Cabinet Kick Plates

Building Kick Plates

Not every DIY project always has to be huge and game changing. I’m not building sheds or redoing a bathroom every week. Usually I’m doing small one day projects like fixing the things that the kids break or routine house maintenance. Lately I’ve been going around my house and finding small projects to do that tie up loose ends or just generally make day to day living better for us.

Desk Kick Plate
This is how it looked for years with no kick plate.

One thing that has bugged me for years is my desk. About 12 years ago I built my giant desk for my home office. It’s a few 4’x8′ MDF boards glued together and covered with formica and those sit on two small cabinets. I it with the giant desktop surface because back in the early 2000s, I had a monster of a CRT monitor. It was like 25″ or something and it weighed about 70 pounds. People today don’t know how lucky they have it with flat screens. So with this big monitor I needed a big desk.

Now the cabinets are open with no drawers or doors and I put a storage box in each. It looks cool and it was quick and easy to make. I’d just finished the basement and was anxious to start using some of this space for my home office. Quick and easy was the goal with this desk and it worked out. But I never got around to making the kick plates for the cabinets so underneath them was always open. It bothered me because I didn’t paint that spot and I thought it always looked unfinished. Well for 12 years it’s been bugging me so I finally did something about it.

This project only took about an hour or so to finish but gives me great satisfaction because I finally got to check it off my list. I measured and cut and painted and was done. It’s totally something that no one else would notice except me but I’m glad I did it anyway.

Now one thing that was special about this project is that I didn’t secure the kick plates to the cabinet. You see for all of those years I’ve grown used to storing things underneath. So I wanted removable kicks plates. this is done easily because the cabinets rest on carpet. I created an insert that matched the dimensions of the space under the cabinet and with the help of the springy carpet, they lock into place. Well not really lock but they do fit snuggly in there. and even when I pull the storage box out, the kicks plates stay in place.

Desk Kick Plates
Finally done. Should have done this a long time ago.

So you see that not every project has to involve 2x4s or a backhoe or take a lot of time. Sometimes small projects make a big difference.

Soma Cube

Soma Cube

When I’m not working on a DIY project or I somehow get a few hours of free time, I like to build stuff. Working on an interesting project can often be a puzzle in itself. But this woodworking project is literally a puzzle. It’s called a Soma Cube. it’s a puzzle where the idea is to find a way to fit the 7 pieces together to make a cube. The pieces are made up of 27 smaller cubes that are fitted together in different shapes. This is another great puzzle that I read about in the book, Crafting Wood Logic Puzzles: 18 Three-dimensional Games for the Hands and Mind by Charlie Self and Tom Lensch.

Soma Cube
The Soma Cube

I also did some additional digging around to find out more about Soma Cubes. The book mostly discusses the woodworking part of the project and that’s great but I wanted to know more. So I found out that they were named after the Soma Drug in the book Brave New World. In the book Soma is a hallucinogenic drug that’s was used to give people a mini holiday. So if you’re into puzzles, I guess you could say that trying to solve the Soma Cube is sort of like a mini holiday.

Soma Cube Pieces
27 small cubes glued into 7 different shapes fit together to form the Soma Cube

The Soma Cube has over 270 different combinations that form the 3x3x3 cube and solve the puzzle. It’s a fun way to spend some time. My cube sits on my bar and guests like to tinker with it over a cocktail or two.

There’s is also a similar cube puzzle that consists of 6 pieces instead of 7. It’s called the 30 Minute Puzzle and it has only 1 solution. They say a person who’s really good at puzzles will take about 30 minutes to solve it and that’s how it got its name. Since it took me about 30 minutes to solve the Soma Cube, i’m not in a rush to build that other puzzle yet.

To build the cube, I took a 2×2 piece of maple and cut it into 27 identical cubes, sanded them and then glued them up into the shapes found in the book. It took several days to glue all the pieces together because I didn’t have enough clamps. I was thinking about tacking them together used a brad but opted against it. They seem to hold together really well with just the glue. Then I finished it off with some spray on poly.

Soma Cube WoodworkingSo if you’re into puzzles or fun projects or need a mini vacation, the Soma Cube might be what you’re looking for.

Shelf for WiFi Router

WiFi Router Under Craft Table

Shelf for WiFi Router

Here’s a tiny little project that I did the other day. It’s sort of related to the big craft table/room overhaul project that I have going on but just barely. Not every one of my projects are fantastic game changers that deserve to go on Pinterest. But this small job solved a problem and that’s good enough for me.

