Tuesday, 13 June 2017

DIY Pallet Bed

DIY Pallet Bed lights bright.jpg

Kids grow up, and as they do they get longer and heavier. This was the case with my daughter.
Now a preteen, she also started complaining about everything. One of the things she complained about most was her bed. She said it was too short and sagged in the middle.
Since we put her in this bed when she was a toddler, it was the only one she had ever known. So, it shouldn’t have been too surprising, and, if I remember correctly, it was a hand-me-down from my grandmother. Who knows how old the cheap particle board base actually was.
However, I was amazed when I pulled her mattress off to reveal that the platform around the two central side supports had completely disintegrated. Your guess is as good as mine as to where the physical matter is today, but it explains why my daughter said her bed sagged in the middle.
Clearly we needed a quick solution. Thankfully, my daughter is okay with my frugal nature and has a bit of “country girl” in her as well, so she was good with a more rustic-looking bed.
Working together, we had a sit-down with the good people down at the internet until we found a design that we both were satisfied with. It was quick, easy and cheap for me, and looked “sick” enough for her.
Here’s what we made and how we did it:
DIY Pallet Bed 1.jpg
As mentioned, this was a very easy build. Not only that, but the bulk of the materials I was able to get for free.
With every shipment we receive at work, it of course comes on a pallet. While we try and reuse as many as possible, ultimately, the pile behind the shop continues to grow. So, with permission, I combed through and picked out three that were still in great shape.
DIY Pallet Bed 2.jpg
At this point, I could have just laid two of them on the floor and called it a day, but my demanding preteen daughter was having none of that. This meant I had to dig out my palm-sander and a few sheets of sandpaper. I made her do at least half of the sanding; it is her bed after all.
Since the bed was supposed to look rustic, we didn’t worry about working down to a too fine of a grit. We just made sure she won’t get any slivers while getting in or out of bed.

DIY Pallet Bed 3.jpg
With that done, we brought the pallets up to her room and started putting the bed together. Despite the weight of the pallets, I still felt it necessary to lash them together somehow. Being creative (a.k.a. cheap) I went to my local hardware store and bought a few gate hinges.
DIY Pallet Bed 4.jpg
My biggest concern was the “headboard.” I was worried that it could fall on my daughter in her sleep, but with a few screws in the base it feels quite solid.
And that was it. For a few finishing touches I added a couple of scrap boards from other pallets I had laying around to the headboard to act as shelfs, and she weaved a set of old christmas lights around the base to give it some flair. Done and done.
DIY Pallet Bed lights dark.jpg

What do you think? Is this something you could build for one of your kids? Let me know in the comments below what you would have done differently.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

