Category: Tools & Workshop


This Company Delivers Houseplants Straight to Your Door

The Sill pairs easy-care houseplants with eye-catching stoneware to create irresistible combinations available for home delivery.

The Sill - Store Interior

Photo: thesill.com

When Eliza Banks lived in student housing as a freshman at NYU, the window in her room looked upon an all-too-familiar urban vista—the brick exterior of the building next door. Having spent her childhood surrounded by nature in rural Massachusetts, Banks had to do something to feel more at home, and fast. Even a tiny houseplant, she knew, would make a huge difference, injecting life into the drab and dreary space. She wasn’t the first to notice that greenery provides a boost to both mood and the look of a room. But where others would merely sigh in appreciation, Banks saw a business opportunity. Five years later, she launched The Sill, a houseplant delivery service that helps New Yorkers do what she did in her dorm—live better among plants.

The Sill - Succulents

Photo: thesill.com

The Sill recognizes that while everyone loves fresh flora, not everyone has the time or the touch for keeping plants alive. So while the company can easily accomodate veteran indoor gardeners, it’s perhaps total beginners who have the most to gain from the service. That’s because throughout the process, from selecting the right species for a specific space to understanding the upkeep, Banks and her staff keep the hassle and stress to a minimum, while never losing sight of the aesthetic priority. Though of course beautiful unto themselves, plants from The Sill are made even more irresistible by the clean, modern stoneware that the company pairs with its offerings and includes with your purchase. Say goodbye to half-dead Philodendron in broken plastic pots!

The Sill - Storefront Exterior Mural

Photo: thesill.com

If you live in New York City, stop by The Sill storefront or shop online for delivery to your door. Don’t live in NYC? Don’t fret! The Sill ships nationwide.

For more information, visit The Sill.


Bob Vila Radio: Pros and Cons of Metal Adhesives

When bonding metals, your best bet, at least in some situations, may be to use nothing more complex than adhesive.

When you want to join two pieces of metal, your first impulse may be to go for a rivet or even a soldering iron. But there are alternatives to consider, one of them being metal adhesives.

Metal Adhesives

Photo: fotosearch.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON METAL ADHESIVES or read the text below:

Adhesives offer several advantages. Unlike bonding methods that use heat, adhesive don’t cause metals to distort. And since there’s no heat involved, you can use an adhesive to join different pieces of metal, each with different melting points. There are a couple more positives too: Adhesives generally don’t cause discoloration, and you don’t have to pre-drill holes for fasteners.

Adhesives do have some drawbacks, however. There’s usually a bit of surface prep involved and once applied, adhesives may take quite a while before they cure to full strength. When the bond has fully cured, though, you won’t want the job of detaching the two pieces—that could be a major undertaking!

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


Is This One App Going to Change DIY Forever?

For DIYers with more time and energy than experience and know-how, a brand-new app makes pro consultations easy, virtually instantaneous, and best of all, cheap.

Fountain Home Improvement App

Photo: fotosearch.com

Even if you’re a veteran do-it-yourselfer and hip to the many different avenues for project research available on the Internet, you’re never going to vanquish moments of uncertainty. When in doubt, during those situations when you’ve got the momentum but lack the know-how, wouldn’t it be nice to have an expert on your side? The next time you hit a stumbling block halfway through a home improvement or repair job, all you’ve got to do is reach for your smartphone.

Fountain App - Screenshot 1

Photo: fountain.com

When you open the free-to-download Fountain app (available for iOS), you are greeted by a screen that asks, “What are you stuck on?” Type in your problem and, if you’d like, include an annotated photo to clarify the issue. From there, the app digs through its index of the nationwide professionals best qualified to lend assistance. These are pre-screened pros, and Fountain has them for every imaginable home-and-garden category, from architecture and interior design to gardening and carpentry. In just 90 seconds, you’ll get automatically connected to a qualified expert for a phone call, video chat, or text messaging session.

