Friday, September 30, 2005

Non Paintable Caulk. Grrrr!

I was at work today thinking about my cabinets and I thought, “You know, if I caulk the seams on lunch I can put on the first top coat after work”. The plan was fiendishly clever in it’s simplicity, I know. There were a total of 12 seams between the bevel board slats that I wanted to caulk. How long could that take? Zoom home and come to a screeching halt out front. Race around back. Zip, zip, zip, with the caulking gun and I’m done, right? Wrong!
The tube in the caulking gun was already set up for just this sort of thing. I had to caulk several of the seams on the bead board when I painted the trim in the kitchen I had a partial tube of caulk left over from that and it was still in the gun. Because they are very narrow and tight seams you need just a little pin hole and the end of the tube.
I went out to the garage and began to caulk away and wouldn’t you know I ran short. There was only enough to do 10 seams. Not to worry, I knew I had another partial tube someplace so I scrounged around, found it, slapped it in the old gun and started to caulk one of the two remaining seams.
As all of you caulkers out there know applying the caulk with the gun is only half the operation. The next step is to drag your finger along the bead of caulk to smooth it out and get rid of the excess. As I dragged my finger down along the seam it seemed that something was not right. This caulk didn’t feel right and I had felt it before. By the time I got to the end of the seam I realized to my horror that I was using 100% silicone sealant and it was NON-PAINTABLE!
I had bought this tube by accident last summer when I was replacing the crown molding under the exterior window sills. This crown molding was brutally ripped off the house by the asbestos siding people (a.k.a. The Butchers of Eureka). At that time I didn’t realize I was using non-paintable caulk until after I had done 6 or 7 windows. I didn’t want to have to go through the painstaking chore of scraping off dried caulk again so this time I raced to get water and a towel to try and get it off before it dries. No such luck. It really just smears around and doesn’t wipe off very well. I made a bad situation worse.
Download in the Play Store
So my big plan went somewhat asunder. What really makes me mad about this is that the tubes of caulk are not marked better. They all pretty much look the same. I know that 100% silicone does not take paint, but it was on sale. I’m only human – IT WAS ON SALE! I saw “Door & Window” and I saw “30 Year” and I saw “On Sale” and I grabbed it. The big graphics on the front don’t say “Non-Paintable” or “Paintable”. They go on and on about how this sealant will withstand a nuclear blast but you have to read the very fine print on the reverse (is there a “reverse” on a round tube of caulk) where it says, buried among a bunch of other information, in miniscule letters, Paintable: No. Why not put that in big letters on the “Front”. That would be helpful, don’t you think? So the blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of the guy who designed the text and graphics on the tube of caulk. He had just better hope I never find him.
When I got home from work the smeared sealant had dried and I got out the trusty random orbital sander and that made quick work of it. I them reprimed the spot I sanded. Waited for that to dry and then caulked with PAINTABLE caulk, and I just finished putting on the first top coat. And, if I do say so myself, it looks pretty damn good.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Coming Unhinged

I removed the doors and hinges and then made the necessary repairs from the errant nails. It took a lot less sanding and putty to fix than I thought. After priming you really can’t tell there was a problem. That is always good.

As for the hinges, I stripped them of paint and I think I’m going to switch them with another hinge. This was actually the plan along but I dragged my heals on getting the “new” hinges cleaned up. When it came time to mortise the hinges I decided to go with the original 1890s hinge that came with the cabinet doors. However, now that they are cleaned up I don’t really like them.

In the picture the below the 1890s hinge is on the left and an Ebay hinge is on the right. I bought a whole slew of these little ball tipped cabinet hinges on Ebay for like $15.00 (w/shipping). I think there was 20 or 30 of them. The plan had always been to have them nickel plated but I never got around to doing that. All the other cabinet hinges in the kitchen are nickel plated so the old brass look would not fit in.

I found reproduction ball tipped nickel plated hinges at House of Antique Hardware for only $17.29 a pair (Yikes!). I paid about $1.00 a pair for my brass ones so if I can get them nickel plated for less that $16.29 a pair I will come out a head. The question is, where do I get hinges nickel plated and how much does it cost. There is no one locally so I will have to send them out. Some friends had some stuff nickel plated several months ago, so I’ll ask them where they sent their stuff.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Número Dos

I got the second door hung today and sanded down the first cabinet. When putting these together I was very aware that they are going to have to hang on the wall. At 30X53 inches, and with all the crown detail that will be on them, they are big and heavy cabinets. Or at least they seem big and heavy to me. I am concerned not only with them staying on the wall, but also with staying together.

While laying in bed at night I would have these thoughts of hearing a big crash in the kitchen. In my mind I would run in to find that the backs of the cabinets where still attached to the wall but that everything else had pulled away and went crashing to the ground. With that in mind I may have over designed them a bit. I used a 3-inch nail to put them together and a lot of glue. With out taking an actual count I would say each cabinet has around 50 or 60 3-inch nails in it, and maybe close to a pint of glue.

The use of the 3-inch nail lead to a bit of a problem. In all instances I was nailing it in to a board that is only ¾ of an inch wide. If you don’t keep the nail perfectly straight all the way through the 3-inches it will pop out the side. This happened on a few occasions. Eight times to be exact. I guess that is not too bad after 120 nails.

I did pre-drill the holes but I was not able to drill the entire length of the nail. Most of these occurrences happened on the top and on the one side that will be against the wall. A bit lazy there. I didn’t pull these out because they will never been seen. Four times it happened on a side that will be visible. I was able to pull the nails out but I am left with a little damage that will need to be dealt with. I will need to see if I can sand it down to a divit and then fill with putty.

If all goes well, I think I might be painting by Saturday. This cabinet looks pretty much like the first one so I didn’t bother posting pictures.

In other news, I talked with my sister tonight. She was evacuated from New Orleans after Katrina. It is odd in a way what happened to her. If you followed the story of Katrina and the aftermath you would think that the city is a complete lost cause. You would think that everything was completely devastated and everybody would have suffered massive losses.

