This past weekend I was able to make some serious progress on our laundry room. Yeehaw! Sometimes in order to make a room pretty, you have to make it uglier first. That was certainly the case with this project. If  you are just joining me, a few weeks ago the nice folks at Flow Wall sent me a custom wall system to install in the laundry room. The FlowWall system of storage will look something like this: Read more

Installing Your Own Sprinkler System

Last week I shared with you how to grow a better lawn based on what I learned from my education at Pennington Seed. Part of growing a more beautiful lawn is learning how to water it properly. Did you know that the majority of homeowners overwater their lawn and plants? Typically your yard only needs 1 inch of water per week (1/2 inch waterings two times a week) If you install your own sprinkler system with a timer and a rain gauge, you can insure that your lawn and/or landscaping gets just the right amount of water.

When we lived in our old house, Pretty Handsome Guy and I received a quick tutorial on installing a sprinkler system in our yard. Our neighbor — the previous owner of our current home (Yes, it’s complicated like that.) — showed us how to piece together pvc pipes, add spray heads and set up a timer to water our lawn. Now I’m passing this information on to you.

Here is the Pretty Frugal Girl’s method for installing your own sprinkler system! Read more

The other day I was wandering aimlessly shopping at Costco and spied an empty wooden wine crate. The angel stamped on the side was beckoning me to take her home. Actually, I read Funky Junk Interiors’s post about making tool boxes last year and have been looking for just the right wood to make one. The angel may not have calling me, but I wasn’t about to leave the store without her.

I thought about tucking it under my coat and making a break for the front door, as I was sure there were other crafty ladies eyeing up the lonely wine crate. But, I resisted the urge and asked the manager if I could have it, and he graciously let me take it home. I was exuberant because I’ve been missing my rustic wine crate that Cherie won. Read more

Welcome back to another Tool Tutorial Friday. I have a secret to tell you, this is one of the two power tools I own that I fear the most (the other is my router.) However, everytime I use my table saw I get a little more comfortable. Regardless, I will always keep that “healthy fear” so I won’t forget to use caution when using this power tool.

If you are just getting used to power tools, I would use a jigsaw or miter saw before tackling this big bad boy! That being said, I believe in all of you and know you can use a table saw, so let’s get to it!

A table saw is a great tool for ripping long pieces of wood. Unlike the miter saw which is limited to a certain width stock, the table saw can handle long sheets of 4′ x 8′ plywood.

Explanation of a cross cut vs. a rip cut:

  • Rip – ripping a board is cutting with the grain along the length of a board. This is usually done with a table saw, but can be done with a circular saw and a straight edge.
  • Cross cut – a type of cut that is perpendicular to the grain or along the width of your board. Cross cuts are usually made with a miter saw or circular saw, but can also be made with a hand saw. (I’ve been known to make this cut using my band saw before I had either a miter or table saw.)

We bought our table saw when we laid the wood floors in our living room. I knew that we’d probably have to rip a board or two once we reached the end. Well, wouldn’t you know that our living room ended up being the perfect size for all full width boards. I kept the table saw anyway knowing that I’d use it (and I have used it a fair amount.)

Table saws come in either a stationary or a portable style. I prefer the portability of my table saw. I can roll it out into the driveway (to keep the sawdust outside.) And, because the stand is built-in, I can fold it up on its side, roll it back into the garage and store it away when not in use.

Table saws cost anywhere from $120 up to $1,000 or more. The Ryobi 10 inch table saw with transportable stand that I use costs $300 at Home Depot.

I highly recommend wearing ear protection, safety googles and a dust mask when using a table saw. Hooking your table saw up to shop vac will greatly reduce the amount of saw dust that is discharged (and it spits out a lot of sawdust!)

Two common dangers of using a table saw are kickback (the board being thrown back toward the user) and hand injuries from forcing material through or feeding the wood with the hand too close to the saw. Kickback will happen if the wood is pinched too tight between the rip fence and the blade. When making a cross cut with a table saw, DO NOT use the rip fence! This can cause kickback to occur.

Table Saw Features:

Safety features are super important on a table saw. A blade cover is essential to keep hands away from the blade. And for that reason a table saw should never be used without the guard in place. For even more protection from hand injuries, there is a table saw that is manufactured under the name Stop Saw, that retracts in a split second if it detects flesh against the blade.

Behind the blade on my table saw are anti-kickback pawls. This is a close up view of this safety mechanism. They are basically teeth that will dig into the wood should the blade start to “kick back” the material toward the user.

 

The rip fence is used to setting the width of a cut and keeping the board straight when making a rip cut. Never use the rip fence when making a cross cut. My saw has a miter fence for making angled miter cuts. I honestly haven’t used that feature yet.

The blade depth adjustment and bevel adjustment knob are one and the same on the Ryobi. To adjust the bevel, push the knob in and then turn it.

The material support and the sawdust chute are located on the back of my table saw.


When using a table saw, be sure to have a clear work area. Set up supports or have someone help you to support large pieces of wood after they exit the saw. Use a push stick to assist when making a narrow cut. Do not wear any loose clothing or jewelry that could catch on the machine. Always use a table saw when you are well fed, alert, and are not in a hurry. This is a serious power tool and requires all your focus to use it.

DISCLAIMER

The viewer assumes all responsibility and liability associated with the hazards of woodworking. Pretty Handy Girl is not responsible for any errors or omissions that may be present in this tutorial. She also assumes no liability for any action or inaction of a viewer.

Please use extreme caution when using power tools. Read your tool manual thoroughly and wear protective safety gear. Take your time familiarizing yourself with a tool before using it. (If you are missing the manual, you can easily find it online by going to the manufacturer’s website or google your saw’s make and model + manual.)

