Thursday, 22 September 2016

DIY Captains Bed

Captains Bed 2.jpg

Having solved our dining table situation, I turned my attention towards issues in other rooms.
I love our master bedroom. It was originally the attic, but the previous owner gutted it and made it liveable.
It probably wasn’t a difficult decision as it’s naturally a great space. While it technically is only a half story, the roof has a high peak creating a high ceiling, and large windows on three sides let it plenty of light. It’s fully finished with two crawl spaces and a small walk-in closet.
All the troubles we were having revolved around the furniture we owned before moving in. We were able to tuck our long, low dresser in the closet, but due to the slanted ceilings, out highboy only fit in front of the windows - clearly not an option.
This meant I needed to get creative and see what the good people down at the internet had done.
Here’s what I came up with:
Captains Bed 1.jpg
To start, I used Ana White’s plans for a full-size storage bed. I took a few measurements and made a few adjustments to make the plans work for me.
The biggest alteration I made was on the inside. Since we have a queen-size mattress, I beefed up the centre support. I had some 2x4’s laying around, so I just used them. Now I know our bed can handle any “extracurricular” activities we engage in.
The other change was more rudimentary. I took a quick trip to Walmart and bought a few storage baskets. Knowing how big they were, I simply moved the divider on the side cubbies, and added another, so the baskets would fit nice and evenly.
With that done, it was building time. I went to my local lumber store to pick up the materials I still needed - I let them cut the plywood into the widths I needed - and was back home in no time.
Assembly was quick and easy, too. Since all I was essentially making was three boxes, I was able to do everything in my workspace in the basement and then move it all upstairs after I was completely done.
To finish off, I just stained the trim pieces to add a bit of contrast. To complete the look, I took an old door I had sitting around that was original to the house, and mounted it to the wall to act as our headboard.
Captains Bed 3.jpg
And that was that. All in all, it was a pretty quick and easy project. It may not be the prettiest bed anyone has even seen, but it is solid, easy to move, and very practical.
I use the baskets on my side to store most of my clothes. The end cubby is open and that’s where we keep extra blankets and quilts so we can quickly grab one if we wake up cold in the middle of the night. I don’t know what my wife keeps on her side, but I’m sure there’s all sorts of stuff in her boxes. (That sounded a lot dirtier than I meant it.)
Captains Bed 2.jpg

What do you think about my homemade bed? Let me know if you built one yourself in the comments below.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

DIY Pallet Liquor Rack

Pallet Liquor Rack 1.jpg
My wife and I enjoy to imbibe, and love doing so with friends. So, we obviously are not shy about it and don’t try to hide our alcohol from anybody.
I mean, we don’t live in a time or country where we need to be ashamed of the fact that we like to have a drink or two, as long as we don’t abuse it - which we don’t.
With that being said, I quickly grew tired of the cupboard we hid our liquor in when we moved into our house. The logical place was above the refrigerator, but it is too high for my wife to even open the doors, let alone reach anything stored there. To be fair, it is also so deep that I can’t make use of more than the first eight inches or so.
I had consulted with the good people down at the internet on several occasions regarding a creative solution that would fit our decor, but it ultimately required many hours of sifting through examples until I finally found a satisfactory answer.
Not only did the one I like solve our problem, but it matched our rustic scheme and was cheap. Here’s what I made:
I have collected a few used pallets over the years. My neighbour loves pinterest and she and I have made a few projects using old pallets. Therefore, I have a few left over bits sitting in my basement.
Needing only a quarter of a pallet, I selected one that was in the best shape, and cut off the rest.
Then, I pulled two lengths of good wood off the part I had no plans for. I took one and decided how many of our wine glasses I thought I could reasonably hang from it.
Next was the most difficult part of the project - and it would have been quite easy if I had actually measured something. I just guessed at how wide the slots needed to be and drilled holes to get them started. It was simple to cut from the edge in to allow a glass stem to slide in.
However, our wine glasses have a very fat base, and didn’t fit in the gap I made. This meant I had to cut them wider after I thought I was finished everything, but in the end, it still wasn’t that difficult.
To create a space between the base of the shelf and my wine glass hanger, I simply cut some scrap in three 1-inch pieces. With this done, I sandwiched them between the hanger piece and the smooth, solid length and screwed them to the base of the pallet.
And that’s it.
I gave it a good sanding, and a light varnish, and it was ready to hang on the wall. While it’s only a portion of a whole pallet, it is still fairly heavy. I obviously located a pair of studs and used four good screws to secure it to the wall.
Pallet Liquor Rack 1.jpg
Standard size liquor bottles fit perfectly (as do empty maple syrup cans apparently). It allows for a quick visual inventory, and glasses are always within reach.
I’m happy with how it looks and it would have only taken me about an hour to make if I had measured properly and actually focused on what I was doing.

