Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Make a Tabletop with 2x4s

Use up scrap wood—and your free afternoon—building a simple tabletop from 2x4 lumber. Want to make it memorable? Apply not one, but a trio of stains. Then protect the finished wood from weather and wear with a urethane sealer.

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s

Photo: JNoonan

This DIY has a bit of a backstory: In my basement workshop—as a byproduct of about a half dozen previous projects—I’d managed to accumulate a small mountain of scrap wood. Though the pieces varied in size, most were 2×4 boards. For weeks, I pondered the question of how to use them. There wasn’t enough material to build anything substantial, but at the same time, this was much more wood than I would feel comfortable chucking or committing to kindling. I suddenly seized on the idea of turning those leftover boards into a rustic tabletop, but then I let the project momentum slow to a creep, and in the blink of an eye another few weeks had gone zooming by. Things finally came to a head one day when I was scanning the local giveaway listings. There, I discovered that one of my neighbors was trying to get rid of an old metal garden table. Upon seeing the pictures, I knew immediately that this would be a great table to top with the scrap wood surface I’d been planning to make with all those 2x4s!

Now, the project starts to get really interesting. While I knew that I would use pocket-hole joinery (my latest obsession) to assemble the tabletop, I couldn’t decide how to finish the wood. There were three different cans of Minwax Gel Stain on my shelf, in three different colors—Hickory, Cherrywood, and Honey Maple. In my head, I could make a credible argument in favor of each one. And though it would have helped to know where the table would eventually go, that was another question I couldn’t answer. Then it hit me: Rather than choose one stain, why not use them all? After all, I was constructing the tabletop from scraps, so it was going to have a homemade, mosaic look no matter what. In the end, using multiple stains would emphasize the rustic effect the table was going to achieve. Perfect! From there, having fought my way to a project plan, the rest came easy. Read on to see how I built the tabletop, then stained and sealed it with Minwax.

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s - Minwax Products

Photo: minwax.com

- 2×4 lumber
- Circular saw
- Palm sander
- Tack cloth or rags
- Mineral spirits
- Minwax® Gel Stain
- Rubber gloves
- Foam brushes
- Pocket-hole jig and screws
- Quick clamps
- Band clamp
- Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane aerosol

 

STEP 1

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s - Sanding Step

Photo: JNoonan

Before doing anything else, I measured the metal garden table to figure out what size the tabletop would need to be. With those dimensions in mind, I went hunting for scraps. Somewhere in my collection, I was able to find the right combination of 2×4 boards to cover the measured surface area. (Note: If you’ve got a large, motley assortment of wood, you might find it painstaking to cull the pile and piece together suitable boards. To make quicker work of the process, I suggest cutting a template out of cardboard and using it to test different arrangements.) For my part, starting with five 2×4 boards, all roughly the same length, I had to make just a handful of cuts with the circular saw to end up with exactly the right amount of material. In the above photo, those dozen smaller pieces may seem haphazardly strewn about, but when combined, they fit together perfectly to form a tabletop of the desired shape and size.

 

STEP 2

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s - Sanding Step 2

Photo: JNoonan

If you don’t intend to finish the wood, you can probably safely skip this step. But for me, it was crucial to sand each board, not only to ensure a level tabletop, but also to give the stain a surface to which it could easily adhere. Of course, no matter how much sanding you do, some woods (2x4s included) are not milled for finish work and may never get totally smooth. But that was fine with me, as I figured that any imperfections that remained in the end would work to underline the rustic quality of the piece. It was in that same spirit that, in the process of sanding the boards (with fine-grit paper, always in the same direction), I opted not to sand down a few of the chatter marks left by the sawmill. I knew the stain would take to the wood a bit differently in those spots than elsewhere, lending the tabletop a further layer of charm—or so I hoped. Once I was done sanding, after thoroughly cleaning each board with a moist tack cloth, I let enough time pass for the wood to dry out completely.

