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Working Hard or Hardly Working? Becoming More Efficient in 2016

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution kinda guy. But I do believe in goal setting.

Cheltenham Road has been going well, but for 2016 I’m at a key point. I need to take the business to “the next level.”

I have lots of plans but first up is setting up life in such a way that I can get more done and done more efficiently.

To that end I have begun “clocking in.”

The danger of working from home is that it’s easy to get distracted. I get to work and then, without really noticing it, I discover that I’m doing the laundry or cleaning the kitchen.

The timer keeps me brutally honest about just how many hours I’ve worked which also keeps me focused. I discover I get A LOT more done when the timer is set than I do when I’m just guestimating how long I’ve worked.

So I’ve spent my last week brutally cleaning (the house, garage and work room had become a SuperFund site) , discarding “stuff” and re-organizing.

I’ve used the fact that I’m slow to de-decorate to get Christmas projects done for the next holiday season.  I was toying around with making a vintagy Christmas tool tote and I thought it would be fun to make the ends look like Christmas trees.DIY Vintage Christmas Tree Tote by Cheltenham RoadI found little, light up trees in a remainder bin and thought I’d try my hand at the apothecary thing.Apothocary Jar Christmas Tree Project by Cheltenham Road

I’ve worked up a new HOME sign for a customer in ArkansasArkansas Little Rock Wooden HOME sign by Cheltenham Road
and made new coasters featuring vintage railroad graphicsClassic Railroad Train Coaster Set by Cheltenham Road on EtsyAnd, finally, reworked some of my standard items with new graphics and new pics (just to change things up a bit)Vintage Paris Map Wood Candle Block Tealight Holder by Cheltenham Road on EtsyAnd I’ve tried to adopt the “touch it once” rule.

The thinking is that you try to touch things as few times as possible. So, rather than letting stuff pile up (my constant habit) and then having touch it again to put it away you attempt to only touch stuff once.

Some of you may recall that I tried this sort of thing before only that time is was a scheme where every time I set something down I was supposed to ask myself “is that where that goes?”

It worked for a while but that little voice got very annoying very fast. And soon I was hearing a nagging voice ask “is that where that goes?” and then a louder, angrier voice would shout “IT IS NOW!”

And I realized I was spending a lot of time alone and the voices in my head were yelling at each other and that just seemed like a slippery slope.

But I like the Touch It Once rule because it feels a bit like a game. How do I touch this thing as few times as possible?

I (or quite possibly my psychiatrist) will keep you posted on it goes.

In the meantime, I’m putting the final touches on my next Mod Podge Rocks project (coming up mid-week) and I’ve got tons of other ideas to execute in my newly disciplined workshop.

But, for now it’s back to cleaning and organizing.

Wait! Where Am I? What’s Happening?

I’m changing the name of f my entire operation to:Crafting With Rip Van WinkcleYou see, it feels like I just posted the other day….but looking at the records it’s been five weeks.

FIVE WEEKS!

I realize no one’s world has been shattered due to this gap but it goes against all I had planned for this holiday season. I was going to conquer the blogosphere with clever projects and holiday insights! I was going to blow you all away with my holiday season togetherness.

But clearly that didn’t happen for reasons good and not-so-good.

Stay tuned for my, now sadly, annual, “Christmas Kicked My Butt” blog post. (2013 edition, 2011 edition)

In the meantime, if you’re a last minuter like myself my latest tutorial is up over on Mod Podge Rocks.Last Minute Holiday Decor TutorialIt’s a very simple (too simple?) little project that uses some on-hand stuff and an inexpensive plastic tray.Quick Christmas Decor TutorialThis one is Christmas themed but, really, you could do this for any occasion and with any kind of inexpensive tray, plate or whatever.

I’ll be back soon (stop laughing!) with my post Christmas wrap up! In the meantime I wish you all a safe and very, very Happy Holiday!

My New Assistant. Or, Talking to Myself and Getting a Response.

I am not a Luddite.

My friend Karla would disagree. Of course, Karla owns about 4 phones, multiple ipads and possibly the cryogenically preserved head of Steve Jobs (the latter is just a theory but she won’t let any of us see her guest bedroom so it’s the only logical conclusion).

Anyway, I am not a Luddite but I am also not quick to adopt new technology nor adept at using new technology.

Part of this is because I feel like if I sold a product and then proceeded send out “updates” and “fixes” every other day people might correctly suspect that maybe it wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Also, because I often find myself frustrated trying learn the “new” way to jot down a note, make a list or just remember a password that I take the idea of these being time saving devices with large grain of salt (preferably sea salt and sprinkled over chocolate. But I digress).

