Shelving in my built-in closet

Of all my projects, this might be one of the more mundane, but it was a game changer for me.  Let me set up the scene.

When I moved into my house, the built-in closet doors did not shut and even if the doors weren’t too big for the openings, both of the cabinet latches on them were broken.  So, to keep the doors closed, I would push them in until they wedged themselves shut.  Not to mention that this weirdly-sized closet didn’t really provide good storage.  Two rods ran the width (not the length, like a normal closet) and that was all.  It wasn’t ideal, and I lived with it like that for over a year and a half before one day I woke up and decided to do something about it.

If you look at this picture, you can hopefully see the painted-over cabinet latches (who does that?!) and the doors that don’t quite close.

So one weekend I added shelving.  I used the existing duct work as the distance for my first shelf and then put another shelf to make them fairly equal distance.  I cut the wood, primed it, and installed the shelving.

Then I painted, caulked, and then painted again.  Then I decided to use some MDF trim pieces to edge out the shelves (this makes the shelves look like they’re 2″ thick and minimizes the parts of the brackets you can see).

Then the next weekend I planed down the closet doors (on the hinges), then removed the doors, sanded down the rough spots, spackled holes, sanded the spackle, cleaned the hardware, primed bare spots, reinstalled the doors on their hinges, painted everything (including the backside of the doors), and then installed new cabinet latch hardware on the front.

For the first time since I moved in, this closet is actually functional (in both storage and operation).

It was much longer than I’m used to for my projects– usually a weekend is all it takes, but the difference blows me away.  It still looks pretty similar to what it did before (especially from the outside), but now I’ve gained a ton of useable space.  Now it’s hard to remember back to the wedged doors and wasted space.

Here’s a before and after:


Suction Cup Window Bird Feeder

I saw the plans for this bird feeder on Ana White.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen the free building plans on her website, go check them out now.  Her site is where I found the plans for my Farmhouse Table.

So I saw THIS bird feeder and knew that I had to make it.  What an easy gift for my parents (who happen to love feeding birds, squirrels, or anything else that tries to access the feeders).

Click THIS LINK to see the supplies you’re going to need.

What to do:

1. Cut your wood.  Drill a hole in the main piece near a corner and use your jigsaw (they’re cheap if you need to buy one, and awesome) to cut out the interior hole.  Then lightly sand the edges to make everything smooth.

2. Use wood glue to assemble your bird feeder.

3. I waited for the glue to dry, then I used a few finishing nails to secure the pieces– just to make sure nothing was going to come apart in the weather.  Two on the backside to attach the base, one (or two) on the roof, and one on each side of the bottom bird-feeder part.

4. Use your drill to make some holes for your suction cups on the back.  I didn’t have a drill bit that was quite big enough for my suction cups, so I got creative and drilled down and a little sideways to make it work.

5. I used a cheap foam brush to apply a walnut stain from Minwax.

6. Then I used Thompson’s Water Seal spray.  It looked just like this, but in a spray can (although I found it in the store next to the rest of the sealers, not in the spray paint section.

7. Let it dry completely.  Then I used Liquid Nails to attach the suction cups to the back.  Make sure that they’re in there good and tight, then let the glue cure (8+ hours).

Then you’re done!  Just push the feeder up against a window and fill it with bird seeds.

*Be careful when you pull the feeder off the window.  Try to reach around and disengage the suction cups before you pull– otherwise you could pull the suction cups out from the bird feeder.  Yeah, that happened to me.

DIY Spice Rack

After finishing my kitchen remodel and cleaning/organizing my kitchen cabinets, I was left with the most frustrating cabinet of them all.  The spice cupboard.  Regardless of how I arranged things, I could never find the spice I needed.  In fact, during this project I realized that I had at least 6 doubles and 3 containers of cinnamon!  Something had to be done.  Here is what I started with:

I looked online, I looked in stores, and then I got really frustrated.  Most of the spice racks are meant for 12″ (or bigger) cupboards– and if that’s your situation, you’re in luck, there are lots of options out there for you.  But, if you’re like me and have only 10″, then your options are basically non-existent.

So, like any good DIY person, I devised a system that I could build and that would suit my needs.

