Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


DIY Lite: Make a Stunning Serving Tray from Scrap Wood

Wow guests by serving up snacks or drinks on a platter that's truly one-of-a-kind.

DIY Serving Tray

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

End of the year celebrations are just around the corner, and—no matter whether your plans include hosting an intimate dinner or throwing a giant party—an extra serving tray can always come in handy. After all, how else might you corral coffee fixings or carry appetizers out to your guests? But festive events deserve a little extra flair. Follow this illustrated tutorial to craft a DIY serving tray that’s uniquely styled with a geometric pattern and a trio of wood stains. And don’t feel the need to stash this platter away after guests leave; simply transfer the wooden tray to your coffee table or kitchen counter as a catch-all year-round.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 6mm plywood (20 x 20 inches minimum)
- Graphic compass
- Rope
- Ruler or protractor
- Pencil
- Pushpin
- 1-½-inch x ¼-inch wood lath (24 feet)
- Scrap wood
- Jigsaw
- Wood stain (3 shades)
- Paintbrush
- Wood glue
- Wood clamps (optional)
- Palm sander
- 60-grit sandpaper
- 100-grit sandpaper
- Transparent acrylic varnish

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Draw a hexagon on the plywood the size you wish to make your DIY serving tray; ours has a diameter of 18 inches. The easiest way to do so is to start by tracing a circle with a 9-inch radius in the center of your 20-inch-square plywood piece.

If you don’t have a drafting compass or yours isn’t capable of drawing a diameter of up to 18 inches, you can achieve the same end with a rope, pencil, pushpin, and ruler or protractor. Knot the rope around the pencil end closest to the lead tip (right where your fingers might hold it), measure out 9 inches of rope (the length of your radius), and fasten the other end of rope to the center of your plywood using a pushpin to fasten. Now, verify that the distance between the pushpin and the pencil tip is exactly 9 inches, as that’s what you’ll be cutting the wood lath to fit in the next steps. If so, proceed to draw the circle by holding the pencil vertically.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Continue with the pushpin method to find the corners of the hexagon. Remove the pin from the center of your circle and place it anywhere along the circle’s circumference; mark that position (Corner 1) in pencil. Now, trace along the circumference of the circle until the 9 inches of rope extends taut; mark this spot (Corner 2) in pencil, too. Move the pushpin to the mark you just drew, and repeat to find the next corner.

Continuing this process all the way around the circle should give you six corners. After you’ve marked the last, confirm that the distance between Corner 6 and Corner 1 is also be 9 inches long.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Use a ruler or protractor to connect the dots; the six lines will reveal your hexagon. Then, divide the shape into three identical parts by tracing a line from every other corner to the center of the circle where you first placed the pushpin.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Cut the wood lath into 15 equal pieces that will completely cover the tray, five in each third. To fit the DIY serving tray’s hexagonal shape, it’s important to achieve the right length and angle for each piece. The easiest way to do so is to place the first lath along one of the dividing lines and slide it until the lath enters into the neighboring third. Use the lines drawn on your plywood to mark the angles needed to cut each end of wood lath.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Rest one lath on a piece or two of scrap wood and cut along your penciled lines using a jigsaw. Before you cut 14 more to match, fit the piece into the drawn hexagon to check if the dimensions are accurate. If so, use this first cut as a model to measure and cut 14 additional pieces.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Set the lath pieces aside, and use the jigsaw to cut the hexagon shape out of the plywood next.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Sand all the pieces—plywood and lath, front and back—to remove splinters.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Stain the lath cuts in different shades to emphasize the pattern built into your DIY serving tray. We used Early American and Oak stains for six pieces each, and we left three pieces with their natural tone. Looking for more color? Use paint instead!

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Arrange multicolor lath cuts onto the plywood hexagon, and glue them in place. If you have them, you can set up wood clamps to hold the pieces together while the glue dries.

After the recommended amount of dry time passes, give a light sanding to the edges of the DIY serving tray to remove any dried adhesive peeking through the cracks.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 10
The last thing you have to make are the edges to your DIY serving tray. Cut six pieces of lath, each 9 inches long and with 30-degree angles in at both ends. Adhere each edge to a side of the tray with wood glue. Then, once all the glue has dried, lightly sand the finished project down. All that’s left to do now is to wipe away the dust with a clean cloth, and then spray on a coat of varnish to protect your rustic serving tray from all of the use it will get down the road.

 

DIY Serving Tray - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Make a DIY Serving Tray

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


How To: Remove Drywall Anchors

Don’t get hung up on unwanted fasteners—take them out or camouflage them with the easy methods here.

