Tutorial: Hand Balancing Canes

It’s about time I posted a tutorial for something circus related, and since I haven’t been able to really do much of anything circusy (though my pancakes with rings have gone from non-existent to…existent) as of late I thought I would you know, build some circus equipment, because that’s definitely going to make me feel better.

These are not the fanciest canes you can build, but they will certainly do the job, and you can always fancy them up if you have a router and time to stain. Though, if you have a router and the wherewithal to do a lot of staining, chances are you probably don’t need this tutorial. But, if you do want to build some canes, this project is pretty quick–perfect for escaping your special family time over thanksgiving weekend. No mom. I can’t help you with your jello bundt cake because I have to counter sink my screws. Geeze.

So, without further ado, let’s get down to business so that we can protect China from the Huns, and stuff.

Materials you will need:

  • 1 2×8 piece of wood
  • 1 2×4 piece of wood
  • 4 ½” floor flanges
  • 2 ½” pipe nipples in some length to be determined by you*
  • 8 ¼”x2 carriage bolts
  • 8 ¼” nuts
  • 8 ¼” washers
  • 8 1” drywall screws
  • 6 2 ½” drywall screws

Minimum required tools:

  • A saw of some sort
  • Drill
  • Various drill bits, including a countersink bit
  • Sandpaper (mostly optional)
  • Tape measure
  • Clamps
  • wrench

*I used 18”, but you can use whatever makes you feel comfortable. Also, the actual canes will screw together so you can always start with one size and then switch them out later for another.

Step 1: Find your handstand

Before you go to Lowes and cut down any of the lumber you need to buy, I suggest you figure out how wide your handstand is because that’s going to dictate how big or small you need things cut. You don’t actually need to go into a handstand to do this—just put your hands on the floor (making sure they’re directly under your shoulders) and measure from the center of one hand to the other. For example, because I’m a tiny person my handstand is only 10.5 inches wide.

Step 2: Cut your lumber

I added 5 inches to either side of my handstand to figure out the length I needed my 2×8 to be cut to. You can certainly add more space on either side, especially if you have a wider handstand, but don’t add less than 5 inches because you need to leave room for the 2x4s which will go under your 2×8 to minimize forward and back rocking.

I cut my 2x4s I added 3 inches to either side of the width of the 2×8, for a total of 15 inches (well actually slightly less, but you get the point.) Again, you don’t really want to add less than 3 inches, but you can certainly add more.

Finally, you’ll need to cut blocks for your hands, I cut these to be a little longer than the length of my palm to the first knuckle of my little finger.

I used a radial arm saw to cut my wood, so I was able to set the saw at an angle and shave the top corners off the hand blocks for maximum niceness which I otherwise would have had to do with a lot of sanding or a plane.

 To summarize you should end up with the following pieces:

  • (2×8) 1 base – the width of your handstand + 10 inches (minimum)
  • (2×4) 2 ‘feet’ – 8 inches + 6 inches (minimum)
  • (2×4) 2 hand blocks – slightly more than the length of your palm to your first knuckles

Step 3: Make your pipes nice (optional)

If you’re like me and you feel like if you’re going to make something you should at least make it nice, you should follow this step.

When I went to Lowes they didn’t have any floor flanges in black iron, and they didn’t have silver pipe in the right length, so I got mismatching flanges and pipes, which I hate, and decided to fix it by spray painting one of them to match the other.

No matter what, I would suggest washing your pipes with soap and water because they’re usually sticky and covered in something gross. I actually managed to wash most of the black stuff off the black iron pipes, and then went outside and gave them a few passes with some silver spray paint I had lying around. It ended up looking a lot better than I thought it would.

Step 4: Sand stuff (kind of optional)

After all your wood is cut I would suggest at the very least sanding the hand block so you don’t get splinters in your fingers. I just used 80 grit and a sanding block. Sanding will also get rid of any marks on the lumber, or any stain that you may have accidentally put your hand blocks on.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did sand every piece of wood, because even if I can’t get my hands on a router, damned if I’m not going to do my best to make my projects look pretty.

