Grim Reaper Halloween Prop

Grim Reaper Halloween PropReaper Looking Down




Here is a Grim Reaper Halloween Prop I made to put on my balcony. It has scared many a person as it stands 6 feet tall. At a distance it looks like someone is standing, looking down, ready to do evil. People don’t like things looking down at them. Probably a primal fear. I hear “I thought someone was standing there” often.

It is made from a costume I got from a shop. Similar to this one California Costume Mens Horror Robe (weapon not included)

You can do this with any full costume if you make a “skeleton”, also known as a figure armature, underneath. This one is made using 3/4″ PVC pipe and some 90 degree fittings, 1 Gallon milk jug for head, bubble wrap or paper to fill out shoulders, 2″x6″ wood base. Click on pictures to enlarge.

Reaper Costume Bag

Reaper Frame


Here is the cutting list for a 6 foot guy using schedule 40 3/4″ PVC Pipe 164″ total. So 2- 10′ sticks.

  • 2 legs 33.5″
  • 1 spine 20″  1 neck  2″
  • 2 upper arms 13″  2 lower arms 10.5″
  • 2 shoulders 8″   2 hips 5.5″

PVC Fittings needed: 1 Tee (at hips), 1 Cross (at neck), 6- 90 degree elbows

I dry fitted everything together and in the end, I only glued the hips when I had the proper angle to lean against the balcony rail. I want to be able to take it apart for storage. Glue the parts you don’t want to move, but be careful. If you glue all the parts, you may not be able to get the costume on. The base is just a 2×6 with 1″ holes drilled it. you may have to rock the drill when boring to oversize the hole a bit. My PVC was just over an inch wide. You will have to put a weight on the base. It will not stand on its own. I have it leaning against the rail for support. Depending on how you have your prop setup, you will have to make a suitable base. A larger piece of plywood with the 2×6 nailed to it, for example.

wood base reaperReaper head

For the head I used a gallon water/ milk jug sprayed black except where I masked it for eyes. The back it opened up so I can put a light in it to make the eyes glow. A couple of those LED tea lights would work. I wrapped tape around the PVC pipe neck to make it fit the head (jug spout) tightly.

reaper head backlight reaper head

I used bubble wrap- wrapped around the PVC shoulders so the costume fit better. You are going to have to customize it for the costume you use. Email me pics on what you come up with.

Washer Agitator Repair Whirlpool

Washer Agitator WhirlpoolWasher agitator repair for a Whirlpool washer. Most top load washers are similar. This is how I repaired mine. I noticed clothes were not getting properly cleaned and I heard a knocking when the machine was running. This was a top load Whirlpool washing machine. While running, I could see the top of the agitator was not rotating. When I grabbed it, I could easily turn it in either direction. The top section of the agitator is supposed to move in one direction pushing the clothes down to the lower agitator that moves back and forth. This causes the  clothes to get deep cleaned. If the top agitator does not work. the clothes just move back and forth. Researching, I found that there is a part that stops the top agitator from moving in both directions. They are called “agitator dogs”. They work just like a ratchet wrench.Here you can see the agitator after removing the softener dispenser and then the dust cover. You can see the dog assembly held on by the bolt.

Agitator dust cover Whirlpool

Agitator  Dog Assembly

I bought an agitator repair kit from for less than $5. The shipping was $7. They have good videos there on how to replace these parts. Better than I can do. View them first before ordering parts. You are going to need a socket wrench with an extension to remove the bolt. Notice how it engages the washer before removing all the way. I ran into a problem separating the lower from the upper  agitator. They would not come loose. Looking down the throat of the agitator, I could see two of four plastic tabs were worn over as they came through the dog assembly. This kept it from releasing. I lightly ground on it with a Dremel tool until it came loose. That was the hardest part and it shouldn’t normally happen. It seems I am just lucky that way. Here is a picture of the tabs that go through the dog assembly.

Lower agitator engagement tabs

The teeth of the dogs engage the sides of the agitator in one direction. They are made of nylon and will wear out. Here is a picture of the new and old parts. You can see the worn out teeth on the left. Click on picture to enlarge.

Agitator repair kit Whirlpool

After replacing the parts the washer works great! Only cost me $15!

