Walking AT work: My new treadmill desk

Sitting is the new smoking.

And, as of tomorrow, Monday, I will be working while I walk. Albeit, at the very slow pace of 0.7 mph, but moving and not sitting. And that’s what counts.

I’m now the proud owner of a LifeSpan walking treadmill, and builder of a homemade treadmill desk because I was too frugal to buy the fancy one that came with the treadmill.

This idea started when I read an excellent article in The New Yorker written by Susan Orlean about treadmill desks and the dangers of sitting all day. They’re bad, the dangers. In fact, as I told my wife, it’s more dangerous parking your ass all day if you’re a woman. My prediction: She’ll be using one of these within the next 6 months.

So, after weeks of reviewing treadmill ads on Craigslist, and having one sold before I could get there and finding another that required a moving crew to get it out of the condo, I decided not to take the risk of buying a dud with rat-chewed wiring and spiders living in it, and splurged and bought a new one designed for walking and working.

Saturday, I spent the afternoon building my desk. The first one I designed mirrored the one I didn’t buy and was pretty complicated, with lots of moving parts. So, as I didn’t want to spend two days building a desk, I pretended I was water and took the easiest path downhill: I attached brackets to the wall and a piece of wood for the desk. Total cost: around $40, which made the blow of the treadmill cost easier to swallow. Barely.

Here are some pictures. And here’s a nice page on the dangers of sitting, including some nice simple graphics that even idiots like me can understand. Sitting is killing you

I cleared out a bookcase and made room for the treadmill. These things are big and I have a small office. At first, I thought I'd slide it under my desk, but it was too cramped. So, bookcase to the garage and treadmill to the corner.

I cleared out a bookcase and made room for the treadmill. These things are big and I have a small office. At first, I thought I’d slide it under my desk, but it was too cramped. So, the bookcase moved to the garage and treadmill took its place.

I bought three brackets from Home Depot and mounted 2x4s on each. This way, if I'm not happy with the height I can take the 2x4 out or add to it. I thought about putting a cleat around the wall but I didn't think it would give the desk enough support beyond the wall and I'd need a leg or two. It's amazing how long it took me to find the studs and put the brackets in.

I bought three brackets from Home Depot and mounted 2x4s on each. This way, if I’m not happy with the height I can take the 2x4s out or add to them. I thought about putting a cleat around the wall but I didn’t think it would give the desk enough support beyond the wall and I’d need a desk leg or two. It’s amazing how long it took me to find the studs and put the brackets in, but I’m slow in the head, so it makes sense.

I bought this $22 piece of pine at Home Depot, where they've finally hired employees to help customers, thankfully. My wife helped out and put two coats of amber shellac on it. I added three more. I thought about using melamine, but I'm just a wood guy. Just am, always will be.

I bought this $22 piece of pine at Home Depot, where they’ve finally hired employees to help customers, thankfully. My wife helped out and put two coats of amber shellac on it. I added three more. I thought about using melamine, but I’m just a wood guy. Just am, always will be. (BTW, the sprinklers were on when I set this up for my wife to shellac. The board was a little wet and I told her it would be fine. I forgot shellac isn’t water based. Oops. She was pissed.)

Here it is, ready to go. Monday morning I'll be working and working on improving my health. It's a win/win. I still have some work to do with the cords, as one of my plugs isn't working properly.

Here it is, ready to go. Monday morning I’ll be working and working on improving my health. It’s a win/win. I still have some work to do with the cords, as one of my plugs isn’t working properly. I’ll get it all cleaned up and looking pretty. Or not.

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Craigslist find: Two driftwood benches

My wife, daughter, and I search for driftwood when we go to the beach. So far, we’ve had little luck. We found a 1-foot piece but I left it on our back patio to dry off and our black lab chewed it to pieces. Then we found a nice, hefty 2-foot chunk when we stayed at the Marriott in Ventura. I hid it in the parking lot because it was wet and smelled. Then it rained overnight and soaked the wood, strengthening its odor and increasing its number of flies. So we abandoned it in the parking lot and drove home.

This piece was ginormous. Around 8 feet long. I would have needed a crane or team of vikings to lift it up and get it home.

This piece was ginormous. Around 10 feet long. I would have needed a crane or team of vikings to lift it up and get it home.

Then we discovered a giant piece of driftwood that looked like a dinosaur fossil, (pictured to the right), but I couldn’t figure out a way to get it home.

This makes us 0 for 3 when it comes to driftwood hunting.

Until today when I hit the mother lode of driftwood – on Craigslist.

My Craigslist app beeped and showed two driftwood benches in my city. $25 each or $40 for both.

