Shop AC Installation, Part 3: The Mini Split

With the garage door insulated I noticed a decent temperature reduction and stabilization throughout the day.  Typically, the shop would reach 101-103 degrees at 4pm when the sun was in full force.  With the door insulated the shop was now about 10-12 degrees cooler at that same time of day.  Still hot inside but 92 degrees is better than 103 degrees.

Here is a chart of indoor and outdoor temps I tracked for a couple of weeks after sealing and insulating the garage door and then installing the AC.  Aside from looking like a penguin lying on it’s back, it helps to show what steps can be taken to most economically reduce the temperature inside your shop.  Not everyone has the luxury of shop AC but weather stripping, insulating the bay door(s), and attic space insulation and an attic fan can significantly help balance the indoor temperature.

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Now lets install the AC.  I installed an 18,000 BTU 17.7 SEER 240V Pioneer Mini Split.  It starts by clearing a space to work locating studs and hanging the indoor unit’s bracket.  The screws provided were so wimpy that I replaced them with longer, 2″, self-tapping screws for added security.  The indoor unit isn’t that heavy to begin with but I would prefer 1.5″ of holding power in a stud vs 5/8″.

With the mounting bracket installed I then chose the location for the outdoor condenser.  It am placing it directly on the opposite side of the wall so there is no need to run long lines.  I made the form, placed some rebar in the middle of the form, then mixed and poured the concrete.  Once the form was filled, I used a 2×4 on edge to screed it and then troweled it smooth.  The concrete was left to cure for a few days according to the manufacturer’s suggestions.

Wiring the indoor fan for power was an interesting process, which I’ll address in a moment.  First you have to flip the unit over and remove the back corner panel for access to run the wire.  Then flip it back over and open the front cover to access the electrical connections.

Run the wire through the opening to bring the wire to the connection bar.  This particular unit was different than others I had seen as they labeled the wires 1, 2, 3 and the instructions made no mention of which was which.  I just looked at the corresponding wires on the other end and attached them accordingly.  Now wiring the unit was interesting because the U-lugs didn’t fit into the connections.  I ended up cutting the connectors off, twisted the wires, inserted them, and clamped them in place.  Now we are ready to proceed.

The hole was drilled in the wall, the lines were connected to the indoor unit, and they were run through the wall.  The hole to be drilled for this unit is 2.5″ in diameter and should be drilled at a slight downward angle.  It is best practice to drill through the wall and when the pilot bit passes through the siding on the outside then you drill from the outside to have a clean hole.  Once the hole was drilled the hole in the attic eave is located for the power line.  When that was being drilled I went into the attic and fished the line through the hole for the installer to save time.  Now here is the difference between doing something yourself and hiring someone to do it for you: Quality of work.  In an effort to not micromanage an AC installer I left him to do the work as he normally would.  Big mistake.  After he drilled the hole (no problem), connected the lines to the indoor unit (no problem), he then pushed all the lines through the wall and hung the unit.  He didn’t bother using the plastic sleeve and bushing to line the hole and seal the insulation from the lines.  It was partially my mistake not to notice this until the installer had hooked everything up and was about to cover the lines with a sheet metal cover.  When I mentioned it he said “well, it’s too late now.  I would have to unhook everything to fix that.”  What an idiot.  Both him (because he was) and me (for not noticing earlier).  So I just filled the hole with spray foam insulation and hoped that would be ok.

The final step was to connect the copper lines and wire the outdoor unit for power.  The copper lines need to be connected with a flaring tool.  This is the main reason I had an AC installer come out to do the hook up for me.  Once the lines were connected the installer then used a vacuum pump and nitrogen to pressurize and test for leaks (the second reason for an installer).

With everything working it was time to turn the power on and start up the unit.  From the chart at the beginning of this entry you can see the temperature difference in the shop to the outside.  It has been a pleasure to be in the shop on the hot days not only to work but to get out of the heat and cool down in my castle.


DIY Pallet Wood Stool with Downloadable Plan

It has been a year since my last pallet project.  For the past 3 years Sterling Davis hosts an event titled the “Pallet Upcycle Challenge” and this is my second time being involved.  For more info on Sterling’s event click here.

Plans are available in the sidebar in exchange for a donation amount of your choice.

