Installing an Exterior Spigot

(From Resist Zine #47)

I’m more of a story-teller than a straight up DIY guy.  When I wrote How & Why that kind of came back to bite me in the ass.  I was asked to write it in ‘my style’ which pretty obviously is storytelling, but when I got done and sent it in, they cut 100 pages trying to turn it into a step-by-step guide.  Articles came back split up into steps and had to be re-reedited in order to make any sense at all.  I’ve had people claim that my projects are just ‘contraptions’ and that I admit as much.  I don’t know about that.  What I do admit is that I make mistakes and that sometimes in the middle of something I think of a better way of doing it.  And I am admitting right now that I am a story-teller.  I COULD sit down and write step-by-step do it yourself instructions but that’s not what I like to do.  I like to tell stories.  I think it’s more interesting when you get to read about how I completely screwed something up and then had to go back and fix it, or the thought process I had to go through to get it right.  On top of that, I think stories tend to seal things in our memory and keep us from making those same mistakes.

So that said, here is how installing that exterior spigot worked out for me.  First off, the perfect place I found, with the valves already installed and ready for me to add a spigot…  Well, after moving our garden to the front of the house, having a spigot on the back of the house didn’t seem like the best idea. So I started looking for options along the front of the house.  The fact that all the windows in the basement had been boarded shut made running a spigot to the outside of the house a bit easier since I didn’t have to bust/drill through the masonry block, I could just drill through a half-inch piece of plywood.  Then it was just a matter of finding a place to tie into the existing plumbing.  A laundry sink near the front of the house made that easy too.

I picked up all the pieces I thought I would need: a T fitting for connecting to the existing line, an exterior spigot, 10 feet of copper tubing, a valve and a few 45 and 90 degree elbows.  I don’t think plumbing is as complicated as most people make it out to be, especially if you’re dealing with copper tubing.  (The old iron pipe on the other hand can be a huge pain in the ass) It seems like you always end up having to make one extra run to the store, or running into one thing you didn’t really expect, but I’ve always been able to finish what I’ve started.

The first thing I did was solder about a foot of copper tubing to the spigot.  Then I got worried because that particular spigot had a rubber seal and I was worried that I had melted it by not taking it out when I soldered the two together.  But I took it apart and it was just fine. Then I drilled a hole in the plywood, slipped the tube in and screwed the spigot to the wood. I had planned to squirt some caulking behind it, to seal it, but I couldn’t find my caulking gun. Plus if you had seen our basement you would realize that it probably wasn’t going to make one bit of difference anyway.

Then I went to work inside, and this is where the trouble started.  Now when you’re soldering pipe, you can’t solder wet pipe so you have to get it and keep it dry.  So I turned off the water and turned on all the faucets so that the lines could drain.  One thing I didn’t realize is that the upstairs and downstairs were on the same meter, so I was turning off the water to the whole house (including the upstairs neighbor) and draining his lines too.  Fortunately I had run into him in the front yard with my supplies and told him I was about to do some plumbing, so he wasn’t shocked to find the water temporarily shut off.  I cut the supply line to the cold water on the sink and used my plumbers brush (same as a battery terminal cleaner) to remove the paint from the outside of the tubing.  Then I dry fit parts as far as the valve, which basically means that you cut your pieces and put them all together to see if they’re going to fit.  Then I soldered the valve, elbow and couple pieces of tubing together before slipping the assembly into the T fitting and screwing it to the ceiling with a pipe strap. This would hold the T fitting at exactly the right angle while I soldered it.  If I had soldered it first and gotten the angle wrong, it could have been a lot of work to get it right.


Soldering (or ‘sweating’) copper tubing is pretty easy.  You’ll want to rough up both surfaces that will be in contact.  The easiest way to do this is with a plumbing brush. Just twist it around the outside of the tubing, and then inside of the fitting.  Wipe off any grit with a rag. Brush plumbing flux on both surfaces and assemble the pieces.  Next you want to heat up the joint evenly.  I like MAPP gas because it burns hotter than propane, so it heats up the joint quicker.  Move the flame around the joint until the flux starts to sizzle.  At this point, the solder should melt when you touch it to the joint.  Move the flame away, and start applying solder at the bottom of the joint, working all the way around it.  I usually wipe it off with a rag while it’s still warm.

