Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Partial Victory

I woke up this morning to find a dead rat and what looked like corned beef hash on the hood of my truck. My truck is a 71 Ford with a less than pristine paint job so this was more of an annoyance than anything else. The rat went in the sewer and I hosed off the “corned beef” and went to work. I was delayed about 5 minutes.

This is of course the current state of affairs between my neighbor and I. It seems the city has come through, but I have a feeling the last battle has not been fought yet. What I can say is that as I write my neighbor’s idiot sons are moving out. Literally. I can hear them yelling and clanging equipment and inventory into trailers and trucks right now.

Besides the rat and “corned beef” on the truck I woke up to find the shell of a beat up old Nissan pickup truck parked next to my house. When I got home from work there was a large bucket lift truck and a 15 foot trailer parked on the street right where I normally park my truck. I know the bucket truck and trailer belong to one of the sons and yesterday I saw the Nissan on the trailer. That was before they mostly gutted the truck.

I now I kick myself for not snapping a picture. If I had known they had already been contacted by the city I would have snapped the picture of the Nissan on the trailer. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict what these guys will do. They basically act like 12 year olds whose parents have never set boundaries. When they are forced to do something that they don’t want to do they throw tantrums. I’m half expecting to see one of them in the street on his back, flailing his arms and legs about and screaming, “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!”

After the rat and trucks I knew something had happened. I first called the city about the Nissan and it has been towed off the street. I then called the city and spoke with the woman at the Planning Dept. in charge of the case. Sure enough she had contacted them via registered mail on the 27th. She sent me a copy of the letter but because it wasn’t registered I still have not received it.

The idiot sons are so stupid and have such contempt for authority that they really made this easy for the city to get after them. When the one son took over the business from his father he got a business license and put the address as the illegally built mother-in-law unit in the backyard. So not only is it a slam dunk to prove they are running the business in the backyard but now the city wants to know about the MIL unit as well.

My plan has always been to be methodical about this. I was going to start with the Planning Dept and get those guys after them for running the business. The next step was going to be to go to the building department and complain about the MIL unit. The thought was that the building department would bring up the file and see that 3 years ago they were sighted for running a junk yard and then now they have been sighted again for the business. My hope was that this would encourage the building department to do something other than just send a stern letter.

The woman I spoke to at the Planning Dept. told me that they sent the letter via registered mail. It basically said that they have 15 days to get rid of the business and to answer for the illegal MIL unit. At the end of that period if they do not comply they will be sent a second letter, this time with more aggressive language and threatening a fine if they don’t comply. After that they will be fined (unknown amount) and the matter will be turned over to the city’s lawyers.

It doesn’t seem it will come to that because it seems they are moving out. I asked the woman from the Planning Department about trucks and trailers parked endlessly on the street. She said unfortunately that is not an issue she can address. She repeated the same thing I was told by the parking department: Vehicles have to be moved every 72 hours. So it seems I’m left with only one option and that is to call the parking control people every time they dump something on the street.

Like I said, it’s a partial victory. I’m hoping that once the business leaves they will eventually find it an inconvenience to keep equipment on the street here. I’m going to wait and see what happens over the next few weeks before I do anything else. I’ll let them get the business out and see if they take the junk with them. After that if there is still a bunch of junk on the street I will contact someone else higher up the chain in the Parking Control division of the Police Dept and find out if there is more I can do about stuff being stored on the street.

The real question at this point is just how stupid are these guys? Can I expect more retaliation besides Nissans, rats, and “corned beef”. I think I’m going to head to Radio Shack and see about a cheap surveillance camera I can hook up to my VCR. I think I can expect more stuff from them but I honestly don’t think they are willing to risk serious jail time to get back at me. I still have some more of this storm to weather, but I can’t say at this time just how bad it will get.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Little Blog Humor

I saw a blog cartoon in Sunday’s paper and I thought I’d share. I forget the name of the cartoon, but it was in one of those magazine inserts that come with the paper.

It is a single pane cartoon. The scene is of an upwardly-mobile looking young couple. They are sitting at the dinner table eating. The woman looks a little irritated and she says,

I don’t want to read about it in your blog. Just tell me how your day was.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Door 3: Day 1

I started work today on the third and final door for the kitchen. This is also an original door for the house and I will be putting it back in to it’s original spot, although it has spent the last 80 years not in it’s original spot.

In 1926 when they added a bathroom to the back third of the kitchen, which I removed, they took the door off the entryway that lead from the kitchen to the butler’s pantry and used it in the bathroom. This door ended up being part of the wall in the bathroom and not the door to the bathroom. Instead of being mounted like a real door in the middle of an entry, they set it all the back and built shelves in front of it. They puttied over the two small holes for the doorknob and skeleton key, so I will need to remove that.

When they put it in place they drove in about 8 or 10 big framing nails, 2 or 3 per side, to nail it in place. They then trimmed it out so there were another dozen or so small finishing nails driven in to the edges. All in all it’s not too bad. These small nail holes are all around the edges and are easily filled with putty.

One side of the door faced the outside and because the house was only painted once in 80 years it has very little paint on it. I can probably just clean that up a little and repaint it. The bathroom side of the door is another story.

If you’ve ever painted the inside of shelves you’ll now that you really have to be aggressive to get the paint in all the crevices around the shelves. Now imagine that you’re a bad painter and don’t care about drips and runs. Now imagine that this is a bathroom shelf for 80 years and you’ll have some idea of what I’m dealing with. It’s not pretty.

I’ve decided to strip all the paint off. It is going to be a p.i.t.a. but not a major p.i.t.a. The side of the door I’m stripping is the side that faced the kitchen back in 1895. In 1895 the original finish was a faux grained oak. The base for that was tinted shellac. It’s not as easy as stripping a pure shellacked finish but it is a heck of a lot easier than an original painted surface. Hopefully I can get it done in a week if I work on it a little bit every day.

Here’s where I’m starting.

This is the first door I did. Complete with hardware. This leads from the kitchen to the dining room.

This is door number 2 sans hardware. It needs another coat of paint, which I'll do tomorrow. Immediately beyond this door is the back stairwell.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Up On The Roof

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space

I had a chance to go on the roof of a big movie theater building today. As I mentioned in an earlier post, some friends of mine are on the board of a non-profit group that is restoring a 1930s Art Deco Movie House. They had a big clean up day today and ask me if I would come by to take a group photo of all the Board Members. Naturally, I said yes. While I was there they had the hatch to the roof open and so I went up and snapped a few shots of the city.

You can click the images to enlarge them and the larger pictures have markings indicating which buildings I’m referring to.

The first image is of The Eureka Inn...uh, excuse me, The Historic Eureka Inn. It was built in 1922 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. From a Housebloggers perspective, the most interesting thing about it is that last year it was painted and they stripped the whole thing with Peel-Away. And you think you have a lot of woodwork to strip. The siding is 1X12 coved redwood siding. The domed building in the foreground is a Carnegie Free Library (1904). I wish I had gotten a picture of the front because it has some stunning detail. It is now The Morris Graves Museum of Art.

This is St. Bernards Catholic church built in 1888. The Victorian home next door, which is only partially in the picture, is the 1895 Rectory, a nice Queen Anne that looks similar to my own house.

These two buildings are 2 of my favorite in town. Building 1 is stone and Building 2 is wood. They both have a lot of nice detail that doesn’t show up in the pictures. Dr. Thomas Petch had an office in Building 2 around the turn of the century. In between them you can see a great Victorian office building from the 1870s.

The 3 buildings of note in this photo are The Professional Building (Building 1 - 1933), The Gross Building (Building 2 - 1903), and The Carson Block (Building 3 - 1892). The Professional Building was built by Lloyd Bridges’ father who was a developer here in the 20s and 30s. Dr. Thomas Petch had an office in The Gross Building in 1905, and The Carson Block was originally a very fancy Victorian Building with a theater in it. It was stripped of it’s decoration in the 50s and then stuccoed. Grrrr! Beyond those buildings you can see Humboldt Bay. There are a series of islands and then a peninsula. Beyond the peninsula is a the Pacific Ocean.

