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Survey Results 2014

Posted by on September 29th, 2014

In today’s post, I wanted to take a few minutes and share the results of the reader survey we ran a couple of weeks ago.  We received over 75 responses, which is not too shabby.  If you took a few minutes to take the survey, THANK YOU!  Your opinions are important and will help shape the direction of this blog going forward.

Let’s start with our readers.

We have a very large number of male readers compared to most home improvement blogs at 58%.  You also told me that 86% of you own your homes instead of renting.  I probably should’ve asked you what your ages were, but that’s probably more relevant to outside marketers and sponsored posts, which is not a large part of our blog income strategy.  Besides, if you like working on your house, who cares how old you are.

male female survey

own vs rent

The next question was about your level of interest.  Basically, are you a casual reader that simply enjoys seeing what we’re up to or are you reading with the intent of improving your home improvement skills.  Here’s what you said.

Level of Interest

In case you were wondering about that math, this is one of those questions where you were allowed to select both!  Otherwise, I need to go back to grade school.

Now we get into our content.  I wanted to know what sort of posts you enjoy reading and what posts you would like to see more often.  Not surprisingly, you said Carpentry was your first pick, followed by General Home Improvement, Cabinet Building, Design (which is surprising), and Adding Home Value.  I can tell you with some degree of confidence that this isn’t anything terribly different than what we’re already doing, so this post lineup shouldn’t change too much.  I’m a bit surprised by the Design category getting some attention, so I’ll make sure I put more emphasis on those posts when we get to them.

categories

The next big change to the site that I’ve been thinking about is a adding a forum where readers can post their own questions and projects.  I know you all have projects of your own and by offering a place to talk about them I think we’ll all get a ton of value out of it.  Since I knew everyone may not end up using the forum, I still wanted to gauge the general interest in the concept.

Here’s what you told me.

forum

Um, yeah.  I think this is probably a good idea.  I’ll be working on adding the forum, just as soon as I finish up our home office.

Another aspect of our blog that I’ve been exploring is adding a purchasable product.  If you’re a frequent reader of home improvement blogs, then this whole idea may sound strange and could potentially be a turn-off.  However, there could be a large enough percentage of readers that are interested in some sort of ebook or online course that it would be worth the effort.

Here’s the situation.  I could write 200 posts on the ins and outs of kitchen remodeling, home improvement, trim work, cabinets, built-ins, or whatever.  I could write this blog for ten years and if you took the time to sift through all those posts, you may read everything you would ever want on those topics.

OR

I could write an ebook where I put together a few hundred pages of my thoughts on how to remodel your next kitchen or build your own kitchen cabinet.  It would be in one package of text, one resource for you to hold onto.  Being able to read posts is great.  Being able to have a guide in your hands or on your tablet is valuable.

If you don’t like it.  You don’t have to buy it.  No problem.

Still.  I wanted to be sure there was enough interest upfront before I started something.  Around 2/3’s of you indicated that you’d be interested (the graph says 75%, but you get the idea).

Ok, cool.  I’ll get started.

product

I’d also like to find out what topic you think would be worth developing into a product.  Not surprisingly, Cabinet Construction was your first choice with Kitchen Renovation right behind it.  A number of you also gave me some helpful suggested topics.  Thanks for those!  If I don’t incorporate them into a product, then you can be sure I’ll try to cover them in a future post.

topics

 

The final question of the survey was an open invitation to write me a comment.  What do you like?  What do you hate?  What needs to get better?  Anything you wanted to say.

The most common response I got was regarding the look of the website.  Either the images aren’t big enough or the layout is awkward.  Some people have even emailed me to tell me they don’t think it looks good on a mobile device.  While I was considering a refresh at some point down the road, your feedback has convinced me that I need to make those updates sooner rather than later.

I also need to post more often.  I realize that once a week kind of comes across as lazy on my part.  I’m going to make an effort to post twice a week, but I’m still going to approach each post as an opportunity to deliver some sort of value to you.  If I don’t have anything worth saying, then I’m not going to hit publish.  I just don’t want to waste your time.

There are a couple other side projects I’m developing that have been consuming some of my free time.  I’m really looking forward to telling you about them when the time is right.  That extra time investment has eaten up some of my post writing time.  The biggest time consumer right now is the home office project.  Once that’s done I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Thanks for your help in making this a blog worth reading!

R,

John

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,

How to Scribe a Cabinet

Posted by on September 25th, 2014

In today’s post you’ll learn:

- How to Scribe a Cabinet

In an ideal world, all walls and floors would be square and true (and all mortgages paid off).  Since that never seems to be the case, you need to know how to modify your cabinets or built-ins to account for uneven walls.  If you want a professional look to your work, this is a must read.  Luckily, this process is fairly simple and only requires a circular saw and one of those compasses you used in grade school art class.  Whoever thought you’d need one of those again?