Now because there was still some water dripping through the tube, I had to do something to keep it from running up to the joint where I was working.  I had done this before, but it had been well over 10 years so I forgot exactly how it worked.  I knew you had to put something in the tube to absorb the moisture, but I forgot was it was.  Actually it wasn’t so much that I forgot, as that I remembered incorrectly.  I remembered it as being plugs of paper towel.  I didn’t stop to think about it, I just slipped some into the tubing on either side of the joint, soldered it, and then turned the water back on.  This is why I always add valves when I’m doing plumbing.  If you have a valve, you can cut off water to just the spot you’re working without turning off the water to the whole house.  Now I could turn on the water and finish the job.  So I turned on the water and all my joints held fine, but the cold water in the kitchen was no longer working.  That paper towel had clogged it up.

I ran to the computer to figure out what the heck I had done wrong.  I typed “how to solder wet tubing” in the search engine, and watched a video of a guy putting BREAD in the tube.  BREAD! That’s what it was.  Not paper towels, BREAD! To be fair, paper towels do work if the other end of the pipe is open.  Toilet paper would probably work even better because it deteriorates.  Either probably would have come out of the laundry faucet, but it certainly wasn’t coming out of the kitchen faucet!

I’m ashamed to say I actually got the outside spigot going before I got the cold water in the kitchen working again.  We went months without it.  I tried disconnecting the faucet and opening up the valve, but that didn’t work.  The bathroom sink was 2 steps away so it was easy to just step over there if you needed cold water.  We got used to only having hot in the kitchen.  (Better than only having cold)  In the end I had to add a valve to that cold water supply so I could turn it off, cut it after that point, and then connect the hot water supply to the cold water supply (under the sink) and run the hot water backwards through the cold water pipe to flush the paper towel back out where I had cut it.  Then of course I had to reconnect the pipe I’d cut to turn the cold water back on.  This time I used bread instead of paper towels when soldering the wet pipes!

Finishing up the exterior spigot was easy.  All I had to do was finish running the copper tubing from the valve to the tube I had left sticking out of the wall.  I dry fit the whole thing, and soldered it up.  Because none of this pipe had ever had water in it, it was a super easy job.

We got to use it for one whole summer of watering the garden and slip-n-slide before we were run out of the house by the new management company’s incompetence and money grubbing


Rewiring the Garage with Drop Cords & Power Strips

Before we went to the store yesterday and found out that we were looking at getting 16 inches of snow today, I was out in the garage actually getting some stuff done. My garage is set up kind of strange, it’s semi-finished with plasterboard or paneling on the walls.  It even has insulation in all the walls.  However, there are only 2 outlets in the whole garage, and they’re on the same wall about 5 feet from each other.  Oh wait, there’s one in the rafters for the garage door opener too.  There’s nothing by the garage door, so if you’re working in the driveway you have to run a drop cord all the way from the back wall of the garage.  I’ve got a workbench along one of the side walls, but there’s no outlet there for plugging in tools.  I had this same problem in my old garage, but my old garage was a tiny little thing and was completely unfinished.  It had one two receptacle outlet on the wall and the garage door opener plugged into one of those with an extension cord. So I’m kind of used to it and I know how to deal with it.  When it was my own garage, I planned to eventually put in some permanent wiring, but since I’m renting this will probably be as far as I get.

The obvious solution is drop cords and power strips.  The thing is I hate having a cords running all over the floor, running under things and draped over other things.  They’re always in the way.  I hate having power strips sitting on the floor because then you have to squat down every time you plug something in and I hate having them sitting on the bench because they’re always in the way.  Plus it takes two hands (or a hand and a foot) to quickly unplug things.  So what I started doing is attaching power strips to the wall.  I remove a light fixture and replace it with one that has an outlet.  I attach a power strip to the wall and then run a drop cord up the wall and through the rafters to the outlet, using wire clips to hold it in place so it’s never in the way.  I’m basically rewiring the garage with drop cords and power strips.  The thing that’s nice about this is it’s pretty darn easy to move the wiring around later if you decide to rearrange your garage. The only trick is, who keeps the screw template that comes with a power strip?

