'Tis the season for DIY projects

Posted12/24/2015 1:01 AM

During the winter, most of our DIY projects will need to be done in the garage or workshop. That makes this time of year great for refinishing furniture. If you are going to strip the finish from a table or some other piece, try some or all of these tips to get the job done more quickly and easily.

First of all, set up the area where you will be working. It needs to have a dropcloth, good lighting and extra ventilation in some cases.


I like to use paint strippers when I can, because they do a pretty good job. But I will always look for a less-caustic formula if available. Water-based strippers work very well if you follow the directions to the letter.

Please wear safety glasses, gloves and a dust mask to protect yourself. You can check the package for any other extra precautions you need to take.

If you need any specific tools, like putty knives, plastic trowels, plastic sheeting or anything else, make sure to gather these items before beginning as well.

If the piece you are working on has handles, drawer pulls or hinges, remove these before starting. You also should remove drawers or doors, if you can.

It might be easier to set the piece on a table or sawhorses to make it easier to reach.

After the initial stripping is done, there probably will be some small areas that need to be addressed. These can sometimes be cleaned with toothpicks, toothbrushes, sanding sticks and smaller tools like these.

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Make sure that all of the stripper has been removed and neutralized, and that you give the piece plenty of time to dry afterward before moving forward with your project.

Take your time and enjoy the process. Rejuvenating a piece of furniture can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.

Use old shelf brackets for new garage storage

We recently upgraded one of our closets by adding better shelving and more closet racks. I took the old ones out to the garage to use for storage out there. I have to say, the closet looks great, and we have so much more storage space in there now. I decided to put the old shelf brackets on the long wall down the side. I added a shelf to the setup for some great storage in the garage. But that's not all: I had a stack of leftover pipe piled up in the corner that I had used for another project. I placed it under the shelf in the little triangles created by the shelf bracket. This turned out to be a super storage space for this material, and got it up off the floor and out of my way. It also would work well for molding, trim, dowels and other long materials.

Keep electronics powered up with this easy trick

It used to be that all you needed was one outlet next to the bed, for your clock radio. But now you need an outlet for your phone charger, mattress heater, air-bed inflater, air filter, reading lamp and who knows what else. A power strip will solve this dilemma and give you the added bonus of surge protection. You can mount it right on the side or back of your nightstand to keep it where you can reach it.

Super hints

• Wood floors are more popular than ever, and that means that extra protection might need to be added to your chairs, tables and other items that are moved around occasionally. Check your hardware store for easy-to-install felt pads, plastic feet and other safeguards that can be added.


• I have a couple of toolboxes, but rarely use them outside of the garage. They are just too heavy to lug along. But I do use my ice chest as a tool carrier. It's lightweight, and best of all, it has wheels! Maybe that's why some of the newer toolboxes come with wheels already on them. Well, I'm sticking with my ice chest for now.

• A grease or oil spill needs to be picked up quickly and easily with cornmeal, salt or even cat litter. Absorbent material really will make a big difference.

Q. We have a problem with our back door. It's wood, and the dogs have scratched it up a lot. Is there some easy way to patch over these gouges to fix this door?

A. There are a couple of things you could try. A wood putty can be used to smooth out the surface. If the scratches are too deep, you can use epoxy wood filler, which is a little tougher. Sand the surface smooth, and then sand or paint to match the rest of the door.

Q. I have always been told that you should paint wood with glossy paint and walls with matte. Why is that, and can I use a glossy paint on my kitchen walls?

A. Paint has come a long way since these were hard-and-fast rules. The reason that people used a glossy paint on woodwork was so it could be more easily cleaned. The reason for the matte finish on walls was to disguise bumps and other imperfections on those walls. But today's paints are easier to clean, so you can use whatever paint you want, wherever you want it.

Q. My loft has nice-looking wooden floors. They are original but have been refinished to look better. The problem is that they creak and squeak a lot. Is there any way to do something minor to resolve this issue?

A. Sometimes you can install talcum powder in the joints of the floor to lubricate them. Sweep the powder into the joints to get it into place. You also might try getting some oil into the cracks as well. You might just need to learn to enjoy the charm of the old floors.

Reader tips

• I use an old paper-towel holder for all of my tape in the workshop. The paper-towel holder is a metal rod that fits onto a base. I just slip the rolls of tape down onto the rod. I can stack several rolls on it, and they are all right where I can find them when I need some tape. It's so much handier to store them this way rather than in a box.

• I cleaned out one of my cabinets and sorted through my old vases. I found several that I could donate to a thrift store and several that I wanted to give to friends. I really needed to get them clean before doing anything, and I could tell it was going to be hard to get something inside the vases to scrub with. I sprayed some foamy shower cleaner inside and let it work. It did a great job, and most of them came out looking new again.

• I have some very delicate candleholders. We used them this past Thanksgiving, and as usual, they got wax on them. I didn't want to put them away like that, so I started off by putting them in the freezer to harden the wax. This made it easy to get most of it off. Then I used a toothpick to chip off the rest. They look good again, and I'm starting to think they might look better if they were holding candles that I never actually use.

• My home office is looking better every day. I had a couple of old file cabinets that were nothing special, just plain black. I found some spray paint that is made just for metal cabinets, and it came in tons of great colors. I painted my file cabinets a light tan color to match the rest of the room. They look great, and now I don't have to hide them in the closet.

• Masking tape still is my favorite way to mask off an area before painting. I have found that if you go back over the tape after putting it down initially to really press it in and make the best contact, the edges will seal better and prevent more bleed-through. I use a roller to do this, and it saves time. It really does make a difference.


• If you have done a good job of weatherproofing your home, and I'm sure you have, it will be sealed up tightly. This will save energy, but may in some cases, create a mildew problem. Mildew not only looks and smells bad, it can ruin walls, carpeting and just about any surface it gets on. Learn how to rid your home of this problem once and for all and keep it from coming back. We've put together a pamphlet called "Mildew Around Your House," and it is full of tips on how to get rid of mildew and protect your biggest investment, as well as your family's health.

• Craftsman has built a super reputation for long-lasting, tough and innovative tools. The Extreme Grip line is fantastic, and the new five-piece socket set is better than anything else on the market. This Extreme Grip feature allows you to grip rounded fasteners up to 14 times better than a standard socket. Each socket has movable jaws to provide a solid fit. A special release collar helps with disengagement. This is a must-have for your toolbox, and is available at Sears stores and through sears.com.

• Cordless screwdrivers just keep getting better. The new Flipout 8-Volt Max Cordless Driver by SpeedHex uses a lithium-ion battery, the best battery for cordless tools. It's included with the tool, along with the charger, which will fully charge the battery in only 45 minutes. A full set of the most commonly used bits also is included and stored onboard in the 2-inch aluminum magnetic-bit holder. The 170-RPM motor has 50-65-inch-pounds of torque to enable you to tackle just about any project around the house. It's called the "Flipout" because of the amazing range of motion built into the design: The head moves a full 360 degrees, and there are 380 possible positions to lock into. If you find yourself working in the dark, never fear. The built-in LED light will help you see what you are working on clearly, and the rubber handle will give you a little extra gripping of the power tool. All of this comes in a ballistic nylon carrying case. Check it out at your Lowe's store.

• Write to Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit online at thesuperhandyman.com.

© 2015, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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