CO2 Detector Wall Safe: Hidden in Plain Sight!

Sunday marked the first day of daylight saving time. In addition to turning back the clock an hour, it’s a great time to change the batteries on your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and also check to see if they need to be replaced! Our CO2 detector was getting close to 10 years old, so we replaced it with a new one.

Birdz of a Feather has always focused on upcycling whatever we can, so instead of throwing the old CO2 detector away I had an epiphany about using it to create a place to hide my valuables in plain sight! Sometimes necessity – and a penchant for upcycling – is the mother of invention!

The Back Story

When I was a teenager, my dad took me out to pick up a prescription at the drugstore leaving my Mom and the dog at home. In the span of no time at all an intruder kicked down the door and made off with all my Mom’s jewelry (including my grandmother’s jewelry which my Mom inherited when she passed away). Luckily my Mom had let the dog out and kept her company in the backyard just before it happened. Thank goodness for small favours; I shudder to think what would’ve happened if the intruder found my mom still in the house with the dog going nuts outside!

Since then I’ve always been wary about leaving valuables and sentimental objects around the house. Instead I put all my stuff in a safety deposit box which kind of defeats the purpose of having it in the first place. It’s an inconvenience to have to go get something when I want it, so I rarely wear and enjoy my nicer pieces of jewelry.

My epiphany about creating a secret hiding place was a long time coming. I think it’s a great solution for keeping some of those pieces near yet safely out of sight (and reach) from those they don’t belong to! When intruders have precious little time to ransack, they probably aren’t going to inspect all the CO2 detectors and fire alarms while they’re busy searching all the obvious places in the house first! And sometimes it isn’t even strangers that make off with our prized possessions; my sister once had something taken during a get together at her home. That instance had a happier ending: she confronted the person after the fact and got back what was taken.

Disclaimer

Do not, under any circumstances, leave wires connected to the circuit board and/or plug it into a live outlet if you plan to make this project and stow your valuables inside the unit. You could cause a fire!

Once everything is stripped off the circuit board (the canister, alarm, power adapter and battery connection) it’s perfectly safe to use because it’s effectively dead. I put the circuit board back into the shell because it holds the display and tester buttons and helps make my CO2 detector upcycle look like an authentic working unit. The goal here is to fool intruders… not burn down the house where you, your loved ones and your valuables reside!

Watch the Video

In under 2 minutes, you can watch the video to see how it’s done and subscribe to my YouTube channel while you’re at it 🙂

You Will Need:

Step 1: Remove Battery Cover

Turn the CO2 detector over and remove the battery cover.

Take out the adapter plug by depressing the clips holding it in place.

I find that holding it upside down while depressing the clips is the easiest way to get it out (gravity does most of the work).

Step 2: Separate Front and Back

Locate the screw that’s holding the centre post; you may have to punch a hole through the lable to expose it.

Remove the screw then pull apart the front and back so you now have two pieces.

As you may notice, I actually got ahead of myself and pried the front off the back BEFORE I removed the screw. It was held in place by four posts on the corner and one in the middle (which I didn’t realize until after I ended up breaking off the centre post which was permanently attached to the front).

In the picture below, you can see the crack and small hole left on the front in between where the buttons go.

If that ever happens to you, just remove the screw from the post to release it, then glue it back onto the front with an industrial strength glue such as E6000 (I didn’t glue mine back together until after most of the video was shot).

Step 3: Remove Circuit Board

Remove the circuit board so you can desolder the joints holding the canister and alarm onto it.

Step 4: Prepare Work Surface to Desolder

Place a sheet metal pan on your work surface (ideally outdoors if you can) and gather up the soldering iron, solder pump and circuit board (solder side facing up). Heat up the soldering iron.

On the back of the circuit board, determine which connections you need to remove the solder from.

Step 5: Heat Solder Joints

Do this step in a well ventilated area!

Depress the solder pump to prepare it and keep it in your other hand. Place the soldering iron over one of the solder joints to melt it.

Quickly move the solder pump into place over the melted solder and squeeze the trigger. It should suck the solder out of the connector.

Once all the solder has been removed from the connections, you’ll be able to lift off the canister and the alarm (you won’t need these pieces).

