DIY Dirt-y Underwear Soil Analysis

Soil Analysis Heading

Now, who says gardening can’t be fun – when you can use cotton boxers to diagnose the nutrients in your soil?  The Soil Conservation Council of Canada is conducting a fun campaign.  They are asking you to “plant” a pair of 100% men’s cotton underwear in the ground about six inches and leave them for two months. When you dig them up – the results will help you to analyze the health of up your soil.  Say what?  Yes, according to Anthony Bly, SDSU Extension Soils Field Specialist, science makes this work.  Why? Well, soil microorganisms require carbon to survive. Apparently, cotton briefs contain high quantities of yummy carbon that soil microorganisms love to gobble up.

When the briefs (wonder why just men’s briefs work?) are dug up, the level of decomposition can tell you how how many organisms have been eating the briefs.  The more they have eaten, the healthier your soil is.

Several extension services have conducted this experiment.  South Dakota State University Extension and Clemson and North Carolina Extension have more detailed data on their results, if you want to study the science in detail.

To conduct this experiment yourself, you will need a new pair of 100% white cotton briefs, a shovel and a marker flag. The steps are simple:

  1. First, dig a narrow trench about six inches deep
  2. Bury the underwear in the trench, leaving a little bit of the waistband out to mark the location
  3. Mark the place with a flag so you can easily find it
  4. Leave briefs buried about two months
  5. Dig up carefully and determine level of decomposition

OK – seriously, who isn’t going to go out a get a pair of briefs and try this?  If you do the experiment, be sure to let me know how it goes!!!!

THE BEST nail brush for gardeners: Beauty 360 Dual-Sided Nail Brush

Let’s face it – gardeners have dirty fingernails at all times of the night or day.  And, we need to clean them before presenting to the public. If you haven’t looked for fingernail brushes lately, you might be surprised to find they can be difficult to locate.  The bristles on the nail brushes that I could find were weak and would not hold up to multiple times daily deep scrubbing.

Then, I found the ultimate, excellent perfect gardener nail brush at CVS for only $3.60.  I got two!!!!

What makes them perfect?  The Beauty 360 Dual Sided Nail Brush has a regular nail brush on one side that is full and has stiff – but not too stiff – bristles that are great for scrubbing the dirt off your hands. They have held up to extremely vigorous use and showed little wear.

Nailbrush Front

But the magic part of this baby is the other side. On the other side you will find a perfect tool for cleaning all that wonderful dirt out from under your fingernails.  It has a single row of bristles that lay almost flat against the brush handle. You just slide the bristles under your fingernails and scrub away. I was dubious whether this would work or not – but it works like gangbusters!

Nailbrush Other Side
So – if you are a gardener – or work outside and get your nails dirty, then this is the perfect nail brush for you. Buy one for every sink – you won’t be sorry.

DIY Potting Bench in an Hour for Under $5

Potting Bench Header

As I am sure almost everyone out there knows from experience, it is hard to keep going when your back hurts. And even if you force yourself to keep going, at the end of the day it is hard to have a smile on your face and even harder to sleep. So, I am hugely in favor of creating work spaces that are back savers. If that can be done quickly and at little cost, then that is even better.

After one sleepless, painful evening following one full day of bending over transplanting, I had a greenhouse full of beautiful plants and the determination to not do that again. As it was in the spring, with loads more plants to transplant, I needed a quick (and painfree) solution.

So – you guessed it – I headed to my pile of pallets. As you know, I use those babies for everything.  Such a beautiful solution for so many things. I found a pallet that was (dimensions here).  Wow – that would be awesome space for a potting bench, I decided.  The slats were nicely spaced apart so pots could be set on it. No adjustments or additions to the slates needed.

The Pallet for the Potting Bench
Making the bench was easy as pie. I cut four 2×4 boards 32″ long. Then I used two 3- 1/2 star-headed screws to attach each leg at the corner. From previous work on greenhouse benches, I knew I had to attach a cross brace on the legs to stabilize the bench and I did so using scraps I had in my lumber pile.  I wanted to make things even easier, and since I made the potting bench lickety split, I decided to make a smaller one to put pots and supplies on. Now I can plant and transplant and work with plants all day long and my back is happy.

Potting bench
While this bench is in a temporary location, it will find a permanent home when things slow down. I will probably seal it so that it lasts longer, but for now, I am loving every sitting down moment with the plants and my potting bench.

