Posts in Projects
DIY Kegerator
 
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We’re creeping into Fall but I think ice cold beers are good any time of year so I thought I’d share this project while I had a chance!

My family & our close family friends were chatting about how much beer we needed for a cottage weekend and trying to figure out how we were going to keep it all cold without taking up all the fridge space we needed for 10 peoples worth of food.

A small at-home kegerator seemed to solve a lot of our problems at once and also seemed like a fun weekend project. Our rough step-by-step is below!

Materials

  • Kegerator kit - this includes the valves and hoses you need to connect the CO2 tank and keg to the regulator and the regulator to the tap. You can buy these online but we found ours from someone on Kijiji who was going to build a kegerator and hadn’t gotten around to it

  • Tower/tap and handle - this we did purchase online - this will mount on the top of your fridge and control the flow of beer

  • Mini-fridge - used is great for this, just make sure there’s enough room inside for the keg size you want along with the CO2 tank!

  • Top - we took an extra step and added a wood top to ours, cut from a garage sale coffee table

  • Drip tray - after a few beers it’s likely you overfill a glass or two with foam. Save yourself some cleanup by buying a drip-tray online and setting it into your top, you can just lift it out to empty.

  • CO2 tank - you can google the best place to buy or fill these in your area, you just need a small one!

Directions

 
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1. We started by cleaning up the fridge and removing the door. The freezer portion of this fridge was a metal shelf but there was a coolant line attached so we couldn’t just cut it out. Instead we bent it down so it would be out of the way. Shelves protruding from the door didn’t give us enough clearance for the keg inside so we sawed these off.

Drill through the top layer first being careful to stop as soon as you are through.

Drill through the top layer first being careful to stop as soon as you are through.

Gently pick away at the insulation to ensure you are clear of coolant lines.

Gently pick away at the insulation to ensure you are clear of coolant lines.

Finally, drill the rest of the way through and clean up,

Finally, drill the rest of the way through and clean up,

2. Next we drilled a hole through the top of the fridge to run the hose to our tap handle. It’s really important that you figure out where the coolant lines run on your fridge and avoid cutting one when you drill - one leak and your fridge is toast. I’d recommend cutting through the top layer and then digging around gently through the insulation to make sure you’re clear before drilling the rest of the way through.

 
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3. Our next step was measuring and cutting the wood top to fit and carving out a space for the door hinge.

 
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4. We cut a hole for our tower to attach to and marked out where we wanted the drip tray to sit before cutting that out too. We added a spray sealant to finish the wood and protect it from any spills.

 
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5. Next we used construction adhesive to attach our precut and sealed wood to the top of the fridge.

 
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6. The tower was mounted to the wood top with screws and attached to the hose inside the fridge.

 
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7. I thought it would be fun to add a decal to the front of the fridge so I threw one together with one of our family’s favourite sayings and cut it out with my Cricut. My dad utilized some of his car decalling skills to apply it.

Regular Use

 
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You can typically buy kegs from the Beer Store in several sizes, our kegerator holds a 20L keg. Many craft breweries will also fill kegs for you, contact your local brewery and ask! When you’re ready to use your kegerator you’ll need to make sure your CO2 tank and keg are hooked up to the regulator and adjust a little to ensure the right carbonation. This can take a couple test pours while you get used to it.

Once hooked up you should be able to keep your keg for several months - assuming it lasts that long. Since we share our kegerator between 4 households we take turns using it for parties or events and then whoever had it last usually stores it in their basement or on a deck until someone needs it again.

 

Let me know if you have questions or want details on anything. There are lots of tutorials for these online but I really wanted to convey how simple this was. We spent about 3 hours and only a few hundred dollars putting this together and it’s gotten so much use already! It’s not terribly heavy when you remove the keg and CO2 tank and it fits in the back of most SUVs or hatchbacks with the seats folded down so it’s been feasible to move it between houses every few weeks as needed and even to bring it up to our rented cottage in the back of my dad’s pickup truck.

From a cost standpoint it is often only a little bit cheaper to buy kegs vs. cans or bottles but from a practicality standpoint it’s really nice that we don’t have to constantly keep tabs on empties, restock as often, or rotate beers in and out of the fridge. Calling this one a win!

DIY Dog Sleeping Bag
 
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With the influence of some of my incredible friends, I’ve found a real love for canoe camping over the past few years. Ever since I got my dog (a friendly, 90-pound monster named Abby) I’ve wanted to take her with me. Abby’s a big dog and she spends camping trips rolling in mud and diving repeatedly into the water. I love this dog but she doesn’t even sleep in my bed at home, so I’d really like to avoid wet dog in my tent. She’s also more comfortable with freedom to roam and her own safe place to come back to.