I got tired of removing solder so didn’t end up removing the wire holding down the canister. No biggie: I merely bent it out of the way after removing the canister and flattened it. There was some foam tape under the canister holding it down, so I removed it.

Step 6: Cut ALL Wires

After the canister and alarm are removed, you can continue to desolder the wires for the power adapter/plug and battery, but an easier and faster way to remove the wires is to cut them off with wire cutters.

As I mentioned in the disclaimer, don’t leave any wires connected.

Step 7: Empty Shell

Remove the power adapter so you have nothing but an empty shell. At this point, you can reinsert the fully stripped out circuit board.

You can replace the tester buttons onto their posts too – or leave them until after the new digital display has been attached in the next few steps.

Step 8: Print New Number Display

I measured the size of the digital display on the CO2 detector then used Photoshop to design a new red-on-black print display with 0.0.0 instead of 8.8.8. I printed and then cut it out.

Step 9: Gather Up Valuables and Tape on New Display

Gather up all the items needed for reassembly: C02 detector body, film to cover the alarm sounder, your valuables, and some metal shutters removed from two floppy disks (these will serve as money clips to hold the bills inside the largest compartment – over the circuit board).

Step 10: Cover Alarm Sounder Window on Front

Since the canister is now gone and you don’t want to see into the space when your valuables are going to be hidden, use a piece of red film to cover the alarm sound window (shaped as an ‘N’) on the back of the front cover.

I used double sided tape to hold the film in place. You could also use something black (like a piece of cardboard), the colour of the canister. I just used what I had on hand and thought it would look nice to coordinate with the red CO2 detector display window instead.

Use double sided tape to stick the new display over the old one.

Here’s how it will look with the front in place:

Step 11: Dry Run to Test It Out

As shown on the video, I put the circuit board back into place, but before reassembling everything permanently, I rolled up some money and did a dry run to make sure it would fit inside. I used the metal shutters from the floppy disks to hold the folds of the money on both ends after I rolled it. You could substitute paper clips if you like or use nothing at all and just pop the lid on to hold it in place.

I then took it all apart again so I could make use of every inch of space and store some jewelry in the compartments too.

Step 12: Add Jewelry Storage

I removed the ring holder from an old jewelry box.

I found that it fit perfectly into the compartment that used to hold the power adapter plug.

For demonstration purposes on the video, I put a necklace into a plastic Ziploc and rolled it up; it fit into the compartment once used by the battery. There’s another compartment just like it on the opposite side that you could make use of too.

Step 13: Reassemble Front and Back

Once everything is placed, pop the front on and snap it shut.

Turn the unit over and replace the battery cover. You’ll find there is a gap where the power adapter used to be and see the back of your ring holder.

You can cover this opening with some cardboard – either before or after you insert the ring holder – just to keep the dust out (glue or tape it down).

After putting the battery cover on, you can replace the screw on the back which holds the centre post. However, the screw isn’t really necessary because the cover fits tightly anyway; leaving it off will give you quicker access since you won’t need a screw driver to get into your hiding place!

Step 14: Some Options for Hanging Your CO2 Safe

There are various options for mounting the unit.

Option 1 – Hang on a Screw

The back has two keyhole slots that allow you to hang it on a wall.

However, I find that one screw will suffice to hold it because there is also a slide support that helps hold it out from the wall to keep it plumb.

You can install a wall anchor before you put in the screw, but because it’s light I didn’t bother. The pictures below show further detail on installing a screw and using the slide support.

Option 2

With the particular unit I had, it can also be used on a table top. Just pull out the slide support and place it in a location of your choosing.

I’ve saved the best option for last in the next step!

Step 15: The Best Option

Option 3 – Create a Hidden Secret Safe with a Fake Wall Outlet

You could construct a FAKE wall outlet, pull the slide support out on the CO2 detector and hang it on the lower screw of the outlet to make it look like it’s actually plugged in. Just make sure that you use a longer screw for the bottom so it sticks out of the wall enough that it can catch the keyhole slot in the back of the unit.

An additional secret wall outlet safe is more work, but has two advantages: it will double up your storage space and look even more convincing! There are lots of how-to’s that you can search for online; you can see how to construct one in this post. Do not plug the unit into a live outlet (or even a switched outlet that could accidentally be turned on). The picture below shows the unit without its cover.