Here’s what I used:

  • Wood (I think they’re 2×2’s, which means they’re really 1.5×1.5’s)
  • Wood glue
  • Primer (because I used scrap wood)
  • Paint (because I used scrap wood)
  • Saw

And here’s what I did:

1. I measured the width and height of the cabinet (10″ wide and about 10″ high)

2. I used my measurements to figure out how many “2×2″ boards I could stack (1.5+1.5+1.5+1.5+ spice container = little less than 10”)

3. I cut my 2×2’s 10″ long (I used 10, 10″ 2×2’s for this.  4, 3, 2, 1)

4. I lightly sanded my 2×2’s to get rid of really sharp edges or really rough spots– nothing more than 150 grit sandpaper.

5. I then realized that my 2×2’s were not quite wide enough for my spice containers!

So, because I didn’t want to spend any money on this project, I raided my wood pile and found a 1×12″ board and measured the height of my stack of 4, stack of 3, stack of 2, and 1 and then cut corresponding 1×12″ pieces.  Like this:

6. I glued the 2×2 blocks together (4, 3, 2, 1)

7. I glued the 1×12 pieces to the corresponding blocks.

8. I did NOT glue block stacks together!  If I had done this, I wouldn’t have been able to maneuver the blocks into the cabinet (tight space!), so I left them separate and just placed them in the cabinet separate.

9. I primed the stacks.

10. Painted the stacks.

11.  Places the stacks in the cabinet and filled them up.

It’s such an improvement over what I had!  It’s not perfect looking, but now I can see what I have (or what I need) without having to dig through and look at every single container!  And the best part was that I had all the supplies at home, so it was FREE!

How do you organize your spice rack?  Did you DIY something?  I’d love to know.

I’m linking up with A Thoughtful Place’s Oranizing Link Party HERE.

DIY Shelf for a Half Wall

After finishing the stripes I painted in my downstairs bathroom, I decided that I really wanted to finish the poor little half wall.  The top was textured, and for some reason always dirty.  It needed a shelf.  Here is what I started with:

Here is what I needed:

  • 1″ board for shelf
  • Quarter round (already primed)
  • Miter box (THIS is the one I purchased)
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail set (like THIS)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Caulk
  • Wood putty

Here’s what I did:

1. I measured the width and the length of my half wall.  I bought a board that would hang at least 1″ on every sides (my wall was 4″ wide, so I bought a 6″ wide board).

2. I measured (adding an extra inch or two for mitered corners) how much quarter round I would need to wrap around the bottom of the board/by the wall.

3. Then I cut the shelf board to size and used my palm sander to get the board really smooth– including the edges.

4. I laid the board on the half wall just to make sure that it fit well.  Then I took it off and primed it while I worked on the quarter round.

5. I measured, then started cutting my first piece of quarter round.  This step was admittedly the hardest.  And I spent a good 15 minutes sitting by the miter box trying to get the angle I needed.  Here is what I figured out.

  • Put your quarter round against the wall you want it, mark the spot where the inside edge will hit the wall.  Do both long walls, then measure the piece on the short end after you’ve cut both long ends.
  • Lay the quarter round with the rounded side down on the bottom of the miter box.

  • Pull the quarter round towards the edge/wall of the box.

  • Put your fingers under the rounded side of the quarter round and gently pull it towards the edge/wall of the box.

  • Line up the your mark with one of the 45 degree saw lines (use the opposite 45 degree angle cut for the other side)
  • Make sure that the angle you’re cutting is correct (mine were all outward pointing angles)

  • Saw through the quarter round

6. Measure your other sides of quarter round and cut.  This is what your angles should look like when you’re done.

7. Make sure your shelf board is hanging over an equal amount on both sides.  Then nail it into the half wall with finishing nails.  Use your nail set to get the nails all the way into the wood without damaging the wood with the hammer.

8. Nail some finishing nails partially into your quarter round.

9. Nail your quarter round underneath your shelf against the wall.  Use the nail set to get the nails all the way into the wood so you can cover those holes with wood putty.

10. Use wood putty to cover nail holes.

11. Paint the shelf and quarter round.

12. Once the paint is dry, use a paint-able caulk around every edge for a seamless look.

I absolutely love  how the shelf turned out.  Now all I need to do is grab some cute vases to set there!