You see I wanted more room on the craft table for things like mason jars and storage boxes and things that go on a craft table. And my network router just didn’t belong there. It’s not a big deal really but if I ever finish the craft table project, I want it to be perfect. I see all of these craft rooms and organized craft tables on Pinterest and I hope that ours will be up there someday too. So the router had to go. Unfortunately, this is the best spot in the house for the router. Not only for spreading the WiFi to all parts of the house but because of the incoming wiring. And I also ran two 50 foot ethernet cables from this spot to connect the router to the Xbox & the Mac Mini. The cables run neatly through the walls and into the basement/family room. For some reason the WiFi stopped working on the Xbox so I go with an ethernet connection now. Also the Mac Mini is the house entertainment server for movies and music. The iPads & the Apple TVs are able to smoothly stream that content when the server is connected with ethernet.

So to hide the networking gear without having to rewire anything, I moved it below the table and out of sight. I bought these plastic shelf brackets from IKEA for $0.50 each and got a leftover piece of MDF out of my garage and a few screws later, I had a nice out of the way spot for my router.

Not every project has to be Pinterest worthy or something that should be on the cover of DIY Magazine. Sometimes, you just have to get stuff done.

DIY Children’s Desk

Here’s the basic MDF desk that I made for my son.

DIY Children’s Desk

Winter is coming. No, I’m not doing a post about The Game of Thrones (although I should, that’s a great book series and an even better TV show) I’m talking about the dwindling space in my garage. Pretty soon, I’m going to have about 15 musa basjoo overwintering in my garage. Every winter I dig them up and put them away and that leaves very little room in my garage.

So this weekend, I took a quick inventory and noticed that I had a decent amount of MDF scrap pieces from old projects. And that meant that it was time to make good on that promise to my son to build him a desk for his room. Build something useful and clear up some space in the garage. Win/Win.

My son needs his own desk because him and his sister drive my wife and I crazy when they do their homework at the same table. “Stop touching me”, “breath with your mouth closed”, “you’re on my side”, “he’s making too much noise”, “she hit me”. You know, all the usual stuff that brothers & sisters say to each other.

I truly hate homework. It was no fun doing homework when I was a kid but it’s a form of pure torture to get your own kids to do a good job on their homework. Then to top it off, if you add in the sibling fighting and it’s enough to drive you insane. Insane enough to build a desk on your day off from work.

DIY Children's Desk
And here’s the desk in his room. Tight space, needed a small desk.

Now I’ve seen cheap desks at IKEA for like a hundred dollars or so but I had the wood scraps and paint just sitting them in my garage so I spend a few hours on my Saturday afternoon on this quickie woodworking project.

I didn’t quite have the exact dimensions of wood needed for my original plan so a few mid-project adjustments needed to be made. There were definitely a few moments where I measured once, cut once, then cut again, then thought about it a while and then put it all together. And after some wood putty and paint, it looks like I planned it that way anyway.

So to review, I cleaned up some space in my garage, built a desk and devised a plan to separate my kids during homework time. I think the desk came out pretty good but the real test will be tonight when it’s time for homework. Wish me luck.

Fairy Door

Fairy Door

Fairy DoorFairy Door

A few years ago, when my daughter was in kindergarten, she let me know that she told her teacher about my vegetable garden. At the time I was huge into garden blogging and I got really excited and asked her what she said. I was expecting to hear something like Daddy grows a lot of tomatoes or we have a big garden or something like that. But what that 6 year old girl told me was actually heartbreaking. “My Dad doesn’t play with me because he’s always in his garden.”. Ouch!

Since then, I always try to involve the kids in some of my hobbies or projects. I even learned to crochet so that I could teach my daughter how to do it. And my son and I built a 1st place winning Pinewood derby car for Cub Scouts. Now that they’re older, they want to hang out with their friends more than they want to do stuff with Dad. But I still ask them if they want to help me work on my projects.

The last project that I got some help with was a fairy door. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a mini door that you place on a tree or a wall outside that’s supposed to be for the fairies in your yard to use. Even if you think fairies are silly child stuff, fairy doors or fairy gardens make for really cool yard decorations. And they’re getting more popular too. I came across this book while browsing around the book store recently, Fairy Gardening: Creating Your Own Magical Miniature Garden by Julie Bawden-Davis and Beverly Turner and there were some awesome projects in there. I wanted more of woodworking, DIY style door though and came up with my own plans.

Our door is built with wood from an apple tree that fell over during Hurricane Irene. At the time, I used the chain saw to make a bunch of logs out of the tree and much to my wife’s dismay, they’ve been sittting a corner of the yard in a big wood pile. So I grabbed a few of the smaller log slices, sanded them down and we got started.

