How to Pick a Circular Saw

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Are you looking to purchase a circular saw? Decided that the old handsaw just isnt enough to help build your deck? Here’s how to pick a good circular saw that will do what you need and last a long time. Considerations include:

  • Power — you want enough power for the saw to move easily through even the toughest lumber to avoid dulling and heating the blade
  • Price — you want a tool that will last but you dont want to spend more than you paid for your car
  • Sidewinder or worm-drive — there are differences in torque, but I would recommend picking whichever you prefer the balance on
  • Cordless? — Limited run times and lower toque hinder the cordless models, but if you need to use a circ saw away from power, or infrequently for small jobs, these units can be lightweight and portable alternatives to corded models
  • Adjustment — look for a model with intuitive adjustment controls that allow you easily change settings
  • Know how to use and care for¬†your tool. Be sure to read and follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions. To safely use a circular saw and keep it in top condition for years of reliable use, you need to follow the guidelines.

Plunge versus Fixed Base Router

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A tool that you may want to consider as you start to be come a true woodworker is a router. A router can help you add that professional edge to wood to make your boring woodworking projects suddenly look professional. The key to picking a router that will do what you want and satisfy your needs can be tough, but here are a few things to consider:

  • Horse Power. The more powerful the better. You don’t want your router to strain under the load. For a standard use unit, look for 2 HP or more.
  • Plunge vs. Fixed Base. While a plunge router allows you to ‘plunge’ as the name implies into the middle of boards and grind out material, a fixed base router is made to follow edges. Consider how you wish you use your router and the projects you may take on.
  • A good compromise. Some routers like the Skil 1825-RT 2-1/4-Horsepower 2-Inch Router Combo Kit¬†combine both a fixed base and a plunge base, making a versitile alternative for beginners and skille craftsmen alike.

Don’t forget you’ll also need a good router bit set.

Projects you can now accomplish with your new router include:

  • Cutting out sink holes in counters
  • Rounding edges on tables and cabinets, drawer fronts, etc.
  • And much, MUCH more.

DIY Book Review: American Boys Handy Book

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Do you own a copy of The American Boy’s Handy Book? If not, I’d recommend putting it on your wish list.

Here’s a classic DIY guide geared towards projects children (with adult supervision) to teens and adults can all enjoy. If you’ve never heard of the American Boy’s Handy Book, you should definately check it out. The book includes a wide range of DIY projects, most of which are far more sophisticated DIY projects than you’d find in a Cub Scout guidebook. The projects in the book range from the fantasy (Mark Twain raft) to the questionable (DIY fireworks, various projectile devices, etc.) to the totally awesome (DIY boat building, wind skates, and so much more!).

A must for the ‘do it yourself’ person in your life.

Rating: 4.8/5.0

How to make a small solar generator

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solar generator

Here’s my set up for a small solar generator.

Another green projects for all you DIY folks. Harness the power of the sun and live off the grid. Okay, so this particular unit won’t let you off the grid, but it can charge all of your rechargeables, cell phones, mp3 players, some CFL lights and much more. All using solar energy.

What you need:

  • 5 watt or greater Solar Panel (I used 2 of these solar panels) But keep in mind any more than 10 watts total would require a solar regulator
  • Fuse and fuse holder (I have used a 5 amp fuse allowing me to use up to 60 watts (5 amps x 12 volts) before it blows, which is consistent with the wiring gauges I used to construct my set up. Please ensure you use a proper fuse for your application and design)
  • Volt meter (optional) (I used one from radioshack which I put in a simple plastic case. This helps to monitor state of charge but isn’t necessary.You can also test with a multimeter.)
  • 18 amp hour 12v sealed lead acid (SLA) battery or similar deep cycle battery
  • 12v cigarette adapter outlet (this lets you plug in all your car adapters directly to your solar generator)
  • Power inverter (optional) (This will allow you to convert your 12v DC battery juice into 120v AC for lamps or other applications)

