Knotted Keyring

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I was in the shop the other day and Jocelyn (of Beam&Anchor) said, “I love the long keychain thing that’s on the desk.” I realized later she was referring to the shape of the camera wrist strap, but that instantly put an idea in my head of making a key carry with a longer, maybe lanyard-like component.

So, I was playing in the shop with ideas and knots and leather scraps and leather lace and came up with a few attempts. Posting them on Instagram, I realized that folks might like one and why not do a DIY too?

It’s similar to the camera wrist strap, but with a twist. I wanted to get the ends on either side, while keeping a long loop in the middle, but having it tied flat with itself. The purpose of the loop is two-fold – one to be very visible when thrown in a bag or backpack, and two to be able to tie though a belt loop and stick in your pocket.

Start by cutting a 3 1/2″ piece of strap that’s 5/8″ wide. I’ve used a belt punch to round both ends, but you can trim with shears too. Punch a series of six holes that are large enough to easily feed your lace though.

Before lacing, feed a split-ring though the leather and fold in half. If you add the split ring later, you will mar up the leather. Once folded in half, you can start the lacing in the top left hole with a knot in the lace. Pull though to the knot. Turn the piece over and you’ll let the lace form the loop handle and come back up to the other side, top right hole. Once though there, you’ll spiral it down on one side, while creating horizontal loops on the other. These loops will wrap around your long handle segments and keep them flush and straight with the leather body. Once you pull it though the last hole, tie a knot at the very end and then tighten the whole assembly with all your extra forming more of the long loop.

You can customize with with more loops on the body, or a rivet like shown in the last pic, or use d-rings and feed split rings through them… Or any number of options.

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Surplus Style Record Crates

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You’ll need some tools: You’ll need a few materials:
  • 2'x4' of 7/16" plywood
  • crate hardware: corners and a pull

I’ve been needing some more room for my growing record collection and all the while have been looking for the right sized vintage box. I was hoping for something somewhat military surplus, but never found the right size or condition. If I found something, it was always a one-off and typically poor shape. Here’s the plan to make some for yourself, and they’re easily replicable when your collection floweth-over.

One crate can be made from a 2′x4′ piece of plywood, typically called a project board. If you have the room and the need, you could get 4 crates from a 4′x8′, but boards that big don’t typically fit in hatchbacks. I used 7/16” plywood, some small trim screws, wood glue, crate hardware and paint for this project.

Because thin plywood isn’t good for making sturdy boxes unless you have fancy joints, we’re going to have to use a table saw to cut some channels with a dado. If you don’t have a dado blade, or just lost your dado throat plate in a recent move, you can cut these with a single blade and just move your fence to cover the channel with a few passes. Because I am using 7/16” ply, you’ll need to make your dados 7/16” in from the end and of course 7/16” wide. Dados are indicated on the cut sheet diagram. Information on cutting a dado is here.

1. Cut all pieces according to the cut list with the table saw. You’ll need one with at least a 15inch fence. After pieces are cut, you’ll need to cut dados as specified. They’re all the same, so save time by cutting in an assembly-line fashion.

2. Next, you’ll need to cut clearance out of the front panel to install the hardware pull. Depending on the type you use, you’ll need a different cut, so I won’t detail it here. You could put handles on the sides, create a lid, make them taller and stacking… any option you might want for your particular use.

3. When all pieces are ready, you can start the glue-up. Clamps are necessary to get a solid joint, and I’ve added some small screws for added heft. Use wood glue spread with your finger on both boards to properly assemble and use a damp cloth to clean up any glue that’s squeezed out during the clamping. Let sit for the recommended amount of dry time. Once the main panels are assembled, you can add the side rails, and the triangle pieces to the underside. Triangle pieces ensure that you get a solid structure and a good area to mount the corner hardware pieces.

4. Final step is to sand to your preference and paint. Since I was going for a rough surplus look, I sanded all sharp edges soft and left some mars and chips in the wood. You can make it soft and smooth as you want, but for my purposes, I spend almost no time sanding. Some flat latex paint brushed on, and I’m done.