We cut a door shape out of three pieces of wood and glued them together. This would give it a more handmade woodworking feel. Almost like a tiny woodworker with small tools made the door. A single flat slab of wood would have been boring. Then we made a door knob and some hinges and painted them. My daughter is now a pro with the Gorilla Glue and clamps. Working with such small pieces of wood was tricky until I stopped trying to use my regular tools and broke out the Dremel Rotary Tool . Fairies probably use Dremels too, I think it’s the best tool for job.

And if you’re like me and wander around Lowes and Home Depot during your lunch break, you start to find all kinds of hidden treasures waiting to be taken home. I discovered these two little wooden flower pots in a drawer in the hardware aisle at Lowes and knew they’d look great outside of our Fairy Door. We picked brown spray paint because we had it on hand and liked the fact that it blends with the natural environment.

Perhaps in the future, we’ll add a round window or upgrade the porch area. A tiny little house number would be cool too.

I think the project came out pretty good and it was a great way to spend an afternoon with my daughter. And the next time she had some friends over, I overheard her saying, “Me and my dad made this Fairy Door.” She seemed proud and her friends seemed impressed, so I consider this a win for Dad.

Two Ring Puzzle

2 Ring Puzzle
Two Ring Puzzle Pieces
This is all you need to build a Two Ring Puzzle

Two Ring Puzzle

Not all of the projects that I work on have important messages like the refurbish, reuse theme in yesterday’s post about fixing up an old garden bench. No, sometimes I just like to cut wood for fun. And building a two ring puzzle was one of those times.

As far as woodworking goes, there really wasn’t a lot of wood cutting in this project but it was enjoyable anyway. The background of this story is that I bought a book called, Crafting Wood Logic Puzzles: 18 Three-dimensional Games for the Hands and Mind by Charlie Self. The book description reads:

“For centuries, logic puzzles have entertained, inspired and educated kids of all ages. Studies show these engaging “brain teasers” provide unsurpassed benefits to the body and mind, increasing manual dexterity, mathematical abilities and overall intellectual agility.

2 Ring Puzzle
Start with one washer on each loop

Crafting Wood Logic Puzzles provides plans and instructions for crafting 18 of the most popular manual puzzles. Projects range from traditional “put together/take apart” games like pentominoes and soma cubes to more sophisticated “unlocking” head-scratchers, such as the Burr and Heart Box puzzles. Readers will also learn specialized cutting, drilling, sanding, gluing and finishing techniques that make crafting wooden puzzles possible.”

So after reading that fantastic bit of marketing, I decided on the spot that I had to have this book. It sounded right up my alley. Who doesn’t want to learn “specialized cutting, drilling, sanding glue and finishing techniques”? And after I used the most deadly part of Amazon, the 1-Click order feature, the book was mine.

The first wood logic puzzle that I tried was the two ring puzzle. It was at the beginning of the book and it looked like something I do with my kids so I figured it would be a good place to start. The book is filled with a lot of great puzzle plans but my favorite is the probably the instructions for building a great table saw sled for the those tough cuts. That was worth the price of book by itself.

2 Ring Puzzle Solved
Solve the Two Ring Puzzle by moving both washers to one loop.

To make a Two Ring Puzzle, you’ll need is a block of wood, some string and a couple of washers. As for tools if you buy a nice piece of hobby wood with a 1″x2″ dimension all you really need a saw to cut it to length, a sander and a drill with a spade bit. Make sure spade bit is smaller than your washers. To attach the string to the wooden block you could use glue or a screw. I actually drilled a hole 1/4″ deep on each side, stuffed the end of the strings in the hole then used a glue gun to secure it. I considered using my brad nailer just in case people really wanted to pull the heck out of the rope while trying to solve the puzzle but opted not to. And it seems to be holding up just fine with the glue.

The two ring puzzle works like this. You have this block of wood with a hole in it and a strings with the washers on them. The washers sit on the two loops of string that are knotted and separated by the hole in the center of the wood block. The puzzle is to get the washers on the same side but it’s tricky because the washers are bigger than the hole.

The book also shows you how to solve all the puzzles too. I’ll offer up a hint on how to solve this and say that the washers don’t fit through the hole but the knot does.

It probably would have looked nicer if I stained it but I was too excited to try it out. Maybe someday I will stain it. But I plan on making more of the wooden puzzles in this book so I will probably be busy doing that instead. I think there’s a soma cube in my future.