Tag Archives: custom

How to make a custom license plate bracket for your car

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably noticed that I like to make things myself if I can, rather than buy them.  Most of my projects are in wood, but occasionally I do some light metal-work out of necessity.

In today’s installment, I will show you how I was able to make a custom fitted metal bracket which allowed me to mount an old vanity plate to the front of my new-to-me car.  Hopefully, this information ends up being useful to someone out there in the Interwebs.

My new-to-me car is a 2010 Honda Civic SI.  She’s a beaut, isn’t she?  But when I tried to mount my vanity tag, which has my name on it, to the front of the car, the mounting holes were nowhere near where they needed to be.  Apparently, a mounting bracket is required here.  In my prior car, a 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser, I just drilled holes right into the plastic bumper and screwed the plate right in.  But this car is quite a bit too new and much too nice for that technique.

I looked at my local auto parts stores for a bracket, assuming that it was some sort of common standard, but I came up empty.  So I looked around my woodworking shop to see what I had laying around.  Luckily, I had just the thing.  I had a couple unused pieces of thin steel perforated  angle iron from my new garage door opener.  If you don’t have any laying around, your local home improvement store sells this sort of material.  Just search for Metal Angles.

Notice in the photo above, the cardboard prototype on the bench.  Making a cardboard prototype of the final product was step one in this process.  It will save you a lot of time and frustration if you always start out by making a cardboard version first!  You can see in the cardboard design, that the bracket needs to swoop up, go straight across, and then swoop back down.  Easy peasy!

The second step was to fold over the angle iron to make it into a flat plate.  Mashing it between my hammer and my bench vise worked nicely.

Then I hammered it into a 90 degree angle by squeezing it in my bench vise and hammering it over and nicely flat.  The bench vise makes it easy to create sharp angles like this out of thin steel.

The curved section was a bit more work.  And it took some trial and error.  A round tip anvil might have been the right tool for this part, but sometimes you have to deal with the tools that are in your toolbox.

So here is the bracket compared to the cardboard prototype.  Not too shabby.

And a bit more sweat got it looking like so!  Yep, my cardboard prototype was from a Fruit Loops cereal box.  Don’t judge me!

After passing the side by side comparison test with the cardboard prototype, I hacked off the extra material with a … you guessed it … hacksaw.

Now a fit check to the actual license tag was in order.  Looking good!

Then the holes were marked and drilled.  By the way, if you work mostly with wood, like I do, don’t use your wood drill bits for steel!  If you don’t ruin the bits completely, you will at least dull them terribly.  Do yourself a favor and buy a set of hardened bits just for metal.

Here is a photo of the finished product!  It worked like a charm!  And it looks great!

I mean the bracket itself doesn’t look all that great.  But it’s completely hidden behind the vanity plate!  So why spend 20 bucks on a fancy tag bracket when nobody ever sees it!

Thanks for your interest!

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment or click on the Email Us link at the bottom of the page!


How to make your own custom car window decals

This custom, hand-made, vinyl, Star Wars family window decal is now sporting the back of my car!  And I actually made it myself!  I will now show you how I did it, step by step!

To be fair, this decal set not really my own design.  You can buy Star Wars family decals from ThinkGeek and other online stores.  Although that particular set does not come with the AT-AT Walker.  I had to make that myself using white vinyl electrical tape and a X-ACTO knife.  Below is a photo of what my car window decals looked like just a few days ago.

The AT-AT Walker and blaster look like new because they were just remade last year.  The original ThinkGeek decal set lasted way longer than the electrical tape did.

So when it came time to replace the set this summer, I wanted to come up with a better solution than electrical tape for the AT-AT Walker.  I found self-stick vinyl sheets at my local craft store and decided to give it a try.  Then I decided to try to make the entire set myself since I had these large vinyl sheets.

It’s possible to print directly onto these vinyl sheets, but I didn’t have a thin crisp outline image to start out with, so I printed on regular paper what I had at my disposal.  But an outline showing exactly what needs to be cut out is what you need at this point.

I decided to do one character at a time, so I cut out the first character.  Again, this was printed on regular printer paper at the exact size you want on your window.

To transfer your cutout lines to the vinyl, carbon paper would be very useful.  In the absence of carbon paper, a technique that works pretty well is to rub pencil on the back of the pattern.

And then trace the cutout lines on the front of the pattern held firmly on top of the vinyl sheet.