There is of course a lot of truth to that. With my sister and her family, though, it wasn’t like that at all. Her husband is back to work in the French Quarter and she will be going back to work next week. Both her and her husband never missed a paycheck. Her boss wanted to make sure they came back so he continued to give them full salary through all this.

Both my sister and her daughter have homes in the Historic Garden District. My sister’s husband has been to both of them and they suffered almost no damage. There were a few shingles missing on my sisters 1905 home and a little water got in, but it was very minor. That’s it – no looting or floods or blown off roofs. The only reason she isn’t living there now is because there is still no electricity. She is currently living at a co-workers house expects to be living at home and back to work in The French Quarter very shortly.

Granted the losses have been staggering, but those things that make New Orleans New Orleans seem to be intact. The historic heart of the city is still there and beating. She says there will be a Mardi Gras next year. Pretty amazing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

First Look

Ok, so you need to use your imagination here a little bit. This is still very much a work in progress. Today I performed the delicate and nerve wracking operation of mortising the hinges. I’m actually getting pretty good at mortising hinges, but it is kind of a one-shot deal. You can’t un-cut wood, and after so many hours of stripping, sanding, cutting, nailing, gluing and clamping I don’t want to screw up one of the last operations.

This was the first cabinet and I discovered a few things a long the way. I think the next one will be an improvement. I’ll know tomorrow because I’ll be hanging the door on it then. Anyway, with out further delay, here is cabinet number one.

Still Needs Sanding Obviously

The plan for the crown detail is still percolating in the old head bone. So far the plan is to do a 3 part crown. The parts are pictured below. I think the sizing will change a bit but it gives you a good idea. I’m probably going to add a bead to the base of the flat 1X4 piece. The small piece with the Ogee detail will also travel down the sides and hide and gap between the back of the cabinet and the wall.

Crown Detail

On another note, there are a few blogs that I read on a regular basis. When they don’t post on a regular basis they are noticeably missed. This is the case with Chicago 2-Flat. I hope everything is ok over there.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Ok, for the Non-Petchheads out there, and I guess that’s everyone but me, a small recap.

Last week I was over at a friends house using his band saw to split some salvaged redwood joists. While I wasn’t drooling all over his pricey and beautiful tools we talked about old houses and recent finds. His is an 1884 Italianate and is in about as good a shape as mine, which isn’t saying much. I told him about the Eastlake door I had snagged in Ferndale a few weeks ago and he showed me a pair of Pocket Doors he had just bought the day before at an antique store in Fortuna for an unbelievably low price of $65. They have some damage and no hardware, but even so that was a great deal.

Anyway, I went on and on and on and on and on about my door obsession and how I had only managed to find a half dozen of these Eastlake doors over the past few years. He sympathized, following my story with interest, and occasionally nodding his head. We spoke and sawed and sawed and spoke, and eventually I packed up my freshly sawed joists and left.

Yesterday, I got home from teaching shingling in order to pay off a debt and there was a message on my machine from the guy with the band saw. He said, in a very casual way, “Greg, I’m not sure if your still looking for Eastlake doors or not, but I happened to stumble on a few. If you’re interested give me a call otherwise I can just take them to the dump”. Obviously he was being facetious knowing full well I would be interested in even a part of an Eastlake door.

I was on the phone dialing his number before the machine even finished playing back the message. I got his machine – drat! Although I didn’t even need to say it I told him I was very interested in the doors. I started to think I might get raked over the coals for these. I recall the week before saying something along the lines that I would be willing to pay almost anything for a decent door. Not a good starting point for negotiating a price. In the message I told him I would be out in the shop working and to give me a call back.

Later that evening I was just about to start dinner and I noticed I had another message. It was the band saw guy again, or is he now the door guy. Anyway, this time he mentioned that the doors were in his backyard and some mutual friends of ours had just showed up at his house and they were all having cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and why don’t I come over to check out the doors and partake in the libations. This time I was on my way out the door before the message finished and with in minutes I was pulling up to his house.

As I walked down the sidewalk I peeked over the fence and saw two white doors leaning up against the curb. They looked great. I went in and they were serving Gin & Tonics and had all kinds of munchables spread out in the kitchen. Apparently this is a sort of regular get together between a small group of friends. I know all of these people but I’ve never been invited over. Not too odd, and it didn’t really bother me finding this out. I mean, not everyone who knows anybody is going to be invited to every social event every time, right? Otherwise there could be millions showing up at every party. Besides, they are all nice people, so it was fun.

I grabbed my Gin & Tonic (can’t recall the last time I had one of those) and headed out the back door to go see the doors and I was followed by a few of the party goers. There was a lot more than the doors out there. Apparently he had come across a cache of antique furniture that day and the doors were part of the haul. Everything was spread about the backyard near the entrance to the basement. I checked out the doors and was very pleased with what I saw. They need a little TLC but all in all were in fine shape. No deadbolt holes drilled through them, that’s always a plus.

After a few minutes my friend stuck his head out the kitchen window and I asked him how much he wanted for the doors. He said, “Well, I’m not trying to make a killing off these or anything. I will give them to you for exactly what I paid for them…” He paused for a second and I waited for the other shoe to drop, and then he continued, “…and that …. Would …. Be …. Exactly …. Nothing.” I looked at him and asked, “They were free!?!” He went on to tell me that all the other antiques he had purchased at an estate sale and the doors and a sideboard were given to him by a friend in Ferndale and because I had droned on and on about my door deficiency the week before he snatched them up and gave them to me. So I get two free Eastlake doors. Hazah!

I am fortunate to have such good friends and even more fortunate that they do not have a house in need of free Eastlake doors.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Clamp City

I own 10 clamps and I could use about 20. I got both carcasses of wall cabinets together and I’m working on rails and stiles. I keep running out of clamps though so I can only do so much. Today I didn’t get as much done because I went to a friends house to teach some shingling. Actually it is my boss and he’s also a friend. He let me use his truck a few months back when I went to Placerville to pick up more flooring. I was going to give him some money to cover wear and tare on the truck but we worked out a deal where I would help him with some shingling in exchange. That was today.

