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October 2021
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DIY Utilty Knife Blade Sharpener

One of the most useful tools for the remodeler is the Utility Knife. The blades are sharp as hell for a little while. When they get dull you replace them. To extend the life of the blade here is a little trick.

Find an old porcelain cup, like this.

You can tell it is porcelain because the unglazed bottom is white. It makes a great sharpener for your utility knife.
Take your utility knife and draw it across the unglazed portion at a slight angle on both sides for just a few strokes.

This will add quite a bit of life to your blades and is a cheap alternative to a sharpening stone.

Storage Project 5

Getting close to the end of the Storage Project. Here is an update. The base is in and the walls and baseboards are painted. The baseboards are 3” tall rather than the standard 2”, due to the walls being 97′ 1/2 ‘ tall rather than 96.  We had to rip a bunch of drywall down to an 1 1/4 ” to create a base for attaching the baseboard.  This also allows the wheels of the storage carts to hit the trim and not the walls. The lights are energy efficient fluorescent  giving a lot of light.

I am doing the doors separately, due to traffic issues.

Tech Tip: When painting raised panel doors like these, paint the panels and reveals first. This allows you to get in the corners and capture any drips along the way. After the paint dries, paint the flats. Touch up anything that may have gotten away, and you will have a beautiful door.

The new exterior door has a molded neoprene gasket. This should not be painted. If it can’t flex, It can’t seal. To paint around it, I use a drywall knife as a shield. On the one side(illustrated) the knife is held in place by friction. On the other side you will need to slip it undef the gasket and angle it up to paint underneath the gasket.

This allows you to paint right up to it without getting it painted. If you don’t have a big drywall knife any reasonably stiff thin cardboard can be used like the side of a cereal box. The longer the better, as you can paint more between moves.

On the other side the taping, filling and skim coating has made the patching almost invisible.

I also used some of the baseboard material to re frame the scuttle. Working overhead is a pita. But it can be made easier. After determining the scuttle is not square, (no surprise here) I took my measurement, so I have at least a 1/2” for the cover, and cut my pieces mitering the corners and placing the thin section to the outside.

I used quick clamps to hold my pieces in place while I positioned them. One at a time I took them down, Glued the back side and screwed them in place. Scuttles always get beat up. In Arizona construction is almost exclusively slab on grade, which puts all the utilities with the exception of water and gas in the attic.

Here is the scuttle finished.

After the alarm guy and the phone, TV and Internet guys are done, I will insulate this space including gluing insulation to the back of the scuttle cover.

Next up is the floor.In the foreground are the three craters left from the cut nails that were used to nail the stub wall to the floor.

Midway is a crack in the slab between a 1/16-1/18” in width. Too large to fill with paint. At the back in the corner is where somebody decided to put a hose bib outside after the walls were complete. This was complicated by this being the main water line to the building. They  hammered the crap out of the block and the floor, and just poured some concrete patch compound which was not floated to the surface, requiring repair. Half ass crap always bites somebody in the ass later.

We are using Quickcrete Epoxy Floor coating. We used it on the Artroom Expansion Project here.  This is a great product. It comes with floor cleaner, the coating in a lot of colors and chips to make it skid proof. After the floor sets, I will  silicone all the gaps between the baseboard and floor.  Scorpions are a problem in this neighborhood.

While this is going on, I will be working on the Closet Office, which was the original job.

Storage Project 4 Details - Long Post

At the beginning of the Storage Project I said, “What I am going to do is to open this side of this wall, remove the pocket door and frame in the opening, remove the short wall between the existing opening and the new wall creating a long storage room. I will wire it for cable, network and electricity for future uses.”
This is standard stuff and sounds easy. If you do this for a living it is. If you are just starting with a small project around your house, here are some of the drywall detail work to help you conquer your projects.

I have mentioned that I screw drywall. After you have bought the basic drill, circular saw, and hand tools, you very next purchase should be a screwgun. Screws work better for holding drywall. A screwgun has an adjustable nose so you can set depth of your screws just below the surface. This is important because of the design of drywall screws and the ability of them to hold the drywall to the walls without popping.
You cannot use a regular drill and get a consistent depth for maximum holding power by hand. You will be either not deep enough requiring you to use a screw driver to get them deep enough or you will go to deep past the paper making the screw useless in terms of holding power. Trust me on this one.