This is The Odd Fellows Hall (Building 1 - unknown), The Federal Building (Building 2 - 1901), and the new, butt-ugly County Building (Building 3 – Doesn’t matter). You mostly see the back of The Odd Fellows Hall here but it has some wonderful detail to it. It is stone but unfortunately the first floor is mostly obscured by the worst metal façade you have ever seen in your life. They (who ever owns it now) is trying to get money together to restore the first floor façade. Although I’ve never been in it, apparently the entire 3rd floor is a large ball room. The Federal Building is a post office on the first floor. This is where I have my PO Box so I’m in there several times a week. The whole thing is done is quarter swan oak and white marble. Very, very cool. The windows are 20 over 20. There is a great vestibule and it is really just a great building.

It ain’t the Manhattan skyline, I know, but I still enjoy looking at it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Almost Outed!

Well, it wasn’t almost but I had a good scare. Wait, I guess I should clarify the title to this blog entry. I’m not referring to my sexual orientation. I am heterosexual, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of, right? I’m talking about my blog. I don’t tell anybody locally about my blog because I enjoy writing with a certain amount of anonymity. It’s a small town and I would not enjoy it if people at work or the market commented to me on what I write on my blog. I’m not even really sure why I wouldn’t like it, I just know I wouldn’t.

Anyway, there is a free weekly newspaper published here. I’m sure all towns have at least one, and several have several. You know the type I’m talking about. They are free, printed on newsprint, and are usually piled up near the door of coffee houses, delis, and bagel shops. I read this one only on occasion. If something catches my eye on the cover I may investigate but other than that it is not something I leaf through on a regular basis. Well, the issue that came out this week had the front page article entitled, “Humboldt Blogs and the Blogging Bloggers Who Blog Them”.

(As a side note, I love the title. It seems to be a take off of the Al Fraken book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”)

On the cover was a large picture of a Blogger blog. It was one of Blogger’s standard formats but not the one I use. As a lot of you may know, when you go to your profile in Blogger and you click on your city name you get a list of all the blogs in that city. I’ve done this a few times to see what other bloggers there are in Eureka. There is not much to chose from. I would say there are less than 20 and most of them are the type that were created and after a few entries are forgotten. Naturally, I see a Blogger blog on the cover and I know the state of most Eureka blogs, so I think there’s a good chance I’ve been outed.

The problem with my initial reaction, if it is a problem, and guess it’s not, is that Eureka is not the only city in the county and Blogger is not the only way to create a blog. After I started to read the article I quickly realized that the local blogosphere is much larger than just those 20 or so mostly forgotten Eureka blogs I see when I click on the link in my profile. Whew!

The article goes on to say that they are not even attempting to catalog all the blogs in the county. As it turns out they only really profile a few. As you may have already guessed they really only talk about the political blogs and the blogs that spotlight the local music scene. Sometimes, if you listen to the media you would think that the only blogs there are out there are political blogs. To be honest, I shudder a bit when I hear a news reporter on TV report on something that was written in a blog. That’s not reporting people!

I think that as a house blogger I have a false impression of how popular or unpopular a lot of blogs really are. The houseblog web ring brings people to my blog that are already mildly interested in what I’ve written even before they read it. I mean, you’ve read the blurb and you clicked on the link. If it wasn’t for houseblogs I doubt I would be writing as much as I do. I can see why so many of the Eureka blogs that are on Blogger have only a few entries and then are forgotten. Who can find these things?

The good part is I wasn’t outed by the local media. I am safely concealed in my blogging closet and can continue to write away in relative anonymity. Yea!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What Happened in 1919

A few people brought up some good ideas about what happened to the Petch family in 1919. As I said in yesterday’s post, the family just evaporates from the area in 1919. The mother and three adult sons, one of which I know for sure is married with 3 or 4 kids, are no where to be found in any city or county records after 1919. The family had lived in the area since the 1870s so it seemed odd.

The flu pandemic was my first thought given that Thomas Jr. was a doctor. Although 1918 was the big year for the flu, as John from The Devil Queen pointed out, it really didn’t get out to the West Coast until almost 1919. I think the first case showed up in SF in December of 1918. Given all the travel between Eureka and SF it probably showed up here by January of 1919. I didn’t look at the newspapers for that year yet. It is very possible that if the death toll was high records may not have been kept very well.

I found the father Thomas Sr. and his mother in Santa Rosa, CA in the 1920 census. He divorced Phyllis Petch sometime between 1905 and 1910 and moved there to live with his widowed sister and her three children. That is when The Petch House first became a boarding house. Phyllis turned the dining room and butler’s pantry in to a small apartment for herself and rented out the 4 bedrooms to borders.

It is funny that at first she called herself a widow and then later she was listed as divorced (“That man is dead to me!”). She also changed the spelling of her first name from “Phyllis” to “Phillias”. One could assume that Phillias was her original name but she “Americanized” it after immigrating the US in 1878. For some reason she went back to Phillias after the divorce. Something tells me it wasn’t a pleasant separation. Thomas moved in to a small house on “I” street before heading to Santa Rosa.

It is also interesting that Thomas and Phillias got married in Ireland in 1878. He was 19 and she was 17. They had the first child, Thomas Jr, in California in 1879. That means that at 17 Phillias is newly married, pregnant, and traveling to a foreign country across a lot of wild and untamed country. That is pretty adventurous.

The 1898 city directory shows a John Petch living just across the street from The Petch House. I suspect that was either Thomas’ father or brother and the young Thomas and Phillias were coming out here to meet him. John Petch is gone by the 1900 census and Thomas’ mother emigrates in 1919 as a widow.

I suppose it is possible that the family fell on hard times and all of them moved out together in 1919 for greener pastures, but it is just not something I would expect because the sons were grown adults by 1919. The youngest son would have been about 33 at that time. Would the whole family including wives and grandkids all have moved out together?

Around 1910 the eldest son Thomas Jr., the doctor, does spend some time Tuolumne County in the Sierra Nevada foothills (gold country) but ends up back in Eureka by 1916. His wife and kids did not travel with him. One thought is that he went there to set up a practice, buy a house, and then eventually they all moved there. The 1910 census shows he is a doctor living by himself in a boarding house Tuolumne County. I have no way of accessing records for Tuolumne County from here so the trail sort of dies there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

1896 Info

While I’m waiting for paint and filler to dry there is not a lot going on right now at the old Petch House. After some recent posts by some other bloggers, and a conversation I had with a friend, I had been thinking more about the fate of the Petch Family. They abruptly disappeared in 1919. I decided to mosey on down to the library…well actually it was more like a saunter, or maybe I ambled … whatever my method of movement, I ended up at the library to do a bit of reading.

A friend had told me that they had voter, death, marriage, and birth records. I decided to see what I could find. I didn’t find much. In almost every list I found nothing between Pearson and Peterson. I’m kind of glad the Petch’s weren’t the Petersons because apparently back in the 1890s there were a zillion Petersons in the county. There may still be, I don’t know.

In 1896 they have a vague description of Thomas Petch in the voter registration records. It noted he had medium complexion, blue eyes, dark hair, and a mole on his right ear. I can just picture the handsome devil now, can’t you. The only other notice was of the marriage of the eldest son, Thomas Robert Petch, to a Mary Emma King on 12/23/1905. Two days before Christmas seems like an odd time to get married but maybe that was the style back then. Or maybe they had to get married before some unexpected event took place – if you know what I mean.

The lack of information of deaths, marriages, and births for the family was a little disappointing. Thomas Sr. was a successful business man, and Thomas Jr. was doctor. I know that Thomas Jr. had 4 kids while he and his wife lived here, so why weren’t they listed? I’m sure the records are incomplete, so that may have a lot to do with it. I also wonder if maybe it has anything to do with the fact that they were Irish immigrants. From what I’ve heard the Irish were not held in high regards at the turn of the century.

