Fear not, people! This is basic, basic, basic woodworking. I do some woodworking at home, and it’s all very basic. In fact, there’s some of it that I don’t even know if I do correctly. I just try my best and hope everything goes to plan.
So my boyfriend Brendan recently downgraded to a smaller desk. His two monitors fit on the smaller desk, but he wanted one of them raised up like this:
But it would look better with a stand instead of a stack of books, no? And with a stand, he could store some things underneath the monitor and make the desk a bit less cluttered. So I made this:
See? I told you it was basic. And you can build this, too, if you want. All you need is some wood, sandpaper in a few different grit levels, wood screws, a drill, a ruler, an optional countersink drill bit, and some optional stain and polyurethane.
Brendan told me he wanted his monitor stand to be six inches tall, six inches deep, and about eighteen inches wide. Which would be easy to achieve if a 1x6” board was actually one inch by six inches. It isn’t, though, because wood is cut to those dimensions and then it shrinks as it is dried and pressure treated. So a 1x6 board is actually 3/4 x 5 1/2. Here is a handy chart to show you the real dimensions of common board sizes.
If I needed the stand to be exactly six inches deep, no more, no less, I could have bought a wider piece of plywood and had a 6” x 18” rectangle cut out of it. But as it was okay to change the stand’s measurements slightly, it was easier (and much cheaper) for me to buy a 1x8 board, which is actually 3/4 x 7 1/4, and make a stand that was 7 1/4” deep instead of 6”. The chart I linked above indicates that a 1x7 would’ve gotten me closer to the 6” depth I was looking for, but my local hardware store didn’t have odd-numbered sizes like that.
So I grabbed a 1x8 board at the hardware store and had three pieces cut out for me: one 18” long piece for the top of the stand, and two 6” long pieces for the sides of the stand. Since I wanted the monitor stand to be sturdy and not at all wobbly, it was very important that the two 6” side pieces be exactly the same size.
Now, I will not name any specific store names, but sometimes when you go to a big-box hardware store, the employee who cuts the wood for you is not paying all that much attention to your specific wood measurements. I have occasionally arrived home after a hardware store trip to find that four pieces of wood I’ve had cut to the same size to use as furniture legs are actually four different lengths. It’s very frustrating, because even 1/8 inch difference in size will make your finished piece all wobbly. So here is my advice to you: if you are doing this project, don’t walk away from the hardware store cutting area before you check to make sure your two 6” pieces are the same size.
The alternative, I suppose, is to cut your wood pieces yourself, but I figure that people with their own saw setups at home don’t need this tutorial.
Anyway, enough of that. Here are my three wood pieces, all properly sized and ready to use. I sanded them with some 100-grit sandpaper, then some 200-grit, then some 400-grit to smooth things out.
I took a good look at the wood pieces, and chose which sides were more attractive and should therefore face outward. Lumber always has one side that’s better looking than the other, just like people! Once I’d chosen the most attractive sides, I marked them with an X in pencil so I wouldn’t lose track.
This is the basic shape I wanted to achieve:
One way of achieving this shape is to use wood glue to attach the boards together like above, and clamp it for awhile so the glue holds. Then you would drive some nails through the top board and into the side boards. I’ve done things this way before, but I haven’t been impressed with the longevity of the results. So instead I used screws to create what is called a screwed butt joint.
To screw this together properly, I needed to drill pilot holes into the top boards and into the side boards, and those pilot holes needed to match up. I measured one inch inwards from the outsides of the top of the side boards and made a mark.
That sentence didn’t make any sense! Look at this instead:
See how I drove the screws down through the top board and into the side boards? Before I did that, I made pilot holes so it’d be easier to drive the screws in. To mark the pilot holes, I drew a line one inch deep on the tops of the side pieces:
And lines one inch inward on the sides of the top piece:
Then a line halfway through the one-inch line on the side boards (half of 3/4” = 3/8”).
Then I drew lines 3/8” in along the one-inch lines on the top board:
See how those plus signs are going to line up when we assemble the stand? They’ll line up, I promise.
To drill the pilot holes, I used a drill bit that’s slightly thinner than the wood screws I picked out. The drill is in the foreground of this picture, so the bit looks bigger than the screws, but I assure you it’s smaller. I used some wood screws I already had lying around; I think these are 1.5” long #5 screws.