I know of two quick ways to make a new template.  The easiest most accurate way is to just put the power strip on a copier and make a copy of the bottom.  If you don’t have quick access to a copier though, the next best thing is to do a ‘rubbing.’  I think just about every kid did these in school.  You took a piece of paper, a pencil (or a crayon) and found something textured to make rubbings of: plaques, tombstones, raised symbols, etc.  Just do that with the bottom of the power strip.  Hold (or tape) a piece of paper and rub your pencil back and forth over the mounting holes until they show up on the paper.  Then all you have to do is tape it up where you want it and run some screws through it.

The wall above my workbench is plasterboard, which I hate for garages. Sure if you finish it, it looks nice… but nobody ever finishes it.  It MIGHT get plastered, but it almost never gets painted.  Then there’s the problem that it’s in the garage and it’s not very durable, so when you accidentally hit it with a 2×4 or a pipe falls against it, you end up with dents or holes.  Also, it’s terrible for hanging things on.  My last garage I had finally gotten around to putting up plywood walls.  They look better than unfinished plasterboard, are more durable, AND you can hang stuff wherever you want.  I wasn’t about to plywood the whole wall, but I did throw up a scrap strip of chipboard above the workbench.  Now I can hang up tools or supplies without the nails working their way out of the wall, and it gave me a good spot to screw up my power strip so the constant plugging and unplugging wouldn’t pull it out of the wall.

Building a Custom Cinder Block Shelf

I’m not going to go into great detail on this because a cinder block shelf is a pretty darn easy project.  It’s so self-explanatory that when I was walking out of the store with my cart of boards and cinder blocks, a friend that I ran into took one look at my supplies and said “Building a shelf?”  There’s really very little to it.  You put down some blocks, then a board, then some more blocks, and another board until it’s as high as you want it.  The only problem is that cinder blocks only come in so many sizes, so you basically get 16 or 8 inches between shelves if you get the cheap blocks, or 12 inches if you get the decorative blocks.  My problem was that I wanted shelves the correct height for my books, most of which were about 10 inches tall.  So I decided to cut the masonry blocks to the correct height.

I marked a few bricks at 10 inches and then used a carpenters square to mark a line across the brick.  I bought a couple masonry blades for my circular saw, donned eye and ear protection and wore a handkerchief over my mouth so I wouldn’t breath in the dust and started cutting.  The dust covered up my pencil lines pretty quickly so the first thing I did is score the whole line and then go back and cut all the way through the block.  Each block I cut left me with a U shaped piece that was 6 inches tall.  However, if I turned them on their side, they were 8 inches tall, just the right height for mass market paperbacks.





One thing you’ll probably notice about my shelf is that I have small bricks under a board that the shelf is then built on top of.  This is because our room is in the basement and we’ve at times had the carpet get a bit wet from water coming in, so I wanted the first course of books off the floor.  I wish I had done wider blocks or more bricks under there, but by the time I noticed the shelf was basically built and I didn’t want to move those heavy blocks around again.  I think they’ll work out fine, I just wish I’d done it differently, for looks if for no other reason.


This is one thing I like about masonry block shelves.  The openings in the block lend themselves to small items like little books or decorations. The U shaped pieces are suited really well for that!







UPDATE: (3/25/15)

When I built my masonry block shelf, I was NOT planning on moving in less than a year.  My friends weren’t expecting it either.  One of them showed up when we were starting to unload the blocks and said, “So what? Now you’re just moving bricks for fun?” And it did look ridiculous.  They’re heavy, awkward, and no fun to move  .Why on earth were we bringing concrete blocks with us? To make matters worse, we originally thought that we were going to build the new shelf in the basement, so we carried them all down to the basement.  When we realized there was a better place for a large shelf upstairs, Jodi and I ended up carrying them all back upstairs.  (The books too)  Mason blocks shelves are not meant to be moved!