Whether you hang it on the wall…..

…..or the lower screw of a fake outlet, you’ll be keeping your money safe and close at hand for a rainy day! When you need access to your valuables, just remove it from where you’ve placed it and pop off the front.

Please Pin and Share!

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In addition to home and garden DIYS, you’ll also find recipes and crafts on Birdz of a Feather.

Shown below are a few DIYs, Crafts and Recipes you’ll find on the site:

At Craft Rehab, I’m all about upcycling and crafting using unexpected materials:

Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab

At The Unknown Chef, I’ll show you how to ferment your own Sauerkraut, make a chicken soup that rivals any grandmother’s and cook BBQ chicken using a rotisserie:

Birdz of a Feather ~ The Unknown Chef

You can follow right here on Birdz of a Feather (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (button below):

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Vintage Mirror Update

If you read the posts on our powder room transformation and the decoupage medicine cabinet, you probably couldn’t help but notice the mirror that we refurbished and brought back to life. This is how it looked after we carefully removed the mirror glass from the frame.

It was something we found amongst the piles of stuff in our own basement; it had belonged to my husband’s great grandmother and somehow he ended up with it.

Our mirror had lost some of the crisp detail of the carving with all the layers of paint and the paint was also chipping. Because of those issues, even though were repainting it, we decided to take it down to bare wood and remove the actrocious green paint.

Although my husband is a ‘Jack of All Trades’, stripping is something he was professionally trained to do (I’m talking about wood here folks!), so he gladly took this project on. I guess that makes him a ‘Jack, the Stripper’ in this case!

To start, he laid a few layers of heavy brown paper over his worktable to protect it:

Here’s one of his professional tips: he propped the frame up on the ‘V’ of some metal L-brackets so the mirror was lifted off the table. This way, he could get the stripper on the front and around the inside and outside edges.  He applied masking tape to the metal L-brackets first so that when he was done, he could remove the tape along with the mess. That way, your metal pieces will be ready again for the next job!

Whenever you’re applying stripper, follow the directions on the lable and take safety precautions (use a cheap brush to apply). This stuff is toxic, so cover up all bare skin and wear both a respirator and googles. Be patient and allow it to sit on the surface for the time suggested before trying to remove the paint; let it do it’s thing! Hubs advises to apply Saran wrap over the piece being stripped to keep the stripper from evaporating and drying out while it’s working hard to lift the paint. This will save time and product!

The detail work needed a lot of attention and a few applications of stripper before he was able to get it all cleaned up. One way of getting into the detail work to remove paint is a fine steel wool pad. You can dip it right into the stripper and scrub away to help lift the stubborn bits. Another way is a brass brush; however even though brass is a soft metal, it can still leave marks on your beautiful detail.

For tighter areas that steel wool just can’t reach, Hubs has a better secret weapon: he cuts down a very stiff bristle brush to about half an inch or so. Again, he dips it into extra paint remover then pounces the bristles into the finer details. It’s both a gentle and effective way of removing paint. It also prevents scratching which you have to avoid at all costs because it’s almost impossible to sand carved detals smooth once they are nicked or damaged from harsher tools.

Here’s a look at the before and after.

BEFORE

Look at how beautiful the wood came up!

Hubs applied some wood filler into the cracks and sanded them smooth.

AFTER

If we were going for a farmhouse look, I would have blended the wood filler into the wood and left it in its natural state, just sealed it with varnish. I love the blond wood!

However, I wanted the frame to recede into our walls so with a blank slate, hubs primed it and then gave it two coats of the same grey paint that we used on the walls of our powder room.

He reinserted the mirror in the frame. The mirror itself was beautifully aged and had a lot of character. Many people now try to recreate that mercury glass look, but we were lucky to have the real deal!

Here’s a reminder of how it started out:

Here’s how it looks painted and hung on the wall of our powder room.

Although it’s understated and blends in with the walls, I think the detail is still front and centre. Also, the pop of colour reflected in it from the decoupaged medicine cabinet really helps the powder room shine like a jewel.

