Looking for sander suggestions

Attention. Vicarious tool shopping opportunity ahead. Sarah in Illinois needs your help selecting her new sander. Our sander is one of the few tools that I’ve bought for myself, rather than getting a hand-me-down. Like Sarah’s last sander, I bought it quickly without much research. But it’s also one of my most used tools, so I’m very interested to hear your suggestions of what sander or brand you recommend.

Since most of my summer has been spent out in the yard and garden, I was really excited the other day to have a chance to spend a few minutes on a project in the wood shop. I actually have to admit I am looking forward to cold winter months because I will have more time to spend out there.

However, when I grabbed one of my most used tools and found it had finally died, I decided it was time to do a little research and add a replacement to my Christmas wish list.

I need a new electric hand sander.

(Honesty here: I am not being sponsored by anyone to write this. The following is my opinion on my experiences. And a note from Julia: Links are not affiliate links.)

For years I had a DeWalt hand sander. Actually I had two: a 1/4 sheet palm sander and a random orbit sander. I used them and used them until they literally fell apart in my hands. I found this picture from years ago when I was sanding wood siding on my old house.

At some point, I needed a sander and ran to town and found something inexpensive to use to get me by. That’s how I ended up with a Skil.

This sander lasted much longer than I ever expected, but I was never happy with the hook and loop attachment for the sandpaper. Many times it flung the paper off in the middle of use. I know that hook and loop attachment seems to common with most sanders, but I actually prefer using adhesive backed paper.

Steve and I have had very good luck with Hitachi brand tools. We now have a compound miter saw, portable chop saw, cordless drill and 9 inch grinder all Hitachi brand, and we couldn’t be happier with the longevity and strength of these tools. So naturally I looked first at Hitachi. I was thrilled to see they still make a 1/4 sheet hand sander. They also have two options for orbital sanders that both have hook and loop attachment. DeWalt has a similar option.

So here is the reason for this post: I want to hear from other people with actual experience. What hand sander do you use? What brands have you had luck with? Which ones would you not recommend? How do you feel about hook and loop attachment versus adhesive back versus 1/4 sheet that is held on with clamps?

Finally, the reason I was out in the wood shop the other day: Our small town is having a scarecrow contest. There are many scarecrows all over town and I decided to add one at work. (The sander was needed for that mega-wrench he is holding!)

I was late getting him ready, so I didn’t get to enter the contest, but it is still fun to decorate and join the fall spirit around town. Here is the link to the contest entries if you would like to see the fantastic scarecrows.

I am so glad to live in a town that is so friendly and has such great community spirit.

What a great community building project, Sarah. I love seeing people’s creativity with their scarecrows.

We have a random orbit sander made by Mastercraft (I think it’s Canadian Tire’s brand). I bought it very much like you bought your Skil–quickly and cheaply. But I’ve been pretty happy with it. It is hook and loop, and I’ve had no issues with the pads staying attached. The sawdust bag sometimes slips off, which can be a bit annoying, but usually I just leave it off and accept the dust. It’s a bit big for my hands–usually I’m for gender equality, but tools made for smaller hands would be a very good thing. Just don’t make them pink.

Now over to everyone else. What sander(s) do you recommend?


Sawing through the honey-do list

Since moving to the farm, I’ve discovered a few new favourite tools. One of these is the chainsaw. However, in our house the chainsaw is Matt’s and he’s the one who wields it. Due first to Matt’s broken arm and then to a hole in the oil tank on the saw, we’ve been chainsaw-less so far this year.

Matt’s arm is healed and almost back to full strength. He and his Dad fibreglassed the oil tank back together. And over the weekend he finally fired up the saw.

Low hanging branches, small trees that sprouted up in unwanted spots, dead wood have all been trimmed. Best of all, Matt went through the meadow and down to the pond.


Matt cutting suckers from an old stump

My view to the pond is continuing to clear. It seems like as soon as I abandoned hope of clearing the pond shore this year, that’s when we finally started this project.

