landscaping-101

Landscaping 101 – Tools & Planting

When we bought our first home 13 years ago, we were lured by the idea of having at least half an acre of land. Little did we know that it would involve LOTS and LOTS of yard work. Over the years we’ve learned several tips and tricks to creating beautiful landscaping that will last for decades. If you’re a new homeowner (or still trying to find your green thumb), here’s the Landscaping 101 course to help you hit the ground running. I’ll be sharing which yard tools are essential, how to pick the right plants, how to plant them, and how to add color to your landscaping. Pull up a stump and lets dig in!

Assess Landscaping Needs:

Do you have a variety of color in your landscaping? Unfortunately a soccer ball, flag and garden ornament don’t really count. Attractive landscaping will have a variety of colors, textures and tones to create variety and interest.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

The great news is that you can remedy this situation in an afternoon (or less time depending on how much planting you need to do.)

Take a good hard look at your existing landscaping. What’s working for you and what is…ummm…dying. It’s okay to give up on shrubs and plants that are dying. If you just can’t stand the thought of killing them, transplant sickly plants in a less visible spot to give them a second chance. But, don’t leave them in your front beds where they aren’t adding any curb appeal.

As an alternative, if a sad looking plant previously thrived in that location but it took a hit from frost (or a well-played soccer ball). You can try to save it by trimming the plant back to green stalks or near the ground. That’s exactly what I did to this Confederate Jasmine. I pruned it back to see if it would come back.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

I also planted a new one right next to the old one for instant color and fragrance. That way the old one can take its time growing back while no one notices its stubbiness.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Make a list of the holes you have in your landscape. Note the sun and soil conditions there. Take your list with you when you go plant shopping.

How to Choose Appropriate Plants for your Landscape:

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Be sure to shop for your flowering plants at a local reputable plant nursery. Picking up plants at the grocery store or other big box store will result in less than the hardiest plants. Nurseries take care to stock plants that thrive well in your climate. They are also more healthy and disease-free. Finally, the staff at the nursery is more knowledgeable and can help you choose plants that will do well in your garden. The grocery store cashier probably can’t help you with that!

If possible, shop for flowering plants at the time that you want them to bloom in your yard! A successful flower bed will have staggered blooms throughout the Spring – Fall. If you fill your flower bed over time, you’ll be sure to have blooms that appear at different times as opposed to picking all your beautiful blooming plants in one shopping trip. But, if you’re more of the once and done type, ask the nursery staff for a variety of plants that will stagger their blooms.

Sun and Shade Requirements:

Choose plants that will thrive in the existing conditions in your yard. It’s a great idea to map your landscape area and note the sun and shade areas on an hourly basis. Select plants based on those shade/sun requirements.

  • Full sun = At least 6 hours of direct sun
  • Partial Sun = 3-6 hours of sun per day. The plant must receive direct light for at least 3 hours.
  • Partial Shade = 3-6 hours of sun per day. The plant must receive shade to help cool the plant later in the afternoon.
  • Shade = Less than 3 hours of sun per day. But, the plant should receive some additional dappled sun throughout the day. No sun equals no life.

Also pay attention to your soil and drainage. A well drained soil will dry several hours after watering. Damp soil will stay moist and wet for at least a day after watering.

*A good tip is to save your plant tags and receipts. Most reputable nurseries will have a warranty on the plants they sell. Ask them for more information.

How to Choose Yard Tools:

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl
Disclosure: True Temper sent me these landscaping tools to try out. I was not told what to say about their tools.

A good starter set of landscaping tools are:

(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.)

  • Round Point Shovel – used for digging and transferring plants
  • Bow Rake – used for leveling and loosening soil, spreading mulch, and ground cover
  • Garden Spade Shovel – used for digging trenches, transplanting and edging beds
  • Wheelbarrow  – your best friend when it comes to hauling yard material
  • Garden Trowel  – A small trowel for planting, transplanting, digging up bulbs, moving dirt, potting, and much more!
  • Cultivator  – used for loosening and breaking up tough soil, removing rocks, weeding and aerating
  • Warren Hoe  – used for creating and planting rows of seeds and harvesting underground vegetables
  • Leaf Rake  – if you have deciduous trees, you NEED a leaf rake to remove fallen leaves
  • Pruning Shears  – a sharp pair of pruning shears are used for pruning, cutting blooms and dead limbs from bushes and plants
  • Garden gloves – a good pair of garden gloves will protect your hands from thorns, scratches and dreaded poison ivy (or poison oak.)

If you’re new to landscaping, I’m going to give you some good advice about buying tools. As I recommend with power tools, don’t cheap out when buying landscaping tools. If you buy quality garden and landscape tools, they should last you a lifetime. If you go for the less expensive tools, you’ll likely spend more in the long run when you have to replace a broken or worn out tool.

For example, we have a True Temper shovel that has lasted us for over 10 years now. We’ve put that baby to good use digging in the rocky and clay filled NC soil. Some of the other tools we bought didn’t make it that long. Either the handles snapped or the tines on a rake bent over continued use. Buying two of the same tool means it would have been smarter and more economical to purchase quality from the start. (Live and learn.)

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Good tools should be ergonomic, comfortable and made with quality materials that won’t break or bend over time. Look for strong defect-free handles. True Temper tools are high quality and Made in the USA. They’ve been making agricultural tools for over 200 years! My favorite feature of these True Temper tools are the 10″ cushion grip handles. They are easy to hold and are good shock absorbers.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

How to Plant Shrubs and Flowers that will Thrive:

Assess the health of your plants. Remove any diseased or dying plants. You don’t want them infecting your new greenery. Use a round point shovel to dig a circle around the root ball.  Use your foot to step on the top of the shovel to get further depth and force to cut roots. When the plant is free, remove it and toss it or transplant it to a new location.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Dig a hole at least two times the size of the new plant’s root ball. And several inches deeper.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Break up rocky and hard soil with either a Warren hoe or cultivator (or both!) The cultivator works great at getting all the big rocks out of the way.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Fill the bottom of the hole with good organic compost. This stuff is black gold! A good compost pile will be full of worms working to turn your kitchen scraps into super nutrient rich soil for your plants. I’ll have to write a separate post on how I compost. If you don’t have access to organic compost, purchase a bag of good gardening soil to use. Mix the compost and dirt with the cultivator or hoe. The soil should have good drainage and no large chunks.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

To free your plant from it’s pot, make a fist and pound around the outside of the pot. Gently tip the pot upside down while supporting your plant by its trunk. Gently lay the plant on its side.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Use the hand trowel to slice into the rootball. This is especially important if your plant is root bound. You need to encourage the plant to expand and grow new roots out into the earth.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Set the plant upright in the hole you dug.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Fill around the root ball and cover the top of the root ball slightly with more soil/compost mixture.

