Author Archives: Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner

About Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner is an artist, writer, and sawdust-maker living and making messes in Columbus, Ohio. He's the editor-in-chief of the DIY home decor community, and the founder of, a craft, art, and design site for guys. Follow him on Twitter: @ManMadeDIY. Or check him out on Google+!

5 Ways to Give a New House Architectural Charm

Interior Architectural Details to Add Charm - Old House Exterior


Most homes built in the U.S. these days are done by developers. Which can be great: contractor-built homes are energy efficient, contain the latest features and technologies, and look brand new! But, depending on your taste, that brand-new look can be awesome… or totally bland.

So if you want all the benefits of contemporary living but prefer an old-home feel, check out these tips on adding some architectural details to give a new house lots of character.
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Bit of Knowledge: Choosing the Right Drill Bit for the Job

Drill bits are designed to do one thing: make holes in stuff.

That is, except when they are intended to drive hardware, or sand wood, or, well… it’s not as simple as buying a set from the hardware store and havin’ at it.

So here is my breakdown on common bit types, with advice on how to choose the right drill bit for the task you’re planning to tackle.

How to Choose the Right Drill Bit - Types

(From left) Brad-point bit, twist bit, countersink bit, Forstner bit. Photo: CGardner

1. Brad-point bit: This is a fluted bit with a special spur on the tip, which inserts itself into wood and keeps the bit firmly in place, allowing you to drill a clean entry hole. Generally coated in titanium, brad-point bits remove waste efficiently and make speedy work of jobs requiring a high degree of detail.

2. Twist bit: This standard “kit” bit has a cutting point and, like the brad-point, is fluted to remove waste. Though by far the most common type in this discussion, the twist bit is actually meant to drill into metal at slow speeds; use it wisely in household DIYs.

3. Countersink bit: Designed to create a tapered pilot hole or countersink for flush screw heads, this guy can save you loads of time. Stock up!

4. Forstner bit: Boring precise, flat-bottomed holes in wood, Forstner bits create the cleanest finish you can get with holes greater than a half-inch, but they’re better suited for drill presses than hand drills, as they require considerable force to be applied when removing waste material.

How to Choose the Right Drill Bit - Types 2

(From left) Spade bit, hole saw, countersink cutter, sanding drum. Photo: CGardner

5. Spade bit: Also called “paddle bits,” these are geared toward rough boring in wood. Since the cutters are so large, spade bits facilitate drilling large holes and are the right choice if you’re running wires, cables, or pipes that won’t be seen.

6. Hole saw: Used for making fairly large holes in sheet goods and other thin materials, hole saws work faster than Forstner bits, removing only the outer perimeter with their saw teeth (rather than the entire waste of the hole). Buy a quality mandrel and several sizes of hole saw to use on the same chuck hardware.

7. Countersink cutter: Occasionally necessary for atypical hardware (in cases where the countersink bit is inappropriate), this type of bit creates a steep chamfer for the purpose of countersinking hardware.

8. Sanding drum. Different from the other bits in this roundup in that it doesn’t produce a hole, the sanding drum is installed into a chuck to smooth out curves and other non-planar shapes at high speeds. Essential in my toolbox, these often come in kits and last… forever.

For more on woodworking, consider:

How To: Drill Straigh 90º Holes
10 Ways to Use Your Cordless Drill/Driver
5 Ways to Get Perfect, Clean Cuts in Plywood

10 Creative Uses for Chalkboard Paint

To the surprise of no one, chalkboard paint is exactly as it sounds: when you use it to paint a wall, that wall becomes a chalkboard. Got it? Got it.

Except chalkboard paint can be used on virtually any surface, not just on walls. Here are ten clever, creative uses that can transform all sorts of items in your home.

Chalkboard Paint DIY - Dresser

Photo: Scott Hawkins for

An old dresser becomes a well-organized sideboard with clearly labeled closed storage for the dining room and kitchen. This trick would work equally well in a kid’s room as a way of teaching young ones how to put away laundry.