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Since that first project, here, I had acquired several pallets and I needed to thin the herd.  I found a few different quick projects that I thought would be a good way to part with some of them.  One of which was this stool.  I liked the simplicity of it and seeing that I needed a better stool for my shop it would make a great temporary addition until I can make my Rush Seat Stool.

To get started with this project I had to break down a pallet.  Because this stool only used smaller parts I was able to cut the thin slats from the pallet supports with a jig saw.  These pieces were just over 19″ long.  The nails were pulled from the three thicker supports to ensure no damage to my power tool blades.

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Each slat then had an edge cleaned up at the table saw with a taper sled.  This allowed me to get a decent cut at the miter saw to cut the pieces to final length.  Then I ripped a taper on each let part.  4 pieces had a 1/2″ foot and a 2-1/2″ top and the other 4 pieces had a 1″ foot and a 3″ top.  This is because the pieces are 1/2″ thick and when they are butt jointed to form a leg they will look symmetric.

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The seat pieces were cleaned in the same fashion and edge glued to make a panel.  The legs were glued at the same time to cut down on the time wasted waiting for glue to dry as these 5 pieces were the only parts that were glued.

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To keep everything as square as possible during assembly (which is nearly impossible to do with non milled pallet wood) I made 2 sub assemblies with the top stretchers, or aprons, and 2 legs.  The aprons were positioned with the legs, pre-drilled, and nailed together with the pallet nails that I sharpened points on to help with the driving in.

When the legs were complete it was time to get a measurement for the other 2 aprons.  I did this by setting the 2 leg assemblies upside down on the seat and positioning them so there was a slight overhang on the seat.  Then I took the measurement and cut the pieces at the miter saw.  There were attached in the same fashion as the other stretchers this time using shorter nails as I was driving them into the sides of the aprons instead of the ends as done prior.

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With the 2 legs now connected I could now cut the lower stretchers.  This is just as simple as the aprons.  Take the measurement, cut to length, pre-drill, nail into place.  The only trick is to place them high enough on the legs so the but joints are hidden behind the legs.  This position is entirely dependent on the severity of the leg taper.  Mine had to be about 6-1/4″ from the bottom.

Not attach the seat.  It is as simple as placing it into position so the overhang is equal around the base, pre-drilling, and driving the nails in 4 corners.  Now you have a functional stool though it is going to be really rough as nothing has been sanded yet.  Do that now using 80-100 paper on a sander of your choice.  I used 100 grit on a random orbit sander and sanded for about 25 minutes.

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The surface could be sanded further if you like the plain wood look, which would have been nice as I had a good looking quarter saw piece of oak on the seat, or do as I did and whitewash, paint, or stain the stool for a different look altogether.  I used General Finishes Whitewash mixed with Vintage Cherry, Orange, and Medium Brown dye stains for added subtle color.  Once the wash was mixed I daubed and brushed it on with a sponge brush.  When mixing these colors on a surface it is best to use long strokes of each color overlapping the next then allowing it to dry.  This makes the colors blend and look like the piece had been painted several times over the years.

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With a 150 sanding disc on the random orbit sander I sanded through the wash to reveal wood beneath and broke the edges of the seat, legs, and stretchers even more.  This gives the stool an old worn appearance.

Finally the stool was given a good coat of Minwax Polycrylic water borne finish.  I like this finish the best for reclaimed wood indoor projects as it retains the natural wood look without darkening over time.  Also, the whitewash is water based and I didn’t want to use a topcoat of an oil based finish.  Just my preference really.

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After it has good time to cure I then lightly wipe the surface with 400 paper to smooth it out and it is ready for it’s photo finish.


DIY Kid’s Workbench with Downloadable Plan

My son, Vinny, has been asking me to help him make his own workbench for a while now.  Since Father’s Day was approaching we made an agreement that he could come out in the shop and build his bench with my help on that day.  As an aside, I milled and cut all the parts to final dimension before we began the build.

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There is a plan you can purchase (see sidebar) and a video (below) that you can use as an overview on how the bench goes together.  It will take about a day to complete while you wait for glue to dry and if you decide to mill all the material the same day.

As a side note, I made Vinny’s bench with a split in the top for a planing stop and tool rack.  If you want a solid top be sure to measure the width of the legs and make the top pieces wide enough to span that distance.

