Sunday, July 31, 2005

Drum Roll, Please

I think I’m ready for the drum sander tomorrow. I’ve never used one before so, this should be fun. I spent most of the day cleaning up around the house. It really needed a good reaming. It is a bad habit of mine to not clean up after a job. The house is so big I can just move to a new room rather than clean the one I was working in. It is kind of like selling a car when the ash tray is full. Well, I officially ran out of rooms to work in, so it was time to clean. This was not a real cleaning, but more of just Pick-up-tools-and-sweep-up-sawdust sort of cleaning.

I went to an open house today. It was listed as a 1900 Victorian, but it was obviously older. I would guess 1870s. It was about 8 blocks from my house. It was a gut remodel but they did a pretty good job. Some of them are really poorly done. Just slap it together and sell it. They put in real wood floors and had high end appliances. It looked nice.

Also today, I found some cabinet doors for the yet to be built cabinets, that will go over the yet to be built counter, that will sit on top of the yet to be built cabinets that will house the sink and dishwasher. These are two cabinet doors that measure 23X46 inches. They each have 2 raised panels that are similr to the dumb waiter style door that I built eons ago. I had contimplated trying to make doors like this myself, but I found these and they are a perfect size. They are redwood and covered in many layers of paint. I would guess they are about 100 years old.

In the last months issue of Restore & Preserve they showcased a stunning 1884 Italinate Victorian. The house is located at 10 W. Clark and I used to own the house right across the street at 25 W. Clark, so I know this house well. Even though the house is cut-up in to units, it still retains many of the original elemenst including the original 1884 kitchen cabinets! They are very cool looking. I’m going to use them has a insparation for my cabinets. The doors I found should work very well.

I walked by it today so I snapped a few shots. Click to enlarge.

10 W. Clark - Could Be Yours For $500,000

My First House Right Across The Street
It is 1875, and I sold it about 3 years ago
It was a dump when I bought it

Open House I Went To

Right across the street from the open house are a pair of matching cottages. I tried to buy the one on the left 3 years ago. All of the houses in this neighborhood where bought up by CalTrans (Ca. Transporation Authority). All of the houses were to be bulldozed and a freeway was going to be put in. These were dozens and dozens of old Victorians that were just going to be leveled. The freeway would have cut the city in 2.

This was in the late 60s. By the 70s there was a lot of opposition to it and CalTrans dropped the idea. The trouble was they now owned all the houses and they were now the largest landlord in the city. In the 90s they started auctioning off all the house. The boarded up cottage is the last one still owned by CalTrans. They wouldn't sell it to me. I called and called and called and got no place. And there it sits, boarded up.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Plug & Fill, Fill & Plug

Fun and games today with plug cutters, Forstner bits, epoxy wood filler, and oil paint. It would have been nice if I didn’t have to do it at all, but I do, so I did.

I used a 2 part epoxy wood filler to fill the gaps. This worked good (I hope) for two reasons. First, because the filler is comprised of a base and catalyst I was able to play around with the base to adjust the color with out having to worry about it setting up. Once the color was how I wanted it, I could then add the catalyst. After the catalyst is added I had about a 20 minutes working time before it sets-up to the point that I couldn’t play with it any longer. Second, because this is wood that has never been stained or anything, and because the filler is designed for clean wood, it should be a strong bond. If I was trying this on an old floor with oil, stain, shellac, varnish, or poly it may not hold in the long run. I used this filler on an exterior, south facing window sill 3 years ago and it is still holding strong.

There are some potential problems. The addition of the oil paints may cause problems as it sets. I added very little paint, so I’m hoping it won't be a problem, but the potential is there. I tried something similar with sawdust a few years back. It didn’t work. I had to add so much saw dust to adjust the color that the filler was crumbly and dry. The other problem I may encounter is with the color. This filler will not take a stain so I had to try and imagine what the final results will be and try and match the filler to that. Time will tell how well I did. It is really very little filler, so even if it is not a dead-on match, which it most assuredly won’t be, it may (fingers crossed) just look like variations in the wood.

As for the plug cutter and Forstner bit, that was a little more tricky than I thought. I saw Norm do this on The New Yankee Workshop, and of course it came out perfect because Norm is God-like in his woodworking abilities. While I, on the other hand, am more ape-like in my woodworking abilities, so at this point it looks like it was done by Coco the Gorilla. It is too early to judge how well I did, but it doesn’t look like Norm’s handiwork at this point. I really won’t know how well I did until after I sand.

And speaking of sanding, the plan originally was that I would start that today. Obviously that didn’t happen. Plan B was to start tomorrow, but to be honest I’m pooped. I think Plan C is looking really strong. I can race through my work on Monday and get off by 11:30 or so. Pick up the sander at 1:00 and start in on the floor. Maybe, if I’m really nice, they’ll let me turn it in bright an early Tuesday morning and only charge me for a half day rental. I can then pick up the edge sander Tuesday after work and do the same thing. That means that maybe, just maybe, I can start to put the finish on Tuesday evening.

If Plan C works it will be a miracle(other fingers crossed).

Friday, July 29, 2005

Well, It’s In

I got the last of the boards laid today. It is very frustrating. Seventy-five percent of the floor looks really good, and then the last 25% has gaps where there are transitions between boards. The waste is appalling. If the idiots at the mill would have just paid a little more attention to detail this floor would have been installed and finished weeks ago. And it would have looked great.

Yesterday’s post was a bit of levity about the situation, but to be honest the whole thing really pisses me off. I’m not sure what makes me madder, the way the floor turned out or the crappy workmanship and the waste of good wood. I remember writing once about having to be patient when dealing with “craftsman”. While that is still true, this guy is no craftsman, he’s a hack. I could have done a better job. When I went to Placerville to pick up the second batch of wood, he mentioned how it was selling well at first but now sales have pretty much dried up. Gee, I wonder why? Could it be that you do really crappy work?

I ran so low on decent wood to use that I wasn’t able to do anything too creative with the alcove. I was afraid to trim too much thinking I might run out. I pretty much just had to lay in a bunch of shorter boards. It looks ok, I guess. It should be all full-length boards in there one after the other. Grrrr!

I’ve crafted a letter to the mill owner stating that I want a partial refund. The way I see it he delivered an inferior product, I gave him an opportunity to correct it, and he screwed up again. I was forced to use the inferior product because of his mistakes and time constraints, and therefore I deserve a refund even though I installed the product. I’ve taken pictures of the problem areas and will send them along with the letter. I’m asking for 25% back. It was brutal not to resort to profanity and insults in the letter. I made sure he knew I was pissed, but at the same time I stated my case in more business like manner.

The only good that has come out of this is I am really, really good at blind-nailing now. Blind-nailing is what you do on tongue & groove wood work like floors & bead board. You drive the nail through the tongue and when the next piece is installed the groove covers the tongue and the nail and you no longer see the nail head. They make a special tool you can rent for this, but I did this one by hand. Mainly I did it manually because I knew it would take a while I and didn’t want the rental fees. At first I had to hammer the nail in about 90% of the way and then finish it with a nail-set so I don’t dent the wood with the hammer. By the time I got half way across the room I could bang them in all the way with out dinging the wood. So, I guess that’s something.

I won’t be able to sand tomorrow as planed. I was forced to use wood that had some nail holes in it so I have to deal with that. I also want to fill the gaps. For the nail holes I will use a plug cutter and a Forstner bit to bore out the hole and then insert a plug. If I use similar wood grain and match the direction it should be invisible. For the gaps I’m going to use a epoxy wood filler. It dries to a gray color but I’m going to play around with tinting it a little to try and match the wood better. If all goes will, and it probably won’t, I may start sanding tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This Week On The Discovery Channel

Tune in this week to Discover Wood Floor Problems and watch Greg as he discovers yet more problems with the milling of the wood. In this weeks episode Greg finds out that the second batch of wood is also milled incorrectly. It turns out many of the boards have a slight taper in the last 12 inches or so. Also, Greg discovers that some of the boards from the first batch, which Greg thought were good, are in fact milled incorrectly as well. The groove is not deep enough so the boards don’t fit properly. It is just one exciting discovery after another.

Let’s talk to the Johnson Family of Peoria, IL to find out why Discover Wood Floor Problems is quickly becoming the most watched show on TV.

