Woodworking Design: Estimating Lumber

A Material List (Cut List) Tells You the Material You Need; This is How to Buy It

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

A woodworking project plan for a table
A woodworking project plan for a table
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So you’ve conceptualized your next woodworking project and it’s time to plan. Most woodworkers go one of two ways, depending on the situation:

  • You are working from a cut list from a plan that you acquired from a woodworking project book or magazine.
  • You are making a custom project and it makes more sense to ferret out your dimensions as you go along. This was the case with my recessed medicine cabinet project. Since every home and bathroom is framed differently, it was insightful to go long on the instructive photos and short on actual dimensions when posting the plans.

Understanding Lumber Grades

Are you a frugal and common sense woodworker? I hope so; the money you can save on one part of your project (usually the unseen parts) can be used to great effect of the decorative parts. That being said, I abhor particle board in furniture construction. Chinese knock-off furniture, we ain’t.

Knowing lumber grades, and shopping accordingly, will stretch your budget and ensure that you work with the appropriate materials. The lumber grades are defined by the National Hardwood Lumber Association, and have been for over 100 years.

Step one, of course, is choosing the appropriate grade. Step two is checking for bark pockets, splitting, checking, bug damage, warping, and more. Take the time to pick through the stock. Don’t take the mis-step of ordering online, going to your Home Depot or Lowes and just let them load it up for you. COVID-19 pandemic or not, this is a hands-on job.



Understanding Lumber Dimensions

Dimension lumber (2 x 4s, 4 x 4s, etc.) is usually softwood stock. Hardwood lumber is at times milled to dimensional sizes, however it is more commonly encountered in random widths and lengths. It is marketed as roughsawn lumber and in variable surfacing options accompanied by these letter and number codes:

  • S2S: Surfaced on two sides.
  • S3S: Surfaced on two sides with one straight-line ripped.
  • S4S: Surfaced on four sides, meaning that the two wide faces are planed and the two edges have been straight-line ripped.
Lumber thickness guide
Lumber thickness guide


Rough lumber is sold in multiples of 1/4″ thicknesses. This means that 4/4 lumber (read as four-quarter lumber) is one inch thick. You will also encounter 5/4, 6/4, and 8/4 thicknesses. Regardless, with any rough lumber thickness, the rule of thumb is to subtract 1/4″ to determine the “finished” lumber thickness following the surfacing procedure.

Calculating lumber board feet
Calculating lumber board feet

Lumber stock is generally offered by the board foot (BF), which is actually a volume measurement. Think of it this way — one board foot of lumber is 1″ thick, 12″ wide, and 12″ long (essentially 144 square inches of 1″-thick lumber). So a 1″-thick board, 6″ wide and 36″ long would be 1.5 board feet of stock. The formula for determining the BF of a specific piece is: (Thickness x Width x Length)/144; QED. See the formula chart above for examples of calculating BF. Note: 3/4″ surfaced lumber is considered 1″ when calculating board feet because it is originally derived from 4/4 rough-sawn lumber. Confused yet? Don’t be.

Buying Lumber

Calculating just how many board feet of lumber you need for any given project is only your first step. Next, you will need to peruse your material list for pieces that have specific length requirements. As an example, if you have coffee table legs that need to be 14″ long or 90″ long bed rails, you should select stock long enough to make those components. Then an excellent guideline is to add 20 to 30 percent more to your estimate for waste (defects, poor grain pattern, building mistakes, etc.). So if your project requires 10BF, procure 13BF instead. Buying a bit of extra lumber is always a good idea, and experience will prove the truth of it. Keep in mind that at times you will need to resort to your biscuit joiner to save the expense of ordering a special width of lumber.

Following these lumber estimating guidelines for your woodworking projects will save you time, money, and extra trips to the lumber yard or local home improvement store.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Valentine’s Day Outdoor Space Ideas

Romantic Gestures That Keep on Giving (Unlike Cut Flowers)

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
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Valentine’s Day is a perfect example of a holiday that inspires us to redesign spaces inside and outside our homes. Designing an outdoor space for a Valentine’s Day gift or parties and celebrations can be a lasting surprise for someone that you care about pleasing. Many gardeners remind us that Valentine’s Day is the time to trim our rose bushes so that choice makes perfect sense.

Any climate-appropriate plants are a great way to improve the look of your yard, flower bed, garden, or outdoor living space. Here are a few plant, seating, and lighting ideas that can help you design the space of your dreams at this time of year when nature is just busting out. Just think of it as the opportunity to tackle that list of new year’s DIY projects!

