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if you've known me for more than a minute you may have heard my expression for what it feels like when i get an idea that just makes sense: 'it's like a white hot hammer of inspiration to the back of the head'

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

bag.. err ... straw sealer

i saw a post that intrigued me, but i thought "i think i have the tools to make that better"
the original is an excellent tutorial, but uses pliers and a lighter

which is fine if what you have on hand is pliers and a lighter. not that i don't have pliers and a lighter on hand. i'm actually pretty sure i have pliers and a lighter in each room of my house. 
but i also have this 
that's a plastic bag sealer that operates on 2 AA batteries. 
also available here

i thought i'd test it with something easier to clean up, and less expensive than neosporin. since i also would use this for backpacking with food items, i tested it with salt.  which went into the straw with the cut corner of an envelope if you don't have a tiny funnel. i do have a tiny funnel but i don't use it for food (perfume) so i wasn't going to cross contaminate for this test. i recovered almost all the salt.

this is the heating element for the bag sealer. notice the narrow line across it - that's the actual heating element under the heat resistant cloth. the top just has the cloth, no extra heat. the top is actually just a small pad to keep the bag (or straw) in place.
 not all of the seams i tried worked. the first few leaked and it turned out i was moving the bag sealer too slowly. i was trying hard to melt the straw, when i didn't need to try at all. a quick swipe worked best, to prevent the straw from shrinking back away from the heating element.

by the end, i got a good seal and would try this with messier things than salt.

for most people, these would all be individual use items, like single doses of neosporin or calamine lotion. but you might have a desire to reseal them. while you are probably also carrying the lighter on a backpacking trip anyway, you might be less likely to carry this bag sealer. but it is very light, especially if you don't carry it with batteries in it. just borrow the batteries from another device for the two minutes it might take to reseal your tubes.

important note: i did also test this with compostable starch based "plastic" straws and got an EXCELLENT seal. if you can be sure your stuff won't be exposed to water regularly, these would be more environmentally friendly in the long run.   

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Playing with PVC

 my new baggie storage tubes!

once upon a time i kept my food storage bags in a wire rack i had mangled for the purpose, cramming the boxes in any which way they'd fit and dealing with baggies sliding out and onto the kitchen counter on a regular basis.

as you can imagine, i could only fit 2 boxes in here, and that meant that gallon sized and snack sized bags lived in their boxes on the counter. in the way. all the time

one day it just hit me. POW! the baggies are inserted into their boxes at the factory in a roll. pipes are round. i bet i could make a bag holder out of pipes.
i measure the space and figured i had a little over a foot of space to work with.
4 sizes of bags, just over 12 inches of space... 3 inch pipe! 

i am a great procrastinator, so i actually bought the parts about a month ago and didn't do anything with them until last night.


qty1 PVC "Charlotte Pipe" 3 inch by 2 foot solid core pipe $5.24

qty 4 PVC Reducing Coupler- 3inch to 2 inch $3.18 each

so that's just under $20 after taxes. 
the remainder i had in my utility room/scrap pile. you might need to go buy screws or bum scrap wood off a friend or scavenge your local resources. you might even need to buy a cheap board and cut pieces off it as needed for future scrap wood. personally, i used the kick plate from a pressboard bookcase that fell apart years ago. i saved the shelves and bits and cut them up as needed.
scrap wood as long as the width of all the pipe pieces laid side by side, plus a couple of inches, and narrower than the shortest pipe section. you need to attach the pipes to it but still have room to put the caps on.

2 screws per pipe section that are long enough to go through the scrap wood and into the pipe, but not sticking out too far into the interior of the pipe. as you can see on the right, the screws i used just broke the interior surface of the pipe. try to keep your screws from sticking out far enough to catch and tear your baggies.

4 screws long enough to go through the scrap wood and into but not through the underside of the cabinet where you will be mounting your organizer. wood screws are best. i didn't have the right length of wood screws so i used machine screws. poor choice, but i'm not using them to hold anything heavy or fragile.

fortunately for me, all the screws i used for the whole project were all the same size. i do not know the size of them as they were just loose screws i had leftover from an assortment pack.

masking tape
something to cut the PVC. i used a jigsaw
a very long screwdriver bit or an extender 
I use hex shanked drill bits with my black and decker screwdriver, or a hex shanked chuck adapter to use round shanked drill bits 

measure how long your bags are and decide how much pipe to spare for each one. you might be able to buy a longer pipe or a few shorter ones - i went with the cheapest option. the sandwich and gallon sized cuts were about equal to each other, with the snack bags being a little shorter and the gallon sized bags being much longer. i measured the width of the bag as they will be loaded in sideways and pulled out by the side seam, not the zipper opening. also, the actual width of Ziploc snack, sandwich, quart and gallon bags laid side to side is longer than 2 feet - just decided it was ok for some to stick out the back of the pipes. if this bugs you, and you need all three sizes of baggies, get more than 2 feet of pipe.