With the shell details on the mirror, ceramic starfish wall decor, handmade glass light fixture and egg dart crown molding looking like scallops, the finished look sports a subtle beachy vibe (without the watery colours that would seem displaced in Canada’s cold climate). You can see the full bathroom makeover here.

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share.

In addition to home and garden DIYS, you’ll also find recipes and crafts on the site.

Shown below are a few DIYs, Crafts and Recipes you’ll find on Birdz of a Feather:

At Craft Rehab, I’m all about upcycling and crafting using unexpected materials:

Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab

At The Unknown Chef, I’ll show you how to ferment your own Sauerkraut, make a chicken soup that rivals any grandmother’s and cook BBQ chicken using a rotisserie:

Birdz of a Feather ~ The Unknown Chef

You can follow right here on Birdz of a Feather (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (button below):

Decoupaged Medicine Cabinet | Birdz of a Feather

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Mancave Transformation and Reveal

My husband spent over 2 years renovating our basement in his spare time. Our basement is small so we split up the basement between three functions: a craft studio, laundry room and a mancave. I took the majority of the space for my studio; not very magnanimous of me given that he built every single bit of it himself – single handedly (with the exception of pouring a new basement floor as shown below).

Other than that, he did EVERY SINGLE BIT! He did the framing, electrical….

….and insulation:

He installed potlights:

He used this manual lift to put up the drywall. If you ever do drywall, don’t do it without a lift; it will save your back!

And if you’re like us and take care of your equipment, you can purchase it new and then resell it for almost as much as you paid – not too shabby!

Hubs did all the mudding to a ‘level 5’ finish. I wanted to hire out the finish work to give him a break, but he’s such a perfectionist and knew that no one would complete it to his standard.

He was right: I can attest that once the walls were sanded and primed, they were as smooth as a baby’s bottom! Even the best contractor couldn’t have done better!

After the walls were done, he started on the floor. He used the mancave as a staging area to acclimate all the wood.

With all the wood in the mancave, he completed the laundry room and studio first. Here you can see the flooring extending from those rooms into the mancave.

We choose an engineered fumed oak hardwood; perfect for a basement because it can withstand some dampness and won’t warp. The blue dimpled membrane underneath protects the flooring from moisture and keeps it warm underfoot.

Before the install, hubs cut 1/2″ deep MDF wedges to put against the wall, providing an expansion gap. He applied some glue into the groove of each board and then tapped them into the tongue side of the boards with a mallet and special block tool.

Every few rows, the boards get taped together with blue tape to prevent shifting until it’s done.

He then used whatever heavy objects we could find to weigh the hardwood down while it dried; even my antique iron collection got pulled into service (against the far wall).

The last step of construction was to add baseboard trim to cover the expansion gaps against the walls. Again he staged everything in the mancave, covering up the walls and floors with cardboard first to protect them from the dust.

The baseboard was cut initially to length with the chop saw but then hubs used a coping saw to get tight joints in the corners. The baseboard went in without to much trouble in every room except the mancave: on the long wall, there was a sizable gap between the floor and baseboard:

To fix the gap, he scribed along the bottom of the baseboard to transfer the curve of the floor, then sanded it off with a belt sander. It took a little extra time, but now you can’t tell there was ever a gap.

Finishing Touches

When the basement was nearing completion, Hubs designed an Ikea media centre for the TV. The boxes sat in our hallway until he was ready to install.

He assembled the media centre in the mancave and installed it with the help of a laser level mounted on the opposite wall.

Here you can see the beam of light along the top that the laser level produces. He filled that space in with glass display cabinets, which you’ll see in the reveal later. Along with a regular level, he was able get all the components level and plumb.

The Reveal

Although it’s a small space, to fully appreciate the completed mancave, I’m providing before and after pictures of each view.

Starting with the electrical panel, we started off with one:

The electrical panel then grew to hold an additional pony panel, plus the WiFi.

BEFORE

The electrical panel placement is the one thing that didn’t get planned very well; it’s off centre to the sofa (see a bit more about that here).

AFTER. The electrical panel still needs better artwork; hubs can’t decide!

Hubs built a frame around the panel to hold a still yet to be determined picture to hide the electrical (the one shown is temporary). Once he makes up his mind, we’ll put up some additional pictures on the wall to balance the frame.