Please recognize that I have tried to put together a basic table saw usage tutorial to get you started. I have tried my best to show the safest way to use a table saw. That being said, I am not a professional (I only play one on this blog ;-) .)

If I haven’t scared the sawdust out of you, here is the video tutorial for using a table saw:

I hope I have empowered you to use a table saw at some point. It is a good saw to have in your shop. Especially if you need to lay wood flooring, install beadboard wainscoting and many other projects that require you to rip a board.

 

 

A cordless drill is an essential tool for any DIYer. If you don’t have one, stop reading this and go buy one! Seriously, a cordless drill is one of the most important tools for your toolbox.

how to use a cordless drill plus buying guide

How to Use a Cordless Drill

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I use a cordless drill for almost every project. You could say, my drill is my right-hand man. Over the years, I’ve used many different brands with a variety of features. Today we’ll discuss how to use a cordless drill and a list of features you should look for when buying a new drill. Consider this your comprehensive guide to cordless drills.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

These Tools are Not a Drill:

Before we talk about how to use a cordless drill, I want to explain to you the difference between a cordless drill, a cordless screwdriver, and an impact driver.  Although they may look alike, impact drivers and cordless screwdrivers are not drills.

Cordless Screwdriver:

Some may look like a drill, but a cordless screwdriver does not have the power or speed to drill holes, or drive screws into hard materials. It also has no torque or speed adjustments. In fact, a cordless screwdriver is strictly for loosening and tightening screws.

cordless screwdriver vs a drill

Impact Drivers:

impact driver

Although they also look like drills, impact drivers are solely meant to drive screws or bolts into tough material. But, can also be used with a quick change drill bit for small holes.  An impact driver has rotational force onto the sides of the bit giving more force when driving screws or bolts. Unlike a drill, the impact driver does not have torque adjustments or a twisting chuck to change bits.

quick change bits

Impact drivers don’t have a chuck to hold the bit. They use a collet to hold bits. Impact drivers accept 1/4″ hex and quick change bits. The collet releases the bit when pulled away from the tool.

Now that you know the difference between a drill and a cordless screwdriver or impact driver, let’s talk about the features on a cordless drill.

About Cordless Drills:

When you first pick up a cordless drill, all the buttons and symbols on the drill may seem confusing. Have no fear, I’ll break it down and give you a little more information about torque, speed, and those symbols to simplify things.

variety of cordless drills

What is Torque:

Torque is the amount of force your drill uses to turn an object (like a screw or drill bit.) All cordless drills have a clutch to change the torque setting. The clutch on your drill is the dial on the front of your drill just behind the chuck.

torque settings on drill

If you need more torque, use a higher number. But, if you are driving screws into softwoods, use a lower setting for more control and less likelihood of driving the screw too far into the wood.

Speeds on a Cordless Drill:

Some drills have an adjustable speed setting (or gear) switch on the top of the drill. Switching between one or two will give you access to more speed or less speed. Selecting the number two will produce higher speed and more power for drilling and driving bigger screws. This is a nice feature and helps when you need to switch from driving smaller screws into softwood vs. driving larger screws into hardwood or drilling.

speed setting on drill

Direction Selection:

There is a button on each side of the drill just above the trigger that is used to change the drill rotation direction. Clockwise to drill and drive screws. Counter-clockwise to remove screws and bolts.

drill rotation direction button

Optional Features on a Cordless Drill:

Drills come with a variety of features. Depending on your needs, you may be fine with a standard drill that drives screws and drills holes. But, if you are working on more difficult tasks, you may want a drill with a hammer drill setting.

settings on a drill - drive screws, drill holes, hammer drill

Task Selection:

  • Drive Screws: The first function is self-explanatory. Use the drive screws function to screw in fasteners or remove them.
  • Drill Holes: The hole drilling function runs at the fastest speed and is used for drilling holes with a drilling bit.
  • Hammer Drill: A hammer drill is useful for drilling holes or driving bolts into tough material. A hammer drill has a hammer action from the rear that pulses force directly onto the bit (like a small jackhammer.) In contrast, an impact driver has a rotational pulse on the sides of the bit. (See above for more information about impact drivers)

Light Up Your Task:

Another nice feature to have on a drill is a light. Most mid-range to upper range drills have a light that is activated when pulling the trigger on the drill. Although not 100% necessary, anyone who has tried to see inside a cabinet while using a drill appreciates the light feature.

lights on drill

Belt Clip:

Having a belt clip on a drill is one of those features that a tradesperson finds exceptionally helpful when juggling tools on a ladder. Instead of setting the drill precariously on top of the ladder, it can clip onto your belt.

belt clips on cordless drills

Magnetic Holder:

One of my favorite features on a drill is a magnetic bit holder. This is not standard on drills and frankly I have only seen a few drills with this feature, but I wish more were manufactured with it.

How to Replace Bits on a Drill

Cordless drills have a keyless chuck. To change the bits, simply turn the chuck counter-clockwise to loosen. Insert the new bit and turn clockwise to tighten onto the new bit (making sure the bit is centered in the claws of the chuck.)

counter clockwise loosen chuck, clockwise to tighten chuck

A keyed chuck is found on most corded drills. The key (black tool shown below) fits inside the hole on the side of the chuck and turns the gears on the chuck to loosen or tighten it.

key and chuck

 

Costs for a Cordless Drill:

4 cordless drills, different brands

Brand and features factor into the price of a cordless drill, but typically a DIYer can expect to spend $50 – $150 on a drill.  My first drill was a Ryobi 12 volt Lithium Ion cordless drill, but I quickly upgraded to a more powerful Milwaukee Drill/Driver. Now I’ve switched over to a cordless DeWalt drill/driver set because most of my cordless tools are DeWalt cordless tools. Keeping all your cordless tools in one family will save you money, space, and the hassle of having too many different batteries in your toolbox. (Side note: DeWalt batteries are cross-compatible with most of their 20v tools? The exception is the 12v tools that will only run on the 12-volt batteries. And the 60V and 120V tools will need the stronger FlexVolt batteries.)

