Project Updates: How’s THAT Working Out?

 Are we doing this again?

– Marge Simpson

When I search for how to do a project, I find many tutorials that look great, but don’t say how the end product held up over time. “Why don’t they just say what happened!?” I fume. But then I had a pot-kettle-black moment and realized I am just as guilty of this omission as the next solipsistic self-publishing purveyor of random projects. Time to fix that! Here are the epilogues on three oft-visited D’oh! tutorials.

1. Activated Charcoal Air Freshener

Original Post: Carbon by Any Other Name Would Smell as Neutral

bags done

Using cheap activated charcoal available from pet supply stores (for use in aquariums) and some scrap fabric, I stitched up some DIY carbon air fresheners. Commercial versions sell for around $20, but this little project costs about a tenth of that per bag. Would be good for gifts, come to think of it.

Epilogue: These work! They are easy and fun to make, and as mentioned, far cheaper than store-bought. Fortunately, I have yet to have one break and dump activated charcoal hither and yon.

One word of warning, though. I had not looked behind the one hanging on the basement doorknob since putting it there. This is a fairly tightly woven fabric, but…

Well, crap.

Well, crap.

The charcoal dust worked itself through the fabric and left a mark on the door. It doesn’t shed dust elsewhere, but it might leave a mark on clothing hung in contact with the bag. This smear came off with an eraser sponge, but it might be harder to get out of clothing.

I would still recommend this project as long as the bag is not going to touch other fabrics. If you are going to hang a bag against a door or wall, line that side with a thicker piece of fabric, such as denim or thick dropcloth canvas (but just that side, or the air won’t be able to filter through the charcoal). Alternatively, just buy some eraser sponges.

2. Fireplace Crackler

Original Post: DIY Fireplace Sound System

I used some battery-powered speakers and a cheapie MP3 player to add a crackling sound to our fake fireplace. Because our fireplace insert is electric, I set the whole assemblage inside the fire screen.


Epilogue: This solution is fun and really adds to the old ambiance around Chez D’oh — or at least it is when the MP3 player is where it’s supposed to be. I’m prone to snagging the MP3 player out of the fireplace and failing to return it promptly, or at all. At fire time, it’s out in the car or at the office.

Given this foible, I prefer the solution suggested by a commenter (Rev. D. Scheffey) on the original post. The commenter recommended using an old smartphone instead of an MP3 player. Simply connect to your wifi and use the phone to play fire noises. If you do that, then you can use extended YouTube videos for your fire sounds. Here are some good links:

I’m far less likely to run off with an old phone, so that just might work. For now, though, we’re still using our “old” smartphones, so I’ll just have to bring the MP3 player home.

Yay for options!

3. Mail Catcher

Original Post: A Tisket, A Tasket, A Hack Involving A Basket

We took an Ikea magazine holder, a box cutter, and some twine and made a mail catcher for our front door mail slot.


Epilogue: Color me surprised, but this thing is hanging in there! I thought it very possible that we might have trouble where the back attached to the sides, especially if something heavy fell in the basket. But anything really heavy is too big for the mail slot anyway, so it’s only magazines and letters that really make it in.

The important thing to remember if you cut up a basket is that you need to re-bind it together around something solid. The twine that is looped around the front and sides and connects the back goes around the metal posts at the corners. If it only went through the wicker, it would pull through in no time. Over-engineer that twine binding, is my point.

So far, so good on these! I’m particularly pleased by the durability of the mail basket, especially given the costliness of purpose-made mail catchers. It’s also nice to have an alternative idea for the fireplace sound system, and I’m glad charcoal dust readily comes off of glossy paint. Little victories.

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