DIY Projects

Miter Saw Stand Plans

Posted by John on October 6th, 2015

This weekend I’m going to start filming my new course on how to build kitchen cabinets.  As part of the preparation for that project, I decided to add a much-needed miter saw stand to my workbench inventory.  Having a miter saw stand is a huge convenience and while you don’t absolutely need one, it makes your workshop life a lot easier, especially when you add the Kreg Top Trak gear.

The plans for this miter saw are available for free to our newsletter subscribers. 

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Here’s some pictures of the recently completed project.  It took my about three 2-hour nights to start and finish this project completely.

miter saw stand

It’s a great entry-level project and the perfect warm-up to a cabinet build since it involves many of the same skills needed like cutting large sheets of plywood, pocket holes, circular saw work, router work, etc.

There’s a lot of room for improvement and upgrades with this particular stand.  There’s a lot of wasted space beneath the top, which you can use to install some drawers or a lower shelf.  All of those upgrades I’ll eventually get to myself, but for now, this setup will work just fine.

I recently shot an instructional video demonstrating how to build this exact saw and you can check it out here:

(If you can’t see the preview window, click here to be directed directly to YouTube)

This saw was built from the following materials (affiliate links):

Here are some other close up pictures of the stand.

1 img miter saw stand

2 img side feed

6 img groove

3 img kreg stop

So far, I’m liking this saw stand much, much better than my previous portable stand.

Remember to sign-up to get access to these plans today!

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

Designing a Miter Saw Station

Posted by John on September 22nd, 2015

In our last post, we discussed our need for a new miter saw station.  In this post, we’re going to take our list of requirements and come up with a basic design.

Miter saw station design

Whenever I start a new woodworking project like a cabinet build, I usually start out by drawing a sketch of what I think it should look like and then make changes and redraw it.  Once I’m happy with how it looks, I can either come up with a dimensioned parts list or make a 3D drawing in SketchUp.

Here’s my pencil sketch.

miter saw stand design

In my pencil drawing, there are two tables.  The top one was my first design.  It’s a pretty straightforward miter saw station with a narrow workbench top that has two boxes on either side of the saw.  One of our fellow Facebook group users posted a similar picture (Peter G) and it also looks a lot like that Shanty2Chic model.  If you like this design, go for it.  It’s a smart option if you already don’t have a workbench or two, but it will require some extra plywood for both the top and the boxes.  Since I already have a couple dedicated workbenches, I came up with another option, which is the bottom drawing.

The option I’m going with will feature a narrow work surface with an integrated fence and a recess where the saw will sit to flush it up with the work top.  While this setup will complicate the design a bit, it should be a pretty useful station.

After I finished my pencil sketch of the table, I drew it up in SketchUp.  By drawing it in a 3D CAD program, it allowed me to see some areas of the design that I hadn’t fully thought through.  It’s like building the table before you even buy the parts.  It’s a helpful exercise.

Here’s what that drawing looks like.  And no, I didn’t have to draw the saw.  SketchUp has a great model library where you can import drawings made by other people.

miter saw stand

If you’re in our Facebook group, you would have already seen this image.  The table is made completely out of plywood and it will feature some caster wheels for easy moving around my basement shop.

From this image, I was able to dimension every single part.  I’d give you that parts list now, but I want to verify it first.  You never know.  Once in a while even I make a mistake (no, no I don’t).  😉

Later this week, I’m going to run out and purchase the material.  I should have it ready for a post next week.

See you then.

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

New Video: How to Install Shadow Box Trim

Posted by John on August 28th, 2015

In today’s post, you’ll learn
– How to Install Shadow Box Trim

It’s been a while since we’ve finished any home improvement projects and although, this latest one is pretty quick and simple, it feels great to wrap up another project nonetheless.  Lisa and I had been planning on adding some sort of decor or charm to our front entry for some time now and we settled on shadow box trim since it looks great and won’t break the bank.  Between paint and trim (both chair rail and base cap molding), we probably spend around $150.

shadow box trim pinterest

To make this tutorial even easier, I put together a video for you to help demonstrate the process.  Check it out:

(Click here if you don’t see the video to be redirected to YouTube)

Here’s what tools you’ll need for this shadow box molding project:

– Base Cap Molding
Miter Saw
– Tape Measure
Brad Nailer
– Adhesive Caulk
– Nail Sets
– Painter’s Caulk
– Wood Filler

I wrote a how-to post for eHow.com, which will explain this whole process in written form along with an explanation for the angle cuts on the stairs.  As soon as that article goes live, I’ll update this post with that link.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when you are thinking about installing shadow box trim.  For starters, when you are trying to plan the layout and figure out how many boxes and how big each one should be, smaller walls should only get one box.  Longer walls can get more than one, but try to get an odd number as odd numbers tend to look better, although we weren’t able to squeeze in odd numbers on our walls.