i ran masking tape around the cut lines and marked where to cut on them - the masking tape is also there to reduce the burrs you create with the saw. it won't eliminate them but it will reduce the roughness of the cut edges. 
if you, like me, don't have suitable clamps, throw some gloves and eye protection on a friend or roommate and ask them to hold the other end of the pipe steady while you cut. 
i also braced the end i was cutting off against my kitchen cabinets to try to minimize the vibration, but in respect to kitchen cabinets, this is a terrible idea. mine weren't damaged but yours may be  
point the saw away from people and hands and things you mind getting damaged.

i used a jigsaw with a blade designed for pvc.  you can see my handy Skil saw in the picture above. everyone should have one.
i cut into the pipe and then my roommate and i rotated the pipe against the blade to complete the cut. it's not perfectly smooth or even but that's ok because that part won't show.

sand or scrape the worst of the burring away.

line up your pipes, with the caps on to get the proper distance, and line up the scrap wood to mark along the center lines of the pipes where they will be attached to the wood. 

i like to drill with the scrap wood braced on my trash can to the sawdust falls in the trash

the tall pipe on the end? i didn't attach it in that position. i moved it "down" to make the opening closer to lining up with the openings of the shorter pipes.

notice there's a little more space between the two end pipes and the center pipes. that's where i decided to attach the wood to the cabinet and i needed space to fit the drill and screwdriver.

 you will either need a long screwdriver (manual) or a long bit or bit extender to reach in the space between the pipes.

 drill pilot holes in the scrap wood first. i didn't have extra hands at this point as my roommate had gone to bed, so i put the screws in the scrap wood, held it up to the cabinet and turned the screws enough to get them to mark the wood. then i took the organizer down and drilled pilot holes in the marked spots.

then i installed it and put the bags in. then i took it down, moved it forward two inches because i didn't measure properly and the gallon sized bags stuck too far out the front and the cap wouldn't go on. 

then i cut a couple of cardboard discs and masking taped them to the back of the sandwich and snack bag pipes because with it moved forward, the little bags were falling out the back.   

if you want to get fancy and put caps on the back ends:

THEN i loaded up the bags, stuck the caps on, discovered that the quart sized tube was in just slightly the wrong place to make it easy to put the cap on but it worked ok with a little shove. you may want to measure more carefully for your installation to ensure room to remove and replace the caps. i don't care enough to move it again since the cap will come off it a few times of year at most.


yeah, this is much better!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

hanging around the fridge

a while back i started thinking about hanging spray bottles off the side of my fridge. i even wrote a little bit about the idea but it didn't get much of anywhere. i tried things, played with materials around the house but kept ending up dropping stuff on the floor when it didn't work

here's the space in question - shown with the current magnetic tool bar that also lives on my fridge

old cafe curtain rod that came with the house, hanging in a magnetic cup hook: rod popped out easily

added a rubber band to keep it on the hook: hanging more than one bottle resulted in the weight bringing the whole thing crashing down
so i went to harbor freight and got a couple of inexpensive 90lb pull magnets, screw eye bolts and nuts and made this:

same cheap cafe curtain rod, and since this photo was taken i added a roll of paper towels on the rod too. the finials come off the end of the curtain rod so i just popped one off, slid it through the screw eyes and popped the finail back on. it has fallen down once, when someone ran into it... with a box spring.

if you don't have a curtain rod like this lying around, they are very inexpensive. you could also use pvc pipe or a broomstick or dowel, but those might slide out the end of the screw eye unless you use a rubber band for friction (or something else)

light hammer taps

a few updates on some little things i've done around the house lately. been a little busy - 2 roommates now! had to make a whole new bedroom out of the space where i used to store boxes and defunct electronics.
this is an image heavy post so i will keep them all small and you can click the pic to enlarge if you want to.

one of my old how-to/hints books recommends storing your washers on a shower curtain hook. the plain kind, the ones i love and have ALL OVER THE HOUSE. 
well, i haven't gotten to the washers yet since mine are mostly already stored in a plastic compartmentalized caddy. but i do have this set of cheap wrenchs that needed a home. sure i could hang them all on a long peg by their handles but then if i want a wrench in the back they all have to come off one at a time. this way i only have two things to move in or out of position and i can separate them - one hook is metric and the other is standard.

found this nifty sticky backed measuring tape on clearance at the craft store. it's perforated in one foot measurements.

