Mossy pathway

Posted in Creative Reuse with tags , , , , on April 23, 2013 by Lax Cat Creations

pathway

Above is my Pinterest inspiration for the short walkway on the side of our house.

Below is our walkway before landscaping and our pile of bricks (from tearing down the chimney).

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pathway1

The fancier bricks were left scattered around our lot by the previous owners. The plants have some growing to do before it looks like the one on Pinterest but I really like how it turned out. It have a feeling I will LOVE it during the muddy Portland rainy season!

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Now I really need to do something about that empty space to the left…

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Microwave Cabinet – Extreme Makeover!

Posted in Creative Reuse, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

This ingenious upcycle post is compliments of Tom’s newly wed brother, Jon, and wife Carrie. They did an amazing job transforming this cabinet inside and out using pallets and a creating a butcher block top. I am privileged to share their creation…

before after

“Carrie and I had been looking for a project to do together and we had access to some tools that some friends let us use. We knew that we didn’t want to spend much money on the project and Carrie wanted to try to refurbish a piece of furniture. We looked in the classifieds for a cheap piece of furniture that we thought that we could improve.

I found a microwave stand that someone was selling for just 10 dollars.

First order of business was to disassemble it and see what we were working with under all the paint. Carrie thought of a design that would look good with a butcher block top and rustic look. We needed some material so we spent $7 at the ReStore on some old 2×2’s sitting in a bucket, a drawer, 2×4 that I would cut down for the face, and a nice piece of wood for the face of the drawer. We found some old pallets to use for the inside (free).

After a lot of sanding and some paint stripper we reached a solid wood body that was in great shape to reuse.

Carrie planed the 2×2’s down to size to get a hard edge for the butcher block. Then one by one we glued-and-screwed them together. For the end pieces we counter sunk the screws and capped them with dowels. After assembling the top we clamped it together and let it sit for a few days.We sanded the top from 100 to 320 grit, then we treated it with butcher block oil from Lowe’s ($12).  We applied four coats, scuff sanding with 400 grit between each coat. I’ve heard mineral oil can also work for this.

Once the face frame was cut and assembled, I disassembled the pallets and cut the slats to length.  The slats were installed on the floor of the cabinet and across the back to give it the rustic look.  We added a shelf as well.  Carrie wanted some legs for the cabinet and thought that we could use the left over pallet pieces. So we glued, clamped, and cut them to size.

We eventually found the hardware at Lowe’s ($10), despite looking at the ReStore.

After assembling the cabinet and putting the drawer in it was time for the finish. Using white spray paint, we coated the wood, though it was a hassle and took many coats. We would suggest using a spray gun or a very nice brush as this would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Once dry, we sanded the edges of the cabinet down to bare wood and used some old wood stain to coat the entire piece. Without allowing the stain to dry we wiped it off with an old rag. This not only stained the wood but also stained the white paint and gave it more of a cream color.

When the finish was dry, we attached the door and hardware along with the butcher block top.I tried to reuse every part of the original piece possible, but since we used a different top and left one side open we had some left over material to use for the next project.”

– Jon – Salt Lake City, UT

 
Click on photos to view gallery

I hope you find their creativity as inspiring as I do!

UPDATE:

Jon and Carrie sold this item to a couple remodeling their kitchen, making $100 in profit. They are now on the lookout for their next project. Stay tuned…

money

DIY Mei Tai Baby Carrier

Posted in Creative Reuse, Tutorials, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

What can you make with an old pillowcase, two curtains, a tablecloth, and 6 cloth diaper inserts? Well, lots of things probably, but how about a mei tai!

I cannot tell you how excited I am about this baby carrier.  In addition to it costing me nothing (I used what was in my linen closet), it was actually very easy to make. I am NOT a seamstress and this was my first real sewing project. Thankfully, I had my dear sister to help. She is less of an amateur than I, and owns a sewing machine to boot!

I started out following the tutorial by SkippyDooDah and ended up changing a few things to meet my needs better. I left the panel rectangular and sewed the the straps at a right angle instead of on a diagonal. This helps keep the straps from sliding off the shoulders. I added a hood and made the straps longer to fit Tom. I also made the waist band thicker for extra support.

Below are the dimensions and materials I used. You definitely want to use strong fabric or reinforce it like I did with the straps if you are at all unsure.

Shoulder straps – Two pieces- 3m x 25cm.  I used black curtains and sewed a strip of the green curtain inside for reinforcement. 
 
Padding for shoulders – I used 2 Fuzzibunz elite diaper inserts for each strap (4 total). Each insert is  28.5cm x 10.5cm. We sewed 2 together lengthwise so the total length of the padding is 57cm.
 
Waist strap – 2m 8cm x 30cm. I used a very dense tablecloth.
 
