Project – Record Shelf

Since I’ve actually taken an interest in vinyl records, One thing I really wanted to do was build a simple little record shelf. This would serve two purposes basically. One, it looks cool. Two, it gives me another way to decorate the basement a bit. The concrete block walls are a pain to work with, especially the outside wall where all my music stuff is. The temperature changes mean nothing sticks to it long term. In other areas I’ve hung frames from the rafters using small chains. For this space, I’ve got a nice shelf I can use and swap out what’s on display as I get more records.

It wasn’t an overly complicated project, but it took longer than planned since my wife had the garage full of garage sale stuff and I couldn’t really reach any tools. Also it’s been blazing hot out, and I don’t care to work outside in that much heat. On the problem of the heat, probably sometime int he fall, I’ll drag the shelf and the lower shelving out and stain and seal it. Neither plays very well with the heat either.

The shelf itself is a handful of 1×4 pine boards. It’s a bit more complicated than it might seem at first. For starters, I like the look of inset joints over just using metal L braces, so I went and inset and glued the shelves inside the sides. This was a bit tricky because I don’t actually own any bar clamps. I also added the little back catch pieces under each shelf, so the albums wouldn’t be resting on the wall itself. This was slightly complicated because there is a power conduit running down this wall i had to work around. The shelves themselves are notched around the power conduit as well. I also only have so many clamps large enough to glue these, so it took like a week of “clue one piece then come back.”

Each shelf also has an angled groove cut along the length so the albums sit slightly down in the shelf and are more secure. The whole thing is screwed to the rafter above for support. In fact the whole thing is much sturdier than I thought it would be. My main worry is that the albums would tumble off, damaging the records, but now that it’s up, I actually am not worried about that at all. Everything is very stable.

Also, my original plan was to stick the CD holder I had been using back on the lower shelf, in front of the new shelf. I immediately hated this look. But I also realized that there was a small gap near the bottom, so I added one more smaller shelf to put (most of) the CDs on. I really liked this end result. Plus the board I used here was a different type of wood that was just around, and it’s a much sturdier type of wood than the pine, so I didn’t end up needing to add a center leg like I had worried I might need to do.

I suppose it’s also worth noting the equipment itself. The entire set up is pretty minimal. Everything is centered around this small mixer and amp combination.

I originally bought the mixer for use at my PC, I wanted to be able to play games on one machine, and watch a video on another machine, and merge the audio out one headset. That didn’t really work out to be as useful as I had hoped, but instead I get to use the mixer for my music instead. The amp I bought to go with some nice JBL speakers I had, that needed 2 wire connections to work, also connected to the PC originally. Except I never ever use anything but a headset on my PC, so it was a waste.

Connected to the Mixer are the input options. They can be played all at once, since it’s a mixer not a switch, but I’m not sure why you would want to. There is a Raspberry Pi hidden under the little shelf that connect to my music library and can be controlled remotely via a webpage. I have this kind of mediocre CD player that I’ll probably replace one day with something better, but still compact. Even a portable CD player would probably work better. There is also an Amazon Echo connected, but since Amazon jacked up their music service, I don’t use it as much. I also have an aux cord hanging off for connecting to a phone.

Lastly is my record player, which I bought at a garage sale. It works pretty well for my needs though. It’s an Audiotechnica AT-LP60, nothing fancy.

Lastly I have this recently acquired audio switcher. Right now I just have the one set of speakers, but at the very least, it will be easy to add a second set outside so I can listen to music while out on the deck or porch under the deck out back. The output selector will make this much easier to accomplish and it’s something I’d thought about getting at some point before, then I came across one at an estate sale.

Re-mulching and other Activities Outside the House

I have been slacking on my posts, though technically still doing better than I had been. It’s a combination of being busy and just being generally meh overall. One think keeping me busy was re-mulching the flower beds around the house. Not just throwing down new mulch though, I mean raking up the old and putting down new weed barrier. This meant going around the existing plants and the little metal stakes to hold the weed barrier down were a pain because there is a ton of super packed rock in the area that makes them hard to insert into the ground.

In the case of the tree out back, it also meant digging up the ground around the tree to add a new flower bed space completely. We added a lot of new plants to the area as well, though most in pots for ease of use.

Then my wife put all her decor out again.

We also started working on the basic garden set up for the year. In the past we’ve had issues with trying to garden at this house because there is a lot of wildlife that comes around that eat or dig up everything. Right now it’s in buckets, though I plan to put legs on these wooden boxes we have to put the buckets into. Which is part of what the pile of wood behind the garden plants at the bottom is for. We also may use the stairs as a tiered herb garden. It’s all wood that was salvaged from my parent’s deck which they recently had replaced.

Anyway, here are some photos of the completed set up.

Here is a random bonus of the backyard from when I was mowing recently.

Project – Puzzle Board

I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about a fairly simple project I’ve done making a few Puzzle Boards. Though at the moment, wood prices are kind of nutty, so it’s a good project to do later. I’ve made something like 4 or 5 of these now in various sizes, for use by my family both at my house and extended family. They could be a bit fancier as well but the same concept applies.

