BLACK+DECKER Giveaway and How to Install a Window Valance

Posted by John on June 13th, 2016

(This post is sponsored by BLACK+DECKER, but the content and the opinions expressed here are my own)

black and decker giveaway

So it’s been a while since my last blog post, mostly because I’ve been hard at work on CabinetsfromScratch.com.  If I’m not writing blog posts, it usually means I’m not working on the house.  Consequently, my honey-do list for projects is nearing a mile long and I had to knock out something this weekend or I’d feel like a total bum.  Luckily, Lisa had purchased a window valance some time ago and we decided to finally hang those up.

I’m not going to write out a long how-to for this project since it’s incredibly simple.  However, I will point out that my new BLACK+DECKER 20V drill made this project go smoothly.  I’m not being compensated to write a glowing review of it, but I will say this drill is light, well balanced and feels comfortable to hold and use.

We started this weekend’s quick project with a basic, undecorated double window in our oldest daughter’s room.

window without valance

This valance comes with three brackets that get installed into the wall just above and outside the window opening.  I’ll use a pencil to mark the bracket holes and then I’ll pre-drill them using a drill bit with a diameter slightly smaller than the screw diameter.  I was lucky enough to hit the wall studs when I located my brackets.  If you don’t hit studs, then you need to use molly bolts to hold the fasteners in place.

black and decker drill

After the first bracket was installed, I used a long level to locate the next two brackets.  A couple of screws later and we were done.

window valance

Boy that was an exhausting weekend. 🙂

So the good folks at BLACK+DECKER are giving away one (1) 20V Lithium Drill/Driver AND one (1) 20V circular saw to one of my readers.  

Here’s how to enter the giveaway.

  1.  Check out the BLACK+DECKER Drill/Driver here.
  2.  Leave a comment at the end of this blog post telling me what you’d do with the drill if you win the giveaway.

That’s it.  Check out their product, leave a comment and BOOM, you’re entered.  Piece of cake.  The giveaway starts immediately and ends on 11:59 June 27, 2016.

If you’ve never left a comment before, here’s the basics.

  1.  Scroll to the bottom of the post.
  2.  If you have a Disqus account you can log-in to leave a comment.  You can also log-in to your Facebook or Google+ account to leave a comment.
  3.  If you don’t have a Disqus account, click on the small box that says “I’d rather comment as a guest.”

how to comment

    Enter your name (you don’t have to use your real name) and your email address.

how to comment 2

    Leave your comment.

A couple of quick notes.  The actual content of your comment isn’t relevant to the giveaway.  The winner will be drawn at random.  I’m not picking a winner based on what you write.  Got it.  Good.

Good luck everybody!



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

Video: What’s a Jointer ?

Posted by John on January 11th, 2015

In this post, you’ll learn:

– About jointers
– How to use a jointer for tighter seams in your projects


If you’re just getting started with some basic woodworking projects, you may have heard about or seen a jointer. While it’s not terribly common for DIYers to own one, it’s a pretty useful tool to have in your shop.  You can pick one up used fairly inexpensively or opt for a bench top model.  You can see the models I recommend on our Tools Page.

Here’s a quick video I put together that demonstrates how a jointer works.

(Direct link to the video)

I’ve personally used my jointer sparingly, but it was vital on a few projects.  If you ever want to use rough cut wood from a lumber yard instead of the local hardware store, then you’ll definitely need one.

Here are some larger shots of the reclaimed pine boards I jointed.   In the first photo, you can see the joint between the two boards is fairly visible.


After a few passes through the jointer, that edge gets cleaned up enough that it’s virtually invisible.  The only way you can tell where one board meets the next is by the grain pattern.


I hope this post and video helps you get a better idea of how to use this tool.

Any jointer questions?

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

RIDGID Drill and Driver Combo Giveaway

Posted by John on December 4th, 2014

Happy Holidays!

This time of the year is gift buying season and boy do I have a gift for you.

RIDGID Drill and Driver Combo Giveaway

Cordless Drill & Driver Giveaway facebook

The folks from RIDGID have hooked us up with their newest drill and driver combo and I’m giving away one set to one of our newsletter subscribers.

Here are the contest details.