Step around the base of your plant to eliminate air holes. It’s important to get good soil contact with the roots of the plant.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Water your newly planted flowers and plants daily for two weeks or more. Then taper off the watering to help them extend their roots on their own.

Mulch:

Adding mulch around your plants in the beds adds more than an attractive look. It keeps moisture in the soil and controls weeds. To weigh your options on which type of mulch you want to use, you’ll probably find this Mulch Selection Guidelines List helpful.

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

Save your back and energy by filling a wheelbarrow with mulch and bring it to your beds. Make sure the front wheel has plenty of air. Or learn how to replace a wheelbarrow tire that never goes flat!

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Spread the mulch 2 – 3″ deep around your plants with a bow rake. Anything less than 2″ won’t  control weeds and retain moisture as well.

Container Gardening:

Potted plants help you “fake it until you make it!” A few potted plants with annual flowers in them is a great way to add pops of color exactly where you want them. They’ll draw attention to their color and blooms and detract from any landscape beds that are between blooms.

When they stop blooming you can pop in another container of flowers. Container gardening is the perfect activity for fickle gardeners because you can constantly change the look with new colors and plants. Learn all the basics for growing your own container gardens here.

Annuals are great for instant color, but once they are gone they won’t grow back next year. If you prefer to avoid yearly planting,  buy perennials to plant in your pots. They will re-bloom year after year.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

For a more portable arrangements, fill small lightweight pots or containers on wheels. (I had fun turning this old Radio Flyer wagon into a portable planter. Now I can wheel the wagon anywhere I want to add more color.)

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Added Color to the Landscape:

Remember that “artificial colored” landscaping before?

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Within an afternoon it got a makeover worthy of an HGTV curb appeal segment.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Before the sad little gardenia was barely thriving.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Presto! Instant color and blooms from a newly planted pink hydrangea.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

New rose bushes bring some fragrance and color to the previously color-lacking front bed. I had no idea that there were yellow knockout roses, but as soon as I saw them I grabbed them. If you don’t know about knock out roses, they are much hardier and disease resistant than their ancestors! Win!

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

A few foxglove plants adds some height and visual interest to the flower bed.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Much better! In a week those irises around the flag and the big rose bush in the middle will be brimming with color.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Our front landscaping beds are my new happy place!

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

We get compliments from anyone who comes to our house (which is primarily the UPS and FedEx driver lately. Thanks guys!)

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Do tell me, do you have any landscaping tips or secrets to share? Or maybe you have a favorite plant in your yard. Please tell me more!

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Welcome to another tool tutorial. Today I’m going to save you time and effort by teaching you how to use a sander.

How to Use a Sander

How to Use a Sander

If you don’t have a power sander, you’ll likely recognize this contraption below. That’s a manual sanding block. It’s great, but personally I like to move quickly through the sanding phase of a project.

Reclaimed Lumber Farmhouse Table | Pretty Handy Girl

Especially because I feel like I’ve grown out of the hand sanding phase of my life. LOL.

When to Use a Sander:

Using a power sander can speed through the process of smoothing wood and other materials. It’s typically used to either prep a surface or finish a surface before applying paint, stain, or a top coat.

  • A sander can also knock off splinters and round over sharp corners.

  • It’s also great for prepping surfaces to paint (especially pre-finished or raw furniture.)

How to Get a Smooth Paint Finish without a Paint Sprayer | Pretty Handy Girl

  • A sander can also be used to give a beautiful aged finish to any project you are working on.

Chalk Painted Wooden Stool | Pretty Handy Girl

  • Or help eliminate imperfections from a surface.

  • Sanders can also be used to remove rust from metal.

Upcycled Metal Rolling Cart Plant Stand | Pretty Handy Girl

When NOT to Use a Power Sander:

A power sander should never be used when working with materials that would be hazardous when airborne, like asbestos or lead paint. If you suspect these materials in your home, it’s best to consult with a professional abatement specialist. Learn how to test for lead paint in this article. If you have a house built in or before 1978, you might have asbestos. Learn everything you wanted to know about asbestos here.

Need to remove lead paint? You will be much safer if you use a chemical stripper. Learn how to strip paint here.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

Personal Protective Equipment for Sanding:

  • Dust Mask
  • Safety Glasses
  • Hearing Protection
  • Optional: Gloves

When using a sander, it is essential that you wear a dust mask to protect your lungs. Eye protection needs to be worn to protect your eyes from sawdust or splinters. And finally, wear hearing protection because exposure to the noise of power tools over time can damage your hearing.

Finally, gloves are not essential, but sanding can dry your hands and make them rough.

Different Types of Sanders:

There are several types of sanders, but today we’ll stick with the most common power sanders used by DIY enthusiasts because of their portability.

  • Sheet Sander
  • Random Orbital Sander
  • Detail Sander

Sheet Sander:

The first is a sheet sander. This sander is named because you cut a sheet of sandpaper to attach to the sander.

How To Replace Sheet Sander Sandpaper:

When the sandpaper gets torn or shows wear, it’s time to replace it (or if you need to switch the sandpaper grit.) Look for the clamps on each side of the sheet sander base and release them to remove sandpaper.

replacing sheet sander sandpaper

Mark the size of your sander’s base on the sandpaper.

Cut a piece of sandpaper to size (add about a 1/2″ on each end to be able to clamp to.)

Feed one end into one side clamp and depress the lever to hold the sandpaper.

Feed the other side under the clamp and secure.

When sanding a lot, I like to load several sheets into my sheet sander. This way I can quickly tear off a layer when it’s worn or when I need to move to the next grit.

Random Orbital Sander:

The second most common type of sander is a random orbital sander. Named because the base moves around in a random elliptical motion. Personally this is the type of sander I use most for handheld sanding. It’s lightweight and allows me to get the majority of the sanding done quickly.

How to Strip Paint Off a Door | Pretty Handy Girl

How to Replace Sandpaper on a Random Orbital Sander:

The random orbital sander saves you time when it’s time to change the sandpaper. The sandpaper discs are held on with a velcro-like hook and loop system.