Have you built anything recently?

I’m linking up to Thrify Decor Chick’s April Before & After Party.  Check out some other great projects there!

How to build a farmhouse table

(Original post from my Blogger; visit to view it.  And please also excuse my poor-quality iPhone pictures.)

I built a table.

A legitimate dining-room table.

Totally serious.

Interested in building a piece of furniture too?

Start here: This is one of the coolest websites I’ve found.  Ana has a passion for building things, and for making her plans available for free online so that regular people like me can build our own furniture for WAY cheaper than retail.  She also bases many of her designs off name-brand furniture you can buy from Crate & Barrel or West Elm–but for much cheaper.

Find your plan.  I used THIS one.  The Farmhouse Table  Although I’ll freely admit that I modified it a bit.  I wanted a shorter table with different legs than the original plan (4x4s) instead of 2, 2x4s attached, and no stretcher supports.  That meant that I had to modify things so that I could use my post legs without the stretcher supports.

Do all the math and you get something that looks like this:

HINT: Wood is not actually the length it says it is.  This was really frustrating.  A 4×4 post will actually only measure 3.5×3.5.  Take that into account when you’re doing your math.  My table worked, but in the end, didn’t need any of the spacers I planned.  And don’t use my plan above…. the morning we started cutting & building is when I realized the wood anomaly.  This means that the above plan doesn’t represent the actual measurements of the wood.  Sorry

Then buy your wood (and screws).  I got all of mine at Home Depot.  Make sure that your boards are SUPER straight.  This is really important.  We also used 3″ AND 4″ screws throughout the process.  We found out when we got to Home Depot that they don’t actually sell 3.5″ screws.

And I had to sit in the back with the wood because it was so long.

Then you get out your mighty mighty tape measure, square, and skill saw and start cutting your wood to length.  We did wait to cut the tabletop pieces until the end though, just to make sure everything would be the same

HINT: cut the “breadboard” (the two pieces on the end of the tabletop that run perpendicular to the rest of the tabletop) LAST.  This measurement was way off, and we ended up having to cut them over again–which meant buying more wood.

Then frame up the legs and sides.  We used a pocket hole jig to keep from needing to screw from the outside of the boards.  See more about pocket holes HERE.  Kreg Jig is just a brand name product–I got an off-brand Home Depot version for cheaper.

Then we built the under-tabletop supports.  This piece was just 2, 2x4s with the 2×2 support pieces screwed into them like ladder rungs.  Then we set the under-tabletop support piece into the frame we built.

Then screwed the two pieces together.  This is Kevin, my table-building model.  I also convinced him to do a lot of the actual “power drilling” & “skill sawing” work.  He was just so good at it…

Then we turned the whole thing upright and tried to square it.  We got to about 1/2″ off and called it good.

We measured and screwed in one of the breadboards to the tabletop, and then started on the 7 tabletop pieces that run perpendicular.  This was the exciting part.

This is, of course, when I realized that the breadboard pieces were too short (when cut to the exact measurements from Ana White’s site–my guess is that the darn, “I’m not actually how long I say I am” wood sizes are the culprit.  Regardless, having the one breadboard piece in place made placement of the middle tabletop pieces a lot easier.  Then the breadboard piece was removed, a new 2×8 board was purchased, and the new breadboard pieces were cut and screwed into place.

Ta da!  Except because I didn’t want those stretcher supports underneath, the whole thing was a bit wobbly.  So Kevin & I improvised and created some very simple triangle supports for the legs.  We just measured and cut from a leftover 2×4 and screwed them into place (after using a level to make sure things were square).

The table-making process took two days (or about 12 hours) to complete.  Then I took a week break and started in on the finishing process.

First, I sanded the table to within an inch of its life.  I bought a finishing sander from Home Depot and it was worth every penny.  I used several grits of sandpaper: 100, 120, and 150.  I was afraid to sand too much because I’ve heard you can essentially “stain” your wood by over-sanding & make it so stain doesn’t soak in well.  That, and I was sick and tired of staining by that time.  It was really smooth to the touch.  I counted it good, and then used tack cloth to get ALL the sawdust off.