And now you have a light pencil drawing of the cutout lines there on your vinyl sheet.

Then you just cut out that part of the vinyl sheet.

And you prepare the window surface by scraping with a razor blade and washing with glass cleaner.

Then peel off the backing from the vinyl sheet and carefully align the character where you want it.  Let it make contact in the middle and then roll the contact surface towards the outside edges to keep air bubbles from getting trapped inside.

Then start cutting with a X-ACTO knife and peeling away the waste material.

Getting perfectly straight lines and perfectly symmetrical curves takes some concentration and/or some artistic talent.  But when it’s all said and done, these cuts don’t have to be perfect.  Most people will be viewing them from about a car-length away.

The hardest cut-outs, I think, are the thin lines.  Making them straight and symmetrical isn’t trivial.

Getting closer.  This takes patience and a steady hand.

And the first character is all done!

Then repeat the steps for the second character.

And the third character.

And so on.

Until your entire family is complete.  Plus any pets that you want to include.

Now I’m not sure exactly how long this craft vinyl material is going to last out in the elements.  But I live in Florida and I don’t have any shade at work to park my car under.  And we also have quite a bit of rain here in the summer months.  So I will update this blog article as soon as I have an idea about how long this stuff lasts under these conditions.

That’s all!  I hope this blog article ends up being useful to someone out there in Internet-land!

Thanks for your interest!


Update: July 2017

I recently added a NASA Swarmie robot to the side windows of my car.  What do you think?

Make your own cornhole (or bags, if you prefer) game boxes, plus my creative overhead storage solution

This was a pretty easy project and it only took a little bit of wood.  And it makes a simple and family friendly game that will keep you and you entire family entertained for years to come!

By the way, it’s called cornhole.  Wikipedia is never wrong … well, not for long anyways.   🙂

To make two standard sized cornhole boxes you will need a total of 4, 8 ft 2×4’s and a half sheet of 1/2 inch plywood.  I suppose you could use 3/4 inch plywood, but the boxes are pretty heavy with 1/2 plywood, so anything more is probably overkill.  It’s probably a good idea to pay a bit extra for higher quality plywood so that you get a nice and smooth surface that won’t affect your gameplay adversely.

The first step in construction is to build the frame.  The final outside dimensions are 4 feet by 2 feet.  So cut 2 of your 2x4s in half so you have 4 boards that are 48 inches long.  Then make 4 more at 21 inches.  The 21 inch piece plus 1.5, plus 1.5 gives you the 24 inches you need for the final dimension of 4 feet by 2 feet.  Nail or screw the boards together as shown below.  I prefer screws that are at least 2.5 or 3 inches long for strength and long lasting holding power.  To keep the wood from splitting, it’s a good idea to drill smaller pilot holes first and then insert the screws into the pilot holes.  The photo shows one frame, but you will need to make two.


Then cut your plywood into 24 inches by 48 inches and install it onto the frame.  I put a little wood glue on the frame for good measure but that’s optional.  I also used screws to hold the plywood down solidly.  Make sure your nails or your screw heads are down even or slightly below the surface of the plywood.  Otherwise your bags could get caught on them.


The next step is to cut a 6 inch diameter hole into your plywood.  According to standards, the hole needs to be centered left to right and the center of the hole needs to be down 9 inches from the top of the box.  The best way to cut this hole is to drill through first with a large drill bit and then cut it out using a jig-saw.


The legs are probably the hardest part of this build.  But they’re really not too difficult, though.  The final height of the top of the cornhole box off the ground needs to be 12 inches when it’s all said and done.  But we will start with longer legs and then cut them to the proper length as the final step.

[the below steps need some photos for clarity]

[Place leg vertically in place with a spacer, and clamp.  Measure center of frame and center of leg.  Drill hole clear through both.  Remove leg.  Cut a roundover on leg.  Install leg with bolt, washer, washer, locking nut.]

That’s it for construction!  Now it’s time to paint your cornhole boxes.  Make sure you use wood putty to cover up the screw holes so you will have a nice smooth surface for the bags to land on.  I would suggest painting your boxes with a quality semi-gloss outdoor paint to give a smooth glassy surface.


That’s all it takes to make a sturdy set of cornhole boxes!  Now you just need to buy a nice set of cornhole bags at your local WalMart store or Amazon or your favorite arts and crafts store.

Now here is a bonus storage idea for your new cornhole boxes.  In my garage, the rafters are exposed and they are 24 inches on center.  So the 48 inch long boards will span across three rafters.  See the photo below for one end of the storage idea.