After I came up almost empty handed in the records I decided to do a little light reading in the 1896 newspaper. They have them all on microfilm. I know that the mid to late 1890s were a tumultuous time in the US and there was a major recession going on. Sure enough there was a front page article in the January 8th 1896 edition about depressed wages and slowing lumber sales. The article said that “in years past” an average mill worker could expect to take home $60 a month but that wages were closer to $20 a month now. That is a huge drop. I think this was a bit exaggerated because the article really made a point of bashing the Cleveland administration in Washington.

Last year I watched an episode of American Experience on PBS about Emma Goldman. She was a radical anarchist in the US at the turn of the century and was always trying to stir up trouble with the working class. She also published an influential anarchist magazine called Mother Earth that was devoted to politics and literature. She was pretty wild.

In the show it mentioned that she showed up here in Eureka in the 1890s trying to organize the lumberman and mill workers. It didn’t say how successful she was. She was eventually mixed up with the group that assassinated President McKinley in 1901, and was accused of masterminding the attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick, a business partner of the steel baron Andrew Carnegie. Frick had Pinkerton guards shoot striking workers at the coke facility in Homestead, PA in 1892. Some speculate that Carnegie was really behind the whole thing and Frick was just the fall-guy. The show gave a kind of a dreary picture of life in the 1890s for the average Joe. One of the things that struck me was it said that in 1893 more than 50 railroads went bankrupt in the US.

Also in that January edition of thee paper it had totals for lumber shipped out of the bay for the previous year. Needless to say there was a lot of redwood shipped out. They listed lumber and shingles in one area, and then finished lumber products in another. Finished products were doors, window sashes, casing, etc. By far the biggest item shipped was doors. In 1895 nearly 5000 doors left Humboldt Bay. The next closest thing was window sashes at 79. I think that was the Hammond Mill that produced all the doors. Some people around here refer to The Eastlake door as The Hammond Door. If that mill ran 365 days a year that is nearly 14 doors a day, and that doesn’t include local door consumption. That would explain the large number of the high-end Eastlake doors I see locally.

The other big topic was the rail road. There wasn’t one to this area in 1896. The feeling seems to have been that at any moment Humboldt Bay was going to be the hub of a major transcontinental railroad. That never happened. We didn’t get rail service from The Bay Area until about 1915, and after being washed out several times they finally gave up on it in 1995. Today we get our gasoline by barge once a week from The Bay Area.

Ships came and went all the time back in the 1890s. About 1000 people a month came and went from San Francisco by ship. The fare was $15 (remember the average worker made $60/month). They had statistics going back 5 years and it generally seemed that about 15% more came than went. A lot of ships filled with redwood lumber regularly went to Mexico, Australia, Hawaii, and Panama, along with SF, LA and other West Coast ports. I’m not sure if they were working on the Panama Canal at that time. I think it opened in 1915.

The coolest thing in the paper was the ad for Levi Strauss & Co. Jeans. It was always in the lower right-hand corner of the front page. It was the classic ad with the mules trying to pull the “copper riveted” jeans apart. It looked exactly like an ad you could probably find today some place, except the jeans are no longer made in SF. It was weird at first to see something so familiar in a 100 year old newspaper.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Quick Before & After

It’s amazing how a project seems to just grind to a halt when it comes time to paint. I also had to wait for wood filler to set, so it seems to be taking even longer to do this door. After I get the second coat of paint on I then have to do the other side. It could be Friday before I get this thing hung.

Here are the before and after pics of the filling job. Obviously it needs a second coat of paint.

Speaking of doors, I found another Eastlake door today – in my attic of all places! I was just about to start painting today when my cat came in the room and was getting in the way and generally making a nuisance of himself. I stamped my food and yelled a few times but that only seemed to encourage him. The next thing you know I’m chasing him upstairs in to the attic.

As you come up the stairs there is a small section of the floor that is over the open stairwell. It is difficult to access because there are no rails around the opening on the attic floor. Four years ago when I cleaned the attic out the only thing that was in that spot, or so I thought, was a pair of 15-light, oak French Doors. They are nice doors and judging from the hardware I would say they are from the 1920s or 30s. Anyway, I never did anything with them and they’ve been in the same spot ever since.

Well, today the cat ran behind the doors and I crawled back there after him and much to my surprise there is a nice Eastlake door behind them, original to the house, no doubt. I probably saw it 4 years ago but just forgot about it. Considering it was put up in the attic I’m willing to bet there is some damage to it, but it can’t be any worse then my other doors.

Another odd thing. Last week I was at a friends house and he had a newly acquired book from 1898. It was a book of interior millwork being offered by a mill outside of Atlanta, GA. As I flipped through it I found some things from my house! I’m like 2500 miles away. On top of that my stuff is made out of redwood, so it was made locally, and not pine like the mill in GA was offering.

I found my Eastlake doors, not too surprising, and my front stairs. The stairs did kind of surprise me. Here is a picture of my front stairs. This is an old picture and that hideous green carpet is gone now. You can click to enlarge.

There should be more to those stairs. Inside each circle there should be a small wooden finial. At the top of the stairs, just out of view, there are a few remaining so I can get duplicates made (its on the list).

I assumed my stairs came out of a pattern book of the time but I don’t think they came out of the 1898 book from GA. So did mills just collect a bunch patterns from other sources and print up books and offer them as their own? I wonder if there were any copyright issues. Obviously, somebody at some time put pen to paper and came up with the design for my stairs. I wonder if there were design houses that came up with designs for millwork and them sold them to different mills? That seems more likely.

This is the 4th instance of my stairs I’ve seen. There is my house, a second house here in Eureka, a house in New Jersey that I saw in Victorian Homes magazine, and now the picture in the 1898 GA millworks book. Very odd.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Door 2 : Phase 1

Yesterday I started on the second of three kitchen doors. This door happens to be an original door to the house and I’m putting it back in to it’s original spot. However, there is a problem. Naturally there is a problem, because there is always a problem.

This will be the door to the back stairs which have an egress in the kitchen. At some point back in the teens or 20s they removed a small area of the scullery, which adjoins the kitchen, and opened it up to the back porch. They did this to add more exterior doors. So now, this door that was originally an interior door for the back stairs became a forth exterior door to the house.

It didn’t stop there, though. Later, someone drilled it for a deadbolt, and then eventually they drove some screws through the door and in to the jamb, thereby permanently “locking” the door. It also looks like someone kicked it in at one point. I think it was screwed shut after it was kicked in. No doubt this was done by one of the upstanding citizens who lived here during it’s opium-den days during the mid 1990s. It is hard to believe that someone would let such classy and distinguished house fall so low.

What this boiled down to is I have some patch work to do. Surprisingly, most of the door is in very good shape. Not too many dings, the original hinges still work fine, although they have a little more paint than they need, and the screw holes for the hinges on both the door and the jamb are still good. The only real damage is around the lockset. Here is what I’m starting with.

The red lines indicate where the tenon goes from the stile and through the rail. My first thought was to remove all the damaged wood and just replace it. I could cut out a big square where all the damage is and replace it with new wood. That would remove all of that tenon, though. I’m not sure if that would cause problems down the road. The mortise and tenon are what hold the door together after all. I don’t think removing one of the 4 tenons on that side would cause the door to fall apart, but it could lead to sagging in the future. Instead I decided to replace only to wood that was missing. I cleaned up the edges a bit and then cut new wood to match the missing pieces. I then filled remaining seams with putty. Below are pictures that show where I’m at.

I thought about not even putting a door at the bottom of the stairs. It is not something I will be closing a lot. There are really two reasons why I’m putting it there. First, it will help to keep heat in the kitchen during the winter. The enclosed back stairwell acts like a chimney to draw any heat right out of the kitchen. The real reason, though, is because I think its cool.

When I was about 7 or 8 my family went to visit my Uncle Bob in Virginia. He had a big old house that I remember almost nothing about. One of the few things I do remember is the door that closed off the back stairs in the kitchen. The fact that there were 2 stairwells in the house blew my mind - I always lived in a single story home – but that the fact that the stairs had a door I just thought was too cool. I’ll never forget how my older cousin slammed the door shut on me and a younger cousin and wouldn’t let us in the kitchen. At the time, it felt like I was trapped. I distinctly remember a feeling of being trapped in that stairwell. Why we didn’t just go back upstairs and come down the front stairs is a question you will have to ask the 8 year old Greg.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tale of Two Neighbors: Chapter 3

Ok, so it’s time to finish this stupid little tale, or at least bring you up to present day, because it certainly isn’t finished.