Dad: “It reminds me of some of my projects that went wrong. I enjoy watching others suffer as I did.”

Mom: “I think it’s funny. Everything is going so badly. It’s funny because it’s true!”

Little Janie: “I like the swear words!”

And be sure to tune in next week to discover if Greg is finally pushed over the edge. Will Greg end up in the Clock Tower with a high powered rifle? Tune in next week on Discover Wood Floor Problems only on The Discovery Channel.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

And one of them is this floor. Actually, I don’t regret the floor so much as I regret that the wood ended up in the hands of the guy who milled it. The words Quality Control are just not in his vocabulary. I guess it’s my fault to a certain extent. I have this love affair with used and salvage material, so I should expect that things are sometimes not going to work out well. Still, it’s a little irritating when it is not the fault of the wood, but the person who turned it into flooring. A more competent person could have done a better job.

The good wood is very, very good. The problem is there is just so much waste. A lot of this waste could have been avoided if they would have just paid a little more attention when they were milling it. The newest problem is with the second batch of wood. I told him I needed 50 sq ft to finish up the room, and I made a point of stating I need 50 sq ft of usable material.

When I picked up the wood I was impressed with the quality. Nearly every board was entirely useable. Not like the first batch at all. Now I’ve discovered the new batch is too thick. It is 1/8-inch thicker than the first batch. This isn’t a real problem because I own a planer. Two passes through the planer and I will have the proper thickness. The other problem is the tongue & groove are different than on the first batch. This means I can’t mix and match old wood with new wood. I have to pick a point were I will start with the new batch and after that I’m stuck with it.

I’m now wondering if I will have enough to finish the floor. Even after I went to hell and back to get more. It is all very frustrating. The last section of the kitchen where I will be laying floor is in the alcove. It is about 20 sq ft and the ceiling is 18-inches lower than the rest of the ceiling of the kitchen. Very much a separate space from the rest of the room. I’m trying to think of ways I can be creative with the wood. I will be left with a lot of short pieces (less than 2-feet) that are in very good shape. Also, about half of the floor in the little alcove will be under the Third Cabinet, and will never be seen. I’m thinking maybe I can switch to some kind of pattern with the shorter pieces of wood in the alcove. Like a herring (sp?) bone pattern, or a running bond with uniform lengths (like subway tile is laid). We’ll see how it turns out. One way or another it will get done. And when it’s done, no matter what it looks like, no matter what others think, I’ll be happy with it (I hope). But more, much more than this, I did it my way.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ok! OK! I’m going to do it!

I don’t have anybody to nag me, so I have to nag myself from time to time so I’ll get back to work.

Yes, I said I'm going to start! I heard you the first time!

It was about a month ago I started the floor and I’ve yet to finish.

Yes, as soon as I finish this blog entry!

I had good excuses – I mean reasons for not finishing.

First there was the problem with the wood.

Then I had to drive to hell and back to get new wood.

Then I hurt my back.

Then last week I saw the light at the end of the tunnel with the hutches so I decided to finish that up.

As you can see, all my reasons are well documented, so there is really no reason to nag myself anymore, but I do it anyway.

I said I would start right after this blog entry!!!

The goal is to finish installing the wood by Friday, and then Saturday I can rent a sander. I think if I sand all day Saturday with the drum sander, and then do the edge sander on Sunday, I should be able to start the finish Sunday evening. I can finish that up on Monday, then by the middle of next week I can start to move stuff in. That is the plan.

You don’t have to yell at me! I’m starting now!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Meet The Hutches

Before the formal introduction, I’ll clear up some old business. The counter top came out not too bad. I had to compromise with the edge trim, but it works, so…it works. I turned to the router table again and did a ¾-inch quarter-round out of more scrap redwood. To get the slab smooth I had to sand for more than an hour. I started with 60 grit and worked through 80, 100, and 120. It is not a “factory finish” but it came out better than I thought. Because of the fog I didn’t want to sand out-doors so I used the shop vac with the RO sander in one of the back bedrooms. About half way through black smoke started pouring out of the motor of the shop vac. I think it’s toast.

The Un-Oiled Slab Just After Sanding

But now on to the main event. All of the hutches are finished and ready for installation. Never thought I write that.

Bottom Half of The Frankenstein Hutch With Oiled Slab
(Still needs shellac)

Top Half of The Frankenstein Hutch With Doors and Drawers Installed

The e-Solution Hutch

I decided to put the e-Solution hutch in a different spot in the kitchen so the crooked crown molding on the right side won’t bother me forever. In the bathroom I installed an antique high-tank toilet that fills over the top. There is a 5-foot, nickel plated fill tube that travels up the side and connects to the ball-cock on the side of the tank. I had to have a custom bend in the tube before it is nickel plated. The guy on the phone told me the valve sticks out a 1.5 inches form the wall. It was in fact only one inch so the off-set of the fill tube is off by a half inch. It works fine but I have to look at it every time I take a bath. I doubt anyone else would notice but it really bugs me. So the hutch gets moved so I can enjoy my breakfast.

This is the third cabinet that I bought at a local antique store. It was green and had 1920s hardware on it. I painted it to match the other pieces and put period hardware on it.

Third Cabinet

The last cabinets are yet to be dealt with. I will be making a 9 foot counter that will have an under-mount sink and a hidden dishwasher, along with one storage door and two cabinets above. I have a bunch of redwood bevel board (similar to bead board) that came out of the addition that I'm going to make the cabinets with. Still haven’t decided what to do about the cabinets on the wall above the counter. The choices so far are solid front, glass front, or open shelving. So many choices. These will most likely not be done before the party, but that was expected.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Screwed Over By Fairies

Maybe it was that foot-long green chili beef burrito I ate last night that caused me to have this bad dream, or maybe this all really happened. I’m not sure, but regardless of whether this is true or not, here’s how I remember it. The fairies showed up at my house drunk and noisy and tried to make a counter top for the Frankenstein Hutch. At first I thought all the noise was just skunks under the house, so I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

The first thing the fairies had to do was clean out the shop. It was a real mess. I have a bad habit of flying from one project to another with out completely cleaning up from the last project. This is how my house ends up as a feculent hell hole. The fairies were pissed-off about the mess and there was a lot of cussing and things being thrown around. They had to vacuum up large quantities of saw dust and piles of wood scraps. One of the fairies was a little gassy so there were frequent breaks to air out the shop. Maybe that fairy had also eaten a foot-long green chili beef burrito.


Next, they went out to the garage and pulled out some of the 1X8 redwood siding that was left over from the demolition of the 2-story addition. They had to rip about an inch and a half off each side to get rid of nail holes. After that they ran the boards through the planer to get a smooth side and reduce it to ¾ of an inch.

Imagination Required

The fairies didn’t do a very good job of ripping the boards down so the sides were not perfectly straight. The fairies wished they had a jointer but they really can’t afford one, and there isn’t really enough room in the shop for one anyway. Instead, they set up a straight bit on the router table and off-set the fence by 1/8-inch to get a straight side. This works OK, but the fairies are still left with some problem spots at the ends. Apparently they planned for this and were able to take 2-inches off each end and still have boards long enough.

It's Getting There

This is still not as good as a jointer for getting perfectly straight sides ready for glue. A few weeks back the fairies bought a tongue and groove router bit that was on sale at Sears. They decided to do a tongue and groove on each side of the board to add strength during the glue-up. They had never used this router bit before and it is little tricky. They first had to set it up with 2 cutting blades to cut the tongue. There are spacers and shims that have to be put on in the right order so the two blades are spaced correctly. Then, while the shank is still in the router, one of the cutting blades is removed and the spacers and shims are re-aligned to cut the groove. If done correctly the tongue and groove matches up perfectly and the boards fit together with a relatively smooth surface.

Set up For The Tongue

The fairies screwed up when they put on the cutting blades for the tongue. The tongue was too thick and would not fit in the groove. The fairies had used the wrong spacer between the two cutting blades and had to run the boards again. Stupid, stupid fairies. This caused problems and the boards are not a good fit in some places. On top of that, the fairies discovered that the tongues do not fit all the way in to the groove and there is a gap. As I said, they had never used this router bit before.

You can see in the picture below of the dining room table that the maker uses this T&G method of joining the boards for the top. On the table the T&G are a very tight fit and it looks nice. On the boards the fairies did (next picture) there is a gap. The white stuff in the gap is glue.