 

STEP 3

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s - Staining Step

Photo: JNoonan

I had been looking forward to this part—applying the Minwax Gel Stain. First, I tested the stains on a leftover board to confirm my suspicion that, used together, the three stains would complement one another perfectly. When the test confirmed my suspicions, I proceeded to stir each stain until it developed a creamy, smooth consistency—nothing like the watery liquid you might be used to. With its thicker formulation, Minwax Gel Stain has been specially designed to be user-friendly and easy to apply. With either a foam brush or a rag, the Gel Stain goes on in a controlled way, and you don’t have to worry about drips; just let it sit on the wood for about three minutes and wipe away the excess with a rag. Once I had finished staining all the wood pieces in alternating colors—Hickory, Cherrywood, and Honey Maple—I let about eight hours of dry time elapse. Though it wasn’t strictly necessary, I decided to darken the stain colors a bit by applying a second coat, using the same technique I’d used with the first.

 

STEP 4

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s - Pocket Holes

Photo: JNoonan

With the stain dry, I began to build the tabletop. Others might have chosen to build first and stain second. But I felt that, given the combination of colors being used, I was most likely to achieve satisfying results—or less likely to mess up—if I stained the boards before I joined them together. The picture above shows the unfinished undersides of the boards after I had almost finished fastening each one to its neighbors. First, I marked off where the pocket holes would be located. For each regular board, I planned to put in at least two pocket holes. I needed to put additional holes in the boards at the two long edges, because those boards would need to be secured not only to those in the adjoining row, but also to each other. Finally, after creating the pocket holes, I assembled the tabletop one row at a time, driving in the screws that magically brought the disparate pieces together into a cohesive surface.

 

STEP 5

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s - Sealing Step

Photo: JNoonan

Turning over the sturdy tabletop, I felt a thrill of vindication. Clearly, it wasn’t a mistake in the end to use all three stains for the same project. Before I could consider the job done, though, I would need to apply sealer—Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane—to protect the wood from moisture, UV rays, and the wear and tear of day-to-day life. This was my first time experimenting with a spray-application sealer, and I loved it. Obviously, it’s important to have proper ventilation in your work area, and you’ve got to shake the can vigorously before spraying, but so long as you remember the basics, spraying couldn’t be more straightforward. Holding the Helmsman Spar Urethane can about a foot from the surface, spray in a series of even strokes, always in the same direction, until you’ve completed the first coat. Let the sealer dry for about four hours before applying any additional coats, and for best results, sand the entire surface before each application of a new layer.

Up to now, I had been completely focused on the upward-facing portion of the tabletop, the side that would be most visible. But as I drew nearer to the finish line, I started to doubt my earlier decision not to finish the bottom side too. So I went back and did the extra work, and though this additional step might have been unnecessary, I like to think it helped make the table fit better into its home for the summer, my front porch. All that was left now was to attach the top to the metal table. As easy as it was to finish the tabletop with Minwax, it was no mean feat to devise a way of securing the top to the base. Ultimately, the answer to my problem came in an unlikely form. On a typical day, electrical cable hardware would never have entered my mind, but as the result of a funny twist of fate—the same sort of coincidence that led me to undertake this project in the first place—these simple snap-and-click fasteners enabled me to attach the top to the base and call it day. Now, with this project under my belt, I’m starting to eye those 2x6s still lingering in my scrap pile!

How to Make a Tabletop with 2x4s - Three Color

Photo: JNoonan

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


How To: Make a DIY Wasp Trap

Save yourself and your family from stings this season by crafting this homemade wasp trap from your kitchen recyclables.

Homemade Wasp Trap

Photo: fotosearch.com

Nothing can ruin a summer barbecue or evening by the pool like the threat of a wasp’s sting. Mind you, wasps aren’t all bad—the adults are nectar-eating pollinators, and they kill other insects (often those harmful to crops) to feed their carnivorous larvae. Still, a nearby nest can be dangerous, especially to those who are allergic to their sting. Should you find an infestation around your own home, you have a few options: call a pest-control company, kill them yourself with sprays, or trap them. While wasp traps are available for purchase, save yourself some money and get rid of your buzzy problem by crafting this hands-off solution using items you most likely already have sitting in your house.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- 2-liter soda bottle
- Scissors
- Packing or duct tape
- String
- Water
- Dish soap
- Bait (either meat grease, or a mixture of vinegar with jam or sugary, fermenting fruit)

Homemade Wasp Trap - Soda Bottle

Photo: flickr.com via noricum

STEP 1
Dig through your recycling to get the materials you need to make this trap, and get crafting. First, remove the bottle cap and cut the 2-liter soda bottle just under the neck, where the bottle becomes a straight cylinder. Invert the top portion of the bottle to serve as a funnel, and fit it inside the bottom half of the bottle. Tape the two pieces together around the cut edge so the funnel stays in place. Finally, poke two holes on opposite sides of the rim and attach some string to make a handle for hanging.

