Entertainment Center Solution

Everyone kept telling us that when our son started crawling we were going to be in for it.  I won’t say we didn’t believe them, it’s just that we sometimes get distracted with all of the other wonderful things he’s doing on a daily basis so that when something big like crawling comes along, we are woefully ill-prepared.  Needless to say, one of the first things our little man discovered was the entertainment center and all of the wonderful buttons, cables, and loose CDs and DVDs we had neglected to move out his reach.  So while my oldest brother was in town for a couple of days, he and I were just talking about solutions and we came up with the idea of moving everything above the TV.  It would have to be a deep shelf and strong enough to hold my ancient surround sound receiver, DirecTV box, DVD player a pair of front channel speakers as well as a center channel speaker.  None of it weighs a ton, but it weighs enough that if it falls on my son or out TV it would be very, very bad.  This is what I started with; a couple of old, cheaply made modular pieces stacked on top of each other.

Crappy Entertainment Center

Way too accessible for a crawling baby

As you can see it is also a place to drop junk mail, receipts, knick knacks and any other stuff we don’t really have a place for.  It was time for it to go.

I wanted to build something that would be strong enough to hold everything but be light enough that I could get it on the wall without killing myself.  I took some measurements of the space and the components, drew up a very rough sketch and headed off to Lowes to lookk around for ideas.  I looked at plywood, pressed wood, MDF, hard wood planks, pine planks…basically everything I could think of that could be used to build what I wanted.  It all seemed too heavy.  I even though about just getting some heavy duty shelf brackets and putting up a shelf, but that is not what I was looking for either.  I walked around a little bit more, thinking and looking for ideas when I walked past the interior door aisle.  It reminded me of a project I saw once in a Family Handyman magazine where they used a hollow core door to make a floating shelf.  Hmmmmm.  I knew I was wanted to build a box that was 58.5 inches in length with an interior height of 12 inches and 18 inches in depth.  I pulled out my trusty tape measure  and double checked the length and width of the largest door they had…36 inches wide would give me the width I needed and 84 inches long was more than enough to get the pieces I needed for construction.  The price couldn’t be beat either, $24.  So after picking up a few more pieces of wood, some stain and a few other odds and ends I was ready to go home and see what I could put together.

I started by ripping the door right down the middle.

Getting ready to cut the door

Notice that I use a guide when ripping long pieces with my circular saw.  If you try to free hand it you will mess it up.  Save yourself a lot of frustration and use a guide.  Anyway, here is what it looked like ripped.

Ripped Hollow Core Door

Notice the cardboard in the middle of the door.  It makes the door surprisingly stable, but doesn’t give you much to nail or drive a screw into.  And the edges with just the cardboard support will not support anything without collapsing.  So, I measured the distance between the two outside panels, ripped strips to the correct width, cut them to the correct lengths and glued and nailed them in place along the open edges.  The first picture below shows a Star Wars trench type view looking down the length of the door so you can see how I cut the cardbooard and made room for the wood filler strips.

Use the Force Luke!

The next picture shows one of the filler strips in place.  I glued them and then used a finish nailer to secure them in place while the glue set.

One strip in, many more to go.

So after I got all four sides of the box cut to size and the open edges filled with wood strips, I was ready to begin assembly.  First I set the bottom down and used 2.5 inch screws to secure the sides.  I used decorative washers with the screws to dress it up a little bit.

Sides are on

For the back I actually used a 1×12 pine board which is actually only 10.5 inches wide.  It’s a little shorter than I wanted the interior, but the speakers fit so it’s okay.  To hand the box on the wall I decided to go with the cleat method.  I took a 1×4 and ripped it down the middle at a 45 degree angle to give me too pieces that will fit together to hold the box in place.  I glued and screwed one half of the cleat onto the back board and set it in place so that the cleat lined up with the back of the side pieces.  That way when I hang the box on the wall it will sit flush.  I added a strip across the bottom of the backboard for added stability.  I also added ina couple of pocket hole screws for strength.  the picture below was actually taken after the top was added.

The finished back side.

After the back was in place all i ahd left to do was add the top and the face trim.  For the face trim I used pine slats from the moulding department.  They are very square and smooth and were a cinch to cut and nail in place.