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5 Things to Do with… String Lights

String lights are always associated with the holidays, but what if you use ‘em in April or September? Well, they look just as great, adding a bit of whimsy and fun wherever they’re strung. Now that every store on Main Street is offering string lights for at least 50% off,  it’s the perfect time for snagging several boxes to keep around all year long.



String Lights DIY - Paper Lanterns


You can buy paper lantern string lights at any discount store, but they look like… paper lantern string lights you bought at a discount store. This DIY version may take a little more time, but the results are amazing and would make for a great project to do when you’re, like me today, stuck inside due to a snowstorm.



String Lights DIY - Lanterns


As temporary or permanent as you want it to be, this string lights solution from Etsy seller Treasure Again uses mason jars and wire collars for a dreamy effect out of doors.



String Lights DIY - Headboard


This DIY project from Better Homes and Gardens puts bunched-up string lights into a square frame built from inexpensive lumber. If you’re looking for something with a little less weight, string lights behind a sheer curtain work equally well.



String Lights DIY - Romantic Lantern


This project from’s own Kristina combines string lights and a recycled wine bottle for some seriously subtle mood lighting.



String Lights DIY - Light Up Letters


Because of their length, you can arrange string lights in whatever shape you please. The example above would work well in a kitchen…

String Lights DIY - Light Up Letters 2


… or you could whip up your own custom marquee-style letter light!


For more creative DIY project ideas, consider:

5 Things to Do with… Globes
5 Things to Do with… Mason Jars
5 Things to Do with… Vintage Ladders

How To: Store Holiday Lights, Decorations, and Accessories

How to Store Holiday Decorations - Holiday Lights


I’m one of those who believes you can never have too many holiday decorations. A tree dripping with ornaments? Love it. You want a yard full of inflatables? Go for it. A house covered in lights that sync to your own radio station? I’ll definitely stop curbside to take it all in.

What about the other ten and a half months, when all that holiday-related stuff needs storage? Big box stores will be happy to sell you bins and other containers. But with a little planning and ingenuity, you can create your own DIY solutions that will work just as well.

How to Store Holiday Decorations - Carboard Boxes

String Lights
Face it, you’re never going to get those strands back in the box they came in. So save your gift and shipping boxes and make your own storage panels. Just cut a slot on either side of the cardboard, stick the plug in one, wrap the lights around the center and secure the end in the opposite slot. In a larger box, you can store all your string lights vertically. This approach also works for garlands, beads, and other long, tangle-prone decorations.

Wreaths and Garlands
Insert into a heavy-duty garbage bag, then store by hanging on a wall in a garage or basement (or even under the stairs). Your wreath or garland won’t get crushed, and you’re free from having to spend extra money on a unitasker.

How to Store Holiday Decorations - Wrapping Paper

Photo: Flickr / frankfarm

Wrapping Paper and Supplies
Store wrapping paper rolls in that unused space at the top of a closet—its ceiling. See how Frank created this smart storage solution using only anchors, screws, and some galvanized wire. You can keep ribbon smash-free in the closet, too, with a tie hanger.

Plastic Cups for Christmas Ornament Storage


Hang onto gift and shipping boxes and use them to store tree ornaments. Delicate glass and ceramic pieces can be stored in reused tissue paper or packaging materials. Egg cartons or the apple/pear bins you can get at membership discount stores make for excellent bulb storage. Alternatively, you can hot-glue clear plastic cups to cardboard sheets, placing the sheets into a larger bin for a zero-risk solution.

Everything Else
Once you’ve got everything stashed away and protected, consider building one of these sliding storage systems to take advantage of your previously unused garage ceiling space.

For more on storage, consider:

Optimize Your Attic Storage
10 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutions
Bob Vila Radio: Holiday Decoration Storage

5 DIY Spice Racks and Kitchen Organizing Solutions

They didn’t offer shop class in my high school, so I came to my love of power tools and sawdust well after I graduated college. (My dad owned a drill from the 1970s and six random bits.)  But, if I had, I’d like to think I would have made myself a spice rack—that classic first woodworking project.  Especially now, because I need one.  Badly!  Sure, my spices and dried herbs are all in matching jars and labeled properly, but they always seem to be jockeying for position inside my cabinets.  And, I can never see them at a glance to know what I have or how fresh they are.