I got the one son to leave. I had a year or so of peace and quite with normal tenants in the MIL unit located in my neighbors backyard. The first son took all his junk with him and it was a nice normal street. Just as important as the junk being gone, the son himself was gone. He was a big, loudmouth. And I do mean big and I do mean loud. He is well over 300 pounds and it ain’t all muscle, if you know what I mean.

He speaks in a way so that it seems that he thinks that every one within a two block radius is going to be very interested in what he has to say. I could be upstairs in a back bedroom and he could be standing in his Mom’s backyard across the street and I could understand the intimate details of the cell phone conversation he was having with some idiot on the other end of the line. I am not joking or exaggerating in the least about this. There is no other way to say it: The guy is a big, fat, arrogant loudmouth.

So anyway, a year or so later the other son moves in and it’s not too bad at first. I think in an earlier post I said he was fresh out of the Army but it was The National Guard. He has a similar loud voice as his other brother but he is not carrying the extra weight. Soon enough, though, the business starts to ramp up again. He installs a new cement pad and builds racks for fence pipe and chain-link fencing. Welding and pipe cutting become regular announces and two trailers are parked on the street.

Then the other son starts to show up more and more. At first they both adhere to our agreement: no junk on the street next to my house. After a few months the fist brother parks his truck and trailer next to my house but only for an hour or so. I decided I’m not going to start running out the door like some old coot every time a truck pulls up to see if it is one of the idiots parking next to my house. It is just no way to live. I will over look the minor things. I don’t want to turn in to some complete neurotic about this.

As the months went by more and more crap began to show up. Trailers filled with construction debris, a large bucket-lift truck like electrical companies use, and other stuff. Some of it would sit on the street for weeks or even months at a time, but they never left the long-term crap on the street next to my house. However annoying it was, they kept the agreement. I found out through some friends that their father owns some land out side of the city and as it was described to me, “it is an absolute junkyard”. It seems this “disorder” runs in the family. I had visions of the street turning back into a junkyard.

Then the big-rigs started showing up with loads of steel pipe and rolls of chain link fence to be stored in the new racks built by the second son. When no one is home to unload them the freight company drops off the trailer on the street and picks it back up a few days later. All this time, more and more often, the first son is parking on the street along side my house. Sort of testing the waters, as it were. One night he leaves his truck and trailer over night. I went and talked to the Mom and reminded of our agreement. She said she would talk to them.

The final straw was in October. The first son parks a tractor – an actual farm tractor – on the street next to my house. At the same time there was a big-rig trailer waiting to be unloaded across the street. I went over and told the Mom it was over. I was finished dealing with this crap. She said something like, “Oh, I’ll talk to Jonathan again”. I stopped her. I said, “No, we’re finished. It’s over. I’m done dealing with this crap. It’s all gotta go. The business. The trucks. The trailers. The crap. It all has to go or I’m going to the city. I’ll give you until the first of the year to get it all out.” She said, “But the tailor isn’t on your side of the street”. I said, “I don’t care. I want it all gone”.

That brings you up to speed. I wrote about the initial confrontation and the Blow Back from the second son in earlier posts so I want bore you with that again. How will this end? Will the sons burn my house to the ground? Will I end up in a knock down drag out brawl in the middle of the street? Will somebody end up in jail? One thing is for sure I’m not going to back down. I will not waiver. I will not relent. This is my home and the street is not a storage area for junk and construction equipment. It may take a month, 6 months, or a year, but it will end. Mark my words.

The worst thing about all this is that if at one point one of them would have said something like, “You know Greg, you’re right. There is a lot of stuff on the street and we will make room for your tenants to park”. If the Mom or the second son had said, “You’re right, you and Jonathan had an agreement and he broke it. Let us talk to him and we will straighten it out”. If any one of them had treated me with respect I probably would not have gone to the city. I can be quite a push-over at times, but these people really think they ar more important than anyone else on the street. Either that or they just don’t give a shit. I’m not sure exactly which it is.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Neighbors: Chapter 2

In yesterday’s post I left off where one of the sons had moved out and the other had moved in. Before we get to the second son, let’s speculate on what the city might do about a construction company being run in the neighborhood. In some cities, some larger cities, they wouldn’t stand for it at all. Some citeis will get after you if your weeds get too tall. This ain’t a large city. Living in a small town and dealing with a small town government has some benefits and some draw backs.

From the DIY home owner prospective some of the real benefits are that I can do all my own work. I don’t need a licensced profesionals for water, electrical, natural gas, lead or asbestos abatement, or anything. I can pull all my own permits for any work I want to do on my house. They also won’t get after me if my house is not painted nice, or if some projects take longer than expected and my property is less than pristine. The bad part is when it comes to dealing with people like my neighbors. My neighborhood is zoned RM1000, which is multi-unit residentail. You can build single family homes or multi-unit buildings on a single city lot. Obviously, the construction business is neither of those things. The problem is proving it.

If you don’t get a business license, or if the business is located someplace else and this is a satalite location then how do you prove they are running a business. Is this a case of my word against his? How proactive will the city be to investigate my claim. In my opinion I wrote a very convicneing letter complete with pictures and specific instances of conduct that proves, in my mind anyway, that they are running a construction busniess.

I’ve been told by some long time residence that it doesn’t matter. They tell me the city won’t do a thing to correct the situation. They tell me the city either lacks the backbone or the man power to inforce the city codes and ordinaces in every insatnce. In other instances I’m told that what ever punishment they hand out will be little more than a slap on the wrist and will not be enough to deter my neighbors from continuing the behavior. There is recent evidence that this may be the case.

Two years ago some people bought a house that is on The Local Register of Historic Places. It was a stucco Norman Revival house. The new owners, for what ever reason, decided they wanted to reside with shingles. Without getting permits from the building department, or going before the Historic Preservation Committee, they started to rip off the stucco and reside with shingles. Somebdy complained and they were told by the building department to stop the work and get the proper permits.

To make a long story short, they were denied permisson by the Historic Preservation Committee. They appealed to The City Council and were denied again. It made a lot of press and a lot of people screamed about property rights, but at the end of the day they knew the house was on The List when they bought it and they did not get permits from the city. You can compalin all you want to about the law, but it doesn’t change the law. The owners finished residing the house and the city put some type of covenant on the title to the house saying they would need to restore the structure when it sells. So who inforces this? No one really knows.

Before I went to the city with my complaint on Tuesday I spoke with a member of the city council. I brought up this case and he didn’t even know how it would be inforced. What it seems to come down to is, if you start or finish the work before you get caught you can basically get away with it. It renders the law somewhat useless if it is not enforced. I asked this member of the city council what would happen if I complained to the building department about the unpermitted biuldings. He wasn’t really sure but he said they would not be torn down by the city.

When I checked with the building department a few years ago about my neighbors un-permitted buildings I was told that if I made a complaint the buildings would be required to be brought up to code. In this case that is not possible. All 3 are built right on the property line. Building code requires a set-back of 5-feet from the property line unless you get a variance from the city. To get a variance from the city you have to go befor e the city council and there is a public comment portion. No doubt I would comment. Also, considering they were sighted for operating a junkyard 3 years ago I doubt they would get the variance.

So I asked the city council member what would happen to the buildings if I complained to the city. He said, if they couldn’t be brought up to code then the city would attach a covenant to the title to ensure they were brought up to code before the house is sold. Does this sound familiar? This means that it may never be enforced, or my neighbor could live there for another 30 years without changing a thing. It is less than a slap on the wrist.

I also spoke to the council person about the construction company. He agreed with me that what they are doing goes above and beyond what should be allowable in an RM1000 neighborhood. We talked about people who run home offices or plumbers who run small single-man operations out of their garage. There is some gray area but atleast he agreed with me that what they are doing is not in that gray area. Will the Planning Dept. agree? I don’t know yet.

