Curbly Original
Glue Gun Shootout: What's the Best Glue Gun on the Market? We Find Out.

by DIY Maven
Glue Gun Review
Photo: JoAnn Moser

 

Sure, your glue gun melts glue sticks, but does it drip glue all over the place when sitting on its "kickstand"? Does it seem to spontaneously tip over when sitting on said kickstand? Does it take forever to reach maximum heat? 

If your glue gun does any or all of these things, it might be time to break up with it and find a new model. After hours and hours of testing 6 models—4 corded and 2 cordless—of wildly varying prices, we've pinned down our favorites. Let's introduce our contenders (and our recommendations): 

Continue Reading

Curbly Original
What's the Best Bottle Cutter on the Market? We Find Out

by DIY Maven
We review the top five glass bottle cutters to find out which is best.
Photo: DIY Maven

Four years ago, I threw out the question: "What is the best bottle cutter on the market?" A lot of readers weighed in. Some gave recommendations for their favorite glass bottle cutter, others just wanted a definitive answer, which is what I wanted. Finally, FINALLY, we decided to get to the bottom of the bottle cutter question and have a product shoot out between four popular models. Our competition has not been without a...

Continue Reading

Curbly Original
How To: Make a Concrete Mason Jar Lid

by DIY Maven
Concrete Mason Jar Lid Feature Image
Photo: by JoAnn Moser via MASON JAR NATION, courtesy of Cool Springs Press

Once again, I'm super psyched to be able to share the second of two projects from my recently released book, MASON JAR NATION (Cool Springs Press, 2016)! (For the first project, click here.) Like the hanging air plant planter, this project can also be found in the "Crafts" section of the book. UN-like the last how-to, this one ranks easy on the easy to hard scale. As I mentioned last time, because my publisher, Cool Springs, is so very accommodating, they've agreed to let me share the project in its entirety straight from the book. 

But first...why a concrete Mason jar lid? Because concrete is cool and they're the perfect top to Mason jars used as canisters.

It’s the 19th century. Mechanical engineer William Ward wants to build his family a new home, but he is deathly afraid of fire. Such a fear isn’t unreasonable in a time when open flames are used for survival. Lighting, cooking, and heating coupled with combustibles that are commonplace in every household can make even the bravest among us skittish. But William Ward isn’t just any mechanical engineer. Oh, no. He is a forward-thinking mechanical engineer who knows a thing or two about concrete. With the help of friend and architect, Robert Mook, Ward builds a reinforced concrete home in Port Chester, NY. Completed in 1875, it is the first of its kind in the United States. 

The fire-proof home was first mockingly referred to as “Ward’s Folly” because of prognostications that it was just a matter of time before the house collapsed under its own weight. Still standing sound and looking much as it did when first constructed, today the building is known as “Ward’s Castle.” So much for the naysayers. 

Mr. Ward’s creation marked the turning point in the country for modern uses of concrete. From impenetrable facades to highly prized interior decor elements, such as flooring and countertops, concrete is everywhere. And now, it's even topping a Mason jar. --From MASON JAR NATION, by JoAnn Moser, Cool Springs Press 2016

SUPPLIES:

  • An empty, plastic cylindrical container slightly larger than the jar band (an empty cake frosting container works perfectly)
  • Utility scissors or tin snips
  • Craft glue, such as E6000
  • 1 lid and band to fit the jar
  • Empty container in which to mix the concrete
  • Water
  • 1 cup of Portland cement
  • Cooking spray
  • A few pebbles for weight
  • 1 Mason jar with a regular-size opening

MAKING YOUR CONCRETE LID:

Cut down the edges of the frosting container so it's approximately 2" tall. This will become the mold for the concrete mix.

Glue the jar lid and band together with craft glue. Let dry.

In the other empty container, mix clean water to 1 cup of Portland cement until reaching the consistency stipulated on the product's packaging. 

Concrete Mason Jar Lid Pouring Concrete
Photo: by JoAnn Moser via MASON JAR NATION, courtesy of Cool Springs Press

Spray cooking spray inside the mold. Fill the mold with approximately 1 of mixed concrete.

Concrete Mason Jar Lid in Concrete
Photo: by JoAnn Moser via MASON JAR NATION, courtesy of Cool Springs Press

Nestle the lid assembly into the mold, displacing the concrete. Stack pebbles inside the lid just until the band's edge is equal to the top of the concrete.

After the concrete has cured, coax the entire part out of the mold, and twist the new lid onto the Mason jar. 

Concrete Mason Jar Lid for Pinterest
Photo: by JoAnn Moser via MASON JAR NATION, courtesy of Cool Springs Press

Feel free to share this tutorial from MASON JAR NATION on Pinterest!

