Category Archives: construction

DIY Acrylic Lap Desk

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this easy DIY acrylic lap desk takes less than an hour to make, and the materials cost under $30! Learn how to make a simple lap desk or DIY acrylic tray yourself right here.

young boy drawing a picture on an acrylic lap desk

Ever since we reached the point in the moving process where I can’t really change anything in my house (since, you know, someone has pledged to buy it as it is and it’s time to start thinking about things like packing, not renovating), I’ve been itching to just make something.

I’m used to having projects that I’m doing all the time, and this lack of stuff to do has been getting to me. So, this weekend when I had the idea to create a little acrylic lap desk for Jackson to play LEGOs on or use to draw, I was thrilled to have the chance stretch my creative muscles a bit.

Ever since Jackson started school this year, he’s been really into drawing, labeling things, and creating. He’s always loved coloring, but his creativity has really blossomed in the last few months and my home is littered with pieces of paper with random Pokemon and Minecraft characters all over them.

Of course, like most 5-year-old boys, he’s also super into LEGOs. He’s been doing a ton of building lately and has finally reached the point where he can actually keep his creations together and they don’t immediately get destroyed. We’ve been using the lids from the baskets in his room as little trays for him to keep his creations on (so they’re easier to continue playing with later), but that means that his baskets no longer have lids. Which, let’s be honest, drives me nuts.

So, a lap desk was the perfect solution to give him a place to store whatever he’s currently playing with, and also for him to bring in the living room and use as a little table to draw on while we’re all hanging out together.

The bonus is that when Grant suddenly becomes interested in whatever it is he’s working on, it’s really easy for him to pick it up and move to higher ground!

little boy drawing on an acrylic tray with text overlay - "easy do it yourself acrylic lap desk"

This post is sponsored by Wagner.

This little acrylic lap desk took me only about an hour to put together, and the only real materials cost was the acrylic, which was about $30 from the big box home improvement store. Not bad for a totally customizable (and adorable) acrylic lap desk, no?!

This is one of those projects that is so easy it almost doesn’t need a tutorial, but I’ll share anyways. I promise this is something you can do yourself in no time, and your kid will love it!

DIY Acrylic lap desk

Materials & Tools

  • 18X24 clear acrylic sheet (mine is 1/4″ thick)
  • Circular saw (you could also use a table saw or jigsaw)
  • Wagner Furno 500 Heat Gun
  • Scrap wood (I used one long piece and one smaller piece)
  • 2 clamps

Cut your acrylic to size

First up, you’ll want to cut down your acrylic so that it measures 12″ wide by 24″ long. I tried to do this just by scoring it with a utility knife, but the 1/4″ acrylic was much too thick, so I had to grab the circular saw. You can see my tutorial on how to use one right here! You could also easily use a jigsaw (here’s that tutorial) or a table saw. You can also have them cut it for you in-store at most hardware stores for free! There’s a plastic and glass cutting station right next to the acrylic at our store, so if you don’t have the tools or don’t want to do it yourself, just have them take care of it for you.

Set up your workstation

Set up for DIY acrylic lap tray

The next thing you’ll want to do is set up your work area so you can be safe (heat guns are, um, hot), and work quickly so you don’t crack the acrylic.

Let me break down what’s happening in the above setup:

  • At the bottom, there’s a cardboard box on my table (just to protect it from scratches or heat)
  • On top of that, there’s a long, skinny box that is being used just to hold the entire thing up a bit.. As you can see, the clamps hang below the scrap wood, so I just needed something to prop it all up. You could also use scrap wood for this, I just grabbed what I had.
  • Next we have a big piece of scrap wood that is acting as my work surface and a place to clamp to.
  • Then, I placed the acrylic on top and clamped the smaller scrap board on top – this is the piece that acts as your corner for folding. More on that below.

Measure and clamp down your acrylic

Once you’ve got your work area set up, you’re ready to clamp your material in place. Line your acrylic piece up with the board on bottom (so you can be sure that it’s straight), and then place your smaller scrap board so that it covers the back 3 inches of the acrylic. Be sure to measure from both sides so you know it’s straight across, and clamp it into place, as pictured above.