You’re also going to need some sort of top cap like a chair rail molding before you install the shadow box trim.  Luckily, we have a post and a video on how to install chair rail, which you can check out first.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment on this post OR on the YouTube video.

If you think my shadow box trim looks good, do me a favor and share this post.


This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

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

Matt’s Fireplace Built-Ins

Posted by John on August 3rd, 2015

In today’s post, we’re talking to one of readers, Matt from Virginia.  Matt recently finished his own fireplace built-ins using our Large Built-in Plans and we’re talking to him about his experience.  There’s a few nuggets of wisdom here.

Matt ended up taking our free plans and making some modifications to the dimensions to accommodate his living room.  Along the way he painted the fireplace, added floating shelves and mounted his flat screen tv.

Here’s what Matt’s living room looked like before the project:

fireplace built-ins before


Now here’s the after.  Looks killer!

fireplace built-ins


1. You based your cabinets on the Large Built-In cabinet plans. Did you have to make many changes to the design or the dimensions to get them to work in your space? Was that difficult to do?

I had to change the plans to accommodate two different sized cabinets. The left hand cabinet is 48″ with the right hand cabinet being 51″. It was not difficult to change the plans.  A little time consuming to verify measurements and check over everything twice, but rather easy. Having the plans actually saved time, because I had something to reference and/or use as a guide.

built-ins 2

2. What was the hardest part of the project?

Hardest part of the project was the amount of time it took to finish.  The first problem was the plywood was cut to the wrong size at the big box store that I went to, so I had to further modify the plans versus returning the wood to the store.  This only set me back and added additional time to the project.  Secondly, I cut the face frame short on both cabinets – this proved to be challenging as it made hinge selection difficult. I ended up using 3/8″ hinges and hollowing out the sides of the cabinets to accommodate the hinge. Finally – I have never made inset doors. This for me was by far the hardest part of the project. By nature I am a perfectionist and getting the gap to line up without having a jointer or planer was very difficult. The gaps on the doors to this day are not a perfect 1/8″ all the way around

built-ins 5

3. How long did it take you?

It took 8-9 months to finish the project. I worked mostly on weekends or in the mornings before work to get the project done. This was building the cabinets, painting the fireplace, running cables through the wall to mount the TV above the fireplace, installation of floating shelves and repainting the living room.

built-ins 7

4. What kind of finishing process did you follow? What primer and paint?

I sprayed the finished using a HomeRight Finish Max Fine HVLP Paint Sprayer – Behr Premium Plus Paint in classic white and Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer.  In total, it took two coats of primer and two coats of paint. The process also included tips from your site on painting cabinets.  I used 150 girt and 220 grit sand paper initially on an orbital sander to get everything smooth prior to painting, with a light 220 grit sanding between coats of paint and primer. The top was stained with American General Java Gel Stain and finished in Min-Wax Polyurethane – I sprayed this from a can for a satin finish.

built-ins 6

5. What are you using the cabinets for?

The cabinets are mostly for housing the cable box and electronics along with my kids puzzles and board games, pull-ups, etc.

6. What are future projects are you planning around your home?

Future projects are bathroom remodels – one which is already complete. I have two more bathrooms to finish out. The two remaining will get new floors, vanities, mirrors, etc.

7. If you had to do the project over again, what would you have done differently?

If I had to do the project over again, I would have used pocket holes to put the carcass of the cabinets together. I ended buying a dado blade set off of Ebay that came in handy, but I already had a pocket hole jig and that may have saved me some time. I would have also opted for overlay doors vs inset, as I think overlay doors would be more forgiving.

Great advice from Matt after his cabinet build.  You can see the reflection in his countertops from across the room.  Nice!  Thanks for sharing your project with us, Matt.  

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

My 3 Biggest Kitchen Renovation Mistakes

Posted by John on June 11th, 2015

If all goes according to plan, next week I’ll be launching my new ebook.  The book is a guide on how to renovate your kitchen intelligently so your remodel goes smoothly and stays on budget.  It’s pretty much an organized brain dump of everything I know about kitchens and planning renovations.  It’s my best remodeling advice from my decade plus of working on houses.  Sound good?