Step 5: The Base

Start by drilling the holes for the carriage bolts. To do this place the flanges on the top side of your 2×8 making sure that the center of each flange lines up with the middle of where your palms would be for your handstand. Then you can use a pencil and trace the four screw holes in each flange.

Choose a drill bit that matches the diameter of your carriage bolts, and drill straight through the 2×8 making sure that you drill straight up and down and not at an angle. Make sure not to actually attach the flanges yet, because that will make your life much trickier in a few minutes. I actually got to use a drill press for the first time when doing this, it was mad exciting.

For the feet, you’re going to want to mark the bottom of your 2x4s and make sure everything’s lined up right. I chose to put my screws in a straight line, but you can zig zag them if you want, particularly if your boards are a bit warped.

Just like with the carriage bolts you’re going to want to choose a drill bit that matches the diameter of your longer drywall screws. Go ahead and drill all the way through the board.

Now switch out that bit for a counter sink bit. Since we’re attaching the feet from the bottom, as opposed to drilling through the top of your base (which is ugly) we need to counter sink the screws so that they’re inset into the bottom. Basically we want to make sure they don’t stick out at all, because that could make your canes tippy. And also because I want to keep introducing y’all to new tools. Yay.

Using a counter sink bit is super straightforward. Line it up in the middle of your drill hole and go to town. It’s fine to go deeper than you think you may need to, and voila, your screws will no longer stick out in any project that you do, right?

Go ahead and clamp your feet to your base. Switch the counter sink bit for a Phillips head and screw those suckers in. As you can see in this picture I attached the flanges to the base before attaching the feet which made this step a total pain in the ass. But, you all get to learn from my mistakes. Sweet!

Now’s the time to attach those flanges, so line ‘em up and go to town with your hammer, though you might not need to depending on how wide your holes are. Instead of pounding in one bolt all the way and going on to the next, start each bolt and go around in a circle. This makes sure that everything lines up nicely.

Flip it over and attach the washers and nuts (washers go in-between the nuts and the wood), tightening everything down with the wrench.

Ta da! Your base is complete.

Step 6: Hand blocks

Next, you’re going to want to do basically the same thing with the flanges for your hand blocks. Switch out your bit for one that matches the 1 inch drywall screws, or is even a hair smaller. Pre-drill your holes for the hand blocks, but make sure that you don’t drill too far, as the bit you’ll be using is likely longer than the thickness of the 2×4. You don’t even need to drill a full inch for the screw, just something to get it started.

At this point, if you want you can go ahead and switch out that bit for one with a Phillips head. Go ahead and attach the flanges, but make sure you switch from the drill to the driver setting! When you’re driving in the screws, I would actually go around in a circle and get each screw started, to make sure everything’s hunky dory rather than drilling in one screw all the way and then going on to the next, just like you did with the carriage bolts. Make sure you have a tight grip!

 Step 7: Screw it all together

That’s it, right there in the title.

You’re done!

Step 8: Do handstands! Hooray!

 And here, of course are the canes in action.


Not the world’s best crocodile, certainly, but not bad all things considered. (All things being that I’ve been mostly off my feet for a month.)

Have fun and stay safe on the long weekend!


Vanity Build: Part the Last

Last time we talked about the vanity, I left you here. With some hinges. At the beginning of August. So, go ahead and refresh your memory.

Okie dokie.

So. I can now check ‘design and build bathroom vanity from scratch’ off my bucket list. Or I would, if I had a bucket list. All that remains is to install it, which I kind of thought I’d never be able to actually write.

Since we talked last I’ve installed hardware, spaced and adhered tile, and yesterday I grouted it. Oh, I also installed stoppers for the doors so Nick would stop complaining about how he was going to accidently destroy the doors.

Installing hardware is…pretty self explanatory, so let’s skip that step. I will say, CHECK YOUR WORK. A LOT. Before you actually install any hardware on the front of your very difficult to build doors. Mmmkay.

Laying out Tile: Space Early, Space Often

 When it comes to the point that you’re ready to tile the top of your vanity, or floor, or whatever, really, you’re going to want to spend a lot of time laying out your tiles before you stick them to anything, because you can’t really go back and fix them.

I spent about two hours laying out and triple checking tiles that took me maybe half an hour to glue down.

