HOW TO TURN YOUR GARAGE INTO THE ULTIMATE DIY WORKSHOP

diy workshop

When I was a kid, every year around late November, I’d get excited for the Sears “Wish List” catalog to come out. When it finally arrived, I’d nab it, duck in my room and study each page carefully, like a monk poring over parchment, circling each treasure I really, really wanted (the BB gun and mini bike were picked every year… I finally got the BB gun).

bb gun

That magic feeling slowly dissolved over the years, (which is just as well, ’cause Sears stopped putting out the “Wish List”) and now that I’m an adult, I tend to maintain a more pragmatic view of what I can and can’t have. For example, despite my inner child’s loudest protests, I just can’t justify spending $600 on the adult-sized Big Wheel.

high rider

But, there are still some realistic things to dream about, and for a lot of us big ol’ gray-haired kids, that would include a fully-functioning workshop in the garage. If just thinking about what it would take to get there makes you tired– if you think it’ll take too much time, work and money– let’s just take a few minutes and break it down. What would it take to at least start a nicely-equipped, operational workshop where you could do all the projects you’ve been chomping at the bit for?

Clean Out the Garage

Honestly, how much longer were you planning on tripping over bikes, ladders and luggage?

  • Have a Yard Sale

yard sale

What exactly is in all those stacked bins you’re clinging onto, anyway, Nazi gold? More like Happy Meal toys and paperbacks you will never, ever pull out, again. Sell it– sell it all!– with extreme prejudice. Making money’s a great excuse to get rid of junk, AND you’ll be giving to the charity of your choice, Maximus Garagus.

  • Thrift Stores

thrift store

Whatever survives the sale-a-thon, take to Goodwill. There may be certain members of your family (who shall remain unnamed) that say, “They’re worth something! Put them on eBay, put them on Craigslist!” Be strong, lad, and stick to your guns. Tell them you’re going to the market to fetch some milk and dump the stuff on the way. Like they’re going to miss it?

  • Alternative Storage

overhead storage

Depending on how much there’s left that you just can’t part with, you might want to consider that it’s time to migrate your storage to other climes. There’s a number of  sites and videos that show how to build your own DIY overhead garage storage, as well as ladder racks, bike racks and the like. So, if there’s space around the ceiling and walls to redistribute, there are very doable ways to make that happen. Other solutions include getting (or building) a backyard shed, finding reasonable offsite self-storage, or parking the stuff in your retired parents’ garage  should that prime real estate be available.

Your primary goal for a clear work space is safety. Clear paths prevent tripping and make it easier to zero in on stuff you’re looking for if it’s clearly “its place.”

The Workbench

workbench work station

This is where you’ll be spending most of your time in the workshop. Whether you build your workbench or buy it, you’ll want it to be solid and able to withstand all the pounding, wrestling, tightening, loosening, pressing, yanking and sheer weight you can throw at it throughout your projects. It also needs to be comfortable, functional and in a good spot in relation to your tools, supplies, power sources and whatever else you’re using your garage for. Feng shui, Tim Taylor-style. If it’s a question of space– namely, you don’t have it– you might also consider building a fold-down workbench.

Tool Storage

tool cabinet with tools

The principal investment for your workshop will be your tools. Now, OK, they’re tough, but they’re not impervious to the elements, misplacement or theft. You need to protect this investment with one or more high-quality tool cabinets that are nicely organized and, preferably, lockable. You also want them to have smooth rolling ball-bearing drawers and, also preferably, drawer mats that keep the tools n’ pieces from sliding around, nestled in a soft cushion.

tool cabinet combo

The cool thing with most of these tool cabinets is they usually come in modular pieces, so if you need more storage, a little or a lot, or a different type– bam!– you got it. The main components also usually come on heavy-duty wheels, so if you’ve got a tough project that would be difficult to migrate to the tool chest, the chest can go to it.

Integrate and Modify

tool cabinet workbench mod 1

If making room for both a workbench AND a tool storage area is a problem, then why can’t they be one and the same? Go to GarageJournal.com‘s forum or Google “harbor freight tool cabinet mod” and you’ll see dozens of examples where two or more tool cabinets + some wood + some creative framing… can turn two good ideas into one stroke of genius.

tool cabinet workbench mod 3

As with the modularity of different tool cabinets assembled together to form one big storage unit, here you can see how the formation of a workbench– however you like it– can come together to take an area, a corner, or a whole wall– with very little sacrifice in overall workshop space!

tool cabinet workbench mod 4

Obviously this is something you’ll want to work up to. To formulate an aspiration like this for down the road is a good thing. You’ll be prepared with space and a plan. And no one will be surprised when you bring home another 44″ 13-Drawer Glossy Red Roller Cabinet.

Power

powerstrip

Take a good look at the picture three photos up. See all of those electric outlets? Yeah, you’re saying, that’s pretty overkillowatt… (just giving you a moment to absorb that one) but the last thing you want, now that you’ve got the area looking so clean, is a bunch of schleppy extension cords strung across your garage floor. Make sure that wherever you set up your work area(s),  you’ve got enough power outlets to charge your batteries and juice your corded tools– with plugs to spare for entertainment, phone, heaters, lighting, etc. Simply put, there’s no such thing as having too many plugs– and it’s much safer than not having enough. If need be, get an electrician to help plan and install these outlets. You’ll be so glad you did down the road.