STEP 2
You’ll never catch any wasps without the right kind of bait—and the perfect lure is wholly dependent on the season. In early spring, when wasps are reproducing, they are looking for protein; later in summer, they want sugar.

Start with a base of water and a few drops of dish soap. (The dish soap will break up the surface tension of the water and aid in drowning the wasps.) In spring, add grease from cooked meat to the soapy solution; in summer, try vinegar and something sugary like jam. Pour the bait solution into the bottle, leaving an inch or so underneath the funnel so wasps can enter.

Note: Do not add honey to your trap. That particular sweet will attract honeybees, and you don’t want to kill these very important, nonaggressive pollinators.

STEP 3
You can set your traps out on the ground, but hanging them about four feet high will probably attract and catch more wasps. Find a good tree limb or fence post on your property—one that is at least 10 yards away from your family’s play, work, and gathering spaces—and hang up the homemade trap by its string handle.

STEP 4
Check back often to dispose of the drowned wasps and refill the bait. Be sure the wasps are dead before you open the trap to remove them—an escapee will go back to the nest and warn the colony, which may then swarm.

Bury the wasps you’ve caught, or shut them tightly in a plastic bag to dispose of in the garbage. Be sure not to crush the wasps while disposing of them, as the bodies would release a scent that alerts other wasps of danger and could potentially attract a swarm. Even easier, just dispose of the whole trap altogether and make a new one from that week’s recycling. There’s no need to wait for a colony to become well established before making your traps. As the old adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


Weekend Projects: Get Cooking with a DIY Grill

Upgrade your Saturday afternoon cookout by hand-crafting—or hacking—a grill. You'll flip for any of these five DIY designs!

For charring kebabs at afternoon barbecue or roasting s’mores at sunset, the grill is arguably the most classic—more than that, most important—of summer staples. While our favorite commercial gas and charcoal models aren’t going anywhere, it’s fun to think how creative we could get if we crafted our own personalized barbecue gear. Whether you’re looking for a portable solution to take on your outdoor adventures or you just want to build out a backyard entertaining zone, you’ll flip for these five DIY grills—and be flipping burgers by the end of the weekend.

 

1. ALL DECKED OUT

DIY Grill - Repurposed Skateboard

Photo: handmadeamerica.us

If a skateboard can handle the force of a frontside flip, it’s certainly sturdy enough to support the flip of a hamburger! To make this cool conversation starter, the makers at Handmade in America welded steel table legs to two skateboard decks and cut a portable grill–sized hole in the middle of the recycled tabletop surface. This smart design not only creates one-of-a-kind deck decor, it also offers extra room for stashing refreshments, grilling tools, or whatever else you need nearby.

 

2. MINI GRILL MASTER

DIY Grill - Use an Altoid Tin

Photo: instructables.com

Powered by one charcoal briquette and adorably housed in an Altoid Sours tin, this small-but-mighty Instructables grill is capable of cooking a full-size hotdog (in halves) or a slider-size burger. And really, what more do you need for a personal picnic? With a few tiny tools, some salvaged materials, and a little patience, you can craft this mini marvel that’s ideal for a camping trip or as a fun—and functional!—party trick.

 

3. GARDEN GRILL

DIY Grill - Flower Pot

Photo z12projects.blogspot.com

Forget about the Big Green Egg phenomenon. Zone 12 Project Group is here to show you how to build an inexpensive—but just as effective—DIY version from two glazed ceramic pots. The key to making this “Little Blue Egg” a success is finding pots that can nest, because the inside pot will act as the firebox in this contraption. But once you find the perfect pair, you’re only a few tools and a day’s work away away from grilling greatness.

