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How To: Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Don't let a dull blade get you down—or injured! Sharpening your favorite pocket tool will ensure safer, more efficient use the next time you need it.

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Photo: istockphoto.com

The handiest people advocate keeping a pocket knife within reach (if not actually in a pocket) at all times. Its foldable blades and tiny size render it useful in countless situations—whittling walking sticks, opening stubborn packaging, and cutting through twine, to name a few. With all that use, however, the blades on a pocket knife will dull, making them less efficient and ultimately more dangerous. A dull knife requires more force to work, which could cause the tool to slip and cut the user, whereas a sharp knife eases into a cut with minimal effort and maximum control. Rather than wait for an injury to happen, it’s better to be more proactive and learn how to sharpen a pocket knife.

To sharpen a pocket knife, you’ll need to acquire a few materials. While knife aficionados debate whether to sharpen the tool with a whetstone, diamond-crusted stone, ceramic stone, or a Japanese water stone, we recommend that beginners opt for a whetstone. This particular sharpening stone is easy to use and readily available at most home stores and online retailers (for under $20, even!). You’ll also want to invest in a sharpening guide, another ballpark $20 purchase which attaches to the knife and props it at a consistent angle so that you can make it through your first attempt at how to sharpen a pocket knife scathe-free.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Rubber non-slip mat
– Clean rag
– Sharpening stone
– Baby, mineral, or canola oil
– Sharpening guide
– Piece of paper
– Paper towel

STEP 1
Sit down at a table so that you can hold the knife steady at a consistent angle throughout the sharpening process. Place a non-slip mat on the work surface, and cover it with a clean rag to protect it from oil stains from the materials you’ll use in the next steps. Then put the whetstone on top of the rag within easy reach. If the blade is extremely dull, ensure that you’ve got the rough grit side of the stone facing up; use the fine side of the stone for blades that need minor sharpening.

STEP 2
Completely cover the surface of the whetstone with mineral, baby, or canola oil. The oil keeps the stone’s pores from clogging with loosened metal debris during the sharpening process, and it also prevents friction from heating up the knife blade. A hot blade can warp and become impossible to sharpen and potentially difficult to open and close the pocket knife properly.

STEP 3
Attach the sharpening guide to the top of the knife blade, which will give you a fixed angle for sharpening. Each pocket knife must be slanted exactly at its bevel angle (the angle at which the blade slants) for sharpening, so make sure to buy a sharpening guide designed for that specific angle, which you can discern from the packaging. Most knife manufacturers will list the bevel angles for individual products on their website, but you can consult a professional knife sharpening service for help if needed. The bevel angle of most pocket knife falls somewhere between 10 and 20 degrees.

With practice, you won’t always need to use a sharpening guide—even so, you should still determine the pocket knife’s bevel angle. When sharpening, you’ll have to hold the knife in a position that keeps that bevel absolutely flat at the manufacturer-recommended angle.

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Photo: amazon.com

STEP 4
Hold the handle of the knife in your dominant hand at the correct bevel angle, and use one or two fingers on your free hand to gently but firmly press the blade into the stone as you guide the knife across it—as if you’re slicing a fine layer off the top of the stone. Your personal preference determines whether you draw the knife toward you or away from you along the stone to sharpen it. Either way, your knife should follow a sweeping arc across the whetstone from the corner closest to you and opposite your dominant hand across the block to the far corner; so, if you’re holding your pocket knife in your right hand, you’ll move from the near left corner to the far right and back again. This angled movement ensures that the blade’s tip through its heel (the base of the knife) come into contact with the stone. Repeat five to 10 times.

STEP 5
Flip the knife over, and repeat Step 4 to sharpen the reverse side of the blade. Continue to maintain the correct bevel angle throughout the sharpening process.

STEP 6
Determine if the pocket knife has been sufficiently sharpened. Hold up any piece of paper, position the pocket knife at a 30-degree angle to it, and slice into an edge. Does the blade go in easily and create a clean cut? If so, congratulations! You’ve successfully sharpened the pocket knife.

If the blade doesn’t slice through the paper with ease, repeat Steps 4 and 5, giving the knife another five strokes across the whetstone per side. Increase the number of strokes until you’re satisfied with the blade’s sharpness, always completing an equal number on each side of the knife.

STEP 7
Once the knife is sharpened, wipe it with the clean rag to remove all oil residue. Then use paper towels to pat the stone dry before you storing it.

Sharpen the blade of your pocket knife after every few uses. To determine if a sharpening is needed, check the dullness of the blade using the paper test described in Step 6. With proper care, your knife will remain functional for decades to come!


The Right Way to Fill Nail Holes

With the right tool and the perfect technique, you can hide all signs of the gallery wall, coat hooks, or wall-mounted shelves that once hung in your home—and regain smooth, unblemished walls.

How to Fix Nail Holes with a HYDE® 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife

Photo: hydetools.com

If you’re reluctant to rearrange the pictures on your walls because you dread dealing with the nail holes left behind, you’re in good company. Filling nail holes can be challenging, particularly if you’re trying to completely erase any trace of the fasteners. Those dimples left by well-intended spackling jobs can haunt us long after the gallery wall comes down. But take heart: With the right tools and techniques, you can have seamlessly smooth walls once more—and you’ll never again fear relocating pictures, calendars, clocks, or even wall-mounted shelves.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Spackling paste (for nail holes in drywall)
– Wood filler compound (for nail holes in wood)
– 220-grit sanding block
HYDE® 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife

STEP 1: Sand the surface. 
Prepping properly before you even start spackling is key to removing all traces of former holes. When you hammer a nail into drywall, some of the chalky gypsum material inside the drywall panel is displaced and has a tendency to push outward, forming a small ridge around the nail hole. Wood, on the other hand, has a tendency to splinter a bit around the nail. In either case, if you simply fill the nail hole, the area might look smooth to the eye for now, but the bump will stick out like a sore thumb once you paint it.