I had spare 2x4s that I used for the legs, but if you had to buy the wood, it would cost around $5.00-10.00 depending on the type that you get.  The screws are about a dime each.  I used 16, so that would have been a total cost of $ 1.60 for the bench. Even if  you had to buy the screws and the 2×4 lumber, the cost of the potting bench would be less that $10.00. What a back saving deal that would be!!!

I hope this encourages you to come up with solutions that will make your life more enjoyable and your gardening less painful. You don’t have to build something complicated, expensive and time consuming. Problem solving can be as simple as slapping four legs on a pallet for a new potting bench. If you want to take the time to paint it – then by all means, do so. But, look for solutions that will allow you to re-use and re-cyle. It makes for a better life, better world.  Let me know what exciting solutions you have come up with re-using and re-cycling. And, if you make a potting bench, let me know how much you love it!

As always, be sure to use pallets that are safe for you and your environment. If you are not sure how to make sure your pallets are safe, this post is short and very clear.  In a nutshell, look for pallets that have the “HT,” heat-treated label.

Arch Trellis for Cukes, Melons, and Squash

Trellises are really critical in gardening if you want to grow up.  As discussed on a prior post, there are several reasons for growing up. One is the space saving aspect of growing up instead of growing horizontally.  In the same space, if you garden vertically, you can often harvest several times as much as you can spreading out. So, for those who are tight on space, vertical gardening is the way to go.  For those who live in the country and are subject to visits by wildlife, you can use trellises to keep your veggies away from those wild things looking for an easy snack – like your delicious cucumbers. And, for those not especially fond of reptiles, you can avoid reaching down for a cucumber and coming up with a wiggling snake. Sooooo, if you are gardening, consider growing up for your veggies and fruits.

We decided that growing up made sense for cukes, beans, and melons. So, we built an arch trellis that was patterned after the one on this post.  While we liked the trellis a great deal, we made some changes to the design, some of them mid-way through building the arch.  You can go here to see the original idea.  I will discuss the changes that we made in this post.

MAKING THE AREA LEVEL FOR RAISED BED FRAME
Our land slopes down and we wanted our trellis with raised beds to be level. So, we had to dig out ground at one end to make sure the frame was level at the other end.  Or relatively so.  Since we have red clay that can be really hard to dig and an abundance of iron ore rocks sprinkled throughout the soil and we were making several raised beds, at the end of the project, we decided being off by 1/4 inch was indeed A-OK.  In the photo below, the first bed is done with a 2x6x12 box stacked on a 2x8x12 box.

First Bed

We decided to make the boxes 12 feet long x 24 inches wide. The two cattle panels will take up 8 feet with a 4×2 foot section at the ends of the bed that will be open (with no trellis). Rationale:  I wanted to have a little extra space at the end of the beds to plant non-climbing vegetables. Since we were building raised beds anyway, I decided to give us the extra growing space in the arch-bed rather than building a separate raised bed. In addition to the extra four feet at the end of the raised bed, we built the frames 24″ wide rather than the 12″ wide used in the example. The climbing veggies will be planted in a one foot space closest to the trellis. This gives us an additional 1×8 foot section on each box for planting non-climbers. Don’t know if this will work – time will tell.

Once we built the beds and dug the spaces for both raised beds, we attempted to put up the cattle panels. This is the second BIG change we made from the example arch trellis. Thirty six inches was just not enough space between the two frame boxes.

Frames with Cattle Panel

If you look at the photo above, notice how small the space is between boxes.  Too close. In fact, when we put the panel in place, I noted that only a giant could reach to the top of the arch to pick veggies because the arch was so high. In addition it kinda bowed out on the sides so it looked like a giant pear sitting on the frame. The arch that looked best was actually how the panel is placed in the photo above. Notice that the box needs to be moved to achieve that arch.  Soooooooo, “we” decided to spread the boxes an additional two feet apart, so instead of a three foot spread, we would have a five foot spread.  This will make it much easier to reach the top to pick veggies and fruits and gives more space in between to walk comfortably. Or sit inside and read a book, I think. Hubby was sooooo pleasant about this little change, moved the box over and dug some more.  Not only did the sides have to be dug, but we had to dig out the inside of the box to get rid of Bermuda grass before planting. Yes, we could have used Round-up but we like to avoid using as many chemicals as we can. So – I really appreciated his willingness to move the box!!!!

