Tag Archives: DIY

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!

Kurt

How to make an awesome eclipse viewing rig!

Do you own binoculars?

Do you own a tripod?

If your answer to both of these questions is YES, then you have what it takes to create a pretty awesome, and completely safe, eclipse viewing rig!

Here are the step by step instructions!

Step 1

DO NOT look through the binoculars!  That is very very dangerous!

Step 2

Attach your binoculars to your tripod using any means necessary.  I used wood clamps but duct tape also works pretty good.  (Although it leaves a sticky residue.)

Step 3

NEVER EVER EVER look through the binoculars! You will destroy your retinas!

Step 4

Attach white paper or white cardboard a foot or so directly below the binoculars, with the binoculars pointing in the direction of the sun.  Again, I used wood clamps, but duct tape can also do this job.

Step 5

DON’T EVEN THINK about looking through the binoculars!  That’s a completely stupid idea!

Step 6

Cut a hole in some cardboard and place it over the binoculars to create a shade panel.  Now only the sun will be projected onto the white paper below the binoculars.  You can use the binocular’s focus capability to get the sun into perfect focus on the paper.

Step 7

That’s all.  There are no further steps.  Other than to NEVER look at the sun.  ESPECIALLY through binoculars.

Here is what the sun looked like today while I was setting up and testing my rig.  It looked really cool when thin wispy clouds flew by!

To get this photo, I just held up my iPhone very close to the white paper, white balanced on the center of the white sun image by clicking on it with my finger and snapped this photo.

It looks even better with the naked eye!

If you look closely, you can see three sunspots!  Amazing!

Thanks for your interest!  And remember to never look at the sun!  Especially through binoculars!

Feel free to share this post on your favorite social media accounts!

Kurt

Sunday August 20th update:

This blog post appears to be going a bit viral this morning!  Thank you to everyone who has shared it!  I’m happy that so many people find it useful!

I will gladly share your eclipse photos here!  If you make your own eclipse viewing rig using binoculars, put your eclipse photos and videos online (Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Dropbox, etc.).  Then contact me using the “Email Us” link at the bottom of this website!  Give me the link to your media and tell me what city and state you were in and I will post thumbnails and links right here in this blog post!

Photos and Videos from all over the country!

From [name goes here] in [city, state]:

[image thumbnail with link to original hosted on another site]

From [name goes here] in [city, state]:

[image thumbnail with link to original hosted on another site]

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!

Kurt

Update: July 2017

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

How to make your own car-top kayak rack

I designed and built what I think turned out to be a pretty decent car-top carrier rack for my kayaks.  Here is a photo of the final product mounted on the roof of my PT Cruiser.

I built the rack out of PVC pipe bought from my local home improvement store.  I designed the rack so that it can be attached to the roof of my car using standard ratcheting straps that loop around the car roof with the doors open.  The ratchets are inside the cab of the car.

Before I built this rack, my best solution for hauling my kayak to the river was just to strap the kayak itself to the roof of my car.

One problem with that scenario was that I could only haul a single kayak that way.  Another problem was that the ratcheting straps outside the cab would vibrate and buzz loudly when I was driving down the road at highway speeds.  But the rack I designed and built solved both of these problems.

Below is a photo of the rack after I glued all the PVC pieces together.  I designed the left side of the rack with a single upright that sits up into the seat hole in the first kayak which will hold it at the angle I want.  Then the other two kayaks lean up against the first one.  The right side of the rack has 2 uprights to cradle the bottom side of the third kayak.

I used T’s rather than 90’s for the 4 corners so that I could feed the ratcheting straps through the pipe and keep the straps out of the winds, thus keeping them from vibrating and buzzing.

I’m not going to give specific parts lists and specific measurements because this rack needs to be custom sized for your kayaks and also custom sized for your car.  But cutting these PVC pipes and gluing them together is very very easy.  So this is a project that just about anyone should be able to take on.

The below photo shows how 3 kayaks fit perfectly into this rack.

But I actually own 4 kayaks, and occasionally I will want to haul all 4 of them to the river.  It turns out that my SUV has a roof wide enough to hold all 4 kayaks, so I designed my kayak rack to be expandable from 3 kayaks to 4 kayaks.  So now I can use the rack on my car or on my SUV.

You can see in the below photo that the rack is now wider.  The PVC pipes on the left are all 2 inch pipes and the PVC pipes on the right are all 1 and 1/2 inch pipes.  The 1.5 inch pipes fit nicely inside the 2 inch pipes with not very much wiggle room, so that worked out nicely for this application.

If I was making a single size rack that didn’t expand, I would probably just use the 1 and 1/2 inch PVC pipe for the entire rack.  It feels to me like it is strong enough to do the job of holding up these 10 foot kayaks, but also flexible enough to bend a bit around the contour of the car’s roof.  In my case, the 2 inch PVC pipe I used for most of the rack doesn’t give very much and it ended up denting part of the roof of my car a bit when I torqued the rack down using the ratcheting straps.

Here is a photo of the rack holding 4 kayaks.

The detail photo below shows you the single upright on the rack that fits up into the seat hole of the first kayak and basically holds the first kayak upright at a slight tilt from vertical which is good for leaning the other kayaks up against the first kayak.

The photo below details the other side of the rack where the two uprights are there supporting the bottom of the third kayak.  This photo also shows my solution for holding the kayaks down.  I used black rubber bungee cords.

The photo below details the attachment points of the bungee cords.  I bought a bungee cord that was the right length to go all the way around each kayak.  And I drilled holes into my PVC pipes to attach the bungee cords.  These bungee cords hold the kayaks down tight to the rack and they also keep the kayaks from moving very much left and right.  And also, thankfully, these bungee cords don’t vibrate and buzz at highway speeds.

IMPORTANT:  This photo shows the PVC sitting down directly onto my roof.  Do not do this!  The PVC is plastic, but it’s a very hard plastic and it WILL damage your paint job!  Make sure you put something soft or rubbery between the PVC and your vehicle!  My suggestion is to buy 2 inch wide self-stick Velcro in bulk rolls and apply the soft side to the bottom surface of your PVC rack!  Also don’t ratchet it down so tight that it dents your roof!  The idea is to use PVC that is flexible and conforms to the contour of your roof!

This photo shows you the inside of one of the PVC pipes.  You can see the ratcheting strap and also the bungee cord attachments.

And here is the final rack.  I tested it at highway speeds and it worked quite well.

Another photo of the final rack.

And one last photo of the final rack.

And just for fun.  Here are a couple drawings I drew up during the process to help me decide on the design and to help me come up with a parts list to go buy.

Thanks for your interest!  Please leave questions or comments below!  Or use the “Email Us” link at the bottom of the website!

Kurt

Woodworking Template: Table Saw Push Sticks

This is a very simple template for push sticks. Push sticks are used to push stock through your table saw without getting your fingers and hands near the spinning blade. You can easily make push sticks out of scrap plywood that you have laying around the shop.

Here are my old push sticks that I’ve been using for years and years.  Far from ideal.  Neither has a good handle for me to hold onto.  And one is completely the wrong shape to hold down stock.  This is totally a safety issue.

01 - old sticks

 

And here are the proper push sticks I made recently.

02 - new sticks

03 - new sticks

And here is a link to the 8.5 by 11 template that you can download and print.  Just cut it out and lay it on some scrap plywood and trace out the outline.  Then cut it out using a band saw or jig saw and you’ve got yourself a nice new push stick!

template-icon

http://www.leucht.com/8.5x11_push_stick_template.pdf

Enjoy!

Kurt