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.

Scroll Saw vs Band Saw

What’s the difference?

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw.
A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw
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This article was updated on 02/17/21.

We can’t have too many power tools in the shop. The extent of our acquisitions can be guided by 3 principles — budget, storage space, and frequency of use. There are exceptions. For example, you may not use your biscuit joiner often, but when you need it, nothing else will do. Some tools are similar enough that they can have almost overlapping functionality, when some ingenuity and/or woodworking jigs are used. You might assume that the scroll saw vs band debate saw falls into this camp. You would be partly correct but there are some important differences.

Benefits of a Scroll Saw

We’ll look at the scroll saw first. It has certain benefits for certain projects.

  • It can make internal cuts. All you have to do is drill an entry hole in your work piece, insert the blade, and cut away. Then you can clean up the internal edges with the sanding implement of your choice.
  • It is a better choice for small detailed work and parquetry and inlay work, as it cuts tighter than a band saw.
  • It can be used to cut the cheeks of a dovetail joint and to divide a wide tenon into two smaller ones.
  • It can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • They are available in various throat sizes. The throat size when it comes to the scroll saw is the distance between the blade and the rear part of the saw. A larger table surface handles larger projects.

Benefits of a Band Saw

A Ryobi tabletop band saw
A Ryobi tabletop band saw
  • Like the scroll saw, it can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • It can cut much thicker stock than a scroll saw.
  • It’s more powerful than a scroll saw. Since the table is open on both ends, throat size is not so much of a consideration, although table size still is.
  • Using the right band saw blades you can even cut metal, but I never have so I offer no opinion on this point.

The Million Dollar Question: Should You Invest in a Scroll saw or a Band Saw?

In the spirit of full transparency, I own both. Why? Because it’s easier to use the right saw for the job. But if you are limited to one or the other, consider which will better fit your woodworking needs. Most of the tasks suited to a band saw can also be done on your table saw. Another consideration is your shop configuration. I have 2 large work benches, one stationary and one wheeled so I use a lot of bench-top tools and just swap them out as needed. Whichever saw/s you purchase, look for a reliable brand name and a heavy base.

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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.

Fall is Here; Clean up Your Wood Shop or Work Area

by Kelly R. Smith

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My router table in my messy shop
My router table in my messy shop

Generally speaking, I’m diligent about putting my tools where they go when I’m done with them. As far as keeping the wood shop spic n’ span, not so much. I’m guessing that we’re all like that to some extent. I do tackle it monthly. Fall and spring are the times that I really clean my wood shop. I put my big wet/dry vac through its paces.

Throw Out What You Won’t Use

As DIY’ers, we are confirmed pack rats. There’s a bin or container for everything, be it a washer, bolt, screw, or nail. I’m guilty of not tossing anything in the trash bin. But if there’s a scrap of hardwood, oak or walnut perhaps, that has been gathering dust for a couple of years, the fireplace might be a fitting destination. Then again, I might do a small project or some inlay work soon…

Start with Your Work Bench

It’s a fact; you can’t work on something if there’s nowhere to do it! My work bench gets piled up with my stuff as well as the stuff SHMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and the daughter stack up there. These are low-hanging fruits just waiting to be picked in the re-organization process.

Shuffle this stuff to storage bins and other storage spaces as much as possible. I like those little plastic cabinets. They are great for organizing all those weird tools. I’ve got one drawer for screwdrivers, another for chisels, etc. (I need one for Freudian slips!) And after all, how many times do you get an opportunity to use that Whitney Punch?

And the glass-cutter? And the roller tool for setting the screen splines? And those tap and dies that gather dust until the one day that they’ll save you yet another trip to the hardware store.

Power Tools Need Their Space

I have one overhead shelf for power tools that come with their hard plastic cases like drills, biscuit joiners, routers, etc. Usually, I don’t always repack when I’m done; I keep them for when I go mobile.

All my benchtop tools — drill press, belt sander, and the like, spend active hours on top of the bench and sleeping hours inside the body of the bench). Quick change-out is the key here. My router table, table saw, and lathe all have dedicated stands.

Stowing Your Sandpaper

You obviously don’t want your different grades of sandpaper scattered willy-nilly all over God’s creation. Some woodworkers have nice cabinets with drawers to stow different grit sandpapers, and I mean to do it myself someday. In the meantime, I’ve got file folders tacked up (like those hanging file folders) to hold the different grit sheets.

Wood Storage

This can be the most problematic issue of any woodworker on limited real estate. Where to store all that nice hardwood stock? I didn’t used to have that enviable problem but when my master carpenter Father in Law went to that great work shop in the sky, I found myself with a nice treasure trove of exotic wood.

