Refinishing an Outdoor Bar

When I pinned this awesome outdoor cooler, I thought that even though it was a big project, I could do it.  Do you know what’s better than building it?  Buying it for $20 at a garage sale!  It was in pretty good shape when we got it, completely usable – but with a little elbow grease I thought I could make it something amazing.


Step 1 – Wood Brightener

The first thing I did was clean the bar with a wood brightener.  I didn’t know such a product existed, but it’s like a magic elixer.  You apply it (diluted) to wet wood furniture, let it soak, then scrub it.  See how it went from dark and dirty to bright and clean?  Isn’t it great?  The wood feels fresh and raw, ready to be finished.


Step 2 – Unwarp Wood (or Bend it Like Villa)

One of the planks of the lid had gotten warped from sitting outside.  We thought of leaving it,  or replacing it, or adding braces to it.  Then we decided to try to bend it back.  Did you know you can bend wood?  My mom gave me this tip.  She remembers her dad, who was a carpenter, did it all the time.  First you need to soak the wood, to make it malleable, then you need to apply pressure to bend it.  I soaked the blank in the bathtub and covered it in weights overnight.  The next morning the plank was pretty flat.  I took the plank out of the water, but left the weights, so it wouldn’t warp when it dried.  Ta da!  It’s flat again.  How will I prevent from bending again? I’m going to seal it.  Once it’s sealed, and water can’t penetrate, it should remain warp free.

Step 3 – Stain It

All the of the craft sites recommend gel stains, so that’s what I went with.  Gel stains are thick, like pudding, so application is easier and less messy. One crafter said gel stains are so amazing that you don’t have to remove all the old stain.  She lied.  As you can see the lid now has a “unique patina”, but I can live with it.  I used an old pair of sweat pants cut into rags to wipe on the stain.  Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves (latex will melt).  I decided to only stain the top, because I didn’t want the project to start getting too labour expensive.  After three coats, I was pretty happy with the results.

Gel Stain

Step 4 – Seal It

We need to protect all our hard work!  Especially if it’s going to survive outside.  My friend is a furniture maker, and he recommended Varathane Diamond Wood Finish.  It looks cloudy, but it dries clear.  I sealed the entire bar, with several coats.

Step 5 – Finishing Touches

Last, but not least, I added new knobs and installed a cool bottle opener/cap catcher some friends gave us. Voila! Now we can enjoy cold beverages in the hot weather.  (Let’s pretend I’ve posted this in the summer!)

Refinished Outdoor Bar

Refinished Outdoor Bar

Growth Chart DIY

I’ve had this project in mind for a long time, and now that my nephew is 2, I finally get to make it.  You can buy them on etsy in all sorts of styles for $35 to over $100 PLUS shipping.  But you can make it yourself with a bit of wood and some imagination.

I had a nice piece of dark wood leftover from a construction project.   I like it because it’s just 6 inches wide and 1/4 inches thick, which makes it light and easy to hang on a wall.  I decided to cut the length to six feet, and mark the bottom at six inches (to clear the baseboards) and the top 6’6″.  I really wanted the chart to be in both imperial and metric, so I marked inches on one side and centimeters on the other.  My plan was to paint all the numbers, but it turns out I’m a terrible painter.  Instead, I used patterned duct tape to make the feet markers and Avery Window Decals from Walmart to make the centimeters.  Did you know that in Microsoft Word you can indicate that you want your table cells to be exactly 1 centimeter x 1 centimeter?  Now you do!

Next I drilled a whole at exactly the six foot marker, to make hanging easy.

And my latest discovery?  Gold Sharpie! To cleanly and permanently mark  the height on the dark wood.

Here’s K, looking rather unsure, next to the finished product.

Growth Chart DIY

Growth Chart DIY


Bird House Tutorial

Old Bird House

This birdhouse was old when my parents bought their house 27 years ago.

Every year the sparrows come and make it their home and my mom watches their activities from her dining room.  But the fence that the birdhouse is attached to is set to be demolished.  So, I decided this would be a good chance for me to build a new birdhouse.  I salvaged a nice wide board from the demolition of another part of the fence, and I followed the gist of this video tutorial.

