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December 18,2012- RainyDayGiftGuide:Tools...

We don't need to tell you that tools make great holiday gifts. Every year we see lists and lists of recommendations (RainyDayRenovtions included) for all kinds of cool tools for those who like to work with their hands. This year we decided to step back from this listomania and ask "What is the most useful tool for around the house?" Our answer: the screwdriver. With that as the guide, we came up with a collection of driver-related suggestions which we think will be appreciated by those who like to get hands-on around the house.

While there are many different kinds of screwdriving tools we could recommend, they basically fall into two categories: drivers and bits. For the... [more] -RainyDayGiftGuide: Tools


November 2,2012- More Cutting Boards...

Yesterday we posted a FirstLook of the John Boos Newton Prep Master III. In the article we mentioned the other cutting boards in the RainyDayKitchen. A few readers asked us what they were. We thought about it and agreed that it would be helpful to talk about what they are, why we have them, and how we have found them useful.

The samples in the photo are representative of the variety of boards we use daily. They range from boards on mobile carts (wooden, stainless steel), synthetic ones made from various non-porous material (stiff, flexible), to small slabs made from hardwoods and bamboo. The larger boards are better suited for tasks such as deboning a chicken, slicing and dicing up lots of vegetables, or... [more] -More Cutting Boards


November 1,2012- John Boos Cutting Board...

We have about a dozen cutting boards in the RainyDayKitchen. The boards come in handy because sometimes we need all hands on deck at prep time. We have a lot of types of boards: some are made of hard wood, others synthetic, and one was even custom-made to size. While we use them everyday, we have never reviewed one for the magazine. Judging by the requests for recommendations and product review suggestions, this oversight was not lost on our loyal readers. With Thanksgiving coming up, we thought now was an appropriate time to take a closer look at this essential piece of kitchen gear.

When looking over reader suggestions, the name John Boos & Company kept coming up. They are a maker of premium butcher block and stainless steel food service products. John Boos offers a variety of cutting boards for lots of different applications. We chose one which we thought would be... [more] -John Boos Cutting Board FirstLook


October 31,2012- Trend AirShield Pro...

Before we fire up the CNC machine, we wanted to have a good system in place for chip collection. To keep the shop clean and safe, we have been researching the different types of collectors: single-stage; two-stage; and two-stage cyclones. Another, some say more important, part of keeping the work area clean is proper air filtration. The goal of filtering the air is to rid any micro dust particles. They are problematic as they can get trapped in the lungs and create respiratory issues. The most effective mean of dust management is capturing the dust at the chip collection stage. However, a good complement to a central dust-collection system is a filtered face-shield.

A full mask offers good protection because it shields the wearer from the particles thrown up into the air at the workstation. However, for any mask to be effective it must be worn consistently. This means besides being able to filter out the dust, it must also be easy to use and... [more] -Trend AirShield Pro FirstLook


October 2,2012- Plier Holder DIY...

Not every RainyDayProject we do is involved and complicated. Sometimes the projects are spur of the moment, take less than thirty minutes, and can be done with simple tools and scraps. Our recent Plier Holder DIY was such a project.

One of our editors is a beader. It is amazing the number of different pliers, crimpers, and whatsits she has managed to accumulate in the pursuit of her craft. Recently, she inquired of the RainyDayProjects crew how difficult it would be to make a holder for the pliers, similar to the ones commercially available. We took a look, and it looked simple enough: a few pairs of 1/2" holes in a block of wood. We decided to... [more] - Plier Holder DIY


September 28,2012- Drill Doctor 750X...

Making a hole is one of those tasks everybody needs to do once in a while. It is also a task anyone one can do with the proper tools. All anyone needs to make a nice, clean hole in any kind of material (metal, wood, masonry, etc.) is a drill and the right bit. A powerful drill will get the job done faster, but a sharp bit is essential to getting the job done well. A sharp bit will cut faster, cleaner, and put less stress on the motor of the drill and the bit. All of which translates to a better outcome. Many DIYers view drill bits as disposable items, something to toss when they became dull. As a result, most tend not to buy quality bits to use with their drills. That is understandable, as sharpening drill bits is skill which is beyond that of many craftsman and undoubtably most weekend DIYers. So imagine our excitment when we came upon the DAREX Drill Doctor.

