Sunday, August 26, 2007

Repurposed Keyboard Drawer

I was getting to the point where my desk space was so cluttered with cables, monitor stands and my laptop that I no longer had much room for anything else, like my Mac Mini which has been sitting patiently dormant on top of a filing cabinet for most of the year.

Inspiration struck when I saw a DIY project on Lifehacker a while back where someone used some black plastic pipe to create a cheap riser for their monitor. Being someone who appreciates the finer details, and not being able to find black (only white PVC), I turned what might have been a 10 minute hack into about two hours, but I love the results.

Helping the success of the project, I have an older computer desk of the same "wood grain" and color which now only stores our printer, the UPS, and a lot of old game CD Jewel cases. The keyboard pull out drawer was no longer in service at all, except to hold a couple odd bits of junk, so I pulled it to become a new monitor stand.
I picked up a 24" piece of PVC for $2.46 at Home Depot. Using my mitre saw for straight cuts, I measured out 4 3" sections and cut it up. A hand file and skill knife were needed to get the melted plastic burrs off. Then I painted the sections with two coats of gloss black, sanding between coats. The top coat was Krylon Crystal Clear. I finished the surface with some 000 steel wool which gave it a rubbed rather than high gloss look. As it turns out, matching the luster on the Microsoft Comfort Curve keyboard rather closely.

You can see in the picture above that the Mac Mini is now back in the realm of the living and my laptop is tucked back under the shelf with plenty of room for air to circulate around it. The only challenging bit now is getting media in and out! It does slide out easily and I left myself some room on the right to get SD cards in and out to transfer pics from my camera to my laptop.

After removing the slide rails from the keyboard tray, no further assembly required. Simple, elegant, and most importantly, cheap and quick.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Inexpensive Face Lift

We've made a couple of improvements to our house since moving in almost 8 years ago this week. In the shot below, you can see where we finally replaced the shingles in year 3 with something more substantial (and properly installed) as we had grown weary of finding shingles on the lawn every time the breeze got up a bit. You can also see the front door and shutters are black. This was paint applied shortly before we bought, judging from the small can of touch up I found squirrelled away in the basement under the steps.
[picture removed by author]
This weekend, we made a very inexpensive upgrade. The black paint was wearing thin and looking pretty weary itself. So, we painted the front door and shutters a new color, one that better suites the newer, slate colored shingles.

We also invited twenty some-odd flies to live with us during the time I had the door open to dry between and after coats.

The end result is amazing. We love it and it only took about 4 hours total effort and some bravery atop a rickety wooden step ladder. My mother-in-law and mum both love it too, which means I have truely succeeded. :-)

On a side note, if you look at the weeping cherry to the left o the window, you'll also note it is much fuller now than 5 years ago thanks to aggressive and careful pruning on my part. I've been careful to prune it to spread and then allowed it to waterfall down into different levels. Great tree for recreational pruning... invasive though, gotta keep cutting back the leaders.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tool Crib

When I took Wood Shop I and II in High School, we had a Tool Crib - the place all the tools were kept, sleeping like babies presumably. In my quest to keep from losing tools for months on end in the clutter of my home, which has happened before - I lost a couple of C-clamps for about two years before finding them behind the stud wall I clamped in place for installation, still holding on for dear life.

So, not wanting to waste something otherwise perfectly useless, I gave the spring from a donated baby crib a new life as a tool crib in the basement. You can see it below attached to the end of the storage shelves I built to help get our piles of stuff organized into one neatly stacked heap.

I used a few zip screws to anchor it and then just wedged in tools in groups according to function. Hammers, pliers, clamps, saws, putty knives, and miscellaneous tools are mounted here and there with the aid of a few extra nails and screws. Almost all of my tools have found a home here except for the major power tools. The heat gun came in a throw away box and has a hanger built into the top end, so it's hanging there at the top of the crib.

It's not very appealing visually, but it's dead easy to find my tools now and was cheaper and less space consuming than installing peg board and hooks to do the same job. And, it's tucked away in the storage area of the basement, out of sight and out of reach of the little ones.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Laying Out Floor Space

I'm so looking forward to getting the House reorganized a bit. I'm approaching completion with the plastering in the basement and it will soon be ready to prime and paint. I'm currently researching methods and colors for that, but in the mean time, while I'm taking it easy here and there (a guy's gotta rest sometime), I'm playing with furniture layouts.

This was made easier thanks to FloorPlanner. You can see a screen grab of one of the layouts I created below. They have lots of template items you can drag onto the drawing area. Fortunately for me, I had a semi scaled bitmap of our basement already and was able to import it as the background. The free account has some limitations but this was enough to get what I wanted.

I used their built in templates and ability to rotate, resize and reshape them to create representations of the various pieces of furniture I have. All I need to find are the fake trees to go in the corners to complete the layout once I get all my furniture down there.

The items in the closet behind the office chair are my server and game rig. I plan to relocate the dehumidifier there as well to act as an air conditioner of sorts. This will help keep things cool, dry and the closet will provide some sound deadening between me and the PSU fans.

One of the things I like about this layout is it divides the existing space into two rooms with the bookcases. I also made some dead corners more interesting by taking the bookcases in an arc, mimicking the arc my three piece desk will create, instead of a straight side to side partition as originally laid out. Now all I need to find is a cable planner tool. :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Good Stuff

So about that paint I've been going on about. The brand is Sikkens. It is NOT cheap, but it is easily the nicest oil based paint I've ever worked with. It covers in one coat with a brush or two with a roller. After a bit of experimentation, I think two coats with a roller is far quicker than one coat by brush.

In our case, I chose the Sikkens Rebold solid exterior stain. The only problem I've had is drying. It's been too humid for it to dry quickly but drying it is. Some of it where the brush put it on thick is taking a week plus owing to the humidity I would guess. We went with their 'cedar' tone, which is probably my only complaint. To my eye it's more taupe than cedar colored.

Here in Ohio, I went to a professional paint store (Creative Paints in Plain City, OH) and paid $43 a gallon. I'm happy enough with their service and the results thus far on the kids playhouse to go back for another gallon I'm likely going to need to complete the work on the deck.

On the creative DIY / Hacking front, I found a great use for an old pesticide disposable pump sprayer. It's the kind that has the attached holster on the side for the spray wand ( the sort you pull rather than squeeze to charge the pump). I cut the top off, washed it out and used it to caddy my brush and some Turpentine (white spirit). That way whenever I took a break or the paint got a bit too gunky on my brush I could give it a dip and a rattling inside the container and then slip it into the holster till needed again. This also kept the brush fresh enough that end of day cleanup was a snap with soap and water. And, since the container is recyclable plastic, when I'm done with reusing it, I can still take it in for recycling.

Next time I'll show you what I did with a discarded baby crib under-spring.