For storage, Hubs got an old filing cabinet from his brother and resprayed it.

He chose a beautiful celedon green to match an ikea light fixture he bought for his desk area. To see another idea of what you can do with a filing cabinet, instead of storage, click here.

For the desk, he’s using the hoosier table from our wedding (more about our kitchen themed wedding here).

When he’s not busy renovating, he collects stamps as a hobby so the desk will come in handy for that.

Lastly, for the other side of the couch, he built himself a pipe side table to hold the remote control holder I made him. For an updated how-to on the remote control holder, see my Instructables post.

Now he can chillax and have his remotes at his fingertips; no one deserves a little R&R more than him after all the work his put into our basement!

Here’s a view from the mancave looking at the entry to my craft studio.

BEFORE

Hubs built me double pocket doors to get my projects in and out more easily. We decorated the entry with a restored kerosene gas heater from his collection (you can see the transformation of the entryway here).

Entry to the Craft Studio showing one of his collection of restored kerosene heaters

The TV wall shares a wall with my craft room but the insulation in the wall helps keep each room quiet.

View from the Sofa

Here’s a view of the TV wall….

BEFORE

…and the same view with the finished media centre. The tower on the right side adds ample closed storage.

The media centre has some glass display cabinets

There’s room for the TV and a tall bank of storage on the end for his stamp collection.

The upper glass cabinets are great for display. Right now they are housing an old punch clock and sewing machine, but these will likely get rotated with other interesting finds as time goes on.

Here a picture showing the full the width of the mancave in its original dark and dank state:

BEFORE

Now it’s bright and welcoming!

AFTER. The rug adds a touch of coziness. The La-Z-Boy sofa reclines and has extendable foot rests.

The La-Z-boy is just beckoning for my husband to be a Lazy Boy too!

The potlights are on dimmers so hubs can adjust the lights when watching a movie.

As with all our projects, we’ll live with it for a while before we decide if it needs further accessorization. For now, it’s pared down and perfect for kicking back in!

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting how-to’s for installing all the finishing details you saw here today including how to achieve a level 5 drywall finish, installing baseboards and the best way to lay enginereed flooring in a basement.

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share 🙂

I really believed that hubs would l be taking a LOOOOOONG break from any major renovations for a quite a while, but it was not meant to be. Soon after our basement was done, my craft studio sprang a leak due to unforeseen circumstances.

As you can see below, everything had to be moved into the mancave so hubs could complete the repairs!  What a mess! I’m going to leave you with this disturbing shot of what it looked like all spring and summer. But rest assured that we’re back on track again and I’ll have a very informative post on what to do when there’s a water leak in your finished basement.

It could have been much worse. All I’ll say for now is that we planned for just about every eventuality but one! Okay, I’ll say two things: it’s a good thing we used that dimpled membrane under our hardwood floors 🙂

If you’re curious to know more about what happened, stay tuned (or subscribe if you haven’t already). Follow us either on Bloglovin’ or right here at Birdz of Feather (link in the footer) and you’ll get notified whenever we post.

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Oh My Goth (Part 2) – Make a Halloween Tombstone

A tombstone can add a ton of personality to your Halloween decor. I decorated my cubicle at the office with the one I did for this project, but you could carve any ghoulish message you like and turn your front yard into a veritable graveyard for the big night 🙂

All you need is a 2″ thick 4×8 sheet of foam board, a jigsaw, marker, wood burning tool and some faux stone spray paint (I used Krylon Make It Stone!).

Cut the foam to your desired tombstone shape using the jigsaw. Use a marker to transfer the letters onto the face of the foam with a marker. Pop on a pointed tip and heat up the wood burning tool. Once hot, start tracing around each letter. Do this work outdoors or in a well ventilated area (I did mine in the garage and laid it flat on top of the blue bin).

Once the outline is done, burn inside the rest of the letters to get depth (you can use a wider tip for the interior of the letters so it goes faster).

When you’re done, it will look like this:

Don’t worry about any marker still showing; it will get covered by the paint.

If you want the lettering to be more pronounced, dab in a darker colour (I didn’t do that step). Then spray the entire piece with the texture paint (I used a light grey).