Let’s start with reality.  Here’s one of our home office cabinets pushed tight into the corner.

cabinet gap

You can see it’s tight against the bottom of the cabinet, but open along the top.  No bueno.  Could you caulk that seam?  Sure you could.  I actually plan on caulking it.  However, you shouldn’t caulk anything wider than 1/4″ or it will look sloppy.  That opening at the top is around 5/16″ wide so it’s much too wide for caulk.

Here’s what we’ll do to fix it.

First, we’ll take a look at the top of the cabinet to see what kind of overhang I have on the face frame.

overhang

In this photo you can see that the face frame overhangs the side of the cabinet by about 1/4″.  If I was smart and better prepared, I would’ve designed in a larger overhang, say 3/8″, to allow for scribing as-is.  Alas, I only gave myself around 1/4″ (probably closer to 3/16″).

Since I don’t have enough “meat” overhanging the side, I’ll just add some more wood and make it work.

I start by measuring the gap between the edge of face frame and the wall.  It’s about 5/16″.  I then cut a strip of wood 5/16″ wide and I glue and nail it to the side of the cabinet.

cabinet scribe strip

Now I have plenty of overhang on that side of the cabinet.

Next, I shove the cabinet back in the corner.  The gap will be identical before I tacked on the wood strip, since the wall is still curving away from the cabinet.

Now I take my compass and I set the distance between the needle and the pencil to the same distance as the gap between the cabinet and the wall.

how to scribe a cabinet

Then I just run the compass down the curve of the wall with the pencil on the cabinet.  The compass will mark out a line on the cabinet that matches the curvature of the wall.

strip marked

 

The last part is easy.  Just take your circular saw and cut along the line.  You’ll be removing material from the strip so it will then match the wall.

After the cut has been made, the cabinet gets shoved back into the corner and we can see that the gap is pretty much gone.  Any open seam can be filled in with a much smaller amount of painter’s caulk.

scribe cabinet

 

To finish the project, I’ll just make sure I fill in any gap between the wood strip and the cabinet with wood putty and I’ll sand and paint it.

I’ll have to repeat this process for the top cabinet that sits above this lower unit.

If you can’t tell, I’m intentionally trying to keep the reveal of this project as hush hush as possible.  Thus, the lack of pictures of all the cabinets.

Now that you know how to scribe, do you think you’ll use this trick?

P. S. I also had to use this technique for my raised panel wainscoting.

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Cabinet Painting 101

Posted by on September 21st, 2014

Happy Monday!

In today’s post you’ll learn:

- The best way to paint cabinets

- The approach I’m taking to paint my cabinets

Before I get started with today’s post, I want to remind you that we are running a survey to collect your feedback regarding our blog.  I’m going to keep it open until the end of this week and then I’ll discuss the results in a follow up post.  Overall, the feedback so far has been positive and supremely helpful.  I’ve gotten a few comments that recommend I make some changes to the way we operate and I’ll address those suggestions as well.  All the comments have been respectful and for that I’m grateful.  I’m very happy to have you all as readers and I’d like to keep you engaged and reading, but I realize I have to continue earning that privilege.  Changes are a’comin and I think you’ll be happy with the direction we’ll be taking.  Before I implement any of those changes however, I need to finish our home office and prep another room (details to follow).

Here’s a link to the survey if you haven’t taken it yet:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6JB56NM

Now let’s get back to home stuff…

Cabinet Painting 101

Cabinet Painting 101

In the past week or so, I’ve made a lot of progress with our office cabinets.  I’m in the middle of painting them and pretty soon I’ll be installing them, working on the countertops, drawers and room trim.  I’m intentionally withholding a lot of details so as to make a comprehensive 30-40 minute long video where I demonstrate the entire build process.  While waiting for that video may be a little annoying for you, I think you’ll have a better understanding of the entire process from start to finish.  It’s either that or I give you a dozen posts on cabinet building, which I’ve already done with our TV stand and large built-in project.  The general approach I’m taking to building these cabinets is similar to those two projects, so if you’re itching to read about cabinet building and you can’t wait for the video, check out those two series.  I’m trying hard not to be repetitive.

In this post I want to go over the approach I take to painting cabinets.  My process is always evolving and improving so every time I attempt a new cabinet build, I’m switching something up and this project is no different.  But before I get into the specifics, here’s my philosophy on painting cabinets and furniture in general.