But back to the rails and stiles. I work slow and for good reason. I’m in unexplored territory with cabinet making so I really have to think things through as I go. Also, working with salvage brings it’s own complications. For instance, today discovered that the rails and stiles I cut were 13/16 of an inch thick but the salvage doors I got are 15/16 of an inch thick. This is a difference of an 1/8 of an inch and that would be very noticeable. Fortunately I caught it before I nailed and glued the rails and stiles on to the carcasses. I had to cut some 1/8-inch shims that were 3-inches wide and 53-inches long. It took a couple of tries to get them right.

If all goes well I may get one of the doors hung tomorrow and have an almost complete cabinet. I will still need to trim it out. The question at this point is do I put all the trim on before I hang it or after. It would be easier to do it before but I think I will get a better finish if I do it afterwards. Still can’t decide which is better.

In other news I had some good luck today. First, the battery charger still works just none of the lights work. The red “charging” lights goes off and on while charging, and maybe if I left the battery in there long enough the green “ready” light would eventually come on. Regardless, the battery charges and that is the important thing. Second, when I got back from shingling there was a message on my machine from a friend. He told me he had 2 Eastlake doors for me if I wanted them. I called back and left him a message but have not seen them yet. I don’t know where he got them, what condition they are in, or how much they are. I’m sure I’ll take them regardless of condition or price.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Everything’s Going To Hell

As you all remember my table saw almost gave up the ghost last week. I was able to get a new part and get it running again. Yea me! Well today I discovered my battery recharger for the 19.2 volt drill is not working. I had dropped it about a month ago but haven’t had a need to recharge the battery since then so I didn’t know at the time that it had broke. I had it on a shelf about 6-feet off the ground with the spare battery in it. Those batteries are heavy and it hit the ground hard. My hope is that only the red “charging” light is broken and the charger is still working. I’ll know in an hour.

I also discovered today that the drain valve is faulty on the compressor. I started to assemble the cabinets today and the plan was to use the pneumatic finish nailer to just tack things in place while I used clamps and nails to do the real fastening. The motor pretty much runs continuously trying to keep up with the air escaping out the drain valve. I decided that would be too annoying to have that thing running constantly – it is incredibly loud - so I did without it. I used it last about 6 weeks ago when I was putting the quarter round trim in the kitchen. It was fine then.

I also discovered this week that the rollers need to be either replaced or adjusted on the planer. I think they need to be replaced. When I was planing the 1X6 to make the backs to the floor cabinets the boards just don’t feed through well. You really have to push hard to get the boards through. On top of that, the boards plane unevenly if they are too far over to the left. Its seems like the rollers have worn down on one side and are not making complete contact with the wood. Very much a drag. I think this has to do with working with the rough-cut salvage wood. The thing is designed for lumberyard wood that already has finished sides. On top of that I can’t find the manual for the planer and that has the schematic and parts list. I hope I can get it on-line.

So, to recap. In the past two weeks I’ve had the tables saw, compressor, planer, and battery recharger for the drill break down in some fashion. The really interesting thing is that I bought all of these tools within the first 6 months of owning this house. That means they are all between 3 and 3.5 years old. Is that the lifespan of low-end Craftsman tools? One could make the argument that these tools are designed for the weekend warrior type crafts person and I am using them on an almost contractor level. You do get what you pay for after all. Another way to look at it is that everything wears down and needs maintenance and parts replaced on occasion. Still, it seems odd that they should all start needing repairs within a 2-week period.

On the plus side I got the main part of one of the cabinets put together today. I need to leave it in the clamps for a few hours at least, and probably overnight. That means I can only do one at a time because I only have so many clamps. I use Tight Bond II wood glue. The directions say clamp for a half hour but that does not seem long at all. I need to work on some trim for it anyway, so no biggie. I will need the table saw and router for that. Lets see, I bought the router about 2 years ago so that means I have about another year to go before that thing takes a crap on me. I’d better get busy.

Friday, September 23, 2005

You’re Going To Laugh, I know

So, I waited for a week or so to get the table saw up and running, right. Well today when I went to trim the top and bottom panels for the wall cabinets I discovered that they were too big for my puny little table saw. It turns out I’m going to have to trim them with a straight edge and jig saw anyway.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time. I got a lot of the wood ready for the floor cabinets, and I got the boards split for the counters. I also had a little design review session in my head and made some minor adjustments to the wall cabinets. Basically, I figured that I cut the rails (or is it the stiles) for the cabinet fronts too narrow. You never want to show end grain and the way I cut the fronts you will see the trim on the sides. It’s not a big deal. I just need to cut two more pieces of wood.

I went over to a friends house yesterday to use his band saw to split the joists to use on the counter tops. Man alive, he has got the wood shop that is to-die-for. I figured that he spent more on his table saw than I spent on my table saw, router & router table, miter saw, mortiser, and planer combined! If you throw in his plunge router and router bit collection you could pretty much replace every tool I own!

Yes, I buy crappy, low-end tools and he buys really nice stuff. His will last much, much longer than mine there is no question about it. Still, it is tough for me to justify such pricey toys. For one thing, there is performance anxiety. If you own a $1,000.00 table say you had better make some pretty nice stuff. You sure can’t blame it on crappy tools anymore. His work area is nice too. It is in the basement but his lot has a severe slope to it so there are 2 big doors in the shop that swing open to the back yard. Lot’s of light and air. From a woodshop prospective It was…can I use the word "Romantic"?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I Came, I Saw…

…I cut a little wood.

The Armature Assembly arrived in all its glory today. It took only about 10 minutes to get it in the motor and then to get the motor put back together. I’ve done this three times now, so it’s become old-hat.

New Armature Assembly

I then had to get the motor back in the table saw. Again, if I had 8-inch long fingers that were the diameter of pencils this would have been a simple task taking just a few minutes. As it was, it took me about a half hour to get the motor in and all the other parts put back together.

Once everything was in place, but before I put the saw blade back on, I did a little test run. I don’t always have a lot of faith in my own abilities, so I take more precautions than may be necessary. I put on goggles, ear plugs, and shielded my chest with the saw blade. I then get in to a crouching position and stand back from the saw as far as is physically possible and still be able to reach the switch. Then, holding my breath and squinting my eyes, I carefully pull up on the on/off switch. Buzzzzzzzz.