I searched online for dog sleeping bags and beds for camping but I couldn’t really find what I was looking for. There were lots of cots or large cushy beds that didn’t make sense to load into a pack and portage. There were lots of beautifully designed bags but most were sized only for small and medium dogs. I also couldn’t decide what made the most sense for us - zipping her in felt like it would make her claustrophobic, and she takes up very different amounts of space depending on how she decides to sleep. Ultimately I decided that if I couldn’t find what I needed I should take a shot at making my own. After this project though I did find a good option on the market, see the end of this post for details!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not very experienced with a sewing machine so for this project I watched a lot of tutorials and even learned more about my own (ancient) machine. I planned out roughly what I wanted and then ordered my materials from Ripstop by the Roll (not sponsored I was just really impressed with their website for both information and products).

Materials

  • 1.9 oz Ripstop Nylon for the majority of the bag (I ordered 3 yards of Cadmium Yellow to match my tent)

  • 1.9 oz PU coated Ripstop Nylon for the more durable bottom of the bag (I ordered a yard of Charcoal Gray)

  • Climashield Apex 3.6 oz/sp yd for the filling (I ordered 2 yards and wound up doubling it up)

  • 4 piece snaps to fasten your bag together (I used 12 for 3 sides of my bag)

  • A snap fastening tool

  • Thread in the colours of your fabric

Directions

Sketching out my pattern onto the fabric.

Sketching out my pattern onto the fabric.

If you don’t have a cutting table but do have a Cricut or Silhouette, save your old cutting mats once they lose their stickiness! They’re great to lay on the floor and cut on when you need space to work with.

If you don’t have a cutting table but do have a Cricut or Silhouette, save your old cutting mats once they lose their stickiness! They’re great to lay on the floor and cut on when you need space to work with.

  1. Make a pattern
    I started by taking some measurements of my dog sleeping to see what size I’d need the finished product to be (yes, she thought I was nuts). I sketched out the rough size and shape I wanted on a piece of kraft paper and added a quarter inch seam allowance on all sides for when I stitched it together. When your pattern is complete, cut it out and try to convince your dog to lay down on it to double check.

  2. Mark and cut your fabric
    Using your pattern, trace onto each piece of your fabric and cut it out. I used a rotary cutter on a cutting mat because my fabric didn’t cut nicely with scissors. For my bed I cut 3 pieces of the pattern out of the yellow fabric and one out of the gray.

  3. Sew the top and bottom of your bag
    Next I pinned two pieces of fabric together (in my case two yellow, and later one yellow and one gray), right sides together and sewed all the way around leaving about a 12-inch opening. I did this with each pair of fabric pieces, using clips instead of pins on the waterpoof nylon so as not to damage the coating.

  4. Cut the filling
    Turn the top and bottom of your bag inside out and mark out the size your synthetic sleeping bag filling will need to be. You can generally err on the larger side as this will make your bag fluffier and the synthetic filling packs down quite well. Carefully cut out your filling and if doubling up layers like I did add a couple stitches to secure them together.

  5. Fill your bag
    Carefully stuff the filling into each bag through the small opening and smooth it out to the edges. Use a blind ladder stitch by hand to close off the bag once the filling is in.

  6. Attach the top and bottom
    Using another ladder stitch, attach the top and bottom of your bag alone one side. Then use your snap tool to install snaps at equal intervals around the remaining perimeter of the bag.

 
I can choose which snaps and how many to snap based on how she lays down and how cold it is. Here I left a tail hole open for her!

I can choose which snaps and how many to snap based on how she lays down and how cold it is. Here I left a tail hole open for her!

Most of the time I leave the top fully snapped onto the bottom all the way around and Abby uses the bag as a bed when we’re outside. I love the comfort of knowing that in colder temperatures she’d curl up on the bag and I could even open it and drape part of it over her if needed. Based on human ratings her bag should be good as low as -7°C, which for a dog should be good even colder! Even when she’s not closed up inside it, the bag still gives her a lot of insulation from the ground which is arguably the most important thing!

Before we went on our most recent trip I left the bag out in my living room for a few weeks and encouraged her to sit or nap on it. She got comfortable being on it and when it started raining on our most recent trip she willingly came into the vestibule where I had placed her bag and let me zip the rain fly closed around her. She slept like a baby, snoring all night in the thunderstorm (which I know because she leaned on me through the mesh tent wall the whole time).

Warm enough that she didn’t need to get inside but stormy enough for her to seek out a soft place to sleep out of the rain.

Warm enough that she didn’t need to get inside but stormy enough for her to seek out a soft place to sleep out of the rain.

This helps Abby stay warm and comfortable on our trips, but more than that it gives me peace of mind. I love bringing my best friend into the backcountry with me and it makes the whole trip more enjoyable when I know she’s comfortable and safe when I’m tucked in my own sleeping bag!

Let me know if you have questions about this project or taking dogs camping, I’d love to chat more about her other gear and how I tweaked my first aid kit to make sure I was prepared for her (and our other dog friends) as well as my human camping buddies!

