DIY Ethernet Cabling

I had CAT6 cable pulled through our new house in various strategic locations.  In my master closet there is a set of outlets up high so I can run a POE wireless access point attached to the ceiling at a location that is out of the way, and central to the house.  Another set goes to my office so my 3D printer and office computer can be hard wired to the network.  Everything comes together to a network closet with a paper printer, NAS, and other local devices all wired in.  The result is good wireless coverage everywhere and super fast/reliable connection to important devices.  It did require a large number of custom cables though.

I picked up a few special tools, but by the time I got done, I really only used two.  First, you will need a good set of delicate side cutters like these.  I used crimp on connectors that let the wires pass through, and a strain relief boot.  Start by sliding the boot down the cable.

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I used the side cutters to slit up the side of the jacket, then try to cut the jacket as square as possible. CAT6 has a central + shaped member, cut that away and make sure you have ~2 inches of wire free.  Check for nicks or kinks in the cable.

 

With the wires free, untwist each pair back to the jacket and straighten each pair.  When untwisted, they still have a lot of curl to them (see the blue pair on the left).  To get these straight I pinch each pair between my thumb and forefinger tightly and pull.  A few pulls has them mostly straight and calm.  It may take practice tries to get the hang of it.  Don’t skip this step, it helps everything else.  If they aren’t straightening you need to squeeze harder when you pull.

 

With those pairs all straightened out, arrange them in the proper order.  I use the 568B spec.  Notice the ends are a little wild still?  I could never get the very ends right, I think cutting the cable cold works the copper into a bad shape.  I always cut the last 1/4″ or so, and make sure it is at a bit of an angle.  That gets rid of the curly ends, and helps loading later on.

 

Next, keep the bundled pinched together and pass it into the back of the connector.  This is where some extra length helps.  Enough room for your fingers to hold and get the wires passed through.  Connectors that don’t let you pass the wires through are a million times harder to use in my opinion.  Push it all through, make sure the order is correct, and use the extra wire length to help pull the jacket all the way up.

 

With everything snug and in proper order, clip the ends of the extra cable (those little side cutters again).  Now carefully pull the wires back just enough to get them recessed from the front.  Put them in a crimping tool (The only special tool you really need, and they can be had for reasonable prices) and give a good squeeze.  Slide the boot up and you are done.

 

I bought a connector tester that runs a voltage down every line.  After about 20 connectors I stopped using it.  I could see every wire was in the right order with these connectors and never had a miss.  After a bit of practice each connector only takes about 5 minutes.  A big spool of cable and the connectors on hand means I can make a cable for about 75 cents a cable plus ~ 5 cents a foot.  It makes my network closet neat and tidy and keeps the total cost down.

Mobile Clamp Rack

The next set of loose junk around my garage to organize are my clamps.  In the previous shop, these filled every nook and cranny along one wall.  Those dowel holders are a very efficient way to pack as many clamps in as possible horizontally.  The professional metal brackets don’t pack quite as tight, but look nice and make the clamps easier to access.  I had bought a number of them in the past, but didn’t use very many for lack of space.  Thank goodness I never throw anything away!

My new shop has a lot of space, but not as much wall as you would think.  Windows, doors, and a lot of plumbing stuff take up much of the available wall surface.  To remedy this, I need a new wall.  A wall on wheels.  I cut down two 1/2″ sheets of plywood and screwing them down to a 2×4 frame.

The wall stands on a set of 2x4s with casters and is short enough to get under my garage door.  I can roll this anywhere in the shop now.  The frame took 4 boards, and the legs with braces another 2 for a total of 6 2x4s.  I had the casters already, but went for nicer grade plywood and ended up spending about 100 dollars to build this.

I used a few of my previous clamp holders, but ditched most of the hodge podge for the nicer looking store bought metal brackets I already had.  Everything got directly screwed to the plywood face.  This big of a blank canvas supports all sorts of solutions and lets me pack in clamps efficiently.  I even managed to get my saw/router guides and cawls onboard.  I may eventually re-organize so they are grouped more by length than type of clamp, but with everything so open it is really easy to see what is available.

 

 

Lumber and Cutoff Storage

As things slowly settle inside the house I am turning my attention to the shop.  The garage is kind of a messy puzzle.  You have to put something away so you can make space to put more things away.  I was going to make some sort of vertical wood storage, but wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it.  Instead I found a good space that would support traditional horizontal storage.