If using this indoors, add a mound of dirt and a dead flower (I used dried moss and a faux flower at the base).

Since this was for the office and I was poking fun at the fact that our company was closing down our cafeteria, I decorated accordingly. I added an abandoned tray, a curdled cup of coffee, albino rat and trail of spiders:

A ‘Model’ Employee

I made the ’employee’ that sits in the cubicle from scratch. Unfortunately I didn’t take step-by step photos, but I attached the few that I do have so you get the gist of how I made her. I used:

  • Chicken wire,
  • Pool noodles,
  • Stuffing,
  • Pantyhose,
  • A pair of cotton gloves, and
  • Old clothing.

First, I put some plastic over a dress form to prevent snagging while I while molded the torso out of chicken wire to the shape of the form. The plastic also helped make it easier to remove. I left the opening in the back and removed the torso. I twisted the seam of the chicken wire closed using a pair of needle nosed pliers. To keep the wire from showing through, I put a bodysuit over the torso to smooth it out.

I used pool noodles for the arms and legs, which were cut at the knees and elbows, then strung together. This allowed her to bend so she could sit and hold the baby. Pantyhose over the pool noodles held the stuffing in place, which gave her adequate padding.

I added a hair mannequin head which cradled right into the neck. I fashioned a ‘turtle neck’ of sorts out of a piece of scrap black knit fabric to hide the seam between the neck and head. For the hands, I stuffed a pair of cotton gloves, which I dyed a natural skin tone. I then clothed her and put some shoes on – a high laced ankle boot is best because you can tighten it to the pool noodle.

As you can see below, I assembled it all on my living room floor. The room looked like a crime scene while I was working on her – lol!

The final test was to prop her into a chair to make sure she would stay upright.

As I found out while transporting her, it’s not a good idea to leave her slumped in the back seat of the car while you run an errand (and an even worse idea to stuff her into the trunk); passersby may mistake her for a real person 🙂

Once she was at the office, I clothed her in a company golf shirt. In addition to sporting a ball and chain around her ankle, I also poked fun at ‘bring your kids to work day’ by putting a ‘baby’ in her arms (you’ll notice I left some diapers on the desk too).

But it’s not just any baby; on closer inspection, you can see that I replaced a dolls head with a skeleton head that lights up.

Just the right amount of ‘creepy’.

For more one-of-a-kind tombstone ideas, this tutorial from DIY Network also has some great information on how to carve one and give it a realistic faux-finish with regular paint.

If you’re making the tombstone for outdoors, add three dowels in the bottom and then press them into a styrofoam base so the tombstone stands on it’s own – like this project from Lowes (click through to get details on how to fabricate a base):

Source: Lowes.com

In Oh My Goth (Part 1), I carved a realistic pumpkin in the likeness of my boss – a different employer but still one with a sense of humour. For that one, I poked fun at the boss’s addiction to smoking and put a lit cigarette in the pumpkin’s mouth when I presented it to him at the office Halloween party (you can check it out here).

Let me know in the comments if your employer lets you decorate your ‘home away from home’ for Halloween and what you’ve done; I’d love to hear about it!

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share! Subscribe to Birdz of a Feather if you haven’t already! Here’s a few recent posts you may have missed:

In addition to crafts, you’ll also find home and garden DIYS and recipes on the site.You can follow right here (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (link below this post).

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This Is How We Roll Thursday Party

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Upcycle Kitchen Cabinets Into a One-of-a-Kind Desk!

Today marks the first official post under our new Birdz of a Feather domain (if you don’t count the old post that accidentally republished a few days ago). Moving to a new domain is not without its challenges, but things will hopefully run smoothly from here-on-out!

The only real change you might notice is that Birdz of a Feather Home and Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab are now roosting together in the same nest – so to speak.There’s nothing we love more than sharing our tutorials with you, so making the decision to combine our DIY and craft blogs under one roof allows us to spend more time doing just that!

If you were subscribed to both blogs, you should only receive one email from us when we post. If for some reason that’s not the case, just let us know through the contact form on the home page and I’ll get it resolved 🙂

There’s a separate tab for Craft Rehab projects on the Home page so if you’re only familiar with our DIY projects, I hope you’ll check them out (and vice versa if you originally found me through Craft Rehab)!

