Saturday, March 29, 2014

Getting it all together... just the begining!

We had originally picked out some tile that was in our price range online that we liked... well that was until we saw it at the store. It just screamed "You get what you pay for"! At that point we figured it wouldn't hurt to look around some more. There were plenty of premium tile there that would look just fine on our kitchen floor but now that fit into our budget and Kelly wasn't looking at getting a second job. Then the clouds parted and the angels began to sing... CLEARANCE!!!!!

We found a beautiful tile that was just what we were looking for. But Oh wait... there wasn't enough. That store was short by over 100 tiles. Our options were to keep up the search or buy some of those tiles that stick to the floor. Then it hit me. Isn't there more than one of those big blue box stores? and might another one also have some? Could this be the answer? Lucky for us we would be out near another one of these said stores the very next day. So after two stores and a few miles we purchased (fingers crossed) everything we needed to do all of our tiling.

Not only that but after it was all said and done we came $10.63 under budget. The only missing puzzle piece here a wet tile cutting saw. The orange big box store rents them for $63 a day. My concerns is that I doubt I will get it all done in a day. I did notice that Harbor Freight sells one for $63. This might just save me a penny or two. But I'll save that for another day of shopping. After loading and then unloading 501 tiles, 6 bags of mortar, and all the other miscellaneous crap we needed I think we are going to call it a night. All in all a productive day.    

Friday, March 28, 2014

Big project on a budget

So as I was doing some research for my next home improvement project I did a little internet search on kitchen remodels. Did you know that the national average for a "minor" kitchen remodel is $18,500!!! The price ticket on a kitchen overhaul is $54,000!!! Does that seem a little pricey to anyone other than me? I'm sure I just pissed off every general contractor in a 100 mile radius. Which if your paying someone 50k you better get one hell of a kitchen. Well it's my kitchen so it's my project. The great thing about this plan is that it's not only going to be the kitchen. It will almost be the whole downstairs of our house. If at this point you still don't think that is crazy let me up the excitement a little. I need to do it all for under 5k.

So let's talk about the plan. First off is the flooring. Currently there is a mix of carpet and vinyl on the ground floor. The plan is to install Pergo laminate flooring in the foyer, office, and living room. The kitchen, dining room, half bathroom, laundry room, and mudroom leading to the garage will get tile in place of the ever so stylish vinyl. With roughly 500 square feet of each flooring required that will eat up a good portion of the budget. Once the new flooring is installed it will get new baseboard and quarter round trim.

The kitchen is where most of the magic has to happen. The upper cabinets are shallow and don't go all the way to the ceiling. The plan is to replace the upper cabinets with custom made ones, refinish the lower cabinets, and then build a island. The counter tops will be replaced with a solid walnut counter top. The dining room will get a fresh look with a wainscoting chair wall. I am going to save a lot of money by refinishing the lower cabinets. I will replace the doors and drawers so they match the new custom upper cabinets. Once we get these project done we will continue checking items off the list  (The list keeps getting longer)

I will try and post updates as we go along. Please feel free to send me a message with any questions or comments.    

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's just like drawing... But different

So I recently started using Google Sketch up for woodworking and home improvement projects. Now I've only drawn up a few of them and I am still learning. But what a difference it makes in the visualization of a project. Maybe I just really sucked at coloring as a kid or my talents has boundaries. Either way having a 3D scale representation really is nice. My last paid commission I was able to show them what they were getting for their money.

My wife and I are looking at doing some upgrades to our kitchen and I was able to draw the whole thing out.

Like I said before I am still learning myself but if you are interested here is a couple sites that tutorials for Sketch Up. You can download the free version from Google. I'm not sure what extra bells and whistles come with the paid version but I doubt unless your designing a city the free version will work just fine. You can also find a plethora of woodworking plans drawn on Sketch-Up online.

You can find plenty of videos on YouTube also at can walk you everything from the basic operation of the program to making detailed joinery. So whether your a DIY adventurer or Woodworking warrior this is a definite addition to your tool box.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The list keeps getting longer

Does it ever feel like the list of things that you want/need to get down around the house is getting longer? I'm feeling that way right now. Now most of things on the list do fall in the want category... But it's time for some much needed upgrades. So I thought I'd write down my list and see where I'm at.

Laundry Room
1. Paint
2. Build cabinets and shelves
3. Build drying rack

1. Tile floor
2. Build walnut counter tops
3. Refinish lower cabinets
4. Rebuild upper cabinets
5. Tile backsplash
6. Build kitchen island with walnut countertop
7. Redo shelving in pantry
8. Build kitchen table with benches
9. Build kitchen hutch

Living room
1. Install laminate wood flooring

Mud room
1. Build cabinets
2. Build countertop

Now I'm sure I'm missing a thing or twenty and this was only the downstairs. I've already started pricing around for materials. I sure hope I can find some deals to help cut the cost. With having a day job I should have this list down to nothing around mid century.

I'd love to hear your comments or suggestions. How is your list looking?

A woodworking story from a far away land!

So I wanted to take a couple minutes to tell a little story. This story starts all the way back in 2003 in the far away land of Iraq. For our first 5 or 6 months we moved from place to place, sometimes sleeping in our trucks. At about the 7 month mark of the deployment we settled in a location and finally had some abandoned buildings to live in. Our standard of living was on the rise. One thing the Soldiers didn't have was any furniture other than a cot. I was determined to change this. I managed to get a hold of a circular saw, a drill, a hammer, and some scrap wood. I ripped down 2 x 4s with the circular saw and built some basic shelves and nightstands. I just wanted to give these guys a little more feel of home. One Soldier looked at one of my projects and said "That is one ghetto piece of furniture"... at that moment Ghetto Furniture Inc was born. I spent the rest of that deployment making these small very basic pieces of furniture as time and wood allowed.

The story continues back in Iraq in 2005. I was back to my old stomping grounds for another year. This time the mission and resources were very different. What had not changed was the need for GFI. This time a couple of my friends joined me and we set out build. Projects ranged from office furniture and benches to framing out walls.
GFI version of "Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil"
Me and Shelf
Custom made benches

I also had a opportunity that year to serve as a trainer for the Iraqi Army. I not only taught them skills to help them defend their country, but also some skills to help improve it as well.

In the deployments to follow I would take every chance to put saw to wood. I think these opportunities not only allowed me to help raise the standard of living for my Soldiers but kept me focused and grounded. Woodworking is a lifesaver!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Whats this thing all about...

I guess a good place to start would be the beginning, but for the sake of time we will hold off on that for now. I am putting this blog together for a couple different reasons. The main reason is to pass on and share some of the lessons and experiences I face both in woodworking and home improvement projects. I haven't really set any format or goals. I guess we will just have to see where it takes us. I'm sure I'll end up telling some stories and sharing a little about me from time to time or maybe going over a technique or tool review.

So a little about me. I am married, live in NC and been in the Army for 19 years. I enjoy many things but running and woodworking are two of my favorites. My woodworking started off from simple home maintenance and improvement projects and just went from there. When my day job isn't taking all my time I take on small commission woodworking and home improvement projects. I hope that Merzke Custom Woodworking will someday be more than a hobby.

I don't have any corporate sponsors or any sponsors for that matter. Now if Grizzly would like to offer me a whole new lineup for my shop than maybe I'd be willing to talk. But for now I'll just do without. I will never claim to be an expert or that I know everything (or anything). I hope to be able to share a little with all of you. But as they say, sharing is free... wanting something built comes with a fee.

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