DAREx has been making tool-sharpening systems for over forty years. They have heavy-duty units for industry, but they also cater to the smaller professional shops and craftsmen. The Drill Doctor line, while rugged enough for the pros, is also suitable for the home DIYers. Like their professional sharpeners, the Drill Doctor line is... [more] - Drill Doctor 750X FirstLook


September 25,2012- Board Refinishing...

In July we posted a write-up of a butcher-block top DIY project for the IKEA FLYTTA stainless steel kitchen cart. We mentioned at the end of the article that we had a few more things to do to the top before it was ready for duty, in particular refinish the surface and trim the edges. We had the tools to do the rough work, but we needed access to a planer/jointer to square up the edges. So we pinged our fine-furniture maker friend Gary Barsomian and asked if he could help us out.

Gary has some heavy-duty woodworking gear at his workshop: industrial tablesaw, 6" jointer, etc. We trimmed of about a quarter of an inch around the edges, squared them off with the jointer/planer, and removed the majority of the... [more] - Board Refinishing


September 21,2012- Kenmore Dryer Repair...

A few days ago, we noticed that the content of the last dryer load was still a bit damp after it had stopped. So we reset the timer and pushed the Start button. The Kenmore dryer has provided close to twenty years of dependable service and has been so reliable that we had taken for granted that it would "just work" whenever we pushed the Start button. So when we did not hear the familiar "thud, thud, thud" of the contents tumbling about, we were momentarily confused.

After checking that the fuse on the electrical panel had not been tripped and that power was indeed getting to the machine (we could hear the timer on the dryer humming), we concluded that the problem must lie with the machine. Since we have had no warning signs that the machine was having problems, we hoped that it was something simple which we could fix ourselves. However, before we can get to fixing anything, we had to figure out how to... [more] - Kenmore Dryer Repair


September 5,2012 Tailgating TEC

Tailgating and football go hand-in-hand. Cooking in the parking lot of a football stadium has evolved from an impromptu cookout to a full-fledged part of many a football game. Over the years, companies have caught on to the phenomenon and have created products specifically for the activity.

We have two portable grills that were designed for the tailgating crowd, a Coleman and a Thermos. However, we think our most recent addition, the TEC Cherokee,would be the best of the lot. The TEC Cherokee is an infrared grill. Infrared grilling is superior to other methods because it cooks faster, at a much higher temperature, and does not dry out the food as much. The Cherokee is also... [more] - Tailgating TEC


July 23,2012- Slide Out Shelves DIY...

It is difficult to be organized if you have no place to put things. You can sort and label everything, you put them in containers, and you can still end up with piles all over the place. The key to organization is ease of access. Shelves and bookcases solve a lot of storage and organizational problems, but sometimes access can be an issue.

This was the dilemma for one of our editors. Her creative side extends beyond writing screenplays and children books in her free time. She is also quite the jewelry designer. As such, she has an extensive collection of beads, stones, and other shiny bits. All of these items are in tins, boxes, and containers. Whenever she is in a creative mood, an "explosion" sort of happens in her office. Strings of stones, boxes of baubles, and other parts would be laid out everywhere. This was how she could clearly see all of her materials and allow her to select the the bits she needs for her project. Needless to say, cleaning up can be time consuming. So she asked the RainyDayRenovations guys to see if they could come up with something which would let her... [more] - Slide Out Shelves DIY


July 20,2012- Butcher Block Top DIY...

When we "acquired" the IKEA FLYTTA stainless steel kitchen cart in June, we came up with a really nice accessory for it: a cutting board. IKEA does not sell a cutting board that large, so we looked around for an alternative. We soon discovered that a commercially made 36"x24" maple butcher-block cutting board can set one back anywhere from $200 to $500! That was when we remembered we had a table top from an old DIY project which would be perfect for the cart.

OK, perfect once we cut it down to size, sanded off the grime, and refinished it for food use. The large piece of maple was a table top we made (out of maple stair treads) over twenty years ago. It had been in storage for the past ten years, forgotten, until last week. We found it leaning up against a... [more] - Butcher Block Top DIY


July 17,2012- Master Mechanic Cordless Drill Kit..