Baxter looking down through the meadow to the pond

The pond

A few hours of work netted us the biggest burn/brush pile I think we’ve ever had. A tractor-size one. We also left a bunch of brush down at the pond to burn there.

Matt on the tractor in front of our burn pile

Collecting the brush was Mr. B’s favourite part. Or the trailer ride to get the brush was.

Baxter and I having a trailer ride

How was your weekend?

How to make a DIY carpet kick – Free plans

Early in your life as a DIYer, you learn that having the right tool can make the job much easier. However, sometimes you don’t want to go buy a new tool for a project that you’re only going to do once, maybe twice.

Laying carpet is one such job in my opinion. Likely–hopefully–you’re not laying carpet every year. However, if you do want to tackle installing carpet yourself, there are a few things that can help you get a nice finish on your floor and make the end product look more professional. One of those things is a carpet kick.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Unless you’re a professional carpet installer, a carpet kick is not likely a tool that you’ll use very often. If you’re a professional carpet installer, I expect that you will go buy your own professionally made kick. However, for a DIYer you can easily make your own carpet kick out of scrap wood.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Download the plans to make your own carpet kick


  • 2×4 approximately 14 inches long
  • 2×6 5 inches long (you’ll cut it to a 5×5-inch square)
  • 3/4-inch plywood (also cut to a 5×5-inch square)
  • Two 3-inch screws
  • Two 1 1/2-inch screws
  • Eighteen 1 5/8-inch drywall screws (or other screws with a coarse thread)
  • Scrap piece of carpet (about 12×12 inches)

Cut each piece of wood according to the plan. Screw the wood together using the 3 inch and 1 1/2 inch screws.

If desired, paint your kick–I recommend a stylish baby blue.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Once paint is dry, wrap the butt end of the kick in the scrap carpet and staple in place. You’ll likely have to trim the carpet to make it fit. This is like wrapping a really awkward present.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Screw the drywall screws part-way through the kick plate so that they poke out the bottom. These “teeth” are what will grip the carpet and stretch it over the tackstrip.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

And that’s all there is to it. Now you’re ready to install your carpet.

How to reuse old carpet





Looking for sawzall suggestions

One of the major perks of being a daughter of a contractor is the tools. Not only do I have access to all of my Dad’s tools, he also gives me tools when he upgrades.

That is the case with my hand-me-down vintage Sawzall.

Vintage Milwaukee Sawzall

Now I appreciate this saw. It’s come in very handy. But I think it’s time that I upgraded for myself.

My biggest complaint with this saw is the cord.

Cord and plug

I would love to have a cordless sawzall. But I have no experience with cordless sawzalls. Even the one that my Dad uses currently has a cord. So I’m looking for advice. Any suggestions of what to look for when I go shopping? What do you think is the best brand? Is a battery powered sawzall actually powerful enough to saw all?

My favourite tool: Heather in Heels

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Heather of Heather in Heels to the blog for the final installment in the “My Favourite Tool” series. If you’re just joining us, this series came about when I was thinking about what I should put on my tool wishlist. To help me make up my mind, I reached out to a few bloggers and asked them to share their favourite tools.

I was thrilled when Heather said yes to my email. Heather is a woman after my own heart–she’s all about all kinds of DIY, good food, lots of love for her pups, oh, and she’s Canadian too. She blogs at Heather in Heels. I especially love that her favourite tool is one that I love as well. Take it away Heather.

When it comes to my DIY habit, nothing helps me feed the monster like having the right tools for the job. I realized many moons ago the one critical tool for all the painting and refinishing projects I wanted to tackle was a sander. So I stole one from my mom and step dad’s basement. It took my step dad 20 years to realize it was missing. (I won’t the list the other items I’ve taken yet – they still don’t know they’re missing… he he).

It was old and made your whole body vibrate when using it, but it did the job. It did the job until it didn’t any more. I almost had a funeral for it. That sander and I did many wonderful things together.