The fairies became frustrated after this and stopped working on the counter. They left a mess everywhere and I think they performed some un-holy acts of the boards before they left, or maybe that’s just glue. I’m not sure how to proceed at this point. I think I’m going to get out the RO sander and some 60 grit paper and see if I can smooth the top down. I could also trim the edges and add a strip of wood to finish the ends so the gaps in the T&G don’t show. To do this correctly I would need some very long clamps which I don’t have. It would also be nice to own a biscuit joiner, but I’m not going to be splurging for one of those either.

Here's Where I'm At

This is going to be for the hutch and most of the wood won’t be seen. Also, this won’t be a work surface so it won’t see a lot of abuse. I’m thinking a decorative strip with glue and finish nails to hold it on might be enough to cover the gaps and give it a finished look. I guess I’ll know by tomorrow if this is going to work.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Unnatural Blindness

I ordered blinds today. I chickened out on the fabric blinds for the kitchen. Almost got the bamboo, but it just didn’t feel right. I drooled over the wood blinds, but that is really – I’m mean really – not in the budget. I ended up getting something called Durawood. It not natural wood but a synthetic material. They look like wood, feel like wood, but man they ain’t wood. It is called a 2-inch Durawood Supreme Blind in Golden Oak. I hope I didn’t make a mistake.

They touted them as being perfect for kitchens and baths. In the catalog they showed a several pieces sitting in a glass of water. They looked good in the picture. I didn’t go crazy on the bells and whistles but I did spring for Willow Green tape on the blinds, and getting a wood finish instead of white or off-white was also an upgrade. The Willow Green tape pieces are two fabric strips that run vertically down the front to cover the threads that connect the slats and operate the tilt. I’m not thrilled with the decision, but I had to make a compromise on price. The money tree still has not sprouted in the backyard, and the blinds were 20% off.


Friday, July 22, 2005

It's Baaaack

The fog rolled in with a vengeance. I guess our summer days are over for a while. It was actually kind of nice today and then about 4:00 it really blew in. I took these shots about 7:30 from the upstairs window at the end of the hall. You can click the pictures to enlarge. It doesn’t show up too well, but it is really billowing down the street.

That is Gary’s house on the corner. It is 1899 I think. There is a little bungalow next to it that I’m not sure of the age of. The gray one with the blue trim in the background has been heavily butchered. It is probably an old Victorian, but you can’t tell any more. It is now apartments and some freaky people live there.

The little Greek Revival belongs to the brother of the woman who lives there. She is not a fan of old houses and it shows. She is a nice enough person but she does little for the house. It is 1870 and probably the oldest house in the neighborhood. Next door is a nice little Victorian that is very well cared for by the family that owns it. In the year 1900 there was a man named John Petch that lived there. He was related to Thomas Petch, the original owner of my house, but I’m not sure exactly how. He was either Thomas' father or brother. Both Thomas and John were electricians.

A Surprise Find

Over a year ago I bid on a hardware lot on Ebay. It was an assortment of latches, bin pulls, hinges, back plates, and other things from around the turn of the century. I specifically wanted the pulls in the picture below. I had recently discovered the hole in the wall for the dumb waiter style door and knew that eventually, some day I was going to rebuild door. I don’t recall what the bid was, but it was a great deal if I had purchased all the things separately.

Here is a picture of some of the cool things I got out of the lot. The hinges and back plates are some place else, and most of the bin pulls have been cleaned up and installed.

Last night I cleaned up the last set of bin pulls that I need for the kitchen. These are going on the third cabinet that I bought at an antique store locally. They were black with dirt, grime, and corrosion, and had what was either rust or some red paint splattered on them. I assumed they were cast iron like all the others. What I use to clean cast iron is navel jelly and a wire brush. First I paint on the navel jelly with a small brush and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then I take them out side and hose off the jelly and go at them with a wire brush. I use a brass brush that looks kind of like a tooth brush on steroids.

Immediately when I began to brush I noticed these did not look like cast iron. I assume they are solid brass. I really don’t know my metals too well, so they could even be bronze, but I doubt it. Either way they look great. After I get them cleaned up, I dry them real good with paper towels and blast them with the heat gun. I then spare on clear lacquer. They look nice, or at least I think so, but I hope they don’t look out of place with all the cast iron hardware.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Yet Another Cabinet

I started working on the third and final cabinet for the kitchen. Well, final except for the ones I have to make for the sink and dishwasher. This one I picked up at an antique shop here in town so it does not get a clever name. It is a nearly perfect fit for the alcove. The cabinet is 49” wide, 24” deep, and stands 44 inches high. The alcove is 52 inches wide and 49 inches deep. The cabinet has 5 drawers on one side and a full-height door on the other. Inside the door there are 4 shelves.

I would estimate the cabinet is from the teens or 20s judging from the hardware and type of construction. It is all redwood, so it is of local origin. The body is painted but the redwood top is oiled and shellacked. This will be used as an area to keep bills that need to be paid and things like that on top. The drawers and shelves will be for the sort of utility items every kitchen has. Junk drawers, basically.

I’ve removed the 20’s brass bin pulls and cabinet latch and have it sort of dismantled for painting. I’m painting it the same Honied White as the other cabinets. I will then put on cast iron bin pulls and cabinet latches to match the other cabinets. I’m sure I will have no problem selling the other hardware on Ebay. It is all in pretty good shape.

I’ll post pictures in a few days when it’s all back together.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Got Lucky

Sometimes it pays to procrastinate. I needed a piece of glass for one of the doors on the Frankenstein Hutch. There are 2 doors and each have two panes of glass that are about 16X26 inches. One was missing and the three remaining ones are the old wavy glass. I would assume they are original, and the cabinet is from the 1890s, so that’s pretty cool. I wanted to get a piece of old glass for the forth pane. I first went to a few salvage places hoping I could find an old sash that was in poor shape. The idea being that I could use the glass from that, but no luck. At the last place I went to I asked the owner if they knew of a local source. They said to try Stafford Glass. That was about 2 weeks ago.

I driver by Stafford Glass every day but either would forget to stop in, or I would remember and wouldn’t have my checkbook on me. Today I stopped in and asked if they had any and wouldn’t you know that morning someone had dropped off a bunch of window sashes from an 1890s house that had just had replacement windows put in. Vinyl, Ugh! In fact, all the sashes were sitting there and the glass was neatly leaning against the wall.

Stafford Glass is a very small shop that does a lot of custom work - etched glass, stained glass repair, that sort of thing. The whole place is no bigger than a modern 2-car garage. They sold me a piece for $19.40 which seems about the same price as new glass. I asked about reproduction wavy glass and they said it is available but it is $30.00 a square foot!!! That means that the piece I bought would have been close to $90.00 for the reproduction stuff. It was really a shame to see the old sashes in the shop. The wood was hard and solid. There was nothing the matter with them. It just breaks my heart to see people take them out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Splinter Group

I will be going to another Old-House get together tomorrow. This will be at a house I’ve never been in before, so it should be fun. Jim and Margaret are new comers to the group but already seem more a part of the group than I do. They are both retired and very out-going. Very nice people. They moved up here only in the last few years. They have bought about 10 properties in the city it seems. This is mostly good because they are, for the most part, restoration minded. Jim does come-off some times seeming a little like a developer, which makes me a little nervous at times. I like them both, though, as I said they are very nice.

The group I attend is called The Splinter Group because they used to be a part of a much larger group that became too big and sort of lost focus. The original intention was for a group of people who were actively restoring old homes to get together on a regular basis and share stories and ideas, not unlike what happens at HouseBlogs. It grew and grew to the point that a lot of people were attending that owned older homes but weren’t really engaged in the restoration aspect, so the “meetings” became little more than social events.

Eventually what happened was a group of the more hard-core enthusiasts broke off from the main group and became known as The Splinter Group. This all happened before my time. I went to a few meetings of the remaining members (the non-splinter group) a few years ago. A neighbor of mine at my former house invited me to the group. I attended a few meetings but quickly became disillusioned. I’m not terribly social to start with, so it is not really in my nature to meet monthly with a group of 20 or 30 people. The people were all nice, but they didn’t really talk about houses that much.