Lighting

flourescent lighting

When your house was built, garage lighting was a low priority, so if you’re turning the room into your personal workshop, you’ll need to upgrade the lights. It’d be great to get florescent fixtures up there (maybe you’ll have to employ that electrician after all), or at least track lighting. Plus, get a couple of table work lights (with dimmers) to operate on the delicate, miniscule stuff. Also, for projects away from the workbench, such as painting or plumbing, pick up a couple halogen shop lights, preferably with stands. They’re great substitutes for daylight.

Climatize

shop fan

As lighting in the garage was a low priority for your home’s builder, so was insulation, making the winters uncomfortably cold and summers stifingly hot. No one likes doing DIY in their winter coat or in a sauna, right? Have space heaters and/or floor AC units available. And just to keep the air circulating year ’round, invest in a pedestal shop fan. These things blow so well, you’ll save on power in the warmer months not using the AC.

Workshop Flooring

anti fatigue floor pads

Concrete floors are fine to work on, but over time they’ll accumulate oil and solvent, paint splatters, dust and grime, causing deterioration and track-able gunk. Most of the well-equipped workshops employ some kind of durable flooring, like glue-on, industrial-strength floor tile, peel n’ stick garage tile or epoxy paint-on coating. None of these solutions is particularly cheap, so in the meantime, may I suggest covering your work area with lightweight, easy-to-clean and very reasonable anti-fatigue foam matting or roll mats. They’ll take the brunt of your work area’s messes and save your knees, to boot.

Tools

diy workshop

Yeah, those. Be you an armchair DIY-er or professional contractor, your choice of tools is very personal and customized. That said, there are a handful of tools every workshop would be left wanting without:

It goes without saying that you’ll find gaping holes in this list when it comes to your needs and passions. I’m sure whatever it is, Harbor Freight has the tools for you.

Entertainment, Creature Comforts and the Rest

mini fridge

If you’re going to make your ultimate workshop ULTIMATE, you’ve got to add those little extras that totally make it yours. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Radio/stereo/ipod dock (’cause you’ve gotta have tunes!)
  • Mini-fridge
  • Flat-screen TV (and we’ve got just the mount!)
  • Laptop (for quick lookups, ordering, communicating and YouTube “how-to” vids)
  • Portable weight set (for reps after you’ve been stationary too long)
  • Decor (license plates, car calendars, old muscle car pistons)
  • A dog

 

HOW TO TURN YOUR OLD SPEAKER INTO A LIQUOR CABINET

pioneer speakers

Remember when your speakers were the nicest pieces of furniture you owned (even beating out the cable spool coffee table and matching orange crate record holders)? Even now, I”ll go so far as to say they’d still be the most gorgeous pieces in my house if I still had my Marantz quadrophonic ruling the roost.

marantz white

Ah, but the world has moved on to iPod docks and Bose Wave systems, and other soulless devices of aural sterility. Perhaps, though, your Pioneers (or JBLs or Advents) are still in the garage, under boxes of Christmas lights or the old carburetor you swore you were going to rebuild. Maybe the cones are shot, but you just haven’t been able to bring yourself to part with that beloved part of your history. Well, now you don’t have to! Not only can you keep your lattice beauties, but you can emancipate them from storage and return them to their rightful place– the entertainment room!

speaker liquor cabinet completeTurn that deceased speaker into a liquor cabinet… or any kind of cabinet you like, as explained by Hippiesarah on Instructables.com. Here we proceed with the idea of keeping the cabinet looking like a real speaker. Of course, you can fashion it however you want.

Tools Needed:

  1. Screwdriver
  2. Wire Cutter
  3. Cordless Drill
  4. Miter or Circular Saw
  5. Staple Gun
  6. Hot Glue Gun

Materials Needed:

  1. Unused speaker(s)
  2. Sandpaper
  3. Wood (for shelves; amount depends on the size of speaker)
  4. Paint
  5. Hinges
  6. Corner Brackets
  7. Light
  8. Pencil
  9. Paint marker
  10. Nitrile Gloves

How-To:

Step #1 – Gut the Sucker!

gutted speaker

Wear some nitrile gloves– or other type of gloves that keep you dexterous– when you’re doing this. The cabinet’s insulation might be fiberglass, which can irritate the skin.

Remove the speaker cover. Most just pop off with velcro or pop-ins, but be careful not to break the cover frame from too much effort, especially if it’s an older cabinet. There’s also the chance it’s screwed in. Carefully remove the speaker, insulation, wiring and components.

Step #2 – Trace Your Outline

tracing the speaker

Once the speaker is completely gutted, put the cover back on. Then with a pencil,  mark exactly where it lays on the face of the speaker. It’s important you don’t cut the opening bigger than the speaker cover, so as to maintain the illusion that it’s still just a speaker. Remove the speaker cover again and use a paint marker to clearly outline where you want to cut.

Step #3 – Time to Cut

cutting speaker

Cut as straight as possible along your drawn lines. Once you’re finished, measure the width and depth of the speaker cabinet so you can cut your shelves. For this, you could salvage wood from old furniture or resort to buying a piece.

