My Christmas Project Part 1

My Christmas Project Part 1

When’s the last time you made something with your hands? As a kid I used to help my dad with projects around the house. Then I started doing my own projects. I built and sold bird houses and butterfly houses. My dad helped me make the templates. Then I would go to work making a few at a time.

    Now my wife and I live in an apartment, which offers little to no opportunities for fun projects. Sometimes I get to fix a running toilet. Just the other day I was excited to tape packaging foam to the door frame to keep the cold air out.


She had the idea that we should make Christmas gifts for each other this year. Her thought was that this is a way to keep us from spending money on gifts. Little did she know that this would involve multiple trips to Home Depot.

    Truth be told, it didn’t cost very much. In retrospect, I probably could’ve done it for even cheaper, but I’ll give you more of those details in a future post. I can’t give too much away yet, because it isn’t Christmas yet, so my wife doesn’t know what it is yet.

    Anyway, the project was pretty simple and straightforward, I finished it over two afternoons. I had the good fortune of being able to use a friend’s house and power tools while he and his wife were out of town. Actually, it only required a single use of one power tool. Well, it didn’t require a power tool. But I had the rare chance to use one, so, naturally, I took it.

    While I was working on this thing, it brought to mind a memory from last Spring. I competed in The Man Challenge. It was a competition with a few random events like an obstacle course with spear and ax throwing, a sports combine, etc. One of the events gave you 13 minutes to build a shelf that would hold 25 golf balls and/or army men, but you could only have 5 items on each level. All the materials were provided.

    I considered this a relative no-brainer. It could be a little tricky since the wood you had was two 8’ strips of 1”x2” and it had to be 5 levels high. But, c’mon. 13 minutes.

    The hilarity that ensued was spectacular. Guys snapping the wood over their knee, because it’s faster than a saw? Desperation leading some to decide that smacking two pieces of wood and a nail on the ground is somehow better than using a hammer. More than one person ended the 13 minutes trying to balance an army man on top of a pile of wood. Some just picked up their scraps and chucked them into the heap of broken wood and egos next to the work area.

    Admittedly, I could not keep from laughing at the cluelessness of some and the frustration and rage of others.


On the upside, in the case of a zombie apocalypse or EMP blast, at least I know I’m better off than those guys. On the downside, can there really be that many guys who can’t handle a simple project with simple tools?

Maybe it’s just my Midwestern upbringing that I expect everyone to know how to do this stuff. Is it necessary? I guess not. Is it helpful? Uh, yea. Just the simple problem solving skills used in a little project are totally worth the effort. If you can look at a sink and figure out how to open up the drain and clear it, or look at a toilet and figure out how to fix it, you can save yourself a plumber. If you can watch a youtube video and feel confident enough to fix your car, you’re saving hundreds.

A year or so ago I accidently pulled the driver’s side handle off of our car. (It was frozen down) The inside handle happened to be cracked as well, so I ordered both replacement handles for about $20 TOTAL including shipping! It took maybe 1 ½ to 2 hours to make the replacement. Compare that to 2 hours of labor at a body shop, plus parts, plus you don’t have your car for a day while they do it.

I realize everyone isn’t naturally “handy.” And you don’t have to be. But you can learn the basics. I will say that it gives you a serious sense of accomplishment to be able to create or fix something with your bare hands (and tools). Not to mention, ladies love it. I replaced some burned out brake lights on the car we just bought and my wife looked at me like I was Superman. Little does she know that brake lights are as easy, if not easier, to change than a normal light bulb.

Maybe this is a good New Year’s resolution. Actually, those are lame. Let’s call this a MAN CHALLENGE. Start taking on challenges/projects. Time for an oil change? You can handle that. Need to rotate your tires? Piece of cake! Before calling a professional to take care of something, search online to see if you can do it. You probably can and will save a ton of money.

Maybe try google-ing “pallet projects” or ask your wife if there are projects she likes on Pinterest. You can find pallets for free on Craigslist, and then you don’t have to buy any wood. Sure, she’d like it if you bought it at Hobby Lobby. But if you make it yourself, even if it isn’t quite as well done, it will be a family keepsake that she will show off to everyone who visits. Unless it’s REALLY terrible. Then maybe give it another try. The second attempt will probably be better. Or maybe go with a simpler project. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

If you want a simple project to try, keep an eye out for a follow up post after Christmas. I’ll show you what I made and walk you through how I did it and some things I might change.

Have you done a recent DIY project or repair? Show me what you did in the comments below.