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3 Fixes for a Dull Knife

If your knife smooshes your tomato instead of slicing it, your cutlery clearly isn't cutting it. Read on to learn how to fix up a blunt blade and keep your knives sharp—and yourself safe.

How to Sharpen a Kitchen Knife

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No matter how you slice it, a dull knife just won’t cut it in the kitchen. Working with a blunt blade both slows down your food prep and increases the risk of injury as you try to overcompensate with each slice—a practice that’s both frustrating and dangerous. But, before you can sharpen a kitchen knife, you first need to determine why it’s dull. Typically, the blade either has a bent edge or is blunt from use, and each issue calls for a different solution. Fortunately, for every cutlery conundrum, there’s a “cutting-edge” solution. We’ve rounded up three smart fixes that will keep your blades sharp and your edges straight.


How to Sharpen a Kitchen Knife - With a Whetstone

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Carve It In Stone
When dealing with a blade worn down from months of meal prep, turn to the preferred tool of professional chefs: the whetstone. Also called a sharpening stone, this long, rectangular block is made from composite stone with a coarse grit on one side and a fine grit on the other. As the knife rubs against the stone, bits of the metal blade are ground off to produce a new, sharper edge.

To use a whetstone, first soak the block in water for 15 minutes, then place it on a towel with the coarse side up. Hold the knife at a 20-degree angle to the whetstone and slide it across, pulling the blade toward you, so that the blade’s tip through its heel (the base of the knife) come into contact with the stone. Continue for 12 strokes on each side of the blade, then flip the stone over. Repeat the same process on the fine-grit side. While this hands-on sharpening technique takes practice to perfect, the good news is that your knives need to be sharpened only a few times a year.

Electric sharpeners offer an easier, automatic process using the same principles, but they also remove a tremendous amount of material from the blade and ultimately shorten the lives of your knives. If you own an expensive knife set, electric sharpeners could cost you more in the long run. That’s why the whetstone is the way to go: This manual method allows complete control over the amount of metal removed.


How to Sharpen a Kitchen Knife - With a Steel Rod

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Straighten Up for Clean Cuts
Unlike a whetstone, a honing steel should be used regularly to straighten, rather than sharpen, your knives. Bent edges translate to dull blades, which will cause problems on the cutting board. The ridges along the length of a honing steel work to straighten the edge of a knife by gently pushing it back into place.

To hone a knife, take the cutting utensil in your dominant hand and hold the steel’s handle in the other. For maximum control, place the tip of the steel on a cutting board, and position the heel of the knife against the top of the steel with the blade facing downward at a 20-degree angle. Then draw the knife down the rod in an arcing motion so that, by the end of the arc, all of the blade—from the heel to the tip—makes contact with the steel. After the first pass, repeat the motion on the other side of the steel (again holding the blade at a 20-degree angle), so that you’ve honed both sides of the blade. Continue alternating the downward, arcing motion until you’ve completed 10 strokes on each side. (You must do an equal number of strokes on each side to ensure that the edge aligns.) Once honed, your knife’s edge will be in its proper position, resulting in easier slicing and dicing.


How to Sharpen a Kitchen Knife - With Sandpaper

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Settle for Sandpaper
In a pinch, sandpaper can be used to shave a new blade, offering an inexpensive homemade alternative to a sharpening stone. Just tape a sheet of fine-grit sandpaper to the edges of a cutting board. Firmly hold the knife by the handle at a 20-degree angle to the board and lightly press down on the center of the blade. Then, slide the edge of the knife across the sandpaper as if shaving a thin layer. After 10 strokes, turn the knife over and repeat on the other side. When you’re done, replace the fine-grit sandpaper with a sheet of extra-fine sandpaper, and repeat the process. Although this hack method isn’t ideal, its results are still better than your otherwise dull blades.

This Woman Brings Your Imagination to Life—with Paint

A wall mural adds a touch of magic to any home. Here's how one artist makes it happen.