Is this a project you could see yourself doing? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

DIY Beer Brewing

I love beer.
I mean, I love good beer. But, unfortunately good beer is not cheap.
A bunch of years ago, a group of my buddies and I who got together regularly decided to check out a local u-brew. We thought it would be cool if we could get a bunch of high-quality beer for the price of the cheap stuff.
We were right, and as it turns out, our local brew house is pretty awesome. They have a lot of different recipes to choose from that closely resemble many of the most popular beers from around the world.
After letting The Brew House do all the work for us the first few times, I decided to join them and learn more about the brewing process myself. I was hooked.
As the years passed, everyone in my beer-drinking group either moved away or life got in the way. However, I still loved beer, so I continued visiting The Brew House regularly.
For Christmas a few years ago, my brother-in-law gave me an awesome book: The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in homebrewing or the brewing process in general.
Full of inspiration, I set out collecting the equipment needed to brew my own beer at home. With help from the good people down at the internet, I was able to do so staying true to my frugal nature.
Here’s how I do it:
Beer Brewing Equipment.jpg
I started with extract brewing because it is easier and I was have no trouble getting my hands on all the ingredients I need. With this process, the two key pieces of equipment are the boiling pot and the fermentor.
I actually have 2 brew pots, but the one I use the most often these days is the one pictured. It simply is a large round roasting pot that I bought at Canadian Tire for about $12. It came with the wire lifting rack, which I thought I wasn’t going to need, but I found a creative way to use it that you will see later.
As for the fermentor, I bought 3 5 gallon carboys off a guy on Kijiji for $40. Recently, my wife stumbled upon a 6.5 gallon one at a yard sale for $12 and bought it for me.
The rest of the equipment are cheaper items I collected at either the thrift or hardware store. I use an old metal spatula to stir my brew and an old saucepan as a nice, big ladle.
One unnecessary item I use and highly recommend is a muslin bag. Putting your grains in a bag makes it infinitely easier to remove them. As said, it is not critical at you strain out every bit of grain, but it makes your beer clearer in the end.
Beer Brewing Ingredients.jpg
These are the ingredients I used for this brew. This is a recipe I cobbled together myself to make an amber coloured IPA. I like how simple this beer is to make and it is easy drinking but has more flavour than most big commercial beers. I dry-hop with cascade hops and I love the aroma they add. I had to steadily add more to this recipe until I was finally happy - I could probably add more and may try that in the future.
I love darker, maltier beers, but I’ve struggled to make a great one with extract and my sources say that it’s something very difficult to do. I have high hopes for when I get around to all-grain brewing.
Beer Brewing Steeping.jpg
Here’s what it looks like after a few minutes of steeping. You can see the grains in the bag floating nicely and I use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temp. If the water gets too hot, the grains will burn and you will be able to taste that in the finished product.
Beer Brewing Boil.jpg
After 30 minutes of steeping, the grains get removed and the malt extract and some hops get added. This is where I discovered that if I turn the lifting rack upside down, my mason jars fit perfectly in the gaps. This allows the malt to drip out slowly and the steam will clean the jar so I can get every last drop.
While this is happening, I need to stir constantly so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. I also toss in the hops that need a full 60 minute boil. It takes some time for the liquid to reach a full boil and it goes through what is known as the hot break. This is where a thick foam develops at the top and you need to wait for it to break apart and fall back into the liquid before you can move on.
Once it’s finished boiling, it’s time to strain and sparge. (I lost my picture somewhere in the cloud.) Using my pot ladle, I scoop out as much as I can and pour it through my strainer into a carboy. Depending on the amount of hops I use, sometimes I need to use my stir spatula to help the liquid drain by turning the hops in the strainer. As I get near the bottom of the pot, I can safely pick up the pot without spilling any and burning myself to dump the remaining wort into the fermentor.
Beer Brewing Fermenting.jpg
Now that all my hard work is done, it’s time for the yeast to do its job. After sprinkling the packet into the carboy, I stick a 1-inch hose into the top and run it to a pail with a bit of water in the bottom. This way, most of the crazy bubbles created during the violent early fermentation can blow off and not fall back into my beer. These apparently leave a very bitter flavour, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve always done it this way.
After about a week, fermentation slows down so I can remove the hose and switch to a fermentation lock. At this point, I add the dry-hops and let it sit for another couple of weeks.
Beer Brewing filling equipment.jpg
When I finally find the time, I set about getting my sweat beer into bottles. First I boil some sugar water and put it in the freshly cleaned pail. I then quietly siphon the beer on top of it.
With that done, I attach my racking cane to my siphon and start filling my bottles. I took the tough task of drinking many bottle of beer that came in bottles with a flip-top lids. It was hard work, but now I have a sizable collection to bottles I can reuse and don’t have to worry about capping. I do have a bag of caps and I will from time to time use them, but it just takes longer so I don’t like doing it.
Beer Brewing bottles.jpg
Even after the bottles are all full, I still need to wait a couple weeks to let the beer condition in the bottle. This allows the beer to naturally carbonate, but I have to admit, I usually break the seal on the first bottle after about a week - it tastes good, but it is a little flat.
After all is said and done, I have about two and a half cases of quality beer at the cost of less than $1 a beer. I also enjoy the process and look forward to doing an all-grain brew in the very near future.
Beer Brewing finished product.jpg

Do you like good beer and make it yourself? Do you like to enjoy high-quality brew at less than half the price you can buy it? Tell me in the comments how you do it.