If your birdhouse is meant to be functional, then there are a few design elements I would include:

  • First, hinge one of the walls with nails and close with a screw.  This makes it easy to clean out every year.
  • Second, cut the corners off the base.  This allows for drainage.
  • Lastly, make the side walls a 1/2 inch shorter than the main walls so it leaves a little gap under the roof. This allows for airflow.Bird House Tutorial


  • measuring tape
  • square
  • mitre saw
  • sandpaper
  • hole saw bit with drill
  • hammer


  • board – I used a 6″x48″
  • twig or dowel for the perch
  • nails
  • wood glue
  • 1 – small screw
  • paint and/or clear coat (optional)Bird House Cut List

Cut List

  • Side Walls 2 – 6″x6.5″
  • Main Walls 2 – 6″x7″ + peak
  • Floor 1 – 6″x4.5″
  • Roof 1 – 6″x7 5/8″
  • Roof 1 – 7″x7″ 5/8″


  1. First, draw out your cut lines.  If you don’t have a square, you can use a little math to draw the peaks on your main walls.  Since the peak is an equilateral triangle, and the width is 6″, then a 12″ X (two times the width) on your board will give you two equilateral peaks that face each
  2. Cut all four corners off the floor.  This will allow drainage in the house.
  3. Cut some grooves on the inside of the main wall below where the entrance will be.  The birds will like this rough wood to grip with their claws.
  4. Use a hole saw bit and drill a hole for the entrance.  This was a little bit of work and I saw smoke.  Be patient.Bird House Sides
  5. Drill a hole for the perch.
  6. Assemble the walls around the floor.  Pick one Side Wall and only put a nail on each of the top corners.  Don’t put nails on the bottom corners.Bird House Assemble
  7. See how the one Side Wall swings up like a DeLorean door?  That’s so we can easily clean it out at the end of the season.  We’ll secure it soon.Bird House Delorean Door
  8. Nail in the floor.  Don’t forget to leave that DeLorean door swingable.
  9. Add the roof.  Now, if I were smart, I would have made one side of the roof longer than the other side by the thickness of the board.  I hope that made sense.  Except, I can’t cut a 6″ wide board to make a piece that’s 7″x7 5/8″.  So the roof is uneven.  I hope the birds don’t mind.
  10. Now, to secure that DeLorean door.  I drilled a hole into the door only, not the floor, and made it wider than my screw. Then I popped in the screw and hand screwed it into the floor.  So when I do need to clean out the house, I just need a screwdriver to pop in the screw.Bird House Door
  11. Glue in the perch.
  12. Paint, if desired.

Bird House Tutorial

Shoes, Glorious Shoes!

… or The Taming of the Shoes

Shoe Storage Tutorial

I’ve been dreaming about the ultimate shoe storage for a while.  And, who hasn’t?  I combined two different ideas into one glorious shoe closet.

I had the perfect little space for this in the basement.  A nice little unused and unfinished corner in a closet.

At the top is a ledge for heals.  This was fairly easy.  I had a leftover piece of half inch trim and nailed it into the wall with a half inch spacer.  This left just enough gap for the heals to hang from.  It took a bit of guess-and-testing to make sure the heals wouldn’t fall off the ledge.  Just to pretty up the ugly plywood bulkhead, I covered it up with self-adhesive wall paper from the dollar store.

The shelf is my first Ikea Hack.  It was a Billy Bookcase I salvaged from a flood.  I cut off the water damaged part and I cut it to height to fit under my bulkhead.  I then re-assembled it and added extra shelves, which I installed at an angle.  The easiest way to do this is to get extra billy shelves and just install them with the back pegs two holes higher than the front pegs.  The other way to do this is to cut 1/4″ plywood to size and paint it white.  Then add a notch underneath like the Ikea shelves and drill in holes for the pegs.  Or install the shelf permanently with a pocket hole jig.

Now, the best part!  Arrange your shoes on the shelf.  I had to organize them by type and colour.  Hahaha.  No really.

The only problem left is this shelf is full, and I have a few more pieces of footwear to add.  I guess I have to add one more shelf.  Oh, how life is hard.

Aldo Leopold Bench

Aldo Leopold Bench

Aldo Leopold Bench –

When I saw this bench, the first thing I thought was “I could totally make that!”.  The second thing I thought was “This Aldo fellow must be some sort of  post-modern designer.”  It turns out that Aldo Leopold is considered to be the father of wildlife management and was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast.  The bench was the result of wanting a quick and easy place to sit among nature.  Haha – Made you learn!