We’ve transformed doors and we’ve taken a super-drab-free-on-the-side-of-the-road find and made it beyond fabulous. But I had to say goodbye to it.

Interior door painted blue

White credenza

And then I promptly got over my loss when my new sander arrived. And together we’re already busy making new memories! I’ve just finished refinishing a bar cart and while the paint dries I’m already busy with my biggest furniture project yet – a huge dining room buffet server. (Spoiler alert. Since writing this post, Heather’s finished the buffet. No surprise, it’s fabulous).

Ryobi sander

Why a power sander? Well, for one thing it saves your manicure. (This is an essential in my books). It also greatly increases the speed of any project requiring sanding. I’m not sure I would even contemplate some of the projects I’ve done (or am in the process of doing) if I had to sand by hand. I don’t even pumice my own feet for goodness sake!

The power sander, followed closely by my trusty staple gun, is definitely my favourite tool in my tool box. It saves me time, increases my productivity, saves my manicures, and it’s the best way to remove old and ugly to make room for new and fabulous.

Removing old and ugly to make way for new and fabulous. That definitely sums up Heather’s approach to home reno and decor–and life in general. Thanks for being part of the “My Favourite Tool” series, Heather. Be sure to check out Heather in Heels to see more of Heather’s quest to add more fabulous to daily life.

The Porch Jacking: Chad’s Crooked House

I’m happy to welcome Chad of Chad’s Crooked House to the blog today for the third installment in the “My Favourite Tool” series. If you’re just joining us, this series came about when I was thinking about what I should put on my tool wishlist. To help me make up my mind, I reached out to a few bloggers and asked them to share their favourite tools.

I’ve been following Chad’s adventures in restoring and updating his Philadelphia row house for awhile now. It seems like he might be finally heading into the homestretch on his reno (or at least, Phase 1). I’m glad he could take some time away from painting, lighting, closets, kitchen cabinets (!) and other work to share a project from the past here today.

Julia asked me to write about my favorite tool. Usually picking favorites is the hardest thing in the world for me, but this time I have one with a perfect combination of weirdness and a good back story. We’re going back about 8 years to when I was in college for this project.

My parents have a screen porch on the side of their house. It was always a favorite spot even though it was kind of in sorry shape. The columns were wrapped in finished wood that was visibly rotting away and the screen frames were patched up with corner braces that were rusted all over. It was time to give it a face lift. My dad called me to get my approval to use aluminum capping. He’s not dumb, so he had to have known he would never get it. Especially for a spot where people would be sitting 2 feet away and really see the fakeness. I told him that capping over rotting would be flirting with disaster (see how practical I am?), and that we should re-wrap the columns with new wood. And then I took my final.

Fast forward a week or two, and I was home to investigate. The screens were down, and I started hammering a crowbar into the most rotten column, at one of the corners. The first thing I saw was bad – like 6 million bugs scurrying out and tunnels all through the wood. But the second was even worse – nothing inside! I was ripping apart a column that was holding up the porch roof!

I called my dad in a panic. He said no big deal, we’ll just put in new pressure treated 6×6 posts. I was half crying. “What about the temporary bracing? It’ll be so much work!”

He replied in a high pitched mocking tone pretending he thought I was crazy. Not that he actually thought this, but he likes to mess with us.

“What? We’ll just use the railroad jack!”

“The what?”

“Come on, Chad. You know we have a 30 ton jack in the garage.”

I never did know that, but it sure was good news. Here it is. I always thought this giant bar was for heavy digging in the garden, but actually it’s the lever for the jack. The whole thing is cast iron and weighs 67 pounds.

30 ton railroad jack

So he found a 4×6 in his hoard, cut it down to fit on the jack, and set it up next to the first column. Up went the porch roof and out came the column. We cut the new 6×6 to match the height of the old column, stuck it in place, let the porch down and moved on to the next one. All 7 new columns were in place in a day! Here it is 7 years later.

