Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

5 Things to Do with… Matchboxes

Even with no matches left, a matchbox has at least one use left. Check out these five creative ideas for making these mementos actually useful again.

Before antismoking campaigns and the advent of disposable lighters, matchboxes and matchbooks were very common. They were everywhere. Today, matchboxes are, most of all, mementos—of that earlier era, maybe, or of a memorable dining experience. Rarely do they do anything more than sit idly within a box of keepsakes. But with the help of a few basic household supplies, you can make those matchboxes useful again. Scroll down now for five clever repurposing ideas!



Matchbox Crafts - Pinhole Camera


Believe it or not, you can make a pinhole camera out of a matchbox, and it’s relatively simple. This type of camera lacks a lens, instead capturing images quite naturally through a tiny—you guessed it—pinhole. To make your own, follow instruction at Matchbox Pinhole. (Yes, this technique has its very own Web site!)



Matchbox Crafts - Sewing Kit


Just the right size for travel, a matchbox can house everything you need for an emergency sewing kit. Seriously, you’d be surprised by how many sewing staples can fit inside something so small! For fixing wardrobe malfunctions on the go, or as a gift for a globe-trotting friend, these kits are handy and downright adorable.



Matchbox Crafts - Notepads


Super simple to craft, these little notepads are 99 percent creativity, 1 percent matchbook. Once you’ve removed the matches themselves, collect about 15 squares of thin paper, cutting them to fit. Staple the paper stack into the slot where the matches were, and you’ve got a mini pad for jotting down impromptu notes-to-self.



Matchbox Crafts - Flashlight


Even after the last match has been lit, the empty matchbook can muster a glow—as a DIY flashlight. First, pierce holes in the matchbook for two tiny LED lights you can buy at a home center. Next, fit the LED wires through the holes, connecting them to the 3-volt battery tucked inside. Instructables has the step-by-step.



Matchbox Crafts - Gift Boxes


For gifts of jewelry or folded currency, wrapped matchboxes are the perfect packaging. The key is to cut the wrapping paper slightly wider than the box, so the paper flaps can be glued down flat. Once you get the hang of it, why not wrap up an array of matchboxes to hang as decorations? Visit WikiHow for the tutorial.

Genius! Hamster Wheel Desk

You've heard of standing desks, but what about walking desks? Maybe this one-of-a-kind DIY desk is the piece that any office worker needs to lose that extra 5 pounds—all while answering email and meeting deadlines.

DIY Desk - Hamster wheel

There are DIY desks, and then there are D-I-Y desks. We learned that when we came across this so-called “hamster wheel standing desk” co-created by Autodesk’s Pier 9 Artist-in-Residence Robb Godshaw and Instructables developer Will Doenlen. It certainly looks like it’s fun to use—but why did they do it? We asked the makers to share.

As Will put it, “Standing desks are becoming more and more common in companies across the United States, but why stop there? We know that standing is better than sitting, but why not go the extra mile and make a desk you can walk on to keep active?”

But building the walk-able desk wasn’t a cake walk. “Cutting large curves from wood is difficult to do precisely,” said Robb. “Luckily, our employer has a world-class work shop on San Francisco’s Pier 9 that has advanced computer controlled cutting tools that made it quite trivial.”

In fact, Autodesk’s Pier 9 sounds like the place to be for the pro DIYer. According to Robb, “The facilities and tools here are only trumped by the incredible community of brilliant and generous makers of every kind” who “come together to make incredible things everyday.” We’re glad their creative ingenuity cooked up a project as cool as this one.

The desk looks truly amazing—but we had to ask. Does anyone actually get any mileage out of it? Will says yes, but admits that sometimes he’ll “switch to using a normal desk to rest when I get tired of walking.”

- (4) Sheets of ¾” Plywood
- (4) Skateboard wheels
- (2) Pipes
- 240 wood screws
- Pint of glue
- Waterjet cutter (or jigsaw)
- Table saw
- Chop saw
- Clamps


design - hamster wheel desk

First, design your wheel. Things that are made to fit people are subject to lots of careful consideration. Ergonomics and safety are very important to any furniture project.

