The Carpenter's Daughter – Girl Power DIY, Camper Van Travel, &...+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
Hi, I’m Vikkie and I’m a carpenter’s daughter, taking the advice of my father to tackle almost every thinkable DIY project in our very first home. Girls can do DIY too! I'm renovating our first home and blog about how I've done it and what I've learnt.
Our conservatory has needed a step ever since it was put up in 2014.
We’ve used lots of make-shift methods while I build my DIY confidence.
So this week, I took my father in law’s advice and made a step from rendered breeze blocks and patio slabs to match my existing lay out. I’m extremely happy with how it turned out and here’s the video on how I did it!
£60 Raised Patio Step & 10k Sub GIVEAWAY! / The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
To help celebrate reaching 10k subscribers over at my YouTube channel, FFX tools kindly offered me a voucher to spend on tools. But feeling uncomfortable showcasing a “here’s what I got”, I asked if they could offer my lovely UK viewers a giveaway prize too and they said yes!
It took me a while to pick something because most of the time I never know what I’ll need until I’m researching my a new job. But we’ve been talking about how useful a pressure washer would be ever since we’d moved in to our first home in 2014. So instead of limiting ourselves to a voucher, we used it as a part discount towards something we really wanted.
During my DIY journey, I’ve found most jobs need cleaning as part of its preparation. And I know that this year I need to restain our decking, the shed, the garage door. The list goes on… and on… and on!
Buying a pressure washer was initially quite tricky as we’d never used one before and didn’t want a “weakling”.
What we like about this one are the extra features that are designed for different jobs. Ours comes with an extra patio cleaning attachment, along with its standard nozzle and different pressure settings, like circular motions or a full on straight jet wash. Out of curiousity, I also wondered if it was strong enough to chip the white paintwork on our garage where moss had started to grow and it was!
Another main reason we wanted it was to save money on our car washing. We’ve often wasted £5-10 at a time at a handheld car wash on our Mercedes Vito camper van and we’ve still been left with streaky marks.
Well, let’s just say that no car wash will be getting a penny from us any time soon!
It’ll soon pay for itself and our camper’s paintwork and alloys looked shiny and brand new.
We’ve still got a bit of learning to do with all the settings as we tested it over a day, but we don’t regret our purchase one bit.
It arrived within two days of ordering and cleaned up the mortar mess I created this week after building my latest patio step from rendered breeze blocks.
Now we just need to re-sweep some silver sand in to the gaps of our existing patio slabs as I wanted to start from scratch where pea gravel had fallen in. After all, our house is a constant working progress.
I’ve always wanted to spend a bit more time to get to know Loch Ness.
Sadly about 3 (or 4) years ago, we had a bad wild camping experience (near Dores). It was the height of summer. We were in our late Mazda Bongo. The pop up roof was up where we slept in. And while we spent the night squatting midges on our sun roof before they had a feast at our expense, we were also disturbed by several drivers honking while passing by.
But this year’s return visit set it all to rights.
We absolutely love the freedom that wild camping has to offer in Scotland. And sometimes wild camping is all that there is if the spots are so remote (and breathtaking).
We did have terrible luck with wet, wind then snow during our 2 of our 4 nights, but with its award winning toilet block and encapsulating views, they were the icing on the cake! Not once did I feel cold when wanting to take a shower and I don’t know about you, but that’s a deal breaker for me, especially in the Winter.
There are plenty of electric hard standing pitches and all with great views.
Since we’re campervanners with a barking dog, we decided to take a back row seat in front to the River Foyers which was also equally as scenic.
Or, if you prefer a spot of glamping, there are plenty of exciting wooden pods (aka WigWams). There’s also an upper camping section which was closed for expansion and there were enough places on the lower level as it was February.
As always, we were rather self sufficient during our stay.
I can’t focus when I’m hungry, so I always stock up on plenty of goodies before any trip. But there’s a decent shop in the reception with bread, milk and other luxurious sweet and savory treats. We particularly loved the Scottish shortbread biscuits (yum yum!) and lemon drizzle cake. Oh and there’s a coffee machine inside too for real coffee and wi-fi. I needed to do some work for my blog, so this was perfect.
But, just in case you don’t want to travel to the near by cafe near Upper Foyers for a bite to eat, there’s a very well thought out Air Stream burger-style van for peak seasons too.