How to Remove Drywall Anchors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Drywall anchors certainly come in handy when you want to safely hang something heavy on a hollow wall or a spot without studs. Drill a hole to insert an anchor, and its firm grip to the drywall enables you to put in a screw for shelves, a large mirror, or a piece of artwork. It’s all good—until you decide to take out drywall anchors to paint the room or relocate that enormous family portrait. Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to remove drywall anchors. The first move is to remove any screws to access the anchor, and then proceed with a method best suited to the particular type of fastener. Threaded plastic, cone-shaped, or expanding anchors can often be easily pulled out, while T-nut head varieties may need to be pushed through the wall or removed with a cutting wheel. This guide covers the top techniques for how to remove drywall anchors—even a savvy (sneaky!) alternative to removal—plus the best way to patch things up afterwards. So, anchors away…or not!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Needle-nose pliers
- Screwdriver
- Hammer
- Goggles
- Drill with 1-inch cutting wheel
- Nail
- Utility knife
- Clean, dry rags
- Drywall putty
- Drywall spatula
- Medium-grit sandpaper

METHOD 1: PULL IT OUT

Grab the collar or head of the drywall anchor firmly with needle-nose pliers. With a gentle back-and-forth rocking motion, wiggle the anchor free. If it won’t give and remains secure, stop, or you risk excessive damage to the wall. Move on to Method 2.

How to Remove Drywall Anchors

Photo: istockphoto.com

METHOD 2: BACK IT OUT

Choose a screwdriver that will fit snuggly into the mouth of the anchor and tap it into place with a hammer. Turn the screwdriver counter-clockwise to back the drywall anchor out. If it won’t budge, or turns but doesn’t back out, proceed to Method 3 (if you have a cutting wheel) or consider Method 4 to sink the anchor into the wall.

METHOD 3: CUT AND HAMMER IT

Don protective goggles and attach a 1-inch cutting wheel to a drill. Cut the top off the drywall anchor. Then tap a wide nail against the anchor mouth with a hammer until the drywall anchor falls back behind the wall. Score the drywall around the anchor head with the cutting wheel or, if you don’t have a drill with a cutting wheel, a utility knife. Then place a screwdriver with a head wider than the anchor’s mouth, but not wider than the drywall anchor itself, and firmly tap the screwdriver until the anchor falls out behind the back of the wall.

METHOD 4: RECESS IT

Perhaps the simplest way to deal with multiple unwanted drywall anchors, or those in drywall that’s brittle or water damaged, is to recess rather than remove them altogether. Score the drywall around the anchor head with a utility knife. Position a screwdriver wider than the anchor mouth over the anchor head, and squarely but lightly tap the screwdriver with a hammer until you sink the drywall anchor partway into the drywall. Once the anchor is recessed, patch.

 

THE PATCHING PROCESS

After you’ve mastered how to remove drywall anchors or recessed the smattering of fasteners out of sight, patch the remaining hole with drywall compound.

STEP 1
Tap a hammer lightly around the edges of the hole until the edges are flat, flush with the wall. Wipe the wall free of drywall dust with a dry rag.

STEP 2
Apply enough drywall compound to fill the hole with a putty spatula. Do an “X” motion over the repair spot with the spatula to get the putty flush with the wall while removing excess. Let dry overnight.

STEP 3
Sand the dried putty with medium-grit sandpaper. Wipe dust off with a dry cloth and touch up the paint.


How To: Clean Window Tracks

Don't let a dirty, dusty frame detract from your view. Clear the grime from your window tracks quickly with this helpful how-to.

How to Clean Window Tracks

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dirty window tracks can spoil even the sunniest views. Whether you leave your windows open or closed, the tracks inevitably become a catchall for dust, insect corpses, mildew, and even mold. Regular upkeep is a necessity, but, unfortunately, window tracks can be awkward to clean with your typical arsenal of tools. But have no fear! Follow this guide for how to clean window tracks properly with supplies you likely have on hand.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Garden hose
- Rag
- Mini dust-busting vacuum
- Vacuum with narrow nozzle attachment (optional)
- Baking soda
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Rubber gloves
- Toothbrush
- Paper towel
- Butter knife

Note: If you haven’t already, clean your windows before addressing the tracks, or else you risk more filth trickling into the window tracks as you wash the glass.

STEP 1
Open your window as wide as it can go. This can be done with or without your window screen in place, but we recommend removing the screen and setting it aside. (As long as you’ve got the screen out, it’s a good idea to clean it. Simply tap off the dust, give it a hard spray with your garden hose, and dry it with a clean rag.)

STEP 2
Grab a dust-busting mini vacuum (or a regular-size vacuum with a narrow nozzle attachment), and suck up all the loose debris and dead insects from the window tracks. A brush attachment is optional, but not necessarily recommended for this part—while it will effectively loosen caked-on dirt, it will also get the brush quite dirty in the process.

How to Clean Window Tracks

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Generously sprinkle an even dusting of baking soda into the window tracks. Try to avoid creating lumps or piles of the powder.

