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Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make a Snow Sled

Whether you're planning on tackling bunny hills or serious slopes this season, there's a DIY sled built for the ride. Check out these five favorites, and get ready for your next snow day.

Mere days away from the official start of winter, we’re eagerly anticipating some of the activities that only snowy weather affords. At the top of the list? Sledding. We’ve always loved the simple thrill of coasting down a hillside, and introducing children to the experience is magical. While sleds of all sorts are readily available for purchase, creating your own can be a test of ingenuity that’s fun for all ages. Scroll down to see five favorite DIY sled designs now!



DIY Sled - Ikea Hack

Photo: instructables.com

Can you believe this DIY sled used to be an IKEA stool? We’ve seen IKEA hacks before, but this one might take the cake. Perhaps most impressive is how it uses every piece of the IKEA stool—plus a few 3D-printer-generated plastic parts! Though it may not be a family-friendly project, it’s certainly an inspiration to turn a creative eye to furniture you already have on hand.



DIY Sled - PVC

Photo: instructables.com

No fancy-pants parts needed here. PVC plumbing pipes, low-cost and readily available, combine (via nuts and bolts) with half-inch plywood to make a DIY sled that, at least according to its creator over on Instructables, steers better than the molded plastic variety you’ve likely seen on the slopes in the past. Give it a try!



Build Your Own Pallet Sled

Photo: instructables.com

Wood shipping pallets have so many great qualities. They’re free of charge, ubiquitous, and endlessly versatile—and they also happen to come preassembled as sled-like platforms. Armed with basic tools, a competent DIYer needs to make only a few strategic modifications to complete the job. For best results, sand the contact points and add paint to reduce friction.



DIY Sled - Cardboard

Photo: designboom.com

Ah, cardboard—a classic makeshift sled material, right up there with cafeteria lunch trays. With a sleek profile made possible and fortified by packing tape, this enclosed toboggan features extra layers of cardboard at its base, strategically positioned there to keep the sled from getting soggy too quickly. Smart.



Photo: builtbykids.com

Among the countless creative projects over on Built by Kids, we found this rather ingenious approach to a DIY sled. Incorporating scrap wood, hardware, a wheelbarrow bucket, and kid-length skis, the design seems destined to pick up speed, while the rope handle makes it easy to pull the sled behind you.

Bob Vila Radio: Bleach + Vinegar = Toxic

Power tools can be dangerous, but so too are combinations between common household chemicals. Do you know which substances not to mix?

When I talk to homeowners about safety, the discussion often centers around using tools and ladders and so forth. But there are a lot of other ways you may be injured in your home, and one of them is by mixing the wrong chemicals.

Bleach and Vinegar

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS or read the text below:

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t mix bleach with ammonia. That’s true. It produces vapors that can damage your lungs and possibly even kill you, especially if you’re in a confined space.

Add this combination to the “don’t mix” list: bleach and vinegar. When combined, they give off a chlorine vapor similar to the poison gas used against Allied troops in World War I. Bleach shouldn’t be combined with toilet bowl cleaners, either; that combination can also produce toxic fumes.

Finally, steer away from combining highly acidic products with products that are highly alkaline. Mixtures of the two can cause serious chemical burns if they come into contact with your skin.

Before using any household product, it’s best to check the label. Potentially harmful interactions are often listed there.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How Does Radiating Heat Operate 25% More Efficiently?

Although it still seems newfangled to many homeowners, radiant floor heating has not only been around for a while, but it also offers an attractive combination of comfort and savings.

Photo: warmboard.com

Most people assume radiant floor heating costs a fortune. Perhaps that’s because, compared with radiator or baseboard heat, radiant systems are rare. But there’s reason to suppose that in the years to come, radiant heating may enjoy much greater popularity, at least in new construction or homes undergoing renovation, because of its potential to save homeowners money on monthly heating bills. According to a recent study conducted by Kansas State University in conjunction with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), a radiant system can operate 25 percent more efficiently than a forced-air system. So in a sense, the technology benefits from being the new kid on the block, as it seeks to improve in areas where traditional systems stumble.


