Hits and misses of DIY projects, both big and small.

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This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Caleb Smith.

The finished product. Photo by Caleb Smith

A month before school started, I thought it would be neat to have some old car seats as my dorm furniture instead of the bad futons that everyone else has. After a week of planning, I started searching for old car seats and found some for a decent price — $25 a seat. I bought two bucket seats and a bench seat out of a wrecked Grand Prix. 

I learned a lot from this project and went into it knowing very little about building furniture. I think anyone should try this if they're tired of plain old furniture, have some extra cash and like to impress their friends. I managed to complete this project for under $100, but I could see it running up to $300, depending on how expensive you want to go.

Here are the materials I used:

  • Car seats — $75
  • Angle aluminum — Free
  • Wood — Free
  • Drawer slides — $10
  • Welding — Free (knew someone)
  • Miscellaneous hardware (drawer rails if you want to attach a bottom drawer) — Free or $5

My total cost was around $80.

Now, if you choose to build something as cool as this, you can use any materials you feel comfortable with. I chose aluminum because we had some extra lying around, and it’s sturdy when it’s all welded together. Plus, it was free.

Step 1: Make a Plan

After finding the seats that satisfy you, start measuring so you know what you’ll need to attach below them.

I got my seats out of a totaled 2007 Grand Prix. You can reuse car seats of any kind. Older seats are generally cheap and new ones, of course, are pricier. But it all depends on who you get them from. Fortunately, the place I got them from charged me $25 a seat, equaling $75 for the three of them.

Aluminum frame. Photo by Caleb Smith

Step 2: Finding Pieces for the Frame

I decided to make my frame out of aluminum because I had dozens of pieces from some bleacher seating. You can use wood, but that would add a lot more weight to your DIY dorm furniture.

After you've measured the dimensions for the seats, start cutting and/or welding your chosen materials for the frame.

Here's how mine turned out (see photo at right): a simple rectangular frame.

Step 3: Mounting the Backrest

You'll need something to mount the backrest to. There are several ways to do this, but I figured the one I used would be the best. I used two pieces of aluminum: A shorter one that would attach directly to the bottom frame and a longer one that attached to the short piece.

The short piece of aluminum I happened to have was already pre-drilled with holes. You can just drill holes in yours where they're needed.

I cut off each end of the short piece at a 25-degree angle. That way, when I attached it, it would rest on the bottom frame at this angle and put the back rest at a 65/125-degree angle.

The short piece in step 3. Photo by Caleb SmithThe attached back rest. Photo by Caleb Smith

After these pieces were welded onto both sides, I clamped the long angled aluminum piece to the frame so I could drill the holes in the correct locations. Next, I bolted them on because I wanted the backrest to be removable for storage.

Bottom support. Photo by Caleb Smith

Step 4: Mounting the Bottom Seat

Next, you'll need to make something to support the bottom cushion of your DIY dorm furniture. My solution was to drill holes along the sides of some 1-by-4 boards and attach them across the length of the frame. Then, I wove some rope through the boards to act as springs. I used a bent nail as a needle in order to thread the rope through the tight holes.

Step 5: Mounting the Backrest

At this point, your DIY dorm furniture looks like it’s done, but it's not.

I set the backrest against the vertical angled aluminum pieces. I set a car jack underneath to support it and so I know how high I would need to bolt it, but also so it would rest properly on the bottom.

There should be four holes in the long angled pieces when you fold the seat down. I cut the vertical pieces down to the right height and welded a horizontal piece across the top of them and bolted the back seat to the horizontal piece.

Step 6: Building for Storage

This step is optional. I thought it would be neat to install a big sliding drawer underneath my DIY dorm furniture for storing what-have-yous. My drawer measures 4 feet long and 20 inches wide. For the bottom, I just stapled some Masonite on the slots.  For my first time building a drawer, I thought it turned out great. 

The attached drawer. Photo by Caleb Smith

Step 7: Attaching the Drawers

Basically, I welded aluminum pieces onto the bottom of the frame to support the rails for the drawers. I attached the rails to the drawer first, then clamped that to an angled aluminum piece and welded everything down so I would have the exact spacing and wouldn't have to measure anything. The drawer fits perfectly, but it slides a little rough because it’s so wide. I would suggest putting a slide in the middle as well as the two outer ones.

Step 8: Finished (But Not Really)

I ran out of time before school started and could not finish it off by putting some exterior plates to cover the holes and ugliness, and to also hide the drawer. I was also going to put on some arm rests but have not figured out how I am going to do that. But, because I've tucked my DIY dorm furniture under my bed in a corner, you can barely tell it's not finished.

The seats even fold down! Photo by Caleb Smith

I like having my sofa on the floor because it's comfortable as a set of gaming chairs. If you want a nice desk chair, I think you could take a car jack to a single seat and mount some wheels on the bottom. It could be a low-to-the-floor gaming chair that you could raise to be a desk chair when needed.

