Steampunk Table Lamp

With all the plumbing work I've been doing lately as a Bernzomatic Torchbearer, I wanted to create something a little artistic and crafty from the same material I'd been using on my home improvement projects.

There's just something satisfying about soldering copper pipe.

Smoke and flame.

Molten metal.

Copper plumbing work has an industrial, artistic beauty about it. It's too bad most of it ends up hidden, sealed inside walls.

I've always loved the retro-tech look of Steampunk design. Wikipedia says, Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Yeah, that.

Planning

I started sketching ideas for a Steampunk lamp that would use various sizes of copper pipe as well as interesting fittings and gadgets. I did the sketches before I went shopping for parts, so I knew I'd have to make some adjustments, depending on what doodads I could get my hands on.

Remodeling a Kid's Closet - Final Reveal

Our daughter's closet remodel is finally, finally done. It took way longer than it should have, but eh,..life, right? Plus, this wasn't just a dab-of-paint type project; I ripped into and through walls. Sawdust flew, drywall crumbled, and the light of day burst into this little room.



Before - Wasted Space

The closet was a huge mess. Although, it was a walk-in, it was small, and simply didn't offer a good use of of space. The doorway is offset, preventing storage on both walls.


There was just one shelf on the left, with a clothes-hanger lip, essentially a six-foot closet rod with heaps of kid junk piled on top. A battered play kitchen sat against the back wall, too heaped with books and toys to offer a play space, much less decent storage of any kind. 


To cap off the challenge, her room was technically not a legal bedroom. Our DIY Predecessors had put an addition on the house, essentially burying the bedroom in the interior of the house, without an egress window, or second means of escape, in the event of a fire.

The Battle Plan

I boiled the project down into a three point scope:
  1. Add a window to the exterior wall, for natural light and an emergency exit
  2. Trim the window, remove the shelf, repair and repaint the walls
  3. Create and expand storage to make it usable beyond the elementary school years
Following is a quick chronological tour of the action as it went down. I'll share links to the original posts, in all their detailed glory, at the end of this post.

Please forgive the odd-angled photography; it's damn near impossible to frame good shots inside a 4x6 closet.

Demolition Party 

We emptied the closet of Legos, army men, fast food happy meal toys, books, stuffed animals, loose change, and even a secret stash of fruit roll ups. There were some happy discoveries along the way, long lost toys and treasures.

I ordered the minimum size window to meet the egress requirements and laid out a rough opening with painter's tape. It was going to be a real trick to install shelving and a closet rod with the window effectively taking up the entire back wall. Eh,.. I'd figure that out later.

Gracie decorated what would be the opening with sharpies and more tape.

She was going to be a part of this project as much as possible. She was on hand to build a temporary clothing rack and load all her clothes so they could hang out in the dining room for a couple weeks several months.

We tore the self / hanger combo out together. The wall was pretty torn up, with nearly 40 years of paint and caulk build up and damage from who knows how many families moving in and out.


The New Window

Luckily, for this project, we have a wood sided home. I hope to stucco it at some point, but for now, it just took a bit of saw-work to slice the exterior siding open. I later took a whole sheet off, in order to get at the framing from the outside.

Studs had to be cut out and reinforcing framing had to be put into place to form the rough opening. Man, I just love using a framing nailer.

There was even a little plumbing that had to be redone for the exterior spigot and the swimming pool's autofill device.

The wall cavity got fresh insulation before being sealed up again behind a new sheet of siding.

I punched through the drywall, trimming it flush with the new, rough opening.

I waterproofed the opening and slipped the brand new window into place. Exterior trim would come later.


Indoor Trim and Walls


Back indoors, I wrapped the interior of the window opening with select pine, to hide the framing, insulating foam, and waterproofing membrane.

I trimmed the window with various sizes of select pine, creating an easy, nice-looking Craftsman style look. There were no miter cuts, just 90 degree butt joints. It's an experiment to see if we like it, before we replicate it elsewhere in the house.

My helper returned to repair the walls. She absolutely loved it; she absolutely made a mess. It was great.

I deployed my high tech, dust-extraction system in an attempt to keep drywall dust from getting everywhere in the house during sanding.  (Note: High-tech, dust-extraction = blowing a cheap fan out an open window)

Since this was a small wall area, I didn't deploy the big texture blaster I'd used on the family room remodel. I just used the canned stuff and sprayed the wall.