STEP 4
Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spritz generously into the window tracks until the baking soda is uniformly saturated. A chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar will cause the powder to foam and fizz. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

STEP 5
As the baking soda fizzes, spray the vertical window tracks along the sides of your window with more of the vinegar-water mix. Put on rubber gloves, and scrub from the top of the vertical track down to the bottom with an old toothbrush. Make sure to get into the corners of the window tracks.

STEP 6
Now, turn your attention back to the bottom of your open window. Brush from one end of the track to the other, scrubbing the corners and grooves thoroughly to effectively clean window tracks.

STEP 7
Press a piece of paper towel into the top of the vertical track. In a steady and continuous motion, wipe all the gunk toward the bottom of the track. Take a fresh piece of paper towel, and repeat the process on the bottom track, wiping from one end toward the center. If either track still appears dirty, spray with more of the vinegar-water solution, and wipe again with more paper towel.

STEP 8
Wrap the blade of a butter knife in a clean, dry rag, and work it into all the corners and nooks of your window tracks. When the rag starts collecting dirt, adjust it to expose a clean piece.

STEP 9
If needed, do a final light spray with the vinegar solution, then wipe with a clean rag. Tidy up your materials, pop the butter knife into the dishwasher, and enjoy your cleaner-than-ever window tracks!


Is It Wise to DIY? A New Survey Says, Not Always

Before you jump into your next home remodeling project, make sure you know what you're getting into.

Photo: istockphoto.com

We Americans are a can-do crowd, particularly when it comes to maintaining and improving our homes. Need proof? Look no further than a recent survey sponsored by Esurance. The results firmly support the notion that more often than not, regardless of prior experience or skill level, homeowners don’t think twice about undertaking a wide range of projects on their own, without a contractor. What’s more, some of these homeowners think quite highly of their abilities. In fact, 45 percent claim that they’re better able to care for their homes than even a contractor would be.

Where do these homeowners get their confidence? Does it spring from the glut of home remodeling programs on television, or is it simply human nature to believe in oneself? We can’t know for sure, but one thing’s certain: Take a trip to any home improvement center on a Saturday morning, and it’s plain to see that we have become a nation of hammer-swinging do-it-yourselfers. Yet, although 67 percent of those surveyed have handled a major home project on their own, 52 percent readily admit that they’ve had to hire a professional to fix or finish a DIY that went awry.

As it turns out, there’s a disconnect between homeowners’ perceptions of their DIY skills and the reality. And this disconnect affects not only the occasional DIY project, but also basic household maintenance. Just think: While a full 88 percent of survey respondents claim to know how to keep up their homes, a startling number admit to neglecting key tasks. For example, 74 percent say they have no plans for maintaining the foundation, even though experts recommend yearly inspections. Similarly, 54 percent say they have no maintenance plan for major systems like heating and cooling, despite the fact that, as any technician would tell you, hardworking HVAC equipment needs TLC to perform its best and stand the test of time.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Make no mistake: Overconfidence can have serious consequences for your bottom line. Witness the fact that 22 percent of all homeowners surveyed—and a whopping 54 percent of millennial homeowners—report having filed an insurance claim in the wake of a “DIY fail.” Complicating the situation is that, just as homeowners often misjudge their competence, many also fail to understand certain basics of insurance coverage. When asked whether such things as sewer backups and termite damage would be covered by a standard policy, 99 percent were wrong on at least one count.

Simply put, there are downsides to DIY. When something goes awry, it can result in costly mistakes. When you bring in a contractor halfway through a project, particularly if there’s damage to undo, you can expect to spend more than if you’d simply hired a pro to handle everything from the get-go. The best course? At the outset of any project, before you dive in headfirst, take the time to assess whether you’re truly up for the task at hand. Do your due diligence—learn all you can about every step of the process—then ask yourself the following questions:

Photo: istockphoto.com

• How much will it cost to purchase what you need to get the job done? Especially if you don’t envision yourself using the necessary supplies more than once, there’s a good chance that, counter to intuition, you would save money by hiring a pro who has access to all the tools of the trade.

• Is a permit required for the project you’re planning? If so, it also probably requires municipal inspection. If that’s the case, doing it yourself means running the risk of failing the inspection and then having to purchase more materials—and invest more time and energy—to redo the job right.

• Would the quality of the finished result impact the resale value of your home? While it’s one thing to do a slapdash job of painting the guest bedroom, it’s another to install roof shingles or exterior siding incorrectly. Before committing, be sure you fully understand what may be at stake.

• Are there any dangers inherent to doing it yourself? Many homeowners opt not to clean their own gutters, not because it’s complicated, but because the work entails getting up on a shaky extension ladder to reach the gutters. The lesson here: Don’t tempt fate if you don’t have to.