The saw came to life and sounded perfect. Whew!

I’m always a little skeptical when I put things back together like this. For several weeks after I rewired the house I would every so gently turn lights on and off, and unplug appliances as if I were disassembling a bomb. I just didn’t trust it. Several hours after I hooked up the main-disconnect, the sub-panels, and brought all the new wiring on-line, we had a street wide power outage. There was about 10 or 15 seconds of absolute certainty that I had somehow caused this with the new wiring in my house. Now a few years have passed I slap on switches and give little regard when plugging things in. It will take a few weeks before I fully trust the table saw again.

After I felt as secure as I can at this point in the process I put the saw blade on and did a few test cuts. It cuts, feels, looks, and sounds just like it did when I first bought it. I will declare this a success, unless something goes horribly wrong in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Said, “Screw It!”

I’ve made the decision on the countertop. I’m going to do redwood. I know, I know redwood is a soft wood. It will never hold up. Blah, blah, blah. Once again I am playing the roll of the iconoclast (read: idiot) and bucking the trends, traditions, and common sense. Here is why I’m doing redwood.

1) I really like it.
2) It is really nice, tight- grained old-growth redwood.
3) The other counter spaces are salvage pieces and are already redwood.
4) I really like it.
5) It is not costing me a cent.
6) It doesn’t cost me anything
7) It is free
8) I will not have to pay for it.
9) There will be no out-flow of cash to install it.
10) It is fiscally sound.

Also, if it does not hold up it will be easy to replace. The sink is under mount and will not be suspended from the counter. I will attach the counter to the cabinets from underneath with clips and screws so it will be easy to remove. If, in a few years it does get so bad that it needs to be replaced maybe I will then have the money to do what I really want to do, and that is marble.

So here is what I’m doing. I have the old salvaged joists that I start with. I’ve already used most of the clear wood for other interior mill work so I’m left with stuff that has more than a few knots. However, because the sink is in the middle I only need 3 foot pieces for most of the counter space on either side of the sink. I will need a long piece for the very front and very back.

I was able to find 5 pieces in the joists that have runs of 3-feet or more that are clear wood. I’m going to take these over to a friends house and split them on the band saw. This should give me more than enough wood to make most of the counter space.

I will then plane these down to ¾ of an inch and join the sides. I can then glue up panels from these pieces. Next I will sandwich the two large panels in between two long pieces (which I have) and I should have a seamless slab of wood with a large hole for the sink. I can then trim the hole to the proper size for the sink and clean up the edges with a router and a round-over bit.

Most of you have heard me complain about money recently. As with everyone I am reaching some limits. It is not that I have run out of money completely to work on the house, but I feel that I have spent more that I should have on the kitchen and so I am really tightening the purse strings on this project. I refuse to spend every last sent on a project and then sit around afterwards and say, “You know, maybe I should have cut a few corners in there”. I still need to get 2 chimneys rebuilt and lined and then there is the laundry room and downstairs bathroom. By themselves, each one is a major project. Together, they are a definite way to end up in the poor house.

Sometimes I think maybe I bit off more than I can chew with this whole house, not just the kitchen project. There are some that would say either do it right or don’t do it at all. Maybe redwood countertops in the kitchen are not “doing it right”, but lets be honest, there were few that would have even attempted to put back the original kitchen in the first place. Most think I’m completely nuts for not keeping the house as apartments. So, I’m not sure where I’m going with this rant. Maybe I’m trying to say that it may not be perfect or the “right way” but it could be a lot worse. The house could still be a feculent hell-hole filled with nazis, crack whores, and heroin addicts.

So there! Take that all you Nattering Nabobs of Negativity!

The Last Of The 15-Foot Redwood Joists
The white boards are original kitchen floor hidden under plaster dust

Five Easy Pecies

head back, tongue out, and drooling
Hmmmm, tight end grain. Grrrllll!

Monday, September 19, 2005

More Cabinet Happiness

I had forgotten about the backs to the floor cabinets so I worked on that today. There are 2 floor cabinets so I needed two backs that were 38.5X29-inches. I used more of the 1X6 T&G Flooring to do this. In the good old days they would have built a frame and then blind-nailed all the T&G material to it. The T&G boards I’m working with are salvage and sometimes the Ts and/or Gs are not always complete. So what I’m doing instead is building panels out of the boards first.

To do this…ummm….actually, I’m too tired to go into details, and I don’t have photos, so I’ll just say that it involves clamps, glue, and temporary stabilizing boards. Once the glue sets then the clamps come off. Then when I go to nail the panel to the side of the frame I will remove the stabilizing board. I’m kind of making this up as I go along, so I’m still kind of hoping this doesn’t turn out like crap. I have several cabinets form the 20s to use as guides, but still, this is a first for me.

In other news, I am just pooped. And I don’t mean just tonight – right now. I’m mean, all weekend long I felt like I could just fall asleep at any moment. Some of it is stress. This is usually how it affects me. I tend to not sleep well and I have a lot of dreams that keep me up all night. Once I get the table saw running again and I can start to assemble these cabinets I think it will be better.

Hey, do you think they will do THIS to New Orleans. I first heard this story on a PBS special on Chicago (I think it was The American Experience). It has amazed me ever since.

And while I'm thinking about it, if you ever see The American Experience listed on your local PBS stations, watch it. They tell some of the most amazing stories about the recent history of this country.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Close But No Cigar

Well, I went and looked at the fir counter top and it was too small. Too bad, it was in really good shape. It turns out the counter was original to a rental property my friends owned. The house is 1901 and judging from the current state of the kitchen there was a 1970s remodel and the counter ended up in the rafters of the garage at that point. That means it was in service more than 70 years.

The counter was one piece of fir and had a drain board milled in to the top. It was 22X86 inches, and about an inch thick. The hole for the sink was perfect for the sink I have. There was metal banding around the perimeter that would need to be replaced, or cleaned up, but the wood was sound. There were no splits, or warping, and there were no big gouges. There was another piece of fir that looked like it was the backsplash.