Local hardware stores have disappeared across much of the United States. They have found it difficult to compete, price-wise, with the giant warehouse players like Home Depot and Lowe's. To be clear, we love going to Home Depot and Lowe's. We love the low prices, huge selections, and efficiency of it all. However, we also love competition. Because without it, we would have complacency, a "take the customer for granted-ness" mentality, and eventually, higher prices. It is because of that and many other reasons why we are happy that we have True Values hardware store in our neighborhood.

True Value is different from the big boys in many ways. First, True Value Company is a retailer-owned hardware cooperative with over 4,500 independent retail locations worldwide. Second, members of the True Value cooperative own their individual stores and operate independently of True Value Company. Third, the stores are smaller and generally in located right in town. Thus, they are an active part of the neighborhood, anchoring other businesses around it, and helping support the local ecosystem.

Communities are beginning to remember the value of "smaller." However, being "smaller" does not mean being less competitive with the big boys. As a cooperative, the True Value Company tallied over $1.8 billion in revenue in 2010, offers over 60,000 products, and has 12 distribution centers. This all adds up to a lot of leverage when it comes to buying from wholesalers. This is the reason why True Value's prices are very competitive. All they need to do is to get traffic into the stores.

One of the ways to get customers into the store is to offer them something they can't get anywhere else. The Master Mechanic 18-Volt 3/8-Inch Variable-Speed Reversible (VSR) Cordless Drill is one such item. At $70 for the kit (drill, 2 batteries, charger, tote), this has to be one of the... [more] - Master Mechanic 18-Volt 3/8-Inch VSR Cordless Drill Kit FirstLook


July 2,2012- IKEA Kitchen Cart...

The stainless steel IKEA FLYTTA cart we "restored" a week ago was, regrettably, too large for our needs. However, as luck would have it, a smaller version of the FLYTTA was also for sale on Craigslist. With an asking price of $25 we didn't even bother to haggle (something of which we love to do). This one even had a drawer (the current IKEA version does not).

Our disassembly experience with the last cart taught us to bring along the SwiftDriver. Granted, this cart had fewer shelves and other bits, but we were glad we brought the SwiftDriver with us as it was a... [more] -IKEA Kitchen Cart


June 27,2012- IKEA FLYTTA Cart...

A stainless steel cart is a helpful thing to have in the kitchen. It is a rolling platform which provides extra storage and additional counter space where/when needed. We have been looking for one for some time. Last week, we found one on listed on Craigslist by some folks who are moving out of town. A little haggling and we were the new owner of this IKEA FLYTTA stainless steel kitchen cart.

As with all IKEA products, this FLYTTA is (relatively) simple to take apart, move, and reassemble. We didn't bring any power tools with us for the pick-up, so two of us spent about 30 minutes taking the cart apart. It was... [more] -IKEA FLYTTA Stainless Steel Cart


June 20,2012- Reviving the PC...

If you got to the end of yesterday's post you know that, after spending an entire day reviving and configuring a 7-year old Compaq PC to use with the BlueChick, it refused to start up the next morning. We tried rebooting the Compaq using the Recovering CDs without success. The only thing that happened on power up was a repeating series of long beeps which, uh, beeped, repeatedly. A bit of research on the Compaq support site indicated that there was probably some kind of hardware failure, most likely the hard drive. (Some of the RainyDay staff indicated that it was the non-Apple-ness of the frigging' machine and thus refused to participate in this project, but that is for our "Rants page," which we don't have.)

The last time we really opened up a desktop PC was probably back in 2000. We remember the process as being a nightmare, which may explain why we have not attempted it since. However, PC construction apparently has progressed quite a bit since. For example, even this 2005 Compaq required no... [more] -CNC PC Recovery


June 19,2012- CNC PC Setup...

Getting the BlueChick CNC machine up and running is more than just assembling the deck. It requires wiring up the electronics, installing a host of software programs, and getting everything to work together. Over the weekend, we mounted and connected a few of the electronic components for interfacing the BlueChick with a computer. However, before we hook up the interface board to the CNC machine, we thought we should get the PC we will be using to run the CNC software up and running.