Choosing the Perfect Flower

Almost every woman that I’ve ever met loves to get flowers on Valentine’s Day, and some would far rather receive something living that will bloom on more than just that one day. After all, why limit yourself to a wilting bouquet when you can have cut flowers on a regular basis?



Many of us don’t mind caring for the flower or floral arrangement minimally, either, especially during the mild spring and fall months. Annuals, such as the coriopsis below, are very hardy and come back year after year once established. Our bird friends help to distribute the thistle seeds so keep those bird feeders full.

Coriopsis flowers in full bloom
Coriopsis flowers in full bloom

It goes without saying that the perfect flower species should be designed to suit your climate, sunlight requirements, and of course, soil conditions. If you are unsure of this type of information, talk to someone in a garden center, nursery, or plant retailer for more details. If your community is lucky enough to have a Master Gardener group, they are very knowledgeable about local plants and are generally very free with their information. Most even conduct indigenous plant and tree sales in the spring.

One useful tip is to find out her favorite color, and keep in mind how much time and energy will need to be devoted to caring for the plant. Design your outdoor Valentine’s Day surprise with this basic information in mind, so that you can be sure that your significant other will appreciate what you have created.

Find accents and accessories for the space in the favorite color if you cannot find in-season plants that are blooming for this special occasion, such as lighting, flags, decorations, water features (ponds, fountains), and similar items designed for outdoor use. These all are animal-friendly and count towards your nature-conservation efforts.

Choosing Outdoor Seating Arrangements

If the space is large enough, why not consider adding seating to your outdoor space to create the romantic environment this day is known for inspiring.

A great garden bench is a wonderful idea, so that two can sit comfortably, but be sure that any seating arrangement you choose is intended for use outdoors, including fabric choices. Marketing claims are not always what they seem. If you have a homeowners association, check to ensure that your project falls under their (often unreasonable) guidelines. A garden bench with storage such as the one shown below, doubles as a spot to keep your gardening tools.

High-quality and functional furniture will ensure that your gift lasts much longer, and the durable and beautiful addition will add monetary and aesthetic value to your home. We can’t say enough about home equity, can we?

Your seating needs to strike a balance; make it comfortable without presenting health risks. Select fabrics that are specifically designed and treated for outdoor use, so that the fabric does not mildew or mold after the first hint of condensation or dew.



Choosing Exterior Lighting

You may or may not be spending a significant amount of time in your space outdoors after the sun sets, but adding exterior lighting changes that parameter and gives you that opportunity should you desire to sit, entertain, and relax after the sun has gone down. A simple lantern, LED spotlight, or a couple of Tiki torches for the space is ideal for most arrangements.

The right combination and choice of illumination will add that perfect touch of light for a romantic rendezvous, this Valentine’s Day and into the foreseeable future. Certain lighting resembles candlelight, which is the most popular lighting for romance, so you can’t go wrong with a hint of light that doesn’t cost you an abundance of time, energy, or money to purchase or install.

Finally, if you really want to go big when you consider Valentine’s Day outdoor space ideas, think about a relaxing backyard deck. Springtime and income tax returns are coming; hint, hint.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Build a Bay Window Seat with Storage

Take Advantage of That Breakfast Nook or Kitchen Window

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
A bay window seat with storage drawers
A bay window seat with storage drawers
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A bay window seat, with or without cushions, can function as storage space, bookshelves, and a place to relax while enjoying a view of nature and landscaping.

One thing that most homes have in common is a lack of storage units. And oftentimes, the space in front of windows is under-utilized. Why not kill two birds with one stone and install an attractive bay window seat that doubles as storage space?

Designing the Window Seat

It’s a given that the dimensions of the window are not going to change, so that’s a good starting point. The seat shouldn’t be any higher than the bottom of the window; that would be impracticable. The one variable is the bottom strip of window trim or casing. The seat can come up to the bottom of the trim or the trim can be removed to gain a couple more inches in height. Whichever route you take, be sure to winterize this area while you are working there.

On the other hand, if the window bottom is over 18 inches or so off the floor, the window will have no impact on the seat. 18 inches is an acceptable height for a seat, although going a few inches either way to allow for individual tastes is certainly an option. We are not one-size-fits-all, so to speak.

The basic design in most cases is simply a rectangular box, although V-shapes happen as well, with or without doors similar to the ones found on kitchen cabinets. For storage purposes, the two common styles are front access (kitchen cabinet style), and hinged top.