i put a strip of it on the lip of a drawer in my kitchen island and i just keep finding myself measuring this one thing or that up against it.
more useful than expected

broom clips are back - i found 3 sizes at ace hardware

i love hooks. especially cup hooks. but my nerve damage makes it a pain to screw them in by hand. i finally got a hex shanked chuck adaptor for my little black and decker drill/driver and popped in a screw eye. it does NOT work to unscrew them because that just unscrews the chuck itself. but it's great for setting rows of hooks under the cabinet

having a new roommate made for some interesting acoustic challenges when we all work different shifts and watch tv/listen to music at different hours. the interior doors in my house are made of.... paper. yep, paper. with a little stryofoam thrown in for support. 
you can see this in cutaway where i was putting a cat door in my roommate's door

so while we had the door off and the tools out, i filled her door with "Great Stuff" expanding foam. specifically the big gap filler variety. some in the bottom around the cat door and then, since there are assorted partitions in the door, i drilled two holes in the top that were the diameter of the fill tube on the can of great stuff and filled the top too. took about 2 cans.
although, if you have previously added a hook to a door, say, using a wall anchor [wet towels are heavy] you may want to seal off around the hook with some silicone or at least masking tape first. the foam found the gap around the screws and expanded right out of the door. it mostly wiped off, but this was a mess because i didn't do it right

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hard Working Fridge gets a makeover

technically, this is a completely different fridge than in the first post about what i do to my poor fridge, but it's not a new fridge to me anymore - been using it for well over a year now.
the side by side 25 cubit foot fridge was too big for me. short little ol' me couldn't even reach the back of the top shelf of the other fridge.
so it's been donated to a friend who needs that much space and i am using a top freezer 18 cubit foot GE that i adore.

with, as you can see, the same messy system for a long time.
it's wet erase markers, not dry erase, so that minimizes accidental smearing. but if i need to expand a list, like i want to stock up on a whole bunch of stuff at sams club in one giant shopping trip, i had to erase a bunch of headings and lines to make the box bigger.

then i found a sheet of magnetic backed printable paper - leftover from another project. i didn't run it through the printer, just made headers with sharpie. now if i need to adjust the space sizes, it's much easier to just move things around

SOOOO much tidier and easier to read/use.
the blue marker used to be for lines and i rarely used the yellow - it doesn't show up well on the fridge. i probably need to remove those.
red stars are for things that i really should get soon.

the water bottle is for spraying the washcloth [not pictured] that i use for erasing- it's held on by putting a magnet on the fridge and a magnet in the bottle. the washcloth is held on with a magnetic bulldog clip.
the wet erase markers are stuck to the fridge with magnetic pencil holders from american science and surplus - item number 34249P25

to get the fridge REALLY clean between markings, use alcohol after you erase with water.

and yes, i do often just take a picture of the fridge on my camera phone on the way out the door when i know i will be shopping after work or while running errands. then i can just pull up the picture, zoom in, and there's my shopping list.
my roommate writes things in as needed too.

my favorite part of this list is also the "running low" and "too much" sections - if i see a sale on lemon juice i will know it's not a bad idea to buy it because i don't NEED it yet, but i will soon enough. and if i see a sale on rosemary, i will remember not to buy it, no matter how good the price, because my friend has a rosemary bush and cut me off a few pounds last year that i dried and have in mason jars in my pantry. but it's also a reminder to look for things that go well with ingredients i have too much of so i can use them up!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Break it to fix it, part 2

courtesy of my large collection of vintage how-to, DIY, helpful hints, home repair and craft books, i want to share some of the break it to fix it tips i've learned.

Reader's Digest The Family Handyman Helpful Hints, 1995:

1.  casters falling out of your furniture legs? saw a notch to about halfway down in the caster's post and spread the resulting pieces just enough to increase tension on the inside of the furniture leg and keep the caster in place. it will still be able to swivel but not as likely to drop out.

2. pests in the cabinets? they can get to places you can't and hang out under the cabinet, behind the toekick. if you aren't going to make a toekick drawer, then drill small a hole in the toekick or in the hardboard/wood floor of the cabinet that you can fit the nozzle of a can of bug spray up to. whenever you do your normal pest control [more often in some places depending on the weather and how old your house is] then spray through the hole too. in between treatments, plug the hole with a dowel or a furniture dowel plug to keep from inviting in extra bugs.

Popular Mechanics, October 1976:

3. bend the wire handle on your paint can to fit around your paintbrush handle. snap the brush into the bent place on the wire handle when you need to put it down without making a mess as the paintbrush will be resting over the can, but not sliding down into the paint.