We considered adding in brakes but decided against it in order to really force the productivity out of the desk user. In the end, we decided on a wheel 80″ in diameter that would be supported by a 24″ wide base that contained a set of four skateboard wheels on which the wheel would rest. This design allows fluid rotation without requiring an axle for the wheel.

We already had a standing desk that fit through the wheel, so it was just a matter of avoiding interference and leaving enough room for a human.

The wheel was designed using Autodesk Inventor over the course of a few hours. See the files here.


We used a waterjet cutter to cut the arcs from four sheets of plywood, but this project could certainly be completed with ordinary power tools.

The arc pieces are the hardest to make, as their precision is key to smooth operation of the wheel. A carefully measured string used as a compass could be used to draw the arcs on a piece of plywood, which could be cut with a jigsaw. A hand router with a template and a trim-bit would make duplication fairly straight forward.

However, we both work at Instructables HQ at Autodesk’s Pier 9, and have access to a large OMAX waterjet cutter. It’s a computer-controlled machine that uses a high pressure waterjet to cut through any material, as long as it is less than 6″ thick. Wood, any metal, glass, stone—any material into any shape. You might think it crazy to cut wood with water, but it saved us many hours and saved a lot of wood because we could nest the parts within 1/8″ of each other. Plus, the precision made for smooth rolling and perfect registration of the stacked pieces upon assembly.


Hamster standing desk - cutting

We used a table saw and chop saw to cut out the remaining slats of wood used to span the two rings of the wheel. There are 60-something slats in total. We used plywood because we had it on hand. 1″x6″ pine would work great and look better, but cost more.


Hamster Standing Desk - Rings

Lay out the rings. The wheel consists of two wheel rings with some 60-odd plywood slats between the rims.


Hamster Standing Desk - glue up

We then glued the layers of each ring together, staggering the two layers by 60° to maximize overlap and stability. Initial clamping was done with ¼”-20 cap screws and T-nuts, followed by about 20 clamps. Glue was wiggled out liberally, spread with a piece of paper, then clamped to kingdom come.

Pro tip: A sign of a good glue-up is squeeze-out, a small amount of glue emerging along the glue seam indicating complete dispersion of glue.


Hamster wheel standing desk - base

The base consists of two large, hot-dog shaped pieces of wood, each of which holds two skateboard wheels. The two plates are held together with 5/16″ threaded rods inside steel pipes to pull the plywood sides together. The length of the pipe is key, and had to be changed a few times. Too short and the wheel won’t spin, and too long and it wiggles too much.

The skateboard wheels were attached to the base using 5/16 cap screws with two fender washers and two locknuts. As shown in the image, the first locknut should be super-tight, and the second a bit loose to avoid damage to the wheel.


Hamster wheel standing desk - test

Once the base was assembled, we tested out the action of the rings on the base to ensure they spun freely and didn’t hit the pipes or catch on jagged edges.


hamster wheel standing desk - attaching

Satisfied that the rings could spin on the base, we then screwed the slats onto the wheel. This part was tricky—we had to redo it several times since we found the distance between the two rings of the wheel would creep upwards or downwards as we attached more and more slats. The solution was to screw in a couple of pioneer slats at strategic 90° intervals along the rings in order to maintain a fixed distance between the rings as we attached the slats.

It took five of us working together for several hours. We went through approximately 250 screws total, or about every screw we could find in the wood shop.

Did you like this project? Then check out some of Robb’s other work, like this set of steel clamps in the shape of the alphabet, or find even more pictures of this one right here.

3 Ways to Make Your Own Ice Melt

Chances are you already have the necessary ingredients for the homemade ice melt that can free you from the big freeze this winter.

