Thursday, July 31, 2008

Something To Latch On To

Its past time to think about hardware. I need to buy 8 cabinet latches for the butlers pantry side, and then I need 6 more for the dining room side of the double sided cabinets. I will also need 6 pulls for the drawers. The first question is, do I go with cast brass of cast iron. After that, do I go antique originals or reproduction.

Antique originals will always be the preference, but finding enough of the same pattern can be tricky. For the kitchen I got lucky and found a set of 12 matching antique originals at Ed Donaldson Hardware. You would think I paid more for antique than I did reproduction, but that is not always the case.

Below are some that I’m looking at. I really like the “bow tie” latches and I want to do cast iron in on the butler’s pantry side and cast brass on the dining room side. The only reason I may go with cast iron on both is because I already have a set of antique cast iron drawer pulls that match what is in the kitchen. If I use cast iron for the pulls than I would also do cast iron for the latches.

So far I have found no antique matching sets than are larger that 2. Not nearly enough. I’m in contact with Toledo Architectural Artifacts and they may have what I need, but their prices are a tad high, so even if they do have what I need, I probably won’t buy it. Although, that is the same pattern I have in the kitchen, only in the kitchen they are round knobs and not the 'bow tie' knob.

Notice how muddled the cast is on the last one from Van Dykes. Back in the day, and with the finer reproductions made today, they used a very fine sand to cast into. You get a sharp relief of the image. With the cheap ones, sometimes the cast is so muddled you can't make anything out. In short: You get what you pay for. I'm not considering the Van Dykes latch, but it is an interesting comparison.

House of Antique Hardware – Reproduction - $35

House of Antique Hardware – Reproduction - $18.50

House of Antique Hardware – Reproduction - $63.00

Ed Donaldson Hardware – Antique Original - $40

Toledo Architectural Artifacts – Antique Original - $75

Charleston Hardware Co. – Reproduction - $30

Van Dykes Restorers – Crappy Reproduction - $6

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Playing The Odds

Eventually, if I keep making rash decisions about paint colors one of them is bound to pay off, right. I never took statistics in school but I know enough to know that the odds must be in my favor by now. With that in mind I went back in to Sherwin Williams today and made another hurried decision on paint for the plaster walls in butler’s pantry.

I’m not even sure what color I got at this point. The name is on the can, but the can is in the other room. It had “Butter” in the title, or maybe it was “Cream”. I’m pretty sure it was a dairy product of some sort. Maybe it was “Luscious Lactose”. What ever it was, I was in and out in 10 minutes and 20 minutes after that I was putting it on the walls.

While they were shaking up my new mystery color and went back and had another look at the Butternut I picked out a few days earlier. I couldn’t help but think that it is really not that bad of a color. At least not in the store. There is a lesson here some where, but I’m in too big of a hurry to learn lessons. Why do something right the first time when you can do it over at twice the cost. I think it was Ben Franklin that said that. I could be wrong.

Anyway, here are a few pictures that show some actual progress on the room. This is not that fake progress you read about sometimes. No, this shows real progress. I’m down to a short punch-list on this room.

Nicotine White - March of 2006

The Butternut Experiment - One Day Ago

Luscious Lactose - Half Hour Ago (Note the paint is still wet)

Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions. I came close to trying the wipe-on stain. I’m at that point of the project though, where I’m not in to being too creative. I think that may be one of my problems with paint as a whole. It is always near the end of a project and it is when I just want to be done with it. I don’t have time to think about paint. Mentally I’m already on the next project.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Enjoy It While It Lasts

Because I don’t think it’ll be around much longer. I’m talking about the freshly painted walls in the butler’s pantry. I made a last second, hasty decision and went with Butternut. Like I said yesterday, it’s a bit bold, and I normally don’t do bold. I would think that if I were going to get accustomed to it and enjoy it, it would have happened by now. It ain’t calling to me.

As it turns out I’m going to have a little extra time on my hands. It seems I didn’t order enough of the filler for the tin ceiling. Grrrr! I made a little diagram and plotted everything out, but I did not add up the panels correctly. When it came to the filler I counted two long sides but only one of the short sides. I need 3 measly little panels to finish up.

So far its coming out OK, I guess. I must admit I’m not completely enamoured with it at this point. True, its not finished, but it’s a little more crude that I thought it would be. The seams show more than I thought. I still have some nailing to do so maybe it will look better when its all done. I think it might look more “finished” if I went with bare tin panels and then painted. I could caulk the seams and it would have a more uniform look. I will not be painting this, though. I spent too much on the antique silver powder coat to now cover it with paint. Besides, that would just be way too much work.

Installation went quicker than I thought. I was going to put up plywood but I didn’t have enough of my salvage ¼-inch plywood to cover the entire area. Not only that, but putting the plywood up by myself would be a bitch. I would either need to cut it up in to manageable pieces or go rent a drywall lift. Neither seemed appealing.