The Absolute Best Method.  The best way to paint cabinets involves spraying two coats of primer followed by spraying two coats of a high quality acrylic paint or lacquer using an HVLP system.  If you spray the paint, you won’t get brush marks.  You should get an even, smooth finish.  It’s how almost all professional furniture is finished.  Multiple coats of lacquer will give you that candy coating like finish similar to something you’d see at Ikea.  Your car is probably painted with some sort of two part lacquer paint.  Acrylic paint is sort of like nail polish.  It’s smelly, but gives you a smooth durable finish that will hold up really well over time.  You should probably avoid using a latex based paint or primer since they are not designed for furniture, they’re designed for your plaster or drywall.

The Better Method.  If you aren’t equipped to spray on four coats of paint or primer, then an alternative method you could attempt is maybe spraying on just the primer or just the finish coats.  If you don’t have a professional spray system like an HVLP gun, you can use spray cans.  You can spray paint the primer using spray cans and then brush on an acrylic finish paint.  Lacquer isn’t typically applied with a brush, so you should probably just skip that stuff.  Avoid brushing on all four coats of primer and paint.  If your goal is to avoid brush marks, then brush on as few as possible.

Keep in mind that I’m just talking about the paint here, not the prep work on the in-between work.  Also, I’m working with unfinished or bare wood, not wood or cabinets that have already been painted or poly’d.

So now that we’ve talked about the possible approaches, let me tell you how I’m finishing my cabinets.

Here’s a shot of the cabinets after the primer.

cabinet painting

 

1.  Prep work.  After the cabinets were built, I filled in any small brad nail holes with white wood filler.  I then sanded each cabinet with a 120 grit sandpaper using my random orbital sander.  I avoided rounding over any corners or edges with the sander.  I want all of my edges to be fairly crisp at this point.  Once every piece had been sanded at 120 grit, I switched to 220 and repeated the same process.  Afterwards I used a compressed air nozzle to blow off any sawdust.  Some people absolutely avoid using compressed air to do this, but I think it works fine.

2.  Staging.  Since I’m going to be spraying on the primer, I moved all of the cabinets, doors and shelves into the garage.  I used plastic painters tarp and covered the entire floor with plastic.  I also draped plastic over our shoe rack and our daughters strollers and toys.

3.  Corners.  I used a block of wood with some 220 grit sand paper and knocked down all of the corners on every piece.  I apply very little force as I run the sandpaper block across all the edges.  Again, not looking to round over the edges, just slightly dull them.  A corner that gets knocked down will hold the paint better than a sharp edge.

4.  More air.  I use my compressed air hose that I have piped into my garage and blow off any additional dust that may have built up from moving the cabinets up and rounding over the edges.

5.  Raising the grain.  Since I’ll be using a waterborne primer, I’ll need to raise the grain.  When wood grain absorbs water after it’s been sanded, the wood grains will rise and cause the finish to feel rough.  So to make the process easier, you intentionally raise them by getting them wet and then you sand them back down by hand.  After they’ve been knocked back down, they won’t rise again.  Sounds crazy, but that’s just how it is.  To raise the grain, I fill up my HVLP gun with warm water and blast all the cabinets with a light coating of water mist.  After an hour of drying time, I lightly sand the cabinets with some 220 grit sandpaper by hand and then blew off any dust with the compressed air.

6.  Primer.  I used Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start latex primer.  I used it because it’s low-odor, low-VOC and is sprayable.  As I mentioned, latex isn’t ideal and it came out just okay.  It sprayed a bit chunky from the HVLP system I use, but ended up leveling out ok and seemed to get the job done.  In the past, I’ve used a shellac based primer from Zinsser, specifically the BIN primer, which sprayed absolutely perfectly.  Thought I’d try something different this time.  I’ll probably go back to the BIN for my next project.

7.  Sand.  After the primer dried, I went back and sanded all the cabinets again using a 220 grit sandpaper by hand.  Using a power tool for this may remove too much paint.

8.  Finish Paint.  For the finish coat, I’m using two coats of Sherwin Williams Pro Classic in Ultra White.  It’s the same color as the rest of the trim in the office so it will match the baseboard and crown molding.  I bought it in satin instead of semi-gloss though, since I don’t want the cabinets to be too shiny.  The crown and baseboard molding WILL be semi-gloss, however.  The Pro Classic is an acrylic enamel that it designed for cabinet and trim work.  Since it’s an enamel, it will harden and will resist pulling off if I set a book or computer down on it for example (a characteristic referred to as “blocking”).  Instead of spraying it, I’m brushing it on.  This is also intentional.  First off, it’s much easier then spraying.  Secondly, it will have a more built-in look if it isn’t perfectly smooth.  If this were a stand alone kitchen cabinet set, then I would probably try spraying all the coats.  This high quality paint levels very well so you are much less likely to see brush marks.  I believe it’s equivalent to Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo, which I used on my first house and also loved.