Mural Artist - Beth Snider

Photo: Beth Snider

It’s often said that nothing reinvents a room like paint. Well, that’s especially true in the case of colorful murals: These eye-catching wall paintings can brighten up a child’s bedroom, breathe life into a living room, or turn a dour kitchen into a playful enclave. Although there are plenty of homeowners who would love to enjoy a mural in their own spaces, most wouldn’t attempt one by themselves. That’s where an expert like Beth Snider, muralist at Penelope in My Pocket, comes in. This Kansas City, Missouri, artist creates one-of-a-kind indoor and outdoor murals on commission, bringing her clients’ imaginations to life in the process. Read on to get a glimpse into the mind behind these spectacularly fun designs.


Mural Artist - Cupcake Mural

Photo: Beth Snider

How did you get your start as a muralist?
I was already doing a lot of custom paintings on canvas. As people saw my artwork, I began to receive requests for murals in kids’ rooms. It blossomed from there, and the diversity of mural commissions increased to other rooms in the house as well as businesses.


Mural Artist - Noah's Ark Mural

Photo: Beth Snider

What was your first project?
A family gave me an opportunity to draw on a large chalkboard in the entryway of their home. Every month I would feature a new theme, whether it was a holiday or a birthday, and I would erase the elaborate chalk drawing from the month before. I did this for years and literally drew the kids as they grew up. (I even designed their birthday invitations over the years!) What I will always appreciate is that they saw my potential, compensated me generously, and delighted in every new idea I came up with. Watching their reactions to my newest creations was so fun. It made me believe that I could do anything!


Mural Artist - Noble Mural

Photo: Beth Snider

Did you study art at school ?
I am a self-taught artist. I have always been artistic from a young age, but making a business out of it came later. When I first started out, there was another artist I knew who had a business doing murals, and I was able to sit down with her on several occasions to pick her brain about how she turned her art into a business.

So, did you grow up in an artistic home?
Yes! Both of my parents have a mix of skills that led to my love of art. My dad is a carpenter who makes beautiful acoustic guitars by hand and restores all kinds of antiques. And my mom has always been amazing at figure drawing and sewing—she’s the one I go to for advice on my paintings. She also dabbled in writing children’s books, which inspired my lifelong dream to illustrate a children’s book. I just recently finished a year of work on my very first book project, and it will hopefully be available at the beginning of 2016.


Mural Artist - Kids' Room Mural

Photo: Beth Snider

How do you prepare to paint? Are there special tricks you’ve picked up along the way?
I prepare to paint by asking lots of questions. My motto is, “You imagine it…I create it!” I like to think that I am lending people my hand and allowing them to have what they would paint if they could.

Even if I am given a specific photo to paint from, I oftentimes go through a client’s photos on their Facebook page (with their permission, of course) to get an idea of what a person looks like from every angle, with a variety of facial expressions. The more I know about a person, the more I can make their art piece personal and customized to them.

My favorite piece of advice, though, comes from a photographer and watercolor portrait artist I work with: Use the biggest brush possible at all times, so that the art looks effortless and not forced.


Mural Artist - Ocean Mural

Photo: Beth Snider

Where do you get your inspiration?
I am inspired by my kids’ imaginative perspectives on life. Not all the artwork I do is for children, but it is almost all very colorful and whimsical. Having four creative kids helps me to see the world in a fun way and translate that feeling into most of the art that I produce.


Mural Artist - Space Mural

Photo: Beth Snider

How can folks cherish the memory of an old mural even if they’ve chosen to paint or wallpaper over it?
I have added to and painted over murals before. Sometimes it is because a child grows older and the theme of the room changes, or to prepare a house for being sold. I would recommend getting some professional photos taken of your mural before you paint over it. Another way to preserve the memories of your mural is to have a smaller version painted on canvas.


Mural Artist - Beth Snider Print

Photo: Beth Snider

Do you have murals on display in your own home?
I have painted several murals in my kids’ rooms over the years! As they grow bigger, I have changed the theme of their bedrooms and have since painted over them—everything from a farm scene, to a tree with shelves for the branches, to a splatter-painted skateboarder.


You can learn more about Beth Snider’s work on Facebook, or find her prints on Etsy.

Genius! The Easy (and Affordable) Recipe for a DIY Kitchen Countertop

If you thought you couldn't afford your dream kitchen, think again! Find out how to get the look of butcher block countertops for next to nothing—just a handful of freebies from your local hardware store.