Review Ryobi P882 Drill and Impact Driver Kit

Ryobi P882

This is a review of the Ryobi P882 Drill and Impact Driver Kit. I got it at Home Depot. It is a 18 Volt Lithium Ion setup. My previous cordless drill was a 12 volt nicad Hitachi which always seemed slow to me. There is a substantial increase in power with the new drill. I like the Lithium power-pack because the speed of the drill does not decrease as the power pack gets drained and they hold a charge a long time when stored. At first I did not like the color, but it is growing on me. It comes with a soft case, rapid charger and two battery packs. You can get larger battery packs, but I find the ones supplied last long enough for my use. The included charger rapidly recharges them in under an hour. Ryobi Lithium Drill P882




Ryobi P271Ryobi P271 top

The drill is a 2 speed range 0-440 rpm and 0-1600 rpm, 1/2″ chuck, 24 clutch settings. The chuck locks and has a long nose so it is easy to tighten and loosen. Has a level, storage for a driver bit, magnetic tray on the base to hold loose screws. I like the weight and how it fits my hand. It has enough power to drill large holes through oak.

Ryobi Impact Driver P234GImpact driver is variable speed, has locking chuck for  standard  1/4″ hex bits. It also comes with a 3/8 inch socket adapter for driving lag bolts, etc.. It acts like a regular variable speed drill until it meets resistance. Then it switches over to impact mode, giving it more torque. It really snugs fasteners down. Works great on lag bolts and fasteners.

This kit is a great addition to the tool collection of the  DIYer. I sold my 2 year old nicad drill when I got this one as it was such an improvement I didn’t want to be bothered with the old technology. Especially the nicads rapid draining when stored. Hope this review helps.

My youtube video of the un-boxing is here.

Air Conditioner Problems Before Calling a Repairman

You turn on the thermostat for your Central Air Conditioner. Instead of cool air, you get warm air coming from the vents. You go outside to see if the fan on the compressor is running. It is not. Before you call the repairman, there is something you can try, to fix the A/C yourself. DIY Air Conditioner repair. This happened to me recently. Of course it was a really hot day and I had nothing to loose.

First off, I am not an electrician or A/C technician. The circuits are high voltage and if you do something stupid like work on equipment with the power on , and the voltage goes through your heart, stopping it, you could die! Do not attempt if you have any doubts.Breaker Panel

You are going to check the fuses. Before that, check that the circuit breaker at the main panel is not tripped for the A/C. Reset it if it is. Central Air is usually the second largest breaker in the panel. In this case it is a 50 amp breaker in a 100 amp panel. Then try turning on the A/C at the thermostat. If it works, great you are done. If it keeps on tripping the breaker, call a repairman. If the breaker is fine, check the fuses next to the compressor. (Turn off the circuit breaker first!) Here is the fuse box next to mine. This setup is safe to work on, as the whole fuse-block pulls straight out. Yours may be different. Mark which side is up to make it easy to re-insert correctly.



Flipping it over you see the fuses in the block. This is a 220 Volt circuit so there are two. Fuses can go bad over time, because of heating and cooling. Like a light bulb. To test the fuses I am using volt/ohm meter. Any do-it yourself handy person should have one of these. This is a $5 one from Harbor Freight. They sell them at Walmart too. In this case I am using it to check continuity.

Testing fuseIMG_1508


Using the 200 ohm scale (the scale with the omega symbol) I clip the leads to each end of one fuse. Do not hold in place with your fingers, you will get a false reading! This fuse is reading 3.4 ohms resistance. So this fuse is OK. Current can flow through it. Checking the next one the meter reads a “1” all the way to the left. This means the fuse is blown. No current can flow through it. If this is the case for you. You have found the culprit. Replace the fuse with the same  type. Pry out the blown fuse out of the clip and take it  to the store and match it. In this case it is a slow blow fuse. They cost more than the regular ones, but that is what is needed.



After you insert the new one, put the block back into the box, close the lid, turn back on the breaker and see if the A/C works. If it does hooray! If not, or it works for awhile and blows the fuse again, or the fuses tested okay- call a repairman.

Another thing it can be is the contactor or relay inside the unit. I have had ants crawl in there and foul it up. But, that is more involved than I can get into on this blog. There may be a video on you tube if you want to tackle it.