 *Also, side note, if you want to learn how to tile anything (seriously), head over to DIYDiva; Kit has some truly excellent tutorials with lots of pictures.


I tried to the tiles out in such a way that I used as many full sheets of tile as possible to minimize having to get correct spacing.

We also spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to minimize tile cutting for the areas around the drain holes. We thought using tile nippers would do the job, but apparently they have a tendency to shatter glass tiles like the ones we were using.

Luckily our down the hall neighbor, who is also renovating traded us his wet saw for our cordless reciprocating saw. We wrapped each tile in masking tape several times, and drew the cut lines on the tape so that if the tiles did shatter they wouldn’t blind us. (Always wear safety goggles kids. Safety goggles are cool.) Naturally we also wrapped way more tiles than we needed for each cut to make sure that we had enough good tiles to finish the job. This method actually worked much better than we were expecting; I think we only had one tile actually break wrong.


Getting the space around the sink hole dandy wasn’t as important as the one for the faucet drain because the sink has a massive bottom which would cover any less than perfect tiling. I actually ended up putting in even more tile pieces than I really needed to because I’m anal-retentive.

Making sure the faucet hole was perfect was much more of a task since the base of the faucet covers barely anything, but I think we did okay:

If by ‘okay’, you mean ‘awesome,’ which I do.

Tile Adhesive: Not as fun as it looks

I foolishly thought coating the counter of my vanity in tile adhesive would be really fun, like frosting a cake is fun. But tile adhesive is no butter cream frosting, let me tell you. It is also not edible.

It is like frosting a cake in method though—smack some adhesive on the top and spread it around with a notched trowel.

Once it was covering the vanity in a thin, but not too thin layer, I started laying the tiles down in the same order I did them when I was laying them out. I didn’t push down any of the tiles into the adhesive until all the tiles were laid out and spaced.

I used a lot of tile spacers, spacing as I went.  Nick seems to think that tile spacers were unnecessary for this project, but I disagree. A little extra work is worth it to make sure that the seams are invisible. I also put spacers in some spots where there was no break between tile sheets but where the tiles were a little wonky on the mesh.

When the tiles were all laid out and pushed in by hand I went around with a two by four and a mallet giving everything a bit of a smack to make sure nothing would come loose.

Here it is the next day with the sink and faucet in place for show.

Grout: Not as Scary as Nick’s Dad Makes it Seem

 For this, I basically just followed the instructions on the grout carton and did whatever Nick’s dad told me to when he popped his head into the basement. Like wrapping the vanity in shower curtains? Yeah, I totally wouldn’t have done that.

After mixing up the grout and letting it sit for a few minutes, I dumped the whole bucket on the vanity and spread it around with the grout float.

Nick’s dad was worried that because of the way the corners met that they would be a disaster to grout and that they would fall apart, but I just packed a ton of grout in with my fingers and hoped for the best.

As you can see, they turned out just fine.

 Grouting is super straight forward. The entire process went like this:

Pour grout on counter. Smush around with grout float. Scrape off excess grout with float. Wait. Bother Tesla. Wait.

Wipe grout off with a wet sponge. Wait. Wipe grout off with a wet sponge.

Wait. Admire. (You can do this last part too.)

Our goal is to demolish the bathroom during this long weekend, and hopefully tile everything (once we settle the wall tile argument), so that we can install the vanity next week!

Speaking of which, I have a bathroom to finish dry walling. Peace!

Black Iron Pipe Bookshelves: Traumarama

Raise your hand if you’re bored of cookie recipes and block prints of my dog and other crafty things.


Yeah? I’m not, but that’s okay.  Domestic ass-kickery isn’t for everyone.*

Ergo I have a long overdue story for you!

A while back I said I’d talk about the plumbing pipe shelves we put up in our living room, so here we are.

Lots of times DIY is billed as easy and fun, because lots of times ‘DIY’ is actually crafting owls out of felt or making cardboard gourd place settings (not pointing fingers here). But. Newsflash. That’s actually arts and crafts. DIY is popular and stylish now, like being ‘sustainable’ is popular and stylish now, so everything is easy and fun. But sometimes, actual DIY isn’t fun at all. Sometimes DIY involves smashing your bathtub to bits with a sledgehammer (okay, kind of fun), or arguing for hours about wall tile, or getting drywall dust in your eye.

