November 11, 2011

5 Tips for Mower Maintenance this Fall


This is from the folks at John Deere and it's about mower maintenance. If you're like us and have an "on-again-off-again" relationship with small engines, below are a few tips worth following to keep the frustrating machines in working order.

Our feelings on these engines is summed up by something we overheard FOTS (father of Tool Snob) say a few weekends ago regarding his string trimmer: "I don't care if it trims grass, I just want it to start."

5 Tips for Mower Maintenance this Fall

We are well into fall and the dog days of summer are behind us, but before you abandon your lawn care duties, remember that your mower can be used year round for Mother Nature cleanup duty. Most riding lawn mowers, like the John Deere X310, or zero-turn-radius mowers, like the Z665 Ztrakā„¢, come with a variety of attachments that can change with the seasons. When using your mower to mulch leaves this fall, be sure to provide proper and frequent maintenance checks for optimum performance.

Look for leaves. Fall leaves, though beautiful, present a particular challenge for mowers. Double check your air filters for stoppage. If filters are blocked, they will suck unfiltered air from elsewhere and damage the motor.

Stay sharp.
The added strain of leaf mulching may dull the mower blade more quickly. You can use 20 percent more fuel with a dull blade, so either sharpen up or have a spare blade on hand.

For those who prefer to let their mowers hibernate for the winter months, there are a few important things to check before putting your machine in storage. Don't wait till spring to clean up your machines. A little work now will save you time and money when it comes to rolling your mower back out of the garage next year.

Hit the deck. Clipping and debris buildup under the deck can cut airflow and reduce effectiveness. A dirty deck can also cause rust and corrosion during winter storage. Turn the mower on its side and clean the undercarriage with a hose.

Fuel Fix. Add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank to prevent separation that can lead to corrosion. After adding the stabilizer, run the engine for five minutes.

Give it a once over. Tighten all nuts and bolts; check belts filters, safety shields and guards. Replace any damaged or missing parts, including spark plugs. Check tire tread and pressure. Make sure your mower will be ready to hit the ground running next spring.

Spending a little bit of time maintaining your mower throughout the fall and possibly prepping it for winter storage will save you a lot of hassle in the spring. As temperatures drop, don't drop the ball on important lawn care duties.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

April 21, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hardwood Flooring (but had no idea you had to ask)


The guys over at OneProjectCloser have put together a mega-mondo-eXtreme-BigBubba-Uber-Darth Vader compendium on how to install hardwood flooring. We checked it out and it seems to us that they've got all the bases covered. They even talk about the crucial (but often ignored) step of acclimating the wood before install. We can't tell you how may floors we've seen open up because of people ignoring this step.

So if you've got a hardwood floor install in your future, go and bookmark that puppy for later reference.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (4) | social bookmarking

November 4, 2010

Three Ways to Stack Firewood


For the past six weeks, I've done little other than stack firewood. I woke up early and stacked wood. I stacked wood at lunch. I stacked wood in the dark. I dreamed about stacking wood. There were times when I would be stacking for hours and it would feel like the pile got larger, not smaller. There were also times when I wanted to build a massive and unsteady pile of wood, lay on the ground and let it topple on top of me.

But I finally prevailed. Man beats trees like rock beats scissors. In addition to a many-beer celebration accomplishing the task, I also wrote about the stacking process for Popular Mechanics. In the article, I compared three different methods of wood stacking, judging each for stability, speed, ease of stack, that sort of thing.

If you're interested, check out the article here.

If you're not, check out the Tool Snob retrospective that I wrote a couple years ago here (it's worth it for the photo).

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

October 19, 2010

Autumn Migration


As the leaves start changing here in the Northeast, we often are lucky enough to hear the sounds of the geese heading south to warmer places. It's a wonderful noise and if you've never heard or seen a flock heading south, you're missing out. It's the true, and most poignant, mark of summer's end.

On top of all the maudlin prose it makes us eject, the noise of the geese is also our annual reminder that it's time for another, possibly more important migration. This one isn't made by any breed of animal, but rather our crates of glues, caulks, and epoxies. Theirs is a treacherous journey from the oftentimes not heated garage workshop to the basement paint shelves where they will remain unfrozen for another winter.

So don't forget to tend to your glues and other freezable liquids as things get colder. We have first hand knowledge that it's no fun to find a frozen bottle of Titebond II in the middle of January.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

August 4, 2010

How to Sharpen Lawn Mower Blades

We're well into the mowing season now and it's likely that you've heard the wonderful, 'mower blade meets rock' noise a few times. You might have also heard, 'mower blade meets tree root,' or even our favorite, 'mower blade meets random piece of metal that we think our son brought out to the lawn.'

Regardless of the specifics, our guess is that your blades need sharpening. Your options are (in increasing order of ruggedness) to 1) buy a new blade 2) bring your beat up blade to the hardware store and have them sharpen it or 3) sharpen it yourself.

If you've never sharpened a mower blade before, it's not too difficult and when it's all said and done it gives you that nice glow of self-sufficiency.

If you're interested, here are a couple videos that seem like a good place to start...

This guy just uses a bench grinder:

And this one is slightly more involved:

If this is all very discouraging, there is a nice selection of mower blades over at

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

July 1, 2010

My Fix It Up Life - Drywall Tips

Mark and Theresa are at it again, and this time it's dishing out some drywalling tips. They're also saying good things about the Rockwell JawHorse and anyone who gives that tool the thumbs up, gets a thumbs up from us. We've actually used the JawHorse in exactly the same way that Mark describes and it's a revelation for the lone worker.