If you love Mason jars, you just might want to see the other 49 more projects featured in MASON JAR NATION. You can order it today from Amazon or Barnes & Noble ($15). And to read more about my road to publication, check out this post right here on Curbly. 

MASON JAR NATION cover
Image: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press

Continue Reading

Curbly Original
What's the Best Garden Planner? We Find Out!

by DIY Maven
Garden Planners Comparison - Which one is best?

Memorial Day is in sight and, here in the Midwest, that means the start of gardening season. To turn your brown thumb green – or your greener thumb greener – we've assembled 4 popular garden/landscape planners and put them through their paces. The victims today are Small Blue Printer, Plan Garden, Mother Earth News Garden Planner, and Better Homes and Gardens Garden Planner. Are the free versions as good as the paid-for route? Maybe, maybe not. Read on to find out, or skip to the end to see how we graded them.

 

Small Blue Printer:

First up is Small Blue Printer (SBP), which is available as a one-time download for $35. They offer a 15-day trial period for this version, which lets you design, print, and save your plans. They ALSO offer a free online trial version (more about that in a second). Download of the trial version does not require credit card information, which is great. (Note, when you've downloaded SBP, it is identified as a garden planner.) 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

SBP is a simple drag and drop designer. Just pick from a selection of objects and plop them into your design. There’s also a ‘Tools’ function for drawing custom sizes and shapes of pools, pavings, and garden beds and such, each with choices of fill. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

To change the fill of your object, simply choose a new one from the properties window on the right of the screen. This window also lets you edit stuff too, including the size of the object in question. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

SBP offers tons of objects to populate your garden/landscaping, including trees, plants, flowers, shrubs, furniture, and even people and cars. 

 

A small sample of what you can choose:

Photo: DIY Maven

Speaking of landscaping, SBP is great for it, but if your intention is to plan a vegetable garden, get ready to be frustrated. First, SBP doesn’t allow for clicking and dragging, so you have to resize each vegetable and flower in the properties window. Resizing a pool or a couple trees is one thing, but when you’re talking about two dozen corn icons, it’s a pain. Also irritating is that non-alphabetized objects and plants—veggies ARE alphabetized but flowers aren’t, so if flowers are your thing, prepare to do some hunting. 

 

 

Photo: DIY Maven
 

 

 

But, let us get back to that resizing thing. When I tried to make my corn plants more realistic in size, they started to truncate in weird ways. Same with the runner beans. That means I could only fit four “corns” into the corn space in my garden, which I drew to be an ample 15' x 30'. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but SBP has a print function that tabulates how many of each plant you need to populate your garden based upon the total number of icons you pasted into the garden, NOT based upon suggested spacing for the plant. So, for me, four corns, four runner beans, five potatoes … you get the idea.

Photo: DIY Maven
 

 

Another irksome thing are the plant labels. They don’t resize with the picture of the plant, so they dwarf your plants or hide them entirely. Of course, you can turn the labeling off, but that seems counterproductive to the task at hand. (Note the herbs section of the garden in the image before last.)

 

As far as printing out your design, the SBP downloadable trial version allows it, but it does include a significant watermark. And, again, that print out of supplies and such is based on icon totals only. You can, however, save plans to your hard drive – yes, even with the trial version. 

Print of SBP garden design, missing some detail on the right:

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Printing and saving is where the free on-line trial version falters a bit (and even excels too). You can print your designs, but you can't save them. You also don't get the parts list when you print your free on-line trial version design, BUT it doesn't print with that huge watermark. Upgrading to the paid version or even the downloadable free trial takes care of the first two issues, and they both allow for exportation of your designs as images as both jpeg and png. 

 

 

Plan Garden:

 

Next up on our list is Plan Garden (PG). At $20 a year or $36 for 2 years (and a 45 day trial), it is the least expensive garden planner with the longest trial period. Again, they require no credit card information to sign up. 

 

Unlike SBP, PG is geared exclusively toward vegetable garden planing. This time, we are asked to enter our  zip code for recommended plants, which are alphabetized. Because PG is veg-centric, it does not have structures from which to choose. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

That being said, there are no identified flower icons to choose from, but you can name them in the plant information window on the right.

Anonymous flowers in the Vegetable Selector:

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

 

The plant selector (aka Vegetable Selector) and Plant Information boxes:

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Like SBP, you have to resize one vegetable at a time, BUT PG does let you choose to make rows or areas of particular plants, so you only have to resize once with a handy slider in the plant information window. Labels, on the other hand, do not resize with the icon, so they must be resized individually. Labels also DO NOT follow the icons, so you’ll have to move them separately. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Other handy things about that plant information window: you can keep track of how many plants you planted and when, if you started them indoors, how much you expect to harvest, and how much you actually DO harvest. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

PG also offers a Daily Log function, which is basically a gardening journal, that lets you note when you compost, fertilize, work in your greenhouse, whatever, which you can export to Excel/Numbers. 

