As a blogger there are certain times I feel up to writing technical posts, and other times I don’t. Today, a day where I lose my wallet in the morning only to find it after work, and only to get home and find that I forgot my cellphone back at the office, feels like a day I’m up to writing a technical post. This should get interesting.
What was also pretty interesting was the state of our wood tote as of a few weeks back.
I knew it was time to get a new tote, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to buy one. First, I can sew well enough that I figured I could make one. Second, a lot of the totes I saw seemed like they were constructed for the casual user which is great, but wouldn’t work for us. Third, after researching the ones that would hold up for us I realized the design was the same as our current one and it was a design we just didn’t love. I’ll get into that more in a minute.
So that left me with one option which I happily delved into—making my own firewood tote. Sometimes it’s nice to see the finished product before reading a “how to”, and sometimes it’s also nice to know the difficulty and item list, so here you go.
DIY Firewood Tote:
Difficulty – easy leaning to moderate
- 1/2 yard artists canvas
- one yard (maybe a little more just to be sure) heavy duty nylon strap (also known as nylon webbing)
- All-purpose of heavy duty thread
- Sewing machine, unless you’re a glutton for punishment then by all means sew this by hand
- Two pieces of wood, about a foot or 14 inches long each. I think my piece was about a 1/2 inch by 2 inches.
- Way to cut the wood into the correct dimensions/trim if needed (I used our compound sliding mitre saw, aka chop saw, but a hand saw would work fine)
The first part was researching to figure out what most totes were made from that could hold up to our near daily use for months on end. Cotton duck seemed like an option but then I found artists canvas. It’s the same canvas you see in art stores, just sold in fabric stores on huge bolts. I remembered reading online that someone had used this, and since I couldn’t find any cotton duck and the price was right I went for it. I ended up finding mine at the Marden’s in Lewiston for $3.99 a yard. It’s so wide on the bolt that I only needed 1/2 a yard for this project. I bought a lot more than I needed knowing I could make more of them for other people, and just to have around. The saying goes “You should have bought it when you saw it at Mardens”, so I did because Mainer’s understand it may not be there the next time you go.
The second step was deciding what to do for strapping. Last summer some of the siding material Andy bought was from Coastal Forest Products. The product came wrapped in this cool nylon strapping with their name on it. I came outside, saw the strapping and immediately snagged it. I specifically remember thinking it could make for a really good firewood tote strap. Any heavy duty nylon strapping (webbing) will do though. I’ve seen it on amazon in 10 yard increments for pretty cheap, but I’m guessing places like Home Depot or Lowes would have some. Heck, if you wanted a wider strap you could even buy a nylon tow rope if you have the machine to sew through it.
Finally it was time to solidify my design. So many firewood totes have flared out edges to help to keep it from slipping out the sides. Taking the time to make sure it’s carefully stuffed in the edges is just not something I’m willing to do for as often as we use it. I remember one time I did, just to see what it was all about and I never did it again. A basic rectangle was all we needed.
With artists canvas, strapping and design solidified it was time to start sewing. So here’s my method step-by-step (day by day – Patrick Duffy, you slay me).
- Lay out your canvas. Cut it at about 1/2 a yard (or a little wider than your typical size log). The width of artist canvas makes it hard to keep everything square, so I’d recommend using a rotary cutter, ruler and self healing mat if you can.
- Once you’ve made the cut, take the two long sides and fold them over about 1/2 an inch or so. The good thing about artists canvas is it’s easy to press down. I wouldn’t recommend putting a hot iron to it though. You’re welcome to try, but I wouldn’t trust ruining my iron to test my theory that it would melt. This fold is going to make for your first seam. I found it easiest to make this seam by placing my ruler on the inside of the canvas and folding over the edge of it.
- Sew the seam down. Make sure to lock the seam down (going forwards and backwards) a couple times at each end. Keep in mind that this can be a bit slippery. My stitches weren’t perfectly straight, but they got better the more I got used to sewing on the canvas.
- To really add some strength to the seams I did a double fold and then sewed down again. Once the long sides were done I repeated step 2 to 4 on the short ends.
- With the edges all sewn down I added some extra structure to the ends at the (awesome) suggestion of my brother in law. He made the good point that adding the wood would help keep the edges from falling over when you’re hauling, and I’ve found it has made the entire thing easier to pick up. To judge where to make my pocket for the wood I laid the canvas out, laid down the wood, and simply folded it over, giving myself enough room to make a snug but not super tight pocket. I ended up cutting my wood pieces a little shorter so I would have enough room to sew the final end shut once the wood was inserted.
- Next up came attaching the straps. Attaching the straps is a little more on the moderate side of easy, but it definitely isn’t difficult. Start by turning your freshly creased canvas over so the folded seams are facing down.
- When you place your straps, you’ll want to remember that you will not be sewing above the crease. Remember that you’re folding that over to sew down to put the wood in. You can’t sew the wood pocket before you put the straps on, because they you would sew the pocket shut that you need to put the wood in. You can’t sew the straps on after you put the wood in, because you can’t sew through wood. So you’ll want to start your handle height from the crease. For instance, in the phone below I wouldn’t sew the strap on above the “e” in “Forest”.
- The next step of sewing on the strap is two fold. First, it’s important the strap is one long giant circle before you sew it on—think hoola hoop. I did this by sewing my nylon strapping together. Keep in mind (as you’ll see in the next step) this nylon strapping is going to be hauling a lot of weight. You don’t want this to snap or you’re going to end up with a lot of heavy wood slamming down your legs. This would be less than pleasurable. I sewed mine together in about a million different ways to ensure there was plenty of stitching holding them together.
- Second, I’d recommend starting to sew the strap at the center of the canvas. This ensures you end up with an equal handle on either side. To find the center, fold down the two top sections like you would if the wood was inserted, and then fold the rectangle in half again, like you see below. Also I recommend laying everything out before sewing, and pinning if you need to (second photo below).
- Finally, start sewing! Here are some photos of my stitches so you can see my technique. To start I did a single stitch just to get everything tacked down. Then in the center and on the ends I did super extra stitching in a box and X shape. I then did two more long stitches overall to give extra strength and to help keep the strapping from folding up on the edges or catching on anything.
- Finally it came the time to sew down the shorter edges so the wood could be slipped in. I stitched it down, and then sewed up one side which left a pocket for me to slip the wood into.
- The final step was making sure the wood was far enough back in the pocket and then stitching the open side shut, sealing the wood inside.
That’s it! This entire project cost me $2.00. If I had to buy the webbing it would have come out to a few bucks more (though I’d have lots of strapping left over, but that’s no problem around here as it would be used). The other option for straps if you don’t want to buy nylon strapping would be to make some canvas straps. It wouldn’t be horribly difficult to cut some wide straps, sew them all together, and give each strap a good solid hem on either side (same method as hemming the actual tote). It would be a heck of a lot stiffer and maybe harder to sew overall but it would definitely be doable. I’m debating on trying this method in the future just to see how it works. If I do, I’ll be sure to update you.
P.S. I waited to write this to ensure it held up and I can now say after at least a few weeks of daily use it’s held up great. Removing the weird side pockets was a great decision, as was adding in the wood for stability. Overall I’m really happy with how this turned out.