Step #4 – Sand and Paint

sand and paint

Sand where needed and paint the interior and your shelves any color you like. If there is a hole on the back of the cabinet, you could simply staple black fabric over the opening– or you could keep it to string in a light cord if you want to add electric illumination.

Step #5 – Brackets

brackets

When the paint has dried, it’s time to add the hardware. At this point, you should have an idea where you want your shelves to go. If you want to make your liquor cabinet like this, give the top shelf a good height to store your shot glasses, then give the next shelf room enough for rocks or highball glasses. Screw the corner brackets on the bottom of your shelves, then to the speaker walls.

Step #6 – Hinges

hingesYou might find that when you start to add the hinges, you run into a small issue. If you want the cabinet to look like an ordinary stereo speaker, then exposed hinges betray you (et tu, hinge-ay?)  In the top photo, see how the hinge lines up perfectly with a small space in the speaker cover? The fix: get a strip of scrap wood and sand it down till it fits tightly into the space. Then hot glue it into the cover and attached hinges as normal. With a quick dash of black paint marker, you can’t even tell anything was done.

Step 7: Light ‘Em Up

For convenience, and to add that touch of class, you may want to have a light in your liquor cabinet. This could be done by simply sticking in an LED click light with adhesive back, bringing electric lights through the cabinet’s back hole and stringing them around top, or getting one of those magnetic drawer lights that come on when you open the door.

Step 8: Bar’s Open!speaker liquor cabinet completeTime to stock your shelves and lie in wait for your first unsuspecting guests!

Or,  let’s say you’ve got towers. Maybe you’d like to try something like this, not quite as clandestine.
tower speaker cabinet

Or, maybe you don’t drink. In that case, perhaps you’d be interested in repurposing your speakers into a media library cabinet:

speaker media cabinet

Whatever your inclination, you can refer to these basic steps and your once-retired stereo speakers can give you hours more of pleasure! And remember, Harbor Freight‘s got the tools that can make it happen! “Sound” advice, no?

Miter Saw Tips For Beginners

miter saw glam shot

You recently started woodworking and totally love it. Now you’re ready to take your mad DIY skillz to the next level? Well, the miter saw is an awesome tool to have in your workshop arsenal. This is the go-to tool cuts for crown molding, picture frames, door frames, window casings, decks, furniture, flooring  — and that’s just a fraction of what it can do. When asked what their favorite tool in the shop is, a lot of folks say, “My miter saw! I love it!”

miter saw angle

The miter saw is designed to cut different kinds of angles.  If a board is flat on saw’s base, the cut across the wide part is called a miter. Hold the board vertical and set it against the saw’s fence,  you’re cutting a bevel. Most saws cut from 90 to 45-degrees, but some can cut even steeper angles, up to 55 degrees.

miter saw 10 non slide

Before you go to the store, know this: miter saws are NOT created equal. There are three types of miter saws on the market: miter saw, compound miter saw, and sliding compound miter saw. A compound miter can cut a bevel and a miter at the same time. It’s great for cutting things like crown molding. A sliding compound miter cuts multi-angles like a compound miter, but also has a sliding action that lets you cut even wider boards.

miter saw cutting angle

Miter saws also come in two sizes, 10″ and 12″, based on the diameter of the blade. The size you get depends on the work you anticipate doing, but know that the 12″ blade is able to cut thicker and wider than the 10″. For example, a 10″ miter saw will cut a 2×6 at 90 degrees and a 2×4 at 45-degrees, while the 12″ can cut a 2×8 at 90 degrees and a 2×6 at 45 degrees. A laser marker feature is also nice! So, before you lay down your money, think carefully about all the things you might use it for. It also stands to reason that a 12″ sliding compound miter saw will cost more than a 10″ compound.

Miter saws can take your DIY skills to the next level, but it’s important to make sure you follow some basic safety tips before starting your cuts.

miter saw CU laser

Before You Cut! Safety Tips:

  • Before the switch is thrown; safety glasses, ear buds, gloves, dust mask!
  • Remove all distractions (kids, pets).
  • Remove scraps and other foreign objects from the machine before operating; also remove loose chips along the way, after the blade stops.
  • Keep a firm grip on the saw handle and on the work piece; make sure it is firmly up against the table and fence before cutting.
  • Anticipate flying pieces– getting startled with a spinning blade in front of you could be bad.
  • Never work with a dull blade.
  • Don’t operate a saw without a blade guard.
  • Never leave the machine until the blade comes to a full stop.
  • When the board is cut all the way, release the trigger and allow the blade to come to a complete stop, then raise the blade. If the blade is still spinning when you lift, there is more apt to be flying pieces.
  • Never start the saw when the blade is touching the wood; allow it to be at full speed before cutting.
  • Never put your body in the path of the blade (sure, you say “duh” now); never let your arms cross while cutting.
  • If the piece you’re working with is short, use clamps; don’t get your hands too close to the blade, stay at least 6″ away.
  • Make sure your work piece is supported before cutting. More than half the length should be resting on the saw. You need to focus on your cut, not balancing the wood.
  • Go slow when cutting knots; they can break up and shoot pieces.
  • Make sure you’re not cutting through metal (nails and staples).