To prepare the surface, lightly swipe a fine, 220-grit sanding block over the nail hole to sand away ridges. Work in a circular motion over drywall. When sanding wood, however, always sand in the direction of the wood grain to keep from leaving cross-sanding marks.

How to Fix Nail Holes with a HYDE® 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife

Photo: hydetools.com

STEP 2: Choose the right hand tools.
For a small-scale spackling job, you’ll need to select a putty knife with a little bit of give in its blade, like HYDE’s 2” SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife. The slight flexibility facilitates easy spreading as you pull the spackling over the hole. The bottom section of the blade glides at an angle along the wall surface, helping to push the compound into the hole and reducing the risk of scratching the surface with the corners of the blade (which can happen if you’re using a rigid blade). Plus, the tool’s stainless steel is impervious to rust. In fact, if you neglect to wipe it down immediately after the job, simply give it a small bend, and any dried leftover compound will fall right off.

STEP 3: Select and spread the compound.
Though similar in application, different patching compounds are formulated for use on different surfaces. Make sure you select the right one for the job.

For drywall, pick up a good-quality spackling paste (your choice of either the premixed stuff, which comes in a small tub, or a dry powder that you’ll combine with water) to fill the holes.

For wood, choose a wood filler that’s formulated for the surface at hand. Basic wood filler compounds work in situations where you’re planning on painting over the surface later to hide the obviously discolored patch. For bare wood that will be stained or wood used in an exterior project, look for compounds that are specifically labeled for the intended use.

Once you’ve selected an appropriate product, scoop up a roughly dime-size dollop of spackling paste or filler, and smooth it across the nail hole using the 2″ SuperFlexx Stainless Steel Putty Knife—not your fingers, however tempting that may be. Smoothing with your hands will leave the spackled hole with a slight depression because your digits are not perfectly flat.

The best method involves two swipes: one either sideways or downward to fill the hole with compound, followed by a second swipe back in the opposite direction to wipe away the excess. If you find that your second swipe across the nail hole leaves streaks of spackling paste on the wall or wood, you’ve probably used more paste than necessary; take note and scoop up a little less the next time.

Once the spackling paste has dried completely (the time varies by brand), lightly sand the area with a fine-grit sanding block. Remember: Move in a circular pattern when sanding drywall, and follow the grain when sanding wood.

STEP 4: Apply a second layer of compound.
Some spackling and wood filler compounds shrink more than others, but it’s difficult to see the shrinkage until the wall has been painted. For that reason, it’s best to apply another thin layer even if you think the first application filled the hole completely. Follow the same two-swipe method described in Step 3, then let the compound dry for the recommended amount of time.

Note: Some spackling paste is advertised as “paintable when wet,” but it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you don’t give it a chance to dry, you can’t sand it, and without sanding, you can’t be sure the wall is completely free of leftover bumps or depressions that would draw attention to your spackling job.

STEP 5: Prepare for paint with one last sanding.
Lightly sand the area around the hole to eliminate any excess compound from your second application, and then inspect the hole itself. The paste should only fill the hole and not extend past its edges. If you see extra filler, take care of it with some spot sanding; otherwise, you’re all set! Paint the drywall or wooden surface, and forget about those holes for good.

 

This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Solved! What to Do When Your Toilet Starts Overflowing

Quickly gain control when there’s water gushing from your commode.

Toilet Overflowing? The 3-Step Fix

Photo: istockphoto.com


Q: Help! Just as I was leaving the bathroom, I heard the unmistakable, undesirable sound of water hitting the floor. Looking back, I saw the toilet overflowing! I turned off the water—but what do I do now?
A: An overflowing toilet is a problem everyone will likely deal with at some point. When water issues from the bowl, chances are the culprit is a clogged toilet drain—usually an easy fix with some basic tools.

You’ve already done the right thing by turning off the toilet’s water supply, on the wall behind the toilet. If you can’t find the water supply to stop the toilet overflowing, take the top off the tank and lift the float ball or cup high enough to stop the water from running. Then shut off the water supply to the house with the valve or knob generally located near the water heater.

Should overflow continue once the main water supply is off, you’re dealing with sewage backup, a serious situation requiring an immediate call to a plumber. If you are on a municipal septic system, the plumber can diagnose whether the issue is on your property or something you need to call the city about. If you have a septic tank, you’ll need a plumbing company that can flush out your system.

Hopefully, though, the gushing will have stopped and you may proceed. When you’ve fixed the toilet, make sure to clean the bathroom and tools thoroughly with bleach and hot water.

How to Stop a Toilet Overflowing

Photo: istockphoto.com

Plunge a Clog. The first line of defense for a toilet clog is the standard plunger. If you don’t already own one, invest in one with a flange on the bottom that will extend into the toilet’s drain hole, creating the tight seal that will clear the clog most efficiently. But before you grab the plunger, put on some rubber gloves and remove a few inches of water from the toilet bowl into a bucket with a small container to minimize the risk of sloshing more onto the floor as you plunge. It’s also a good idea to throw a few old towels around the base of the commode to soak up any water that may come out.

Put the plunger into the toilet, inserting the flange directly into the drain hole. Tip: To ensure a tight seal, coat the rim of the flange with petroleum jelly. Keeping the handle upright, vigorously push the plunger up and down for 15 to 20 seconds, an action that forces air and water into the drain to clear the clog. Flush to ensure that the problem is, ahem, behind you!

Snake a Drain. If a plunger fails to do the trick, the next step is to use a toilet snake, also known as a toilet auger—a flexible cable designed to maneuver the twisty turns of the toilet drain. The cable, housed in a rubber hose, has a crank on one end and a coiled hook tip on the other that can snag stubborn materials deep within the drain. A toilet snake costs around $50, but you can rent one from a home improvement or hardware store for about $12 to $15 a day—even less for half a day.

