Archive for Hobbies

My Personal Bucket List

(Updated 7/9/20) A few years ago, a started writing up a “bucket list” of things I would like to do while on Earth. It started off with about ten items and I’ve been gradually adding to it. It’s to the point where I’m not sure it’s doable but I’ve got a few things checked off which I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Here we go…

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Fishing in Lake Tahoe

tahoe-tripOk, I know that my About Me page mentions that I’m not much of a writer. Well a lot has changed since that time and I’ve really started to take a liking to it. I still have a ways to go before I publish my first book (haha) but practice makes perfect. My wife actually encouraged me to write this post about my trip to Lake Tahoe. It is in a slightly different format. Here goes…

The phone shook violently from its perch on the picnic table. I adjusted my body and set the steaming cup of coffee down on table before picking up the phone. It was a text from my son. I put in the password to unlock my new smart phone. I was still getting used to all the options but it was a handy little thing. I hit a few buttons to bring up the text.

“Good Morning, it is about 6:00 here, the girls are still sleeping. I just have to load up the truck and I will be ready to go.”

I chuckled slightly as my fingers slid across the screen. “You are getting a late start. Its 4:00 here and I already have the coffee done.” I sent the text and picked up my cup. The warmth helped clear the winter chill from my bones. I smiled and shook my head. At thirty seven degrees the December weather here in Lake Tahoe would have been considered spring back in Wisconsin. My phone buzzed again. I pulled up the most recent text.

“I just got the auger in truck. I just need to grab a few more things and then layer up. How long is it going to take you to get ready?” The text read.

I chuckled again. I looked down, my waders were already on my feet. I stood up and walked to my tent. I unzipped the fly and reached in to grab my fisherman’s life jacket, which I finally decided to buy after reading about in a life vest reviews site I came across last Fall. I checked the pockets that held my various gear and tackle. Everything was in place. I closed the tent fly and headed to my truck. I looked carefully at the various rod and reals before choosing my ugly stick. I was going to be going for big game today. I walked back to the table and took another sip of coffee.

nice-catch“Ready.” I texted. I sat and watched the area around. I took another sip of coffee before sending another text. “The phone told me it is going to get near seventy here. What is the weather like in Tomah this morning?” I walked over to the coffee pot freshened my cup. My phone buzzed several times before it made it back to the table.

“Cold” the first text read. “We are not supposed to break zero today.” The following text stated. “You have an extra spot in that camp site?” The last text asked.

I laughed again. “There is always room. You are going to have bring my granddaughters with you though.” I sent the one text and started sending another. I tucked the phone into one of my the pockets of my new fishing life vest and began my walk to the lake.

“My phone buzzed just as I was approaching the lake. It was picture of the old ice fishing shack with caption “Not going to find this in California.”

I turned on my camera and took a picture of Lake Tahoe. A clear lake wreathed in snowy mountains. “You won’t find anything like this in Wisconsin.” My phone buzzed again.

“Setting up the tip ups now. Remember the rules Grandpa Ed. The person with the smaller fish buys a plane ticket to visit the winner.” The text read.

“I expect my granddaughters to be joining you once I beat you.” I pulled out my lucky spinner and attached it to the end of my fishing line and stepped into the lake. It would still be a few moments before he got started. A preemptive strike. I threw the first cast of the day.

Top Woodworking Projects for Kids

Woodworking is a popular hobby and a good way to introduce kids to tools. The concepts of simple machines and safety learned in basic carpentry will apply to almost any other project. Introducing kids to basic projects will show them how easy and functional carpentry can be. Adults also use more complex tools, but they are based on the same principles, so learning how they work as a child will lead to more options.

Tool Box (easy)

toolboxOne of the first projects for kids to work on is a tool box. This is a popular choice because it demonstrates how a few common tools can be used to create a sturdy and useful item. Keep in mind, you don’t need to spend a fortune for the best hand tools. I trip to Harbor Freight is all that’s needed. Since it can be made from a single piece of wood, it shows kids how to make the most of the available resources. As a bonus, they are easily customized with paint so they will have a handy tote they decorated on their own.
Assembling a tool box requires the use of the following:
  • handsaw
  • hammer
  • screwdriver
  • nails
  • screws

To show how to use additional tools, a square will help make sure the pieces fit together neatly. When kids see how easy it is to follow the plans, they will be encouraged to try another project.

Jewelry Box (Medium)

jewelry-boxAnother project that is commonly used to introduce kids to carpentry is a jewelry box. One of the reasons this is a popular choice is that it can be given to the child’s mother when it is complete. The same plan for a box is also easily adapted to other uses depending on the need. Boxes are a interesting choice because they offer options for those with different skills or who want to learn how to use more tools. One option is to use a miter box to cut the boards at an angle for a more sophisticated look.