 

4. TO-GO TOOLBOX 

DIY Grill - Toolbox

Photo: instructables.com

Some workers may stash their sandwich in the top tray of a toolbox to bring to work, but with this Instructables tutorial you can use one to carry and cook your meals. Make the perfect grab-and-go grill from an old metal toolbox, repurposed grates, and a few power tools. Because most of these materials can be found or scavenged, your biggest investment in making this little cooker will most likely be a bit of elbow grease.

 

5. SKEWER SAVIOR

DIY Grill - Skewer

Photo: makezine.com

Perfectly cooked, bite-size deliciousness—coming right up! Never again worry about skewers falling through the grates or getting stuck to the grill with this handmade Japanese-style skewer grill from Makezine. Moldable aluminum sheet metal curved between two round cake pans serves as the grill’s structure, while small holes punched along the sides hold your skewers steady until dinner time.


Pro Tips: A Concrete Master Shares 5 Secrets to Success

Conquer your fear of working with concrete! The bulky DIY material may look intimidating, but Bob Vila Academy professor Pete Sveen shares his secrets for making it one of the easiest to manipulate.

Working with Concrete - DIY Pete

Photo: diypete.com

The industrial vibe of concrete is currently in vogue in the design world, from sleek, austere countertops to geometric planters and much more. Although working with the material might seem messy and even a little scary, we’ve got great news for DIYers: There’s no need to be quaking over the difficulty of a concrete project. Professional-quality projects are totally accessible to the average maker, as long as you have the means and the know-how. We cornered Pete Sveen, a professor in concrete at Bob Vila Academy and the man behind DIYPete.com, and asked him to spill the trade secrets that make working with concrete easier—and make the results far more attractive than you’d ever imagine.

1. Include an additive to make your concrete easier to mix.
Some people think you need to spring for a more expensive concrete, but most DIYs can start with a bargain five-dollar bag from the hardware store. “For simple projects, you can stick to the standard mix, no additives required!” says Sveen. “If you’re doing a larger, more complicated project, try adding a plasticizer. It helps the concrete mix flow into a mold easier, ensuring that the concrete gets into all of the nooks and crannies.”

Now, there’s no magic mix-in for a quicker project, says Sveen. ”You’re never going to want to add anything that will slow down or speed up the drying time.” If, however, you are working in hotter temperatures, he recommends using a tarp to cover the mold as it cures—it keeps the concrete at a cooler temp, and the slower the concrete cures, the better. The tarp prevents cracking and makes for an all-around better cure.

2. Perfect your pour for a better consistency and curing.
The biggest key to a successful project is to reach the right texture when you make your concrete batch. “When you’re mixing concrete, shoot for a cookie dough consistency: not too runny or too dry, otherwise you can end up with cracks or voids in the concrete,” says Sveen. When you pour the concrete into a mold, employ a vibration technique—just tap a rubber mallet against the sides and bottom of the mold as you pour, instructs Sveen. “This eliminates any voids or bug holes from the concrete, which you’d otherwise have to fill once it dries.”

Working with Concrete - Caulk a Concrete Mold

Photo: diypete.com

3. Choose the right mold for the right results. 
While you may be tempted to use a number of different materials as molds—cardboard or recyclable plastics, for starters—the ones that produce the best results are made out of melamine. With a porous material like cardboard, the water from the concrete will seep out and create a rougher finish; in a melamine structure, the water has nowhere to go. Instead, the concrete mimics the melamine’s smooth appearance, resulting in a picture-perfect finish without the extra work. When creating a custom cast from the material, “piece together the strips using screws, then run a thin layer of silicone over any cracks so no water seeps through,” says Sveen. Just remember to make a mold that is sturdy enough to hold the heavy concrete.

4. Take advantage of the material’s impressionable quality.
While it’s still soft, you can press rocks, coins, fossils, broken tiles, pieces of glass, and any other decorative elements into poured concrete. “Your options are pretty limitless,” says Sveen. “You can do everything from integrate trivets into a concrete tabletop or imprint a shape to create customized spaces within the piece.” To facilitate mise en place, you can craft a recess in a desktop or bathroom countertop by placing the desired object—be it a pen holder or soap dispenser—onto the concrete structure with a very thin layer of 100 percent silicone in between to hold it in place. When dry, your item will pop off of the DIY.