Basically, we do puzzles as a group sometimes. Often these puzzles take several days to complete, which means they are often in the way. We also have cats, who like to destroy things because they are cats. This is where the Puzzle Board comes in, it’s a simple flat board with an edge and a cover, to protect the puzzle while it’s being worked on.

It’s extremely simple to make, though it’s best if you have a decent saw and some clamps. For these boards, we bought some medium sized sheets of thin wood. The size depends on how large you want the board to be, the one pictures was likely roughly a 4′ x 4′ sheet. Selecting the type of wood is fairly important and it may cost a bit more than a basic sheet. A lot of flooring or plywood (4′ x 8′ sheets) is too thick, it will make the thing super heavy. Some of the cheaper wood though is too flimsy, it needs to be reasonably stiff, tough the sides will add to the stiffness.

You also need some sort of trim piece. I used 3/4″ pre finished Quarter Round, but you could use something fancier. How much depends on the length of the sides of your board, but unless you are making something absolutely massive, 1-2 8 foot pieces should work. for smaller lap sized boards you’d only need one.

The top cover board is roughly 2 inches smaller than the bottom board, to account for the edge size. So, for example, if you had a 4′ x 4′ square of flat board, you would cut it in two just over half way at 25″ wide. Four feet is 48 inches, half would be 24 inches. Cutting at 25 inches gives you a piece 25 inches wide and a piece 23 inches wide. the 23 inch wide piece will need a couple of inches trimmed off one end, but then it should sit just inside the 25 inch wide base.

For the edges, trim them with a 45 degree angle so the outer side is the same length as the base of the puzzle board. Int he example above, these would be 25 inches and 48 inches, with the 45 degree angles all pointing “in”. It’s best to visualize each piece before cutting and how it will lay, because it’s easy to accidentally cut it incorrectly and then the corners won’t line up.

Once the base and sides are cut, you can stain or paint the base and top (and sides if they are not pre finished) to the desired color. It may also be a good idea to lay things out just to make sure the top board fits and doesn’t need trimmed down any as well. If you are really ambitious you could also potentially attach some sort of mat or fabric to the base piece at this point as well.

Next use some wood glue and glue the sides on carefully, keeping them as straight as you can along the sides of the base piece. Use clamps to hold the side pieces in place as they dry to avoid things coming loose. I also would recommend using an old sock or rag between the clamp and wood, to help keep the clamp for marring the finish. All four sides can be done at once, or a few at a time, depending on how many clamps are available. If you are careful you could also simply place everything on a flat surface (like a table or the ground) and balance something heavy like some large books on top if no clamps are available. Just take care that things don’t slide around. If you re doing this, it may be helpful to use some scrap pieces so the books (or whatever) sit “flat” instead of at an angle (where they will be applying some small sideways force).

Once every thing is dry, that’s it. It’s done. Construct your puzzle on the base, when you’re taking a break, cover it with the cover piece. When not in use you can store the cover in the frame and store it wherever you have room. The basic concept can easily be resized as well. I’ve made smaller lap sized versions of these as well, for single person use in a chair.

Basement – Corner Shelf

Last post I talked about putting in some flooring and shelving as part of revamping my basement space a bit. I ended up with a couple of issues after the initial work, one was sort of previously an issue, one new. The desks don’t quite fill the wall from my Photo Booth to the pillar halfway down the wall. This was, sort of an issue before. The secondary issue, I have this Raspberry Pi Rack that I previously had sitting on a shorter bookcase next to the desk. That bookcase has been relocated, and the new book cases reach the ceiling instead of, four feet or so up, so putting the rack on top is kind of out of the question.

Another potential issue with this space involves the cats. While they have not done it yet, it’s kind of the perfect sort of space for them to sneak in and start peeing on the floor.

Basically, it needed to be filled.

My original plan was to make a super basic little table that was the same height as the desk to fill in the hole. When I started planning it out, I realized that there wasn’t really any reason that the shelf could not be taller, so I opted to make it the same height as the new book cases.

There are some other challenged in designing this shelf. I didn’t want it to be deeper than the book shelves, at least not up top, but the end of the desk doesn’t reach the front of the book shelves. So the new unit would need to be slightly “L” shaped. Another problem was the power strip hanging off the end of the desk. While the basement has water issues in places (that I’ve been working to resolve), it’s never flooded anywhere near the desk and flooring area. I’ve still taken the precaution of making sure there isn’t anything electronic on the floor, so the power strip is strapped to the end of the desk.

Part of the purpose of the new unit was to also hide this wiring mess. But I still need it to be accessible. When the shelf was just going to be a short table, this was easy, make the top removable. Since I was making the shelf taller, I had to redesign things a bit so the middle shelf was removable instead.