Those who are ready for more advanced techniques can learn to cut dovetail joints in the pieces used for the sides so they fit together snugly. When giving boxes like this as a gift, the chance to add a finish will teach kids the value of preserving and protecting the wood with a sealer or a stain. Assembling a lid means learning the value of taking fine measurements so it fits exactly and how to add hinges to improve the quality of a project. For some good tool buying advice be sure to do your research online so you don’t waste money on tools you don’t need.

Bird House (Advanced)

birdhouseBuilding projects that are clearly functional will appeal to kids when they can see them being used everyday. This is where a bird house is an excellent choice as it will be highly visible and put to good use. Since it provides shelter for local birds, it will be appreciated for more than just a way to practice using tools. Some of the features of bird houses and feeders make them good for demonstrating additional techniques.

The roof will be more attractive when it is cut with a clean mitered joint. The walls and sides can be cut to any shape the child desires, as long as the front and back and both sides match. They also offer the chance to practice using drills to add openings for birds or to make small holes so a dowel can be inserted as a perch.

Learning to use carpentry tools safely is a valuable skill that gives every one a chance to build some of the things they want instead of buying them. Woodworking also gives kids an outlet to express their creativity in ways that will impress their friends and family.

Why You Should Change Your Own Oil

I’m by no means comfortable with doing my own major car repairs but there are a couple things I always do myself: wash my car and change the oil. Something I learned early on in life is that in order for a vehicle to run properly, it must be well maintained. If you want your car to run well for as long as possible, you will need to have the oil changed regularly. You may want to consider changing the oil in your car on your own. It is not overly difficult to do and there are many benefits to doing the work yourself.

Save Yourself Money

Changing your oil on your own will save you a lot of money. You can compare the cost of the filter and oil to be sure that you are getting the best price possible. There are times when you can find oil on clearance and save yourself even more money. If you plan on doing other maintenance and repair, I’d highly recommended investing in a floor jack. A good 2 ton floor jack will literally last you a lifetime and save a bunch of time and effort.

Another thing that will save a bunch of money over its lifetime is a small air compressor. According to this site, not only will you not have a to pay a couple bucks at a gas station each time you need to top off your tires’ air pressure, you’ll extend the life of your tires when it’s easy to inflate them yourself (as opposed to driving on under-inflated tires).

Save Yourself Time

Changing the oil yourself will save you time because you can do it whenever it is convenient for you. You will not have to spend hours on end waiting for a mechanic to change the oil. Many mechanics have numerous oil changes to do in a day and this can cause you to have to wait two to four hours just to get an oil change.

Get Peace of Mind

Mechanics are often in a hurry when changing oil. They want to get as many jobs done as possible to ensure that they are able to make as much money as they can. By doing the oil change on your own, you will be able to rest assured that the job was done the right way, that no plugs are missing, and that the filter was put into the car the right way. Don’t be like my friend who went into one of those speedy oil change places and the attendant there forgot to fully tighten the oil pan bolt. By the time he got home, there was no oil in the car and the engine was smoking. Now he’s fighting them to get reimbursed for the damage.

Changing your own oil will take less than an hour, once you get used to doing it. When you consider the time and financial savings that come from changing your own oil, you will realize that it is well worth the effort.

Essential Woodworking Tools for the Garage

I love working with wood. It’s relaxing and gets the creative juices flowing. Woodworking as either income or hobby entails the use of certain tools. Once you decide to convert your garage into a shop, you will need to know the best choices for a limited space. Some tools are indispensable while others can be passed by depending on what you expect to achieve from your shop.

We can start by listing the most needed power tools followed by hand tools and incidentals. If you know exactly what you’ll be doing, tools may be added and removed, but we can make a good beginners list here.

Table Saw

table-sawThe biggest tool you should have will be your tablesaw. For accuracy, for ability to make repetitive cuts and for the ability to handle large sizes of board, this tool can’t be beat. The drawback is the amount of space it takes up. Being a cabinetmaker, I like my tablesaw bench to be large enough to handle at least a 4X8 sheet of plywood. That means my bench would be nine to ten feet from front to back and nine feet wide with the saw blade being center of that span.

An alternative to such a large piece of real estate in your garage is a portable tablesaw that can be stored under a workbench, but they have never been known for accuracy. For accuracy, you should turn to your circular saw, a good straightedge and clamps. It takes a bit to set up but it will give you a far better cut than the portable.

Power Tools

cordless-drillNext up is a drill. Some think that this is where it stops. Of course, you can put a screwdriver bit in and run screws but woodworking often requires a more delicate hand. In my opinion, drills are for drilling but screwguns are for screwing. They can be adjusted to stop before blowing through the wood.

A jigsaw is the next tool, preferably one that can scroll. This is followed by a router. Obtain an extra base for your router so that you have the ability to use it by hand and attach the other base to a router table. In a perfect world, your shop would have at least two routers, one with a ¼-inch shank and another with a ½-inch shank. Keep in mind, router bits can get very expensive.

