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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Camper Style Birdhouse

My Dad's birthday is in 2 days. I've been off work for my jaw issues for awhile now, so I have been on a bit of a budget, but I had a real image of what I wanted to do for his present for quite some time. At first, I was going to get a store-bought birdhouse for him, but I decided to make my own when I couldn't find one quite to my liking, and I realized that I could probably do this for much less than what I would have to pay to buy one, plus I LOVE making things. Luckily, almost everything I used to make it was already on hand, besides the sheet metal. Here's the details!

Materials include:
Plywood (1/4 inch is what I had sitting around, but I would recommend 1/2 inch if you are buying it)
Galvanized steel sheet (I used a sheet from the ductwork section of Home Depot, it was about 6 bucks)
Super Glue Fix All (available at Dollar Tree)
Wooden Dowel (1/4 inch)
Paint in your choice of colors (you can get tinted sample sizes at Home Depot for less than 3 bucks)
Clear Caulk
Polyeurethane and/or Thompson's Waterseal (I used both just for good measure)
Hardware for back door including a handle/knob, small hinge, and a magnetic latch
Something for tires (off a toy truck, etc.)
2 red buttons
PVA wood glue
Tin snips

To start, I drew an approximate shape of my camper and I cut 2 pieces of plywood in the same shape.  I ended up using a Dremel with a fiberglass enforced cutting attachment, simply because I don't have any power tool to cut like I needed, and a hacksaw wouldn't have reached. Next tool on my want list:  Sawzall!  I tried to use a regular saw and a hacksaw to cut these at first, but it made the plywood split so much that I would have been completely unable to use it had I cut them that way.
I used a sanding attachment on my dremel to hold these pieces together on my workbench and make sure they are the exact same size and shape, for ease of adding the steel roof later.

Next, I cut the bottom shape, which was 7" wide and the length of the bottom of the side panels.

I knew that if this birdhouse ended up actually being used, then it would need to be periodically cleaned out, so I decided to add a door to the back for ease of cleaning.  I cut a 5" square out of the back for this purpose.

Next, I had to figure out how to get these things attached.  Such thin plywood, it turns out, is pretty much impossible to nail without it splitting, so I had to resort to gluing the whole thing. I used PVA wood glue for this, and I clamped blocks of wood to each side to prop the panel up in place to dry.  Not the ideal method, but I used what I had on hand and it turned out quite well. 

Next, I added the door and hardware to the back panel before I attached the back panel to the bottom.  I attached the door using the small hinges, but the screws were poking out the back. I didn't want any little birdies getting poked, so I covered the sharp screws in hot glue to make them safe. 

I also attached my magnetic closure (which, it turns out, is major overkill!).  It is very strong, so I would recommend a smaller one.  I used superglue for both sides, and since there was a screw hole in the metal panel on the door, I just aligned it so that I could use the panel as a washer for when I attach the knob to the other side.

Next, I used a hole saw to drill a large hole for the birdies' front door.  I also drilled a 1/4" hole and glued the dowel piece into place. The hole required a bit of sanding, because plywood splits so much when cut.

After the sides were attached and ready, I had to tackle the top.  You will need a partner for this part!  I took a soft tape measure and measured all around my side panels, and came up with 29.25 inches.  I cut a length of metal with tin snips and made sure to match the width of the panels (I think it was 7.25" wide), and I used a lot of superglue to attach it. This was extremely difficult, and I had to use a TON of tape to get it attached, and I had to re-glue the bottom on one side a couple of times, because it was a little stubborn.

Here's how it looked while the glue was drying:

After I removed the tape, I had a few different spots that weren't quite attached, so I had to re-glue and re-tape them and wait for the glue to get really dry.  It was hard waiting for everything!

Finally, it was ready for paint!  I measured a door that fit around the bird hole, and I realized that, since I'm adding tires, I should have moved it over to the left a bit to give the piece a bit of balance, but it probably will need to be mounted on a post anyway, so hopefully that won't be too much of an issue aesthetically in the end.

I was pretty happy with this point, but I thought it was a bit plain.

Therefore, after doing a few Google Image searches for inspiration, I added a decoration.

Honestly, I thought about adding a window, but I didn't think it would be a great birdhouse with a huge window on the front anyway, and I wanted this to be rather water-tight, so the fewer holes, the better.

Now, I was ready to add the fun details!  I found this yoyo at the dollar store, and it was PERFECT for tires on this project.  I cut it in half after removing the string, used my dremel grinding attachment to make the back smooth, and used super glue fix-all to attach them to the birdhouse.