As the saying goes, “You can never have too much of a good thing.” Despite the wisdom of those words, it’s indeed possible to have too much self-confidence—a failing that can cloud judgment and drive a homeowner to undertake projects far beyond his abilities. So, go ahead and learn new skills and expand your reservoir of knowledge, but don’t lose sight of your strengths and weaknesses. We all have our limits; the trick is to embrace yours, not only for peace of mind, but also to protect your biggest investment, your home. DIY? Well, it’s one way, but it’s not the only way.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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


How To: Clean a Fireplace

Before you snuggle up in front of the hearth, be sure to banish ashes, stains, and creosote build-up.

How to Clean a Fireplace

Photo: istockphoto.com

Curling up in front of a fire is a thoroughly delightful aspect of fall and winter. But fires can be a messy business, and neglecting a fireplace leads to dark stains not just in the wood burner but also around the hearth and mantel. Aesthetics aside, cleaning the fireplace is a matter of safety: The National Fire Protection Association recommends both your chimney and fireplace be inspected for soundness and cleaned annually, as build-up of creosote (an oily wood-tar by-product found on chimney walls) can cause fires to flare out of control. Here’s how to clean a fireplace and sidestep potential fire hazards all season long.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
- Knee pads
- Towel
- Rubber gloves
- Old clothes
- Dust mask or respirator
- Nylon bristled scrub brushes (2)
- Scrubber (optional)
- Hand broom and dustpan
- Liquid dish detergent
- Rags
- Vacuum with nozzle attachment
- Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
- Household bleach
- Spray bottles (2)
- Bucket
- Disposable rags
- Paper towels
- White vinegar

STEP 1
Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace in order to give it a chance to cool down fully. Clear a working space and cover the area around the fireplace and nearby furniture with drop cloths or plastic sheeting (not newspaper—the ink can transfer onto carpets or upholstery). Don’t skimp on protection, as this promises to be a sooty project. Wear old clothes, which are sure to get stained, and rubber gloves. Don a dust mask to avoid inhaling potentially carcinogenic dust. If you don’t have kneepads, work on a thick folded towel to avoid painful pressure.

STEP 2
Remove all the ashes and dust from the fireplace, using a small shovel or hand broom to collect it on a dustpan. Dispose of the mess in a heavy paper bag or garbage can. Sweep dust and ashes off the andirons or grate, then take them outside to clean.

STEP 3
To remove soot from the grate/andirons, apply a few teaspoons of dish detergent to a water-dampened scrubbing brush, wet the grate/andiron with water, scrub until sudsy, and rinse well. Dry the grate/andiron off with the clean rag, and leave it aside until you clean the fireplace.

How to Clean a Fireplace

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4
Using a dry bristle brush or hand broom, start at the top of each wall and sweep down to remove ashes and creosote. Repeat as many times as necessary. Sweep out the ashes and debris, and place them in the paper bag or dust bin. For good measure, you may wish to vacuum the area for any remaining dust.

STEP 5
Mix 3 tablespoons of TSP (a neutralized combination of phosphoric acid using sodium hydroxides), ½ cup of bleach, and a quart of hot (not boiling) water in a bucket. Fill a spray bottle with this cleaning solution and generously spray fireplace walls and floors. Let it sit for five minutes, then spray again for scouring.

STEP 6
To scour the fireplace, dunk the bristle brush in the remaining solution and scrub the walls, starting at the top and working down. Occasionally spray with cleaning solution, both as a rinse and cleaning aid. Use the old rags to wipe after scrubbing, and spray and repeat scrubbing process if required. Scrub the fireplace floor, sopping up the extra cleaning agent with rags.

STEP 7
If your fireplace has glass doors, mix a 50-50 white vinegar and water solution in a fresh spray bottle (you’ll need about a cup). Spray glass doors and some folded paper towels with the vinegar solution, then sprinkle some ashes onto the toweling to act as a light, natural abrasive. Gently scour the doors, and repeat the process with fresh paper towels.

STEP 8
If you have a brick fireplace front or facing that’s more than 50 years old, vacuum the area to pick up soot and dust. Do not scour it, as that could cause old brick to crumble.

For all other facings, mix ¼ cup liquid dish detergent and a gallon of water in a fresh bucket. Put clean, fresh water in a spray bottle and spray down the facing. For wood and brick, the water spray will prevent the cleaner from soaking in too deeply, too fast. For marble and tile, spraying will serve as a presoak.

STEP 9
Dip your brush in the bucket of detergent water and lightly scrub the facing surface. Accept that some stubborn stains will remain; overzealous scrubbing can do more harm than good. Spray the facing front with plain water and wipe dry with clean, dry rags, or paper towels.

STEP 10
Replace the grate or andirons. Clean your brush and broom with liquid dish detergent and water. Starting from the perimeter, gather your drop cloth or plastic sheeting up in a ball and throw it out.