Over the next few weeks, as the book launches, I’m going to reflect back on some of the more important lessons I learned from previous kitchen renovation projects.  I wrote the book with the intent of passing on those critical lessons to you so you can avoid my costly mistakes.  Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, my kitchen renovation experience has been positive.  However, I still think it’s important to discuss my failures, especially if we can learn from them.  After all, we often learn much more from our mistakes than our successes.

Before we dive into the post, you can actually listen the audio version of the ebook’s introduction by clicking right here (you can also right click and download the MP3 if you’d like).

kitchen mistakes

Here are my 3 biggest kitchen renovation mistakes from my first home.  Do your best to avoid them!!

1.  I Avoided Using Contractors.  This one was a whopper of a mistake.  Back in 2008, I hated hiring contractors.  I was perfectly capable of doing my own work and simply preferred to have complete control of all my home improvement projects.  Unfortunately, I ended up working on a couple different houses at once and my kitchen renovation wasn’t progressing fast enough.  I was saving money, but I was spinning my wheels.  Towards the end of my kitchen remodel, my wedding was quickly approaching and I was forced to hire contractors for the electrical, plumbing and drywall in order to get the work done on time.  It was surprisingly affordable and unbelievably quick.  Both the electrician and the plumber were done in a day or two.  The drywall crew needed around a week, which allowed me to break away and work on building my kitchen cabinets.  All I kept thinking for weeks was, why didn’t I hire these guys sooner?

Key Takeaway:  Hiring out contractors isn’t always a bad thing.  This advice probably only applies to those folks that like to do EVERYTHING themselves (like me).  

2.  I Assumed the Wrong Appliance Size.  When I designed the layout of my kitchen, I sized my own kitchen cabinets and appliances.  I used Ikea’s free kitchen planning tool to figure out the cabinet and appliance locations and  then used the results for a cabinet planner program.  The cabinet planner software takes your cabinet sizes and spits out a material and cut lists (yep, built my own cabinets).  After I bought all my material and appliances, I realized I made a BIG mistake.  I had assumed that the width of my new stainless steel refrigerator would be the same as my old one.  Whoops.  I designed the kitchen layout and the cabinet dimensions around that smaller fridge.  As I was building the cabinets, I realized that it wasn’t all going to fit.  The cabinet layout needed to be modified and I ended up shrinking a 15″ wide pantry cabinet down to a barely usable 12″ to give the bigger fridge more room.  Even with that adjustment, it was TIGHT.

If you’re reading this and thinking that you don’t need to worry about this since you’re going to use a kitchen designer and they’ll figure that out, be warned.  If you don’t know the exact size of your appliances (typically just width), then you end up making assumptions.  If you make the wrong assumption, you have to live with it.  That may mean a smaller fridge or a couple smaller cabinets.

Key Takeaway:  Make sure you have your appliance sizes identified OR be prepared to stick with whatever size assumptions you use when you design your kitchen.  

3.  I Didn’t Work with a Designer.  This problem was more of an issue for selecting materials and not so much the kitchen layout.  We knew we were going to have white cabinets.  That was easy.  We really liked a certain slab of granite we saw at a supplier.  Great.  So far so good.  Then it was time to pick a backsplash and we whiffed.  It took us months to find something we thought coordinated well with our cabinets, floor tile, room color and countertops and I still don’t love that backsplash (even though we haven’t lived there in five plus years).  We could have done better.  I don’t want to speak for Lisa, but I’m aesthetically challenged.  If you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a decor blog and for good reason.  I stink at picking out colors and coordinating multiple pieces.  Not my thing.  If I could go back and hire someone for a couple hundred bucks to make a tile selection, I would.

Key Takeaway:  Consider hiring a kitchen designer to coordinate all of your material selections.  In the ebook, I tell you what to look for if you decide to work with a designer.    

In my next post, I’ll tell you about my 3 Biggest Successes from My Kitchen Renovation.

Don’t forget, if you have a kitchen renovation coming up and you’d like to get the ebook at a discount, sign-up for our free newsletter.  You’ll be the first to know when the book is available.  In addition to the ebook, there will also be packages available that include an audio version of the ebook, printables, excel calculators and even one-on-one coaching time with me.  It’s going to be fun.  Stay tuned.  

Posted in DIY Projects,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , ,

New Plans: Table Saw Station

Posted by John on May 24th, 2015

It’s been a while, but I’ve finally finished the Customizable Table Saw Station Plans.