40 bucks? Seriously? For giant pieces of driftwood? Bargain alert.

This bench is 7-feet wide and heavy. But oh what a piece of wood it is. Or pieces of wood.

This bench is 7-feet wide and heavy. But oh what a piece of wood it is. Or pieces of wood.

I believe in luck and making your own. No hesitation, I called the seller and told him I’d buy both benches. At lunchtime, my neighbor in tow, I was at his house with $40.

Lesson learned today about large pieces of driftwood: they weigh a friggin’ ton. It took all three of us to lift the large bench down a flight of outdoor steps – one step at a time. Then we had to lift it up and into the bed of my friend’s pick-up truck.

The seller was super nice. He said he received several calls after mine, and a couple of people offered him more. And he didn’t say this next part, but he still honored the deal and didn’t sell to the other caller. I respect that in this today’s world of “anything for a buck.”

This is the small bench. It's almost 5-feet long and takes two people to lift it.

This is the small bench. It’s almost 5-feet long and takes two people to lift it.

I looked up driftwood benches when I got home. I found one that was similar and sold for $600. Now I feel guilty about the great deal I got.

Should I?

I am thinking of sending the guy a thank you note and $20 in the mail he can put in his son’s college fund. I know. I’m nuts. But if I ever wanted to sell these, I could make a good chunk of change. 

What would you do?

Homemade apple-cider vinegar and steel wool stain applied to a table I bought on Craigslist for $100

[This post is my repayment for all of the blogs I enjoy reading that discuss home projects and experimentation. This is my attempt to share my experiences so others can learn from my mistakes. The proper safety equipment is a must, of course, and the wonderful reader is responsible for his or her own safety, as there is no expert advice here.]

Once a year my OCD sets its laser sight on Craigslist, and I end up cycling through ads looking for used furniture to replace our old used furniture. Example: I just replaced the dining room table and chairs that I bought on Craigslist with another dining room table and chairs I bought from – wait for it – Craigslist.

But why stop at one dining table when you can buy two?

Yes, I bought a second table to use in our new kitchen, which I still haven’t posted pictures of, as I think the experience of remodeling it drained every bit of my willpower and energy to think about anything related to kitchens at this point.

The good news: my wife loves her new cocina. She’s upped her cooking skills in it, resulting in some outstanding culinary experiences for us. Amazing what going from cracked tile and grout to nice new smooth quartz countertops can do.

My kitchen mission is complete. Next project, please.

Hello, beat-to-hell, left-outside trestle table with a crack down the middle of it.

This is the "before" picture. It's got water stains and the edges are in poor shape. Luckily the stain they used was very thin and came off with the sander.

This is the “before” picture.  Water stains covered it because they used it outside, and the edges were in poor shape. Luckily the stain they used was very thin and the sander ate through it quickly.

It was listed on CL for weeks at $400 than $300. I passed. But they were moving and needed to get rid of it. So, I offered $100 and got it. I figured at the very least I could repurpose the top for another project and use the trestle base with a reclaimed wood top. With that in mind, I decided I had nothing to lose on the table and could experiment. 

I discovered a homemade-stain recipe on the Internet using vinegar (white or apple cider) and real steel wool. What the heck. Why not. I like the smell of vinegar better than commercial stains.

Creating the stain was an interesting process: fill a sealable glass jar with steel wool and apple cider vinegar, shut the top, and leave it there for at least four or five days, or more (10 days for this table). The steel wool slowly dissolves and blackens the mix. And each day I gently shook the jar to mix it up, resulting in a blackish-gray liquid with little specks of swirling steel (it takes weeks for the steel wool to completely disappear).

Creating the stain was an interesting process: fill a sealable glass jar with steel wool and apple cider vinegar, shut the top, and leave it there for at least four or five days, or more (10 days for this table). The steel wool slowly dissolves and blackens the mix. And each day I gently shook the jar to mix it up, resulting in a blackish-gray liquid with little specks of swirling steel (it takes weeks for the steel wool to completely disappear).

hold

As we’re saving money in my family right now, the sanding of the table fell to me, which meant wearing a dusk mask, connecting the sander to the vacuum, and placing a large fan nearby to blow any dust away from me. I sanded the top three times, using 100, 150, and 220 grit. I was too tired to sand underneath the table three times, so I made two passes with 80 and 220. (I have since read a great book on wood refinishing and come to realize I’ve been over sanding furniture.)

sanded table

4 hours and a sore lower back later, I finished.

Lesson Learned #1: Use the same type of wood to sample the stain color. I used some small blocks I had around from when I shortened the legs of a table and added wheels. Not a good idea because they weren’t sanded at all and were probably a different wood.

