The worst project to date…

Welcome to the most labor intensive and physically demanding project I’ve ever tackled.

We’ve been working in our backyard for the last couple months and it seems like the project that will never end. For years, I have envisioned a pergola/ramada to provide shade by the pool. I went back and forth as to what material we should use to build it – and we eventually settled on steel (We have family connected to a steel structure company). Because this is not a material I’m familiar with, I drug my feet on finalizing and ordering. But like most unknown situations, I jumped.

The day before the steel arrived, the company let me know I would need to have a forklift on site. Hurdle #1. In my naive mind, I envisioned carrying them off the truck. I seriously underestimated the size and weight of this structure. And after all of the pieces were sitting on my driveway and forklift drove away I was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into. This was already turning into a much larger project than I imagined.

Luckily, my parents were coming into town for Briggs’ baptism so I knew my dad could help me problem solve and create a plan to get this built and he did not disappoint.

It took my dad and I almost an entire day getting the templates on the concrete footings level. More difficult than it should have been. And then the four of us were able to work together to get each of the pillars in place and bolted.

The original plan was to rent a telehandler to lift the beams and get them in place so we could bolt them but there were several holes in that plan. A friend suggested we hire the crane service they recently used and it seemed like the most feasible plan. I became more excited when I booked the crane and confirmed they could lift our entire roof/beam support assembled.

We spent a nice cool evening assembling it on our driveway. Because pictures don’t do it justice, this this was heavy. 8,000 pounds according to the crane – we could barely move them to get them in place on our driveway!

And the crane worked like a charm. We moved it from our driveway, to our backyard. And then reset the crane and moved it from the backyard to its final resting place on the poles. I had a panic moment before the crane showed up. This is put together using bolted construction. If everything was not perfect – we were going to have some major issues. Every pillar had to be in just the right place, at just the right height. I was holding my breath as we started bolting it together. And by some miracle, it came together flawlessly. We were so proud of our work! Little did we know, the hardest part of this project had yet presented itself!

After Briggs’ baptism, my parents went home for a week and then turned around and came back for Hallie’s state tournament. I extended my dad’s ticket for a few days longer than my mom so he could help me add the wood to the ceiling. This is obviously the project of underestimating because neither one us anticipated how hard it would be to screw the 2×6 tongue and groove into the steel.

This is my hopeful face – before we had tried screwing a single board down!

It was at this point, 7 boards in and several hours later, I feared we would not be able to get this done with the additional days I had with my dad. We had to drill two holes per beam, per board. We tried everything. We borrowed more powerful drills. We sharpened bits. We had special screws and drilled pilot holes.

I wasn’t physically strong enough to be of much help drilling or screwing. It was a beast. Bless my husband and my dad who didn’t give up. Work for two hours. Take a break. Work another hour. Take a break. Work into the evening. Take a break. Hunter got home from school and he took a turn.

We even hired Hallie’s friend and he came over for hours and helped drill and screw on boards – he was a lifesaver because we were running short on time and both my dad and Steve were spent. It was just the boost we needed at the end of a long week to wrap this project up.

We still need to get a roof on it – but it’s beautiful. I really love it and functionally it provides a lot of shade.

But I have to give my dad the majority of the credit because he was the workhorse on this project. His hands ached. It was hot and the sun was relentless. And he didn’t stop. I would’ve given up. I would have formulated a new plan. I probably would have removed the wood all together and just put a roof on it. (It was recommended we use wood as a heat barrier since we’re attaching a metal roof – without the wood it would have been a nice solar oven sitting underneath the pergola).

But he kept waking up early and heading back out to work. I’m sure he’s never been so excited to hop on a plane and head back home.

I never intended him to work that hard but I’m sure grateful for his help!

The end table…

I usually don’t start my projects by saying, “Wow, I would really love to build an end table!” No, instead, I usually buy three or four end tables and realize nothing quite fits the space like I was hoping. Then I put it off for another 6 months convincing myself that I’ll find something the right size. In the end, I break down and build it myself to the exact specifications that I was convinced I would find somewhere else.

I often build out of necessity. Things are too expensive, items are made poorly from cheap materials, the lead time is too long, it’s not the right color and or not the right size. So I build. I waited for almost two years to build this table and I shouldn’t have put it off for so long.

I purchased 4/2 white oak, so it’s nice and thick and heavy. I glued pieces together for the width I wanted my tabletop to be and traced a large circle. I originally thought I was going to cut this with a jig saw, but I thought better of it and used a router with a circular jig. This proved to be problematic as the wood was so thick and I had to make multiple passes around the circle. The bit kept having issues and getting stuck and then falling out of the router all together, gouging the wood in the process. I think I needed to take smaller passes each time I went around the circle.

It wasn’t a pretty process, but I eventually had a decent circle!

I spent a lot of time on the computer figuring out the angles I needed for my legs so my table would be a certain height (one of the major reasons for building my own table). I wasn’t overly confident I had figured it out when I started cutting but I had spent far too long drawing it out, I just needed to move forward and see if it worked. By some miracle, all the measurements and angles were accurate. Essentially I built an X and then built two 1/2 X’s to join to the X.