Screened porch

Good job, Chad (and Chad’s Dad). That porch looks like a beautiful spot to spend time in the nice weather. Thanks so much for sharing your favourite tool, Chad. If you’re interested in reading more about Chad’s adventures in Philadelphia, check him out at Chad’s Crooked House.

Yard tool maintenance tips

Sarah in Illinois is back today with another post. She has some very helpful tips for taking care of our yard tools–timely as we wrap up outdoors season and prepare to tuck our tools away for winter. (Yes, I did say the “w” word.)

One thing I am trying to do more of is take better care of things around my house so that they last longer. I know that should be an obvious habit, but we seem to live in such a disposable world that it often gets overlooked. Instead of just throwing away and buying new, we should be extending the life of items we already have.

Not long ago I noticed that my wheelbarrow looked terrible. It was getting such a thick coat of rust, and it wouldn’t be long before it rusted right through.

Rusty wheelbarrow

Flakes of rust in the bottom of the wheelbarrow

The first thing I did was to remove as much rust as I could. This could have been done by hand with a wire brush, but I had this handy attachment for my drill, so I tried it out. It worked like a charm!

Drill attachment for removing rust

After I had all of the loose rust removed, I sprayed it off with the hose and let it thoroughly dry in the sun. And I was correct; I already had two pin holes in the metal.

The next thing I did was to try to prevent any further rust.

I used a rust treatment that we sell at work, but I am sure is available at any home improvement store. I made one mistake though. I did not read all of the directions.

I knew from selling the product that when it reacted with the rust it was supposed to turn black. I waited an hour with it sitting in the sun, and it never turned black. I went on with the next step of painting with spray paint in a color close to the original. And it really does look great.

The mistake I found later was that the can clearly says to wait 24 hours to paint. During those 24 hours, it turns black.

In the long run, I don’t know that I will have any issue with not following the directions completely. Since it is just a wheelbarrow, I am not too worried, but in the future I will be better prepared.

I also put a coat of deck sealant on the handles. We had some sitting around, and it took me just minutes to do. It will help protect the handles from rot.

Green painted wheelbarrow

I also decided to do something similar to our garden tools. I started by spraying them off with the hose and using a nylon brush to remove any caked on dirt, and then let them dry. I used the same method as I did with the wheelbarrow to remove the rust.

Garden tools before cleaning and sharpening

Using a hoe in the garden is not my favorite chore but I have learned that having a sharp edge makes it so much easier. My dad is very skilled at putting a sharp edge on with a hand file, but when I need to do it myself I use our electric grinder and this grinding wheel.

Sharpening a hoe with a hand grinder

Just a couple of passes and it is sharp as a razor blade!

Sharp hoe

I didn’t see the need for rust treatment or paint for the tools, so I just finished by spraying a light coat of WD40. Any type of oil based spray would have worked. I have even heard of using motor oil. The goal is to coat the bare metal to keep it from moisture.

Oiling and sharpening garden tools

It took me just a couple hours one afternoon to finish the wheelbarrow and only about 30 minutes to prepare the tools. Hopefully in that short time I have considerably lengthened the life of my garden tools.

Thanks so much for the helpful tips, Sarah. The transformation of that wheelbarrow is amazing! And I love that it’s already dirty and in use. My fingers are crossed that the finish lasts for you.

How do you put your tools away for winter? Any tips for dealing with rust? Have you ever painted a wheelbarrow?

Linking up to Think and Make Thursday at the Heathered Nest.

My favourite tool: white dog vintage

It’s time for another installment in the “My Favourite Tool” series. If you’re just joining us, this series came about when I was thinking about what I should put on my tool wishlist. To help me make up my mind, I reached out to a few bloggers and asked them to share their favourite tools.

Today’s post comes from Brittany at white dog vintage. Brittany and I connected during last fall’s One Room Challenge. She made over her kitchen–so ambitious and such a great result. I really like her style–her makeovers are colourful, full of DIY and  super personal. And I was thrilled when she said she’d be happy to share her favourite tool with all of you. Over to you, Brittany.