After sketching out the general idea of what I was going for, I purchased some white pre-finished boards from Menards and set about cutting and assembling the new shelf unit. I used pre-finished boards so it would match the IKEA shelving.The base of the unit is pretty straight forward. It’s a square box. For the removable shelf, I built in a square of support blocks and cut a piece to fit. Since the unit sits flush against the one wall, I opted to leave the vertical gap on the right side open. This gives a place to reach in and pick up the removable shelf, plus a path to slip cables through for anything that’s temporarily plugged in. For the more permanent connections like Network cables going to the switch in the Pi rack, I later drilled a hole in the fixed back half of the middle shelf.

For the more permanent connections like Network cables going to the switch in the Pi rack, I later drilled a hole in the fixed back half of the middle shelf. The back half being fixed in place also means that I don’t have to completely remove the Pi Rack and Alexa anytime I want to open up and get to the Power strip.

After adding a stained piece of backing to the shelf, I went up and drilled some shallow holes to add shelving. I ended up liking these small shelves much more than I expected honestly. I can put some of my tech stuff on one for easier access and I really like the additional mini display areas for some of my more favored figures.

After putting the shelf in I found I needed to make a few last bit touch ups. Firstly the front was more exposed than expected, so I added a vertical board to fill in the space. I also need to get some white paint to touch up the tops of the front vertical pieces.

Overall though I am really happy with the result.

Basement – Sliding Door Project

So, I’ve been doing a fair number of projects, but writing about them isn’t one of those projects. Some of it has been improving the basement a bit. Part of the slowness of the basement work is because it occasionally floods a bit. Not really “standing in water” flooding, but “there is a puddle that keeps coming” flooding.

It’s annoying, but I’ve been working to fix it. The house originally didn’t have any downspouts on the gutters, I added those. I’ve added extensions to the gutters to direct water away. I added a new downspout near the area where the water seems to come from to help direct it away more. I cut out some drywall in the underside storage area and pulled the bottom step off of the stairs to fill in some ugly crack-ish spots in the area where the water comes from. At this point, I am waiting for more heavy rain to see if some of this has made any real difference. So far the cement fill seems to have done the best. It’s tricky to describe but basically, the water still came in, but it came in waaaay less and in a slightly different place. So I’m getting there.

I’m not really here to discuss the flooding though. It has affected some decisions on how to make the basement nicer, like I am not going to add Drywall walls like I wanted to. And no carpet, though that was out anyway, because the cats are assholes (We also replaced all of the upstairs carpet with vinyl plank flooring).

One fairly simple project was adding a door. In this case, I put in a sliding barn door style door. My wife wanted to put in a real door but I wasn’t keen on that since there isn’t really a good place for it to open to. The door itself had a couple of motivations behind it.

One, the basement is divided into two halves. One half is semi finished and “nicer” and it’s where I keep my computer and collection of stuff and there is a TV and couch with game consoles and my son has a corner that is his bedroom area when he is around. The other half is under the “original house”, it’s rough, the ceilings are a little low, and there is more duct work and such hanging from the ceiling. We use it for storing all sorts of stuff. It’s really great for that.

The “underside” half is ugly though. I wanted the door to be able to block it out, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

The other purpose of the door is to be able to lock the cats in the basement when we have guests over. My parents and my wife’s parents are all allergic to the cats. We lock some of them in bedrooms, we also lock some of them in the small sunroom/office area upstairs. Sometimes we would lock them in the basement by blocking the stairs with a giant cork board we have that doesn’t really have a home.

Now, we can use the door. It slides between the two openings, stairs and underside storage to block off either one.

One concern was air flow from the storage area, so the door can also be positioned in the middle, which is where it usually sits, so air can flow in and out both sides. It also lifts off easily if I needed to remove it.

The door itself isn’t anything complicated. I could have built a door but I opted to just buy one, though the door was pretty pricey since it needed to be extra wide. The roller kit is a low profile barn door kit, easy enough to install and it nestles up into the floor joist ceiling. The tricky part was that the floor joist didn’t reach the edge of the opening, so I had to screw a couple of 2×4 stand offs to the floor joist to get the door to sit int he proper place. This also meant adding some 2×4 lifts under the stand off to support the immense weight of the door.

I also ended up with an issue of the door rolling slightly. I am not sure if it’s the house or if the rail is a little off (probably a little of both) but the door slides towards the stairs on it’s own. Not very quickly, but it does move.

I solved this with magnets, at the suggestion of my uncle. I didn’t really want an ugly latch that would also potentially end up in the way of the door sliding or people walking. I bought some block magnets and some double sided Gorilla tape (I originally used Command Strips but they were too weak). I stuck a larger magnet to the wall, then two smaller magnets on one end and the center of the door. This allows the door to hold it’s position when blocking the stairs or when positioned halfway.

This project isn’t quite done. I may also add an L bracket of some kind in the center of the door, to hold the door from being leaned outwards, and I want to add a roller on the backside to the whole action is smoother. the way things are, if the cats get determined, they can push the door enough to get it to release from the magnet and escape from the basement.

I also need to adjust that network cable because it’s kind of just there and ugly.