Homemade Ice Melt - Frozen Car


Solid ice can bring your everyday life to a grinding halt, if you don’t have the means to get rid of it. Sure, you rely on shovels and picks to remove ice, but it’s a laborious process that can damage the underlying concrete or stone. And while ice melt works wonders, you’re out of luck if a storm catches you off-guard. The next time that happens, try homemade ice melt. Read on to learn three ways to make homemade ice melt with ingredients homeowners often keep on hand.

1. Salt
Scattering handfuls of salt over an expanse of ice isn’t going to do you much good. To be effective as an ice melt, salt must permeate the ice, not rest on top of it. For that reason, it’s best to spread salt while pouring hot water over the ice. As the hot water melts the ice, the salt kicks in to prevent the liquid water from re-freezing. You can use ordinary table salt, but the best option is rock salt, which in addition to the other role it performs, provides traction for shoes and tires.

Homemade Ice Melt - Snow


Note: The salt-and-hot-water method works to unstick tires, but do not use very hot water on a car windshield; the sudden temperature increase might cause the glass to crack. Also, bear in mind that high salt concentrations can be toxic to plants (though not as toxic as most store-bought ice melts).

2. Fertilizer
A common ingredient in commercial fertilizers, ammonium sulfate works by lowering the temperature at which ice melts. In other words, it doesn’t melt ice immediately, but it hastens the process. And unlike salt, it can be spread over the ice surface. Check your garage to see if you have any fertilizer left over from spring, and on the package label, confirm that ammonium sulfate is listed as a component.

Note: While fertilizer may be safely used as a homemade ice melt for lawn and garden areas, it’s best not used on driveways, paths, or in any instance where the fertilizer, once it combines with liquid water, might land in the municipal sewer. Famously, fertilizer runoff is an environmental concern.

3. Rubbing Alcohol
At -20 degrees, rubbing alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water. For that reason, alcohol often appears as one of many ingredients commercial ice melts. But if you have rubbing alcohol in the home for sanitary purposes, you can harness its ice-melting potential in a couple of ways. First, you can simply pour the alcohol on any icy areas you wish to break up. Or you can combine the alcohol with water in a spray bottle, creating a longer-lasting and easily portable ice-melting solution. Keep it in your car and use it the next time your door gets stuck or your windshield gets frosted over.

Additional Notes
No matter your chosen homemade ice melt, it’s best to simultaneously lay down a substance that adds friction, at least to surfaces anybody might walk upon. Sand and salt—and kitty litter—all do the trick.

DIY Plywood Strip Desk

When Sarah found herself with a heap of unused plywood piling up in her basement, she hatched an extraordinary idea. What resulted was a desk we can't help but admire.

Bob Vila Thumbs Up Plywood

DIY Plywood Strip Desk

Can you believe this stunner only cost $53 to make? We couldn’t either. Using scrap wood, a set of spare hairpin legs and a lot of ingenuity, Sarah—of Sarah’s Big Idea—made this incredibly sophisticated and modern desk. Find out how she did it by reading her how to.


- Plywood scraps
- Hairpin legs
- Wood glue
- Whitewash stain
- Sealer
- Drawer handles
- Spray paint



DIY plywood desk - plan


Plan. This all started a couple of weeks ago, when I took my design into the American Workshop to ask, “Is this possible?” I had my doubts. Would glued-up plywood strips be strong enough to make into furniture? If so, was it possible to get the “infinity” look I wanted on the corners? Jim assured me it was, and helped me solidify my plan. I came back a few days later with my final measurements, and got down to business.



DIY plywood desk - cutting


Cut. I started by cutting all my scraps into 1-inch-wide strips. I figured that once everything was glued together and sanded smooth, I’d still have 3/4-inch of material left.



DIY Plywood Desk - lay out


Lay it out. This was putzy. Being the obsessive-compulsive perfectionist that I am, I wanted each row to be made up of the same type of plywood, so that the stripes would match all the way across. Then I cut each joint at a 45-degree angle, to make the joints tight and minimize interruptions in the pattern.