Now on to today’s tutorial!

When we renovated our kitchen we saved two sets of drawers because we knew we could upcycle them into something super useful again. You know how they say that necessity is the mother of invention? This upcycle is a prime example. After the kitchen, next on our list of renovations was the craft room so storage and a desk area was at the top of the list of needs. The bank of drawers was just what we needed to create a one-of-a-kind desk for the office area!

A friend of ours originally built the cabinets for us as temporary storage until we could renovate our kitchen but we never did get around to making fronts for the drawers (as you can see above). For the new desk, we were going to have to get around to it because we had something exciting planned for the drawer fronts – as you’ll see later in the reveal!

The first step was to measure each drawer so we could draw up a cut plan. We used it to cut pieces of MDF (medium density fibreboard) for the drawer fronts. Removing all the drawers made it easier to carry the shell into the basement so we could reassemble it.

We located the studs on the wall with a stud finder and used green tape to mark them. When we positioned the cabinets where we wanted them we noticed that we were going to cover up an electrical outlet. We decided to cut away the backing to leave it exposed behind a drawer just in case I ever want to put a charging station into one of the drawers (better to do it now before everything is attached to the wall)! By the way, if you’re wondering what the hole is in the bottom of the left unit, it was for a broom sweep that we tied into our vacuum system when it was in our kitchen. I thought about installing it again in my craft room but decided against it so we just covered the hole up.

Wood screws were used to connect the cabinets to each other (side to side) and then we put a few screws through the back, hitting the studs. This secures them to the wall and keeps them from tipping once they’re loaded up with stuff – and believe me when I say, they will be loaded up!

We put the drawers back in place so we could attach the MDF fronts to them. Along with the MDF, we also cut some long plastic strips to use as spacers (more on how we used those a bit further down).

On each piece of MDF, we applied double-faced tape onto one side, removed the backing and then pressed them into place. The tape allowed us the flexibility to remove the faces if we wanted to adjust the spacing, but we were careful to position them right the first time. The tape gets removed later.

We started with the bottom pieces of MDF first. We placed a level on the ground, then a piece of plywood and several spacers on top of that to bring it up to the height we wanted to start at. We worked our way up to the top, making sure the drawer fronts were level and plum as we went.

We used two of the spacers on the edge of each piece of MDF so we could leave a decent gap between each one. This gap is necessary so the drawers don’t rub against each other when they’re opened and closed.

With the spacers in place, you can lean the bottom of the MDF on top, line it up and then push it onto the drawer so the tape holds it in place.

Here’s a view from the side, showing the double-faced tape before the MDF is pressed into place:

We used the spacers to leave a gap both horizontally and vertically too.

Once a drawer front is temporarily taped to its respective drawer, you can remove the spacers and move onto the next one repeating the process.

When all the MDF is in place, open one of the drawers and then evenly measure several spots on the inside of the drawers where you’ll drill to add screws to hold the MDF in place. On the small drawer shown here we measured for three screws but on the larger drawers, you’ll measure for six screws instead.

Add clamps to hold the MDF to the drawer. Be sure to put some green tape on your drill bit to mark the depth so you don’t go through the front of the MDF – you definitely don’t want any holes in the front! Pre drill the holes from the back into the MDF.

You can vacuum as you go or when you’ve finished drilling all the holes:

The drawer shown below is one of the larger ones, so it gets six screws. Screw through the back of the drawer into MDF with wood screws, then remove the clamps. We removed our clamps first to get a better picture, but it’s better to keep them in place until you’re done.

This is what you’ll end up with once all the drawers faces are screwed into place and a new black kick plate is added. You may think you’re just about done, but the finishing touches are just beginning: now you’re going to undo everything you just did!

Starting from the upper left and working clockwise, unscrew each piece of MDF (leave the screws in the drawers to re-use for later.) Use a pencil to consecutively number the back of the MDF as you remove each one. We usually place the number in the middle and then cover it with a piece of green tape so it won’t get covered when it’s painted (and won’t show when it’s screwed back into the drawer).

As you remove the MDF, remember that you’ve got double-face tape on the back, so you may need to pry them to get them to lift off. Remove the double-faced tape from the drawers. As you can see, some of the MDF stuck to the tape; if you pry carefully you should be able to remove them cleanly.

