Monthly Archives: June 2010

An Industrial Table Lamp

When we put our shelving system in our back room, we knew we would need some light scattered among the shelves to keep things bright…especially since we put a ceiling fan in with no light fixture attached.

You can see in the above picture on the far right a small light on the second shelf. We didn’t want typical table lamps with shades, so we came up with making them out of these great industrial lights (with shatterproof covers, no less) that we picked up for five bucks apiece at a nearby flea market.

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We got two of them, and they’re designed to be either ceiling or wall mounted. They were all wired to be installed, so I knew we could pretty easily make them instead into table lamps. First, I needed to lift them off the table surface a bit, so I added these stick-on plastic feet to the bottom that I picked up at the hardware store.

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Then, to wire it, I just used a long extension cord. You can actually buy a lamp cord designed for lamp kits, but a simple extension cord is much cheaper and just as easy to use. To use an extension cord to wire a lamp, simply snip off the “outlet” end, leaving the plug intact. Then, use a knife to split the two sections of the cord apart a half inch or so, and finally use wire strippers to peel back the rubberized cover a few inches from both sides of the wire until it looks like a lamp cord:

Then, because the lamp itself doesn’t have a switch (it’s designed for a ceiling or wall mount where a switch will, presumably, be on the wall), you’ll need to add a switch to the lamp cord. This can be bought at the hardware store for under $2:

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The switch comes apart, like this:

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And it’s added to the lamp cord following the package directions.

One side of the cord will be ribbed and one will be smooth. Following the directions, you should slice a small slit between the two sides wherever you want to put the switch, then cut the smooth side apart and install the switch in place, attaching the sides back together.

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Finally, attach the smooth side of the cord to the black wire coming from your light fixture, and the ribbed side of the cord to the white wire. Use wire nuts to cover the attachments.

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And, the finished product:

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In sum (perhaps this should have come first?), you’ll need:

  • an industrial light (you can get a cool one at Home Depot for under $25);
  • an extension cord (or lamp cord);
  • a lamp cord (in-line) switch;
  • plastic or rubber stick-on feet;
  • wire nuts;
  • basic tools (wire strippers or pliers, screwdriver, utility knife).

Happy constructing!

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Garden Update

The weather here has been a bit crazy. It’s been hot, but it’s also stormed nearly every day for the past two or three weeks. Lots of rain can make for some not-so-great gardens, but ours seems to be weathering the storms pretty well.

In fact, just this past week, we noticed that most of our vegetable plants are producing some really great looking fruits. Our lettuce and leafy vegetables are mostly doing really well. We’ve been able to have a couple of salads so far and are ready to harvest some more this week.

Our tomato plants are growing well, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t cage them when they were still small, and now they’re probably to big to try to wrangle a cage over. However, we did stake them, and there’s a fence behind them, which will hopefully all work to help keep them upright and flourishing. We have a few good-sized tomatoes on our Early Girl.

Beans ready to harvest and snap peas coming right along:

Our squash plants are enormous! These are some of the only plants we started from seeds sown directly in the ground.

They have these lovely yellow blossoms on them, but still no fruit yet. Someone told us you can actually cook and eat the squash blossoms; they’re all over the farmers’ markets around here. Does anyone know how to do this or ever tried it?

And finally, even our dwarf meyer lemon tree is getting in on the action. This little guys made an appearance this week, though I’m pretty sure the tree is too spindly and small at this point to support the weight of a full-sized fruit.

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A Quick Guest Room Makeover

This week, we decided to take our neglected guest bedroom and finish things up a bit. Only, we wanted to use what we had on hand and spend absolutely no money on it. Luckily, we had already begun finishing the guest bedroom (painting the walls, installing a light fixture, putting furniture in). We just hadn’t quite actually finished any of the projects yet. We only painted about half of the trim, we painted an old dresser only to let it fall into a bit of disrepair, and we haphazardly threw together whatever useful items we had (comforter, curtains, pictures) without much thought for how well they actually went together.

But even that was progress from where this room started. Let’s take a look at the evolution of our guest bedroom. On the day we closed on the house, we took this picture of the room:

That’s Catherine in the bottom corner working to pull out the faded and dirty green shag carpet. Once it was out, there were beautiful (albeit worn) hardwood floors underneath:

Once we had those sanded down and refinished, we set up a bed and a wardrobe just to make the room functional. I’m pretty sure we skinned Grimace and laid it over our bed.

Eventually, we moved in this dresser (which didn’t always look as bad as it does below), and painted the trim on the window kelly green.

This is the window in the process of making its transformation:

So, tired of the neglect this room had faced, we decided to spruce things up a bit. We painted the previously green window black, finished up (most of) the trim painting, repaired the painted dresser, and changed out the bed linens. The results are below:

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So, what do you think? Pretty good for zero dollars?

