carpentry, homesteading, tools, wood working

Rainy Days Are Not Just For Movies

We have all been there.  The forecast calls for rain all weekend, and there are a million things that need to be done outside.  You just feel like throwing up your hands and sitting in the house all day, but thing are a little different around here.  A rainy day is an opportunity to have a little fun and get things accomplished at the same time!  Maybe straighten up the garage a little, or even get a little shop time in with no time limit.  It is not very often that you can turn on the music and take all day to do a project.  Especially not in the spring, summer, and fall.  So we took on a little woodworking project you can build on a rainy day and on a budget.  The Adirondack chair, iconic the symbol of country living, and camp fires.  We built this one for around $50, which is about 1/3 of what you can buy one for.

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This project was built out of 6 pieces of 5/4″ x 6″ x 8′ decking.  We also used 2″ and 2.5″ decking screws.  We used a few basic wood working tools that most of us have in the shop like a table saw, jig saw, router, and screw gun.  We have developed a cut sheet to maximize our lumber, so Pandora radio was turned on and all of the boards were cut to length.

 

We prefer our Adirondack chairs built at an 80 degree angle this is a little different than the traditional 75 degrees.  It allows you to sit back in the chair a little more comfortably.  Because of this we also have to cut the bottom of our legs at a 5 degree angle.  We also like a contoured seat which requires an arch to be cut in the stringers.  The stringers and arm rests also have rounded ends that can all be cut with a jig saw.

 

Once we have all of the jig saw work done we round over the rough edges with a 3/8″ round over bit on our router table. This gives the stringers and arms a finished look.  As you can see in the picture on the right, the arms get one end that is rounded and the other is only half rounded.  We also round over all of the edges that were ripped on the table saw, it is time consuming, but worth the extra effort.  We then move on to  assemble the stringers, front brace, and legs.  After that, the back is assembled.  To make the arched top, we mock up the back and make an arc with a radius of 19 inches.  Again we round over the cut edges. After the back is assembled it is connected to the stringers at the rear of the arches we cut earlier.  It is placed at a 100 degree angle.  This is crucial to the chairs comfort, using a protractor to get this angle.

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Now that the back is attached it is a good time to secure the seat slats, and because they are only 1.5 inches wide it is best to pre-drill your holes or they will split.

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Then add the middle back brace, locating it by placing the arm on the chair temporarily, and marking where they meet the back.  These braces are cut on an angle to accept the arms.

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After this, the arms can be secured along with the arm braces.

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We also add our own signature feature, a wine glass holder.  We have broken so many glasses throughout the years that it only made sense to find a way to secure them.  We accomplished this by drilling a 1″ hole in the arm and then use the jig saw to connect it to the outer edge, again route the edges.  Once everything is secure, it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

This project took us just a little over 3 hrs, but I am sure it could be done quicker if we were in a hurry.  This chair will actually be raffled off to raise money for a fund in memory of my Aunt.  It was a great way to spend a rainy morning, and we couldn’t be happier with the results.  A rainy day can be so productive weather it’s in the wood shop or making that great meal that you never quite have the time to make.  So next time it rains, don’t curse the heavens, just change up your game plan.  And don’t forget rain makes corn.

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carpentry, farming, firewood, gardening, homesteading, tools, wood working

Tools Make The Homestead

When we think about homesteading we always think of images of chickens and fall harvests.  We rarely see pictures of the tools that make homesteading possible.  No two homesteads are alike, and neither are their tools.  What makes homesteading great is that you get to do it your own way.  You can choose your own land and what crops you will grow,  but most importantly you get to choose or make your own tools.  This blog is a tribute and an introduction to the tools we use on our homestead.  Hopefully it will give you a few new ideas about what to use around your homestead.

The Chainsaw

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This is one of the tools that we can’t live without.  It brings us warmth and Christmas trees.  Its uses are endless, especially in places where power cords can’t reach or in an emergency.

 

 

 

When we first started our homestead and decided to burn wood for heat, we realized quickly that we would need a chainsaw.  Initially we started with a box store bargain, but it only lasted a short time.  The next purchase was the largest saw the box store had to offer, but we had a similar experience, it didn’t last. We knew it was time to ask the pros. Knowing that we cut 10 cords of wood a year, we knew we needed something reliable. We went to our local Huqvarna dealer and he helped us select a saw that would fit our needs. We settled on a 365 special because it was a saw we thought we could handle, but can also get the job done.  After 7 years, and still running strong, it has not missed a beat. We try not to spend a lot, but in this case, we learned that you truly get what you pay for.