How Many Volts Do I Need?

You may be curious about what the volts mean on the drill you’re considering. In short, the volts equal the power of the drill. The higher the voltage, the stronger the drill. In all honesty, I would recommend purchasing an 18-volt drill if you plan to use it for multiple DIY projects. In the beginning, you might try a 12-volt drill, but as your projects grow you’ll find the 12 volts don’t have the power needed to muscle through hardwoods and other tough materials. The DeWalt drill I use now is a 20 volt, but I needed the power to muscle through old-growth lumber in the renovation I was working on.

Batteries: Ni-Cad vs. Lithium-Ion

When I first wrote this article, lithium-ion battery drills were just coming onto the market. Lithium-ion is the latest battery technology. Lithium-ion batteries will last through many more recharges than a Ni-Cad battery.  And, they don’t lose charging capacity over time. The lithium-ion batteries also maintain power as the battery runs low. As the battery loses charge, it will stop when the battery runs out.

Luckily over the years, lithium has become more the norm in the cordless department. If you are in the market for a new drill, be sure to make sure you are purchasing a lithium-ion battery-powered drill. Beware of used or inexpensive Ni-Cad battery drills. You will save money on one now but will need to replace the battery (or worse not be able to purchase new batteries) for it before long.

Speaking of battery life, I recommend choosing a cordless battery that has a charge indicator on it. There’s nothing worse than grabbing a battery you thought was fully charged only to realize it’s not.

battery charge indicator on cordless battery

Feel the Weight of the Drill:

Now that you are honing on in the features you want in a drill, let’s talk about weight and balance. I highly recommend trying a drill before you buy it. Go to the hardware store and ask to hold the drill with its battery inserted. Some drills (especially the higher voltage drills) will be significantly heavier than a smaller 12-volt battery drill and may cause wrist fatigue if you aren’t used to the heft. You also want to feel the balance of the drill in your hand. A nicely balanced drill can easily be held with one finger wrapped around the trigger and the tool resting balanced on your hand. A front or back heavy drill can put extra strain on your wrist.

How to Use a Cordless Drill:

Time to start using a cordless drill! This is a very user-friendly tool as long as you know a few simple safety tips.

how to use a cordless drill

Safety Tips:

Never wear loose clothing or gloves when using a drill. Keep long hair tied back. You don’t want anything to catch and wind up into the drill. Always keep hands away from the drill bit, screws, or fasteners. Never put your hand behind the piece you are drilling into. Always wear safety glasses when using a drill. (Ear protection is a good idea when using the hammer drill function.)

To Drive Screws:

Set the drill on a low torque setting. Hold the screw perpendicular into the wood (hold it up at the top against the smooth portion of the screw if there is one.) Slowly squeeze the trigger to rotate the screw clockwise far enough into the material for the screw to start to grab. Remove your hand, keep pressure against the drill as you depress the trigger again and drive the screw into the wood. Stop when the screw is flush with the material (or slightly below the material).

Create a Living Wall Lattice Privacy Screen | Pretty Handy Girl

Troubleshooting Screw Driving Issues:

If the bit is spinning and not gripping the screw, try one of these solutions:

  • Apply more pressure against the back of the drill
  • See if your bit or the screw is stripped
  • Try lowering the torque
  • Check the bit size, if it’s too small or large it won’t grip the head properly.
  • DO NOT continue to let the drill bit spin on top of the screw. This will strip the head.

If your drill makes a loud sound and stops turning the screw, try changing to a higher torque or speed setting. This usually means, you need more torque for the task.

To Drill Holes:

Measure and select the appropriate drill bit for the hole size you need to drill (and for the material you are drilling into.)  Insert the drill bit into the chuck and tighten, making sure the bit is centered in the chuck. Set the drill onto the drilling setting. When drilling into wood, gently depress the bit into the wood to create an indentation to keep the bit from sliding. If you are drilling a hole into metal or other slick surfaces, try using a piece of painter’s tape on top of the material to keep the bit from sliding.

Drill through back of organizer for plug

When drilling holes into masonry, ceramic, porcelain, and other hard surfaces, be sure to cool the bit occasionally with water.

How to Install Shelves on a Tile Wall (using Corbels) | Pretty Handy Girl

To drill large holes, use a hole saw or a Forstner bit. It helps to use a corded drill with more power for drilling large holes.

Modified King Size Farmhouse Bed with Storage Drawers | Pretty Handy Girl

Trick for Drilling Holes to a Certain Depth:

Use a piece of painter’s tape wrapped around the drill bit to the depth you want to drill to. Stop when the painter’s tape is even with your surface.

Trick for Drilling into Lumber at an Angle:

When drilling into wood at an angle, start by drilling into the wood perpendicular to the surface about one-eighth to 0ne-quarter of an inch. Then change to the angled direction. This will keep your bit from sliding on the surface of the lumber.

How to Install Shelves on a Tile Wall (using Corbels) | Pretty Handy Girl

Alternatively, you can use a jig for drilling at an angle (especially helpful for drilling pocket holes.)

Various Attachments for Drills:

Did you know you can also clean with your drill? Yup! Check out this attachment set for cleaning a variety of things around your house and your automobile!

brush and buffing attachments for drill

 

Besides the cleaning and buffing, you can also use a drill to mix paint! A paint mixer attachment can be used to mix up an old can of paint or mix new colors.

attachment for mixing paint with drill

There is also an attachment for your drill that will dig holes in the ground when planting bulbs. I think this is next on my wishlist.

bulb planting attachment for drill

Can you Mix Mortar or Concrete with a Cordless Drill?