Photo: homelinkmag.com

Heat loss occurs through uninsulated walls, attic, or basement space, and also through gaps in windows and around exterior door frames. In traditional heating systems, heat loss can also occur within the system itself, with heat dissipating on the journey between its source (i.e., the furnace) and the home’s conditioned space. In a forced-air system, such heat loss occurs most of all in ductwork, where even misaligned joints can leak to a considerable degree. To maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, therefore, the furnace must work harder and consume more energy to make up for the lost heat. With radiant heat, heat loss isn’t an issue, so you don’t have to pay for the system to work overtime.



Photo: warmboard.com

If you’ve ever walked into a heated room, you know that it’s warmest directly next to the radiator, baseboard, or heating vent. The farther you venture from the unit, the more likely you’ll feel the need to turn up the thermostat. By contrast, radiant flooring does not create pockets of warm and cool air; it distributes warmth evenly across the entire room. Neither too hot nor too cold, you remain comfortable enough to leave the thermostat in the money-saving range. Another advantage of even heat distribution: You can place furniture wherever you want, instead of carefully arranging things around the radiators, baseboards, or vents. In other words, radiant heat allows for design freedom, whereas many traditional systems place limits on your options.



Photo: soa.utexas.edu

Not every radiant heating system maximizes homeowner savings. Yes, the system design alone, no matter the individual components, offers advantages. But the individual components in a radiant system can make a big difference too—and that’s where the products offered by different manufacturers begin to diverge.

In a typical radiant heat setup, hydronic tubes (or electric coils) are embedded within a slab of gypsum concrete, a material that, in its sluggishness, is not perfectly suited to home heating. First of all, it takes a long time to heat up, and homeowners tend not to appreciate the wait. Second, concrete very slowly releases any heat it has gained, so if a homeowner decides the temperature has risen too high, his quickest, most effective recourse is to open the windows to bring down the temperature. That doesn’t sound so terrible, but where savings are concerned in home heating, efficiency counts—and opening windows in winter is the opposite of efficiency!

Warmboard offers innovative hydronic radiant heat panels that hinge not on concrete, but on highly conductive aluminum. Conductivity translates into savings in two ways. First, because the aluminum so effectively transfers heat from the hydronic tubes in the panels to the living spaces in your home, the boiler can heat the water to a lower temperature than other systems would require. Second, you can turn the thermostat down—for instance, when you go to sleep for the night—and when you raise the heat upon waking up, the change registers in minutes. There’s nothing new about adjusting the thermostat, when possible, to save money. But unlike many of its competitors, Warmboard lets you capitalize on the latest energy-efficient technology without forcing you to sacrifice tried-and-true methods.


Photo: warmboard.com

This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

The Right Way to Dispose of Batteries

The next time replacing the batteries in an appliances leaves you with a couple spent ones in your palm, you might wonder, "what do I do with these now?" The answer isn't always straightforward. Read on to learn how to properly dispose of all the different types of batteries you might have in your home.

How to Dispose of Batteries

Photo: shutterstock.com

Just think about how many different types of batteries exist. From non-mercury alkalines to lithium-ion rechargeables, there are more than enough options to complicate any seemingly simple trip to the convenience store or home center. Making things even more difficult is that for each type of battery, there’s a different recommended disposal method. Why? Because batteries contain metals and other chemicals that, improperly treated, can be hazardous to the environment. While some batteries can be tossed out with your regular trash, others require special care. For help determining how best to dispose of the batteries you’ve got, continue reading!


Photo: shutterstock.com

General-Purpose Batteries
In California, it’s illegal to toss any type of battery into the trash. In all other states, however, general-purpose batteries—that is, non-mercury alkaline batteries—can be included with your regular garbage. Most single-use (nonrechargeable), general-purpose alkaline batteries produced after 1996 contain no mercury; Duracell phased out mercury back in 1993. Note that for safety reasons, it’s best not to trash more than one battery at a time; if multiple batteries, each with a little juice left, come into contact with one another in a trash can, they might create a spark that ends up starting a fire.