 

Caption

 

As far as the printing of the actual garden design, PG does a nice, albeit utilitarian job. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Mother Earth News Garden Planner

Third on our list is Mother Earth News Garden Planner (MEN for short). You can snag this for $25 a year or $40 for 2 years (and a 30 day free trial). This is only available as an online version and requires Adobe Flash version 9+. Again, we don’t have to give our credit card details to play with the trial version. This time, we are emailed an activation code to get started, but that’s no biggie.

 

Like PG, MEN asks for a zip code but not just to recommend plants for my part of the world, but to keep track of frost dates.

 

To start your garden design, simply choose the size of your garden, in this case another ample 15’ x 30’, and start planning. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

MEN is kind of like the best of SBP and PG when it comes to vegetable garden planning. Not only do they have flowers and vegetables, they have structures galore to choose from, including things like fences, trellises, beehives, and even chicken coops. With such a selection, we could be planning entire farming operations. (Kidding, sort of.) They also have an Irrigation selection which includes everything to do with water, like ponds, pumps, and tubes. 

Just a small sample of things you can choose to put into your garden:

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

To keep everything straight, MEN uses a layers function, which are split into 5 categories including Structures (like those chicken coops I mentioned), Plants, Text, Irrigation, and Layout (paths and raised beds and the like). That way you can focus on one aspect of your garden at a time and not get too overwhelmed. 

The Structures layer:

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

When populating your veg garden, MEN really does most of the work. Simply click the plant (in alphabetical order) you want from the database at the top of the page, plop it into your garden, and drag it to the space you want to occupy. So, for instance, if you want 3 rows of corn, simply left click and drag to size. Changing your mind later couldn’t be easier, as another pick and drag magically changes your 6 potato plants to 9 or 12 or 3. 

Changing the corn section:

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

When you left click on the selection just made (corn in this case), another widow pops up that lets you choose a variety (of corn in this case). It also reveals notes concerning your crop and the position of the corn you sowed. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Not sure how to grow all the stuff with which you populated your veg garden? Not to worry, the icons on the MEN database includes a little “i” next to them. Simply click it and up pops everything you need to know to grow one/many of them, including soil requirements, position, feeding, spacing ... everything. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

As far as summaries and printing goes, MEN will produce a Parts List (accessible via a tab at the top of the page) for the hard stuff, like how many feet of fencing you need to enclose your garden.

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

MEN also has a kinda magical Plant List that tells you HOW MANY PLANTS YOU ACTUALLY NEED to fill the space as you indicated on your plan. That’s because MEN knows what spacing requirements each plant requires. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

 

Included on the Plant List is also a color coded chart that tells you when each plant should be sown indoors (if that’s your plan) or outdoors, and tells you when it should be harvested. 

As far as printing out your plan, MEN does it perfectly. It's big, colorful, labeled, and readable

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

 

BHG

Finally, we’re going to explore Better Homes and Garden’s Garden Planner (BHG). It’s FREE! But, wait. You have to become a member of BHG to gain access to it. But, wait. You don’t get access to all its features with the free version, which is really just a trial version. Oh, and it’ll cost you $9.99 for six months to access the all its features if you decide you want them. (They don't tell you any of this until AFTER you sign up.) But, wait. There’s an even more comprehensive version called GardenPuzzle that’s a pay-once desktop version that costs $19 for one license (meaning one user), or $29 for 2 users, or $39 for 3 to 4 users, or $49 for 5 to 10 users. Does it feel like they want you to buy something?

 

But, be that as it may, let’s get back to the free version. BHG supplies the backgrounds; it’ll cost you that $9.99 to upload a background/photo of your own, which, again, they don’t tell you before you sign up for the free version. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Backgrounds are architect heavy, so right away you can tell this is a planner that is NOT suited for vegetable gardens. And, although they do have a ‘raised beds’ choice, there is no way to fill them. So, yeah, not for planning a garden. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Of all the planners on our list, BHG is the easiest to maneuver, but that’s because it doesn't allow for much customization. Basically, you pick your background, select your structures (like those raised garden beds, or sheds, benches, pots, etc., which you pick and plop), choose your surfaces (lawn, mulch, brick, etc. which you pick and draw), and plants, (trees, bushes, vines, etc., which you pick and plop). 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

BHG operates on depth of field, so when you plop your items, they’ll be bigger in the foreground than in the background of your plan.