You may be able to mix mortar or concrete with a powerful cordless mixing drill, but chances are your standard cordless drill won’t stand up to the challenge. It either won’t have the power to mix, or you’ll burn out the motor. It’s best to use a corded drill to mix heavy mixes.

How to Install a Tile Backsplash (Tile setting) | Pretty Handy Girl

Video Tutorial on How to Use a Cordless Drill:

I hope the video tutorial helped you learn how to use a cordless drill. It’s definitely one of the most used tools in my toolbox.

Today I’ll teach you how to use a miter saw safely. We’ll learn the difference between a miter and a bevel cut. Plus, I’ll also show you the different features and functions of miter saws.

How to Use a Miter Saw

Hello and welcome to the very first Tool Tutorial Friday (a series of tool tutorials)! Come right in and have a seat. If you give me less than 10 minutes of your time, I will empower you with a new power tool skill! Today, I’m going to show you how to use one of my favorite power tools. Before I owned a miter saw, I used a hand saw and a cheap plastic miter box. But, they were really putting a cramp in my DIY style (if you know what I mean.)

About two decades ago, my husband gifted me my Makita 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw. That’s right, I don’t ask for jewelry for big occasions, Pretty Handsome Guy knows to ask one thing before an upcoming holiday, “So Honey, what power tool do you want now?” It’s true, I’m a power tool junky.

Ready to learn how to use a miter saw? Okay, let’s get started…

Working with power tools can be dangerous, but your risks drastically eliminated if you give the tool some respect. Today I’ll show you how to use a miter saw safely.

About Miter Saws:

Miter saws come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. The size (usually from 7.25″ up to 12″) refers to the diameter of the blade on the saw. The larger the blade, the wider the material it can cut. However, if you purchase a “sliding” miter saw, you can cut several inches wider than your blade diameter (the specifications on the saw should tell you this cutting distance). Miter saws run anywhere from $80 up to $800 depending on the features and brand you choose.

Sliding Miter Saw:

I highly recommend a sliding miter saw if you can afford it. Being able to cut lumber a few inches wider means the difference between using your miter saw or having to break out the circular saw or table saw.

On a non-sliding miter saw, the saw head will not slide forward and back. Most of the entry-level models will cut a miter and a bevel. You may have heard miter saws without the ability to slide referred to as chop saws. They will work great for “chopping lumber” but without sliding, dual miters, and dual bevels, you will spend some time flipping the lumber to make your compound cuts.

Speaking of miters and bevels, let’s talk a little more about what is a miter and a bevel cut.

Type of Cuts:

Miter saws are perfect for cross cuts, miter, and bevel cuts. Miter saws cannot make rip cuts. Rip cuts are easier cut on a table saw or track saw (or using a variety of other handheld saws.)

  • Rip – ripping a board is cutting with the grain along the length of a board. This is usually done with a table saw but can be done with a variety of handheld power saws and a straight edge.
  • Crosscut – a type of cut that is perpendicular to the grain or along the width of your board. Crosscuts are usually made with a miter saw or circular saw, but can also be made with a track saw, jigsaw, band saw, or hand saw. You can make crosscuts with a table saw, but you will need a crosscut sled to perform a crosscut cut safely.

Miter Cut:

A miter cut is made when you change the direction of your blade from straight ahead (90˚) by moving it from side to side. Think of pizza wedges. For example, in the image below, the saw is set up to cut a 45˚ miter, and no bevel because the blade is still straight up and down.

Bevel Cut: 

A bevel cut is made when you angle your blade tipping it to the left or right. As an example, in the picture below, I’m making a 45˚ bevel cut into the wood.

Compound Cut:

A compound cut happens when you make a miter and a bevel cut at the same time. Essentially you are cutting two angles simultaneously. This is particularly useful when you are cutting crown molding for a room.

You can see in the diagram below how to set up your saw for bevel angles, miter angles, or both.

 

Safety Features and Operating a Miter Saw:

All modern miter saws have a trigger built into the handle. Most miter saws also have a safety button that you must push with your finger or thumb before you can squeeze the trigger. To start a straight downward cut, press the safety button, squeeze the trigger and wait for the saw to reach maximum rotation. Then slowly lower your saw into the board you are cutting. Never force the saw through the wood. Let the saw cut and then guide it downward. Once you have completed the cut release the trigger while the blade is in the wood. Let the saw come to a stop before lifting it out of the wood.

Most miter saws have a fence. The fence lets you rest the position your lumber against a straight edge. It keeps the wood steady and helps your miter saw cut true to the degree setting you have chosen.

Some miter saws have a detachable clamp. This is a nice option and helps keep your hands away from the blade during cuts. Let the clamp be your right-hand man (or left-hand man). If you don’t have a clamp on your saw, be sure to always position your hand as far away from the blade as possible. Do not attempt to make cuts where your hand is close to the blade. AND NEVER reach under the saw while it is rotating! Even when you have finished your cut, your hand is not safe until the blade has completely stopped.

Three Safety Tips for Using a Miter Saw:

  • Blade down until it stops! You should always end your cut and release the trigger while the blade is down and in the lumber. Let the blade come to a stop before raising the blade.
  • Always make sure the lumber is supported on both sides. And never clamp both sides of your lumber. One side should be free so as not to pinch the blade during the cut.
  • Never cut small pieces of wood where your fingers are too close to the blade. If you absolutely must cut a tiny piece, clamp or attach it to a larger piece of lumber.