While the app itself costs nothing, each 15-minute consultation runs a modest $7. That’s a fraction of what it would cost to get a home visit from a plumber or electrician. Besides that savings, we think what’s really exciting here is that, for the first time ever, you can pay a professional, not for actual service, but for advice.

Skeptical? Fountain shrewdly anticipated that first-time users of the app might feel trepidatious, so your first consultation is free, with a $10 credit being automatically applied to you account upon download.

Think of how many more projects you can tackle at home, now that something like Fountain exists! The only downside might be that you can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse for putting off your to-do list.

Fountain App - Screenshot 2

Photo: fountain.com

Download Fountain for iPhone or iPad, free.


French Toy Maker Debuts a Life-Size Erector Set

The maker of a much-beloved children's toy has branched out into a new market and now offers versatile furniture-making kits to delight kids of all ages.

Meccano Home 1

Photo: meccanohome.com

What happens when you combine the ease and convenience of flat-pack, ready-to-assemble furniture with the fun and whimsy of the Legos you loved as a child? Well, now we know. For decades, the French company Meccano has been manufacturing Erector sets—toys that kids prize for their endlessly interchangeable nuts, bolts, and plates. This year, for the fist time ever, Meccano enters the adult market with life-size pieces designed to make genuine furniture for everyday life.

In the Meccano Home collection, there are 20 modules that allow for the construction of everything from tables and chairs to bureaus and buffets. Just as an Erector set lends itself to a virtually limitless number of configurations, so too can Meccano Home components be used for whatever you want to build—be it a piece of furniture that would be immediately recognizable out of context, or a custom creation that only makes sense given the idiosyncrasies of your space.

Meccano Home 2

Photo: meccanohome.com

Do you want a coffee table with an integrated chair? How about a modular storage system that doubles as a work surface? “With Meccano Home, the user becomes the creator of his living space,” states the company’s Web site. You can follow the included instructions, of course, or you can completely ignore them. So it’s just like when you were a kid, except with one major difference: At the end of the day, you no longer have to put your toys back where they came from!

Featuring a tough, durable finish, the Meccano Home pieces, available in eight vibrant colors, are only part of the story. Additional elements can be purchased to add even more functionality where necessary or desired. For instance, with a crank and fixing kit, you can create a table that doubles in size or contracts by half , depending on the number of people you wish to accommodate. Similarly, the addition of a light kit turns an ordinary storage unit into an extraordinary lamp.

Meccano Home 3

Photo: meccanohome.com

While it’s hard to envision a home decked out exclusively in Erector set-style furniture, it’s easy to see the appeal of Meccano Home for DIY kids of all ages!

For more information, visit Meccano Home.


This Company Makes Furniture with Salvaged Railroad Materials

Knotty timber and centuries-old iron rails become hardy, arty furniture in the calloused hands of Rail Yard Studios.

Rail Yard Studios Furniture - Desk

Photo: railyardstudios.com

As the owner of a railroad contracting and maintenance firm, John Hendrick oversaw a crew responsible for, among other things, disposing of old or unusable rails and ties. After a while, Hendrick grew tired of seeing so much beautiful, often historic material either junked or sold off for scrap. That’s when he developed an idea.

His newest company, Rail Yard Studios, works to transform railroad cast-offs into pieces of fine furniture. Since Hendrick had trained as an industrial designer, it wasn’t much of a stretch for him to envision a second life for these heavy-duty components, particularly with his carpenter father involved as a business partner.

Rail Yard Studios - Adirondack Chair

Photo: railyardstudios.com

Today, Rail Yard Studios fashions chunky yet chic tables, seating, desks, bed frames and more from steel rail, spikes, wooden ties and brackets. Each one-of-a-kind piece manages to capture the rugged romance of American train travel, with many steel members still bearing the imprints of industrial titans like Andrew Carnegie.

Though you may find evidence of past centuries, you won’t find any hazardous materials. Rail Yard Studios relies on timber rejected due to knots and splits and other imperfections that, while not conducive to supporting massive trains, are ideal for furniture that’s handsome, heavy, and definitely not for the dainty-of-heart.