Cattle Panel Stapled

Once the boxes were in place, we lifted the first cattle panel and placed it against the outside of the box on the right placing it on the ground. We secured the cattle panel on the right box with eight-1 1/2″ cattle panel staples. Next, we grabbed the other end of the cattle panel and placed it against the outside of the box on the left and secured it with another eight staples. Perfect arch!!!!

We did the same thing with the second cattle panel.  Hubby very nicely wired the two panels together for a more secure arch. The arch trellis beds are ready for action.  I filled them with soil from the forest out back and topped them off with compost and then straw and the plants are happy in their new home.  I can hardly wait to see the arch filling out.

Arch Planted

Materials needed for this project:

4 – 2x6x12  treated pine (We actually got the 16′ boards, but we are going to be using it on other projects. If there is no difference in price and you don’t want the extra boards laying around, go for the 12′ boards.)

1 – 2x6x8 treated pine (cut into four  2′ sections for the ends of the boxes)

4 – 2x8x12 treated pine (Same as above)

1 – 2x8x8 treated pine (cut into four  2′ sections for the ends of the boxes)

2 – 4’x16′ cattle panels (I accidentally called them hog panels and the cashier at Tractor Supply promptly corrected me.)

1 – 2x4x8 treated pine – for bracing the sides (we actually used scraps we had on hand – if you don’t have those you will have to buy this)

3 1/2″ exterior star-headed screws

32 – 1  1/2″ cattle panel staples

Tools needed:
Impact driver
Saw (of some type)
Hammer (for staples)
Shovel (if you have land that slopes and want a level raised bed or just want to make sure your raised bed is perfectly level)
Level (if you have land that slopes and want a level raised bed or just want to make sure your raised bed is perfectly level)

 

Three Section 10′ x 33″ Compost Bin for Next to Nothing

Completed Compost Bins

Compost bins can be beneficial in so many ways for your health and the health of the world. I looked at all the models out there, and most were too expensive for me to justify purchasing. But, the plans all looked pretty similar. I mean, basically compost bins are boxes – right? And a highly functional one is three compartments so that you can more easily turn the composting piles regularly.

The compost bins basically look like the below diagram:

Compost Bin Diagram
Now, what does this diagram remind you of?  Yep, me too! It looks like seven pallets put together.  So, I went out to my trusty pallet stack and looked for seven pallets that were the same size and hauled them to my “compost pile home” and began assembling them as per the diagram above.

The pallets that I use often for projects come from an office machines company that sells those big copiers to businesses. These pallets are great because the nails are easy to get out and the wood is hard and durable. And heat treated – so they are safe to use.

Pallet

I wanted the sides of the compost bins to have more gaps to allow air into the composting materials.  So, I knocked two of the slats out.  This is where it comes in very handy to have pallets that have “easy to remove” nails.

Slats Removed for Air Circulation

I used those two slats from each pallet to secure the pallets using 2 1/2″ exterior star-headed screws and my fav Makita impact driver to attach the pallets.  The pallets were attached at the top and on the back of the pallets.

Attached Pallets

After the pallets were attached on the top and the backs, it was a very secure compost bin that should last for some time. I even use it to make my hoops out of electrical conduit – and it doesn’t even jiggle.  All told – it took me about two hours and cost less than $5.00 since my only cost was the screws.

Pallets Nailed at Back

I have been considering fixing something to go over the front – but haven’t really needed it so far. The compartments are big enough that the piles work with the front open.

Ain’t she a beaut? Does anyone out there have any other ideas for a quick and inexpensive compost bin?

Finished Compost Bin

 

Cedar Tub Surround for Spa Feel in Bathroom

On those days you are beyond tired and ache all over, can you think of anything any better to relieve the stress than  long soak in the tub to escape it all for a moment? I certainly can’t. If I can read a book on my relaxation journey with soft and fragrant candles burning, even better!  The atmosphere in the bathroom spa is critical to relaxing and refreshing. Right, you guys?

Well, after adding raw cedar to the ceiling and part of the walls, painting the rest of the walls with a beautiful shade of sage clay paint, and adding a cedar bench and cedar vanity, the un-spa like, ugly white ceramic tub just didn’t fit the spa atmosphere.  We certainly couldn’t afford to upgrade to a luxurious claw leg tub and although not especially pretty, the tub was certainly still serviceable.