A bay window seat, with a hinged top, under construction
A bay window seat, with a hinged top, under construction

To take the green and sustainable building approach, just use salvaged cabinets if some are available that fit the space. This is a great time to learn about restoring vintage kitchen cabinets.

Hinged Seat Storage or Front Access

A hinged seat can work well for storing items that aren’t used on a regular basis. The issue is that by design, things are stacked on top of others. Think a hope chest or an old-style trunk. Another consideration is that extra material and woodworking hardware will be required. This includes hinges at a minimum.

Front access can be either an open design or closed with cabinet doors. An open design is the best way to go if the space is going to be used as a book case or for a knickknack display area as an alternative to alcove shelving.


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If cabinet doors are installed and the window is in the kitchen, why not use the space for storing dishes, cookware, and small kitchen appliances?

Basic Window Seat Construction

As mentioned above, the structure is basically a box, or some sort of V-shape if that is what you are working with. The most basic way to build it is to construct a basic frame and sheath it with plywood that has a finished side. If the seat is to be attached to the wall, the top rear support is a ledger board screwed to the wood framing studs.

The baseboard should be cut away or removed and a framing member matching the ledger board should be attached to the wall at the floor. The remainder of the unit is to be build off these two framing members. Adequate bracing should be added to the seat area appropriate for the size of the seat. When deciding on the depth, allow a bit extra if the seat will be used for napping. See this article for more information on residential wood stud framing. Finally, add cushions or pillows and relax.

I hope this article on building a bay window seat with storage in your kitchen, breakfast nook, or another room has given you some good ideas for your own project. For more information please check out the articles listed below and check the search box at the top of this page.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Window Blind DIY Wand Replacement

Why Settle for Replacement Blind Components? Put Your Woodworking Skills to Work.

by Kelly R. Smith

DIY Venetian blinds wand crafting and replacement
DIY Venetian blinds wand crafting and replacement
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Things like window blind wands get a lot of use. Not rough use usually but they are usually made very cheaply and are bound to break at some point. You’ve got two choices. First and easiest is to buy a replacement blind wand. My preferred choice is to make my own. That way I know it is sturdy and I can match the finish to the window casing. So, consider this short tutorial just another woodworking tip.

The wand usually connects to the blind assembly via a small plastic nub with a hole in it. The wand has a hook on the end that fits through the hole. I have worked two possible scenarios.

  • The plastic nub is intact.
  • The plastic nub broke.

Use a Wooden Dowel for the New Wand

Dowels are available in all hardware stores as far as I know. At Home Depot they are available in pine and oak, in various diameters. I usually go for the pine; it is cheaper and I’m going to stain it anyway. These dowels are smooth finished so all you need to do is cut it to your desired length and sand the ends and smooth out the sharp end edges.

To work on the dowel, I use a Bessey drill press vise with a rag wrapped around the dowel so as not to mar it. The crosshairs on the end of the dowel are for drilling the connection hole.

Dowel in the Bessey drill press vise
Dowel in the Bessey drill press vise


Finishing and Attaching the Connector

When the plastic nub is intact, you just need a cup hook or simply make a hook out of wire (like a metal coat hanger) using needle-nosed pliers. If the plastic nub is broken off you will need to drill a hole in the end of the dowel and glue it into the nub. I used Locktite GO 2 Repair Xtreme. While the glue is setting up I kept everything together with a piece of electrical tape. This is why I didn’t use polyurethane Gorilla Grip glue; the foaming, expansive curing action would push things apart. Regular wood joinery techniques don’t really apply here.

Use the finish of your choice. Here I used Minwax Penetrating Stain. Later, after a couple of days I’ll apply a high-quality furniture wax.

Finishing with Minwax Penetrating Stain
Finishing with Minwax Penetrating Stain


Blinds wand with a hook connector
Blinds wand with a hook connector

That’s about all there is a window blind DIY wand replacement. It doesn’t even have to be broken. It is a good way to give your window dressing a custom look on a budget and a little spare time.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

My Workshop Tape Storage Hack

by Kelly R. Smith


Workshop tape storage rack
Workshop tape storage rack
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After Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flood, I, like everybody else in my subdivision, faced rebuilding. As far as my wood shop goes, it was a blessing and a curse. I lost a lot of tools but, having erred on the side of caution, we had full flood insurance. As I re-built the shop I resolved to be more organized right from scratch.