I hope you enjoyed this project to build simple, inexpensive DIY dorm furniture that’s comfortable and will impress your friends.

You can see more images of this project on my original Instructables post.


This article is reposted with permission from Spool & Spoon.

This whole fall decoration idea came about when I ran across this tutorial for an Acorn Garland at These Light Footsteps. It’s a super cute fall craft, and I had all intent to actually make it. I thought I'd probably glitter the acorns because what crafty girl doesn't love glitter? The problem arose when I ventured out to collect acorns from the only oak tree in the neighborhood. Well, it seems that the squirrels and chipmunks beat us to it because there were only a couple of whole acorns left; what remained was just caps. Bummer!

I put on my thinking cap and felt (pun intended) that some felted acorns might look even cuter instead. I love felt. Like, I really love felt. Not the cheap felt you used in elementary school, but the handmade felt that is made one batch at a time. The mister got me a needle-felting kit for my birthday (he knows me so well), so I set to work creating the little nuts.


  • Acorn tops
  • Tacky glue
  • .25 ounce wool roving
  • Bubble Wrap
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp dish soap
  • Twine

Materials and instructions. Photo by Jessica Mauras Instructions:

    1. Mix the water and soap in a small cup.
    2. Smear a small amount of soap/water onto the Bubble Wrap.
    3. Tear off a small piece of roving. (I used two colors to add dimension to the finished acorns.)
    4. Roll the roving up on itself to create a small cocoon.
    5. Tear off the second piece (can be the same or a different color).
    6. Line the pieces up perpendicularly and roll them up together.
    7. Roll this piece between your hands lightly until an actual ball has formed.
    8. Apply some tacky glue to the inside of the acorn cap.
    9. Stick the felt ball inside and you're done.

You could always cheat by using pre-made felted balls if you really wanted, but your hands smell awfully nice after handling all of the dish-soap-soaked wool. All in all, the finished acorns are the perfect combination of whimsy and natural.

In order to get your garland started, gather all of your acorns as well as a spool of twine. I used a combination of both real and felt acorns for a bit of variety but one or the other would be fine.

Close up of the tie. Photo by Jessica MaurasTie a knot around the stems on the caps. The nice thing about twine is that, even with a relatively loose knot, the texture keeps everything in place just as it should. I didn't have to use hot glue to hold them in place, but that's an option if your caps don't have large enough stems attached.

Continue tying the acorns on, one by one, until you've tied them all. I spaced them about 3 to 4 inches apart. In total, my garland ended up around 5 feet long.

Once Hallowe'en has passed and November starts, I'll hang it up in the dining room. I think the natural tones and textures will be perfect alongside my monochromatic pumpkins. Even strewn across the table, they look great so, who knows, maybe I'll be lazy and just do that instead. It’s such an easy fall decoration!

If you liked this project, I'd be delighted if you'd consider following Spool & Spoon via email or through Google Friend Connect; there are plenty of other simple tutorials and mouth-watering recipes for you to discover! Also, did you know Spool & Spoon has a Facebook page? Hop on over so you don't miss any of the fun.

You can see more photos of this project by visiting my original post at Spool & Spoon.


This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Cas van de Goor.

A good bushcraft knife is a must-have for every outdoorsman. It's a tool that will last a lifetime. Wouldn't it be awesome to make such an essential, lasting tool yourself out of an old file?

This post will show you how the basics of knife-making, concentrating on how to make an excellent, inexpensive (under $20) bushcraft knife using simple tools such as a hacksaw, file, drill and vice. The design is based on the popular (but expensive) Ray Mears bushcraft knife.

So if you have a few basic tools and plenty of elbow grease, let’s learn how to make a knife.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Here's a quick overview of the tools and materials that I used to make this bushcraft knife.

-Old file
-Piece of hardwood
-Two-part epoxy adhesive
-Forge (something to burn the coal in)
-Air pump
-Quenching oil
-Kitchen oven
-Scriber, permanent marker
-Lubricating oil

Step 2: Finding the Right File

The first thing to realize is that "steel" is a generic term for alloys of iron and other elements. So steel comes in various compositions that are important to understand before you begin knife-making.

Not only the composition of a type of steel determines its properties like hardness, ductility and tensile strength, though. The way the alloying elements are arranged on a microscopic level also influence material properties. So, steels with the same composition may have different material properties, depending upon the microstructure of the steel. And the microstructure can be changed by heat treatment or cold deformation. In order for a knife to hold an edge, it needs to be hard. Among other elements, carbon is added to make steel capable of being hardened. So, what you need for a knife is steel with high carbon content.