Giving away one R9000K ($99 at Home Depot) which consists of:

– 12 Volt Drill/Driver
– High-Torque Impact Driver
– 4 ah Lithium-Ion Battery
– 2 ah Lithium-Ion battery
– LEDs on both drivers
– Carry bag
– Charger

What impresses me most about this RIDGID product is the free lifetime service.  Once you register your product online, any future repairs or part replacement is 100% free.  Can’t beat that!

RIDGID provided me with my own set to review.  Here are my un-biased thoughts.  My main drill/driver is a 12 year old DeWalt and as much as I love it, it’s nearing the end of its useful life.  The RIDGID drill is lightweight, supremely comfortable to hold and well balanced. It’s going to make a great addition to my tool set.  The impact driver has a crazy amount of torque.  When you squeeze the trigger, it practically turns your hand over.  Loads of power.

While I don’t want to get ahead of myself regarding our upcoming project schedule, there is a good chance I’m going to start framing out our basement sometime during the next calendar year and both the impact driver and the drill/driver are going to get a ton of use.  Really excited about these tools.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway.


The contest winner will be chosen at random.  I’m not picking a winner based on the content of your comments.  I will check to see if your email address is on my newsletter list.  The contest will close on 11:59pm 15 December 2014, which gives me enough time to ship the drill set to the winner before Christmas.  Only US postal addresses are eligible.  


Not a newsletter subscriber?

How to sign-up for the newsletter:  Enter your name and email address into any of the opt-in boxes on our site.

Why sign-up: You’ll get free access to our woodworking plans/tutorials.  You’ll be part of our growing DIY and home improvement community.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Even if you already have a perfectly fine set of cordless drills, these RIDGID models will make a perfect holiday gift for the DIYer in your life.


Posted in Giveaways,Holiday,Tools. Tagged in ,, , ,

Introduction to the Thickness Planer

Posted by John 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 ,, , , ,

An Intro to Routers and Router Tables

Posted by John 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 wainscotingIMG_4240-1024x682


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 2

Posted by John on July 21st, 2014

***Plans for this Table Saw Station are now available on our Plans Page.  To get access, simply sign-up for our free newsletter***

“Let’s start over.”

That’s what I said to myself a couple of days ago.  In case you missed it, I built the top to my table saw work station out of 2x4s.  I was planning on building the rest of it out of 2x4s too and while I was reasonably satisfied with the results so far, I DID run into some warped and twisted boards.  That’s going to happen when you work with framing lumber.  It’s just the way it is.  It’s not intended for tight tolerances or fine furniture.  It’s for framing houses, which is why it’s called framing lumber.

The same day I published last week’s post I got an email from one of our awesome subscribers, Rick.  I could tell right away Rick knows his stuff.  Rick was honest, experienced and suggested I not use 2x4s for this project since my intention is to make a fairly accurate table saw station.  Accurate cuts are obviously important and having a table top made from 2x4s doesn’t help.  Rick suggested I use planed and cut hardwood boards instead.  Planed hardwood boards, like maple or oak, will be much more stable and less prone to warping or twisting and will therefore provide a much higher quality product.

As soon as I read Rick’s email, I knew he was right, but I dithered.  I was telling myself that I already spent around $20 on 2x4s and I’m sure it would turn out okay.  I was lying to myself.  I kindly replied to Rick that he was right, but I had already purchased a whopping $20 worth of wood and I didn’t want to invest in the hardwood upgrade.

I’m also stubborn.

After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that I MIGHT actually have enough leftover plywood from some previous projects that I could build the entire table over again.  After all, I had only built the top and it probably only took me an hour.  I checked my inventory (my giant pile of scraps on the basement floor) and sure enough, I had enough for maybe 80% of the table.  Okay.  I could do this.

Let’s start over.

If you’re not a regular woodworker or are just getting into this sort of  thing, plywood is actually more dimensionally stable then hardwood and MUCH more stable than 2x4s or framing lumber.  The reason is it’s a board made from thinner laminations of hardwood where the grain alternates directions from one layer to the next.  Consequently, it’s much less likely to suffer from twists, cups or any of those annoying features that is common in framing lumber.  Plywood is perfect for shelves, cabinets and all sorts of carpentry projects where stability is important (like my garage shoe organizer).   It’s also cheaper than hardwood.  Not quite as pretty, but cheaper.