As it turns out, I still have a garage full of lumber from the now dismantled two story addition. This lumber, while being all beautiful old-growth redwood, is all sort of bottom of the barrel stuff. It is not suitable for finish work and I don’t have any great use for construction grade material at this point. I ripped down a bunch of 1X6 stuff and used it as furring strips.

Once the strips were up the panels went up quickly. The instructions said that for a nail-up job I could use a brad nailer at 25-30 PSI. Well, at 30 PSI my brad nailer won’t even operate. With a little trial and error I found that my 18-guage brad nailer shooting 5/8th-inch brads at 50 PSI was perfect for installing the panels.

The other thing that surprised me was how not sharp the edges were. I seemed to read this a lot about how installing tin ceiling panels was so perilous because the edges were sharp and I would cut myself. These were anything but sharp. Maybe it was a byproduct of the powder coating, but it would have taken a real effort to cut myself with these.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Horror

Today is the first time in 3 days I’ve had internet or cable TV at home. Once I started painting the butler’s pantry I had to disconnect everything. All of the telecom now runs through the Stern home-networking box I installed in the butler’s pantry and I had to remove all of the cables and mask it so I could paint. Its like I was living in the dark ages or something.

In a completely unrelated story, the last 3 days have been more productive than any three days in the last 12 months. I have no idea what can account for this sudden and mysterious increase in productivity. Its like I had all of this extra time on my hands. Its just bizarre and they is really no discernable explanation for it.

Anyway, the room is completely painted, but I may paint it again. The trim and cabinets are the Honey White. I settled on one of 3 colors for the walls and then abruptly changed my mind when I walked in to Sherwin Williams on Thursday. I ended up getting Butternut in latex satin.

The color is a little…well, it’s a little bright. Its high-contrast. It’s a bit more than I’m accustomed to. I got it up late yesterday and a half dozen times or so over the last 18 hours I’ve just stood there and looked at for several minutes trying to decide if I like it or not. I’m still not sure.

When I first opened the can my initial thought was, “Oh, this will never work”. It looked like something CalTrans might use to paint the lines down the middle of the highway. Like I said, its bright. It does mellow some once its on the walls, but, like I said, its high-contrast. I normally don’t do high-contrast.

I’ve decided I’m not going to be rash. I’m going to live with it for a week and if need be, I can re-paint next weekend. There is no rush, but if its going to be done, it should be done before I sand the floor. One thing going for it is the fact that the butler’s pantry is a small, windowless room that I really won’t spend a lot of time in. Anyplace else in the house and I can almost assure you that I would be re-painting right now and you would have never known that I put this color on the walls in the first place. In fact, it may have never made it out of the can.

Sorry, there are no pictures at this time. The tin ceiling did arrive on Friday as expected so that will be going up today. I hope to get some pictures posted tomorrow. I want to get the door to the kitchen, cabinet doors, and all of the hardware back on as well. If your curious as to what the walls look like, just look at the yellow lines on the highway as your out driving around today. Its sort of like that.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Spinning Blade of Death

That’s what I call the monster router bit I bought to do the panels for the cabinet doors. I’m accustomed to working with little ogee bits and small rounder overs and straight bits. This thing must be 4-inches across and it has two sets of blades so it cuts the front and back of the panel at the same time.

I had to make a new fence for the router table because the original one was not big enough to accept this bit. I also extended the size of the table so the panel would have more area to rest on.

When you turn it on the bit makes this odd humming noise and creates a vortex that sucks in surrounding dust and debris. Then you kind of clinch up every muscle in your body and ease the board in to it. It cuts very nicely, but throws off incredible amounts of shavings and saw dust. Frankly, I was just glad when it was all over.

The good news is, the doors are done and they are hung. This was definitely a learning experience for me. I’m thinking next time I’ll make a template out of quarter-inch MDF or something. I can use the template for both the face frame and the door.

Now that the cabinet is done there is nothing standing between me and paint. The good people at FedEx sent me an email telling me my tin ceiling will be here by Friday. Unless they are filthily, lying bastards I can start to put that up next weekend. That is, if I can get the room painted by then.

After that I have the floor, and I need to rewire a ceiling fixture. Then this baby will be done!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Worst Doors Ever!

Ugh! What a nightmare. I’m not sure where I went wrong, but these cabinet doors are not working. Unfortunately, I have so much invested in them (More time than money) that I must make them work. First they were too narrow, and, if the truth be told, and bit crooked. Fixing these issues took a lot of time.

I knew they were too narrow because I cut the rails a little short. Even before I glued them up I fit them in place and saw the problem. What surprised me was that they were a little crooked. The trick to making sure they are square is to measure the two opposing diagonals. I did that and they all came out at 42-inches. I think maybe as I tightened the clamps at the end something slipped. I’m not sure, but they needed to be fixed.