We have a bunch of ancient (more than 5-years old) WinTel laptops and towers sitting around doing nothing. Some of them were too old (Win95), but there were two Windows XT towers which looked to be suitable (PowerSpec, Compaq). The Compaq tower was purchased in 2005, and we have not used it for a few years. The last time we used it, we managed to completely mess it up trying to install an OS upgrade from HP. Fortunately, we still have the original HP/Compaq systems CDs, so we decided to... [more] -CNC PC Setup


June 18,2012- BOB and SMD Setup...

The movement of the router on BlueChick CNC machine is controlled by specialized software running on a PC. However, before the BlueChick and the computer can "talk" to each other that have to be connected up using a few pieces of electronics: a parallel port breakout board (BOB), and three stepper-motor drivers (SMDs). The BOB's purpose is to allow access to the individual pins on the cable connected to the computer; the SMD's job is to translate signals on those pins and use them to control the stepper motors on the CNC machine. This junction is where the digital world meets the real world.

There are many ways to mount the components. A wooden tray, as suggested in the video, is an easy way to hold everything. We happened to have a piece of 12"x12" 3/4" plywood laying around, so we used that. With its 3/4" thickness, we could use wood screws and... [more] -BOB and SMD Setup


June 14,2012- Back to the BlueChick...

We posted a series of RainyDayProject articles on the BlueChick CNC machine last August. The RainyDay office quickly came up with a bunch of projects over the Winter that involved the machine. Like all plans, they quickly went awry during the implementation phase. However, we have now/finally sorted things out and are getting back on track.

We have not been entirely remiss on the CNC build. For instance, we have been exploring various dust-collection options to use with it. We may go with a portable vacuum unit, or we may install a larger filtered system for the entire shop. Also, we have cleared a space and made available a workbench for the BlueChick. Additionally, since the BlueChick was designed with the Porta Cable 892 router in mind, after a bit of looking, we lucked out and acquired a Porta Cable 892 router on Craigslist at a great price. (In case you are wondering why the the Porter Cable, it has a cylindrical motor housing which contributes to the structural integrity of the z-axis assembly. The straight cylinder of the Porter Cable allows the unit to be held in place by two mounts. As a result, the router will be much sturdier in use. Routers with more complex housings are difficult to... [more] -Back To The BlueChick


May 25,2012- TEC Igniter repair...

When we purchased the TEC Cherokee grill, we knew that the igniter did not work. We didn't really care as we typically use a long-nose butane lighter to light all our other grills. However, the Cherokee looked so nice after we cleaned it that we thought it would be a shame not to fix the dead igniter. We also knew that not knowing why it didn't work would bug us to no end. Besides, the project gave us a reason to take apart the grill and clean some of the places we never would have bothered with otherwise.

Most gas grills' electronic igniters work using the same principle: an electrically-generated spark ignites the gas. The spark is usually generated by taking advantage of a property call piezoelectricity. "Piezo," in Greek, means "pressure." Quartz and some ceramics exhibit piezoelectric behavior when pressure is applied to them. When under pressure, a charge separation within the material takes place and a... [more]- TEC Igniter repair


May 21,2012- Brillo Pads: Cleaning the grills...

The TEC Cherokee portable grill we acquired last week via a trade came to us in pretty good condition. All we needed to do to get the grill was ready for use was to scrub the stainless steel grate and wipe the sides. However, as we want it to look really nice for FirstGrill, we decided to give the TEC a complete detailing.

When we were growing up, Brillo pads were what we used to clean pots and pans. They are little steel wool pads infused with grease-cutting soap. The fine steel wool cleans without scratching and the soap cuts through even baked-on grease like nobody's business. We have not used Brillo pads for years, but did... [more]- Brillo Pads: Grill Cleaning


May 15,2012- TEC Infrared Grill...

One of the many anticipated events at RainyDayMagazine is FirstGrill. The first one was back in 2006. It proved so popular that we have been doing it annually ever since. We usually hold it in May, but we are holding off until the beginning of June this year for a reason we'll make clear in a few weeks.

One of our editors got an infrared grill last year and has been extolling its virtues. According to Jay, "There is no question that infrared or radiant cooking is the wave of the future. Radiant cooking has no airflow so the meat is much juicier and more tender. Microwave cooking is a problem because the radiant heat is at a wavelength that tends to heat unevenly and is not 'tuned' to the best wavelength for food. Infrared is considered to be at just the right wavelength for getting juicy red meat and fowl. Browning and carmelization (the Mallard effect) is also... [more]- TEC Infrared Grill


May 11,2012- Brimfield Antique Show...