Grab the heat gun!

woman's hand using a heat fun to bend plexiglass
woman applying heat to plexiglass using a heat gun

Now, you’re ready for the fun part. Grab your heat gun (here’s the one I use), and apply heat directly to the area right next to where you clamped the wood. You want to keep it as close to the edge of the wood as possible (I actually rested the metal part of my heat gun on the wood to ensure I stayed steady as I worked) and keep your hand moving at a slow and steady pace.

I found that it worked best when I had my heat gun set to about 800 degrees and applied heat for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I just set a timer and slowly moved the heat gun back and forth right where I planned for the bend to be. Be sure not to rush this – if you try to bend it before it’s ready, it will crack!

Once you’ve applied heat for about four and a half minutes, your acrylic should be ready to bend. Set your heat gun aside (be sure to turn it off!) and grab the end of the acrylic closest to you. Sloooooooowly fold it all the way up. I used my speed square to hold the acrylic at a 90-degree angle for about a minute while it cooled off, but I wish I would have let it be a slightly more gentle bend so that the legs aren’t straight up and down.

You only need to wait for about 30 seconds to a minute before the tray is ready to be un-clamped.

A quick note: I’ll go ahead and take this moment to recommend that you save your scrap piece of acrylic and use that to get a feel for the project before you do it with the main piece. This is what I did and it’s the best way to get a feel for how the acrylic bends, how you know when it’s ready, and all that other good stuff!

woman bending plexiglass to make DIY lap tray

Repeat on the other side

Carefully flip the entire thing around and do the same thing on the other side. Be careful to measure the exact same length from the edge (we did 3 inches) so the legs are the same length.

young boy playing on an acrylic lap desk in his bedroom
close up of a young boy coloring on an acrylic lap desk

And just like that, you’re done!

I used a sanding block to sand down some of the rough edges from cutting, and then I turned it loose to Jackson. He immediately started rattling off all the different ways he could use it (many of which had never crossed my mind), so I think it’s safe to say it’s a success.

He’s already used it a ton, and I have a feeling this is going to become a staple of his day-to-day play time. I love that I was able to make something he’s going to use so much and I also love that it’s actually really cute!

If you’re on the fence about if it’s worth it to grab a heat gun for a project like this, you should check out Wagner’s list of over 100 different ways to use it. Seriously, you’ll find yourself reaching for this little thing way more than you expect! You can grab one from their site, and from most home improvement stores. Be sure to let me know if you try this project – I’d love to see!

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Combating Rising Construction Industry Suicide Rates

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While the construction industry is thriving financially and making a major contribution to the U.S. economy, the industry as a whole struggles to deal with workplace stressors. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, male construction and extraction workers had the highest suicide rate among American workers.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As an industry, construction leaders need to take action to change this staggering statistic. Though many factors contribute to the increased risk of suicide, the high-pressure nature of schedule, budget and quality performance, coupled with potential for failure that’s tied to the employee’s livelihood, are especially anxiety-inducing. Employers and employees in the industry must know how to identify, cope with and prevent stress from consuming them – especially when the end result for many is suicide.

Identifying Stress

Employers and construction site leadership must be skilled in identifying sources of stress. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide prevention, their employees are not likely to express their feelings of stress and overwhelming depression. Though not everyone shows stress in the same way, some changes in employee behavior are more noticeable. According to The American Institute of Stress, some of the changes that may manifest include: calling out of work more frequently or unusually aggressive behavior.

Although it is important for construction industry leaders to be able to identify stress in their workers, employees must also be able to identify signs of stress internally. Construction workers may notice an influx of insomnia, headaches or a loss of appetite.

In an industry that contributes nearly $1.3 trillion in annual revenue to the U.S. economy, stress may not seem like a big deal. However, when this stress continues to add up and remains unaddressed, it can easily spiral into the suicide epidemic we are currently witnessing within the industry.

Coping with Stress

 Construction employers should extend the protection of their employees beyond the requirements set in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). Instead, employers should also strive to create a space for mental wellness. Though there are limitations to the number of stressors an employer can prevent, no action is too small to make a tremendous impact on the livelihood of their employees. The most important and impactful thing an employer could do is to be understanding by noticing the changes in a worker, listening to their concerns and making meaningful changes based on these conversations.