To remove, simply pull the sandpaper off the base of the sander. Then replace it with a new sheet being careful to line up the sandpaper with the vent holes on the sander.

removing worn orbital sander paper, replacing hook and loop sandpaper

Easy and quick. Now you can continue sanding.

Detail Sander:

Most sanders lack the size to get into tight corners or grooves. Those tasks are best left for the detail sander.

Rustic Pallet Serving Tray | Pretty Handy Girl

Smaller in size, and usually with a pointed head, detail sanders typically use a hook and loop sandpaper system for quick changes.

How Much Do Sanders Cost?

(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.)

3 sanders

A good power sander shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Prices will range from $20 to over $200 for brand name sanders. But, you can purchase a good sander for $50-$100.

Personally I have a cordless sander and a corded sander. I love the ability to use the cordless sander in the yard without needing to pull a power cord with me. But, I usually prefer the longevity of sanding with a corded sander. My sheet sander is old and gets less use because the vibrations are much stronger leaving me with numb hands after sanding for a while.

About Sandpaper:

Sandpaper comes in a wide variety of colors and grits. The colors do not mean a specific grit across brands, but within a brand they help easily identify the sandpaper grit.

  • Coarse Grit: 40 – 60
  • Medium Grit: 80 – 180
  • Fine Grit: 200-600
  • Super Fine Grit: Over 600 grit

When sanding a raw piece of wood or something that needs aggressive sanding to remove a finish, start with a rough sandpaper with a 40- to 60-grit. For smoothing out imperfections and scratches, you need to move on to a 80- to 180-grit sandpaper. The final finishing of a wood piece requires a fine-grit sandpaper with a 200- to 600-grit. Super fine grit is usually reserved for metal, glass, or other non-wood surfaces.

How to Use a Power Sander:

Sanders are either battery-powered or corded. If using a battery-powered sander make sure you have a charged battery. Plug in your corded sander.

SKIL orbital sander

Attach the appropriate grit sandpaper to the base.

Look for the on/off switch on your sander. Turn the tool on and gently set it on the material you need to sand. Use slow sweeping motions to methodically sand your workpiece.

How to Fill Holes and Knots in Wood | Pretty Handy Girl

Once you have a uniform finish, switch to a finer grit sandpaper. Repeat the process above. Continue sanding until you have a super smooth surface (or desired finish.)

sand all boards

Wipe off sanding dust with a damp rag or tack cloth. Empty the dust collection bag on your sander if you have one.  Now it’s time to finish your project! Add stain, paint, or a top coat to protect your project.

Video Sanding Tutorial:

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you want to see a video of using a sander, watch how I finished a branch to use as a towel bar in my sons’ bathroom:

Happy sanding!

Organize Your Sandpaper and Sanders:

Once you find a love for sanding, you’ll probably want to store your sandpaper and sanders neatly. Learn how The Handyman’s Daughter built this simple sanding station.

Get the plans to build this sander and sandpaper storage unit at The Handyman's Daughter!

Rustic Wooden Caddy with a Branch Handle

Spring is right around the corner and I’m itching to cut some fresh flowers to bring inside. I love displaying them in jars placed inside rustic wooden caddies. Making a little caddy or tote out of salvage wood and branches can be an easy beginner DIY project. But, it’s also satisfying for experienced woodworkers looking to use up some old scraps or upcycle an old wooden box. Here’s how to elevate a simple wooden box into something more quirky and special by adding a branch handle.

Materials:

(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.)

I happened to be browsing through a yard sale and spotted a sad little box begging for me to buy it and give it a new life:

How could I say no! It was only $3. I couldn’t leave it at the yard sale in its sad burgundy dust-covered state. I brought it home so it could sit in my garage collecting more dust. (This happens more often than I’d like to admit. It’s a sickness I have.)

Using the pry bar and pliers, I pulled off the lid of the box and removed any nails.

Then I had a basic box to work with. You can use this tutorial to create a simple box if you don’t have one.

Instructions:

Cut upper handle supports out of 1×3 or other scraps. Clamp them inside the box.

Pre-drill holes and drive wood screws through the sides of the box and into the vertical supports.

Now it the time to finish the wooden caddy using your choice of paint or stain. (I like to create a rustic look using a relatively dry brush and by letting some of the wood grain show through your brush stokes.)

While the paint is drying, use a hack or coping saw to remove any bumps or burrs from your branch.

Measure the ends of your branch and select the spade bits that are closest in diameter to your branch (you want the holes to be equal to or wider than the branch.)

Drill a hole into each side of the vertical handle supports.

Insert the branch into the side of the caddy. You might have to experiment with which direction to install the branch.

Fill some jars with flowers and set them inside the crate.

Set it out in a prominent spot in your home.

Enjoy your shabby chic crate, caddy, tool box, or whatever you like to call it.

Personally I can’t get enough of this branch handle:

I’m curious, would you have bought that little dusty box too?!

If you liked this tutorial, you’ll love these other easy DIY Projects:

Mini-Picket Fence Caddy

Make a Driftwood Gift Crate | Pretty Handy Girl

Make Your Own Driftwood Crate

makita-girls-2015-WhatIt’s 2018, and I’m Still Wondering Where are the Real Makita Girls?

Back when I first published this post, I never thought I’d be resurrecting it from the archives. Then Simone Giertz shared this tweet and my anger and frustration at Makita boiled over again. The video Simone was referencing has been taken down by Makita, but here’s another upload of the Makita Girls behind the scenes video:

It’s been three years Makita, why are you still using the same tired marketing campaign? Your transparent attempts at finding spokeswomen who actually use power tools is laughable. My 14 year old son even pointed out that Miss Makita can’t actually build shelves with a sander. Sure, she can finish them with a sander, but any avid power tool user would not choose a sander as their favorite power tool (give me a recip saw or a sliding compound miter saw any day over a sander!)

In the three years that have passed since I was angered by Makita’s Miss and Senorita Makita campaign, I added four expensive power tools to my toolbox. And you know what? I consciously steered clear of the Makita brand because I don’t want to support a brand that objectifies women and doesn’t recognize that there are many of us that use power tools for more than “building shelves.”