Here are a few of the details on this project.
Wall Fix.
This is the wall where we removed the small wall that formed part of the old storage closet.

The ceiling is how they hung the drywall just over the top plate. You can barely make out the mesh tape I have bridged the gap with. The wall was a little different. I cut a line into the inside of all the corners before removing the old drywall, to prevent the walls from running. After I removed the old drywall and studs, I used a 4” mud knife and slid it along the wall cutting into the leftover corner material before filling in the gap left by the old studs. I screwed the drywall to the blocking that was in the wall that they used to build this wall. I meshed taped both seams. This will be filled with speed set. I use speed set for pre fill as it dries quickly and shrinks very little requiring much less labor to blend. (That comes later when I skim coat) Also I can add less water to produce a stiffer mix to fill these gaps without runs or bulges.

Ceiling Outlet Repair

This is a typical ceiling outlet hole.  This is made by using a circle cutter and then bashing it open with a drywall hammer. When you are hanging footage, it takes 5 seconds to bash the hole, and up to 30 seconds to use a keyhole saw. Bashing the hole this way breaks the core of the back side of the drywall, which you remove by sweeping it with the hatchet side of your drywall hammer. You should take the time to cut these out with a keyhole saw.

I mention this because if you have small pot lights or retro fit ceiling cans, that keeping falling down or loosening up, this is the reason. There is not enough material around the sides to allow the clamps to hold it tight to the ceiling. You can loosen the clamps, rotate the light and hope you get lucky, or remove the light and build up the top of the sheet with compound. It doesn’t work very well in most cases.

Squaring the hole.

Just like it sounds. Cut a square scrap of drywall, cover the hole, trace around it, and cut it with keyhole saw.


Install blocking above your hole. This is a scrap lumber that is long enough to extend beyond the cut line and narrow enough so that you can hold it tight while you screw it in place. The point here is to repair the area and keep it flat. On walls you can use the “tapeless drywall patch technique” But on ceilings I recommend blocking.


Screw in the block that you used as a template for cutting the hole.

Mesh tape and you are ready for mud.

Here is a wall patch. This was an exploratory hole for a cable run into the dining room. Measurements get you only so far, Sometimes you just have to perform surgery. Here also I used blocking rather than a tapeless patch which is really much better on smooth walls.

Here is our hole covered before skim coating.

Here is another patch. This is actually a twofer. When I disconnected this outlet, it turned out not to stop here but was also connected to the porch light. So I had to cut it open both top and bottom to trace the wiring. I wire nutted the connections, pushed them in the box, and will be covering this with blank cover plate.

Never !Ever! bury  a box that contains live circuits. It is against code, and if there is ever any problem, you or your electrician will thank me.

Note that I covered the box opening with blue tape. This prevents filling the box with mud as you work. This saves time and aggravation when it comes time to  install outlets,switches,  and cover plates.

It makes taping easier not having to worry about crap in the box or loose wires sticking out, live or not.

Drywall over Concrete
This is the west end of the storage area. On the left and back is the concrete block that forms part of the veranda in front and the garage wall.

Here we use drywall with heavy adhesive(PowerGrab) on the back and use short spiral shank concrete nails to hold it in place while the glue sets. Here is the intrepid client lending a hand.

In the photo below on the right side, the brown area is where we did not cut the inside corner deep enough  so when we pulled the drywall down, the top ran, taking the paint and texture off. This will have to be pre-filled before skimcoating.

The walls are taped and covered coated prior to skim coating the walls smooth. Because there is so much patching, skim coating is the best wall treatment.

Skim Coating
Because of depth of texture multiple coats of mud will be needed. This is the first coat applied vertically. The second coat should be applied horizontally, and the final coat, with vertically. I used speed set for the fill coats and Dust Control mud for the final coat. Because you have to sand it smooth eventually:)

Second Coat.