I need a minimum of 26X98 of counter space for symmetry so it was not even really close. I need to have a certain amount of counter on the right side of the sink so the counter goes all the way to the wall. It seems logical to have the same amount of space on the left side of the sink. That, and it’s only 22-inches deep. I need 26-inches because the dishwasher is going to be hidden behind a cabinet door. It is just not going to be workable. :-(

So I’m back to square-one. I have a few ideas percolating in the old head-bone, but nothing I’m ready to share at this point.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Push Has Officially Come To Shove

I finished stripping and sanding all the boards for the floor cabinets. It took a day longer than planned, but it is done. Whew! Because ye old table saw is still in a non-functioning state I really can’t go any further with construction of the cabinets at this point. Even if the table saw was in a functioning state I still need to decide about the counter tops. I can’t build the cabinets until I decide how thick the counters will be. I can’t decide how thick the counters will be until I decide what material to use. Decisions have to be made.

Today I was making my weekly trip to a local salvage place to look for doors. I didn’t always go every week but I’m trying to be a little more diligent about it. The place is only about a 10 minute walk from my house so it is not a huge effort. I used to pop in maybe once or twice a month, but about a month ago I went in and there was a set of about 8, 5 panel doors that had arrived recently. Someone had already snatched them up. The doors were still in the shop but there was a name on them and they were being held for that person. They weren’t really the right doors for my house but it got me to thinking. What if those had been the right doors. I would have been kicking myself the whole way home. So now I go in every Saturday and look at doors. The place is only few blocks from the post office so I stop in and check the PO Box on the way.

Anyway, back to the counters. I was in the shop looking at doors and I started to chat with one of the owners. I know the owners socially so they asked me about my house and what project I’m working on. I mentioned my counter top dilemma and the owner says, “You know, I have this salvaged fir counter top in the rafters of my garage”. My mouth dropped open, my tongue flapped out, my eyes widened, and I said, “Gack!” I then composed myself a little and said, “Really, isn’t that interesting. A salvaged fir counter top. What do you know about that.”

He told me as much as he could about it. I’m not real sure about condition. “Pretty good shape” can mean just about anything depending on your point of view. It does have a hole cut for a sink. I am installing a 1932 under-mount American Standard sink, so there is a chance it will be OK. Depth is an issue. I am doing 26-inch deep cabinets so if it’s built for a 24-inch cabinet that could kill the deal. I’m meeting him at his house at 4:00ish so I’ll no more than. Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, September 16, 2005

OK, So I’m Not An Electrical Engineer

I don’t read schematics and I’m not an electrical engineer. I didn’t order the wrong part. I just didn’t order all the parts I needed. On the schematic it shows “Bushing/Bearing”. I thought this was both the bushing and the bearing. The bushing is the plastic part that melted and the bearing is the damaged part that seats inside the bushing. I thought I was ordering both. $2.60 did seem cheap, but I had to replace a broken sprocket on the planer a few months ago and that part was less than $5.00 so I didn’t really question it.

Part 1 of this story.
Part 2 of this story.

Well, the “Bushing/Bearing” arrived today and it was just the plastic bushing and there was no bearing. On the invoice it was listed as a “bearing bushing”. So I went back to the schematic and noticed that the bearing is actually part of the “Armature Assembly”. The Armature Assembly is almost the whole freakin’ motor inside the housing. The Armature Assembly and the Field Assembly make up about 95% of the motor inside the motor housing. The bearing is at the end of the Armature Assembly and can’t be ordered as a separate part. This means I need to order the Armature Assembly. That is $68.91.

After getting the price on-line I started to think that maybe I’m in over my head here. I’ve never worked on an electric motor before. The $2.60 (about $8.00 w/ shipping) was chump change. I figured, if it doesn’t work I’m only out the $8.00 and the motor is in no worse shape, so what the hell. Nothing ventured. Nothing gained. Right?

With the Armature Assembly it’s a whole new ball game. I’m approaching half the cost of what I paid for the table saw in the first place. If I order this part and it doesn’t work it’s like throwing money down a hole. Not only am I out the $80 but that is $80 I could have spent towards the cost of a new table saw, or the cost of a whole new motor. What to do. What to do.

I decided I would first make sure I could get the old bushing out and the new bushing in. To do this I needed to get the Field Assembly out of the housing. To date I had only removed the Armature Assembly. It actually took me several minutes to get the Field Assembly out. I’m always nervous that there is going to be something spring loaded in there and several parts will shoot out in several directions all over the shop. There were no springs but there were a few electrical connections that would have been easy to disconnect if I had fingers that where 8-inchs long and as thin as a pencil.

With the Field Assembly out I was able to get the old bushing out and glue in the new one. I then quickly put everything back together before I forgot how it all went together or before I lost any parts. After it was all back together I’m actually feeling pretty confident about this. I have completely disassembled the motor, replaced 1 of 2 damaged parts, and put the whole thing back together. In theory, it should run if I plugged it in. However, I would ruin the new bushing I just installed so I decided not to. Even without electricity applied to it everything spins just about the way it did last week when I first removed the motor from the saw. So I ordered a new Armature Assembly. It should be here early next week. With any luck I will be back risking my fingers on the table saw in no time.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sixty Stripped

The original goal was to strip and sand 60 boards by Friday. That would have been 12 a day. I changed the plan slightly because I’m trying to avoid unnecessary trips to the hardware store. When gas is $3.25 a gallon and you drive a Boss 1971 Ford F100 Custom Camper Special that gets about 7 miles to the gallon you try and avoid unnecessary trips any where.

On Monday, after stripping the 12 for the day, I discovered I had neither enough sand paper or alcohol to do the job of sanding. Instead of bolting to the hardware store at the drop of a hat like I would have done a few weeks ago when gas was a relatively affordable $250 a gallon I just kept stripping. As of about an hour ago I have completed the stripping portion of the project. I can now begin the sanding portion once I have purchased the sand paper. Of course, this will still require a trip to the hardware store so I really didn’t save any gas. It’s the principal, though. I may have saved gas and thats what's important. I made the effort. Let’s not lose sight of what’s important here. I made the effort.