Get it together Makita! It’s 2018, time to retire the women in bikinis and find a woman who gets her nails at the hardware store (not the salon.) There are so many women who can guide potential buyers to purchase tools based on their expert opinions. Let’s see this campaign retired or start searching for all the women makers, contractors and builders out there. Am I right?

This is my open letter to Makita in 2015:

Oh Makita, why did you have to go and do this?!

Makita announced its 2015 Makita Girls and where you can go to meet them. Initially, I reserved my opinion until I learned more about these new spokesmodels. But, after reading their bios, I was angered. Not a single mention of enjoying woodworking, building or carpentry. Where is the DIY love? What will they talk about at these appearances?  I’m disappointed that Makita would choose their spokesmodels for looks and not skills. And, I question their decision to maintain an advertising program that perpetuates the stereotype that only men use their tools.

Don’t they realize that they are alienating a huge growing market of DIY women? Would I have been offended if they selected an attractive woman who had Mad-DIY skills? Definitely not.

If they wanted beautiful women using tools, there is no shortage of kick ass female builders out there. This ever changing world of Do It Yourselfers is filled to the brim with amazing “Real Makita Girls.” Some of these women have the right to hold their Makita tools proudly. They can tell you the difference between a bevel and a miter; a cross cut vs. a rip cut and they know that brushless is a good thing and has nothing to do with long flowing locks of hair! These women choose quality tools that are strong enough to stand up to the current and future projects they are completing.

Am I angry? Yes! Am I going to stop using Makita tools? No, because frankly they make great tools. My Makita 10″ Compound Sliding Miter Saw is my baby:

Makita Girls | Pretty Handy Girl

It’s the first tool I’d truly cry over if it was stolen. This saw has been with me through 100’s of projects, a kitchen remodel and countless fixes. I have never had to adjust the laser or to square up the tool. It is a quality power saw made with aluminum and metal parts, not cheap plastic. But, despite my undying love for my Makita tools, their advertising tactics make me embarrassed to confess my love.

Do you want to help me change the search results right here and now? Let’s show Makita what a Real Makita Girl is. Please visit these accomplished builders and DIYers. Pin their images and title it “Real Makita Girl” or use the hashtag #RealMakitaGirls.

Makita Girls | Pretty Handy Girl
Sara Bendrick – Landscape Designer, Woodworker and DIYNetwork TV Host of I Hate My Yard


Makita Girls | Pretty Handy Girl
Kit – Blogger, Builder and Kick Ass DIYer at DIYDiva.net

Makita Girls | Pretty Handy Girl
Kim – Blogger, Builder and Creative Genius at TheKimSixFix.com

Hey, do you use Makita tools, too? If so, show me your…tools! (Email me pictures of yourself using your Makita tools, to PrettyHandyGirl (at) gmail.com. I’ll add your photo to this post.)  Let’s take over the search term “Makita Girls” and show them what a Real Makita Girl is!

#RealMakitaGirlsMary Hunnicutt another one of many #RealMakitaGirls

Cottage at the Crossroads #RealMakitaGirlsJane from Cottage at the Crossroads

In the meantime, I have to ask:

Makita, when you make awesome tools, why do you have to stoop to such slimy advertising tactics? The 1980’s called, and they want their tight spandex and scantily clad women back. Please remove the blinders and take notice of your growing customer base.  Women are shopping in the tool department. They are your consumers. They are smart and savvy. They want to purchase tools that will last. They want to hear about what makes a Makita tool great and why they should spend a little more to purchase a tool that won’t fall apart in a year or two.

A few weeks after this post was published in 2015: I spoke to Wayne Hart, the communications manager at Makita tools after this post initially published. We had a pleasant conversation and he seemed to understand my concerns about the Miss Makita and Senorita Makita models. I offered to let Mr. Hart make a statement to my readers but never heard back from him. In the meantime, the program has continued in 2016 and 2017, but I noticed that at least two of the models have used some of the tools outside the program. At least that’s some progress, right!? What do you think about tool companies continuing to use models as spokeswomen?

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Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this post are my own. Sara, Kit, and Kim are DIY women I admire. They gave me permission to use their photos, but that doesn’t mean that they endorse what I have written in this post. 

How to Make a Long Clamp with Short Clamps | Pretty Handy GirlHow to Make a Long Clamp with Shorter Clamps

When you are trying to outfit your workshop with equipment it can be tempting to skip purchasing more expensive long clamps. After all, how often do you really need to clamp something longer than 12 – 18″? Luckily, I’m here to justify your decision to purchase two short clamps in place of one long clamp, because here’s How to Make a Long Clamp with two Shorter Clamps!

How to Make a Long Clamp with Short Clamps | Pretty Handy Girl

(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.)

When it comes time to clamp that extra long project, grab two of the same brand clamps (this may also work with different brands, but you’ll just have to experiment). I use Irwin Quick Grip clamps. 

How to Make a Long Clamp with Short Clamps | Pretty Handy Girl

Open the two clamps to the full extension. Set the grip handle side of one clamp on one side of your item to clamp.

How to Make a Long Clamp with Short Clamps | Pretty Handy Girl

Take the second clamp and flip it toward the opposite side, resting the handle side on the opposite side of the item.

Then set the two middle clamp pads against one another to form an “S” shape as shown below.)

How to Make a Long Clamp with Short Clamps | Pretty Handy Girl

Tighten the two clamps and you have one long clamp made from two shorter clamps!

How to Make a Long Clamp with Short Clamps | Pretty Handy Girl

Tell me the truth, did you already know about this clamp hack? I debated whether to write this post because the idea is so simple, I figured it may be nothing new.

If you didn’t know how to make one long clamp out of two smaller ones, I hope this tip helps you one day. I know it really helped me this weekend when I was trying to clamp a larger picture frame.

How to Make a Long Clamp with Short Clamps | Pretty Handy Girl

Do you have any helpful workshop tips to share? I’d love to hear them.

Top 10 Power Tools Every DIYer NeedsTop 10 Power Tools Every DIYer Needs

Time and time again I’ve been asked what my desert island tool would be. But honestly I have a hard time narrowing my answer down to just one tool. Instead I decided to make a list of the Top 10 Power Tools that Every DIYer Needs in their tool arsenal.

Next week the stores will be crowded and your family may want to know what you’d like for the holidays. If you are like me and ask for tools over jewelry, you’ll want to take inventory of your tools and see if there’s that one tool that you are missing. The ones that make the cut on this list are the tools that I use over and over again on projects, home repairs, and maintenance.