So, because it’s not always fun, and it’s not always easy, here is a story about one of those not fun, not easy times:

It’s more or less impossible to wander around the DIY Sector of the Internet (is that even a thing?) these days without tripping over tutorials for pipe shelves or pipe lights or even pipe pot lid racks so this is by no means a tutorial. Check out the end of this post for a roundup of some neat pipe stuff, which includes tutorials.

So. ‘What’s the big deal with making stuff out of plumbing pipe?’ you might ask. Well, as far as I can tell, there are really two reasons for the current craze :  1. Things made out of pipe look so damn cool (which is not to say that all things made out of pipe are cool); 2. The possibilities for what you can make out of regular ole’ plumbing pipe are pretty much endless. As far as I can tell, none of the reasons for making pipe shelves involves cost effectiveness. Plumbing pipe is pretty expensive, so between that, and the fact that we used bigger pipe than normal, as well as our locally sourced lumber, this project was actually pretty expensive. We could have saved a lot of money by buying bookshelves on craigslist—instead we sold the ones we already had. Well, actually we left it out by the elevator for a couple of weeks until someone took it away, but you know…whatevskis.


The thing that sets our project apart from the others out there is the sheer scale of it. It is seriously huge. For comparison, here’s a pretty typical pipe shelf, from apartment therapy.

And here’s ours:

Most BIP (Black Iron Pipe) projects utilize pipe and fittings with a ½” inch diameter. Us? We used 1” inch.


The shelves themselves are 1” thick planks of rough-hewn cedar from a local sawmill. They’re 10 feet long, and there are 7 of them.


We do not joke around.


The downside, naturally, of having such a bomb-proof bookshelf, is that it was a pain in the ass to make. Most people talk about how making BIP shelves are super easy. Ours…were not. They involved a blasphemous amount of swearing.

Nothing about this project was easy. Not even getting all the fittings and pipe was simple, because we needed a thousand of each piece. We made a lot of trips to a variety of hardware stores. Long, long trips. It got to such a state that I told Nick that for every hour he left me waiting on the floor of Lowe’s playing Angry Birds he had to cut a month off the time before he proposes. (I was joking. Kind of.) To the pipe shelves, I have this to say: ‘dear plumbing pipe shelves, thank you for cutting half a year off of our pre-engagement.’

Yes, I jest, but there were some seriously miserable scenarios that came out of trying to get all the pipe pieces. Like the night I needed to run out and get a piece of trim for my vanity, and Nick said we had to go to Home Depot (which is not a mile away, unlike Lowes) so that he could get some pipe cut and threaded (Lowes will not cut pipe shorter than 15 inches, FYI), which would only take a minute. I sat on the floor in the plumbing aisle for over an hour while Nick got pipes threaded, until they kicked us out because it was closing time.

Or the time, when after a long day of rock climbing, Nick decided to run into Lowes while I got some groceries for dinner, and then he would meet me in the parking lot. That was a long phone call to my mother in Minnesota.


But it was hard for Nick too. No place had everything he needed, Lowes wouldn’t cut his pipe, and I know that something got messed up and he had to exchange a lot of the pipe he’d just spent hours running around and getting cut and threaded because he needed a different size.

I don’t think anyone ever said that DIY projects are good for your relationship, but I also don’t think they’re bad. So, when I say there was a lot of swearing, I must make a note that almost none of it was directed at each other, which was nice.

I kind of fondly remember one night when Nick was trying to assemble the bookshelves and it was not working, and I was trying to assemble one of the doors on the vanity and it was not working. We swore a lot, and told each other it was okay, and decided that sometimes making out is way more awesome than even home improvement projects.

The first step of making anything out of BIP is that you have to wash the pipe and get all the sticky stuff off. When I say ‘this was a major pain’ I mean it took us basically an entire day just to get the pipe cleaned, de-gooed, and spray painted. It also took a lot of spray paint.

And then we thought the hard part was over. And we were so wrong.