That said, the new shelf was still quite easy to build and it was easy to customize for the space we had.  Before we decided to put the shelf against the wall, we had set a couple chairs and a table there.  When our friend Tonya gave us the idea of putting the shelf there, we still wanted to leave the chairs and table.  The chairs would be easy to move to get at the books, but the table not so much.  So we decided to build the shelf around the table and lamp.  It ended up working out pert’near perfect.

We cut a few of our 6 foot boards in half which gave us a shelf on either side of our table and fit perfectly against the 8 foot wall.  I started out with 16” blocks because that’s what we had. Then switched to the 10” blocks I cut last time.  Because the ceiling slants on the right, we could continue with the 6 foot boards we already had.  This saved us having to run out and get 8 foot boards while we were putting the shelf together.  We decided to put a wooden crate in the open area which worked out great.

I ended up buying 2 more 6 foot planks after I had already started putting books on the shelf so I could make it a little bit taller than the last one.  Other than that it was pretty much built with the same materials as last time.  I had to borrow 4 bricks from the pile in the yard to turn a couple 8” blocks into 10” blocks, but I also have two 8” blocks left over.  One thing I added to this shelf was 3 corner brackets to attach one shelf to the wall about 2/3rds of the way up.  It probably would have been fine without, but it makes me feel more comfortable.


How to Make Plantain Oil & Salve

Recently I was doing some research on plantain for an article I was writing for Resist Zine #47.  I was mostly just trying to confirm things I already knew about plantain, which did indeed turn out to be factual.  In the process though, I learned a lot of other things about plantain.  Among them, that plantain can be used to treat plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of a ligament in the foot).   As someone I love very much is dealing with symptoms of this, I decided that I would try making the suggested remedy.  It seemed to me that the best method of application was a salve, so as soon as it warmed up enough that the plantain was actually growing in the yard, I picked enough to fill a pint jar.

Plantain is a ‘weed’ that grows almost everywhere

To make a salve, you first need to make plantain infused oil.  It seems everybody has their own method of making it but they’re all pretty similar.  I read a few recipes and prepared mine as follows.  I picked fresh plantain from the yard, then washed it in a colander.  I cut the leaves into pieces about ½ – 1 inch square, then laid them out on paper to dry for a day.  Once the leaves were somewhat dried, not dried out but drier than fresh, I packed them into a pint jar.  I didn’t pack the leaves super tight in the jar, but tight enough that it was actually full.  Then I poured in organic extra virgin olive oil until the leaves were covered.  Using a chopstick, I agitated the leaves until air bubbles quit coming to the surface.  I made sure the leaves were covered with oil, then capped it and wrote the date on the lid.  (Actually, my girlfriend wrote it and you can see that the lid was already used for salsa once before)

Plantain Oil in the Making

Plantain Oil in the Making

Usually I wouldn’t post about a project until I finished it, but I’m pretty excited about this project, so I’m sharing what I’ve got done now.  Part of the excitement is just how good it looks in the jar.  I didn’t actually take a LOT of pictures of this process, but I figure once you know what plantain looks like, you can probably figure out how to pick, wash, chop and dry it.  I’ll probably post an update later with pictures of the finished oil, and the salve making process.  In the meantime, this is how to finish making your plantain oil.

Let the oil and leaf mixture sit for 6 weeks.  Some recipes tell you to shake it every day, some don’t say anything about shaking it.  I may shake it once in a while, but I don’t think it’s going to make or break the oil.  After six weeks, strain the oil through cheesecloth to remove the leaves, and you have plantain oil.

To make a salve, gently heat the oil and add 1 tablespoon of beeswax to every ounce of oil.  Pour into containers and allow to cool.  Along with plantar fasciitis, this can also be used for chapped lips, bites and stings, diaper rash, canker sores and tooth aches.