Here’s a sneak peak of a horizontal divider after the first coat.  Can you see any brush marks?  No?  Me neither!

painted cabinet

So that’s where I’m at with the cabinets.  I’m hoping to wrap them up SOON!  Second coat of finish paint is going on tomorrow.

Now I’d love to hear about your experience painting cabinets.  Have any tips or experience you’d like to share?  

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Blog Survey 2014 Tell Us Your Opinion

Posted by on September 11th, 2014

Last year around this time we ran our first ever reader blog survey.  The feedback we got from that effort was hugely helpful and we made a number of changes as a result.  Today and for the next couple weeks, we’ve opened up another survey.  Please take a minute and tell us what you like, what you don’t like or whatever is on your mind.  The results are anonymous, so you don’t have to worry about us finding out who you are.  Feel free to leave constructive criticism.  You should be able to see the survey below, but if you can’t you can take it by clicking on this link.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

blog survey 2014

 

 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

 

 

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,

6 Cabinet Building Challenges

Posted by on September 11th, 2014

If you’ve been following along with out blog lately, you know that we’re knee deep into our home office renovation.  This project has taken us the better part of nine months and we’re finally a couple weeks away from putting it to bed.  I’m in the middle of assembling our new built-in cabinets that we are making from scratch and while I definitely enjoy the process, I’m already looking forward to installing them and being finished with this part of the project.

In this post, I wanted to discuss cabinet building challenges.  It’s not all gumdrops, folks.

cabinet-building

It seems as though every time I take on a new project, all I tend to think about are the positive outcomes that lay before us.  With this project for example, I’m looking forward to having a professional, custom looking home office that we can decorate and organize.  I never really think too much about how many evenings I’ll be spending in the basement toiling away on my table saw and router.   I always underestimate how many trips to Lowes or Home Depot I’ll have logged by the time we call the project complete.  Consequently, I tend to write wrap-up or recap posts when I’m basking in the after glow of a completed project and I rarely write posts when I’m in the thick of it.  In my mind, the net outcome always outweighs the time and monetary investment of doing it yourself.

I feel very empowered by being capable of taking raw lumber and plywood and building something substantial out of it.  This is my ‘thing.’  I’m not good at sports, I don’t have any other real hobbies.  This is IT.  One of the main reasons I blog is to teach what I’ve learned so you can do these same things for you and yours.  It’s nice to have a deep home improvement skill set.  This constant-positive thinking however, can cause you to forget the bumps on the road.  It can cause you to overload your plate with home improvement projects.  It can get you in over your head and it can lead to you getting sick of it.

That’s what brings me around to the reason for this post.  I’ve spend the better part of ten hours in the shop the last couple of days and I’m full of a different kind of insight.  One that doesn’t point out all the net gains and the sunshine.  This is the kind of insight that will remind you to stock up on bandaids.  The kind that if I wait another day or two to write, I’ll probably forget.  Building your own furniture, while rewarding in numerous ways is a mixed bag.  It’s up to you to determine if it’s worth your effort.  I’ve built well over a dozen cabinets for my first house and for our current home and I’ll probably build a couple dozen more.  These aggravations won’t stop me, but they will entice me to improve my build process for the next go around so I don’t repeat them.

Here are 6 Cabinet Building Challenges that I’m Working Through Right Now

1.  This work is dirty and dusty.  I always seem to forget what a half an inch of sawdust looks like on the shop floor.  It gets into EVERYTHING!  #SawdustInAllThePlaces and it’s not nearly as funny as “David Tennant in places he shouldn’t be.”  I don’t have a proper dust collection system right now, so I typically end up cleaning up the entire space once I’ve completely wrapped up.  So it’s dirty?  So what?  It’s really not that big of a deal except for the fact that I need to shower after every time I work in the shop.  Not a major pain, but a pain nonetheless.

2.  Splinters.  You can tell when I’m working on a new cabinet build by the number of bandaids on my fingers.  Right now there are two.  For some reason, my hands are magnets for splinters.  I mostly get them from plywood.  Word of advice: try not to let the plywood slide through your hands while you’re moving it.  Doesn’t end well for your digits.  When I built the cabinets for my first house, I had a splinter in my finger for weeks and didn’t know it.

3.  All the parts.  Cabinets have face frames, plywood boxes, braces, drawer fronts, drawers, doors, door hinges, door stops, drawer slides, counters, edging, knobs, pulls, etc.  Simple stuff, but it ends up being a lot of parts to cut out and track.  If you don’t buy them all up front then you end up purchasing them incrementally, which is what I usually do.  I recommend you buy absolutely everything you need for each job before you get started, otherwise you end up just wasting time making those separate trips.

