Basement Organization

It’s been about a year since moving into the new house and the mess of a basement is killing me. Here’s a before picture!  (Sometime in the future there will be an “after” picture link, hopefully.)

Yes, it was seriously that horrible. I had thrown up a couple shelves, but not nearly enough when we were moving in. The rest of our stuff has become a haphazard mess. I know, I know, you’re saying “You just have too much stuff, you packrat!” Which, I do. I admit it, and I’m currently purging. But, there is a LOT of stuff that I have, which I like, that I use only a couple times a year. Here’s some of that list:

  • Holiday Decorations – used once per year, but apparently we need them.  And apparently there’s multiple holidays we need to decorate for.
  • Camping Stuff – yes, we only use this once or twice a year, but it’s pretty fun, so we’re keeping it.
  • Baby Clothes/Toys/etc… If you have ’em, you know why you’re keeping ’em.
  • The list is a lot longer, but I’m trying to narrow it down.

In the meantime, I am building a garage storage shelf system, in addition to some attic storage.  I’ll be documenting all of this here, so stay tuned.  Hopefully this organization will help others out as well.   The storage system is just that: a system.  It’s very modular and very simple.  Inexpensive to build, and tough enough to last a lifetime.  Here’s the basics:


2’x8′ shelves, sized to fit totes of your choosing.  I like to leave around 20″ of ground clearance, then around 44″ of clearance for the middle shelves.  There’s nothing scientific here, it just seems to work for the plastic storage totes I’ve found to be reasonably priced from Sterilite:

Sterilite Tote

Refinishing the Cedar Table 2016

Here’s an update to show how the cedar table has weathered and how I brought life back to it.  While we were moving, this table had to sit out in the weather, unprotected and without maintenance for 2 full years.  Here it is when we finally got back around to it June 2016.  Pretty rough.

Table after 2 summers of weathering with no refinishing

It was showing a bit of weathering.  The finish had cracked and was missing in many places, leaving the bare wood to turn silver in from the sun’s UV light.  It’s time for a bit of sanding!

Starting to sand

Almost finished sanding

The top was much smoother after a quick hit with the palm sander. I was probably using 100 or 150 grit paper, but the finish was smooth enough with just a single pass.

Now time to add some fresh deck stain.  I still have the original can of Sikkens that I started with on this table, so I keep using it.  It is really easy to apply.  The table top looks great, almost new again!

After a fresh coat of stain

And finally, here’s a picture of the table a few weeks later, after a rain.  The finish is smooth and the water beads up nicely.

Water beads nicely!

I’m thinking about getting a table cover now to keep this look for a long time.  I’m liking this one from Amazon.  It should save me a bit of refinishing work and extend the life of this table for quite some time to come.

Rolling Miter Saw Stand

I’m starting to put together the new shop plans and have decided that I want a rolling miter saw stand rather than the stationary stand I posted earlier. I still want to keep a few features from that stand, but add some additional features.

I really like the basic design shown at, but will be doing some modifications to make it my own.  I’ll try to keep the page updated with my progress.  Her table is shown below:

IMG_0124Here’s the modifications I’m thinking about:  I would like to be able to quickly swap tools on the top to take at least my  1)Miter Saw, 2) Drill Press, and 3) Grinder.  Other tools would be a plus, but not required.  Quick tool changes would be a very nice feature.  The body of the cabinet should be large enough to store these tools when they’re not installed on the top.

Also, I want the top of this table to be the same height as my table saw so I can use this as a portable outfeed / support table when needed to cut large pieces.  I’ll keep you updated on the progress.


Liftmaster 8500

I’ve been using the Liftmaster 8500 for about 6 months now and I think it’s time for a review. In general I like it very much. I especially like that it allows the garage rails to be mounted very close to the ceiling, making the garage feel much more spacious.

One downside I saw was that the garage door installers had no clue how to install these. It took them 3 tries to get the rails installed (mostly) properly.

Overall I’m pretty happy with it and would recommend to a friend.


High Garage Door Rails

Forever House



It’s a great feeling.  Today I got to change the name on my Pinterest board from “Forever House” to “Our Home.”  That’s right, the dream is coming to life.  The excavation is complete, footings are poured, and construction is underway!  Stay tuned, We’re going to document the entire build process and give you all of our thoughts on how we made the thousands of decisions it takes to build a house.


This is going to take my blog in a whole new direction.  I won’t have nearly as many home improvement projects to post, because we’re going to build the new one exactly the way we want over the next year.  Here’s a shot at our footings.  If you’re savvy, you’ll see that we’re prepping for a walk out basement.  Woot woot!  