When it came to dog walks, we were all set. There’s plenty of water and woods around.
While the Falls of Foyers is only a 25 minute walk away, there were plenty of hills and paths to keep us interested.
Before setting off, we’d started the day with heavy rainfall, but it soon cleared up and the sun broke through its tall trees.
For most of it, we let Hans off his lead, but on our way up, we needed to err on the side of caution as we stumbled across some half fenced off sharp drops.
The viewpoints, however, are much more safe for pets and kids.
Once we reached the Foyers Falls, it felt like a force of nature. Its Scottish Gaelic translation of Falls of Foyers (Eas na Smùide), means the smoking falls and it really is apt. There’s a huge spray of mist that surrounds it while the water falls straight back in to Loch Ness. You can see it in action here in my recent video.
If you want to get to know Loch Ness a little bit more, you can hire a motor boat from the campsite (although I’m not sure our dog wouldn’t have appreciated it – he’s a bit of a scaredy-cat).
So instead, I discovered Cruise Loch Ness in Fort Augustus (about a half an hour’s drive away) that offered daily boat excursions for us and our four legged furry friend.
*Little tip: I personally would ring up in advance to find their running times and what slot if fully booked. Google said they opened at 10am which may just be to arrange a booking, (or at least just for the Winter). We hopped on the first slot at 1pm and there were only four of us sharing the trip. When we disembarked, we were surprised to see a boat full queuing up for the 2pm ride which didn’t look as comfortable!
Although I don’t believe in the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, I thought it would be a great opportunity for sight seeing.
At £14.50 each (our pooch was free), it was a great hour full of tales and beauty. And I was rather curious how Nessie appeared in people’s TripAdvisor photos(!)
There’s also a small bar downstairs for the sheltered part of the return journey where we bought a coffee, tea and whiskey for around £8. And plenty of merchandise for souvenirs, but I prefer capturing memories on camera instead.
Although the weather was only half on our side during the holiday, we loved how bliss and peaceful it was.
If you’re not members of the Camping and Caravanning Club, here’s why we are (and this is not sponsored):
We love the exclusivity of sites where they’re less likely to be overcrowded
They’re laid out to very high standards
We found the cheapest camper van insurance with them
It’s ALWAYS been cheaper to book a ferry through them compared to anyone else
If you’d like to come along with us on our journey, then here’s our holiday vlog!
Vito Camper Van in Loch Ness / The Carpenter's Daughter Vlog - YouTube
Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. We were however gifted 4 nights to review the site and we are paying Camping and Caravanning members. All opinions are truthful.
I’m so proud of myself this week as I used my Dad’s old router for the first time ever and succeeded on a new project.
I love being creative where I can and I’ve always loved drawing and if you’re the same, then I recommend having a play around with one too.
It was only a few months when I thought someone was talking about a router to access the internet, so please don’t feel silly for not knowing. Unless it was just me?! In fact, when I watched a YouTube video about one, I thought there was a typo.I’d heard of most tools growing up down Dad’s wood yard, so it was pretty weird when we ended up having a conservation about one. How had this tool never come up before because it’s actually frickin’ awesome!
So, low and behold, he had a spare one I could have. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to do half the stuff if it wasn’t for him. I do everything on a budget where possible and the price of tools often amazes me (and wood for that matter). But I’ve come to realise that sometimes there are occasions I really need to fork out to make DIY jobs easier. And my Dad doesn’t live close enough for it to be cost effective to borrow this or that.
It took a couple of tries one rainy afternoon on the font for my coat racks, but thankfully, if you’re just getting started like I am, then this will also be a great project for you too!
Please don’t assume I’m a professional in any DIY. I am definitely not. And recently it dawned on me that don’t necessarily like to learn how to do things. I just like to know how. Although any challenging obstacles that force me to think differently doesn’t do me any harm at all. In fact, problem solving has helped on each new project the more I do things.
So this coat rack was initially tricky as I had to work an easy way how to transfer the font. But as soon as I had a light bulb moment about printing a free font, laminating it, then cutting out, it was very straightforward!
Note, it helps to use a big font and in a handwriting style. Anything too formal, then the flaws show up immediately. And anything too small, then there’s risk of the letters looking too merged and illegible.
