Category Archives: DIY

Fun projects to work on at home. Do it yourself!

Succulent Planter Made From A Wooden Carpenter’s Toolbox

I’ve had a countertop of succulents that needed a permanent home for some time now, and had been hoping to put them in a wooden box with rustic charm. Last weekend I stopped at my local Orchard Supply for supplies and saw a cheap tool set that included a wooden box with the classic OSH logo on it. For $20, it included a hammer, flathead and phillips screw drivers, tape measure, small level, and kids-sized safety goggles. Handy stuff for a kitchen drawer, but I had other thoughts for small carpenter’s tool box.

I took it home, added a few scoops of potting soil, and repurposed it to hold my succulents in an easy-to-transport but cool-to-display way.

Succulents don’t require much water so I didn’t drill out the bottom, but if I determine it needs better draining, a couple rows of 1/8″ holes through the thin bottom wood should do the trick. I may also reinforce the stapled construction by tapping some holes and adding screws. And with hopes, the wood will age and darken nicely to give it that cool weathered look.

Want to do this too? Easily make your own tool box using plans available online, but if you’re short on time, you can get a pre-cut kit — just needs assembly.

Six of the Geekiest RC Quadrotor and Flying Designs: “Back to the Future” Flying DeLorean, X-Wing Fighter, and More

RC quadrotors (or quadcopters) have so much awesome potential because they are basically stable, powerful floating platforms, capable of a variety flight-enabled projects. You can mount a camera on one to capture amazing aerial video, or create a menacing autonomous surveillance system. Or — on the far end of geekiness — you can dress one up in costume, and fly your nerdiest world of fandom through the sky for all to see, like these following guys have done:

“Back to the Future” flying DeLorean (check out the blue, glowing LED lights under the wheels):

Continue reading Six of the Geekiest RC Quadrotor and Flying Designs: “Back to the Future” Flying DeLorean, X-Wing Fighter, and More

Q&A With Joey Hudy, 14 Year Old Maker of the White House Marshmallow Cannon

14 year old Joe Hudy has been having fun. From promoting science at Maker Faires to shooting marshmallows with the President at the White House, he’s the embodiment of STEM education effectively motivating a new generation about science and engineering, while showing how it can take them to some pretty cool places. Along the way, he’s tackled challenges and found passion and talent — his mother Julie describes the transformation with excitement and pride. “He’s gone from a shy boy with Asperger Syndrome to now a young man that wants to talk to everyone!”

People want to talk with Joe too — the coverage he’s received from his endearing interaction with President Obama at the White House Science Faire has gone global (links:, HuffingtonPost, Daily Mail, Make blog, Gizmodothe Atlantic, ABC News, Washington Post, the Examiner, Popular Science, New York Times, and more). He’s recently been a featured author on Instructables, and received a special note of commendation on his Adafruit skills badge page. And not only is Joe an aspiring engineer, he’s also demonstrating a healthy entrepreneurial spirit, selling electronics kits via his website and fundraising to get him to three different Maker Faires in 2012.

Joe took time from his schedule to answer a few questions about how he got to the White House, and what he’s building next.

When did you start building?  I only started really seriously to build things a year ago. I’ve made stuff in the past just for fun.

How did you get so motivated?  I met a really cool man named Jeff from Elenco Electronics. I got in contact with them when my mom called to see if they had any Snap Circuits. Jeff Coda was the one who answered the phone. He helped me by giving me a soldering iron, oscilloscope, kits to learn to solder, bread boards, electrical components so I could learn more about electronics. He’s helped with with questions I’ve had too. He’s really cool.

What are some of the things you’ve made so far?  I have made the air cannon, 3x3x3 Led Cube Arduino Shield, catapult, lazer light show, blinky lights. My favorite was the air cannon.

Obviously, it’s a huge honor to get invited to be part of the White House Science Fair. How did that came about? What were your feelings like leading up to and during the event?  I was invited to go to the White House by Make and Cognizant. Make asked me and Cognizant sponsored me. I had met Make at Maker Faires. The whole experience was fun and exciting. I was nervous when I was talking to the president. I got to see a lot of sights while in DC.

Discovery channel casting for new show “Top Engineer”

For you engineers, tinkerers and makers with reality TV dreams — you’ve got until March 7th to submit yourself for a new Discovery show being produced by Pilgrim Studios —  the company that makes Dirty Jobs, American Choppers, and Ghost Hunters (among many others).

I have no connection with this show, so I can’t assist you in any way other than advising you to keep your energy up (general guideline for being on camera), and make sure your fly is zipped (general advice for life).



Are you a designer who can build? Are you a machinist who can design?

