September 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

How to replace a water shut off valve


Do you need to replace a water shut off valve? In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley shows how to fix a shut off valve under a sink.

Other plumbing tips.

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Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to How to make a rustic table top

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Do you have a crusty, frozen, broken shut-off valve that needs to be replaced?

Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to do just that.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

Today we're going to remove this old shut-off valve that doesn't work anymore and replace it a bright, shiny new one.

To do this should required just a few minimal tools.

First off, I've turned off the water and drained all the taps so there should be minimal water in the system.

However, there will still be a little residual water that will drain out when we cut into the pipe.

So, I have got a pile of towels to soak up any water that does come out.

We have a couple wrenches we will need.

This is a 15/16th inch open end wrench and this is a 5/8th inch open end wrench.

And we have a tubing cutter that we will use to remove the old one.

And we have our new valve.

Now these valves have compression fittings on them so they just slide on and then you tighten down the nut.

However, once a pipe has had a compression fitting on it, you don't want to put a compression fitting back on the pipe in that same location.

So on the old pipe, we are going to just cut it off since even if we did try to remove it and take off the compression fitting...

First of all it is going to be really difficult and second of all, even it we got it off, we would not be able to use that section of pipe.

So we are just going to cut it off.

It does have plastic lines going into it, so we will remove those plastic lines because those can be reused.

If you have plastic or braided lines going into the output side of the shut off valves, then those can be taken off and reused.

But if you have got hard, solid lines going in there, then again, those need to be cut off as well.

For this particular project, I will be removing the two plastic lines and then cutting off the valve from the main input line.

Put down a towel before opening up the lines to catch any water that might still be in them.

Then a 5/8" wrench loosens the connections until they can be removed by hand.

A small tubing cutter makes quick work of removing the old valve assembly.

Let the towel wick up enough water from the pipe that it won't make a mess when putting the new valve assembly on.

A cleaning brush makes sure we have a good connection to help prevent any leaks at the joint.

Put on the compression nut and then the compression ring.

Fit the valve assembly and make sure it's oriented the way that works best for your environment.

Thread the compression nut onto the valve and tighten it down.

It should be good and tight but you don't need to strong arm it.

Make sure the valves are closed and turn on the main water.

OK. That was a bit exciting.

I made sure before I turned the water on to have the valves all turned off because I have not hooked up the inputs on this yet. Or the outputs.

And I turned on the water because I wanted to make sure that this main input here was tight and did not have any leaks on it.

What I failed to do was turn off the faucet up above and it was turned on in the middle position.

So when I turned the water on, the cold water side got pressurized, went through the faucet, out the hot water side and came out through the unconnected connection.

So, lesson learned: remember, before you turn the water on, to turn off the faucet here if everything is not tightened up and buttoned up down below.

But the good news is we do not have any leaks down here.

And a good way to test that is to use a piece of tissue paper.

Tissue paper soaks up water really easily and just the tiniest drop will cause it to swell up and also change color.

So it is real obvious if there is a tiny leak, even if you can not see it or feel it, it shows up on the tissue paper real well.

And if I run this around here and get it up in the crack of that seal and run it around the top, it's completely, perfectly dry.

There is no change in it whatsoever.

So that tells me that this first connection has a good seal on it.

So let us continue with the last two connections.

OK. A lot of times plastic line on the end here has triangular shaped end on it that is designed to kind of go inside the pipe and provide a good seal on it.

This one does not though.

This one is just straight pipe and then has a compression fitting on it.

You should not really reuse compression fittings once they've been used once.

So I am going to cut this off and then use the new fitting that came with this to connect this up.

And in this case, for the other end, we have braided line, and that has a rubber seal on it, so it can just thread right back on.

And on this rubber stuff, you do not need to really torque it down.

You just need to get it snug.

And again the tissue paper test.

And everything is nice and dry.

And now we have everything connected down below and the valves turned on and we can see we have water on the cold side and water on the hot side, so everything seems to be good.

I didn't see any leaks with the tissue paper.

I like to leave it sit for a couple hours and then test again with the tissue paper because sometimes you have a little bit of seepage that you want to double check a couple hours later just to make sure that there is no leakage.

But I do not think there is going to be a problem with this.

It is rare that I have problems with this side of the plumbing.

Usually when I have leakage problems it is on drain sides, with p-traps, not on pressure sides, interestingly enough.

I am not sure why that is, but that has been my experience.

I believe everyone has a God-given creative spark and this involves making things with a mechanical or technical bent, and sometimes repairing them.

If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to check out the rest of the channel and see if this is something you are interested in, and if it is, go ahead and subscribe.

Click the bell notification icon and YouTube will let you know next time I have a video uploaded.

Until then, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

How to make a rustic table top


Have some reclaimed wood? Need a rustic table top? In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley shows a simple way to make a DIY rustic table top using reclaimed wood. A nice thing about doing a rustic table top build is you don’t have to be terribly precise, which allows you to move quickly. The reclaimed wood table top made in this video was done in a couple hours. It’s primary purpose is for product photography, so it doesn’t need legs or finish. If you wanted to use this in a living space, you’d want to spend a bit more time on it to finish the edges, put a sealer on it and craft some legs.

Subscribe for more DIY videos.

Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to How to make a rustic table top

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Today at the House of Hacks we're going to make a rustic table top that can be used for a variety of purposes.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

A couple months ago, I helped by buddy Rich install a new backdrop wall in the studio that used some reclaimed wood.

You may have seen this in a couple of the videos last month.

Well, he wanted to create a table top to do product shoots with using some of this old reclaimed wood so it kind of matched the wood backdrop.

So today we're going to take some of that left over wood and combine it with some wood I scavanged from a built-in cabinet that was in the studio space before we tore it apart and combine that together to make this new table top.