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Wool Camera Wrap

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You’ll need some tools:
  • sewing machine
  • scissors or rotary knife
  • pencil
  • paper
You’ll need a few materials:
  • heavy wool fabric
  • strap material — leather or canvas

One thing I’m typically seen lugging around is a camera. Most camera bags are overkill, especially when you just want a bit of protection walking around, or you’re packing a camera in another bag for a short trip. I picked up a nice looking, heavy wool remnant from the Pendleton outlet last weekend, so I figured I could try my hand at a simple camera wrap. Now I’ve got just the right amount of walk-around camera protection without the “tourist look.”

Making a structured camera with soft fabric is kinda crazy unless you use a stiff liner, so I was aiming for more of a protective wrap. This way, you can relax about making things exact and just enjoy sewing what is essentially a pocket with a flap. You have options for an enclosure; just make sure it doesn’t involve any metal that would mar your camera. I went with a simple strap closure that ties into itself.

1. Start with the pencil and paper and loosely trace the dimensions of your camera. If it’s small and square, easy! If it’s got an external lens, you’ll have more facets to your pattern. I traced the bottom of mine for the lens profile and used that pattern for the bottom and top but added extra for the flap. I traced the back for height and then just measured what a front panel would be and cut a long rectangle to fit.

2. Add about 1/4″ to your traced pieces to compensate for sewing the panels together and to add some wiggle room for you camera. Cut your paper template pieces out and then use them to cut your fabric panels. *Note: If your lens is off-centered, be sure to flip your bottom template over to cut the top panel of fabric.

3. After the fabric was cut, I carefully sewed all pieces together inside out. Sew any raw edges over to prevent fraying. Remember to leave openings for your strap, too. Once all panels are sewn together to your liking, turn the pocket outside in and test with your camera. Since I was using some loosely drawn templates, I did have to tighten the fit with another line of stitching on one edge.

4. For a closure, I’d envisioned using a piece of leather to wrap around the camera and tie into itself. Measure a strap piece long enough to wrap around your camera a couple times and tie to itself. Since I didn’t flip my pattern for the top and bottom flaps (see the *note above), I had a bulge in my bottom panel. Rather than re-sewing another wrap, I found this to be the perfect attachment point for the strap. You could sew your strap on the back, or just find a messed up piece on your design like I did and rivet it in place. If you do use a rivet or another hardware attachment, make sure the rivet cannot touch your camera. Since my rivet uses the outer fabric goof, I was safe.

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Barn Door Completion

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You’ll need some tools:
  • Drill with drill bits and screwdriver
  • Socket wrench
  • Miter saw
  • Sander / sandpaper and block
  • Finish / paint depending on trim and door needs
  • Circular saw if you need to cut your door
You’ll need a few materials:
  • Track and door hangers from McMaster-Carr $65
  • Door of your choice. Mine was $55 from Rebuilding Center
  • Necessary trim for door casing
  • 1x4 to offset track from wall to clear trim
  • Finish nails
  • Wood filler and spackling and latex caulk

I’m happy and excited to unveil the finished bedroom door on it’s track! Though I had plenty of little problems along the way, I’m quite pleased with the finished product. I had to let go of everything perfect, and I figured that’s just fine with a 103 year old house. My instructions could have started like this:

Step1: Get a door and track.
Step2: Bang head on door when you realize how wonky and misaligned walls are.

Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I did have to use more trim than I initially wanted. I’ll walk you through the steps so, don’t get worried yet.

The easiest installation would be to leave your door trim on, just remove the door from it’s hinges and hang your new setup so it clears the existing trim. The most idyllic installation would be to pull off the door and trim, finish the edges all flush with no trim, hang the track and new door to the wall and you’ll have 1/8″ clearance and it will be beautiful. BUT, since my walls are wonky, I had to bolster it out a ways from the bulging wall. It’s ok, because the necessary trim lends itself well to an older house. For my installation method, I first measured how tall I wanted to door to be. I bought the door 80×32 wide to cover a 76×28 opening. I first cut my door too short, which I’m quite ashamed about, so make sure you’re confident about all your measurements before getting out the saw. I measured to have the track rest one inch above the top of the trim, so I’d have plenty of height. It’s best to measure once you have your door brackets actually in the track. Then you can see where your door top will actually rest, and measure to the floor from that point and subtract a small amount to clear the floor. The track looks much better higher than snug to the top of the door anyway.