So big thank you to Rick for reminding me that it was worth taking the time to do this project correctly.  I owe you a beer.

Anyway, I re-built the top out of plywood.  You probably can’t tell from the photo, but it’s a much better product.

table saw workbench 2

This is pretty much where we left off last time.  I then cut out the melamine for the work surface.  The open area is where the table saw will be located.  I didn’t permanently install the melamine yet since it would just get in the way during the rest of the build.

table saw workbench 1

Now for the legs.  Just a couple of plywood boards with pocket screws.

table saw work bench legs

I topped them off with a couple of small plywood pieces for the wheels.

table saw work table legs wheels

Flipping it back over, I threw on some cross braces, which is where the table saw will ultimately be located.

table saw workbench 3

That’s it for this post.  In our next post I’ll finish the build and setup the fence.

Ever start a project over after realizing you could’ve done better?  Leave a comment below and explain yourself.  


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

Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade #1

Posted by John on July 13th, 2014

***Plans for this Table Saw Station are now available on our Plans Page.  To get access, simply sign-up for our free newsletter***

If you’ve been following along lately, you know that we’re knee deep in our home office renovation.  In our last post, we discussed the work we’ve done to date and what work was coming soon.  We’re starting the second half our office project today by upgrading my main workshop power tool, the table saw.  For what it’s worth, you can expect a lot of workshop posts and videos in the coming weeks.

Here’s my current table saw, a Hitachi.

hitachi table saw

What I like about it… It’s a great table saw.  It’s powerful, it’s lightweight, portable and it’s perfect for most DIY projects.  (By the way, on our Tool Recommendations Page, I recommend the Bosch model instead since it permits dado blades, whereas the Hitachi does not.  So, if you are in the market for your first table saw, consider the Bosch over the Hitachi.)

Now for what I don’t like about this saw and frankly, contractor saws in general.  It’s not such a great cabinet saw, which means it’s not ideal for cutting big plywood sheets.  It’s a bit undersized, so larger pieces of plywood tend to be more of a challenge than I’d like.  The table will move or wobble slightly when I place a larger sheet of wood down on it and it doesn’t have much of an outfeed setup.  For long pieces of wood I have to walk around the back of the saw and pull the piece through once it starts hanging off the back.  I’m sure that’s pretty common for people who use these types of saws, but it’s not ideal nor is it very safe, folks.  It also only allows cuts up to around 24″ or so, which also isn’t great for wide cabinet parts.

While I’d love to buy a full blown cabinet saw, those are pretty pricey and would really only be worth my investment if I opened up a cabinet shop (not interested).  Here’s an example of what a cabinet saw looks like:

grizzly table saw

This is a Grizzly brand table saw (affiliate link).  Now THIS is a cabinet saw.  You can click the link to see how much it costs, but it’s close to $2k.  My hitachi was around $300.  Yeah.  Not interest in spending that sorta dough.  Eventually, I plan on buying one way down the road, but I’m not in any hurry.  These saws have powerful motors and huge table tops.  They are VERY heavy and don’t move a lick when you slap a board down on them.

So what to do?  Well, I’ve decided to make a sort of hybrid table saw station similar to something I saw on New Yankee Workshop years ago.  I’m building a 2×4 framed work table that will feature a melamine top and a more professional Biesemeyer fence.  My Hitachi table saw will then sit inside this workstation and have access to a larger work surface.  I’m going to build this new table to the same height as my workbench, which will be able to act as either an outfeed or infeed table.

Here’s how it’s coming together so far.

Table Saw Upgrade #1

I started the build by measuring the dimensions of my Hitachi taking into account that the mobile base it’s attached to will be removed.  I then took those dimensions, drew some rough sketches on paper and added in some length and width for the fence system.  I start construction on the top frame, since that’s probably the most critical piece.