Recycling options for non-mercury alkaline batteries remain limited, though many local governments offer collection points. Check with yours to find out whether there are any such services in your area. If not, you can always rely on something like the iRecycle Kit from BatteryRecycling.com. The smallest kit, which enables you to mail in five pounds’ worth of batteries, costs $29.95.

Mercury-Containing Batteries
Some batteries contain heavy metals—mercury, lead, cadmium or nickel—that can be hazardous if improperly disposed of. Today, only certain types of batteries contain heavy metals:

Alkaline mercury batteries: Prior to 1996, alkaline batteries were manufactured with mercury. Though production has ceased, such batteries can still be found stashed in junk drawers.

Mercuric- and silver-oxide batteries: Often found inside things like watches and hearing aids, these “button cell” batteries contain high concentrations of heavy metals and acid-based components.

Heavy metals are no trivial matter; leave their disposal to the pros. In many neighborhoods, regular collection is available at a specially designated facility. Contact your city or town hall for the details.

Rechargeable Batteries
Used in everything from cordless power tools to digital cameras, rechargeable batteries have become fairly easy to recycle, thanks to a nonprofit organization. Call2Recycle has helped to bring more than 30,000 drop-off sites to North America. To find the site nearest you, simply call 1-877-2-RECYCLE or use the online locator. The following types of rechargeable batteries are accepted: nickel-cadmium (NiCd), lithium-ion (Li-ion, or LIB), small sealed lead acid (SSLA/Pb), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and nickel zinc (NiZn). Recycling not only safely controls heavy metals, but also puts many components back to work in the manufacture of new batteries.

Handle with Care
When disposing of any battery, no matter its type, observe these safety measures:

• Leave the battery packaging intact; do not break the battery open. Doing so constitutes a fire, health, and environmental risk.

• Never burn batteries. When their chemical contents come into contact with fire, the batteries can explode, sending shrapnel flying.

• Wrap dead, expired, or unused batteries in a nonconductive material (for example, packing tape) and keep them away from moisture.

Before & After: A Cozy Reading Nook from Scratch

Faced with an awkwardly sized staircase landing, this blogger transformed what had become a "drop spot" into a real destination.

DIY Reading Nook - Before and After

Photo: turnrightatlakemichigan.com

Update a 114-year-old, 1,200-square-foot Dutch Colonial to meet the needs of a young family? Challenge accepted, said lifestyle blogger Tabatha Muntizinger. But she would do it, in her own words, “without sacrificing any fun or creativity.” With two children and seven pets, Muntzinger—the creative force behind Turn Right at Lake Michigan—decorates in a style that both celebrates and is honest about life as it’s lived in under her roof. Earlier this year, when she set out to redecorate a staircase landing, she eschewed the more formal sitting area for a cozy, family-friendly reading nook. This time of year, we can’t help but dwell on the design details that make a house a home, so we asked Muntzinger for details on how the project came together.

The reading nook fits so snugly into a landing at the top of your stairs. What had been there before?
The space at the top of the stairs was the result of a dormer window. It was incredibly deep—big enough for a twin bed, for sure—but… there wasn’t much purpose for it. For the longest time, we had filled it with some side chairs and a small end table. But over time it just became a really fancy place to leave random things. And then later you’d return to find a cat sleeping on top of those random things.

DIY Reading Nook - Framing

Photo: turnrightatlakemichigan.com

Why build a window seat?
When we bought the house, I had always envisioned a window seat in the space. I’ve been in love with the idea of one since I was a kid. At one point, my parents toured a house with a window seat, and they didn’t end up buying the house, but I can still remember what it felt like to curl up and feel the sun shine on me. As our family grew, I realized the landing should be functional for all us. The idea for the nook was that it would become a communal space where I could sit and share my love of reading with my kids in a fun yet practical way.

Did the project involve learning any new skills?
I’d certainly never cut up a mattress before or sewn a custom-shaped cover for one…. And this was actually our first foray into using some of Ana White’s DIY plans. To build the reading nook, we actually modified her instructions for making a storage daybed.

