Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Second Story Bird Feeder

(c) 2011 by Tom King

If you live on the second floor or you have a second floor bedroom, hanging a bird feeder can be problematic.  Here's an easy to make bird feeder hanger that puts the feeder outside your window.

- Broomstick
- Screw-in hook
- Paint to match the window trim
- Bird feeder
- 2-flag bracket
- Screws
- Drill with Philips driver bit

Step 1
Mount the flag bracket to the trim above the center of the window. You'll have to remove the screen so you can sit in the window sill to attach the flag bracket. I bought a bracket that allows you to hang two flagstaffs from the same bracket, one at a 45 degree angle and the other horizontally.  Screw the bracket into the wooden trim above the window.  Have somebody spot you so you don't fall out the window.

Step 2
Screw the hook into the end of the broomstick.  Paint it the same color as the window trim (it'll just look a whole lot better, trust me).

Step 3
Fill the bird feeder on the hook and stick the flat end into the horizontal flagpole hole of the flag bracket. If there's a keeper screw, tighten it.

Step 4
If you want to add a suet feeder, simple loop the chain over the stick and push it out. To refill the feeder, just remove the flagpole from the bracket. If you don't have the hand strength to do it that way, you can get another long broomstick, screw on another hook and use it to lift the feeder on and off the hook safely.  I recommend the hook and stick method since you are working at least two floors up.

The feeder got popular after the first snow.
I use zero-waste seed that doesn't use millet, sorghum or milo (birds toss that stuff aside anyway).  Keeps the feeder from showering waste seed on everyone below. Also, being so high up it's tough for rats and squirrels to get to AND this one's a squirrel proof feeder. The feeder drops a screen down over the seed cups when a squirrel or other relatively heavy rodent-like critters. It leaves them with a long drop or a tough scramble back up the pole with no rewaard for the effort. Wild mammals can't afford to waste energy on fruitless efforts to find food.

Enjoy the birds.

Tom King  

 © 2017 by Tom King

When we moved to 152nd ST, we moved our flagpole feeder.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pullout Desk Shelves You Can Make

Kitchen cutting boards that pulled out of the cabinet were all the rage a few years back. The same principle works if, like most of us, your desk is piled high with computers, printers, scanners and the myriad other bits of desk debris that are the hallmark of the technical age we live in. I'm lucky. My oak rolltop desk came with, not one but two pullout writing boards, complete with inset mouse-pads. Best of all, I got it on eBay for $250 from a guy who didn't have room for it.

I love my desk.

If you don't have such a handy writing surface, here are three ways to solve your problem.

I. The Handy Dandy Drawer Topper
This one you just shove down under the desk and when you need it, just pull out the drawer and set the writing board on top of it. The 1-by-1 strips glued beneath the board keep it from slipping around.

  • Wooden butcher board or 1 inch thick flat board at least as wide as your drawer
  • 1-by-1 strips
  • Table Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain
  • Varnish
Step 1
Pull out the top right hand drawer of your desk till it stops. Most desks have a built-in stop that keeps the drawer from falling all the way out. If your drawer doesn't, just find a place where you can stop it and it sits level.

Step 2
Measure the width of the drawer and the distance from the front of the drawer. Cut your writing board to fit in the space between the drawer and the desk.

Step 3
Measure the width of the drawer. Cut two 1-by-1 Lay the board on top of the drawer and “Voila!” you have a place to write or to at least move aside the I-pods, calculators, laptops and paperweights so you can write on the regular desk. The drawer front may get in your way, depending on how high it is, but if your writing board is thick enough, with a lot of desks this type of add-on writing surface may be even with the drawer front. You will have to make sure not to put too much junk in your drawer so that it sticks above the top of the drawer sides.

 II. The Drawer Replacement

This one costs you a drawer, but if you need the extra space it may be well worth the sacrifice. This really only works well with wooden desks and drawers.

  • Wooden cutting board or 1-inch shelving material wide enough to fit in the drawer space.
  • Table saw
  • 1-by-1 inch strips
  • Carpenter glue
  • Screws.
  • Drill and bits w/ screwdriver bits.
  • Hinges with screws
Step 1
Pull out the drawer and take off the front of the drawer. Screw the hinges to the base of the drawer compartment and to the back of the drawer front. The drawer front will fold down to allow the writing drawer to slide out.