The Discovery Channel is looking for America’s most creative and daring techies, machinists, inventors and engineers to design, build, and BLAST their way to a Grand Prize on their new competition TV show TOP ENGINEER.

A handful of lucky men and women will be chosen to take on exciting challenges from various engineering fields at the state-of-the-art WET design facilities ( in California.

No, you don’t need to have an engineering degree to compete on this show, but you MUST be able to design, build, test and integrate an idea into a final product that WORKS. These will be fast-paced, hands-on, VISCERAL challenges! If your experience is strictly behind the keyboard, then this show is NOT for you.

We are looking for visual effects experts, accomplished home shop machinists, contractors and engineers with backgrounds in electrical, civil, structural or mechanical engineering.

If you have an outgoing personality and are ready to get your hands dirty for the chance to win a GRAND PRIZE and the title of TOP ENGINEER, then we want to hear from you.


Email with your name, age, location, phone number, a recent photo and a brief explanation of why you are perfect for this competition show.

Deadline to submit is March 7, 2012

Continue reading Discovery channel casting for new show “Top Engineer”

“Sold,” a gripping short film about the illegal sex trade, and a look at filmmaker John Irwin’s indie/DIY film technique

John Irwin is a writer/director acquaintance who’s making some kick-ass projects. Commercial work, music video, short film — and all with impressive results. John recently showed me his short “Sold,” a very intense piece about the horrific world of human trafficking. Very well written and told, the tension and story grab the viewer quickly; suspension of disbelief can be hard to achieve when you’re watching a project that was made by someone you know, but this one had me wringing my hands from the start. Afterwards, I asked him for details about the film, the filming techniques used for some of the tighter spaces, and  the motivation behind it. He graciously supplied me with a thorough rundown — check it out below.


By John Irwin.

Sold is a short film that focuses on Maya and another young girl, Alexa, who are trapped in the trunk of a car on its way out of town, and their eventual confrontation with their captors.

Up until very close to filming, we didn’t know how we were going to film the interior trunk scenes with the time, money and resources we had. On good ol’ craigslist, we found someone with our “villain” car that agreed to let us rent it for a day. This is the car that shows up at the end of the short. We were desperately searching for a trunk lid in junkyards across LA that would match the make/model of this car (a Mercury Marquis). The plan was to put the lid on top of the trunk and cut holes in the four corners so we could lower our small DSLR camera down and film the inside from each hole. A great plan in theory aside from all the dangerous sharp metal that we would have had to deal with — but we called every single junkyard within 60 miles of Los Angeles and not a single one had a trunk lid that matched.

Continue reading “Sold,” a gripping short film about the illegal sex trade, and a look at filmmaker John Irwin’s indie/DIY film technique

Build Your Own White House Science Fair Marshmallow Cannon

Earlier this month, The White House hosted their second science fair, bringing innovating kids together from around the country to show off impressive creations and contraptions. A standout moment of the event occurred when President Obama spotted a peculiar looking device, and asked its creator for details; moments later, they had cleared a path to see if they could blast marshmallows against the wall on the other side of the room with it.

There’s something great about giving attention to the fun of building and working with science. That enthusiasm can be encouraged and shared, as the marshmallow cannon builder Joey Hudy is choosing to do with his detailed build notes on the Make website.

Here’s an overview:

“Extreme Marshmallow Cannon” by Joe Hudy

  • Hack saw
Relevant parts
  • 8oz PVC Cement Red Hot Low Voc
  • Pressure Gauge 0-100 PSI
  • Electronic Sprinkler Valve
  • 9V Battery (2)
  • Switch
  • Wire
  • Bike Tire Valve
  • Marshmallows
  • Altoids Box
  • PVC Tape
  • PB110 1/2″ x 1/4″ Brass Pipe Bushing
  • PB101 1/4″ Brass Pipe Tee
  • PB113 1/4″ Close Brass Pipe Nipple
  • PVC 1 1/2″ EL 90D EL (4)
  • PVC 3/4″ EL 90D EL
  • PVC 1″ x 1″ x 3/4″ Tee
  • PVC 3/4″ x 3/4″ Tee (2)
  • PVC 1-1/2″ x 1 1/2 x 1″ Tee (2)
  • PVC 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ Tee
  • PVC 1-1/2″ Cross
  • PVC 3/4″ Running Trap (2)
  • PVC 1″ Male Adapter (2)
  • PVC 1″ x 3/4″ Bushing (2)
  • PVC 1-1/2″ x 1″ Bushing
  • PVC 3/4″ x 1/2″ Bushing
  • PVC Marshmallow Barrel
  • PVC 1 1/2″ x 12″ (2)
  • PVC 1 1/2″ x 10″
  • PVC 1 1/2″ x 6 1/2″
  • PVC 1 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ (4)
  • PVC 1 1/2″ x 3 7/8″ (1)
  • PVC 3/4″ x 1 1/2″ (3)
  • PVC 1″ x 2 1/2″ (1)
  • PVC 1″ x 2″ (1)

Assembly is pretty straightforward, but you’ll likely want to build a turret for it that lets you aim and direct your marshmallows right at your target — the waiting mouth of your hungry friends.


