How to Turn a Rotary Phone Into a Push-button Phone

IMG_6841Last month, AT&T forced us to switch to a voice over internet protocol (VOIP) phone service. When they did so my beloved Western Electric 500 rotary phone (that sits atop the cat scratcher I blogged about yesterday) could no longer dial outgoing calls. So much for backwards compatibility!

Thankfully, some Google searching led me to a device you can install in your rotary phone to turn it into a hybrid rotary/push-button phone. Old Phone Work’s rotary pulse to tone converter not only made the phone dial again but also added last number redial and stored numbers.

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You need to be somewhat of a phone geek to install this gadget. It took me about an hour to sort out the wiring with directions specifically for WE500s that I downloaded from the Old Phone Works website. Thankfully, many vintage phones, such as ours, have labeled connections and are easy to rewire. The Old Phone Works pulse-to-tone converter, pictured above, fits completely within our old phone. The phone dials just as it used to, but at the end of each turn of the dial a pulse is emitted. The pulse-to-dial converter I bought won’t work on a conventional phone line (non-VOIP) as the voltages are too high. For non-VOIP service Old Phone Works has this pulse to tone converter.

The reasons we still have a land line–as well as why we haven’t switched to cable service–are complicated and will have to wait for a future blog post. But right now I’m enjoying the novelty of navigating phone trees with a dial phone. It’s one of the more ridiculous projects around the compound, but I like that a 50 year old phone, built like a tank, is still working.

Cat Scratch Fever: How to Make Your Own Cat Scratching Posts

Why buy cat scratching posts when you can make your own from inexpensive materials? And, since we cat owners can’t have nice things, why not make nice things scratch-able?

With these two notions in mind I set about making a scratching post that I could attach to the side of our Ikea couch. Here’s what you’ll need:

3/8 inch sisal rope
scrap wood (I used a 4×4)
heavy duty stapler and staples

Wrapping the wood is straightforwards, if tedious. I used some clamps to hold the post down to my work bench while I did the wrapping. Put a few staples in the sisal as you begin to wrap it around the wood. Wrap as tightly and closely as you can, putting staples in every few courses as you wind around the wood. Put a few more staples in at the end of the rope. That’s all there is to it.


You could make a base for your scratcher but I was more interested in integrating it into our living space rather than having a free-standing object that takes up a lot of room. Not only was I able to attach it to the couch (a hacked Ikea couch that I wrote about in a previous post) but I also turned the scratcher into a phone stand. This is a refinement of the original “catification” of the couch ends and an example of catification stacking functions.

Just minutes after installation it was already in use:

I’m so satisfied with the results that I’m thinking about creating a integrated cat scratcher/USB charging station/cat perch using a twisty tree branch. I know, that sounds like a bad idea, but as Marshall McLuhan once said, “If you don’t like that idea I’ve got others.”

In fact, I can see a future in which everything is wrapped in sisal. Yet more proof that felines are in charge of much more than the interwebs.

074 Beyond the War on Invasive Species with Tao Orion

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Is there something wrong with the “war” on invasive plants? What are these resilient plants trying to tell us? Is there such a thing as a “natural” landscape? What’s wrong with Glyphosate? These are some of the topics we discuss in our conversation with Tao Orion, author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration. Tao is a permaculture designer, teacher, homesteader, and mother living in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon. She teaches permaculture design at Oregon State University and at Aprovecho, a 40-acre nonprofit sustainable-living educational organization. Tao consults on holistic farm, forest, and restoration planning through Resilience Permaculture Design, LLC. She holds a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture from UC Santa Cruz. Her website is www.resiliencepermaculture.com.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to rootsimple@gmail.com. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

A DIY Tool for Taking Apart Pallets

Ever try to break up a pallet without splintering the wood? Personally, I’d put this tool innovation above the level of discovering a unified field theory or spotting life on Mars. This DIY pry bar opens a whole world of pallet wood reuse not possible with a crowbar. And it’s another great video from the folks at Garden Fork TV (who thoughtfully include their trial and error and a Labrador break).