To get access to these free woodworking plans, you simply need to subscribe to our newsletter.  You can sign-up using the opt-in form on our sidebar or the form following this post.

This workstation has made using my table saw considerably easier.  Building it was a big priority before we made the built-ins for our home office.  If you cut large plywood sheet goods, a large table saw work surface is hugely important.

For the first time since I started blogging I’ve also made the Excel spreadsheet available to accompany the pdf.  If you have any problems getting the calculations to work in the pdf, the Excel spreadsheet is a second option.

As I mentioned above, these plans are completely customizable to adapt to whatever sized contractor or hobby table saw you already own.  All you need to do is enter the saw’s length, width and height and you’re good to go.

Good luck with it and let me know if you have any questions!

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

New Video: How to Install Chair Rail Molding

Posted by John on May 16th, 2015

In this video and post, you’ll learn
– How to install chair rail molding
– How to install molding on a stairway
– How to add end caps to your trim work
– How to use two basic tools to figure out what angle to cut your trim pieces to


Happy weekend everybody!

This past week I was able to get some more house work done in the form of chair rail molding.  This is the second time we’ve added chair rail to our place.  The first time was back a few years ago.  You can read about that experience here (photos were pre-DSLR).  This time around it went MUCH quicker.  Funny how a little bit of experience will do that.

This time around, I snapped a chalk line in the areas where the chair rail was to be installed.  I also used my patented* no-tape-measure approach to trim installation, which was more fully explained in my baseboard installation video.

Anyway, why don’t you watch the video and let me know if you have any questions…

(If you don’t see the video, please click here to be redirected to YouTube)

The key takeaways from this video are:
– Use construction adhesive and a chalk line to align your trim
– Use a finish nailer for trim that is thicker than 1/2″ or so. Keep in mind that the nail needs to go through a 1/2″ thick piece of drywall plus the trim. Most brad nailers only shoot nails up to 1-1/4″ long.
– Use a t-bevel and your miter saw to figure out what angle your molding should be cut to.
– If you want an end cap or a “return”, just cut the end of the trim to a 45 degree angle. Then using a piece of scrap trim, cut a 45 degree angle on the opposite side you intend to install it and then just lop it off with a straight cut.

I hope this video helps you with your chair rail installation or any similar type of work.

Any questions??


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

How to Install Baseboard Molding

Posted by John on April 29th, 2015

In this video, you’ll learn:
– How to remove baseboard molding
– How to install new baseboard molding
– How to work without a tape measure

Well, we finally started our latest home improvement project.  As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re working towards adding some character in our vestibule with taller baseboard molding, additional chair rail trim and shadow boxes.

How to Install Baseboard Molding 2

The first item on this to do list is the baseboard molding.  Rather than write a few hundred words on how to rip out short molding and install taller trim, it’s easier and more educational to simply film it and narrate the work.

Here’s a super quick video on how to install baseboard molding.  By the way, super quick for me is around 5 minutes!

(If you don’t see the video, you can click this link to be redirected to YouTube)

I hope you find this video helpful.  Adding taller trim can give your home a more high end look since shorter trim is very common.  The visual effect of the taller baseboards gives the wall a more defined contrast with the wall.

Again, I’d like to emphasize that you don’t always need to work with a tape measure.  Sometimes you do, no doubt.  However, I find that if I’m able to employ the process I used in this video, I make less mistakes. When I first started out installing molding years ago, I used a tape measure.  I can’t tell you how many cuts I messed up.  When you use a tape measure, you’re adding potential pitfalls.  You measure the wall then you measure the molding.  If you make tiny mistakes on each of those steps you can make a noticeable mistake at the miter saw and cut the board too short or too long.

You can see another example of where I was able to avoid using a tape measure when I installed quarter round molding in our family room a couple years ago.

In our next video, I’ll show you how I use a t-bevel to make trim installation on angled walls easier.

Are you in need of new trim in your home?  What molding work are you considering? 

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

My Biggest DIY Project Ever

Posted by John on April 21st, 2015

If you’ve been a regular reader for the past couple of years you know we’ve worked on some pretty sizable home improvement projects since our beginning in 2011.  We completely renovated our home office from the ground up this past fall.  We spent a few months and upgraded our dining room with raised panel wainscoting a couple of years ago.  There were garage projects and major furniture builds along the way too.  I even built my shed from scratch.  However, I’ve barely mentioned or blogged about my biggest home improvement project to date since I started blogging nearly four years ago. 