I kept going until I had just over 6 feet x 3 feet of material, when all compressed together.



DIY plywood desk - clamps


Glue and clamp. This went super fast. It was a 2-person job. Actually 3, because there was one good Samaritan standing by with clamps at the ready.  (I’m sorry, good Samaritan, I don’t know who you are, but thanks for your help!)

Jim used a 3-inch paint roller and a tray full of glue to roll the glue on, while I brought all the pieces over to the gluing table and kept them in order, and helped slap the pieces into place after they were rolled with glue. Once every single piece was in place, we clamped. The whole process took about 15 minutes.


Sand. After 24 hours, I took the clamps off and went about making a desk-worthy surface out of my plywood slab. The surface was totally uneven, since the strips were not all level with each other, and the glue had stuck to the waxed paper that we had used to protect the table underneath.

Luckily, American Workshop has a 36-inch belt sander. It took a lot of passes, but within 30 minutes we had a smooth surface. Before the final sanding, I used wood filler to fill in all the little holes that you’ll find inside plywood.



DIY Plywood Desk - cut pieces


Cut all your pieces. Remember, I was going for an infinity look on the desk—I wanted the lines to be as uninterrupted as possible. I figured the best way to do that was to make one single slab, and cut the individual pieces out of it. I don’t know anything about joinery, so… let’s just say, I’m glad I had help.


Assemble. This was pretty straightforward, because in the process of cutting the pieces, I had finally started to understand the plan. But it was another 2-person job—a fact that I discovered after I managed to drop one of the side pieces. Twice. And it broke. Twice.

Work of art destroyed? No big deal. Put some more glue on it.



DIY Plywood Desk - Drawer Construction


Drawers. I learned how to build drawer boxes with rabbets instead of butt-joints! Now there’s a sentence that only makes sense in context. The drawers just sit on wooden slides. Super simple design. Underneath the desk, there are a couple of blocks of plywood that add stability, but also provide a place to attach the drawer slides.



DIY Plywood Desk - Drawer Fronts


Drawer fronts. This was the hardest part of the entire desk-building process. The drawer fronts were cut directly out of the front piece, so that the pattern would line up. Getting them placed perfectly on the drawer boxes so that the lines looked continuous, and so that the gaps around the drawers were as small as possible, took some trial and error… and a little double-stick tape. But in the end, it turned out just about perfect.


Finish and screw up. I started with a good sanding and a coat of clear satin polyurethane. And the poly did exactly what I expected it to: it brought out all the gorgeous details. Unfortunately, it also added waaaay more of a yellow tint than I wanted. So I sanded the whole thing down and started over.

Take Two: Minwax White Wash, and its recommended top coat, Polycrylic (instead of the regular oil-based poly I used for my first attempt). I brushed the stain on and wiped it off almost immediately; I didn’t want to end up with a white desk.  And I didn’t want to take the chance of obscuring the wood grain.

And in between coats, I spray painted a pair of cheap IKEA handles.

DIY plywood desk - finished work


Wonderful—thanks for sharing, Sarah! For even more incredible DIYs, visit Sarah’s Big Idea.

DIY Plywood Magazine File

Storage bins that fit seamlessly into your decor are hard to come by. And what is available out there often costs a pretty penny. So why not follow this blogger's lead and make your own?

Bob Vila Thumbs Up Plywood

DIY Magazine File


The IKEA Expedit is a veritable mainstay in homes across the world. It’s perfect for collectors and book lovers, but you may not want all of its many shelves on display. That’s why Tanya at Dans le Townhouse decided it was high time to find a storage solution to hide her many magazines. But when buying a container looked bleak, she and her husband decided to DIY their own—from plywood! The effect is perfect, and gives this big box shelf a custom flair all its own. Find out how they did it by reading the how to.