5. Choose the right finish to make this construction staple luxe.
So many people think that they have zero options when it comes to the look of concrete. The truth? “There are simple solutions to make concrete look more custom and expensive: Acid stains, concrete dyes, and stamping all can create a uniquely finished look,” says Sveen. “For a beautifully smooth finish, though, try polishing it with an orbital sander and then sealing with three to four thin coats of a water-based acrylic sealer.” In only 20 to 30 minutes, your concrete structure will look ultra-sleek—and even be easier to clean!

Working with Concrete - Bob Vila Academy

Photo: bobvila.com/academy

For more concrete tips from Pete Sveen, check out the course he teaches at Bob Vila Academy.


How To: Clean an Air Conditioner

Help your hard-working air conditioner keep you cool this season and the next when you give your unit a much-needed scrub down.

How to Clean an Air Conditioner

Photo: amazon.com

Air conditioners are our saving grace during sticky summers—there’s nothing quite like the relief of walking into a room that has the cool air blasting after hours in unrelenting 70-degree-and-sunny heat. But while we appreciate our ACs, we don’t often give them the treatment they deserve. Keeping your air conditioner clean not only benefits its efficiency, but it also improves the overall air quality in your home. Follow these simple steps to get your unit in tip-top shape.

How to Clean an Air Conditioner - Cleaning Supplies

Photo: fotosearch.com

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Dish soap
- Warm water
- Vacuum with brush attachment
- Fin comb
- Soft cloth

STEP 1
It’s incredibly important to start by unplugging the air conditioner before you even touch any cleaning tools—not doing so could put you at risk of an electrical shock. Once you’ve disconnected your unit, use a moist, soft cloth and a little bit of dish soap to rub off dirt or stains on the front and surface of the air conditioner. Avoid using spray cleaners on the front of the air conditioner, and don’t put too much water on the cloth, as it can drip into the unit and cause damage.

STEP 2
Remove the front cover. Some will come off simply with your hands, while others will require a screwdriver. Take note of where the screws belong, as they will need to be replaced the same way for the unit to fit together correctly. Carefully remove the filter and wash it using a mild dish soap and warm water. Give it a final rinse, then shake the excess water from it and let the filter air-dry. (If you are short on time, you can skip the suds and instead vacuum the filter using the brush attachment.)

When you’re done with the filter, check the fins to see if any are bent; if so, use a fin comb to straighten them out. The fin blades are extremely sharp, so proceed with caution when working with them.

STEP 3
Use the brush attachment to vacuum away any dirt or debris covering the interior evaporator or condenser coils. For a more intensive clean, spray specialized coil cleaner (found at your local hardware store) on the coils, and let them soak for approximately 10 minutes. Then, rinse the coils off with water, but be careful not to get water on any nearby electrical parts of the unit. Next, move on to the outside of the unit and clean the exterior condenser coils with the brush attachment. Gently wipe down the fan blades with household cleaner or a soft cloth.

STEP 4
Make sure everything is fully dry, and then carefully reassemble your unit. Although your air filter should be cleaned every month during the warm-weather season, you might also consider completing this deep-clean process at the beginning and end of each summer to extend the life of your air conditioner.


Quick Tip: Plant Your Garden in… Diapers?

Diaper duty takes on a whole new meaning with this unorthodox soil solution that's perfect for keeping moisture in your garden.

Diapers for Gardening - Supplies

Photo: instructables.com, via The King of Random

Yes, we’re just as shocked as you! But anyone who lives in an area that’s incredibly dry or has serious water restrictions knows how difficult it can be to maintain moisture-rich soil, and diapers can offer an easy solution to that problem. While we don’t spend much time pondering the power of the diaper (and understandably so), these top-notch absorbers can hold a pretty impressive amount of liquid. Skip the expensive products from the home and garden store, and turn to this unexpected—and budget-friendly—method the next time your leafy greens need a little TLC.

Diapers for Gardening - Gel Crystals

Photo: instructables.com, via The King of Random

First, pour about four cups of water into the middle section of an unused diaper. Once the water has been absorbed, pull back the top layer of the middle portion to reveal the moisture crystals, which will have a gel-like texture. (Keep in mind that the blue color seen here is used only to highlight the gel—the crystals will actually be white unless dyed otherwise.) Scoop the gel out of the diaper and pour it into a bowl. Slowly add more water to the bowl, stopping when the crystals no longer absorb liquid. Combine equal parts potting soil and gel to create a super soil that can now be used in all your gardening endeavors. One adult-size diaper makes about 12 cups of gel, so keep that in mind when planning how much soil you’ll need. Because the gel has such an incredible ability to retain liquid rather than letting it slip away in the soil, you can worry less about watering your plants, which is great for thirsty roots—and busy summer days!