I drilled the pilot holes all the way through the plus signs I made on the top board. When drilling all the way through a board, remember to pay attention to what’s underneath the board, because you’re going to drill into whatever that is. Put a piece of scrap wood under the board before you drill, or you can put the board on your lawn so you’re just drilling into grass and dirt. The pilot holes on the top board looked like this:
(Don’t worry about the pencil marks! We’ll sand those off later.)
Then I drilled the pilot holes a little less than 1” deep into the side boards.
Before putting the stand together, I did what is called countersinking the screws. I used this countersink bit…
…to bore a cone-shaped hole to make room for the screw heads that will show on the top of the stand.
The cone-shaped hole makes it so that when I drive the screws in, the top of the screw will be flush with the surface of the wood.
(If this was fancy woodworking and not basic woodworking, we would hide the screw heads somehow—using pocket-hole joinery (god, I want a pocket-hole jig so bad), or by sinking the screw in further and covering it with wood filler or a plug or something. But this is basic woodworking, y’all! And I don’t mind the look of the visible screws on this piece.)
Then it was time to assemble everything. I used my drill to drive two screws through the pilot holes on one side of the top board until just a little bit stuck out the other side, like this:
Then I lined up that little bit of sticking-out screw with the pilot holes on one of the side pieces, like this:
From there it was easy to just drive the screws the rest of the way in, down through the side piece. I did the same on the other side, and voila!
I erased all the pencil lines, sanded the wood again with 400-grit sandpaper, and gave the stand a coat of stain to match the desk and two coats of polyurethane to protect it.
The desk looks so much nicer now, I think. Brendan is lucky to have such a handy lady for a girlfriend.
Okay, so this project might be a little niche for some of you, but I’d argue that you might need it sometime if you are:
So here’s how I took an old A-frame from this:
I bought this A-frame on Craigslist for $15. I think it used to be a child’s swing set; the little rusty chains at the top were only about a foot apart, too small for an adult to use. We will get to what I’m going to use it for later, but first let’s take a closer look:
Holey rusted metal, Batman! That’s a lot of rust. I even took this picture after scrubbing off some of the excess rust. I’d read somewhere that apple cider vinegar was great for removing rust, so I tried dipping steel wool in some ACV and scrubbing the rust with that, but it didn’t really work that well. I guess you have to soak the rusted metal in ACV, and of course I did not have a gigantic vat and 500 gallons of ACV to soak a 6-foot frame, so that wasn’t going to fly.
But I could soak the bottoms of the legs, right? The bottoms of the pipes still had the pipe threads on them, and I wanted to make sure I got the rust off those threads just in case I wanted to screw longer lengths of pipe to them and make the A-frame taller. I put a plastic Solo cup under each leg:
I filled each cup with some apple cider vinegar:
While I waited for that to work, I painted the rest of the A-frame with two coats of rust converter. Rust converter is fascinating! It’s this substance that, instead of getting rid of rust, changes rust into a hard chemical barrier that protects the surface against further corrosion. I chose to use rust converter because the A-frame was so rusty I worried that I’d weaken it if I tried to sand it down too much. Here is the rust converter I bought from Amazon (affiliate link).
I poured a little bit into an old yogurt container and used a disposable foam brush to apply it. I normally don’t use disposable brushes, but I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out, and I didn’t want to ruin one of my brushes. But this rust converter wasn’t very noxious, and washed out of the brush easily. And look what it did to the rust!
(You can see in the above photo that I also removed the little hanging chains from the top of the frame, since I wasn’t going to need them.)
That was just the first coat, too. I couldn’t have sanded all that rust off this thing in a million years, so I was delighted that the rust converter worked so well. In some cases it foamed up a little as I applied it to the nooks and crannies:
But as the rust converter dried, those foamy areas became mostly flat and smooth. I wouldn’t use rust converter by itself on any metal surface that I wanted to look very nice, but it’s fine here since I’m painting over it.
I did two coats of rust converter, which I’m not sure was entirely necessary, but I wanted to make sure I treated all the rust in the tiny nooks and crannies on this thing. And look how much better it looks after two coats!
While I let those two coats dry, I checked on my ACV cups at the bases of the legs. I’d left them soaking for 48 hours, changing the ACV out just once. Here’s what the cups looked like when I took them out. So cloudy and gross!
And look at this!