Construction can be as simple or complex as you want. Basic wiring would have the fuse placed as close as possible to the positive battery terminal. You would then connect the solar panel: solar positive to fuse to battery positive, solar negative to battery negative. And connect your cigarette outlet negative to negative, positive to fuse to battery positive. An optional power inverter can also be connected to battery. Particularly, if you opt to plug into your cigarette adapter, please ensure all wire gauges are appropriate for the power you are drawing. Your specific set up and application will dictate the proper fuse and wire gauges to use. You typically want to the lowest fuse rating that allows you to operate what you want to operate, within the safe range for your wiring.

How to use:

Place the solar panel in a sunny spot ( I have mine propped up against a window) and it charges pretty well., Direct sunlight will recharge the battery more quickly.

If you have attached a cigarette outlet, plug in any car adapters you have to charge cell phones, mp3 players, and much more.

If you have attached a power inverter, flip the switch on your inverter, and plug in as you would a wall socket. (Be aware that some devices are not compatible with non-sinusoidal power inverters – Consult the manual for your specific power inverter for details)

For an added bonus, you can also pick up a Duracell NIMH Mobile Charger and harness free solar power to recharge all your NiMH batteries for your digital camera, remote control, etc.

Illustrated Knot Tying Diagrams – Learn how to tie knots

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As a follow up to the several paracord projects I’ve recently posted, I thought this would be appropriate. If you go camping often or like to make things, then you need to learn how to tie the the right knots for the job:

  • Knots, Bends,Ties
  • Hitches,Loops, Mooring knots
  • Shortenings, Grommets, Selvagees
  • Lashings, Seizings, Splices
  • Fancy knots and rope work

Do these knot types sound familiar? Still just tying granny knots and square knots? Learn how to tie knots, lashings, splices and much more with this free, illustrated, 64-page PDF eBook of the 1917 classic knot tying guide, Knots, Splices, and Rope Work by A. Hyatt Verrill complete with diagrams.

Download Now.

How to Make a Paracord Monkey Fist Knot Key Chain

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Just came across this great how to video on YouTube showing how to make a DIY Monkey Fist Knot Keychain. If you have some paracord or 550 cord leftover from your last projects, why not give this knot a try yourself. A monkey fist knot looks complex and is sure to attract attention. Try using a marble for the core as an alternative to the ball bearing shown.

DIY Tool Review: Kreg Jig Jr. Pocket Hole Jig

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Today we’re looking at another tool I’ve recently purcahsed for DIY projects around the house, the Kreg Jig Jr. — the slightly smaller and less expensive cousin to the full Kreg Jig Master System. I saw the ads on TV and had to try it for myself.

Both systems are made by Kreg and offer the ability to drill precision pocket holes to join boards. Pocket hole joints make rigid connections between perpendicular boards, well suited to tables, drawers and other framing applications. The Master System more easily mounts for repeated use and can be adjusted to accommodate larger board thicknesses.

The Pros: Works just like they say! Simple to use. All measurements are done for you! And everything you need (except a power drill) is included, so you can quickly adjust the jig and make your drills. Works very well with only minimal time looking through the users guide.

The Cons: The Kreg Jig Jr. is small and can sometimes be difficult to clamp in place or annoying to unclaim and reclamp between uses — where the master system version would clearly have the advantage.

The Review: 4.8/5.0 Works exactly as they say in the ads. It makes it simple to get professional looking joints that hold together tightly. I was able to quickly repair an Ikea dresser drawer that had started to come apart with just a couple simple holes and screws, set precisely to the right angle and depths by the Kreg Jig. Get the professionally finished appearance most do-it-yourself folk strive to achieve–without much real work!

Can’t wait to use this for another project! Any suggestions? Have you used the Kreg Jig? What did you think?

Lower Your Energy Consumption, Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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Do you want to know how to easily reduce your energy bill, cut electricity costs, save money and the environment. There’s a simple way to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint that you can do yourself at home.