Genius! The Smartphone Speaker You Already Have in Your Kitchen

Crank up the volume on your smartphone in one easy step.

DIY Phone Speaker

Photo: brit.co

Everyone wants to be a DJ, but no one wants to buy the equipment—let alone figure out how to use it. This life hack won’t replace store-bought speakers, but it’s a perfect way to crank up your favorite tunes while cooking dinner or finishing up a day’s work.

All you have to do? Reach into the kitchen cupboard! This ingenious amplifier for your at-home jam session is a simple ceramic bowl. Just set your phone into the bowl with the speaker end down. The bowl’s concave shape does the rest of the work, sending sound up the sides and out into the room—minus the chord chaos.

FOR MORE: Brit+Co

DIY Phone Speaker - Smartphone and Headphones

Photo: fotosearch.com


DIY Lite: Turn Digital Photos into Wooden Coasters

Rather than filling up a Facebook album, share and enjoy your favorite photos on a set of personalized wooden coasters! Read on to learn how to transfer any image to wood.

DIY Photo Coasters - Travel Souvenirs

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Whether you’re returning from a 12-day vacation on foreign soil or have just wrapped up a weekend by the pool with the kids, one thing is true: You probably have a memory card or phone library packed with photographs. Why leave these summer vacation (or staycation) pictures locked away on your digital device when you can enjoy them anytime you reach for a cool refreshment? Follow our instructions to transfer your images to the tops of wooden coasters, and you’ll craft a set that will keep your memories on display all year long!

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS

DIY Photo Coasters - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- 12mm plywood
- Sandpaper (60 grit and 120 grit)
- Wax paper
- Printer paper
- Glue stick
- Digital photos
- Printer
- Spoon
- Brush or foam brush
- Acrylic paint
- Acrylic varnish

STEP 1

DIY Photo Coasters - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut your wood into four-inch squares. (We used 12mm plywood, but any relatively thin scrap wood you have will work.) Sand each piece to remove splinters. As it’s very important to have a smooth and uniform surface on which to apply the picture, be especially careful sanding the side you’ll be covering with a print. Start with a piece of coarse 60-grit sandpaper, and then give the wood a second pass with a finer 120-grit sheet.

 

STEP 2

DIY Photo Coasters - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Unroll your wax paper and cut a piece to the dimensions of a letter-size sheet of paper (8.5″ x 11″).

 

STEP 3

DIY Photo Coasters - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Use a glue stick to adhere the wax paper to a sheet of printer paper, wax side out. Dab a little extra around the edges so that the two sheets stick—you’ll be sending these through the printer together, and you’ll want to avoid a paper jam. Repeat the process to create four to six printer-ready sheets.

 

STEP 4

DIY Photo Coasters - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Select four to six pictures to transfer to your coasters—as many as you have squares of wood. Pull them all up in a photo-editing program (like Adobe Photoshop or Paint) and flip each to be a mirror image. (When transferred, they’ll appear correctly.) Then, crop each file into a square, resized to either 1,000 pixels across or 3.3 inches wide. Place your doubled-up wax-and-printer-paper sheet into the printer so that the ink adheres to the wax side, and print!

 

STEP 5

DIY Photo Coasters - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Flip the printed picture onto the coaster, ink side down, and position in the center of the square. Then, press with the back of a spoon to transfer the ink from the wax to the wood. Firmly hold the paper so it doesn’t move while you rub. Make several passes over the paper with the back of the spoon to properly transfer the picture.

 

STEP 6

DIY Photo Coasters - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Remove the paper and—ta-da!—you should see your photo totally transferred to the wood.

 

STEP 7

DIY Photo Coasters - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Choose a few colors of acrylic paint that coordinate with the photos, and carefully brush the paint around the edges of your coasters. When that paint dries, finish by coating the entire wood square in an acrylic varnish; this will offer protection against condensation from glasses and other beverage containers. As the varnish dries, kick back and flip through a cocktail recipe book—all that’s left now is to choose the first refreshments to rest on your one-of-a-kind coasters.