The result is a nice bench for your apprentice to use for a few years and when he outgrows it you can use it as either a saw bench or a place to sit on your patio.


Shop AC Installation, Part 1

My shop conditions are great 2 months out of the year.  That is early spring (April) and late fall (October).  All the other months the heat is miserable or the cold is not glue or finish friendly.  I have tried to combat the heat (108+ degrees inside in the summer) by running fans as the added air movement makes working a little more bearable.  Sweating on my projects isn’t something I enjoy doing, though it does show what the work piece may look like when finish is applied.  For the cold months I run a ceramic heater next me but the sheer amount of space to heat is inefficient and ends up costing more on the electric bill than the warmth it offers.

Now, in the space’s current state, the weather efficiency is very bad.  I have finished walls (insulated) and a ceiling but the latter is not insulated.  Furthermore, the shop faces west with a non insulated metal garage bay door.  When the summer sun hits the garage door the heat that radiates through essentially turns the shop into an oven.

The first order of business I am taking to make the shop a comfortable working environment is to seal the garage door.  I had the foam garage door seal nailed to the side and top frames of the door but it has since dried up and become more than useless.  Time to replace it with a longer lasting seal.  Enter the vinyl seal.  This stuff looks great, is easy to install, it’s paintable (latex or oil based), will last (so “they” say) forever (who ever “they” are don’t live where I do), and it comes in 9′ lengths.  Available on Amazon here: Frost King Garage Door Side/Top Weather Seal (Affiliate link).


Step 1: Remove the old seal.  This is easily done with a claw hammer.  Just pry out the nails and toss the waste in the can.


Step 2: Close the garage door and take measurements.  The height of my garage door fame is 84″.

Step 3: Cut the weather stripping to length.  I cut a 45 degree bevel at the end that will touch the top frame.  With the garage door closed, I place the stripping against the frame with the rubber flap against the garage door and slide it so it applies a little pressure on the door.  Not too much and not too little.  It should be just enough to flex the rubber seal.

Step 4: Nail the strips to the frame.  I use an 18 gauge brad nailer with 1-1/4″ nails but a 16 gauge finish nailer would work fine too.  Some folks would even pre-drill a few through holes in the stripping and drive some nails through for an extra hold.  I just nailed the hell out of it.  It ain’t going anywhere.


Step 5: Place the top piece into position.  I left the end square as the seal will overlap with the 45 degree seal from the side.  No gap.  Hold the strip with one hand (though a helper is always good to have) and shoot the nails through the vinyl strip to hold it into place.  Work your way to the end of the strip and move the seal as needed to maintain good pressure on the door.  Nail it some more.  If the slight gap in the corner and the nail holes bother you (as they do me) just fill them with paintable caulk (I’ll be painting the house later anyhow).


Step 6: Measure the remaining distance and cut the piece to that length.  I did it that way as I didn’t want a bunch of scrap pieces by measuring the middle point of the frame and cutting to that point.  It doesn’t matter to me, it is a seal not tiling…or a boat…or a piano.  I did, however, cut the end that meets the other strip at a 30 degree angle so it would overlap the seal on the other strip.  Then  repeat Step 5.


With the door now sealed from the weather it is time to move on to the next most economical portion of this process…insulating the garage door.


Stay tuned for the next installment of the shop insulation project and AC installation.

Up Coming Bench Build-Off

The Dusty Life crew (Brian McCauley, Kyle Toth, and Myself) is hosting a Workbench building event in the late weeks of August and into September.  The event is conveniently called the Bench Build-Off.  There is a sizable list of sponsors who are pledging prizes to be given at random to several lucky builders.  You can find that list here.

Brian and I will be participating and I plan on building a 19th century Nicholson Bench.  I have drawn up a model and put together a 24 page PDF set of plans for my bench which are available here.  This bench is 8′ long 27″ wide and 31″ tall.  It features a fixed crochet on the right side, a sliding crochet on the left, and a shelf for storing your planes during a project.

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Also, I have designed a smaller version for kids if you have any apprentices running around the shop.  Plans for that are found here.  Once the kids outgrow the bench it can be used as a place to sit.

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Keep an eye out for the announcement and if you are interested in making a dedicated workbench, start planning now.

