DIY – Replacing a Toilet Fill Valve

So I won’t be accused of being one-dimensional, I’m including here some tips on replacing a toilet fill valve.

This was one of my “honey-do” items I completed today, which was a day off from work.

The valve on the toilet in my sons’ bathroom had pretty much crapped out (ba-dum-dum), and was spitting and spurting from an invisible crack. I knew the replacement valve I wanted, which I had used a couple of years ago on another toilet in my home. Crossing my fingers that it was still available, I headed out to my favorite home improvement center and was lucky enough to find it. Check it out at It retails for about $8.50.

I like this valve for several reasons: it’s quick and relatively easy to install, it’s very quiet, and it refills the tank quickly.

Although it’s easy to install, you still need a bit of patience. If you have everything I list below when you start, you should be able to complete this in less than 30 minutes.

Gather up these things:

  • jaw type pliers (Channellock)
  • shallow, wide mouth bowl
  • a couple of old hand towels or several old rags
  • small plastic measuring cup with handle, or old plastic drinking cup, or an old turkey baster that you will not longer use to baste a turkey
  • garbage bag

Be sure to follow the directions in the packaging, but here are the basics:

  • Place the bowl under the water valve at the wall.
  • Turn off the water. Remember, righty tighty (off), lefty loosy (on). Be sure to turn it ALL THE WAY off.
  • Flush the toilet and hold down the handle until as much water was as possible empties out.
  • Use a plastic measuring cup, plastic drinking cup, or turkey baster to empty out the remaining water. Use an old towel or old rags to mop up water that may be left and leave the towel or rag (after it’s been rung out) in the tank a few inches away from the fill valve.
  • Loosen the nut connecting the water line to the bottom of the old fill valve. Make sure the water line stays above or in the bowl.
  • Use the pliers (carefully and with minimum force) to loosen the mounting nut (underneath the toilet) where the old fill valve is connected to the toilet.
  • Remove the old fill valve and ballcock and place them in the garbage bag.
  • Follow the remaining directions for installing the new fill valve – they are very specific to this model. I highly recommend you line up the water lines on the tank and the fill valve just as the manufacturer recommends. Also, only hand tighten the mounting nut underneath.
  • Reconnect the water line (tighten the coupling nut using the pliers, but do not over tighten).
  • Wipe any water off the water line and check to see if any water is leaking. You may need to tighten the coupling nut a bit more.
  • Remove the old towel or rags from the tank and turn on the water (lefty loosy).
  • Adjust the valve as necessary per the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Leave the bowl under the water valve overnight in case there is a leak.

That’s pretty much all there is to it!

Published in: on February 26, 2010 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Easy Arcs

Here’s a tip for marking large arcs.

Instead of using a beam compass, or simply a nail, string, and pencil, use a thin piece of stock or rip a thin strip. I like to keep thin strips ripped from 8′ stock because I design many projects that call for 2 1/4″ parts. Once a 1×3 (which measures 2 1/2″ wide) is ripped to 2 1/4″ I’m left with a 1/8″ strip. Keeping 8′ lengths of these strips gives me plenty to work with in nearly any size arc I might need. And of course, I cut some of them shorter – 8′ gets a bit unwieldy.

I mark my end points and the peak of the arc on the workpiece. Then I drive brads near these points (allowing for the strip and pencil thicknesses). I fit the strip against the end points, then “bow” the strip to reach the arc peak. Then I simply use the strip as my guide for marking the arc.

I make sure to apply even pressure on the strip at the arc peak, and I don’t put any additional pressure on the strip when I make the mark.

It will take some practice, but it creates a quick arc when you’ve got the hang of it. Then all you have to do is have a steady hand when cutting the arc.

Published in: on February 26, 2010 at 3:10 am  Comments (2)  

Simple Circles

This simple tip seemed so obvious to me when I stumbled on it, that I immediately wanted to build one of those self-kicking machines from 1950s cartoons.

I often cut “finger pulls” in drawer faces or other projects – they are essentially half circles or some form of arc. And usually I do this with either a jigsaw or band saw after having drawn a radius. Then I’d sand the circle or arc until I reached as perfect an edge as I could.

Then it occurred to me – I should use a hole saw or Forstner bit to achieve a perfect half circle.

There’s a bit of setup involved and you can do a couple of things. First, you could use the Forstner on the stock, then rip the stock on the table saw to cut the circle in half. Second, you could take an existing piece, butt it up against a sacrificial board, clamp both, then mark the center point for the Forstner bit – either near the edge of the sacrificial board or the stock – then drill.

 I prefer Forstner bits because they tend to provide a cleaner cut with less tearout. I have several sizes, from 1/4-inch up to 1 1/2-inch. Invaluable.

The picture below is of a test-build of an upcoming project – the Forstner bit is on the left, and the nice, clean and perfect half circle is on the right.

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 2:57 am  Comments (2)  

Cheaper Wood is OK

Don’t be afraid of using lesser woods when building. Recently, I was pricing out a project and breaking down the lumber cost, and was shocked at how high a figure I was reaching.

I could try to use sheet goods (plywood), but I had specific parameters of keeping this project solid wood throughout.

I quickly dropped down to the next cheapest wood. Still too high. Then I went down to a wood with which I wouldn’t normally build (sometimes I can be snobby that way). Bingo! I cut the lumber cost in half – from $200 to $100. 

Now, I don’t normally like to scrimp on the quality of lumber I use, but this particular project is aimed at beginning woodworkers and will be painted, so no worries about matching grain patterns, etc. I’ll also assemble it in a way that beefs up the construction simply by the way it is built, so I’m not concerned about the structural integrity of the lumber either. In other words, I’m not using a hardwood when a softwood will do just fine.