And here is a photo of the other end of the storage idea.  The idea is that you slide the box all the way into this end of the storage and the other end of the box slides up past the other end of the storage which is just a hair wider then the 48 inch length of the box.


Then once the box is fully up, you just slide the box till it sets against the other end of the storage idea.  Both ends of the box are then supported.  It’s hard to explain in words, but when slid all the way in one direction, the box is fully supported but when slid all the way in the other direction the box can slip past the support and come down.


Here is a close up photo of one end of the support.


And here is a close up photo of the other end.  Maybe these close up photos will help explain the concept.


For safety, it might be a good idea to clamp the box against the support so it won’t move over time and fall down.

So that’s it!  Two cornhole boxes along with a creative overhead storage solution that keeps them up and out of the way while also allowing quick and easy acess to them when you want to use them!

Thanks for reading this article!  Feel free to leave any feedback or comments below!



Bats need houses too!

I got a wild hair today and I built a house for my resident bats that do such a good job of keeping the mosquito population under control.  Building a bat house is pretty easy and it only takes a few small pieces of wood.  What follows are easy step by step instructions for building a small and simple bat house.  It’s so easy you can do it yourself!

I searched the Internet for some plans and ended up drawing up my own design based on a few of the simpler designs that I found on the Internet.  Here is a photo of my plans.  (Click on any image to see the full resolution version.)

01 - bat house plans

It might be hard to read, but basically it only takes a 12 inch by 12 inch piece of plywood for the back, plus a couple smaller plywood pieces for the front and one more for the roof, plus several thin slats.  Here is a photo of all the wood for my bat house project, except for the roof, which I cut last after the rest was put together.

02 - parts cut

You can see the 12 by 12 plywood piece for the back, plus a 12 by 5 plywood piece and a 12 by 4 plywood piece for the front, plus 4 wood slats that are 1/2 inch by 1 inch and around 10 inches long.  I cut the slats to their proper length during construction to fit the front of the house, so right now they are just a little long.  The plywood I used was some thin veneer that I had laying around that was leftover from another project.  But you can use plywood of any thickness for this project.  The thickness of the front and back will determine the final size of the roof piece, so that’s one reason to cut that piece last.

The picture below shows one slat is cut along it’s short 1/2 inch side at an angle for the roof.  I did not measure the angle … I just eyeballed it on my bandsaw.  Then I took the one that I had cut and I used it as a template to draw the angle on the other three slats.  That way they will all be the same angle.

03 - one slat cut

The photo below shows all four slats laid out on the 12 by 12 back piece.  You can also see a piece of screen that I had laying around that I cut to use as the landing pad for the bats.  The bats need a surface to land on that they can hold onto with their tiny claws.  A surface that is soft or rubbery or something like this screen will do fine.

04 - slats laid out

Below you can see the front pieces laid down on the slats.  Nothing is being attached together at this point.  I am only test fitting everything to make sure it’s all the right size.  The reason the front is in two pieces is that a bat house needs some ventilation in a way that does not allow rain to pour in.

05 - front pieces fit check

Above you can see how the four spacer slats stick out beneath the front pieces.  I marked them and cut them off and below you can see them now at the proper length.

06 fit check reverse angle

Now that everything is verified to be the correct size, I’m ready to attach my landing pad.  I used an office stapler to attach the screen to the plywood.  In the photo below, you can see that I started on the back side and attached the screen.  Then I rolled the screen around to the front side of the plywood and stapled it every couple of inches.  I used staples because my material is metal screen.  If you use foam matting or rubber matting or something like that, glue will probably work just fine.

07 - screen started on back side

Below you can see the landing pad completely installed from the front side where the bats will land.

08 - screen finished

Now it’s time to assemble the spacer slats onto the back plywood piece.  I’m going to assemble the slats onto the plywood back now, but I will hold off assembling the front pieces and the roof.  This is because the back needs to be installed onto my tall light pole first and then the front pieces and the roof can be installed.  Otherwise, installation of the bat house on the light pole will be much harder after the whole thing is fully assembled.  I used Liquid Nails to glue the wood pieces to each other.  I also am going to use screws for good measure.  This bat house will be outdoors and I want it to hold together for many years.

09 - slat being glued

You can see below that I used wood clamps to hold the wood together tight and then I installed some screws.  Between the glue and the screws, plus a coat of primer and a couple coats of outdoor latex paint, I’m hoping this bat house lasts for many many years.