In-Wall Shelving

As sort of a project within a project, I decided to slice into the large, blank wall and create a recessed shelving unit. Why cover the wall with posters when some extra storage space could be stolen from the inner recesses of an interior partition wall?

I peeled a large section of drywall off, revealing the sweet, secret space hidden within.

It was not load bearing, but it was a big cavity. After I removed a couple studs, the opening got re-framed with 2x4's to keep the wall nice and stable.

Gracie and I built the shelf carcass in the garage with 1x4's pocket holes and bead board.

I pocket screwed a couple horizontal shelves in place and attached a face frame to give the piece a built-in look and give it just a little more depth.

This was a fun, little bonus addition to the closet that will grow over time, starting with Minecraft, Pokemon, and Shopkins toys.  In the future, she will likely end up filling it with nail polish, perfume, or whatever our future teenage Gracie wants to load them up them with.

The finishing touches

Gracie chose blue walls. Don't even try to tell her blue is not a girl color. She'll probably bounce you off the sidewalk and tell you that you are a girl's color. Blue it would be then, with crisp, white trim.

Years ago, we had to have someone come to the house to measure and custom order cellular window shades. Now, thanks to the miracles of modern science and engineering, an average Joe can simply walk in from the street and snag them off the shelf at their local home center. No more Winnie the Pooh bed sheet for a window shade.

With the new window, slightly in the way, I couldn't use any form of end-to-end shelving. I went with a clean, white, wire shelving / organizing system, suspended from a horizontal support, screwed into the wall framing.

The system is adjustable, able to resize and adapt, with Gracie's growing need. We loaded it with plenty of shelves to hold her stuff. Some are far above her reach, for seldom used items.

Clothing hanger rods, were also included, with clips to hold them beneath a shelf.


Done!!  

The finished closet is chock-full of grade-school age, mighty, girl-of-action stuff. It's got natural light, with an egress window for safety, and a bit of fun style.


It's gone from from a boring, faded cave, heaped with debris dating back to toddlerhood to a colorful space with contrasting trim and shelving. The room looks and acts completely different.

Books don't do well vertically on wire shelving.

It's got plenty of storage and organization room now. We've pulled items into the closet, like the dirty clothes hamper, freeing up even more play space in her room. 

Is it still technically a "shoe rack" with 75% slippers?

I even had enough leftover shelving pieces to build this little rack over the doorway, for stuff we rarely use.

Honestly, I hope she forgets about that God-awful "Easy bake" oven.

With free space opened up in her bedroom, naturally we find Gracie spending more time playing and reading in her closet. 

The curator in her element.
A glutton for punishment?

If you want to read the how I did it detail, step-by-step, as well as some of the decision making points in this project, check out the sub posts that tell the entire tale. Pour yourself a beverage, sit back with some munchies, and treat yourself to the whole story:
  1. Closet Remodel and Emergency Escape
  2. Adding a Window: Framing Fun and Foolishness
  3. Adding a Window: Sliding on Some Siding 
  4. Adding a Window: The Install
  5.  Super Easy DIY Craftsman Style Window Trim
  6. DIY Built-in-the-Wall Shelving - Reclaim hidden storage space in your home

I'd love to hear what you think of this one in the comments below. Thanks for reading! 


Review: DeWalt 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
I picked up a DeWalt 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool recently and ran it through its paces on a recent, closet remodel project. Spoiler: I'm really pleased with it.

An oscillating multi-tool is a handy class of tool that features an interchangeable blade or attachment that rapidly rotates back and forth, on the horizontal axis. The blade travel is slight, nothing like the inch or so of travel of a big, bad reciprocating saw. These tools can make fine cuts in difficult to reach areas, even straight, plunging cuts. Many brands of Oscillating Multi Tools have appeared over the last several years, along with accessories beyond cutting blades.

My first OMT experience

I became more familiar with the somewhat new class of Oscillating Multi-Tools, having started with a cheapo import model that sold me on the concept. I bought the thing on a whim, on a weekend coupon sale. I found loved the things a multi-tool could do. I've used it to slice door molding, cut drywall and siding, trim bamboo flooring, and even hack shingles.

Harbor Freight Oscillating Multi Tool

It was a perfect type of tool to have in the cabinet, and got more use than I thought it would. I loved the concept, but I did have issues with the tool itself. I tore up the cheap wood cutting blades like crazy. Blade changes were a pain and I had to periodically re-tighten them the with an allen wrench. The tool was loud and sent a lot of vibration up my arm. I decided to replace it because it got really hot under extended use, feel the heat through work gloves hot. Still, I got a decent life span from the tool, considering the price.