So, this month, I’m going to build one for myself and take inspiration from all the great DIY ideas that homeowners have come up with and shared around the ‘net. Here are five of my favorites:


DIY Spice Rack - Test Tubes


This DIY test tube spice rack is a great use of easily sourced materials with a big impact. For those without a huge shop of tools, it can be built in an afternoon with just a plywood bamboo strip, a drill, and rubber o-rings to float the test tubes in holes. Genius.


DIY Test Tubes - Soda Crate


If you’re kitchen is filled with other antiques or rustic pieces, using a found piece can make for an attractive, attention-grabbing spice rack. Kate from Discover.Create.Live built this one from a vintage Coca-Cola crate.  You can find all kinds of cool boxes, trays, and storage pieces at flea markets and antique malls. And, since you can source glass jars in nearly any size, you can customize a perfect solution!


DIY Spice Rack - Under Cabinet


My friend Amy lives in a small NYC apartment, and needed a super space-saving solution. So she created this gem by purchasing some magnetic tins (available at the kitchen supply store) and securing them to the underside of her cabinet with the cheapest of all pre-cut and safe-edged metal strips—two 12″ rulers. Get the full how-to at Old Sweet Song.


DIY Spice Rack - Cabinet Door


If you can sacrifice the first two inches of space inside your cabinets, a back-of-the-door spice rack, like this one, will provide the ultimate organization. Joe Provey provides the complete tutorial at DIYLife. I’m 90% sure this is the direction I’ll be taking.


DIY Spice Rack - Cardboard Organizer


And don’t forget—going horizontal is always another option. Fake-It-Frugal came up with this no-cost solution by recycling cardboard packaging into an in-drawer spice and seasoning organizer.  Find out more here.


Have you seen or made any creative DIY spice racks or kitchen storage solutions? Let us know in the comments below!

For more clever storage solutions, consider:
Get Organized: 20 Clever Ideas for Repurposed Storage
7 Easy Ways to Boost Bathroom Storage
10 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutions

6 Unorthodox DIY Christmas Trees

Nothing beats a fresh-cut, pine-smelling Christmas tree that’s been decorated with care….

Unless you’re an allergy or asthma sufferer who can’t live with the spores and histamines. Or you’re an apartment dweller with no room for a full-fledged blue spruce. Or maybe you’re like me and, in your house, one tree is never enough!

This year, whatever your motivation, have a go at making your own non-traditional Christmas tree. Here are six amazing examples, all created from supplies you can pick up at your local home center.



DIY Christmas Tree - A Merry Mishap

Photo: A Merry Mishap

This light tree is nothing more than a few strings of basic miniature lights that have been strung back and forth between small pins. The effect? Amazing.
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7 DIY Pantry Hacks and Kitchen Storage Ideas

Don’t miss Recipe for Success: 10 Easy DIY Kitchen Storage Hacks

No matter the size of your kitchen, you probably wish it had more storage space. And since the choice to remodel isn’t one to take lightly—in fact, the kitchen is the most expensive room in a house to renovate—sometimes we have to settle for smarter storage rather than more.

Here are seven DIY ideas for staying organized, using space more efficiently, and cleverly customizing your kitchen to meet the demands of your lifestyle:



DIY Kitchen Storage - Tension rod shelf dividers

Photo: Martha Stewart

Take advantage of taller pantry shelves and try using curtain tension rods as support dividers for sheet pans, cutting boards, and serving ware. Learn more at Martha Stewart.



diy kitchen storage sliding storage rack

Photo: Classy Clutter

Mallory devised this genius kitchen storage storage: a custom-built storage rack for canned goods that slides into that sliver of unusable space between the refrigerator and the wall. Visit Classy Clutter for the full how-to.



DIY Kitchen Storage - Under-Sink Organization

Photo: Tattertots and Jello

Jennifer spent a day attacking the “no man’s land” of miscellany under her kitchen sink, ultimately winning the battle with exceptional organizational savvy. Her (highly recommended) tips include repackaging and labeling cleaning products so they fit side by side. Many of these techniques would work in the bathroom as well. Find Jennifer’s tips and get free downloads at Tatertots and Jello.



diy kitchen storage - closet storage racks in kitchen cabinets

Photo: Family Handyman

The team at Family Handyman show you how to install pre-made closet racks within your cabinets for storage of canned goods and other pantry staples.