The whole project took me less than an hour and cost about $20 in material.  As usual, my instructions are slightly different from what I actually made.  You need one 2x6x8 and one 2x8x10, but since my car can’t fit a 10 foot board, I used a left over piece of cedar for the back rest.  I bought pressure treated wood for this project.


Aldo Leopold Bench plans

  • Mitre Saw
  • Drill
  • Measuring Tape


  • one 2x6x8
  • one 2x6x10
  • ten x 2 1/2″ screws
  • wood glue

Cut List

  • A x 2 – 36″. Cut ends at a 22.5° angle PARALLEL.  You are making a parallelogram, not a Bench Cut Piecestrapezium.  Haha!  Made you learn remember math.
  • B x 2- 17 1/4″.  Cut ends at a 22.5° angle PARALLEL
  • C x 1 – 45″ square ends.
  • D x 2 – 42″ square ends.


1.  Cut pieces on your mitre saw.  Your mitre should display angles, so it should be easy to cut a 22.5° angle.

2.  Fasten legs (A and B) together with wood glue and screws.  Pre-drilling makes everything easier.  To make sure it will be level on the ground, use another board as a guide.  Repeat for the other side, assemble a mirror image.  Pieces B will be on the inside and will support the seat.

Bench Legs

3.  Attach seat (D) to the legs with wood glue and screws.

bench attach seat

4.  Attach backrest (C).

5. Sit and Enjoy!

Aldo Leopold Bench

Stripped Holes & Loose Screws

How to fix loose screws cause by stripped wood holes.

How to fix loose screws cause by stripped wood holes.

I’m sure there’s a dirty joke in there somewhere.  This morning I opened the closet door and the whole thing seem to fall apart.  The screws on two of the hinges just fell out.  Turns out that the wood holes were stripped and didn’t hold the screw anymore.  So this is “How to fix loose screws caused by stripped wood holes“.

This entire repair took a little more than 5 minutes, but you look like such a handy genius.


  • Wood Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Screwdriver


  1. Put a little glue on the end of a toothpick and stick it into the hole.  Repeat until the hole is plugged.  Just jam as many toothpicks into the hole as you can.
  2. Snap the toothpicks off in the hole.  Mine didn’t come off perfectly clean, but I wasn’t worried because the hinge and screws would cover it.
  3. Wait a bit for the glue to set.
  4. Screw the screws back in.  You’ll be able to do this easily by hand.
  5. Pat yourself on the back.How to fix lose screws cause by stripped wood holes.

Square Foot Gardening – The Set Up

Thanks again to my favorite resource, Pinterest, I have discovered square foot (meter) gardening.  After all my research, here’s what I have come up with for my needs.  The frame cost me $15 and the soil $41 for a total of $56.

SFG – How to make a frame

To make the frame, here’s what I would suggest.  BTW – This is one of the easiest wood projects I have ever made.  I used all new materials, and the whole thing cost me about $15.  I opted for 2 inch boards instead of 1 inch because I wanted a sturdy box.


  • 2 pieces of 2x6x92-5/8″ = $8.50
  • 8 screws 2 1/2″
  • 3 cedar nailing strips 8′ $6
  • 9+ nails

Total Cost = $14.50


  • saw
  • drill
  • hammer
  • measuring tape


  1. Cut the 2×6 boards in half (46 1/4″)
  2. Drill two holes at one end of each board.  Drill the holes 1″ from the end and about 1 1/2″ from the edge.  You only need to drill holes into one end of the board because it’s going to butt up against the un-drilled side.SFG - Frame
  3. Lay the frame on the ground.  Butt up the un-drilled sides to the drilled sides.  (Does that make sense?)
  4. Use your 2 1/2″ screws and screw the frame together.
  5. Lay your frame in a sunny location, somewhere that gets more than six hours of sun.  Set cardboard underneath the frame to prevent grass or other plants from growing up.  I’d use cardboard over landscaping fabric because it’s (I’m) cheap.  Update: Use cardboard.  Grass grew through the fabric.
  6. Fill the frame with your soil.  The recipe for Mel’s Mix is below.
  7. Cut the nailing strips to length and nail them into the frame.  You need 6 pieces to make a 4×4 frame.   Some people just use string to divide out the frame.
  8. PLANT!

SFG $15 Frame –

Ok, you probably noticed that my frame doesn’t exactly look like what I described. First, it’s because I only bought 2 pieces of nailing strip, so I didn’t have enough.  Second, I really want a lot of carrots.  SFG grows veggies in just 6 inches of soil, but for carrots they suggest making little “high rises” to increase the depth to 8 inches.  I decided I wanted to grow A LOT of CARROTS, so I used an 8 inch board on one edge and I added a little divider that adds two inches to the height.  So I end up with an entire row that’s 8 inches deep.

