Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

DIY Lord Business Costume

LB - Header Horizontal

In mid September, my wife asked the kids what they wanted to be for Halloween and my son was having a hard time coming up with something.  An idea popped into my head and I suggested to him that he could be “Lord Business” from the Lego movie.  His eyes immediately lit up.  A quick search turned up absolutely no results for Lord Business kid costumes.  My son had already set his heart on the idea, so we had no choice but to make the costume ourselves.  Boy… is this a slippery slope!

I had heard the term “cosplay” before, but had NO IDEA how intense and creative this hobby could be.  After doing (far too much) research on costume making, I decided my son and I could take on this project and have a bunch of fun doing it.  I didn’t have a lot of time to order materials, so I had to improvise on a few things.  Luckily, at work we were going through a big cleanup of our facilities so I was able to get most of my materials from stuff that was destined to be thrown out.  Mainly cardboard boxes and foam.

Materials List:

  • Scavenged Foam + Additional Foam Roll from Wal-Mart
  • Cardboard
  • 3M 77 Spray
  • Hot glue gun
  • Sandpaper (various grits)
  • Paintable Caulk
  • Rustoleum FlexiDip Spray Paint
  • Utility Knife
  • Sharpie
  • Electric Carving Knife
  • Scroll Saw (optional, but it helps)


I should mention that I didn’t have any template to work from.  However, I did find some 3D models someone had made of the shoulder pads and helmet.  I downloaded those files and used this website to view them.   This made a huge difference in how accurate I could get with the dimensions of the costume.

I should also mention that the Wal-Mart poly foam (used for seat cushions etc.) was not very dense, which made it much more difficult to cut and sculp.  My scavenged foam was pretty dense and made cutting and sanding a lot easier.

Shoulder Pads

I wanted the shoulder pads to be more rigid, so I decided to use cardboard as a base layer with foam on top of the cardboard to give it dimension.  I used my tape measure to take some quick/rough measurements of my son from the top of his shoulders to the middle of his chest, as well as how wide and deep his head was.  I almost screwed up by making the opening of the shoulder pads too small, which would have meant he couldn’t get it over his head!  Using a straight edge, tape measure and a utility knife…. I laid out my template and made my cuts, including cut outs for the tie.

LB - Shoulder Template

One little trick I used to get the cardboard to bend consistently and straight was to flip over the cardboard and carefully cut out a “V” along the bend line without puncturing all the way through the cardboard.  This made the cardboard bend in a straight line without wrinkling.

LB - Shoulder Cuts

After cutting all my foam pieces and glueing them to the cardboard, I used the black FlexiDip to paint the whole shoulder pad piece.  I also decided to replace the cardboard tie with a foam tie so that I could bevel the edges.  The red FlexiDip covered the tie pretty well because the foam was white.

LB - Shoulder Painted

Finally, I used a hot glue gun to attach the tie pieces to the shoulder pads and then added some elastic (not pictured) to help keep them in place.

LB - Shoulder Finished


I can’t take much credit for the cape.  My wife has developed some sewing skills over the past couple years and volunteered to help.  She found a cheap, red Wal-Mart bed sheet to use.  Because the actual lego cape is stiff, she sewed two pieces together so we could fill it with foam (to keep it stiff) if we wanted.  I had some extra volera foam left over from making a poker table a couple years back, so i decided to cut a triangle shape out of it to stuff into the bottom of the cape.  This kept the bottom spread out without adding too much weight.  To attach the cape to the shoulder pads, I simply hot glued some velcro onto the cape and shoulders pads.

LB - Cape


The helmet was much more difficult to make with all of the odd angles involved and the fact that I was making it out of foam.  Because I didn’t have pieces that were big enough, I used 3M 77 spray to glue pieces together.  I started with the front of the helmet and used my scroll saw to cut the bevel on the outside and my electric carving knife to cut out the zig zags in the middle of the mask.  Don’t worry if your cuts are not exactly perfect…. you can smooth everything out later with your electric knife and sandpaper.  After I had all my pieces cut, I used the 3M 77 to glue all the pieces together for the main part of the helmet.