Old files, as well as leaf springs and old sawmill blades, are made of high carbon steel. Most new files are case-hardened, which means that only the outer layer is high-carbon steel while the core is mild steel. Try to get find an old file to make your bushcraft knife.

There are a few ways to verify whether you're dealing with the right file:

Spark test: If you have a grinder, see if the steel on the surface of the file — and the steel 1 or 2 millimeters below the surface — give off the same short, bushy sparks. These sparks indicate high carbon content. If the steel below the surface gives off longer sparks that flow out in straight lines, the file is case-hardened.

Hardness test: Besides the spark test, you can try to scratch the steel on the surface and the steel below the surface with a screw or drill bit. In both cases, it should be equally difficult to make a scratch mark. If the steel below the surface is softer, the file is case-hardened.

If you don't have a grinder, you'll first have to anneal the file (see Step 4), remove a bit of the surface, harden it (see Step 8) and then test for hardness. If the steel below the surfaces didn't harden, the file is case-hardened.

Break test: Wrap the file into a cloth to prevent steel fragments from flying around your workshop. Secure the file into a vice so just a small portion sticks out. Then, hit that portion with a hammer to break it off. The material should break readily without bending and the core of the file should be smooth and light grey. If the material doesn't break readily and the core of the file is coarse, the file is case-hardened.

Step 3: Designing

In this project, I'll be making a bushcraft knife with a full-length, hidden tang. The tang is the portion of a knife that extends from the blade and connects the blade to the handle. Two common tang styles are the full tang and the full hidden tang. A full tang follows the contour of the handle and is therefore visible. A full hidden tang extends all the way through the handle, but is not visible.

Photo by Cas van de GoorPhoto by Cas van de Goor

The height of the thickest part of the handle depends on the size of your hand, but it is usually about 30 millimeters. If you want to make a full tang knife, I would advise you to use a flat file that is about 30 millimeters (or at least 28 millimeters) wide.

This knife-making project incorporates with a full hidden tang, because with this tang style the size of the handle doesn't depend on the size of the file. You may either stick to my blade design and adapt it to the width and thickness of your file, or make your own design — just make sure the construction is the same.

Step 4: Annealing

Materials can only be worked with tools that are harder than the material itself. Files are hardened, so they need to be softened before they can be worked with a hacksaw or other files. The softening is done by a heat treatment called "annealing." Annealing involves heating the high-carbon steel and cooling it down slowly. You'll save a lot of work (and tools) if you do this correctly.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

Annealing the file: Make a charcoal/coal fire and bury the file in it. Make sure there's plenty of coal to surround the file completely. Blow air into the fire with a pump to speed up the heating process.

The file should be heated to the "austenitizing temperature." At this temperature, the carbon steel is red-hot and non-magnetic.

After a couple of minutes of heating, expose the file to see if a magnet doesn't stick to it. Also, see if the file is evenly red- hot. Do this in the dark, because you'll see much more contrast between the different colors of the steel. If the file is still magnetic and it isn't evenly red-hot, bury it in the fire and continue the heating process. If the file is non-magnetic and is evenly red-hot, you know that the fire is hot enough. 

Bury the file in the fire and heat it back up again (the file cooled down while it was exposed). Keep it at austenitizing temperature for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then allow it to cool down with the fire.

Step 5: Profiling

In this step you'll cut out the bushcraft knife profile with a hacksaw and refine the shape with a file.

Marking out the knife pattern: Print and cut out my knife pattern or cut out your own design. Then, trace the pattern onto the annealed file (workpiece) with a scriber or permanent marker. I used a white pencil, which quickly faded due to the use of lubricating oil.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

It's hard to accurately mark out the knife pattern on the grooved surface of a file. I ended up using a caliper and a separate knife pattern, which I compared the workpiece to as I progressed.

Cutting out the rough shape: Secure the workpiece in a vice in such a way that you can make a vertical cut, and that the cut is as close to the vice as possible to reduce vibration.

For sawing material with a thickness of 8 millimeters or less, a blade with 32 teeth per inch is recommended. A minimum of 3 teeth should be engaged in the material at all times to prevent tooth breakage. Install the blade on the hacksaw frame with the teeth pointing away from you.
Keep the blade at sufficient tension to ensure straight cuts.

Don't start a cut on a sharp edge or else less than 3 teeth will be engaged in the material. When sawing, apply a little bit of oil to the blade to reduce friction. Use long, steady strokes and only apply pressure on the forward, cutting stroke. Remove as much material per cut as possible. If the cut is wandering away from where you planned to cut, turn the frame gently in order to twist the blade into the right cutting direction. If you need to start a cut on an angle (with respect to the material), first make a shallow, perpendicular cut that will keep the saw in place when sawing on an angle.

Refining the shape: In this step, you'll first use a cross-filing technique to remove the most material, and straighten the somewhat wavy edges made by the hacksaw. Then you'll use a draw-filing technique to clean up the rough surface and flatten the slightly rounded edges produced by cross-filing.

