DIY Chrismukkah :: Wife’s Gift

For Christmas last year I made a bunch of gifts that I was going to blog about but didn’t because I wanted them all to be surprises. Considering it’s now time again to think about possible DIY gifts for the holidays I figured it was a good time to chat about what I’ve done before and consider some options for this year.

I’m a guy. I love pinterest. I’m completely fine with being in the minority. Particularly because having my wife on Pinterest means that sometimes when I pin things, she likes them, and it removes all doubts about whether or not surprising her with something will be well received. It’s like gift cheating. Especially because my wife has design amnesia where we can discuss something / talk about pins that we both like and she will still be completely surprised (or at least act surprised) if I later do said thing. It’s kind of great.

And sidebar: the secret boards where you can collaborate with people about gift ideas for other people? So nice. End sidebar.

So I pinned something this here mail / key / chalkboard organizer thing and Shannon commented that she was all over it.

Shanty2Chich Chalkboard Mail organizer

This project might have been the easiest of the three DIY gifts to build.

DIY Chalkboard mail organizer


I did have some issues with the measurements and the templates note quite turning out right, but I improvised and got it where I wanted it to be. I omitted the braces, changed the hardware color and made mine a bit wider framed. Oh and it took me like three months to actually get it hung up on the wall (oops) so I think some of the good will was lost.

FInally hung DIY mail chalkboard


Though my wife hates chalk (the texture, dust, sound, etc.) she does love chalkboards, “chalk” markers and doing crazy beautiful paintings on them like this:

Flowers painted on antique chalkboard

Again the blurry iphone photos are really starting to bug me. I keep threatening to upgrade to real cameras … might have to make good on that soon.


Boys Room

DIY Chrismukkah :: Boys Gifts

For Christmas last year I made a bunch of gifts that I was going to blog about but didn’t because I wanted them all to be surprises. Considering it’s now time again to think about possible DIY gifts for the holidays I figured it was a good time to chat about what I’ve done before and consider some options for this year.

The boys gifts were really straight forward. Considering they have countless toys that need homes I built them some toy trugs from Ana White / That’s My Letter. Here was there inspiration pic that I used:

Specifically I really liked the one on the left and ended up copying the colors nearly exactly for one of the boys. I used some 1/2″ plywood and 1/2″ craft wood and made two of the exact same size with just different stripes. As usual these photos are not great. I really need to think about starting to use a real camera and doing some photo editing.

DIY tool box toy trug boys

The boxes were stained with Ipswich Pine and the bottoms with probably Provincial, both by Minwax. I really liked the way the Ipswich Pine looks on the birch. I tried it on some actual pine and the results were much less impressive, it didn’t actually make much of a difference at all.

DIY boys tool trugs tool boxes

The boys project was a bit of a tack-on one because I was building something for the girls and I didn’t want to have them feel left out. Of course I should have realized that the words “I wanted something hand made not just legos” would probably never come out of my boys mouths. I really would have been fine with legos. But overall the project was mostly successful, only a few chip outs on the plywood and some wonky semi-circles for the end pieces, but I’m happy with them and so are the boys.


Shed :: Light ’em Up!

I had grand plans for a nice easy short term solution to wiring the shed. Spoiler: it didn’t work. Before I share the failed plan, please know I’m not a licensed electrician so please do not ever follow any of my advice or repeat anything I’ve done with electrical on this site because there are no guarantees it’s safe. The good news is that I was no so sold on the idea of running an extension cord out to the shed and using an inlet to power all of the wiring in the shed. The bad news is that the long term solution involved trenching out to the shed, buying 4 x 100′ of THWN 10 gauge wire (which is not super expensive, but just more money I didn’t want to spend right now) along with boxes, breakers, etc.

So original plan: Extension Cord + Inlet = Fail. Before I even had load on the circuits as soon as I plugged in the extension cord the GFCIs popped and it was a no go. I might have been able to make it work, but the thought of doing something possibly stupid and dangerous was enough deterrent to make me switch to plan B.


Plan B did not technically involve completely shorting the conduit, but thankfully with a quick trip to the store for some joints that problem was easily overcome.

If you don’t want boring electrical details, just skip to the pictures of the shed all lit up. I chose to run THWN 10 gauge wire in conduit so that I could possibly use the shed as a shop later on. I don’t need to run super heavy machinery, but I did upsize the PVC to 1″ in case I wanted to run other wire later. There are 2 hot, 1 neutral and 1 ground run from a 30A double pole switch in my main cutoff, about 60′ away. They come into a subpanel in the shed with a 20A and 15A circuit for outlets and lighting respectively. Instead of spending a ton on GFCI circuit breakers, I used some GFCI outlets that I had as the first thing in each run so that all circuits are GFCI protected. I installed a grounding rod at the shed (and I might need another? I still need to consult my electrician buddies on this one) and ran some left over 6 gauge copper to that. So without further ado, (not super) pretty photos (which are really convincing me I need to stop shooting these photos with my 5 year old iphone)

Shed lit up at dusk

I splurged on this bad boy from Northern Tool with some gift cards that my health insurance gives for doing “healthy” things. Thankfully they don’t charge me for the cookies, beer and pizza. I’d be broke.


These smaller lights look MUCH better on the shed than on the front of the house. They are shed sized, not house sized. In this first pic you can see the service entrance where the conduit comes up and in to the shed.

Shed sized lights

Right sized shed lights

And even better when lit up.

Lit up shed lights

Lit up shed lights

I didn’t get a good shot of these copper DIY pendant barn lights all lit up but you can see the chickies through the window all snug under the warm glow of one here.

Chickens under DIY barn copper pendant light

I still need to get photos of my ridiculously high tech switches.