According to Dr. Sherry Benton, a psychologist with more than 25 years of experience and chief science officer of TAO Connect – a digital health company aiming to make behavioral health therapy more accessible and efficient – there are numerous ways construction workers can cope with their own stress.

“When you’re stressed at work, it’s hard to remember your purpose. To help prevent and alleviate the impact of this stress, things like physical activity, support from friends and family, a creative outlet, or simply doing more of what you love can make a significant difference. Actively working on your life balance is key to staying healthy and recovering,” said Dr. Benton.

Preventing/Reducing Stress

Investing in mental health yields a positive return on investment for construction companies when it is compared to the financial impact of ignoring the signs. As a construction company, it is important to ensure that your workplace has a culture of mental health promotion and suicide prevention. Employers could implement employee assistance programs meant to promote mental health awareness in the workplace. If a construction company already has a relevant employee assistance program in place, it is a good practice to openly promote it to employees, because many are not aware of the benefits available to them.

Stress is not 100% preventable but learning to deal with it in a healthy way can be the difference between life and death for many in the industry. According to Dr. Benton, these are some of the ways to reduce stress:

  • Exercise is not only beneficial in reducing disease, it has been proven to reduce stress. Participating in aerobic exercise helps with stress, moodiness, sleep and self-confidence.
  • Find balance by engaging in activities outside of work that give your life a sense of meaning. It can be difficult to prioritize these activities at first, but its effect on mental health is incredibly beneficial.
  • Lean on your support system and let them in on your struggles and stressors. Simply being heard makes a difference.

Instead of dealing with work-induced stress through toxic behaviors like addiction, mood swings and suicide, the construction industry should work to find healthy coping mechanisms. As the demand for new developments and renovations increase, so does the importance of these healthy coping mechanisms.

About the Author:

Michael Wright is CEO of RedTeam Software. With a background as a commercial general contractor with hands-on experience in all aspects of commercial construction, Wright developed RedTeam as a comprehensive cloud-based solution for construction project and accounting management built by contractors for contractors.


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Easy DIY Vent Hood Cover

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I’m helping my parents with a quick kitchen makeover and we kicked things off by installing a new vent hood and building a custom DIY vent hood cover – I’m sharing the tutorial today!

white vent hood cover in an in-progress kitchen

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been helping my parents with a little makeover in their kitchen. They have lived in their home for more than 25 years now and, aside from replacing the vinyl sheet flooring a few years back, they’ve never done anything to the kitchen to upgrade it. At all.

So, the stove is 25 years old. The laminate counters are 25 years old. Everything is 25 years old, and the entire space really needs some love.

They’ve been talking about doing some work to it for years now, but it kept getting pushed back. We got a really fun opportunity to work with Home Depot for a something we couldn’t use in our own home (more on that soon!), and I decided to gift it to them and help them transform their kitchen in the process.

This isn’t going to be a huge, dramatic makeover – no walls are being knocked down, the cabinets aren’t being replaced, and we’re really only focusing on half of the kitchen right now and will tackle the rest later – hopefully before Christmas.

I’ve been sharing some inside looks at the process on Instagram as my dad and I have been working, and I had a lot of requests to share some of the tutorials on the blog! So, today I’m sharing the first in a quick little series of posts about my parents’ kitchen makeover and I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s a little peek at the before of the space…

kitchen makeover before

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

One thing you might notice is missing (and has always been missing – for 25 years!) is a vent hood! My parents have never had any sort of vent in their kitchen, and it has driven me a little crazy every time I’ve cooked over there for as long as I can remember.

We knew that if we were doing any work in here, adding a vent hood would need to be one of the first things that happened. So, they snagged this affordable option and after my dad and I installed it, we built a DIY cover to make it look a little more custom.

Today, I’m going to show you how you can do the same! It’s a really simple project, but it makes a huge difference in how the entire space feels – it really upgrades things and makes the entire kitchen feel a little more custom.