- 1/4″ Carribea pine plywood (approximately 1.5 sheets)
- Tablesaw
- Bandsaw
- Wood glue
- Clamps
- Sandpaper
- Paint
- White stain
- Low-luster varnish
- Drawer pulls
- Felt feet



DIY Magazine File - Construction


Once we had an idea of what we wanted—and what size—Hubby used this online cut list tool that he really likes. It helps figure out how much material we need, and helps us efficiently cut up a sheet of plywood.



DIY Plywood Magazine Rack - Cutting Plywood


He used a table saw to cut all of the square/rectangular shapes and a bandsaw for the triangular cuts.



DIY Plywood Magazine File - Gluing Plywood


He edge glued and clamped the boxes together (applying wood glue to both sides of each joint). Once dry, he glued the internal dividers into place. Without dividers, these would make great storage bins for the Expedit.



DIY plywood magazine file - Painting Plywood


Once the glue dried, we sanded the finished magazine files smooth. I was definitely tempted to paint them aqua (everything turquoise!), but for some reason I’m really smitten with the Carribea grain. I decided to paint the inside turquoise. To help insure no paint bled onto the fronts, I didn’t paint the edge—only the insides.


While I love the Carribea grain, I don’t love the natural colour of pine. Three coats of my favorite white stain helped tone down the yellowness. Once the stain was dry, I applied two coats of low luster varnish, lightly scuff sanding in between coats.


We installed my vintage hardware—centered—with the help of a small metric bolt and washer.



DIY Magazine File - Felt Feet


Finally, we added some felt feet to the bottom of each file to keep it from scratching the Expedit.

DIY Magazine File - Completed Rack



And you’re finished!

DIY Magazine Rack - In Place


Thanks, Tanya! To take a tour of her house, or to see even more DIY projects, visit Dans le Townhouse.

DIY Plywood Marquee Letters

Plywood usually spells practical, but can it ever be fun? This project certainly has us rethinking that notion. Boring no more!

Bob Vila Thumbs Up Plywood

DIY Marquee Letters


Think that fun and custom home accents need to be pricey? If so, you’re in for a shock. Take a look at this amazing marquee sign made by the talented Allison at Two Thirty-Five Designs. It’s all made from humble plywood and simple string lights. With a few power tools and a free weekend, you could make a sign all your own. Read on to find out how.


- Plywood (2 sheets – thickness depends on if you are going to attach it to the wall or lean it)
- Outdoor string lights (1 strand per letter)
- Jigsaw
- Corner Sander
- Drill/Driver
- Screws (if you plan to attach to the wall)


I set up a projector and used a photo editing software to trace my letters, according to the size that I needed.


After tracing, I cut out each letter with my jigsaw, sanding any rough edges quickly with my hand sander.



DIY Marquee Letters - closeup


I measured out the strand of lights on each letter, marking exactly where I wanted all the lights to be, making sure the cord was not pulled to tightly. Also, plan beforehand how you will make each plug attach to the next plug/letter.


Using my drill and drill bit, I drilled out a hole per light for every mark I made on each letter.


Carefully unscrew each bulb and run the base through the backside of the letter/each hole, and screw back in each bulb as you go.



DIY marquee letters - installed on wall


Depending on if you mount your letter, lean or whatever your preference is, you can tuck and/or tape the extra cord behind the letters. I mounted mine with 2 1/2″ anchor screws into a stud and tucked the excess cord behind the letters.


DIY Marquee Letters - Completed Work


Thanks, Allison! Did you like this? Find even more great DIYs at Two Thirty-Five Designs.

How To: Season Cast Iron

The king of the kitchen, cast-iron cookware gives you crispy fried food, a succulent sear on your steak, and a quick cleanup after cooking—as long as you season your pan correctly. Fortunately, these four steps make the process really easy.

How to Season Cast Iron


Cast iron, properly cared for, can last a lifetime at least in the kitchen. Apart from cleaning your pan or skillet after each use, seasoning cast iron ranks as the most important step you can take toward maintaining this type of cookware. Seasoning is a simple process that leaves a natural nonstick coating, one that makes cooking with cast iron not only more enjoyable, but also much more convenient. How do you season cast iron? Continue reading to learn the steps involved!