What was my biggest DIY project ever?  For me, it’s an easy question to answer: the kitchen in my first home.

When I bought my first home back in 2003 it needed a lot of work.  What was wrong with it?  Yes.   Plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring, the windows, the ceiling, the door, the cabinets, the countertops… all of it was wrong.  

The house was built back at the turn of the previous century and the kitchen was an addition from the 50s or 60s.  I don’t think it was ever updated from it’s original construction.  Amazing it lasted as long as it did.  

I was so overwhelmed with all of the work I had to do to the house that I punted on the kitchen remodel until years later.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with the kitchen, so I didn’t do anything until 2007.  It took me four years to finally get around to gutting it and then building it back from scratch.  There are a lot of things I would’ve done differently with that house, but the kitchen isn’t one of them.  

From 2003 until 2007, I upgraded the rest of the home with new drywall, all new trim, a new furnace, new electrical and refinished the floors.  Most of the work I did myself.  Of course, I hired out some of the more critical items to move things along.  During those four years I was able to build up a level of home improvement competence that I didn’t have when I first bought the house.  I learned what work is best for me to do and which work I can outsource.  

The kitchen renovation started with a demolition party in the spring of 2007 and wasn’t finished until the homemade kitchen cabinets were painted after they were installed well over a year later.  The results of that years worth of work was worth the effort.  We eventually sold the home in two days and the remodeled kitchen was a big reason for that quick sale.  

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to be releasing my first product for purchase: a book on how to renovate your kitchen.  Instead of focusing on specific DIY techniques like a lot of our blog posts, I’m concentrating mainly on the planning and exectution of your next kitchen remodel.  For me, the planning was the hardest part of that kitchen remodel.  It took me a few years to get started and I couldn’t do a thing to the space until the planning was done.  If you plan your kitchen renovation well, you’re much more likely to have a successful project.  

The book will focus on the steps you need to take before you start the project and will help guide you through making all of the big decisions that you are bound to run into along the way.  I want to prepare you as best I can for those challenges.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking some time to to talk about kitchen renovations prior to the book launch.  If you have any questions about your upcoming kitchen project, now is the perfect time to ask.  

I’m also hoping to get my next set of woodworking plans completed soon.  The table saw station plans are taking slightly longer than I’d like.  

Have a great week!

Posted in DIY Projects,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, ,

Our Next Project: Shadow Boxes

Posted by John on April 13th, 2015

The last couple months have been super busy.  In case you couldn’t tell by my complete lack of posting, I haven’t done a whole lot of home improvement work lately.  Life with three little kids is much more time consuming than it was with two and my free time is just about gone nowadays.  I have maybe two hours every evening after work to either blog, do house projects or other online projects that I’ve started.  It’s a challenge to say the least.

I’m expecting to get back in the swing of things this week with our latest home improvement adventure: shadow boxes.

We’re going to dress up our vestibule with some simple trim work to give the home some more character.  Over the years, I’ve installed a lot of trim, but this will be my first crack at shadow boxes and I’m looking forward to the challenge.  We’ll also be taking the opportunity to upgrade the baseboard trim.

Here’s a shot from our vestibule now.

shadow box before

You can see in the photo that we have chair rail molding already in place.  We installed that back in 2011.  Here’s a link to that tutorial.  The baseboard molding looks pretty puny, so we’re going to pop that off and install the taller stuff.  When we built the house, we were under the impression that the baseboards would be the taller variety.  It was one of the few minor disappointments we had during our walk-thru.

When we renovated our home office, we took advantage of the opportunity and installed the bigger baseboards in there first.  The goal is to have the bigger molding throughout the first floor.  We’ll continue that work with the vestibule and then maybe the living room at a later point.  It’s unlikely that we’ll change the baseboards upstairs.

Here’s a reminder of what those taller baseboards look like.

high baseboards

Pretty nice if you ask me.  Definitely worth the effort to rip out the short stuff.

Now that you know what we’re up to, here’s what you can expect to see and learn during this small project.  I’ll film and explain the essential parts of the work like the sizing, cutting and installation of both the shadow boxes and the baseboard molding.  Even if you aren’t planning on performing this same kind of project in your home, understanding the process should be helpful.

Make sure you stop by later this week.  I’ll be releasing my next set of free woodworking plans.  This time it will be the table saw station.

Have a great week!

Posted in DIY Projects,Trim. Tagged in ,,

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