DIY Reading Nook - Close Look

Photo: turnrightatlakemichigan.com

So many clever ideas went into this. Which aspect are you most proud of? 
Probably the cushion. The challenge was to come up with a seating solution which wouldn’t need constant readjustment and which would be comfortable for up to four people. So I started with the cheapest foam mattress sold by IKEA (it was far cheaper than upholstery foam). After cutting it down to size, the next step was to design a cover that would look good but still be completely washable—because, hi, small children and multiple pets. This was the first time I’d sewn something that I’d completely made up in my head. Luckily, it all turned out so much better than I’d hoped.

What advice would you share with someone who wants to make something similar?
Measure twice, cut once! Also, you’ll probably want a cushion that’s twice as thick as the one you start out thinking would be sufficient.

DIY Window Treatment - Awning

Photo: turnrightatlakemichigan.com

What do you enjoy most about the reading nook?
Finding my kids curled up on it, on their own, reading from their “library.” That’s exactly what I’d hoped for—to create a fun, practical space for them to fall in love with books and build their imaginations.

How has this makeover changed how your family uses the space?
It’s not just a catchall anymore; it’s truly a gathering place for the family, as we go through the routines of our days. I sit there to braid hair and help brush teeth and fold laundry. I sometimes even sneak there myself, after bedtime, to write blog posts or read. It’s also pretty safe to say that the animals all enjoy it, too. All in all, the window seat has become a wonderful communal space for everyone to lounge and enjoy the simple things—like, each other. Plus, whereas we used to shove linens wherever they’d fit, we now have fantastic storage for extra pillows, bed sheets, and spare blankets.

DIY Reading Nook - Storage

Photo: turnrightatlakemichigan.com

Bob Vila Radio: Replacing Shingles the DIY Way

So long as you're comfortable working on the roof, you can replace a missing or damaged shingle on your own, saving the cost of hiring a contractor. Here are a few tips to help you get the job done right.

If you’ve got a broken shingle or two on your roof, it’s easy to repair the problem yourself. Most home centers sell shingles in small batches. Just take a broken shingle with you so you can pick a close match.

Replacing Shingles

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING SHINGLES or read the text below:

Once safely on the roof, gently nudge a pry bar, its full length, under the three tabs in the row of shingles just above the damaged shingle. Then use the claw on the pry bar to remove the nails you see under the tabs.

Do the same for the next row of shingles, the one that’s just above. Once you remove those two rows of nails, you’ll be able pull out the damaged shingle. Next, slide the new shingle into place and fasten it with six roofing nails, one under each of the tabs you loosened.

To finish off, squeeze a dab or two of roofing cement under the tabs of the new shingle, plus under all the tabs you loosened at the start. Apply a little pressure to ensure the tabs make solid contact with the cement.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Never Shovel Snow Again After This One Improvement

If you've grown sick and tired of shoveling snow time and time again through the long winter months, perhaps it's time to consider the next best thing to a driveway that shovels itself.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Though winter’s worst storms are likely yet to come, many homeowners around the country have already had ample opportunity to grow tired of shoveling snow. After all, it’s a tedious, time-consuming, back-breaking chore, one that’s regrettably unavoidable in cold climates. But wait—is it truly unavoidable? No. There is another way, thanks to an innovative snow-melting system that enables equipped driveways and walkways to automatically melt away accumulated snow on their surfaces.

Manufactured by SunTouch, the ProMelt line of heating cables and mats operates similarly to radiant-heat flooring installations. The system heats from below, and because it’s specially designed for use outdoors, the electric heat works to melt away not only powdery snow, but also stubborn ice. The cables “are generally activated by special snow sensors,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com. That means, once the snow begins to stick, the system can automatically click on. You don’t have to think about it if you don’t want to, but “manual controls are often an option as well,” O’Brian confirms.

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Manual control can you help you minimize the operating cost of a heated driveway and/or walkway. It’s difficult to estimate the seasonal expense involved, because, as O’Brian points out, “electricity rates and the severity of winter storms change from location to location.” In addition to the cost of operation, there’s also the initial investment to cover the components and their installation. O’Brian notes that snow-melting systems are ideal for new home construction, or for homeowners who plan to install a new driveway or walkway. “Retrofitting them is virtually impossible, unfortunately,” because the mats must run under or within the paving.