DIY Paint Stirrer Countertop

Photo: freepeople.com

This story starts at the curb, where people discard the things that they no longer need. Between neighbors’ recycling bins and trash ready for collection, DIYer Naomi Huober of BLDG 25 spotted—and scooped up—an old cabinet destined for the dump. Sure, it was dinged up and missing a top, but it had great bones; painted chippy white and complete with wrought-iron fixtures, it boasted a straight-from-the-farm feel. All it needed was a custom-fit countertop to blend with her existing room design. Wanting to keep total costs low on this freecycle project and play up its country style, Naomi circled the local hardware store until she stumbled upon an unlikely solution: wooden paint stirrers.

Wood countertops are hallmarks in today’s kitchens, popular for their beauty and durability. At up to $100 per square foot, though, a butcher block top wasn’t in the budget for this cabinet makeover. Instead, Naomi pieced together 30 of the free wooden stirrers across a plywood top to achieve just the right look for a fraction of the cost.

You, too, can apply her simple idea to a tabletop or cabinet refresh. Simply use a ruler and handsaw to cut each stirrer before the curve in the wood so you’re left with all straight edges. Then lay them out on your surface: Starting at a corner, work your way towards the center one strip at a time, applying wood glue to the tabletop and pressing each stirrer in place. When you’ve reached the opposite sides, cut the last of the paint stirrers to fit the remaining space, glue, and sand down the edges. Fill any gaps with wood filler, and come back in an hour to sand the surface and apply the stain of your choice. Before you wrap up, seal with two coats of polyurethane so that no water can accidentally do damage to your finished project.

The clean vertical lines, wood grain, and staining of plain old paint stirrers transformed this once-boring plywood top into a convincing faux butcher block counter overnight—talk about the easiest remodel ever. And if anyone asks, don’t worry; your secret is safe with us.

FOR MORE: Free People

DIY Paint Stirrer Countertop - Project Materials Shot

Photo: freepeople.com

Bob Vila Radio: Focus on Framing Fasteners

Builders owe a debt of gratitude to the inventor of framing fasteners. Not only do they simplify the arduous construction process, but they also make for stronger, more secure structures. Read on for the basics.

If you’re framing new construction—a simple backyard deck, for example, or even an entire house—framing fasteners allow you to join two boards (two-by-fours or two-by-sixes) easily and, above all, securely.

What Is a Framing Fastener

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FRAMING FASTENERS or read the text below:

Made of zinc-coated sheet metal, framing fasteners usually include conveniently pre-drilled holes for screws or nails. Though they come in a wide variety of shapes, some are much more common than others. Perhaps most common are angle brackets. Also frequently used are joist hangers, which are similar to stirrups in design and application. Other types of framing fasteners help builders do such things as secure roofing rafters or mount vertical posts to horizontal beams.

Framing fasteners are especially important—indeed, often required—in geographical areas subject to extreme weather and natural disasters. That’s because they reinforce the structure, working to evenly distribute any stress that threatens its integrity. Stocking up? Save a considerable sum and be sure to buy in bulk.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Fenway Park’s Groundskeeper Shares His Secrets to a Lush, Green Lawn

If you want a lawn as rich and beautiful as a major league ball field, check out these strategies for seeding, feeding, mowing, and more from the man responsible for the turf at one of the most gorgeous parks in the game!

How to Make Grass Green - Fenway Park

Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

David Mellor was on his way to an athletic scholarship and a promising pitching career when tragedy struck: He got hit by a car, sidelining his dream. Yet, Mellor still made it to the majors, turning his love of baseball into a horticultural art form—today he’s director of grounds for the Boston Red Sox. His amazing “striping” patterns give venerable Fenway Park its flawless look and feel, and he’s equally discriminating as a homeowner. “Your lawn makes that first impression of your property, so attention to detail matters for curb appeal,” Mellor says. Here, the author of Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports and The Lawn Bible: How to Keep It Green, Groomed, and Growing Every Season of the Year gives you his five keys to home-turf advantage.

