Simple Butter Churn

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I apologize for being gone for a time. A short stint studying to become a Mechanical Engineering Technician, followed by a new job forced B.Howe & Family to take a short sabbatical. Well, things are beginning to sort themselves out around here, and we hope to be back on track shortly. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that you haven’t been forgotten. Here is a project that kind of blind-sided me last week. But it’s quick and easy, so I thought I’d pass it along to you.

As a woodworking hobbyist you sometimes run into strange requests. My wife recently came home from a trip and presented me with a crock pot saying that I was to turn it into a butter churn. What could I do? Since I already had the pot, all I needed was the beater and lid.

It should be said that I don’t know anything about churning butter. The basic idea is to beat milk around until the fatty bits clump together. This can be done by simply shaking a mason jar partly filled with milk, or using a mixer with only one beater installed. There are many types of churns and information is readily available online.

The paddle consists of nothing more than two crossed pieces of wood mounted on the end of the dowel. To fix the paddles to the dowel, I chose to use a hardwood wedge.

The lid is fashioned from a 3/4″ thick piece of pine. I cut the shape to fit the outside of the pot, then routered the edge to allow it to sit into the pot a little. A hole slightly larger than the dowel was cut in the middle.

To finish the wood, it will be wiped with several coats of mineral oil.

And that is it. A simple and quick project that allowed me to get back into the shop and get sawdust up my nose.

If you’d like more information on making butter, here is a link to start you off: How to Use a Butter Churn”. There is a lot of information out there.

Watch for more to come in the near-future, and thanks for sticking around.

Do-It-Yourself Vinyl Eavestrough

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This year I decided that the eaves on my house needed some attention. They had bends, kinks, and cracks which just couldn’t be ignored any longer. I thought about hiring a contractor to take care of it, but then I thought what a wonderful opportunity to try out the DIY Vinyl Eavestrough I have been seeing around the hardware stores. It would be a fun project for me and &Family to tackle, and we may even save a few bucks.

So, after a little research online, it was off to the hardware store. The instructions I had found made it sound pretty easy, all the pieces just lock together and hang from clips which get screwed into the fascia. We played around in the eaves section trying to figure out which of the vinyl pieces went with what. There are a few different systems, and a few different sizes. BE CAREFUL! We had to go back a couple days later, because different sized hangers had been mixed into the same box and we hadn’t noticed while counting them out.

The first thing you’ll notice, is that the price of the eavestrough is really low. Then you’ll discover that each hanger is going to cost you $3-5 or more. And finally, the downspout attachments get up around $15. A little quick math and you’ll probably find that the contractor is starting to look good.

We take our materials home and get ready to start the back of the house. I rip down the old eaves with extreme prejudice, and a little too much glee, then the kids get all the soffets and fascia cleaned up and repainted.

&Family have become quite the painters&Family finally getting to the end of the soffets.

My research told me that we wanted a drop of 1/8″ for every 10′ of eave, so we figured out our drop, marked each end of the house and ran a chalk line. We then had to screw all the hanger clips in place. The website said every 24″, but those clips are expensive so I was hoping to get away with every 30″. (This turned out to be a bad idea – on the front of the house I went back to 24″) As we put the hanger clips up, we were also assembling the eavestrough. End caps were installed, they just pop on, then the hangers were slid into place. The hangers must be slid onto the eavestrough from an open end. Then it was a simple matter to line the hangers up with the clips and snap it into place.

The second piece of eavestrough connected to the first with a two-piece coupler. One piece outside, the other inside, and then lock together when you have the two eavestrough sections lined up. The coupler is pre-caulked and seems to form a good seal.

At the downspout location we screwed the downspout adapter directly to the fascia and the eavestrough simply slid into one end of it. There are marks inside which are labeled with temperatures. You want to place it so that the end of the trough is lined up with the approximate temperature at that time. These placement marks allow for proper contraction/expansion of the vinyl as the seasons change.

The downspout was pretty simple. Clips are screwed into the wall, and downpipe pieces are cut and attached with elbows to get the shape required.

All-in-all it was a pretty easy system to work with. But there are problems which I didn’t discover until later.