And if that weren’t enough, here are some more tips in FineWoodworking.com’s Miter Saw Safety Manual.

miter saw handyman

Tips On Operating a Miter Saw

  • When working with small pieces of wood, cut with a chopping motion; when cutting a large piece, slide blade out, cut down and push back in.
  • When marking your board, draw the line all the way across the stock, then drop the blade to the wood to check your alignment. Adjust the piece as needed before cutting.
  • Go slow with bevel cuts, especially if you’re chopping with the blade as opposed to sliding.
  • When first cutting your miter cuts, purposely cut slightly long and just a little at a time so you can readjust as you go. If you try to get right on the line, chances are good you’ll cut short.
  • Always cut the factory end from a board before measuring for your final cut. This ensures better fitting parts.
  • Let the saw do the work; don’t force the blade through the wood.
  • More teeth means better quality cuts: Use a blade with more than 50 teeth for construction cuts, and with more than 90 teeth for fine cuts. For treated lumber, use a lower tooth count, even for fine cuts; the open spaces between the teeth clear the debris and puts less strain on the saw’s motor.
  • If possible, cut one angle end of a part first, then mark the cut on the opposite end after you test fit the first cut.
  • When making repetitive cuts, set up a stop block. For long boards, set the stop up next to the saw. For short cuts,draw a line on the saw. Use masking tape and a pencil to make the line. Then remove the tape when done. This is much more accurate and efficient than individually measuring each part.
  • To speed up the cuts and increase their accuracy, cut a piece of 1/4″ plywood the height of the fence and the length of the saw. Attach it to the fence on both sides of the blade with double-face carpet tape. Then make a cut through the plywood. This will show you exactly where the saw blade will cut. Then move your marked board up to the edge of the cut for a perfect result.

As this is a serious purchase for a serious tool, I encourage you to surf operational videos, blogs and forums to get a well-rounded understanding of miter saws. When you’re ready to pull the trigger and shop for yours, be sure to make your first stop Harbor Freight Tools. They have all types and sizes of saws, safety gear, blades, stands and more!

How To Soundproof Your Garage or Workshop

Insulated Garage Wall

It doesn’t matter if you’re a recreational DIYer or a serious garage guru, you make noise. It can’t be helped, especially with power tools. And if you’ve got close neighbors, you probably always think about that noise when you’re switching on a machine. Soundproofing your garage/workshop is the key to maximizing your freedom.  Imagine being able to cut lumber anytime–late night or early morning– without fear of wrath or reciprocity.

orange block soundproofing

There are, of course, a number of methods to soundproof. For the “whatever” DIY guy, it might be hanging moving blankets on the walls and ceiling. There’s another method called “resilient channel” which is what a lot of the nicer recording studios use, and which is great… if you’re building a nice recording studio. An approach I like a lot more is the “cleat” method, suggested by “Mobile Rik” on Instructables.com. With a lot of easy-to-follow steps and lots of pics, Rik shows us how hanging drywall panels on a pair (or more) of wooden “cleats” can contain a great deal of sound. Compared to the “resilient method, the “cleat method is:

  1. Much cheaper
  2. Much sturdier (if you decide you want shelves or other heavy things hanging from those walls)
  3. Is removable for tweaking if necessary
  4. Uses ordinary 2 x 4 lumber and not some fancy-shmantzy materials that need to be special-ordered

insulated garage wall vertical

But, be warned, the “cleat” style is based on different– even contrary– principles to conventional soundproofing methods. But this is the cornerstone of every blue-blooded DIYer: Build A Better Mousetrap! Be sure you read Rik’s “Be Willing To Break The Rules” section to understand the high-fidelity physics behind his approach and why he’s going this route.

Take a look at Mobile Rik’s “How-To” and see if this is something you could do in your garage!

cleat drywall

But first, here’s a quick (short) list of what you’re gonna need:

Tools Needed:

table saw

*If you don’t have a table saw or band saw (although this is as good an excuse as any to get one), you could skip this tool by going to the lumber store and have them rip your boards per your specifications.

Materials:

Polyurethane Tube Insulation

  • 2-1/2″ Nails
  • Drywall Screws
  • Closed-Cell Foam Tape
  • Polyethylene Pipe Insulation Tube
  • Drywall 1/2″ (you may even consider 5/8″; besides killing even more sound, it’ll add fire protection and be more gouge-proof)
  • Acoustical Caulk

Other Tips To Deaden Sound In The Garage:

rubber washers

  • Buy a pack of rubber washers and apply them to machine cabinet fasteners as long as it’s not a critical connection for precision alignment
  • Retrofit all of your tool stands to include rubber-wheeled casters, and look at using rubber grommets on the plate holes where you bolt them to the stand legs
  • Buy those square rubber vibration isolation blocks and use them to separate the tool from the mobile base or tool cart
  • Spray sound-dampening material on the insides of metal machine cabinets
  • Add sound insulation lining to machine cabinets, router table chambers
  • Use baffle-like sound shields made of sound-absorptive materials near motors and other noise sources without restricting heat dissipation for the motor. 
  • Add additional sound absorbing material (perhaps backed by sound reflecting material) directly behind noisy machines that are against the wall
  • Safety guards around blades and bits do help with both dust collection and noise isolation, so it’s not a bad idea to use them when you can, especially over the table saw blade.  Maybe make your own, and incorporate some sound-deadening strategies in addition to dust collection efficiency strategies.