How to Make Grass Green - Fenway Park Head Groundskeeper David Mellor

Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

1. Seed Like a Star
If your lawn is looking sparse, now’s the perfect time to fill it out by overseeding. “Fall gives the best root growth,” Mellor says, “because soil is warm, and while morning dew keeps it moist, that bit of frost will kill weed seed.” Start by buying quality seed appropriate for your site and growing zone; you’ll get better cultivars that are less disease susceptible. Next, Mellor advises roughing up the area with a hard-tooth rake. “Roots grow in the pores of soil, so loosening it up allows roots to reach down into the crevices,” he says. Toss seed as if you’re feeding chickens, or use a dimpled seeder to create, “a random pattern so grass won’t look like cornrows,” Mellor says. “Then, for all-important seed-soil contact, step on it or drive over it with the mower. This ensures seed won’t blow away, dry out, or get eaten by birds.”

2. Fertilize Strategically
The key to Fenway’s gorgeous turf is the potent combination of iron and manganese. “It gives us a dark green color without a flush of growth, which helps enhance striping,” Mellor reveals. Yet, while feeding your grass keeps it growing actively, every lawn has unique needs—and that’s where a soil test comes in. “Your grass is only as good as the soil below. Testing provides a nutrient and pH analysis, as well as recommendations for treating it,” says Mellor.

Search online for your county extension agent or go through a local university’s agriculture department to obtain this vital, inexpensive diagnostic. “Some folks think if a little bit’s good a lot must be better,” Mellor cautions, “but too much fertilizer makes your lawn disease-prone and can harm the environment.” Follow directions to the letter, keep your drop spreader functioning properly, and never allow fertilizer to run off, where it can get into the sewer system. Mellor’s tip: To ensure that product doesn’t drip, shut the unit off as you near the end of a row, then flip it back on after you turn around.

3. Time Your Watering Right
“The most common mistake people make is coming home from work and turning on the sprinkler,” Mellor observes. “Letting grass sit wet all night exacerbates dew-point conditions and sets you up for disease and mildew.” Mellor notes that the ideal watering time is between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.

“If you don’t have an irrigation system, get a timer that hooks to your spigot to turn the sprinkler on and off,” he suggests. The average lawn needs an inch of water a week (a bit more if soil is sandy), so measure your sprinkler output with this easy trick: Space several coffee cups across your lawn every few feet, crank the water for 10 minutes, then check the cups. The amount collected will help you determine how long to keep your sprinklers running in future for optimal watering.

Also bear in mind that different lawn locations may have different requirements. “Water a shaded area too much, and you open the door to disease, injury, and insects,” Mellor says. While a moisture meter monitors conditions at Fenway, he suggests homeowners simply dig into the lawn here and there with a small spade to get a feel for it.

How to Make Grass Green - Fenway Park on Game Day

Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

4. Treat Weeds with Tolerance
In a shocking twist, Mellor says his favorite flower is the dandelion. “I once wanted a lawn like a pool table,” he admits. “Then I had two daughters, who taught me how beautiful dandelions are by how much fun they had picking bouquets and chasing each other while blowing the fluff.” While Mellor advises an easygoing attitude toward “out-of-place” plants, he still understands the desire for seamless green. “A healthy, actively growing lawn is your first line of defense against weeds,” he says. If they do pop up, he suggests digging them up, spot spraying, or pouring on some hot water and vinegar. “You don’t have to broadcast a chemical arsenal all over your lawn to get rid of a few weeds.”

5. Mow for Major Impact
For ideal conditions at Fenway, Mellor keeps the grass height at about an inch and a quarter. Home lawns should be longer, he advises, at two to two and a half inches tall. When mowing, never cut off more than one-third at a time. “With the one-third rule, you’ll never look like you’re baling hay out there,” Mellor says. “And it’s a myth that clippings cause thatch. At Fenway we collect them only around the edges of the infield, letting the majority recycle back into the field. Clippings keep your lawn from drying out, biodegrade into soil, and provide nitrogen for the grass.”

It’s also crucial for homeowners, who are bound to encounter the gamut from twigs to acorns to dog toys, to maintain sharp blades. “You wouldn’t shave with a dull razor,” Mellor reasons. “Dull blades fray the ends, making grass turn brown, stringy, and susceptible to disease.” Depending on lawn conditions, you may have to sharpen blades monthly or even weekly. Mellor’s tip for a little less work: “Consider investing in two or three sets of extra blades so you can leapfrog.”