I probably could have finished all 60 boards yesterday except I discovered that about a third of them were originally painted and not shellacked. I thought all of these came out of the upstairs addition kitchen, which was shellacked. Some must have come out of the adjoining bathroom, which was painted originally. I just piled everything together in the same spot in the attic. As all of you strippers out there know, stripping wood that was originally painted takes a lot more time an effort than stripping wood that was originally shellacked. Regardless, it is done.

Sixty Stripped Boards

The Messy Aftermath

Of course, it is mandatory that I have a bad song in my head while stripping paint. So put on your Angel Flights and platform shoes and “Strip, strip, strip… Strip, strip, strip… Strip your wood work, Strip your wood work”

Sung to the tune of Shake Your Booty

You can, you can strip it
Very well
You can, you can strip it
To bare wood

Strip, strip, strip
Strip, strip, strip
Strip your wood work, Strip your wood work
Strip, strip, strip
Strip, strip, strip
Strip your wood work, Strip your wood work

Repeat until your head explodes

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Moments of Doubt

I seem to have this with every project. I’m staring at a big pile of wood that is supposed to become kitchen cabinets and I’m wondering if I can pull it off. When you just say the sentence, “I’m going to make kitchen cabinets” it doesn’t sound that daunting. The words kind of roll off the tongue effortlessly. When it is little more than an idea it is easy to get a handle on it. Now that work is progressing I’m wondering if I can really do it.

I mean, on one hand I know I can do it. Anybody can drive a nail through a piece of wood. Building something is not that hard. Building something well is harder. Building something nice that will stand the test of time is a real challenge. How long do kitchen cabinets last? There is no telling really, but I would guess the better they are built, and the more they are functional, and the better they look, then the longer they will last. I have this picture in my head of future homeowners talking to friends and saying something like, “We like the house a lot. Most things are very nicely done, except for these kitchen cabinets. It looks like a 2 year old built them. Are first project is going to be to rip those hideous things out and get some decent kitchen cabinets.”

My biggest fear is to spend all this time and energy (not much money - that’s a plus) and have them come out looking bad, or not built well. So, I’m having a moment of doubt as to whether I can do it. I’ve done some challenging projects before and they’ve come out reasonably well. I just have to take my time. Measure 3 times and cut once. I should be able to do this – I think.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I’ve Got Just One Question For You…

Because the table saw is on the fritz I’ve had to put off assembly of the wall cabinets. Rather than sit around doing nothing, I’ve turned my attention to the floor cabinets. I need two cabinets that are 26X29 inches each. I’m using more of the bevel board for the 3 visible sides, and then more of the 1X6 flooring for the backs.

After doing some calculations I figure I need 56 pieces of the 1X4 bevel board. These particular pieces started out life in the upstairs kitchen of the 2 story addition. I know they are from that kitchen because for some strange reason, of the 4 rooms in the addition, that was the only one that was shellacked first. The other three (another kitchen and 2 baths) were all painted. Of course, eventfully all the rooms were painted many, many, many times. And you know what that means. That’s right, your favorite chore and mine – Paint Stripping! Yes, it just doesn’t get any better than this folks. Let me tell you.

I got 60 pieces out of the attic because you know there will be a few rejects along the way. They are each 47-inches long so the first thing I need to do is cut them to length. I need 38.5-inches. That is not going to be the finished height but I don’t know how thick the counter tops will be so I will trim them later. The finished height of the cabinets with counters is going to be 38.5-inches so I know I if I cut the boards 38.5-inches I will be safe. More on the height in a later post.

My goal is to strip and sand 12 pieces a day all this week. If I can do that I can start to think about the frame and maybe even some assembly this weekend. Tonight I was able to strip 12 of the boards, but I did not get to sanding because it is Monday night. And on Monday nights I’ve got just one question for you….

A Monday night party….

60 Pieces 47-Inches Long

Stop Block Clamped On To The Saw
This makes it easy to cut repeat lengths

60 Cut Pieces With The First 12 Stripped

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Mother of All Garage Sales

Today was garage sale day in Ferndale. Ferndale is a small dairy town with a population of only a few thousand people and it has some of the most amazing architecture you’ve ever seen. I mean, it’s not the Chrysler Building or anything, but there are just a very large number of well preserved, highly ornate Victorian homes and commercial buildings. Regular readers have probably heard me mention the town before. It is really a neat place. They recently hired a new police chief and he was quoted in the paper as saying, “I’m the new sheriff of Mayberry”. You really get that feeling when you go to Ferndale. You really feel like you are in a another time.

Anyway, a couple of times a year the whole town turns in to one big garage sale. On some blocks it seems like every 3rd house is having a sale. Other people come from out of the area and set up in the park. Also, up and down main street all of the shops have sidewalk sales. The weather was just perfect. Low 70s and sunny, and the town was packed.

There is only one road leading in to Ferndale. It comes off Highway 101 and goes over Fernbridge which is the bridge that crosses over the Eel River. Fernbridge was built in 1911 and was the first concrete bridge built in California. It is barely wide enough for 2 cars. After you get over Fernbridge you travel past dairy farms for about 5 miles until you come in to Ferndale. Ferndale is nestled up against tree covered mountains that are always visible in town. Very quaint and picturesque.

I went looking for doors. Doors are an obsession for me. I am always looking for doors. Doors, doors, doors, doors, doors. I’m looking for a very specific type of door and I found one today. Around here most refer to them as Eastlake Doors. My house was originally full of them but I am missing quite a few and others are in bad shape. I’ve purchased 5 or 6 over the last couple of years.

Here is the one I bought today.

I also got this for the shop: $7.00

On the door, notice the mill work around the 5 panels and the bead detail on the panels themselves. This is what makes it an Eastlake door as opposed to a regular 5 panel door. I paid $20.00 for this one and that is a good price considering it has a nice set of doorknobs and back plates. Retail at a salvage yard this one would sell for about $60.00 without the doorknobs. There was another one I saw and they wanted $75.00 for it and it had no doorknobs. I just don’t feel right paying retail for something at a garage sale. I saw it at the second house I went to. I figured I would go back on my way out of town and offer him $40.00 and haggle from there. When I went back it had sold. I kind of wished I made an offer for it when I saw it. It was just so early in the day. Oh well, there will be other doors.