In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Power Tools Every DIYer Needs:

(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.)

1. Circular Saw:

A circular saw is one of the most versatile tools in the shop (and on a jobsite.) This one tool can potentially take the place of both a miter saw and a table saw. But, you have to have a steady hand and set up a guide bar (or use a Kreg Rip Cut) to get precision cuts. If you are building a deck, fence, or other outdoor structure, nothing will take the place of this mobile tool.

Porter-Cable 15 Amp Circular Saw

 

2. Table Saw:

The table saw is the king of making rip cuts. You can cut your own custom lumber, shave off rounded edges on boards and cut down large sheets for cabinetry and furniture. The table saw can handle small rips and make multiple cuts at the exact same width (when you lock the fence in place.) One accessory I recommend for your table saw is a Microjig GRR-Ripper to keep your hands and fingers safe. You can see a good example of the uses for a table saw and the GRR-Ripper in this tutorial for building sports gear storage in a small space.



DeWalt FlexVolt 50v Max cordless table saw

 

3. Miter Saw:

Nothing beats the precision of being able to cut a miter and bevel cut, which is a necessity when adding crown moulding to your home.  For that reason I recommend forgoing a standard chop saw and outfit your shop with a compound sliding miter saw. The sliding feature allows you to cut lumber that is wider than the actual blade width. I highly recommend saving up for a quality miter saw. You will get what you pay for on this power tool. For more information, see my video tutorial for using a miter saw.


Makita 10″ Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw

 

4. Drill/Impact Driver Combo:

A drill is the equivalent of your right hand man while working on any project. Go ahead and upgrade to a stronger drill and if you buy one that double as an impact driver, you’ll save room in your toolbox.


Milwaukee Drill and Impact Driver Set

 

5. Bandsaw:

Before I had a jigsaw, I used my bandsaw for many curved cuts (and even ripped some lumber with it.) Although it may seem like an extraneous tool, having a bandsaw can be your friend when you want to make precision profile cuts in any wood. You’ll notice I didn’t include a scroll saw on the list and that’s because I would guess that 90% of the time the bandsaw (or a jig saw) will perform the tasks you think you need a scroll saw for. One of my favorite projects using a bandsaw is making this pallet serving tray.

 

Delta Bandsaw

6. Cordless Finish Nailgun:

Having a cordless nailer is the way to go when you are working on small projects or installing trim. This battery-powered 18 gauge nail gun doesn’t require a compressor. In my book, this is a huge plus for anyone who hates to haul out a big, heavy, and loud compressor. Not to mention dealing with the maintenance on a compressor. One of my favorite projects using a finish nailer are these cute scrap wood trays using leftover moulding.

Porter-Cable 18 ga. Cordless Nailer

 

7. Oscillating Multi-tool:

Where would I be without a multi-tool? In a jamb, that’s for sure. The oscillating tool is a mighty little tool you can bring to the location that needs cutting. Notch out your framing lumber; cut detail areas; sand in tight corners; scrape up tiles; and even cut nails with this tool and a metal blade. The oscillating tool has been my BFF when I need a small hand held option to the bigger tools (like sanding inside a window sill after repairing wood rot.)

Rockwell Sonicrafter

 

8. Power Sander:

Save your energy for more important tasks than sanding. Let the power sander smooth, strip and finish any surface in no time. Honestly, I can’t imagine ever hand sanding again.

DeWalt Palm Sander

 

9. Jigsaw:

The jigsaw can be compared to the bandsaw, but you’ll find a jigsaw a must have when you can’t bring the project to the tool or when your piece is too big. A good jigsaw won’t set you back much, but it will definitely save you time (and as you know, time is money.) One of the handiest uses for a jigsaw is cutting inside sheet goods.

Porter Cable Jigsaw

 

10. Rotary Tool:

A Dremel is one of those tools that you don’t think you need until you start using it. Then you wonder how you got along without one. Cut off metal; sand in tiny areas; drill; etch into a variety of materials and even trim your pet’s nails! This little tool can do so many things if you have the right bit. (My favorite use for a Dremel is creating a notch to remove stripped screws or bolts.)

Dremel Cordless Rotary Tool

 

11. Bonus Tool – Reciprocating Saw:

If you have all the tools above, go ahead and ask for this demo demon! A reciprocating saw makes fast work of removing studs and joists. Plus, if you like working with pallet wood, this tool is one of best ways (among 5 others) of removing pallet wood.

DeWalt Corded Reciprocating Saw

 

Did I miss any power tools that you find a necessity? Any tools that you’ll be adding to your wish list?

DIY Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Today I want to share with you my new workshop configuration that has a DIY Table Saw Stand and a collapsible out feed (or work) table. I’ve struggled for years to find a workbench that meets my need to spread out while building and assembling projects. And I wanted this table to act as an out feed table for my table saw. I’ve looked at many options, but ultimately I needed something that could collapse and store away quickly in case we needed to park our car in the garage (for ice storms, hurricanes, tornados, or blizzards.)

At first I was impressed with Ron Paulk’s plans for a portable workbench that could be disassembled. But, I didn’t have the time to take on another build project. I wanted the instant gratification of having a work table immediately. Around the same time I purchased an investment house and started looking at folding work stands that could transport back and forth to the job site. That’s when I realized I could have my cake and eat it too. I could use a collapsible work stand both in my garage and at the job site.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Best of all, there was no building required for the out feed table, and minimal building for the table saw stand. If you are looking for a similar set up, stick around and I’ll show you how to make your own table saw stand and out feed table in an hour or less!

DIY Table Saw Stand

Materials:

(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.)

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Cut List:

  • 2 shelves – 3/4″ plywood cut to 20″ x 24″
  • 2 leg supports – 2″ x 4″ x 17″
  • 2 shelf supports – 2″ x 2″ x 24″
  • 2 top supports – 2″ x 2″ x 21″
  • 4 legs – 2″ x 4″ x _?*

* The height of your saw stand legs will be determined by your saw and table heights. I recommend doing a little math and check it with a ruler. (Take the height of your out feed table subtract the height of your table saw. Now subtract 3/4″ for your plywood thickness from this measurement. This is the height your table saw stand legs need to be cut. If you want to be precise, you can subtract an additional 1/8″ and use shims under the table saw to get the perfect height.)