Remember that a lot of little things will add up to a much quieter shop.  You’ll feel much more free knowing that you won’t get complaints about your late night or early morning dust-making activities. And remember Harbor Freight Tools when you need a quality tool at a very low price!

Make a Hidden Wall Compartment In Your House

hidden compartment complete open

As kids, we always had a thing about secret compartments and hidden spots. Somewhere to hide money (from light-fingered siblings) or special treasures that held significant, personal, intrinsic value. Somehow, hiding them made them even that much more special. So, why would that change when we become adults?

It came as no surprise, when doing a search on DIY hidden compartments, that I would get a plethora of results. Hidden doors, drawers, a “safe” in a tree, a fake head of iceberg lettuce… I don’t think there’s an end to the list of hiding places and secret compartments folks have in their homes or on their properties.

secret floor

So, I decided to focus on ideas that were practical (even though climbing into a bunker through the hood of a car was cool in “Red”), convenient (in the house), but not too simple (so the old hollowed-out book trick was out). Eventually, I found this wall unit on Instructables.com, which is the perfect combination of doable and clever, and the lock is kept in plain sight! If you’ve been thinking about creating a hidden compartment, check this out and see what you think. Then maybe look around your place and see where you could put it!

hidden compartment complete closed

FYI, here are the things you’re going to need to make it happen:

Tools

Besides the common woodworking tools, here are a few things you’ll need…

Materials

  • Tot Lok with extra key
  • 2 @ 3-1/2″ square rosette block moulding
  • Cabinet hinges
  • 1″x8″ shiplap board
  • 1″x8″ tongue and groove boards —  to cover the wall(s) that have wainscoting
  • 1″x2″ boards — spacers between the pairs of the 1″x8″s. You should have the same number of these as the 1″x8″
  • Nails, construction adhesive, caulk, paint, other wood needed for baseboards and for plate rail at the top of the wainscoting, etc.

If you’re short on any of the tools, swing by Harbor Freight Tools! You’ll find them at great, low prices!

How To Build a Teardrop Trailer

teardrop trailer complete

In the March/April 1939 issue of Popular Homecraft an article ran– along with detailed plans– for a new, cool oddity called the “Honeymoon House Trailer.”

It was built in the late 30’s by Louis Rogers of Pasadena, California, a guy who literally saved his dimes for the little traveler so as to take his new bride on their wedding trip. The 8’x4’ floor plan had tongue-and-groove flooring on a pine chassis, a Chevy front axle with 28” wheels and 1926 rear fenders.  The mini trailer slept two and had a raise-up deck lid for a rear kitchenette, complete with ice box and stove. A curtain-enclosure outside the starboard entry served as the “dressing room.” The whole project set him back about $60 ($1,026 today). This may or may not have been the very first teardrop trailer, but it was certainly in the ballpark.

DIYers went crazy. They followed Rogers’ plans and soon added touches of their own. After World War II, subsequent models morphed even more, sporting Jeep wheels and exterior skins made from bomber wings. After the 50’s, though, their popularity waned as big RVs appeared. Then, once again, the teardrops returned with a vengeance. Today you can find a number of websites for plans (some free!), photo galleries, forums and clubs. Teardroppers believe that creating, renovating and modifying unique, personalized models are what give the little campers their timelessness—and the most rewarding way to own a teardrop!

vw teardrop

The coolest part of all this is, you don’t have to be a master builder to make your own drop-dead gorgeous teardrop trailer. If you’ve got just a basic knowledge of woodworking and some tools, you’re already ahead of the game.

First thing, how to go about it? On a recent Google hunt, I found this most EXCELLENT “HOW-TO” tutorial on building a teardrop trailer on Instructables.com with extremely detailed steps, TONS of pics (man, you gotta have pics!) and a comfortable daily planner. Building it on a Haul-Master 1720 lb-Capacity. 4’x8′ Super Duty Trailer

HF super duty trailer…the author created this beautiful camping capsule, complete with aluminum siding, wiring and lights, vent fan, sink-&-stove kitchen area, windows on the sides and front, and a roomy bed with a second kid-sized bunk, all for under two grand!

teardrop beds

Necessary Tools:

teardrop camping

While it’s not exactly a 2-weekend project, the finished product will leave you buzzed with such sublime satisfaction, and give you years of fun and memories that you just can’t buy.

Of course, most of the tools necessary to make this dream a reality can be found at Harbor Freight Tools. Make sure you check the ads for specials and coupons for even greater savings!

How To Make Your Very Own MAN TABLE

man table

So, up ’til now you’ve proven your manhood through food dares, awkward school fights, asking-a-girl-out dares, changing your own oil, jumping in a frigid lake with your bros, peeing in a soda bottle whilst driving through the night, crying at the end of “First Blood”… but lately, you’ve been getting a growing hankering to MAKE something– something COOL. If this is uncharted territory for your ever-emerging MAN within, here’s a DIY project worthy of bragging rights and endless sprees of fist and chest-bumping: The Man Table.