Trimmed out edges

I had planned to stain it, but after thinking about it for a while, I decided to paint it white to match the baseboards and other trim.  I felt like a big, darkly stained piece of wood hanging up high would seem very obtrusive on our small living room.  So primed it and painted it and waited for it to dry.

Primed and painted

When it came time to hang the box above the TV, I knew I was going to have to remove the old doorbell box.  This was not a big deal because I had switched over to a wireless doorbell when I installed our storm door anyway.  What I didn’t think about was the electrical box and wiring that would be left after I removed the box.  I decided it would be a great idea to install a couple electrical outlets and use that for powering my entertainment equipment rather than running a power strip from the outlet near the floor and giving my son one more cable to grab.  Here is a picture of the outlet I installed in place of the doorbell.

Added an electrical outlet

You can also see how I mounted my Tv on the wall in that picture.  I bolted a 3/4 inch piece of plywood to the wall, then hung the mounting bracket on that.  After that it was just a matter of cutting some holes for cables as well as notching the back for the outlet cover to fit where they overlap.  I screwed the other half of the cleat to the wall (making sure it was level) and hung the box.

Getting there

I dressed some cables and moved the cable cover to conceal the surround speaker wires and cable.  My wife added a couple of items to dress it up a little and other than painting the cable cover to match the wall I’m done.  I can walk underneath the box without ducking and it seems to be extremely stable and secure.  Now little man can crawl all over the living room and we don’t have to worry about him getting his little hands on all of the buttons and knobs that could make our next movie night an experience to remember.

Very happy with the results



Filed under Home Repairs, Projects, Tools, Wood Working


My very first post on this blog was some of the razors I have in my collection.  I have acquired some more and will be posting some pictures of the new additions later, but for now I thought I would post my rather modest gathering of aftershaves.  I know it seems strange to some, but I prefer the less expensive stuff.  To me it smells the way a man should smell.  I like the classic barbershop scents, not the latest and greatest from the hottest rapper at the moment.  The thought of smelling like some of those people makes me cringe.  Most of them look like they smell bad anyway.  So anyway, here is what I currently have on the shelf.


A few aftershaves

Front Row, Left to Right:  Pinaud Clubman Citrus Musk in sample size, Pinaud Clubman Special Reserve in sample size, Pinaud Clubman Lime Sec in sample size.

Middle Row, Left to Right:  Pinaud Clubman Classic Vanilla, Pinaud Clubman Lilac Vegetal, Pinaud Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum, Pinaud Clubman Musk.

Back Row, Left to Right:  Osage Rub, Lustray Bay Rum, Pinaud Clubman After Shave Lotion.

As you can see, I am a big fan of the Pinaud Clubman line.  For one, it has the classic scent I like and hardly anyone else I know of uses it.  Two, it is not expensive at all.  As a matter of fact, nothing you see in that picture costs over $10.  Seriously.  I ordered most of the Pinaud Clubman stuff from this website: http://www.clubmanonline.com/ which sells the full line of Pinaud Clubman products.  The Osage Rub and the Lustray Bay Rum came from Atlanta Barber and Beauty Supply.  They have a website: http://stores.atlantabarber.com/StoreFront.bok but the actual store is only a couple of blocks from where I work, so I just visited the store during my lunch hour and saved on shipping costs.

The fine gentlemen over at http://badgerandblade.com  have written personal reviews on every one of the after shaves I have shown and hundreds more for that matter.  There are two that I have not used yet; the Osage Rub and the Lilac Vegetal.  The Osage Rub hasn’t been used yet simply because I haven’t had a reason yet.  It is recommended for summer time when it is extremely hot and a man’s face is more susceptible to razor burn.  Osage has been referred to as “frostbite in a bottle”  but one of the more poetic among the Badger and Blade crowd describes it as follows:  “mentholated Chuck Norris in a bottle just waiting patiently to spring out and deliver a refreshing roundhouse kick to your coconut the moment this wonderful viridian elixir comes into contact with your freshly shorn kisser…”  How can you not want to try this stuff after reading that?