Don your rubber gloves and remove excess water from the toilet into a bucket with a small container. Then place the hook end of the toilet snake into the bowl and begin turning the crank clockwise so the cable extends into the drain. Keep cranking until it won’t go any further—you’ve come to the clog. Gently pull back on the snake and, if you feel resistance, you’ve hooked the clog. Begin cranking counter-clockwise to pull the clog out of the drain back up into the toilet bowl. Dump the clogged material into the bucket and repeat the process several times to ensure that the clog is completely removed. Flush, then dump the waste back into the toilet in small amounts, flushing each time to make sure you don’t create another clog or start the toilet overflowing once more.


How To: Transplant a Tree

Do you have a poorly located tree? There's no need to chop it down! With the right tools and techniques, you can transplant a tree to another area in your yard.

How to Transplant a Tree

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether they’re deciduous or evergreen, shade or ornamental, trees add value and curb appeal to any property. But, occasionally, a tree’s placement presents some problems. Perhaps it blocks a construction project like a home expansion or a deck addition. Maybe the tree is floundering from inadequate light, soil, or water conditions in its current location. A tree may also start growing too close to the house or surrounding landscaping, preventing healthy development. Whatever the situation, that poorly positioned tree doesn’t have to get you down or get chopped down. As long as the healthy sapling’s tree trunk isn’t larger than three inches in diameter, a homeowner can follow this guide for how to transplant a tree to another spot in the yard.

If you’re considering how to transplant a tree within your property, be sure to time it right: Trees should be moved during late fall or early spring, since the tree’s dormant state allows for speedy root growth in the new location. If transplanting in the fall, complete the task early enough for the roots to get established before the ground freezes. Even so, you should start your project much sooner than that; tree roots must be pruned several months prior to the transplant in order to help the tree thrive in its new location. Keep reading for instructions on how to prune as well as how to transplant your tree—and how to ensure it survives in its new home.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Flat spade
– Shovel
– Pruning shears
– Loppers (optional)
– Natural burlap
– Twine
– Tarp
– Mulch
– Tree stakes

FIRST, PRUNE THE ROOTS.

The process of transplanting a tree actually begins several months prior to the actual relocation with the pruning of its roots. This act encourages the growth of new feeder roots (which absorb water and nutrients) closer to the tree’s base to help the tree better adapt to its new location. If you’re planning to transplant a tree in the fall, then prune roots the previous spring. If you’re planning to transplant a tree in the spring, then prune roots the previous fall.

STEP 1
To properly prepare the tree for pruning, water it well the day before. Watering helps ensure the soil sticks to the roots, and moist soil is easier to dig into.

STEP 2
Calculate how much of the root ball—the cluster of roots at the base of your tree—you intend to prune. As a general rule of thumb, the root ball should be about one foot in diameter for every inch of trunk thickness. So, if the trunk is two inches thick, you’ll aim to prune the root ball to be two feet in diameter.

Note: If your tree’s trunk spans more than three inches in diameter, its root ball will be too heavy and fragile for a do-it-yourself landscaping job. Instead, call a professional to see about having this larger tree transplanted.

STEP 3
Cut a trench (about two feet deep and at least one foot wide) around the root ball with a flat spade, making sure to cut through the existing roots that extend past this circumference using the sharp edge of the spade.

STEP 4
Refill the trench with the uplifted soil, carefully placing subsoil underneath topsoil. When you return in two seasons for the move, you should find new feeder roots growing closer to the tree trunk and creating a strong root system.

 

How to Transplant a Tree

Photo: istockphoto.com

THEN TRANSPLANT THE TREE.

After roots are pruned, homeowners should give the tree several months to establish a new root system. Ensure the tree is healthy before removing it from the ground, since a sick or damaged plant likely won’t survive relocation. If the tree isn’t thriving (whether from disease or environmental issues), you may need to hold off until it becomes healthy again. Also, as an added measure of safety, make sure you aren’t digging near any underground utility lines during the course of the project.

STEP 1
Choose a new location carefully. Make sure the new spot has sufficient space for the tree to grow, as well as proper soil, light, and water conditions. Every type of tree has different requirements, so take the time to do your research.

STEP 2
Water the tree’s soil one day before transplanting. Moist soil is easier to dig and helps maintain the cohesiveness of the root ball.

STEP 3
In the new location, dig a hole that’s about three times as wide yet the same depth as the root ball, in order to give the lateral roots room to spread out. You won’t want to dig a hole too deep, or else rotting of the roots may occur. Take care to save the soil, separating the topsoil from the subsoil. Water the hole well to infuse some extra moisture into the soil, which will help hold the root ball together.

STEP 4
Using a shovel, remove the topsoil near the trunk and roots of the tree. Then start digging around the tree with a sharp, flat spade about six inches further than the pruned roots. Digging several inches past the trench ensures that you include most (if not all) of the new feeder roots that will help the tree adjust to its new location. If you come across any older, stubborn roots in the path of your digging that you missed while digging the trench months ago, cut them with pruning shears or—in the case of larger roots—loppers.

STEP 5
After digging all the way around the circumference of the tree, start to dig under the tree to sever the roots beneath. Remember that the diameter of the root ball as determined when pruning should be left intact; if a tree trunk is two inches in diameter, then dig a little more than two feet down in order to get the full root ball.

STEP 6
Once the tree is completely free of the ground, place a sheet of natural burlap in the hole and coax the tree roots over it. Then lift the tree from the ground with the burlap (never by the trunk) to prevent breakage. Having another person on hand to help contain the tree roots in the burlap and lift the tree from the ground will help immensely.

STEP 7
Secure the burlap together with twine to keep the soil together, and carry the tree to its new position. If it’s too heavy to carry, place its burlap-covered root ball on a tarp so you can drag it to the new location.