Of course, you’ll notice that the kitchen is still very much a work in progress! It has already come a pretty long way, but these are by no means official “after” photos – those will come next month once we’ve actually finished aaaaall of the projects!

close up of vent hood cover with text overlay - how to build a DIY vent hood cover

How to build a DIY CUstom vent hood cover

Materials needed:

Step One: MEasure

The first thing you’ll need to do is measure to determine the size of your vent hood cover. This will vary depending on what vent you have. Start by measuring how far out it comes from the cabinets at its furthest point, then measure how far down it sits. You’ll want to add a couple of inches to the measurement for the sides to account for the arch!

vent hood installed over stove

For example, our top shelf comes 10″ out from the cabinets, and the vent hood cover is 8″ tall.

step tWo: Cut the top piece

Once you know your measurement, you’re ready to start cutting pieces. We used the table saw to rip our board down to 10″ (we had a 12″ board because we weren’t sure of the sizing, but you can just grab a 10″ board instead), and cut it to be just over 30″ long (the vent hood itself is exactly 30″ long, so we added about 1/8″ so it would fit snugly.

We also had to cut a small notch out of the top board to account for the vent on the top. It’s not visible at all once it’s hung, but it allows the air to escape, and the shelf is still functional.

top piece for vent hood cover

Step three: Cut the side pieces

Next up, cut the side pieces. They should be the same width as the top piece was, and the length will vary depending on the size of your hood. Ours were about 8″.

We determined the size of our side pieces by measuring how far down the vent hood went and then adding 3 3/4 inches. We wanted the cover to sit a couple of inches below the hood (so it’s fully covered), and then we added another inch so that we could add an arch to the front. The additional 3/4″ is because the side pieces will sit flush with the top of the cover, so you need to add on the thickness of the top board.

Step Four: Assemble the vent hood cover

Now you’re ready to begin assembly!

We simply assembled our vent hood cover with some wood glue and nails. Be sure to use a speed square to ensure that your side pieces aren’t angled at all. We used corner clamps (they’re much easier for this kind of project!), but you can make do with regular clamps if you don’t have any corner ones on hand.

vent hood being assembled with corner clamps
partially assembled vent hood cover

Step five: Cut front piece and finish assembly

Now you’re ready to cut the piece for the front. You can just take measurements off your vent hood cover to determine the width and height you need to cut to (the height should be the same as the side pieces).

Once you’ve got the base shape cut out, you can add the arch. I wish I had a genius tip for how to do this, but we really kind of winged it. We decided we wanted our arch to start 3″ in on either side, and only go up 1″. So, we made those marks on the hood, then we used some string and a pencil to draw a small arch. We cut it out using a bandsaw (you could also use a jigsaw!), and then sanded it until it was smooth.

It’s not perfect, but you’d never know the difference!

Step Six: Add Trim and Paint

man adding trim to front of vent hood cover

Finally, you’re ready for the finish work! We added some trim to the top, and (at the last minute) decided to add a square to the front with some smaller trim – I love that it adds some detail and emphasizes the arch on the front.

We painted the whole thing with our sprayer (see how to use one if you don’t know!) and once it was dry, it was ready to be hung!

Step seven: Hang it up!

We hung the vent hood cover using pocket holes. Dad added one pocket hole at the bottom on each side (to attach to the cabinet on either side of the vent hood) and four along the top (to attach to the cabinet above the hood).

Once it’s all in place, it looks a little something like this:

completed vent hood cover
in-progress kitchen with DIY vent hood cover

This was such a quick and easy project, and I love how it turns out. This is, of course, just the first project in a whole series of fun projects we’ll be doing in this space over the next month, so be sure to stay tuned to see what’s next!

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Unfortunately, Juliette is in a stage where she will only sleep in her crib, and not for lack of trying either.  I’ve driven home in the middle of the night on two camping trips and on our last journey to the lake she wouldn’t go to bed until the sun came up. So…We left the kids home, and enjoyed some much needed adult time at Lake Powell last week. 
I remember being a child and thinking to myself, “why would grownups want to go on a vacation without any kids?!! How Boring!”. hehehe.  It definitely wasn’t boring, but there were moments of down time. The downtime you don’t enjoy until you’ve grown up. 
 I took a kayak out into the lake and waited until no one was around, stopped rowing and admired the breathtaking scenery.  I couldn’t help but thank God under my breath for this picture of perfection.  There have been times in my life when I have questioned his very existence, and undoubtedly I have a similar experience and realize there is no way this could all be a coincidence. It’s just too beautiful. 