Secure the workpiece in a vice in such a way that you can file in a horizontal plane most of the time.

Cross-filing (straight-filing): Use a large coarse (bastard, double cut) flat file. Finer files can also be used, but remove material less quickly. When filing, you can usually feel whether you're using the right file and the right technique.

Grasp the handle in one hand and the tip of the file in the other, so that you can apply downward pressure. Place the file diagonally on the edge, so that the file covers a large area. This ensures that large errors (wavy edges) are corrected. Move the file from tip to handle, in a direction not quite parallel to the file, to prevent grooving. Use long, steady strokes and only apply pressure on the forward, cutting stroke.

Most people have a tendency to file slightly on an angle, as opposed to perfectly horizontal. Correct this error by changing the filing direction 90 degrees and flipping the workpiece 180 degrees in the vice.

Draw-filing: Cross-filing usually results in a straight edge but a slightly round cross-section due to the rocking motion of the file. Draw-filing is used to make the edge flat in the cross-section and perpendicular to the adjacent surfaces, and to give it a fine surface finish.

Use a fine (smooth, single cut) flat file. Grasp the file at each end. This way you can hold the file steady. Place the file perpendicular on the edge. Push and draw the file from one end of the workpiece to the other. With this technique, be careful not to remove more material in the middle of the workpiece than on the edges. Also regularly remove filings, as these tend score the surface when they get caught up in the file.

Step 6: Making the Grind

The bevel, or grind, of a blade refers to the shape of the cross-section of the blade. Along with the steel type, heat treatment and the thickness of the blade, the grind shape and angle determine cutting performance and blade strength. In general, the steeper the grind and the less material behind the edge, the sharper the blade. On the contrary, the less steep the grind and the more material behind the edge, the stronger the blade. Furthermore, a less steep angle can also be combined with less material behind the edge. This gives a durable edge while it reduces friction when cutting. Examples are a convex grind, double grind and hollow- or flat grind with a less steep secondary grind.

Depending on the application of a bushcraft knife, sharpness is less or more important than strength. In this project, I make a 20-degree-angle sabre grind (giving a total- or "included" angle of 40 degrees). I think this grind provides a good balance between blade strength and cutting performance for a bushcraft knife.

To reduce friction you may want to convert the sabre grind into a convex grind.

Marking out the grind boundaries: Some knife makers use a jig that keeps the file on the same angle while filing in the grind, though you can easily file in the grind without the use of a jig.

To get a grind with the desired angle, you'll need to mark out the grind boundaries. Measure the thickness of the blade with a caliper. If you used a file that tapers in thickness, measure the minimum and maximum thickness of the blade.

Calculate the grind width b:
b = T / (2tanα)
with blade thickness T and grind angle α.

Mark out the calculated grind width on the two sides of the blade using a scriber and caliper. Color the edge of the blade with a permanent marker so that a scribed line will stand out. Place the blade on a flat surface. Scribe the edge using a drill bit with diameter T (thickness of the blade). This way you get a line running along the center of the edge. If you used a file that tapers in thickness, put something underneath the tip of the blade to compensate for the taper.

Filing in the grind: Secure the workpiece into a vice. If you want to have a small ricasso (unsharpened section of the blade near the handle), clamp a piece of steel to the blade as a means of guiding the file.

File in the grind on both sides of the blade. Apply the same filing techniques you've used to refine the knife profile (Step 5). Regularly check if the edge is straight.

Step 7: Quenching and Tempering

Now the blade is ready to be hardened. The hardening is done by a heat treatment called "quenching." Quenching involves heating the high-carbon steel and cooling it down quickly. After quenching, the steel is very brittle. The brittleness (and hardness) is reduced by a heat treatment called "tempering." Tempering is a specialized type of annealing.

There are many ways of quenching and tempering knives and all yield different results. I use the most straightforward way in this project.

Quenching: Heat the blade evenly to austenitizing temperature. Keep it at austenitizing temperature for about 3 to 5 minutes. Don't heat the entire tang. The end of the tang needs to stay soft, so it can be peened later.

Grip the end of the tang with a tongs. Wear work gloves to protect your hands from the heat. Quickly lower the blade tip first into a heat-resistant oil container. The blade should be at austenitizing temperature when it hits the oil. Use a sufficient volume of vegetable or mineral oil. I used about 2 liters of sunflower oil, but you might as well use 4 liters or more (for a more uniform quench).

Move the blade around in order to speed up the cooling process. Leave the blade in the oil until it has cooled down to about room temperature.

See if the blade hardened by scratching the blade and tang with a screw or drill bit. The screw should skim over the surface of the blade, barely leaving a scratch. It should be much easier to make a scratch mark on the end of the tang.