DIY Beer Brewing - All-Grain

As I’ve mentioned before, I love beer. I’ve taken to brewing my own at home, and I find it an enjoyable and relaxing experience.
Until now, I was only able to buy the ingredients to do extract brewing. This was okay as it taught me the basics, but it doesn’t offer nearly the same level of flexibility with recipes. I was itching to be more creative.
Recently, my good friends and neighbours (#freighbors) tipped me off to a new homebrew supply store opening up locally. A quick check with the good people down at the internet confirmed this and I was able to find their contact info easy.
However, even after following Short Finger Brewing on social media for a few weeks, I hadn’t paid them a visit because...I don’t know...life got in the way. I had several different excuses, but I was genuinely interested in checking them out.
Finally, while writing my post about how I brew with extract, I decided to actually look at the map and see where they are located. To my amazement, they are literally in my office’s back yard.
With this newfound information, I immediately sent them an email and made arrangements to drop in the next day.
For my first attempt, I didn’t want to try a recipe too advanced. All-grain brewing requires some different pieces of equipment, and I didn’t know how well my homemade gear would work.
Beer Brewing equipment.jpg
As you can see, all-grain brewing requires many more large pieces of equipment. While a good size brew pot and a fermenter is all you need for an extract beer, all-grain needs a few more items.
Like most things, there is more than one way to skin a cat. That said, there are different methods to sparge the grains. I will get into the specifics later, but based on the equipment I had at my disposal I had to batch sparge. This means I only need one mash/lauter tun, but two pots.
For my pots, I use my brew pot for extract brewing to heat the strike and sparge water, and a large turkey fryer as my brew pot. This way I can boil a full 5 gallon batch with no issues as the turkey fryer is large enough that it won’t boil over unless I’m completely negligent. And even if it does, since I’m outside it won’t be as devastating as it would be if I were in the kitchen.
While I had to buy my pots, I got to use my handyman skills to make my mash tun. I have a buddy who has access to a lot of coolers that his work just tosses out after they are done with them. He was kind enough to grab one and give it to me for free.
This one didn’t have a drain, but since I was going to replace it with a ball valve anyway, this wasn’t an issue. I carefully drilled a hole and inserted my valve construction.
Beer Brewing mash tun valve.jpg
I realized as I was doing so that the rubber washers I had were slightly too small, and even though I doubled them up, they are stretched too far. As a result, if I’m too rough opening or closing the valve it leaks a little. It doesn’t seem to drip any other time, so I think it will do for the time being.
To create my filtration system, I paid a visit to my local hardware store and picked up a cheap braided washer hose, a copper plug, and a couple hose clamps. When I got home I cut the ends off the hose and struggled to pull the steel braid off the rubber hose without stretching it too much.
Ultimately, I was successful and then it was simply a matter of attaching one end of the braid to the drain and fitting the plug in the other.
Beer Brewing mash tun inside.jpg
With that done (and obviously a good clean), it was time to start brewing.
My first attempt I bought a preassembled kit and followed a recipe made by the awesome Rob at Short Finger Brewing. It was easy and meant for beginners. It didn’t have too many different ingredients or complicated timing.
Beer Brewing ingredients.jpg
To start, I heated the strike water in my small pot. When it was the right temperature according to the recipe, I dumped it into my mash tun and poured all the grains on top of it. After a good stir to make sure there were no clumps of grains, I closed the cooler, set the timer and walked away. It was almost too easy.
I didn’t take too long of a break, however, as I needed to start warming my sparge water. I mentioned that I needed to batch sparge, which means I simply add more hot water all at once and then drain off as much liquid as I need.
Eventually I would like to build myself a system that will allow me to fly sparge, meaning I could be draining from the mash tun into the brew pot at the same time as the sparge water was going into the mash tun. Fortunately, there is no significant disadvantage in the way I do it for this recipe, so it is what it is for now.
Since the pot I am using to heat the strike water is half the size of my brew pot, I needed to sparge in two batches. I was worried about this, but I was told that it would be okay.
Here’s how the mash looked after the first sparge:
Beer Brewing mash.jpg
I felt my filter worked quite well and I didn’t have to vorlauf too long before I was getting clear runnings.
And here you can see my poor setup and my brew pot half full of wort waiting for the rest of the sparge water to heat up:
Beer Brewing sparge.jpg
Eventually I had enough sweet goodness to start the boil.
You know the saying, “a watched pot never boils?” Well, I changed it to “a watched pot never boils over.” I hovered over my wort, spray bottle in hand, making sure I had as little sticky mess to clean up as possible until the hot break occurred. It felt like hours, but without too much drama I was eventually able to toss in the first hop addition.
Beer Brewing boil.jpg
As I said, this recipe wasn’t too complicated and pretty soon all the hops were bathing in deliciousness. However, the next step was the most worrisome for me.
The boiling wort needs to be cooled quickly so it can be transferred to the fermenter without breaking it or picking up any nasty bacteria that would be all too happy to enjoy my soon-to-be-beer before me. I like to share, but that’s not the company I want to keep, so I tossed in my sad, handmade wort chiller and hooked up the garden hose.
Beer Brewing cooling.jpg
Again, it’s far from pretty, but it did its job.
After that, all-grain brewing is exactly the same as extract. Put the wort in a fermentor, pitch in some yeast, wait, transfer to a secondary fermenter and add dry hops (optional), wait, bottle, wait...finally enjoy.
Beer Brewing finished product.jpg
Cheers! Let me know in the comments below if you brew your own beer at home. Also, if anyone wants to donate another cooler so I can fly sparge and stay within my frugal budget of zero, I’d appreciate it.

[Update] I made a couple mistakes during my first attempt, but I learned from them and have found ways to correct them. My subsequent batches have been much better.
The first issue I ran into was relatively minor and had an easy fix.
I had trouble knowing the accurate temperatures with the thermometer that came with my turkey-fryer. From then on I use our meat thermometer which gives a much more precise digital readout.
The second mistake ruined the brew, but thankfully had an even cheaper, simpler fix.
As I was draining from my mash tun into my brew pot, I realized I had no way to measure how much liquid was going in the pot. I just guessed and was very wrong and ended up boiling an extra gallon of wort, which threw my gravity way off.
To solve this problem, I took a piece of dowel I had laying around and cut a notch in it at the level I needed. Not the least bit fancy, but it works. (I’ve since just marked different amounts on the outside of my brew pot in Sharpie and that does the job well enough.)
As I said, with these two adjustments my second batch tasted as it should. Now I’m just excited to try new, more advanced recipes.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

DIY Pallet Coat Rack

Every homeowner knows there’s no such thing as a lazy weekend at home. Honey-do-lists are never ending and once one project finishes, another magically appears to take its place.
So, beginning to get on a roll, I turned my attention to other problem areas in my home.
Our rear entry is a small landing that leads up to our kitchen, or down to our unfinished basement. There’s very little room for clutter, but the small, simple hooks we moved in with couldn’t handle everything we were throwing at it.
Now, I know coat racks are not expensive. Heck, a couple of nails in the wall will do the job. But, I had some leftover material from other projects and I wanted to do something fun and unique. So, after a quick meeting with the good people down at the internet, I came up with plans for a quirky, yet functional, homemade coat rack.
Here’s the finished product and how I made it:
Pallet Coat Rack 2.jpg
Very simple and straightforward, yet with a little charm, too.
I used a quarter of pallet left over from my liquor rack project. I also cleaned up an extra slat I could use as a shelf. The shelf is just held in place by a few scrap 2x2 pieces.
For the fun part, I picked up a handful of spoons at the thrift store for a couple dollars. I drilled holes in the centre of the...spoon part, and then bent the handles so they could act as hooks. After that, it was just a matter of screwing everything in place.
After a quick sand and thin coat of varnish, my DIY Pallet coat rack was mounted on the wall.
Pallet Coat Rack 3.jpg

What do you think about it? Could you fit one in your home?