Projects that include items for the home, backyard or other general carpentry projects.

Lower Your Energy Consumption, Reduce Your Carbon Footprint


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!

Instructions on How to Use a Swanson Speed Square


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.

DIY Tool Review: Irwin Quick-Grip 59400CD 4-Inch Handi-Clamp


Today, we’re looking at a tool I recently got to help make cuts on the projector project, the Irwin Quick-Grip 59400CD 4-Inch Handi-Clamp.

The Pros: Simple to use; if you can squeeze, you already know how to use it. Padded gripping surface.

The Cons: Mid-price at under 10 dollars. not the cheapest clamp, but probably one of the most useful and versitile clamps. Grip seems slightly weak.

The Review: Overall 3.8/5.0 – I used this clamp to hold light firring strips to a table to make cuts with my circular saw and it was more than enough when combined with a light grip on the board with my free hand. While the clamp initially seemed to have a weak grasp, it’s ease of use and operation makes up for it. Also, in practice the Irwin Quick-Grip Handi-Clamp proved to be a sturdy tool, perhaps only limited by my own grasping strength. With padded gripping surfaces and easy release mechanism, you’ll find plenty of uses for this clamp–and you won’t need to worry about marring finish surfaces. It is an excellent clamp for the price.  It really is a “handy clamp” and makes an excellent addition to the DIY toolbox.

Anyone else use this clamp? Like it? Hate? Is there another you’d recommend?

Make Your Own DIY Stud Finder


Lost your stud finder and need to hang some shelving? Need a cheap Stud Finder?  Why not DIY? Today’s cool DIY trick comes from: http://garages.about.com/od/toolsmaterials/qt/DIYstudfinder.htm

As you may know, there are many styles of stud finders out there, and most people prefer the simple, electronic Zircon-style that use battery power to measure the depth. But if you looked in your parent’s (or grandparent’s) toolbox, you might find a very different stud finder. One that used a rare earth magnet to detect the screws or nails attaching the drywall to studs.

Well, if you find yourself with out a proper stud finder, you can fashion own DIY Stud Finder from a simple rare earth magnet and any sort of handle you have on hand. Simply glue the magnet to your handle and drag lightly across the wall until you feel the pull. Simple and effective.

Basic Tools for Woodworking DIY Projects


Let’s take a moment to talk about tools you’ll want when you are working on building or woodworking do-it-yourself projects.

You probably already have some things:

  • hammer
  • screw drivers, phillips and flat head
  • basic saw
  • pliers, a must for so many projects
  • clamps – I recommend the kind you can squeeze to tighten such as Irwin Quick-Grip Bar Clamps
  • Tape measure or yard stick
  • pipe wrench and/or crescent wrench
  • T-square
  • level
  • sandpaper

But you’ll quickly discover you need other tools and particularly with wood construction some power tools will serve you well. One set that’s comprehensive and has done well for me personally is the: Factory-Reconditioned Ryobi ZRP841 18-Volt Super Combo Kit
At only $129 and free shipping on Amazon, it’s a deal thats tough to beat. With 18V interchangeable batteries, you’ll have all the power you’ll need to cut and drill and drive virtually any project you need, with driver/drill, circ saw, sawz-all style reciprocating saw, and flashlight.

Other items to think about:

  • Random orbit sander
  • Dremel or similar rotary tool
  • Staple gun
  • Jig saw

When selecting tools it’s important to take quality into account. While the cheapest tool may be perfectly fine for one or two projects, a higher quality tool may provide years of service. Be sure to factor how often you plan to use a tool and your expectations of tool longevity into your value calculations on a new tool purpose. For larger or single-project-use tools, consider borrowing from a friend or renting from a local home warehouse.

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