Phil Lowe at the Studio

Phil Lowe is a walking compendium of 18th century furniture knowledge. He knows this stuff so well as it has been his life and work since his high school days. I visited Phil at his shop and school, the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, in Quincy, Mass. a few years ago. It’s housed in a cool [...]

Top 10 Plumbing Supplies to Have at Home

One need not be a trained, master plumber with fully stocked supply shed in order to be prepared for some of the basic eventualities. Plumbing repairs happen. Having proper supplies on hand can save money and grief in the long run.

plumbing supplies Top 10 Plumbing Supplies to Have at Home
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In addition to the top safety supplies one should have at home, there are a few tools which should be added to the home plumber’s toolbox.

  • Pipe Wrench: At a minimum, at least one adjustable, heavy leaded pipe wrench should be a part of ones tool set. Better is having a large as well as a small. For the most prepared, the addition of adjustable pliers will often come in handy.
  • Angle Stops: If the house is relatively new (built within the past 5 years or so) worrying about failed pipe connections should be minimal. Anything older however, and the risk of a toilet or sink supply line connection failing increases every year. Most homes have similar style and connector sizes for the stops around the house. Having at least 2 to 3 on hand is a low cost way to help minimize water damage which can be attributed to leaking connections.
  • Faucet Washers: Plumbers like to make water faucets seem to be a big mystery. Really they are not. If possible look up the particular models and examine the exploded schematic views of the faucets in the home. Most will adequately describe the type of washers and seats required to stop leaks and drips.
  • Plumbers Tape: Usually a Teflon coated, thin white tape approximately 3/8 of an inch wide. Any time a supply line connection or drain line is disconnected, one should use this tape to ensure that upon being reconnected water is unable to seep out through the pipe threads.
  • Plumbers Grease: When those faucet washers and seats are re-installed, it is important to use this waterproof grease to help lubricate the actual faucet itself. In addition to providing for ease of use, plumbers grease will also provide for a small amount of water proofing of faucet connections as well.
  • Supply Lines: Between the angle stops and the faucet or toilet is the water supply line. Manufactured of either poly-plastic blends or braided metal strands, when a supply line goes bad, the water flow must get turned off to prevent damage. Having at least one spare for the bathrooms of the house, and one spare for under the sinks (bathroom and kitchen tend to be the same size) is a prudent plumbing supply to have on hand.
  • Toilet Flappers: Water is not only a precious commodity in most parts of the world, but can also be quite expensive. When a toilet is found to be “running” the culprit of the wasted water is often times due to a failing rubber flapper which closes the hole between the water fill tank on the back of the toilet and the bowl itself. These devices do not last for ever, and should be replaced every few years.
  • Loosening Lubricant: Pipes and nuts can often times be quite the challenge to loosen for removal. Water causes rust, and where leaks might be prevalent, rusted fittings can prevent even the strongest attempts to remove the bolt, nut or fitting. Spray lubricants like WD 40 can soften the rusted or difficult connections making removal a much easier task.
  • Outdoor Hose Washers: Provided one keeps outdoor hoses rolled up, in dry areas, they tend to last for many years. What does tend to go out on them are the rubber washers which provide cushion and leak prevention between the hose and the outdoor faucet’s threads. These are very easy to spot when bad, usually regardless of how tight the connection is made, water continues to leak at the faucet head end. With replacement being sold in multiple packs, having a spare on hand is cheap and easy.
  • General Plumbing Repair Manuals: Finally, a little knowledge can both go a long way towards minimizing plumbing challenges in the home as well as helping reduce ones bills to the local plumber. Simple repairs and preventative maintenance can be found in any number of manuals available online or at your local hardware store.

What other plumbing supplies should you have on hand? Share the contents of your toolbox in the comments!


10 Safety Supplies Every Home Should Have

Many state and local governments have passed laws in recent years requiring a bare minimum of in-home safety items. Smoke detectors, ground fault interrupters on electrical outlets near sinks or other water sources, etc. While important, these types of requirements are the absolute, bare minimum of in home safety supplies that home owners should consider.

home safety supplies 10 Safety Supplies Every Home Should Have
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10 Items For a Safer Home

The following list will provide a good starting point for those who understand there is more involved in home safety that simply replacing the batteries in the smoke detector.