So going in to this I knew it would not be a slam dunk. There is a real chance that I may come out swinging and hit nothing. If that happens, of course, this could go from bad to worse real fast. If I follow though on all my threats and all they get are some stern letters from city hall it will be open season to do what ever they want over there. So if I knew all this then why did I do it? Well, the alternative is to do nothing and I just can’t do that. I'm not going to roll over and play dead. I'm a property owner and I'm in it for the long haul. I’m not going to let these guys turn the street in to a junkyard. It is a matter of pricipal.

One person told me that the only way to get the city to do anything about it is that I have to complain loadly and often. Eventually they will get sick of hearing me and do something about it. Oh boy.

City Hall is exactly 3 blocks down the street. Council meetings are every other Tuesday and there is a public comment period at the end of every meeting. Any citizen can speak about what ever they want to for 3 minuets in the public comment period. Ugh! I really hope it doesn’t come to that but I'm going to do what it takes. I am home-owner, hear me roar.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Tale of Two Neighbors

Not much blogging the last few days. Painting isn’t exciting but complaining to the city about your neighbors has the potential to be exciting. That is, if you think poorly written made-for-TV-movies are exciting. Maybe some of you will remember that last October I gave my neighbor an ultimatum. Get rid of the construction business and get all the crap off the street, or I’ll complain again to the city. They didn’t do squat so I’m left with the unenviable task of having to cash a check that my butt really didn’t want to write in the first place. Yesterday was phase one. I made a complaint to the Planning Dept. at City Hall.

My neighbor, the woman who owns the property, is not a bad person. She is a divorced, mother of 2, school teacher in her early 50s. Her 2 sons are the problem. They have basically been coddled their whole lives and have grown up to be arrogant pricks. The father is sort of a bottom dweller in the construction business and has made a nitch of building chain link fences and clearing debris. It is hard for me to criticize anyone who earns an honest living, but it’s just the way they all act. Let’s just say they have a little more self esteem than they should.

The sons think they are very important and others should be expected to deal with their crap because their lives are just so important. They built an illegal Mother-in-law unit, a garage, and a carport in the Mom’s backyard and the sons sort of take turns living there. They have basically taken over the Dad’s business and are running it out of the Mom’s backyard. So I have this 25ish year old guy, living in his Mom’s backyard, and running his Dad’s business. This is a business that is basically the lowest rung in the profession, and he thinks he is more important than people who have had to get a real job, buy a house, make a place for themselves in the world. It’s tough to take.

I did battle with the other son when I first moved in. He had crap parked – make that dumped - up and down the street. My house is on a corner and on the long frontage on the side there was a trailer with 6 lawnmowers, a dune buggy, a beat up mini van with 3 flat tires, and a flat bed dodge from the 1960s. And that was just what was next to my house. The rest of the street was similar. This stuff rarely moved. I asked if he could move a few things so I could have two parking spaces for future tenants of the apartments over my garage. He hemmed and hawed and reluctantly moved the mini van. Soon enough something else showed up to takes it’s place. We went back and forth like this for about 9 months and I eventually had had enough.

I went down to City Hall and found out that all the out buildings they had built were done without permit and did not meet code. I complained to the Planning Department about the junk in the alley and they were cited for operating a junkyard. That was a warning shot across the bow. I wrote a letter to the Mom that I wanted all the crap off the street next to my house or I would go to back to The City again. This time I would pull no punches. I would go to the building department about the un-permitted buildings, the parking control about the junk on the street, and the planning department about the business.

The son accused me of being un-neighborly and I told him to go to hell. A few months later he packed up and moved out lock, stock and junk. The Mom rented the MIL unit to a nice young couple and everything was fine for more than a year. Then the younger son got out of the Army and she gave the young couple the boot and he moved in. The Mom assured me this son was much better than the other son and the problems would not come back. I was skeptical but what could I do. I reminded her of our agreement: No junk on the street next to my house.

I’ll stop here for now. Tune in tomrrow for part 2.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The $125 Stove Handle

I have a 1934 Magic Chef that I cook on every night. Even though it is lacking in some modern stove amenities I don’t really mind. It’s a pretty neat stove and it works just fine. The thing I really like about it is that I’m only the second owner and it has been in almost continuous use since 1934 with out ever being restored! When you think about, that’s pretty amazing.

I had wanted an old stove but had trouble finding anything I liked or could afford. There is a guy locally that restores stoves from the 1940s and sells them. Very, very nice stuff but they start in the $3,000 range and go up. I was checking out EBay and all of the stoves are out of the area. The old ones weigh so much shipping is crazy expensive. If I got one off EBay it would have to be the deal of the century and could not need any work. I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for something, ship it all the way out, and then have to sink a lot more money it to it to get it running.

After a few months of occasional EBay browsing I saw the 1934 Magic Chef. It was in Ohio and had an opening bid of $125. It belonged to the guys Grand Mother and she bought it new in 1934. She passed away sometime in the mid 1990s and it had been in his garage ever since. She cooked on it everyday for almost 60 years! The only thing the matter with it was it was missing the two Bakelite parts to the oven and broiler door handles. You can see them in the picture above. They are the black tassel parts on the handles.

The Case of the Missing Bakelite

I watched it all week and no one bid on it. After the auction ended I emailed him and said I might be interested in it depending upon shipping cost. I contacted a company called Vintage Transport and they said they would pick it up, pack it, and ship it to my door for about $375. Kind of steep. I emailed him back and said I could only offer him his opening bid of $125. He agreed and about 6 weeks later I had my stove for a total cost of $500. I was happy.

I set about trying to find the stove and broiler handles. I went to some old appliance related forums and asked around and a few people responded saying I would never find them. The bakelite tended to get brittle from the heat and eventually broke off. I gave up and started to think of way to fabricate new handles. I few months later a guy emailed me saying he had a pair and he would let me have them for the oh so generous price of $125 each!!! I told I only paid $125 for the stove and there was no way in hell I was going to pay $250 for a pair of handles.

Eventually I found a set of three handles on Ebay. The metal part of the handles that the bakelite part screws on was all wrong. I bought them anyway thinking maybe I could use just the bakelite part with the original metal parts that I had. The opening bid was $3.99. I was the only one that bid and with shipping I had them for less than $12. A far cry from $250.

When I got them, though, I discovered that the threads were not an exact match and I broke one of the metal parts when I was screwing on the bakelite parts. I couldn’t believe it. It is white metal, sometimes called pot metal, and I’ve been told it can be repaired but I never really looked in to it. I tried super glue and JB Weld, both of which worked for a few weeks and then it broke again. I just kind of put the whole thing on the back burner and didn’t think about for a while. The oven door was complete, so it’s not the end of the world.

Threads Don’t Quite Go In All The Way


Then a few weeks ago another set of three came up for auction on Ebay. Apparently these aren’t as rare as I was lead to believe. This time I paid a whopping $1.04 for the set. It was around $8 with shipping. The best part is the metal part fits my oven door. They just came yesterday and I popped them on about an hour ago. Woo hoo! A complete stove.

New Old Handles

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Door Hardware

I watched more football today so I didn’t get a lot done. I got the hardware on, and made and put on the door stop. The door stop goes on the dining room side so I needed it to be redwood. I added an ogee edge to it to match the rest of the door stop in the house. Those damn Victorians had to put a milled profile on absolutely every piece of wood and the door stop was no exception.

Tomorrow I wall take everything apart and clean everything up. The hardware has some paint on it and the kitchen side of the door needs to be sanded and painted. On the hardware, the lockset and door plates are original to the house but the knobs are not. I’m missing a set screw for one of the knobs so it is drooping a bit.

Suzanne left a comment on yesterday’s post about the wall that was opened up for the Murphy Bed. Here is the picture again.