ProMelt snow-melting mats range in size from 2′ x 5′ to 2′ x 56′; prices start at $190. Customizable configurations allow them to be used with the majority of today’s popular driveway and walkway materials—concrete, asphalt, pavers, and tile among them. Installation methods differ somewhat from material to material. Beneath pavers and stone, for instance, the mats are set into the substrate sand. In concrete, the mats are affixed to wire or rebar that’s suspended into the middle of the pour.

ProMelt mats rely on oxygen-free copper heating elements and are made to be flexible and long lasting. Thermoplastic insulation guards against corrosion and temperature resistance, while a tough polyurethane outer jacket adds further protection against chemicals and abrasion. Though the mat configuration facilitates installation, in certain outdoor configurations it may be preferable to use “loose” heating cables, as these can be worked around bends and other such obstacles. Both types are available through SupplyHouse.com, and both can be handled by contractors or ambitious DIYers.

This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

How To: Clean a Chimney

Do-it-yourself chimney cleaning enables ambitious, capable, and well-equipped home handymen to save hundreds of dollars annually.

How to Clean a Chimney

Photo: shutterstock.com

Some homeowners are so drawn to the fireplace that they ignore the mess and hassle that accompany its operation and maintenance, not to mention its notorious energy inefficiency. What cannot be ignored, however, is creosote. A gummy, foul-smelling byproduct of combustion, creosote builds up gradually and can become a very real fire hazard. According to some estimates, dangerous accumulations of creosote contribute to about a quarter of house fires. Though most people opt to hire certified specialists for the job, you can clean a chimney yourself, assuming you’ve got the right tools and are completely comfortable working on the roof. Here’s how.

How to Clean a Chimney - Brush Isolated

Photo: shutterstock.com

Spread out a plastic tarp or painter’s drop cloth to protect the floor surrounding your fireplace. Next, proceed to remove ash and stray bits of wood from the firebox. Once it’s free of loose debris, go ahead and open the damper. At this point, it’s crucial to isolate the fireplace from the rest of your living room. Using thick plastic sheeting and quality tape, seal the front of the fireplace completely, without any gaps in the seal. Cut corners here, and later you may be  left with fine dust coating all your furniture!

You need a set of goggles that form a dependable seal around the eyes. If you try to make do with run-of-the-mill protective eyewear, you may be risking a trip to the doctor. In addition, you’ll need a quality dust mask, a few different types of chimney brushes, and a sturdy ladder that can get you on the roof.

If you have no experience doing work on the roof, this isn’t the time to learn. Call a chimney sweep. Many of the most dangerous DIY projects take place on the roof; proceed with extreme caution!

Remove any hardware obstructing the top of the chimney, be it a chimney cap or animal guard, then get down to business with the largest-diameter chimney brush in your arsenal. Brush from the top down, working your way toward the smoke shelf—the flat area located in the “crook” behind the damper. Take your time and do a thorough job. When you’re done sweeping the flue, replace the hardware you removed, ensuring that all fasteners are properly secured. Make your way safely down the ladder.

Allow some time for the dust you’ve upset to settle into the firebox. After the waiting period has elapsed, peel apart a small opening in the taped seal you positioned over the firebox. Using a smaller-diameter chimney brush, reach through the opening and scrub as far up into the chimney as the brush can reach. When you’re finished, cover up the fireplace again, and let any additional dust fall onto the floor of the firebox.

When you peel back the plastic sheeting, do so slowly and deliberately. Stirring up soot would mean having to deal with a mess that’s even larger than the one already awaiting you. Another word to the wise: Be sure that no one opens any exterior doors, which would allow a sudden draft to send dust and ashes all over your living room carpet and furniture. The simple act of opening a door would defeat the purpose of having so painstakingly confined the dust and debris behind a plastic membrane. Move the sheeting carefully out of the way, then use a shop vacuum to clear the firebox. You may need to empty the vacuum midway through the job, depending on the machine’s capacity.