White Ceramic Tub

 

But – ugly tub that it was, I just couldn’t have it marring the spa-like atmosphere I was working to create. At that point, I decided a cedar frame around the tub would certainly bring a more spa-like feel to the bath. I had purchased a big bundle of odd sizes of raw cedar from a local lumber company for only $75.00 and had quite a bit leftover after covering the the ceiling and part of the wall. So – I thought – why not?  I will just cover the front of the tub with the cedar. Since I like love the smell of cedar, I decided more in the bathroom just couldn’t hurt.

Raw Cedar Slabs
Isn’t it gorgeous? It seems more and more small, independent lumber yards are opening that have some incredibly beautiful pieces of lumber. If you go visit these lumber yards, you can find incredibly good deals – like this stack of cedar that I purchased. Hint: Often, you can find these lumber yards on Craigslist.

As you can see, the pieces are a widely varied in width – but that didn’t really matter. I cut them all the same length – exactly to the top of the tub ledge.  I had to experiment with the arrangement of the pieces, but all combinations seemed to work fine. Once I had decided which piece would go where, I used a caulk gun to spread glue on the tub front. After a good deal of research, I decided to use Liquid Nails Marble to glue the wood to the tub front. I figured that if it was a good bond for marble to wood, then it would be a good bond for wood to ceramic tub surface.  It worked great!!!

I put a generous amount of glue on the tub, but not so much that it would ooze out the sides. Each piece had to be held in position for about 60 seconds. This was really the hardest part.

Tub Beginning

Looking good so far. I did not know what would happen when I got to the section where the tub dipped in – guess they thought it would be decorative.  But, what I decided to do was add a bit extra since the pieces at the right end of the tub would have a gap between the tub and the cedar slabs. You can see the interesting pattern that the tub is beginning to take.

Cedar Tub in the Works
At this point, it is getting close to finishing the front of the tub. Since cedar is naturally resistant to water damage, I wasn’t too worried about it being on the front of the tub. I did worry about water splashing between the tub and the cedar, so I decided to put a piece of cedar on the top and use caulk to seal it on the inside. This ledge made a good place to sit or rest my feet getting out of the tub.  It was also good protection for water splashing.

Photo of finished tub.

Once the tub front was completely covered, I rubbed on a thick coat of tung oil every 24 hours for three days. Tung oil needs to cure for about seven days to get really hard. The front was no problem as I didn’t touch it for those days. I had to be careful and wipe up the water on the top ledge and make sure that none splashed down between the ledge and the tub.  After 10 days, I added caulk to the front of the ledge to ensure that water stayed out.  Then, I took such a long, relaxing hot bath and soaked for hours in my spa bathroom.  It has been almost a year, and the cedar looks just as fresh as it did when I first installed it.

This may not be a project that everyone would want to do to their tub because the cedar is rustic and wood colored. I know that painted wood – and white are more the trend these days. I wouldn’t want to paint the beautiful cedar. But, this same idea could be done using bead board for a more tailored, currently trendy look.

I hope you have been encouraged to find ways to reuse and recycle when you are remodeling. While new can be nice, reusing conserves resources – of the environment and of your pocketbook. Making something like this also feels good and makes your spaces very personal.  What ideas have you come up with or what are you thinking of doing in your remodels that make the space very personally you?

DIY Raised Bed using Recycled Corrugated Roofing Material

Harvest in Raised Bed

Raised beds are quite the gardening rage these days and they are beneficial for a variety of reasons. If high enough, they can save your back from constant bending over. This can be beneficial for the elderly or those who have back issues.  The type of soil you have can dictate the necessity of raised beds. As you know, my red clay soil requires raised beds for growing fruits, veggies – and, well, anything. One thing about raised beds is that they can be expensive to build and expensive to fill.  So, always looking to save money, I am always on the hunt for cost effective (cheap) raised bed ideas. I have tried several different ways to build raised beds, and one of my favorites is the one I built using (slightly rusted) corrugated roofing that for some obscure reason was left laying around in multiple locations on our property when we bought it.

I was frustrated with it sitting all over the place and was getting ready to ask my husband to haul it off.  I had really been delaying asking because I kept thinking I could surely do something with it  – old signs, bird house roofs, ????  That’s when I ran across an interesting raised bed idea from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Spark!!!  I could do the same thing – but use the rusted corrugated roofing sitting all over the property for a very inexpensive raised bed. So, that is what I did.

