Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Office (Page 2 of 5)

Ethernet for Internet – An Electronic Upgrade

Hi! I hope y’all had a good weekend! We went on a ski trip with my sister and her boyfriend this past weekend and we had TONS of fun. It is really sweet to see how happy everyone was and how much we enjoyed each other’s company.

Of course, away from home = no renovation progress. The office doors and library trims have to wait another week. I do have something to report though – something I am not familiar with at all and honestly, care very little. But the man in the house could not live without this upgrade and thinks it is “crucial for the quality of life”. So here goes his recent DIY work – Ethernet connections.

Before adding insulation to our attic, Slav laid down some Ethernet cables on the attic floor. They are to deliver wired internet service to all the rooms on the main floor, as well as to provide fast connections between the media server in the garage and Slav’s computer. We are also required to have a home security system by our home insurance, which needs to be connected with Ethernet cable too. So Slav got cables and terminals on bulk and laid down an extensive network in the attic.

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After the blown-in insulation, Slav connected the cables to our router and started setting up the ports in each room. In our bedroom, we decided the ports should live on the wall our bed faces, next to the wall outlet. We have no plan to hang TV or projector in the bedroom, but having the Ethernet port and the outlet next to each other provides an opportunity for future users.

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Our wall studs have horizontal bracing in between, making it difficult to fish these cables out. Slav made a hook from a piece of rigid copper wire, and taped his endoscope camera on it. This home-made tool helped him to get wires out fairly easily.

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Did you notice the electrical tape on his wrist? He wrapped it on tight around the sleeves so insulation would not get into his hoodie. True DIY spirit I’d say.

After fishing the cables out, he made the connection with a special tool and installed the wall plate. Now we have two Ethernet ports in our bedroom!

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The installation in Slav’s office was easier since we had cable terminal there to begin with. Slav simply eliminated the cable terminal, and used the existing cable to piggyback the Ethernet cable into the office.

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He then made the terminal for the Ethernet cables and installed the wall plate where the cable terminal used to be.

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Having Slav’s computer on Ethernet significantly increased the upload speed, which is important for his work since he often needs to upload large files. Needless to say that it made the man very happy.

The other reason of having Ethernet is for connecting the home security cameras. We do not feel that we need any security system, since we have two large dogs and a state trooper living right across the street. But installing one can significantly decrease our home insurance rate, so it is well worth it.

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Slav installed all four security cameras under the soffit at various locations, then threaded cables out to connect to the cameras to our server:

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These cameras are motion-sensitive and point to our garage door, front and back doors, and the whole backyard. They will start recording when any movement is detected around our doors. We can check the live footage or pull up the recordings anytime from our laptops and phones.

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You can probably tell from the lack of progress photos how little I know about these electronic upgrades (LOL). But I hope some of you out there are just as excited as Slav about this small (but important!) DIY project. As for me, I will be back to trimming bookcases and undoubtedly take way too many pictures and write an unnecessary long post about it. So be sure to check on us later this week!

Adding Hidden Storage to the Office

Howdy, friends and family! I cannot believe we are entering March already! February was a busy month for us. We are both meeting deadlines at work, while trying to ski once a week before the winter ends. On top of everything, we managed to make steady progresses on Slav’s office. After the structure work was done (including reversing the closet, moving the doorway (12), and patching the floor), we entered a new stage of work: the finishes. As many of you DIYers know, this stage can feel really slow and never ending. There are sooo many small details to consider! Drywall, paint, trims, baseboards, doors and windows treatment. The room may look 80% of its new version, but 50% of the work is still ahead of us.

Last week we installed new lighting and new window treatment (the same blinds we used in the living room); and this week, we started patching drywall.

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Drywall work is nothing glorious, so I am not going to bore you with the details. Long story short, it’s messy. What kept us going is the believe that we will eventually come out of it with beautiful walls. But I need more pick-me-up than that. So…

I built drawers, again!

The Design

The drawers I am building this time are baseboard drawers. I first saw this idea from Ana White‘s tiny house kitchen build, and have been wanting to incorporate it into our house since. When we tried to choose baseboards for our library bookcases, a light bulb went off – why not build some baseboard drawers? Our IKEA Billy bookcases are sitting on a 2″x4″ wooden base, putting the bottom shelves almost 7″ above the floor, which is a decent height for drawers. These little caves are prefect hidden storage for Slav’s bazillions of cables and small computer parts.