STEP 11
Before you toss the ashes, consider spreading them over your garden: Ashes (not creosote) are a great source of calcium, potassium, and other nutrients for plants that like low-acidity, high-pH soil. And if you have issues with slugs, snails, or other soft-bodied pests, lay ashes around plant bases as a deterrent. Store ashes in a dry, air-tight container and you’ll have them on hand to replace after rainfalls, which will wash away the ash salt that repels invaders.

 

How to Clean a Fireplace

Photo: istockphoto.com


How To: Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Get those brushed metal surfaces back in shape with the right materials and these tips.

How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com

From sinks to appliances, counters to cabinet hardware, stainless steel remains a popular kitchen trend, favored for its sleek look and durability. Yet, sturdy as it is, stainless can acquire unsightly scratches in the course of everyday activity. Fortunately, it’s totally possible to minimize these signs of wear and tear, even successfully remove scratches from stainless steel altogether.

Look close and you’ll see that stainless steel has brush marks on the surface—this is called the grain, a result of the manufacturing process. Whichever scratch removal method or product you use, it’s essential to rub only in the direction of the grain; go the wrong way, you’ll worsen the problem. Also, do not apply the techniques described here on stainless that has a protective clear coat or synthetic surface applied, or you’ll do more damage. With those caveats in mind, collect your materials and start restoring your stainless steel. It may not come out looking brand spanking new, but it will certainly revive the appearance of your kitchen and keep it that way for years to come.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Stainless steel scratch removal compound
- Water
- Microfiber cloths
- Stainless steel scratch removal kit

FINE SCRATCHES

How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com

Use a non-abrasive compound such as Bar Keeper’s Friend, Revere Stainless Steel and Copper Cleaner, or even whitening toothpaste.

STEP 1
If you’re using a powdered stainless steel scratch removal compound, add enough water—a few drops at a time—to it to create a paste roughly the consistency of toothpaste. If your compound of choice is cream-based, proceed to the next step.

STEP 2
Apply a small amount of the scratch remover compound to a microfiber cloth and then very gently rub it back and forth over the scratch, working in the direction of the metal’s grain. Continue until the scratch buffs out.

STEP 3
Gently wipe the surface with a fresh, barely damp microfiber cloth to remove any compound residue. Dry with another fresh microfiber cloth. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 if needed to completely remove scratches from stainless steel surfaces.

 

DEEPER SCRATCHES

For larger imperfections that cannot do not respond to the compound, use a stainless steel scratch removal kit such as Scratch-B-Gone or Siege 63001 Stainless Steel Sink and Cookware Scratch Remover. Scratch remover kits generally contain a polishing compound and a set of abrasive pads. You’ll work from the coarsest grit to the finest to remove scratches from the stainless steel and restore the surface. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions specific to your kit.

STEP 1
Read through the manufacturer’s instructions completely. Identify the direction of the grain in your stainless steel.

STEP 2
Starting with the appropriate grit pad recommended for the specific scratch you aim to banish, rub the scratch with the grain, in one direction only—going back and forth with an abrasive could cause unattractive circular marks. Use only as much pressure as is needed to remove the scratch; don’t be overzealous or go deeper than necessary.

STEP 3
Move to a smoother grit pad, if recommended by the manufacturer, and continue the buffing process, adding water, or any compounds included in the kit, as called for.

STEP 4
Wipe the surface down with a microfiber cloth to finish the process, buffing the steel to a clean shine.

To keep your metal surfaces looking so new that you never have to ponder how to remove scratches from stainless steel again, avoid using abrasive substances or steel wool for regular cleaning and maintenance. Protect your stainless steel sink with a rubber dish mat when washing heavy pots or cast iron. Just be sure to remove the mat when finished washing up so that water won’t remain trapped underneath, where it can cause discoloration.

 

How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com


How To: Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Step away from the dishwasher! Instead, use this DIY technique to clean your sullied wooden cutting boards and achieve safe and spotless results.

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Photo: istockphoto.com

Your hardworking cutting board constantly plays host to meats, veggies, and herbs. Over time, however, such unsavory characters as bacteria, stains, and odors are bound to make an appearance. Regularly sanitizing your cutting board is key to preventing cross-contamination and food-borne illness. The proper method of disinfection depends on the board’s material. Plastic cutting boards are easy to clean in the dishwasher, but the soft surface tends to develop bacteria-trapping knife scratches over time. Durable wooden cutting boards don’t scratch as easily, which cuts down on the number of germs that collect, but the boards can’t withstand a run through the dishwasher. The porous wood surface will warp and crack from the machine’s high temperatures.

So, how do you sanitize a wooden surface? Here’s how to clean a wooden cutting board with materials you already have on hand.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Plastic spatula
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Soft cloth
- Hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration)
- Soft sponge
- Sea salt or baking soda
- 1 lemon
- Mineral oil

STEP 1
Use a plastic spatula to scrape off any chunks of food lingering on the cutting board, and discard them in the trash. If you used the board to cut raw meat, move clean dishes away from the sink to prevent contaminating them with salmonella, E. coli, and other microscopic culprits that may be on the wooden cutting board.