Additional Tips
Chances are you’re not eager to clean the chimney again anytime soon. Though creosote inevitably builds up over time, you can slow its accumulation by using only properly split and seasoned firewood. Also, steer clear of the slow, smoky, and smoldering fires that create creosote especially quickly. To avoid these sorts of fires, always provide adequate air to the fire. This practice encourages hot, clean-burning fires that generate the least creosote—in other words, the types of fires that will help keep you off the roof for as long as possible.

Bob Vila Radio: Is There a Leak in Your Gas Fireplace?

No mere annoyance, the sound coming from your gas fireplace may signal something serious.

Gas fireplaces have been showing up in more and more homes the past few years. They’re clean, easy to use, and add a nice ambience to the home. A drawback, however, is the noises they sometimes make.

Gas Fireplace Noise

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON STOPPING NOISE FROM GAS FIREPLACES or read the text below:

If you hear a popping noise when the burner’s on, it may indicate that there are small leaks around joints in the burner assembly. To test for leaks, first turn off the burner. Once the ceramic logs have cooled off, remove them from the firebox.

Next, mix a bit of liquid detergent with water and pour it into a spray bottle. Turn the now-exposed burner assembly back on and look for any small bursts of flame that appearing around joints. If you don’t see any, try spraying a little detergent mix on the various joints and fittings in the burner assembly. If you see bubbles, you’ve found the leak.If the leaks are around a joint in the assembly, use a wrench to gently tighten the fitting.

If you can’t find a leak—or the leak you find appears to be a hole in the assembly itself—you’ll want to call in a pro. Gas leaks are serious business and need immediate attention.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Genius! DIY Gramophone

If you're looking to buy a modern gramophone speaker, prepare to pay a pretty penny. Or save and make your own, like this industrious maker did.

DIY gramophone

Photo: instructables.com

Vintage lovers will probably love this throwback-looking iPhone speaker set. Designed to look like a gramophone but designed to amplify songs straight from your phone, this project marries the best of old and new tech.

We spoke to the maker, Bryan Bales, to find out how long this stunning project took him to complete. “I made the gramophone over the course of two weeks, usually in the evenings after work, but most of that time was waiting for glue to dry, paint to dry, and lacquer to cure. Actual work was between 5-10 hours, but that includes designing on the fly, troubleshooting, over-analyzing, and working slow,” he said.

But does the sound quality pass muster? “With the box empty, the sound isn’t great. It’s amplified, but the box/chamber acts as band-pass filter for the mid-frequencies. I’ve experimented with different chamber configurations (think bass box in a car), paths or mazes (think Bose wave radio), as well as varied amounts and configurations of fiberglass insulation. My best result thus far, has been with a terry cloth shop towel inside the box—just loose, not folded. I have more ideas to try and I’ll be adding a video of the results to the Instructable.” 

The project gave him some surprises. “The glue up didn’t play out as envisioned… I had hoped the top would automatically keep the sides square, but the glue acted as lubricant so the sides were sliding around and I was getting gaps at the corners… If I were to do it again, I’d try two separate glue ups—sides first with clamping squares, then the top.”

Check out his how-to below!

-poplar 1×8
-copper elbow
-wood glue

-table saw
-drill press
-oscillating belt/spindle sander
-orbital sander


DIY Gramophone - funnel

To make the horn, I needed a fitting to hold the funnel at an angle and I decided on a 1 3/4″ 45 degree copper elbow. Using the bandsaw, I cut the funnel off at a point where it just fit into the copper elbow. The cut was cleaned up and the fit fine tuned on the orbital belt sander. I also roughed up the plastic with sandpaper so paint would adhere. The copper elbow was bonded to the funnel using two part epoxy.


DIY Gramophone - Cutting the Box Parts

The resonator is nothing more than a box with mostly mitered sides made from Poplar. Box joints would look pretty cool I think, but I don’t have a jig for cutting those … yet. Dovetails would be awesome. Even pallet wood and butt joints would look cool for that rustic feel.

