Archive for January, 2014

5 Power Tools That Changed How We DIY

You guys love to ask tool questions, and the truth is that it still catches me off guard that I’m The Guy People Ask About Tools. Growing up I remember taking trips to Hechinger (anyone remember those?) thinking “who would ever willingly go to a home improvement store?!?” And when my dad gifted me a set of screwdrivers in high school I wondered what the heck I’d use them for. But here I am today – 32 and the proud owner of more tools than I can count (and still fewer than I’d like) – including some of those same screwdrivers from my dad so many years ago.

Home ownership is what flipped the switch for me. I quickly witnessed how the right tools could make a project go smoother, faster , or just plain better overall. But even still, I’ve been a slow adopter tool-wise. Well, mostly power-tool-wise. Tim Taylor’s mantra was more power *grunt grunt grunt* but mine is probably closer to sufficient power *pretty please*. I still have a healthy fear of tools that could shock me, slice me open, blow me to bits, or poke me full of holes, so in many cases I play it safe and opt for more elbow grease. But my confidence with and reliance on power tools has grown bit by bit over recent years as I’ve tried new ones and realized I can use them successfully… and without maiming myself! And Sherry’s right there next to me grinning and firing them up.

In fact, certain tools have been game changers for us. Some were particularly confidence boosting. Some were the gateway drug (or saw). And most are now things that we can’t do without. So without further ado, I present to you: 5 Power Tools That Changed How We DIY. Note: none of the links in this post are affiliate links.

#1 – Power drill / driver  (we have one like this from Black & Decker) – I’ll start slow here, because a $40 cordless drill barely registers on the power tool spectrum. But my little 12v battery-operated drill/driver that I bought nearly a decade ago is still one of my best tool purchases. Just putting a little power behind the otherwise tedious task of screwing things together or drilling simple holes (like for picture hanging anchors) has made small DIY tasks much easier and faster. Seriously, just buy yourself a hex screwdriver bit set and see how much faster your next Ikea assembly goes.

#2 – Miter saw (we have one like this by Craftsman) – Power saws were the most intimidating power tool to me. I mean, c’mon, there’s a whole gory movie franchise bearing their name. But borrowing my dad’s miter saw to install trim in our first bathroom remodel was eye opening to me. Just making simple 45° cuts turned out to be super easy, fast, and even kinda fun. I got that little rushthat  you get when you conquer a fear and it triggered a complete 180° in me. I love saws. I own six of them (not counting the manual ones). And becoming confident with them has opened up a whole world of projects we can tackle – whether it’s cutting big sheets of plywood with a circular saw or ripping floor boards on our table saw.

#3 – Kreg jig (we have this one) – Now this one isn’t technically a power tool (although it does involve using a power drill/driver), but it was too significant in my “tool journey” to leave off the list. This was the device that got me interested in building stuff. It took some of the mystery out of joining two pieces of wood together (not that there’s a whole lot of mystery there to begin with). I started small with some shelves for Clara’s nursery and before long we were using it to constructing giant console tables, play kitchens and even real kitchen cabinets (okay, all of those should probably be singular). Although I’ll admit ol’ Kreg and I don’t spend as much time together as we used to thanks to the next item on my list…

#4 – Nail gun (we have this one by Craftsman) – After “saw”, “gun” is the scariest word in the tool dictionary to me. I was a slow adapter in purchasing a nail gun (we bought ours less than a year ago) and our model is far from heavy duty. But after hours of numb arms thanks to manually hand-nailing some crown molding in our last kitchen, I knew we had to up our game if we wanted projects like adding board and batten to take days instead of weeks to complete. And just like with the miter saw, within one use we were both full converts. Not only has it made projects like adding crown molding and installing our sunroom ceiling possible, but for the most part it (plus wood glue) has replaced a lot of tasks we had previously used the Kreg Jig for (mainly for speed reasons, since glue + nails is much faster than drilling pilot holes and screwing things together – although that’s still the best way to go for certain tasks).

#5 – Paint sprayer (we have one like this by Graco) – This is the latest power tool to join the Petersik ranks (it’s even newer than the nail gun) and it almost didn’t make the list. Just like numbers one through four, it has been invaluable for speeding up tasks that otherwise would’ve taken us days – namely spraying all of the blue/cream/mauve trim & doors on our house’s second floor before moving in. But it wasn’t a shoe-in for this list because I still have a love/hate relationship with it. While I love its painting speed, there’s a lot that I don’t love – from prepping and protecting against over-spray, to the time it takes to clean it after use – which means using it isn’t a no-brainer for us every time. I’m still glad we have it, and we definitely like to use it strategically (like for painting the kitchen cabinet doors that we could remove and spray in the garage while hand-painting the frames that were still in the kitchen to avoid an over-spray snowstorm), but it hasn’t caused us to ditch our old school brush and roller completely.