So Pity me. Right. Anyhow, I’m figuring out a method of storing it so that I can free up floor space for staging larger projects like book shelves. Wish me well. These are some of my experiences with cleaning up your wood shop or work area. When you find yourself spending more time to find tools than work with them, it’s time for a call to action.



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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.”

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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.

Ryobi 18V ONE+ Power Tools Review

by Kelly R. Smith

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A selection of Ryobi 18V ONE+HP power tools
A selection of Ryobi 18V ONE+HP power tools

There are many tool companies that offer a selection of battery-operated power tools. You can choose between Ryobi, Milwaukee, Porter Cable, Makita, and many others. Now that the battery technology has improved so much (lithium), these tools are more practical. Let’s look at some of the Ryobi 18V ONE+ power tools in their lineup. Their site tells us they offer over 175 different tools in this family. I’ve been using 10 on a regular basis so I’ll focus on them. As an aside, I also use their 40V lawnmower. I also have one of their AM/FM radios that uses the same battery, but that’s not technically a tool, is it?

Ryobi 18V Power Tools

Note that some of these tools come with batteries and chargers and with some it’s just the tool, so the prices reflect that fact.

  • The AirStrike brad nailer. I use this nailer for various woodworking projects and trim installation. Reliable and easy to adjust.
  • 1/2″ drill/driver Kit. Lightweight and features a two-speed gearbox and a 24-position clutch for maximum control. No chuck key required.
  • Reciprocating saw. Their version of the famous Sawzall. For larger jobs I drag out my Makita corded version but this one is ideal for things like tree limbs up to 3″ in diameter.
  • 1/4″ impact driver or 3/8″ impact wrench. It’s handy for those tight jobs. The wrench has an auto mode to prevent over-tightening.
  • Compact brushless cut-off tool. Cuts metal, plastic, drywall, tile, and wire shelving. The base fits flat to the work surface for inhanced cutting accuracy. That’s a nice engineering touch. Cuts at up to 19,500 RPM.
  • 3/8” right angle drill. Ryobi claims this is the industry’s most compact model. It’s also good for those tight situations.
  • Hand-held belt sander. The front pommel handle adjusts to 5 different positions for individual comfort. The tool-free belt-tracking feature makes adjustment on the fly easy.
  • Variable speed jig saw. Very lightweight and portable.
  • Circular saw. Another reason for battery operation. When I was installing baseboards not long ago, I took rough measurements before going to Home Depot. I took my saw with me and dealt with those super long pieces right there in the parking lot (the Tacoma bed doesn’t like 15′ floppy stock.
  • Hand-held router. While I love my router table in the shop, it’s not very convenient to lug around.

Those are the Ryobi 18V ONE+ power tools that I have personal experience with. Overall I’m extremely satisfied. I’ve found them dependable, price-competitive, and offering some innovative features. I like the fact that they have brushless motors. The battery chargers run at a reasonable rate. The batteries are non-fade, meaning that they don’t begin to lag when they are running out of juice.



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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.

Top 10 Table Saw Safety Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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Craftsman woodworking table saw
Craftsman woodworking table saw

This article was updated on 10/14/20.

By its very nature, woodworking is a dangerous hobby and profession. There are 720,000 injuries each year associated with woodworking projects and about 42% of these occur on the table saw. No surprise here; almost every project needs stock ripped or crosscut. How can we do better? Let’s look at these top 10 table saw safety tips.

  • Using your blade guard. Yes, they come from the factory installed and recommended but who actually uses them? Ahem, yeah, I thought so. I use a push stick or another woodworking jig to get the job done. Should I use the guard? Yeah, but usually… no. Still, I recommend it.
  • Table saw blade selection. It is tempting to use the same table saw blade for every job, but should you? No. You need a separate blade for cross-cutting and one for ripping Why? A crosscut blade makes the rip cut much more difficult. It can burn and bind.
  • Use a zero-clearance insert. Yes, there are two schools of thought on this one. Safety says a supported piece is a safer piece.
  • Woodworking dust collection. If your table saw offers a port, use it. You will guard your health, keep your wood shop clean, and lower fire risks. Wood dust not only irritates your throat and nose, but some species can be poisonous. Keeping a clean and clutter-free work area is important.
  • Use your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Yeah this stuff is front and center because of the Covidid-19 Pandemic but truth be told, it was always a big deal. Use safety glasses and ear protection. Gloves? Personal decision.
  • Keep your hands out of harm’s way. Use push sticks, push blocks and other safety devices to help guide and control work pieces.
  • Don’t stand directly in front of or in back of the blade. Always stand to one side or the other. Even with the guard in place, the odd chunk of wood might kick back.
  • Make adjustments before powering up. Make all adjustments with your blade stopped, with the single exception of changing the speed. Never try to change the configuration of the table or the power plant before the machine has stopped.
  • Keep your hands safe. Do not reach under the table to make adjustments, remove scrap, or make adjustments while the blade is turning.
  • Use your accessories. Make use of your miter gauge or rip fence to guide your work. Free-hand cuts are very dangerous, inaccurate and not recommended. For larger pieces, such as plywood, use table saw extensions or rollers. Ideally, you should have a helper, but realistically that’s not always going to happen.