Usually, when there is a meeting there is a social aspect were people mingle and talk, but then there is an actually meeting. The person whose house the meeting is at talks about their house and it’s history, and what projects they are working on, and gives a tour. Stories are swapped and it is largly old-house related. The first meeting I attended of the non-splinter group none of that ever happened. I left not really even knowing whose house I was at. It was kind of like just any other party. I only went to 2 or 3 and stopped going. The final straw was when I had had a gentleman from the group at my house and he was blown away by all the projects I was doing. At the next meeting his wife sort of gave me a hard time because they didn’t have the time to do the work I was doing. Fine with me, but don’t try and make me feel guilty at an old-house meeting because I’m working on my old house.

About a year and a half ago I was at a local antique store and got in to a great conversation with the owner about restoration and old houses. I told her about the group and she said she was familiar with them and she was part of The Splinter Group. She told me the whole story. We talked some more and she asked more about the work I was doing. Eventually her husband showed up and the shop was closing so I invited them over for a tour of the house and they reciprocated the next evening. They only live a few blocks from me. Little did I know at the time that I was being evaluated to become a charter member of The Splinter Group. Long story long – I made the cut. It seems I only attend about 8 meetings a year.

I’ve only had the meeting once at my house. That was 19 months ago in January just after I started attending. I will be having the meeting at my house next month, which means I have a little more than 4 weeks to get the kitchen presentable. Not finished – presentable. I think it is doable but I have a lot of work ahead of me. So why I’m I sitting here typing?

Jim & Margaret's House

Monday, July 18, 2005

90% But Working

Due to my back injury yesterday I wasn’t able to start laying flooring again. That is a job that is really hard on the back even when I’m at 100%. Instead I went back to work on the e-solution hutch. I got it stripped, sanded, and primed, and I’m not thrilled with the way it is coming out. I guess, it’s better to say it is coming out OK, but compared to the Frankenstein Hutch it looks worse than it is. Does that make sense.

There are two real problems with it. First, I screwed up on the crown molding. One side is crooked and it drives me nuts. I was working in very cramped quarters and I just didn’t notice when I put it on. My face was inches from it and I just didn’t have the perspective. If I had caught it right away I could have removed it and done it over. As it is now, I glued and nailed it really good and I would probably end up destroying it if I tried to remove it. If I ruined one side piece I could deal with that. I have enough of the crown molding left over to replace it. However, if I ruined the side and front (they are glued and nailed together), or just the front, I would be screwed. There isn’t enough to do the front. I’m hoping it won’t be as noticeable once the hutch is painted a uniform color.

The other problem is on one side the wood is de-laminating, for lake of a better term. This was part of a built in and the one side was never exposed so it was never painted (80+ years). It is one piece of 1X12 redwood. The grain is very raised. I have sanded and sanded and sanded. It just keeps popping up and in places it sort of peels off. If it was not attached to the cabinet I would run it through the planer and that would take care of it, but I can’t do that. I sanded it once more and primed it. I’m hoping that will solve the problem.

All in all, I guess that isn’t too bad. Still, it would be nice if I didn’t have these problems. I keep telling myself that I only spent $32.00 on the legs and $60.00 on the latches, so if I’m really dissatisfied it is not a huge loss. I’m going to do my best to find the little quirks charming, but I don’t know.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I’m A Chiropractor!

So, I’m – uhmm –sitting in the bathroom this morning, minding my own business, and when I go to stand up – OW! – my lower back goes out. It is very painful. I have kind of a history with this sort of thing, but I’m willing to bet this has something to do with my 12 hour trip to Hell and Back on Saturday. I make it back to my room and finish getting dressed, which is really difficult. Since I’m still working on the kitchen I normally would go down and get something at the little market on Sundays. Well, I’ve got nothing in the house so I have to at least try. I look a little like a Neanderthal hobbling the 5 blocks to the market to get my coffee, muffin, and newspaper. Every step is painful, but I manage to make it back home where I sit on the front porch reading, drinking, and eating. When I go to stand up its OW! OW! OW! It seems to have just gotten worse.

I make my way to the couch and go on-line to see what’s up. I spend about a half hour sitting and again when I go to stand up it is just excruciating. Obviously sitting is not the answer. At the same time, I can’t just stand motionless in the room for the rest of the day. I decide to go for a short walk and get another cup of coffee. I don’t want to go back to the market because it just seems weird going back there so soon for a second cup of coffee. About a block away from the market is a little drive-through coffee shack. These little drive-throughs have been popping up like mushrooms around here for the past 2 years. It seems like you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one these days.

I get about 3 blocks down the street and I am really in pain. I almost turn back. I decided to trudge on and I manage to get there, get my precious coffee, and start back. I get about half way home and notice that it is a little easier to walk. About 2 blocks from my house I make a turn instead of going home and decide to walk a little further. After about 5 blocks or so things are really starting to loosen up.

I ended up taking a long, long walk. I was probably gone close to an hour. I walked down some of my favorite streets and looked at some houses, stopped at 2 garage sales on the way, went to the Post Office to check the PO Box, and eventually made it back home. The back was still sore but I was able to walk like a real person and I could take 2 stairs at a time when I walked upstairs. If you ever see me only take one step at a time on a flight of stairs you know there is a problem.

I came back down stairs and realized I needed to return a rental movie. I rented “Million Dollar Baby”, which was a really great movie. I almost ready to call Clint Eastwood a national treasure. I may have to update my profile for this one. Anyway, I figured, what the hell. I’ll go for another walk. The rental place is only about 15 blocks away, but I got about half way there and ran in to one of the guys that works there. He was actually headed to work so I gave the DVD to him. So now what. It was a little after 11:00 so I decided to have lunch. I went to this little Taqauria (sp?) and got a burrito (Yummy!). Now came the moment of truth. I had to sit down and eat. Gingerly I slid in to the booth and read the paper while I ate, the whole time making sure I kept perfect posture. After about 20 minutes I stood up and things felt fine.

Two blocks away Empire Furniture opens at Noon, and it was a quarter to twelve now, so I decided to stroll through Old Town. The place was crawling with tourists. I spend a lot of time down there during the week and this place is usually a ghost town on Sundays, so it was a little odd to see all the families and the hustle and bustle of commerce. It was nice.

I went back to Empire Furniture and found nothing I couldn’t live without. Still it is fun to browse. The places is packed with antiques and newer items, architectural salvage pieces, and hours wares. It is in two turn-of-the-century buildings, covers 3 floors, and is a chaotic mess. I didn’t spend much time there and decided to make my way home. I have to cross 4th & 5th streets to get back to the residential side of the city. These 2 streets are each one-way, and 3 lanes wide. They make up the Highway 101 corridor through the city. As I go to cross 4th street I get about a third of the way and the light starts to turn. I break into to a jog to make it across before the light changes. As I’m doing this, I’m thinking to myself, “This is a mistake”. I just know I’m going to be in a lot of pain once I get to the other side. As it turns out, it seems to have popped something back into place. I’m like 90% by now. I walk the rest of the way home feeling pretty darn good.

I got home and soaked in the tub for a half hour or so, now I’m writing this, and next I’m going to go mow the lawn, and I may even make a dump run! Instead of take two aspirin and call me in the morning, it should be take 2 long walks and get back to work.

Editors Note: No dead cats where swung in the making of this blog entry.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cast Out Of Eden

Abandon hope all ye who enter… The Sacramento Valley. I made the 730 mile round trip to Placerville today to pick up the flooring. This took me through The Sacramento Valley where it was a blistering 107 degrees. That is not a type-o. It was ONE-OH-SEVEN, and – AND – because I was driving a truck from Eureka, I had no air conditioning! It was brutal. It was like driving through a blast furnace.

To make matters worse – if that’s possible – I have become a weather wimp. From a weather prospective I am the equivalent of a Banana Slug. I require a cool, moist environment. I wasn’t always this way. I grew in South East Texas and spent a few years in So. Florida. I lived about half my life in some of the worst heat imaginable, but I’m just not accustomed to it any more. That is, if you can ever really become accustomed to triple digit temperatures.

For the past week there has been a high pressure system parked over the west that is creating this un-Godly heat. Here in Eureka, though, it has given us absurdly perfect weather. Garden of Eden like weather. Instead of our normal summer pattern of slate gray skies and temps in the 50s, we’ve had brilliant sun shine and temps in the low 70s. On Tuesday we broke a record for the day with an all-time high of 74 degrees.