Great Renovation Tips to Help Tackle Flipping Projects

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Blue living room interior with a gray sofa during renovation process. Unfinished floor, boxes and a ladder in the corner. 3d rendering mock up

Flipped homes represented 5.6% of home and condo sales in 2018 with 207,957 houses fitting into that category. The average gross profit of flipped home sales was $65,000.

But not all house flippers come out ahead when they sell. Going over budget, taking on too making projects, or overestimating your experience and skills can cut into your profits.

Making smart renovation choices increases your chances of making high profits on your project. Renovation tips to keep the project on time and on budget help guide your decisions.

Keep reading to learn ways to renovate your flipped house to improve your results.

Know When to DIY and When to Contract

The DIY route seems like the cheapest way to renovate when house flipping, but it can cost you more in the long run. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re more likely to make a mistake.

That mistake may force you to buy new materials or eventually hire a professional to do the work anyway. Your mistake could also cause damage to other parts of the home that force more repairs and renovations.

Taking on jobs outside your expertise also takes longer to complete. It can delay other projects and extend the timeline of the flip. That extended timeline costs you money because it means a delayed sale.

Hiring professional contractors for specialized renovations costs you more in labor. That extra money may be well spent by keeping the project on time. You also get the work done correctly the first time.

When planning your project, be realistic about your abilities. Identify the jobs you can handle yourself and the ones you need to hire contractors to complete. Start looking for contractors immediately to ensure you find someone who’s qualified and available when you need the work done.

Ensure Structural Stability First

Interior finishes and cosmetic work make the house come together. Those are the things potential buyers notice and can make or break the flip. But it’s a smarter decision to make sure the house is sound first.

Starting with the structural integrity prevents additional problems and protects the work you do inside the home. If you start refinishing and painting walls to find out you have leaking issues, you’ll have to redo that work.

A professional home inspection helps you identify those structural issues. Ensure they’re fixed properly before you move inside to work.

Keep the Buyer in Mind

Home renovations for a house flip are different than your personal renovations because the finished product isn’t for you. It doesn’t matter what your tastes are if they don’t match up to the people who’ll likely buy your flipped home.

Consider the location, price range, size, and style of the home to anticipate the type of buyer. A small starter home in an older neighborhood isn’t going to attract the same type of buyer as a larger home in a more affluent part of town.

Buyers of a lower-priced home won’t likely expect or want to pay for high-end finishes. Buyers in a more upscale neighborhood expect those better finishes. Make design decisions based on who might buy it.

Create a File of Specs

Organization is essential to keep your flipping project on time and budget. When you’re remodeling the entire home, you’ll have lots of finishes, materials, dimensions, and other specs to track.

Create a central spreadsheet or file to contain that information. This becomes a quick reference when you need those details. It comes in handy if you need to reorder materials or make sure you’re using the correct materials in each space.

Be Specific in Your Plan

Before you start any work, decide on the scope of the renovations. Write down a specific plan for everything you want to change.

If you hire contractors to help with the work, make sure they know exactly what you want to be done and how you want it done. This is especially important for detail work, such as tiling.

If you hire someone to help with demo, make it clear which items you want to be removed and which you want to keep. Maybe an older home has old wood floors or tin ceiling tiles you want to keep and refinish. Communicate those plans to the demo crew so they don’t destroy them.

Focus on Kitchens and Bathrooms

Kitchens and baths get a lot of attention from potential buyers. A home that has the buyer’s preferred style of kitchen is extremely or very important to 58% of buyers.

Outdated kitchens and bathroom stand out when people view homes. Buyers know it’s not cheap to renovate a kitchen or bathroom. Having the work done for them makes the home more appealing because they won’t have to shell out more money after making a major home purchase just to make the kitchen or bathroom decent.

Avoid Too Much Improvement

Making a good first impression attracts buyers, but going too high-end can hurt your profits. The cost of those materials cuts into your flipping budget. You won’t likely recoup those costs in the sale price.

Choose a few high-end pieces can make the overall home look more upscale. Pick cost-effective pieces for this strategy. A stainless steel wall-mounted hood vent is relatively inexpensive, but it creates a high-end feel in the kitchen that makes it stand out.

