Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Conspiracy

I’m convinced now, more than ever, that George Washington and his cadre of fanatics are reaching out to me from beyond the grave to destroy my life. I came to this conclusion last night while shivering under the blankets in the cold sweat of a fever.

First it was Strep Throat over the MLKJ Day holiday weekend, and then it was Influenza over Presidents Day holiday weekend. You don’t need to have a temperature over 100 to be able to draw the conclusion that the dead leaders of this country are out to get me. If I make it through the Forth of July it will be a miracle. That’s why I’m telling you this now, so maybe you can save yourselves.

It all came together last night when I passed out in the hallway on the way back from the bathroom. After I regained consciousness from the brutal face-plant in to the floor, I had a few moments to myself to think it all through as I stared up at the ceiling. It is the Beadboard! They all want my beadboard. Don’t ask me how know this, because to be honest, I’ve forgotten the connection right now. On the floor the other night though, it all made perfect since.

We’re through the looking glass on this one people. They’re coming after your beadboard! We all must hide all of our beadboard!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Its Just Not Fair

Prior to me taking a new job last fall I’ve primarily worked in outside sales type jobs for the past 15 years. This is the type of job where you spend most of your day visiting clients at their place of business. What this means is, I never really worked in an office setting with the same people every day.

I don’t think it is any coincidence that in all of that time with my previous jobs I could count on one hand the number of times I got sick, and still have several fingers left over. I just never got sick. When I started this new job full-time last October I joked with one of the woman there how it felt like I was now working in a petri dish and I’d probably get sick every other month to make up for my long string of healthy living. The Universe has a way of balancing things out.

Well, that seems to be coming true, and it is more than just a little annoying. About a month ago it was MLK Day and I had Strep Throat for the entire 3-day weekend. It was no fun at all. The sore throat alone would have been enough to make me miserable, but with the 3 days of high fever it felt like I had fallen through a trap door in hell.

Now, its President’s Day weekend and I’m sick again. Yesterday I got all of the beadboard, and the weather is sort of cooperating (Around here this time of year that means that we are not experiencing torrential downpours). The plan was to get all of the nails removed and get the caked on dirt off and get it ready for installation. I was really looking forward to this project and now I’m not sure I’m up to it.

Its all very frustrating. I may still be able to get something done. I’m sick, but not as sick as I was for MLK Day. Today, I’m headed over the some peoples house whom I met through my blog. It is sort of a Worlds Collide kind of thing. Joel stumbled on my blog somehow and has left a few comments and we’ve exchanged a few emails. I’m going over today to look at his newly refinished redwood floors.

I’m just dyeing to seem them. Most people chose to cover the old floors with carpet, and there is nothing the matter with that. This will be only the second house I’ve seen where they sanded them down and refinished them, although I’m sure others have done it. Redwood is a soft wood, even the old-growth stuff, so most consider them not suitable to be finished in this way. I can’t wait to do mine.

To make this an even more of a Worlds Collide sort of thing, with me going over to someone’s house I met through the blog, is that fact that I’m 99% sure I’ve worked with his wife as well. I was doing some freelance computer work for a friend and I had to stop at the first of the year because my own job got too intense. My friend found someone new and I’m pretty sure it is Joel’s wife, although I’ve never really met either of them.

Only in a small town, right?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

D&D Salvage

I did a little salvage today. There is an old garage/car parts place called D&D Motors that went out of business a few years ago. For any locals reading, D&D Motors occupied the corrugated buildings behind Walgreen’s, and next to the new Eureka Natural Foods.

The building is nothing to look at from the outside. In fact, it is a down-right eye-sore. It has been there a while, though. The place is framed in old-growth redwood, and about a quarter of one of the buildings was all done in redwood beadboard. I suspect they were originally offices or machine shops for the wool mill that sat at the corner of 14th & Broadway at the turn of the century.

The beadboard on the walls has been beat to crap over the years, but the ceiling was in surprisingly good shape. A friend of a friend got the salvage rights to the place and for the past month we’ve been playing phone tag to try and get in there and strip out the beadboard. I didn’t get it for free, but because I did the work, I got it for .50 cents a lineal foot (it is 1X6 double bead board) and then a certain amount for my labor.

There are a couple of really good things about. Because it was on the ceiling, it is in great shape and has very little paint on it. Also, everything I got was in 10-foot lengths. I got enough to do the utility room in floor to ceiling beadboard. It should look cool. The room has 10.5 foot ceilings, but I can do a frieze like I did in the mudroom, with a 1X12 board, and then stencil it.

It was a lot of work and extremely messy. There was a good half inch of dirt and dust on top of the boards. Just huge clouds of dirt and dust billowed out when a board would get away from you and hit the ground. The friend of a friend who was able to get us in there to get the stuff out was not a lot of help. He is an older gentleman and not well suited for this type of work. It was pretty much me on a ladder for 3 hours. It was a lot of work, but think it will be worth it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Its Up! Its Good!

I got the 2 chandeliers hung in the parlors today. It is hard to believe that has been more than 4 years in the making. They will be coming back down, because the room needs a lot of work. Also, there will be plaster medallions up there someday. For now, though, I have more light, along with some pretty stylish 100+ year old chandeliers to look at.

Rewiring the second one did not go as smoothly as the first. I had one of the old wires break as I was trying to use it to pull the new wire through. I had to get the old wire back in the arm, which was not easy, and then re-solder and pull it through again.