The Man Table, by definition, should be rugged, solid, rough-hewn and indispensably usable. Something that takes a beating and just smiles back at ya. This isn’t a beauty contest, bucko. We’re talking about a baptismal exercise of Man and Tool. I actually stumbled on this “how-to” quite by accident on Instructables.com by a guy named “Pointy” in the Netherlands, and I’ve been thinking about little else for future garage activity. Just be warned, this project is “metric-centric,” so get used to using the other side of your tape measure.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

Tools and Materials

Power Tools
Angle Grinder with Cutting Discs and Abrasive Discs

angle grinder
Welder (in this case a stick welder)

stick welder
Jig saw

jigsaw
Power drill with 2, 5, 8 and 10mm drill bits (our numbered bits will work!)

power drill
Hammer

hammer
Clamps

clamp
Angle Finder

angle gauge
Marking tools (pen or painters tape)

Center Punch

center punch

 

Adjustable Wrench

adjustable wrench

Materials:
– Steel angle 30x30x3mm, total 4,6 meters
Measurements 700mm (2x), 1600mm (2x).
– Steel angle 40x40x4mm, total 4,2 meters
Measurements 700mm (6x)
– Steel plate 15x15x4mm, 6 pieces
– MDF board 160x70cm
– Reclaimed wood for the inlay (Meranti is used here). Bear in mind that the thickness of the MDF + inlay = 27mm MAX when using 3mm steel. Otherwise, the wood will be too high above the tabletop.
– 18xM8 Nuts and bolts
– Box of nails
– Black spray paint

About the Steel…
If you can get the steel angles at a metal shop that will cut them for you (45 degree angles), go for it. Your world will suddenly get so much easier. Use regular steel, not stainless, for two reasons: One, you’re using it inside and it will be painted. Two, stainless is harder to weld (and for paint to stick on it. and regular is cheaper.. so, four reasons).

Table Top Frame

table top frame

Tools needed
Angle grinder with both discs
Welder
Angle gauge

First step,  lay out the four pieces of 30×30 into a rectangle. If the steel isn’t cut in angles yet, do that now, using the grinder with the cutting disc. Take your time measuring out the angles, using the angle gauge, always measuring twice before you cut. If you cut them at the wrong angles, you might be forced to to shorten the whole thing to make up for the mistake. You can only fix so much with the welder. After cutting the angles, lay the pieces together. Do they fit? Are there any obvious gaps? If not, then sweet! A trick the tutor used with his stick welder was grind a small angled edge of the materials to be welded. By doing that he created a ‘path’ to drag his welding rod on.

Get out the welder and tack-weld it first. That way you can fix and prevent mistakes before the whole thing is welded solid. As said, this isn’t a beauty contest, so don’t worry about having photogenic welds. The primary goal is only that they’re tough and can take a pounding.

Switch the grinder to the grinding disc now and clean up the welds. Fill in the gaps with the welder and grind it flat again. Don’t sweat any grinding marks you might leave. This is all about badass Man personality, right?

(If, for some reason, you have to clean the stuff up between steps, be sure to mark the corners so you don’t forget what goes where later (see bottom photo above)

Legs

Legs

Tools needed
Angle grinder with both discs
Welder
Clamps

First you need to cut the corner braces. Stick a piece of painters tape diagonally from corner to corner, making a 45 degree angle.

An unwanted result of welding flat objects is the risk of them curling up when you’re just welding one side. To prevent this, tack the corner braces on and then flip it and weld the other side, too. That way you make sure the brace is flat and flush against the tabletop’s frame. Use the clamps to keep it from curling and keep them clamped until they cool. By tacking and flipping you can work a lot quicker. Just make sure to add the corner braces before welding the legs. Be sure to suspend the legs in mid-air before welding the braces on. This is why you see bolts in the above photo.

After welding the corners, then grind and clean them up.

Drilling the Bolt Holes

bolt holes

Tools needed
Power drill
Steel drill bits for 2,5,8 & 10mm
Center punch

Now to drill the bolt-holes. Three bolts per side are sufficient– and it looks good. The corners should be 15.5 cm. The first bolt goes in dead center in the corner profile and the rest space out + 5CM.

Center punch it first to prevent your drill from slipping. To save time, drill all the holes before moving on to the next bit size up. When you get finish with the 2mm holes, put the tabletop frame upside down and line up the legs flush with the top. Then insert drill bit in each hole and give it a little spin. This way you don’t have to centerpunch the legs and they all fit nicely to their corners. Then do 5mm, repeat, then 8mm, repeat. Finally, span your 10mm bit and give each hole a quick spin. This will remove any burrs left.

Putting Together the Frame

table frame

Tools needed
Adjustable Wrench

This is a pretty straightforward step. Legs + top + bolts: First bolts go in with the table upside down, then flip the frame and do the rest of the bolts. Sit on it to test the weight. As the pride floods you, feel free to let out a Tim Taylor grunt.

Painting the Frame

paint the frame

 

Tools needed
Black spray paint

Paint…

Putting On the Top

putting on the top

Tools needed:
Jig saw
Hammer

Either cut your MDF board to size yourself, or have it done at the local home improvement store. You won’t lose Man Points if you do the latter. There’ll be some small cuts you need to make to accommodate the bolts; just measure how much the bolts protrude, and maybe a 1/2 cm extra, and saw. It doesn’t need to be precise, the wood will be covering it.

Finally, the last step is to drop in your reclaimed wooden top. As I mentioned earlier, this DIY guy used reclaimed Meranti. You may have your own ideas. Just lay it down, mark off any protruding stuff and cut. Then nail it down to the MDF.