Choose Lasting Materials

Even though you don’t want to over-improve your flipped home, you want to use materials that last. Buyers will notice cheap, low-quality materials. It may look okay for the open house, but potential buyers may pass on the home if they feel the finishes won’t last.

Learning about different materials and choosing the ones that work best for you helps you make those buying decisions. Learning about teflon polymer and its use in paints, bolt coatings, and other uses may influence your decision on material purchases, for example.

Follow These Renovation Tips

What are your favorite renovation tips for flipping a house? The goal is to make the house appealing to buyers while keeping your costs low for a quick sale and maximum profit.

Check out our past issues for more construction advice and information.


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An initial report on the Common Fund Data Ecosystem

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For the past 6 months or so, I’ve been working with a team of people on a project called the Common Fund Data Ecosystem. This is a targeted effort within the NIH Common Fund (CF) to improve the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability – a.k.a. “FAIRness” – of the data sets hosted by their Data Coordinating Centers.

(You can see Dr. Vivien Bonazzi’s presentation if you’re interested in more details on the background motivation of this project.)

I’m thrilled to announce that our first report is now available! This is the product of a tremendous data gathering effort (by many people), four interviews, and an ensuing distillation and writing effort with Owen White and Amanda Charbonneau. To quote,

This assessment was generated from a combination of systematic review of online materials, in-person site visits to the Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) DCC and Kids First, and online interviews with Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) and Human Microbiome Project (HMP) DCCs. Comprehensive reports of the site visits and online interviews are available in the appendices. We summarize the results within the body of the report.

The executive summary is just under four pages, and the full report is about 30 – the bulk of the report document (another 100 pages or so) consists of appendices to the main report.

I wanted to highlight a few things about the report in particular.

1. Putting your data in the cloud …is just the start.

This may be obvious to those of us in the weeds, but supporting long-term availability of data through the use of cloud hosting is only one of many steps. Indexing of (meta)data, auth and access, and a host of other issues are all important to spur actual data reuse.

2. Just, like, talking with people is, y’know, really useful!

We did a lot of interviewing and found out some surprising things! In partial reaction to our experience with the Data Commons, we are taking a much lower key and more ethnographic approach to understanding the opportunities and challenges that actually exist on the ground. A lot of the good stuff in the report emerged from these interviews.

3. Interoperability is contingent on the data sets (and processing pipelines) you’re talking about.

The I in FAIR stands for “Interoperability”, and (at least in the context of the CFDE) this is probably the trickiest to measure and evaluate. Why?

Suppose, not-so-hypothetically, that you want to take some data from the GTEx human tissue RNAseq collection, and compare the expression of genes in that data with some data from the Kids First datasets.

At some basic level, you might think “RNAseq is RNAseq, surely you just grab both data sets and go for it”, right?

Not so fast!

First, you need to make sure that the raw data is comparable – not all RNAseq can be compared, at least not without removing technical biases. (And I’m honestly not sure what the state of the art is around comparing different protocols, e.g. strand-specific RNAseq to generic RNAseq.)

Second, the processing pipeline used to analyze the
RNAseq data needs to be the same. Practically speaking
this means that you may need to reanalyze all of the raw data.

Third, you need to deal with batch effects. I’m again not actually sure how you do this on data from a variety of different studies.

Fourth, and more fundamental, you need to connect your sample metadata across the various studies so that you are comparing apples to apples. (Spoiler alert: this turns out to be really hard, and seems to be the main conceptual barrier to actual widespread reuse of data across multiple studies.)

There are some techniques and perspectives being developed by various Common Fund DCCs that may help with this, and I hope to talk about them in a future blog post. But it’s just hard.

4. Computational training is second on everybody’s list.

This is something that I first saw when a group of us were talking with a bunch of NSF Science and Technology Centers (STCs): when asked what their challenges were, everyone said “in addition to our primary mission, computational training is really critical.” (This broad realization by the STCs led to two funded NSF supplements that are part of Data Carpentry’s back story!)

We saw the same thing here – a surprising result of our interviews was the extent to which the Common Fund Data Coordinating Centers felt that computational training could help foster data use and reuse. I say “surprising” not in the sense that it surprised me that training could be important – I’ve been banging that drum for well over a decade! – but that it was so high on everybody’s list. We only had to mention it – “so, what role do you see for training?” – to have people at the DCCs jump on it enthusiastically!