How To: Install Curtain Rods

It's often much more fun to select a window treatment than it is to install the appropriate rod for it. While choosing is entertaining, installation just looms as a chore. It doesn't have to be that way if you first master the art of curtain rod installation.

How To Install Curtain Rods - Wall-Mounted Rods

Photo: fotosearch.com

An attractively mounted curtain rod adds a subtle layer of embellishment to an entire room. Beyond completing a room’s decor, however, a curtain rod possesses yet another secret power: the ability to disguise design defects. If your ceilings are too low, hang your rods higher. Wish your windows were wider? Extend the hardware well past the window on either side to fill the wall space with curtain. It’s all about the placement. Figure out the best placement for your curtain rod and secure it with minimal fuss by following the easy instructions for rod installation outlined below.

- Rod
- Finials (optional)
- Stepladder
- Measuring tape
- Pencil
- Level
- Mounting hardware (brackets, anchors, screws)
- Phillips-head screwdriver or handheld drill with Phillips-head drill bit

How To Install Curtain Rods - Finials

Photo: fotosearch.com

A successful installation starts with selecting the right rod for your desired window treatment. Pick out your curtains first, then pick one of the following rod styles that best suits your needs:
• A classic rod. This adjustable pole attaches to the wall with brackets and often features an ornamental finial at each end. It’s ideal for hanging curtains with pole pockets, grommets, and tab-top headings. Opt for a double rod version if you’re interested in hanging inner sheers in addition to standard curtain panels.
• A return rod. The U-shaped pole wraps around the entire window so that, when closed, the curtain completely blocks out incoming light. It’s also available in a double-rod version to accommodate a top treatment, such as a valance.

Once you’ve chosen the rod you need, measure the width of your window to determine the correct size to buy. Decide whether you’d like to mount the rod to the wall above or directly on the trim, which would allow you to still see some decorative woodwork. A general rule of thumb: For wall-mounted rods, allow at least one to three inches on each side of the window to accommodate an open curtain, or as much as six inches on each side of the frame if you’re trying to make the window appear larger. Don’t forget to factor in additional wall space for decorative finials.

Next, measure the window height. Wall-mounted rods are usually installed four inches above the window. To find your ideal placement, measure down from the ceiling to the top of the trim at the left corner of your window; mark the midway point. Repeat this in the middle of your window frame and in the right corner, then check your markings with a level.

To give the illusion of height in the room, mount the rod even closer to the ceiling. Don’t go higher than eight inches above the window frame; any more than that looks awkward.

While measuring, keep in mind the length of your curtain panels. If you can avoid it, you don’t want to have to alter the hems once you’ve mounted the rod. You may need to adjust your penciled-in placement by an inch or two to get the panels to fall where you want them. Curtains that just graze the floor or sill appear classic and tailored, while those that break slightly at the floor (from one to three inches) are also on trend. If you plan to puddle your curtains for a look that is extremely formal, allow six to eight extra inches of fabric to fall at the bottom. Skip this style if you plan to open and close your curtains regularly, as the bottoms will dirty quickly from constantly brushing the floors.

Once you’ve factored in curtain length, window height, and width, hold a bracket up to the wall so that the position of the rod lines up with your initial markings, then use a pencil to indicate where the screws should go. Predrill the pilot holes at those marks. Insert the plastic wall anchors, align the bracket with the anchors, insert the screws, and tighten until the bracket is flush with the wall. Repeat the process for the other bracket. If your pole is longer than four feet, consider adding a center support to prevent sagging.

Last but not least, attach the curtains to your rod according to the heading style by slipping the rod through the pole pocket, grommet rings, or fabric tabs, and capping the ends with finials if you so choose. Then, rest the pole in the brackets you’ve mounted, and step back to admire a job well done.

How To: Clean a Microfiber Suede Sofa

Microfiber suede sofas are beautiful additions to any home, but their tiny fibers can make cleaning a real pain. Follow these easy steps to freshen your favorite piece of furniture, leaving it with a like-new look.

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Microfiber Suede Sofa

Photo: fotosearch.com

A microfiber suede sofa is a cozy centerpiece for any room. Known for being soft and stylish, this popular seating choice makes itself right at home in any gathering spot. One drawback, however, is that the fabric can be tricky to clean, as there are various types of microfiber suede that each require different scrubbing methods. Simplify the process and keep the most comfortable seat in the house fresh by following this easy cleaning routine.