And using an old value pine shelf from B&Q (about 12mm thick), I held the stencil at the top of it and drew the outline of the font with a pencil.
I made sure I started at the top in case I messed up and cut cut off any poor fonts and start again. However, I found it easy to reverse on to the non-carved side and try again.
If you’re trying this for the first time, it’s best not to try on some expensive wood. In fact, as it’s a shabby chic project, any tatty dints and scratches show more of a vintage look when coming to using a dark wax. I personally think this is a good thing.
I’m particularly happy that we now have an organised cloakroom area. Everyone in the house has their own dedicated hook, including our Tri Border Collie, Hans.
Note, it was very important to ensure all the walls in this area were washable. I used Dulux’s easycare range and haven’t looked back.
Each morning, we’ll pop to the park with Hans and a shared coffee, then bring the mud back with us. If we break the routine, Hans will let us know immediately.
And I’d like to say a huge thank you to my Instagram friend, Trena. We’ve been friends for a while after admiring each other’s projects in a DIY on a Budget facebook group. Little did we know though (until months later) that we’d grown up two villages apart in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
I didn’t even know she had a shop with homemade dog leads and lanyards. And as soon as she saw Hans’ personal hook, she kindly offered to send Hans a new one, so here it is.
I love the fact that Hans wears a dog lead that’s lovingly handcrafted in Yorkshire and it’s so beautiful!
This is in no way a sponsored post, but if you would like to buy one for your pooch, then you can purchase one online from Trena’s shop is here.
There are so many choices in colours with either a clip or a slip. I opted for a slip because Hans doesn’t wear a collar and it’s so easy to pop round his neck and set off.
You can be sure to see him wearing it in one of our next camper van holiday adventures!
So once I carved my font out and one called for my dog (Hans), I chiselled out any ugly bits and roughed up the font with coarse sandpaper
You don’t need to prime the wood either. It just sticks to it and depending on what coverage you’re going for – I wanted to distress later, so only painted with one coat and left it to dry.
Then I sanded out my brushstrokes with very fine sandpaper. TIP: It’s MUCH cheaper if you buy it in packs from the market or a local bargain DIY shop as you’ll go through the expensive stuff. OR you could use fine wire wool instead.
SEALING THE PAINT
I’ve used many types of waxes to fix paint in place. Annie Sloan’s, Lord Sheraton’s furniture wax, lavender polish from Tesco, but right now I have a tin of Rustoleum’s Clear Finishing Wax which I find is more accessible than Annie’s. If I could order Annie on Amazon, then I would, but sadly there isn’t a stockist near me.
And to give it an aged look and to allow my my font to really stick out, I mixed up an antique glaze using a small amount of white spirits with Annie Sloan dark wax which has lasted me years. It’s never gone off and a little bit goes a long way.
So I brushed the glaze all over my project, but mainly focused on my font before rubbing the excess off with a lint free cloth (but avoiding the dark wax in the font itself).
To remove any dark wax you don’t want in certain areas (like the outer parts of the font), just rub off with more clear wax and a lint free cloth (or something along the lines of an old plain t-shirt or bed sheet will suffice).
Then for the final finish, I screwed on some vintage style coat hooks (10 for £3.90 off ebay), which were much cheaper than Amazon and arrived in two days. And then I screwed two holes in my coat rack ready to be fixed to the wall using raw plugs. If you’re a bit confused, then here’s my video tutorial.
Any questions, just ask in the comments below!
TOTAL SPEND: £3.90
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This is NOT a sponsored blog post. If there are any affiliate links, it is only by pure luck. This means if you do buy tools through the links (eg Amazon), I earn some pennies, (literally)!
Our DIY camper made it through our 2nd week! That’s a pretty big achievement for us. And the reason? It’s the furthest we’ve ever driven in one trip in any camper van.
And we didn’t get toed back.
We did however get stuck in the sand once with some brittle tarmac underneath. Luckily a kind German man, Wolfgang helped save the day and we never needed to call our breakdown cover.
If you missed our first week’s adventure, then you’ll want to catch with my Part 1 blog post or my YouTube video here. A video gives you a better ideas of our journey, but it was still fun to capture some of my favourite shots for the blog.