Looking for a dog sleeping bag but not willing or able to DIY it? Whyld River makes a very similar bag that looks absolutely gorgeous and requires no cutting or sewing on your part! Not only that, but for every 10 bags she sells, the owner Rachel makes a donation to Portland Animal Welfare Team so it’s a win-win!

Happy camping season!

Mel

She’s sad because she’s having to spend part of her 15 minutes total on a tie-out. She’s also much less impressed by how well her bag matches my tent.

She’s sad because she’s having to spend part of her 15 minutes total on a tie-out. She’s also much less impressed by how well her bag matches my tent.

Note: I know that large dogs with thick fur and double coats like this aren’t as susceptible to the cold as smaller dogs, or even as people, but at the end of the day Abby lives a really comfortable life, sleeping on a soft bed in my climate-controlled apartment. I don’t want to suddenly expose her to torrential rain or sub-zero temperatures if the weather takes a turn while we’re out in the backcountry. For our early spring trip this year I knew I’d need to be prepared with an option for her that didn’t involve my sleeping bag if the weather got unexpectedly bad. In the end she didn’t need to be inside the bag, even on the night the temperature dropped to -1°C, but the insulation from the ground helped her for the whole trip and I was relieved to know the option was there if it got any colder.

 
DIY Coffee Table: West Elm Knock-off

Fun fact. When you start a blog after years and years of projects you have lots of backlog to get through. I don't have much in the way of progress photos for this project, heck I barely have good finished photos. But I thought this little table was worth talking about.

I made that!

I made that!

A couple years ago I was living in the cutest little apartment. It was heated by a gas stove that mimicked the look of a wood-burning one, mounted on an exposed brick wall, in an old building with tons of character. It was also TINY. And it only had one, equally tiny, usable closet. 

I have a lot of hobbies that involve tools and equipment (crafts, baking, brewing beer, building things, rock climbing) so I have a LOT of stuff. I needed creative places to store things and I needed them EVERYWHERE. I also didn't have room for a desk and desperately needed one. Then I saw this:

Industrial Coffee Table by West Elm

Industrial Coffee Table by West Elm

It's beautiful. It's functional. It could store all my linens and blankets and I could use it for everything from working on my laptop to guiltily eating dinner in front of the TV. Unfortunately it was also crazy out of my price range at over $800 USD. Plus shipping to Canada. 

Listen, everything West Elm makes is gorgeous. This coffee table is gorgeous. If you can afford it, get it. But I looked at that coffee table that I needed and could never afford and I had only one thought, "it doesn't look THAT complicated. I could probably make that."

I am not a woodworker. I had not built furniture before in my life. The most experience I had besides assembling IKEA furniture was the Home Depot for kids classes I used to do when I was 8 where we'd build a birdhouse. But I'm a pretty capable person and you know what? You're allowed to just do whatever you want! What's the worst that can happen?!

So I drafted plans for a basic box made of cheap pine that I could stain and I scoured the internet for the type of hardware I would need to lift the top without hinging it so that anything sitting on it would stay sitting on it. I found a few local options for over $100 but I eventually settled on hardware I found on Ali Express for less than $30 including shipping. (They're no longer available but this is what the listing looked like.)

When the hinges came in I built a box out of pine and installed the hinges. I wound up having to have the whole top lift because of the exact size of my hinges relative to the small size of the table I wanted to build, but you could be more true to the inspiration table if you found smaller hinges (just make sure they'll support the weight of the table-top + what's on it) or made your table larger (same rules apply). 

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I wound up using blocking inside to hold the box together without any screws being visible with the outside. You could avoid this and maximize your interior space more if you didn't mind screws showing, if you filled them with stainable filler, or if you used a kreg jig when assembling (I don't have one yet!). Honestly though, this was really simple and worked super well for me.

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Once that was done I sanded everything perfectly smooth before staining and sealing the table! I also determined the height I wanted the finished table and ordered some hairpin legs accordingly. Had I been less picky or had more time I might have built some legs myself or scoured flea markets for a good deal but I ended up spending about $150 on a beautiful set of legs from Hairpin Legs Canada and I couldn't be happier with them.

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When the legs came in the install was super quick and easy, even in my tiny apartment! Note the dirt devil acting as a shop vac.

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And the table turned out fantastic, if I do say so myself!

Like my apartment? Check out the rest of my old place on  Apartment Therapy's Small Cool 2016 .

Like my apartment? Check out the rest of my old place on Apartment Therapy's Small Cool 2016.

It's now been two years since this project, I've moved, and I still couldn't be more thrilled with it. The table stores cozy blankets which always have an awesome woody smell when I pull them out to use. I can eat or work off of the top, and I just get so many compliments on it! Also, since I built it myself, it's the perfect size and proportions for the couch. 

Best part? My landlord was so impressed I'd made it that he trusted me enough to re-do my floors! But that's a future post!

Mel