All aboard!

Rail Yard Studios - Coffee Table

Photo: railyardstudios.com

For more information, visit Rail Yard Studios.


This Company Makes Furniture from Salvaged Fire Hose

Not long ago, decommissioned fire hose went only to landfills. Now, the Oxgut Hose Co. repurposes as much of the material as possible into unique modern furniture and homewares.

Oxgut - Fire Hose Mat

Photo: oxgut.com

Every single month, tons of fire hose reaches the end of its useful life and must be disposed of. That’s when Oakland-based Oxgut Hose Co. steps in. Since 2013, the company has been working with fire departments around the U.S. to salvage decommissioned fire hose and launch the unique material in a new direction.

Manufactured in synthetic fiber and cotton, in bold colors, and subject to character-defining wear and tear, fire hose is of course rugged and durable, but it’s also—unexpectedly, and in a utilitarian way—beautiful. Plus, every fire hose features a fascinating history—or as Oxgut chooses to phrase it, a “heroic past.”

Oxgut - Fire Hose Chairs

Photo: oxgut.com

Taking its name from the fire hose of Ancient Greece, Oxgut partners with contemporary, locally-based designers, challenging their talents to develop fresh ways of repurposing the material. If the past provides any indication, fire hose serves well as a main component in a surprising range of functional, aesthetically pleasing furniture and home accessories. So far, Oxgut products have ranged widely, from lounge and dining chairs to floor mats, log carriers, and hammocks.

Oxgut - Fire Hose Carrier

Photo: oxgut.com

To a great extent, Oxgut offerings depend on the nuances of the fire hose itself. Different sizes and textures tend to send the designers off in different creative directions. Due to the non-uniform nature of the material, everything from Oxgut can be said to be one of a kind, and it’s all crafted by hand, domestically.

In honor of the fire hose and its original purpose, Oxgut donates a portion of every sale to the Children’s Burn Foundation.

Oxgut - Hose Company

Photo: oxgut.com

For more information, visit Oxgut Hose Co.


Bob Vila Radio: Every DIYer Needs a Rotary Tool

Dremel-type oscillating tools rank high on the list of the all-time handiest multi-taskers. Here's why.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and you’re not familiar with oscillating tools, such as the type made famous by Dremel, it’s high time you got to know these versatile wonders.

Everyone Needs an Oscillating Tool

Photo: dremel.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON OSCILLATING TOOLS or read the text below:

The original Dremel was marketed in the 1930s by toolmaker Albert J. Dremel. Since then, other companies have come out with similar tools, and the Dremel name has become a generic (e.g., Kleenex).

Dremel tools are small drill-like devices, shaped sort of like an electric toothbrush—minus the brush. They’re designed to tackle a wide variety of jobs, depending on the type of bit or burr that’s inserted into the collet of the tool. Those jobs include drilling, grinding, cutting, routing, engraving, sanding and more.

Both single- and variable-speed models are available in corded and cordless models. Generally speaking, variable-speed models give you more control, while corded models give you more power.

If you’ve got a wide variety of jobs on your to-do list, add an oscillating tool to your arsenal.

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


From the Hudson Valley, Furniture with a Sense of Place

A husband-wife duo are the principals of Sawkille Co., a contemporary furniture company steeped in the present and past of the Hudson Valley.

Sawkille Furniture

Photo: sawkille.com

Jonah Meyer and Tara De Lisio are partners in marriage—and partners in business. In their first venture together, the couple converted an abandoned gas station into a showroom that became a cultural hub and veritable roadside attractive in the Catskill Mountains. Here, along with a curated collection of housewares, there were many intriguing pieces that seemed to blur the line between sculpture and furniture. These were made by Meyer himself, a visual artist who’d begun to experiment in a new mode. Over time, Meyer focused more and more on making furniture, and soon it became clear: People loved his work and would pay for it.