Keep these 10 table saw safety tips in mind each and every time you enter your shop. It is easy to become complacent with this and other tools. None of us came with spare body parts.



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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.

Make a Round and Cylindrical Object Drilling Jig

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Woodworking jig to secure round, cylindrical while drilling
Woodworking jig to secure round, cylindrical while drilling

Holding round objects stable while drilling or otherwise working with them can be a sticky wicket. Holding them with your hand can lead to losing some skin and clamping them can mar the surface. One solution is to make this round and cylindrical object drilling jig. And who couldn’t use yet another woodworking jig?

Using the Jig

Once built, using the jig is straightforward. The adjustable fences slide in from the long sides and the stop blocks slide in the other direction. All movement and clamping of these components is done with the t-tracks, fence knobs, and t-slot bolts. The drilling plate serves to drill through, preventing splintering of the bottom of the object as the drill bit exits. You’ll find yourself using this woodworking jig over and over, with your drill press or independently.

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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.

Paint Like a Pro with These 10 Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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Prepping a home for painting.
Prepping a home for painting

This article was updated on 09/27/20.

Nothing enhances the exterior of a home like a fresh coat of paint. Although the job seems straightforward enough, there are things you can do to make the job easier, faster, and more efficient. One thing you should know at the outset — older homes might have lead-based paint. Have yours tested before embarking on this job. That being said, read on for 10 tips to paint like a pro.

  • Scrape and sand all surfaces prior to washing. Although some painters like to wash first and then sand and scrape, this can leave behind dust that prevents the new paint from sticking as well as it should.
  • When power washing, keep the setting on low. High pressure from a power washer will force water into the wood. Even when the outer surface seems dry, it may have moisture trapped inside. What should you wash with? I like to use a tablespoon of dish soap with a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and bleach. The dish soap helps the solution to cling to the siding and trim rather than running off the house. This is the same principle as using a bit of soap as a surfactant when spraying garden plants.
  • Cover plants, cars, exterior lighting, and anything else that might be affected. Like most situations, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use breathable drop cloths for plants so they can breath. Protect lights, doors, and windows, with Cling Cover plastic.
  • Use a high-quality primer. Always prime bare spots before painting. If the home has oil-based paint that is peeling and cracking and complete removal is not a good option, use a product such as XIM Peel Bond primer.
  • Use the right tools. This should be obvious but many beginning painters and weekend warriors just try to “get by” with what they have on hand. You get what you pay for. Go for the pricier brushes, rollers, and sprayers. They might set you back a bit in the beginning but the finished job will be more professional.
  • Wear knee pads when working on a ladder. There’s always a rung where your knees are, right? Without knee pads to cushion your kneecaps, they will be squealing at you by the end of the day and tomorrow won’t be any better.
  • Plan to spend more time to paint window trim. Painting in the field might be a breeze, but window trim is confoundingly time-confusing. The devil is in the details and the time to apply painter’s tape and sanding really adds up.
  • Don’t paint into the evening. The main issue in the evening is that condensation forms on the surface of the paint when the sun goes down, particularly during the spring and summer. On wet paint, this causes the water-soluble components to break down and rise to the surface. This is called surfactant leaching. After the water evaporates, you’re left with a waxy-looking area. It may go away but there’s no need to take a chance to begin with. In the late afternoon, stop painting and do prep work for the next day.
  • Prevent sticky windows and doors. Where two dry surfaces painted with latex meet, they want to stick to each other. You have most likely noticed it yourself, even on drawers and garage doors. It is completely normal and is called blocking. You can prevent it with a thin coat of furniture wax.
  • Finally, don’t forget on-going maintenance. You might think you’re done, but that is just an illusion. Things like repairing caulking and touching-up paint should be done on a regular basis. Always write down all the details of the kind of paint, sheen, and color of paint that you used.

