Tag Archives: home mantainence

Building my own closet

Finally I moved in to my new house, albeit the renovation is not totally finished. It just marks the beginning of many DIY home improvement projects. The first project is building the closets. The closets came with the house is those very ugly wire shelves, which typically you would see in a rental apartment. Both I and Pat hated those flimsy wire shelves and want to have better looking closets. Custom made closet are nice but very expensive, so it’s out of question. We check out closet solutions from IKEA, they look nice but they are quite expensive and the dimension does not fit our walk in closet. I almost got the extensible closet from Canadian Tire, but at the end I go for modular closet from Home Depot for the walk in closet and build from parts for other smaller closets.

I bought the Martha Stuart modular closet from Home Depot, although it carries Martha Stuart’s brand, I suspect it’s a Home Depot brand, since I don’t see it selling anywhere else. It is about twice as expensive as Closet Maid wire shelves but half the price of Ikea and it almost quite nice. The closet is easy to install, first mount the metal rail on the wall, then hang the vertical plywood panels and at last put on the shelves and rods. It only took me 12 hours to finish our walk in closet. I have spent most of the time figuring out where to drill holes on the dry wall using a stud finder and a level, went to Home Depot twice to pick up parts I forgot to buy, reinstall the panels a few times due to stupid mistakes and saw down the hanging rod to fit my smaller than standard closet. It also has many accessories, like drawers, wire basket, L shape shelves for the corners, shoe racks, sliding ties rack. I bought a couple of drawers and a tie racks to make the closet looks more elegant.

Here is how the Martha Stuart closet looks on the package:

Here is how the Martha Stuart closet looks after installed

The walk in closet is done and I have a more ambitious plan for other smaller closets. The other closets are essentially just a shelf with a hanging rod, I figure the cheapest solution is build it from parts. I got two metal bracket with hooks at the end for the rod at $3.99 each. Don’t buy the packaged shelves or rods from Closet Maid as they are over priced. Just buy a long piece of laminated plywood shelves for $10 and have Home Depot cut it into the right size for $1 per cut. A 4 feet 1″ dowel hardwood rob for $5 and cut it into the right size as well. The rest is pretty straight forward, find the stud and screw into the bracket. Then put the shelves and rod on the bracket and fix it with screws too. The trick is drill a pilot hole first so it is easier drive the screw into the wood. The only thing left to do is paint the rod to match color of the shelf.

Cutting wood

Today is the second class of my wood working class. I bought three pieces of birch wood last Sunday to make a small table. I learn how to cut the a rough wood into the required shape in today’s class. The cutting steps are pretty simple.

1. Use a miter saw cut 2-3″ from the edge to get rid of cracks or defects.
2. Cut the wood into rough length (the real length plus 1″)
3. Take the wood to the jointer and trim one edge straight. It is easier to trim the edge curving outward.
4. Take the wood to table saw and cut it into rough width. (real width plus 1/4″)
5. Take the wood back to the jointer and trim one face flat. Now the wood has a right angle edge.
6. Take the wood to planner and plane it to the final width and thickness.

I am kinda slow today, so I didn’t get to step 6 today. Now I have all the pieces of my small table cut in rough size. After cutting 20 over pieces, I am quite good at using the jointer. The key is to apply pressure on the front, not on the back when the wood pass through the blade. I can feel when the blade is trimming a layer off the wood. I made many cuts using the table saw too, but it is still quite scary. It is the only piece of tool in the workshop have an uncovered rotating blade. Keep your fingers away from moving blades and always use a push stick.

We spent the first hour listening to instruction and watching demonstration. That left me two hours to work on my own. The clock seems running much faster when I concentrate in cutting the wood. The class is over sooner before I finish cutting all my pieces. At the end of the class, I have saw dust all over my clothes. I guess I have to wash my clothes after each class. Too bad that I forgot to bring my camera. However, it seems kinda silly taking pictures in the workshop. No one is taking any pictures.

Woodworking 101

I am taking woodworking for beginner at Vancouver School Board. Today is the first day of eight lessons. At the end of the lessons, I will build a small table with a drawer. Before today’s class, I always thought how can can woodworking be? It seems quite easy to buy some piece of wood, cut them to the right size and then screw them together. I totally underestimate the depth of knowledge involved in woodworking. Even I don’t care about workmanship, decoration, artistic design and all those useless subjective aspects, there are still lots of thing I need to know in order to build a functional and sturdy table.