STEP 8
Set the tree into the fresh hole, making sure that the base of the trunk will be level with the ground once the hole has been completely filled. Add any soil necessary to achieve the proper height. Once the tree is placed in the ground, remove the burlap and twine.

STEP 9
Fill the ground around the tree with soil from the dug hole, making sure to keep the subsoil on the bottom and the topsoil on top. Tamp the soil down gently as you go. Water thoroughly, all the way out to the edge of the hole site. Then add two to three inches of mulch around the base of the tree, being careful not to push it up onto the trunk, to promote adequate moisture levels and temperature.

 

How to Transplant a Tree

Photo: istockphoto.com

MAINTAINING A TRANSPLANTED TREE

The care you give a tree after transplanting is extremely important. If the tree is smaller, planted on flat terrain, and not exposed to a lot of wind, you shouldn’t need to stake it. The roots will actually grow deeper and stronger if you don’t. But consider staking unsteady or larger trees.

After transplanting, ensure the tree gets enough water in relation to the climate, soil type, and rainfall levels. Generally, homeowners should plan to deeply water the tree every day for the first two weeks. Refrain from fertilizing the tree for at least one year; you want the tree to concentrate its energy on rebuilding its root system instead of producing new growth.

With some planning and thoughtful care, you’ll be able to enjoy your transplanted tree in its new location for many years to come.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


7 Ways to Tackle Spring Cleaning with Vinegar

One of the most versatile, all-natural cleaning agents in the world can be found inside the kitchen pantry, and it barely costs a thing.

6 Tips for Cleaning with Vinegar

Photo: istockphoto.com

For homeowners who appreciate all natural ingredients and saving money on household necessities, baking soda and vinegar have been longtime favorites for tackling household cleaning. But it’s a lesser-known fact that cleaning with vinegar alone can achieve sparkling results, too—no need to fret if you’ve run out of its powdery sidekick before finishing the gallon bottle. Whether your house is in need of deodorizing or descaling, just pull out the jug and refer to these seven tips the next time.

1. Erase crayon marks.

If you have children in your home, you probably know the woe of walking into a room and finding a colorful design on the walls other than your paint job. Never fear; cleaning with vinegar can clear those crayon doodles right up. Using a toothbrush and somewhere between ¼ and 1 cup of white vinegar (depending on how much “art” you need to remove), move in small, gentle circles across the crayon marks to break down the wax, and then gently wipe away.

2. Clean a shower head.

Clogged shower heads aren’t just unsightly to look at; they can also reduce your water pressure, leaving you feeling less than refreshed even after you suds off. To return your shower stream to full strength, fill a medium-sized bowl with equal parts cup vinegar and boiling water, then submerge the shower head in the solution for 10 minutes. Or, if you can’t remove it from the wall, fill a large sandwich or freezer bag halfway with just vinegar, tape or rubber-band it around the head, and leave it there for an hour. Whichever method you choose, the mineral build-up will loosen so that you can simply brush it away once time is up—and enjoy full shower power during your next soak.

3. Spruce up wood floors.

Homeowners have cleaned unwaxed wood floors with vinegar and water for centuries, and this old-fashioned method is still a favorite today. To get your own wood floors squeaky clean, combine a gallon of hot water with ½ cup vinegar in a bucket and then dip a household mop or sponge into the solution and wipe down. Just be careful to use a sparing amount of the mixture. A damp mop will clean well while still allowing the floors to dry quickly. Too much water left behind on the floors, however, can do much more harm than good, including causing the floorboards to swell and warp. If you notice any visible puddles, dry them up with a towel as you clean.

Refresh a Fridge by Cleaning with Vinegar

Photo: istockphoto.com

4. Refresh your fridge.

If your refrigerator smells a little stale, it’s likely the result of a mixture of trace amounts of food left behind over time. To get rid of less-than-fresh odors, try cleaning with vinegar. Clear your fridge of its contents, combine two parts water with one part vinegar in a spray bottle, and spritz it all over the appliance’s empty interior. Let the solution sit for 20 minutes to loosen up any dried spills before wiping everything down with a microfiber cloth. Repeat if necessary, and bid those funky smells farewell.

5. Clean your microwave.

The microwave is another appliance that’s notorious for accruing quite an odor over time, and liquid stains can stick on stubbornly no matter how much you scrub. Steaming your microwave’s interior first, though, effectively loosens up even the toughest gunk. Just place a small glass bowl of equal parts water and vinegar (½ cups to one cup each, depending on how deep a steam you think you might need) and microwave it for five to 10 minutes. To prevent the bowl of vinegar and water from boiling over, place a toothpick in the solution before hitting “start”—the wooden object will attract any bubbles that form on the boiling liquid so that they don’t rapidly rise to the top and overflow. Once machine’s timer sounds, you should be able to wipe away the grime and grease from the steamed interior with ease.

6. Get rid of litter box odors.

Cat owners know the unpleasant stench of a litter box in need of freshening up. With vinegar on hand, however, there’s a single-ingredient solution that can tackle the offending smell in three quick steps. Empty the litter box, fill it with ½ inch of vinegar for 20 minutes, and rinse with cold water. Once the box gets refilled with kitty litter, pet owners and their guests can breathe easy in well under an hour’s worth of work.

7. Descale your tea kettle.

Consistent tea-drinking habits gradually coat the interior of a kettle in limescale—unsightly and unsavory white calcium deposits left behind when hot water evaporates. Fortunately, cleaning with vinegar (a natural descaling agent) will restore your kettle to its original state. Fill it halfway with equal parts cold water and white vinegar, then either turn on the stove under the kettle or plug in your electric appliance to bring the solution to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and allow the vinegar-water solution to sit in the kettle for 30 minutes to an hour. Empty the kettle and rinse the interior with cold water and wipe away any lingering limescale with a clean, damp cloth (no scrubbing necessary). Then, boil clean water for your next beverage to prevent any vinegary aftertaste from seeping into future cups of tea.