The Homemade Apple Press

On our homestead we have 7 apple trees, and once they started producing we knew we wanted to make cider so we needed an apple press. We looked into buying one, but they were too expensive, so we made our own plans using an inexpensive Harbor Freight bottle jack to apply the pressure.  Later on when we planted the vineyard, we were able to use the press for wine making.  This tool works well and brings us plenty of joy.  There is nothing like drinking your own fresh pressed cider (or wine!).

Antique pencil sharpener

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Whenever I use it I am reminded of our grandfather’s shop.  I think it makes me work just a little harder to make him proud. No other explanation needed.

 

 

 

 

Small Tractor Supply Trailer

 

This trailer has served so many purposes of the years it’s hard to remember them all.  It was initially purchased to allow our older son to mow lawns.  It has hauled everything from lumber to pigs.  We built a removable rack to keep the pigs on board.  It is the versatile workhorse of the homestead.

The Antique Crock

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This old school tool makes great food and looks good too.  It is one of the few tools we display in our living space. It makes wonderful sauerkraut and dill pickles.  We can not imagine the homestead without it.

Solar Electric Fence Charger

When we decided to keep honey bees, we needed to keep bears out.  After a lot of research we decided on a high voltage charger that was big enough to zap a bull.  This was one of the few times we went right for the best tool first.  It wasn’t cheap, but it has never let us down.  It has saved us money on the electric bill,  and has enough capacity to fence in our pigs as well. It is a Parmak Magnum 12 Solar Pak Fencer and was well worth the $250 we spent on it.

Mowers and Tillers

After years of small front tine tillers and shovels a few years ago we upgraded to a good used rear tine tiller.  We were so happy to not feel like our arms are ripping off every spring.  Used tillers are very reasonable especially around Christmas time.  After years of different riding mowers, this Fall we upgraded to a lawn tractor.  We won it at an auction and it came with a snowblower, tiller, and a mowing deck.  It is an old Simplicity and we could not believe the difference it made.  It does everything well and has a hydraulic drive and lift to make work easy.  By far, its best feature is the tiller.  I can see us expanding our garden with this monster.  We could never afford a new compact tractor, but this used beauty suits our needs.

The Simple Tools

These provide us with heat and nourishment. We always choose durable items like cast iron, composite handles, and ball canning jars. In our house we have a saying “nothing bad ever comes out of the dutch oven”, and to this day, that remains true.

The Green House

img_2602This is our first year with the green house, but we already have cold weather crops like kale and lettuce growing in it.  It is unheated, but we can see that changing in the future.  This $300 dollar investment should pay big dividends in delicious vegetables.

 

 

Maple Syrup Evaporator

This is a tool that may actually pay us back one day.  When we first started making maple syrup we made it in a small pan over a fire.  It took a very long time to boil the sap down into syrup.  During this time we always dreamed of having a real evaporator, but their price always put them out of reach for us.  Last season we were able to get a good deal on a real maple syrup pan from a friend.  We found this old tank in a junk yard and after a year of planning and welding we had made our own evaporator. At 1/4 the cost of a manufactured one, it is the little engine that could.  It makes the most delicious maple syrup.

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The Farm Stand

 

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This simple stand started as a way for our son to make a few extra bucks, but now that he’s older it allows us to recoup some of the money we spend on seeds.  It is so much fun to chat with people when they stop by to make a purchase.  We also enjoy how cute it looks on the lawn when you drive by.

The things that keep us sane

Just like everything else here on the homestead, the hot tub serves more than one purpose.  It is also our onion and garlic drying rack, and potting bench.  It is our favorite place to go after ice fishing in the winter.  Our solar pool heater allows us to extend the swimming season by 3 weeks on either end and is incredibly cheap to run.

As you can see, tools make the homestead an efficient and happy place.  They are our constant companions.  We would be lost without them.  They are more than just tools they are part of us.  Every year we add more and more of them.  Which naturally leads us to a future blog, where to store them.  Time to build a bigger shed.

carpentry, gardening, homesteading, wood working

How To Build a Greenhouse Bench For Under 20 Dollars

On our homestead, we are always looking for ways to save time and money. This project did both.  Last fall I received the best gift a gardener could ever hope for, a green house.  It was a 6’x8′ un-heated greenhouse from Harbor Freight.  Before the snow began to fly, we built a base and assembled the greenhouse.  We even made a short youtube video covering the construction.

Once it was assembled, we realized that we would need to build benches for our plants.  The benches needed to be sturdy and inexpensive.  We looked at many designs on the internet, but they were either made with expensive materials or looked cheaply made.  We put the bench idea on the back burner for the winter.