It’s an ongoing process, isn’t it? Just last week I needed some duct tape so I began my search. I usually keep tape in it’s category area, e.g. electrical tape in the electrical drawer, drywall tape with the tape and float area, painter’s blue tape with the painting stuff.



But what about duct tape? I’m a proud owner of several types of tin snips but I certainly don’t have a “duct” area. I spent about 20 years as an acoustical ceiling installer so I worked with a lot of duct men but didn’t mess with it myself. As clumsy as I am, I’m not safe around sheet metal. So, I spent more time looking for that elusive roll than I did actually using it. Enough is enough. So I built that tape rack you see in the picture above. To build one of your own you will need:

  • 1 piece of 1″ X 4″ about 20″ long. Shorter won’t do or you won’t hit 2 studs when you install it.
  • 2 17″ lengths of 3/4″ dowel.
  • 2 long drywall screws (2″, coarse threads).
  • Glue.
  • Finish of your choice; I used stain; the board is pine but the dowels are oak and the results don’t have to be pretty but they should match in color. As a general rule I don’t stain oak, but…
  • 3/4″ hole saw.
  • Drill press or hand-held drill.
  • Cordless drill with a #2 Phillips screw tip.
  • Flush-cut saw. I love Japanese hand tools, don’t you?
  • Belt sander or sanding block.

Assembly

  1. Drill your holes. It doesn’t show very well in the picture above but I placed a chunk of scrap wood on one side of my drill press table so the holes would be at an angle, but this is optional.
  2. Glue the dowels into the holes. Since the holes are at an angle, a portion will be sticking out of the back.
  3. Let the glue dry overnight.
  4. Use a flush-cut saw to cut off the excess dowel, then clean it up with your belt sander.
  5. Pre-drill your screw holes on 16″ centers. I also hit the hole openings with a bigger drill bit for about 3/16″ so the screw heads end up flush with the surface of the wood.
  6. Add the finish of your choice and let it dry.
  7. Locate your studs and install.

If you’re wondering about that wall I installed this tape rack on, it is the exterior of our food pantry that I build by “stealing” a bit of garage space. It never ceases to amaze me why the builders never included enough kitchen storage space. Want to build your own? Here are step-by-step food pantry plans. It’s an easy DIY project. Who doesn’t want more convenience and home equity?

DIY walk-in kitchen pantry
DIY walk-in kitchen pantry

That’s all there is my workshop tape storage hack. It’s just one more storage and shop organization issue solved. The expense is minimal and you might even have most of the materials on hand already.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Cooling Paint Could Cut Emissions From Buildings

Reducing Carbon Dioxide Via Scheduled Building Maintenance

by Kelly R. Smith

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Commercial building with a painted exterior
Commercial building with a painted exterior

The World Green Building Council tells us that combined, buildings and construction account for, “39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included.”1 In a previous post, I discussed how HVAC units2 (heating and cooling) systems are responsible for the lion’s share of this and a proposal to capture that carbon dioxide to generate hydrocarbons. This article discusses using paint to minimize CO2 in the first place.

The Quest: Finding an Effective Paint

Researchers have been attempting to come up with products to raise the efficiency of cooling and heating for years. Many types of reflective paint have been developed for the exteriors of both homes and office buildings that would reflect away sunlight resulting in a reduction the temperatures on the interior.

Up to this point, none of these reflective paint products have been successful in deflecting enough of the Sun’s rays that would result in the building’s temperature lower than the ambient conditions. That may be changing.

Researchers in the US say they have developed a white paint with strong cooling properties. Prof Xiulin Ruan, from Purdue University in Indiana says, “In one experiment where we put a painted surface outside under direct sunlight, the surface cooled 1.7C below the ambient temperature and during night time it even cooled up to 10C below the ambient temperature. This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings.”

The Tech Behind the Paint

The researchers found that the key is adding calcium carbonate. By utilizing a high concentration of this chalky substance, differing the particle sizes, they developed a paint that reflected an astounding 95.5% of sunlight.

Prof Xiulin Ruan said, “Sunlight is a broad spectrum of light wavelengths. We know that each particle size can only scatter one wavelength effectively so we decided to use different particle sizes to scatter all the wavelengths. This is an important contributor eventually resulting in this very high reflectance.”

The paint may have a broad range of applications, in particular data centers, which require large amounts of cooling power. Because this particular paint doesn’t contain metal, it is not likely to interfere with various electromagnetic signals. This makes it ideal for cooling telecommunications equipment.