If you have read other posts, you know that the area I use for planting has a pronounced slope. The first semi-raised bed that I built was not sloped and I just didn’t like all the water running to the end of the bed. Since that first bed, I have built them level – which means there is a wide variance between the front of the bed and the back.  There are several ways to do raised beds on a slope including digging down on the high end or raising the end of the bed on the low end. I chose not to dig and adjusted the depth of the boards at the corners to achieve a level bed.

The first thing that I had to do was figure out where the top board would be on the front and on the back of the raised bed. For the first step, I hammered a stake at each corner of the bed and (since it was to be a 16′ bed) and in the middle as well. Using a line level, I marked the position that would be level at each corner and in the middle.  Then, I  measured each stake. To give you an idea of our sloping land, the front side of the bed is 15.5″ and the back side is 23.25 inches.

Using 4×4 treated pine, I cut the corner and middle boards.  Using 1x4x8 treated pine, I screwed the boards at the top and the bottom of each 4×4 “leg” using two 3 1/2″ star head exterior screws on each leg. I used two 8′ sections instead of a 16′ board for two reasons. First, I was planning on making two 8′ beds – but once I  got started, I decided making one 16′ bed would save resources, ie. less wood and less wasted space between the beds. And, I really don’t have a good way to get 16′ lumber home.

Corrugated Bed Frame

You can see from the slant of the top board how much our property slopes. I used a  standard and line level multiple times as I was building the frames.  It was very frustrating, actually, but I finally got the top boards level and screwed into the legs.

Next, I used 2×4 treated lumber every two feet to support the 1×4 frames. I screwed them into the 1x4s with 2 1/2″ star head exterior screws.  I also decided to put a cross brace at 8′ because it seemed a bit wobbly. You can see one side complete below.

Side of Raised Bed

In case you are wondering, I set the side boards on top of the soil. As mentioned before, I have hard red clay soil and I don’t think the bed will sink.  My husband was a little concerned when he first saw it, but decided that we would just put some braces under the supports if it does sink. So far, it has remained true despite multiple rain events.

After completing the supports for each side, I dragged the corrugated roofing material over to the raised bed. The sheets were in varying lengths and widths.  I had to decide whether to make the ridges run vertically or horizontally.  After much deliberation, I decided to have the ridges run vertically because it seemed more cost effective and easier cutting the pieces to fit. At first, I cut the pieces to match the slope of the land, but after several pieces, I realized cutting them straight worked just as effectively and was a ton easier.

I used my circular saw to cut the roofing material using a Diablo 48-tooth Steel Demon Ferrous Metal Cutting Saw Blade.  My husband didn’t think it would work, but it cut through the roofing like butter. However, make sure you wear safety glasses and preferably a long sleeve shirt because the sparks fly!!!!!

I tried to line up the corrugated sheet to the top of the board, so I ended up having to dig down a bit in some places to align the corrugated sheet to the top of the top rail.  I secured the corrugated sheet metal to the 1×4 frames with #9 x 1″ fine steel hex-head roofing screws and my fav impact driver.  The hex head made it easy to “grip” the screw as it went through the roofing. Even though they said the hex screws are self-drilling, I found it easier to pre-drill a hole first since the corrugated roofing was super thick – must have been industrial grade.

Once all the roofing was in, I decided it would be nice to be able to sit down and work in the bed, so I used 5/4 deck boards along the top.

Raised Bed with Corrugated Steel
And there she is, ready to be filled with soil. Lots of soil. She isn’t shiny and new, but using materials that I had on hand, I was able to inexpensively build a 4’x16′ raised bed for 64 square feet of gardening. And, I think it has a lot of personality – a statement that I like to re-use and re-style to save money and save resources. And, as you can see at the top of the post, the raised bed was finished and filled in time to get a nice spring harvest.

What do you  have laying around that can be used in a different way? What can you re-use to save yourself money and the world resources.  Shiny and new is not always better and I urge you to look for creative ways to renovate the past.  Let me hear from you!!!!

 

Compass on the Kitchen Floor?

What every kitchen needs is a compass on the floor to ensure all members of your family and always going in the right direction.  Seriously.  As for directionally challenged me, the compass helps me to know which direction is which when I am at home. If you are one of those directionally challenged individuals, you know what I mean.  And, from an informal polling of my friends, many left handed people are directionally challenged. Not saying this is an excuse – but it is what it is.