Sanded and Primed

Not everything goes according to plan. In finishing up one last connection in the attic, which is another whole post. Suffice to say , in arizona the shortest distance for wiring is anywhere you want.

Attics are dark dusty, and slippery.

One small step for mankind, one more repair for the taper.

Here we installed blocking between the ceiling joists, and screwed through the joists into the blocks with 3” screws, because folks will step on any thing that looks solid. So screw up the drywall, tape over the cracks, and skim over it.

The repaired area is in the middle of the ceiling over the end light. Came out okay.

These are some of the most common challenges you may face in remodeling, but hopefully not all at the same time or in the same room.

Storage Project 1

Storage, Storage, Storage!!! You have stuff, I have stuff, everybody has stuff. You need to store your stuff. Unless you live in a warehouse, you probably don’t have enough storage space. I am not talking about hoarding,  collecting burger shop glasses, or hobbies that involve large stationary power tools, but  just normal stuff.

Holiday stuff, camping stuff, sports stuff, and for those of you who live up north, your winter and summer stuff. (You know who you are and you know what I mean)

This is a photo of folks who have stuff. Look carefully at the photo as I explain how we will make storage. This is the back end of a garage.

Notice first the wire shelving on the left. It is a stainless steel rolling unit from Costco. About 90 bucks and worth every penny. It comes with 6 shelves that are 48” wide and 16” deep. It comes with serious 4”solid rubber casters and is 6 feet high when assembled. (I own 2 of them and recommend them highly) It is rated at 600 lbs, but in my own field testing have put more on them.  Moving on…

If you look about a foot to the left of the open door you will notice a 3-4” concrete curb. This curb is actually  part of the house slab.  The garage floor is at grade level.  The curb is going to support a wall that will run the width of the garage (23′) and be 44” deep inside.

This is the east side looking from the garage door area. It is 10 feet across from the door to the wall. Here I will frame a wall with a 36” steel door across this entire opening to meet the wall on the right.

This is the other side with the ‘storage’ originally designed. On the right is a storage unit that was added later. It is full too.

This unit has a pocket door, which is the only intelligent idea here. What I am going to do is to open this side of this wall,  remove the pocket door and frame in the opening, remove the short wall between the existing opening and the new wall creating a long storage room. I will wire it for cable, network and electricity for future uses. Stay tuned.

Outdoor Table Repairs

This is an end view of a popular outdoor table. Call it Table 1. Wood top and seats and metal legs. The boards have warped and ‘cupped’.  Notice the cracking on the end of the boards. More on that later.

Here is another table from the same yard. Call it Table 2.

The difference between these two tables is the paint. Not the brand, not the type, but the coverage. Table two’s wood was completely painted, (all 6 sides) and table 1 was not.
Table 1 was painted a few years ago, and here is one of the seats. Notice the cracks. The paint is only failing where there are cracks that have broken the ‘skin’. This is not a paint failure, this is an application failure.

This is why this table’s wood failed. Because the bottom was not painted or primered,  the weather in Arizona destroyed these boards. Because the wood was not sealed on all sides, the elements and especially heat, sucked the moisture out of the wood and accelerated the damage process.

There is no repair as the wood has dried past the point where any salvage is possible. If you are going to have wood furniture, protect it by sealing it completely. If  you are going to repaint or seal wood furniture, disassemble as far as practical, clean it, sand it , fill it, re prime and repaint. A little time now or a lot of money later.

Since I am replacing the wood, I am adding a bit of blocking to the end of each board. This will cover the end grain of the planks and minimize damage and end grain cracking like you saw in the first photo of table 1. These blocks were ripped from an 2x and were glued(powergrab) and screwed (3” deck screws with countersunk holes drilled beforehand).

This serves two purposes. Stop the current cracking and minimize future damage.

Since wood is an organic material, there is always defects that you can work around. Sometimes. Twisting, warping, cupping, excess moisture, pitch and mold are just a few things to look for when selecting wood.