The Upgraded Experience

I wanted to a cordless model, so I decided to buy the DeWalt, the #1 Best Seller seller on Amazon.com, with a 90% five-star rating. The version I bought is the DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit, which came with a bag and a bunch of accessories. This kit costs a little under $200, less for the bare, cordless tool less if you already have enough 20V MAX batteries and prefer to buy the attachments a la carte. A similarly outfitted kit can be picked up for about $50 less for the corded model. I've also seen it included with some of the larger, cordless combo kits, if you are financially blessed enough to bag a sweet pile of new lithium-ion power tools in one swoop, and make me horribly jealous. 

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
Image: Amazon.com

To Arms! 

I'm embarrassed to admit the condition that first took the DeWalt into battle. When framing for the new window, I'd managed to shoot a couple framing nails, from the exterior of the house, through the framing and the drywall, into the interior of the closet I was remodeling. Furthermore, I neglected to address it before I'd installed the interior trim. This thick nail was in a perfect position to prevent me from getting a reciprocating saw, a hack saw, or even cutting pliers in to cut it off. 

I put the bi-metal blade in, 90 degrees to the tool, and commenced slicing the nails. Rather than a friction-fit, bolt and washer attachment, the DeWalt uses clamp system, with teeth that grab the blade, making it impossible to rotate. The blade didn't budge as I pressed into my cut with perpendicular force.

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
blade mounted 90 degrees to the tool

I figured these things were suited for nail encrusted wood, so they'd be good for cutting bare framing nails. I think there was too much wobble in the way I was holding the tool. I managed to dull the blade up more than I'd hoped, but it worked. 



Using Off Brand Blades

The next task I tried was to cut a large drywall opening for my in-wall closet shelving project. For this cut, I used a blade I already had in inventory. It was a Harbor Freight, 4" crescent shaped, steel blade. with the wide, curved tooth edge, I could cut a long line, changing the angle of the tool, so my grip and arm position could be adjusted for comfort. DeWalt makes higher-quality, similarly-shaped blade, but I wanted to test the included universal accessory adapter included with the kit I'd purchased. This piece utilizes a the bolt and washer type connection similar to my old tool, but it snugged up much tighter. It allowed me to use the off-brand blade without any issue. 

 DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
An off brand blade mounted via the Universal Accessory Adapter 

Oscillating Tool Guide System

Cutting those long, straight lines freehand was a concern before I started, but it was a piece of cake. First of all, this tool is smoooooth. I don't know if it's better build quality, or the brushless motor, but the DeWalt didn't vibrate and rattle as much as my old tool. It positively purred in my grip. Fitted with the removable DeWalt Oscillating Tool Guide System (included in the kit), I was able to roll along, pressing the guide against the wall as I went, for added stability. 

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
Oscillating Tool Guide System

It's stable enough to comfortably cut one handed, almost like a pair of scissors.

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
One-handed, overhead cutting, using the Oscillating Tool Guide System

Accessory Changes

The DeWalt uses a tool-free, accessory clamp system, with a big spring-loaded lever and those gripping teeth I mentioned earlier. The tapered teeth slip into holes in the blade and grip tight. This is one of those features I didn't know I missed when using my original tool. I had simply dealt with hunting around for the special Allen wrench to make changes and periodic re-tightening.


DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
Quick, tool-free blade change

Battery life

I challenged the multi-tool during my project, by performing plunge cuts inside the wall cavity through 2x4's. I completely cut through the boards in four places; two locations were actually doubled 2x4's. I sliced a couple nails in the process too. All of this, including the drywall cutting, was done on a single battery charge, with juice to spare. DeWalt claims a 57% increased run-time due to the brush-less motor. I was really pleased, because I only have the one 20 V MAX battery on hand. My aging fleet of cordless tools are running on last generation, monstrous Ni-Cad batteries that I couldn't swap into the tool.

20 V MAX Battery life gauge

The tool was powerful, yet lightweight and easy to handle. I could fit the thing inside the wall cavity, with enough room for my fingers to grip it. Of course, my entire hand wouldn't fit in there to pull the trigger comfortably, but there is a trigger lock feature to keep it running, something else my original tool didn't enjoy. 