SFG – The soil

Mel’s Mix is 1/3 peat moss + 1/3 blended compost + 1/3 vermiculite.  I’m not going to be too fussy with this mix.  Here’s what I bought, and it filled the frame perfectly.

  • Peat Moss 2.2 cu $7
  • Composted cow manure 15 kg $4
  • Composted sheep manure 15 kg $4
  • Coarse Vermiculite. Two 20L bags $30. (In Edmonton you can find these big bags at Apache Seeds)

Total = $41Mel's Mix -

Here are my resources:

Square Foot Gardening

Alberta Home Gardening

How to Make a Busy Board

I was babysitting soon-to-be-one-year-old K and noticed he really likes closing the baby gates and playing with door knobs and locks.  I then remembered seeing Busy Boards on Pinterest, and thought I’ll have to make one for his birthday.  Although my dad wants to take full credit for this idea because apparently he made one for me when I was one, but I don’t seem to remember.

I had the perfect base for this project, a leftover piece of cupboard from our kitchen renovation.  Then I went to the local used hardware store and bought as many moving gadget pieces I could. I got all of this for $11!

I filled in a few holes with new pieces.  The light switch was a little work, I had to cut a hole in the board for the box so the plate would sit flush.  But that meant I knew I was going to add a piece to the back, so it didn’t matter if some of the screws poked through the board.  Plus the knocker is installed from the wrong side.  If I make this again, I would skip the light switch and make sure none of the screws went all the way through the board. This would let me skip the extra step of adding a back.

To finish the piece, I added a 1×1 frame to the back and screwed on a cover so there were no more exposed screws. I used that piece of laminated board that makes up the back of your cupboard.  Does anyone know what that’s called?  Anyway, that was it!  Done.

And since it’s a baby gift, I gave it a good clean with a bleach wipe to remove any sawdust residue  and other grimies.

Busy Board -

Busy Board –

SPROING!!!!!  So far he loves the spring door stop.  Happy 1st Birthday K!

How to mak a Busy Board

The New Adventures of the Old Dinning Table – Chair Re-Covery

Before and After

The hard part of this project was actually doing it. Once I decided on the fabric and set aside some time, it was so easy.


  • new fabric
  • upholstery foam
  • scissors, utility knife
  • screwdriver
  • staple gun

I just flipped over the chairs and removed the screws that held the seat in place. I then used a flat-head screwdriver to remove the old staples.  I used the seat as a template to cut the foam, and the old fabric as the template for the new fabric. After wrapping the foam-covered seat in fabric and re-assembling the chair, I was done! Repeat six times, and now I have a beautiful “new” dinning set!

The New Adventures of the Old Dinning Table – Wood Revival

In the late 70’s, when my mom was a newlywed, she picked up a dinning set with 6 chairs at a garage sale. She re-covered the chairs in a brown fabric and we used this table for my entire childhood.

When I recently got a home that could accommodate a real dining table, I salvaged this old one from her basement. Thanks Mom! I also re-named the style from “old-50’s” to “mid-century modern”. Much classier! We used this table all the time, and it was well loved. So it was covered in dings, scratches and water stains. My plan was to re-cover the chairs and refinished the wood.

I knew it would be a lot of work, so I spent some time googling the easiest method. I thought I would have to sand the heck out of it and use harsh chemicals until I discovered this amazing post.

Just like the poster, I was skeptical. But I figured, it was worth a try. If it didn’t work, I would just have to sand and strip it like I had been planning anyway.

The ratio is 3:1 oil and vinegar. I used an old cotton sock and with one quick swipe it looked stunning! The wood turned rich and many of the marks have disappeared. I can’t believe how easy it was and how amazing the results were. I let the mixture soak in overnight, and in the morning I gave it a quick rub down. The wood absorbed a lot of oil. Now it look fantastic!

$10 Gallery Shelves

Gallery Shelves –

These gallery ledges are probably one of the easiest projects from Ana White, perfect for a beginner.  I basically followed her instructions, but I skipped the glue. It took a couple of hours and really did cost just $10!  I actually made four ledges, but only three made it to this wall.  Ana White has lots of other detailed and free woodworking plans.