How to Clean a Suede Couch - Spray Cleaner

Photo: fotosearch.com

- Spray bottle
- Dish soap
- Water
- Baking soda or white vinegar (optional)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Soft white towel or sponge
- Soft scrub brush

Microfiber suede fabric is composed of tiny synthetic fibers designed to ensure that your sofa remains more durable and stain resistant. If there’s ever a spill, they cause liquids to bead first before soaking into the fabric, allowing you to quickly grab a paper towel and wipe up the mess before any major damage is done. But because these fibers are so small, they also make it more difficult to remove forgotten spills. As often as you can, treat immediately.

Some microfiber suede sofas repel water and others are stained by it, so it’s important to first determine what type of microfiber fabric is on your sofa so you can use the proper cleaning methods:

• W-labeled sofas can be cleaned with a water-based solution.
• S-labeled sofas will be stained by water and must be cleaned with a special solvent.
• The label S-W means that you can clean with either a solvent or water.
• An X label means that no liquid should be used on the sofa at all—only a vacuum.

To determine the classification of your sofa, check the tags that may be hiding on or underneath the couch. If you can’t find the label, consider moving forward as if it is an S-labeled model, just to be on the safe side. You should also always test a small spot first with any cleaner you use to ensure that it doesn’t stain.

Find a clean spray bottle to store your solution and make application a cinch. If you’re working with a W-labeled sofa, create a water-based mixture of warm water and a few drops of mild dish soap. (To neutralize odors, also add a teaspoon of baking soda or white vinegar.) For S-labeled couches, fill your spray bottle with rubbing alcohol.

Note: If you’re working with an X model, you’ll want to skip the spray-on cleanser all together and opt to use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to remove any dirt or debris from the surface of your sofa.

For S- and W-labeled couches, spray the specific stain you’re hoping to target, or work on one area at a time if you aim to freshen the entire sofa. Don’t soak the cushions—you’re going to want it to dry eventually—but do dampen it enough to loosen the dirt. Then, rub a soft towel or a sponge (either should be white, so no color transfers while you work) in a circular motion over those sections that are saturated with cleanser. The spraying and rubbing might make the couch look darker or mussed at first, but don’t worry; the microfiber suede will return to its normal self when it’s clean and dry.

Once the fabric feels completely dry to the touch, use a soft scrub brush to gently rub it. This will help fluff the fibers, making the material feel soft and look brand-new again.

Weekend Projects: Reboot with 5 DIY Charging Stations

Finally, minimize chord chaos and get your phone's accessories under control when you make one of these 5 easy charging stations this weekend.

Smartphones have become an everyday necessity—as have their chargers. It’s easy for those cords to pile up (and tangle up!), especially when every member of the family leaves cords plugged into outlets scattered throughout the house. Banish those unsightly cables from view with one of these easy and inexpensive DIY organizers that corral cord clutter.



diy charging station - repurposed books


In a bedroom that features a vintage or eclectic style, this charging station crafted from an old book will make a seamless, decorative addition. Choose a volume that has an interesting or attractive spine, and then, following these instructions from Little Lovelies by Allison, use a drill and a utility knife to carve a spot to feed your charger through. The careful construction may take some patience, but the homey and functional result will be well worth it.



DIY charging station


If your nightstand is overrun with everyday clutter, look to this repurposed organizer from The DIY Playbook to fulfill all your bedside storage needs. Take a container with two or more drawers, remove one, and drill a hole in the back of that compartment. Feed your cords through the holes, and then plug in your electronics so they can rest on the open shelf. Your remaining drawer can store (read: hide) remotes, reading glasses, or other little accessories you’d like to keep close at hand.



diy charging station - family


As a family grows, so does its phone-cord clutter—and the confusion about where all those cords lead. Solve that problem with this family-size charging station. After easily converting a standard electrical outlet into a USB port, Kris from Driven by Decor cleared away the chaos by drilling a few holes in the bottom of an ordinary letter organizer and stringing the cords through. Not only does this unit keep charging equipment close by, but the various compartments can also house other electronics or items you need as you dash out the door.