The original article I wrote about plantain’s many uses is in Resist Zine #47, available here:–plans.html

UPDATE: (12/2/2014)  Making Salve from the Infused Oil

Well I finally got around to making some salve from the plantain oil we made months ago.

I put a piece of cheese cloth over a wide mouth jar, holding it there with the lid ring, then poured the oil and leaves into it.  Once most of the oil had drained through, I twisted the leaves into a ball in the cloth and wrung out the rest of the oil.  I meant to do this a long time ago, but I couldn’t find my cheesecloth and since I already had two packages of it, I didn’t want to buy more.  I never found it and finally bought more.

Straining Plantain Oil through Cheesecloth

Straining Plantain Oil through Cheesecloth

Squeezing out the remaining oil

Squeezing out the remaining oil

I heated the oil up on the stove in a camp cup.  (I probably should have done this in a double boiler, but I didn’t bother for such small quantities)  I did it 2 ounces at a time just because I’ve never done this before and wanted to make sure it turned out okay.  While that was warming I shredded up some beeswax with a cheese grater.  I figured it would be easier to measure that way.  Then I just packed the shreds into a tablespoon.  I broke it back up while putting it in the oil so it would melt faster.  I constantly stirred the oil until the wax melted and then poured it into a baby food jar.  I’d actually picked up some clearance baby food for that express purpose.  It didn’t hurt that I’d just had a tooth pulled and couldn’t eat solid foods yet.  When that one was done I made up another small batch.

Shredded Beeswax

Shredded Beeswax

Later in the day, when the salve had hardened I went to use some of it.  It was pretty hard.  It took a bit of work to get it out of the jar.  Body heat started to thin it right away, but it was tricky to get a good amount out for a larger area.  I think it’s probably the perfect consistency for a salve you’d use on your lips since body heat softens it just enough to get some on your finger for a small area.  Or if you had it in a lip balm applicator it would probably work just as well that way.  I think for future batches of salve meant for larger areas I’ll probably use a little less than a full tablespoon of beeswax.

Jar of finished Plantain Oil Salve

Jar of finished Plantain Oil Salve

Resist Zine #47

Resist Zine #47

It’s been a while since I have posted anything here. Part of that is because I have been saving it up for the zine I have been working on. I just finished up that zine today. It spans some pretty serious life changes, but it still covers the topics that have been standard in Resist for years. It’s still coming from the self-sustainable, DIY mindset that it’s always come from. I write about gardening, bike riding and repair, and building musical instruments. I also spend some time on DIY home improvement projects, though in more of a storytelling format than a step by step guide. I cover our first experience butchering a turkey in the same way. Follow the link if you want to get your hands on a copy.

How to Avoid Work

I’ve been pretty bad about getting new stuff posted on this blog.  I’ve got some pretty interesting DIY pieces that I’ve been working on, I just haven’t been very good about getting them all wrapped up, combined with pictures and posted.  I’ve been seriously thinking about putting out a new issue of Resist Zine so maybe I’m saving some of it until I publish that.  Or maybe I just have a lot going on in my life right now and posting new things to this blog has been on the back burner.  One thing I have been writing however is book reviews.  Not a whole lot of them, but sometimes when I finish a book I like to review it just for myself.  To go back over it and think about what I liked and what I didn’t like and what I might have learned from it.  As this one is technically a “How to” book, it seems like it would be a good one for my first review on this blog.


How to Avoid Work

by William Reilly


“When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women capable of self-expression, slowing dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob?”

 This book isn’t about giving up work.  It’s about giving up one kind of work for another, which is fine.  The idea is that if you’re doing something that you’re interested in, it’s not really work.  What’s work to one person is leisure to another.  The problem I find with this book is that it seems like most of it is about going from one “office” (paper shuffling) job to another.  He talks about how your skills should be able to transfer from one place to another if you work it correctly.  There are very few examples of someone going from a paper shuffling job to more hands on “work.”  And in fact, he discourages you from taking that kind of leap.  He seems especially to have something against farming.

