Reclaimed State Art

Recently, a few friends and I have created a few wooden things together.  Cribbage boards and now large state art.  After seeing our bedroom wall, my friend really wanted to use the same wood to make a large Montana piece.


The process was pretty easy, so I thought it’d be fun to share.  To make the template, he propped up a handheld projector loaded up with a Montana silhouette.  We taped Kraft paper to the wall, traced the outline, and cut it out.  After arranging four planks, I used a Sharpie to transfer the shape to the boards.  Using some of our scrap cabinet poplar, we secured the pieces together with screws from the back.


Then, with his jigsaw, he cut along the lines.  Tight turns are impossible to go completely around, so he worked in from the other side.  Cutting took out a few small chunks, but after a round of edge sanding with 220 grit paper, everything looked normal.


Each state is 41 inches wide by 21 tall.  I popped it on the mantel to see what I thought.


I like it there, but I had intended for it to hang over the bench in our bedroom, like this:


Not sure where it’ll land yet.  Originally, my friend wanted to hang his over a sofa.  After discussing other uses, (adding hooks for jewelry for his wife) I tossed out the idea of creating a coat rack.  By adding simple knobs or hooks at staggered heights, it could be art and storage.  Now he’s undecided on where his will go.  At any rate, we had fun and have something to show for it.

Kitchen Cabinets, Part 1

During our last kitchen renovation, I shared how we built our cabinets.  Over the weekend, Ben built every drawer, 9 total, for the island.  We’ve made a few changes while building our new cabinets, so I’m giving the scoop now.  To get as much detail as possible, I’m sharing how he built the boxes and drawers now.  Once we finish the fronts, I’ll discuss the materials and process for those.

As he finished each drawer, I sanded the tops and sides smooth for clear coat.  Four days later, here’s our island, ready for install.


The right stack are for either side of the stove.  On the left are the shorter cabinets the cook top will rest on.  Originally, we planned to put the trash under the sink again, but started discussing and agreed it is better under the stove.  With a half width drawer under, if someone is cooking, it’s easy enough to scoot to the side to throw something away.  At the sink, you have to step all the way over, stopping what you are doing.  So, that’s why there’s only one drawer in the lower box.

Our bathroom vanity was a trial run of sorts for the kitchen cabinet process.  All boxes are constructed with 3/4 inch thick, double-sided melamine coated particle board.  Melamine is ideal for wet or potentially wet areas such as kitchens.  Box assembly is otherwise the same as before.

One big change we made is the drawer material.  Last time we used 3/4 inch plywood.  It’s sturdy, but everything we can get now is a lower grade.  Low grade plywood warps easier, which can skew the drawer.  We also didn’t want to fill ugly edges.  This time around, we went with 3/4 inch thick poplar for the sides and 1/2 inch double-sided melamine for drawer bottoms.  Using a dado bit in the table saw, Ben cut a 1/2 inch wide by 3/8 inch deep groove a half-inch from the bottom.

Kitchen-Drawer-Assembly-GroovesHe repeated this process for both sides and the front.  The backs are an inch shorter and are glued directly to the drawer base.  A bead of glue inside the groove holds the base in place.  Each side slips in over, nailing the corners for added strength.


After the three sides are in place, Ben runs a line of glue on the base and side corners before sliding the back in.  A few more nails and the drawer is assembled.  That’s when I get to start working.  I used 220 grit paper to sand the top edges and sides smooths, paying extra attention to the joints.  Before sealing, I quickly vacuum off dust.  To keep the melamine base clean, I taped off the edges before applying two coats of clear water based poly.


One really great advantage of building our own cabinets is tailoring them to our needs.  For instance, the drawer heights are perfect for us.  We always prefer three drawers over a shorter stack of four.

Before we start building drawers, I measure a bunch of items to decide the minimum height for each drawer.  I tell Ben what I need the usable space to be.  To accommodate tall pots, leaving a little breathing room, our bottom drawer inside space is 11 inches tall.  Our top drawer can be no shorter than 4 1/2 inches inside to store our spice drawers.  Middle drawers are always the remaining space.  Knowing my measurements and that the bottom and glides take up 1 inch, Ben knows where to attach the glides.


Another big difference this go around are the drawer glides.  Last time, we didn’t want to sacrifice drawer height, so we used side mount glides.  With a bigger kitchen, we are less concerned about that and chose Blum soft close, under mount glides.

Comparatively, these puppies are not cheap.  About $17 per pair versus $6 for the same size.  We made our island deeper than standard, 31 inches, to leave space between the cooktop and bar.  Longer pairs cost $45 each.  That’s 405 dollars in drawer glides for just the island!  Even with the price tag, after using these in the bathroom, neither of us would go back to the old style.  These are the cats pajamas.  Seriously, full extension, 100 pound heavy-duty rating, quiet, and smooth.


With the slide installed, he secures clips to the under side of each drawer.  That’s the orange thing you see in the above photo.


These clips are the only thing physically holding the drawer to the glide.


Did I mention these glides are tucked completely underneath, hidden out of sight.


That’s all we can do on cabinets until we get everything set in the kitchen.  Then we add the face frames, drawer fronts, and hardware.  We’re nailing down those details soon.

We also made unexpected progress on the countertops over the weekend.  Hoping to get pricing and see our options, we popped in a local marble and granite supplier.  I said I preferred a dark, matte to satin finish stone.  The owner showed us really beautiful leathered granite and a gorgeous soap stone remnant pile.  After talking it over with him, he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: 100 bucks for six soap stone pieces.  Three are more than enough for our kitchen, so we loaded it up that day.  Because soap stone is on the soft side, it’s easy to cut and polish at home.  Ben’s no stranger to working with stone counters, so we’re thrilled.  Right now, the slabs are stacked together, with the backs facing out.  But, I can’t wait to share more!