4.  It’s still not cheap.  When all is said and done I’ll have saved a fair amount of money over purchasing comparable cabinets and having them installed professionally.  Can I find cabinets that look similar?  Maybe.  Can I find inexpensive cabinets?  Sure.  Can I find inexpensive, perfectly sized for my room, custom looking, beaded face frame and inset door cabinets for less than I’m paying in materials?  No freaking way.  If I were to hand over my cabinet specs over to a cabinet shop and ask them to build me the exact same thing I’m building now, I’d be paying over $2000 easy.  Probably closer to $3k or $4k.   That doesn’t mean by building these cabinets myself I’m not spending anything.  I’ll probably end up spending close to $800 on lumber and plywood.  That’s not zero.  Plus, I always end up trying out new tools or investing in upgrades.  For this build, I bought three new router bits.  That’s just the material cost.  There IS some value to spending time in the basement two or three nights a week.  That’s time away from my family and time I could be doing other productive work or just relaxing.  Plus, I already own almost all of the tools I need for the job, but if you don’t, those startup costs ain’t cheap.  So you need to consider all the “costs” associated with every job you undertake.

5.  It ALWAYS takes longer.  Much, much longer.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my wife that I’ve only got a couple more hours and I’ll be all done.  You can imagine how well that goes after the 2nd or 3rd time.  Getting an accurate feel for how long a cabinet will last takes experience and even then it’s hard to gauge when life gets in the way.  Plan on it taking some time and then add another couple weeks.

6.  Material Sourcing.  This is my latest aggravation and I am swearing that this time I’ll learn from it.  I’m am DONE with buying S4S lumber from Home Depot and Lowes (at least for big projects).  I’m SO sick of standing there in the lumber aisle and picking out board after board that is warped, curved or cupped.  From now on I’m buying rough cut hardwood from a lumber yard and planing and jointing it myself.  Just a couple of days ago I was looking for some 1/2″ thick maple for the drawers.  Couldn’t find it anywhere.  I should’ve sourced all my lumber up front and then I wouldn’t be sitting pretty.  Instead, I’m using some 1/2″ thick Birch plywood and I’ll use some edge veneer.

So those are some of the aggravations of building your own cabinets.  It’s still TOTALLY worth it, people.  Totally.  Pretty soon I’ll be sitting in my new office with my feet up on the desk basking in the warm glow of custom cabinetry.  My splinters will all be healed and I’ll be thinking about my next project… Yep.  Couple more hours and I’ll be done.  ;)

Now I want to hear from you.  What is the ABSOLUTE WORST part of your DIY life?  It’s OK to complain once in a while.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, ,

Introduction to the Thickness Planer

Posted by on August 26th, 2014

In this post you’ll learn:

- How to use a thickness planer
– Why you should consider using one
– The difference between rough cut lumber and S4S

Back in 2005 when I was building my first set of kitchen cabinets, I made an impulsive purchase and bought a used thickness planer I found on Craigslist.  I had heard from numerous carpenters in online forums that by purchasing rough stock instead of the ready-to-use wood from the big hardware store, I would save a lot of money.  It ended up working out in my favor.  When the cabinets were finally completed and installed, I estimated I probably spent around $2k-$3k for all of the lumber and hardware for the kitchen cabinets.  That number may have been a few hundred dollars higher if I bought all of my lumber from Lowes or Home Depot.

The key to saving that money was the thickness planer.  Without it, I would’ve had to purchase more expensive and often lower quality lumber.

Here’s a video I just put together where I explain the basics of using a thickness planer. If you’ve never used one or frankly, have never even heard of a thickness planer, then it’s worth a quick watch. It could potentially save you money on your next carpentry project.

An Introduction to the Thickness Planer

Link to the video is also here.

Key Takeaways

- Thickness planers can cut wood either on the face side or on an edge of a board
– S4S means Sanded Four Sides and is the finished wood available for purchase at most large home improvement stores
– Rough cut lumber is generally cheaper per board foot compared to S4S lumber
– S4S is more expensive and can also contain major imperfections like bows or curves
– Boards you plan on planing should initially be cut wider or thicker than the finished width or thickness desired
– Plan on running a board through the planer 3 or 4 times.
– You can adjust the amount of material being removed in each pass with an adjustment knob
– I use the DeWalt Model 734 (affiliate) and it’s on my Tool Recommendations page

Here’s a picture that illustrates the point further.

planed board

The board on the left has just been cut with a table saw and has a fair amount of imperfections including raised, uneven surfaces and saw marks. It would take a LOT of sanding or hand planing to clean that edge up OR a few passes through the thickness planer.  The board on the right has just finished a few passes through the thickness planer and it looks clean and perfect.