Lesson Learned #1.5: According to some of the blogs, you can use brewed black tea to add tanins to the wood.  I tried this on a sample piece of wood but it colored the wood a shade of ebony. If you want black stain, this may be the perfect method for you. Some blogs said to add used coffee grounds to the mix for a deeper shade of black.

Lesson Learned #2. I used 50% Liquid Plumr and 50% water on the wood prior to staining. The sodium hydroxide works really well with pine to keep the stain from blotching on the wood. But I think it may have killed the gray/driftwood look I was shooting for. (Note about this technique: It’s potentially dangerous and you have to gear up with a mask and safety googles that protect against liquid splashing and you have to wear protective gloves and clothes you don’t care about. And it’s nerve racking applying it. Yes, it’s a pain, but safety first.)

The Liquid Plumr dries and turns the wood a yellowish-green. No worries.

The Liquid Plumr dries and turns the wood a yellowish-green. No worries. I let it dry overnight before staining.

This photo shows the apple-cider stain on the wood. Always work quickly and keep a wet edge. Don't stop on a surface and if you have a helper, have them help, which I did by enlisting my daughter and wife. Also, put a tarp down under the furniture because the stain does stain concrete. I learned the hard way.

This photo shows the apple-cider stain on the wood. Always work quickly and keep a wet edge. Don’t stop on a surface, and if you have a helper, have them help, which I did by enlisting my daughter and wife. Also, put a tarp down under the furniture because the stain does stain concrete. I learned the hard way.

This shows the stain after it has dried. It turned a pinkish tone and I started to worry. Luckily, the pink tone wiped off in the form of a powder. I recently built a bench (future post) and didn't have this problem. Not sure what happened. Heat of the day?

This shows the stain after it has dried. It turned pinkish and I started to worry. Luckily, the pink tone wiped off in the form of a powder. I recently built a bench (future post) and didn’t have this problem. Not sure what happened. Heat of the day?

I like Briwax. I used Clear and you can see the side with the wax and without.

I like Briwax, even though I never seem to be able to apply it thin enough. I used Clear and you can see the side with the wax and without. I was relived when I saw the brownish shade appear once the wax was applied.

This is the finished table weeks later after my daughter beat it up, but I think it turned out very nice and as it cost only $100, some labor, vinegar, steel wool and wax, it would be okay to tap dance on it. Let it age, I say.

This is the finished table weeks later after my daughter beat up the wax finish. I think it turned out better than I thought it would.  And, as it cost only $100, plus my labor, vinegar, steel wool and wax, I don’t mind it getting pounded. Let it age, I say.

That’s the story of my Craigslist table and homemade stain.

Here is a list of lessons learned:

  1. Don’t wear your sunday best – it may be a natural stain, but it still . . . stains. 
  2. Use a strainer (I bought two made out of a mesh material at Home Depot) to pour from the master container into a smaller container. And use the small container to dip your brush.
  3. No puddles allowed – When the stain is drying, look for puddles and spread them out. These puddles will leave stains in the stain, like a water-glass can on wood. 
  4. Every wood reacts differently to the stain. If possible, test a sample piece first – of the same wood, if possible. Apply your finishing coat to the sample too. You want to see the entire look. When I applied the wax, the table turned brown. You may have to experiment with different protective finishes for the look you want. 
  5. Drying in the sun may affect the look. The table dried on a hot day. When I stained a bench on a cold night in my garage, it dried differently. 
  6. The vinegar stain needs to sit at least four days in a sealed container. Shake it every day. This was the first point when it started to color the wood. Some claim 24 hours, but it did nothing for me after a day. 
  7. Not sure if Liquid Plumr helped or not. Working with LP makes me really nervous and I have to gear up in my hazmat suit. Not sure I’d use it again. Maybe I’d use a pre-stain conditioner if I’m using pine. 
  8. Work quickly – avoid drips or stopping on a surface midway. Having a helper makes a big difference on large pieces like a table. 
  9. Stain gets everywhere. Use drop clothes. It’s very thin and drips all over the place. Well, maybe not for you. But I was working fast. 
  10. Don’t oversand. I learned this lesson afterwards when I read a book by an expert on finishing. 180 grit is the point where the human eye can’t see scratches. That’s where I’m stopping from now on. 
  11. Write down how much steel wool and vinegar you mixed together in case you ever want to duplicate the color, though I have a feeling it all ends up the same no matter how much steel wool you add. 

All the best to you on your project. Please share your lessons learned, comments and/or pictures.

Does this car come standard with panic attacks?