  1. Smoke Detectors: For the most part, landlords and property owners are required to provide functional smoke detectors. In theory, they should also test and replace batteries (in battery operated devices) on at least an annual basis. Tenants and owners alike should always take it upon themselves to regularly test and replace batteries at the first sign of reduction in power.
  2. Gas Detectors: Though these devices may appear similar looking to smoke detection devices, what they check for are gases, often odorless and colorless. Without proper detection equipment, ones family could easily be in harms way without anyone even knowing. Most homes will benefit from having carbon monoxide tests as well as radon gas, both killers if found in high enough quantities.
  3. Mold Detection: Certain areas of the country have a preponderance of mold growing capabilities in homes of the region. Houses with basements, near lakes or other bodies of water, or those with poor rain drainage should all be suspect for the ability of mold to grow, hidden away behind wall boards, under the floors, etc. If occupants in these home have allergies or are susceptible to air borne pathogens, mold detection is an absolute must safety action to be taken.
  4. Emergency Lighting: Even for non-emergencies, times when the dog is barking and one desires to check out the dark night, having a working flashlight ready at hand is an important safety supply. For more catastrophic situations, lanterns, plenty of batteries, solar powered lighting, and even crank or shake flashlights should all be considered for providing emergency lighting.
  5. Pool Safety: Every year home pools claim the lives of young children who have been left unattended near unprotected swimming pools. While some local municipalities do require that pool enclosures have fenced or cordoned off restraining devices, too many more have no such emergency preventatives in place. If the concept of a physical barrier is too much perhaps electronic sensors with alarm systems might be considered. Additionally, having adequate lighting for pools at night will greatly aid in the safe operations of the home swimming facility.
  6. Furniture Protections: Once a family’s small children begin to grow and curiosity gets the better of them, they start to explore all the nooks and crannies of a home. As they attempt to stand and walk around they are usually in danger of falling. Depending upon the types of furniture in the home, creating a safer environment for the little ones can spell the difference between happy, healthy babies and those who suffer from unfortunate accidents. Cushioning sharp edges of tables, or fireplace brick, banisters, or any other edges that might protrude into the head or face of a falling infant is a wise consideration.
  7. Doors and Windows: Keeping prying eyes and hands out of doors or from falling through open windows is also an important home safety consideration. Locking apparatus which is easy for an adult to open, but tough for a child can prevent accidents from happening.
  8. Drawer and Cabinet Precautions: Even before a child is able to walk, they have the ability to crawl and use their hands to make their way into under counter storage areas. Preventing those prying eyes from having access to potentially lethal chemical solutions under the kitchen or bathroom sink is well worth the expense of installing child proof locking systems.
  9. Electrical Safety: All those wires behind the television/entertainment area are enticing. Not only to small children but to pets as well. Organizing the wires into neat bundles not only makes for a more safe environment but tends to look better as well. Electrical outlets are also an active draw for enterprising young minds. Covering unused outlets, and providing for protective, hard to remove covers for those in use will help prevent catastrophe for those eager imaginations.
  10. First Aid Kits: An absolute standard which should be available in every home. Large or small, having immediate access to first aid supplies, even simple things like triple antibiotic ointment, can make a huge difference for someone who is in need of immediate medical care.

The Ulitmate Tool Shed for the DIY Guy

DIY, or do-it-yourself, is more than just having the ability to make things by oneself. It is about the self-empowerment which comes with transforming raw materials into something new, different, possibly valuable and nearly always memorable. In a sense, DIYers might be considered the alchemists of our time. Like any good magician they need to have tools. As such, tools need a home, a proper place to be found when inspiration calls for them.

tool shed The Ulitmate Tool Shed for the DIY Guy
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When it comes to great tool shed kits, everyone is and should have their own definition as to what they might consider “perfect.” There seems, however, to be common elements which show up in most DIY dream tool sheds. The focus of this article is to highlight some of those elements and discuss exactly how they might manifest themselves for optimal operations.

Space/Size: There are several angles this requirement might be viewed from. For many DIYers, ardent or aspiring, the dream of having their own work space is dictated to where they might be able to erect a tool shed. For the urban lot, the shed may actually take the form of a spare bedroom or if they are lucky a very small space in the rear of a multi-unit building. Providing a landlord gives permission to erect a shed, even a small footprint outside is better than none at all.