diy charging station - bucket


This little, portable recycled wonder will cradle your charging phone wherever your day takes you. Cut from an old baby lotion bottle, it’s the just-right size for toting your phone—plus, the sculpted handle conveniently hangs from your cord’s plug while the phone is charging. Decorate it with fabric, decals, or whatever your imagination desires. See how Ashley at Make It & Love It put it all together.



diy charging station - living charger

instructables.com via theREALcybercat

Your decor can always benefit from a hit of nature’s beauty, and this faux-greenery DIY charging station brings in just the right touch. Requiring little more than some artificial turf and a vessel of your choosing—a shallow bowl, small dish, or even a ceramic pot that plays up the foliage—this simple, grassy home for your phone can be crafted in no time flat.

Bob Vila Radio: TLC for Your Window AC

As summer wanes and lower temperatures mercifully return, you may soon say goodbye to your window air conditioner. But prior to putting the appliance away, devote some time to a basic tuneup. That way, you can be sure that when summer rolls around next year, you're primed and ready to go. set aside some time to give it a basic tuneup. less likely to need the window air conditioner that provided relief on the warmest days and nights of the year. Before you say goodbye to the appliance, however, of the to operate don't let your window air conditioner slip your mind completely. are very likely to likely soon mercifully Your air conditioner doesn't cease to exist when September rolls around—you just forget about it. Learn how to deep clean your AC before stashing it in the closet, and you'll be rewarded with cool air on demand for many summers to come!

Window air conditioners: We turn to them in the dog days of summer, turn them off when the weather cools down, and forget about them the rest of the time.

Window Air Conditioner Maintenance

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To make sure the unit operates correctly the next time you need it, give your AC some much-needed TLC. First, unplug the unit and, with a putty knife, remove the front grill and internal filter. Clean both parts with a mixture of warm water, dish soap, and white vinegar. If your filter happens not to be washable, swap in a replacement.

Next, clean any of the cooling coils you can access, vacuuming them with the brush attachment. Afterward, scrub the coils with a plastic brush. If you encounter any bent fins along the way, consider using a simple fin comb (available at your local home center) to straighten them out, ensuring proper future performance.

Once you’ve let all the different components dry out completely, re-assemble the window air conditioner and let it run for a few minutes. Listen carefully and, if you hear excessive fan noise, tighten the blade’s set screw and fastening bolts. If you suspect that any sealed parts of the appliance need service, contact a repair professional.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Genius! The Emergency Essential You Can Make with Cardboard and a Can

Sure, you could buy a flashlight from the store—but not one like this! Put your skills to the test with this MacGyver-esque DIY for your toolkit.

DIY Flashlight - Completed Project

Photo: instructables.com

No matter who you are—Boy Scout, first-time renter, or veteran homeowner—the small but mighty flashlight is an invaluable addition to any toolkit. Portable light comes in handy for everything from maneuvering during a power outage to finding your remote in that dark abyss under the couch. So, why make it yourself when you can pick it up at the hardware store? Two reasons: cost and customization. When you make one from almost entirely of recycled and repurposed (read: free) materials, you can customize the color, grip, battery size, and weight of your flashlight. Lucky for us, Instructables user paul em deconstructs the tool into a handful of truly accessible parts—right down to the cereal box shell, aluminum can-turned-bulb holder, and some tin foil!

Want to follow in his footsteps? Start by prepping your recycled materials. Carefully cut down the side of your can, from top to bottom, and lop off both ends. Flatten out the curled sheet of aluminum that’s left, and you have the material for inside of your flashlight. Then cut out the back of the largest cereal box you have in recycling; when folded into a rectangle, it will house the whole contraption. This upcycling DIY comes with four templates to help you cut and fold both aluminum and cardboard pieces into the base of your soon-to-be-working flashlight. The folds will support your light bulb, hold two stacked batteries in place, and create an on-off switch for easy operation.

Pop the batteries in whenever you’re ready to head out and use it for an extended amount of time, like a weekend camping trip. While you may not actually earn a scout badge for this sustainable craft, you’ll gain a new appreciation for everything you can do with an empty cereal box, soda can, and a little ingenuity—plus a really cool flashlight.

FOR MORE: Instructables

DIY Flashlight - Pieces and Parts

Photo: instructables.com