Most homesteaders know that when a project needs to be done, you look around your property, in your sheds, garages and barns to see what materials you have. An idea struck me when I saw a pile of used 2″ x 4″s just waiting to be re-purposed for a project like this.  I picked them up and brought them over to the area where I was boiling down sap to make maple syrup.  Now I could kill two birds with one stone.  Boiling sap can be boring, so this project was a perfect distraction.  I quickly sketched up some plans and began to make sawdust.img_2284

There were only 7 of the 2″ x 4″s  so to make them go further I ripped 3 of them in half to make the center slats and spacers.  I made the spacers the same size as the top of the legs 1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ so that the bench had symmetry.

I also cut the long outside boards on a 45 degree angle at the corners to give the bench a more finished look.  I started putting the table together by screwing one long side and two of  the short sides together at the corners using 2-1/2″ construction screws.

The next step was to begin screwing and stacking in the slats and spacers.  We secured them with the same type of screw we used for the corners.  We were careful to use temporary spacers in the corners where the legs would eventually go.

 When all of the slats were stacked we added the last outside board to the bench.

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It was then time to put the legs on.  We attached each leg using 4 large lag screws.  We also used a square before screwing them down to make sure they were positioned properly.  These screws were also re-purposed from a prior project.

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Once the legs were secured we added a small stretcher between them made out of a ripped piece of 2″ x 4″.

Finally our project was finished and we now had a nice sturdy bench to put our plants on.

The bench was made so that it would fit perfectly inside the base of the green house.  We designed it this way so that we could secure it to the walls with screws to avoid tipping.  It was a tight fit but it made it, just as planned!

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The whole project took less than 2 hours to complete.  And because we had re-purposed all of the materials, the only cost was our time and effort.  The maple sap wasn’t even done boiling by the time we finished.  This greenhouse bench was the perfect homestead project.  It was low cost and will pay us back with all of the vegetables that it will help start.  On the homestead you never know where your next inspiration will come from.  Often it’s an article in a magazine, or something we see on the internet, but sometimes it’s just a simple pile of 2″ X 4″ s.

firewood, homemade, homesteading, wood working

A Lesson in Wood Shavings

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On a cold February day,  my son Luke and I set out to make an ax handle. In the process, we received an unexpected lesson.  In a world with Home Depot and Amazon, we give little thought to buying the things we need.  The things we need are always at our fingertips, or at most a short drive or two days shipping away.  However, there are still a few things out there that you can’t get by just clicking a button and a handle for an old ax is one of them.  So we took a page out of our ancestors book, and when we needed something we made it from what was available.  The ax was special to us, as it had belonged to an older gentleman that had lived near us.  When he would walk by our house he would sometimes stop and talk and we always listened.  One time while we were splitting wood he stopped and told us all about how he used to split wood just like we were doing. As sad as we were about his passing, we happily purchased the ax at his estate sale along with a few other of his prized items.  The ax was small with a short handle. It split well, and was easy to carry along in the woods.  The day it broke, we were crushed,  so on this cold February day, we set out to make something truly homemade.  In the garage, we found a scrap piece of black walnut that was the right size.  We began by tracing the shape of the old handle onto the walnut.  We also added a center line for reference.  We clamped the wood in the vise, and went to work with our old draw knife,  also acquired at an estate sale.  It became apparent that this was not going to be a quick job, and as the work went on, I began to think of how much more careful our ancestors must have been with their tools.  When an errant swing could cost you a half a day of work, I bet you focus a whole lot harder on your task.  We also knew that the next time we used this ax we would have the same type of focus.

As the wood peeled off with each stroke of the draw knife, and the shavings piled up on the floor, the handle slowly took shape.  We often paused to hold the handle, because how it felt in our hands was important, and how it felt became just as important as how it looked.  We could imagine our ancestors doing the same, since this was a custom piece made to fit only our hands.  It was now our tool, not some generic thing from Lowe’s.

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The more we worked, the slower we went. We put so much time and effort into getting the handle to take shape that we wanted it to come out perfect.  This was another lesson in craftsmanship that has been lost today.  As we painstakingly carved the handle to fit the ax head,  my son Luke came up with a great idea to put a spent casing from our rifle in the handle, now the ax would most certainly be one of a kind.

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In the end, we hand-crafted a beautiful ax handle, that we will never forget making.  We also found that we had a greater appreciation for our forefathers, and how hard they worked for simple things.  It was nice to take a break from today’s world, escape the “screens” for a few hours, and do something that felt worthy of our effort.

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