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I built drawers only once before, and it was such a positive learning experience for me. Since then, I have read about many alternative ways of building drawers and really would like to improve my skills. I knew the principles, I learned from my mistakes, and I am more confidence this time going into the build.

The only decision I had a hard time to make was the material. Normally, drawers are build with either real wood, plywood, or MDF boards. MDF is the cheapest option, but in our case the MDF drawers need to be covered with wood veneer to match the bookcase. Real wood and plywood can be stained to match, but getting the color and wood grain right might be a struggle. One night, we talked, talked, and talked our options, until Slav came up with the perfect solution – why not buy another bookcase, and use the material to build the drawers?

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We grabbed another Billy in brown veneer and I tried to cut one piece on the table saw. The material cuts really well without chipping. Now I could get to work!

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I made an interesting discovery about IKEA Billy this time – the five bookcases we got last time on IKEA’s big sale has almost all the boards veneered on both sides. But the new IKEA Billy does not. The sides that are not showing after assembly are all plain. I guess it saves a few cents for IKEA.

We did not really consider building baseboard drawers when we built the wood base. Fortunately, the 2″x4″ are all parallel and precise enough to support the drawers. We did chip off a bit wood here and there for the drawer front to fit, but it was not too bad.

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The 2″x4″ wood base is around 9″ deep and ~29″ wide, so the drawers would be all 8 1/2″ in depth and ~28″ in width (the drawer slides take up to 1″). I laid out the plan on a piece of paper.

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The Prototype

To get my hands warm, I decided to build a prototype first. This time around, I set a work station in the garage for efficiency and it helped a lot. I used a sheet of plywood to create a large work surface, and surrounded myself with circular saw, miter saw, table saw, brad nailer + compressor, and all the material and hardware needed. This set up made the work much more streamlined and pleasant. A vanilla scented candle added feminine touch and softness to the ice cold garage.

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This is how the drawers were assembled: I used the toe kick pieces to create the two sides, then sliced the shelves to make the drawer faces. The left over stripes from the shelves were used as the front side of the drawers, I do not have enough material to create the back, so I cut some plywood off the my temporary table to make the back pieces.

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The drawer was made 1″ narrower than the opening to accommodate the drawer slides. I decided to try these 8″ full extension drawer slides and they worked great.

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The bottom of the drawers were made from 5mm plywood (leftover from covering our garage walls). Brad nails held it in place.

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Now is time for the test! I mounted the other side of the slides onto the 2″x4″s, and it worked pretty smoothly. You can see how it works in this video.

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Mass Production

With the prototype working well, I spent the next a couple hours making all five drawers. I test fit all of them before installing the drawer slides.

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Roxie was interested.

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Instead of measuring, I used a block and a piece of 5mm plywood to prop the  drawer slides up when mounting them onto the drawers. When I needed to mount the other side of the drawer slides to the wood base, I used the same block and two layers of 5mm plywood, creating 5mm clearance at the bottom of the drawers.

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All mounted and slide smoothly!

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Attaching the Drawer Face

Next, I moved onto attaching the drawer faces.  These are made from the shelves from the extra bookcase and cut just a hair higher than the bottom shelves.

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I attached the drawer faces to the front side of the drawers with double-sided tape. This woodworking tape got lots of good reviews so I decided to give it a try. It is strong enough to hold the faces in place when I fired the nailer, but I was able to take the faces off fairly easily to adjust their positions.

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This is what the drawers looks like when they are fully installed. The gap in between the bookcase will soon be covered from the floor to ceiling.

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I adore these baseboard drawers. They hold lots of small electronics and still slide smoothly. I hope they will help Slav to get more organized!

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Update Our To-Dos

After completing the baseboard drawers, we are moving onto the last step for the library built-ins – trimming between and around the bookcases. Hopefully by this time next week, I can show you a finished built-in wall. Here is our current office to-do list:

1. Frame the new opening between office and living room
2. Patch the hardwood floor
3. Drywall and trim around the new opening
4. Hang doors
5. Install new lighting and window treatment in the office
6. Build baseboard drawers for the bookcases
7. Trim out the bookcases (in progress)
8. Build Slav’s desk

Let There Be Light

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Howdy, friends and family! We had another winter storm and it is really cold! One good news is that even though the weather is significantly colder, we still paid 20% less for heating in January compared to last December. I think the attic insulation we recently added is doing its job!