Here’s the bottom line. If you are seriously getting into wood working and have some larger projects coming up or plan on working with reclaimed wood, then consider purchasing a thickness planer.  If you are mainly into smaller projects and are just an occasional woodworker, then you’ll probably survive without one.

Any questions?

Posted in Carpentry,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Blogging 3 Years Later

Posted by on August 17th, 2014

Just last month, this blog of ours turned 3 years old.  If you’ve been reading our stuff this entire time, thanks a bunch.  Chances are however, you’re probably a new reader or you’re landing on this site for the first time and if so, welcome.  I decided to write a post about my experience with blogging for a couple of reasons.  The first reason: my approach to blogging has changed over the past few years and I firmly believe that it’s worth sharing the rationale behind those changes.  I know a number of my readers are bloggers and I hope they’ll benefit from this post.  The second reason is for all the readers that aren’t bloggers.  I want to tell you where this blog is headed.

blogging tips

Background:  I started blogging in 2011 for two main reasons.  I had developed enough home improvement and woodworking skills over nearly a decade that I could help people who were trying to add value and improve their homes.  I also heard that people were making money blogging and I thought I should give that a shot.  Seemed like the perfect combination of opportunities.  I loved talking about home projects and I could potentially make some money on the side.  Win-win.  The only problem was, when I first started out, I didn’t know how to do that.

The first two years.  When you’re first starting out, the easiest thing to do is follow the leader.  The best and most influential home improvement bloggers were all pretty much doing the same thing.  They were publishing great content.  In fact, they were publishing great content several times a week.  To be clear, I’m not just talking about Young House Love.  Everyone who was leading the pack seemed to be posting at least five times a week.   I think they all were doing that for a few reasons.  The more content, the more search hits, the more readers.   I don’t think that’s a bad strategy, at least at first.  When you are trying to get rolling, publishing a lot of content really can’t hurt.  Plus, if you really enjoy writing, then go ahead write the posts.

The underlying problem with my approach the first couple of years was my monetization strategy.  Most of the big time home improvement bloggers were making money from ad revenue and sponsored posts.  Those methods CAN be pretty lucrative IF you have a lot of traffic.  If you don’t have a lot of traffic, then no dice.  Ah, but more time and more posts will deliver more traffic.  More pins.  More time on pinterest.  More social engagement.  More tweets. More comments on popular blogs.  More guest posts. More.  More.  More.  If I just posted more often.  If I just get that one post that goes viral.  After two years and 300+ posts, I was starting to become skeptical of this whole traffic and ad based concept.  It works for some folks.  Wasn’t working for me.

Moreover, most of MY content is not terribly pinterest friendly.  The whole home blog scene tends to be dominated by women.  My content is more aimed at both men and women.  As a guy, I tend not to read blogs on a regular basis.  I’m assuming most guys don’t.  Even today, if I want to learn something new, I’ll google it.  If I land on a cool blog, I’ll try to remember it, but chances are I’m not going to pour a cup of coffee and read 15 posts in one sitting.  My wife will do that.

The past year.  Around July of last year, I bumped into a blogging niche that was taking a completely different approach to online publishing.  Lifestyle and income bloggers.  They were publishing LESS often, sometimes 4-5 times a month.  They had great traffic, but they weren’t using pinterest (if so, barely) to drive it and they were making more income in one month than some bloggers were making with their full-time jobs and their blogging gigs put together.  Sound cool?

What are they doing differently?  They’re publishing the same great content other bloggers are providing, but they’re also selling digital products on the side.  E-books, courses, consultations, you name it.  They have newsletter subscribers, not just RSS feed subscribers.  They have e-commerce sites, static sites, affiliate programs, podcasts.  It’s a whole other world of blog monetization.

Who are these bloggers?  Pat Flynn.  Derek Halpern.  Chris Ducker.  Ramit Sethi.  Melanie Duncan.  Many more.  Normal folks, that simply package their content in more ways than you may be accustomed to in the DIY and home improvement community.

Whats next.  Over the next several months and years, I’m going to continue to keep up the same posting schedule, the same content strategy and the same type of home improvement projects that you’ve come to expect.  I’m also going to be rolling out some new features that I think will help me deliver value to you, my reader.  I’m shooting to launch a new podcast before November and I’m thinking about adding a forum for more on-site conversation.  The goal with these two projects would simply be to grow the Our Home from Scratch community.

If you’re new to blogging or are considering starting your own, here are a few things I would consider adding to your to-do list.  Keep in mind, these are my own lessons learned.  At some point I was guilty of all of these infractions at one time or another.