For the suburban or rural folks, space is usually less constricting and issues of size of shed become the focus of decision making. Bigger is usually better, up to a point. Cost may be a prime factor as well. The crux of the journey at this point is balancing one’s desires with an ability to pay.

At a minimum the tool shed should feel comfortable in its size, not inducing claustrophobia in its user. Once the size and space has been determined, the DIYer needs to consider where things are going to get put away.

Storage: Piles of supplies and tools simply do not qualify as the ideal arrangement for when it comes to optimal placement of ones things in a tool shed. Everything needs to have a place even supplies which are used up on a relatively fast basis: things like glues, wire, sand paper, etc. When needed, knowing exactly where these types of supplies are located can be critical to the success of a project.

Tools, and larger supplies like lumber need to have solid, secure placement storage space. If the shop is to house stand alone tools like shovels, saws or drills, this will need to be factored in to the space and size requirements also. If possible, keeping safety and security in mind, larger tool cabinets with locking roller casters can provide the DIYer with ideal customization options.

Hand Tool Access: DIYers at any level know how important it is to have access at arms reach to hand tools. Often times the functionality required for a specific step in a project is only known in the moments before the action needs to be taken. If progress needs to be stopped in order to attain the tool required, frustration may ensue. Having quick access makes for better quality and enjoyment of most DIY projects.

Power: The difference between a simple storage shed and an operational tool shop usually can be summed up in one word: electricity. While it is possible to rig up solar panels to provide the electrical needs of the DIYer, the preferred option would be to have a hard line run from the main circuit breaker to the shops electrical panel.

Be sure to properly assess the equipment and lighting requirements when having a licensed electrician install your box, outlets and general wiring. Once power needs have been met, the DIYer can now proceed to creating all of the amazing things that DIYers love to do.


Pencil Lead Carving

I found this a while ago on the net. Still blows me away.

“Dalton Ghetti is a truly incredible artist. This 49-year-old carpenter from Bridgeport, CT has been carving utterly stunning miniature sculptures, without the aid of a magnifying glass, for more than a quarter of a century. Every amazing piece is carved from the tip of a lead pencil.”

He spends as much as 2&1/2 years making one.

They look so good it’s hard to appreciate just how small these are…..

I like the hand saw best!

Russell Hudson / Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc.


Building a Pedestal, Dining Table in Cherry

We were to build a 42″ round, pedestal, dining table in cherry. Cost was an issue so we bought the column and legs and only had to make the table’s top, assemble the parts and finish it. No skirt. Just a single center ‘stretcher’, sitting underneath at 90 degrees to the table top’s planks.
We purchased extra thick cherry (1&1/2″) in rough form (from the mill), machined the board’s faces to make them dead straight and true (flat w/ square edges). We positioned the boards to one another to achieve a 42″ round without any sapwood before gluing together.
We used double stacked biscuits (makes the top stronger) every 10 inches or so, glued all edges completely, pipe clamped and (with a wet rag) removed all the glue that had seeped from all the seams (which could prevent stain from taking during finishing).

One of the ways to minimize any curvature to the top is to alternate the growth rings from one board to the next. In this picture of the glue-up, I used photoshop to highlight the boards rings on the end grain.

When dry, we made a ‘compass’ to delineate the circle (a stick with a nail at one end and a pencil at the other). We used a jigsaw to cut out a rough circle, 1/4″ outside the pencil line.

We then made a circle-cutting jig (much like the ‘compass’). This makes cutting a concise circle with a router fairly easy.

I cut the circle by making a number of passes, each 1/4″ deeper than the last, until the cutting bit (blade) made it all the way through. The speed at which I moved the router was important as too fast could create ‘tear out’ at the table top’s edges and too slow would leave the exposed edge with burn marks (which can be hard to remove by sanding). I cleaned the bit often and used a blade coating spray on the cutting bit to minimize burn. Here you can see the clean arc being created after the first of five passes with the router.

To attach the table top to the pedestal, we made a stretcher board which sits just beneath the top. This will help keep the table’s top flat and still allow for it’s inevitable movement through the seasons (expansion and contraction). Here you see my illustration of it and the actual piece attached to the base.

After finishing, it all came together nicely. Our client was very pleased. (Click on this last photo to see an enlarged version)

Russell Hudson /