How to Clean a Dryer Vent Easily

Rotary LintEater Kit RLE202


This is how I clean a dryer vent quickly and easily. When they designed this house, the dryer was a long way from the outside wall, so they put a 10 foot plastic pipe in the concrete foundation. It has been a headache from the start. Lint collects on the walls of the pipe and has been impossible to clean effectively. Even worse there are two 90 degree bends. The best I could do was scrape the sides with an 8 foot long stick and blow the lint out with an electric leaf blower. Happily I found a solution on Amazon that really works. A Gardus RLE202 LintEater Rotary Dryer Vent Cleaning System. Not a catchy name for sure, but I love it. Here is a link to it on Amazon. It is an affiliate link but costs you nothing. Gardus RLE202 LintEater 10-Piece Rotary Dryer Vent Cleaning System

I dreaded trying to clean the vent, but when it takes forever for my clothes to dry and you know they are wearing themselves out – something had to be done.



The LintEater comes with an 2 brushes, a cutter tip for rain gutter use, 4- 3′ flexible rods and 2 adaptors to fit to a standard 4″ dryer vent.  I used the adaptor to hook my shop vac to the dryer vent while brushing it out. A clean way to do it. No dust in my face. If you don’t have a shop vac, you could turn on the dryer to air dry and clean from the outside. A dryer doesn’t blow very hard though. You can see from the pictures the rods are very flexible and when screwed together reach 12 feet. You do need to attach the rods to a power drill to spin the brush. This gives it the great cleaning action. The instructions suggest you wrap some tape around the area where the rods are screwed together. This is to prevent them from unscrewing if you accidentally switch the drill into reverse.

IMG_1475IMG_1473Cleaning Dryer Vent


In the pictures above you can see the brush fed through the dryer vent plug, then it is inserted into the vent. This vent was cleaned several months ago so the buildup is not bad. Not like when I first did it!



I attached my shop vac to the vent and then fed the cleaner, attached to my drill,  into the vent. Since I vent wasn’t too dirty, I did all twelve feet at one time . Feed it in slowly, with a back and forth motion to scrub the vent. The first time I did it, I added one three foot section at a time. Making sure that each section of the vent was clean before adding on another rod. When the vent is caked with lint, it causes friction on the brush. The rods are flexible and want to whip. Adding one rod at a time reduces this.

The brush is short so can get around elbows. This is where it really shines for me. At the far end close to the dryer there are 2 elbows. This traps lint. When the cleaner hits that area, I can really hear the lint being sucked into the vacuum. You can see the collected lint in the picture above

After years of my dryer vent being half-way clogged, it is clean. This product makes it easy. Now I clean it whenever I feel the dryer is taking too long to dry clothes. This saves wear and tear on my clothes and energy. As you can tell I am real happy with this product.
Gardus RLE202 LintEater 10-Piece Rotary Dryer Vent Cleaning System



Review Campbell Hausfeld Air Hose Reel

CH Hose Reel

I purchased the Campbell Hausfeld PA500400AV  Retractable Air Hose Reel recently, and am quite pleased with it. This air hose reel review is what I have experienced. It comes with 50 feet of 3/8″ air hose on an enclosed reel. The hose feeds out and retracts smoothly. That is important to me. I have been using a regular hose for years and cursed it every time. Unless you twisted it to get the curl out, it would not lie flat. It was a hassle every time. This hose is a breeze to use. I can pull it out to my driveway. Hold on to the hose when it retracts though!

After using it for some time just sitting by the compressor, I finally mounted it on the wall. It does have a handle on top for portability, but it is better mounted to a wall. It does come with several lag bolts. Remove the bracket from the reel and bolt it down then reattach the reel.

IMG_1468It can swivel side to side. Sticks out from the wall 20″, 15″ tall and 8″ thick. I read an online review that they were concerned it does not have hose guides on the sides, just on the bottom. I don’t think this is a problem as it pivots in the direction being pulled.

IMG_1472I was concerned that it would not be able to provide the volume of air necessary for the impact wrench I use to remove lug nuts on my car. It had to be 3/8″, but I could not find the hose diameter anywhere. Even on the Campbell Hausfeld website.  From the pictures it looked smaller and it was not available in a “brick and mortar” store to look at. So I took a chance and it turned out to be 3/8″. Runs my air tools fine.  You can get it at Amazon  through  this link Air Hose Reel .