First I have a programmable timer three way switch for the chicken cottage overhead light so that I can give the hens a bit more light through our lovely cold dark upstate NY winters. It has all sorts of crazy options, but I’m glad I can set it to turn on at a certain time for an hour or two and then shut off. I used to have a dusk sensor but didn’t really know how to get that to work with a three way switch in the coop, or have the sensor be separate from the light since it would need to be outdoors. But a $30 timer switch from Home Depot did the trick, and I’m quite happy with it.

Second, the most luxurious thing in the shed is my remote switch. It may not look like much but this little bad boy that I can mount anywhere in the house let’s me switch on the outside shed lights without leaving the house, and more importantly shut them off from inside our cozy home without having to have run a separate wire just for the switch. I originally planned to use this at my parents house since their driveway is lit by the barn lights at night, they constantly have to walk out to turn them on or off for guests at night. It’s not actually as critical in my shed, and normally I shun gadgety things, but I still love it.

Remote switch for exterior lights!

Next up I want to give a full overview of the chicken coop to post up on MyPetChicken, but then I think I’m finally done posting about this shed. Seriously.

But again it does kind of melt my grumpy heart to see some happy chickens (Spoiled chickens of instagram style).

Chickens of Instagram


DIY Copper Barn Pendant Lights (Under $20)

My inspiration for the barn lights and the actual end product ended up being pretty darn far apart actually.

Mini Artesia Lights from Barn Electric


I ended up here

DIY Copper Barn Pendant Lights

I originally fell in love with this image a long time ago, possibly when doing my first set of DIY lights for the pantry. Since I used bright yellow there I thought I would switch it up to more of a mustard yellow for the shed. I liked the mix of lots of white (my original plan was to paint the inside of the shed AND coop) with the mustardy yellow

Mustard Yellow industrial pendant lights

Of course the easiest way about this is to not live 3 hours from IKEA or have the type of life that would allow you frequent jaunts down to said amazing Swedish purveyor of cheap lighting that you can just spray paint and be done like so.

At Home on the Bay - Ikea Barn Pendant

I may not have IKEA, but I do have something that is almost as magical. In less of a modern urban Swedish way, but in more of a rustic country in the middle of nowhere surrounded by livestock kind of way, Tractor Supply. Oh yea. So during Chick Days I picked me up a couple of these brooder lights on sale.

I looked for a good few months for the right mustard yellow spray paint and almost committed to buying some online a couple of times but the price, quantity (do I need a case of mustard yellow spray paint… maybe?), size (is 8oz enough? [No]) all made me balk. Finally at some point I asked my lovely and much more accurate color sight enabled wife what she thought and she suggested just doing copper. Of course I could buy gold, bronze, silver, chrome, aged copper, hammered copper, but it took me again way too long to track down just straight copper spray paint. Finally I found this online and could finally start moving ahead.

Rust-oleum Copper Spray Paint


The first step was to tape up the socket, cover the holes from the outside with tape and cover the cord and outside with some grocery bags. I left the lip exposed because I wanted it to be white like the inside. I used some Rustoleum gloss white on the inside and after a rough start of not making sure I had a good clean consistent spray before I started, spraying the inside was  a breeze.

Spraying inside of brooder lights white for DIY copper barn pendants

DIY Copper Barn Pendant Lights

Once I had the insides nice and dry for a day or two I tore off the tape and taped up the holes from the inside this time. Then I had the not so fun job of trying to protect the rim with tape as well.

Taped rims of DIY Copper Barn Pendant Lights


From there I glued up some 3/4″ conduit in two different lengths. The main shed pendants are about 26″ long and the one in the coop is maybe 18″. I clipped off the end of the cord and slipped it into the pipe.

Cord in conduit for DIY Barn Pendant lights

Then I attempted to glue them together. Sadly nothing worked. Gorilla Glue failed me, completely (it may just be that the bottle is old enough to drive and is going through a phase though, mouthy disrespectful teenager glue). Caulk faired a bit better but was still to wobbly even after curing for a day. So I busted out some flashing tape that I had from the metal roof and decided to give it a shot. It looks all crinkly and ruins the effect of the lights a bit for me so I’m not thrilled with it, but they are sturdy and in a shed so good enough! If I were to do this project again I might consider bond-o or some other serious adhesive (PL? True love? Heh.) to get a better look.

Then I took them to my spray hut (ie under the deck outside the basement) and clipped the cord up to keep it out of the way.

Spraying under the deck

That weedy, rocky, clay-filled pit is on the list for next year. Including the super classy plywood surround for the french doors. It’s not permanent, just WAY longer lived than we first hoped.

Once they were all sprayed up they looked a lot more like this

DIY Copper Barn Light


The next step was to trim the cord and clamp it off so that it didn’t slide around too much. I just used some 1/2″ knock out box clamps that I had on hand.

Clamped off cord for DIY barn pendant light

And then finally I hung them up in the coop and the shed and they look a bit like this.

I am really happy with the copper color, especially in the coop with the black and gray/white walls and gray floor.

They look pretty good out in the shed, but it really makes me want to paint the whole shed.

DIY Copper Barn Light for under $20

DIY Copper Barn Pendant Lights

The final cost / material list for one of these lights looks like:

  • Brooder Light $8 * 4 = $32
  • Conduit $2
  • Slip Connector <$1 * 4 ~ $4
  • 1/2″ Threaded to 3/4″ conversion $1 * 4 ~ $4
  • Mounting plate $2 * 4 = $8
  • Copper Spray Paint $10 * 2  = $20 (I barely started the second can but one was just not quite enough)
  • White Spray Paint $4
  • Not counting the painters tape, flashing tape, pipe glue, other minor materials on hand etc.

So total of $74 for 4 lights a unit total of $18.50 each. Not bad. And my only (minor) regret is the tape job that I had to do around the collar of the light