This little bit of effort, and math, will probably make this project a lot more approachable to a lot more people.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 1:20 am  Comments (3)  

Use a Coin for a Radius

Instead of using a compass, try using a coin when marking a radius for a corner.

This topic came up during a video shoot for a woodworking project. Someone asked what coin would equal a 3/4″ radius. I honestly didn’t have an answer, but that I often use a two shillings coin (1956 to be exact) that I keep in my pocket all the time for making quick radius marks.

Well, it turns out that coin is about 1 1/8″ in diameter, which would give me a rough 9/16″ radius.

So I decided to check out other coins. Now, I know other woodworkers have done this before, but I figured I’d check it out myself and list the dimensions here:

Eisenhower dollar = 1 1/2″ diameter = 3/4″ radius

Kennedy half dollar = 1 3/16″ diameter = 19/32″ radius (roughly 9/16″)

Sacagewea dollar = 1 1/16″ diameter = 17/32″ radius (roughly 1/2″)

Quarter = 7/8″ diameter = 7/16″ radius

Nickel = 13/16″ diameter = 13/32″ radius

Penny = 3/4″ diameter = 3/8″ radius

Dime: 11/16″ diameter = 11/32″ radius (roughly 5/16″)

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 1:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Smooth Stain Finishing Tip

Red oak, which is probably the most widely available oak at home improvement centers, is a very open-grained wood. It can leave a rather rough finished feel if you just sand, stain, and walk away. Here are some tips that have worked for me that should give you a finish that will feel great to the touch.

1. Sand your project to 180 grit.

2. Apply stain with a cloth, working it in by rubbing it. Wipe off the excess.

3. With the stain still wet, sand the project using 220 grit zirconium oxide (black) sandpaper. This creates a slurry with the sawdust and stain and will help fill in the open grain.

4. Wipe down the project with a finishing cloth.

5. Allow to dry.

6. Apply a coat of polyurethane. Allow to dry and rub with steel wool, or lightly sand with a fine-grit sandpaper.

7. Apply a second coat of poly. Allow to dry and very lightly rub with steel wool – this is mostly to knock down any bubbles that may have formed with the poly (most usually settle themselves), or any bits of dust/debris that may have settled on the finish.

8. Apply a coat of paste wax. The wax will fill in any marks from the steel wool. Wax on, wax off – don’t allow the wax to sit 10-15 minutes as the manufacturer may recommend. Buff it like crazy. It will go on hazy, but the more you wipe, the more luster you’ll achieve.  Allow this coat to dry, and apply additional coats if you prefer.

Experiment with this technique on a piece of scrap red oak until you’re comfortable doing it on a completed project.

Another tip – I’ve used oil stain, then water-based poly. The drying time is very quick with the water-based poly. I’ve been able to stain a project one evening, then poly and wax it the next day. A pro-level finish done in two days.


Published in: on February 22, 2010 at 2:08 am  Comments (4)  

Chief’s Shop

Why Chief’s Shop? My nickname in college was Chief, and I used the moniker during my short stint as a college radio DJ (I also wrote music reviews for the school paper – the two seemed to go hand-in-hand).

Several months ago I made a sign for my shop.  I hate to waste pieces of wood, so I used a scrap piece of pine leftover from some random project. I used an ogee profile bit for the edge detail and decided to paint the detailed edges and stain the face – I really like the combo of green and a reddish stain, so I went with it.

I fretted over the font I wanted to use – I like Art Deco inspired fonts (and furniture), but I didn’t feel that style was really what I wanted (afterall, I don’t have a diner), so I decided to use a font inspired by one of my favorite designers – Charles Rennie Mackintosh (learn more at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society – I’ll write more about him and how he has inspired me later, as well as my opinion on his impact on furniture design, and the transitions between Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and Art Deco.

I printed out the letters for the sign, then essentially stenciled them on. I started carving out the letters using a chisel, but then jumped over to a rotary tool with a cutting bit. I wanted a rough look to the lettering – you can see this in the image below. I then painted the letters black using a small artist brush. The whole thing got my standard poly and wax treatment (more on this in another blog).

I’m never fully happy with anything I build, but I found this sign to be mostly acceptable. I added two cup hooks to the top edge and now it suspends from a storage rack above my table saw storage/outfeed table/assembly bench where most of the magic (and a lot of swearing) happens.

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm  Comments (1)  

First Real Post

Here’s the first real post on this “new” bog. I hope to add lots of great information here and not just add yet more boring crap to the blogosphere.

I plan to write about woodworking (WW) most of all, but add in dashes of DIY common sense and know-how along the way. Look for lots of quick and easy WW plans and tips as this thing progresses.

Today I worked on resizing a project at the request of a work client. Using my favorite program, SketchUp, I went through and changed the project from a 4’x20′ plant bed to a 4’x4′ plant bed. I kept the height the same (19 1/2″) – it’s intended for senior citizens to use, so it’s a bit higher and has a 6″ edge to allow for seating. Obviously, much less lumber is needed, and the cutting diagram was scaled down quite a bit. The instructions also were much more streamlined – the 20′ dimension called for some reinforcements and a few creative cuts here and there, especially with the height it needed.

This was my 4th or 5th plant bed project I’ve designed, but I won’t be building this one. The instructions and illustrations are for the client to use as part of a charitable program they do annually. Last year I designed a bus stop shelter for the program. 

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 2:54 am  Comments (1)  
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