage spot. I may also try another variety like Longkeeper.

My second follow-up is for the table that we refinished for the deck.

I said in my original post that the epoxy we used stated that it wasn’t for outdoor use, but we chose to use it anyway.

They are a few small issues that popped up after a summer of outdoor use.

There are small cracks appeared in the epoxy which allowed moisture to sleep down underneath.

Also something that sat on the table, possibly a pot of plants, held moisture against the epoxy and made a cloudy ring where it should be clear.

I wouldn’t consider this a complete failure for the project, but it tells me that the finish won’t hold out as long as I hoped. My plan is to see how it looks after using it again next summer then possibly trying a different method to coat the wood.

So unfortunately, both trials didn’t go perfectly, but that is why they were truly experiments for me. Most things in life are trial and error. The best thing to do is learn from it and move on.

That’s about the only choice, Sarah! I’m sure these results are a bit disappointing, but they are absolutely learning experiences.

I have to say I’m bummed about the tomatoes and the table for you. We lost a bunch of our favourite potatoes this year just a couple of weeks after we put them in storage. There wasn’t anything to do but move on, but it was frustrating that we’d had such a good harvest and then so many didn’t keep–and especially that it was our favourite variety that was hit. Also, the last time you shared that table, it was so shiny! 😦

Refinishing a vintage metal bed frame

Thanks everyone for your good wishes on my last post. Matt seems to be recovering well from his surgeries. We’re hopeful that our follow-up appointments over the next few months give us more positive news.

The guest room has become Matt’s treatment room where we can lay out all his drops and ointments, and the patient can receive them. You may recall that back when I shared the finished guest room nearly, oh, a year and a half ago, the room was missing a key component–a bed frame.

Well, we’ve finally managed to remedy that.

Metal bed frame in the guest room

We had an old metal bed frame that was in my cottage bedroom growing up and then Matt and I used it in our first house. This style of frame has become pretty trendy, and I’m seeing various versions all over the web, so I wanted to keep it. Plus it was free.

However, the finish was in rough shape. During the cottage days, it was a greyish, pinkish flesh tone. Matt and I repainted it cream, but it was our first foray into spray paint and the finish was drippy and chipped (and dusty after living in the barn for several years).

Vintage metal bedframe painted cream

One of my home goals from 2016 was to strip the frame. I had hoped that the metal was in good enough shape that it wouldn’t need to be painted and it could just go right into the guest room.

Stripping paint off metal is very similar to stripping paint off wood. I used my usual chemical stripper, scrapers and wire brushes. It was a fiddly process because of all of the spindles and layers of paint (and as usual my sidekick was no help).

Baxter helping to strip the paint off the metal bed frame

The original finish on the bed was a faux wood treatment. It was not what I expected to find at all. I had seen glimpses of this stenciled basket through the subsequent layers of paint and thought it might be embossed into the metal. That was not the case, and it was a feature of the original finish.

Faux wood grain paint on a metal bedframe

Stripped metal bed frame

Unfortunately, the metal was not in great shape once I got the paint off. There were scratches and pits and rust and the welds were obviously different colours. I knew I would have to repaint the whole bed. Faced with that reality, I stopped stripping. I had removed the paint from the headboard and two siderails, but I had visions of simply adding another layer of paint to the footboard.

Stripping paint off a vintage metal bedframe

But I knew that wasn’t what I really wanted. If I’m going to do the job, I might was well do it right and take the footboard back to the original metal. Plus the footboard is the most visible part of the bed, and I was worried that the chips and goopy layers of paint would show through my new finish.

So this summer I returned to the bed frame and finally stripped the footboard. Then I waited for the weather to cool off enough to paint–and to figure out what colour I wanted to paint.

So many of the metal bed frames I see are black. I love the look. But between the trunk that’s already in the room, the chandelier and the curtain rods, I already have my pops of black. I didn’t feel like I needed more.

Rustic black chandelier

The second place colour seems to be white, but there’s also a few white pieces in the room, we’d kind of already done this with the cream paint and honestly I wanted something more interesting than white.

I sampled a bunch of colours, but that didn’t help. Finally, I went to the store and just picked a colour. I chose Antique Brass by Rustoleum. I liked the idea of echoing traditional brass beds. Plus some of the hardware in the room on the desk and the chest of drawers is brassy.

Rustoleum Antique Brass spraypaint

I figured, if I didn’t like it, I could always repaint. At least I now have a smooth surface to do so, and I wouldn’t need to strip again.

We set up the bed on the driveway, and I went to town. Given the state of the metal, I think I could have used a primer, but after a brief sanding I went straight to paint–and ended up having to run to the store to get more cans. In the end, all of the scratches were covered and the finish looks good–much better than any of the previous finishes.