 

DIY Photo Coasters - Completed

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.


2 Ways to Make Your Own Wallpaper

Don't let a blank wall get you down! Create a truly custom interior that suits your style and needs—be they temporary or permanent—with one of these two DIY wallpaper methods.

How To Make Wallpaper

Photo: fotosearch.com

Wallpaper is having its moment again—and we’re not talking about the stuffy prints you remember seeing in your grandmother’s house as a kid. The sky’s the limit nowadays, especially with all the options for creating your own prints. The newest trend in interior design has homeowners customizing wall coverings with beautiful printed papers or fabrics, in both permanent and temporary styles. Confused, and wondering how you can cash in on this crafty project? Read on for a detailed how-to, then grab a partner to get started.

Option #1: Permanent Wallpaper
You can adhere just about any type of paper—including gift wrap—to a wall using wallpaper paste. Tip: Skip thin, shiny wrapping paper, which is very challenging to hang without it wrinkling. Instead, choose a thick, higher-quality wrapping paper with either a repeating pattern that’s easy for you to line up or a random print that won’t need extra attention—this will all help make your job look pro instead of pathetic.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Drop cloth
- Paint tray
- Wallpaper paste
- Step ladder
- Gift wrap (or old book pages)
- Painter’s tape
- Scissors
- Foam roller
- Sponge
- X-Acto knife
- Small foam brush

How To Make Wallpaper - Permanent Method

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
First, prep your work space by covering the floor with a drop cloth in case any wallpaper paste should slop or splatter.

STEP 2
Cut your paper into ready-to-hang pieces. Hop onto your step ladder to align the top edge with the top of your wall; unroll the rest so that it measures roughly the length of the wall, with a little extra on the bottom. Cut your length, and use painter’s tape to lightly hold it in place while you unroll your second column of “wallpaper” and match up the pattern. Continue this all the way down the wall.

STEP 3
Pour the paste adhesive into a paint tray, and work with one panel at a time. Remove the tape from your first paper, and lay it on a flat surface so you can apply paste with a roller directly to the back of the paper. Be careful not to oversaturate.

If instructions on your can of wallpaper paste require it, “book” the wallpaper so that the paste completely penetrates. Do this by curling each end up to the middle of your paper, then lightly pressing the pasted sides together as much as possible without creasing the folds. Wait the length of time suggested on the can before unfolding the top end.

STEP 4
Align the top of the wrapping paper once more to where the wall meets the ceiling or the molding. Press the paper into place, and smooth it downward with clean hands. (You can use a damp sponge to remove any traces of excess paste on the wall.) If you’ve booked your paper, unfold the bottom end when you reach the middle, and continue to smooth the rest of the way down.

STEP 5
If you need to make any cuts to fit around molding or hardware, trim with your X-Acto knife and then use the small foam brush to lightly spread the wallpaper paste along the edges and stick it to the wall.

STEP 6
Repeat Steps 3 through 5 with the next sections of wrapping paper until you’ve covered the full wall, taking care to smooth down the paper and get rid of any bubbles as you go. When you’re finished, let the walls dry following the instructions on the paste container.

 

Option #2: Temporary Wallpaper
Whether you inhabit a rental or just enjoy changing up styles from year to year, a wall covering with the flexibility to come down easily and leave your wall damage-free is like a mini miracle. Use the following instructions to create your own temporary wall motif using your favorite cotton print fabric as your “wallpaper” and liquid fabric starch as an adhesive. When you’re ready for a change, removal is as simple as softening the wall covering with warm water and a sponge, and then pulling it off.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Lightweight cotton fabric
- Fabric scissors
- Drop cloth
- Step ladder
- Thumbtacks
- Paint tray
- Liquid fabric starch
- Paint roller and cover
- Utility knife

How To Make Wallpaper - Temporary Method

Photo: vintagerevivals.com

STEP 1
Whichever fabric you decide to use, make sure you have enough square footage to cover the wall and then some—you’ll want at least a few feet extra so you have room to reposition pieces when you’re lining up the print. Wash and dry the fabric, then cut off the white edges with a good pair of fabric scissors. Also, give a quick wash to the wall you’re going to be hanging the fabric on, and let it dry thoroughly. While it’s drying, lay out a drop cloth to keep your floors from being ruined.