The other one I haven’t tried is the Lilac Vegetal.  Plain and simple; I don’t like the way it smells.  I should have ordered a sample of it rather than say the Special Reserve.  I like the Special Reserve.  The Lilac Vegetal or the “The Veg” as it is referred to over on Badger and Blade is a very unique scent.  You either love it or hate it.  In the bottle it smells like an old folks’ home or creeping death to be blunt.  I haven’t worked up the courage to splash any on yet.  My wife has forbidden me to even try it.  But here are a couple of the more humorous reviews from Badger and Blade:

“This Pinaud blend is not very good at all. When I applied it, it smelled like someone urinated on me (not that it happens often ).” – Coche_y_bondhu

“I took one sniff and gave it to our secretary for use as ‘office mace’ to spray over the cubicle of the gaseous one next to her. It smells like something a dog would roll in.” – bbqncigars

“Legends say the Veg will magnify your true essence…on some, it smells like cannon smoke and raw courage, on others, like an involuntary bodily reaction caused by the sudden unexpected appearance of cannon smoke and raw courage.” – Topgumby

I’m not sure what it would smell like on me.  I may find out some day, but for now I will leave it on the shelf and take a occassional whiff and try to build up my courage…or I may just trash it.

If you are looking for something classic and affordable, I recommend any of the after shaves I have, with the exception of the Veg.  Try that one at your own risk.  I have a bottle if anyone is interested.


Filed under Aftershave, Shaving

Joint project

Here is a link to something the wife and I did last night.  That doesn’t sound right, but just click the link and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


I used a Craftsman electric stapler with 5/16″ staples.  It’s really just basic upholstery and very easy to do.  She’ll use it for quilting projects.

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Filed under Home Repairs, Projects, Tools

Where does the time go? Part 2

Part 1 was about the weekend before last.  This past weekend was a whole other set of projects.  We have a road trip coming up and will be driving our 2003 Explorer up to St. Louis.  It’s not an extremely long trip, but 8 hours of driving can put stress on any vehicle if it’s not properly maintained.  I just did an oil change a few weeks ago as well as replaced the air filter, so I’m good to go there.  This past weekend I decided to go ahead and change out the plugs and wires as well as the fuel filter.  The plugs and wires went like clock work.  I’m no mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but usually if I can read something and have the right tools I can do it.  I always check my Haynes manual before doing something like this just to see if says anything out of the ordinary.  In this instance all I had to do was remove the air intake  to allow easier access to the passenger side of the engine.  If you’ve ever changed plugs and wires before, then you know to do them one at a time and make sure the gap is set on the spark plugs before you get started.  If you’ve not done it before, doing them one at a time makes sure you keep them in the correct firing order.  If you get the firing order wrong you will have problems.

After doing the plugs and wires I moved on to the fuel filter.  How come fuel filters are never easy to get to?  Why can’t they just make one that you simply jack up the car and there it is, easily accessible and ready to go?  In the case of the 2003 Explorer, the fuel filter is located at the front end of the fuel tank, wedged in behind the frame and the exhaust system.  There are heat shields that you have to remove first, but then you still have to contend with the heat shields on the exhaust.  So I get to where I can see what I’m doing and can even reach both sides by reaching around the frame on the left and the exhaust on the right.  Not a very good position for getting any kind of leverage, but it’s the best I could do.  The outlet side of the filter uses a “quick” disconnect fitting and the inlet side uses a different type of fitting that utilizes a plastic snap ring inside the connector.  After struggling with it for quite a while I decided it may be easier if I could get the filter out of the mounting bracket.  So using a flat tip screwdriver I began prying on the fuel filter, trying my best not to damage it too much.  Well, I got it only so far.  I went back to trying to remove the “quick” disconnect from the outlet.  Again, no luck.  Grrrr.  At this point I call my friend Kelly who had talked about changing the fuel filter on his Mustang a while back.  He asks me to send him a picture so this is what he got:

Fuel Filter

Crappy Cell Phone Picture

You can see the fittings clearly in the picture and also tell where I was prying on the filter.  So with help from Kelly on the speaker phone, I try again.  And again.  And again.  Grrrrrrrrr.  So after a rather lengthy string of colorful expletives from me, Kelly says he is on his way over to give me a hand.  I grab a beer and wait. 

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is really, really good when you’re hot, sweaty and grimy. 