I found Lowe’s has a line of Blue Hawk (store brand) brackets and shelving that was pretty affordable, came with a weight rating, and was thinner vertically than the Closetmaid option.  I cleaned out a corner of the shop and found a set of studs I could sink the brackets into.  This will mostly cover up the window, but it has dark tint and blinds so it wasn’t being used for light anyways.

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I started filling up the rack and was pretty happy with my new setup.  This handles boards from 30 inches to 10 feet pretty well.  Shorter pieces don’t stack well and offer a different challenge.  I decided to build something extra for below the main rack.  I have traditionally put shorter cut off pieces into 5 gallon buckets, and let them pile up under foot.  I came up with something that makes good use of the dead space under the wall rack.


This was done with a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood, but you could make two out of a sheet of 3/4 and a sheet of 1/2″ and get the price down a little.  The uprights are 23×23″, the shelves are 15″ wide and 30″ long installed at 35 degrees, and the back that runs across the storage unit is a full 48″ wide and 12″ tall. The diagram below shows how I cut it out of a 4×8 sheet.Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 6.29.29 PM.png

There is a little bit of scrap left over, but not a ton.  Depending on your available space, you could adjust the angles and make it hold more or less materials.  This design lets me store a stack 10″ tall before it interferes with the lowest horizontal rack.  It accommodates anything up to about 34 inches, but at that length, it should go on the big rack.

I cut everything out and assembled one side to the back to start with.  I then went ahead and put pocket holes in all the “shelves”.  That let me screw them in horizontally to the uprights from underneath.

I worked from left to right installing one shelf, then another upright on and on.  The shelves got a little higher with each one, the first is 35 degrees, the last is probably more like 40.  I should have stuck a layout line on each upright to keep things on track.  Still, the assembly is very sturdy and fits where I need it to.  I added plastic furniture gliders to the bottom so the plywood doesn’t sit in direct contact with the floor and I can slide it out easily.

I had thrown out a lot of scrap before moving and threw out more stuff that wasn’t worth keeping before filling this up.  PVC and other non-wood related items go in a bucket, but everything else gets a cubby.  Most have a left and right divide of wood species.  I might work out some moving divider later on.

The horizontal racks are mostly organized by wood species.  This is way cleaner and more efficient than what I had at the last garage.  My previous home made brackets were much taller and didn’t allow as much storage space.  I need another space for sheet goods, but this should cover the rest.  Hopefully I can stay disciplined in my buying and keep my collection to within the confines of this rack area.

 

Half Wall Renovation

I wasn’t taking a lot of pictures while working on the new house.  Too many small fix ups to name, and not enough time to document them all.  One larger project was my kitchen half wall.  There is this segment of wall that separates the kitchen from the living room.  It made both rooms feel smaller and didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose, so I decided to take it out.  Only the pantry remains at full height.

I removed all the drywall and found a lot of wiring to do with the intercom system.  It hadn’t worked when the previous owners moved in, so out it comes.

It was tough to cut all the drywall and studs to a really straight line.  An oscillating multi tool helped with the drywall, but standing studs are hard to cut straight.  I did as best I could with a reciprocating saw, and came back later with a belt sander and 4ft level to make everything even.

I have never done a bullnose corner before, but managed to pull this one off pretty well after a few rounds of drywall mud.  The odd dark green wall got a lot of primer and paint so it matches the rest of the house.

To cap off the wall top I ripped down a 1×8 to a nice width, and painted it white.  A little store bought molding also painted white finishes it off.  It feels good to not be renovating a house right now.

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New Garage

We have been moved in about a week, but have spent all of that week cleaning up our old house to get it on the market.  Almost all the renovations that happened on the new house occurred at such a break neck pace that I didn’t document much of anything aside from a choice disaster.

That having been said, I wanted to say goodbye to my beloved garage.  9 years ago I moved in without owning a power tool bigger than a compact miter saw, and with less than a year of woodworking experience.  I added electrical outlets, lights, and a lot of sawdust to that place.  Many mistakes were made and lessons learned.

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It was a packed mess, but I knew where everything was (mostly).  The new space is over twice the size.  You couldn’t tell in these shots because I had a temporary work bench setup for house renovations, tools everywhere, and the movers were pushing things in off the truck.  It is a tough place to navigate.  There is some built in shelving that helps for now, but might need to come out.  Also the previous owner had an office setup along the one wall.  Probably not going to stay in the long run.  Going to need to get the old house cleaned up and unpacked inside before moving onto the shop.