Hello Home on 129 Acres readers, and thank you so much to Julia for inviting me to be part of this series! Just a few words about myself: I’m Brittany from white dog vintage. I live in Springfield, Missouri (plumb in the middle of the US) with my husband, Justin, and three chihuahuas. Justin and I love old homes and especially love working on them. In January of this year, we moved into a 1921 bungalow, and we’ve been spending our nights and weekends fixin’ her up ever since.

When it come to Number 1 All-Time Favorite tool, in truth, I have to go with a caulk gun. There’s very little in the world of home improvement as simple and satisfying as applying a bead of caulk. However, that’s all I really have to say about a caulk gun, and one sentence seems like a pretty lazy contribution to this series. So I decided to go with some a little louder. A little flashier. Something that requires electricity. A POWER TOOL. And in that vein, I chose the thing that powers some of my favorite tools to work with–an air compressor.

I love my air compressor (white dog vintage)

An air compressor is a support tool. On its own, it generates compressed air in a little tank, which sounds nice but isn’t too helpful until you connect it with the tool that’s doing the actual work. There are a variety of air-powered guns of different sizes and purposes. Over the course of different jobs, we’ve ended up with four.

Air compressor attachments (white dog vintage)

Staple gun – I use this for upholstering furniture, primarily with 3/8″ heavy duty staples, though occasionally I use up to 9/16″ staples if several layers of fabric need to be attached.

Pin, Brad, and Finish Nailers – These are all used for attaching trim and molding, but each is generally designed to handle a different length of weight of nail. Pin nailers shoot extremely skinny nails and are used for small, light-weight trim, brad nailers have a similar purpose but shoot slightly heavier nails (depending on the gun, they may also be able to shoot staples), and finish nailers shoot larger nails necessary for applying heavier duty trim like baseboards or crown molding.

I first started using an air compressor when I decided to try my hand at upholstery. A staple gun is a necessary upholstery tool, and when it comes to staple guns, pneumatic is the only way to go. I remember once, before I had done much upholstery, helping a friend recover her dining chairs with about a $7 manual staple gun I bought at some generic hardware store. I believe our strategy was for her to pull and hold the fabric while I put a knee on the seat bottom to hold it in place and, at the same time, used all the strength I could muster in two hands to squeeze the trigger of the staple gun. If only I’d have known how easy the whole thing is with a little air behind it. Here’s a little action shot from an ottoman I made recently.

Upholstering with white dog vintage

We’ve also been replacing all the trim in our new house, so I think you can imagine how handy the air compressor has been for attaching baseboards and molding. Justin recently started constructing capital style moldings for the tops of our doors and windows, and he reports he used all three nail guns to put them together. I got into the action a bit when it came to attaching the baseboards to the wall.

Installing trim with white dog vintage

The truth of the matter is that using a pneumatic gun or nailer is just plain fun. There’s a little bit of a thrill in the pop of the nail hitting the wood, and it’s a really easy and safe tool to use (the tip of basically any nailer must be compressed before the gun is capable of firing–eg, it’s impossible to shoot a nail into the air). I can be kind of absent minded, so I tend to stay away from saws and other potentially dangerous instruments, but thanks to my trusty air compressor, I don’t have to miss out on all the fun. 🙂

Thanks again for reading!

Thanks for sharing, Brittany. An air compressor (and its various attachments) moved up my wishlist as I was reading. Be sure to check out white dog vintage to see more of Brittany’s and Justin’s projects.

My favourite tool: Sarah in Illinois

To kick off the “My Favourite Tool” series, I’m pleased to welcome Sarah in Illinois back to the blog.

When I tried to think of my favorite tool, my first thought was my cordless drill/driver. But that is not necessarily my favorite, it is really just the one I use the most. So I thought of our wood shop and what tool I really enjoy, and I decided it would be the compound miter saw.