I trimmed the two ends to square them up. Its not so much that it will be noticeable, but it was time consuming. My table saw is not big enough so I had to do this with a straight edge and template bit on the router. It is a lot of clamp-trim-fit-clamp-trim-fit-clamp-trim-fit. Before you know it, half of your life has gone by.

I decided to put a 1/8-inch bead around the edges to make up for them being too narrow. Its called an 1/8th-inch bead but its actually a ¼-inch wide. I think the 1/8th-inch is the radius or something. Anyway, what I ended up with was more like 5/16th-inch wide trim around the edges. This ends up adding 5/8th-inch to the total width and height. This means I need to trim even more. Very, very time consuming.

To make matters worse, I installed the panels before doing all of this. With the panels in, these doors are kind of heavy and the back of the door where the panel is kept getting hung up on the edge of the router table. It just did not go smoothly at all.

Noooooooow I have them straight and with the bead on and they are a little too big. I’m talking very little here. One fits in the opening and will stay there with not visible means of support. It’s a little too snug. The other is equally as snug in width but won’t even go in the opening for height. Like I said, it’s a disaster.

So tomorrow I’m going to plane down the hinge side and bit and install the hinges and then I will plane down the other three sides until I get a nice fit. I’ll just keep 40 watt bulbs in the ceiling fixture and maybe know one will notice.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about the spinning blade of death {No, its not a Buffy thing}

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


It has been just one disaster after another. It is just unbelievable. I mean that, really. It is hard to believe that so much catastrophe could befall on one person in such a short time. Just when you think things are going to work out, something else happens that would cripple a normal person, but some how it works out.

Oh, I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about Buffy. I’m part way in to season 3 and it is just one God Damned thing after another. Her boyfriend reverts back in to a vampire and its her fault. She runs away from home and ends up in the demon realm. She goes back home and gets crap from family, friends, and school. Then her boyfriend comes back and seconds later she is forced to kill him or it will mean eternal hell for all of mankind. And when she runs for home coming queen her new boyfriend breaks up with her and a half a dozen paid assassins come after her on the night of the home coming dance! I mean really! How much more can she take?!?!!!

What’s going to happen next? Her best friend will become a lesbian witch or something and she gets a make believe sister or something?!? You can’t make this stuff up people!!!

Oh wait, I guess you can. Still, its good theater.

On the plus side, I got the frames for the cabinet doors made for the butler’s pantry cabinets. This is my second time to make mortise and tenon doors and these came out way better than the first time.

If I had to do it over, the only thing I would have done differently is made the doors a bit wider and then trimmed them to fit after they were made. I think if these were a few sixteenths of an inch wider they would be better. Its good practice though. My tenons were nice and snug in the mortises.

Instead of painting last weekend I cleaned all of the crap left behind by a tenant in one of the two garages she rented. Three dump runs later and most of it is gone from the first garage, and the rest I will try to sell at a garage sale in a few weeks. The leftovers are nothing too spectacular. I think most items will go for less than a dollar. Its better than taking it to the dump, though.

I was able to get in to the other garage and it is not as bad, but again, its mostly worthless crap. There is a nice clawfoot tub, and I found 5 1920s doors that were originally installed in the apartments. They are in great shape and it was a pleasant surprise. Of course, they were leaning up against a shelf with 20 or 30 old, partially filled paint cans I need to deal with. Ugh! I’m beginning to feel like Buffy The Dead-Beat Tenant Slayer.

I’m hoping that I will be able to paint the butler’s pantry some time between now and the end of the year. I originally thought that I would have been painting last weekend, but that didn’t happen. I at least want to get the paint on before the tin ceiling arrives. If it happens I’ll consider that a moral victory. With my luck, it’ll arrive sooner than I thought.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tin Ceiling Ordered

After conferring with friends and colleagues I placed an order for a tin ceiling to go in the butler’s pantry. I’m going with American Tin Ceiling even though I despise their web site.

Originally the plan was to go with all panels and forgo any filler around the edges. The room is 8’3” X 10’6”. The panels are 2-feet square and it seems that that should just about work. The gaps at the edges would be covered by the cornice. The panels most likely have a little over-lap though, so I would loose a few inches. The big concern is the 10’6” length. If I loose a half inch per panel that pushes that gap out to about 9-inches (4.5 and each end). To cover that I would need to go with a larger cornice and I think the scale would look wrong for the room.

The filler is actually the same size as the panels so it seems like it would be a wash. However, there is a trim piece that covers the gap between the panels and the filler. The idea is (fingers crossed) that I can play with this at the edges to make it so the filler can actually fill the space it needs to. I’m not sure if that makes sense, or not.