Making a Safe Sliding Cut:

When using a sliding miter saw, there is a proper way to make a sliding cut (used to cut wider boards):

  1. Make sure your saw is positioned fully on your workbench. Test the blade in its full reach toward you to make sure it won’t tip as you lower the blade.
  2. Put your lumber up against the fence and clamp it on one side (if you can).
  3. Before you start the blade, pull the saw toward you until the blade is directly over the board’s edge closest to you.
  4. Squeeze the trigger to start the saw and wait for it to reach peak rotation speed. Then lower the blade down into the wood.
  5. While the blade is still rotating, slide the saw back and away from you as your blade cuts through the rest of the wood (see photo below.)
  6. Once the blade has finished cutting through the wood, release the trigger and let the blade stop before raising the blade.

I created a video, so you can see how to safely use a miter saw. Before you watch the video — a few necessary words of caution:

DISCLAIMER

The viewer assumes all responsibility and liability associated with the hazards of woodworking. Pretty Handy Girl is not responsible for any errors or omissions that may be present in this tutorial. She also assumes no liability for any action or inaction of a viewer.

Please use extreme caution when using power tools. Read your tool manual thoroughly and wear protective safety gear. Take your time familiarizing yourself with a tool before using it. (If you are missing the manual, you can easily find it online by going to the manufacturer’s website or google your saw’s make and model + manual.)

Update: Please recognize that I have tried to put together a basic miter saw usage tutorial to get you started. I have tried my best to show the safest way to use a miter saw. Two safety revisions I want you to be aware of:

  1. You should wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment when using a miter saw. (Ear protection, eye protection, and a dust mask.) I should have been wearing a mask.
  2. When I first learned to use a miter saw, no one told me to keep the blade down until it came to a stop. This is now standard practice when I work.

And now, let’s get you more familiar with using a miter saw!

I hope you have been empowered to use a miter saw! Go on and give your miter saw a try if you own one. If you decide to buy a new miter saw, I recommend buying a reputable brand with a decent amount of features. I have a lot more information about how to buy quality tools and save money on tools in this article.

These workshops were meant to be interactive, so don’t be shy! Ask questions, leave comments, and let me know you are learning something new.

Board & Batten moulding is very popular right now. And why not? It is easy to work with and looks great (after it is painted)! If you remember, I used board and batten in my  my son’s closet turned reading nook last year.

I decided to create a similar look in the boys’ bathroom. Only this time I wanted to round the edges of the battens for more visual interest. I’m warning you now, this tutorial is a bit photo intensive. But, how else would I give you a step-by-step tutorial?

I started by purchasing my lumber at Lowe’s. Did you know you can buy cheap furring strips for your battens? It will save you money. Especially if you don’t mind sifting through the stacks to find the straighter boards and sanding the face of your boards after cutting them. I bought 1x4x8 boards for the battens. And 1x3x8 boards for the upper ledge. I also purchased quarter round moulding and decorative moulding for underneath the upper ledge.

Removing Baseboard Tiles:

The bathroom had baseboard tiles that had to be removed. I grabbed a few tools and made quick work of removing them. The ear muffs and safety glasses were definitely a must!

Score the edges of the tile with a utility knife.

Hammer a flat pry bar behind the tiles.

Remove each tile one at a time.


Take some time to patch any holes that are in your wall. You can view a tutorial on patching drywall HERE. I needed my walls to be as smooth as possible since I wasn’t going to add board behind the battens.

Installing Board and Batten Moulding:

Mark the height where you want the top of your moulding to be. I used 5′ as the height, but then ended up lining up the bottom of my boards on the 5′ mark. So, for the 8′ ceiling room, the top of my moulding was at 65″. Use a level mark as a guide line across the width of your room.

Next measure the widths of the sections that your horizontal boards will be attached to.

Cut your boards to size.

Test fit your boards.

I cut the board that butted up to my mirror at a 30 degree bevel.

Once you have cut all the boards and they fit. Sand down the face and edges.

A nail gun and compressor are not a necessity, but they do make the job a lot easier! Otherwise, you will be doing a lot of hammering and nailing while holding boards in place.

I used the compressor at 110psi, which worked well for the 1″ pine boards. I used 2″ nails for the boards and battens and 1.5″ nails for the quarter round.

Be sure to wear your safety gear. The compressor is LOUD and no need to risk your eyesight. I know, you are jealous of how attractive I look in my safety gear (not!)

For the horizontal top boards, I added some construction adhesive. This is not 100% necessary unless you have monkeys for children. And I do, so the extra adhesive seemed like a good idea.

Press the board onto the wall.

Shoot several 2″ nails into the moulding to hold it in place. Be sure to angle your nails to make it more secure.

That board shouldn’t go anywhere now!



Repeat the same steps for the baseboard boards (minus the construction adhesive.)

Next, measure the vertical distance between the top and baseboard battens. Be sure to measure at the exact location that a vertical batten will go. I’m sure your heights will vary.

Cut all your vertical boards and sand them down.

When you are figuring out the spacing, be sure to take into account if you will be adding a towel bar or other fixtures to the wall. My old towel bar was 24″ wide, so I made sure to space the battens to accommodate the towel bar.

While installing the battens you may run into a few inconveniences. Like, a toilet or something that can’t be moved. To deal with the toilet, I cut a piece of cardstock the same width as my batten. Then I slid it behind the toilet and scribed around the edge of the toilet.

Then I cut along my line and transferred the line to my batten.



Use a jigsaw to cut out the scribed profile (I tried to use my Dremel Trio to cut out the small section, but it failed miserably. I think the Trio is best used for thin stock like the back of a bookcase.)


Then you can install your batten around the “inconvenient” object.