Step 2
Remove the drawer slide mechanism from the sides of the old drawer. Cut down the sides of the drawer leaving only enough to screw the slide mechanism to. You can do this by turning the drawer bottom on it's side and cut along a line just above the top of where the drawer slide mechanism attaches to the drawer. Leave the bottom of the drawer attached.

Step 3
Reattach the drawer slide mechanism to the bottom of the drawer and reinsert the drawer in the desk. Test to make sure there is enough clearance for the drawer front to close. You may have to add a magnetic catch or something to keep the drawer front closed.

Step 4
Pull out the drawer bottom to where it is level and presses against the drawer stops. Measure the width of the compartment and the depth of the drawer bottom. Cut the writing board to fit those dimensions .

Step 5
Cut two 1-by-1 strips to fit inside the drawers from front to back. Glue the strips to the bottom of the writing board so they fit just inside the drawer sides on either side. Allow to dry.

Step 6
Set the writing board on top of the cut down drawer bottom. It's not necessary to screw the board in place as the 1-by-1 strips will hold it securely in the drawer and the board itself rests on top of the cut-down sides.

Step 7
Stain and varnish the writing board and allow to dry. Push the drawer in and close it.

III. Pull Out Writing Board.

If you have a section of your desktop that doesn't have a drawer, simply build a compartment underneath the desk and slide a writing board into it.

  • 1-by- 8 shelf board
  • Wooden cutting board or 1 inch thick board the width of you desire
  • 1-by-1 inch wooden strips
  • 1-1/4 inch screws
  • Drill and bits and screwdriver bits
  • Table saw
  • Carpenter glue
  • Tape measure
  • Square

Step 1
Measure the width and depth of the space you have for your writing board compartment. Cut a piece of the shelf board 8 inches deep by the width of compartment for the shelf drawer bottom.

Step 2
Glue a 1-by1 wooden strip on the top of either side of the shelf drawer bottom, running front to back, flush with the edge of the drawer bottom. When the glue is dry, pilot drill the 1-by-1 strips and screw them into the drawer bottom. The drawer bottom is now a flat “U” shape.

Step 3
Glue the top edges of the 1-by-1 strips to the bottom of the desk with the drawer bottom centered in the space beneath the desktop you've chosen for your drawer. If you can turn the desk upside down for this it's easier. The pilot drill through the drawer bottom and the 1-by-1 strips and halfway into the desktop. Don't drill through the desktop. Screw 2 inch screws into the sides of the new drawer compartment to hold it to the desktop bottom.

Step 4
Cut your writing board to fit the width of the new drawer compartment and the length of the space behind it if possible. This allows you the maximum workspace.

Step 5
Stain and varnish the writing board. When dry push it all the way into the compartment.

Step 6
Screw a length of 1-by-1 inch strip to the bottom back edge of the writing board. This prevents the writing board from accidentally pulling completely out. Don't glue the backstop strip in case you ever need to remove the board for repair or replacement. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Adding a Secret Compartment to Your Rolltop Desk

Okay, I'm giving away my secret hiding place. I'm not terribly worried about it. To find my hiding place, the average burglar would have to hit more than 200 million homes in the United States to find mine. The main reason to make such a hidey hole is to keep your wallet out of the hands of your sticky-fingered teenager or to provide a place for the keepsakes your wife threw out when she cleaned your desk and you retrieved from the garbage, but didn't want her to know you had retrieved them from the garbage.....

Not that I ever did anything like that, mind you.

Not really!

Anyway, roll top desks lend themselves well to creating little secret compartments.The easiest place to make one is behind the drawers in the upper part of the desk. Notice in the second picture that the space behind this upper drawer is quite deep. 

If you measure the drawer and the compartment, you will likely find about seven or eight inches of unused space behind the drawer.  This space is ideal for making a false back secret compartment.