I had to use masking tape to keep them from sliding down overnight while the glue dried.

Here's the glue I used. I used so much of it for this project, that I ran out! Luckily, I had just enough glue to finish the project.

After the glue was dry, I painted a coat of polyurethane onto all the wood surfaces, then a coat of Thompson's Waterseal.  I then used this clear caulk on all the edges, especially where I had cut the steel, so it wouldn't rust in the weather.  It dries completely clear and costs less than 2 bucks, and I figured I can use the leftover product in the bathroom to touch up a few spots.

I really wanted to add tail lights to this, but I couldn't find much on hand that worked.  Until I found these red translucent buttons, and glow stars.

I cut two glow stars into small circles to function as "back-up" lights, and they will glow in the back yard at night. 

Here's a picture of them glowing.  I'm so excited for the end product!

I used the last little bit of superglue in the tube and then taped everything in place overnight so it didn't slide down while drying.

After rubbing a few spots of the galvanized steel to remove the glue residue, I have a finished birdhouse!  I'm so excited to give it to my Dad. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Safe Homemade Dog Ear Wash

I have two dogs, Chunk and Duke.

Here's Chunk, my 3 year old Yorkie-Poo
Here's Duke, my 8 year old Chocolate Lab/
Sussex Spaniel mix.

I WUV them with all my heart, and they're the closest thing I have to children for now.  I give them better quality food than I eat myself, and I do everything I can to make sure they are healthy and happy.  Duke, being part spaniel, has some nasty ears sometimes. It's just the nature of a spaniel; they need their ears cleaned rather often. I bought this stuff, and every few weeks I squirt in a few drops, rub his ears a bit, and call it good. I also do this for Chunk about once a month. I do his haircuts myself, and so I don't pluck the hair out of the inside of his ears (I feel like it's mean, that's gotta hurt!), so I just trim it very short instead of hurting him.  I also use cleaner for good measure to prevent infection.  I decided today to look at the label of this cleaner, and after I tell you all the awful things I discovered about the ear cleaner, I'm going to give you a recipe to make some that's safe and all natural.

Here's the stuff I've been using.

Let's look at the ingredients of the store-bought product:

The first ingredients are water, denatured alcohol, corn oil, and glycerin.  Those are harmless, but then it starts to get bad:

Next on the list is PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate.  This is added as a surfectant/foaming agent.  Now, I'm actually really against the idea that people shouldn't consume what they can't pronounce, because the chemical name for anything is sometimes hard to pronounce. This chemical, however, seems rather unnecessary and is associated with organ toxicity. Honestly, it's not horrible, but why bother if it's just for foam?

The next ingredient is Tocopherol, which is basically vitamin E.  

The next ingredient--and one that concerns me--is Diazolidinyl Urea.  The EWG describes this chemical as a "formaldehyde releaser" in cosmetic products. Basically, it adds formaldehyde to the product. No thanks!

Next is Sodium Benzoate, another preservative, which is associated with cancer and organ toxicity.

And next, surprise!  It's another preservative!  Phenoxyethanol, in addition to organ toxicity concerns, can be very irritating to skin, eyes, and lungs. I really don't feel good about that fact that I've been putting this into my doggies' ears. 

Potassium Sorbate is yet another preservative found in this stuff!  Oh my goodness, how much do you really need to add to alcohol and oil so it doesn't go bad?!

The last ingredient?  Fragrance.  I love perfume as much as the next person, but to put it into my dog's body?  How unnecessary!  Especially when studies have shown just how bad they can be for people, I imagine they cannot be good for my furbabies.  Here's a great article about fragrances and the possible harm they can cause. 

Now for the safer and more natural recipe:


Apple Cider Vinegar (I always use Bragg's)
Vegetable Glycerin  (alternatively, you can use olive oil)
Witch Hazel

Empty 6 ounce bottle, preferable with a squirt lid.  I used the bottle that my store bought ear cleaner came in,
since it had a nice tip for squirting the product into the dogs' ears.

The recipe is quite simple, just add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of witch hazel, and1 tablespoon of glycerin into your empty bottle.  There will be a little bit of space left, and I just added a bit of warm water to fill it up, but that is optional.  That's it!  Put the lid on and go.  However, since, if you're reading my blog post still, you probably want to know why I chose these ingredients and not others.

Other ingredients I could have used include tea tree oil, which is a go-to for anything antibacterial for me, but since it is very toxic to dogs and the ears' eustachian tubes can drain into the throat, I would rather not risk accidentally poisoning my dog, even if it is a very slim chance that such a small amount would hurt them--but I'm not willing to risk it.