STEP 2
Attach your fabric to the wall with thumbtacks, and cut it roughly to size, leaving a little excess at the ceiling and baseboard. Do the same for all panels of fabric until your wall is completely covered. Then, use your utility knife to cut around any fixtures or molding in the middle of the wall.

STEP 3
Unfasten a portion of the cloth so that you can thoroughly coat a patch of wall with fabric starch. Work in only one small area at a time—the starch dries fast. Position the fabric on top of the liquid starch, and smooth it down. It should start sticking to the wall immediately, but replace the thumbtacks once more to hold it in place while it dries. Continue until the entire wall of fabric has a starch backing.

STEP 4
Roll over the fabric with the liquid starch. Make sure the fabric is completely covered, and really drench it with fabric starch so that the starch seeps through the fabric and onto the wall.

STEP 5
Allow the starch solution a few hours to dry completely, then pull out the thumbtacks, and slice off any excess fabric at the molding and/or baseboards using a utility knife.


How To: Get Rid of Drain Flies

Fuzzy winged insects flying out of seemingly clean sinks are the stuff of homeowners' nightmares. Fortunately, if you can unclog and clean up a drain, you can rid your home of this pesky problem.

How to Get Rid of Drain Flies - Psychodidae

Photo: fotosearch.com

Drain flies, also known as moth flies, are a common nuisance in many homes. These pests live and breed inside your plumbing pipes, feeding on decomposing material and laying eggs within the gelatinous slime that collects along the interior walls of your drain. While these insects don’t bite or spread disease, no one likes to see tiny, winged bugs flying out of otherwise clean sinks. If you see some hanging around your kitchen or bathroom, follow these steps to identify the source of drain flies and eliminate them.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Masking tape
- Pipe snake
- Plunger
- Enzyme drain cleaner

How to Get Rid of Drain Flies - In the Kitchen Sink

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Before you can rid your home of drain flies, you need to identify the affected drains. Adult drain flies love to feed and breed in slow-moving or clogged drains because they provide plenty of decomposing material where the insects can complete their life cycle. If any of your drains are backed up, chances are that those are the root of the problem.

If diagnosing the source turns out not to be that simple, try this other easy trick: Simply cover each drain in your home with a strip of masking tape, sticky side down. (You don’t want to block airflow in your drain, so just make an “X” over each drain opening with the tape.) Drain flies are most active at night, so put the tape on the drains before you go to bed and leave it there overnight to catch any insects that may try to fly out. Check the tape the next morning for signs of bugs to figure out which drains are the source of your flies.

STEP 2
Once you’ve determined the problem drains, you need to clean the slimy gunk that has collected there and wipe out the breeding zone. Resist the urge to pour a bottle of chemical drain cleaner down the drain, as that won’t effectively take care of all the decomposing material in your home’s pipes and traps. Instead, start by running warm water down the drain to wet it.

STEP 3
Insert a pipe snake or pipe brush down the drain and use a gentle scrubbing motion to remove the built-up slime covering the inside of the drain pipe. A plunger can also be used to help pull out any leftover material from your pipes.

STEP 4
Open the U-trap under your sink so you can easily reach and remove any other clog-causing remnants that have collected inside.

STEP 5
Once you’ve cleared out the gunk, close the system back up and pour an enzyme drain cleaner down the drain to attack any remaining residue that didn’t come off with the pipe snake or brush. This specially designed gel has the additional benefit of coating the inside walls of the pipe to prevent future blockages. Let the gel sit in the drain for several hours, according to the instructions on the label, then run more water down the drain to flush it out.

 

Additional notes: The length of the life cycle of a drain fly varies depending on the climate and temperature of the drain, but it can last anywhere from eight to 24 days. Once you’ve wiped out their breeding ground, the adults will eventually disappear because there is nowhere left for them to deposit their eggs. After a week, if drain flies are still a problem in your home, it’s safe to assume you didn’t adequately treat all the problem areas. Perform another set of tests (as in Step 1), and look for other spots that need your attention.