So I finish my beer rather quickly, which a sure sign of my frustration level, and crawl back under the Explorer.  I examine the two inlet connectors and realize I can just push back on the red ring and they will pop right off.  When Kelly shows up, I have those two connectors off and the filter out of the bracket and re-routed so that it is much easier to get to.  I still can’t get the “quick” disconnect off, but at least I’ve made some progress.  I gladly get out of the way and Kelly crawls underneath, asks for a pair of needle nose pliers and PRESTO!  He tosses the fuel filter out and crawls back out.  He used a different size disconnect tool than I was using and was able to work it off using the needle nose pliers for extra leverage.  Literally five minutes later the new filter was in place and the heat shields were bolted back on and we were picking up the tools.

I offer Kelly a beer and we shoot the breeze while I straighten up in the garage.

I think I have the Explorer road worthy now, even though I worry about the possibility of something going wrong while we’re driving in the middle of the night.  I will stick a tool box in the back as well as a small compressor and a couple of good flashlights.  The thought of being stuck on the side of the interstate somewhere in southern Illinois makes me a little apprehensive, but odds are in my favor….I hope.

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Filed under Automotive, Beer, Drinking

Where does the time go? Part 1

Sometimes you get busy and you turn around and it’s been a couple of weeks since you’ve done something.  In my case, it’s been a couple of weeks since I update my blog.  It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything blog-worthy…well I guess that depends on your point of view really, but the past two weeks have been busier than usual.  I will be very glad when I can drop the weekend job and just work a standard week.  Anyway, on to the things I’ve been working on the past two weeks.

Kitchen Cabinet Update

Last weekend I started trial runs on making the doors for the corner cabinet.  I’ve never done this sort of woodworking before so I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect on the first attempt.  Luckily I have plenty of scrap wood to work with.  I didn’t get very many pictures  during all of this because I was really pressed for time and was concentrating on trying to figure out the process rather than documenting.  Looking back, I probably should have kept better records so I would at least have something to look back on when I try again.

So these are the router bits I picked up a few weeks ago at Rockler for making my cabinet doors.

Cabinet Door Bits

Router Bits for my Cabinet Doors

Left to Right:  Custom Door Edge Router Bit, Classical Stile Bit, Classical Rail Bit, Classical Stile and Rail Set-Up Jig. 

My router table

My Skil Router Table

I decided to start with the stile bit since that would be the majority of the routing.  Stiles are the vertical pieces on a cabinet door such as a raised panel door or in my case a flat panel door, but you use the stile bit to route the inside edge of both the rails and stiles.  This creates the decorative edge and the rabbet where the panel is inserted during final construction.  I used the set-up jig to help me set up my bits, figuring that as long as the jig and the bit were fitting correctly, I would be good to go when it came time to run my pieces through.  That sounds good in theory, but when I flipped on my router I saw the move downward about 1/4 inch.  I shut off the router, checked with the jig and sure enough, I was way off now.  I reset the depth and flipped on the router again and didn’t see any movement.   Double checked it one more time with the jig and it was still good, so I decided to run a test piece to see how it did.  Well, it started out good, but as I ran the piece through the bit sunk again and I ended up with a piece that was extremely sloped.  Dropped the router out of the table, inspected the locking mechanism and found a set screw that needed to be tweaked a little bit.  A couple of turns on the set screw did the trick and I was able to run a couple of good test pieces.

Stile Test Piece

Stile Test Piece

So after running the good stiles it was time to change bits and figure out the best way to make the rails.  First I set up the bit using the jig, remembering to take a couple of pictures this time. 

Rail Bit Set-Up

Setting up the Rail BitSetting Up the Bit

I ran the rail test piece through and realized the first time that I had it upside down.  Grrr.  I also had a difficult time keeping it square when I ran it through, so I attached a sacrificial fence to my miter gauge for the next pass.  Chopped off the end on my miter saw, held the piece against the sacrificial fence nice and tight and tried again.  Success! 
Rail Test Piece

Rail Test Piece

Or so I thought anyway.  It turns out that the jig isn’t quite as fool-proof as I thought, or maybe I’m just too much of a fool for fool-proof.  Regardless, when I put the two test pieces together they did not line up exactly right.  The stile piece is slightly higher than the rail piece, maybe 1/32 of an inch.  That may be as good as I’ll ever get it, but I think I can do better.  You can’t tell it very well from the picture, but there is a difference in elevations, trust me.
Test Pieces