In our case we want the table top to be portable so we're not going to put any legs or anything on it and just set it on available surfaces when we need to set it up.

But if you want to do something like this, you could use it as a end table or a coffee table or something of that nature.

Let's get started.
I first vacuumed all the loose dirt, sawdust and miscellaneous things off the fence wood.

Then I sorted the boards into an order that looked nice.

Next I glued and nailed each board onto the plywood substrate.

I trimmed the uneven edges off with a circular saw.

And gave it a final vacuuming to get all the sawdust off.

So this is what the table looks like setup in the studio.

And here's a test product shot using it.

If you're going to use this idea in a living space, you'd probably want to finish it off with some sort of Verathane or something just to seal it in.

Keep the splinters out of your hands. That sort of thing.

And you probably also want to put a edge banding around it to just trim it off and finish it.

For the purposes of this project, we don't need to do any of that.

The way it is is plenty sufficient because it'll never be in an image and you won't see it.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs using ballast bypass (Part 2)


Want to see how to convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs while bypassing the ballast? In a previous video, Harley showed a very easy but expensive way to convert fluorescent tubes to LED tubes. In this video, Harley shows a more involved, but typically less expensive, way to convert a fluorescent fixture to use LEDs involving a ballast bypass.

Ballast bypass, also called direct wired, involves removing the ballast and using LED tubes that run off of line voltage rather than the high-voltage from the ballast. Typically these bulbs are less expensive because they don’t have to deal with the higher voltage used by fluorescent tubes. This video gives instructions for how to wire the fixture to use these bulbs and provides a wiring diagram.

Convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs with the ballast (Part 1)

Subscribe for more DIY videos.

Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to How to convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs using ballast bypass (Part 2)

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at
Incidental: "Acid Trumpet" by Kevin MacLeod at


Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to go from this to this.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

In a previous video, I explained how to convert 8' long fluorescent fixtures from fluorescent tubes to LED lights in a very quick and easy way.

However, this way was pretty expensive. It involved just getting some ready-made 8' LED lights and those things are really pricey. For some reason, the 8' LED tube replacements are a whole lot more expensive than 2 4' LED replacement tubes. The 8' tube replacement are $60 each whereas I picked up a 4 pack of 4' ones for $24. I have no idea why. And they've been this way for quite a while. I picked up two pair last year I think it was, and they were $60 and I just picked up two pair yesterday and they're still $60. Same price. It hasn't moved at all. And it's pretty much the same price whether you buy it online or retail like I did. There's usually a few dollars off buying online but of course you have shipping and handling costs added to it so it ends up being a wash.

It's a real quick way to do it because you don't need to replace ballast, you don't need to rewire anything, you just plug them in in replacement of the existing bulbs. So, it's really quick. It's more expensive getting the bulbs that are designed for ballast.

However, in the 4' market you can buy tubes that work either with ballast or without ballast. And I have a fixture that needs some work on it. The ballast is making noise and the tubes are flickering and so I wanted to replace them with LEDs.

But because the ballast is making noise, I want to do a ballast bypass and remove the ballast altogether. And so I'm going to be demonstrating that in today's video. It is a little bit more work because you have to take the ballast out and rewire things a little bit, but it's not a whole lot more work and you do remove one more component that could possibly fail on you. So let's get started.

First remove the old bulbs.
It'd probably be a good idea to turn off the power before doing this.
Yeah, do as I say, not as I do.

Now take the fixture down. This will vary depending on how it's installed.
In my case, it's just sitting between the joists on some 2x4s.

Next disconnect the mains power.
Be sure to have the power turned off.
You don't want to be working with live power at this point.

On the bench, the fixture needs to be opened up.
This will vary depending on the type of lamp you have.
In my case, it's just a matter of removing two nuts.

And then the case just opens up.

Here we see where the sockets are connected to the ballast.
Since we're removing the ballast, all these connectors get taken apart.
We need to do this on both sides of the fixture.

And we need to remove the mains wire from the ballast input.

Once all the electrial connections are separated, we can physically remove the ballast.
In this case, there are two screws with nuts on them.
Other designs may have a single sheet metal screw on one side and a slot on the other.

Now we need a short piece of wire to run from the center where the mains are connected to one end of the fixture.
I'm using some scrap 14/2 TPS cable I had in the parts bin.
If you have to buy some, 3 feet should be plenty.

Now I prepare all the ends by stripping off about 3/4" of insulation from each wire and twisting the strands so they don't fray as easily.

I also strip the insulation from the 14/2 cable.

Now comes the most technical part of this project.
Here we see each socket has two wires coming out of it.
On one end of the fixture, we want to connect one wire from each socket to the white wire and the other one to the black wire.

It's probably easiest to see this in a pictoral diagram.
Hit pause on the video if you need to study this.

Because I have four sockets on this fixture, I used some pigtails to keep from having a huge number of wires all in one wire nut.
When it's all put together, it looks like this.

The sockets on the other end of the fixture don't need any connection.
I just put wire nuts over the ends of the wires to keep them from potentially shorting anything out.
And then zip tied them together to keep them neat and tidy.

Finally I stripped the insulation back from the other end of the 14/2 cable.

We can see here, I'm not using the copper ground from the new cable, but the existing ground that goes to the fixture.

And now it's a matter of reassembling the fixture.

And reconnecting the mains.
Again, make sure the power is off before doing this!

Reinstall the fixture.
In my case it's just a matter of dropping it back into place between the joists.

Finally, install the bulbs.
These particular bulbs have only one end that connects to the sockets with power, so if they don't work the first time, turn the bulbs around end for end.

Turn on the power and enjoy your new lights!

So give me a thumbs up if you found that helpful. I really appreciate it.

And I really thank you for joining me on this continuing creative journey that we're on.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!