Of course, it goes without saying that there will be a number of steps to go complete before this product can be put on the market, because like any other product, it needs to be tested for its reliability and efficiency in the long term. The researchers remain optimistic; they have already filed patents and there is already a strong interest from major manufacturers. Cooling paint that can cut emissions from buildings of all types will lower costs across the board.

References

  1. World Green Building Council, Global Status Report 2017, https://www.worldgbc.org/news-media/global-status-report-2017
  2. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Can Climate Change Be Minimized Using Air Conditioners?, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/29/can-climate-change-be-minimized-using-air-conditioners/

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Your Stove: Gas for Efficiency or Electric for Better Air Quality?

by Kelly R. Smith

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Cooking dinner on a gas stove range
Cooking dinner on a gas stove range

Does your home have a gas stove for energy-efficiency or an electric one for better air quality? If you have a gas line to your home you’ve got a choice but if you don’t, you are locked into the electrical stove version — unless you want to pay to have a natural gas line installed. Each type of appliance has its pros and cons.

The Pros of Natural Gas vs. Electricity

The primary benefit of natural gas appliances, and stoves/ranges in particular is that they are more energy-efficient (on an operating cost basis). Why? Simply put, it takes gas, or some other fuel source, to generate electricity. That is an extra production step. On the other hand, electrical power is much better for your health, especially if you are prone to asthma issues.

Natural Gas Contributes to Indoor Air Pollution

Burning gas to cook food on any stove produces particulate pollutants, the worst of which is nitrogen dioxide, or NO2,, and sometimes also carbon monoxide. You know what they say about closed garages with the car engine running.

This is why the air around your stove or any other gas-fueled appliance such as a water heater or downflow gas furnace should be vented to the outdoors. Even brief exposure to air containing elevated concentrations of NO can result in coughing and wheezing for people with asthma or other respiratory issues. Prolonged exposure to this gas can result in the development of those conditions, according to the EPA1 who says, “NO2 along with other NOx reacts with other chemicals in the air to form both particulate matter and ozone. Both of these are also harmful when inhaled due to effects on the respiratory system.”


How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Gas Appliances


References

  1. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Pollution, https://www.epa.gov/no2-pollution/basic-information-about-no2

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Home Office Build-Out Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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A home office
A home office

Recent estimates report that 33% of Americans are self-employed in some capacity. Now, the report didn’t break it down into full-time or part-time details, but it means one thing for certain — lots of home offices! You might need one for the first time because of being locked down thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re remodeling a bedroom into your office, or remodeling your current one, you can use these home office refurbishment tips.

Office Interior Lighting

All interior lighting is not the same. In the office, in particular, it falls into three distinct categories: general, task, and accent lighting. How much of each you use depends on your needs. General lighting is often implemented with overhead fluorescent fixtures. Most home offices just use task lighting.

Task lighting is used to focus on your work area to avoid eye strain. Good choices here are undercabinet fixtures, or track, monorail, or Y lighting systems with halogen or LED bulbs. Accent lighting usually illuminates artwork. This is taken care of with ceiling-mounted fixtures.

Buy Ergonomic Furniture

This is important for your comfort and long-term health. The two most critical pieces are an ergonomic office chair and computer desk. Adjustable standing desks are getting to be more popular. Before shopping, know what you need. Draw a detailed plan noting where things should be situated. Size is important; be sure everything will fit into your space.

Although it might be tempting to do so, I wouldn’t recommend placing the fax, copier, and printer where you can just reach over to make a quick paper grab. Why? Because you need to get out of your chair now and then to get the blood flowing! My Garmin 235 GPS watch actually lets me know when I’ve had too much butt-time.

Flooring – Choose Wisely

You’ve got many choices when it comes to flooring. Carpet is the best choice for sound control and it is forgiving; you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet. The downside is that occasionally you’ll have to hire carpet cleaners or rent a machine at the store. If you’ve got a lot of carpet in your home, go ahead and buy a carpet cleaning machine. It will quickly pay for itself. Who knows how nasty those grocery store ones are.

Are you after a a more contemporary look? You might consider hardwood or laminate flooring. When it comes to sprucing up your home office, consider that you’ll be spending more time in there than you would a conventional office (Netflix). Plan accordingly.

Upgrade Your Office walls

Your office walls are important. You should choose a color that you like, of course, but it should also be a color that is soothing enough to allow you to focus on your work. Small office? Here are some paint illusions to make the space seem larger.