Photo: DIY Maven


They’re easily adjustable, though, with a rudimentary + or - that appears in a popup when you click on the object in the plan that you want to resize. Also in that window, we get another little ‘i’ for information regarding the object. Click it and another window will pop up with access to ‘more.’ Click that and you’ll be shunted to BHG’s Plant Encyclopedia. 

 

We need to mention the two small icons on the right of the plan page. One is called ‘Plan View’ and it gives you an aerial view of the plan you just made sans structure. The view is so small it is rendered useless. The other icon doesn’t have a name, but if you click it, you can apply paint effects to your plan. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Various paint effects:

 

Photo: DIY Maven


Why apply paint effects to your plan? I have no idea, but it is kinda fun. 

Finally, BHG does allow you to save your garden plan and print it, which it does nicely. 

 

Photo: DIY Maven

 

Now the Grades!

 

Small Blue Printer - B+

It’s packed with objects in which to fill your dream garden. It’s NOT for vegetable garden planning whatsoever. But if you’ve got dreams of a creating a beautiful yard, this might be the planner for you. And, because it’s a one time download, it is cost effective. Keep in mind, however, there is no 3D depth of field option here, so you’ll have to use your imagination when considering elevations and such, because when it comes to general yard landscaping an elevation view can be very important. In all, I’ll give Small Blue Printer a solid B+ for general landscape planning (it would have gotten an A if it had an elevation view), but for vegetable garden planning, I’m afraid it gets a D. HOWEVER, as a free on-line garden planner, it gets an A.

 

Plan Garden - C

No frills, but super easy to navigate. Of the subscription services, this is the cheapest and, at 45 days, it has the longest trial period. If not going up against Mother Earth News Garden Planner, I’d give it a B, but because it IS going up against MEN, I'll give it a C. 

 

Mother Earth News Garden Planner - A

It should come as no surprise to those who've read this entire post that this planner is our best performer. For vegetable garden planning, it’s unparalleled. Yes, at $25 a year, it’s the most expensive of the subscription services, but I could see the price being made up for in crop loss and all around aggravation-savings. It’s packed with objects and plants to populate your garden, as well as information that would turn any brown thumb green. No, there isn’t an elevation feature, but with vegetable gardens, flat is good—unless we’re talking elevated beds, which are still flat. So, even without that feature, I give MEN an A versus SBP which came in with a B+ because of the importance of the elevation feature when it comes to general yard landscaping. 

 

Better Homes and Gardens Garden’s Garden Planner - B for fun (D for practicality)

Again, this was a run-through for the FREE version from BHG. I can’t comment on the GardenPuzzle version. That said, I see this version as being good for brainstorming but not for serious landscape planning. So, for fun, I’ll give it a B, but for practicality, it gets a D. 

And there you have it, my review of 4 popular garden planners. Now go forth and plant, my children.

FINAL NOTE:

None of the people/creators of these garden planners supplied products for this review. As for the opinions of the products, those are mine and mine alone. If anyone has any further questions about the individual products reviewed, I'll do my best to answer them for you. Just ask in the comments below. 

 

Want more product reviews? Check out our Best Bottle Cutter Review!

Continue Reading

Curbly Original
Shopping Guide: 10 Must Have Design Books for Every Taste and Style

by Jennifer Farley

10 Favorite Design Books

Design books are great for design inspiration and guidance, but they also are pretty fun pieces to style your home. The books that are best for you are the ones that fit your style aesthetic. When you find the book that fits you, it can be your go to source for how to bring your space all together. Here are ten of my favorite design books that fit a wide range of different type of design aesthetics with some that even help diagnose your style.      

Continue Reading

Curbly Bookworm: Crafting with Wood Pallets

by DIY Maven
Crafting with Wood Pallets cover shot
Photo: Ulysess Press

Becky Lamb gets it: no matter what some people may say, crafting stuff out of wood pallets will continue to be popular. Her love of the humble shipping staple started a long time ago with a DIY shelf. Her love affair has culminated into a complete book packed with 25+ rustic projects using them, and they just might be the inspiration you need to finally start making stuff out of those pallets you've been collecting...

Continue Reading

Awesome New eBook: "Make Your Day: DIY All Day Long"

by Capree K

Awesome New eBook: "Make Your Day: DIY All Day Long"

I recently received a crafty surprise in my mailbox: a DIY "face planter" kit from Chelsey Andrews (The Paper Mama) and Chelsea Costa (Lovely Indeed) to celebrate the launch of their first eBook, Make Your Day. Well, it certainly did and, after taking a peek at the book, I'm pretty confident that the project ideas will make just about anyone's day a bit brighter!

