DIY Photo Wall

The photo wall is ready for decoration.

I really should have been taking pictures as this process went from concept to finished product. Instead, I’ll describe how I made it.

Step one is to have a wife who is into Pinterest. You know, that site where you can find inspiration for a whole lot of projects to suggest to your husband. My wife has a few boards of projects for me, so I avoid Pinterest like the plague.

Step two is to have an event. My daughter is having a graduation party, and my wife wanted a photo station. If I understand, she will be adding paper flowers and favorite photos to it and it will serve as a display board and as a backdrop for picture taking.

Step three is for your wife to ask you to recreate what she sees on Pinterest. So you accept your fate, push your other projects to the back burner, and get a plan.

Step four is to gather materials and tools. This is when you have a bit more leverage to make purchases. Unfortunately, I already had all that I needed for this one, except for pallets and the frame.

The frame is three sets of two boards, so six boards unless math is still racist. My boards were 1x3s, cut to seven feet. Then comes the pallets. Ugh.

Most businesses don’t mind you taking pallets, just be sure to ask. Also, do a little research about pallets. You don’t know what may have spilled on the wood, but you can know how that pallet was treated to withstand the elements. Pallets are gross. Wear eye and breathing protection whenever you work with it and hearing protection when needed. And don’t use it to hold food.

I took a bunch of pallets and had to disassemble them. A circular saw or a jigsaw down the sides is my first step. Yes, I do lose some wood that way, but in my experience, pallet edges aren’t worth the added hassle. The center bar is all that’s left and I pry the slats up with a dedicated crowbar. These slats have nails in them so be careful. I bought a nail cutter, but that sucked. So I tapped the nails out and pulled them.

To process this crappy wood, I ran the straighter side through my table saw with a blade that is old and cheap. I then used that side to reference against my fence for a parallel cut. My wife wanted eight feet of overall width, but nine feet meant easier math, so I cut the end of each piece square, then cut the other end at a length of three feet.

Now would have been a great time to scrub the wood with a wire brush. It also would have been a great time to connect the 7-foot boards with the hinges. I hope I remember that lesson the next time I have a project. A La Brava.

I did use a framing square to set up the construction. If you begin with a square frame, the rest will go much better. I used my air nail gun to attach the pallet wood to the frame. I used similar width boards across the three frames and spaced them with the edge of a board for a uniform look. Had I brushed the boards and attached the hinges I would have been done. Instead I did those steps at this point.

The photo wall stands on its own, but I may install bracing if my wife wants it outside and there’s wind.

Happy wife, happy life!

Finding a Mentor Nextdoor

Screenshot_20160613-111536No, that post title isn’t misspelled. Or rather it is purposefully misspelled. I have this app called Nextdoor on my phone. You put your address in it and it shows a map of what it says your neighborhood is. Mine is a bit bigger than what I would think of, but that’s fine. Once your neighborhood is designated, you can post post anything there that matters to someone in your proximity. Garage sales, babysitter requests, items for sale, open houses, etc. And these posts will be seen by anyone who has the Nextdoor app and is in that area, and also in surrounding neighborhoods depending on your settings.

Someone in my area was selling a handmade dog bed frame a few weeks ago, and from the posting it was clear that they had built it themselves. It looked awesome, but we have no need for a nice frame like that. Nonetheless, I decided to take a shot in the dark and reply to the post. I commented that we don’t need the piece, but offered to help if they ever need a hand, in exchange for letting me observe and learn.

After a little interaction, I had a “play date” with Mike, a 2-tour Vietnam veteran. He is mostly self taught and has been building furniture and home improvement projects for 50 years. Using some, selling others. And he’s willing to let me informally apprentice. I believe mentor would be the more accurate description of the role. He’s 75 years old, but acts and moves like he’s much younger. And when he runs the sander over a piece of wood, his stance and movement is more like a dancer than as a clumsy knuckle dragger, which is my current style.

Our first meeting lasted four hours in his self-made workshop. The workshop is a shed in his back yard, complete with adequate power, a heater for the winter, windows and shade for the summer, and of course a radio set to the local country music station. The interior is about the size of a one car garage, and he remarked that his last address had a shop much bigger than the current one. The city would only let him build one this big, causing him to leave his planer and a few other tools behind. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

During this initial meeting we worked on a medicine cabinet that will go in his bathroom. We discussed lengths and angles of the wood and he let me make the cuts on the table saw and the miter saw. I learned about some safety tips for both, including the danger of a table saw launching a piece of wood back at you if you don’t push it all the way through. Thankfully the wood didn’t fly back at me, but Mike told me that impalement is a real risk you take if you don’t stand properly behind the wood and to the side, and then if you don’t finish the cut.

I also routered the joints for the door on this cabinet to fit them together. and cut the center piece of the door to size. We fit the pieces together with glue, used putty on all of the seams, clamped it and went inside for some cake. We got to know a little bit about each other and he and his wife showed me several of the previous projects they are using around the house. He has even made his own hinges out of wood, which is time consuming, but if his wife wants this for her recipe box, he will do it for her. “She gets whatever she wants” he said to me.

He has asked me to bring over some projects that I’d like to make and the first order of business is a laundry room insert to replace an unused “mud room” bench and locker combo. I have several other projects in my queue, but this is first. He’s already told me I can use his tools, and we’ll sort out what that looks like in the weeks and months ahead. Best of all, I haven’t had to talk my way into future visits. He speaks of me becoming a competant woodworker through regular visits and anticipates me working with him for the forseeable future.

I’ve already had some thoughts about how the lessons you learn working with your hands coorelate to lessons that will serve you well in life. Expect to hear more about this in the future, along with some pictures of my work.


Here’s a link to find out more about Nextdoor, the app that enabled this meetup:


How to cut a straight line with a circular saw

I wish I had known this trick a month ago. I’d have been making French Cleats like a madman all this time! While I’m on the topic, can anyone help me figure out how to rip a thinner board? I’m thinking of using 1×6 boards instead of 3/4 inch plywood for my garage setup and am unsure how to use my SkilSaw to rip a board with that little room for board support.

Unless I build an extension to the front of my workbench. Hmm…