Others also have used borax, but this is another relatively safe ingredient that is harmful to dogs if swallowed. 

As for the ingredients I did use, here's why:  I used apple cider vinegar because of its cleaning properties, as well as antifungal properties. Dogs are prone to yeast infections in their ears, so apple cider vinegar is a natural solution to that. 

Next, the witch hazel.  Besides the fact that it's cheap as heck, it helps heal irritation and inflammation, and it cleans.  It is also extremely safe.  As an added bonus, if you buy the dollar bottle at Dollar Tree, that bottle would be perfect to use for this ear cleaner recipe!  

Finally the vegetable glycerin.  I wanted to use something to soothe the skin of my doggies' ears after I just basically annihilated any bacteria with vinegar (which can be pretty irritating stuff in itself), so I opted to use glycerin. It's a natural ingredient, and it is very soothing to skin without getting too goopy.  Olive oil is a substitute you can use in this recipe instead of glycerin, but I think it will be a bit messier and greasy, and I was worried that my dog may rub his ear on the furniture and then I'd have an oil stain. Glycerin won't do that. 

Here's how to use the solution:
Make sure you are outside with your dog when you use this stuff, they will shake their head to get the excess out of their ears!  I fold back one of my dog's ears and put 5-6 drops into Chunk's ear, and more for Duke's ear. I fold the ear back down and rub it in a circular motion. I then keep my hand on the dog's ear so he does not start to shake the cleaner and ear gunk all over me, and then I repeat the process on the other ear. You may need more solution, you may need less. With this stuff, since there's no harsh chemicals, you can probably use a lot more and not have trouble. Anyway, at this point, keep your hands on the dog's ears and get ready to back away quickly, because the dog WILL shake his head and get stuff all over you.  You may not want to wear nice clothes while doing this. It's not a messy process, really, but if the dog happens to shake too close to you, you're at least going to end up stinking like vinegar. And possibly dog earwax.

So, here it is, my new and safer dog ear cleaning solution.  I trust that the vinegar itself is enough of a preservative that I don't need any formaldehyde, haha..  I hope it works for you, too, and please feel free to post suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Giveaway Winner!

Here's the winner for the Outback Steakhouse $25.00 gift card!  Congratulations!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Recycled Liquor Bottle Soap Pump

I have been home from work for a few weeks due to my TMJ issues, but the good thing about that is I've had extra time for projects during the times that my pain meds are doing their job.  I recently saw some things on Pinterest where people were making soap pumps out of old liquor bottles, and I thought, "I have those things!  I must make it NOW!"  And so, I did.

To start, you will need the following:

A power drill with multiple size bits
Tacky Glue
Empty liquor bottle (mine is a Patron bottle)
X-acto knife with a fresh blade
Box cutter (or a very sharp knife)
Old soap pump from either a store-bought bottle or a recycled soap bottle

If you are using a Patron bottle, you will need the cork from it for this project to work.  If you are using a bottle that already has threads, then you just screw the pump on and you're done. Of course, I had to be stubborn and I wanted THIS bottle to work!

First, cut the ball off of the top of your cork.  You only need the part that will be gripping the bottle. The goal is to get it sized right to fit around the neck of the soap pump in the proper place. put the pump into the bottle and look where that should be to get an idea of how much carving you will have to do in the next step.

Next, take a small drill bit and CAREFULLY drill a hole through the center of your remaining cork.  This is very delicate work, and I can't believe I didn't break the thing. 

Next, use a larger drill bit and drill out more cork in the center, being careful not to get too close to an edge.  After that, take the x-acto blade and go around the inside of the cork, gradually trimming more and more until the cork is the right size to slide onto the pump.

Put tacky glue inside the circumference of the pump.

Slide the cork onto the pump and align it where it will be resting inside the neck of the bottle.  You will be tempted to put this into the bottle and check it out, but don't do that because you will have a big mess to clean up, and it will get stuck.

Be sure to wipe any excess glue off of the pump with a damp paper towel.  It will get on the pump when you are sliding it on. 

The most important step for this project is drying time. I may have gotten impatient and taken some hot glue to a few spots on mine, but you want to let yours dry for at least 24 hours.  While you're waiting, you can wrap the neck of the bottle with twine for a little extra decorative touch.

Spread tacky glue around the neck of the bottle, wrap twine and cut ends at an angle so they blend in better (tapered instead of straight across), and hold in place for about 30 seconds before letting it set to dry.

After everything has dried, use some of my easy liquid soap made from bar soap to fill your bottle, and put it next to the sink.  I love mine.