I took off all my surrounding trim from the door frame and positioned the track where I wanted it and attached it to the wall. Luckily, that was used to be an exterior wall, so it was full of strong siding boards to attach it too. The track and door is heavy, so make sure you hang it on studs, or mount it on a sturdy plywood underboard that you can securely attach. The kit comes with large bolts, so I pre-drilled holes and socketed the frame to the wall. At this point I just attached it as a dry run. I knew I was going to have to shim it away from the wall a bit, but wasn’t sure how much until I had things up and could see where I needed extra room. I screwed the heavy brackets to the door and lifted it up into the frame. When up there, I could see where areas were gapped and parts that would rub.

I realized that if I got it away from the wall, it would clear my new trim and still close with small enough tolerances to be private. I cut small blocks of the 1×4 board, one for each of the 4 track mounting points. To make them more secure, the blocks were attached to the wall with 2 screws each, then the large bolt was fastened though the block and into the wall board. Again, pre-drill your block since the bolts are stout. After rehanging, the door cleared everything fine, and with just a tiny nudge, would rest on the trim when closing. I removed the door again, and began to trim out the frame. Using 1x4s and a 1×2 for the front gap edge, I cut to measure and attached with trim nails and a hammer. I left the top trim piece out and spackled the drywall to the door frame, creating a smooth joint. I would put trim up here, but needed the extra 1/2″ to lift the door into the track this way. If you don’t put a stop-edge on the trim board, you can just slide the door out of one end of the track to remove. I might not put the stop-edge if I did it again… I put it there to act as a stop and give a little more privacy, but I installed a bracket stop on the frame itself instead and found it not as necessary.

After trim boards are up, I primed and then painted white to match the other trim. The outside facing pieces were painted black to match the hallway trim and the outside of the door. I stripped and removed paint on the other side of the door for a natural finish, and it was a major pain. I don’t recommend doing the dirty-work yourself, look into some paint-removing services where they actually dip your doors and remove all the crud. Portland costs can be found at Houck’s.

For a handle, I just kept parts of the original knob setup, but without the knob. The locking lever is very sturdy and works great to slide the door. Since your first inclination is to push the door a little, I put a small wheel into the floor to keep the door aligned. A smarter way would be to cut a channel in the door’s underside and have an alignment post slide in there… but I didn’t have the correct saw, and that little tiny wheel works fine for me. Just one tiny screw into the floor and I’m ok with that. Now, without much force, my door slides open and completely out of the way and looks pretty cool too. The final touch was to put some numbers on the door to give it that vintage schoolhouse look (since it was actually from an old college)… but I’m not sure I’m happy with it yet. Maybe I’ll design something and have it custom cut. Would it be weird for my door to say ‘Teachers Lounge’?

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Progress Update

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As I have a couple unfinished projects in the works, I thought I’d just give a quick update post before Christmas. I was hoping to have more done by now, but have had an unexpected amount of client end-of-year projects thrown in to the mix.

First of all, thanks so much for everyone’s participation in the belt experiment! So exciting that all spots sold so quickly! I’ve started prepping the hide and cut some strips that will eventually be someone’s new pants-holderup. I created a handy form to keep everyone’s order straight and to make sure I give you the exact sizing you need. In case you didn’t get the form, you can retrieve it from here as well – Belt Measurement Form. I’ve gotten most of them, but if you are enrolled and haven’t returned yours, please do so soon. I’ll be sizing all of them early January.

On the barn-door hardware project – I’ve trimmed out the door opening so it masquerades as a plumb door frame, and it’s prepped for paint! This was a big deal, since I was quite confused on how to handle the wonky frame – even nearly ripping the entire thing out! Alas, I figured one thing would lead to another and I’d have a HUGE MESS on my hands trying to get it back to square.