But. BUT! I have bought a new tech toy and I’m loving it!

On Karla’s  recommendation (the upside of being friends with an almost-Borg: really good, personal reviews of products) I got the Amazon Echo.   Do you know about it? It’s a lot like Siri except that it is a free-standing unit that can sit on your desk.Echo Image from CNETUnlike Siri though, Echo is kind of always on and waiting to help. She does the basic things, – she can answer random questions, tell you the weather etc. She can play music, the radio, podcasts and audio books.  You can also set timers (useful for me) and reminder alarms.  And, best of all it’s all done via voice command.Wall Street Journal CartoonBut why she is particularly great for me (and I think other makers of things) is….

I’m always getting random ideas about stuff I need, things to add to a to-do list or just creative ideas. Unfortunately, I only seem to have these thoughts when my hands a covered in glue or I’m in the midst of doing something else and I don’t want to stop, clean myself up and write or type something.

But since Echo works on voice commands I can just shout out the idea and she adds it to my shopping or to do list.  Even better, those lists are automatically transferred to my phone so they are pretty much always with me. It honestly has made life soooo much more organized and efficient.Echo Business Insider Review imageOf course the voice command thing also means she’s listening all the time which would alarm my more paranoid side if I ever said anything other than “ow!” and “damn it!” while working. OK, I guess nosy folks at Amazon might hear me sing if I’m in a particularly peppy mood but that’s really their cross to bear.

And also, as a personal bonus, because my name is actually Dave I do enjoy occasionally asking her to “open the pod bay doors.”

She politely refuses of course.

Typical.

Just to be clear I’m not being compensated in any way for this testimonial – just sharing a useful toy.  Also the pics above will link you to various reviews of the product.  If you want to investigate you can purchase an Echo via Amazon.

 

Spooky Halloween Candle Tutorial

I would be a lousy scientist.

I don’t like to experiment – I like to execute ideas perfectly the first time.

This, of course, has never happened but I just know I would like it more.

My spooky tealight holders took a lot of experimenting.

I tried small jars (too small!).

I tried red paint dripping down from the top (too silly looking)

As we know, I took a brief ill-advised, foray into glitter (too…ponies and unicorns!)spooky, glowing eye Halloween candle holders by Cheltenham roadI tried mason jars (too – “hey that’s a mason jar”).

I tried using velum for the images (too – um, the toner slides off when you try to mod podge it).

It all made me too – cranky!

But I kept at it and refined it a bit and I think I’m ready to present my final take on making spooky glowing eyed candle holders.

Halloween Decoration Tutorial

They are actually very easy to make but, for some reason, kind of wordy to explain so hang in there.

PLEASE NOTE: these are designed to be used only with electric tealights

Here is the round up of supplies I used:Make creepy candle holders for halloween

  • Glass Candle Holders or jars (can you see them?  sorry.  glass! hard to photograph). Mine are from Dollar Tree. I used only straight sided holders and looked for a variety of heights and shapes.
  • Matte Mod Podge (not pictured)
  • Spray Paint. I used black, grey and some window frosting paint I had lying around. Any color that appealed would do – the cheap stuff is perfect.
  • Rag: the more texture on it the better. It probably won’t survive the process so don’t get too attached.
  • Print outs of dour or un-photogenic Victorians (laser/toner based prints)
  • Foam brush
  • Sand Paper
  • Sharp craft knife

Finding Photos

Flickr is a great source for old photos and I stuck mostly to Daguerreotypes as they tend to be very clear (you can find great collections here and here.)

I looked for distinct faces and prominent eyes. The larger the eyes are to begin with the easier this process is and the better the results. Also, while a whole crowd of glowing eyed spooks sounds awesome – it gets less a lot less awesome as you sit there cutting out tons of little tiny holes. I learned to stick with pics that featured one or two people.

After downloading my faves I resized them to suit my candle holder dimensions and printed them out on plain paper.

Paint the Candle Holders

This part has to be done pretty fast before the spray paint dries.

Working with one candle holder at a time spray the top and bottom pretty thoroughly but just let the over-spray take care of covering the middle (it makes life easier and less messy down the road).Halloween DecorationThe moment your done spraying wrap the candle holder in the rag pressing it into the paint with your hands.Easy DIY Halloween Centerpiece Tutorial Cheltenham RoadGive it just a second or two and then remove the rag.Easy Mod Podge Halloween CraftYou’ll have a nice, decrepit texture.