On the way out of town this morning I passed by the electronic marquee at The Bay Shore Mall. It said 3:11 AM and 51 degrees. When I rolled into Placerville about 6 hours later, shortly after 9:00 in the morning, it was already 96 degrees. I haven’t felt anything hotter than 78 degrees in 3 years or so. The owner of the mill wanted to chit-chat and I all could think of was I’ve got to get the hell out of here before it gets really hot. As if 96 isn’t really hot.

The Sacramento Valley lies between two mountain ranges. When the high pressure system sits over it it compresses the air and it just keeps getting hotter and hotter and hotter. On the south side of The Bay Area there is The Central Valley that gets just as hot, if not hotter. Needles, CA, in The Central Valley, hit 123 on Wednesday. Both valleys are long and flat and mostly agrarian. Aside from the State Capitol of Sacramento there isn’t much in either of them. Interstate 5 runs down the middle of both valleys and there are dozens of little blink-and-you-miss-them towns along the way.

Placerville is just up in the hills above Sacramento, on the way to Lake Tahoe. So, at 9:30 AM I leave Placerville and head towards Sacramento. By the time I get to Sacramento, about an hour later, it is already over 100. I then head north on I5 up the valley. Around 11:30 I stop in this little speck of a town to eat lunch and it is 107! And remember I have no A/C in the truck. It is unbelievably hot. From there I take state highway 20 west to get over the little mountain range so I can get on Highway 101, which leads to Eureka. It is about 90 miles over Highway 20. This road is 2 lanes winding through the mountains and it is hotter than hell. Again, to make matters worse, the road is clogged with tourists going to Clear Lake at the top of the mountains. RVs doing 35 MPH and absurdly large SUVs pulling absurdly expensive boats that aren’t going much faster.

I call them mountains, but really they are low rolling hills that climb only a few thousand feet at best. The hills are covered with tall brown grass and dotted with canyon oak. They are quite beautiful when you’re not behind an RV doing 35 MPH and the temperature is still well over 100. After about 20 miles of that they start to look more like something out of Dante’s Inferno. The sun was coming in the driver’s side window, along with the hot wind –again - made it almost unbearable. You don’t want to move. It is just so freakin’ hot. My arms are different colors now because one was in the sun and heat for hours on end.

When I got to the top of hills at Clear Lake it cooled somewhat but it is still in the 90s. It seems to take forever to get past the lake. The damn thing just goes on and on, and it is dotted with little towns and RV parks and there are a lot 30 MPH zones. As soon as you get past the lake and start down the other side the temperature just starts to climb again. About 50 miles past the lake I stopped in Willits on the 101 to get a smoothie. It is a little after 1:00 and it is 104. I’ve been driving in 100+ temperatures now for more than 4 hours and I’m still 2 or 3 hours from home.

About an hour outside of Willits I saw my first redwood and I thought I was going to cry. The road narrows in to 2 lanes and drops down in to this grove of giant redwoods. The canopy completely covers the road and the shade brings immediate relief. You are no longer breathing scorched air. Instead there is a green, moist quality to it. It is still in the high 80s but it feels good. Unfortunately it is short lived. Very quickly the road begins to climb again. By the time I hit Garberville it is back over 100, but now I’m only an hour from home. After Garberville it is literally all down hill. The 101 slowly winds its way down the mountains to the coast (This is a different mountain range than HyWy 20). After every 10 miles or so the temperatures seems to drop a degree or two. By the time I hit the bustling metropolis of Weott it is in the low 80s.

A half hour later I roll in to Eureka. I pass by the marquee at The Bayshore Mall and it reads 3:25 PM and 64 degrees. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and people are wearing sweaters. I’m home. It took 12 hours and 14 minutes, 723 miles of driving, and a temperature swing of 56 degrees to get the wood for the floor. I will never again go to The Sacramento Valley in the summer for as long as I live. Mark my words.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I Have A Pulse

Thursday, July 14, 2005

More Painting (I promise I won’t sing)

This is day of 2 of painting the top half of The Frankenstein Hutch, and the interior will need a final coat tomorrow. The outside is the same color as the trim in the kitchen. It is Sherwin Williams’ Honied White. I decided to paint the interior dark green for three reasons. First, I thought it would be a nice accent to the green walls. Second, I read someplace that the interior of cabinets should be dark because it will help hide stains. And third - and this is the most important reason - I had ¾ of a gallon of dark green paint left over from another project. Waste not, want not – right?

The dark green paint is Sherwin Williams’ Hunter Green. It is very dark, and maybe a little too dark. I’ve decided to paint the undersides of the shelves white in hopes that it will throw some light down on to what ever is in the cabinet. The paint itself is kind of tough to work with. It is a water based, enamel floor paint. The finished product is a durable, high-gloss surface that is oil and chemical resistant. I think it is designed for like factory floors or something. The problem with it is that it is very watery. It is about the constancy of tomato soup and the coverage is terrible. It takes a minimum of 3 coats to cover the old color. When I bought this product a year ago I had to go back and buy a second gallon. I mentioned to the salesmen how watery it was and he said, in a deep, authoritative voice, “Yes, we’re not really happy with the consistency of the dark base”. He did give me a big discount on the second gallon because the coverage is so bad. I guess that’s something.

To complicate matters, the shelves have been nailed in so I have to paint everything in place. I think they nailed them in to give the cabinet stability when it was last moved 80 or 90 years ago. Because it was a built-in in it’s first incarnation, and because it has doors on the front and back, it is not a real stable cabinet. With the shelves nailed in place it does OK, but I don’t think it is wise to pull out the nails. Painting the interior is awkward, and there is a lot of surface area to paint.

Work on the e-solution hutch has stalled for the time being. It is stripped and ready to be sanded. The trouble is, it is in the same room as The Frankenstein Hutch, which is being painted. I didn’t think that one through very well. I was too eager to start painting because I wanted to see what it looked with the crown molding on it. The last thing I need for this is a 16X26 piece of glass for one of the doors. With any luck I can put the doors and hardware on this weekend. I’ll try and post a photo after that. The room is too crowded to get a good shot. I did find out that when assembled it will be 9’ 3” tall. Perfect for the 10.5-foot ceilings.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sung To The Tune Of “Meow Mix”

Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape
Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape
Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape
Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape

Sand, sand, sand, sand
Sand, sand, sand, sand
Sand, sand, sand, sand
Sand, sand, sand, sand

Paint, paint, paint, paint
Paint, paint, paint, paint
Paint, paint, paint, paint
Paint, paint, paint, paint

I like scraping
I like sanding
I like painting
Though it’s demanding

I like scraping
I like sanding
I like painting
Though it’s demanding

I like scraping
I like sanding
I like painting
Though it’s demanding

And the hits just keep on comin’

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Like My Momma Used To Tell Me…

She would say to me, {in a generic old-world accent} “Little Gregory, as you go through life, always remember – It’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Those words are as true today as they were the day my dear Momma spoke them all those many years ago.

My truck, The Boss 1971 Ford F100 Custom Camper Special, is basically a POS. It is great for around town and the occasional trip to neighboring towns, and that accounts for 99.9% of my driving, but I wouldn’t feel good about taking it out of the county. It is a reliable POS – to a point. A few months back when gas prices topped $2.80 a gallon I considered selling it, but the sting of high gas prices has faded. And even though prices are still high, I’m in no hurry to get rid of it. Like I said, it is a reliable POS

Here it is parked in front of the Task Master

This weekend I need to drive to Placerville to pick up the replacement flooring for the kitchen. When ever I need to go out of town I rent. Since the truck costs almost nothing to maintain, this is a no-brainer. If I owned a newer, reliable truck for the rare out of county trip, one months car payment with insurance and registration would be more than I spend on car rentals in a year. Plus, The Boss 1971 Ford F100 Custom Camper Special is nothing anyone would ever want to steal so I don’t worry about it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even locked the doors in the 3 years I’ve owned it. There is no stereo and I never keep anything of value in it.

So rent I do and today I started calling around to rental places about a full-size pick-up truck. I just want a one day rental. I’ll pick it up Friday evening and return in Saturday evening. I’ve done this in the past and it works well for trips to the Bay Area. However, now they all tell me they close at Noon on Saturday. Avis, National, and Enterprise all close at Noon on Saturday. This means I would have to rent the truck for the weekend. One place said I could return it to the airport (20 minutes from my house), but they may not have a truck on Friday. Thanks for nothing. All is not lost. Tentatively my boss has told me he will rent me his truck for the one day. I offered him $100, and he declined, but I would give it to him anyway.