They look so much better! I wiped the metal dry and brushed around the threads with a metal brush, and all the rust just came right off. On this one you can actually see the liquid line where the ACV stopped:
So I’d highly recommend doing an ACV soak on any rusted metal you can. It’s cheap, it works great, and it’s non-toxic. I only wish I could’ve soaked this whole frame in it!
After I cleaned all the leftover ACV and rust off the bases of the legs, I gave them a very light coat of rust converter, because I wanted to prevent more rust from forming without gumming up the threads. Then it was time to paint!
I had never, ever used oil-based paint before, and I was a little scared, especially after the first coat looked like this:
Augh! So terrible. But subsequent coats looked better and better, so I began to relax. After every coat I rinsed my brush out with paint thinner and let it air dry. Yes, I used a small brush to paint this whole thing. I didn’t really know what else to use, and since I find painting to be soothing, I wasn’t bothered by how long it took.
I did not paint the bases of the legs where the threads were, since as I said before I didn’t want to gum up the pipe threads in case I needed to use them.
Four coats of paint later, and the surface of the A-frame looked like this!
It should be noted that I did not sand in between coats. I read that oil-based enamel doesn’t need to be sanded, since it sort of levels itself out as it dries. I also wasn’t bothered by having a lumpy surface like this. As long as the color was uniform and the rust was gone, I knew I’d be happy. And I am! Look how happy I am:
I am using my A-frame for trapeze practice! I have been taking trapeze lessons over the past few months, and I’d like to be able to train a little at home. I taped up the top bar with athletic tape for better grip, and I’m doing pull-ups, inverted sit-ups and other conditioning exercises on it. I may even use the side bars for balancing practice. Future plans include sinking the legs into the ground a little for extra stability, and making or buying a crash mat.
What can you do with an old A-frame or stripped-down swing set like this? There are lots of possibilities! I like the ideas of using it as part of a garden trellis, as a frame for a chicken coop, as a hanging planter garden, or even as part of a fort.
I had two rolls of this at home. My brother-in-law buys storage units at auction and sells off the contents (like on Storage Wars), and he gave me a box of needlepoint supplies he found in one of his units. It had plastic canvas, needlepoint yarn, and two rolls of cork. If I’m remembering my grandmother’s hobbies correctly, squares of this thin cork are glued to the bottom of needlepoint coasters, to provide an absorbent surface and hide the stitches and knots and stuff on the back of the needlepoint work.
But I have no plans to make needlepoint coasters anytime soon, so I used this cork to make cork boards.
Once again, here are the supplies you’ll need:
As I said in the previous tutorial, your old frame should have a piece of cardboard or chipboard inside it, and that’s where you’ll glue the cork. If your frame doesn’t have that, do what I did in the previous tutorial and use a box cutter or X-acto knife to cut one to size from an old cardboard box.
Since the cork we’re using for this frame is really thin (2mm maybe?), we’ll want to use two layers so that there’ll be enough cork to push pins or thumbtacks through.
Part of the roll I had was a little bit torn, so I used that part for the first layer since it’ll be covered up by the second layer. If your cork roll is nice and smooth and intact, you won’t have to do that. Here are the pieces of cork I cut for the first layer.
You can see the little tears in the cork in the photo above. I’m glad I did it this way, because then that piece of cork didn’t go to waste. I used spray adhesive to stick those cork pieces to the chipboard rectangle that was inside my frame.
So that’s pretty ugly, no? This cork is so thin that when I stuck the first piece (the one on the left) in the wrong place and tried to pull it up, it tore even more. But it’s okay, because we’re going to cover this all up with a second layer of cork.
For the second layer, I didn’t cut it to size first; I just sprayed some adhesive on the first layer of cork on the chipboard, and then smacked it right down onto an unrolled portion of the cork. That way I didn’t have to worry about positioning it incorrectly and having to pull it up. Plus it was easy to use my X-acto knife to cut off the excess cork.
Once you’ve cut off the excess, take this whole cork sandwich and put it under some heavy books for a day or so until the glue dries. This will make sure the second layer of cork sticks to the first and doesn’t pull up.
After that, you can just put that cork sandwich in your frame and you’re done! Here’s mine, which I spray-painted turquoise to match the other cork board I made:
See, don’t they look so nice next to each other?
I have plans to show you what my craft room looks like now (I live in a different house, so it’s not the same as it looked here), but that’ll have to wait for another day.