I’m a Man, Yes I Am

final man table

Now just let the Man within take over and do what you do with your magnificent creation. Maybe run your hands over the perfectly imperfect surface and watch the end scene of First Blood again.

 

How To Get Perfect Cuts From Your Circular Saw

 It sure would be nice to have a table saw setup in the garage. It would also be sweet to have a hot tub home theater in there, but life is full of disappointments.

hot tub home theater

Fortunately, you don’t need a table saw to get perfectly straight cuts out of sheet materials. All you need is a Circular Saw and a Guide Track, and you can get all the perfectly straight cuts you need.

And while we’re on the subject of “glass-is-half-full” rationalism, you’re going to find that using the circular saw and guide track over the table saw will be easier because you’ll be moving a bantamweight circular saw over plywood rather than a heavy sheet of plywood over the table saw.

There were a few slightly variant techniques to execute the perfectly straight cut– with various tools– but we were most impressed with Jay Bates’ method on Instructables.com, and we used that as our road map.

So, without further ado, the perfect cut:

Tools and Equipment Needed

7 1-4 10 amp circular saw

12-in quick release bar clamp

two sawhorses

safety goggles

Materials Needed

5-8-in brad nails

wood glue

  • One sheet of 1/2″ plywood. You don’t need the whole sheet, but you do need the full 8′ length.

SAFETY TIP: Your circular saw is one of the most dangerous power tools in your arsenal. When accidents happen, they usually happen fast and without warning– and more often than not, the damage is bad. The most frequent and dangerous blunder is binding the blade in a cut. This can happen when the saw blade is set too deep and more of the blade is exposed while cutting. The saw blade jumps up and kick back at you. It also happens when you’re cutting a long board or large sheet of plywood in half without the proper support. To prevent this, make sure the cut-off piece is free to drop or move away from the blade. This will eradicate any chance of binding and make your cuts safer.

The Project

1. Cutting the Fence Board

circular saw track (7).jpg

First, make sure the plywood you’ve got has at least one perfectly straight factory edge. You can tell by looking down the full 8-foot length of the board. If it looks straight, it should be straight enough to use. Mark the straight factory edge to keep track of it throughout the project. Nothing can drive you as crazy as forgetting which one it is. Lay the plywood down on the sawhorses to work. Cut a small piece off of the long direction, about a 3”-wide piece. Cut it as straight as you can, but it doesn’t have to be exact.

The main thing to keep track of here is the plywood’s factory edge. It’s the right edge in the above photo.

2. Cutting the Base

Picture of Cut The Base
circular saw track (9).jpg
circular saw track (10).jpg

Because the factory edge has been verified as straight, it’s the most important part of the track build– but it’s only half of the saw’s guide. We still need a base for it to ride on. So, use the factory edge as a guide and clamp it on both sides to the rest of the plywood to saw off another strip. This time, it should be around 9” wide.

With the first strip clamped down and ready to be used as a reference fence for the circular saw, you might notice there’s some flex in the middle of the panel. To prevent this, clamp a piece of scrap wood in the center of the plywood on the opposite side of the first strip. This should prevent the first strip from flexing.

Then, with the saw tracking against the factory edge of the first strip, cut the 9” wide base strip (photo immediately above).

 3. Putting It Together

 Picture of Assembly
circular saw track (12).jpg
circular saw track (13).jpg

Here’s where measurements might differ a little from saw to saw. You may have to adjust your dimensions as needed. With the circular saw blade resting against an edge of the plywood, measure the distance from the furthest edge of the circular saw base plate to the blade. Here it’s 3-3/4″, but, as mentioned, your measurement may be different (top photo above)

The first strip with the factory edge will be glued and nailed to the wider base strip, but the factory edge needs to be just a little further from one edge of the base strip than the distance from the blade of the circular saw to the furthest edge of the saw base plate. So, here it was set at close to 4” on both sides, and the base strip was marked (middle photo above).

After adding glue to the smaller strip, nail it to the base strip, ensuring it is on the reference lines from the previous step.

4.  The Zero Clearance Line

Picture of Make It Zero Clearance

The precision of the jig comes from this important step. Once the smaller strip is secure and the glue dried, make a cut referencing against the factory edge of the smaller strip. This establishes a “zero clearance line” for where the circular saw will cut every time you use the track.

 5. Perfect, Straight Cuts

Step 5: Enjoy Perfectly Straight Cuts

Picture of Enjoy Perfectly Straight Cuts
So, now we can see that the outside edge of the base strip is exactly where the circular saw will cut when it slides across this track. Simply line up the edge of the track with reference marks on your material, clamp it down, and cut a perfect line every time. Remember, the saw blade will remove a little bit of material as well, so best practice is to place the track on top of the material you are cutting to length and not the off-cut of your material.

Having this 8′ track is incredibly handy for cutting sheet material, but it can be unwieldly when you need to make smaller precision cuts. For this reason, you may want to make another 8′ track and cut it into 5′ and 3′ sections.

Even the best carpenter can’t do good work with a dull blade. And besides making lousy cuts, a dull blade is dangerous. Dull blades can heat up and warp or bind, and they tend to climb out of the cut. But how do you know if your blade is too dull? The best indicator is how the blade cuts. If you have to muscle your way through the cut, your blade is dull. A sharp blade will glide through even the toughest wood. Burn marks and rough cuts are other signs of a dull blade. When it’s time to get your replacement, we recommend a plywood blade with at least 140 teeth like this:

circulaw saw blade

You can find these and other quality woodworking tools at Harbor Freight Tools, at great, low prices!

