Cabinet Door Catches

For a house that moves, it's nice for cabinet doors to have catches to keep them from swinging open.

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While our drawers have magnetic child locks on them to keep everything secure while we're underway, the cabinet doors didn't quite need such a robust system.  We used these chrome ball catches for all of our cabinet doors.

The tricky part is figuring out how to install them so that everything lines up perfectly.  Here's what we did.

Install the ball catch flush with the inner edge of the cabinet.

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Put the screws in the protruding part of the catch, and lock it into place.  It helps to push the screws a little toward the arc of the door, or they'll hit the door a little too far to the side.

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Close the door and give it a little push into the screws.

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Open the door, and note the marks where your screws will go.

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Install the catch in the door, and you're in business.

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These catches require a slight push to latch, and they give a satisfying click when the door is in place.

Shaker Style Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts

Now that I have the drawers installed, I need to manufacture some cabinet doors and drawer fronts.  Like everything else, they need to be lightweight.  I'm using a simple shaker style built from pine 1x2's and 1/4" plywood.  Use the "premium pine" 1x2's for this, not the cheaper stuff.

I want my doors and drawer fronts to overhang by 1/2", so I'm measuring the space I need to cover and adding 1" to each dimension to get my finished size.

Before I begin cutting, I'll remove all the safety mechanisms from my table saw.  Unfortunately, none of them are compatible with the dado blade.  It's always nice to take a moment to appreciate how quickly this could become a "shaker style going to the hospital" post.  Please note that my fingers are closer to the saw blade in some of these pictures than they should be -- that's because the saw is OFF.  Please also note that I'm not wearing gloves.  NEVER wear gloves when working with a power saw.  If it catches the glove, it can suck your hand right in.

I found it easier to cut a dado in full lengths of 1x2 stock, then cut those pieces to the lengths I need.  If I cut to length first, I end up with pieces that are too small to dado without putting my hand dangerously close to the blade.  To get the groove dead center, I make one cut, then flip the board around and cut the other side.  It takes a few tries on a scrap piece of wood to get the saw adjusted to the exact thickness of your plywood, but it's pretty easy-going after that.  I want the groove to be exactly 1/2" deep.

Next, I need to cut all my pieces to length.  The left and right sides of each piece are exactly the same height as the finished piece because they go all the way to the edge.  The top and bottom are two inches less than the width of the finished piece, because they only go as far as the end of the groove in the sides.

The sides are done, so now I need to cut the ends of the top and bottom.  The shoulder of this cut needs to be exactly the same as the depth of the grooves we cut earlier, and the thickness of the wood that's left needs to be exactly the same thickness as your plywood.  It may take a few tries to get the saw set up, but once it's done, you'll breeze through all your cuts pretty quickly.

The plywood panels for each of these doors should be two inches in either direction less than the finished dimension.  In my experience, it helped to cut 1/8" or so smaller that that to make sure everything fit together nicely.  After test-fitting all my doors and drawer fronts to make sure everything fits, it's time to glue.  You don't need very much glue.  If it's messy, you're using too much.

Once your piece is assembled, clamp it together.  You really do need to clamp it, it'll be much stronger that way.  Check your bottle of glue to see how long it needs to be clamped.  If you have a limited number of clamps, this is where a fast-setting wood glue comes in handy.

If you're going to paint your doors/drawer fronts, you need to caulk the seams between the plywood face and the frame.  Use the cheap latex painters caulk for this.  You don't need silicone or anything fancy.  If it's the cheapest caulk in the store, you've probably found the right one -- just make sure it's paintable.  Do not skip this step or there will be an unsightly crack in this area.  You'll also want to sand the edges of your doors/drawer fronts to smooth everything out, especially at the seams in the corners.

Installing these drawer fronts can be a little tricky.  There isn't much overlap between the corner of the drawer and the "meat" of the door.  You want the screw to hit the pine frame, not the plywood panel.  Here's my method for mounting these drawer fronts.  I put a screw in each corner of the drawer from the inside out, just far enough to poke out a bit.  Then, I close the drawer and line up my drawer front.  When I get it where I want it, I press the door into the screws that are poking out of the drawer box.  Now, I can open up the drawer, line up the screws with the marks I made, and permanently attach the drawer front.

There we have it.  Shaker style doors and drawer fronts.

Helix Sleep Mattress Review

Helix Sleep participates in our affiliate program, so we'll get a small commission if you purchase a mattress by following a Helix Sleep link from this page, and it won't cost you anything extra.  We bought our mattress before we found Helix Sleep in our affiliate program, and we did not receive any freebies or discounts from them.

About a year ago, we set off on our honeymoon in our "aluminum tent" Airstream.  We were so far from finished, all we had inside was a refrigerator (but no propane to run it off-grid), an Air Head composting toilet (but no bathroom wall), and a Tuft and Needle mattress.

We learned fairly quickly that a bathroom wall is essential for marital bliss, so I set out on building one as soon as we circled back to home base.

Next, we had to deal with the mattress.  Tuft and Needle had been highly recommended by one of our friends, and the customer service had been great, but I just didn't like the product.  I'd wake up several times a night with dead arms or legs.  It's like the top layer of foam was too soft, and the bottom layer was too hard, so you'd sink right down and lose all circulation.