Problems, Mistakes and Warnings:
1) Cost: This may be an affordable method if someone was putting eaves on a doghouse or shed, but for use on your house I would strongly advise hiring the contractor. It’ll actually end up cheaper in the end.
2) Lack of proper instructions: I didn’t see anything at the store, the staff were of no help (who really expects them to be?), only a few little blog pages like this one to try and gleen info from.
3) Clip Spacing: This is critical – no more than 24″. Vinyl is very flexible, and when the trough fills up with water the wider gaps between the hangers allows the side to bow out and spill the water. In one instance it bowed enough to pop free of the clips.
4) Downspouts: The pieces are just held together by a screw, just like with metal downspouts. Be very aware of screw placement. It will catch every little leaf if it is in the wrong place. I suggest putting the screw on top of any slanted pieces.
5) Downspout elbows: They have an arrow on them which point in to direction of water flow. Pay attention to them.
6) Clogging: They will clog on the smallest things. Definitely plan on using the gutter guards – which I should note, are very expensive and you’ll need a lot of them to actually cover your eaves.
7) Pitch: The angle they suggest is simply not steep enough. With 60′ across my house we dropped 3/4″ from end to end at the back of the house. Along with using too few hangers, we end up with water standing in the trough after a rain. I increased it slight for the front, up to 1″ drop, used enough clips, and the eavestrough completely drains.

And my biggest complaint and the Most Important when planning:
8) Drip Edges: The original drip edge on your roof is probably set almost flush with the fascia. This is because metal eavestrough is nailed directly to the fascia leaving no gap between. The Vinyl Eavstrough has a clip and hanger behind the actual trough. This means that there is a 3/4″ gap and when it rains the water will run off the drip edge and straight to the ground behind the eavestrough. To fix this I had to install a second drip edge about an inch further out on top of the first, while still making sure to be under the roofing tiles. Not an easy job, and even more cost.

Overall Opinion: It is easy to work with. It performs the job I believe it was intended for. It should only be used for very small projects where hiring a contractor is just too expensive. On bigger jobs, like your house, it is far cheaper, faster, easier, and longer lasting to hire the contractor and install metal eaves. So put it on your shed, it’s a great weekend project. Don’t put it on anything bigger unless you have a lot of money to burn.

Update: We lived with the wide clip spacing on the back of the house long enough. During long slow rains there was little problem, but we don’t seem to get those anymore. Over the past year it has only seemed to rain heavily for shorter periods of time. This resulted in beautiful waterfalls pour down beside the house wherever the eaves decided to flex and spill. We couldn’t take it any more, so this past weekend we ripped the eaves down and added clips in between the existing ones. That means we now have clips every 18″. While it hasn’t been tested by torrential downpours yet, we can already see that the eave is straighter than before – much less sag. We are hoping for much better performance when mother nature decides to start soaking us again.

A Shoe Rack for the Closet

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It’s spring, finally!  And, one of the jobs which has to be addressed is cleaning out the coat closet.  The parkas get cleaned and stored, the spring coats are brought out, and winter boots are traded for running shoes.  It’s when digging out the boots that my wife starts to casually mention that we need a new shoe rack for the floor of the closet.  Within a few days the comments become more of an ultimatum.  So this is how you get this weeks blog.  We’ll be building a shoe rack.

Solid oak shoe rackOak shoe rack sketch

First we’ll measure the available space in the closet.  Then it’s out to the shop to figure out what we’re going to do.  There is a bunch of scrap oak left over from Rosemary’s Cupboard so we’ll use that.  I want to avoid plywood, so the rack will have to be made of slats.  A simple lap joint should hold the slats in place.  Arbitrarily I chose 1.5″ as the width for all the pieces.  And instead of being a single unit with two shelves, I’ll make two independent and stackable shelves, just in case  we want to use them for something else.  This is a one time job, so I’m not going to draw up a plan, just a quick sketch to help me visualize the finished product.

And here we go! The edges and slats for the tops are cut to length.  In this case the edges are 43.5″ and 12″ long, and the slats are all 9.25″ long.  Then a quick pass over the table saw to rip each piece down to 1.5″. 

The Edges:

Edge pieces and slat showing overlapThe edge pieces will need to be routered for the slats to overlap.  Install a  5/8″ straight bit on the router, set 3/8″ high.  Oak likes to splinter terribly, so to avoid problems make several shallow passes until the lap edge is 3/8″ deep.  You probably already know this but set the fence for the first shallow pass, and cut all of the edge pieces.  Then shift the fence back a bit and recut each edge piece, deepening the lap.  Repeat this until the lap is deep enough on all the pieces.  Switch out the router bit for a 1/4″ roundover bit,  and rout all the corners except the lap.