The first class covers some basic workshop safety, required by the school board for using the workshop. Then the instructor spent almost an hour teaching us different kinds of wood. I just realize soft wood is not always soft and hard wood is not always hard. Soft wood refers to wood from evergreen tree and hard wood refers to wood from deciduous trees. I saw many wood samples from pine, fir, spruce, cherry, to maple, birch, alder to oak, walnut and teak. I get a general understanding on how to pick good wood and why the good wood worth the more expensive price tag. I learn the difference between vertical cut and flat cut, rough lumber and finished lumber, construction grade and trim grade. I also learned that a 2×4 is not really 2″ by 4″, it only got 1.5″ x 3.5″.

The instructor shows us how to use the machines in the second half of the class. It is the first time I operate a sliding saw and cut my first piece of wood. Safety is very important in working with power tools. Always pay attention where your hands are and stay away from any moving parts. You don’t want to lose your fingers. I learned how to use mitre saws, table saws, jointer, planner and difference kinds of blades. I also learn three ways of making a join, pocket hole, dowel and biscuit. Too bad that the class is only 3 hours long, the instructor did not have time show us all the power tools. We will learn routers, other drills and saws in the advance class.

The instructor is very nice, he will take us out on a field trip to buy wood this Sunday. I still haven’t decide what kind of wood I want to use. I want to use the cheaper pine if I screw up my table or I can use a better looking cherry or birch if I want to display my work in the living room. Buying wood is not cheap, the material cost of the table is at least $50, it may be over $100 if I go for expensive wood like walnut or oak. Buying a MDF table from IKEA is cheaper than building your once.

I am looking forward to next class. Woodworking is quite rewarding since you can see your production born from nothing other than a pile of wood. I think all men should know some basic woodworking skill. Woodworking is a very manly activity You are not man enough if you don’t know how to work with wood.

Milwaukee M18


It is man’s duty to maintain the house. When something is broken, the man of the house should know some easy repair skills. Being a handy man in the house is what defines the masculinity of a man. A power drill to has man living in a house is like a sword to a swordsman, a gun to a soldier. Every man needs a power drill.

I have been shopping for my power drill for a while, since I got my own place. I did many research online and talked to my colleagues. I have concluded that a few rule of thumbs buying the first power drill.

  1. Never pay full price for a power tool. Hardware shops have sales every few months, wait and save
  2. Power drill should be your only cordless tool. Battery is not powerful enough for saws.
  3. Get a 18V cordless driller instead of 14.4V or 12V. It’s more powerful and easier to use
  4. You need at least 2 batteries and a quick charger. Or you have to stop and wait when the battery is drained.
  5. Don’t buy cheap Chinese made power tool, it breaks fast.
  6. Warranty, warranty, warranty.

I was debating within myself should I get a normal drill or hammer drill. The impact drill is in between and it’s pretty much useless. A normal drill is good enough for indoor work, but I may want work on the concrete in my backyard, so I decided a hammer drill. At first I think I can get by with just a drill and use it as a driver instead of getting a separate impact driver. I saw the 2-in-1 hammer drill and impact driver combo on sales, it’s 40% off the regular price. It is too good a deal to miss, so I end up having both tools. After all, it is better to fasten screws with a impact driver.

I saw the Dewalt combo in the sales fryer. When I was at the hardware shop, there was Milwaukee sales booth. Both Dewalt and Milwaukee are very good power tool bands and I only see good review on the web. Dewalt seems more to be popular but Milwaukee has a reputation of better quality. Dewalt is made in Taiwan or Mexico, but Milwaukee is made in USA. The specification of the Dewalt and Milwaukee is pretty similar, both use Li-ion battery. The Milwaukee has slightly better torque and speed. Usually Milwaukee is a bit more expensive than Dewalt. The Milwaukee sales offer to match the price of the Dewalt combo and throw in an extra battery. So I walked out the door with a Milwaukee M18 hammer drill, impact driver combo with 3 batteries.