As it stands now, things aren’t perfect, but that’s the spirit of a 100 year-old house, right? At least things line up visually, and that’s good enough for me. Also, it’s taken an extra long amount of time stripping paint off the door and that nearly drove me bonkers! I’ve been updating some small progress pics on flickr too if anyone is interested.

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ReadyMade Project Feature

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To my surprise, I received an advance copy of the upcoming ReadyMade magazine yesterday – sent to me because I have a project in the Dec/Jan issue! I’ve been waiting to spill the beans since I was asked to contribute a couple months ago, and it’s finally, nearly released. Some of you might have seen me post the process in my flickr a while back, but I’ll post a few new pics here too.

There’s a funny story about all of this. I submitted the idea to them a few months before, and I received a polite rejection email. It stated that “if selected for a future issue, someone will contact you.” It was worded kindly and very professionally, but even so – I still took it as ‘Grade A’ reject status. After that, I was still convinced that it was a neat idea, and figured surely someone might like it too, right? So, with that, I hatched the idea for this blog (to teach my rejector a lesson? Surely not…). While working on it and creating posts for launch, ReadyMade wrote me back and asked me to be in the NEXT issue! In the end, what I deemed as rejection, motivated me to just get out and make something on my own. Another cheesy ‘after-school-special’ comes true! Heh.

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Pickled Brussels Sprouts

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You’ll need some tools:
  • half-pint mason jars and lids
  • large pot for boiling jars
  • two medium sauce pans
  • bowl of icewater
  • jar tongs
You’ll need a few ingredients:
  • About 4 cups tiny, baby Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons course salt
  • a few pinches of peppercorns
  • 1/2 garlic clove for each jar

I wasn’t intending for my next article to be about Brussels sprouts. Sure, I think they are great, but really, my recipe is super easy and not blog-worthy. Though, upon mentioning that I was harvesting some from my garden, Anna requested I blog about them. Not sure if she was being serious, or just trying to keep me motivated… but here it is.

I planted about eight stalks of Brussels spouts many months ago, and I finally took a harvest today. Boiled some up, had them for lunch and they were great. After realizing I could make an article of this subject, I figured I should try a little harder. Cooking them is easy… but in the rare case you don’t want your home to smell like farts, how else can you prepare these little cabbages?

Pickled baby Brussels sprouts! I’ve been wanting to pickle some things for a while now. That was actually the major motivation in tending my garden, but the season was late and short, and I only grew a couple tiny cucumbers and a handful of peppers. The one thing that blew up was the sprouts… and I have lots of young ones that aren’t going to grow before it gets cold, so let’s pickle’em. You can snack on them, garnish your Bloody Mary, maybe your Dirty Martini?

First thing is to clean and prep things. Peel off the sprouts’ loose leaves and cut off the stems (Half or quarter them if you’re using full-sized sprouts). Clean your garlic and rinse your dill.

I had three pots on the stove – a large pot to sterilize and boil my jars, a medium one to create the brine, and a smaller one to blanch the sprouts. Boil your jars for about 15 minutes – which can be stared while you are prepping things. It helps tremendously to have proper jar tongs, because they will be slippery and very hot.

In the medium pot, add your vinegar, water and salt, and bring to a boil. In the other third pot, boil some water and blanch your sprouts, for only about 2 minutes, then pull them out and submerge them in some icy water to cool.

Once your jars are ready, add the seasonings, your sprouts, then using a funnel – pour your brine to about a half inch from the top. Carefully (because the jars will be HOT), screw on the lids tightly and then re-submerge in the large boiling pot of water. Boiling will allow the lid will seal, giving you that popping sound when you re-open later. Boil for about ten minutes, then cool and store in a dark place. Sprouts will be ready in about fourteen days!