So after last week, we then headed towards the sun in the Vendée, which I can reflect back now and tell you that this area was my favourite part of the holiday.
We sunbathed, climbed Dune de Pilat (the highest dune in Europe), ate good food and explored the many beaches. These beaches were by far the most open and prettiest.
Above is where we caught a ferry to reach the area of Dune de Pilat. This saved well over an hour to our journey towards Bordeaux. Yes, it cost 30 euros, but we would’ve have to pay more in petrol and peages.
I think we made the best decision, and it was scenic route. And after a couple of undocumented nights in an Aire at La Porge, we then made our way to the Mediterranean.
The med wasn’t what I’d hoped for. I actually started to feel unsafe when it came to camping in an Aire. It was more busy, not as pretty and the beaches weren’t great.
What added insult to injury were that most of the beaches were dog-free zones.
In fact, we pulled up to a beach car park that would’ve cost 15 euros (just for parking) and again, dogs were prohibited. But we then found a campsite (camping l’espiguette) on the same beach that said otherwise.
Finding this campsite was the best part of our 2nd week. It had access directly to the beach, it was affordable, well equipped with toilets, showers and the most well stocked shops (above) I’ve ever seen. Even a boulangerie that never seemed to run out of baguettes.
Then, to give ourselves plenty of comfortable time to catch a ferry from Calais (bearing in mind, we were on the opposite side of France), we travelled north two days before our departure date.
Yes, it was a bit crazy to drive for 12 hours. We took it in turns, but this gave us plenty of time to explore Dunkirk (Dunkerque) before setting off.
If you’re interested in war history, then this is a must to visit.Not only does Dunkerque have German World War II concrete bunkers (now heavily graffitied, or covered in broken mirror), but some were originally built for the Napoleonic war. They were utilised and enhanced.
And if you walk in to the dunes, you’ll find almost a village of them (below) all tucked away and easily accessible. Most of them are obviously being used for rough sleeping.
And in to the town centre, there’s lots of war memorials and the town hall (surprisingly one of the only original buildings).
After our full day in Dunkerque, we snuggled up in the van (it was very British weather) and decided to use a bit of mobile data and watch a BBC documentary on YouTube about what really happened.
Also, wild camping on the seafront didn’t seem to be an issue. There weren’t any signs saying not to and a handful of motorhomes had done the same.
But dog friendly on the beach, it was not. I say that, but no one adhered to it.
So, if you want to watch our full journey, then here’s our YouTube videos in two parts. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll try to answer as soon as I can.
Here’s to more journeys in our DIY Mercedes Vito camper van!
Mercedes Vito Camper Van Vlog France Part 1 | The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
Mercedes Vito Camper Van Vlog France Part 2 | The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
A paint spray system is definitely one of those things I wish I had sooner. Not only are they fun and easy to use, painting walls and ceilings in general takes much longer than you think.
When we moved in to our house, I would work on the decorating while my fiance was at work. But often, he’d come home, asking what on earth had I been doing all day.
But let me tell you, the moment I passed him a a roller and some paint, he soon realised it takes a longer than his usual “it’s only take you 10 minutes” to get coverage you want. It’s not difficult, but it’s time consuming.But, if you’ve just moved in to a house and you’re planning on replacing the carpets or, even better, you’re working in an empty room, you can get started almost immediately.
If you’ve got your house right where you want it, but just want to update the colour, then you’ll need to buy plenty of dustsheets and tape and take the time to prepare. Note, when I come to paint a room again, I will use much more tape next time to properly seal areas.
I recently used it on our conservatory roof in an attempt to cut down the heat, but sadly on this occasion, the paint didn’t do what it said on the tin. So I thought I’d take time to share a review of my new paint spray system from Wagner which is the W100 (and you can imagine painting ordinary emulsion in a normal room).
The main thing I was concerned about was whether it would spray while I aimed it at the ceiling. It turned out I was worried for no reason at all. The key to this is to aim the tube (that sits in the reservoir) towards me. If I needed to spray something laid flat, then I’d need to face it the opposite direction.
When it came to filling the paint, it came with a really handy multipurpose stick that not only opens your paint, but it had a spike to clean the nozzle, there was a 10% water thinning guide (to get the right consistence for spraying) and was a paint stirrer. The nozzle also aims in three different positions, so to get the right angle for you, all you need to do it twist it. I tested spray painting on an old cardboard box with black text to get an idea what the best angle was and how close I should spray.