Padding for waist – 2 Bumgenius diaper inserts sewn together lengthwise. Each insert is 30.5cm x 13.5cm.
 
Body panel – 45cm x 40cm. I found that the width of a standard size pillowcase is the perfect height. It also means three less edges to sew!
 
Hood – 32cm x 22cm. I used the tablecloth for this as well. I cut off the hem of the tablecloth to make the ties.

I cannot stress how important it is to iron all of the folds before you sew. This probably goes without saying for the experienced seamstress but if you are like me and like to wing things, this is for you!

Pillowcase panel

Reinforcing the shoulder straps

Shoulder straps are sewn folded over the panel. Straps are then sewn shut from the top end leaving an opening for the padding.

2 bumgenius diaper inserts in waistband

No-sew hood ties from the tablecloth hem

After all of the pieces were attached, we sewed several lines lengthwise on all three straps. This keeps everything in place and gives it a finished look.

Since making this I have retired my moby and use this exclusively every day. I think $150 to buy a mei tai would have been money well spent but how cool is it that we made it instead?

Mei tais are extremely versatile and comfortable to wear. They can be worn in front or back for infants through toddlers. After you’ve sewn your mei tai, learn how to wrap it here.

On another but related note, is there anything more lovely than a sleeping baby?

Snowboard Bench

Posted in Creative Reuse, Tom's Boards, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

This picture is the inspiration behind the name “Lax Cat Creations.”  This is one of my first “creations”.  The Elan 155cm snowboards were from Arizona Snowbowl where I first went snowboarding for “real”.  I had spent many a school snow day in the woods on a cheap K-Mart snowboard, but the Elan 155 was the first legit board I rode.

The construction crew I was on was building a Santa Fe styled home and had a number of viga poles throughout the house.  These two are the ones that didn’t get thrown into the wood stove that winter.  I used a chain saw, angle grinder, and drill to create the bench.

Arian never let me bring it in the house, so it was relegated to the deck. When moving from Bend, OR to Portland, we were trying to downsize and the bench and I parted ways. During the last hour of our weekend garage sale, a single mom stopped in looking for a gift for her five-year old boy who just learned to ride that winter.

I do miss adding stickers from snowboard trips and new gear, but the thought of it in some young boys room acting as a catch-all brings a smile to my face.

– Tom

Finished Nursery

Posted in Creative Reuse, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

The nursery is finished!

Well actually it was finished about 4 1/2 months ago, in time for Ansel’s arrival, but I am just now getting around to write about it. I am so pleased with how it turned out. There is a lot going on but that is how I tend to decorate. I get going and want every part of the room to be special. At least I know visual stimulation is NOT something Ansel will lack!

I also like that many elements in this room are appropriate for when he’s older as well. (Where the Wild Things Are, anyone?) This room also works for a child of either gender. Heck, I would put half of this stuff in my own bedroom.

Click picture to see the panorama full size.

Here I am, so glad to be finished with this room and so ready to have the baby. Four months later I have yet to look that well-rested!

Twisted Juniper Cat Tree – Part 2 – Platforms

Posted in All Things Trees, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

Patience. This tree took a lot of patience. In particular, fitting the randomly shaped platforms between and around tree branches.  This portion of the project was the slowest, yet in my opinion, makes the tree really pop.

Using the shape of the tree, we determined where the platforms would be, what size and shape they were to become, and how we envisioned the cats getting to each one. Saki is a spry and wiry guy, but Pixie…not so much. She could be called small, but portly. To date, most of the smaller in-between levels are unused by Saki, but Pixie will carefully pick her way to the top most every time she uses the tree.

Using a 2′ level, string line, tape measure, sharpie, and an eye for straight lines, we started in. A laser level would be a good idea too. The first points to be defined and cut were the bigger branches.  Smaller limbs can be manipulated more easily than the anchor branches.

The main tools to make the cuts are a reciprocating saw (“Sawzall”), angle grinder, hand saws of various shapes and sizes, and the good ole fashion hammer and chisel.  I generally start with the sawzall, dig with the chisel, and fine tune with the grinder.

***A word to the wise…wear some protective gear. I am no model of wisdom…***

In order to ensure the best fit and location, cut and fit the platforms one at a time. We would cut the shape we wanted, then modify as the tree demanded. To get tight and snug connections, whittling away at both branch and platform is mandatory.

We cut our platforms out of plywood scraps from one of my job sites. Scraps of this size are pretty easy to come by as they are considered useless once they are less than 16″ wide. These platforms are 1 1/8″ thick. If you cannot find thicker plywood, two pieces of 1/2″ laminated and screwed together will work just fine.

Live load testing is recommended.

To make things comfy, we rounded off all the bottom edges with a router and 1/4″ round over bit. Then, an old sleeping bag pad was cut to fit.