By now your room should resemble something like this:

Installing Quarter Round Moulding:

Now comes the step that requires a little more precision. Cutting the quarter round moulding can be a little tricky, but don’t fear I know you can handle it. Remember the old carpenter’s adage, “Measure twice, cut once.”

Well, I admit it, I forgot! Ugh. Even I can make mistakes, so don’t be afraid to mess up once in a while. We all learn from our mistakes:

You will need to meaure the width and heights of the rectangle between your battens. Be precise for better accuracy and less caulk later!

Set your miter saw at a 45 degree angle.






This is what it should look like. The saw should be straight up and down at a 90 degree angle from the saw stand (in other words, no bevel cut).

 


Cut your quarter round so that the longest point on the moulding equals the measurement you took from the rectangle. You may have to face the “round” edge in towards the fence for some cuts. And it might take a few cuts to figure out the angles. But, I know you can do it. Once you have all your quarter round cut and dry fit, you can proceed with the install.

Remember those “inconvenient” objects. End your quarter round right before the toilet.

Add a 30 degree angle when butting up to objects like light switch covers and outlets.

Load the 1.5″ trim nails into your nail gun. Aim your nail gun into the quarter round at an angle so the nail ends up going through the quarter round and into the battens.


Hey, you are about 80% of the way done with installing the moulding!

Installing the top ledge and decorative trim moulding:

Cut the top ledges to size and sand them down. It is a good idea to round any exposed corners with the sander. This will undoubtedly prevent future dents to the head.

Lay the ledge boards on top of the upper battens. If your walls are uneven, your ledge will likely look like this.

No biggie. Grab your grade school compass. And set the two arms to the width of the widest gap. Then drag your compass along the ledge and the wall.

Get out your trusty jigsaw again and cut off that scribed line (have I told you how much I love my Porter Cable Jigsaw?! It pays to buy good quality power tools.)

Ahhh, much better. Any smaller gaps will be filled in with caulk later.

Nail the ledge into the batten below it. You can use construction glue for extra stability. (Yes, it is monkey protection for us.)

My favorite part of the moulding project is adding a little extra “bling”. I chose this decorative moulding to sit below the ledge and to give it extra support (again I have monkeys!)

Don’t forget to cut a 30 degree angle wherever you cut a batten at that angle.

Nail the decorative moulding onto the batten just below the ledge.

Now doesn’t that look beautiful?!

Fixing a few nail problems:

Remember how I said I make mistakes too? Well, here are two easy mistakes to fix when using a nail gun. When the nail doesn’t go all the way in (this usually happens if you don’t keep pressure on the gun when you squeeze the trigger), simply use a hammer and a nail set to hammer it into the wood.

Occasionally a nail may hit something when entering and end up popping out. Grab the end of the nail and pull it all the way through the wood. You may take some wood with it, but you can patch it with wood putty.


I’ll be back to show you how to caulk and paint this beautiful moulding! And then the final reveal of my Boys’ Fishy to Fabulous Bathroom! Finally, a bonus post on creating a branch towel bar.

 

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I hope you will take a moment to view how I test drove my Dremel Trio. This is seriously a really fun power tool! Just be sure you are safe so as not to ruin the fun. Eye protection, face mask, and ear plugs. Check.

For those of you who like to skip to the end of the book and see the ending, here you go:


For the rest of you, here is how I created this cut out/back lit bookshelf that started life as a bookshelf from a closing Borders bookstore.


Tutorial for creating a cut out bookcase:
Almost any bookcase will work for this project, but the ones that have a thin wood (can be masonite) backing will work best. Set up a work area that you don’t mind getting dusty and dirty. Remove the shelves from your bookcase.

Cutting the endcap:

Materials:

  • circular saw
  • level
  • clamp
  • scrap wood
  • screws
  • drill

I cut the endcap in half lengthwise so I could use half for each end of my bookshelf, and to position it flush against the wall. To cut a straight line using a circular saw, I clamped one end of a level to the endcap. My level wasn’t long enough, so I drilled a scrap piece of wood on top of the level and into the end cap to support the other end.


I set the circular saw blade just below the depth of the endcap. By resting the endcap on two 2×4″ boards, I was able to creative a gap below the endcap for the sawblade to pass through.Then I ran the circular saw along the level for a straight cut. Straight as an arrow, and it met Pretty Handy Dog’s approval.

Cutting out the backing design and painting:

Materials:

  • Dremel Trio
  • Palm sander
  • Sandpaper (100 grit & 220 grit)
  • Scrap 2×4 lumber
  • Chalk or pencil
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Primer
  • Paint (white and navy blue)
  • 3M Clean Edge technology painter’s tape
  • Newspapers
  • 2″ paint brush
  • Small paint roller and tray

Sketch out the design on your bookshelf (using chalk or pencil) before beginning.

Before using any new power tool, take some time to read through the manual.

To insert a bit into the Dremel Trio, you push in the blue (shaft lock) button on the front and use the enclosed wrench to loosen the collet nut on the tool.

Insert the cutting bit into the Trio. (The trio also comes with a sanding drum bit and a routing bit!)

Tighten the collet nut with the wrench.

Turn the blue handle on the side of the TRIO to raise or lower the base plate.

Adjust the base plate until the cutting bit extends slightly below the wood backing of your bookcase.

Lay the bookcase down on its back. Position 2×4 boards under the edges of the bookcase (or you will be cutting into concrete. I’m pretty sure the TRIO is not capable of that, but I could be wrong.)

Plug in your Trio and get ready to have some FUN! You may want to practice on a scrap piece of wood before working on your bookcase. The TRIO allows you to change directions quickly and easily. Creating fanciful cuts is a breeze!