We primed all sides of the MDF and then painted just the edges and back with a durable white paint (it’s not necessary to paint the front with the top coat because it will be covered in the next step).

Now for the Fun Part!

With all the prep work done on the drawers, it’s time to get creative. We took a high res picture of our VW (taken on our wedding day before this happened!) and scaled it in illustrator to fit the total length and width of the MDF drawer faces.

The VW was printed and laminated onto an adhesive backing by a company that specializes in large format printing. Each piece was then cut and attached to its respective MDF drawer front (paying attention to the numbers put on the back of the MDF!). Here are all the individual drawer fronts layed out on the floor, ready to get reattached.

Insert the screws through the previously drilled holes and reattach the drawer fronts to their respective drawers.

Below is a closeup of the painted edge of the MDF.

Hardware

Instead of screwing hardware through the face of the drawers – which would ruin the effect of the car – I reused some chrome drawer pulls we had. I strategically placed only one on each drawer where the chrome is on the car. I forwent two pulls so the hardware would blend into the picture and not be noticed. The drawers still work perfectly and the chrome fits right in!

Here’s how it looks from the other side; it just wraps right around the top of the drawer and is screwed in from the back:

Desk

Right beside the bank of drawers, I wanted to add a surface area where l could photograph some of the step-by-steps for my craft posts. However, I didn’t want any support legs showing so it would look like it was floating.

To determine the best height (I’m vertically challenged so it’s great to be able to customize it specifically for me!), Hubs nailed together some temporary brackets out of 2 x 4’s as a starting point so we could place the work surface on top to test it with me seated at the countertop.

Testing out the comfort of the counter height before you install ledger boards will save you a lot of aggravation in the end (otherwise you could end up with screw holes you have to patch if you need to reposition). Here you can see the brackets holding up the counter as we test the height with a chair. You can shim the under the brackets to raise the counter until you find the height that’s best for you.

Once the height was worked out, Hubs marked the studs in the wall with green tape and used a level to draw a line along the back and sides. He used 1×2’s for the ledgers and installed them into the studs to permanently support the counter.

He painted the ledgers along the back and the right side the same colour as the wall.

On the left side however, he painted the ledger the same colour as the side of the cabinet to blend in better. Even though we were picky about painting the ledgers, once the counter top is in place, you really don’t see them.

Hubs pre drilled and screwed the ledger into the side of the cabinet (again, make sure your screw length is less than the depth of the materials you’re screwing together so the screw doesn’t poke out the other side).

As you’ll notice below, we ended up installing the ledger boards higher than the brackets and it worked out perfectly.

For the counter top itself, we used a door. The kitchen cabinets weren’t the only thing we upcycled for this project: the counter started out life as the door to our cold room, then we used it during our basement renovation to stage materials. Below we’re using it to tile our laundry room backspash (if you’re planning any tiling projects, be sure to check out my ultimate guide to tiling a backsplash).

We simply cut the door it to the width and length we needed, primed, painted it and then set it on top of the ledgers. Below you can see how the counter looks in place.

I not only love the look of the floating counter but it’s also practical too because now I can tuck away a filing cabinet and even my air compressor (both of which are on wheels and easily moveable).

The VW desk not only looks great but it does the trick in providing a ton of storage!

Here’s the desk area with my newly upholstered chair (you can find the step-by-step tutorial here).

The desk is quite the conversation starter when I show people our newly built basement! The vintage VW that inspired this project is a car that my husband lovingly restored and only drives in the summer; how lucky am I to enjoy it year round in my now-finished craft studio?

The picture leaning against the wall is a portrait I made of my husband – completely out of paint chips!

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share.

To see what else I’ve been up to in my craft studio, check out my Craft Rehab category for clickable thumbnails of each project. Here’s a few craft projects  you may have missed:

Decoupaged Medicine Cabinet | Birdz of a Feather

Follow my blog here (link in footer) or on Bloglovin’ (click button below) to see upcoming DIY and craft projects – in and around the home.

Paint Chip Portrait | Birdz of a Feather

Paint Chip Portrait | Birdz of a Feather

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