There are many challenges with building training programs with the CF DCCs, but it seems likely that training will be a focus of the CFDE moving forward.

What’s next?

This is only an interim report, and we’ve only interviewed four DCCs – we have another five to go. Expect to hear more!


Brown, C. T., Charbonneau, A., & White, O.. (2019, August 13). 2019-July_CFDE_AssessmentReport.pdf (Version 1). figshare. doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.9588374.v1

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7 Essential Tools for Your Metalworking Projects

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Whether you’re a professional or a budding hobbyist, metalworking projects need some specialized tools to make your plans a reality.

For those just starting out, however, there’s a bewildering array of tools available.
That makes it hard to figure out what you need from the outset.

If you’re trying to find the essentials, then you’ll want to pay attention. We’ve put together a list of seven essential tools to make your metallic dreams a hard reality.

1. Hammers
Hammers are one of the quintessential metalworking tools, but the carpenter’s hammer you use to tap in nails twice a year isn’t going to cut it.

There are a surprising number of hammers out there for metalworking, each with their own use. They range from lightweight finishing hammers for precious metals to heavy sledges designed to beat stubborn stainless steel into place.

A heavy club hammer is a good place to start for those who plan on working with steel, while those working with softer metals may find themselves looking for something like a ball-peen hammer.

Regardless of your intentions, if you’re planning on working with metal, you’ll need the right hammer.

2. Anvil
Anvils aren’t just for the blacksmiths of old; they’re an essential part of any metalworker’s toolkits.

Anvils provide a smooth, hard surface to allow for hammering heated steel. The horns can be used for further forming and curving.

They’re heavy, often expensive, and an essential part of the metalworker’s toolkit. In the past, they were the primary tool used for forging and shaping metal, although modern tools have largely replaced them.

It’s still essential to have a nice flat space to handwork metal, and there’s nothing better for that than the good old-fashioned anvil.

3. Bandsaw
Intricate cuts are made with a bandsaw. There’s really no other tool like them, and there are different variations for every material — from wood to metal to stone.

A bandsaw runs a blade which is… well, a band. Intricate cuts can be made easily due to the thin nature of the blade. If you’re looking for smooth, rounded curves or detailed cutouts, bandsaws will quickly become your best friend.

They can also be used for chopping down smaller stock, although you’ll want to be careful of which blade type you use. It’s all in the teeth, so make sure you’re using the right blade for the stock you’re working.

These are often expensive tools. Some people prefer to pick up a high-end bandsaw from an auction, rather than go with a cheapy. If that sounds right up your alley, you can learn more about equipment auctioning and get on your way to a cheaper saw.

4. Hacksaw
Hacksaws are a hand saw, but with the right blade, they can make short work of tubing, sheet stock, and even smaller solid rods of material.

Hacksaws are simple to use, don’t require power, and as long as you have the metal in a solid hold, they make for easier cuts than most suspect.

Unlike chop saws and other larger power tools, they’re also quiet and relatively safe to use as long as you don’t try gripping the teeth and pulling.

Those who have time invested in their skills might find themselves using power tools more often, but a hacksaw remains an essential part of every would-be metalworker’s toolbox.

5. Flux Core Welder
Really, any welder will do, but flux core welding is the simplest for those who haven’t welded before. They operate in essentially the same fashion as a MIG welder but don’t require you to use an inert gas for shielding.

Flux core welding is remarkably forgiving due to the lack of extra gasses. You’ll still need to spend a lot of time learning how to manage your welds. But, in the end, flux core welders are suited to be used pretty much anywhere and are more newbie-friendly since you don’t have to work with the shielding gas.

The core of the electrode’s flux is enough to shield the metal and prevent oxidation during the whole process in almost all cases.

With the right technique, they can be used to weld most metals.

This is undoubtedly the most advanced tool on our list, but without some kind of welder, you’ll find yourself quite limited in the workshop.

6. Drill Press
Drilling holes should be a simple process, but when it comes to metal, nothing is simple.
You can use the right bits in the old drill sitting in your garage to drill through metal in most cases. But you won’t turn back once you’ve used a drill press for the first time.