Yes, I am digressing. So, when I saw a post from Domestic Imperfection on Pinterest about stenciling tabletops, I thought a stencil on the kitchen floor would look great.  My kitchen is already what I guess you could call eclectic, which to me means it has all the disparate things I like in one room.  The stencil on the floor would just make it more me.

I decided on a compass because they look really cool and I really am directionally challenged. This grounded me in which direction I was pointing whenever I needed the information for a project.  Actually the hardest part was probably finding a large compass stencil. After hours of searching on the Net, I did find one that suited me at iStencils.com. If you find one you like, the stencils go all the way up to 36″ – it is rare to find stencils this large.

Compass on Floor

Yes, you really do see blue on the floor.  I tried to stain it a royal-ish blue color and the pigment did not dissolve evenly in the tung oil. Oddly enough, with all the traffic in the kitchen, the floor has a funky patina to it that we really like. There is no way I could duplicate it – but until we decide whether we want a (semi) permanently blue kitchen floor, we are enjoying watching it develop character daily.

Although the tung oil finish is somewhat faded by this time, the compass still shows through nicely. The directions are really simple:

  1. Find a stencil you like and position it on your surface.
  2. Hold down – or even better tape down stencil in the correct position.
  3. Using a stencil brush, paint the area with white acrylic paint.
  4. Let dry and then remove stencil.
  5. 24 hours later, stain the area with your stain of choice. The acrylic paint creates a seal in the wood that prevents the stain from soaking in.
  6. Seal your area with the appropriate seal. In the case of the kitchen floor, I used tung oil.

If you would like detailed directions with photos, head on over to Domestic Imperfection.  If you want to create an environment in your home that is uniquely you, I recommend floor stencils.  For more conservative decorators than me, this would be great in a kids room, or sun room. Or the kitchen – like mine.

Why Every DIY-gal Needs her Own Makita Impact Driver

For the woman (or man) who loves to build, but doesn’t have the arm strength to hammer nails in consistently and efficiently, there is simply no better tool for you than the impact driver. While nails are wonderful (and nail guns are super – but that is another post), when trying to put together wood projects, a good impact driver and star head screws just cannot be beat.

Total disclosure here:  I am not a good hammerer. In fact, I am a horrible hammerer.  No matter how hard I try to hammer a nail in straight, it always bends.  Straighten it, and in a few more hits, it bends again. Often, I end up bending it all the way over and hammering it in on its side. This looks messy, and sometimes, does not hold as well as it should. I don’t know if my arm strength is the problem, because it seems like I keep hitting and hitting and hitting and the nail goes down 1 millimeter. Big nails into hard boards are a veritable nightmare.

PHOTO HERE – NAIL driven in crooked

I have seen great hammerers and marvel as they strike just a few times and the darn nail just goes in like it is supposed to and doesn’t even think of bending. To me, those guys almost have super powers.  They should wear a cape with a big “H” on their chests. That is NOT me.  So, I first I switched to a corded electric drill and then a battery powered drill.  The two different kinds have pluses and minuses.  A corded drill is more powerful but the cord is a real pain to work with, especially if you are working outside.  The battery powered drill didn’t have that annoying cord to wrestle and stumble over but was really, really heavy. That worked OK for a time – but, I began to have two serious issues. The first was that I had to hold the drill straight and the bit securely in the groove of the screw and press relatively hard for the screw to go all the way in. Again, something about arm strength or lack thereof, I think. It was really hard for me to do with a 3 ½” or 4” screw and I often ended up with a stripped Phillips head screw stuck half-way in the wood. If you have ever done that, you know what a nightmare it is getting that baby out when the head is stripped.

PHOTO STAR HEAD SCREWS

The first fix was to switch to star head screws.  Someone at the local hardware store recommended that I use star head screws because they could not be stripped like Phillips head screws. Now, I believe that I could strip one given the right circumstances, but using them is incredibly superior to Phillips head screws and I highly, highly recommend them for all your project.  However, the second problem became a genuine issue that almost put a stop to my woodworking projects that required something to be drilled or screwed. That obstacle almost stopped me from doing just about everything I enjoyed doing.