I hope these 10 tips to paint like a pro will make your painting adventure the best it can be. Doing it yourself can save you a lot of money if you have the time and inclination. Any specialized equipment like a spray rig might be available for renting.



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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.

Checklist of Must-Have Tools for Living Off the Grid

by Kelly R. Smith

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An urban homestead with vegetable garden.
An urban homestead with vegetable garden

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This article was updated on 10/06/20.

Homesteading has become a buzzword du juor and an increasingly-popular lifestyle. But what is it exactly? Dictionary.com gives this somewhat legal definition, “a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.”

More popular usage means living in a self-sufficient manner as much as possible. This means growing your own food, keeping livestock and fowl, and living off-the-grid in as many ways as you can. This includes generating your own electricity with wind turbines or solar panels, etc. This also means acquiring some must-have tools and supplies for living off the grid. Here are some essentials.

General Repair Tools

  • Duct tape. You already know — a million different uses. My Grandpappy swore by Scotch tape but I prefer to go industrial-grade.
  • Heavy-duty scissor car jack. Not just for changing flats anymore. This all-around tool will be a willing helper that won’t talk back or complain.
  • Belt sander. When building or repairing/refinishing furniture this is an invaluable tool.
  • An assortment of rope and tie-down straps. These will find a use on a day-to-day basis on your homestead.
  • Cordless drill, sawzall, circular saw, etc. Cordless is the way to go because you won’t always be working where an outlet is available. Just be sure to buy all your cordless tools from the same family (manufacturer) of tools so the batteries are interchangeable and you only have to keep up with one charger. I use and recommend Ryobi but Milwaukee and Makita are good as well. I literally use my Ryobi cordless drill at least 3 times a week.
  • Chainsaw. Useful for clearing brush, cutting up firewood, and heck, your artistic endeavors, if you are into that kind of thing.

Gardening/Farming Tools

  • A set of gardening tools. This comprehensive set should ideally be kept in a container that can be transported to to the garden/field as one unit so you won’t be making multiple trips. It should contain at least a kneeling mat if you use one, a shovel, gloves, limb trimmer, a basket to carry your daily harvest, and pruning shears.
  • Rotary tiller. If you have a good sized plot of land to work, this tool is essential for good root growth. You can rent one but it will be more cost-effective to buy your own in the long run.
  • A bucket or two. This is a multiple use tool, as simple as it is. I usually use one for mixing soil and amendments when planting.
  • Rain barrels. While a rain harvesting system might not technically thought of as a “tool,” it is essential for irrigating your crops close to the house. In general, plants prefer the pH (a figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity) of rainwater to tap water. And what would happen if your public water supply is cut off or contaminated? Get a rain harvesting barrel, or better still, two. The can daisy chain.

Health-Related Tools and Supplies

  • Tweezers. Handy for close work and removing splinters. Keep one in your medicine cabinet and another in the glove box of your truck.
  • Antiseptics. You will need to apply this lickety-split, quick, and in a hurry when you get any cut or abrasion.
  • Bandaids. Keep an assortment of sizes and shapes on hand.
  • Moleskin. Take care of those inevitable blisters on your feet.
  • Safety glasses. This is one that many people ignore but do yourself a favor. The good Lord only gave you two eyes; replacements not currently available.
  • Soap. Yes, we’ve all got some but do we use it often enough? It should be a habit with the onset of COVID-19 pandemic or the Coronavirus as it is also called, but you can also pick up undesirable things in your soil and mulch in your vegetable garden.
  • Hearing protection. Save your hearing! The ones I use are headphones with a built-in AM/FM radio.
  • Fire extinguishers. Keep one in the kitchen, one in your pantry, one in your wood shop (next to your wood shop dust collector is a good spot), and one in your truck. They are cheap; there’s no excuse.

Self-defense and protecting your homestead, family, and possessions is a critical issue. I won’t go into the thorny issue of supporting the 2nd amendment or not; that is a topic for another article. But grasp reality, my friend. When things go sideways and you are well-prepared and others are not, you WILL be targeted. Be armed. I recommend at least a shotgun and at least one handgun. I have the Glock .40 caliber because of the stopping power. A shotgun is also great for small game. A 410 is great.

This is not an exhaustive list of must-have tools for living off the grid in the homesteading mode but it’s a good start. When the SHTF you will be glad that you prepared in advance. And you don’t have to live out in the country; we have a modest 1,200 square foot home but over the years I’ve surrounded us with fruit trees and my vegetable garden and my herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes. My latest addition is a Don Juan Avocado tree.

References:

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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.