If the blade didn't harden, either it wasn't at austenitizing temperature when it was quenched or it didn't cool fast enough (assuming the blade was made from a high-carbon steel file). If the blade didn't cool fast enough, try to quench it in water or brine (water with 7 to 10 percent salt by weight): Water and brine result in faster cooling (water about 3 times and brine about 6 times faster than oil). Only try a water or brine quench if an oil quench didn't work, because these quenchants are more likely to may cause cracking.

Tempering: The color of the steel gives an indication of the temperature to which the steel was heated.
Remove the scale on the bevel, spine and tang with sandpaper so that the color of the steel will be visible when tempering.

Heat the blade to 350 to 660 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1-1/2 hours in a kitchen oven. A higher tempering temperature yields a slightly softer material with a higher toughness, while a lower temperature yields a harder and slightly more brittle material. I would recommend tempering in two or more cycles of 1-1/2 hours, because of the inaccuracy of a kitchen oven.

For example, if you want to temper your blade at 480 degrees Fahrenheit (brown-red): First temper the blade at 350 degrees. If the steel didn't reach a brown-red, temper again at a higher temperature.

Step 8: Making the Bolsters

For the bolsters I used the steel that I had left over from the old file.

Marking out the shape and the hole positions: Mark out two ovals measuring about 26-by-19 millimeters. The front bolster will need a rectangular hole so that it fits around the tang. The rear bolster will need a slightly smaller hole so that it fits around the narrowing at the end of the tang.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

Mark out the rectangular hole in the center of one oval. Center-punch two holes inside the rectangle. Also, center-punch the center of the other oval.

Making the bolsters: If you are making the bolsters out of a coarse file, remove the grooves with a file to minimize the seam between the bolsters and the handle material.

Use a drill press or secure the workpiece into a vice. Use a drill bit with diameter T (thickness of the tang) or slightly smaller. Make sure to hold the drill perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece. Apply lubricating oil to reduce friction when drilling. Cut out the ovals with a hacksaw and refine the shape with a file. Make the holes rectangular with a small square- or flat file. You can also leave the hole in the rear bolster circular and make the end of the tang cylindrical.Both bolsters should fit snugly around the tang.

Make the hole in the rear bolster (very) slightly tapered. In the next step the bolsters and the handle material will be secured onto the tang by peening the end of the tang. The end of the tang will expand in cross-section and fill up the tapered hole, so that the rear bolster can't slide off.

Step 9: Making the Handle

In this step you'll make the wooden handle and assemble the bushcraft knife.

Assembling the front bolster: Slide the front bolster over the tang. If the bolster doesn't quite fit over the tang, you might have to enlarge the hole, but for me rounding off the edges on the end of the tang also helped. If the bolster doesn't readily slide down the tang, place a steel tube over the tang and hammer it to force the bolster into position.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

Making the handle: Find a nice piece of hardwood. I used a piece of about 35-by-35-by-100 millimeters.

Mark out the rectangular hole. Use a drill bit with diameter T (thickness of the tang) or slightly smaller. Make sure to hold the drill parallel to the length of the workpiece. Drill two holes alongside one another. If the drill bit isn't long enough, drill from both sides.

Remove the wood between the two holes by gently moving the drill perpendicular to the axis of rotation. I know this is not what a drill is made for, but it's the quickest way of doing it.

Make the hole rectangular using a small chisel and/or file. The handle should now fit around the tang. Saw the wood roughly to the dimensions and shape of the handle.

Assembling the knife: Secure the blade into a vice. Use aluminum vice jaws or two pieces of wood to protect the blade against scratching during peening.

Apply some two-part epoxy adhesive to the tang, bolsters and hole of the wooden handle. Slide the handle and the rear bolster over the tang. Start hammering on the end of the tang. Be patient. The end of the tang should slowly "fill up" the tapered hole. Let the epoxy cure.

Finishing off: Refine the shape of the handle using a coarse half-round file and sandpaper. Remove the portion of the tang that is still sticking out with a file. Sharpen the knife with progressively finer grit sandpaper. Apply several coats of Danish oil to protect the wood from the elements.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this project to make a bushcraft knife. If you have any questions or remarks, please don't hesitate to comment on my original Instructables post, where you can find many more photos of how to make the knife.

I have entered this project into Instructables' Great Outdoors Contest and the I Could Make That Contest. If you like my bushcraft knife, please vote for it!


cast iron radiatorUntil the early 1950’s, hot water heating was considered the best way to keep warm in winter.  Although people forgot this for a while as forced air systems took over after WWII, good ideas always rise to the top again.  That’s why hot water heating is gaining popularity as a heat delivery option. What you might not realize is that there’s more to choose from than just radiant in-floor hydronic heating. 