After mounting it to the wall I attached it to my compressor through a regulator/moisture filter. In the past I have had problems with the cheap regulators that attach directly to the compressor, so I got a better one, but it didn’t come with a bracket. I made a little holder for it and some accessories with 2 pieces of 1/2″ plywood. Coated it in polyurethane. The regulator just sets in it and seems stable since there is no stress on it.

So after getting everything mounted I am quite happy with my setup and no more cursing. At least at the hose.

air accessories


air accessories 2

Building Funny Bird House

Miesel Creature Birdhouse

Miesel Creature Birdhouse

I bought these plans from Meisel and thought I would review building this funny birdhouse. My bird house is called “City Beatnik” and there are two different plans included for $15. They have many “old man” type plans. Even more animals. These are full size drawings.  Here is a book by the same designer on Amazon, but they are not full size drawings except for the smaller parts.

IMG_1401Plans Funny Face BirdhouseIMG_1403

I found the full size plans useful and they include a cutting guide to get the most from your wood. It can be cut from a 1″x 10″x 8′ piece of pine or cedar. I used rough-cut reclaimed lumber, which caused me a bunch of headaches, because it was cupped. I did like the rough surface.

Let me first say  I use power tools that I have acquired over the years. I understand that many do not have the room or money for these. I think this birdhouse can be built using a jigsaw. With it use a straight edge and a protractor to set the angle of the blade for the bevel cuts. Sandpaper, glue, nails and a way to bore the 1 1/4″ hole and you are set. It would great to build with a kid . I still remember building a birdhouse with my grandfather and that was long ago.

I started by cutting all my pieces to the correct length. Using a crosscut sled I made for my table saw made this easier. Remember to cut to the waste side. Then cut to width. Theses are your blanks to cut the required angles and bevels on. I used my miter gauge to cut the angles for the end pieces. I actually cut the first end, then traced it on the second blank, cut it on the band saw to save time. Since I made mine out of reclaimed lumber and had to glue two pieces together to get the width, I needed to keep the seam centered so it looked right. This made it more difficult.

IMG_1407Cutting Birdhouse RoofIMG_1408


To cut the bevels on the sides, I set the bevel on my saw and used the sliding mitre gauge with an extended wood fence to get the piece close to the gauge while keeping my hand far away. Since the piece was already the correct length, I gradually cut the bevel with repeated passes until the bevel was completed.

I found it easiest to work directly off the main drawing. I got a bit confused how they     measured the angles, so I just used a protractor to measure them.IMG_1433

Assemble the sides and ends. I used 18 gauge nails and glue. Titebond II is weather resistant. As you can see my sides are cupped. Custom fit the bottom. If you are going to actually use it for birds to live in, then you need to be able to remove the bottom to clean out the old nests. I put a screw in each side to hold it in place. In the picture, the bottom is square, the sides are not. Drill the hole next.



Next comes the part that makes this more than just an ordinary birdhouse–adding the face. I had read about using Glad Press’n Seal to transfer patterns to wood and gave it a try. It worked great! Posted about it here. Using a scroll saw, I cut out the pieces, sanding them smooth on a 1 inch belt sander.

Transferring image with PressnSealIMG_1448IMG_1449

After I had all the parts cut, I rounded the edges slightly. I used a 1/4″ router bit to round over the nose. Looking back, I wish I had rounded it over more. A file and sandpaper can get the same results. Now it is time to attach the face. I had an uneven surface to attach the pieces to. I glued the nostrils and the bottom of the eyes to the nose first. I actually drilled two holes and used screws and glue to attach the nose. I worked from inside the house using a stubby screwdriver. If you have a smooth surface, the screws probably are not necessary. Attach the rest of the parts as in the plans. I didn’t use the ears, because I did not like them.

IMG_1453Attaching face to bird house

After the glue has set, attach the roof. I found it easier to join the two roof pieces before putting them on the house. Lastly, attach the two acrylic eyeballs. These you have to buy from Meisel when you buy the plans.

IMG_1447Funny Face Birdhouse

In the end I am pleased with the results. The plans include a second birdhouse. I will make that one too, using new wood, saving me a lot of headaches.

Hope this has been helpful. Please post comments below. Especially if you have built a character birdhouse.