I’m clumsy, and I’ve moved a lot over the past few years, so I’ve got a few picture frames around the house with no glass in them. I’ve dropped them, I’ve left them on the floor leaning against the wall and kicked them by mistake, etc. I can get new frames for the art, but what to do with the old frames that don’t have any glass?
Cork boards! I had two old frames and two kinds of cork lying around, so I’ll show you two ways to make these boards. The first method is below, and I’ll be back with the second method tomorrow.
For both projects, you’ll need:
1st way: with thick cork tiles
For this one, you’ll need 12”x12” cork tiles like these (Amazon affiliate link). I think you can get a pack of 4 at Target as well. The cork tiles a little less than 1/4” thick:
I had some pieces of these left over from a coaster project. I’d nailed them up to my wall by themselves, which worked okay but didn’t look that nice. They had chips and nail holes in the corners:
For this first project, you’ll also need a piece of fabric the same size as your frame. I chose this linen-cotton blend left over from a jacket:
Use the back piece of the frame as a template to make sure you’ve got the right amount of fabric, and then cut a piece of fabric that is one inch larger than the back piece on all four sides.
So if your frame piece is 18”x18”, your piece of fabric will be 20”x20”.
(Note: I changed my mind on the fabric later, so the finished product has a different fabric, but the instructions are the same.)
Inside your frame, besides the art, maybe a mat, and the back piece pictured above, you’ll sometimes find a piece of cardboard or chip board that adds thickness and helps the art stay where it is. You’ll adhere your cork to this board. In my case, there was no such board inside my old frame, so I made one by tracing the mat that was inside of the frame and cutting out a square of cardboard with a ruler and a box cutter. If your frame doesn’t have a mat you can use the back piece of the frame just like you did with the fabric.
If your frame is less than 12”x12”, you’ll only need one cork tile. Mine was 18”x18”, so I had to use pieces of several tiles.
I used spray adhesive to stick the cork tiles to the board. This is a good one, but there are lots of others out there. If you don’t have spray adhesive, rubber cement will also work.
Oh, and if you have a nice manicure and want to keep it that way, wear gloves when you use spray adhesive. I didn’t use gloves, so I had to do a lot of scrubbing on my nails to get the glue off them. But I do not have a nice manicure.
You are going to want to stick the cork tiles to the cardboard and then cut them to size, not the other way around. If you cut them first, you will have no margin of error if you accidentally stick one in the wrong place! Trust me on this. Here are the first two pieces stuck to the board. You can see that the cork goes over the edge of the board slightly, both for the aforementioned margin of error and because I wanted to cut off the nail holes too.
I ended up gluing four pieces of cork to the cardboard. While the adhesive dried, I put some heavy paint cans on top of the tiles to make sure they stayed down.
Once the adhesive was dry, I turned the whole thing over and used my box cutter to cut off the excess cork. Here’s the cork all glued to the cardboard and cut to size.
If your frame was small and you only used one tile, you could in theory just go ahead and stick the cork+cardboard in your frame and call it a day. But if yours looks like mine and has several tiles, you’ll want to cover up the seams with some pretty fabric!
You’ll use spray adhesive for this part, too. Don’t spray the whole cork piece at once; it will be really hard to smooth all your fabric down over such a large area without getting any wrinkles or bumps. Instead, do it a little at a time: spray a stripe or two of adhesive across the top 2” or so of the cork, smooth the fabric down onto the adhesive, lift up the excess (not-yet-glued) fabric, spray another stripe or two across, smooth the fabric down, and keep going until you’ve got the whole thing done. While you do this you’ll need to pay strict attention to the smoothing part—don’t let wrinkles happen, and don’t let any debris get trapped underneath the fabric.
Once you’ve sprayed all your fabric down, turn the piece over and use scissors to cut off the excess fabric. When all the adhesive dries (give it a day or so), you can put your fabric-covered cork in the frame and hang it on the wall! Mine looks like this:
The frame used to be black, but I spray-painted it turquoise. Here’s a closeup:
I’ve pinned to it some old photos I found at an estate sale, a brooch I like, some jewelry drawings and prototypes, a family photo, a postcard, and the post office receipt from when I shipped all the rewards to my Kickstarter backers. It’s probably weird to hang a receipt on your cork board, but I’m proud of all my hard work, and that receipt is longer than I am tall!
There are some things I wanted to pin to the board without putting pinholes in the paper, so I put them in bulldog clips and then pinned the clips to the board.
Tomorrow: another way to make a cork board from an old frame! See you then.