He does make some very good points in here though.  For example, stating that time is great equalizer.  Everybody gets the same amount of time, and those that tend to really make things happen are those that don’t waste their “free” time.  At one point he talks about the fact that he’s writing this book while waiting for a delayed train which I thought was funny because I was reading the book while waiting in line at the IRS.  So there’s some pretty great ideas on using the time that you have.

He also talks about not letting people influence you too much.  He takes some time telling you that you need to make plans, and how to go about that… but he also says that you just have to start.  Sometimes you have to figure out the next step and just take it while you’re figuring out the rest.

This book is from 1949 and as such some of the ideas are pretty dated, especially as relates to what’s expected of women.  It’s not the most inspiring book that I’ve ever read, but I think it was worth reading.

Pick-Pocket Key Chain- How to Make a Guitar Pick Holding Keychain

So, I was trying to think of something to get my dad for father’s day and I ran across these key chains that hold guitar picks.  Since he plays guitar, I thought about buying one for him… but decided that it was something that I could make and it would be cooler if I made it myself.  This is my first time making anything out of leather, so if it doesn’t look super professional… give me a break.

I started out by outlining a pick and then folding the paper and tracing that, so there were two picks exactly opposite each other with a small space between them.  Then I drew lines around them, giving what I thought was enough room to stitch leather so that the picks would fit in the little pocket it created.  Once side doesn’t go all the way around, so the picks can easily be removed.  The other has a strap so that a key-ring can be attached and the pick-pocket can be closed.

Key Chain Template

Key Chain Template

Key Chain Traced on Leather

Once I had my design cut out, I folded it up to see if everything would work.  Would picks fit inside and would the strap be long enough to accommodate a key ring and reach the pocket? Everything looked good, so I traced it onto a piece of leather.  Then I cut out the leather using a scissors.

Key Chain Traced on Leather

Key Chain Cut Out of Leather Scrap

Key Chain Cut Out of Leather Scrap

Next I folded up the pocket portion of the key chain and started sewing it together with sinew.  I started in between the folds, so that the knots would be hidden. Then I started sewing along one side and along the bottom.  I kind of doubled back on my stitches so that each seam was sewn twice.  When I got to the bottom, I stopped so I could install a snap.  I would have actually done that first, but I didn’t have my stuff handy, so when I got to that point I stopped until I got the snap installed.

Partially Sewn with Snaps Installed

Partially Sewn with Snaps Installed

Snaps are usually super easy to install.  For the ones I was using there’s a spiked ring that you push through the fabric.  The other part of the snap sits on top of that, and using a little tool you hit it with a hammer to drive in and bend those spikes.  With leather it’s a bit more difficult to get those spikes through the “fabric” so I folded up a scrap of leather and using the side of a knife pushed the ring forcing the spikes through the leather (and into the leather underneath).  Once I had the spikes pushed though, I installed the snap like normal.  (Again, I didn’t do any measuring and got the snap off-center on the pocket… but everything still works fine.)

Pocket Completely Sewn

Pocket Completely Sewn

I put the female side on the pocket, then installed the male part on the strap, using the same method.


Now all that was left was to finish sewing.  I finished sewing up the one remaining side of the pocket, and then went to work on the strap.  I stuck the strap through a key ring, and then snapped it to the pocket.  I held the key ring where the strap would sit flat when folded and then sewed a line underneath it to hold the ring in place.  Again I started inside the fold to hide the knots.  Also, I didn’t sew around the edge of the leather because the edge sees a lot of wear and I was worried that the thread/sinew would get worn through and then come unraveled.

Getting Ready to Sew Key Ring into the Strap

Getting Ready to Sew Key Ring into the Strap

Sewing the Key Ring into the Strap

Sewing the Key Ring into the Strap

Test Fitting 3 Guitar Picks

Test Fitting 3 Guitar Picks

Finished Pick-Pocket Key Chain

Finished Pick-Pocket Key Chain

I finished that seam, tied off the sinew and test fit the 3 guitar picks I had handy.  There was plenty of room for them, maybe even one or two more.