And for very tall ceilings without having to use stepladders (which can be pretty scary), there is also an extension arm that can be fixed. After a few passes, I found my roof was quite low and it was quite heavy for me, so soon realised I didn’t need it.
But the final part I was a little bit worried about was the cleaning. Well, let’s put it this way, my juicing machine is ten times more fiddly. Our solar reflective paint was water based and washed away quickly, but I found there weren’t any tricky bits of cleaning needed. It took no longer than 5 minutes to remove the paint.
Here it is if you want to see it in action. I’ve wanted a paint spray system ever since I started shabby chicing furniture, so despite the solar paint not working, I’ve got something I can test out with some chalk paint soon!
Solar Reflective Paint: Conservatory Roof Blind Alternative? - YouTube
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Disclaimer: I received the Wagner as a PR sample. However, I was not asked to review it and all opinions are truthful.
I don’t ring around for quotes much these days. But one area of our house that’s seen more tradesmen jot down their measurements is our front driveway.
We’ve played with the idea of block paving, tarmac and gravel. I’ve even tried to convince my fiance that patterned concrete looks nice. In fact, we’ve had debates over what’s patterned concrete and what’s actually block paving and vice versa when they’re under our noses.
Anyway, we’ve now completed it. I’ve broken it in to 3 parts so make them a bit easier to digest, yet nothing missed out. So here they are! If you have a question, feel free to comment below!
DIY Gravel Driveway Part 1 / The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
DIY Gravel Driveway Part 2 / The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
DIY Gravel Driveway Part 3 / The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
I will tot up all expenses soon and update here how much we spent, but I think it’s in the region of £1300. We were initially quoted £3.5k for gravel and various quotes up to 5k for block plaving by tradesmen.
While we did our fencing a couple of months ago, we needed to rip out a gate that was protruding.
But one thing we’d always said was that we wanted to move the gate to sit just next to our front door.
The reason for this was privacy. It was far too easy for someone to sneak on me by looking through my kitchen window and it was unnerving. It’s never happened, but if you look through, you will usually find me working at our dining room table as we’ve knocked a wall out. Perhaps I’m just paranoid, but I’m much happier now.
You can find the videos on how I did them below. I am proud to say it’s the first ever real project I’ve ever made down my Dad’s family business that’s now seeing its third generation (that’s me), hand crafting something there.
Once I got them home, I stained them using my Wagner Fence & Decking sprayer. I’ve flitted between a brush and sprayer, convinced a brush is really quicker, but I’ve always regretted it.
The sprayer gives a much better coat with no ugly brush marks. It’s also quicker with less elbow grease.
This is before the drop bolt went on, so you can still see a gap here which no longer shows.
So once we’d hung it up (see the second video below), I needed to add a drop bolt and a coach and bolt to each hinge for added strength.
I can now proudly say I made my own gates. It was a great, valuable experience, giving me confidence to move on to my next job: our driveway which will be coming soon!
DIY Double Gate at Dad's Woodyard Part 1 / The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
DIY Double Gate Part 2 / The Carpenter's Daughter - YouTube
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A couple of months ago, I decided to lead the way so my fiance and I could install our own fencing.
It wasn’t easy, but we did it. It’s extremely heavy work with concrete posts.
Before I stained it again
But, the plan was: do it once and never again. If a panel needs replacing, no worries – just slide it out and pop a new one back in!
After we’ve done most of the fencing, we later decided we wanted to install more leading down our front drive.
But unfortunately where we’d ordered our original panels from never sold sloping ones, yet I wanted them all to be in the same style so it was uniform.
Altering fence panel looked extremely easy, despite not being able to find a tutorial online for it anywhere. But it didn’t stop me thinking twice about ordering a 5ft panel that I could reduce to 2ft on one side. It’s great having the opportunity to put back in to a giving community of free knowledge.
The trick I needed so solve was cutting the spars (the 1 inch wide horizontal wood strips that hold it all together) without cutting in to the slats.
The answer? A tenon saw.
My Dad (a shed and fencing man) has since watched my video and said the saw was a horrible/nasty one (something along those lines) but it worked fine for me.