Our rule is to have everything on site and ready for install before anything gets ripped out.  Slowly, things are coming in.  Flooring, a new door, and the sink should arrive soon.  It can’t get here soon enough.  Almost daily, Ben threatens to tear things out.

Leather Gift Crafts

Ben has a crazy pile of leather from his pillow crafting days, which has inspired me to fiddle with leather lately.  First, I made a leather bin.  Then leather tab top curtains.  Now, two quick and cute items that are perfectly giftable.  Bonus points if you have leather scraps.  First up, this leather catch-all tray.


To make, start with a square or rectangle that is the size of your base plus side height.  Pinch one corner and mark where you want to secure together.  Using a leather punch, cut a hole.  Pinch again to make a second matching hole.


To speed the process, I flipped my punched holes over, marked each dot, then punched again.


After all four corners, you’re ready to assemble.  I used screw rivets (because I had them on hand from my curtains) but you can use normal rivets or even snaps.  If you’re shipping these, snaps are perfect for flat packaging.


Just align the pinched corners:


And insert the rivet.


That’s it.  A simple tray that is perfect in an entry for keys or in the laundry room for pocket items.  Mine corrals jewelry, chapstick, hair ties, and the cutest, most useless mini pocket knife.  One must have miniatures, if only to make you smile and wonder when/how it could ever be useful.


With even smaller scraps, you can make a chic key chain.  Just cut a 1 inch wide by 7 inch long strip.  Tip, use a utility knife for the cleanest, straightest cut.  Fold in half over a key ring (from the hardware store for about 70 cents each).  Pop in a screw rivet, leaving 1/4 inch between it and the ring.  Get all fancy and make a design on the end.  Go nuts by stamping names or initials to further personalize it.


These are ideal as smaller gifts, especially if you have a large group.  Depending on the color, they work for anyone – men and women.

Put it on My Tab

Moving on with our master bedroom makeover.  With the new window and door in and trimmed, our old curtains were too short.  This set will work perfectly in the basement, but we needed something else.


I’m no stranger to making curtains, but I wanted to add a little detail: leather tab tops.  While in Minnesota this summer, I found a few scraps of gorgeous cognac toned leather.  Just enough to make my tabs.  Using other supplies Ben had, I was able to finish the job.  I used 1 1/8 inch wide by 7 inch long leather strips, a leather punch, and screw post rivets.


First, I used the punch to make a hole 1/2 inch from the bottom of each end of my leather strips.  Surprisingly, the punch made a clean hole through three layers of my linen panel, too.


Then I put the smooth side of my screw through the leather, then my curtain top, and through the other end of the leather piece.


Rather than basic white linen panels, there’s just a touch of rich leather.


And the way these hang?  Perfect draping.  So much more sleek than the bulky blackout curtains of yore.


Honestly though, the suede backing doesn’t slide super easily.  We’ll live with these a few more days to see how it goes.  I’m thinking I could cut another set of leather strips to add inside.  That way, the smooth side could face the rod, but we’d still have the pretty side to look at.  Any other suggestions to solve this problem?


Yet another simple change, but something I’m crazy about.  Here are my two current favorite elements together.


Baby steps, but we’re nearing the end.

Mirror, Mirror Against the Wall

This house came with three large, awkwardly placed mirrors.  One floor to ceiling next to the fireplace, which sadly, broke after moving it.

A shorter, wide one that’s still in the laundry room:


Though I don’t have pictures, the most um, interesting placement was at the end of the basement hall.  Right next to the bathroom door.  The first time we walked through the house, it startled me.  We decided to take it down to put to better use as a large framed for our bedroom.


To start, Ben cut a piece of OSB four inches wider and taller than the mirror and cut 3 inch strips of cedar.  OSB created a rigid backing for the mirror and frame.  We wanted to avoid glue, so Ben used the table saw to create 1/4 inch by 1 1/4 inch grooves in the back of the frame pieces.


The notched out section overlaps the mirror, leaving about two inches on the OSB sheet.


Short nails secure the frame to the backing, leaving an ugly edge.


For added interest, and to cover the sides, Ben added a 3/4 by 1 1/2 trim piece.  I wanted a 1/4 inch reveal for a layered look.

Framed-Wall-Mirror-Outer-FrameDuring the planning process, I said I wanted a leaning mirror.  Ben prefers wall mounted, but the height wouldn’t work between our trim.  So, we compromised on a slightly floating, completely straight mount.  To sit flat against the baseboard, Ben secured a scrap of trim to studs at the top.  This sets the mirror away from the wall, and gave a place to screw the mirror to the wall.


The cleats are about 3 inches shy of the mirror width, so they’re not obvious.  Unless you are literally against the wall, as I was to take these pictures.  Even then, the shadow blends in with the dark walls.


Because we had all materials, this project was free.


Filling this wall with a mirror gives function to an otherwise wasted space.  With the new dressing area, the old sconce boxes make sense.  Now to find the right lights that don’t look too bathroom-y.


I’m smitten.


Using the same cedar as the wall and night stands brought a small touch of the same to another wall.


I adore the way the wood (and everything else, for that matter) looks against the black walls.


Next for the bedroom: curtains, paint touch ups (note to self, don’t use the cheap tape!), fixing/changing the bed, and hanging art.