So those are our 5 power tool game-changers. What are yours? Are there any others you think I should add to our repertoire?


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by adiantumpedatum
by kschrav
by artisandesarts by rcmm



Making A Tabletop Terrarium

As a bunch of you saw on Facebook and Instagram, we went on a giant lumber run, which means there’s a whole lotta building that’s about to commence in the nursery. But first we have to paint the walls and ceiling, so we hope to knock that out today and tomorrow (and have an update for you guys on Monday). Three cheers for finally saying goodbye to those door-overspray marks on the wall!

And while we get our paint on, I thought I’d share a nice and easy “anyone-can-do-it” project (involving living things, ahh!). Most importantly: there’s a tiny deer living in a tiny glass house in our house.

And the good news is that he can’t die… but the plants nearby most definitely can.

So this is going to be one of those experiments to see if low maintenance plants really exist. Because we all know I don’t exactly have a green thumb. Remember when I begged you to help me keep my cacti alive? Well the good news is that they’re all still alive and kicking, over two months later.

Wanna know how I’m keeping them alive? By completely ignoring them. 100%. I’ve only watered them once. In TWO MONTHS! Everyone told me just to give them a drop when the soil feels really dry, so I have truly taken that to heart. And they love me for it. Well, at least they don’t hate me (and aren’t dying in protest). Some of you even noticed them still alive and kicking in last week’s chair post. Werk, little cacti. Werk.

So now that I’ve had a decent amount of success with that completely no-maintenance planting experience, as you can imagine I practically think I’m a top level botanist. Just kidding, I still have pretty much zero plant confidence (see those succulents on the shelf in the background of this pic? They’re fake from HomeGoods). But it did inspire me to try one more “it theoretically should take care of itself” situation on for size. Namely, a terrarium.

It all started when I found this awesome glass container at a lighting shop a few weeks back (The Decorating Outlet here in Richmond). The cool thing is that they usually sell this as a hanging pendant light like this, but this one wasn’t drilled to accommodate a light for some reason, so it was marked down to $16. It just sort of whispered “Fill me with a few green things and a tiny plastic deer. You know you want to.” So I thought, OK, let’s see if this black thumb of mine can create (and hopefully maintain) a terrarium. Like without any actual maintenance.

Here’s how I made it.

Step 1. Cut a hole in a box. Just kidding. The first step was actually finding a glass container that I liked (you could also try a big glass container like this or an apothecary jar like this).

Step 2. I googled around and read about 20 terrarium tutorials. There were a lot of different methods, but the ones with charcoal – like this one – seemed the most self-stable (meaning you didn’t have to open them and water them, because the charcoal theoretically should make them into their own little self-sustainable ecosystem).

Step 3. I wrote out a list of supplies I would need: gravel, charcoal, potting soil, and some small plants. I ducked out into the garage to get some bagged potting soil, and just stole some gravel from our driveway to fulfill that requirement. Then I went to Home Depot and grabbed two small succulent containers for around $5 and looked for charcoal (some plant stores sell it) but no dice. So I hit up a local greenhouse (Great Big Greenhouse here in Richmond) and got a tiny bag of charcoal for $1.

Step 4. I added about an inch of gravel to the bottom of the container.

Step 5. I added about an inch of charcoal on top of my gravel layer.

Step 6. I added 2-3 inches of potting soil on top of the charcoal layer.

Step 7. In went my plants into the potting soil…

Step 8. And then just for fun, I grabbed Bambi’s nephew Bob and stuck him in there.

Step 9. I gently misted the plants with water (ok, I dunked my hand in a bowl of it and splashed the inside of the terrarium a few times) and then I sealed everything up and called it good.

So far it has been over a week and my little guys have been troopers. No drooping (they actually look a little happier than they were in their plastic Home Depot containers) but not a whole lot of action either (there hasn’t been a ton of Titanic-esque glass-fogging or anything like that). The jury is still out on whether this will end up being a cold and lonely tomb for them to leave this world, or a happy little place for them to hang out. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime I’d love any and all terrarium tips since you guys did me right with those cacti.

Update: Hilariously enough, thanks to my Instagram feed I learned that Michael over at Inspired by Charm made a similar terrarium from a RedEnvelope kit for $79 yesterday! So you can check his out as a ready-to-assemble alternative. Also, his photos are amazing, and his dome is blinged out in gold. Me-ow.