Make Your Day is chock-full of easy, fun, and totally clever DIY projects, templates, printables, and inspiration -- all the things we love here at Curbly. Read more about this new eBook and grab a special discount code below!      

Continue Reading

Curbly Bookworm: Mason Jar Crafts

by DIY Maven

Curbly Bookworm: Mason Jar Crafts

To be honest, when the prospect of reviewing Lauren Elise Donaldson's new book MASON  JAR CRAFTS from Ulysses Press was presented to me, my first thought was, "What could possibly be in the book that I haven't seen before on the Internet?" Turns out the answer to that question is a lot. More than 30 projects in fact. 

Lauren breaks down the book into  six sections starting with an introduction and then goes on to project collections titled, Home Decor, Parties and Presents, Holidays, Kids and Weddings, which just might be my favorite part of them all. Yes, the projects are perfect for wedding decor, but they are also suitable for home decor too. (She does this thing coupling Mason Jars and vintage forks to create place setting signage that certainly piqued my interest.)

One of my favorite projects from the Home Decor section is the nightlight pictured in the upper right of the image below, and if I had a 7/8" diamond tipped drill bit, there'd be one shining in my guest bathroom right now! 

For the kids, her piggybank is both cheeky and charming. (BONUS: If you'd like to make one for your kiddo, visit this page.)

Rated from one to four 'difficulty jars', there's something for every Mason Jar fan of any crafting level. You can snag a copy of MASON JAR CRAFTS yourself at Barnes & Noble (which offers a better than average peek inside) and  Amazon for about $12. For more information about Elise and for even more Mason Jar Craft tutorials, visit her website, Lauren Elise Crafted.   

Continue Reading

Curbly Original
Getting Creative with a New HP Touchscreen!

by Brittni Mehlhoff

Getting Creative with a New HP Touchscreen!

These days, it seems like the large majority of us spend a good chunk of time on the computer, and I am no exception. In fact, I probably spend more time on my computer than the average person, usually clocking in at least 12 to 14 hours a day, between work and recreation. 

So when HP asked me, recently, if I wanted to try an HP ENVY 23 TouchSmart AiO, I jumped at the chance. I was super excited to give the touchscreen a whirl, but also a little nervous, since this was my first time back on a PC in years.   

Continue Reading

The Best Furniture Paint You're Not Using

by DIY Maven

The Best Furniture Paint You're Not Using

A few weeks ago, I visited a local unpainted furniture store and was immediately drawn to their DIY stains, varnishes and paint. While examining the stock, one of the shop's finishers happened by and asked if I had any questions. I immediately went in to 'quiz the expert' mode. I felt so guilty at accosting the poor guy, I bought one of the paints

Continue Reading

Curbly Bookworm: Return of the STUPID SOCK Creatures

by DIY Maven

Curbly Bookworm: Return of the STUPID SOCK Creatures

When John Murphy wrote his first book Stupid Sock Creatures, little did he know he would start a sock creature revolution. People everywhere were so inspired by the eight creatures contained within, they began making sock creatures of their own. John then invited these loyal readers to become guest designers for his latest work, Return of the Stupid Sock Creatures (Lark Crafts, October 2012, 132 pages). 

The book is divided into two parts. The first breaks down the basic instructions for creating sock monsters. It includes such things as the contents of a creature sewing kit (sewing machines are NOT required), explanations about stuffing techniques and teeth and tongue construction, to name a few of the 14 tips included in the 31 pages. 

created at: 10/24/2012

 The second part is the meatiest and consists of 19 wild and wonderful creatures all with personalities and biographies that make the how-to book read almost like a storybook. For instance, one of my particular favorites (the pop-eyed guy on the far right pictured above) has a profile that reads like this: “Pie Thagorus-PT for short-is a chubby little fellow who likes to eat pies, You’ll know he’s spotted a tasty one when his eyes pop right out of his head. PT is lazy enough to require no legs, but he expects to be carried everywhere he goes.” John warns us, however, that if we don’t have a pie nearby, PT just might go for our cat. Run, kitty, run!

created at: 10/24/2012

 As far as the instructions to make Pie Thagorus and his other friends, they consist of colorful, easily interpreted diagrams, well-thought-out descriptions and quips that make your sock creatures come alive. From a one-sock creation for beginners (which was designed by a 12 year old), to a four-sock masterpiece for those with more experience, there is something for everyone. 

 You can find John Murphy’s Return of the Stupid Sock Creatures at Barnes & Noble and Amazon for about $11. For more information about John, please visit his website stupidcreatures.com

Continue Reading