Compound mitre saw

A few years ago Steve and I decided we could use a compound miter to install some baseboard. So we went to one of those discount tool stores that buys by the pallet and is known for low prices but also low quality. We bought a very cheap saw, and it got us by for a while.

But Steve started dabbling in cabinet making, and we discovered that you truly get what you pay for. Steve was so frustrated with trying to make precise cuts for the corners on the cabinet and announced that we were buying a nice saw. In fact, I am surprised I didn’t find our old saw out in the driveway when I got home! Ha!

We did a little research and decided on this one:

Hitachi compound mitre saw

We are very happy with our decision. The quality of our cuts improved greatly. We have used it to cut baseboard, crown molding, door and window trim and laminate flooring. Steve has been so happy with it when making cabinets. I feel so comfortable using it for almost every cut I need.

Compound mitre saw

Homemade cabinets

We are still debating the design we want to use for the doors so that is why they are all open right now. I am so proud of his craftsmanship.

We have a long list of tools that we want to add to our line up (a Kreg Jig is the first one that comes to mind), but the compound miter saw has to be our best purchase so far.

I think I am supposed to say that I am in no way sponsored for this post, which I am not. But if Hitachi wants to contact us, Steve will volunteer to sing its praises! He loves that brand of tools! 😉

Thanks, Sarah. I’m feeling very justified in including a quality compound mitre saw on my wish list! If you want to keep up with what Sarah and Steve–and their saw–are up to, follow Sarah on Instagram. And if you missed Sarah’s last post, here’s her introduction.

Stay tuned later this month. More “My Favourite Tools” entries are coming up.

Tool wishlist

Last year, I finally bought myself an official carpenter’s square (also known as a speed square). Now to most people, I’m sure this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Once I had it in my toolbox, though, I felt so much more official. Marking right angles and 45 degree angles is a piece of cake. I can even do more official carpenter-y things if I am so inclined.

Swanson speed square

I’ve had an informal tool wishlist bumping around in my head for awhile. It was time to finally write it down (especially since September is my birthday month–ahem, family). I thought the blog would be a good place to share it–and get input from all of you.

In fact, I’ve also reached out to a few other bloggers and asked them to share their favourite tools. So over the next few weeks, you’re going to get to hear from some other people, see some inspiring projects and maybe even find some tools to add to your own wishlist.

Some of the items on my list are like the carpenter’s square–relatively minor and decently attainable. Other things are a little more–shall we say–involved (as in I’ll need to save up for a little while).

I’d really love to hear your suggestions and feedback. What are your favourite tools? Any can’t live without gadgets? What should I add to my list?

Simple tools

  • Heavy duty extension cord
  • Heavy duty, long handle clippers (for trimming trees and shrubs)
  • Dremil (is this useful?)
  • Small, basic electric weedeater (our big gas powered version is overkill for me, and it rarely works well)

Power tools

  • Router
  • Upgraded compound mitre saw (I have one thanks to my Dad, but it only does so many angles)
  • Soldering iron (since my hand-me-down iron from my Grandpa popped–literally–and died)
  • Paint sprayer
  • Sawzall (since our hand-me-down saw from my Dad recently also died)

Heavy duty tools (and tractor attachments)

  • Air compressor
  • Bush hog
  • Auger

Matt and I are fortunate that most times that we need a tool, we’re usually able to borrow it from one of our Dads (wood splitter, air compressor, nailer, hammer drill, tile saw, sturdy extension ladder).

Over the years, our Dads have also passed along a lot of their tools to us (skillsaw, table saw, socket set, drywall tools). Of course, we’ve also bought some of our own equipment too (sander, Kreg jig, quality drill, favourite hammer, chainsaw, tractor–and all of its attachment$). It would just be a bit handier to have some of our own tools on hand.

What’s on your tool wishlist? Any tools that you’ve bought, but wish you hadn’t? For those tractor owners out there, I’m really interested to hear what’s your favourite attachment?

And be sure to tune in for more inspiration from other bloggers coming up.