I’ve always loved the look of classic, ornate, cast-iron radiators, but what I didn’t understand until a few years ago was how efficient they are. Efficient and green. That’s why I installed 11 reclaimed and refurbished cast iron rads in my home last fall, and I’m delighted with how well they work.

Today, you have the option of buying new, reproduction iron radiators, but in my opinion, the old models are the best.  What’s to improve? Rarely does internal rust pose a problem, and the metal used is thick, durable, and quite pleasing to the eye. I consider cast iron rads as art that also delivers comfort and warmth.

Heat transfer numbers show how efficiently cast iron rads transmit energy to a room, and rads get the job done with minimal input of resources.  As you can imagine, there are no shortage of old rads to be refurbished in the world. The metal is already mined, smelted, cast, and ready to use.  The problem is a lack of people that know how to refurbish rads properly, and my quest eventually led me to a man named Pierre Lemieux. testing pressure

Lemieux is a stickler for detail, and he refurbished and installed his first set of iron rads in 1978 in his own mechanical shop.  Since then he’s assembled a small crew ( that refurbishes antique rads in existing installations, and also intercepts rads headed for the scrap furnace from demolition sites in Montreal, Quebec, New York, Detroit, and other cities.  Lemieux has refined the art of refurbishing rads well beyond the somewhat destructive process of sand blasting, and the results are visually and technically stunning. 

The main innovation is his use of a gentle water blast is used to remove old paint.  This method doesn’t degrade the patina and textures of the metal like sandblasting does. The rads in my home are connected to my outdoor wood boiler, and the combination works exceptionally well.   See for yourself by checking out the video tour of my iron radiators.

Steve Maxwell lives in a stone and timber home he built on Manitoulin Island, Canada. Strange as it sounds, he’s looking forward to colder days, a fire in the boiler and some nice warm radiators.

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 

Final garden light. Photo by Ruud van Koningsbrugge

This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Ruud van Koningsbrugge.

Reuse plastic bottles to make these easy, elegant DIY garden lights that cost almost nothing. 

After you've gathered the materials and tools, it takes only about 10 minutes to put together this garden light for your property.

Step 1: What You Need

Materials and tools you'll need to make one DIY garden light: 

  • One plastic bottle (A translucent bottle works well; you can reuse plastic bottles that originally held laundry detergent or fabric softener.)
  • One old bicycle inner tube, or at least 6 rings cut from an inner tube
  • One broomstick, as long as you prefer 
  • Pair of scissors
  • Small hacksaw
  • Tea light (small candle in an aluminum container)

Step 2: Sawing

Use the hacksaw to cut off the bottom of the plastic bottle as well as a thin slice off the top of the cap.

Step 3: Quarters

Make four long cuts with the scissors along the corners of the plastic bottle.

Step 4: PetalsPhoto by Ruud van Koningsbrugge

Shape the four parts from Step 3 into leaves by trimming off the rounded corners.

Step 5: Cap Adjustment

Unscrew the cap from the plastic bottle. If there's an inner ring on the bottom of the cap, remove it with the hacksaw. The goal is to make the cap flat —  and open — on the underside.

Step 6: Big Match

Cut six rings from the bicycle inner tube. Pull the rubber rings over the end of the broomstick, one at a time, so that they cover each other and form a layered gasket. Make sure the broomstick's end has been built up with enough rubber layers so that the bottle cap can be pushed on only with some effort. You may need to cut more rubber rings if the seal is too loose.

Step 7: Capology

You can paint the bottle cap if you don't like the color of the plastic. I use one layer of acrylic modeling paste and one layer of artist's acrylic paint. Or — easy peasy — cover it with two more rubber rings cut from the inner tube. 

Photo by Ruud van Koningsbrugge

Step 8: Finito

Put the bottle onto the rubber-wrapped end of the stick. Insert the broomstick into the ground and place the tea light inside the bottle. You'll find that a tea light fits quite well inside the neck of the bottle. Light the candle by bending one leaf outward.

How many DIY garden lights can your garden take? 

You can see more photographs of this project on my original Instructables post. Check out other examples of my work at Ruud Van Koningsbrugge.


Photo by Barb Camp

Reposted with permission from Second Chance to Dream

We have nine garden beds in our yard. One of our goals this summer was to put a structural piece in each garden. 

Two of the gardens already had pieces that we got last year. You can view these garden ideas on my website by visiting the simple DIY bench tutorial that we did for our new garden, and the pergola swing I got for my birthday/Mother's Day. 

Our large, oak garden became our focus this summer. I thought it would be fun to try a headboard bench, and I really like the results. We now enjoy a simple, rustic bench that literally took 60 minutes to cut, build and paint.  