So, one way or another I’m getting a truck and driving to Placerville. I think I said it was 600 miles round trip at one point, but to be honest I’m not really sure. No matter how far the exact miles, it is going to be a butt load of driving. The plan with the rental was to leave about 3:00 AM and drive all night so I could get there about 7:00 or 8:00. Then turn around and have the truck returned by 5:00 on Saturday. That leaves plenty of buffer room. I would have to risk life and limb driving like a bat out of Hell to get back by Noon.

Long drives used to make me nervous but I now go about it in a very pragmatic way. I figured out that the less time I spend on the highway, the less likely I am to get in an accident. Also, a little something to calm my nerves, like wine, helps immensely. So now, right before I leave, I chug-a-lug a full bottle of red wine – a nice Cabernet, maybe - and then drive as fast as I possibly can all the way to my destination. It works great! I highly recommend it, especially for new drivers, like teenagers.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Crowning Achievement

As is the case many times in life, things don’t always go as planned, but just as often then tend to work out anyway. Small town living reared its ugly head once again when I went to rent a radial arm compound miter saw. There wasn’t one to rent. So I had to switch to Plan B. Plan B meant I would make due with the tools I had and hope for the best. As it was, it turned out pretty good.

The 10-inch compound miter saw I have will make it about 90% of the way through the wood. Normally 90% is good enough, but when it is something like crown molding I would rather have a saw that is going to make the cut in one pass.

Here you can see that the saw just doesn’t make it all the way through.

I have to saw the rest by hand and it leaves an imperfect cut. If you want a tight seam it needs to be perfect. I have to sand down the rest, which still isn’t going to be perfect.

Here you can see the crown molding I put around The $19 Medicine Chest. The seam is pretty tight.

The seam I ended up with on The Frankenstein Hutch is not quite as tight. In this case its OK because I’m going to be painting, and as my neighbor Gary likes to say, “That’s what they make paint and putty for”

Here you can see the top part of the hutch with the crown molding on.

Actually, not having the rental saw worked out well for another reason. I decided to strip the paint off the crown molding before I installed it. This was salvaged from the 2-story addition I demolished last fall and it had a thick coat of latex paint on top of the one coat of wholesome lead paint put on in the ‘20s. I’m painting with an oil based enamel and so the latex had to go. Had I had the rental return time hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles I might not have opted to strip the crown molding before I nailed it to the hutch. It would have been much harder to strip after it was nailed up.

As it was, it took me a little over 4 hours to cut, strip, sand, nail, and putty the crown molding around the 2 hutches. I would not have made the 5:00 return time and would have had to pay for a full day rental. So, it worked out. What do you know?

In other news, I got a call from the mill and the flooring will be ready Thursday. That means somebody gets to drive to Placerville this weekend. Can anyone guess who? I’ll give you a hint: It ain’t my cat.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Getting Ready For Crown Molding

Nothing too major this weekend but I did achieve the goals that I set out to do, so it was a good weekend. The main objective was to get the 2 hutches ready for the crown molding. Putting on crown molding requires a compound miter. I’ve done zillion of them. The exterior window sills have crown molding underneath them. When I had to rebuild the window sills from the butchers that put up the asbestos siding I had to make more than 80 outside compound miter cuts. I became a compound miter machine.

For a compound miter cut you cut both a both a bevel and angle cut on both pieces and then fit them together. It is how a picture frame is put together. This can be done by hand but it is very difficult. Most people will use a compound miter saw to do these cuts. Notice in the picture below how the saw is tilted (bevel cut) and angled at the same time. This is a compound miter cut.

The problem I have run into is the standard 10" compound miter saw, like the one I have, won’t cut 1X6 crown molding. I will need to rent a radial arm compound miter saw. This will allow me to make longer cuts and maintain the bevel and angle all the way through the cut. Because it will be a rental I need to have all my ducks in a row. The plan is to pick up the saw around noon tomorrow and have it back by 5:00 so I only pay a half-day rental. Five hours should be plenty of time to do 4 outside corners, but I don’t want to be rushed. I only have a finite amount of this salvage 1X6 crown molding. There is room for error, but not much.

Also today I put the feet on my e-solution hutch. These were a liquidation item I got from Van Dykes Restorers. I got them at a great price but I couldn’t screw it up putting them on because I didn’t have extra and Van Dykes no longer stocks them. I had to cut a short piece off the ends so they would fit. This was a measure-4-times-cut-once kind of thing.

(Notice the use of the hand model. $150 and hour and it took 3 hours to get this shot! Professional my ass.)

The top part of the Frankenstein Hutch is stripped and ready for paint. I had to fill a lot of small nail holes and a big gash in one corner. It looks worse than it is, and most of it will be behind the crown molding. I use MinWax High Performance wood filler. It is a 2-part epoxy. Kind of like bondo for wood. I started to strip the e-solution hutch, but because the glue for the feet has not fully set I had to put it up on blocks while I stripped. I didn’t want to put any stress on the feet. This made the whole thing very unstable and I was only able to strip the area at the top where the crown molding will go.

I have no room to work. The pieces are too big to move around that much so I pretty much have to work on the where they are. In the picture below you can see the bottom part of the Frankenstein hutch in the foreground. It is painted and ready to go. To the left is the top part. Behind that (not in the picture) is the dishwasher and another salvage cabinet that I’m probably not going to use. To the right is the refrigerator, also not in picture. In the middle is the bottom half of a mahogany sideboard. The top part with the mirror is in the other room. The house came with 6 claw foot tubs. I traded two for that sideboard and it has been in the way ever since. Beyond that is the e-solution hutch, an over stuffed chair that I no longer like, a big cast iron sink w/ drain board, a claw foot tub, some flooring (grrr!) and some doors. The floor is a tangled mess of tools and extension cords. It is a wonder I haven’t broken anything yet.

Also today I went for a very loooong walk and went to a couple of open-houses. I like to get ideas about what to do with my house. One was a 1912 sort-of Victorian and the other was a 1901 Victorian. Oh brother, I won’t go into it now, but needless to say the only ideas I came away with were what not to do with my house.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Stripped Screw Hole Repair 101

The top half of the Frankenstein Hutch was originally part of a wall that was added to the kitchen to separate the kitchen from the newly added bath (ca. 1926). Actually, it is more correct to say that it was originally part of a built-in that was probably between a butler’s pantry and a dining room. There are doors on both sides and the drawers move all the way through so they can be opened on bath sides. It then ended up in the wall that separated the bathroom and kitchen. I then rescued it from the wall and am reusing it as part of the hutch. Got it? Good.

Over the years the screws became stripped out on the hutch side of the hinges and larger and larger screws where put in. Because the hutch was surrounded by framing at the time (see picture below) they could do this no-problem. Eventually some screws where replaced by nails.

This is a view of that same area today. The wall is gone.

Once the hutch was rescued from the wall I needed to repair these stripped screw holes. I’ve used this method for more than a half dozen hinges and it works very well.

First you get a 5/16-inch oak dowel. They come in 3-foot lengths and cost about a dollar. Cut short lengths anywhere from ½-inch to 1.5-inches depending on the size of the hinge screw you will be using.

Next use a 5/16-inch drill bit to drill out the stripped screw holes. The dowels will be a tight fit so be sure to sand off any burrs from both the dowels and the newly drilled hole.

Then cover the sides of the dowel in wood glue and push them into the holes. You want to make sure that the hole is slightly deeper than the length of the dowel. It should be a flush fit or the hinge won’t seat right.

For a large door hinge you will need to hammer the dowel in to the hole. Many gentle taps is better than 1 or 2 hard swings with the hammer. Above all, do no harm. For this hutch I used a pair of channel-lock pliers with a piece of scrap wood as a backer to force the dowels in to the hole.

Then just let the glue dry over night and the repair will be as good as new. Be sure to pre-drill all holes for the new screws, and hand-tighten all screws. You don’t want to risk re-stripping the hole with an over-powered drill with a screwdriver attachment.