Once the sink is clear, rinse the top, bottom, and sides of the wooden cutting board in tap water for several seconds before air-drying it completely. Avoid submerging the board in a sink basin full of water. The dingy liquid can not only permeate and warp the wood, but also recirculate bacteria back onto the surface.

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2
Spritz enough white vinegar onto the board to coat all exposed surfaces. Allow the vinegar to sit for five minutes, then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

While white vinegar suffices as a regular cleaning treatment for your wooden cutting board, it’s wise to follow up with a more potent antibacterial method if the board frequently touches raw fish, poultry, or other meat. Flood the top of the board with hydrogen peroxide. Then, using a clean sponge, evenly distribute the liquid over the top, bottom, and sides. Let the hydrogen peroxide sit for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing the board under water and patting dry with a clean sponge.

STEP 3
To rid your wooden cutting board of stubborn stains from poultry or pungent odors from food like fish, garlic, and onions, generously sprinkle a few tablespoons of coarse sea salt or baking soda over all surfaces of the board. Then gradually scrub the grains with a halved lemon, juicing the fruit as you go in order to mix the salt or baking soda with citric acid. Let the mixture settle into the board for at least 10 minutes (or overnight if your board is particularly musty) before wiping away the residue with a damp cloth and air-drying.

STEP 4
Conditioning your wooden cutting board will help it last longer. Start by dipping the tip of a soft cloth into a half cup of a food-safe mineral oil, preferably walnut or almond. (Avoid using vegetable or olive oil, which can break down, turn rancid, and leave an unpleasant odor on your cutting board.) Working in the direction of the wood grain, use the cloth to buff the oil into the top, bottom, and sides of the board.

Let the oil harden for at least six hours before storing the board in a location that receives plenty of air. This will prevent the growth of bacteria that thrive in moisture-rich environments. Performed on a quarterly basis, this conditioning ritual will prevent fractures from forming in the wood and preserve the beauty and durability of your wooden cutting board.


How To: Get Rid of Spider Mites

Keep these creepy-crawlies from wreaking havoc with plants, indoors and out, using this all-natural battle plan.

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tiny, sap-sucking arachnids known as spider mites can be a problem any time of year, out in your garden and plaguing houseplants and greenhouse varieties, too. With females able to lay as many as 300 eggs every few weeks, spider mite populations can explode in a matter of days. Tell tale signs that you’ve been infested include speckled leaves or brownish webbing on the surface of leaves. Unfortunately, employing chemicals to control them can be a two-pronged problem: First, mites can develop resistance, and second, pesticides often kill such beneficial insects as ladybugs that like to feast on mites. Instead, go with the simple techniques and non-toxic remedies outlined here for in this guide on how to get rid of spider mites.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Magnifying glass
- White paper
- Hose with spraying attachment
- Spray bottle (optional)
- Sponge
- Bucket
- Pruning shears
- Plastic bags
- Rosemary oil
- Lemon-scented liquid dish detergent
- One-quart jug

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites on Plants

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Your plants are in trouble: Leaves may be blotchy, be-webbed, streaked with silver or gold, or turning brown and falling off. But are spider mites to blame? These pests are less than a millimeter long, so grab a magnifying glass and inspect the underside of leaves, where they congregate. If you can’t see the culprits, place a piece of white paper under foliage and shake the leaves, then examine what falls on the sheet. Slow-moving, eight-legged pests—red, yellow, brown, or green in color—mean you’ve got spider mites. Two-spotted spider mites, so called for the duo of dots on their backs, are deemed “particularly troublesome” by experts, but diligent treatment can curb their invasion.

STEP 2
Simply wash the buggers away! Pressure-sprayed water is a surprisingly effective against spider mites, whether using a power spray from your hose outside or just a strong stream from a spray bottle on houseplants. Blast plants from below to hit the back of leaves. Then, take a clean, water-dampened sponge to wipe the backs of leaves, rinsing the sponge after each wipe by dipping it in a bucket of water.

STEP 3
Prune any leaves and stems spider mites have attacked, placing the clippings in a plastic bag and putting it in the trash, not your compost (eggs can lay dormant until the perfect hatching climate arises). If the entire plant has evidence of mites, or its health seems too far-gone to bounce back, consider pulling it completely to prevent infestation from spreading to neighbors.