Someday I hope to stumble on The Mother Load of Doors. You know, some old geezer who has been squirreling away junk for 50 years and has a set of 12 pristine Eastlake Doors in the rafters of his attic. Of course, The Mother of All Mother Loads would be a set of Eastlake Pocket Doors that would fit in the 8X6 foot opening between my parlor and foyer. That is the stuff dreams are made of. Also today, someone in Ferndale recognized me from the article in the paper. My adoring fans just can’t get enough.

Pictures of Ferndale

In Other News: Crash

Its not house related but I don’t care. This is my blog and I can go off topic if I want. If you haven’t seen Crash you should. It is one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. The situations are contrived and there are too many coincidences for anything like this to ever happen in real life. It doesn’t matter, though. You need to look at more like an epic poem than a real life story.

The movie takes issues of racial stereotypes and turns them inside out and right side in. Everyone is bad and everyone is good. When you think something is going to turn out terrible it turns out good. When you think something is going to turn out good it turns out really, really bad. There are no picture perfect endings. At some point you both dislike and like all the characters in the movie. You spend most of the movie holding your breath and clenching your gut. It snows in LA.

Friday, September 09, 2005

We Have The Technology…

…we can rebuild it.

And the best part is, it will be far less than $6,000,000. For those of you not keeping up, my table saw bit the big one yesterday, or so it seemed. I tend to buy low end tools because I am El Brokeo (The Legend Lives!). You do tend to take your chances with these things and hope they are not made with all the quality and engeneering of a disposable lighter.

I yanked the motor out yesterday and was going to take it to an electrical shop to have them take a look at it. I found out the only place that does this sort of work is in the next town, and that might as well be on another planet as far as I’m concerned. There is also the issue of cost. The saw cost me around $150.00 and you just know it is going to be $75.00 just to get some repair guy to even drip his morning coffee on it.

I decided to poke around on it myself. Even cheap tools – exuse meinexpensive tools almost always come with a schamtic and parts lists so it was not too difficult to dismantle the motor. Once it was apart everything seemed fine. After inspecting it for a few minutes I noticed some melted plastic at the bottom of the motor housing. I reviewed the schmatic and it showed that a bushing/bearing sat down in that part of the houseing. I then found that bearing on the motor and sure enough it was seized up. After a short while I was able to get it to turn and it sounded like there was gravel in it. Not a good sign. Bearings should spin effortlessly and make no noise while spinning.

I got on the phone to the Sears Parts Hot-Line (insert spinning Batman symbol and horns here) and ordered a new bearing. Cost of bearing: $2.60. With shipping it comes to just under $8.00. I can totally live with that. The bad news is it won’t be here until the 15th.

Now, I’ve been told it is possible to live without a table saw, but I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to take the week off from work and sit quietly in a darkened room until the part arrives. This is no time to take chances. Once the part has arrived and the saw is working again, I will be ready to rejoin the world outside, safe in knowing that I once again have a working table saw.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

For Suzanne

I said I was going to stay out of it, and it is taking every ounce of my strength to do so. So this is for you.

Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap,
clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap,

Literally, and with out exaggeration, I could not have said it better myself. I hope you see this.


My table saw sort of died today. It didn't really die altogether, but it is sort of like it has a bad cold. I love my table saw. I use it for every project. It is the best tool I have. True, I use my cordless drill more, but the TS is just so handy for everything having to do with wood.

I went to trim one of the boards for the cabinets today and when I turned it one it ran fine for a few seconds and then started making an odd noise like a car hitting its breaks too hard. I quickly turned it off and the blade immediately came to a halt. Normally it takes several seconds for the blade to slowly come to a halt.

I screwed around with it for a while, mostly with compressed air, thinking that maybe something had gotten lodged in the motor, but nothing seemed to help. Finally I yanked the motor out and the plan is to take it to an electric shop tomorrow. The only thing I know how to do with an electric motor is to change the brushes. I checked the brushes and they are fine.

There is a good chance I can get the cabinets assembled without the tables saw but I am just so accustomed to having it now. I know it is going to be a problem at some point this weekend. It could be under 12 feet of water, so I’ll consider myself lucky even if I don’t have it this weekend.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Cut, Plane, Glue & Clamp

That has been my life for the past few days. I actually don’t feel like I’ve been getting much done at all. I, along with most of the country, was preoccupied last week and really was not in the proper frame of mind to pound out projects. Then there was the 3-day weekend, which was very nice, but it made this week at work really suck. I’m also dealing with this software vendor in New jersey that is an arrogant prick. There is nothing like getting in to an argument with someone at 7:00 in the morning to really set your day off right…bet let’s get back to the issue at hand: The Cabinets.

I finally have all the pieces in place and with any luck I may actually start some assembly tomorrow, but more than likely it will be Friday at the earliest, which means realistically it will be Saturday.

Here is what I’ve got so far. This is all still in a kind of a-cabinet-only-a-father-could-love state so don’t expect a whole lot at this point.

The Fronts

There are 2 doors stripped and sanded and the rails and styles that make up the rest of the fronts. For the rails and styles I used wood that used to make up the frame of the Murphy bed that was in the dining room, only they didn’t call it a Murphy bed. All of the trim pieces were labeled in pencil on the back with terms like “wall bed header” “wall bed left” “wall bed right” etc.

The Sides

The tongue and groove stuff was not really made for glue and clamps. It had a tendency to want to bow when the clamps were applied. The little wooden cleats you see are there to keep every thing flat while the glue was setting. I still haven’t gotten around to removing them.

The Backs

Not much to tell here. The cabinets will all be painted…so…use your imagination.

Tops & Bottoms

The cabinets are 12.75-inches deep at I was fresh out of 1X14 old growth redwood boards so I had to glue up some panels. I only have 2 sets of clamps large enough so I still need to glue up two more for the other cabinet.