The pad of my thumb became so sore and inflamed that I did not have the strength to tighten or loosen the rotating collar enough to secure the drill or screw bit. In other words, I could not get the chuck tight enough to hold the bit in or, if it was tight enough, I could not get the chuck open to remove the drill bit. It was so bad that I had to eventually get two wrenches and use them to tighten and loosen the chucks. When I was working on a project that required frequent changes, I was sometimes in tears from the pain when trying to do it by hand, and frustrated when I had to resort to the wrenches. Projects took me five times as long and weren’t even fun even more.

PHOTO – WRENCHES ON ROTATING COLLAR

I knew there had to be a solution, so I started looking around for alternatives and that is when I read about impact drivers.  After long hours of research on the web, I finally decided on the Makita 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion 1/4 in. Cordless Impact Driver. The reviews were great and the price was reasonable.

At first, I couldn’t figure out for sure if these impact drivers could also drill – but I figured just having something that was powerful and could screw would be worth the investment. OMG, the difference was incredible and I started a romance with my new driver.  That sounds kinky – but you know what I mean.

To start, the bits slip right in with no tightening required. Thus, I could easily and quickly switch back and forth from drilling to driving – once I figured out that the driver could do both.  The instructions say you can even change bits one handed.  I haven’t mastered that, though. But, I can quite easily switch from one bit to another with two hands totally pain-free over and over. There are other benefits, as well. The impact driver that I purchased is significantly lighter and smaller than the electric drill.  That helps when I am working on big projects for many days, as I don’t get as tired or sore.

PHOTO – DRILL BIT SHOWING HOW TO LOAD IT INTO IMPACT DRIVER

And, man, does it ever do a fantastic job. I don’t have trouble with the longest screws into the hardest wood. I am not sure how it does what it does – according to the lit, it “hammers” in addition to screwing. That is where the impact comes in. And it works fantastically. It is just the right size for me – but every bit (no pun intended) as powerful as the huge drill I had been using. It also has a bright LED light that shines where I am working which really helps me see what I am doing. The LED light is so bright that I used it for a flashlight once and it worked great. (Told you I had a romance going with my impact driver).  And the battery recharges fast, so if I forget to charge it at night, it doesn’t take long for it to be ready to use the next day.

After several months using the Makita impact driver, the romance was still going strong. I liked the fact that I could be independent and didn’t have to ask someone else to finish screwing the screw in. I liked that it was small and compact and didn’t tire me out using it for hours at a time. I like that I was no longer in pain when I was putting together projects. I liked it so much, in fact, that I asked for another one just like it at Christmas. Now, I don’t have to switch back and forth between a drill bit and a driver bit, and I can tell you, I am in tall cotton!!!!

PHOTO OF TWO IMPACT DRIVERS

So, for you gals out there that are building – whether it be shelves, tables, compost bins, wooden signs or any other projects, I highly recommend you invest in an impact driver and I highly recommend the ….  Major warning, though. If your man sees it, he will become addicted to it, also. Without fail, my hubs will grab my impact driver first, before he uses his large, HEAVY electric drill.  And, at Christmas, my brother decided it was time he invest in a new impact driver and took all the relevant data on my little friend.  You will not be disappointed with this baby!!!!

Build SUPER EASY, super FAST greenhouse benches for less than $5.00

 

Greenhouse Bench

An open greenhouse area with plants on the ground can work fine, but the addition of benches increases usage tremendously and can be a real back-saver, too.  If they cost next to nothing to make, then you have a real winner. My car garage/pallet greenhouse has been in place for several months and I decided that benches would facilitate watering (my back) and give me more space for organizing plants.  To save money, I went back to my stack of pallets and fashioned all the benches that I needed using pallets and scrap wood. For all the benches, the total cost was less than $5.00 (for the screws).

I had the option of building individual benches from each pallet and setting them up in a row, or attaching all the pallets together and then adding legs so that I had two long benches. I opted to make individual benches from each pallet for two reasons: 1) Wrangling the smaller units was much easier and more manageable for me. I simply don’t know how I would have moved a 12 foot long bench and 2)  Building individual units allowed more versatility for rearranging the benches in the greenhouse.  So, I built eight benches  29 inches deep and 32-33 inches wide.  Five benches were 32.5 inches high and four were 23.5 inches high (for the taller plants). I haven’t decided what to do for the “floor” of the greenhouse yet – but the plants are quite happy up on the benches now.  My back is so much happier, too.