To get started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before washing the cast iron thoroughly. Use a combination of warm water and dish soap to eliminate any residue that’s built up over time. Once done, rinse with water and dry the pan or skillet with a soft cloth. In the future, remember not to use dish soap when cleaning your cast iron, as the soap diminishes the effect of seasoning. After use, simply rinse the cast iron with water and wipe it down with a kitchen cloth.

How to Season Cast Iron - Skillet Isolated


Next, choose an oil to use in your seasoning. Some experts say that refined flaxseed oil does the best job. It’s far from being the cheapest option, though. Crisco or lard work well, but really any vegetable oil will do, so long as its smoke point—the temperature at which it starts to smoke—is above your normal cooking temperature. Above all, make certain not to use any oil that boasts a strong flavor.

Pour in the oil of your choice, spreading it around to evenly coat the pan or skillet. For best results, rub in your chosen oil with either a cloth or paper towel. Cover every square inch of the cooking surface.

Place the cast iron, upside down, into the preheated oven, resting it on the oven rack with a piece of aluminum foil beneath it. The goal here is for the pan or skillet to heat until the oil has reached its smoke point. Then and only then is there a chemical reaction that results in the desired nonstick coating. Different oils have different smoke points. To bring flaxseed oil to its smoke point, turn your oven up to its maximum heat seating. If you’re using vegetable oil, keep it at 350 degrees. Bake the cast iron for about an hour, then turn off the heat and allow the metal to fully cool before removing it.

Additional Tips
Eventually, the cast iron will need to be seasoned again. To put that off for as long as possible, remember not to use dish soap when cleaning the cookware. Simply rinse it off with water, wiping it down with a soft cloth, not a scourging pad. Add a little salt for scrubbing power, if necessary. When the cast iron surface becomes dull and sticky, you’ll know that the time to season has come again.

Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make a Snow Sled

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

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




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




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



Build Your Own Pallet Sled


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



DIY Sled - Cardboard


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




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

Genius! DIY Gramophone

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

DIY gramophone


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

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

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

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

Check out his how-to below!

-poplar 1×8
-copper elbow
-wood glue

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


DIY Gramophone - funnel

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


DIY Gramophone - Cutting the Box Parts

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

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


DIY Gramophone - Rabbets

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

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


DIY Gramophone - cutting the side miters

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


DIY Gramophone - cutting the top miters

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


DIY Gramophone - glue up

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


DIY Gramophone - drill for horn

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

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


DIY Gramophone - iPhone

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

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

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


DIY Gramophone - Corner Splines

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

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

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


DIY Gramophone - Sanding

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


DIY Gramophone - oiling

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


DIY Gramophone - copper patina


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

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

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

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

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

DIY Gramophone - finished

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

Bob Vila Radio: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Accurate measurement is fundamental to any successful DIY project. Remember to choose the right tools, mark precise points, and keep perspective on just how accurate is accurate enough.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” When it comes to do-it-yourself projects, there couldn’t be a better motto. Here are some tips for sizing up jobs around the house…

Measure Twice Cut Once


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Listen to BOB VILA ON ACCURATE MEASUREMENT or read the text below:

Don’t use a 25-foot tape to measure for a 6-inch cut. Better to use a smaller tape that’s easier to manipulate.

To transfer your measurements to the surface of the material you’re cutting, first press on the edge of the tape and roll it until the edge makes contact with the material. Then put the point of your pencil at the measurement and flick it up and to the right, then up and to the left. That’ll give you a mark that’s very visible yet small enough at the point to maintain accuracy.

Also, keep a clear perspective on how accurate your measurements really need to be. For example, if you’re cutting drywall, a quarter-inch gap isn’t gonna make a big difference. You can always cover it with tape and mud. It’s the same with trim you’re planning to paint. A little caulk goes a long way. For clear-finish woodwork, though, you’ll need to be more precise.

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