Metal bed frame set up on the driveway for painting

After a week of airing out in the driveshed, we brought the bed in and set it up.

Antique brass metal bed frame

And now, I can finally say the guest room is done. Ready for our next patient guest.

How to rescreen a screen door

Fresh country air is one of the best parts of summer living on the farm. But summer on the farm also means bugs, so screens are an absolute necessity. Sarah in Illinois is here today to share how she fixed her screen door after it had a few too many encounters with a puppy who was enthusiastic to enjoy the country air in person dog.

I don’t think you can live in the country without a screen door. Unfortunately screen doors and young energetic dogs don’t mix. Blitz gets so excited to head outside that he pushes the door open with his big paws.

The screen became damaged enough that I decided that it was time to try my hand at re-screening a door.

I started with buying a screen replacement kit at our closest home improvement store. It comes with a large roll of screen, a roll of spline and a spline tool. The only other tools that I needed were a utility knife and pick.

I started by removing the damaged screen and using the pick I pried all of the old spline out of the grooves.

I compared my old spline to the new spline. My only concern was making sure that they were the same diameter. If the newer spline was too large it wouldn’t fit in the groove, if it was too small, it wouldn’t stay in place. Thankfully, it was close enough to work well.

After all of the spline was removed and I cleaned the door, I was ready to start putting the new screen in place.

I carefully centered the screen over the opening and laid the spline over the groove. Working with just one side I used the spline tool, which is basically a handle and a roller, and pushed the spline down into the groove. It was a tight fit, but not too tight, just enough that I knew that it wasn’t coming out.

I worked my way around all four sides pulling slightly on the screen to keep it taut.

At the corners I had to use the pick again to squish the spline down tight where the spline tool couldn’t reach.

Once I felt that the screen was in securely and pulled tight, I trimmed the excess screen off with a razor blade.

In the case of our door, there were two separate screen areas so I repeated everything on the second half of the door.

I was then ready to rehang the door.

I was nervous tackling this project because I was worried that it would never look like it did when the door was new. But honestly, this was such an easy project and cost me less than $10 for the kit.

Now we’re ready for this guy’s next adventure.

Well done, Sarah. It looks really professional. We love having the windows open in the summer, but I’m realizing a few of our screens are in need of repairs. We’ve found ourselves chasing moths or even the occasional mosquito in the house. In the past, I’ve patched a hole. Rescreening sounds pretty easy and straightforward. Plus I’m ensured of not missing any holes.

Building a round wood framed mirror

Large round wood frame mirror

It’s been two years since I watched a bunch of bloggers participate in the One Board Challenge. Two years since I haven’t been able to get this round mirror by Jenn at Build Basic out of my mind. The fact that it was built with a single 1×8 made it even cooler.

Every time I went to a thrift store, I casually looked for a large round mirror. This spring I finally found one at Value Village (for $9.99), and it was time for my own One Board Challenge.

Round mirror makeover before

I’m not going to post a how-to here because, hello, not my project and also Jenn’s instructions are very good.

I love the creativity of the One Board Challenge. My brain does not work like this. I would not think to make a round frame out of a straight board. In fact, even with the tutorial, it took me a couple of tries to figure out how to arrange the wood. My first try was fine, but not as interesting as Jenn’s configuration.

Building a round wood frame

Jenn notes that there are multiple ways to arrange the wood. I feel like her arrangement had more interesting angles, so that was what I went with.

Building a round wood frame

If you’re thinking of trying this mirror yourself, I do have a few notes to share.

This project is rated moderate. It’s very doable, and none of the skills are particularly difficult. What might make this challenging for a novice DIYer is that building the frame takes a lot of tools. I had my tool box, mitre saw, jig saw, drill, Kreg Jig, sander and clamps all spread out over the front lawn (plus the dog). Then I went to my parents’ house and used my Dad’s nailer and air compressor.

Outdoor workshop

Cutting the curves with the jigsaw–especially the narrow border pieces–takes a certain level of confidence. I think it would be much easier to do the little pieces on a table mounted jigsaw versus freehanding it.

Speaking of tools, my mitre saw wasn’t big enough to handle the major angle cuts in one shot. A 1×8 is not a narrow board. I had to cut partway through, then flip over the board, readjust the angle of the saw, and cut the other half. It wasn’t difficult. Just slow.

Building a round wood frame

In Step 4, Jenn says “On each joint, mark a unique registration line so that it’s easy to quickly reassemble the pieces later on.” A simple registration mark is letters–you want each to be unique, so a line or slash isn’t distinctive enough. With letters, you can make one joint the A joint, another B and so on. You draw an A on each of the pieces to be joined together, so that you know which piece connects to which, even after dryfitting, sanding and the rest of the steps.

