Archive for May, 2010

Converting a desk into a computer workstation

24 May

Older desks — mine included — make uncomfortable computer stations. With a few quick changes, though, many desks can turn into customized pieces that are much more comfortable to work on. All you need is a saw, a drill, and a few pieces from the hardware store.

I have an ancient institutional desk — the sort of thing you’d find in a low-rent office in 1965. It’s solid like a Ukraine bull, and it matches my décor, but it’s been awful to use as a computer station. The desktop is uncomfortably high for a keyboard or mouse, and I’d rather sit farther back from the screen, too. In the end, I turned the widest drawer into a keyboard tray and the topmost remaining drawer into a mouse surface (they’re at similar heights, which is much better ergonomics than the desk provided before).

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Wooden crate from Ikea parts

19 May

I went to the Ikea “As-Is” department in search of boards to turn into a crate for storing my terrifying (and growing) collection of cider bottles. I don’t know what I’d expected to find, but when I saw this bundle of nearly two dozen bed slats, I came up with a design for an open-sided structure that would be strong and lightweight. You could adapt the design for many kinds of scrap wood or for different sizes of boxes.

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Painting bottles for brewing, decorating, or just holding liquid

13 May

Bottles with Roman numeralsWarm temperatures can ruin beer, and sunlight is suspected to add not only heat but even faster spoilage — that’s why you should store bottles of homebrew beer or cider in a dark place. Dark bottles also reduce your brew’s exposure to light, which is why the best beers come in brown bottles or opaque kegs. I decided to paint my clear bottles so they’d better protect my cider and so they’d have a more distinctive look. You could also do this on any color of bottle for a decorative effect.

It’s an easy process to paint your bottles in solid colors and get sharp results — the final appearance resembles a dipped coating like wax. Adding shapes or text adds a lot of time to the process, but it may be worth it from time to time.

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Magnetic Towel Bar

11 May

For renters, simple projects like “hanging a picture” or “installing a towel bar” have to be weighed against the potential wrath of that villain in the shadows, The Landlord. In my opinion, a two-bedroom apartment needs to have two towel bars in the bathroom, but I had to ask myself: “Is it worth putting holes in the wall if I’ll have to repair them to get my security deposit back?”

“Yes,” I decided (particularly since there are plenty of holes for picture hangers that I’ll need to fix anyway), but there wasn’t even a good place to mount the bar without drilling through tile or metal. That’s when I came up with my renter-friendly towel bar, held to the radiator cover by nothing but Altoids tins and magnets. As a bonus, my towel dries much faster hanging in front of the radiator. Read the rest of this entry »


Cider Recipe and Easy Brewing Instructions – Shane Classic

07 May

This is a great way to start brewing hard cider at home. It’s based on my father’s original recipe, and according to his increasingly-unstable demands, the grandchildren (and apparently the rest of us, too) will be referring to him as Shane. His hillbilly cider method was the basis for my first cider recipe, so he’s earned a little homage in the Shane Classic, my simplest and most traditional-tasting cider. Follow these directions and you’ll have drinkable cider in four to five weeks. Read the rest of this entry »


Cider Ingredients

07 May

Depending on your cider recipe, you may be using three ingredients or you may have a dozen — you can get great results both ways. There are a lot of juices, flavorings, and additives that you might want to include in a batch of cider, but it helps to know how much to use. I’m going to focus on ingredients from two sources: grocery stores and brewing stores (you can order online if you don’t have one nearby). After you’ve tried a simple batch, use your knowledge of ingredients to experiment with your own recipes for subsequent brews.

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Cider Brewing Equipment

07 May

Brewing your own hard cider is easy, but it does require a bit of specialized equipment to do it well. You need certain beer-making supplies, readily found at homebrew shops (online or otherwise). I’ll walk you through the essentials. Read the rest of this entry »