That is a wood wall and is original to the house, as well as the kitchen on the other side. Instead of traditional wood lath strips they put up 1X8 T&G redwood boards on the wall. The boards have a series of dovetail grooves milled in them every 2 inches. When they applied the plaster it squishes in to the grooves and forms the keys to secure the plaster to the wall. This is original construction, and from what I can tell pretty unique. I suspect a local mill marketed this method as a labor saving device. It would be easier and quicker to nail on 12-foot long 1X8 boards than it would be to nail on zillions little lath strips. I guess the idea never took off because I’ve never seen it anyone else’s house.

You can see the old part of the wall where most of the plaster is gone but it still remains in the grooves. On the part I rebuilt the plaster is also gone but there is no plaster in the grooves because it is new construction. I had a lot of redwood planks left over from the 1920s 2 story addition I removed so I rebuilt the wall exactly was it was built in 1895.

On the kitchen side, just on the other side of the wall in the picture, they built a small partition to carve out an area of the kitchen where the Murphy bed would open. This was actually the very first change made to the house when Mrs. Petch opened a boarding house in the late teens. She created a small apartment for herself out of the dining room, butler’s pantry, scullery, and that small part of the kitchen for the Murphy Bed.

When I started removing the partitions to restore the kitchen back to its original foot print I found evidence that there was a 2X3 foot grate high on the wall of the partition. I think it served 2 purposes. First, it let heat move from the kitchen (monster cast iron stove) to her apartment, and second, it allowed here to hear if anyone was raiding the kitchen late at night. The kitchen and the two parlors remained common areas of the house. The boarders lived upstairs in the 4 bedrooms, and Mrs. Petch lived in the “apartment” in the dining room. I guess this is the sort of thing an elderly divorced woman would have to do in the days before Social Security and pensions.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Boy Interrupted

I finally got the first of three kitchen doors hung. Life has brought me a constant series of interruptions over the last 2 or 3 days. I’m just not myself when I’m not able to work on my house. We were down a man at work last week so I had to pull double duty on many days. I also agreed to create a new web site for The Eureka Theater. I had mentioned the other day that I helped a friend to move a 1934 movie projector in to the theater. He and his wife are on the board of the non-profit group that are trying to get the theater up and running again. They know I’m a bit of a pencil necked geek so they asked me if I could do the web site. Naturally I said I could. What was I thinking?

The response just came out of my mouth without thinking. I could have said I don't know how, but I didn't say that. It is the same thought process that leads to me making my own kitchen cabinets and re-wiring the whole house by myself. “Sure, I can do that”. I haven’t created a web site from scratch in over 5 years but they don’t want anything too fancy, so it should be doable.

Anyway, on Thursday after work I went to the board meeting, or maybe I should say “bored” meeting, for the theater group. I had to fill them in on my web master qualifications and listen to all the ideas everyone on the board has for the web site. I now remember why I never made it past the 9th grade. I wasn’t in that room for more than 10 minutes when the blood began to drain from my head. It was like I was in 8th grade social studies all over again. I think it’s the combination of florescent lighting and the smell of vinyl binders that sends me into a semi-comatose state. I was home by 7:30 but I felt like I had taken a tranquilizer.

But today, despite NFL play-offs (Seahawks are winning 17 to 10 with 8:40 left in the 4th), I was able to get the door up. As I wrote the other day I removed the door again and planed down the hinge side of the door. I then mortised the hinges a little deeper and re-hung the door. It’s a good fit but it does need a little tweaking at the bottom. It closes with out scraping but just barely. The final 6-inches needs to be taken in just a wee bit. I can do this with the RO sander.

You can see in the picture how the opening used to be wider. This is how it should look with a single door. Back in the teens or 20s they widened the opening and added a Murphy bed. You are looking at the unfinished dining room side here. The other side is the finished kitchen side. When they widened the opening they cut right through the raised paneled wainscoting. I had only one complete set of panels and 2 half sets. It was enough to extrapolate the original dimensions of the opening and the panels. I had the panels reproduced by The Blue Ox Mill. Eventually this opening will be trimmed out and the walls will be plastered. For now, this is what it looks like.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Just A Wee Bit More

Aye Lass, just a wee bit more is all she needs.

I did everything I said was going to do to the door that I outlined in yesterday’s post and it wasn’t quite enough. I did pick up a good 1/8th of an inch but she still needs a wee bit more (say that last part in your worst Irish accent). The door itself is a little out of plumb, which complicates matters. It is certainly not the door frame I built - hmpf! I think the door could used to be racked a bit, if I’m using the correct term, but that ain’t going to happen. The top part is not bad but as you approach the bottom it is still off a good 1/8th of an inch. If the door was square it would probably close right now, albeit with a little persuasion.

I’m going to have to plane the hinge side of the door and take off just a wee bit more. I must do it from the hinge side because it already has a the mortise for the lockset on the other side. If I plane the lockset side then the lockset won’t match up with the holes for the doorknob spindle. That means I need to remove the door, plane the hinge side, then mortise the hinges yet again and hopefully I will have one of the three kitchen doors hung.

In other news, I got a call from The Blue Ox Mill yesterday. That is the mill that reproduced a lot of the millwork for me to replace missing parts of the exterior and interior trim. They are redesigning their web site and wanted to put pictures of some of my millwork on the site. The owners wife stopped by today and snapped pictures of the corner blocks, plinth blocks, outside corbels and sunbursts. It’s all so exciting. I mean, pictures of my house on the internet. Gosh, I never thought that would happen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Door Is Up, But…

Late last summer when I was filling in the wall that separates the dining room from the kitchen I agonized over the doorway. The opening had been widened to add a Murphy Bed so I needed to reduce the opening and add a doorway. Framing the door had to be as accurate as I could possibly get it. If it was crooked or out of whack in anyway the a door would not work properly.

My feeling on a lot of these things is that as a novice I’m bound to make mistakes, so for something like this I should spend extra time scrutinizing every last detail. Odds are I’m still going to miss something but it is better to miss 1 or 2 details than 10 details. I spent a lot of time with this doorway and It seems to have paid off, but there is something wrong.

The door hangs straight in the opening but it won’t close. On the doorknob side it hits the edge of the jamb instead of closing. My first thought was that either the door was too wide or the opening was too narrow. I almost considered trimming the door, then I stopped. Cutting old wood is a last resort. Perhaps it was something else.

I went around the house and measured doors and openings to see how close the tolerances were. I only have a few doors hung in the house and of those only two are doors that were hung in 1895 and are still hanging in their original place. One of these is the foyer closet door. That opening is 30 & 1/16 inches and the door is 29 & 15/16. That is a difference of an 1/8-inch – maybe 3/16-inch - between the door and opening.

With my door and opening I am right about there. I didn’t strip the paint off the edges so it is tough to get a real accurate measurement on the door. I would say the difference between the width of the door and the opening varies between zero and 1/8-inch, depending upon where you measure. It doesn’t seem like the problem is an over-sized door or under-sized opening.

I think I can do 2 things to remedy the situation. First, I could mortise the hinges a hair deeper. There are a total of 2 mortises per hinge, one on the door and one on the jamb. If both are 1/16 of an inch off there is an 1/8 of an inch right there. Second, I can clean the paint off the outside edge of the door. As we all know, paint builds up pretty thick over 100 years. I could have a 1/16 of an inch of paint on both edges. That’s possibly another 1/8 of an inch. I’m not exactly sure why, but the plan was to strip the edges of the door after I got it hung. I’m going to have to remove the door again anyway, so what the hell. I think I get impatient sometimes and want to see the finished product before it’s actually finished.

So tomorrow I will remove the door and hinges, mortise the hinges a hair deeper, strip the paint off the edges, and rehang the door. The door will open and close perfectly, I’ll have better sex, win the lottery, and add 10 years to my life. Done and done.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ever So Slowly

I have been working on the first of three doors for the kitchen at a snails pace. To be fair, I did do a few small projects at the same time. I put up the long awaited under-cabinet lights, and then I decided to put up the light trim. I also spent an afternoon helping some friends move a 1934 movie projector. That was one big, heavy piece of equipment.