Squeeze the trigger and when the bit reaches full speed you can plunge it into the workpiece. For the pin holes hold the Trio steady, insert the bit and then lift it back out of the same hole.

To cut trees and other designs, plunge the TRIO into the wood and then slowly move the tool through the wood to carve your design. Be wary of long “V” shape cuts as they will make the backing weaker.

When your design has been completed, use the power sander to sand the back of the bookcase (where the majority of the splintering will have occurred.)

Insert the sanding drum bit into the TRIO and sand any large cut out areas.

Fold a piece of sandpaper in half and feed it through the thin lines of the branches to sand any rough edges that can’t be reached with the sanding bit.

Set the bookcase upright and inspect the cuts for more splinters. You can preview what your design will look like when lit up. Lookin’ good, huh?!

Before sanding the rest of the bookshelf, repair any dents or holes with wood putty. (This is a post I wrote about repairing all types of holes if you need help.)

Use the palm sander and a fine grit (220 grit) sandpaper to rough up the rest of the bookshelf.

Apply a coat of primer to the bookcase, shelves and sides. (Still working on emptying that can of KILZ Clean Start primer! Love that stuff.

When the primer has dried, mask off the sides of the bookcase where they meet the back.

3M sent me this Scotch Blue Painter’s tape with Edge-Lock protector to try. I was skeptical, but when I pulled the tape off it did give me a clean edge. The only place I had a little bit of seepage was in the corners where I didn’t press the tape tightly into the corner. The key to using this tape is to firmly press the edges with your finger to engage the “Edge-Lock” seal. I haven’t tried it for painting walls, but you better believe I have a wall project coming up that I can try it on.

Paint the back of your bookcase. I chose a very dark navy blue. To save paint, I used a medium blue paint for my first coat to darken the back and hopefully save paint.

Then paint one coat of the navy blue.

Follow up with a second coat to eliminate any streaking.

When the navy paint has dried, tape along the edges of the navy blue backing, where it meets the sides. Slip pieces of newspaper underneath to catch any paint splashes. (Will you get a load of my lazy supervisor! You think he’s been working hard in the heat? Uh no, that would be me doing all the work and him snoozing away the day.)

Paint the rest of the bookcase, the sides and the shelves white. I used two coats of Benjamin Moore Impervo Semi-gloss white.


Once the paint has dried completely, re-assemble the bookcase. And screw the end cap halves onto either side of the bookcase.

I installed a light rope behind the bookcase (tutorial to come at a later date) and set the lights on a timer. The rope light comes on at dusk and illuminates all the cut outs.

There is a very soft glow emitted from the back of the bookcase.

It provides the perfect amount of light for my son who HAS to have a light on at night.

My only complaint about the rope lights is that they give off a strong plastic odor. But, after a week the smell has dissipated.

I had the foresight to purchase a few of the clear display stands that slide into the end caps of the bookcase. It makes it easy to display books to pique my son’s reading interests.

Oh look! There he is now! Mission accomplished, reading interest piqued. Yes, I think he is double-jointed and a teacher pointed out that both my son’s sit like that. Must be in the genes.

A few more detailed pictures of the bookshelf. This has to be one of my favorite projects I’ve created recently. And it wasn’t very difficult to complete.




 

 

 

I had the pleasure of talking to Meri-K Appy the other day. She is the president of the Home Safety Council and has over 30 years experience talking about home safety. Meri-K has a wealth of knowledge about preventing injuries while working on and around your home.

I recorded my talk with her and hope you will take some time to listen. It is very valuable information! Feel free to put the audio on and then do something else while you listen.

You may also want to take some time to browse the Home Safety Council website. The site is filled with loads of information about how to keep you and your family safety (not just during DIY projects.)

SafetyTalk.mp3

 

Cliff Notes:

I took some notes during the talk. These sum up some of the important information:

 

There are 3 Parts of the Body that are Most Important to Protect:

1. Eyes (Vision) – Wear safety goggles when doing any type of DIY project

No need to look like Professor Scientist! You can wear eye protection that is fashionable and comfortable!

3M Tekk Tortoise Shell Safety Glasses

3M Tekk Fuel Light Safety Eyewear

When should you wear eye protection?

a. Using Power Tools

b. Mowing the Lawn

c. Sanding, cutting glass

d. Any activity where objects can become airborne

2. Ears (Hearing) – About 30 million people are exposed to dangerously high levels of noise. Anything over 85 decibels can damage your hearing.

Some examples of common decibel levels:

    • City Traffic Noise (inside a car) – 85db
    • Lawn Mower – 107db
    • Power Saw – 110db
    • Rock Concert – 115 db

When should you wear ear protections?

Ear protection should be worn anytime you are participating in an activity that has loud noise. Even noises that don’t seem excessively loud can cause hearing loss when sustained exposure occurs.

Ear protection is cheap! Foam inserts cost only a few bucks and will protect your hearing.

Inexpensive Ear Protection – Foam Ear Plugs

For better protection and comfort, use ear muff style ear protectors. Check out these! They have a am/fm radio built into them. So you can rock out (at a safe decibel level) while working on your projects.

3M Digital Work tunes ear muffs

Be aware, that one danger while wearing hearing protection is not being able to hear a child come up to you. So make sure your children are being attended to when you need to use power tools and hearing protection.

3. Lungs (Breathing) – Great care should be taken when working with anything that has dust or chemical particulates.

    • Some examples of when you should wear a mask or respirator:
    • Sanding
    • Scraping
    • Spray Painting
    • Using Chemicals
    • Disturbing anything that contains lead, asbestos or other potentially dangerous particles

You’ve seen the scary chemical warfare respirators:

You don’t have to wear that fashion for home repairs (unless you are working around lead or asbestos.)

