My Favorite DIY Stuff (Move over Oprah!) - Part II

It's time to follow up on the list of favorite stuff started with My Favorite DIY Stuff (Move over Oprah!) - Part I, and share more fun toys for your DIY fix.

Again, there's nothing new or groundbreaking here. It's all solid stuff I use and the average DIY'er can actually afford. It's stuff that may not be in every tool kit, so here are some good ideas for holiday gift giving. Enjoy part two of...
The Stuff!

Moleskine Notebook - In this increasingly digital world (...and I do love my gadgets), I still prefer to use the old-school, pencil and paper approach to get my ideas down and take notes.

Moleskine Notebook
A plan for The Great Family Room Remodel Project
I use a Moleskine Classic,  5" x 8.25" notebook, with graph paper pages ("squared"). It's a hard-cover version, with a bookmark, an elastic closure band, and an internal pocket to keep receipts, photos, paint swatches, and fortune cookie fortunes. I like this medium size version for the ease in carrying it around, but it's still big enough to comfortably sketch in.

Moleskine Notebook on work bench
Disclaimer: Sawdust on cover is not included -
Make your own or order some from me ($19.95+S&H).
I often take my notebook with me when I'm shopping, loaded with measurements, material lists, and sketches. It's nice to carry an archive of project ideas and dimensions, just in case something juicy and perfect appears on the clearance shelf worth grabbing and tucking away for a future project.

Moleskine Notebook with Miter Saw bench plans
An early rendering of my Economical, but Beefy, Miter Saw Workbench
According to the history sheet (included), this is the "heir and successor" to the notebooks used by Van Gogh, Picasso, and Hemingway (hack amateurs, like me). The style of notebook has been made for over a century, only dropping from production between 1986-1997.

Moleskine Notebook with swimming pool plans
A few simple swimming pool dimensions,.. and some Nilsson Schmilsson in the back.
FREE QUICK TIP: I heartily recommend transporting your Moleskine, full of its hours and hours worth of collected information, inside your vehicle when you go shopping for material. I experimented with another method, carrying it outside, on my truck's roof, as I traversed a few miles of our country's fine interstate highway system. After consideration, I prefer the former method, because my technique subjected the notebook (and the construction calculator in its pocket) to the horrors of asphalt, tires, and gruesome death at 70 MPH.  Frankly, I don't believe the fabric of the cosmos can withstand another foul, verbal assault like I unleashed upon the heavens that day. 

A wide variety of Moleskine notebook styles can be found on, office supply stores and bookstores.

Bench Cookie Work Grippers - I picked up a pack of Bench Cookies on a whim, to quench the fire of a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. These ingenious little discs lift and grip your project while you rout, plane, sand, cut, or paint. I formerly used a scrap of carpet padding, but that's now chucked in the trash bin, a far inferior solution.

Sanding wood using Bench Dog Bench Cookies
I cannot tell a lie - that's wood from a cherry tree
The cookies are a hard plastic, sandwiched between slices of a textured, rubbery, non-slip stuff (neoprene?).

Bench Dog Bench Cookies
I recently used Bench Cookies to separate a freshly painted interior door from the crusty old one in order to transfer marks for hinge locations. The cookies kept the new door from getting scratched and didn't stick to the paint.

Doors laying on Bench Cookies

Regrettably, they're not available in white chocolate, macadamia nut, but they are available from, Home Depot, and many local hardware stores.

Taking a bite out of Bench Cookies
Emergency dental surgery anyone?
                                                            - Cookie Monster

DeWalt Self-Leveling Line Laser - This is the one item on my list that stretches the wallet, at about $150, but its worth it. Laser levels range from cheap, fussy models to very expensive, high-end professional grade units. This is simply an outstanding model at this price. 

DEWALT DW087K Horizontal and Vertical Self-Leveling Line Laser
"Why yes son, this is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification
 based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation,.. why do you ask?" 
I purchased mine to ensure I was dead level when I was straightening out a horribly messed up ceiling structure for the Family Room Remodel project. Stuck up in a corner, it threw a sharp, bright line on all four walls, but more importantly, the line was projected to every point in the room's interior as well. I could easily intercept true level anywhere I was working. I also used it in vertical (plumb) mode, to make sure all points along a new wall were equal as well.

This baby is handy for installing crown or chair rail molding, hanging cabinets, roughing in electrical boxes, putting up photos and artwork, paint design, and anything else your level-headed mind can devise.

Set it and forget it! (Like the Ronco - Showtime Rotisserie)
The unit's case is tough, power-tool grade plastic and rubber. I wouldn't want to drop it from a ladder, but I like its survival chances better than the cheap-o's found in the Fathers Day / stocking stuffer displays. It has easy controls for plumb (vertical) and / or  level (horizontal) beams. Mounting it is easy with the swivel mounting bracket for hanging it from nail and a strong magnet for metal surfaces. I like the fact that the threaded receiver in the base fits a standard camera tripod. 

On three legs, like a potato sack race
There are no little green bubble vials to fiddle with and judge precision, just stick it where you want it and the beam instantly snaps to level. Even if I manage to set the thing so ridiculously crooked that it just can't self level, the beam blinks to alert all within sight to my failure.

The specs state it can run 20 hours on three AAA batteries. Believe it; I've gone to bed after a long day, only to find crimson beams of horizontal goodness still adorning the walls the next morning.
"When I ask for sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads, I expect sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads!" 
- Dr. Evil

Kreg Jig Jr. Pocket Hole Jig System - I've reviewed this sweet piece of woodworking goodness in the past, but it still deserves to be on my list. Sure, I want to try out Kreg's new, full-size K5 Pocket-Hole Jig, but this smaller, portable unit does the trick for a more digestible price.

The Kreg family of products for making and assembling wood projects with pocket holes are incredibly popular in the DIY community. The Jr. (K3) is a perfect way to get started and test the waters for about 40 bucks. Plus, its really fun and easy to use.

Clamp it down, drill the holes....

... and run a square-drive, self tapping screw in with the long driver bit. 

I really enjoy the Kreg Jig Jr. Lots of people get their start with building cool stuff with this neat widget. (Read my full review here.) 

"What has it got in its pocketses?"
                                        - Gollum

That's it for now folks. I'm happy I could share some DIY stuff that you might not have in your kit yet, but can pick up at a more affordable price than a wicked impact driver, framing nail gun, or sliding compound miter saw. For more low cost, handy DIY stuff, check out my post, Support Tools - Not Too Expensive, for another 17 handy items that cost $25 or less.

What did I miss? Maybe there's something I need to pick up. 

PS - At no time was I tempted to title this post  "DIY Stuff 2 - Electric Boogaloo", ... honest.

Non-sponsored post. 


  1. Great list. I may need to pickup one of those levelers when we finish our basement. Those benchtop pucks seem pretty handy too.

  2. I can't wait to break the level out for another project. It's too cool.
    Thanks for stopping in!
    - John

  3. John, you always make me laugh. I love reading your ideas. And I totally agree with you on the notebook. Technology is awesome but for some reason I feel the need to cross things off my list (very hard to do on the iPhone without scratching the screen).

    Such a shame that the bench cookies don't come in different flavors. The company will certainly need to refocus their efforts in 2014.

    1. Thanks Jeff! I am guilty of taking pictures of my notebook with my phone, so I can carry it with me, or transmit it in a technological, hybrid fashion.

      I saw the cookies over at Rockler, in blue. I'm not sure that they'd taste better though.

      - John