Drill presses hold the bit entirely stationary, making clean holes through any flat surface. All you need to do is twist the wheel or levers and bring the bit into contact with the metal.
No messing with off-balance drills or the slight variance that occurs with the human wrist, just a solid connection that’ll drive the bit straight through any surface it will cut.

7. Die Grinder
Die grinders are essentially a more powerful, scaled-up rotary tool. Think “Dremel on steroids.”

They’re also something that you need to have around if you’re planning to do any kind of welding. Die grinders are primarily used to clean up welds after they’ve been made, leaving a smooth and even surface.

With the right attachments, they can also be used to polish, hone, and even machine.
Essentially anything you can’t manage with the other tools on this list will be accomplished easily with a die grinder.

Make Your Metalworking Projects a Reality
When it comes to metalworking projects, you’re always going to “need” more tools. That’s why it’s important to sort out the essentials as you get into the hobby.

The above list is enough to get any amateur on the way to a great finished project. With all seven in your shop, you’ll find metalworking much easier than you ever thought.

It still takes time to build the skills up, however. Why not browse around and see what you’ll need in a workbench while you’re waiting for your tools to arrive?

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Vintage Camper

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Remember this project?  Yeah, I’m not sure it really deserves the name “project”, hmmm…maybe it’s more of a remodel. I can’t believe the amount of time and energy we put into this camper.
After months of working on it, we still haven’t even started on the exterior!!  Think Teal on the bottom and white on the top. I’d love to just get it done, but I guess it’s smart to do it right.  We’ve still got to seal all the windows and potential openings before we can even think about paint.
Thankfully, we’ve finished the inside!!!  Don’t worry, we’ve been using it to camp in through each stage of progress, but now it’s finally complete. 

is this the world’s ugliest kitchen?

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The missing door: poor bugga nearly made it. Was hanging on by one tiny nail. But Steve kept forgetting its state and it fell on his foot one time too many and spent its last few days beside the fridge.

It might well have been. But unfortunately it can’t claim this distinguished title because it NO LONGER EXISTS!!!! It’s sitting all partly smashed up on my front sandpit (what pathetic grass we had has been fried in the heat). And it’s never looked better. Even Z is glad to be rid of the “kitchen mess” as he calls it. Gee, do you wonder why I never posted pics of this room? I’m completely embarassed to show this, but seeing that it’s all in the past, let’s have a laugh, shall we? Yes, I’ve put up with this for five years. My medal better be in the mail…

A few incredibly exciting facts:

* I painted the doors white when we moved in because I couldn’t imagine living with green doors for any amount of time. I did such a crap job, I was wishing for the green to come back.

* The previous owner’s son thought himself a handyman. He wasn’t. He installed the taps himself did such a bang-up job they didn’t work properly. They were replaced numerous times and ground back and had lots of work but no makeover could save the cold one which exploded one day. I’m so used to using warm/hot water for everything I rarely turn the cold water tap on in the bathroom. He also cut a hole too big for the tap nozzle and didn’t bother doing anything about it. My non-handyman husband figured expanding filler would do the trick temporarily. It sealed the hole, but, well, look at it! Ugh.

* The tiles are on big sheets of some asbestos-ridden material and weren’t the same depth as the rest of the wall, so there was a weird uneven gap no one ever bothered fixing. I don’t remember how the piece of wood make its way there but there it is!

Hmm, what’s sadder? The contact-covered sheets? The mssing door? The paper towel stuffing the hole where the cold water tap used to be? The lovely aged yellow stains or the fish plug that for some INSANE reason I never replaced??????

One of the delightful tile prints I could admire while cooking. They clearly shopped at the Ugly Tile Shop – same place they got the sunflower tiles that were in my old bathroom!

And another one – I guess they just couldn’t decide between the two beauties and chose both…

On a happier note, I did wonder if I was utilising the space enough with the new design. Would I fit everything in? Considering I was ruthless and thew out half the contents of the kitchen cupboards as well, I have a feeling I’ll be just fine. Aside from another bag out of sight, this is all I have! I sense a shopping spree coming on!

I started building the cupboards so I had something to store it in. Four packages down, 48 to go…

So I was feeling the pressure with all your “can’t wait to see the new kitchen” comments. But I guess, looking at this, anything is going to be a huge improvement isn’t it?

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