Not quite good enough

So after all of this, I decided I had enough for one day and cleaned up my mess and moved on to something I’ve been wanting to do for a few months now….
Beer Cart Build
I consider myself a novice homebrewer.  I haven’t brewed since before our son was born last year but it’s a passion I’ve been wanting to get back to for months now.  The biggest problem I have when it comes to brewing is room.  I don’t have a lot fo room in the garage for storage of all the equipment I have, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to consolidate everything into one moveable cart that I could wheel out when I’m ready to brew, then wheel back in when I’m done.  I started building a brew cart back before I began this blog, so I don’t have any pictures of the build, but I can tell you I have built the cart with almost zero expense using scraps of communications racks taken out of the dumpsters where I work.  Apparently someone order too many 4-post racks and rather than store them some where decided to get rid of them.  Score one for the cheap DIY homebrewer!  I modified the rack heavily, but it came out super sturdy when all was said and done.  It has to be considering it will potentially be supporting about 30 gallons of water, plus propane burners and stainless steel kegs that have been modified to be used as brew kettles.  The last thing I want is my cart to collapse while I’m brewing.  So here is my brew cart as it is now…
Brew Cart

This is the after picture

If you look at the picture above, you will notice I have just put some cross braces to support the burners.  They are the  four grey pieces you can see.  These braces are made of solid steel and are used for super-structure support in data centers.  They are extremely strong.  I thought about mounting the burners to the cart somehow, but I ran onto two problems.  One, the rack is aluminum and will conduct heat  extremely fast, so I want as much space between the fire and the aluminum as possible.  Two, I am using two different types of propane burners and neither of them are big enough to easily attach to the cart even I wanted to.  So, I went with what you see.  Drilling the holes through the steel was fun.  I originally just went with my corded drill and tried to do it by hand.  That was a bad mistake.  I broke two step-bits and melted a third trying to drill through those things. So this time, after picking up some more step bits at Harbor Freight Tools, I remembered i had a drill press under my work bench.  So I set it up and went to work.
Drill Press

Make Shift Machine Shop

As you can see it got dark on me by this time so I had the step-ladder out there supporting a shop light.  I used some old car wash soap to lubricate my drill bit as I was drilling.  It worked great and I was able to get the steel pieces drilled and mounted in no time.
I’m still working out the details of how I plan to set it all up, but I’m getting there.  I will go into more detail on the individual pieces later but at least I’m moving on it again.
Of course I can’t work on my brew cart without enjoying a beer.  It turns out that I have a few bottles of  Saison left from last year that have been hiding in my closet.  This was a good beer then, but it’s even better now.  It was brewed with orange peel, coriander, and grains of paradise, so it has a nice citrus/pepper flavor that has aged nicely.  It was nice to drink one of my own beers for a change.

Home Brewed Saison

Part two coming tomorrow….


Filed under Beer, Brewing, Drinking, Home Repairs, Projects, Tools, Wood Working

Hat Rack

I like hats.  I like caps too, but I prefer hats.  I own just a few hats, but my wife felt like they needed a place to call home when not on my head, which considering I can only wear one at a time, is quite often.  Hmmm…a place to hang my hats so they’re not sitting on the dresser, the nightstand, hanging on the banister or the lamp.  Fine by me.  So I started looking around at options.  I knew I wanted something that mounts to the wall; I did not want a free-standing rack.  I checked out a few different models and kept running into the same problems.  They don’t have enough hooks, the hooks are too close together and they are way overpriced for what you get, which is just a poorly finished, pressed-wood board with some hooks screwed to it.  Time to build a hat rack.

When I looked at the wall space I had for this, I realized I needed something with at least two rows of hooks, but I did not want some huge piece of wood mounted on the wall just to hang my hats.  So I went with a couple of nice pine 1X3X4 boards and picked out my hooks.

Hat Hooks

Hat Hooks

Since the wall was not quite long enough for the 4 foot boards, I cut them in half and decided to do a staggered pattern of four hat racks.I didn’t want to see the mounting screws so I placed them under where the hooks would be and pre-drilled my holes.  This was the first time I’ve really used my Rockler self-centering bits and my personal opinion is that they are a worthy investment.