10 - slat being screwed in

Here it is on the light pole that I want it to be installed on.  There were a couple bolts sticking out of the light pole that I had to accomodate.  I’m going to put some smaller holes and then wrap picture wire around and around several times in order to hold the bat house in place on the round pole.

11 - fit check on pole

This photo shows the larger holes for the light pole bolts plus four smaller holes that I drilled for the picture wire.

12 - holes for pitcure wire hanging

Now I screwed the front pieces on, but I did not turn the screws down tight.  I put the screws in just enough to make holes that I can find again later after it is painted.

13 - start screws in front

Now I found a piece of plywood big enough to use as the roof.  I cut it out and centered it in place and then I marked it’s final location as the photo below shows.

14 - mark location of roof

Then I laid the bat house next to the roof so I could mark where the slats are located so I can put screws through the roof directly into the center of these four slats.

15 - mark location of slats on roof

Then I installed the roof, but not tight.  Just to make screw holes that I can find again after it’s painted.

16 - start screws on roof

Now I took the front and roof pieces off again so I can paint everything separately.

17 - take it apart for painting

Then I primered everything.

18 - primer

Then I painted everything.  I actually put two nice thick coats of paint because I want this to be nice and waterproof and last for many years, hopefully.  You don’t really want a bat house to be brightly colored.  It should not really stand out.  I had a dark brown paint handy so I used that.  Painting through the screen was not easy, but I did it.  Next time, I think I would probably paint the wood under the screen before installing the screen.

19 - dark paint

Then I hung the back piece as I described earlier using the picture wire to wrap around the pole several times.

20 - back is installed on pole

 Then I screwed the front pieces and the roof on. That’s all!  The bat house is complete and ready for occupants!

21 - final product - bat house

Thanks for taking the time to read these step by step bat house directions!  Let me know if you have any comments or feedback and definitely let me know if you used these directions to make your own bat house!  Leave comments below on this blog post or send me an email by clicking the email link below in the page footer.



Custom built wood washer and dryer shelves

Ever since we got our front loading washer and dryer a few years ago, we’ve been wanting to get some of those laundry pedestals to lift them up higher.  But the pedestal units are pretty pricey.  Those things are like $250 bucks … each.  Ridiculous. So I decided I would make my own laundry pedestals out of wood that I had laying around in my shop.  And I decided that I would design a pedestal that would include both a step stool and a storage drawer in one single unit. The step stool will help us reach the wall mounted cabinets that are mounted above our washer and dryer.

Click on any photo to view larger versions of it in my photo gallery.

Here is a photo of the basic frame for my pedestal design.  You can see that the front (facing down and to the left) is basically open to receive a drawer.  The sides and back are solid enough to support a few hundred pounds (as long as the weight is directed down into the floor and focused at the four corners).  All the cross beams are just there for stability.  The four feet of the washer or dryer sit on the top-most two 2x4s.

Here is the same basic frame after the decorative plywood and trim was applied.  The back of the unit was left open and so was the top.  That should allow for access to the bottom of the washer or dryer and access behind the unit if that access is ever needed.

I forgot to take photos of the drawer unit during construction, but this photo gives you a pretty good idea of it’s design.  It’s fairly straightforward.  The front of the drawer is on the upper left in this photo and contains the step stool portion which is made from 2x4s for strength.  The horizontal 2×4 in the middle is both for stability and for mounting the pull handle.  The rest of the drawer is made from plywood that I joined together with biscuit joints.  The 4th sidewall is missing from this photo, but it fits right over the exposed 2x4s shown in this photo and creates a completely closed drawer bin used for storage.

Here is the same drawer from another angle.  The front of the drawer has the decorative plywood.

And here is what the unit looks like with the drawer installed.  I chose not to install a drawer slide.  I just installed some felt pads underneath the drawer unit and it slides in and out just fine.  The next step is to prime and paint to match the washer and dryer.

And here is what the finished laundry pedestal looks like in use in our laundry room.  The drawer holds quite a bit of stuff and pulls out much farther than is shown in the photo below.

And the step-stool feature allows us to reach the wall mounted cabinets above our washer and dryer.

That’s about all the detail that I can think of.  Add a comment below if you like this design or if you have any questions about details that I have left out.  If you end up using my design for a laundry pedestal or if you have an ideas for improvements, please feel free to post in the comments below.