DIY Kitchen Storage - Measuring Tools Organizer

Photo: Infarrantly Creative

The number one problem in my own kitchen? Finding the right measuring spoon or cup when I need it. Becky figured out a creative solution to this common annoyance by mounting measurement tools on—get this—paint stirrers inside her cabinet door. Nice.



DIY Kitchen Storage - Pantry Shelves

Photo: The Life of CK and Nate

Cassandra and Nate totally tricked out their walk-in pantry with DIY storage shelves made from MDF and plumbing pipe fittings.



DIY Kitchen Storage - Moldings Turned Glass Holders

Photo: Family Handyman

Finally, check out this wine glass holder made from T-molding (originally designed for wood floor transitions). Just cut it to size, space evenly, and hang.


For more DIY storage and organization ideas, consider:

20 Clever Ideas for Repurposed Storage
5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry
5 Upcycled Pot Racks and Cookware Storage Ideas

5 DIY Farm Table Projects That Will Last a Lifetime

Farm tables are those warm, rustic surfaces that draw inspiration from the original harvest tables found in American homes of the 18th and 19th centuries. Rather than being built by skilled and trained artisans, farm tables were assembled from large and rough planks of fir. Their construction valued sturdiness and utility over detail and refinery. Today, farm tables can bring a sense of antique charm to any home, complementing matched chairs and contemporary benches alike. Here are five DIY farm projects to inspire your next act of handyman prowess.


DIY Farm Table Projects - Domestic Imperfection

Photo: Domestic Imperfection

This table and bench by Ashley, Adam, and Keith of Domestic Imperfection is most representative of the style, featuring solid breadboard ends and a warm, rich stain. Created using dimensional lumber readily available from the home center, the appealingly stout table still fits in an average-size dining room.


DIY Farm Table Projects - East Coast Creative

Photo: East Coast Creative

Similar to the previous example, though designed and built on a large scale, is a DIY farm table project from East Coast Creative, which includes some intentional distressing to enhance the antique look. The table top attaches to an existing base, making it possible to build this project in a single weekend.


DIY Farm Table Projects - American Woodworker

Photo: American Woodworker

This DIY farm table project from American Woodworker opts for turned table legs and aprons that result in a more refined, traditional look. (If I were building a farm table, this would be my choice of design.)


DIY Farm Table Projects - Our Vintage Home Love

Photo: Our Vintage Home Love

If all that dark wood is too heavy for your space, take a tip from Our Vintage Home Love and go for a painted base with a new, wide-planked top.


DIY Farm Table Projects - Creature Comforts

Photo: Creature Comforts

Last is the least woodworking-intensive farm table, courtesy of Ez at Creature Comforts. Built from pre-cut 2 x 8 boards and IKEA legs, this smaller version is ideal for apartment dwellers or others with small spaces, to place in a breakfast nook or use as a kitchen table.


For more DIY projects, consider:

5 “Make in a Weekend” DIY Bookshelf Projects
9 DIY Headboard Projects to Suit Any Bedroom
6 DIY Standing Desk Projects to Keep You Healthy While You Work

9 DIY Headboard Projects to Suit Any Bedroom

I tend to think of headboards as the sort of thing that only real grown-ups own.

When you’re a 20-something who moves a lot and is still working with hand-me-downs, your bed might just be a box spring and a secondhand mattress atop a basic steel frame—with a whole bunch of pillows (’cause the bed might also be your couch, dining table, and home office). But if you’re not a starving young adult or transient student, it’s probably time to grow up.

Here are several DIY options to fit all sorts of budgets and design or material preferences.


DIY Headboards - Round Top Headboard

Round-Top Headboard. Photo: Lowe's Creative Ideas

This basic wood option is simple to construct from dimensional lumber. With its wood-construction details and unfinished surfaces, the headboard hits on a trendy, rustic vibe.
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