Many of the pieces were threaded funny, which resulted in a lot of places where the pipe was actually kind of crooked, and thus would not fit through the holes Nick had drilled for them. This whole problem wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the space between our shelves wasn’t so short—if we’d used longer pipes, the crookedness would have been a lot easier to deal with, and it also would have been a lot less noticeable. It’s much harder to see when three long pipes threaded together are crooked, than when eight shorter pipes are threaded together.

The night Nick tried to assemble it all was a disaster, and the only thing to do, which is so hard sometimes, was for him to give up, and try solutions the next day. It worked. We now have badass bookshelves, because Nick? He’s kind of a badass.


They look like this:

 It took me about five minutes to cover them with books. Nick has since tried to bribe me with a Kindle if I promised not to buy any more books. I laughed at him.


*I can get away with saying this because you can’t see my kitchen. Ha!

Here are some links relating to things built out of plumbing pipe, and other people’s less traumatic adventures with them:

Apartment Therapy: DIY Gods of Spanish Harlem

DIY Diva: When Your Closet is Nicer than your Living Space

The Brick House: Shelving Unit Tutorial










Block Printing 101

One of the brighter sides (I’m trying really hard here to be positive) of my invalid state is that I have rather more time for artistic endeavors than usual, so I decided to get some major progress done on the bug prints and the stencil-y project this weekend and dragged Nick to Dick Blick to get mat board to finish the bug prints and well, everything to make the block printing patterns on fabric for curtains and cushions  happen.

It turns out though I bought the wrong type of ink for printing on fabric, so that one’s on hold for a bit, but I have a project trigger finger, and a lot of linoleum at my disposal, so I really wanted to get carving.

Nick suggested I come up with “a fun activity” (very Sokka, no?) for us to do after work yesterday, so I decided that we were going to make tiny block prints for funsies. And practice.

For the confused, block printing is a type of printing where the artist carves an image into a block of wood, leaving the parts of the image to be inked in tact, and all ‘white space’ is gouged out. According to Wikipedia, this is called relief printing. To make it really simple, imagine a rubber stamp–that’s a relief print.

Anywho, let’s get down to it.



  • Linoleum cutter
  • Linoleum cutter tips
  • Soft Kut, or Easy Carve or a linoleum block*
  • Block Printing Ink**
  • Brayer
  • Paint tray or Styrofoam chicken tray
  • Something to print on
  • Pencil
  • Sketchpad

*you can also use wood, or a Styrofoam chicken tray, even, if you’re feeling budget

**you want oil based if you’re printing on fabric


Step One: The Image Itself

Obviously, to print an image, you need an image. Choose something, or make up a design or whatever. For my print I chose this little owl a friend brought me back from Athens.

Nick chose Tesla.

Then you’re going to want to draw out your image in pencil approximately how you’ll want it to be, keeping in mind what’s going to be the white (cut away) space. This can be a little bit of a mind warp because sometimes the black lines you’re drawing are actually going to be white space, as in the case of the marks on my owl’s wings.

If you’re using soft cut, I suggest doing this in a sketchbook, but if you’re using linoleum, I’d sketch right on the block after getting a good idea of what you’re doing.

Also keep in mind sizing, which was hard for me at least as a person who works a lot in Photoshop. After I finished the first sketch (the smaller one) I realized there’s no way I would be able to cut detail that small with a linoleum knife.

Here’s the really fun part, now you get to take your soft cut (I’m not sure how well this works with wood or actual linoleum) and just lay it over your sketch and push.



Step Two: Carving

Once your image is transferred, you might want to go over the design in pen or sharpie since the graphite smudges easily.

Then, carve away! Don’t get too overzealous though. You don’t want the grooves too deep, but if they’re too shallow, you’ll still ink them, which can be good or bad depending on what you’re going for.

I used a #1 blade (the tiniest) for almost all of my stamp except the background.

If you’re cutting out a lot of background like I was, I suggest starting with that to get a feel for it.

Step Three: Inking and Stamping

Now you’re going to want to grab a palate, or a Styrofoam chicken tray, or a giant paint tray, and put a small amount of ink in it, and roll that out nice and good with your brayer.

Pro-tip: use a lot less ink than you think you need!