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Plumbing Nightmares

I actually had a nightmare the other night about paint.  We owned a house and for some reason had cut out a huge part of a wall, but were going to put it back ourselves (lots of drywall work).  I looked at one of the remaining walls and the sheen of the paint used was all over the map, flat to gloss.  Someone started painting and accidentally mixed in streaks of black and other colors.  I awoke from that nightmare into one that might be worse.  A broken pipe in the wall.

The new house’s two spare bathrooms have pedestal sinks.  They look fine, but as I found out are dreadful to work on.  I think they must install all the faucet and drain hardware, then move them into position on the stand.  My simple faucet switch out turned into a total sink removal.

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But wait, there’s more!  Every supply valve in this house leaks when you touch it.  The valves are CPVC pipes with some kind of copper washer crushed on.  Impossible to remove.  In trying to get the valve apart so I could cut close to that copper washer I broke the cold line off in the wall.  This was at about 8:30 at night.  Crestfallen doesn’t begin to describe my state.

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Yeah, this little guy right here.  I don’t trust CPVC any more, and wish they had used copper instead.  I cut a hole in the wall and inspected.  The next day my oscillating multitool and I had made a big hole in the wall and repaired the pipe.

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Not exactly gorgeous, but no leaks and I could have the water turned on again.  With this big gash, reinstalling the pedestal sink was not going to happen.

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We picked out a nice little vanity that matched the rest of the bathroom to replace it.  The pedestal sink was high enough that a lot of drywall mudding and painting had to happen before the new vanity could be installed.  Friday night I broke the pipe off.  By Monday I had the pipe repaired, the wall patched primed and painted, and the new vanity in.  That is what a long weekend can do for ya.

In the mean time we removed the other bathroom’s pedestal sink and replaced it with a similar vanity, replaced both toilets, and took care of a half dozen other small things.  It will all be over soon.

Little Bushy South

This project was completed in July at the old house, but I had to keep it under wraps so it could be a surprise to someone.  My wife’s grandmother was a British war bride.  She met her American husband at Bushey Park outside of London where he taught air sea survival for the 8th Army Air Force.  When the war was over they moved to Michigan (his home) and eventually had a farm called “Little Bushey”, after the place they met.  We had talked about calling our new place “Little Bushey South” as a tribute to that.  I thought a sign was in order, and no wood could be better than the family wood.

These walnut beams were picked up by my mother’s parents when she was very young.  They spent a lot of time around boats and they were used as ballast by someone.  No clue how old they were then, but our family has had them for 50+ years.

One of the beams had been cut down a few times, so I cross cut it to about 42″, and then re-sawed it to make a 1 inch thick slab.  I left some of the worm eaten edging because it is so good looking.  A little work with my jack plane had it smooth and revealed a gorgeous piece of walnut.


In order to make the text for this project I am using my plunge router and custom printed 3D letter templates.  I wrote up all the text, then broke each segment up into a size that could be printed.  They are keyed to fit together to keep alignment and kerning proper.  Letters like “e” and “B” have to be done in multiple segments.  The “B” below shows how I tackled this.

The plunge routing went reasonably well, but something shifted part of the way through.  My cuts were shallower when I went back and redid certain segments.  Not sure what happened, but next time I will make everything double tight.  I went back with a chisel and cleaned up the issue areas.  The bottoms are still not smooth, but aren’t as uneven as before.  That left me with a few accidental chipout segments.  See near the top of the “O”.  Also, the “h” was in part of a knot.  My colorant will want to bleed into those cavities, so I have to fill them.

I used some dark woodworking epoxy to fill these problem areas.  First I went carefully with painters tape and dammed up all the problem areas.  Next I mixed the epoxy and used a syringe to put just the right amount into the voids.  A little light buffing and the epoxy filled the voids but is really hard to see.

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I was going to spray paint this, then just plane off the top layer to reveal colored letters.  The bottoms are still uneven, so I opted to try epoxy.  I bought a big batch of system three epoxy with white color resin.  It worked really well.  No progress pictures because you have very limited time once the mixing begins.

The places I blocked the chipouts didn’t bleed, and only a little snuck in under the knot around the lower case “h”.  A syringe helped me pipe it into each letter, and manipulate the results.  The epoxy clung up at the sides and dipped a little in the center.  The result is a really awesome shiny 3D lettering effect.  It looks quite good on our new mantle.  I don’t really understand fireplaces in Florida, but this one looks picturesque.

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