 

RUNNING COMPRESSOR AIR LINES IN YOUR GARAGE

air line installment

Wouldn’t it be great to have access to compressed air throughout the garage or shop without having to haul and set up your compressor everywhere you need it? Well, it doesn’t take as much as you think to make it happen. Here is a simple, rudimentary way of setting up the workshop to do just that.

What Kind of Pipe?

If you’re considering PVC pipe, don’t. If the PVC broke under pressure, the plastic would burst and send a salvo of splintery shrapnel all over the place. For a home shop, we recommend copper– 1) you won’t run into the same problem; 2) it won’t corrode; and 3) it’s readily available at the local home improvements stores. For the fittings, you’re going to want to find a refrigeration solder designed for 200+psi working pressure, such as Stay-Brite #8, which installs easily with a standard Butane or Propane Torch, as well as the Stay-Clean flux to spread it out (don’t cross fluxes).

(If you don’t want to solder, use black steel pipe. Measure the pipe runs and buy exact lengths– the home improvement stores will cut and thread them for you. The nice thing about air compression lines is, unlike water or gas lines, they don’t need perfect joints, so it’s OK if they leak a little. For the purpose of this article, we’re going with the first choice– copper)

Tools Needed

Here are the necessary tools you’ll need to do this project:

Adjustable Wrench

adjustable wrench

 

Air Compressor

21 gal vertical air compressor

 

Air Hose

air hose

Tube Cutter

tube cutter half-inch

Butane Torch

butane torch You will also need a wire brush handy for cleaning the copper joints.

Materials

  • 1/2-inch copper pipe and fittings
  • Solder
  • Flux

We recommend you run your main line high, but exposed, up near the ceiling, with a drop anywhere you think you’ll want an air hose. At the bottom of the drop, install a TA ball valve at the top and bottom of the T, and a quick coupler on the 90 (facing, of course, away from the wall).

There are plenty of sites that go in greater detail regarding connections and PSI, etc. We would advise you to look for the most authoritative direction (if you find multiple sources that concur, even better!). The subject is diverse and there are lots of possibilities for configuration. Good luck with your installation!

HOW TO MAKE A HAMMER HEAD COAT RACK

Hammer Head Coat Rack

Instructables.com

As Father’s Day is upon us, we at Harbor Freight thought we’d share this DIY project idea that we stumbled across recently: a relatively low-cost, low-time-consuming enterprise, creating a snazzy coat rack out of hammer heads. It occurred to us that this would make the ideal gift for that someone who likes to spend copious amounts of time in their garage, shop, cabin, studio or ice fishing shanty. While the claw hammer seems to be the predominantly popular hardware, you can use a number of different types of heads and styles. What we’re offering here is a suggested “how-to” “carpenter-style” rack that we liked. If you’re comfortable enough with your tools, by all means, have at any deviation you’d like to take:

hammer head coat rack multi 1

LumberJocks.com

Materials:

hammer head coat rack 3

thechroniclesofhome.com

Cutting the Wood

  • Cut the red oak rack boards 9 in. wide x 3 ft. long
  • Using your 1/2″ roundover router bit, bevel the edges
  • Measure 3/8″ from the top of the board and draw a straight line across
  • Drill eight 1/8″ holes equal distant from each other across the board and, using the #8 wood screws, assemble the rack
hammer head coat rack cut heads

Instructables.com

Sizing Up the Hammer Heads

  • Get a feel for the right height, length and angle you want your claw hammer. Do you want it straight, or at a slight angle? Do you want 2″, 3″ or 4″ of handle? Here’s one at a long, heavy angle:
hammer head coat rack 5

LumberJocks.com

  • Mark and cut one hammer handle.
  • Hold the hammer head  to the board and make sure it’s the angle and height you want. When you know, cut the other four hammer handles exactly the same way.
hammer head coat rack mount heads

Instructables.com

Mounting the Hammer Heads

  • Pre-drill holes in the base of the handle stub with a 7/32″ drill bit
  • Pre-drill holes on the board with a 1/4″ bit
  • Mount the hammer heads on the board with the 1/4″ x 1-1/2″ tap con screws
hammer head coat rack mount angles

Instructables.com

Mounting the Rafter Squares

  • Mark and drill four 3/16″ holes in each square, two holes on either end
  • Mount the squares to the either end of the board (as shown)

miniwax polycrylic

Protective Finish

  • The Miniwax Water-Based Polycrylic is a good coating because it can go over bare wood as well as water, and oil-based, stains. It dries quickly, doesn’t have an odor and leaves a durable shell against scuffing, etc.
  • If you prefer, you could sand the hammer handles and boards and stain it with a richer color before adding the Miniwax.
hammer head coat rack 4

thechroniclesofhome.com

Happy Father’s Day!

Once the coating is dry, your coat rack is ready to mount– or wrap for Father’s Day! If you want to scan other methods and ideas, we’ve linked each of the above photos to their respective sources. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a hammer. Meanwhile, keep in mind that Harbor Freight Tools has whatever tools you’re missing at low prices, making this project even easier!