Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I have begun a months-long process attempting to make homemade vanilla extract.  The instructions make it sound fairly simple.

  1. Cut up a bunch of vanilla beans and put them in vodka for a long time.

The number of vanilla beans, the way you cut them, the length of time for steeping, and the amount of vodka are all up for debate based on all the recipes I found.  I combined the ingredients in two quart jars and put them in a paper sack in the top of my closet to keep it out of the light.  By some time this fall I should have a huge amount of vanilla extract.  I will need to source some (hopefully glass) amber/brown bottles (again to keep the extract out of the light) and then decant it into the smaller containers.

It will make a special gift I can give to a few friends, and I’ll have enough for home use for 2 years.

How to Make a Ring from a Silver Coin

I added this article to WikiHow last year after I made my wife a birthday present.  I’ll add in the pictures I took along the way.

How to Make a Ring from a Silver Coin

If you can spare the change and a little bit of time, you can create a simple ring from any silver coin. It’ll be cheaper than buying one, and it makes a more personal keepsake as well.


  1. Obtain a silver coin. If you are using a U.S. coin, you need to use one from 1964 or earlier. You can get one from any coin dealer for just a few dollars. A quarter makes a woman’s size ring (or a very thin ring for a man with below-average finger size) and a half-dollar makes a nice men’s ring.
  2. Tap the coin down to a smaller diameter while widening the edge. Hold the coin on edge between your thumb and finger and tap it with a hammer against a metal surface harder than silver.
    • After 10 or 15 minutes of work, tapping and turning the coin on its edge, the reeding on the edge should disappear and the edge will get wider. Don’t rush through this or hit it too hard, this will cause the ring to deform, as will be shown later.
    • Continue until the coin’s diameter is reduced to the desired size of the ring (in this case, just smaller than a nickel). This will take several hours.
  3. Put the coin into your vice and drill a hole in it.  Switch to the next larger bit and let it get “hung up” on the drill. With your adjustable-speed drill and coin spinning together, and a light touch on the trigger (perhaps 100 RPMs), use 200 grit sandpaper to remove the largest tooling marks.
  4. Follow the 200 grit sandpaper with progressively finer grains, 400/500 and then 1000/1200. (Note: The ring pictured is warped as a result of rushing and hitting it too hard in previous steps. Take your time and your ring will not try to fold in half.)
  5. Widen the hole in the center with a Dremel tool or hand file. When it is wide enough to allow a Dremel sanding barrel, use one or more to clear out the rest of the ring opening until the inside is sanded smooth.
  6. Wedge it back onto a big drill bit with some cloth for padding on the inside. Slowly spin the ring, this time on the polishing compound on a clean rag. After a minute or two of polishing this way, it will pick up a nice shine and is ready to be worn and shown off!


  • Take it slow! Hitting the coin harder will seem like it’s going to save time, but will only make the coin warp and fold in half.
  • The friction from sanding the inside of the ring can cause the ring to reach a high temperature. Securing the ring with a vice grip will keep you from burning your fingers.
  • If the coin isn’t shiny, try using some cleaning liquid or vinegar and a cloth to polish it.


  • Let the metal cool down if it gets too hot.
  • Use common sense with hammers and power tools.
  • When spinning the coin on the drill, take it very slowly, nowhere near the drill’s top speed, or the coin could fly off and hurt someone.
  • This may be illegal with currency of countries outside the USA.
  • Wear eye protection and gloves to avoid metal from embedding in skin or eyes.

Things You’ll Need

  • Silver coin. US Quarters and half-dollars from 1964 and before are silver.
  • Small hammer or large spoon
  • Steel plate
  • Drill and bits
  • Dremel tool and bits
  • Fine grades of sand paper
  • Polishing compound and a rag
  • Safety Glasses
  • Safety Gloves
  • Vice Grip (optional)

More work on tree house

Despite feeling quite sick both Wednesday and Friday, I was perked up a bit today and got out around noon to do some more work on the tree house.

The most important thing I decided on today was the access method.  This set of semi-stairs/semi-ladder will work fine.  I did not route out slots, I just used screws.  I hope they hold for a few years.

All of the wood I used to make the steps was once the four diagonal corner braces that I decided not to use to support the treehouse.

I also got part of the railing put in place today and did more to finish up the floor.

I also hauled out and hung the tire swing that we had brought with us from the old house when we moved.  The boys hadn’t been on it for over a year.  You can see one garden bed at the top of this picture.


Excellent tree house books:

Charcoal grill frame becomes a table. Re-use!

Rusted-through Charcoal Grill

So it’s Earth Day. Woo-hoo. 😐 I try to think like that most of the time, so it’s not really a once-a-year event for me. But I suddenly saw the irony of the date as I was loading up the station wagon with a load of junk that a friend offered to let me chuck into his dumpster. I had a project just sitting there waiting for me.

Rusted-through Charcoal Grill

Rusted through! I used this $19.99 charcoal BBQ grill for 4 or 5 seasons and when I opened it this spring, I could see right through it. Oh well, time for a new one. So I got a replacement that didn’t have the little plate shelf.

Rusted-through Charcoal Grill

With this old grill in the garage awaiting death, on Sunday I grilled for the first time of the season. I really, REALLY missed that little wooden counter space to put my stuff. I figured I was just going to have to buy a little table to set next to my cheap grill.

Then, as I was about to throw away the old grill it hit me! That’s a pretty nice framework under there! That part isn’t rusty at all!. Hey let’s make THAT into a table! I just need more slats!

Earth day project...table from grill frame

I found a piece of scrap plywood in the garage and ripped it down to size on the table saw. An hour of drilling and sanding and it was done.

Finished table made from a charcoal BBQ grill\'s frame and wheels.

I put a coat of water seal on it, but I might still end up painting the whole thing to get a bit more consistency. I’m not totally digging the look of old wood with new, but I did make a free table from stuff on hand and I did avoid throwing the frame and wheels in the trash!

New grill, meet old grill frame.

Here it is next to it’s new cousin. I think they will be happy together.

Update: 6 months later…

After a couple seasons outside in the weather, the table is holding up perfectly and has acquired a more uniform look.  I decided not to paint it and I am glad I didn’t.  The boards match pretty well now and I’m very happy with this.  I’ll have this around for several more years.

After 6 months weathering outside

After 6 months weathering outside

UPDATE in 2012:

This table is still standing next to my grill outside, a few years later, and working out wonderfully.

Well, in this case it’s BEHIND the grill, but there it is.  The red grill shown in this picture isn’t the same one shown a few pictures above.  It’s very similar, but was made with thinner metal, flimsier legs and no extra cooking shelf inside.

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