You can make this garden bench, too. To build it, you'll need a twin-size headboard — I bought mine from Salvation Army for half off the original price of $11.25. Your materials list also includes two 2-by-4s and two 1-by-6 boards. We had all the wood on hand so we didn't have to buy anything. You can use scrap pieces if you plan to paint your rustic headboard bench as we did.

Photo by Barb Camp

To make the seat for your DIY bench, measure the length of the headboard you're using, and make a simple 2-by-4 box. We cut two 34-1/2-inch pieces and three 16-inch pieces to make our box. Assemble the frame of your box with 2-inch deck screws, using the photo at left as a guideline. 

Photo by Barb CampThen, cut three 1-by-6 pieces measuring 34-1/2 inches long for the seat of your headboard bench. We cut one of these 1-by-6 pieces down to 4 inches wide so the seat wouldn't be too deep. Next, screw the 1-by-6 and 1-by-4 boards onto the top of the box you made in the previous step. 

Recycling a headboard meant that our DIY bench would already have back legs, so we only needed to cut two legs for the front. We ripped a 2-by-4 in half to make the front legs of our bench, and trimmed the two pieces to be 19 inches in length. We then screwed the legs to corners on the underside of the box.

Next, you need to attach the headboard to your box. Add liquid nails to the headboard along the inside of the bottom rail, and carefully screw the headboard to the back of your box at this location. Be careful, because the liquid nails can slip when you're assembling the pieces. Photo by Barb Camp

The unpainted bench isn't so pretty. To improve its appearance, we first primed it with a coat of Kilz. After allowing it to dry, we spray-painted our headboard bench white. 

It's nothing fancy, but this garden bench definitely meets our needs, and — for a cost of less than $10.00 — it works great!


This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Ken Miner.

Sun and weather take a toll on outdoor furniture. I had four outdoor bar stools covered with plastic resin wicker that had cracked and split. I priced new outdoor bar stools at $75 and up. I figured I could renovate my old stools for about the price of a single new chair. The plastic wicker had to go, but the powder-coated steel frames still looked good. 

I repurposed an old whiskey barrel to provide all the material for the seats, backs and bracing. If you are even a little bit handy, possess basic woodworking skills, and have some ordinary tools, you can knock this out in a weekend. I wound up with great looking and very serviceable outdoor bar stools from a single half-barrel and a handful of screws.

Step 1: Remove Resin Plastic Wicker

I cut away the plastic wicker from the bar stool frames using a utility knife, taking care not to scratch the powder coating.

Step 2: Materials List

• 1 oak half-barrel with hoops                                          
• Bar stool frames (up to 4)                                                     
• Zink-coated Phillips screws (per bar stool)                     
       14 - #10-by-1 1/2 inch oval head
         8 - #10-by-1 1/4 inch pan head    
         9 - #12-by-5/8 inch pan head
• 1 quart Spar exterior polyurethane, oil based
• 1/2 pint wood stain, oil based
• Sandpaper belts (80 grit)
• Sandpaper  sheets (120 and 220 grit)

Optional *
      * 1 pint rust remover (for barrel hoops)
      * 1 quart wood bleach (oxalic acid)

Step 3: Tools and Personal Protective Equipment

• Circular saw                                                            
• Electric or cordless drill                                       
• #2 Phillips bits and holder                                    
• 7/64-inch and 1/8-inch steel drill bits              
• Angle grinder                                                           
• Utility knife                                                             
• Wood chisel                                                               
• Rubber hammer or mallet                                    
• Tape measure                                                          
• Steel brush
• Belt sander
• Palm sander  
• Jig saw     
• Hand saw           
• Hacksaw 
• Sanding block 
• Wood rasp     
• Quick clamps 
• Torpedo level
• Long handled scrub brush

Use the correct PPE (safety equipment) to prevent injury:
• Dust mask                                                          
• Face shield                                                          
• Safety glasses
• Long sleeve chemical resistant gloves
• Hearing protection
• Disposable gloves for staining

Step 4: Disassemble the Barrel and Barrelhead

The first thing I did was to pull out the barrel staves, taking care not to damage the hoops or barrel head. The barrel head was also made of oak sections that had been put together with dowels. Because the barrel was empty and allowed to dry out, it came apart easily. The dowels were pushed into the holes and cut flush. I sorted and stacked the staves by size.

I did a mock-up to determine the count and placement of staves to get an idea of the positioning and proportion. I settled on using three of the larger staves for the back and five smaller ones on the base. I needed a total of 32 staves to do the four chairs and there were only 30 in the barrel. So I ripped the two largest staves in half with a circular saw.

Step 5: Sand Off the Char

A clamping worktable held the uneven staves securely so I could sand off the charring. The belt sander and 80-grit sandpaper made quick work of this part of the DIY chair project. Be sure to use eye and hearing protection as well as a dust mask when doing any sanding. I did all my sanding outside to make cleanup easier. What sawdust the breeze didn't take away, I blew into the lawn with a leaf blower. Just how much charring you ultimately take off is up to you, but at least remove all the loose bits. I sanded off nearly all of the char.