Wood conditioner is recommended for soft woods like pine (the lumber they generally sell in the regular section at Home Depot).  It’s essentially two parts paint thinner to one part finish and really helps the soft woods evenly absorb the stain.  It closes the wood pores (which are very large on soft wood), so it will absorb less stain just in general–something to keep in mind if you want your project really dark.  It also gives the wood (in my opinion) a honey-ish looking color.

Then I tested a piece of wood for the staining process.  Six different options: 1) no wood conditioner, stain put on and immediately removed, 2) no wood conditioner, stain put on and left for 10 minutes, 3) wood conditioner wet (or newly applied) and stain put on and immediately removed, 4) wood conditioner wet and stain put on and left for 10 minutes, 5) wood conditioner left to dry overnight and stain put on and immediately removed, and 6) wood conditioner left to dry overnight and stain put on and left for 10 minutes. (Don’t automatically just choose the directions from the back of the can–in my research I have found that wood conditioner needs the full 24 hours to dry to work correctly, even though the can says the stain needs to be applied immediately.)  For the look I was going for, I chose #6.  My stain was an oil-based Minwax Dark Walnut.  The wood conditioner gave it a warmer, honey-like tone underneath.

Staining the table was probably my absolutely favorite part of the process.  Be sure to put down a tarp to catch all the drops though.  And buy some Mineral Spirits beforehand.  It’ll make the dalmatian look go right away once you’re done with the stain.  It gets out stain AND polyurethane off skin & brushes, which is really helpful because soap (or dish soap) won’t do the trick.  Although I’ve head that cooking/mineral oil will.

Use a rag to rub it on the stain, and an old cotton shirt or sweatshirt to rub it off.  Make sure to get all of the stain off afterwards, or it just becomes sticky/tacky and creates more problems when you go to finish the project.

Let the stain dry completely (at least 24-28 hours).  Then you can apply another layer of stain if you want.  I’ve heard that past about two coats, your project won’t get any darker though. I only did one coat and was really happy with the color.

I did quite a bit of reading on poly.  Oil vs. water. (P.S. Never use a water-based stain with an oil-based poly–you can use water over oil, but never oil over water. Check your labels!)  It’s essentially a plastic coating to furniture, which will protect the wood from spills or liquids.  It doesn’t have to be too shiny–you can choose from satin, semi-gloss, or gloss finishes to poly.  It’s not the best finish for all wood projects, but it’s a good solid, scratch-resistant, water-proof option for a dining room table (that isn’t an “antique”).

I did the first layer of oil-based poly (with a foam brush), then let it dry for at least 24 hours.  Being sure to use long, slow strokes to make a minimal amount of bubbles. After the first layer dried, the wood was a little rough, so I lightly, hand-sanded with a 220 grit sandpaper (I think any grit lower–e.g. 150–will only scratch the wood too much), wiped everything off with tack cloth, and applied the next layer of poly (and let it dry for another 24 hours).  Then sanded with 220 grit again, wiped off with tack cloth, and applied my third and final layer of poly.  Now the coating was smooth.

At this point, the table is done!  Unfortunately polyurethane takes approximately 2-4 weeks to “cure”.  It will be dry to the touch in 24 hours, and you can start using it after 7 days, but don’t leave anything sitting on it for long periods of time, otherwise it will sink into the poly layer.  You can’t see it, but apparently the molecules within the poly layer are still moving around, even though the layer feels hard to the touch.  I’ve also heard that it can take up to a year for the poly layer to be completely cured.

So I left my table in my shed for a couple weeks, let it off-gas its VOCs outside, and then got Kevin and my dad to carry it around the mulberry bush and into my house.  Where it looks absolutely gorgeous (even without chairs!)

Cost breakdown:  Had I bought a brand new, retail 6’x3′(ish) table, it would have probably cost about $1,000.  Instead, I spent:

Home Depot wood & screws: $110 (or very close)  The 4×4″ posts were the most expensive.
Pocket hole jig: $30
Power finishing sander & sandpaper: $35
Stain, polyurethane, and foam brushes: $20
TOTAL: About $200

Such a fun project–even for an amateur–and a totally successful “30 before 30” list achievement (with a whole bunch of stories/memories made in the process).

**I’m linking this post up with Primitive & Proper’s “Piece of Work Wednesday Link Party”!  Check it out HERE.