Then, once I got it mostly assembled I realized I put the center ring that the arms attach to upside down. Not the end of the world, but a bit of a pain. The last problem is that two of the sockets – one on each chandelier – are missing the pull chains. I didn’t want to put shiny new brass chains on, because it wouldn’t look right. Instead, I tried to figure out which was the on position – not as easy as you think – and just leave the sockets turned on. The fixtures are operated by a wall switch, so its not like I’m ever going to use the pull chains anyway.

Well, I had a 50/50 shot of getting it right, and wouldn’t you know I got it wrong. Now one socket on each chandelier is in the off position and there’s no pull-chain to turn it on. Like I said, there coming down anyway, so I’ll worry about this later.

This is what I’ve been using for light for the last 5 years. You can see where the old medallion was. It was viciously ripped off the ceiling at some point. There is also a black ink line showing where the new medallion will go. I thought I was going to need to open up the ceiling to rewire, so I drew the outline of the new medallion up there in hopes that any damage I made would be covered by the medallion. As it turned out I was able to rewire from above.

The brown circles are remnants of adhesive from those asbestos laden, 12X12 ceiling tiles that were glued to the ceiling. That stuff was nasty. Most of it was stuck to wallpaper, which I later stripped off. Some of it was stuck to the plaster and I had to use a heat gun to get it off. It was the most hideously smelling stuff you can possibly imagine. It took weeks to clear the smell out of the house.

Here’s where I’m at now. This is the front parlor…

And this is the back parlor. The house is looking less and less like a feculent hell-hole all the time.

As I said, I’m missing a couple of pull chains. The one above is an original. Note the little brass acorn at the bottom. Those Victorians just thought of everything, didn’t they. You can see why I didn’t want a crappy, shiny new brass chain up there. Of course, now the hunt is on for antique chains will little brass acorns on them. I have the feeling it is going to be a long hunt.

This is the last remaining original medallion in the house. This is in the foyer.

The three above are for the parlors and dining room. They’ve been in the attic for forever and a day. They are real medallions, in that they are made of real plaster, but they are not real, in that they are reproductions. However, they are real reproductions of real plaster medallions. Two I bought from friends locally, another I bought at Ohmega Salvage, in the bay area.

Getting the fixtures up in the parlors is exciting, but the best part is, this means I'm over the lighting hump. I have now rewired and installed 11 antique light fixtures in the house. There are only 9 more to go, which means I'm more than half way finished. Woo! Hoo!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Here’s The Other One

This is the other chandelier that will go in the front parlor. It is very similar to the one I rewired this weekend, only it is a little larger, and has a little more detail. I just love this style. The patina on the brass makes them almost look gold plated.

These are original 1890s fixtures, but Rejuvenation makes reproductions of them that they call Early Eclectic. Even the name is cool.

I’m going to rewire this one over the next few nights and hope to hang them both this weekend. Eventually I will repair the plaster in these two parlors and put up plaster medallions with the fixtures.

I bought both the medallions and the fixtures more than 5 years ago. These two fixtures, along with a third, all came out of the same 1890s Victorian house in Maine. The guy was doing a gut-remuddle and just wanted to get rid of them. What ever.

They've been hanging from shelves in a back closet ever since. Note the dirt and dust build-up from living in a construction zone. It is hard to believe it has taken so long.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Delicate Operation

Or, how to rewire an 1890s chandelier.

Some go better than others and this one went well, although I’m not quite done yet.

Here is the patient just after going under anasthisia. These early electric only fixtures are put together in much the same way they did the gas fixtures of the day. Everything is screwed on to a central piece of 3/8-inch black pipe.

Everything’s been screwed together a long time and sometimes they come apart easily and other times they don’t. This one came apart pretty easily. Whew!

One of the sockets came off at some point and someone made a repair with Band-Aids. It is a shame the original socket is missing because they really made them well back them. The second shot above is the inside of one of the sockets. It is heavy duty brass and chunks of porcelain. The sockets are put together with tiny screws that looked like they came from a watch maker.

The shots above are at the base of the chandelier, just under where the three arms connect to the base. They first solder the wires together and then covered them in electrical tape. The tape was still very good shape and not easy to get off.

The arms are attached to a manifold at the base of the main pipe with ¼-inch brass nipples. Here is one with the old wire still in it. The manifold would be hard to replace, but the straight pipe and nipples are still standard parts today for natural gas work. They can be purchased at any hardware store if they are damaged. Its better not to damage them though, so I work very slowly.

Because the nipple and pipe of the arm is only ¼-inch pipe it can be a challenge to get the new wire in. Normally, when pulling new wire, you would attach the new wire to the old one with electrical tape and pull the new wire through as you pull the old wire out.

That doesn’t work here. Not only is the opening small, but there is a 90 degree turn. Instead, I solder the new wire to the old. After I solder both I choose the best one and cut the other one off. I also apply a little grease to the first few inches of the new wire.

Here is the first one with the new wire in it. Its sort of a push-pull process to get it started. Once the solder makes it past the tight turn, it goes smoothly. The old wire is in good shape, so I’m not concerned with it breaking, but I do worry about my soldering.

And here it is completely dismantled and with new wire run through all of the parts. Next, I’ll put it back together and get a new socket for the missing one. This one goes in the back parlor. I have another one for the front parlor that is nearly identical, but it is slightly larger and with a little more detail. They should compliment each other well.

I didn't think I would have time before The Big Game, but I was able to get it mostly reassembled. All that is left is to hook up the sockets and this baby is ready to hang. It will be nice to have something more than a bare 60 watt bulb up on the ceiling.