Instructions:

Start by drilling two pocket holes into the ends of the 4″ face of your 2″ x 4″ x 17″ leg supports.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Connect two table legs by driving 2½” pocket hole screws into the 17″ leg supports as shown below. Repeat for the other side.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Pre-drill one hole into each end of the 2″ x 2″ x 21″ top supports.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Connect the two leg assemblies with the 2″ x 2″ x 21″ top supports using two 2 ½” wood screws as shown below:

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Repeat for the other side. Your table base should look like this:

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Trace the legs on each corner of one of the 3/4″ plywood shelves.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Cut out the corner leg shapes you traced.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Place the shelf in between the leg assemblies. (I made the mistake of trying to add the shelf after adding the shelf supports.)

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Pre-drill holes at the ends of the 2″ x 2″x 24″ lower shelf supports.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Secure the lower shelf support 1 ½” up from the base of the table saw stand with two 2 ½” wood screws per leg.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Place the bottom shelf on top of the lower shelf supports. Then center the top shelf on top of the base and pre-drill holes around the perimeter. Place one screw at each corner and four in between the corners.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Drive 2″ wood screws into the plywood top.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Set your table saw on your new stand. Use shims to raise the table saw and level if needed.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Slide your table saw stand up to the out feed table and start making some sawdust!

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Collapsible Out Feed Table:

As I mentioned earlier, I was looking for a set up that could collapse easily should I need to pull my car into the garage. That’s how I discovered the Centipede collapsible work table. The Centipede is lightweight but strong, especially when you lay a sheet of plywood on top to distribute the weight.

It’s incredibly easy to set up as you can see from my Facebook Live video I took when I set up the Centipede for the first time:

After setting up the Centipede (which took less than a minute), I laid a  4′ x 8′ x 3/8″ PVC sheet on top of the Centipede for a work surface. The choice to go with the PVC sheet was two-fold. 1) I wanted something that was lighter weight than a piece of plywood (to keep things simple when I’m working on my own). 2) And the second reason I chose the PVC sheet over plywood was to have a nice smooth and clean surface for photography. So far the PVC works great. It has a few scratches on it now, but still works well as a back drop.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

After using this set up all summer, I only found one drawback. The 3/8″ PVC sheet is stable but has some flex in it, so I can’t necessarily hammer on it without some bounce. But, I also purchased a large sheet of rigid foam insulation to use for cutting into when using a circular or track saw. I may try to put the rigid foam insulation sheet under the PVC sheet and see if that helps. Of course, I’ll have to raise my table saw a little, but it would be worth it to have a more stable surface.

Table Saw Review:

If you have an eagle eye, you may have noticed that there are not power cords coming from that table saw! That’s because, it’s a DeWalt FlexVolt Cordless Table Saw. DeWalt sent the tool to me to review and I honestly didn’t expect to like the saw as much as I do. I have been using the saw for over a year now and I LOVE IT! It’s completely portable so I can bring it with me on job sites. There are no cords, which frees up valuable electrical outlets in my shop.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

The saw is definitely quieter than my old table saw. I love that the blade stops very quickly when the red stop button is pushed. (This could potentially reduce the severity of an injury, but not prevent it all together.)

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

The cuts it makes are very precise and smooth. Although it is battery powered, I haven’t noticed a difference in power between the FlexVolt and my corded table saw. I’ve used it to cut through plywood, pressure treated lumber and masonite. The only difference I have noticed is the blade will spin a little slower when the battery is almost drained. It won’t continue to decrease speed, instead when the saw senses the low battery it won’t allow you to continue making cuts without charging the battery.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

You can keep an eye on the charge on the FlexVolt batteries by pressing the button on the charge indicator. I do recommend purchasing two FlexVolt batteries so you can always keep one charged. The length of time this saw will run on one battery is unbelievable. I expected much less out of the battery life, but I cut an entire pantry’s worth of plywood and still had plenty of juice left for another project.

DIY Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Off Feed Table

This little set up is working out perfectly for my small shop. The DIY Table Saw Stand has storage underneath for extra blades, batteries and for the GRR-RIPPER 3D Push blocks (that I highly recommend for use with any table saw. They have changed the way I work with my table saw for the better.)

Let me know if you have any questions in the comment field. I’m happy to answer them.

Table Saw Stand and Collapsible Out Feed Work Table

Disclosure: The Dewalt FlexVolt Table Saw was sent to me for product review. I was not told what to write or paid for my review. 

Must Have Gadget to Remove Stripped Screws | Pretty Handy Girl

You know the frustration of trying to drive a screw that won’t go any further. Then you find you can’t remove it because the head is completely stripped. Or worse, you come across a screw that is stripped and you can’t remove it. If the rubber band trick won’t work, this is the Must Have Gadget to Remove Stripped Screws that will help you remove a stripped screw in two simple steps.

Removing a Stripped Screw with Speed Out | Pretty Handy Girl

This gadget is called Speed Out. It was sent to me for a product review three years ago. Believe it or not, I haven’t needed to use it until a few weeks ago. I was trying to replace a door knob in our dining room and I was met with a stubborn stripped screw. This screw wasn’t going to submit to my rubber band trick.

Instead I resorted to the Speed Out.

Removing a Stripped Screw with Speed Out | Pretty Handy Girl

The Speed Out is a kit with four double-sided drill bits. Select the bit that best fits into your screw head.

Removing a Stripped Screw with Speed Out | Pretty Handy Girl

Use the drill bit (the end that has two cut outs in it) first to grind out the damaged screw.

Removing a Stripped Screw with Speed Out | Pretty Handy Girl

Set the drill bit into the center of the screw and drill into the head. The goal is to have a smooth conical shape in the screw head.

drill-screw-center-out
Next flip the bit over and use the screw extractor bit (the conical threaded end) to slowly remove the screw. It’s important to keep firm pressure and the drill should be set to spin counter clock-wise.

Removing a Stripped Screw with Speed Out | Pretty Handy Girl
For my stripped screw, it began to extract and then stopped. I had to flip the bit and drill the center smooth a few more times to be able to fully extract the screw. But, ultimately it worked.

blank-door-no-knob

This small gadget has earned its place in my toolbox for those emergencies when I need to remove a stripped screw.

You can order your own in one of two ways: 1. Directly from the Screw Out direct website or 2. Order the Screw Out kit on Amazon for cheaper (affiliate link.) Be forewarned there are mixed reviews on Amazon, and apparently you can’t get the lifetime warranty if you order any where other than the Screw Out website. I’ll leave it up to you to decided which you prefer.