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Wooden Crate Headboard

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You’ll need some tools:
  • Hand saw or electric saw
  • Drill with phillips bit
  • Sandpaper and sanding block
  • Orbital electric sander with 60 grit paper
  • Rags for stain
  • Brush for poly
You’ll need a few materials:
  • 4 qty 8ft long 2x4s
  • 8 qty 8ft x 5.5in x .5in cedar fence planks
  • 3in drywall screws
  • 1.25in finish nails
  • water based stain
  • water based polyurethane

Bedrooms in my house are very, very small. A queen-sized bed fits – but without much room on either side for nightstands or storage. I had a small nightstand, but after piling a large alarm clock and lamp and anything else on it and it looked ridiculous. After pouring over ideas, I thought about making a built-in solution. Now I have a huge shelf to stack my junk, extra books, lamps, blankets, trinkets, whatever! Also, figured if I was building it, why not give it some doors and use it for extra blanket/pillow/sleeping bag storage? This works great for me, and maybe it would for you too.

Plans are based on my build, but you can surely adapt them for any configuration. For facing boards, I used cedar fence planks, mainly because they are readily available and inexpensive. I would have loved to have built this with some reclaimed Fir, but I was impatient and started building and couldn’t find what I wanted to finish the job over the weekend. If you want antique wood, search some out before beginning your project – however here’s my plan based on 8ft x 5.5in x .5in cedar planks.

First step: Measure your space and sketch it out. I always recommend a sketch for built-in projects. If you plan this part correctly you’ll limit the amount of lumber you use and have less cuts to make. As I built, my plan kind-of adapted, and I had more cuts to make, but I’ll give you hints to avoid this. Things to remember: 2x4s are actually 1.5 x 3.5 inches – so note actual lumber size when formulating.

Build the facing frame: If you have uneven walls like mine, measure and cut your floor-length board first. Measure and cut your verticals, and make sure they are close enough together for decent support – no further than 18″ apart. I cut five verticals, 24.5″ each. Lay your verticals on the floor, then screw your floor-facing board to them with your screws. Once assembled, set your frame in place, and measure and cut your top board. Because my walls bow, it was important to cut this board to it’s location height. If you have plumb walls, you can completely built out the frame and set in place. Before screwing the ends of the top boards, level your frame and screw the end boards into the wall. Make sure you’re anchoring to a stud, because this is your main support/anchor points. I chose to not screw the frame into my floors, and the wall mounts were secure enough to accomplish this. After your facing fame is in place, I attached 2x4s to the back wall as supports for my top doors. Make these even height with your top frame board. I left space between boards to feed electrical cords behind the doors easily. Then for added strength, I attached the facing frame to the back wall with a 2×4. This board also helps support the door tops, which will rest on the facing frame top and the back wall boards.

Facing boards: Now your frame is complete and secure, you can begin the facing. My cedar fence boards are VERY rough, so I sanded the harsh surface with an orbital sander and heavy grit paper. This left them still rough in a rustic way, but not splintery. After sanding, sweep off the sawdust. Between the boards and the frame, I attached heavy plastic, so when I stored things inside, they wouldn’t catch on the board surface. This is just an option if you use rough boards and don’t want to snag anything that might rest against them. Then nail your boards over the plastic covered front frame. I used small finish nails that would be easily hidden. Make sure your boards are level and then nail them in place. If you’ve measured correctly, your top facing board should come above your frame top by 1″ so your doors will be counter sunk. (I did not make this important calculation before-hand, so I had to attach a cut trim piece to take up the gap.)

Top doors: Once your facing boards are in place, you can measure you top door depth. Again, my walls are un-even, so each one is different and cut accordingly. Don’t make them too snug either, mine each have a small gap at the back, so I can easily feed my lamp/clock electrical cords though. The top boards are just made with the fence planks, two support boards each, glued and attached with small screws. For handles, I drilled holes and used scrap leather strips, fed through and knotted. You could use drawer handles, rope, large finger holes, whatever you like.

Finishing: You can finish your facing boards and doors before attaching, but I finished in place. I used water based stain to darken the boards, let dry and then coated with water-based poly. I used water based products since I’ll be sleeping in here, and the fumes are way less noxious. Because the boards are very coarse, I used three coats of poly with a vigorous hand sanding in between. It was more about building up a thick finish to prevent splinters than creating a smooth topcoat for me. After a day or two drying, I could place move everything back in place.

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