My friend is on the board of a nonprofit group that is running the now closed 1920s Art Deco Eureka Theater. The theater is pretty cool but unfortunately was cut up in to a triplex during the 70s. It then closed 10 or 15 years ago because it couldn’t compete with new google-plexes. A few years ago a local philanthropists bought the building with idea turning it in to a performing arts center. The building was turned back in to one large theater but then it was decided the stage was too small, and I guess there were other problems. At any rate, he then bought the 1929 Sweasy Theater, also here in Eureka, and has turned that in to a performing arts center. The Eureka Theater was then turned over to a non-profit organization that was created solely to run the theater. That was 5 years ago, and to be honest the group has floundered ever since, but things are starting to take shape. The projector was donated by a local museum and we moved it in to The Eureka Theater.

But back to the door…

I got about as much paint off this thing as I can hope to. This was not a door that was shellacked first so this was really hard. This is the largest non-shellacked paint stripping job I’ve ever done where the goal was to get it back to bare wood for a clear finish. It was very time consuming but I think it will look good.

There are still some very small specks of white paint here and there but I decided not to go any further. Mainly the problems are down at the base of the door where a zillion shoes kicked the door and the paint gets in to the fibers of the wood. I was left with a choice of making a deep gouge to get the paint out, or doing a little micro-faux graining to cover it up. I settled for the latter, or at least I will, when I get to that point.

I also had to fill the screw holes form the hinges because I need to reverse them to the other side. After the glue sets I think I can start to try and hang the door. That should be tomorrow. This is going to be interesting because I will be hanging this door in an opening that I framed from scratch. I haven’t done that too often. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Island Design: Round 3

I’ve made a few purchases for the kitchen island. I bought the pair of cabinet doors and a single baluster. I also ordered 4 Queen Anne legs from Van Dykes. They look just like the legs on the eHutch but they are only 5-inches high instead of 8-inches high.

The single baluster will go in the corner where the shelves are. At this point I am planning on a single shelf. Along with the bottom area of the opened corner there will actually be 2 shelves for storage. The baluster will be used to give strength to the open corner and secure the outside corner of the shelf.

I’ve also been giving some thought to what I’ll be using this for. Obviously it will a work station and a place to sit, but what sort of work. Because of it’s proximity to the stove it will largely be a place for cutting veggies, draining pasta, and that sort of thing, but not so much for clean-up. With this in mind I will want to store knives and chopping boards at the island, and I may want a place for spices. I guess it would also be nice to have a garbage disposal at this sink.

With the current design the single cabinet that will be accessed by the doors will be 31-inches high, 20-inches deep, and 24-inches wide. With a sink hanging down in the space, and with a garbage disposal attached, and all the other plumbing, there won’t be room in there for much else. I could maybe have a magnet strip on the inside of one of the doors to hold knives, but that’s about it.

I’m also thinking about trying to incorporate a spice rack in to the shelf area somehow. The spice rack is, after all, the quintessential DIY woodshop project. Another option is 2 or 3 of the thin vertical shelves (racks) for storing chopping boards. I’ve never been a big fan of that idea from a sanitary point of view. The idea of damp chopping boards in the small space that is hard to clean is not all the appealing. Something for chopping boards seems like a good idea, though.

The last idea is to mill drain grooves in to counter top. The sink will be under mount, and if I have some tapered grooves leading in to the sink on one side you can use it to drain things with out tying up the small sink. This of course, brings up the question of countertop material, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Here is my crappy MSPaint drawing of the current rendition.

Click here to see an earlier version.

End Round Three

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Good Tenant

A few weeks back I ran in to one of my tenants at the market. It is surprising how rarely I see either of them. It is a combination of schedules, and I use the front door more than the back and they live behind me. Anyway, at the market I was shopping for the little dinner party I had just before Christmas and I started talking about my new and fabulous kitchen. It is a wonder I don’t stop complete strangers in the street and start talking about my kitchen. My tenant was very interested in what I had done and I offered a tour some day. That day was yesterday.

We ran in to each other as I was coming from the garbage area and she was getting out of her car. I asked if she wanted the grand tour and she said ok but she wanted to put some groceries away first. She ran upstairs and was back in a few minutes and brought a little gift. She is taking photography at college and is always looking for interesting things to shoot. There was a spider web with rain droplets in the corner of the porch on her building and she snapped a shot of it with my house in the background. After a few Photoshop tricks and some matting she had a very nice gift for me.

Then today I get home from work and there is a message from her. She had been playing around in the kitchen and made a whole mess of chicken pot pies and asked me if I wanted one. From the few conversations I’ve had with her I have discovered that she loves to cook in volume but rarely has the crowd to consume it all. I all heard of the message was “fresh backed” and “do you want some”. I didn’t even listen to the end of the message and I just started dialing her phone. Yummy. Fresh baked chicken pot pie for dinner.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Light Trim

I kind of cheated when I took yesterday’s photo of the new under-cabinet lights. After I got them installed I noticed that you could see them. Not the light, of course you want to see that, but the fixtures themselves. It’s not really the end of the world but I just wasn’t expecting it. I expected it be light that appeared as if from no where. You know, like in the magazines. But when I looked at the cabinets I saw two, small metallic boxes protruding down an inch or so from the underside of the cabinets. It bugged me. When I sat at the table I really saw them. So when I took yesterday’s photo I stood on a chair. The vantage point in that photo is seen from the eye’s of someone who is about 8 or 9 feet tall.

To remedy the situation I decided to add a little trim under the cabinets to hide the fixtures. Here’s the really weird part: I bought trim – Gasp! I didn’t go to my wood pile and hunt for the prefect piece of redwood. I didn’t spend the next 45 minutes planing and trimming it to size. And I didn’t router a nice detail to it. I didn’t really want to fool with it too much so I went to the lumberyard and shelled out eight bucks for some pre-primed pine trim. I’m getting so lazy.

The fixtures hang down 1.25-inches so I didn’t need much. I just wanted something that would block the view when I was sitting at the table. I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted at the lumberyard so I got something close and cut it down. I got 1X3 trim with a nice profile and cut it down to 1.75-inches. Because it was pre-primed I was able to cut it, nail it, and paint it all in one afternoon. Here’s how it looks.

This is the real view if you were about 5 feet tall.
The one on the left has the trim and the one on the right doesn’t.

Here is a close up after it is painted. I’m sitting at the table when I took this.
Much nicer, isn’t it?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

At Long, Long Last…Lights!

You wouldn’t think it would be that difficult. How hard could it be to get 110 volt, hard-wired, under-cabinet, halogen lights for the kitchen? If I were in virtually any other part of the developed world it would be a simple matter of going to one, maybe two hardware or lighting stores and picking them up. In Eureka, it took more than 6 months.

In my last house I put in these small, nondescript halogen lights under the cabinets. They were perfect so I decided I wanted them in this kitchen as well. I planned for them and I wired for them. When the time came I went back to the same hardware store I had bought them at the last time. I went back to the electrical department and they had only one on the shelf. They had a zillion different low-voltage halogen lights but only one of the 110 volt, hard-wired, under-cabinet, halogen lights left. I needed two.

I took the solo light up to the counter and asked the guy when they would be getting more in. He tapped out a few commands on the computer and told me there were 10 on order and they would be in next week. That sounded good, and I went away reasonably happy.

The next week I went in, went back to the electrical department, and only saw the same one on the shelf. I went back to the counter and ask the guy if the 10 had come in. He tapped out a few commands on the computer and said, “Umm, that’s odd. We didn’t get them in”. I cocked my right eyebrow up and said, “Yes, that is odd indeed. Very, very odd!”. He told me he’d take my number and give me a call when they came in. That sounded good and I went away…a little frustrated, but whata ya gunna do?

I got a call the next week from the hardware store and the guy told me they didn’t get them in. Surprise, surprise, surprise. At this point I had already given up on them and I had gone to every hardware and lighting store in the tri-city area looking for 110 volt, hard-wired, under-cabinet, halogen lights. I found only two things: didly & squat. They do not exist in the county. Everybody carries the exact same line of low voltage halogen lights. Low voltage is fine but I had already wired for the 110 volt and I wasn’t going to have the little transformer plugged in to the kitchen counter outlets to run the under-cabinet lights.