 

The Dos and Don'ts of Cleaning with Vinegar

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning with Vinegar

• Do use vinegar and water as a general cleaning agent on countertops (except for those made of natural stone), windows, and unwaxed floors. it’s a safe, biodegradable, health-friendly alternative that’s been a staple of household cleaning for generations.

Don’t use vinegar on waxed wood floors; it will strip the finish and leave you with dull, damaged planks.

Don’t use too much vinegar solution on unwaxed wood floors, since standing water can create a host of problems from warping to mildew to mold.

Don’t EVER combine vinegar with bleach or ammonia. Each of those combinations results in chloramine, a toxic vapor that’s hazardous to your health.

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


How To: Seal a Granite Countertop

Protect your pricey kitchen investment with the right sealant and these techniques.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve got a gorgeous granite countertop and want to keep it in “show home” shape, you may need to seal it. Some countertops come pre-sealed, but if yours did not (or you’re not sure) don’t delay giving it the shield it needs. Improper cleaning, neglected spills, and other issues of everyday use could easily mar the surface otherwise. The proper penetrating (or impregnating) sealer will soak into the granite, filling the porous gaps, to keep damage at bay. True, a sealant only buys you time—unattended spills will seep into sealed granite eventually—but the right one and the following steps for how to seal a granite countertop will certainly help protect your investment.

Water-based sealants are environmentally friendly, while solvent-based sealants may go deeper into the stone—though this is arguably only important on polished granite. Check water- or solvent-based sealant labels for the active ingredient “fluorocarbon aliphatic resin.” Though the product will be pricier than those containing such agents as siloxane and silicon, fluorocarbon aliphatic resin will provide five to 10 years of protection, versus six months to three years with other sealants. What’s more, fluorocarbon aliphatic resins repel oil as well as water, so your granite won’t be ruined by a salad dressing mishap. A quart of fluorocarbon aliphatic resin sealant costs about $35 and offers between 150 to 250 square feet of coverage, depending on brand. A 24-oz spray bottle of lesser solvent runs around $15 but might require reapplying every six months or so.

Ahead, you’ll find general guidance for how to seal a granite countertop with either variety, but specific directions vary according to brand and active ingredients. It’s crucial to follow label instructions on the sealant you buy in addition to these handy guidelines for the best results.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Microfiber cloths
– Spray bottle
– Liquid dishwashing detergent
– Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
– Granite sealer
– Rubber gloves
– Soft rags

STEP 1
Determine if the countertop requires sealing. Somewhere inconspicuous, like in a corner of the counter, put a few drops of water on top, and a few inches away, put a few drops of oil. After 15 minutes, check to see if the water or oil has seeped in and darkened the granite. If so, proceed with these instructions for how to seal a granite countertop. If not, then the countertop is already sealed, and doing so again will not offer extra protection but only leave an unattractive hazy film.

STEP 2
Clean the countertop 24 hours before sealing, making sure to avoid potentially damaging vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, bleach, or harsh commercial cleansers. First, take everything off the counter and wipe it down well with a clean, dry microfiber cloth to remove all surface dust. Then, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and two tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol in a pint spray bottle and fill with cool water. Generously spray the countertop and wipe clean while polishing in a circular motion, using a microfiber cloth. Wait 24 hours before proceeding: The space occupied by the cleaning agent is the same space that the sealant will penetrate, so you must ensure that the cleaning liquid has fully evaporated.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Read the sealant’s label thoroughly to understand the application method. Should our instructions vary from the label, defer to the manufacturer. Open nearby windows and doors for ventilation. If it’s raining, do not open windows that could allow rain to hit the countertop; instead, open windows in other areas of the room or in adjacent rooms.

STEP 4
Put on rubber gloves and grab the rags. In an area usually covered by a small appliance, test the sealant to ensure it won’t affect the finish. Apply a small amount per manufacturer’s directions, by spraying or pouring onto a cloth and then rubbing it evenly over the test area.

STEP 5
Wait the recommended time for the sealant to absorb into the granite, usually 15 to 20 minutes, but sometimes much longer. Don’t let it sit longer than recommended, because that could discolor the stone.

STEP 6
If the sealant test area looks great, proceed to Step 7. If it has discolored, wipe up any remaining sealant with a clean rag. Then snap a few photos of the area and show them to an associate at your local home center for advice on a more appropriate product. Once you’ve acquired a new sealant, clean the counter and test the new sealant.

STEP 7
If the test was successful, apply the sealant over the entire counter, beginning at one end and working your way to the other. Apply in sections, using a circular motion, of an arm’s length in diameter, to ensure equal coverage throughout. Wait the manufacturer’s recommended time for the product to absorb into the countertop.

STEP 8
After the absorption period has passed, wipe any extra sealant off with a clean, soft, dry rag, rubbing in a circular motion. Some products require a second coat, so follow instructions to do so. If the product you use requires one coat, allow it cure, which can take between two and 48 hours. Nonetheless, granite experts recommend waiting a full 48 hours before wiping a newly sealed granite countertop with anything wet. Also, avoid returning any kitchenware to the counter until after the curing period.

STEP 9
Once the countertop has fully cured, put your kitchen back in order. Keep the spray bottle of cleaner you created around for periodic use every month or two. For daily cleaning, a dab of dish detergent and a wet rag will get the job done beautifully. Strive to wipe up spills immediately and then dry the countertop to keep your granite looking great.

 

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com


Bob Vila Radio: Cutting the Crud on Your Kitchen Cabinets

Exposed to everything from cooking grease to children's sticky fingers, kitchen cabinetry slowly but surely builds up stubborn accumulations of dirt and grime. Fortunately, with a simple, effective mixture of common, non-toxic ingredients, you can restore the look of your cabinets, quickly and with relative ease.