Stain is always tricky for me – I love some of the finishes you see in commercial pieces and I find it hard to replicate those. I loved the grain of the white oak, and I wanted to accentuate it, so I used Verathane White wash on a freshly sanded surface. Once it was dry, I sanded all the surfaces again and wiped clean. This left the wood ready for stain (a mix of weathered oak and classic gray), with white embedded in the grain.

I attached the 1/2 X’s to the solid X. This is one of those steps that I wasn’t sure how to do and so I just jumped in and quickly realized I hadn’t thought it all the way through. I ended up using glue and a screw through the 1/2 X and into the large X. I then attached the tabletop with screws (through the legs into the top) and I just about did a happy dance when I realized the table was solid and wasn’t rocking! 🙂

I used wipe on poly to finish it off. I love Rustoleum wipe on poly in satin. Home depot used to sell it, but now I can only find it at Lowes. Unlike brush poly, wipe on is forgivable. It’s doesn’t leave strokes and it dries even. It has a short re-coat time, but you do have to put a lot more coats on. Every couple coats you’re supposed to sand in-between coats. And I typically do my final coats using a wet sand paper. Its as if you’re using the wet sand paper as your rag to apply. It leaves a smooth flawless finish.

And there she sits. She is heavy, solid oak…and beautiful.

Christmas gift…

Every year, there are a couple gifts that I’m really excited to give – this sign happened to be one of them this year. In Steve’s family, we rotate which sibling we give to and this year we gave to his youngest sister. She is a mother to five boys and this is their family motto. I had the idea to turn that motto into a large wooden sign with each letter cut from wood. (similar to some signs I’ve previously made shown below).

It’s been a while since I’ve made one of these and now my wheels are turning again for all the holiday signs I want to make!

The reality of projects…

This is real life – a project that was seemingly simple (attaching the sweep attachment to our central vac) that just didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. This has been unfinished for months and I was ready to cross this easy project off my list. As dinner was cooking, I searched through the garage to find the pieces I needed. And I found myself on the floor of our kitchen.

My three-year-old captured this picture (this picture and 100 other pictures in burst mode).

Let me be the first to tell you – my most “simple” projects usually take the most time! What should have been hooked together in less than a minute took so much longer.  The hole wasn’t cut large enough, which meant the central vac pipe wasn’t fitting and we couldn’t push the plate back in. Steve and Hallie tried their hand at it as well. (Also more burst pictures from the toddler) And then we stepped away. We’ve learned in frustrating moments it’s good to just step away for a minute and think through a new solution – most likely outside the box.

A few hours later, after kids were in bed and the dishes had been cleaned up from dinner, I found myself back on the kitchen floor with a new approach and within a few minutes I had it attached and screwed into place using the exact tools and pieces we had before.

Projects can be frustrating and NEVER seem to go as planned which requires some creative solutions. Step away. Take a breath. Think outside the box. Repeat over and over again.


DIY Walnut Bed…

DIY Walnut Bed

This post was a long time coming. In fact – we did this project 1.5 years ago. I had a newborn baby at the time and I was working to get out of the funk I was in. The rest of the boys were gone for a weekend camping trip and I asked Hallie what she wanted to do. We could go to dinner. We could go shopping. We could watch a movie. You know what she chose: Build a bed (made my mom heart proud!!)

She was in a twin bed at the time and the thought of ever getting a sister to share a room with had been dashed and she wanted a queen bed. How could I deny her of her one request (that really I was excited to work on)? But building a bed in a 24 hour stretch is tough – especially when I was still tending to a newborn. But he went down to bed for the night and we worked our tales off. Side by side. Late into the night.

DIY Walnut Bed

The next morning we were back at it trying to beat the boys getting home. Hallie sanded and I attached pieces together. Hallie did more sanding. At one point she asked – do we really need to sand this much? Yep – unfortunately we do. We made the frame out of 2×4 pine – but the rest of the bed was made from walnut and when you spend that much money on wood, you might as well sand it and make it feel real nice!

DIY Walnut Bed

By the time the boys were pulling in – I had just completed the 2nd coat of wipe-on poly – no stain was used, no need to when you work with wood as pretty as walnut.

This bed consists of a simple headboard, footboard and rails. In the four beds I’ve built, I’ve always used this hardware from Rockler hardware. Its easy and fool proof. I’ve not had any problems with this hardware and I used it on our bed that I built 8 years ago. Not only is it secure, it can also be dismantled in no time.

DIY Walnut Bed

After we got it set up in her room I had “givers remorse”. I really loved the bed and started wondering why we didn’t build it for my room and Hallie could have our old bed. I threw the idea out to her but she wanted this bed. The bed she worked and helped to build.

Suddenly, it no longer looked like a little girls room! Throwing this bed in their with new bedding aged her room 10 years. A year and a half later and I’m still wishing that bed was in my room! (Find her frame makeover here.)

DIY Walnut Bed

DIY Walnut Bed

DIY Walnut Bed