The sides are 2x4s and the front and back are 2x3s.  A lot of this wood I had left over from our coffered ceiling framing.  I joined the pieces together using pocket screws and liquid nail, but regular wood screws through the sides would work just fine too.

table saw workbench 1

I then flipped the frame over and started adding the internal frame boards.

table saw workbench 2

table saw workbench 3

The large open space is where the table saw will be located.  The rest of the table top will be melamine.  While I haven’t finished cutting out all of the melamine, you can get an idea of what it will look like with the last piece.  I want the melamine to be recessed into the framing, which will make more sense later.

table saw workbench 4

I’m hoping to finish the legs and sub framing later this week.  This quick project will hopefully make the cabinet project much easier.

So what’s your table saw situation?  Do have have a contractor’s saw?  Know anyone with a cabinet saw?  


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

Our New Tool Recommendations Page

Posted by John on March 19th, 2014

One major addition to our blog that I’ve absolutely been itching to do is add a proper Tools page.  About a month or so ago, I added in our new menu bar with some new pages and I put in a placeholder page.  Well, this week I finally got an opportunity to publish the completed Tools page.   You can check out the new content my clicking on the “Tools” link in the menu bar or by clicking on this big link here:



My goal is to keep adding to this list all of the tools I use for my various projects.  So far, I’ve gotten a good start on some basic recommendations for woodworking tools.  In the future, I’d like to add tools for Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC work as well.

So this is what I’d like you to do.  Take a look at my list and if you think I’m missing anything, leave me a comment in this post and tell me.  Tools can be very personal items, so I do expect some people to take exception to some of my choices.  No problem.  Would love to get some feedback or start a conversation about our favorite power tools, brands, etc.


Posted in Tools. Tagged in ,,

How to Buy Power Tools on Craigslist or Ebay

Posted by John on March 21st, 2013

Hey everybody!  Hope your week is going well.  We’re very close to wrapping up our built-in project.  Next week we should have some solid updates for you.  If you’re getting a little lost in the details, hang in there.  We have a LOT more furniture builds planned over the coming months and while I can’t go too much into detail yet, I can promise you that we’ll be sharing some detailed how-to’s for all of those projects.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity to add some carpentry skills to your DIY resume.

A couple of days ago, a blog-friend of ours, Whitney from Drab to Fab Design, posted about all the beautiful decor and furniture she picked up on Craigslist.  That got me thinking.  I should do a post on how to buy power tools on Craigslist and Ebay.  Lord knows I’ve bought my share of tools from random people.

Here are some pointers that I try to follow…

1.  Avoid buying tools that get heavily used by most people.  If you’re going to buy a cordless drill that you want to keep for a good number of years, buy a new one.  If you REALLY want to buy a used drill, then at least make sure it’s gently used and comes with multiple batteries and a charger.  A beat up drill can burn out pretty easy.  What other items are heavily used?  Depends who you’re buying from.  It would be helpful to ask how much action the tool has seen and you can generally get a sense of the material condition of a tool just by looking at it.

2.   Tools that people rarely use can be bought for big savings.  If you’re a DIYer you may be guilty of this yourself.  You have a project that uses a specific tool that after you’ve used it once, you may never use it again. I actually did a whole post on the tools I rarely use.  These are major “jackpot” items since the seller probably expects to take a hit on it compared to what was paid for it.  Buying a tool for a specific task even if used can be cheaper than renting it if you need it for a few days or weeks.  What kind of tools are these?  Floor nailers, framing and roofing nailers, cement mixers, tile saws, post diggers, welders, jointers, planers, scaffolding, etc.  The best part about buying single job tools is you can probably resell them again for at least what you paid for them or maybe more if you get a deal.

3.  Look for sales from people who are moving or retiring.  A few years ago I stopped by a sellers house to buy a jointer and ended up leaving with the jointer, a dust collection system and a spindle sander.  Did I need the extra tools? For the price he wanted to get rid of them, definitely.  Since he was moving, he didn’t want to hold out for extra cash from a buyer that may not happen.

4.  Look at the new version of the item first.  If you want to buy a used miter saw, for example, check out the latest model on the manufacturer’s website and try to get a used one that resembles it, especially if you don’t know how old the used item is.  As I’m sure you’re aware, some sellers will try to get rid of a table saw they bought in the 90s.  While it may be okay, it probably has way more use than you want.  Stick with the recent models.