More pictures and decisions to come as we go through this journey.

BPGraph – Dynamic Charting in Excel

BPGraph – Dynamic Graphs/Charts in Microsoft Excel

Do you ever have the need to quickly graph some data and look for trends, make reports or narrow in on a range of data? Then BPGraph might save you some time. BPGraph is a simple Excel worksheet that uses named ranges and controls to quickly graph the data you paste into it. You can switch between columns of data and switch your ordinate (x) axis on the fly. I find it useful, and thought I’d stick it out on the web in case anyone else would like to try it. Click on the picture below to download it! A short HOWTO is included on a secondary tab in the worksheet.

bpgraph screenshot


Updating the Man-cave Office

I needed to update my man-cave. I have spent way too much time with a tiny 4′ wide desk, and I kept it completely covered with ‘junk.’ I spent a few days planning this out in the room and came up with a corner desk that took up 2 complete walls. With this, I’d be going from 4′ of desk to 18′ of desk! Yay!

With the idea of a huge corner desk in mind, I set off immediately building it. I decided to do a simple 2×4 frame and use nice birch plywood for the top. Here’s a quick picture of the basic framing layout:

And here’s some more pics of it going together completely.  I used Kreg screws to assemble this entire project since I wanted to be able to dis-assemble it later for painting.

DSC_1099  DSC_1109 DSC_1115


Now came the plywood top.  The walls in this room weren’t even close to square, so I couldn’t just butt the plywood without cutting it.  I decided it would look best to miter the corner joint, and had to figure out how to get the right angle cut. I started by laying the boards out, overlapping, then clamped them together.



I used a straight-edge as part of the clamping.  This was my guide for my circular saw.


A bit of masking tape on the top helps to reduce splintering while cutting plywood.



Here’s the top in place after being mitered.  Not a perfect cut, but nothing that can’t be filled in with  a bit of  wood putty.



Now that the desk was in place, it was time for a little creativity with the shelf for the wall.  My attempts at drawing it on paper or CAD weren’t giving me anything I liked, so I just decided to stare at the wall.  Here’s what I came up with:DSC_1142


After doing this, I decided to draw this up in Sketchup.  Check out my next post for the detailed Sketchup plans and how to build this shelf.

Receiver Hitch Storage Box

This weekend’s project was a storage box for my growing collection of receiver hitches.  (I know they’re rusty, but it will be easier to keep them clean once I can store them off the garage floor!)

Receiver Hitches in Storage Box

Receiver Hitches in Storage Box

The only thing I could find that was remotely close to what I wanted was this Ball Mount Storage Receiver Caddy that is meant to store them in the bed of your truck.  (Note to self:  buy more stainless steel accessories so the pictures look nicer in the future)


While this looks like a nice product, I was looking to store them out of the way someplace in my garage, not my truck bed.  My main issue is the fact that I have 2 large hitches.  One is an adjustable pintle hitch, the other is just an adjustable ball mount.  Both are very large and heavy, so a standard plastic storage case was out of the question.

I had some scrap wood laying around from a desk I salvaged, so I decided to use that make a box to store these in.  The desk material was 1″ actual thickness pine (5/4″ nominal).  I’m pretty sure this would work just fine if made from standard 1-by lumber that is 3/4″ thick, too, but I like using free salvaged wood for projects.

This is one of the few projects that was so simple I didn’t draw it in CAD.  I just layed the parts out on the floor, tried fitting them together a few ways, and ended up liking how they looked when layed out in a 10″ x 20″ rectangle.  I made the box 10″ high inside to accommodate the height of the 2 large hitches, and this left enough room for me to put in 2 additional standard sized drop hitches.

Prep Work:
Again, since this was a simple box, all I did was rip the boards down to width on the table saw, then crosscut to length.  Since the boards already had a finish on them, I did a quick sanding of all of the edges since I applied wood glue and wanted a good bond.

I want this box to be super-strong and last forever, so I chose 3 methods to join it:  18 gauge Brad nails, Wood Glue, and 2″ countersunk screws.  The brad nails don’t really add much strength, but they do make it much quicker to assemble the glued joints and make it easy to wait and screw the box together.  If you don’t have an air nailer, I can highly recommend adding it to your list of tools.  It saves soooo much time!

DSCN2003-001 DSCN2005-001

The final touch was to add a rope handle to each end.  I did this by drilling 1/2″ holes through the sides of the box, running the rope through, and tying knots in each end.  All that’s left to do is find some hinges and a latch to put the top on, and this box will be done!