The rest is pretty self explanatory. Ink up your stamp and go to town! Roll the ink on very thinly, otherwise it might ooze into places where it shouldn’t:

And here we go:

 The cool thing about this is that you can always go back and ‘edit’ your block. I was going for a much more rubber stamp look, where all cut away spaces would be completely white, but I actually like the effect that I got by accidentally not clearing everything.

Go to town!

Tis the Season…for Gingerbread. And Blizzards. And Crutches.

Dear Internet,

I generally have tried to keep this blog more ‘YAY PROJECTS!!1!!’ and less ‘Woe is my life’ because that’s lame and projects are awesome. But, oh, internet, I have a story for you. And a gingerbread recipe. But that comes second.

After the crazy week of lots of gigs and work and not lots of sleep, I had a day or two to recover before hoofing it to Vermont last Thursday for Fabric Teacher Training. All of that was jim dandy and enlightening until Saturday evening, when, with some time to kill and an excess of energy, I decided to drop in on a parkour workshop, because who doesn’t love a good Kong Vault?

All was well and good and sweaty and full of barrel rolls, until two hours in, I got a running start for a dive roll through a hula hoop. Except I never made it through the hoop because the mat I was on slid out from under me, and my foot did something I never ever want to see again, and there was a nasty pop, and down I went.

So then there was some icing, and some poking, and then some screaming when I tried to stand on it, and then a lot of the german wheel instructor carrying me down the stairs so I could go to the hospital. When we (we being me, and the office manager of the circus school) reached the hospital snow had gently started to fall. Which was weird, since it’s October.

The doctor took one look at my foot and said ‘well, with swelling like that in such a short amount of time, I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s broken. But we’ll get you off for X-Rays anyway.’


My foot looked like this, and I’m gonna go ahead and say this does NOT do the horror justice, as I don’t actually have cankles in real life:

And off I went.

And it turns out? Not broken. But that ligament that holds the my ankle to the outside of my foot? Not so much attached to my foot anymore. Neat. Healing time? 6-8 weeks. Cast? Check. Crutches? Check. Thanksgiving backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon? Un Check. Circus? Un Check.

So, back we went. And somehow, in the meager amount of time we’d been there, as I was the ER’s ONLY PATIENT (Pro tip: get hurt in tiny towns. But not like, too hurt.) there were somehow two inches of fluffy white snow covering the parking lot. And the ice that was also on the parking lot. But don’t worry, my novice crutchery didn’t get the best of me. Then.

I went back to my hotel, thanking my lucky stars for the great big art deco bathtub in my room. With lots of awkward maneuvering, I managed to finally make it into the tub, and enjoyed the first two minutes of The Vampire Diaries (leave me alone), which is now streaming on Netflix, when the power went out.

I kid you not.

So there I was, naked, handicapped, in a very large bathtub, in the dark.

I suddenly wished I’d said yes to the narcotic painkillers the doctor had offered me.

Well, that was that. After that came driving home on very damaged back roads—I can’t tell you how many power lines I drove over and trees I swerved to avoid, only to find out that we didn’t have power back home either, and that hot bath I wanted so much? Not happening. Lots of near death falling down the stairs has happened though. Enough that I’ve resorted to crawling up and down them rather than risk my neck again to try and get my coffee upstairs.

It has been a very long week.


Anyway, on to the gingersnaps!

Have you ever had a knock down drag out fight over cookie dough? I have. Kind of. Nick and I ate/fought over so much cookie dough from this recipe that I had to make another batch the next morning. But. This recipe is stupidly fast. It was about 10 minutes before I had these suckers warming up in the oven.


Without further ado…

Tasty, Tasty Gingersnaps:

Oven temp: 350º


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 ½ tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp. powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • Extra granulated sugar


  1. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until well blended.
  3. Beat in egg, molasses, and spices.
  4. Beat in the flour mixture in two parts.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball (you can keep it in the bowl), cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours. Or eat cookie dough now, whatever floats your boat.
  6. Shape dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter, and roll them in sugar.
  7. Put dough balls on ungreased baking sheet with lots of space in between.
  8. Bake 15ish minutes, depending on your oven. Take them out, let them cool for a minute, and move them to cooling racks.
  9. Nom.


Have a nice weekend!