Sawkille Furniture - Chair

Photo: remodelista.com

In 2010, Meyer and De Lisio embarked on a new adventure. They established Sawkille, a modern furniture company steeped in tradition. Meyer works with a small team in Kingston, NY, crafting each piece the old-fashioned way—by hand. On the opposite shore of the Hudson River, in the small town of Rhinebeck, De Lisio oversees the Sawkille retail storefront. Meanwhile, Meyer and De Lisio live in another Hudson Valley town, perhaps its most famous—Woodstock (which happens to be where De Lisio grew up). So even though Sawkille has been covered in the international press and sells furniture to people far beyond the company’s little corner of America, it’s a local business in so many ways—if not from a standpoint of reach, then from a design, production, and philosophical standpoint.

Sawkille Furniture - Bed

Photo: sawkille.com

Yes, if furniture can be said to convey such things as a sense of place, then Sawkille sings of the Hudson Valley, present and past. Many of the company’s most popular pieces are actually pared down, modern interpretations of pieces whose provenance goes back to the earliest New York settlers, the colonists and the Shakers. Made with wood harvested and milled nearby, Sawkille offers stools and tables, benches and bed frames, all finely detailed and in their farmhouse simplicity, timeless. While the company adds new pieces to its expanding line, Meyer and De Lisio continue to work closely with clients on custom furniture and casework. So the next time you’re driving through the narrow, meandering lanes of the Hudson Valley, why not make a stop in Rhinebeck, get out, and say hello?

Sawkille Furniture - Stools

Photo: sawkille.com

For more information, visit Sawkille Co.


Bob Vila Radio: Master the Mighty Miter Box

Technology progresses and tools become ever more sophisticated, but for angled cuts, the miter box still rules.

If your next do-it-yourself woodworking project involves making angled cuts, then get to know the miter box, as this timeless tool may soon become your best friend.

Miter Box Tips

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MITER BOX TIPS or read the text below:

Typically made of thick plastic or wood, miter boxes are shaped a little like a lidless shoebox with the ends cut out. There are multiple angled slots on the sides of the box, each lining up with a slot on the other side.

Miter boxes are designed to be used with miter saws, tools with teeth set for crosscutting (cutting across the grain of the wood). In simplest terms, you just mark your workpiece where you want to make the cut, slide it into the miter box, position your saw into two corresponding slots that match your mark… and saw away!

Miter boxes work best when secured to a workbench, with the workpiece battened down with clamps. Another option is to fasten the box to a small sheet of plywood, clamping the edges of the plywood to your bench. Employ either technique, and your work shouldn’t wiggle.

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


New Kits Make DIY Profitable for Some, Foolproof for All

Darby Smart makes DIY easy, both for novices who want nothing more than to learn, and for veterans wanting something beyond recognition.

Photo: darbysmart.com

Like so many other do-it-yourself enthusiasts, Nicole Shariat Farb frequently browsed blogs and social media sites, always in search of her next project. On many occasions, however, her attempt would pale in comparison to what had inspired her. After a while, experiences like these finally led Farb to develop a business idea. And the more she researched the market, the more she came to believe in the promise of a company now known as Darby Smart. A new type of online marketplace, the mission of Darby Smart is to make DIYing easy for everyone, while providing the opportunity for talented makers to profit from their passion.

Darby Smart - Mason Jar Light

Photo: darbysmart.com

For consumers, Darby Smart offers dozens of mail-order kits, each containing instructions and all the materials needed to build a home accessory, be it a mason jar lamp or wood block candle holder. Engineered to be completed in less than an hour, each virtually foolproof kit carries a price tag between $15 and $45, shipping included. Importantly, a sizable portion of every sale goes to the outside person who came up with and submitted the idea for the kit. So for all the makers whose talents have brought large followings online but little financial reward, there’s now a way to earn money by making clever and beautiful things.

Darby Smart - Light Bulb Planter

Photo: darbysmart.com

For more information, visit Darby Smart.