I had one very large pallet made of varying widths of 2×4 boards – on the top as well as the sides.  I had never seen one quite like it – so I wrestled it onto my truck bed. I do mean wrestle, because that dude was incredibly heavy. Totally worth it, though. I found that I could make the legs for six pallet benches from that one pallet alone.  If you ever find something like that sitting around, grab it fast.

Pallet

The pallet above is an example of the types of pallets that I used for the tops of the benches. I found this incredible source for pallets from a large supplier of commercial copiers as I was driving around an industrial district looking for another pallet source I found on Craigslist. When I saw the pallets stacked up at the copier sales store, I asked some guys standing out back if I could take them. They were delighted. (So was I). Anyway, if you can find this type of source, grab all you can. They are heat treated – and HUGE bonus, they are super easy to take apart with just a  hammer.

BUILDING THE BENCHES
Building the benches was quite simple and we ended up building each bench in about 20 minutes. To begin, there was a large space in the middle of each pallet – which would not be good for the top of a bench because the smaller pots would just fall through. So, I knocked out one of the slats and screwed it in about midway between the gap.  Voila – the top of your shelf is done.

Each pallet had little pieces of wood on the top – I believe they were used to hold the office machine in place because they didn’t serve any other purpose that I could see.  Here’s my mom (she’s 93) removing those little pieces of wood.  Before you get upset at me for being a slave driver – she wants to help. And I like to keep her busy so that she is part of the renovating.  And – hey – if a 93 years young lady can do this, so can YOU!!!!

Preparing Pallet

While she was busy taking those wood pieces off, I had to figure out how high I wanted the benches to be.

In full disclosure, I grabbed four of the 2x4s that were about the same length and measured the shortest one. It was 32.5 inches, so I used that as the height for the taller benches. As it turned out, it was a perfect height to work with.

So, for the next step, simply measure and cut four legs the same length.

Legs added to bench
After the leg boards are cut, screw the legs into the sides of the pallet using two 3.5” screws on each leg.  The good thing about pallets is that they have that 4×4-ish brace at each end, so the legs were very secure when I used the 3.5″ screws.

Once the legs were attached and I stood it up, I noticed the shelf seemed to wobble a bit. To eliminate the wobble, I cut two scrap boards and attached them to the legs – as seen below. I used scraps that I had around for the side braces, and with one on each side, the bench was quite stable.  Whether I used a piece of a pallet, a spare 1×3 or 1×4 for the side brace, I aligned the tops at 10.5 inches (from the bottom of the leg). I did this so that if I later decided I wanted a second shelf, I could just slide a board onto the cross braces and have an instant shelf.

Side Braces on Benches

Wobble gone, shelf built in a very short period of time.  Ain’t she a beauty?  OK, I think all the varying looks of the wood  legs and braces makes for an interesting look. If you don’t care for this “eclectic” look, the benches would look nice and probably more “together” if painted one color. Or perhaps, the legs and braces one color and the top wood. I just needed them to be there and functional – so I will let you know later if I decide to paint them.

Finished Bench

Depending on the wood for the legs and the side braces, some of the benches ended up being fairly heavy. The greenhouse isn’t terribly far from where I was building the benches, but since I was trying to save my back, I decided to upend them on my wheelbarrow and take them to the greenhouse. I mention this because I want you to be able to do these projects, even if you are not terribly strong. Making the benches individually and using the wheelbarrow to move them means that I did not have to have a stronger person do the heavy lifting for me.  I am woman, I am strong. . .

Moving Bench to Greenhouse
In one day, I was able to build the benches (with the help of Mom), put these babies in the greenhouse for less than $5.00.  These are the deals that I like.  And, I had very happy plants and a very happy back.Yes, I think plants appreciate these little things we do for them.  See them smiling?

Shelves in Greenhouse
One last suggestion. As always, when you use pallets, you want to be very careful to make sure they are safe. Make sure that they are not coated with chemicals and don’t have chemicals spilled on them that would harm you or your plants.  For a comprehensive post on identifying your pallets and making sure you are using safe wood, go here.  In a nutshell, if they have an HT stamped on the wood, they are heat treated and safe to use.

Building benches for your greenhouse really makes them more accessible and usable. If you can build them quickly and inexpensively, that is even better. This quick project will provide you with an easy and cheap solution. What do you think of the benches? Do you have any other benches you have built? Share!!!