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A Light Fixture with No Switch

There’s a small hallway in our house between the bedrooms, bathroom, attic, and kitchen, which is more a sort of hub in the middle off the house off of which the other rooms flow. It’s closely connected to the kitchen, so we wanted the light fixture in the hallway to match those we put in the kitchen.

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You can see the semi-flush mount schoolhouse fixture in the picture above. We wanted to use the same fixture in the hallway, but the only problem is that the hallway doesn’t have a light switch. The existing fixture was just a light bulb with a pull chain attached. And, unfortunately, the schoolhouse fixtures we ordered for the kitchen don’t come with a pull chain version. So, we decided to make our own. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to convert a light fixture into a pull chain fixture. Here’s what we did.

We started off using the exact same fixture as we used in the kitchen. We bought a 2 Wire Light Switch, designed for ceiling fans with light conversion kits. You can pick this up in the ceiling fan area of a hardware store.

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Next, we drilled a hole about 1/4″ in diameter on the side of the light fixture. This was where the switch would actually come through the fixture. You can see in the picture below where I started to drill a hole, then realized it needed to be further down to account for the size of the switch. Luckily, I was able to paint over that before installing the fixture.

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Then, we put the switch inside the light fixture with the pull chain piece coming out the hole.

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The switch has two black wires. One should be attached to the black wire from the light fixture and affixed with a wire nut.

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Then, the fixture can be installed into the light outlet on the ceiling just like you would have originally. The other black wire from the switch should be connected to the black wire from your outlet, and the white wires should also be connected.

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Ta da! We then just got a pull chain with a knob on the end to connect to the new switch. Easy job and definitely worth it to match the nearby schoolhouse fixtures.

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DIY Adirondack Chairs

Catherine’s taking a couple of classes this summer, and if she’s going to be stuck at home studying, she at least wants to be outdoors doing it! The trouble is we didn’t really have any lounge chairs out there comfortable enough to spend hours in reading. So, we explored our options a little bit and decided we liked the simple and timeless look and comfort of adirondack chairs. The plus side was that we were sure we could DIY one of those, too!

So, settled on our chair, we searched online and found a lot of plans! That was encouraging, but we weren’t sure where to start. For one, we knew we liked some of the more modern styled adirondack chairs as opposed to one a bit more rounded. With our existing style, we figured the simpler, the better. Before long, we ran across Ana’s design at Knock-Off Wood.

The straight lines and easy-to-follow directions made this plan the winner for us. We started out a couple of weeks ago buying all the wood. We used simple pine boards, which we picked up at our local hardware store for mostly under $2 a board. We planned to paint it all, so the fact that we used pine instead of a more durable wood, like cedar or redwood, wouldn’t be a problem.

We decided to do all our painting first, so we wouldn’t have to squeeze a brush between all the tight gaps later. That ended up taking a while, as we were mostly working in the evenings after work. One day, we’d prime one side of all the boards, the next day we’d do the other, and then we spent a couple of days painting as well.

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Finally, when all the boards had been cut, primed and painted with one coat, we just followed Ana’s plans to assemble.

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(That’s my serious face there.)

Afterward, we painted a second coat and painted over the screw heads. I think this’ll be a nice place to study this summer.

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Repairing a Screen Window

We don’t have central air, so in the summers, whenever it’s at all nice outside, we like to have our windows open and let the breezes blow through. We also have storm doors on both the front and rear entrances which we convert to screen doors in the summer. By opening both doors, we can get a great breeze through the house, and the screens are absolutely necessary to keep bugs out. Unfortunately, our rear screen door has seen better days. The screen was detached from the frame in several places.

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Luckily, replacing a screen is an easy task. All you need is replacement screen, readily available at Home Depot or Lowe’s, new spline (the rope-like thing that keeps the screen in place), and a screen roller tool. I actually found all three of these items bundled together in a “screen repair kit” for under $8.

All we had to do was remove the old spline from the rim of the frame using a screwdriver to pry it out. Then, the old screen came out easily.

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Next, we just fit the new screen over the old frame and trimmed around the corners.

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The new spline went in easily, using the screen roller tool.

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Finally, we just trimmed the excess screen off using a utility knife and then put the new screen window back in the door. Now, hopefully no more mosquito bites indoors now.

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Yard Sale

On Saturday, we had a yard sale along with three families who are friends of ours.

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Well, we tried to have a yard sale anyway. The weather didn’t really cooperate. For the first hour, things went great. We had lots of stuff and lots of traffic, but unfortunately, a storm was quickly rolling in, and it wasn’t long before monster rain drops really wrecked our plans. On the plus side, it made the clean up go really fast! So, we’re trying again next weekend. Here’s hoping for a sunny day! In case you’re thinking of having a yard sale soon, we did find this list of things to consider pretty helpful.

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Anyone need a desk?

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