I had also already went on-line to find them. I saw some lights that looked sort of like the halogen lights that I had put in my last house but none of them said explicitly whether they were hard-wired or the plug-in type. I didn’t want to get in to an endless cycle of ordering and returning lights by mail so I put the whole idea on the back burner for a while and prayed for divine intervention.

God didn’t come through.

One day I was back at the original hardware store for another reason and on a whim I decided to go back to the electrical department to see if maybe they had gotten some in. No such luck. There was still just the one light collecting dust on the shelf. I asked the guys at the counter again and they all scratched the dim bulbs between their shoulders and gave me no definitive reason why they could order the same product week after week and never get it in – AND – never question why they didn’t get it in.

It then dawned on me that I might be able to get what I want form the local electrical supply house (the place the pros use). This hardware store has done this for me before for specialty items where they write up a PO for the supply house, I pay the hardware store, and then take the PO to the supply house and pick up the item. The dim bulb behind the counter called the supply house and the only ones they had were 2.5-feet long and cost about $50 each. No good, by a long shot.

Again I prayed. Again God let me down.

I then decided to try the Ace Hardware web site. Eureka! They had exactly what I wanted in stock. 110 volt, hard-wired, under-cabinet halogen lighting and they were only $19.99! I could order them via the web site and have them shipped to the store of my choice along with that stores normal warehouse order. I would have them in 4 days, I would not have to pay shipping, and the store would call me when they came in. I ordered away content in knowing I would soon have my lights. I mean, Ace Hardware is a big national chain. If they can’t get the lights then no one can. Right? Right?

Four days later Ace called to tell me my lights had not come in. How thoughtful of them. They said they would be in on the next truck which was in 3 days. They get 2 trucks a week from the warehouse. Three days later I didn’t here from them so I called. Nope, they didn’t show up. This went on for 2 weeks and again I prayed for divine intervention. I’m not really a spiritual man but praying is kind of like the lottery, right. Eventually it’ll pay off, right? Right? RIGHT?

After a few more weeks I gave up on the stupid lights. There is talk that they’re going to be building a Home Depot on the old rail yard site just outside of Old Town. It should open in 3 or 4 years, so I can just get the lights then. This is Humboldt County. This is the way we do things.

Tonight I was down at Ace getting some sandpaper. Ace is the closest hardware store to my house so I’m in there a lot – A LOT! I recognize many of The Crew and they recognize me. There is one guy there that is very knowledgeable and has helped me a lot in the past. As I walked by him tonight he was putting away stock from a big green “Ace Hardware” container. I said “'sup” and he said “Yo”. Then it dawned on me that today is Wednesday. That means they just got a delivery. Maybe my lights came in! I asked the guy about my special order and he went back to check. I tried not to get my hopes up. It’s like you really wanted that iPod for Christmas but none of the boxes under the tree are the right size. Still, you need to hope against hope that it’s there.

He came out of the back room and in his hand were two 110 volt, hard-wired, under-cabinet halogen lights. Wooo-Hooo! A look of shock and surprise came over my face and I said – very loudly“Hey!!! They Came in!!!" He looked at me as if it was odd that someone should get so excited over two crappy halogen lights. To me it was like he had just handed me the Holy Grail.

I took my two 110 volt, hard-wired, under-cabinet, halogen lights, sandpaper, and a King Size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (which I'm eating right now) up to the register. While I was waiting I tallied everything up in my head and figured it should come to about $50.00. As the beautiful and charming cashier rang things up she must have only rang up one of the lights because she gave me a total of only about $30. I looked up, smiled, and silently mouthed, “Thank you God”. I quickly felt guilty (boy, that guilt thing works fast, doesn’t it) and told her she must have made a mistake. She said, “Oops, you’re right” and rang up the second of the two 110 volt, hard-wired, under-cabinet, halogen lights.

I raced home and ripped open the packaging. It took me all of about a half hour to mount the lights Yippee! I have under-cabinet lighting! What a long strange product search it has been!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Once More In To Darkness

I was in the middle of dinner when the lights flashed once and then everything went dark. I had not put the candles away yet so it was just a matter of seconds before I had a romantic candle lit dinner for one.

After dinner I strolled around the block and everyone was in the same boat. I walked down 3 blocks to where the power poll went down on Saturday during the storm. The tree that took it down was still in the street but the poll was in place and PG&E was no where in sight. Obviously this had been repaired earlier in the day.

I then noticed some flashing lights on the same street as the power poll but in the direction of my house. It was just 2 blocks passed my house and one block over. Because of the big tree still blocking the street I had to make my way across a darkened park and headed towards the lights.

I didn’t notice it but about a block before the fire trucks they had cordoned off the street. I was looking so intensely at all the flashing lights I didn’t notice the barricade. In my defense, they hadn’t blocked off the sidewalk, only the street. That, and the fact that I’m wearing glasses with a 10 year old subscription (broke my glasses New Years Eve – that’s another story), means that I probably wouldn’t have seen any barricade they put on the sidewalk either, but I would have tripped over it.

When I got about a half block past the barricade several flashlights came to life and pointed at. First one, then two, then six. Everyone started yelling, “Hey, stop where you are! Don’t move! There’s live wires all around you! Didn’t you see the barricade?” I told them I didn’t because of all of the lights. I was able to move back carefully. In fact, the live wires were still a few yards ahead of me, but that was close enough. I decided it was best to just head home and let the nice men do their job with out me in their way.

Considering it is on the same street, and on the same side of the street that the power poll went down on Saturday I’m guessing the two are related. Who knows how long this will last this time. I thinking I’m going to need a wake-up call from someone tomorrow. I’d better call someone from work.

The Way Some People Think

The winds on Saturday were clocked at 87 MPH. Damage was pretty wide spread. We got power back on Saturday around 7 PM but some others in the county still don’t have it. Here are two stories, one’s funny and one’s not.

For some reason parts of Old Town and about a 15 block stretch of J Street did not loose power. Old Town is largely commercial and J Street is residential. Other than those 2 areas the rest of the city was in darkness. My friends 86 year old mother lives in a small house on J Street and she did not loose power. According to my friend his Mom was never a mental giant to begin with, but in the past decade she has lost many of the misfiring brain cells she once had. She is convinced that the reason she did not lose power is because last year she installed low-wattage, energy-saving bulbs in all of her light fixtures. I started to ask my friend if he explained to her that her light bulbs had no bearing what so ever on her not losing power. Before I could even get the question out of my mouth he started to shake his head and said, “No, it’s not worth even trying to explain it to her”

Now for the bad news. As I wrote on Saturday my neighbor Gary had gotten a 10,000 watt generator from his workplace and was powering several people’s essential appliances including my own refrigerator. A good friend of his owns a small hotel in Old Town. This happened to be in one area of Old Town that did loose power. It is a small, 3 story hotel. I would say no more than 20 rooms. There is also a very nice 4 Star restaurant on the ground floor.

Anyway, the hotel owner calls Gary my neighbor and is desperate for a generator. He has called all over town with no luck. Gary seems to know just about everybody and has been good friends with the hotel owner for more than 30 years so he tells him he can bring down the 10,000 watt generator. He tells him it will only be enough to run some lights and maybe a refrigerators and freezers so he doesn’t loose all the food from the restaurant. The owner thanks him, but says that won’t do it. The hotel is full and he needs a big generator to power the whole building.

The hotel owner finally locates a generator in a city about 20 miles north of us. Because it is a holiday weekend, and because of all the storm damage, he has to really jump through some hoops to get this generator to his hotel. I didn’t get all the facts, but apparently the people who were able to get the generator were not the people who normally use this particular piece of equipment. They get the thing down there and get it hooked up to his power supply and fired it up. It promptly fried ever piece of electrics in the hotel. Apparently the generator was out-putting 220 volts instead of 110 volts. They ran 220 volts through a system designed for 110-volts. To add insult to injury, the power was restored to that part of the city only a few hours later.