Using the same rag repeat that process with as many candle holders as you want in as many colors as you want.

EYES!!!

While the candle holders finish drying take a craft knife and cut out everybody’s eyes! (upsetting sentence #1).

I learned to go a bit wider than the subjects actual eyes – removing the whole eye socket is best (upsetting sentence #2).Creepy, Glowing Eye Halloween Decor

I focused on using pics of children this time around because my brother-in-law sent me an email after the last blog post saying that I needed more little kids because “glowing eyed evil children are better” (upsetting sentence #3) (also, what is going on with my family?!  They are kinda creeping me out)

Applying the Photos

In my first attempt at these I painted the whole candle holder solid black and then just scraped away where they eyes went.  Result? Glowing eyes but, when the lights were dimmed that was all you could really see – the faces disappeared.  So, in order to get the whole face to glow a bit along with the eyes I found that if I painted the middle lightly and then, using sandpaper, scraped away some more paint it worked out great. Creepy Glowing Eyes Halloween Decor Tutorial Cheltenham Road I didn’t sand away every trace – just most of what was there.  The streaks that remain add some nice dark spots when the candle is turned on.

A quick dry-check to make sure I sanded the right spotSpooky Halloween Decoration Tutorial and it’s time for Mod Podging the pic in place.  Halloween Luminary TutorialI applied one image at a time working my way around the candle holder, smoothing out the image and wiping away any excess Mod Podge.

Once everything dried I added a sealing coat of Mod Podge.

I then went back in with my craft knife and scraped away around the eyes one last time for extra glowiness.

I think they make their case in regular light.  They’d look good as a center-piece or on a mantle.Haunted Halloween Candle Holders by Cheltenham RoadBut dim the lights a bit and let the spooky really kick inGlowing Eyes Candle Holder for HalloweenYou can see how the textured paint allows some of the light through both behind and under the pictures.Dollar Store Halloween CraftsI discovered it was best to get the light up to eye level so for taller candle holders so I used a chunk of wood, a dowel or even a plastic cup to elevate the electric tealight.

Someone at Scare LA suggested that, rather than old pics, you could use pics of ex boyfriends, or your mother-in-law.  Mean! but funny!Glowing Eyes Candle Holders for Halloween by Cheltenham RoadI hope this is helpful.  If I’ve left anything too vague let me know and I’ll address it.

 

UWYG Project 4 – Make Rustic Wood Trays from Scrap Wood

Make a tray out of scrap wood tutorial by Cheltenham RoadI have a billion projects going on at once.  It’s great and I thought “oh perfect I’ll be able to post regularly and a often!”  My goal was to do posts on Mon, Wed and Friday.

Happy Friday everyone…….and welcome to my second post of the week -because I think hat having goals is awesome but meeting them is totally over rated.

So you may recall my whole Use What You’ve Got Challenge started when I decided that, rather than trashing this old dresser, I’d see what I could make out of it.  Trash To Treasure Dresser Project Cheltenham Road The first thing I made out of it was a big pile of crap.scrapwood pileSo many possibilities! (including tetanus – man there were a lot of old rusty nails)

I thought the (former) sides of the drawers  might make good trays so I grabbed them and a few lengths of  1/2″ x 1.5″ lattice strips that were leftover from a previous project.Scrap Wood Tray by Cheltenham RoadI sanded and painted the scrap a basic white.*Image Transfer Tray Tutorial by Chelteham Road I decided to make them speak French and after perusing the ever-valuable Graphics Fairy website I had a couple of fun designs and one of my own creation.

Once the paint had thoroughly dried I printed out my reversed graphic and taped it in placeImage Transfer to Wood Tutorial Cheltenham RoadI’ve become a fan of my semi-dangerous Lenk tool – it’s easy to use once you get the hang of it (you can my more detailed Lenk tutorial here) Lenk Tool for Image Transfer  Tray Tutorial by Cheltenham RoadAfter the transfer was done I sanded away around the edges of the piece and sealed the whole thing with a coat of Matt Mod Podge.  French Flower Market Graphic Image transfer to wood tutorial by Cheltenham RoadI’d previously cut and painted the lattice pieces for the edges so now I just  glued and nailed them into place.  I opted for simple butt joints rather than miters.