After trying to cut, then glue the pad in place, we reverted to cutting the pad a little big, gluing it to the platform, then trimming – much faster.  After applying 3M spray adhesive, the platforms were placed foam down and loaded up with anything heavy to ensure a good bond.

We picked up a couple of yards of fleece from a fabric store and set to wrapping the platforms. Fleece is soft and stretchy, just what was needed to deal with the irregular platform shapes.

The top was covered first, wrapped over the edges and attached it to the bottom using Elmer’s glue and staples. A second piece of fleece was cut just shy of the edge of the platforms and glued over the folds and staples.

This portion of the work was completed after all the platforms had been cut and fit into place. Minor adjustments to the tree were needed due to the extra thickness.

I used a variety of deck screws ranging from 1″ to 6″ in length to attach the platforms to the tree limbs.  My goal was to hide the fasteners as much as possible and to do so, I countersunk the screws as much as I could. Many of them are buried in knot holes and crevices that the tree offered.

A couple were driven through the fleece and platform and into the tree. In these instances, the screws often sliced right through the fleece leaving a small, barely noticeable  hole.

In cases where the holes had to be drilled, some red and black markers, then stain provide a decent camouflage. If you were a real pro, you’d probably use wood filler, but that’s above a beyond what our little life demands.

One of our platforms surrounds a branch completely and had to be installed in two pieces. The picture above and below show the fleece wrap of the platform after it has been attached to the tree.

And that is how we assembled the platforms. Comfy, clean, and secure.

The Forest Ranger that pulled us over quizzically eyed the massive juniper in the truck bed, “It’s a little early for Christmas tree cutting in July don’t you think?” Not when you’ve got 6 months of preparations… 

 

It doubles as a lovely Christmas tree, don’t you think?

Twisted Juniper Cat Tree – Part 1 – Base

Posted in All Things Trees, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

So my wife has been wanting an indoor habitat for our two cats ever since we got Mr. Saki.  Every time she would bring it up or show me the hideous carpet explosions online, I’d cringe.  We put out heads together and thought, “what if the cat tree was made from a real…tree?”

And that was it. Every hike from there on out we were eyeing trees and debating on what would look the most artistic. Aspens were on the list, but they are hard to find in ample supply. Junipers, on the other hand, grow like weeds in the high desert.

This project took over a year to complete with large gaps in production. After all is said and done, the cats love it, and we love it.

It did not take too long to find a good specimen for the tree in Central Oregon. Junipers have begun to grow so much that some are concerned about the trees’ effects on the environment. I am personally allergic to the pollen, so there was a bit of joy in taking a limb off this tree.

There is a bit of back story about what happened on our way back to the pavement; forest service, flashing lights…we’ll tell you about it over a drink and good food…

When we got home, it was very clear we had over estimated the size of tree we needed. We trimmed off the useless twigs and branches and identified the main beams we would use for the tree.

Using a wire brush and chisel, we stripped the outer layer of flaking bark to expose a nice red layer of bark.  on the more dead portions,  there was build up of dead bark and dirt.

Working in custom home building affords one with beam cut-offs (or “drops”) of sizable proportions.  One such drop was selected for the base of our tree.  This was a 5-1/8″ x 18″ glulam beam that I cut into an 18″ x 18′ square.

After staining the base, I used a piece of steel plate (about 3/16″ thick) to run two 1/2″ x 8″ lag bolts and a long piece of all-thread through.  To counter sink the plate and soon to be inserted lags, I made a number of cuts with a Skil Saw and then knocked and chiseled  out the wood.  A router would work good for something like this, but I’m a framer.

Using the lags to hold the tree in position, I drilled through the base and into the tree with a 1/2″ x 16″ long drill bit.  I disassembled the tree from the base and drilled and additional 4 inches. This hole would receive the 5/8″ all-tread and tie the base to the tree.

We injected construction adhesive into the hole we drilled, re-positioned and tightened down the lags, then drove the 5/8″ x 24″ all-thread into the tree.  The drilled hole is only 15″ deep, so the all-thread needed some extra love with the hammer to take it the full 23″.

After driving the all-thread into the glue, hole, and tree, we let is sit for a few days to allow the glue to bond.  Then, we torqued down the nut and re-tightened the lag bolts.  Care must be had with the all-thread bolt.  Too much tightening and the all-thread could be pulled out of the tree.

In the following posts you’ll notice cross over between the stage of construction and what is being described. In reality, we set out to accomplish one thing, but would work on everything effected by that single item. Staining is one of those items.

Arian found a number of stains at the local Re-Store and mixed up a color she liked for the dead sections of wood. Using a dark stain and multiple coats of polyurethane, the color of the bark really stood out against the dark stained grain.  The three coats of polyurethane also served to protect the bark from further peeling and sap dripping on floors.

To be continued…

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