Sanders are up next. You can certainly do ninety-nine percent of your sanding with a random orbital sander. However, a belt sander for large jobs certainly makes the job easier. For the small spaces, a triangular sander gets it done.

An air compressor is probably the most versatile piece of equipment in your shop or garage. Whether you’re using it with an air sander or just blowing off sawdust for cleaning, it’ll be used quite often. Since you’ll probably be in a small enclosed air, a quiet air compressor is the best option. Feel free to check out various other air compressor reviews online if you need something larger.

Finally, the indispensable compound miter saw or “chop saw” as it’s called in shops. This saw will cut straight, clean miters for corners, compound miters for angled corners such as crown molding and repetitive crosscuts. This tool can be built into the workbench or used away from it with collapsible supports.

Hand Tools

hand-toolsHand tools are the remaining link between past and present. No matter how many innovations are made to power tools, there will always be a time when you’ll reach for a hand tool. The list can go on forever but here are the necessities:

  • Chisels for cutting and cleaning up your projects. Chisels range in size from ¼-inch to 2 inches.

  • Squares come in several styles and you should have one of each. Framing squares, adjustable squares and T-squares are the most used in a wood shop.

  • Clamps, hand planes, screwdrivers, wrenches, tape measures and folding rulers round out the list.


The most important tool is your common sense. Be sure the garage is well ventilated, always wear safety equipment and work smart.

Building a Kids Bunk Bed

Let’s face it… any kid would love to have a bunk bed in their room. I still remember when my dad built my brother and I our first bunk bed. It was nothing fancy but to us kids, it was the coolest thing. Bunk beds are actually quite easy to build although a bit time consuming. If you decide to do the job yourself, then you can save quite a bit of money. For a very inexpensive way to please your kids all you need is a few basic tools and pinewood. Using pinewood would make the bunk very durable, solid and safe.

bunk-bed-safetyIt’s important to remember that the top portions of bunk beds should not be used by very young kids. It should be reserved for those at least 4 years old. Younger kids can be on the bottom. My grandkids are 5 and 3 so obviously, the younger one will be on the bottom. He still loves sleeping in his favorite toddler sleep sack so it’s much safer if he’s on the bottom. BTW, if you’re looking for one, I’ve been told that Woolino makes the best toddler sleep bag.

Materials and Tools Needed

  • 6/4″ pine
  • scrap wood
  • 4×4 pine
  • 1×2 pine
  • 1×4 pine
  • plywood
  • screws
  • table saw
  • miter saw
  • circular saw
  • router
  • pencil
  • chisel
  • jigsaw
  • flush cut router bit
  • drill
  • drill bit
  • screwdriver
  • measuring tape
  • safety glasses

Instructions For Building A Kid’s Bunk Bed

  1. All boards must be sanded smooth with power sander.
  2. Four 2x6s must be cut down to 39 inches.
  3. You can use the same blade to cut 8 2x6s down to 78 inches.
  4. The 2x6s should be glued and screwed together.
  5. The box should be placed on the plywood so you can trace outline with pencil.
  6. The plywood should be cut to the size of traced box.
  7. The plywood piece should be glued and screwed to the bottom of the box. Now the mattress should fit in the box.
  8. The lower bunk is ready to be set up. Spaced four feet apart, place the 4×4 pieces of wood on the floor. Make a line and this will give you the lower mounting point for the box.
  9. The mattress box should be placed so that it is even with the line. It should be 18 inches from the ends.
  10. Now the points for attaching the lower bunk must be set up. Using the line as a guide, drill 2 3/8 inch holes in the 2x6s and in the 4x4s making sure not to come through the other side.
  11. The drill hole must be counter synced to 3/4 of an inch. Use the 3/4 inch spade bit.
  12. Glue and screw lag bolts into holes using socket and ratchet. Do this on both sides of the box.
  13. Place other 2×6 mattress box 12 inches from top of 4x4s. Attach the box same way as the lower box.
  14. Place legs in place. 4x4s should be placed on the ground 4 feet apart. Flip edges of box over on 4x4s. Glue and screw legs to bed.
  15. Stand the bunk upright. Lift the bed onto its 4×4 legs.
  16. Stabilize the bed, attach 6 foot 2x4s to front and back. Glue and screw them to boxes.
  17. Build a ladder by cutting 2x4s 24 inches long and set at 12 inches apart starting from the ground. Glue and screw the 2x4s to the ends.
  18. Safety railings should be built and should measure 3 inches up on the side of the 4x4s on the top bunk. Glue and screw the rest of the 2x6s to the sides.

Choosing a Secure Gun Cabinet

If you’re like me, safety is of utmost importance when it comes to being a gun owner. There are a lot of gun cabinets in the market today of all different brands and sizes. Being a gun enthusiast requires you to think responsibly especially in choosing the right storage space for your firearms. With this, you have to think about a few things when you are looking for a gun cabinet to place in your home.  

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