The edge pieces then need a 45“ mitre at each end so we can make the frame out of them.  To secure the corners, we drill pocket holes on the mitre and secure them with 1-1/2″ screws and glue.

The Slats:

Slats roughly laid outRepeat the routering process with the straight bit as with the edge pieces, this time putting the lap on the ends of the slats.  Use a piece of scrap as a push block to avoid tear out when the router exits the wood and as a way of maintaining the right angle as you move the slat across the bit.  As before, do several shallow passes until the lap is 3/8″ deep.  Switch the bits and roundover all other edges.

The Legs:

Legs showing pocket holes and light braceThe legs are 5.5″ x 8″ pieces of oak.  To make them look a little better, we cut a half circle out of the bottom with the band saw.  We rounded over all edges which wouldn’t be in contact with the top or the ground.  Then we added a couple of pocket holes which we will use to attach the legs to the top.  As a final touch, we cut a couple small triangles which will be glued in place as a light brace.

Assembly:

Assembled rack showing ratchet strap clampStart with the top:  Screw and glue the edge pieces together to create the top frame.  To keep everything in place while setting the screws we use ratchet straps.  These are just the ordinary webbed straps sold for cars, trailers, etc. and they are fantastic for clamping odd shapes or large pieces.

Evenly space the slats within the edge frame.  I simply glued them down, but for a stronger joint you may want to secure them with a small brad or finishing nail.

Both shoe racks drying up for the nightFlip the top over.  Position, screw and glue the legs in place on the short edges.  Glue the light braces into place.  Let the entire assembly dry up overnight.

Finishing:

Sand the entire piece and wipe clean with a cloth.  Apply the stain of your choice and finish with a couple coats of Danish Oil. 

Now you’re all set to shove your beautiful solid oak shoe rack into the deep recesses of your overstuffed closet where it will never be seen again, but you can be satisfied knowing that you produce a useful and beautiful object that will make your home a better place (if only subconsciously).

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about this post please share them with us.  Thanks for visiting.

Floating Shelves

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We are finally reaching the end of our re-design of the boy’s room. The last step is to hang some shelves across one wall. After looking into a few styles, we decided it would be a good time to try Floating Shelves. The look of them fit into the style of the room, and they have been a bit of a curiosity for us.

Floating ShelvesThere are plenty of descriptions and free plans online to explain how to build and install this style of shelf, so we only spent a few minutes looking them up. Here is one link with some decent videos which was helpful: Ron Hazelton’s Housecalls.

We played with the layout of the shelves, using painter’s tape. After several tries, we finally decided on one long shelf across the top with two lower shelves pushed to the far left. A little time spent finding and marking the studs and we were able to cut and attach spruce 2×2’s to the wall where the shelves were going to go. Then it was out to the shop to start making the shelves themselves.

We ripped some 1x pine into 1.5” strips, then chopped them to the lengths we needed for our frame. Following this, we ripped some 3/8” plywood for the shelf tops and bottoms. And finally, more 1x pine ripped to 2.25” for the facing pieces.

The lower two shelves were easy to figure out – build a frame leaving 1.5” at the back of the shelf for the 2×2, cover it with 3/8” plywood, attach the facing pieces, round over the edges, and sand. Actually, it was a lot easier than we expected. Then, it was on to the top shelf.

The top shelf was to be an 11’ span, from corner to corner, and we were instantly concerned that we wouldn’t be able to maneuver the shelf into place if it was one piece. So, the simple answer would be to split it in half, hang two shelves side by side. We chose to modify the frame for these shelves to accommodate an extra brace to go between the shelves, tying them together. Then, we added overlapping mitres to the facing pieces to make the seam between the two shelves a little less noticeable.

When it was all said and done, these shelves were very easy to make, which makes us wonder why we waited so long to try them. They look good, and seem more than strong enough for general use. And so, from one Woodworking Hobbyist to another, try building a Floating Shelf, even if it’s just for your shed or garage. You will be pleased with the results.

If you do try it, or have built them in the past, please leave a comment. Let us know how it went, or any tricks you picked up along the way.