Brass Chisel Hammer


IMG_8317A couple weeks ago I won this (above) brass mallet on eBay.  I really like the old, mushroomed faces, wear marks, and the patina on the brass.  The only thing wrong with it was the steel rod handle.  The solution: contact a local machinist to remove the handle and bore a 1/2″ through hole for a new handle tenon and a 3/16″ hole for a pin.  Costs: $17.33 for the mallet with shipping and $5 for the machinist (I gave him $10).  Total cost of $27.33.  Not bad considering brass rod retails for about $15/inch for this size.

With the holes bored i needed to choose a handle style.  While in Atlanta for The Woodworking Show, I went to Highland Woodworking (Highland Hardware) and saw David Barron’s Chisel Hammer.  I’ll admit to lust and covetousness for this inanimate object but the $74 price tag was a strong enough deterrent.   Loaded with that style in my memory, with the help of Google Images as a refresher, I sought a worthy wood species to compliment the aged mallet.  Enter a scrap piece of air dried walnut left over from me stool build 2 years ago.

Turning the handle was a straight forward process.  The blank was mounted between centers and turned with a spindle gouge and parting tool.  2 simple but necessary tools to have with the lathe.

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After the shape was finalized and sanded to 320, I used my Stanley Yankee push drill to bore a small through to prevent the wedge from splitting the wood.

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I then removed the blank and cut the handle from the waste.  Using my Dozuki Z-Saw I cut the slot for the Ebony wedge.

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This should be a substantial slot for the wedge to easily fit into with some coercion.  If you choose to glue in a wedge, remember to only glue one side to allow for wood movement.  If you glue both sides, one glue joint will surely split as the wood expands and contracts throughout the seasons and changes in humidity.

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Next a 3/16″ hole is drilled through the side of the tenon and a brass rod is hammered through.

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Cut the excess rod off leaving 1/16″ proud on each side to be rounded with a ball peen hammer.

The final step was to apply the finish.  I chose Dark Walnut Danish Oil to blend the light and dark grain yet accentuate the natural curl and figure in this piece of walnut.  When that was dry I rubbed and buffed in some of the Beeswax polish that I made in a previous post.  The handle has a nice satin finish and the color of the walnut compliments the patina on the brass wonderfully, in my opinion (which is all that matters here).

Glow Stick Lightsaber

My friends’ daughter turned 1 year-old today and she had a Star Wars themed party.  Not sure of what to get a 1 year-old for her birthday my wife suggested a holder for a glow stick to replicate a lightsaber handle.  Something she could reuse with 10″ Dollar Tree glow sticks.  I thought that was a great idea and so this prototype gift was born.  Being faced with trying to make a semi proportioned handle to glow stick ratio I loosely based it on a replica of Luke Skywalker’s remade lightsaber from Return of the Jedi and I ended with following handle.

It is by far from perfect and there are things that could be done differently for a better result.  In the future I will continue to further refine the style and design.  But for now, here is the overview video on how I made the Glow Stick Lightsaber.  It is assumed that an experienced turner will be able to translate the video into a tutorial on their own.

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Purchase your own Glow Stick Lightsaber with 1 Glow Stick included for $36 (shipping included, CA additional tax rates apply).

Beeswax Waterproofing/Wood Finish Paste

In search for a wax polish that could be used for more than just wood finishing I came across a Beeswax/Oil Polish that can be homemade.  It is used on bare wood to penetrate the grain and smooth out the surface and keeps the surface to a matte, or satin, shine.  It can also be used on canvas for water proofing and leather for polishing and waterproofing as well.  I’ll show you how to make two of your own homemade mixtures to serve a few purposes: wood finishing, canvas waterproofing, and wood polishing.  The only difference is the addition of oil.

First you need beeswax.  It can be organic or not but it has to be 100% beeswax, no additives.  You can purchase beeswax through my Amazon Affiliate link on the home page or click here.

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Next you will need some sort of wood finishing oil, such as Boiled Linseed Oil or Tung Oil, just as long as it is 100% oil and it is a drying oil.  Mineral oil is not a drying oil and “oil finish”, such as Danish Oil, has varnish in it which you do not want for this application.  This is optional depending on the type of beeswax mixture you are wanting to make.