STEP 4
Mix this all-natural, non-toxic solution that’ll banish the invaders without harming phytoseiulus persimilis, a beneficial mite that snacks on spider mites.
• ½ ounce rosemary essential oil (found in natural health stores)
• 1 quart tap water
• 1 teaspoon of lemon-scented liquid dish soap

A soap-and-water combo is often used as a repellent on its own, but rosemary oil helps emulsify the solution, making it easier to spray. Combine all ingredients in a jug, shake well, and fill a spray bottle. Shake thoroughly before use, spraying plants either early or late in the day, avoiding the hottest periods. Spray plants (and surrounding soil) daily for at least four days, then on alternate days for two weeks. Once you’ve got the situation thoroughly under control, continue spraying once a week to keep plants healthy.

STEP 5
For outdoor plants, consider introducing predatory mites, ladybugs, lacewings, and other beneficial insects (find them online or at nurseries) once you’ve gotten the problem in hand. They’ll eat the spider mite larvae, mite adults, and all mites in between that try to muscle in on your restored territory. You may also want to put in companion planting, interspersing Chinese parsley, chives, dill, chrysanthemums, garlic, and onion throughout your garden to repel spider mites.

STEP 6
When plants are stressed, they’re more prone to invasion by spider mites and other opportunistic feeders. So keep them watered per their needs and ensure excess water drains well. Use nutrient-rich soil and vary feeding accordingly as seasons change. Be sure plants have the right light conditions for their species. Then be vigilant, inspecting for early signs of infestation and doing what it takes to nip it in the bud.


Genius! Chop Down Heating Bills with This Fireplace Hack

If you're looking to whittle down your energy bill this year, start in your living room. An unsealed fireplace invites the winter chill inside while heated indoor air escapes. We'll show you how to make this beautiful barrier—and leave drafts out in the cold.

diy-fireplace

Photo: instructables.com

As temperatures dip, nothing feels better than thick fleece socks and a seat next to the fire. But, between uses, an empty and open fireplace lets cold air sneak in through the chimney (not to mention comes across as a bit of an eyesore). Sure, you can turn up your thermostat to counteract the chill, but that will send your heating bill through the roof—along with the heated air that continues to be displaced. But as Instructables maker mikeasaurus demonstrates, there is a third option: shutting out the cold with a few fallen branches and some simple scrap wood. Mike’s lookalike log insert eliminates costly drafts year-round while serving as a sneaky cover-up for a fixture that’s hard to keep soot-free and spotless.

Though this insert appears to be three-dimensional and about as deep as the fireplace, the draft stopper for mikeasaurus’ humble hearth is less than 4 inches thick, and only amounts to three large branches in total. To maximize the wood collected from the yard, he cut each into 2- to 3-inch-thick rounds using a bandsaw. Sanded and stained in richer tones, the branches take on the look of freshly chopped logs. From here, he puzzle-pieced and glued the wood rounds onto a painted-black plywood sheet cut to the exact dimensions of his fireplace opening. Its snug fit ensures that this DIY draft stopper stands in the fireplace and effectively plugs any potential air leaks.

Once it’s dry and gently lodged in place, the living space gains a stunning new faux focal point that prevents hard-earned heating dollars from going up in smoke. And when you’re ready to warm up again, it’s easy to reverse this fix: Simply pull out the insert, replace the fireplace’s screen, and rekindle the flames.

FOR MORE: Instructables

diy-fireplace-1

Photo: instructables.com


DIY Lite: Build a Clock that Displays the Time—and Your Plants

Can't keep track of the time? This one-afternoon DIY can solve that! Read on for how to make a clock worthy of display on your bookshelf.

How to Make a Clock - from Plexiglass and Wood

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Clocks may be less a necessity than they were in the days before cell phones remained attached to consumers’ hips and high-tech wearables resurged interest in the wristwatch—but that doesn’t make the tabletop fixtures any less functional. There’s some relief in knowing you don’t need to be tethered to today’s technology 24 hours a day thanks to usefulness of an old-fashioned home staple. Don’t get us wrong: This particular modern acrylic design is nothing quite like what you’d see on your grandmother’s shelves. Instead, it merges the functionality of a timekeeper with the ability to house keepsakes—or, in our case, fake succulents and cacti! No matter how you plan to fill it, read on for how to make a clock worthy of display on your bookshelf.

 

How to Make a Clock - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Cheap clock
- Screwdriver
- 3/16-inch thick acrylic sheet (18″ × 24″)
- Ruler
- Permanent marker
- Utility knife
- Clamp
- 120-grit sandpaper
- 1×2 lumber (5 ft.)
- Saw (optional)
- Wood glue
- Hammer
- 1-inch nails (4)
- Scrap wood
- Fake succulents or air plants
- Black gravel (1 pound)
- White gravel (1 pound)
- Drill
- Silicone glue
- ½-inch brass screws (12)
- Brass washers (12)

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
First, disassemble the housing of any old cheap plastic clock. (Check the dollar store for a steal—it doesn’t matter what the clock looks like now because, to make a clock that contains a terrarium, all you really need is the clock assembly and the hands that spin.) Unscrew the back of the clock to separate its pieces; then, once open, gently pull the clock hands off of the face of the clock. This will allow you to remove the lock assembly from behind the face. Keep the pieces on the side, you will use them later.