I would like to take this opportunity to renew my objection to chemical paint strippers. What has taken 3 hours with the chemical paint strippers would have taken me about 45 minutes with the heat gun. I could have saved $10.00 and had much less frustration with the heat gun. The heat gun is faster, the results are better, and the clean-up is effortless. Next time I will risk the glass and use the heat gun.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Chemical Greg

I’ve got to strip the two doors off the top part of the Frankenstein Hutch. They have 3 panes of original wavy glass that I don’t want to break. The first thought was to remove the panes and use the heat gun. The trouble is they are put in with putty instead of the wooden stays you sometimes see for indoor use. I don’t want to risk breaking the glass trying to chisel out the putty, so this means I’m going to resort to chemical strippers.

This is a tough choice because I love my heat gun. It has almost become an extension of my arm. I’m like some kind of heat gun enabled Borg from the old Star Trek TNG series. I don’t dare say it out loud, but I once thought about saying, “Resistance is futile” to the paint as I apply the heat gun and strip it off. I’m a bit of a pencil-necked geek, but I’m not ready to take that next step in my evolution in to Geekdom that I am willing to start quoting Star Trek out loud when no ones around. I will happily do it when others are around if I think the campyness of it will get a laugh, but not when I’m alone. That is just too weird.

So it’s time for an evening of chemical cocktails. I like the really caustic stuff. I am way too impatient to wait the several hours or days for the environmentally friendly stuff to do its job. Unless I end up with irritated skin from a few splashes I know I’m not using the right stuff. I may die of exposure at some point, but at least I’ll get the job done quickly.

Actually it shouldn’t take too long. The doors are 80% glass and I’m not going down to bare wood. I just need to get off the paint that looks like it was put on by Jackson Pollack. In fact, I once wondered if maybe my whole house was painted by Pollock. It would be worth a fortune. Perhaps I should contact the MOMA in San Francisco and have some of the woodwork appraised before I strip everything.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Problem Solved!!!

At last count there were three parts of the kitchen that have not been acquired. There is the window treatment, the kitchen faucet, and the counter tops. The window treatment has been decided on with the help of some of my trusty Blogger friends. I say “decided on”, but actually there could be a last second switch to the bamboo. Regardless, all that’s left to do is log-on and order.

The faucet was decided on months ago. I found an antique looking deck mount faucet on Ebay that I liked. This is new equipment. The supplier turned out to be a little flaky or didn’t like it when you asked too many questions, I’m not sure which. Either way, he stopped returning my emails and I became disillusioned. I happened to see the same faucet on a commercial for a plumbing supply house in the next town, so it’s just a matter of driving over there and getting it. I don’t drive a lot these days, and I don’t seem to leave my own town that much, so this is a bigger chore than it sounds. Again, though, it is pretty much a done-deal.

The last thing is the counter tops. This is a big deal. Anyone who’s been following my kitchen saga to this point knows that I like to think outside the Big Box. I don’t know where I got this streak in me, but if it’s been done-to-death I don’t want it. If it’s used or salvage I’m all over it. We’ll call it one of my charming and endearing qualities. The trouble is, this time I’m stumped. There is no question I would put in marble or soapstone if I could afford it. To be honest, you can always find a way to afford it if you really want it, but in this case it seems like an absurd extravagance. My dream would be to find a large slab of salvage marble. That off white stuff with the gray and black veins in it. Ooooh baby, that would just be too perfect.

Ok, so marble and soapstone are out. That leaves wood, granite, tile, Formica, and some of those new composite materials. Of those, wood, granite, and tile are the ones for me to chose from because I am going for a traditional 1895 Look & Feel to the kitchen. I put tile in my last kitchen, and while I loved the look the grout lines drove me nuts. Granite is nice, but I would have to do granite tiles and I’m just not sure about the seams. Plus, since I’m doing an under mount sink it would need to be a professional job, and I’ve sworn off contractors.

So that leaves wood. Very much a traditional counter top material for the 19th century. I do happen to have about 70 sq ft of old growth fir (flooring). It is only ¾-inch and I’m just not sure how it would look to have the counters and floor done in the same material. It seems odd, but fir was often used for counters. Mahogany is another option. I saw on the most recent series of This Old House they put in hand planed mahogany counters in the kitchen. They finished them with a mixture of boiled linseed oil and an oil based poly. They looked very cool. This remains an real option.

Another choice I’m considering is redwood. I know what you’re thinking. Redwood is a soft wood and would look like hell in no time at all. You’re also saying this a kitchen counter not a back yard deck or a fence. However, last fall I dismantled an old addition to my house that was made of old growth redwood. There were these 2X8 joists on part of the first floor that are as hard as a rock. After I removed the addition I had to make a small porch to satisfy the local beaurocrats (sp?) at the building department. I used a few of these joists and I HAD to pre-drill or I couldn’t get a nail through it. Even before you finish the wood it has a deep maroon color to it. I could plane this tuff down to 1.25-inches and have a mill put a T&G on it. Then glue it up and - BAM – there’s my counter top. Still just a thought. I’m not sure if I have enough clear stuff for a complete set of counters. Knots would out of the question.

But as the blog title implies the Problem Has Been Solved. So here’s the solution. First, I get all the cabinets made and assembled. I then get them installed and screwed in nice and tight. That night, after all the work is done, I go to bed and while I’m asleep fairies will come and install the perfect counter tops. When I wake up in the morning everything will be done and all the mess will be cleaned up. It’s the perfect solution. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to see what the fairies install. Come-on marble. Come-on marble.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Management Decision

With much consideration, as managers always do, and with the wise and thoughtful advice from Heather, as managers always should, I have decided to wait until all the wood for the floor is here before I continue the installation. I don’t want to just sit and fidget for a week and a half, so I have decided to turn my attention back to the Frankenstein Hutch. I’ve started stripping the paint off the top part and as I expected it was originally shellacked and the paint is coming off quickly. It took about 20 minuets to get one side down to bare wood.

I made an interesting discovery after stripping the paint from the one side. The 4 outside pieces, (top, bottom, and the left and right side) that make up the carcass are each made out of a single piece of wood. The 2 sides are each 2-feet wide, 6-feet tall, and 1-inch thick and they are a single piece of clear heart redwood. Pretty damn cool, if you ask me. Could you imagine the look on the guy’s face if you walked in to a lumberyard today and said, “Yea, give me 20 feet of 1X24. Oh, and no knots please”

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Good News - Bad News – Bad News - Good News

The good news is Mike, the mill owner, did not hesitate to say he would replace the stuff that was unusable. I’m a little pissed that he even bothered to try and put the T&G on the undersized pieces in the first place, or that he didn’t replace them when he saw that they didn’t come out good. It is a bit frustrating because if there had been a consistent quality I would have enough wood to finish the room. However, it doesn’t do me any good to tell him I’m pissed at this point so I didn’t bother saying anything. It won’t get me my wood any faster and it might sour the relationship. He knows he screwed up, and he is going to fix the problem at no charge, so that is good enough for me.

The bad news is I won’t get the new wood for a week and a half. So now I’m left with a decision. I have a little over half the wood laid. I have enough wood right now to do about 4/5 of the room. I could continue to lay wood all this week and then do no work on the floor for a week while I’m waiting for the new wood. Another option is to do no more work on the floor until I have all the wood here. The benefits of this is that I can then pick the best wood for the best spots.

I used a lot of the really good wood in the first third of the room because that is the most visible and the highest traffic area. I’m now in the center of the room where a table will go and a large rug. The other side of the table is also going to be a high traffic area. My concern is that if I keep laying flooring some of the better wood will end up under the rug. I haven’t decided what to do yet. It would be hard for me not to work on this floor for a week and a half.

Another odd thing is that it only took 8 sheets of the mahogany plywood to do the underlayment. That is 256 sq ft. I didn’t butt these tightly together because the floor wood can easily span a 6 inch gap that is only 1/8-inch high. I’m willing to bet the kitchen is about 275 sq ft. The 285 sq ft that I had written down for the tin ceiling was probably the main kitchen plus some added for waste. Once this is all said and done I’m going to re-measure.

The other bad news is that I had to pull up about a row and a half of boards today. There was an odd spot that had a little rise in it. I didn’t notice it as I was laying the floor, but two of the boards weren’t sitting right. I pulled them up and found a little piece of a knot had slipped under one board and caused it to ride up a bit. Like I need more work at this point.