How to Make Your Own Chalkboard Paint With Stuff You Probably Already Have

If you like DIY projects like this, make sure to follow me on Twitter.

Chalkboard paint is a fun way to customize a space with the option of ever-changing designs that are only limited the color chalk you have. You can buy chalkboard paint at many places — but it’s not the cheapest stuff around. However, thanks to our favorite ex-girlfriend of Anthony Hopkins Martha Stewart (via the blog), the curtain has been pulled back on what this magical paint is made from: materials you probably already have in your garage.

The basics:
– Paint
– Unsanded tile grout

(8:1 ratio of paint to grout, so not much grout is needed)

You’ll also want some primer, two foam roller brushes (look for “very smooth finish,” according to Brightnest), and materials to help you keep your lines straight and clean (masking tape for painting, levels, t-squares, pencils, etc).

1. Clean, dry, and primer the area you plan on applying the paint to.
2. Mix and stir 1 cup of paint to 2 tablespoons of grout (it dries quickly, so best to make smaller batches as needed instead of one large batch).
3. Apply evenly with roller brush, and let dry.
4. Wait 2 hours to dry, then apply a second coat. Repeat this step for 3 coats and you should be good to go.

As shown on the Brightnest blog, the chalkboard paint can be used for a lot more than just your kids’ play area. It works great as a way to make customizable coffee mugs, flower pots, pantry containers, and more. Check their site for a few more specifics and design ideas — enjoy!

Skate Ramp Tips from the King of Built to Shred

Skate ramps are one of the most awesome expressions of DIY individuality, and I post regularly about them — check out my roundup of online ramp plans among others. Thanks to my pals at diy website Built By Kids, one of the masters of skate ramp building, Jeff King of the TV show Built to Shred, supplies a handful of ramp making tips to help make your next project better than ever.

A key line that destroys my favorite childhood ramp material:

Just for the record I don’t ever think masonite should be used for a ramp. Indoor or outdoor.

Check out the full Built By Kids series of skate posts:
– Ramp tips from Jeff King
– Visiting the Built to Shred set (some awesome pics of truly outrageous ramp builds there)
– And a VBS how-to on building a mini ramp


Reshaping An Old Surfboard Into New

the BONUS round from cliff kapono on Vimeo.

Hilo surfer/shaper Robert Patterson gives a 80’s relic an extreme makeover, changing the game and breathing new life into an old friend.

7’5 to 5’5

Welcome to the bonus round…

Great concept: take an old surfboard, peel the fiberglass off, reshape it and give it new life. These guys did it with an old 7’5 single-fin (as did the dudes in the fantastic surf film Picaresque — one of my faves). Check out the interview with the surfer who received (and then rides) this board in this video too.

Related: A little over a year ago I inherited a 9′ longboard that looked like it had been used for target practice AND batting practice — possibly on the same day at times. I started removing the raised areas where the fiberglass had separated from the foam underneath, and soon had a board that looked like a zebra. Finally I decided the best bet would be a full restoration. I’m halfway through it, and honestly I don’t have much confidence that it will turn out well, but seeing that it’s a first attempt, I have no expectations that I’ll be able to shape the like pros do. My point is this: You gotta start somewhere, and where better than with a busted up board?

This video gives me inspiration to head down to my workshop and get messy. You know where to find me.

Peeling the fiberglass off. Lots of foam tends to come up with it. Especially on the rails.

Free Workbench Plans – The $175 Homemade Workbench

Build this DIY workbench for cheap!

Need a workbench for your shop, something solid that will likely last longer than you will? Something you can do serious woodworking on? Mount a vice? Build shelves and cabinets and a crib for the new baby? Well, be prepared to plunk down a ton of cash,  because workbenches like that don’t come cheap.

Or, seeing as you’re the type that wants to build stuff, why not skip buying something pricey and build the very workbench you’ll be using for your future projects? Thanks to the good people at Popular Woodworking, here are the plans to put together your own high-quality, heavy duty bench with laminated top, and the whole thing will set you back just $175 — less than many new powertools cost. And that include the vise.

The free plans are available via PDF, with an accompanying set of notes on the Popular Woodworking website. Enjoy!