The weather really slowed down our office renovation – we can not do wood work inside with windows and doors shut, and the garage is pretty cold to work in now. Unsatisfied with the lack of progress, we revisited our office to-do list to see if there is anything we could work on without making sawdust:

1. Frame the new opening between office and living room
2. Patch the hardwood floor
3. Drywall and trim around the new opening
4. Hang doors
5. Install new lighting and window treatment in the office
6. Build baseboard drawers for the bookcases
7. Trim out the bookcases
8. Build a new desk w/ storage cabinet
9. Enlarge office window (phase II)

It did not take long for us to identify the obvious choice: the lighting! We have been wanting to try the PS 2014 lamp from IKEA, and Slav’s room seemed to be a good spot for it.

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While browsing lighting in IKEA, we also found this sleek Barometer track light. Slav was leaning towards using this track light in the office since PS 2014 does not give out too much light.

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Office lighting

We assembled both lights. The PS 2014 comes in many pieces but was fairly easy to assemble.

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Here is our old overhead lighting in the office, which is apparently called “nipple light” in US.

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Slav took it off and found the ceiling above it was not painted. So I cleaned the ceiling with some TSP solution and sanded it a bit, then gave it a coat of white paint.

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The existing ceiling color reads a bit more flat, probably due to the age of the paint. We plan to paint the whole main floor down the road so a bit difference in texture did not bother us.

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Slav is right, the PS 2014 hung way too low in the office. Not only Slav, but also I have to duck when passing it. So track lighting it is.

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The new light looks much better. The brass color is masculine, fits the color of the bookcases, and the smooth and modern lines balance the rather traditional shelves very well.

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A pretty big difference between the “nipple light” and the new Barometer.

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Bedroom lighting

With the track lighting installed in the office, we decided to hang the PS 2014 in our bedroom. Slav got to take down the second “nipple light”.

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The bedroom light left a more obvious mark on the ceiling. It took two coats of paint to cover the yellowish ceiling.

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I painted with a brush and intentionally left the brush mark to match the ceiling pattern.

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It dried to almost the same color.

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Slav hung the PS 2014 and we were very impressed with the effect it gives.

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Make you think of the Star Wars movies, right? This lamp is popular for IKEA hacks and the most creative I’ve seen might be this “death stars” project.

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You can use the two strings on the bottom to adjust how much it opens:

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And it leaves the prettiest pattern on our ceiling:

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It hangs pretty low, but we do not mind since it was mounted directly above our bed. It is also a fairly dark light. We used a 95W equivalent LED bulb, and even with the lamp shades fully open, you should not read under it.

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However, it is perfect for bedroom use. When the lamp is mostly closed, you can turn it on in the middle of darkness without hurting your eyes. I usually goes to bed a lot earlier than Slav. With this light, he could turn it on without waking me up.

Garage lighting

We also recently upgraded our garage lights – about a months ago? It was too small of a project to report, but it actually made a big impact. Gosh we are on such a lighting rush now!

The garage lights are actually the ones that really needed an upgrade. We changed all the light bulbs in the house to LED as soon as we moved in, but the old garage lights are these tube lighting and they do not take LED bulbs. They were not only inefficient and dark, but also dirty and covered with rust.

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LED work lights are not cheap, but we really wanted LEDs so we took the holiday sales and got these.

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Slav mounted all the new lights flush to the ceiling beams – the old ones were suspended on chains (!!!). Mounting the new light higher also helped to hide loose wires. They made the whole garage look neater and more pleasant to be in.

We are very impressed with these lights. They are very bright. We got four with the assumption that we might need to add additional task lighting over the work benches. But in fact, four of these lights brightened up the whole garage (18″ x 24″) without any dark corners (mounting them higher also helped).  These lights made it possible to work in the garage at night, even on the work benches without other task lighting. We also picked warm white (2700 Kevin), so although these light are bright, it does not feel cold or sharp.

With all the new lighting in the office, bedroom and garage, we have upgraded 50% of lighting on the main floor. We are still searching for additional light source for the living room (the only room without overhead lighting), and we cannot wait to upgrade the lights in our kitchen and hallway. But for now, it makes us smile everything we turn on the bedroom light and see the “star”.

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