In any home, no matter its age or design, the kitchen always seem to serve as the hub of daily activity—a gathering spot not only for household occupants, but also for the spills and stains that collect on floors, counters, and even cabinets.

DIY Kitchen Cabinet Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON DIY KITCHEN CABINET CLEANER or read below:

There are plenty of store-bought cleaners capable of removing stubborn, deeply embedded grease and grime from cabinet doors. But you can also DIY your own solution using nothing more than a few pantry staples. You’ll need a bucket, warm water, baking soda or vinegar, and a few microfiber cloths.

To begin, fill the bucket three-quarters full with warm water. Next, mix in a couple cups of baking soda or alternatively, a few splashes of vinegar. Now dip a microfiber cloth into the bucket, twist the material, and squeeze to remove any excess water. You want the cloth to be moist but not dripping wet.

Before proceeding, first test your DIY cabinet cleaner in inconspicuous area in order to be sure that it doesn’t cause any harm to the cabinet finish. Safe to proceed? Wipe down all the cabinets and all their hardware, remoistening the cloth with the cabinet cleaning solution as often as needed.

Once the cabinets look clean, remove cleaning residue by wiping everything down with a fresh cloth moistened in plain tap water. Finally, wipe the cabinets with a fresh, dry cloth so as to leave them moisture-free as well as freshly cleaned.

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!


7 Types of Saws Every DIYer Should Get to Know

Familiarize yourself with these saws and their uses, and your next DIY project is sure to be a cut above the rest.

7 Types of Saws Every DIYer Should Know

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you want to build a rustic bench, install trim molding, or plumb a new sink, odds are that you’ll need to cut some material to size—and there’s a saw out there waiting to help you do just that. The following seven types of saws cover a spectrum of DIY scenarios, from wood to metal. Familiarize yourself with which specialties each possess, and you can tackle whatever project you have in mind.

It’s All About the Teeth

As you go about adding saws to your toolbox and workshop, you’ll find that many saw blades are rated by teeth per inch (TPI). These numbers range from 2 to 32. Blades with lower TPI numbers will cut quickly but produce rougher cuts. The higher TPI ratings will produce fine, smooth cuts in wood and similar materials.

 

Types of Saws to Know - Traditional Hand Saw

Photo: homedepot.com

TYPE OF SAW: Traditional Handsaw

No woodworker’s shop is complete without a traditional handsaw, with its large blade and sturdy handle. Though the handsaw is 100 percent muscle-powered, it steps in when a power saw just won’t do, such as when you need to cut through a post that is too thick for a circular saw blade. Choose the type of traditional handsaw you need based on the cut you intend to make and the TPI needed to make it.

If you need to rip wood (or cut wood lengthwise with its grain), choose a rip saw with large, angled teeth and an average of 5 TPI.

• Cutting across the grain of the wood takes a crosscut handsaw, which has between 10 and 12 TPI and shorter teeth than a rip saw.

• Looking for a do-it-all compromise? The dual-cut (or “hybrid”) handsaw features an average of 6 to 8 TPI and can both rip wood and cut across the grain.

Best For: Cutting wood by hand. For an all-around, affordable crosscut handsaw, you won’t go wrong with Stanley’s 26-Inch Short Cut Saw ($19.99 on Amazon). With 12 TPI, it produces quick and smooth cross-grain cuts. When you’re ready to invest in a saw with ripping power that will last for years, though, consider Crown’s 190, 24-inch Rip Saw and its 4.1 TPI ($82.85 on Amazon).

 

Types of Saws to Know - Hacksaw

Photo: amazon.com

TYPE OF SAW: Hacksaw

With thin, interchangeable blades ranging from 14 to 32 TPI, the C-shaped hacksaw is most often used for cutting metal pipes. Its range of TPI options, though, makes it useful for cutting sheet metal, PVC, and conduit as well—simply swap out the 10- to 12-inch blades, which are held in place by screw nuts on each end. A hacksaw also comes with a tension nut that allows you to stretch the blade taut for easier sawing. Depending on the thickness of material (metal or otherwise) that you’re cutting, you may also change out the hacksaw’s tooth pattern:

• Small teeth on the raker set hacksaw blade are arranged in sets of three for easy cutting of standard metal pipes.

• A regular set hacksaw blade features teeth positioned next to one another without spaces, but every other tooth angles a different direction, either forward or backward. It’s intended for cutting soft metal and other materials, such as PVC.

• On a wavy set blade, the teeth are positioned next to one another, but the tooth pattern features a slight wave from one side to the other. Choose this type of blade when cutting thin metal, such as ducting.

Best For: Cutting metal. For good cutting control, we like the rubber grips on both the handle and the front frame of TEKTON’s 2-in-1 High Tension Hacksaw, which allows the user to hold the saw with both hands ($12.99 at Amazon). The TEKTON saw comes with one 12-inch, 18 TPI blade and can store six more blades in its handle.

 

Types of Saws to Know - Coping Saw

Photo: homedepot.com

TYPE OF SAW: Coping Saw

The U-shaped coping saw has only one purpose: coping or “back-beveled” cuts for trim installation around inside corners. While it resembles and functions like a hacksaw, the coping saw’s frame is lighter in weight and the blade is shorter—typically 6-¾”-long and anywhere from 10 to 32 TPI. The tiny blades make it possible to back-cut curves and create precise joints when installing crown molding and other types of trim.

Best For: Creating professional-looking inside corner joints when installing trim. For sharp, accurate coping cuts, we like the Husky 6.5” Deep-Cut Coping Saw ($7.88 at Home Depot). It features a deep frame throat, giving you plenty of room to back-cut even wide pieces of trim, and its 32 TPI blade can be rotated a full 360-degrees to saw at virtually any angle.