Tools and Materials:

A few 1x4 boards made of the same wood as your desk. In my case, I'm using oak. 
Table saw
Carpenter's Glue
Tape measure
Small speed square
Stain to match your desk
Varnish or polyurethane clearcoat, gloss or satin to match your desk

Step 1
Remove the drawer and measure the drawer opening

Step 2
Measure the depth of the compartment. That's my wallet back there. There's plenty of room for it behind the drawer as you can see.  It was stuffed back there before I opened the drawer.

Step 3
Measure the length of the drawer

Step 4
Cut a piece of oak from the 1x4 that just fits flat inside the compartment to make the false back.  Trim it and sand the edges so the piece of wood will slide smoothly into the space as far back as you need it to.

Side Note:
If you test fit the piece against the back of the compartment, like I did, you'll need something sticky on a pole to fetch it back out again, so you might want to try this trick.  Screw a short screw into the back of your false back, turn it around and test fit it that way till you get it right. That way you can use the screw as a handle to pull it back out without marring the front face of the board.

Step 5
Figure the difference between the drawer length and the compartment depth that you measured above.. Cut two side pieces as tall as the compartment and as wide as the empty space, minus 3/4 inches for the false front.  Miter the back edges of the two sides at 45 degrees facing each other so the back piece can be glued in place with mitered corners.  Leave the front edges of the side pieces flat to fit against the false back.

Step 6
Measure the width of the compartment and cut a back piece that is not quite as high as the compartment (allowing room for it to slide in and out) and cut it 3 inches narrower.  Miter the corners

Step 7
Glue the side pieces to the back of the false front one at a time.  Test fit the pieces.  The sides should inset from the walls of the compartment at least 1-1/2 inches on both sides. Once you have them all glued in place, clamp or bungee the pieces together till they set and dry. 

Set 8
Now turn the assembly flat on its face and measure the inside of the compartment.  Cut a piece of 1x4 to fit inside the compartment to make a bottom for the box.  Blue it in place.  If you want to secure the bottom with small nails or screws, predrill the holes to keep them from splitting.

Step 9
Stain and varnish the false compartment back. To be really detailed, stain and varnish the whole thing, inside and out. It will make the compartment look like it was part of the original desk design. That way if you get caught with something in your secret compartment by a nosy spouse, you can always plead ignorance.

Not that I've ever done that sort of thing.....


Step 10
Test fit the false back and secret compartment into the compartment.  It should fit smoothly and securely when pressed all the way back and look just like an ordinary compartment back

Step 11
To open the compartment, just open the drawer. Press against either side of the false back. This will tip the assembly and allow you to open it.  If you fit the false back really closely, you may find that you have to sand or miter the back edges of the sides of the false back to allow the compartment assembly to cant and open. You can make your compartment a little more secure by only angling one of the sides so that the only way to open it is to push on just one side as shown in the diagrams. 

The assembly shown will only open if you press the left side. The right side may move when pressed, but won't open freely.

I've got 4 drawers I can use to make secret compartments on my roll top.  I plan to create false backs for each, just so they'll all look alike and not be as suspicious.  Check out these before and after pictures (left) to see how inconspicuous your new hidey hole will be.
 The top picture is the one with the fake back.
Of, course If you're lazy you can just stuff things behind the drawers.  In the picture below, I have my wallet shoved behind one of the drawers. It's an easy secret compartment that will defeat a cursory search of your drawers, but the false back secret compartment is way cooler.


The poor man's secret compartment.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Building the Tire & Concrete Movable Volleyball Posts

(c) 2011 by Tom King

Way back at Keene Public School, we used to play volleyball on an uneven dirt and rock basketball court with a net strung between two metal poles stuck into a car tire full of concrete. I think that public schools are prohibited from using anything so practical (or cheap) anymore, but if you look you'll still find a few here and there on church playgrounds or gyms. It's likely some kid turned one on its side and rolled it over his own or someone else's foot. One lawsuit and anything good gets banned. Still, these sturdy volleyball goals are really handy and if the folk using it have a modicum of intelligence and supervise their children, they should be safe enough. They are portable, hold the net tight and can be built out of scrap materials with minimal cost.