To Top It Off

And finally we have the 1X4 crown molding that will go around the top. I didn’t make this but it was made with scrap redwood from the addition I removed. This is left over from when I had to rebuild the flare-out on the main house. The second story flares out over the first story where the two meet. Underneath this flare there is a series of trim pieces built-up to fill the gap under the flare. One of those pieces is 1X4 crown molding. I had them run 30 extra feet when I had it reproduced.

Next stop: Pounding Nails

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Family Business

I finally talked with my sister on Monday for the first time since Katrina hit. Their house in The Garden District of NO actually survived the hurricane and the flood. That is a very old part of the city and it is built on high ground. The houses, like many old houses, are built several feet off the ground.

Her husband waded across town to the house before they were evacuated. As of Tuesday their street was flooded but the house was high and dry and everything was just as they left it. Now, if it survived the looting they may get to go back to it in 6 months to a year and get their belongings or move back in. Could you imagine?

She told of a pretty harrowing experience getting out of the city. They were lucky in that a friend acquired a large truck with high ground clearance to ferry people out. He gathered up as many friends and relatives as he could and they were able to get out of the city through the high water. Otherwise she may have ended up at the Super Dome like some of her co-workers did.

My sister has ended up in Kentucky where she has use of an apartment there until at least January. Like Kristin over at 1902 Victorian she has talked about an out-pouring of support from the locals. Her and her husband have more job offers than they know what to do with. They been offered work and/or housing in Louisiana, Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Washington State, and California. It is pretty bad, but it could be a lot, lot worse.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Cabin Fever

I went to a really neat place yesterday for a picnic. It was an 1860 cabin on a kind of remote ranch in the mountains. There were actually 2 cabins. We drove about 15 miles into the mountains outside of Ferndale. Ferndale is a very small dairy town about 15 miles outside of Eureka. The last 5 miles or so was down a one-lane dirt road behind a locked gate.

The larger of the 2 cabins was built in 1860. I would say it was about 800 sq ft. The smaller one started out life as a one-room bunk house about 12-feet square with a small exterior notch for the bathroom. The age of the bunk house is unknown. The smaller one was added on to 2 years ago to double it’s size. Both cabins are in mostly original condition, with the exception of the addition to the small one. There is no electricity on the ranch and the water is gravity fed from a spring.

This small ranch is part of a larger family run ranching operation. A woman who works for the family is a permanent resident of the larger cabin. Some friends of mine have a sort of lifetime lease on smaller one so long as they maintain it and the small bit of property it sits on. The main cabin still had the massive cast iron stove that is still used for cooking on a daily basis. It had fir counter tops in the kitchen and a zinc tub in the bathroom, along with many day-to-day household items.

There was also a fir kitchen table that was really cool. The table was about 3-feet by 6-feet and the top was made out of a single piece of fir wood. It was just one big slab of wood that was 3-feet wide, 6-feet long, and 2-inches thick. The wood grain looks just like the fir flooring I put in my kitchen. The kitchen counters were also made out of a single piece of fir wood.

With the smaller cabin every last stick of wood was redwood. All counters, cabinets, cabinet handles, walls, floors, doors, windows, ceilings, siding, and shingles were all redwood and none of it had ever been painted, oiled or shellacked. It was very rustic, very charming, and very, very cool.

There is also a small graveyard on the ranch. There are only 3 bodies buried there. One is of one of the daughters (or maybe a grand daughter) of one of the original homesteaders of the ranch. She lived on the ranch her whole life from 1906 to 1996. The other was of an 8 year old boy who died in 1918 (I think) when he fell out of the barn. Apparently there is a third grave that has lost it’s marker and people forgot where the body is.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera so there are no pictures.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Judge Hunter's House

I had a rare treat yesterday to go inside one of Eureka’s finest homes. Maybe I should say, what was at one time one of Eureka’s finest homes. Judge Hunter was a Supreme Court Judge, and I think he built this house in 1887, but that could be wrong.

Click To Enlarge

The house was cut-up in to apartments in the 40s. The main house has 4 units and the water tower building in the back was expanded to create a 5th unit. The butt-ugly garages were added at that time as well. Even though it was cut-up the interior remains largely in-tact, although in much need of repair and restoration. The one great casualty was the main stair case. It was butchered beyond recognition to separate the upstairs from the downstairs. Also, the square corner turret used to have a large pinnacle roof that extended maybe another 15 or 20 feet in the air. It was probably topped with ornamental metal work.

The house recently went on the market and some friends are considering buying it. They toured it yesterday with a realtor and I got to tag a long. I went posing as Thomas Petch, a wealthy industrialist looking to expand his empire here in Eureka. The current owners bought the house in the ‘70s for $39,000 (Yes, I wrote, thirty-nine-thousand). They are listing it for $565,000. They have done almost nothing to the house in the last 30 years. I mean nothing. Most think it will eventually see for about 20% under the asking price.

Only the finer homes had oak or mahogany trim. Most had redwood. This is the downstairs trim in all but the front parlor and library

The bottom 3-feet of all door casing has this carved detail

There are 5 fireplaces

One of the built-ins in the library

Exterior Detail

Inside shot of 3rd floor turret. You can see most of the city and bay from here.

One of more than a dozen stained glass windows in the house. This one was in the stairwell

Cool house across the street

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Everyone Is Safe!

Just got home and got a message from my Mom. My sister and her husband made it out of NO and are staying in Kentucky with my niece. Her job provides her with an apartment there while she is working in the state. The future is still unknown but at least everybody is alive and well. Thank you to all for the kind words and offers of assistance.


My family is safe and for that I’m thankful, but why are so many people in New Orleans still without anything. I don’t understand. Where are the transport helicopters with pallets of water and food at the Super Dome and the Convention Center? It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. It has been 4 days. Where is the government???? Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where is the government????
Where are the troops?????
Where are the troops?????
Where are the troops?????
Where are the troops?????
Where are the troops?????
Where are the troops?????
Where are the troops?????
Where are the troops?????