Registration marks

When marking your holes for the Kreg Jig, draw your lines extra long so that the jig doesn’t cover them up.

Kreg Jig

Once the frame was assembled, I stained it my favourite Provincial. Then the final step was attaching the mirror to the frame.

I broke from Jenn’s suggestion to attach the mirror using clips because my mirror ended up being just a wee bit smaller than the finished opening. Instead, I cut a disc from hardboard. I painted it black to camouflage any gaps that might show between the edge of the mirror and the frame, then I used construction adhesive to glue the mirror to the disc.

Gluing a mirror with construction adhesive

Once the adhesive was set, I then glued the disc to the back of the wood frame. I added a couple of tiny screws for extra insurance.

Attaching the mirror to the wood frame

As soon as I flipped it over, I was ecstatic. I love how this turned out.

Large round wood frame mirror

Fieldstone fireplace in the summer

It’s large and bright and a little bit rustic–and a great addition to the summer mantel in the living room. Thanks to Jenn at Build Basic for sharing such a great project.

Do you decorate with mirrors? What would you build in a One Board Challenge?

How to make a light box for tracing

Hand up if you’ve ever found yourself standing at a window, trying to hold two pieces of paper steady while you traced a pattern. My hand’s definitely up. It’s awkward, right? For crafters, tracing is an important part of a lot of projects.

A light box is a handy tool that makes tracing much, much easier. Sarah in Illinois is sharing how she made a light box for her quilting mother. 

I hinted a few posts back that I was not making good progress on my “one project a month.” If you remember, my three projects for the second quarter of the year were

  1. Light box for my mom
  2. Grill lighting
  3. The garden

Starting from the bottom, the garden is doing well. Very well. Plants are growing, we’ve picked some veggies, had some setbacks, but overall it’s doing very well. I decided to write a separate post on the garden, so I will just say I am very happy with the progress so far.

The grill lighting is on hold. When we hung the decorative string lights on our awning this year we decided that they give off enough light to make sure our hamburgers aren’t burnt. And since we are not sure what we want in permanent lighting we decided to do more research before we make the money and time commitment. So not done, but on hold.

As for the light box, I can say it is done.

So what is a light box? Basically, it is box with a transparent top and a light source inside.

When you put a print and a blank piece of paper on top of the box, the light shines through and makes it easy to trace the original print. This is great for crafters wanting to copy patterns. In this case, my mom wanted one for making quilts.

I started by cutting 45 degree angles for the 4 sides of the box.

Then I got to play around with the router. Honestly, I had not used our router before. It is kind of Steve’s toy, but using some practice boards it was fairly easy to get the hang of. The reason for the router was to cut a groove in the sides of the box for the transparent top to sit in.

I also used the router to curve the edges of the boards to give it a nicer look.

So this was the point where I would have started assembling the pieces. Except I came home and found that Blitz had put his mark on two of the pieces, quite literally.

It aggravated me of course, but who could I blame but the person who left them where a 10 month old pup could reach them? In case that wasn’t clear, that person is me.

So after redoing half of my work I began putting the sides together. Simply put, it is like building a frame for a picture.

The finished dimensions are 13 inches by 15.25 inches with the “window” area being 12.5 inches by almost 14.75 inches. Obviously I didn’t work by any plans, I just wanted to make sure it was large enough to use a standard 8.5 by 11 piece of paper for tracing.

I pre-drilled my nail holes and put three sides together.

It was at this point that I put the first coat of white paint on all of the pieces. It has been extremely humid here which is not the best weather for paint to dry. I got several scratches and finger prints on the pieces that had to be touched up once I was done handling everything.

I slid the “window” into the channels that I routed and attached the fourth side.

For the window I used a piece of plexiglass that I cut with a razor blade and snapped to break. To hide the inside of the box and to dull the brightness of the intense lights that I chose, I sprayed the plexiglass with a frosted paint.

It was at this point that I turned the box over and installed the light source. I chose this LED tape at our local home improvement store. I wanted LED so that heat did not build up inside the box.

This tape is 6.5 feet long but came with instructions on how to cut it to the correct fit. I used both the adhesive back and the small mounting brackets that came with the tape. I cut a small hole near the bottom to run the cord out of.

I was pleasantly surprised that the light tape came with a switch so that it will be easy for Mom to turn on and off as needed.

And finally I screwed the back to the box. I chose to use screws so that I can remove the back if I ever need to make any adjustments or repairs.

I am happy with the results and can’t wait to give it to Mom for her to try out.

That light box looks great, Sarah. It’s super professional with the routed channel for the plexiglass and the LED strip. I’m sure your Mom will appreciate it. Maybe you’ll get a new quilt out of it. 🙂