1.  Start a Newsletter.  I started my first e-newsletter in December and I’m on pace to reach 1000 subscribers by the time next December rolls around.  How is this different than subscribing to posts in Bloglovin, Feedly or just an RSS subscription?  Newsletters are emails that you write to your subscribers telling them in your own words what’s going on.  You CAN use them to keep people in the loop on your latest posts, but you can also use them to remind them of giveaways, contests and downloads.  You can write unique content.  Have an idea for a post that you’d rather not publish?  It would probably make a great newsletter piece, plus it’s exclusive.  If you DO end up developing some sort of digital or physical product, it’s a great way of introducing it and offering sales information.  So start a newsletter.  I use Aweber for my newsletter service and so far so good.  Not sure who would ever subscribe to your newsletter?  Try offering something free in exchange for someone’s email address.

Just to put this in perspective.  My absolute biggest blogging regret was not starting an email newsletter on DAY 1.  Hands down.  When I started the newsletter, I wasn’t sure if I’d get a dozen subscribers in a year.  I’m getting 2 or 3 a day.  Some days I get a dozen.  I’ve had a Facebook page for my blog for nearly 3 years now.  I have under 400 likes.  Newsletters.  Do it.

2.  Only Post Valuable Content.  Don’t waste people’s time.  If you have nothing going on then don’t post.  You don’t NEED to post something just because you always post on a Tuesday or whatever.  If you take the time to write content that will provide value to people in one way or another, then you’ll readers will come back time and again.  But if you mail in a post and just talk about what you had for lunch (unless your blog is literally about your daily lunches) and waste people’s time, then they’re much less likely to pay you repeat visits.  I’m not talking about your blogging friends and real world friends that actually know you in real life.  I’m talking about people that read those 2 or 3 killer posts you wrote over the past year and you’re starting to grow on them.  Don’t blow it.  Oh and for the love of God, if you take a week or two off from blogging, you don’t need to apologize to your readers.  They’re not offended.  I promise.

3.  Don’t Make it a Chore.  Growing your blog takes time.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to churn out new, amazing posts every week.  If you feel like you HAVE to hit publish or your blog is going to sink, you’re going to get burned out.  Most people start blogs because they have something to say about a topic and they approach this new hobby with a fresh sense of optimism.  So very many of them will quit or get bored or become cynical over a lack of success.  If you’re blogging because you enjoy writing, then only write when you are going to enjoy it.  If you’re pissed off or in a hurry, then you’re going to make the process miserable.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Take your time.

4.  Be Known For One Thing.  When people land on your site, they decide within the first few seconds whether or not to look around or to move onto the next website.  People are a fickle bunch, no?  You need to grab their attention and immediately make it clear who you are and why they should read your content.  Chances are your content is diverse and you’re a complex person with skills, passions, hobbies and pictures of your pets.  That’s all great.  Let new readers figure that out after they’ve read a couple of posts.  Initially though, you need to hit them right in the eyes with who you are and what you’re awesome at.  Like a deer in headlights, if that’s what they’re looking for, you’re in luck.  So how do you do that?  Well, take my site for example.  I want people to know right away that this site is about home improvement and power tools.  Before they leave, I want them to think “Oh, this guy builds furniture.  This guys is good at home improvement.”  What do you want the people who land on your site to think?  Gear your site towards that goal.

 

 

Posted in Blogging,Lessons Learned. Tagged in ,,

Table Saw Basics

Posted by on August 10th, 2014

This week I’m back in the shop continuing to make progress on our home office built-ins.  So far I’ve got all the hardwood cut to width and length.  Next up will be a run through the thickness planer and then the router table.  If you recall, these cabinets are going to get a bead detail on the face frames.  It’s the first time I’ve ever attempted this technique and frankly, I’m a little nervous over how they’ll turn out.  It’s going to be a bit of a challenge.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I will be filming nearly all of the cabinet build for your viewing pleasure.  I hope when it’s all done you’ll get to see a quality video on cabinet construction.

In other news, I’ve put together a quick video on Table Saw Basics.  If you don’t yet own a table saw or you do but you’re not exactly sure how to use it, this video should be helpful.

Here’s a link to the YouTube video in the event the player isn’t visible.

This is not the first time I’ve discussed table saws.  Here’s a run down on most of our Table Saw related discussions.  This post then will sort of be a Table Saw Resource Page.

1.  My Tool Recommendations Page lists a couple different table saw options if you are in the market.

2.  The Table Saw Station we just built for my contractor grade table saw.

3.  An older post on What You Need to Know About Table Saws.  Worth reading along with the video.

4.  Thinking about buying a used table saw?  Not a bad idea.  Here are some tips for purchasing used power tools.

5.  In the video I mention grooves and dados.  Not familiar with those?  Check out this post and video.

I hope this post helps you get a better understanding of the table saw if you’ve never used one.  In our next video (probably next week) I’ll be showing you my thickness planer.  It’s loud and it’s awesome so you won’t want to miss it.