My intention was to pour a coat of Envirotex Lite on the trays so I needed to really make sure the seal between the base and the sides was solid.  Envirotex is awesome but it will find any tiny gap and pour through it with alarming and messy speed.  I just ran a bead of Mod Podge along the inside edge filling in any voids or gaps.  The Mod Podge will dry totally clear so, once the Envirotex is poured you’ll never see it.Seal the edge with Mod PodgeAlso, because I recently found out that Envirotex won’t stick to basic, transparent tape I ran some along the edges on the bottom just in case I’d missed any gaps with the Mod Podge.Tray Tutorial Cheltenham Road After all the Mod Podge sealing was dry I poured the Envirotex.  Envirotex is easy to work with but only if you follow the manufacturers directions to the letter.

For efficiency I actually made three at once in different colorsFrench Ephemera Scrap Wood Trays TutorialFrench Flower Market Scrap Wood Tray by Cheltenham RoadAnd I used the leftover drawer handles from the dressers for the tray handles.DIY Tray Project from Salvaged Wood by Cheltenham RoadSo that’s Use What You’ve Got project number 3!Image Transfer to DIY Salvaged Wood Trays by Cheltenham Road

*Other thoughts and a Learning Curve:

1) The Lenk tool is great but it does work via heat.   For my first attempt I had under-painted the tray base.  I did a coat of green paint then white paint then sanded away the white so some of the green showed through.  It looked great but the heat from the Lenk tool melted the paint a bit and caused discoloration and a tackiness so I had to sand everything off and start again.

2) My graphics are printed with a laser printer.  I don’t believe the Lenk transfer process will work with an ink-jet.

Knick of Time Inspiration PartyHome Stories tutorials-tips-button

A New Way To Transfer Images to Wood

A New Way to Transfer Graphics to WoodAs you know I’m always looking for good ways to transfer images.

I ‘ve used Mod Podge Transfer

I’ve experimented with Blender Pens

I’ve used Liquitex Gel.

I have to say all the results were satisfactory but each had drawbacks either due to expense, time or versatility.

So, when I read about the Wall Lenk Transfer Tool that transfers images to wood I thought it sounded awesome!Wall Lenk Transfer Tool I read about it, researched it and, quick as a flash, plunged right in and bought it online.

It arrived!

I was so intrigued and excited I immediately set it aside!

For a year!

(honestly I had no idea it had been a whole year until I checked my Amazon order history.  I thought, maybe, 6 months ago……time flies when you are running a sweatshop having fun!)

But, I have now opened it, tested it out and am here to make my report.

First off, you get what you pay for ($17)…..it’s veeeery basic.  So basic and so potentially hazardous that it makes you wonder how this is allowed to be sold.  Or, more specifically,  given my history, how it is allowed to be sold to someone like me.

It works via heat transfer and, to put it simply, the metal end just gets super hot and then you rub it on your image and that transfers the ink to the wood (or fabric or whatever).

There is no “on/off” switch.  It’s either plugged in and on its way to being insanely hot or it’s unplugged and just lurking around being a little bit less insanely hot.  I didn’t have any moments like I did with the heat gun but the potential for disaster seems to be there.

So, onto the test.

While I was home in Ohio my sister Paula and I, intrigued by all the cool yardstick projects around but dismayed by the insanely high cost of “vintage” yardsticks began to toy around with the idea of making big, faux, versions.  I thought “This is the perfect project to try out my  brand new year old tool!”

I got right to work!

And just three short months later I did it!!! When I get excited about an idea nothing gets in my way!

So, I started out with some poplar wood cut down to size, painted, sanded smooth and a bit distressed.  I wanted it to look like two different rulers so one side was light blue and the other white.Faux Vintage Yardstick Cheltenham RoadTip Number One  – to optimize the transfer the wood must be very, very smooth and the paint (if there is paint) must be given lots of time to dry.

I came up with a couple of ruler designs in PhotoshopFaux Yardstick Design By Cheltenham Road

 

Faux Vintage Yardstick Pattern by Cheltenham RoadI reversed them and printed them out.

Tip Number Two: the prints need to be laser copies or prints – ink jet prints won’t work.

I plugged in the Lenk and, following the directions  gave it about 8 minutes to heat up.

I had read in the Amazon reviews that you needed to “burn off” some of the heat unless you were actually trying to start a small fire.  I burned off the heat by just touching the tool to a piece of scrap wood.  As you can see by the photo it took quite a few touches before it stopped burning the wood –Image Transfer with Wall Lenk Tool Cheltenham Road

But it didn’t take too long.

After that it was just a matter of rubbing it slowly over the image.   You can see where, even though I’d burned off some of the heat, it still scorched the paper a bit.Transfer an Image to Wood Cheltenham Road Tutorial I found that applying a light pressure worked well and going back over the image a few times was also key.