And finally, the other good news is that I’m eating strawberry shortcake right now and it is really, really, good.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Forth of July!

I’m sure many proud Americans will be out celebrating the birth of our nation today by blowing up a small portion of it, but I’m going to continue with the floor installation. If I can manage to keep my eyes open past 9:30, which is doubtful, I going to meet some friends to see the fireworks at 10:00. If I am too pooped, though, I will be able to see them from the second story windows on the north side of my house. That’s if the fog doesn’t roll back in. The last 2 years we’ve been lucky, but I don’t feel good about this one.

But enough about this relatively boring annual event, lets get back to the exciting once-in-a-lifetime event of installing a wood floor in the kitchen. For those of you that don’t keep up, I’m putting in a salvage, 1X6, old-growth fir floor in the kitchen. This guy takes ancient 3X12 floor joists from Alaska and re-mills them in to 1X6 T&G flooring. This stuff is hard as a rock. Take a look at how tight the grain is in the pictures below.

Besides the large splinter that has nestled itself under the nail of my left index finger and has now become infected, the installation has been somewhat painless up to this point. I’m nearing the half-way point and it is obvious I do not have enough wood. There are 2 reasons I’m going to run short.

First, I’m almost positive I used the wrong numbers to order the wood. I have a clipboard with floor plans of the house that I did on the computer. About 2 years ago I measured all 3 dimensions of every room in the house when I was doing a heat-loss calculation. In addition to this, I have a blow-up floor plan of just the kitchen. In one of the margins I have some notes about ordering a tin-ceiling for the kitchen. This idea was nudged out of the plan due to budget constraints and the vagaries of the every changing lifestyles of today’s busy modern family - I’m broke, and couldn’t afford it. Anyway, at the bottom of all the notes in the margin it says 285 sq. ft. in big numbers. However, there is a small alcove that is 20 sq. ft. that has a different ceiling than the main kitchen, and there were going to be floor to ceiling cabinets in the main kitchen that would not get the tin-ceiling. Altogether, this makes up about 35 sq. ft.. So the kitchen is really closer to 320 sq. ft. Doh!!

The second problem is because this is salvage there is a lot of waste. A lot more than if I were putting in a traditional wood floor. I ordered 315 sq. ft. of flooring to account for some waste, and the mill owner, who, believe it or not, delivered the wood himself due to a last minute snag with shipping, said he added some extra. It was a 600 mile round trip for him and his wife to deliver the wood. Talk about your old-world service!

As I said, I accounted for waste, but there is more than I anticipated. The last 8 to 12 inches of each board is useless. Below is a picture of what would be considered a good end. In some bad instances I start with a 12 foot board and maybe get 6 feet of usable wood out of it due to holes and gouges. Other times I’ll have a 16 foot board that is 95% usable. This I can deal with. What I am disappointed with are the boards that are not usable at all. I have close to 100 feet of boards that are completely useless because they were milled too thin or too narrow. I have boards that are only 1/2 inch thinck and have no full groove and others that have no tongue or only a partial groove.

When we were unloading the wood last week I mentioned to the mill owner that the condition of some of the boards was not what I expected. He looked me in the eye and said, “I will make this right. If you run short I’ll get you more”. I trust him. The plan today is, I’m going to install as much as I can and the cull the rest and find out how much I’m short. I’ll get on the phone with him tomorrow and see what we can work out. This will work, it is just going to take a little longer than I anticipated.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Well, the floor is going in and man is it a lot of work. Almost every board has to be finessed (read: pried) in to place. I’ve only put in two wood floors in my life and they have both been 1X6 T&G boards. The first one was a pine floor and it was much easier. This fir (Yes, I know “Fir?!?!”. I’ve always gotta be different, don’t I) just does not want to budge that last ¼ inch. There is no such thing as a perfectly straight board so each one is going to be off a hair. The shorter the board the less noticeable it is. Some of these boards are 18 feet long.

Here is the progress so far. The old floor was 7/8-inch think and these boards are ¾-inch thick. I had to put down some 1/8-inch thick mahogany plywood so it would look right under the plinth blocks. Also, I think I may not have ordered enough. The room is very odd shaped and I measured 285 sq ft, but it looks like it is going to take close to 10 sheets of plywood for underlayment. Each sheet is 8X4, which is 32 sq ft. If it takes 10 sheets then the room is more like 320 sq ft. Oops!

To get it to go that last little bit I have to screw a block of wood to the floor and then pry it into place. This is not easy with one person. I have to sit on the floor and pry with my feet while I try and bang nails in. Not easy and it sucks when you miss with the hammer because then you get dings. Grrr!

Oh, speaking of doing things by myself, I mentioned to a friend that I’m always asking woman for advice of color selection and I feel kind like a pathetic bachelor when I do this. He said there are woman down on 3rd street that perform services for single men and charge a reasonable hourly rate. I told him I’m done with contractors because I’ve had nothing but bad luck with them. He said if I go do there on a Friday night he guaranteed me I would “get lucky”. I’m not sure what this is all about, but you can bet the next time I need help picking out paint colors I’m going go to check it out. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Summer Pattern

It’s July on The North Coast which means it’s time to get out the sweaters and scarves. Below is the 5 day forecast, but really it could be the 8 week forecast. We live in what is called a micro-climate. There is this thin strip that extends no more than a few miles inland, right on the coast that gets this weather. It starts south of San Francisco around Monterey and extends up in to Oregon, Washington, and I guess Canada. It is usually a question of a few blocks that determines how much, if any, sunshine you get. This also determines whether you get temps in 60s and 70s or temps in the 90s and 100s.

Here is how the day goes. When you wake up the fog is socked in and the temperature is in the low 50s. Some times it is the classic fog with clouds billowing down the street, and other times it is just a low ceiling. With a low ceiling the forth floor of a building will be shrouded in fog. On a good day the fog will burn off sometime between 11:00 and 1:00 and on a bad day it never burns off. When it does burn off the day becomes very pleasant. Brilliant sunshine and a cloudless sky and temperatures in the 70s. On a bad day the fog will roll back in around 3:00 and on a good day it may stay off shore until after 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening. When it does come back in the temperature drops quickly back down in to the 50s. Some years the 4th of July fireworks are nothing but muted colors in the clouds.

Fog is a year round “treat” but July and August are the worst months for fog. One year when I was living in Santa Cruz we went the entire month of August without seeing the sun. Some find it very depressing, but its not that bad. All you have to do is go 5 miles inland in to the local mountains and its in the 90s and summer is in full swing. If you ever plan a trip to this area come before July or after August, or pack your winter clothes.

Supposedly Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was one summer in San Francisco”. He could have been talking about Eureka as well.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Son of Frankenstein’s Hutch

If you’re like me you are thinking 2 or 3 projects ahead. The floor has been getting acclimated to the kitchen all week and the plan is to start putting it in tomorrow (more on the floor in a later blog entry). So this week I’ve been thinking about the 2 hutches. Yesterday I started painting the Frankenstein Hutch. Today I’ll tell you about the smaller Frankenstein Hutch. This one is going to be my kitchen’s e-solution hutch.

I’m going to have limited counter space and until the butler’s pantry comes on-line it may be awkward. Either way, I didn’t want the kitchen to really look like a modern kitchen, but I do want all the modern amenities. This hutch will be wired with a 20 amp circuit along with cable and telephone. It will be about 6.5-feet tall and 4.5-feet wide with a 2-part interior accessed by 2 big doors.

Here is the plan, we’ll see if it works out. One side will house a small microwave, coffee maker, coffee grinder, and plenty of storage for other things. The other side will have a 15-inch LCD TV, phone and answering machine, along with shelves for books and what-not.

The main part came out of the 1922 addition I dismantled last fall. It was originally a 9-foot tall, floor to ceiling built-in that I had to cut down to get out. It is made out of fir and redwood. The top doors were already missing and replaced with plywood but the bottom two doors were good. I have 7 shelves for it but may not need them all.

It will stand on these 4 ball and claw legs I picked these up at Van Dykes Restores. They were a discontinued item and I got them for $8.00 a piece.

On top it will have the same 1X6 Crown Molding as the larger hutch.

Along with the ultra-hip antique cabinet latches I got at Ed Donaldson’s Hardware (~Drool~).

Oh, and this one has no drawers.