Using the P3 Kill A Watt EZ, you can quickly find the energy hog devices and “vampire electronics” in your home. Many electronics and appliances today constantly burn energy while in “standby” mode. A simple example of this is your remote control television… while it waits for the signal from the remote to turn “on” it is constantly using electricity to check for and interpret the signal.

The Kill A Watt EZ, and its predecessor, the slightly less expensive original Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor both let you plug the Kill A Watt device into the wall and the suspect electronic or appliance into the Kill A Watt device.

The device then reports on a number of stats on energy usage. Voltage (usually 120 in the US, give or take); Amperage (how much power the device is currently drawing); Watts used (the product of volts and amps); and Time since you plugged it in. The EZ model will also calculate the wattage per hour and allow you to input your electricity costs to calculate cost per time. On the original, you have to grab a calculator and do the math.

To easily cut your electric bill and save energy, just go around your house and try out the Kill a Watt on everything that plugs in. One shocking item I found: An old CD player that draws 16 watts while in standby!!! That’s almost as much as a CFL left on constantly.
I was also surprised to discover that my various chargers for cell phones, mp3 players etc, together drew another 12 watts. The quick fix for these was adding a power strip which I can now switch off when I’m not charging.

Do it yourself and see how much you can reduce your carbon footprint and lower your energy consumption and save with the P3 Kill A Watt!

Make your own Compost Bin

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For those concerned with the environment, this is a easy DIY project that can yield a beneficial and fast return and can put recycled materials to use. You stop throwing away food and other items that will quickly break down and you gain free, natural fertilizer for plants.

Here’s how to make your own compost bin:

1) Find a plastic storage bin (at least 18 gallons – this could be a recycled garbage can, or other container you already have)

2) To ensure thorough air flow to your compost so that it can properly break down, drill or punch holes throughout the container – 1/4 inch holes every 1-2 inches would be fine, but there are no hard rules here

3) Throw in your compost materials– kitchen scraps, weeds, trimmings, etc. Smaller pieces will breakdown more quickly, so chopping up the compost is recommended.

4) Be sure to adjust the wet/dry ratio so that the compost isn’t too wet or too dry. If you notice your compost seems too moist, adjust the consistency by adding shredded newspaper or saw dust.

5) Place the bin out of the way on a couple of bricks to ensure proper ventilation.

6) Continue to add compost to fill the bin and adjust dampness, turning or shaking the bin daily.

7) After about one month, you can run the compost through a sifter or chicken wire and harvest the final compost.

There you have it–your own free, natural fertilizer, ready to use on your garden.

Instructions on How to Use a Swanson Speed Square

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Today, we’re taking about the Swanson Speed Square. A speed square is an essential DIY tool for woodworking. Invented way back in 1930, the popularity of the Swanson speed square has grown substantially over time.

The speed square is a rafter square, miter square, try square, scribing guide, protractor and, perhaps most usefully, a good saw guide.

Instructions to use a speed square:

As a Saw Guide: You simply hold the speed square base against the lumber and align the guide rail on your circular saw (being sure to keep your hands clear of the blade) to make clean straight cross-cuts.

As a Protractor: Simply hold the base against a flat surface and find the desired angle marking.

To Find Rafter Angles: The primary use is to find the angle for rafters. Calculating the correct angles for a rise to run ratio is simple with trigonometry, but the speed square eliminates the need for a calculator. First, set the pivot at the edge of the board. Next, rotate the square around that point until the edge of the board aligns with the mark you want on the common scale. Mark a line along the ruled side of the square.

The speed square also makes quick work of hips and valley rafters– same method as for common rafters, but use the Hip-Val” scale.

To scribe parallel lines: An often overlooked feature is the scribe feature. The tool provides a set of notches 1/4 inch apart. Set a pencil in the desired notch and slide the square along the board to mark a parallel line.

Be sure to pick one up before your next DIY woodworking project.

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