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Finally you will need some sort of thinner.  You could use paint thinner, mineral spirits, turpentine, naptha, MEK (methel ethel ketone), etc.  As long as it will thin oil finishes/paints.  If you unfortunately live in California, as I do, you will no longer be able to find normal mineral spirits.  The “Green” no VOC Odorless Mineral Spirits is no good for this puropse.  I chose to use Turpentine, it smells good, and reminds me of an artist studio as it used to thin oil paints.

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Now for the mixing.  On an electric burner (a flame will ignite this mixture), place a pot of water on to boil and use glass or stainless steel bowl on top to warm up.  This is called a double boiler, it is used to slowly melt the wax.  Then put in the beeswax.  Chop it up in small pieces to speed up the melting time.  The amount to use will be a 2:1:1 ratio of wax to oil to thinner.  That means for every 2 parts wax add 1 part of oil and 1 part of thinner.

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Example:  I used 1/2 cup of melted beeswax and added 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup turpentine.  In the end the amount of wax to liquid (oil and thinner mix) were equal.  With the wax melted, remove the bowl from the heat, and slowly add the thinner while stirring gently.  The thinner will blend making yellow ribbons as the thinner cools the wax until the thinner is warmed and the mixture is clear again.  Then add the oil while stirring gently until completely mixed.  Now pour the mixture into a storage container, let it cool, and mark it as “beeswax finish.”

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Use it on wood for a light oil finish and a satin shine or use it on canvas for waterproofing.  More on that later.

Now for the beeswax polish.  It is exactly the same as above with the omission of the oil.  The ratio is 1:1 wax to thinner, depending on how smooth you want the polish to be.  Use less thinner for a thicker polish if you desire.  Melt and mix the wax with the thinner in the same manner as above.  Pour the mixture into a storage container and mark it as “beeswax polish.”

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To use these mixtures, simply rub them onto the surface using a small circular motion, think “wax on, wax off.”  If you are using it to finish/waterproof something you will want to get a clean cloth and a heat gun, a hair drier may work but a heat gun gets hotter and your wife won’t ask questions.  Then heat the wax oil until it melts into the surface and rub it in once more.  The surface should be smooth as a, well, you know.  The polish is simply rubbed in and buffed off.

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This is a simple way to create a nice finish in your shop for multiple uses but it does not offer the surface protection from scratches as a polyurethane or a built up finish will.


Tools in My Shop

Here is the rundown on the tools I use in my shop.  There will be affiliate links and alternate substitutes to the tools when applicable.


Porter Cable 10″ Table Saw with a CMT 50 Tooth blade and Dado Set.

Grizzly 8″ Jointer

Delta 12″ Planer

Grizzly 14″ Bandsaw with a carbide tipped blade

Jet Midi Lathe

Craftsman 8″ Drill Press

Bosch 12″ Compound Miter Saw

Ridgid Oscillating Spindle/Belt sander

Central Machinery 2 HP Dust Collector

Ridgid Shop Vacuum

Delta Air Cleaner

Yellow Jacket Bullet Vacuum Pump

Cal Air Tools Air Compressor

Corded Hand Tools:

Craftsman Jigsaw

Bosch 6″ Random Orbit Sander

DeWalt 5″ Random Orbit Sander

Chicago Electric 3″ Belt Sander

Craftsman 2HP Fixed Base Router

Bosch Colt Router with Plunge Base

Porter Cable 690 Router

Porter Cable Biscuit Jointer

Wagner Heat Gun

Porter Cable Circular Saw

Fein MultiMaster

Bosch Planer

Dremel Trio

Ryobi Rotary Tool

Cordless Tools:

Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Driver

Milwaukee M12 Impact Driver

Milwaukee M12 Hammer Drill/Driver

DeWalt 18g Brad Nailer



500 YouTube Subscriber Giveaway!

UPDATE: 10/6/15

The winner of the Giveaway has been selected.  I want to congratulate Moy Perez on winning the prize of this giveaway.

The next giveaway will begin when I reach the 2,000 Subscriber Milestone.  There will be even more prizes and winners.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to see the announcement.


As a thank you to all my subscribers and viewers I am giving away a project.
To qualify for the giveaway you can gain entries in several ways. Choose the entries you want or choose all for a better chance at winning.
Thanks again and good luck!
500 Subscriber Giveaway