Check out their radio show at

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

June 16, 2010

Plans for an Adirondack Chair from Skil

double_adirondack.jpgOn their website, Skil is offering free plans for a nice looking double Adirondack chair. It might be something for dad to do with all of his new tools that you're getting him for Father's Day.

In other Skil news, they also have a 12" compound miter saw for short money at Lowes and Looks like a nice saw and it's only $200.

Get the plans here.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

January 20, 2010

Lowe's How-To

lowes_logo.jpgWe just saw that Lowe's has a nice selection of how-tos over at their site. A lot of the times, these things are really basic and pretty uninteresting, but the projects at Lowe's range from simple (build a sandbox) to complex (installing wall tile and dividing a room). Along with the hand's on knowledge, there are also some nice articles like Understanding Heat Transfer and Choosing a Color Scheme.

Check out a list of articles here.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

January 14, 2010

Arbortech Project Plans

arbortech_celtic_art.jpgWe were just wandering around the interweb and saw that Arbortech, makers of the fantastic Mini-Grinder and Power Chisel have a number of project plans posted up on their site. Of course, the plans are geared toward their unique woodworking tools, but they could also be completed with traditional tools as well. We tend to like these kinds of presentations and Arbortech's project selection goes beyond the standard "spice rack" variety and into territory that's a little more unusual.

Some of the plans are in .pdf format and some are videos on youtube, like this one...

Check out the plan page at Arbortech.

Our review of the Mini Grinder is here.
Our review of the Power Chisel is here.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

May 13, 2009

Summer Project Plans from Lowes and Skil

boot_bird_house.jpgLowes and Skil have teamed up to offer four nice project plans to enhance your summer outdoor activities. They are all relatively basic and are actually part of a contest encouraging families to build the projects together. The plans are for a birdhouse (not the one pictured); two different lawn games; and a nice deck cooler, so when you're done building, you and your 12-year-old can pound some cold Budweisers.

The plans are nice because they don't leave any room for error in the 'materials acquisition' phase. They tell you everything you need right up front so there are no return trips to the store to get the wood glue you forgot. They're also very easy to understand and they cover the basics so well that if you want to get creative and improvise, it'll be pretty easy.

To enter the contest, you need to make one of the four projects with the assistance of your wee one. Grand prize is a trip for four to one of ten theme parks, other prizes include a Skil workshop and other Skil tools, including the amazing Power Wrench (our review here)

Birdhouse plans
Ring Toss plans
Bag Toss Plans
Deck Box Plans
Information on the Lowes/Skil contest is here.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

October 28, 2008

Using a Water Level

water_level.jpgSometimes all the finest and most current technology can't out-do the tried and true method of a few thousand years. All the fancypants level companies have yet to create one that can project from one room, down a hallway, around a corner, and into another room. So put away your Stabilas, Fat Max's, and your PLSs and try out a water level.

We used a water level a few years back on a waterproofing basement job. The floor, if you could call it that, was wildly uneven, and the basement twisted and turned like the Minotaur's labryinth on the Isle of Crete. Using a standard laser level would have taken time and would have required moving it around and making benchmarks. Instead, we filled a tube with water and had all of our points marked by coffee break.

Fine Homebuilding's Using a Water Level

factsfacts Making and Using a Water Level

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

October 23, 2008

How-To Install Crown Molding

crown_molding_extreme.jpgIf you're looking down the barrel of a crown molding project, it's worthwhile to check out the article over at Extreme How-To, called, "Crown Molding in Review." Author Matt Weber goes over all the basics of installation, focusing on how to cope inside corners.

One thing that the article doesn't spend too much time on is how to actually cut the piece. It's a complicated process and would take an entire article in itself to explain. But, lookee here, Extreme How-To also has another article in its archives on just that topic. That one is called, "DIY Crown Molding and Trim."

We would suggest reading them both for a good picture of what's involved. Also, a while back, we looked at the Bench Dog Crown Cut, which looks like it could be a big help with the cutting aspect of the project.

Crown Molding in Review (article) (article)
Bench Dog Crown Cut at Amazon

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

October 10, 2008

How to Make Your Own Milk Paint

milk_paint.jpgCharles & Hudson, a wonderful clearinghouse of interesting and offbeat DIY articles, just posted a great entry on how to make your own milk paint. Even if you're not familiar with milk paint, it's likely that you've seen it before. The look of it is earthly and rustic and it's a great way to get that distressed look that is so prevalent at places like Ballard Designs. According to Charles and Hudson, the traditional paint... enjoying something of a revival. Because it is solvent/fume-free, it is considered an eco-friendly, no-VOC alternative to oil and latex paint.

If you get it in a store, milk paint is available in a gallon, like any other paint, or you can get it in powder form.

Read the article at Charles & Hudson here.

Buy milk paint and books about milk paint at

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

September 23, 2008

How to Build a Deck, Part One

builder_logo.gifOur good pal Mark Clement has got a great deck building video up over at Builder TV. Like all of Mark's work, we like it because he sticks to the basics but at the same time he's very thorough with all the little details, like correct flashing placement, that first-timers might miss.

This is the first of a series of deck-building videos and covers the start of the project up to the installation of the ledger board. If you're thinking about putting a deck on, this video is a great place to start. There's a good deal of information packed into its ten minutes.

Watch the video here.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

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