LB - Helmet Cuts

The red paint did not cover the dark foam very well at all, so I had to improvise.  I had some extra white paintable caulk laying around and decided to cover the entire helmet with caulk using a putty knife.  Just squirt on some caulk and spread it, working it into the little holes in the foam.  Below is a picture of the helmet that has been partially painted, but shows the caulk covering parts of the helmet.  After applying the caulk, the red paint definitely covered much better, but it did add a little more weight to the helmet.

LB - Helmet Caulk Side

LB - Helmet Painted

One little problem…

The helmet is MUCH bigger than my son’s head.  In order to make this helmet actually wearable, I created a little foam ring that goes inside the helmet.  I also added some extra foam blocks for the foam ring to sit on.  After that, I just added some other foam pieces here and there to make the fit a little more snug.

I made the “wings” as a separate piece to be glued on later (after painting).  I glued together several pieces of foam to make them into thicker “blocks”, and used my scroll saw again to cut the bevel on the edges.

LB - Wings Front

After making a few minor adjustments, I painted the wings with black FlexiDip.  This took several coats, but I didn’t have to worry about covering the foam with caulk because the paint covered pretty well.

LB - Wings Painted

To make the little pendant that goes in the middle of the wings, I just cut out several pieces of volera foam, hot glued them together and spray painted them yellow.  Then I hot glued the pendant onto the wings.

LB - Wings Pendant

LB - Wings Finished

I made the little coffee cups (as my son calls them) that sit on top of the wings by cutting up some different sized round foam insulation that is used to insulate pipes.   Then I glued all the little pieces together and spray painted them before hot gluing them onto the wings.

LB - Wings Coffee Cup

I used hot glue to put all the helmet pieces together.  Here is how the helmet came out!

LB - Helmet Final

Finally…. it was time to put it all together! The only thing left to add was some grey clothes to wear under the costume.  What a fun project!  My son and I definitely had way too much fun with this.  He even told me that the whole family should make costumes for next year.

LB - Final

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House Maintenance: Cleaning the Dryer Lint Trap

Lint Trap - Before And After

I started keeping a Google Calendar with all my house maintenance items a while back.  Frankly, most of my short-term memory is stored on my phone, so keeping a maintenance calendar just makes sense.  I also have it set up to send me an email when items need to be done, so I don’t even need to remember to check the calendar!  I have events set up for things like:

  • changing the furnace filter
  • replacing perishable items in our emergency bags
  • cleaning the vacuum filters
  • lawn fertilizer schedule
  • and the list keeps growing and growing….

One of the items on my calendar is to clean the lint trap in our dryer every 3 months.  I am not talking about removing the lint (that happens with every load), I am talking about scrubbing that sucker down.  The reason I do this is because I came across some information about how dryer sheets leave a coating on the lint trap that restricts air flow.  Restricted air flow will cause extended drying times and eventually will lead to a damaged or broken dryer.  In our 5 family member house, a broken dryer would probably cause a family disaster and the national guard would have to be called in.  I thought I would share some before and after pictures of our lint trap to illustrate the affect dryer sheets have on the air flow through your dryer.

[Seriously… what is more exciting than seeing before and after lint trap pictures?]

Here is the lint trap before I have scrubbed it with soap and water.

Lint Trap - Before

Notice the pool of water forming. You would think water would easily pass through a screen, but it doesn’t. All the lint has been removed and the water still can’t pass through the screen!

Here is the lint trap after I scrubbed it with soap and water.  I just used a scrubbing pad and some dish soap.

Lint Trap - After

No water pooling up, and the air will be free to pass through the screen.

Pretty drastic huh?  It only takes a couple of minutes and the only problem is finding a 24 hour period when the dryer is not needed (which is harder than you may think) so that the lint trap can dry.

Mock Up Your Project

Mock Up Header

Whenever I set out to do a project that requires some planning and we have options that will affect the outcome of a project… I try to mock the project up to get a good visual of what the completed project will look like.  My wife has many great qualities, but picturing what something will look like when it is done is not one of them.  Mock ups make a HUGE difference for her (being a visual person), and saves lots of re-do time for me.  Not only do these mock ups help to visualize the look of something, they also help determine if the function of the project will work in the house.  I thought I would share some ways I mock-up a project, including the use of cardboard, Google SketchUp (a free 3D modeling program from Google) and even graph paper.  Here are a few projects that I have mocked up:

Kitchen Counters (cardboard mock-up)

We knew from day zero that the kitchen counter tops were going to be replaced in our new house.  Besides the obvious problem of the existing counters being made of builder grade bathroom tile (seriously… they couldn’t have spent an extra $50 to get some better/bigger tile????)… there were a few others.  The kitchen island had an overhang on 3 sides where you could theoretically seat people, but the overhangs were not big enough.  On one side, you could sit there, but had to lean over to reach the counter.  The overhangs on the other two sides were completely un-usable for seating and while increasing counter space, blocked off floor space.  Another problem was the shape of the counter tops.  Most of our house was “rounded”.  Rounded arches, rounded windows, rounded wall edging….  The sharp angles of the existing counters did not fit.  Could we make better use of the counter space?  Would it look good to have the corners rounded?  How big should the radius be?  We planned on putting in granite, and really didn’t want to have any (expensive) regrets afterwards.  To make sure we would be happy with the new counters and we broke out the cardboard, utility knife and tape to mock up our ideas.  We lived with “cardboard” counters for a few days to allow the look and function to settle in.  While living with the mocked up counters, it was clear that some of our ideas were not great and other ideas needed only slight modification (with a utility knife).

Mock Up - Kitchen Island

Our kitchen island before and after – It is hard to tell, but adding a couple of inches on 3 sides of the island counter made a world of difference.


As you can see… some of our ideas worked out great.  By extending the counters by just a few inches on 3 sides of the island, we had use of all 3 sides for seating.  We were able to extend the counters without creating a tight squeeze in the walkways around the island either!

I had a great idea to extend the pass through counter top by creating an overhang into the dining room side of the pass through.  It turned out that the overhang made it difficult to reach the cabinets above the pass through and just stuck out like a sore thumb when viewing it from the dining room.  We settled on a slight extension so that we could have a rounded edge without affecting access to the cabinets.

Mock Up - Kitchen Passthrough

Pass through from the kitchen to dining room – My idea for extending the counter into the room was a flop after mocking it up.


Overall, mocking up our counters allowed us to extend the seating in our kitchen without tightening the space, make our counters fit the rest of the house and most importantly… avoid expensive regrets.

Fireplace Mantel & Hearth (cardboard mock-up)

We had an idea that we wanted to have a square mantle and hearth on our new basement fireplace.  How big should the mantel be?  How tall should the hearth be and how far should it stick out into the room, or should we even have a hearth?  The mantel was pretty easy to figure out (really just figuring out how thick), but we really wanted to avoid taking up a bunch of floor space with a hearth.  A few cardboard boxes, some packing tape and about 15 minutes of my time… We figured out a 4″ thick by 8″ deep mantel was just about perfect and a 10″ deep hearth was deep enough to look good without taking up too much floor space.

Mock Up - Fireplace

Mantel and hearth made out of cardboard – This was very useful in figuring out how big the hearth should be.


Other Project (using SketchUp)

Both these projects have yet to be completed (actually… they haven’t even been started).

Our house has a great view out the back, but has a small deck (with the Trex decking installed incorrectly).  I would like to rip off the deck and build a bigger one, so I mocked up a bigger deck in SketchUp to get an idea of what it would look like.  The nice thing about doing a 3D model is that I can easily make changes to the design using layers without having to erase previous designs.

Mock Up - Deck

Deck Mock Up – This is not totally complete, but gives me an idea of how a bigger deck will look proportionally on the back of my house.


For whatever reason, I was staring up at the space above our kitchen soffits one day and had an idea.  What if I build a wine storage cabinet that would fit perfectly in the soffit space above our cabinets that store our bar stuff?  I used SketchUp to come up with several designs for the wine storage.

Mock Up - Wine Storage

Wine Storage Options – Done in Google SketchUp


Other Projects (using other methods)

I don’t have pictures of everything that I have mocked up, but here are some descriptions of ways I have figured out the final outcome of a project before doing any work.