If you’d rather bypass this step entirely, you can skip the stop at the dollar store and pick up a clock kit for a reasonable price online or at your local home improvement center.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
You’ll make the front and the back of this DIY clock from your 3/16-inch acrylic sheet. Turn the sheet so that its longer edge is horizontal, then measure and mark to cut it at 9 inches and 18 inches using permanent marker.

Now, place the ruler vertically at the first mark, hold it firmly as a guide, and score along it several times using the box cutter. It will take as many as 10 or 12 passes until you have made a deep groove in the acrylic; then, flip over and repeat at this same mark on the opposite side. Move the acrylic so that the scored groove lines up with the edge of your work surface, and clamp half of the acrylic steady to the table in place while you press down on the portion that extends to snap it off.

Repeat the process with the second mark at 18 inches, and you should be left with two 9-inch by 18-inch rectangles.

If you intend to have the contents of the DIY clock be living air plants (remember, we’re using fake succulents because there’s not adequate drainage for real ones) or would like to be able to treat it as a shadowbox collection you can add to over time, one rectangle should be a little shorter. Score and cut the second rectangle down to 9 inches by 15 inches in order to give you enough room for misting your plants or dropping in beer bottle caps, wine corks, spare change, or the likes.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Buff out the imperfections along all edges of the two acrylic rectangles with a 120- or 150-grit sandpaper.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Cut your 1×2 lumber (or ask the home improvement center where you purchased your wood to do so) into four pieces to build a frame that matches the dimensions of your acrylic pieces. You will need two 17-1/4-inch lengths for the sides, one 7-½-inch lengths for the bottom, and one 9-inch length for the top.

Sand all the pieces to remove splinters. If you like, you can stain or paint the wood before proceeding.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Begin to make a clock’s structure by assembling the bottom and sides into a U-shape, keeping the 1-½-inch edge of each 1×2 facing out (remember, a 2×2 isn’t exactly 2 inches by 2 inches). First, apply wood glue to each end of the 7-½-inch cut; then, press them to the bottoms of the two 17-1/4-inch sides so that you create a U-shape. Hammer two 1-inch nails through each side into the bottom of the frame. For now, the top piece remains unaffixed.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Take one of the acrylic rectangles (if yours are different sizes, choose the one that’s 9 inches by 18 inches) and use permanent marker to identify the point where you want the center of the clock to be. Don’t forget to your ruler: It should be in the exact middle from the sides (4-½ inches in) and at least 5 inches from the top of the sheet.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Place a piece of scrap wood beneath the acrylic, and, exactly where the mark is, carefully drill a hole into the sheet. Note: The drill bit has to be the same dimension as the clock axis so that it can pass through the acrylic and allow the clock hands to pass on the opposite side. (We used a 7/32 drill bit, but the best size may vary depending on your clock model.)

Use a corner of your sandpaper to carefully sand any loose plastic flakes away from the hole without scratching up too much of the acrylic.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Pass the axis of the clock through the acrylic sheet, then apply a dot of silicone glue to hold the clock case to the acrylic sheet. Attach the clock hands and battery. Once the clock is up and running, set your clock to the correct time.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Prepare to attach the plain acrylic sheet (the one minus the clock) to the wood frame. First, fix the acrylic so that its bottom corners align with the bottom corners of the half-assembled frame. (Remember: If you’re creating a slim opening in the back of your DIY clock, this will be a shorter 9-inch by 15-inch piece of acrylic that does not meet the top.) Starting in the lower left corner, drill through the acrylic and into the frame, thread a screw with a washer, and twist the fasteners to hold the sheet to the wood. Repeat again at the bottom right corner and once in the center of each side.

Once the back is fixed, flip the frame and screw the second acrylic sheet (the one with the clock) onto its front. As you did for the back, pre-drill and fasten the front sheet using a screw and washer in the lower corners and side centers.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 10
Stand your clock and start filling it through the top. If you’re going to treat it like a terrarium, layer your gravel—first the black stones, then the white stones. Pull the fake succulents out of miniature planters, and “root” them into the gravel.

 

How to Make a Clock - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 11
Once you are satisfied, place the last wood piece on top to close the clock. Don’t use glue or nails here, so that you can more easily open the clock to change the battery down the road. Instead, pre-drill through the top corners of the front acrylic sheet (with the clock) and wood, and twist in a screw and washer. Repeat on the back if your acrylic extends all the way to the top.

That’s a wrap! When finished following this DIY lesson on how to make a clock, designate a prime spot on the shelf for this good-looking timekeeper.

How to Make a Clock that Houses Succulents

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Make a Clock

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

 

 

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