  1. Two tires with good tread and no steel wire poking through. (It's worth buying used tires to get good tread. They look better and are safer)
  2. Four to six bags of concrete depending on how big the tires are. (Get extras, you can always take them back or make yourself a small sidewalk or some stepping stones or something)
  3. Two metal pipes or two 4x4 posts, at least 8 feet tall.

  • Six Eyebolts with nuts and lock washers long enough to fit through the metal pipes or eye screws if you're using wooden posts
  • Tools:
    • Hoe
    • Shovel
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Drill
    • Steel drill bit
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Plastic 5 gallon bucket
    • Tape measure

    Step 1
    Lay the tires on the ground.

    Step 2
    Prop the poles or posts upright with the bases of the poles in the exact center of each tire. Tie or brace the poles so they won't move while the concrete is setting or the pole will be loose inside the concrete.

    Step 3
    Mix enough concrete mix in a wheelbarrow to fill up one tire at a time. Make it a little thinner, about the consistency of fresh made pudding so it will flow easily up inside the tire

    Step 4
    Pour concrete into the tires around the base of the poles or posts. I prefer to scoop the concrete into a plastic bucket so I can control the wet concrete more easily.  You have to pour slowly so you don't move the base of the upright out of center and it's hard to control that if you pour directly from the wheelbarrow.  Tires hold a deceptively large amount of concrete, so you may have to keep mixing bags and adding them till the concrete fills the tire to the top rim. Mix quickly so the first pour is still wet when you add more.  Don't run concrete over the top rim of the tire or the dried overflow will break off in thin sheets later and make a mess.

    Step 5
    Let the concrete cure overnight.

    Step 6
    Remove the braces and check out how sturdy the pole is.

    Step 7
    Lay the pole over and mark holes for the eyebolts at 2 feet from the ground (for the bottom tie of the net) and at 7 feet 4 inches for women's volleyball and at 7 feet 11-5/8 inches for men's v-ball. You'll be installing 3 eyebolts or screws for tying the net to. 

    Step 8
    Predrill holes for eyebolts a bit larger than the bolts or a bit smaller than eye screws. If you're using pipes drill all the way through so you can bolt the eyebolt in place. If using wooden posts, drill a hole slightly smaller than the eye screw and a quarter inch or so shallower than the length of the screw.

    Step 9
    Install the eyebolts or eye screws so the eyes are all on the same side of the upright pole or post. 

    Step 10
    Roll the volleyball standards into place on either side of the center of a large flat area 30 feet wide by 60 feet long.  String up the net and you're ready to go.

    Note on Playing Volleyball:
    I always use the women's height for groups of kids or church groups to make it easier to play.  That is, unless it's an all men's group or you have one of those pesky ego-maniac show-offs who thinks it's fun to spike a volleyball into a kid's face to show off his prowess in front of the women-folk. Then, I put the net at full height so they can't spike the ball so easily. Men, even church-going men, are dreadfully competitive.  I've even resorted to using nerf volleyballs and beach balls to reduce the danger to smaller players and to make the game more fun to play.

    Safety Note:
    Here are Marc St. Angelo's
    tire & concrete volleyball poles.

    Thanks for pic, Marc.

    I called these "movable" volleyball posts and not "portable", because, though you can move them around your backyard or playground, I wouldn't want to haul them across town without a really big trailer and possibly a crane.  There is a lot of concrete inside one of those tires and they are extremely heavy.  To move them around, you merely lay them over on their sides, have one person lift the pole end to guide it and another one or two to roll the tire.  Don't let it roll over your foot whatever you do because, as I said, all that concrete is really, really heavy.  It's pretty easy to move them, though and it's obvious how heavy they are so you have to be pretty thick to want to get in front of one when it's rolling.  Don't let small children turn it over or play "pole vault" with it. I can tell you from bitter childhood experience that when the pole starts upward, a lightweight child can get flung a goodly distance when the pole snaps him off the ground. And if he does manage to hang on, he can pull the whole pole over and conk himself on the head.  I was more curious than bright in them days.  Like anything you have around children, you have to watch them and sometimes think for them. It's a bloody miracle some of us ever managed to grow up in one piece at all.