OCD, CF and buying a used car don’t mix. However, after over two months of shopping for a used wagon, my search is over. Drum roll, please.

And the winning wagon is . . . the Volvo V70 R in Electric Silver.

It's mine, all mine. A new used car.

Yes, I am done spending my nights looking for cars on Craigslist, Autotrader and cars.com. Thank god it’s over for now. No more going to car dealerships and dealing with salespeople who don’t say anything at all, don’t know the product they sell, or lament about the life they used to live before selling cars. No more sitting in wagons ruined by smokers, making me wonder if they destroyed the lungs of their children at the same time.

Cool thing about the Volvo I bought: No smoky smell and no ashtray (nice touch, Volvo).

I had the Volvo inspected by a third-party to make sure it was mechanically sound and the accident was minor, as claimed by the dealership and previous owner. Everything checked out with flying colors. The Volvo mechanics said it was one of the cleanest used Volvos they’d seen.

I didn’t get a great deal. I was tired of looking and the R is a rare version of the V70 with only 27 of them listed for sale in the USA. But it was the wagon I wanted and a standard V70 wouldn’t cut it after driving the V70 R.

Here’s the fun part: 300 horsepower, 295 lb-ft of torque and zero to 60 in 6 to 6.5 seconds depending on the information source. Yep, this wagon goes fast, especially when the high-performance turbo kicks in. The suspension is stiff and has three modes: comfort, teeth shattering, kidney bruising.

When I got it home the other night I had a mild panic attack worrying about whether or not I had bought a reliable car for my wife and daughter, if I should have negotiated a better deal, and over the money I’d spent – my wife and I don’t like to spend money (thanks, CF).

I didn’t sleep well and woke up to a major panic attack with my heart racing and missing beats. I thought I was going to have to go to the ER because I was worried I was having a heart attack. A full dose of xanax took awhile to kick in and save me from that hell, but I can’t get it out my head that maybe I did have a heart attack and now I’m damaging my heart. See how screwed up I am.

I’m feeling better about the purchase and really dig the wagon. Beats the 13-year-old SUV I’ve been driving. It’s nice to have working headlights that show the road ahead and AC that works – features I haven’t had for awhile. Ah, the little things in life.

Stay healthy.

My romance with craigslist

[Adult Language]

I love craigslist. I hate craigslist. But I love it more than I hate it. I only hate it when I don’t love it, which isn’t very often, as I love it most of the time.

How did I decide on this topic tonight?

My brother from another mother, Josh of Joshland, emailed me and asked me what I had been up to lately. I’m been absent on Twitter and haven’t tweeted about McGriddles and the Broncos and other fascinating topics. Nice of Josh to check in.

And my answer to him about what I have been up to was craigslist, or one of the things I’ve been doing, along with searching for a used car, which I’ve been using craigslist for (and if the 2002 Volvo V70 had had leather seats and not fabric, my search would be over).

I can’t remember if I’ve written about craigslist here in the past or not. If I have, you can stop reading now, which you may have already done. I don’t care. That’s not that I don’t care about you – I do. I don’t care if you continue reading or not. Well, I do, but I like sounding like a tough guy tonight, hard on the outside and inside. No Jay Cutler softness here – my skin is thick like an alligator’s.

Back to craigslist. I’m a huge fan of it. And my OCD makes me a pro when it comes to hunting down items I want. I’ve furnished most of my house with furniture from craigslist. It’s one of the reasons my wife thinks I’m crazy, but she likes the thousands of dollars I’ve saved. And though I like chasing down the perfect item, the money saved, and being “green,” I also like the “meeting interesting and cool people” part of it – most of the time.

There have been a few odd individuals and people who tell you the item is in great shape but it’s not – like the elderly couple who told me the red leather Pottery Barn chair only had “minor wear” and a small hole. When I got there it looked like a cat had fucked it a thousand times over. There were scratch marks everywhere and rips. And it smelled like cat piss. It was all I could do not to let loose on the two geezers and give them a little cat scratch fever of my own. But I didn’t. I was polite and drove the 20 miles home fuming about the waste of time and misrepresentation of the item.

The good and kind and friendly people have outweighed the not so nice and bad. I have this fantasy of writing a book about all of the people I’ve met. I think I remember most of them. That’s another part of craigslist I really like – the items I buy have a story behind them, like the dining room table and chairs I bought from a famous disc jockey, a total L.A. story. I have a signed headshot from him to show my friends when I tell the story of the table, though they’re all tired of hearing it. I look at the different things I’ve bought and they say something about my life and the lives of others and the moments when our lives intersected. It doesn’t get better than that.

That’s all for tonight. I have some searching to do.

Stay well.