 

Types of Saws - Jig Saw

Photo: amazon.com

TYPE OF SAW: Jigsaw

A versatile saw for DIYers, the jigsaw can cut straight lines like a circular saw (see below) but its real claim to fame is the ability to cut curves. Considered one of the safer power saws, the jigsaw features a large flat base called a “shoe,” which rests flat on the surface of the material you’re cutting and surrounds the blade and offers some protection. Many jigsaws come with an adjustable shoe that tilts, allowing you to cut on an angle when needed.

These types of saws can cut nearly any type of wood using blades with a TPI between 8 and 10. The teeth on a standard jigsaw blade point upward, so the saw cuts on the blade’s upstroke. Reverse blades, which cut on the downstroke, are available for cutting materials with a finished surface, such as a laminate countertop. While blades come in a variety of lengths, width depends on the curve: Choose one that is 1/4”-wide to cut tight curves and 3/8”-wide blades to cut standard curves.

Best For: Cutting curves in wood. If you’re looking for a dependable jigsaw for DIY projects, large or small, consider DEWALT’s corded 5.5 Amp Top Handle Jigsaw kit ($99 on Amazon). It has a variable speed dial for adjusting cutting speed, and it comes with its own carrying bag.

 

Types of Saws to Know - Circular Saw

Photo: homedepot.com

TYPE OF SAW: Circular Saw

Designed to cut straight lines in dimensional lumber, plywood, rigid foam board, and even concrete, the circular saw is one of the most popular saws for framing and can substitute on the jobsite for a table saw. It features an encased circular blade and a wide base that fits flat against the material you’re cutting and, on most models, adjusted so you can vary the depth of the cut.

Circular saw blades are labeled for the type of material they’re designed to cut: Wood blades cut plywood or lumber, masonry blades cut joints in a concrete sidewalk, and so on. Circular saws come in a variety of sizes, determined by the diameter of the blade they use. While the most common blade diameter for circular saws is 7-1/4 inches (suitable for most construction tasks), you can find saws with blades as small as 4 inches for light woodworking projects or a large as 12 inches for cutting heavy timbers.

Best For: Cutting framing materials, including wall studs, joists, rafters, and sheathing. If you enjoy building garden sheds, playhouses, and other structures, the RYOBI 7-1/4-inch 13-Amp Circular Saw is an affordable, yet dependable, circular saw ($39.97 at Home Depot). It comes with a spindle lock for easy blade changes, and its 13 Amp motor is suitable for cutting through plywood and standard dimensional lumber.

 

Types of Saws to Know - Miter Saw

Photo: amazon.com

TYPE OF SAW: Miter Saw

The main purpose of a miter saw is to make precision crosscuts when framing, installing molding, or even cutting siding strips. Today’s miter saws make angled cuts based on the same principle as their manual “miter box” siblings, although they can perform even more complex cuts. A miter saw’s heavy steel base can be mounted on a workshop table for stability, and a steel guide along its back edge, called a “fence,” aligns the material to be cut. The actual saw blade is housed in a large disk on an adjustable arm that can be raised and lowered as well as swiveled from side to side to cut on virtually any angle.

While all miter saws make angled cuts, a compound miter saw has the ability to tilt on its axis to make slanted cuts in addition to angled cuts. On a sliding miter saw, the arm can be pulled forward when the saw is operating, making it possible to cut wider boards or strips of siding. Some high-end miter saws feature laser guides for extra-precise cuts. Miter saws are available in 10-inch and 12-inch sizes and range in price from around $100 to over $600, depending on quality. The larger 12-inch size is usually reserved for commercial use.

Best For: Framing and finish carpentry when you need to make simple or complex angle cuts. The Hitachi 15-Amp, 10-inch Compound Miter Saw features a 24 TPI blade for angled cuts and simple bevel cuts—making it a solid choice for most DIY building and trimming projects ($109 on Amazon).

 

Types of Saws to Know - Chain Saw

Photo: amazon.com

TYPE OF SAW: Chainsaw

The chainsaw is designed to cut tree limbs or fell entire trees with its dozens of sharp teeth that rotate around the guide bar. Guide bars range from 14 inches long (for light cutting and pruning) up to 36 inches long (for use by lumberjacks) and can be interchangeable on some models of chainsaws. For most DIYers, a chainsaw with an 18- to 20-inch guide bar is sufficient. Keep in mind that a 16-inch chainsaw bar will fell a tree that’s 32-inch in diameter by sawing systematically around the entire trunk of the tree. While some smaller, corded chainsaws work for trimming and pruning nearby the house, most are fuel-operated and can be taken into remote areas for harvesting firewood. Prices start under $100 for lightweight electric models and run into the thousands for commercial-grade chainsaws.

Safety Note: Chainsaws are among the most powerful saws around, but they’re also dangerous because the tip of the guide bar can kick back during operation. Before operating any chainsaw, read the owner’s manual carefully and familiarize yourself with the saw’s safety features and safe operating techniques.

Best For: Cutting firewood and trimming trees. The Husqvarna 44E 16-inch 2-Stroke, X-Torq Gas-powered Chain Saw makes quick work of pruning branches and harvesting firewood ($299.95 on Amazon). It comes with a 16-inch guide bar, and it can be fitted with a longer 18-inch bar if desired. Though not the cheapest model on the market, this 10 lb. chainsaw is powerful and relatively lightweight, so you can cut without suffering too much arm and back strain.


Quick Tip: Unusual Ways to Use Coca-Cola at Home

Here's proof that Coca-Cola deserves a place in your fridge, tool box, cleaning caddy, and garden shed.

When’s the last time you cracked open an ice-cold Coke? If you’re like two-thirds of Americans, it’s probably been a while. According to Gallup polls, many Americans are cutting back on their consumption of soft drinks, and sales of bottled water have eclipsed soda. But there’s still good reason to buy soda, even if you’ve given up drinking sugary beverages.