Removing a Stripped Screw with Speed Out | Pretty Handy Girl

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Disclosure: This is a product review. I was not paid to mention the Screw Out gadget. I was sent one to use at no cost to me. (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.)

Table Saw Safety Guidelines | Pretty Handy Girl

I’m really excited to introduce this Rockstar DIYer today. Nick is an extremely talented woodworker who is as passionate about his projects as he is his tools. Nick is the lead over at The Sawdust Maker. You will learn a variety of woodworking tips and tricks on his blog, so be sure to check it out and follow along as he builds some amazing things. Nick is here today to talk to you about Table Saw Safety and Guidelines to follow that will keep you and your fingers safe.

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I hear that table saw buzzing away, I think Nick is ready to kick up the sawdust and make some noise! Put your hands together for The Sawdust Maker!

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Friends, it’s Nick from over at The Sawdust Maker! A site devoted to helping others take their woodworking skills to the next level. While I am in the middle a joint series on my website, I wanted to take a minute to talk to you about table saw safety.

The table saw is the most used tool in my shop. It also happens to be the most intimidating tool for most beginners to use. So lets get a grasp on these basic safety guidelines to follow.

Before we dive into this, I want to urge you to find your table saw manual and read it. Wait, what? Yes people… actually read these things. It will cover the basic safety rules as well as any safety features specific to your saw.

Now, before you turn your saw on, do the following:

  • Make sure you’re not wearing loose fitting clothes. This doesn’t mean you need to wiggle into your skinny jeans… just make sure nothing is accessible for the blade or work material to catch.
  • If you are wearing long sleeves, roll them up past your elbow’s.
  • Keep shirt pockets free of items.
  • Remove any jewelry.
  • Wear non-skid, well fitting shoes… last thing you want is to slip or trip into the blade!
  • If your hair is long, pull it up into a ponytail.
  • Wear ear and eye protection.
  • Don’t operate while tired or under the influence. Keep those creative juices for your design process!
  • Unplug your machine and do the following:
    • Visually check your saw for damaged components:
      • Check the power cord
      • Check the Blade
        • Look for Gum or Pith on the blade, clean it if it is dirty.
        • Check the carbide and make sure it isn’t chipped or missing teeth.
        • Keep it sharp. It is a lot cheaper than replacing them and will help keep those burn marks down!
      • Check to make sure that the guards, splitter, riving knife are in place and free of damage.
    • Check the alignment of the fence, ensuring it is parallel with the blade. A quick reference is to line it up with the t-slot and visual check to see if it is aligned.
    • Ensure the blade is tight.
    • Check the belts for excessive wear.
    • Check the alignment of the splitter/riving knife.
    • Is there enough room around you for the board you are wanting to cut? There is nothing more annoying than getting part way through a cut and realizing that you don’t have enough room to finish the cut!

First

Now we are almost ready to cut a board! Here are some things to keep in mind when stepping up to the whirling beastly hunk of iron. Read more

santa-wishlist

It’s the final days before the big guy packs up his sleigh and starts delivering presents to all the good little girls and boys. You’ve been good this year, right? This year I’m asking Pretty Handsome Guy Santa for a few things, but these are the gifts that I’ve received in the past that are my absolute favorites. Feel free to share them with the “Santa” in your life. You can send him or her a link to this post and let them know which number(s) you want. We’ll just pretend it was their idea ;-).

For the Workshop:

1. The Makita 10-Inch Dual Slide Compound Miter Saw with Laser was my Mother’s Day gift one year and by far this is my baby in the workshop. After 5+ years it still cuts like butter and is the one tool I’d cry over if it was stolen.

2. A PORTER-CABLE Orbital Jig Saw – years ago, I was given a jigsaw for Christmas that just didn’t cut it. Literally, the blade would bend and refuse to cut through most wood. It felt like a toy tool compared to this MacDaddy. This jigsaw can cut through just about anything I put in its way!

3. The Black & Decker Folding Portable Work Bench was a gift from my father decades ago! It sat in a box waiting for me to open it for 3 years. When we finally moved into a home that had a workshop I opened it up and it has been my BFF ever since. It’s the perfect clamping station and is a portable spot to work on projects. I like to set it up in our driveway for sanding. It’s also the perfect height to help guide long lumber through the table saw.

4. Speaking of Table saws, if you own one, the GRR-RIPPER 3D Pushblocks are absolutely the safest way to push your wood through the saw. Hands down (pun intended) the GRR-RIPPERs have changed how I use my table saw for the better.

5. Dremel MM30 Multi-Max Oscillating Tool This little powerhouse is my desert island tool (well assuming I have access to electricity.) This is my favorite tool to grab for cutting and sanding. It was a life saver when I was renovating my kitchen. From cutting through nails to cutting notches in studs, this tool has the power and precision to cut through a multitude of materials. Plus, the detail sanding head is great for small sanding jobs. Grab this one quick, they are selling out on Amazon quickly!

6. Rockwell 3RILL 3-in-1 Impact Driver Despite it’s 12 volt battery, this impact driver, drill and driver is my go to drill. It packs a lot of power in a smaller drill that is easy to hold and fits in a woman’s hand. The lithium battery lasts and lasts. Finally, the quick release hex chuck holds tight to drill bits and driver bits. This is my little green machine.

7. HomeRight EZ Twist Paint Stick I’ve painted almost every room in both my homes. I had tried many painting gadgets and always returned to the original edger and roller I’ve owned for over a decade. But, all this changed this past year when I tried the HomeRight EZ Twist Paint Stick. It literally cut my painting time in half! Plus, it eliminates the hazard of stepping in the paint tray (which I’ve done too many times to count.)

8. 3M TEKK WorkTunes Hearing Protection These ear protection muffs make remembering to use them in the workshop easy. I love hooking up my iPhone to the WorkTunes to listen to podcasts or music while working. The only problem is that we only have one pair which leads to a few battles when Handsome Guy wants to use them while mowing the lawn and I want to use them at the same time.

9. 3M Tekk Lightweight Safety Glasses – Having protective gear that is comfortable to wear is important. These safety glasses are so lightweight and comfortable that I often forget I have them on. The clear sides give full peripheral views. They are inexpensive which makes them perfect for a stocking stuffer ;-).

