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Friday, July 8, 2016

Building beds....raised beds.

I've had a garden wherever I lived whenever I could.  When we bought our house a couple years ago it was a forgone conclusion that I would be trying to put some kind of garden together.  I'm a food grower. No flowers for me.  Not that there's anything wrong with that at all.  My neighbor has a beautiful yard full of all sorts of flowers and flower beds.  But for me I'd rather produce something I can use. It's the utilitarian in me.  We moved into our house in the mid December in 2010, so when the snow was finally gone I started working on a couple raised beds.  I really wanted to make them cheap and from recycled stuff, but mainly cheap.  So I started by building my first raised bed out of used pallets.  It didn't turn out too bad, but it is kinda ugly.

I put a pea fence in the middle and have a nice growing area on either side.

Then while looking on the craiglist free stuff page I came across what I would be building lots of stuff with...window crating. One of the Safelite stores in town usually gets a big shipment twice a year and they have tons of this stuff.  It's also great because it's only stapled together so getting the boards apart without destroying them is pretty easy and then it's just taking the time to remove all the staples.  But you end up with a nice piece of 1 x 4 pine in varying lengths.  

There's a couple reason I built the beds so high. One was to keep my dog out of them, second it was easier on the back to weed, and third I had bought a large load of top soil and needed to put it somewhere.  But they also give me great root depth for my carrots

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Toolbox - Part 1 - The 3 basic power tools everyone should have.

I consider myself to be a fairly handy person.  It happens that I get asked a lot of question pertaining to various repair and building topics by my friends.  I think it kind of funny because most of my knowledge comes from trial and error and Youtube.  But that being said I was having a discussion with a friend about tools and what would be some good ones to have handy.  Over the years I've accumulated a nice collection of various tools.  Some I use almost daily and others maybe just once a year.  That being said I thought I'd put together a series and explored what should be in your tool box.

I'll cover both hand tools and power tools.  Tools can be rather expensive especially if you're trying to buy them all at once.  I've worked out a deal with my wife that if I'm working around the farm and need a new tool I can get it, as long as I really need it.  Levels of really need it vary, but the truth is a good tool collection should be put together slowly and if that's on a buy when needed basis so be it.  But I do believe there are 3 tools that should be in every home owners tool box.  How much you want to spend on those 3 tools can range from very affordable to very high end, but in the end that's up to you.

1. Cordless Drill/Driver
I believe you should have at least one decent corded drill/driver as well, but as far as cordless tools go this is must.  This is probably the most used tool I own without a doubt.  It's just so handy  with  a wide variety of bits for making holes and driving fasteners.  There are hundreds of cordless drills to choose from and at all price points.  I will tell you my choice is the Hitachi above, but before you choose a drill there are a couple things to consider even beyond what type of battery to get.  Do you plan on purchasing other cordless tools?  I would pick a brand, battery, and voltage that has lots of different tools that can use the same battery type.  What brand that is, is up to you, but I would do some homework.  Maybe take a trip down to the hardware store and test drive a couple models.  I used to have a very nice DeWalt 18v NiCa Drill/Driver.  But after many years both of my batteries died and I was a crossroads.  Do I just buy a couple new batteries for my drill?  Or do I upgrade to lithium ion?  Do I stick with DeWalt?  Since I hadn't invested in any other DeWalt cordless tools this let me kind of get out cheap.  I had gotten my money's worth from my old drill and was super happy with both the performance and durability, but I figure I'd shop around.  After doing my homework I settled on the Hitachi above.  I would have loved to bought American, but there isn't a power tool company that makes its cordless tools in the US anymore.  I read a lot of reviews and Hitachi came out highly recommended, plus addition tools aren't that expensive.  And while I haven't used my new drill to build a house or anything extreme, I'm still very happy with it's performance.  But this was my choice and I'm sure DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita, etc. would also be fine.  Like I said do your own homework and decided, it's your money.

2.  Circular Saw
My last two tools are both saws.  I do believe if you are going to be doing any serious work there are a couple other saws (table saw and compound miter/chop saw) you should invest in, but the next two saws are ones you should definitely have.  First up is the circular saw.  A lot of times you'll hear this saw referred to as a Skilsaw, which I'm sure the Skil's parent company Bosch loves.  But in the end the Skilsaw is a circular saw, but not all, oh you get the idea.  There are two types of circular saws and it all has to do with motor placement.  The sidewinder style has the motor on the side of the tool and produces more RPMs (revolutions per minute)

The other type is the Worm Drive and has the motor placed on the back end of the tool and produces more torque.

Some people like one style over the other, but in terms of price the sidewinders are much cheaper.  You can also find cordless circular saws and this might be something to consider when looking at a cordless drill, but I feel you really should have a corded model to do some serious ripping and cutting.  What model you choose is up to you. Price range from about $30 to the hundred of dollars.  Oddly enough I have a fairly cheap Skilsaw in my toolbox that I've had for almost 20 years and I'm pretty happy with it.

3. Jigsaw
And finally we get to the Jigsaw.  The circular saw is great for big quick cuts, but the jigsaw is great for everything the circular saw is not.  It's great for cleaning up corners when making right angle cuts, cutting larger awkward openings, and cutting weird angles.  You get the idea.  And again like all tools prices range from very affordable to master craftsman deluxe edition with cup holder. And many tool manufactures also make cordless versions.  I have a fairly affordable Black and Decker jigsaw.  It's super basic and there were many times I've been tempted to upgrade to a nicer model, but it's been a great workhorse and for what I tend to use it for it works great.

Well there you go.  My thoughts on the 3 power tools every homeowner should have, heck even if you don't own a home they are 3 great tools to have and shouldn't break the bank.  I've provided images of the different types of tools to illustrate my points and I'm not endorsing any one brand.  People can be fiercely loyal to a tool brand and that's fine with me, use whatever brand you like.