After some exhaustive googling, we decided to try Helix Sleep.  When you sign on to Helix's website, it asks you lots of questions about your height, weight, body type, sleeping style, etc.  And it asks the same questions about your sleeping partner (if you have one).  Instead of Tuft and Needle's one-size-fits-people-who-aren't-me approach, they custom build a mattress that will work for you as an individual.  If you share the bed with a partner, you can choose a "happy medium" that should work for both of you, or you can split the bed down the middle, and have exactly the mattress you want on your half.

The thing that sold me about the Helix mattress is that they don't just have a couple layers of foam -- they include a layer of pocket coils.  The coils add some extra "give" (and a little "bounce") to help relieve pressure, which was my main problem with the Tuft and Needle mattress.

We paid $800 for our full size mattress, which is a good bit more than the $530 that the Tuft and Needle cost.  But if I'm going to get a better night's sleep, it's well worth the price difference.

The customer service experience after the sale with Helix was almost identical to Tuft and Needle.  They proactively solicited my feedback to make sure I was happy.  Helix has a money-back guarantee very similar to Tuft and Needle, but I never had to return the Helix mattress.

A year later, I'm still enjoying my Helix mattress.  Will it work for you?  It's hard to say.  Since the Helix Sleep mattress is customized to each individual, your mattress will be different than mine.  But if the cheaper bed-in-a-box type mattresses aren't working for you, Helix is worth a shot.  Check them out here.

Back to Baltimore

After our time in Vermont, with a quick visit to Montreal to grab some poutine, we headed back to Baltimore to get a few odds and ends finished up on the Airstream.

On the way back, we stopped in Ithaca again because ... well ... why wouldn't you stop in Ithaca if you have the chance?  It's gorgeous.

While backing into our spot, I managed to jackknife the trailer a bit and tweak our fancy ProPride hitch.  Notice the frame bracket under the tongue is a little off-center and one of the spring bars is bent.

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I took some pictures and fired off an email to Sean Woodruff at Propride at 5:47 PM on a Sunday, not expecting to hear back until Monday.  No rush, since we booked a week at the campground.  5:57 PM, he sends me an email back, confirming my suspicions, "Yes, just center the frame bracket and you'll be all set... A bent spring bar will work fine."  Fifteen minutes with some wrenches and I had the frame bracket centered and the bolts re-torqued.

I can't say enough about how good my experience with the ProPride hitch has been.  I have never experienced such incredible customer service as I have consistently gotten from Sean.  And the hitch itself tows like a dream -- I'm not even sure I know what trailer sway even feels like.

We took a short walk around Cornell's campus, which turned out to be continuous waterfalls for a good half mile.

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I've been studying my National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (note: that's an affiliate link -- if you buy, I might make a small commission) for the last few months, and have finally gained the confidence to actually eat some wild mushrooms.

These are all edible mushrooms, though I didn't harvest and eat all of them.

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I also found some mayapples.  Too early to harvest, unfortunately.

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I did harvest and eat these chanterelles. 

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Back in Baltimore, and it's straight to work on some Airstream projects, and continuing to downsize our possessions.

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I mounted two Surecall Omnidirectional antennas on the Airstream -- one for our Pepwave Soho router that we'll be using for a wifi repeater, and one for our weBoost Drive 4GX-RV cell phone signal booster.  These should help Leanne and me work on the road with fewer interruptions.  I plan on also purchasing a Verizon jetpack at some point to complete our digital connectivity setup.

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If I had planned this better, I would have installed the antennas when I had the interior skins out, and I could have run them inside with the solar wiring.  As it stands, though, the combiner box is all sealed up, so the best spot to penetrate the roof is going to be just above my electronics cabinet in the bathroom.  I used this entry plate, stainless screws, and a ton of Sikaflex 221 to seal the roof penetration around the two wires.  It's not the seamless install that I'd like, but it's not easy to see from the ground, and I'm confident it won't leak.

I also built and installed the range hood cabinet with the Camec range hood that I picked up from eBay, shipped from Australia.

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We saw Roger Waters live...

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... And I finished up the shower tile in the bathroom.

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Gone Vermonting

Vermont is an incredibly special place.  It's hard to put your finger on what it is exactly, but everything Vermont is just -- nice.

The people are so nice.  Walking on trails, people smile and say hello as they pass.  Tour guides with crowds of kids make sure everyone is following good trail etiquette, and offer (totally unnecessary) apologies for those who didn't make way fast enough.  Everyone is polite and friendly.

There are "creemees" (soft serve ice cream) sold at regular intervals, and maple is always one of the flavor choices.

The landscape is gorgeous, and people take advantage.  As Leanne and I put all of our energy into summitting Mount Mansfield, with camelbacks full of water, we're passed by local kids strolling up the mountain wearing shorts and Vans, carrying nothing.  When we made it to the top, there's a couple having a picnic -- in the Alpine Zone, at the top of the tallest mountain in Vermont -- like it's no big deal.

We didn't quite make it to the top of Mount Mansfield on our first try.

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Here's where we stopped.  Not enough water, not enough time left in the day.

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Attempt number 2.

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Sometimes the zip line instructions just have generally good life advice.

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Walking up the ski slope, picking wild strawberries.

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Storms look a lot more menacing when the top of your head is the tallest point in Vermont.

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The weather cooperated, and we made it to the top.  We tried to continue on the Long Trail to get down the mountain, but it was more of a climb than a hike, so we hopped on the Profanity Trail and made our way down the mountain.