Oh and last month our blog hit our 3 year anniversary.  Not a big deal at this point, but I’m going to put a post together discussing my thoughts on blogging now that we’re pretty experienced.

Thanks!

Now I want to hear from you.  If you are an experienced table saw user, what additional tips or advice do you recommend for novice woodworkers and DIYers?  What did I miss or what did I get wrong?  I honestly don’t mind negative feedback as long as it’s helpful and not mean spirited.  

If you haven’t yet used or bought a table saw, what questions do you have? 

 

Posted in Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , ,

An Intro to Routers and Router Tables

Posted by on July 31st, 2014

Whenever I get a new newsletter subscriber, one of the first emails I send to them asks a basic question.  “What would you like to see”?  Recently, I’ve gotten at least a dozen replies specifically asking for more information on routers.  Most express an interest in simply learning the basics about them.

So, I’ve finally gotten around to filming this brief intro to routers and router tables.

I’ll be using both my router AND my router table when we make the built-ins for our home office remodel.  The face frames on the cabinets will feature a bead, which will be done with the beading bit and the joints for the doors will be made on the router table instead of the table saw.

(link to video here)

Here’s what you’ll see in this video:

- An overview of routers, collets and router bits
– Discussion on router speeds and bit sizes
– Explanation of router bases: plunge vs. fixed
– Using the fixed base router
– My router table
– Using the router table (link to the free plans)

If you’ve never used a router yet and you’re not even sure what one does or where you’ll use one, I can tell you it’s a skill and a tool worth learning.  Around our home, we’ve used the router and the router table on a number of projects.

Like our window sills in the dining room…

make a window sill

Or the cap on our wainscoting

cap wainscoting

OR the grooves in our custom TV stand

groove with a router

 

After you’ve watched the video, I’d love to hear how you’ve used your router if you own one.  If you don’t yet own a router, what project do you would use it on?  If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below.

And how about that animation??  Just had it done!

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade Part 3

Posted by on July 28th, 2014

This past week the family and I spent a few days vacation in Cape May, NJ.  Been going there since I was a kid.  Great family town.  Lots of beautiful Victorian style homes.  Made a visit to the Cape May Brewing Company while we were down there and tried some of their delicious beer.  Got me thinking about trying to brew my own beer someday soon.  I think I may need a whole other blog for that though!  Anyway, didn’t get too sunburned so that’s a relief.  I just turned 35 a few weeks ago and I’m at the age (and hair density) where I apparently need to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to the top of my head.  Womp womp.

Anyway, was able to get back into the workshop and finish up my table saw upgrade.  Let’s pickup where we left off after our first and second posts.

The frame was all built using some scrap plywood ripped down to 3.5″ in width.  Once I was out of plywood, I finished the rest of the minor framing using 2x4s.  They were in non-critical areas so I’m not too concerned about their imperfections causing and issues with the saw.

table saw work station 1

I then screwed down a piece of 1/2″ thick plywood right where the saw will be located.  Turns out I probably could have used a 3/4″ thick board because I needed to shim the saw up some to get it flush with the table top.

table saw bench 1

The saw has to be secured in place so it doesn’t move relative to the table or fence so I just went out and bought some longer hex bolts to keep the saw where it’s supposed to be.  I also cut out a hole for the dust to be removed.  At some point I’ll hook up a dust collection system and this hole will come in handy.

table saw work station 2

table saw saw installed

The tricky part was installing the Biesemeyer fence system.  This fence was a leftover from my previous table saw and has been collecting dust in my basement for several years now.  It simply bolts onto the front frame of the table.

completed table saw table

The fence system has a built-in tape measure that I calibrate by squeezing a 3/4″ thick board between the fence and the blade and then setting the indicator to 3/4″.  Later on I’ll adjust the fence to ensure it is square to the blade.  I’ll also show this table saw station in more detail in an upcoming video.

table saw fence

table saw workstation fence

The best part of this table saw setup is it’s the same exact height as my other work table and the router table.  That means they can all be in-feed or out-feed tables for each other.  That alone is going to make cutting large sheets of plywood MUCH MUCH easier.

outfeed table

So in a few hours worth of work I’ve managed to build myself a simple work bench that compliments the other tables in the shop, adds over seven inches of width to the amount I can cut and cost me around $50 worth of fasteners, wheels and wood.  Not too bad.  This project is perfect if you’re looking to improve your table saw situation.

If you don’t have a Biesemeyer fence, which I wouldn’t expect you to, you can check out these picks from Amazon (affiliates): the Vega PRO, the Delta 36-T30 and the Shop Fox.

In our next post, I’ll be featuring a video on the basics of routers and router tables.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,