Drilled Board

Holes in a board

I didn’t bother with a lot of fine details on this project.  I didn’t sand anything or route a decorative edge.  All I did after drilling the holes was prime and paint the boards with some left over paint that will contrast nicely with the wall.  I used the painter’s pyramids for this so I could paint all of the edges.  I highly recommend getting a set of these.  They’re inexpensive but they sure do come in handy for painting or staining.

Painting the hat racks

Painting the last board

Once that was done it was just a matter of mounting the boards to the wall, screwing the hooks in place and hanging my hats.

Boards are up

Two of the four boards

Hooks are up

Hooks cover the mounting screws


A Place to Hang My Hats


Filed under Hats, Projects, Tools, Wood Working

Weekend Project Update

I worked on the kitchen cabinet some more this weekend.  I built the face frame on Saturday.  I started with a 4 ft maple 1×8 board.  I used the remnants of the old cabinet as templates for cutting my pieces to the correct width and length.  I also used them to set up my router table for cutting the dados that allow the face frame to sit on the cabinet walls.  My cuts went very well.  Everything came out correct the first time.  I didn’t even have to go back a trim anything.  It did take me a few passes on the router table to get the dados to the correct depth.  I didn’t want to wear out my bit by trying to take out too much wood at one time.  The bad thing is that I was so wound up in what I was doing I never even thought about taking any pictures of my progress until I was already done with the stain.

The one thing that I had a difficult time with was assembly.  I thought that just using some Tight Bond Wood Glue and brads would be enough, but when I did my first dry fitting on the cabinet, the face frame came apart, leaving glue residue and tiny brads for me to remove.  So after cleaning up the joints and quite a bit of grumbling I went to my “go-to” joining tool; my pocket hole jig.  I set it up, drilled my holes, added some more glue, clamped them up and put in the screws.  Too easy… and it worked.

After that it was time to sand.  I started with a fairly coarse grit that was already on my sander because I had a few blade marks to get out of the side of the face.  This was extremely frustrating!  My cheap sander likes to just shut off randomly.  Sometimes you can smack it with your hand and it will start again, but after a while nothing works and I just fee like throwing it.  I will be getting a new one, maybe a nice random orbital sander, but whatever I get it will not be cheap.  Anyway, I then went to 180 grit and then 220, using a piece of wood as a sanding block so I got a nice flat finish.  I used a tack cloth to clean up the dust and make sure the frame was as dust free as I could possible get it.

The stain I chose to use for this is a Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain custom mixed in the color of “Cocoa”.  Before I went for the stain thought I needed to condition the wood.  For this I used Minwax Water-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner.  What this stuff does is penetrate the wood and slightly raise the grain to help even out the absorption of the actual stain.  It doesn’t take long, doesn’t require a whole lot and it dries pretty quick, so why would you not use it to give yourself every opportunity to achieve a nice finish.  so after the conditioner dried, I did a light sanding and applied the stain.  I followed the directions on the back of the can as closely as I could.  I let it sit on the wood for about 3 minutes before I started wiping off the excess.  I will go back in a day or so to put on the first coat of polyurethane and take some more pictures.

My router table

My Skil Router Table

Minwax Products

Minwax Conditioner, Stain and Polyurethane

The almost finished face frame

Almost finished

Close up of pocket holes

Close up of the pocket hole joineryComparing the colorComparing the colorComparing the color

Of course I followed all this work up with a nice beer.  This weekend’s choice was a Pennichuck Brewing Company Chief’s Imperial IPA.  This is a strong beer, 10% ABV, but it has a nice balance between the hops and the malts, so it’s very drinkable.  I would say try to find it, but the brewery closed its doors last year I believe and the beer is no longer in production.  It would be a good one to cellar if you were to find one on a shelf somewhere though.  The funny thing is that I only bought the beer initially because of the label.  My wife was a volunteer fire fighter before we got married and she got domesticated, so I was thinking of her when I bought it…even though she doesn’t drink beer.  At least she can have the label.

Chief's Imperial IPA

Pennichuck Brewery's Chief's Imperial IPA


Filed under Beer, Drinking, Home Repairs, Projects, Tools, Wood Working