Step 6: Prep the Hoops

I wanted to use sections of the whiskey barrel hoops to maintain a rustic look and provide additional bracing for the back and seat.  The barrel hoops had powdery red rust covering both sides. I needed to remove or neutralize the loose rust so that the polyurethane would adhere better. I coated the hoops with a rust-removing gel and worked it into the metal using a steel wire brush. Warning! This chemical is acid! Follow the instructions on the container! Use heavy rubber gloves; both eye protection and a face shield.  I let the hoops sit and after about an hour (or however long it took me to sand the staves), I used plain water and the steel brush to clean off the gel. I dried the hoops thoroughly with an old rag.

Step 7: Prep the Staves

I used a coarse plastic-bristled brush to work wood bleach into each stave. The main component is oxalic acid which is commonly used to remove aging and stains from outdoor wooden decks. Warning! This chemical is acidic! Follow the instructions on the container! Use heavy rubber gloves, long sleeves, eye protection and a face shield to prevent burns! After letting the bleach work for about 30 minutes, I rinsed the surface with plain water and let dry. The bleach removed most of the weathered gray color, but it hardly touched the black stains left by the steel hoops. You can eliminate this step depending on how you want the finished surface to look. You could just sand everything down to the bare wood. Or if you want to keep the patina as-is, lightly sand the surface and — after removing the charring — apply an exterior (Spar) polyurethane.

Sanding down the bare wood and protecting the surface with a clear finish will give you a rich, honey-colored surface. I used a palm sander with 120 grit sandpaper to smooth out the back and prepare both sides for staining.

Step 8: Braces for Seat and Back

The staves were too short to span the full length of either the seat or the back. With a jigsaw I cut cross-braces from the barrelhead pieces. I positioned the back brace about three-quarters of the distance from the top, and for the seat brace roughly the same distance from the front. I sanded, prepped and stained all sides.

When I did the mock-up, I saw that I needed to notch the staves for the seat-back to get a solid fit against the cross-brace and also sit flat against the curved back. I cut a tapering notch into the seat-back side pieces and took three-eighths-inch out of the center stave (now repurposed as chair slats.) I used a handsaw, a wood rasp and a wood chisel to cutaway the wood a little at a time until I got a good fit.

Step 9: Stain and Finish

After a quick once-over with a tack cloth to remove any remaining sawdust, I brushed on a dark walnut oil-based stain and wiped off the excess with an old t-shirt. I let the stain dry overnight before applying a thin coat of oil-based exterior (Spar) polyurethane. I recommend using either the semi-gloss or satin finish. Stir — don't shake — the urethane often or the solids used to de-gloss the finish will stay on the bottom of the can. It took only a few hours for the first coat to dry. I roughed up the surface with 220 grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block and applied another light coat of polyurethane finish. The second coat also dried very quickly. You could shorten application and dry times by using a combination stain and varnish aerosol spray.

Step 10: Attach the Braces

When the pieces were dry, I attached the seat and back braces to my outdoor chairs using #10-by-1 half-inch oval-head screws, one at the end of each brace. I used quick clamps to hold the braces in place. For the back-brace, I angled the screws from the top of the brace into the steel frame. The seat brace was attached by angling the screws from the front into the steel frame. I held the braces in place with quick clamps while I drilled the 7/64-inch pilot holes and attached them. Drilling pilot holes will prevent the screws from splitting the oak.

Step 11: Attach the Back and Seat Slats

The slats designated for the seat backs of my whiskey barrel chairs were attached to the frame with one 1-1/2-inch #10 oval head screw at the top and one 1-1/4-inch #10 screw through the back brace. Again, quick clamps were utilized to hold the slats in place while they were being fastened. The seat slats were attached from the bottom to hide the 1-1/4-inch #10 pan head screws. The outermost seat slats were attached to both the brace and the metal frame with the 1-1/4-inch #10 screws.


I cut the hoops to fit with a hacksaw and used a metal file to remove any sharp edges. Each piece was attached with three 5/8-inch #12 pan head screws — two sections for the back and one on the seat. Using an angle grinder, the screw heads were ground flat to look more like rivets. A piece of 18-gauge sheet metal with a hole drilled the diameter of the screw-head was used to protect the surrounding area while the grinder did its work.

Step 12: Ready for the Patio Party

I now have four refurbished bar stools — a great set of outdoor furniture that's surprisingly comfortable and will hold up to the elements. A half-barrel sells for about $30 at one of the big-box home improvement centers. Adding in the screws, stain, polyurethane and other materials, I spent less than $80 on this project to build whiskey-barrel chairs.

You can see more photographs of this outdoor chair project on my original Instructables post.

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