The Brimfield Antique Show got off to another wet start this year. The weather, while awesome for the plants in our garden, put quite a damper on the show's attendance. We had planned to check out the show on the first day, but the rain kept us away until today.

Having attended the Brimfield show for the past several years, we have found that getting to the show can be as much of a challenge as trying to see everything once you are at the show. The reason is that Brimfield is a small town and there is only one road into and out of it, so during the Antique Show, there can quite a backup at the Brimfield exit. After sitting in traffic last year, we thought it might be faster to go past Brimfield to Palmer and to get to... [more]- Brimfield Antique Show


May 8,2012- True Value: Swift Driver ...

Just when we thought there couldn't possibly be anything new in the world of screwdriver technology, the Swift Driver from Master Mechanics showed up at the RainyDayMagazine office. The screwdriver is one of the most basic tools in the toolbox, and one of the most-often used. Because of its utility, the screwdriver has been a favorite item for those looking to create a "better mousetrap." There are at least reasons for the pursuit: there are a lot of different types of screws, which implies the need for a lot of different screwdrivers; and the desire to improve the physical act of driving the screw. The first reason led to the development of interchangeable tips, the second to the development of various types of driving mechanisms, both electric and manual.

The Swift Driver is of the latter type. It is a ratchet-based manual screwdriver which uses a patent-pending dual-drive gearing technology. It is both faster and more precise than what's used by... [more]- True Value: Master Mechanic Swift Driver FirstLook


May 3,2012- Heavy Bag...

Working on a computer all day long and then watching TV in the evening are fairly sedentary activities, which, if practiced in immoderation, can lead to a fairly sedentary life. We at RainyDayMagazine have solved that potential/probable outcome by installing a heavy punching bag in the office for anyone interested in a quick workout whilst on duty. We've had the bag for a while (it is an Everlast commemorating the 1986 Olympics), but are not entirely certain when it came into our possession.

At 80 pounds, the bag is one of the heavier models. Hanging it securely required us to mount the hardware directly into the studs in the ceiling. Everlast has mounting hardware designed for hanging these types of bags, but we opted to roll our own with a few dollars of hooks and springs from... [more] - Heavy Bag In The Office


March 27,2012- Craftsman Tool Chest...

In January, we acquired a Craftsman stainless steel GripLatch tool chest for our workshop. We had some reservations about fitting it into the shop as the chest was 41" wide. However, it was so nice and shiny that we thought we would give it a go. Try as we might, we just could not find a good location for it. In the end, we decided to replace it with something more appropriately sized for the space we had available.

Fortunately for us, an auto mechanic was looking to offload a Craftsman tool chest combo he no longer needed. After a bit of online negotiation we were able to come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement. After all was said and done--selling the stainless steel unit and buying these two pieces--we actually came out a couple of... [more] -Craftsman 26" GripLatch Tool chest


March 23,2012- Gatco Knife Sharper...

A blade with a sharp edge is much safer than a blade with a dull edge. The reason is simple: a blade with a keen edge will cut with less effort, which means a decreased likelihood of the blade slipping and accidentally cutting yourself. There are a lot of ways to sharpen a blade, but it is important to use sharpening tools correctly.

The improper use of a sharpener can actually make a blade duller. Some sharpeners are designed to put a quick edge on inexpensive knives, scissors, and other cutting instruments. Others are specifically designed for... [more] -Gatco Knife Sharpeners: FirstLook


March 22,2012- Spring Cleaning:Shear tuning...

The recent high-temps got lots or people out cleaning and working on their garden, and we were no exception. After trying to trim some dead branches from the shrubs, we noticed our shears and pruners were doing more crushing than cutting. As the cutters were otherwise in good shape, we thought we would see if we could give the blades a sharpening.

Unlike a pair of scissors, most gardening loppers and pruners are single-bladed. In order to have the best access to the blade, take the cutter apart. Typically, there is a central bolt holding... [more] -Spring Cleaning: Shear Tuning


March 20,2012- Spring Cleaning: Zerust ...