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
Tight Spaces

It plowed through the cuts fairly quickly. Of course, it was slower than a reciprocating saw would have done, chewing full-speed. I probably wouldn't reach for this tool in an open stud-wall situation with both tools on hand, but that's not what it's made for. This little soldier is a commando, trained for precision strikes, in difficult-to-reach territory and, with a variety of accessories, it's prepared to take whatever weapon it needs to complete that mission.

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
Plunge cutting a 2x4

Light it up

Seriously? A headlight? It's another feature I would not have actively added to my shopping list, thinking it a silly inclusion, like dealer added pin-striping and mud-flaps on a car. However, at the end of the day, I absolutely loved it; I was lining up my cuts on pencil lines, hiding in the shadowy recesses of a wall cavity. It was awesome. In fact, at one point, because I can be an idiot, I dropped my remote camera trigger down inside the wall and simply shined the tool's LED headlight down the wall to locate it.
(Note: The Oscillating tool does not include any feature whatsoever to reach three feet down inside a tight wall cavity and fish a feeble-fingered Blogger's critical, photography item out. Disappointing, you'd think they'd have thought of that and added some kind of Bat-Grapple thing. I gotta deduct points for this omission.)

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
Bright idea

I found the tool versatile and enough to use throughout the entire project, I even used it like a pair of power shears to cut the beadboard backer. I rough cut it to size, then trimmed it flush, once it was tacked in place.

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit

Detail Sanding

I popped on the sander accessory and gave my project a good once over. The kit I purchased includes this fitting, plus a decent supply of sandpaper, in three grits. 

How do you like my dust extraction system in the background? Wintertime in Phoenix baby! 

Sanding with a DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit
Detail Sanding attachment with 120 grit


No complaints on the sanding, I slipped a piece of 120 grit on the hook-and-loop pa and went to town. I rounded the edges slightly, cleaned up my puttied nail holes, and gave the whole piece a once over, including the inner corners. The tool was easy to handle. I loved not having to fiddle around with a clumsy power cord while I sanded the piece.

DEWALT DCS355D1 20V XR Lithium-Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit

Bottom line, I really like this tool. I'm sold on the concept of a multi-tool in general, but this DeWalt came through with everything I wanted, and more. It's well balanced, powerful, and gets great battery life. You will not be disappointed if you add this gem to your DIY tool arsenal.




This is a non-sponsored post, but I have included Amazon.com affiliate links for your convenience. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I'll earn a modest commission to help run the site, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for all your support.


DIY Water Heater Maintenance and Custom Drain Upgrade

It's been a year and a half since we replaced our aging water heater. The old one had become filled with sediment, rusted, and its elements burned up, destroying the unit. A water heater is an expensive appliance to replace. I don't want to do it again anytime soon, so I decided I'd do annual maintenance on it.

I also wanted to upgrade the cheap, plastic drain valve from the factory. With all the experience with soldering I've gotten this year as a Bernzomatic Torchbearer, I figured I'd craft a custom valve assembly that would allow me to direct a drain hose in a gentle sweep towards the out-of-doors. More on that in a minute.

The project is easy in concept, disconnect the unit (power and water), drain it, check the sacrificial anode rod, and replace the valve. Piece of cake, in concept. 

Disconnecting electricity was the easiest. I'd installed a simple shut off switch a couple years ago. It was an easy project that keeps me from running outside to shut off the power at the circuit breaker. Flip the switch and the unit is dead.


The water was also easy to disengage. When I'd installed this unit, I'd added valves on both the hot and cold water lines. (Of course, I'd reversed the red and blue colors for some pea-witted reason). I also turned on the hot water to the laundry tub, to empty the line a little.


Moving merrily on to the next step to drain the water out, I attached a garden hose and opened the valve with a screwdriver to let the water flow freely.      


Yep -"flow freely". Dang it. It was completely jammed up with sediment. I couldn't get a drop through the hose. Even with the valve removed, only a dribble of water seeped out. This would not be the easy, piece-of-cake I'd imagined. 

I started poking a piece of electrical cable in through the drain hole and twisting it around. I got a little water and oatmeal-looking sediment to come out. 


After a healthy bit of poking, I got water and crud flowing a little faster. There wasn't enough pressure to push all the way through the hose, so I used a handy drill-powered pump to suck the water out of the broiler pan I was using to catch the gunk (shhhh...don't tell my wife). I started making a pretty nice mess, too. 


Uuuughhhh...


When I figured I had enough water out of the tank, I opened the pressure release valve to reduce the vacuum in the tank. It helped speed up the flow. 