Since the 1″ x 8″ was too wide to cut cleanly on the miter saw, I used a large crosscut sled to cut rough lengths. The sides were then ripped to rough width.


DIY Gramophone - Rabbets

The bottom panel is a removable piece of hardboard attached with a few screws. The reason for this is so I can experiment with dampening materials and/or acoustic chambers.

In order to accept the recessed hardboard, I cut a rabbet into the bottom of each side panel.


DIY Gramophone - cutting the side miters

The side miters were cut on the table saw using a miter sled. I used a stop block when cutting the final length to ensure the opposing sides were equal.


DIY Gramophone - cutting the top miters

The top miters were cut on the table saw using the rip fence. I also decided to employ a method I saw Jimmy DiResta use, which was a splined miter joint. Not only do they assist alignment during glueup, but they also strengthened the joint.


DIY Gramophone - glue up

Thanks to the splined miters, gluing up the sides was achieved with a band clamp. The top however, wanted to slide around a bit, so I added a few vertical clamps and one horizontal clamp across the middle to prevent any bowing.


DIY Gramophone - drill for horn

In order to hold the horn, the top of the box needed a 1 3/4″ hole to accept the copper fitting. I used a forstner bit and drilled down about 3/8″, which is half the board thickness.

We need a through hole for sound, but we also need a shoulder to support the copper fitting. I switched out to a 1 3/8″ bit, which gives us a 3/8″ shoulder. Location of this hole is up to you, but just be mindful of your side thickness. You can see I marked 3/4″ in from the sides so I could avoid any mistakes.


DIY Gramophone - iPhone

To cut the slot for the phone, I used a trim router with an edge guide. The width of this slot, and therefore the diameter of bit used, will depend on the width of your phone. I personally went without a case for a minimalist look and a 3/8″ straight bit did the job. For depth, I went about 3/8″-1/2″ deep.

Just like the horn, we need a through hole for the sound, but shoulders to support the phone. I used the locations of the speakers to determine this layout. I then marked these stop points with a forstner bit.

As before, location of this slot is up to you, but just be mindful of your side thickness. I chose my location solely based on visual appeal.


DIY Gramophone - Corner Splines

I wanted to use corner splines for decoration, but they also add strength to a miter joint. Internal and external miter splines… this box is solid.

To cut the slots, I used my shop-made spline sled, which is based off of the Eagle America jig. 1/8″ strips of red oak were ripped on the table saw, cut into triangles on the bandsaw, and glued in place.

Once the glue was dry, the excess was trimmed off using the bandsaw.


DIY Gramophone - Sanding

The corner splines were sanded flush using the Oscillating Bent Sander, sides and top sanded with an orbital sander, and the sharp edges of the box eased by hand.


DIY Gramophone - oiling

Finishing was rather simple. First, use one coat of 50/50 boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits to enhance the natural wood grain and coloring. Then add several coats of lacquer. Do wet sanding with 400 grit wet/dry paper. And end with some renaissance wax followed by buffing.


DIY Gramophone - copper patina


I’m too cheap to buy a metal horn… that doesn’t mean I can’t make a horn that looks like metal. If you know the price of Sculpt Nouveau finishes, you’re probably yelling “you idiot” at the computer screen. Normally, I would agree with you, but I purchased these finishes for custom drums. Side projects like this are just a bonus in my mind.

Anyway, the funnel was prepped with a coat of plastic primer. Next was a coat of a copper metal coating.

The horn looked great at this stage, but I wanted that green patina on mine. To achieve this, I misted on Sculpt Nouveau’s patina solution while the third and last coat of metal coating was wet. I then stuck the horn in an upstairs closet to let humidity aid the process.

Once I was happy with the level of patina, I sprayed on a few light coats of lacquer to seal in the finish.

1. The patina will smear/rub away if you touch it… trust me.
2. The lacquer did reduce some of the patina—dissolved some of it basically. That was a bit of a bummer, but still a pleasing result nonetheless.

DIY Gramophone - finished

To learn more and see more pictures, visit this tutorial, and see even more projects from Bryan Bales right here. Or