  • Drawn Scale Models – I have used graph paper countless times to draw a scale version of a room and the components we want to put in it.  My best example is using this method to draw a scale version of our workout room, then cutting out scale versions of our workout equipment to arrange in the room.  Moving workout equipment 20 times just isn’t very appealing to me.
  • Testing Paint Colors – I highlighted the Sherwin Williams paint visualizer in this post and wish I would have found this tool earlier.
  • Use existing floor plans – When laying out the basement finish for our new house, I contacted the builder to get a PDF of the floor plans they print up when selling new homes.  My house had long since been discontinued, but they had the PDF in their archives.  This saved me tons of measuring time and drawing time because I didn’t have to re-draw the space.  It also gave me an idea of what the builder had in mind when selling a prospective home buyer the basement finish option.

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Getting Clean Paint Lines With Textured Walls

Clean Paint Lines With Textured Walls

Have you ever gone to paint a wall and taped off your area, painted your wall with the perfect color then found that your nice chocolate brown wall has “blead” onto the next wall?  Like your newly painted wall is “growing” onto the next wall?  I have learned the hard way, having to go back with a little tiny brush to cover up those bleeding paint growths.  It never looks straight and takes forever. But now I have a little trick I do any time I am going to paint a wall or ceiling.

I know not all houses have textured walls, but mine does.  Texture presents a tougher challenge when it comes to painting because no amount of effort will get all of your tape down into those little recessions in your texture.  This leaves little gaps that paint will ALWAYS find and try to escape to the next wall.  I have tried just about every kind of tape, including the green stuff that is supposed to prevent any and all bleeding and still get those little bleeders onto the next wall.  The texture in my house is a nice medium sized knock down texture that is just big enough to make any paint job look like crap if you just tape it off and paint.

There are other methods to get good clean lines that involve painting over your tape line with the adjacent wall color, letting it dry and then painting with your new color.  This does the job of sealing those little gaps under your tape… but I hate cleaning up paint stuff and that is one more colors worth of cleaning paint trays and brushes that I would like to avoid. Plus, it makes the job take longer because you are waiting on an additional coat of paint to dry before you can even begin painting with the new color.

The key to my method is some Clear, Paintable caulk and a soar finger.  Make sure the caulk you buy is CLEAR and PAINTABLE or you are in for a big mess (paint does not stick to regular silicone caulk and white caulk will show after you remove the tape).  Look for the type that is generally labeled “Doors and Windows”.  I prefer to use the squeeze tube instead of the kind packaged for use in a caulking gun because:

  • You really don’t need that much caulk.
  • The squeeze tube tip can be cut for a much smaller opening than the caulking gun type (you need to stick the caulking gun needle into the opening to break the inner seal, which expands the hole).  The smaller opening makes it easier to get a nice thin bead of caulk.
  • It has a cap, so if you don’t use it all… you can save it for the next project.
  • I don’t need to haul around a caulking gun… just cap the squeeze tube and stick it in my back pocket while I move to the next section.

The steps are pretty simple….


1) Tape off your area like you normally would.  Since you will be caulking over your tape, don’t bother spending the extra money on the fancy tape.  Blue tape works fine.

2) Use the CLEAR, PAINTABLE caulk and run a thin bead along the edge of the tape.  I am painting a corner here, but you can run the caulk along the tape for non corner walls as well.  Notice that the bead of caulk is very light.  You don’t need a lot.

3) This is where the “soar finger” comes into play.  Using your finger, run it over the caulked tape and push kind of hard.  You want to make sure the caulk squeezes into those little recessions.  Don’t worry if you get little globs on the wall that you are painting.  Just use your finger and smear the caulk onto the wall to flatten it out .  Really, you shouldn’t have a lot of caulk on the wall and leaving it on the wall after smearing it is no big deal because it will be painted over.  I will also run my finger along the tape a second time (pushing pretty hard) to make sure everything is sealed.

***you might also want to grab a paper towel to wipe any excess caulk off your finger***

4) Give it a couple minutes to dry and start painting.  If you are doing a big wall, you should be able to paint immediately if you start painting where you first started caulking.  Frankly, you don’t even need to give it a couple minutes to dry but it usually works out that way.

5) After your last coat of paint, you should pull your tape off within an hour or two.  At this point the caulk is still soft and will not prevent you from pulling the tape off easily.  If you have to leave the tape up after your last coat for a while and the caulk hardens, just run a utility knife along your tape line to allow the tape to release easily.

Pretty easy right?  You end up with a nice clean paint lines, and don’t have extra wait and cleanup!

Clean Paint Lines - All

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