5.  Make sure it works before you buy it.  If it has a cord, plug it in.  Seems like a no-brainer, but.. you know.  Check the power cord for electrical tape.  If it looks like the wiring has been repaired, you should probably skip it.

6.  Make sure you can carry it.  A lot of the larger power tools like table saws or band saws are deceptively heavy and oversized.  Before you roll up to a purchase in your sedan, make sure you can put it in your car.  You generally don’t want to goto a purchase alone anyway, so bring someone who can help you lift the parts.  You should be able to find the tool’s weight and dimensions somewhere online so you know what you’re in for.

Most importantly, be careful!  There are a ton of weirdos out there!!



Posted in Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,

Christmas Gifts for Guys

Posted by John on November 19th, 2012

Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week already?  Ridiculous!  What’s even worse is we’ve already started decorating for Christmas.  Yikes.  It feels like it was Labor day just a couple of weeks ago!  We have a lot of fun Christmas activities planned per our usual holiday traditions.  There’s a ton to look forward to.  There is, however, one thing I dread every year and that is Christmas shopping.  I’m not a fan.  I never know what to buy Lisa.  It’s easier if she just tells me.  I can only imagine at least some of you suffer from the same ineptitude when it comes to buying gifts for your loved ones.  To help you out, Lisa and I are going to do back to back posts on what gifts we recommend this holiday season.  Yay!  I’ve written a post picking a bunch of gifts for the men in your life and Lisa will recommend gifts for the ladies.  We’re just trying to make life easier for everyone.  Plus, it’s fun to write lists.

Christmas Gifts for Guys 2012

1.  Black Ops 2.  Of course!  It’s the most exciting violent video game release since Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops 1.  I’m all-in on this game.  This is literally at the top of my personal Christmas 2012 wish list.  Last year I made the switch from the COD franchise to Battlefield 3.  This year, I’m looking forward to getting back to Black Ops.  Is this an annoying gift to give your boyfriend or husband?  Maybe.  Does it beat watching golf and college football all day.  Yep.

2.  A Cordless Drill.

If he doesn’t already have one of these, get him one.  These drills are a thing of beauty.  I use one on nearly every DIY project I attempt.  Porter Cable also has a great 2 for 1 deal.  You can get a cordless impact driver and cordless drill for a pretty reasonable price.  Once my cordless DeWalt dies (if that ever happens in my lifetime), I’m going to grab a cordless impact driver.

3.  A Miter Saw.  These saws rule.  We have a sliding compound miter saw and I can’t live without it.  This Hitachi is a pretty basic unit, it’s just a compound miter, but it’s a great entry model.  If you’re up for something with a little more versatility, a sliding compound miter saw gets the job done.

4.  Beer of the Month Club.  This is a great gift.  If the beer is delivered right to your door, you don’t even have to stop playing Black Ops 2 to go out and buy some.  It’s a perfect.  Plus, guys are usually parched after using their cordless drill and miter saw all day.  For real though, a relative gave me a beer of the month club membership for Christmas a couple years ago and it was sweet.  There are 3 month, 6 month and 9 month options depending upon your budget.

5.  North Face Etip Gloves.    What a clever idea.  You don’t need to take your gloves off to use your touch screen smart phone or iPad.  Ingenious!  This is a great idea for regular skiers or anybody who spends a lot of time outdoors.


6.  A Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Kit.  This is a DIY blog.  We’re going to recommend a lot of home improvement products.  This may be my favorite.  We’ve built a ton of stuff using pocket holes… our first home’s kitchen cabinets, our garage shoe organizer, the dining room, on and on.  This is such a smart and easy to use system.  Great buy for any guy, but really anyone at all interested in DIYing.

Honorable Mention
Neck ties.  Lots of neck ties.

I’m pretty sure the guys on your shopping list won’t complain about any of the items above.  Unless they hate DIYing, video games, outdoors and have a gluten allergy.  Then it’s pretty much a bust.

***Full disclosure:  Lisa and I are members of Amazon.com associates.  If you purchase any of the items above, we get a small kickback.  If you’re interested in joining Amazon Associates, go to Affiliate-Program.Amazon.com ***

Posted in Blogging,Favorites,Holiday. Tagged in ,, , , , ,

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