Modern wood is shit. I don’t care what they brand it as, or how how carefully they grade it, the big box stores are there to move product. I started at the blue store, looking for 8′ material but thinking that I would need 10′ material and have to cut the ends off to get defect free material. We were out of there in 5 minutes, the selection was so bad.

Went to the orange store and spent 30 mins. digging through the stacks to find 4 2×12” for seats and 6 2×10” for the decks. Was able to find 8′ material so I wasn’t going to waste lumber by cutting down 10′ material.  The most surprising thing about this was the width of the boards. A 2×10”  board in theory is 1 1/2” x 9 1/2‘ 9 1/4′ nominal.  (hattip to Derek @ Kensington Bungalow ) There is a certain amount of variation but usually it is small. The material I picked up measured between 9 7/16” down to 9” even.  Modern wood is shit. But I will make it work.

Quote of the Day

“Do you know what minimum code requirements are? Just above condemned.”
Hattip: DIY Diva

On being a Good Neighbor

The web has allowed folks who are  separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles to be neighbors. On the Internet we are next door. Because of our shared interests we form communities where we can share our experiences, point and link to folks whose experiences are worth noting, and build our communities, regardless of physical distance. Strong communities are built by good neighbors.

In scanning a blog the other day from a link that another blogger had posted, I saw an image that looked real familiar. I guess that is because of it being from one of my own my blog postings. I do my own photography, and image processing, which accounts for the raw look of a lot of the things I post here. It only took moments to discover that this was indeed my work.
Without permission, attribution or links to the source.

This is like going to your neighbor’s garage and ‘borrowing’ his tools without telling him. You may get away with this for a little while, but when your other neighbors discover this behavior, your integrity gets called into question. I don’t think that you want to be that guy.

Out here on the web it is common when using images by others to provide attribution and or links to the source of material whether it be words or images. The funniest thing about this situation is that the web is the one place where asking permission is actually easier than asking forgiveness.

Using other people’s stuff without either permission, attribution or links to the source is just wrong.

I am not mad but sad as in my 15 or so years on the web, I have had images stolen, entire postings hijacked, entire websites stolen, been hacked, had somebody take my online identity, do some real evil damage, and had just about every bad thing that can happen to you online happen to me at one time or another. When you are out here long enough, shit happens especially someone as outspoken as I am.

It is a short path from being a good neighbor to being the guy that folks avoid. Online this is even more so as the web has a memory like a herd of elephants.

As I mentioned earlier, on the web we are all next door. You have to decide what kind of neighbor you want to be.

One Project Closer DIY Forums

One Project Closer in addition to being a great resource for DIY by actually doing and sharing are kicking it up a notch.
The folks at OPC have opened up a DIY Discussion Forum Here.  This is a place for you to ask questions and discuss remodeling projects, from painting to site work.

Come on in.

2 day Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those foods that require time, energy, and love. Make your sauce, grate and mix your cheeses, boil your noodles, dry them, assemble the layers, then cook. You can spend a whole day making it. It is not a member of the microwave food group.

The secret to really good lasagna or spaghetti sauces is blending and resting. A good sauce takes about 4-6 hours to cook. It is flavorful and robust at this point. However, resting and putting it in the fridge overnight will stun you with the blending of flavor you get the next day. There are two ways to do this. One day assembly and Two day assembly.

The most involved part of assembling lasagna is the noodles. Cooking, Draining, Drying and using. Or you can try the greatest pasta invention since the noodle was invented.  Barilla Lasagne Noodles. These gems are no boiling required. Really!

One day assembly

You make your sauce and cheese mix and begin to assemble your lasagna. Sauce on the bottom, a layer of DRY noodles, cheese mix, DRY noodles and so on.  You can Bake and enjoy today or you can put it in the fridge overnight. . The noodles soften with the sauce and moisture from the cheese giving you a firm moist lasagna.

Two day assembly

Make you sauce and put it in the fridge overnight. On the second day, while you put your sauce on the counter to warm up to room temperature, you mix your cheeses. Riccota, Mozzarella, Parmesan or Romano depending on your taste. Using the same assembly method, put it together and pop it in the oven.

Either way, the Barilla Dry noodles are just the ticket for great lasagna.