After a while, I was able to hook the hose up with a 6" threaded nipple and empty the tank. I turned the cold water back on and off a few times to flush the rest of the sediment out of the tank.

Temporary loose valve.

Finally, I got to start building my new drain valve assembly. I wanted a threaded 90-degree bend that was close enough to the tank to prevent tripping over. It also needed to be removable, in case I had another sediment clog.

I clamped and cleaned a piece of 3/4" copper pipe and a threaded fitting, preparing them for soldering.

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

A little flux on both sides of the joint and the first piece was ready for the heat.


I laid down the heat on the fitting side of the union causing the flux to sizzle and bubble. The TS8000 High Intensity Torch is the sweetest, smoothest torch in the Bernzomatic line. I love its one-handed operation and the ability to upgrade from propane to hotter MAP-Pro gas.

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD
The Bernzomatic TS8000 High Intensity Torch
TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

This particular torch is good for larger pipe. On this 3/4" stuff, it was an absolute breeze. With the flux quickly bubbling under the ultra swirl, high intensity flame, I clicked the torch off and touched the seam with the solder which melted and was sucked into the gap. 

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

A quick quench from damp rag and the piece could be safely handled.


Since this is going to be an exposed piece, I touched it up with a quick dash of sandpaper. Beautiful.


I've really come to enjoy the satisfaction of making a nicely soldered piece. It's actually fun, when you get the hang of it.

I'm really sold on the MAP-Pro with the TS-8000. It gets the piece hotter faster, really speeding up how quickly the solder will liquify. I think I'm sticking with MAP-Pro for my future soldering projects.

 I repeated the same steps as I pieced together the new drain assembly.

Clean and Flux
TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD
Heat the fitting side until the flux bubbles and sizzles
Melt that solder!
The custom drain elbow was competed with a cleanup and a few wraps of teflon tape to the threaded fittings. This custom piece is quite a bit longer on one end due to the extra thick insulation of our water heater. 


Back at my now soaked and spattered worksite, I threaded the new piece carefully into the drain hole of the heater. When I measured for the elbow, I'd marked the pieces to ensure that it would be parallel to floor when the piece was full threaded in place. 


I'd chosen to install a threaded faucet rather than a soldered-on model so that I could remove it and spin the whole assembly off later. If I'd permanently attached it, the assembly would be too large to spin off in the event of another clog.


Done deal! The faucet I installed had a removable handle, so I could avoid having little hands messing around and spewing scalding hot water on themselves, flooding the garage. I hid the handle on top of the unit.


The last maintenance step was to check the anode rod. These are sacrificial shafts that stick into the tank from above and corrode over time. It's made from a material that is more susceptable to corrosion due to electrolytic action, so it gets eaten up before the lining of the tank. It greatly extends the life of the unit.

I'd picked up a rod when I was at the home center, so I was going to replace it regardless. It was a matter of popping a cap off the top of the unit, scratching some insulation out of the way and unscrewing it with a big 1 1/16" socket, on a 1/2" drive ratchet.


It was a little chewed up, but would probably last another year or so. Still, I wanted to replace it anyway while I had the tank empty and the water off. Water heaters are expensive.


It was tough to get out because there was a low ceiling in that area due to a heating and air conditioning duct. I had to bend it.

The replacement anode rod was actually jointed, allowing it to flex in order to drop it into the tank. Handy, eh? Just a little teflon tape on the threads and screw it into place.



Note that this unit is an electrical model. I shut it down with the flick of a switch. If you have a gas model, you're going to want to turn off the heat before draining it. Check the manufacturer's instructions for a safe shutdown. Make extra sure there's no gas escaping while you work, especially if you are doing some flaming torch work in the area. 

I filled the tank back up, fired up the power, and cleaned up the tools. Maintenance done. Next time it will be easier if I don't wait for the thing to fill up with gross sediment. Plus, I have a nice metal valve to speed the process. I think I'll adjust up to a 6 month draining schedule, just to keep it ship shape. I'd autopsied our old one after I tore it out. I never want to see that absolute horror again. 

Maintain your heater and save serious money down the road. 




This is a sponsored post. I am a proud to be a Bernzomatic Torch Bearer, though all opinions expressed are 100% my own. I won't recommend products I don't believe in. 
The Torch Bearers are a group of tradespeople, DIYers, culinarians, adventurers and artists brought together to create projects using Bernzomatic torches and share their knowledge and ideas with you. Check them out here and get inspired to create with fire.
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