Protection can be as simple as this dust mask:

8661Pc1-A/8661 - Dust Mask 5Pk

Better yet, 3M has a cool flow valve dust mask for a few dollars more that is more comfortable and less hot:

3M 8511 N95 Particulate Respirator Mask (10 pack)

Test lead paint in your home with these easy to use Lead Check testers:

3M Lead Test Kit – 2 pk – $12.45

Top Causes of Home Improvement Injuries:

  1. Falling from a height (beyond broken bones you could receive head trauma)
  2. Harsh chemicals and poisons (Using and not following the warning labels)
  3. Electricity (electrocution and/or fire if wiring is done improperly)
  4. Power tool injuries (cuts, burns, lacerations, etc.)
  5. Fatigue (tired, using medications, or controlled substances)
  6. Poor Lighting (Unable to see what you are working on.)

Home improvement Injuries are Completely Preventable:

  1. Be sure to 3 points of contact on ladders ( i.e. one hand and two feet on a ladder at all times.)
  2. Always read labels and follow directions (ventilation, safety gear, disposal, etc.)
  3. Electricity (hire a licensed professional if you are unfamiliar with building codes and wiring safety.)
  4. Get trained on how to use power tools (don’t trust an instructor that isn’t wearing proper safety gear.)
  5. Be alert, awake, healthy, and not taking any substances that can impair you when DIYing.
  6. Work in a well lit area.
  7. Consider hiring a professional for lead paint remediation, plumbing, electrical or any profession that requires a license.

 

Important Websites and Phone Number:

If you ever have any questions about lead in your home and how to deal with it:

3MLeadCheck.com

National Lead Information Center: 1-800-424-LEAD(5323)

If you have any questions about the presence of lead, asbestos or radon in you home, contact the EPA or go to their website for more information. These organizations have been set up to protect your health. Not to make your life more difficult!

EPA.gov

National Center for Healthy Housing

More information about 3M safety gear and where you can get your own:

3MTekk.com

 

Disclosure: Meri-K Appy and Pretty Handy Girl are not paid sponsors of 3M. However, 3M made a donation to the Home Safety Council to fund more research and development preventing injuries.

Some of the images above are linked to affiliate links which pay a very small percentage to Pretty Handy Girl. Other images simply link to online stores where you can purchase the product for your convenience.

 


Recently I was asked what my favorite tool is. My Ryobi 12 volt Lithium Ion battery cordless drill was the first thing to pop into my head. Barely a week passes that I don’t reach for my drill to assist with a few loose screws (not that I personally have any of those.) For a homeowner or DIYer, this tool is indispensable. It allows you to drill holes, remove or drive screws and – well – just look like you know what you are doing.

I don’t just like this power tool, I love my cordless drill! Shhhh, don’t tell Pretty Handsome Guy, he might be offended. My drill is my right hand man, helping me breeze through projects with power and speed.

About 15 years ago my father-in-law asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I boldly told him that I wanted a cordless drill. He kind of chuckled and said, “Heh heh. Okay.” You see we didn’t own a house at that time, and I was still a young woman in my 20’s. But, I had big DIY dreams and I knew I wanted a power tool.

Christmas morning I opened a present to reveal a brand new 18 volt Ryobi Cordless Drill. It had loads of power, two torque settings and the whizzing whir that made me feel like I was one mean carpenter! Plus, it came with a flashlight attachment that would make any nighttime lurker look like a deer caught in the headlights.

I have owned two more Ryobi cordless drills since that Christmas present. The first one had to be replaced when the battery no longer held a charge (and buying a new battery cost almost as much as a new drill.) The second one met its demise when I accidentally drove a screw right up against a fence post and didn’t notice that the chuck was winding the opposite way until the collar was stuck wide open.

So, it was back to my super box home improvement store to shop for a new drill.

As I was checking out the drills and learning about the merits of the lithium ion batteries, I asked about the voltage difference since I had been using a 14.4 volt drill. The salesman at the “Big Orange” told me that I wouldn’t notice the difference between a 12 volt and a 14.4 volt. Pisshwah! I did notice a difference, especially when trying to drive screws into hardwoods! (My DIY abilities are sometimes underestimated by a few.) But, the salesman was correct, under normal daily use I don’t notice the difference.

Two things that I DO really love about this new Ryobi 12 volt Lithium Ion drill:  

1. Battery Life: Yes, yes, yes! What you have heard is true. The battery does last much longer. I’ve told you how much I use my drill, and I have only charged the battery on this drill three times since January 2010. That is 11 mos. of use including laying a sub-floor in our living room. The only downside to the lithium ion battery (but also could be considered an upside) is that the drill doesn’t slow or lose power until a few seconds before the battery is dead. Therefore there is very little warning that the battery is about to give up. At least this drill comes with a spare battery, so I always keep it charged.

2. Size and weight: 3.5 lbs. of cordless drill made me feel like I had some serious power in my hands! That is how much the old 18 volt Ryobi weighed. When I held the new 12 volt Ryobi drill, I embraced the lightness of its lithe 1.8 lbs! I can really appreciate the difference when reaching overhead to use the drill. Plus, this new drill with its smaller size and smaller grip fits perfectly in my hand.

As you can see below, my drill shows signs of being loved used frequently. But, it still works like the day I lifted it out of the box.

Some other features about this little green mean machine: 

It comes with a charger, extra battery, a phillips and flat head bit. There is a magnetic bit shelf right above the battery. And a canvas storage case. But, my drill doesn’t get that much time stored away. It usually rests right here…

…ready to leap into action at a moments notice.

If you don’t own a cordless drill, I implore you to add this DIY essential to your holiday wishlist!

(I was not paid or compensated to write this post. This is my honest opinion and true feelings about my beloved cordless drill!)