I hope these home office build-out tips have inspired you and given you some food for thought. Always check the latest IRS guidelines to maximize your deductions. It’s like getting a pay raise! Please participate in the poll on the right-hand sidebar of this article. Thanks!



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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

September is National Preparedness Month

by Kelly R. Smith

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Street flooding leads to disaster
Street flooding leads to disaster

Ready.gov (owned by the Department of Homeland Security) says, “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” Good point. We never thought our neighborhood would flood, but it did. While we had flood insurance, others did not and had to rely on FEMA. The city has been ignoring drainage issues for years, all the while issuing building permits willy-nilly. Concrete surfaces don’t absorb rain water. At some point, we will all experience fire, earthquake, or a hurricane. This is how Ready.gov suggests that we prepare.

Week 1: Make a Plan

Make your plan now. You and your family may not be together if a disaster happens, so it is key to understand which types of disasters could affect your area. You should all know how you’ll contact each other and reconnect if you become separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.

Week 2: Build a Kit

Following an emergency, you might need to survive on your own for days. Being prepared means having your own stock of food, water and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Walk-in food survival pantry
Walk-in food survival pantry

In my own home, I built a pantry off the kitchen. We keep it stocked with food, water, prescription medicine, and a camp stove. Basically, the room is our kit. And we even keep a stock of toilet paper. We all remember the empty shelves when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out!

Week 3: Prepare for Disaster

Hurricanes are dangerous and can cause major damage because of storm surge, wind damage, and flooding. Don’t wait to do things like removing old dead tree limbs and securing things that have the potential to become projectiles. It’s a good idea to have a firearm and a stock of ammo. Just look at what Antifa and BLM are doing in our streets and society hasn’t broken down yet! No one is going to respond to your 911 call after a certain point.

Know what disasters and/or hazards might affect your area, how to get emergency alerts (an emergency crank-operated radio), and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Don’t wait until the day before to try to find plywood, batteries, and other items.

Week 4: Teach Your Kids About Disasters

Talk to your children about being prepared for emergencies. They need to understand what to do in case you are separated. Make them feel at ease by providing information about how they can get involved. Work out scenarios and the proper responses.

National Preparedness Month is easy when it is broken down like this. The process of divide and conquer works well and gives you time to consider things you have not anticipated.

References



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Biscuit Joiner; Why You Need One for Woodworking

by Kelly R. Smith

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A Ryobi biscuit joiner on a router table
A Ryobi biscuit joiner on a router table

Granted that the biscuit joiner is not a power tool that you use everyday on your woodworking projects. It falls into the category of go-to tools when nothing else will do the job so well. On projects that require mating planks, this tool is invaluable. On some projects, just gluing them up and clamping them is sufficient but on others a stronger bond is required. And why not err on the side of caution? The right tool is just as important as adequate shop lighting.

For years I relied on dowels to do the job. That worked, but getting that precision can be difficult. Drilling the holes at the exact angle and in the exact location can be dicey, especially when using a hand-held drill rather than your drill press. This is where the biscuit joiner comes into its own.

Using Your Biscuit Joiner

For the sake of argument, let us assume that we are joining several boards to make up a table top.

  • Biscuits can “telegraph.” This means that as the glue dries, it can warp the surface plank wood down towards the biscuit. To avoid this minor imperfection in the end product (you’re the only one who will notice, but still), don’t cut your biscuit slot in the exact center of the planks, rather, a bit lower towards the bottom of the finished product.
  • Biscuits don’t add a lot of strength. So the argument goes. Some carpenters use biscuits simply to assure themselves that the planks will stay aligned as the glue dries. I’m from the other camp that believes that they do add a lot of strength, especially when the end product comes under stress because the length of the biscuit distributes the load better than a cylindrical dowel..
  • You can add biscuits for additional strength after the glue-up on 45 degree corners. Use your joiner as a plunge tool after the glue has dried. For example, you might do this on the underside of a picture frame after you remove your 45 degree clamps or spring clamps. Plunge the slot, glue-up and add the biscuit, and use your belt sander to level it up later.
  • Bring the motor up to full-speed before engaging the joiner. Easy, cowboy.

So, do you really need a biscuit joiner for your woodworking projects? The short answer is “no,” but the long answer is, “yes, because it will make your life so much better and your range of carpentry skills broader.”

Related Articles



Looking for more great content? Visit our partner sites:

The Green Frugal

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.


About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.