10. Tomboy Tools Magnetic 13 oz. Hammer I rarely buy tools specifically made for women because they don’t normally live up to my tough standards. But, this hammer is an exception. The hammer is lightweight, but still strong enough to get me through framing walls in our kitchen. It is perfectly weighted and has a shock absorbing handle. The magnetic notch on the head allows you to rest the nail and set it with one swing over your head. Best of all, because of its color the guys won’t run off with it. And, it’s easily spotted on the job site.

11. Duluth Women’s Work Gloves – Finding work gloves that fit a smaller woman’s hand and don’t slip around are important to me. These work gloves fit like a…well…like a glove. They are padded for comfort and the fingertips are reinforced on all sides (the place most other gloves fail.)

duluth-women-work-gloves

For Your Wardrobe:

1. Women’s Crosscut Performance Flannel Shirt – Have you ever wanted to spend the day in your pajamas because they are just so darn comfy? This flannel shirt is exactly like wearing your PJs all day! I own two of these crosscut flannel shirts now because I would wear them every day if I could. Recently I figured out how to dress up my flannel shirt for church.

duluth-plaid-shirt

2. Plaid Military Cap This is my go to hat for bad hair days. The hat is lined with a satin lining and has a comfortable fit. I have a small head, so finding a hat that fits my youth sized noggin is huge! If you order this hat and you have a regular size head, order up a size.

duluth-plaid-hat

3. Buckle Payton Boot Stretch Jeans – Can we get a little personal here. I’m curvy, and I have a hard time finding jeans that a) won’t wear out in the thighs b) won’t ride so low they leave me with a muffin top. These are my favorite jeans. They look hip, but not too young. And I own two pairs that I wear almost daily. The price point is decent and they don’t accentuate my blogger butt. I’ve paid three times as much for a pair of jeans that ripped after only a year. When I die I want to be buried in these jeans!

buckle-payton-jeans

4. PHG “I Saw Too Much” T-shirt – This is by far my favorite shirt that I designed. The Alternative Apparel shirt is lightweight, but not at all flimsy. It’s definitely a flattering cut on a woman. The same graphic is also available on a mens’ shirt. Oh hey, look! I’m wearing my favorite hat, jeans and shirt all in one photo! I told you I love them.

I Saw Too Much funny DIY shirt | Pretty Handy Girl

5. Merrell Women’s Leather Encore Slip-On Shoe Life is too short to walk around in cute and uncomfortable shoes. If you can’t tell by now, I’m all about the comfort over fashion. I am also lazy and despise taking an extra few minutes each day to tie and untie sneakers. For that reason, these are my favorite shoes. They feel like slippers, but have non-slip soles and leather exteriors. Merrell makes several slip on shoes in the Encore line. It’s up to you which style you like best!

merrell-slip-on-leather-shoes

For Your Picture Taking Abilities:

1. Canon EOS Rebel T5 SLR Digital Camera Pack If you are still holding out on buying an SLR camera, don’t wait another day. I have an older Canon T1 Rebel camera that I bought four years ago. It is amazing the difference it makes in my photography! Case in point. The picture on the left was taken with my point and shoot, and the right with my Canon Rebel T1 a few years later. The colors are more vibrant and the photo has a lot more depth. And the details are more crisp.

Boy's Red, White & Blue Themed Room | Pretty Handy Girl

AfterShot

The Canon T1 is no longer manufactured, but if you see a used one grab it! I have bumped my camera more times than I can count. (Hello, I’m a DIY tutorial blogger, it happens!) I have purchased a few lenses (a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and aCanon EF-S 10-18mm Wide Angle Lens) for my camera but have kept the same body.

2. Lightscoop Standard Version Bounce Flash – If you are trying to save money on photography equipment consider buying a Lightscoop instead of a camera mounted bounce flash. This little gadget clips onto the shoe for your flash and simply reflects the flash light onto the ceiling (or wall if you have your camera pointed sideways. I still don’t own a bounce flash and use this little guy a lot!

3. Induro AKB1 Tripod Believe it or not, this three legged creature has saved many a rainy day photoshoot! Plus, it let’s me take better selfies. If you finally upgraded to a SLR camera, you really need a good tripod. Indoor photography is tough without one. This is the tool that lets you get beautiful pictures in darker settings without having to raise your ISO (which can result in grainy photographs.)

4. August Blossoms Camera Strap Technically this strap won’t improve your photography skills but it will safely hold your lens cap in the pocket and distinguish your camera from others that look the same. If you’ve ever been to a blogger event, a lot of us have the same camera. And personally, I think the cloth neck strap is a lot more comfortable on my neck.

august-blossom-camera-strap

For a Better Night Sleep:

1. Savvy Rest Serenity Layered Latex Mattress If you’ve been an exceptionally good kid this year, why not ask for this mattress. You can tell Santa that you’ve reached the age where you need a good mattress that will last well into your retirement and beyond (20+ years.) We’ve been sleeping on our Savvy Rest mattress for a year now and I have to warn you that if you get one you won’t want to leave home anymore. I am so eager to get home and sleep in my own bed anytime I go away. I sleep much better and my hips and back thank me every morning.

A DIY Mattress?! How I Chose a Savvy Rest Mattress | Pretty Handy Girl

2. Talalay Latex Foam Pillow This is the same pillow I’ve had for over 15 years! You’d think a 15 year old pillow would look flat and shapeless. And it would, except this pillow is a latex foam pillow and has the exact same shape as the day I bought it. For what it’s worth, I’m a side/stomach sleeper.

 

For Helping You Wake Up:

1. Jonathan Adler On the Go Coffee Mug This is my absolute favorite coffee mug. It fits in any cup holder. It keeps my beverage warm for a while. The fitted lid means less spills. And let’s be honest, it looks stylish!

2. Hamilton Beach 2-Way FlexBrew Coffeemaker I call this the marriage saver because I really wanted a Keurig to make quick cups of coffee. But, Pretty Handsome Guy prefers to make a pot of coffee in the carafe. I like mild coffee and he likes high octane coffee! When I saw this baby, I bought it immediately and now our marriage is saved!

I hope you found something to ask Santa for. Or you saw something to get as a last minute gift!

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Disclosure: I was not compensated by any brands to write this post. These are my honest to goodness favorite things I own. In full disclosure, some of the links above are Amazon affiliate links.