There is no real way to tell if you’ve succeeded or not until you peel away the paper.Transfer an Image Tutorial Cheltenham RoadOn the plus side though, if you peel away the paper slowly you can see if you’ve missed a spot and it’s very easy to just lay the paper back down and give it a few more rubs.  I did this in a couple of spots and it worked out just fine.

In a few places, where I guess I pressed to hard or let it heat too much, the paper stuck to the wood.Image Transfer Tutorial Cheltenham Road

But it was very easy to just dampen a cloth a bit and rub it away.

My box was 24″ long so I couldn’t print out the full ruler on one sheet of paper so I did it in sections and just lined them up.  Once again it was pretty easy.Make a Giant Vintage Yardstick Cheltenham RoadAfter that, I gave my “rulers” a quick coat of wax and assembled the box using a pin nailer (screws or regular nails would work just as well).Easy image transfer tool Cheltenham Road TutorialTransfer Images to Wood - Tutorial Cheltenham RoadThe images transferred very nicely – I like the level of distress and you do have some control over just how distressed you want it to be

Image Transfer Vintage Yardstick TutorialI think, other than the possible risk of burning your house down, this tool offers a lot of advantages.  The transfer takes place quickly (no waiting overnight) and once you buy the tool there is nothing else to purchase.Vintage Ruler Image Transfer Project Cheltenham Road

Also, it’s a true transfer – you don’t end up leaving a thin film of paper so that frees you up as far as background color(s) etc.

Now that I’ve tested it out I’m already thinking of tons of other possible projects (which you will be subjected to I assure you).

 

Please check out these link-parties for more great ideas:link-party-palooza-banner

Knick of Time Inspiration Party

 

Once Every 100 Years

I’ve begun to think of Cheltenham Road as the Brigadoon of blogs.* It will pop up every now and again and if you’re lucky (or Gene Kelly) you’ll see it!

* (If you’re not up on your 1950s musical references, Brigadoon is a show about a magical Scottish village that, due to a curse, only appears for one day every 100 years.  There is a movie version with Gene Kelly.  In my formative, childhood years, there was only one music-playing device in our house and it was located in the living room.  My family loved musical theatre so while other kids were blasting, I don’t know, AC-DC, I was becoming fully conversant in The Music Man, The King and I, Camelot and an odd one called Tenderloin about prostitutes in turn-of-the-century San Francisco.  I and my sisters happily sang along even though we really didn’t understand what the lyric “hitting the streets again” implied till much later). soundtrack-brigadoon

 Of course, Brigadooning (it’s a word!) the blog isn’t my goal at all but I’ve been waylaid by both my own issues and computer issues.

 On the “I did it to myself” front I thought Jan/Feb would be slow so I totally tore apart the garage…you know, where I do all my work.  But I was wrong and it has been crazy busy with store orders and the garage has remained in the “worse before it gets better” phase for longer than I anticipated and I CANT FIND ANYTHING!!!!

 But, on the plus side, I also bought the world’s most expensive table saw.Saw Stop Table Saw

The Saw Stop has really astounding technology that will stop the blade if it senses, perhaps, your finger is about to be cut off.  Here’s a demo if you’re intrigued – it really is amazing.

It does cost a lot but I decided that, since I work by myself most of the time and am dealing with my own, um, uncoordinatedeness (it’s a word!) in combination with the potential of Zen: Cat Assassin popping up it was a very good investment.  As a bonus it would also relieve my father’s concerns about me ending up lying dead on the driveway.  So Win-Win.  But it has taken me a week to put it together.

its a pallet

image from Heritage Pallets.com

 Bonus!  It came on a pallet so I can make some pallety sort of thing……someday….as soon as I make the saw work……

 On the “not my fault” side my computer is toast. 

Not totally toast yet, more like really warm bread.  But, bottom line it ain’t gonna recover and I have to get a new one.  So, in the meantime it takes about 5 minutes to save a document or make a change and my internet connection is excitingly random.  The computer also refuses to “live in the moment” and keeps reverting to thinking it is August of 1994 which means it can’t connect with websites because, and this is the actual text from the Failure Screen, they “exist in the future.”  Which is kind of cool in a time-travel sort of way but also really annoying. 

So that’s me.  Look for a post tomorrow (internet connection willing) about my latest mod-podge-rocks project which will look familiar to you regular readers….familiar yet more mod-podgy.

Thanks for your patience.

I am not being compensated by Saw Stop for this post.  However, I’m REALLY open to the idea.

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