Instead of guzzling down a glass of Coca-Cola, try one of these unusual ideas. Use a can of Coke in your garden to banish slugs or speed up the decomposition process in your compost pile, or pour a splash of soda on a grease spot to lift tough stains. Learn more about these and other uses for Coca-Cola in our short video.

For more alternative uses for everyday items, check out:

9 Surprising Uses for Alka-Seltzer

14 Unusual Uses for Vaseline

9 Surprising Alternative Uses for Toothpaste


Wood Filler: Your Secret Weapon for Fast and Easy Furniture Fix-Ups

Learn how an easy-to-use, stainable wood filler let this satisfied homeowner sidestep a time-consuming refinishing job and still end up with a beautiful, professional-looking end result.

Photo: JNoonan

In the above photo, you’re seeing what used to be a playroom for my two daughters. For years, the space contained the chaos of their picture books, art supplies, and plastic toys. But once the kids entered elementary school—and once their afternoons became dominated by endless extracurricular activities—the playroom grew quieter and quieter. Gradually, it became clear to me that the girls needed not a no-holds-barred play area, but a quiet place to concentrate and do homework. That’s when I struck upon the idea of a family office, one that would be functional both for my kids and for my husband and me.

To anchor the office, I envisioned a desk large enough to fit two (pint-size or full-grown) people comfortably. A thrift-store junkie, I didn’t even consider buying something brand new. Instead, I set off on a tour of the local secondhand stores, thinking that if I didn’t strike upon a beautiful vintage piece of the right size, then at the very least I’d be able to snag a temporary solution. In the end, though, I managed to get lucky. On my first day out hunting, for $10 apiece, I purchased a trio of Art Deco vanity cabinets, and for a couple of bucks more, an oversize laminate board to serve as a durable work surface.

Photo: JNoonan

I happen to love the Art Deco style, but the cabinets had no doubt seen better days. Most of the damage came in the form of minor, barely noticeable scratches and dings, but there were also a number of deep gouges that anyone could spot from a mile away. No problem, I thought. Eliminating those eyesores would be as simple as refinishing the cabinetry. But simple though it may be, refinishing takes time and effort, and months passed before I faced up to the fact that overhauling the cabinets would never reach the top of my to-do list. In other words, it was time for me to pursue a speedier, more pragmatic fix.

In the past, in situations roughly similar to my cabinet conundrum, I had used wood filler with tremendous success to conceal flaws in both interior and exterior wood. Of course, if the cabinets had not been structurally sound, it would have been necessary to mount a more ambitious fix. But under the circumstances, with the cabinets having suffered only superficial damage, I felt confident that wood filler would do the trick. If I was concerned about anything, it was the challenge of blending the patched areas with the existing cabinet finish. After all, you can’t stain wood filler—or so I thought.

Photo: JNoonan

At Lowe’s, I was delighted to discover the first and only wood filler on the market that you can stain—Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler. Although wood filler typically comes in an array of colors, you would normally have no choice but to settle for one that didn’t quite match the existing finish of the wood you were patching. Any areas that you repaired would stand out as obviously having been repaired. In other words, you would have to accept an imperfect result. Stainable wood filler, meanwhile, enables you to conceal your repair work with any stain you like—whichever offers the closest color match.

Besides its ability to accept stain, Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler also appeals to do-it-yourselfers because it’s easy to work with. In fact, you can use virtually any tool to apply the compound to damaged wood. For my project, I opted to use a putty knife, but I could have relied on a paint stirrer or a cotton ball or even my index finger. After a bit of preparation—removing dust and debris from the damaged areas and sanding down the rough edges—I proceeded to the main event: Working the wood filler into chips and gouges until each sat flush with its surroundings. All told, it took me half an hour.

Photo: JNoonan

Note that with other wood fillers, you need to take care to account for shrinkage—that is, you must overfill your repairs in order to counteract any contraction that takes place once the compound has dried. With Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler, however, you can ignore shrinkage altogether, and thanks to its unique formulation, you can expect that the compound will never crack. Yet another reason to like the Elmer’s product: It dries quite quickly. In my case, because I was repairing relatively shallow gouges, the filler dried in only 15 minutes, giving me the chance to proceed directly to the next step—sanding each patch until smooth.

Finally, to complete the job and erase evidence of the repair, I set about staining each patch of wood filler. In the garage, where I like to hoard paint and stain cans, I had scrounged around and found a stain pen whose color looked almost identical to the walnut cabinet finish. But rather than go full speed ahead, I first tested the stain on the least conspicuous, most out-of-the-way wood filler patch. Once I was sure that the color match would be as good as it had initially seemed to be, I went about staining the remaining patches. It took more than one coat, but eventually, any sign of my repair work had all but disappeared.

Photo: JNoonan

True, I’d initially planned to refinish the wood, but with the desk looking as good as it does now, I see no reason to go any further. That said, considering the project in retrospect, I’d say the quality of the outcome wasn’t even the best part—it was the “no muss, no fuss” process. If I’d gone the refinishing route, I would have needed to empty the cabinets, haul them out to the garage—you get the picture. It would have been an ordeal. But Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler enabled me to get right to it, working on the pieces just where they stood, and finishing the project in a fraction of the time it would have taken to refinish.

Having purchased an eight-ounce container of the product, I now have plenty of it left over, and I’m glad. Wood filler comes in handy, not only for furniture fix-ups, but also for a wide variety of repairs, both around the house and in the yard. Scarred flooring, rotted fence boards, nail-hole-ridden wall trim—common issues like these can lead to time-consuming, energy-sapping, and wallet-emptying repairs. Or they can be dealt with quickly, easily, and affordably with nothing more than Elmer’s ProBond Wood Filler. If you’ve never experimented with this stuff before, get excited: It could very well become your go-to home repair favorite.

Photo: JNoonan

This article has been brought to you by Elmer’s Products. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.