Today it is the first day of Spring. It is also the start of our Spring cleaning around the office. One of the projects we really want to complete is the reorganization of our workshop. We have quite a few tools and we have been conscientiously organizing them so that they would be easier to access. However, there is still quite a bit left to do. Last year, the interns spent a lot of time and effort scouring Craigslist for a workbench, tool chests, and other workshop-related storage so we could have a place for everything. They have been very successful. Now it is time to put everything in its place.

However, since the workshop is in the basement, we want to make sure there won't be rust problems from the humidity, especially during the Summer months (when we need a dehumidifier down there). We could spray the metal tools with a light oil to keep the moisture out, but the approach is not appropriate for every tool. In January, we told readers about the Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor (VCI) infused drawer liners and capsules from Zerust. The liners were exactly what we needed for... [more] -Spring Cleaning: Easy Rust Prevention


March 15,2012- Spring Already?...

How different this Winter was from that of a year ago! We hardly had any snow this season. Coupled with the unseasonably warm weather the past week, and things in the RainyDayGarden really got kicked into gear. The growth in the garden is probably a week or more ahead of schedule.

The dwarf irises and crocuses have been out since the end of February. The tulips, day lillies, and even the peonies have poked through the ground. In fact, this is the earliest we we can recall the... [more] -Spring Already?


February 2,2012- HDTV tuner and antenna...

The NFL Super Bowl is this Sunday. A few lucky fans will be at the stadium, many will be at a local sports bar, but most of you (like us) will probably be watching the game at home. Today, there are many more ways to enjoy the big game beside just watching it on TV. There are live blogs and commentaries of the ads via the web, NFL play-by-play on the iPad, and your own instant replay on the computer if you are recording it with a digital tuner. We have put together a few gadgets to help you get the most out of Game Day. Of course, all of these suggestions are still applicable should you be more of a Downton Abbey than a football fan...and even better if you happen to be both!

Many readers have purchased a new large-screen TV the past few years, and probably get their TV signal from satellite or cable service providers. Maybe that is because they do not known that there is a free (and often higher quality) TV signal which can be pulled right out of the air. We have talked about this a few times in the past, but we feel obligated to... [more] - HDTV tuner and antenna


January 26,2012- Zerust FirstLook...

When we posted the review of the Craftsman project cart, we mentioned that lining the drawers was a good idea. Padding keep the tools from shifting and protect the drawer bottoms from getting scratched. Little did we know that we would receive a slew of suggestions for alternatives to using commercial paddings. Some folks line drawers with bubble wrap, others use carpet reminants, some even made custom-fitted liners with expanding foam! While we are as DIY-minded as anyone else, protecting our tools is one area where we don't mind looking for a professional solution.

A few readers suggested we check out Zerust. They offer drawer liners with a chemically-based rust inhibitor integrated into the material. In checking out the Zerust site, we noticed they offer the Zerust Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor (VCI) technology in a capsule form. We thought both were... [more] - Zerust FirstLook


January 25,2012- Craftsman GripLatch Series...

Proper tool storage is essential for both the organization and the protection of the tools we use for our projects and repairs. As we are constantly acquiring new tools, we are always on the lookout for good tool box deals. We have had enough experience with tool boxes and tool chests to know what to look for when we go shopping for one on Craigslist.

A few weeks ago, we came upon a listing for a "like new" 41" Stainless Steel top chest at a price which we just could not pass up. After a bit of haggling, we came to an agreement and are now the owner of a tool box from Craftsman's heavy-duty GripLatch series. The last Craftsman tool chest we acquired was the Rolling Project Center from their QuietGlide line. Having both in house enabled us to... [more] - Craftsman GripLatch Tool Chest


January 16,2012- Snow on bamboo...

Winter has finally arrived in New England. The temperature scraped the low teens for a few days last week, and even dipped into the single digits over the weekend. To the delight of commuters and the dismay of skiers, snow has not made much of an appearance (discounting the freak October storm) except for some light dustings.

A few days ago, we woke up to such a dusting and mananged to grab a few quick snaps before the sun got high enough in the sky to make it all disappear. The one downside of taking shots so early was we could not get any pics with the new glass feeders sparkling in the sunlight. We had mentioned these glass feeders from the Gardener's Supply Company in the 2011 Holiday Gift Guide. The Crackle Glass and Moon feeders are designed to... [more] - Moon and Crackle Glass Birdfeeder



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