Anyway, I’m going to do a 1X3 wood cornice, like the one I used in the bathroom and laundry room, which I will buy locally after the tin is up. If the wood cornice won’t cover the gap, I can always go back to a larger tin cornice. One way or the other it will get finished, but this way I don’t need to order a tin cornice now only to find out I don’t need it.

The big debate was about the finish. To be sure, “tin ceilings” are not really tin, they are tin plated steel. You can also get aluminum, but you pay more for that. Tin ceilings can rust and oxidize if left unfinished. The basic, unfinished tin panels run $7 to $9 each, depending on where you buy them. The one aluminum panel I saw was $14 and powder coat is $16. After that, prices for different plating and faux finishes rises quickly, ranging in price from $23 to $49 a panel. Of course, you can finish them yourself, but you really need to do both sides.

If you clear-coat the panels you might be able to get away with one pass per side. If you paint then it is primer and then paint, and most likely multiple coats. Perhaps if you live in a dry climate and you put in the ceiling up in a dining room or something you can get away without doing both sides. I live 8 blocks from the coast in a damp environment (Think Pacific North West). Not only that, but this room is below a bathroom. I would be one over-flowing toilet away from rusty seams showing.

Gary went to the trouble of sealing his seams with clear caulk after he applied a clear-coat. Very wise, but for me, it just seems better to go with a powder coat finish. Not only for protection, but also because I really don't want bright, shiny tin. I’m sure it looks great in many applications, but it is just a bit much for me. It looks too new.

So I went with Antique Sliver in Satin powder coat. It should (fingers crossed) look like a tin ceiling that has been installed for several decades. Still metallic in color, but not bright and shiny, and it will be very durable. Delivered to my door the total comes to $410. The panel below reflects the Antique Sliver powder coat finish I'm getting. The filler is unfinished tin. You can see the difference.




Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tin Ceiling Quote

For the uninitiated, a tin ceiling is made up of several parts. Basically, you have the panels that cover most of the ceiling. These panels come in 2’X2’ sections and have a design pressed in to them. If your room is not an even numbered of feet wide and long you need filler pieces at the edges. These filler pieces may have a design in them, but they can be cut down to fill any gap and still look good. After that you have nosing and cornices to cover the gaps where the field meets the filler and where the filler meets the wall. All of these pieces come in 4-foot lengths. You can also do center medallions.

In my case I got lucky. The room is 8’4” wide and 10’6” long. I will use 20 panels to fill most of the ceiling and then a cornice to cover the gap where the panels meet the wall. I won’t need filler or nosing. So I went to 2 sites to get prices. Brian Greer Tin Ceilings and American Tin Ceiling. Both sites have their positives and their negatives.

Brian Greer Tin Ceilings is a better site, I thought. It is well laid out and easy to navigate. The problem is they don’t have pricing on the site. You must use a web form and submit a request for a quote. I wanted to be able to try out different finishes and designs and play around with the numbers at the same time. You can’t do this. They offer a number of different finishes but they don’t go in to a lot of detail about them. The one powder coat finish is white {Yawn}. They also offer unfinished tin.

The American Tin Ceiling site I found confusing and difficult to navigate. Once I got the hang of it I could get the information I wanted, but I still found it awkward to use. On the plus side, they list prices. This includes close-outs and specials. All of their finishes are different colored powder coats except for unfinished tin.

The finish is very important because tin ceilings can rust if they are not finished properly. If you get unfinished tin you must paint both sides before installation. Powder coated finishes won’t rust, so all of American Tin Ceiling finishes are good. The one quote I got from Brian Greer Tin Ceilings that wasn’t unfinished or white powder coat was “Pewter Plated and Lacquered”. I’m sure this would be a good finish, but it ain’t cheap.

Here is the design I like. Both sites have many designs and many of them are the same on both sites.

The American Tin Ceiling – Antique Silver

4.5-inch cornice (This would also be in Antique Silver)

So here are the numbers…

Brian Greer Tin Ceilings
Unfinished Tin
$9.00 per panel
$10.00 per cornice
$398.00 delivered

White Powder Coated
$14.00 per panel
$15.00 per cornice
$548.00 delivered

Pewter Plated & Lacquered
$29.00 per panel
$32.00 per cornice
$1018.00 delivered

American Tin Ceiling
Unfinished Tin
$8.00 per panel
$12.00 per cornice

Antique Silver Powder Coat
$16.00 a panel
$14.00 a cornice
$578.00 Delivered

I’m leaning towards The American Tin Ceiling Antique Silver Powder Coat

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Petch House Miracle!

On January 25th, 2005 I walked in to The Blue Ox Mill carrying an 1895 head block that I needed to get reproduced. As I said yesterday, sheetrockers had destroyed many, and I needed others for new construction on the first floor of my house. I had a sinking feeling in my gut that day that they were not going to be able to do it. A few days earlier I had taken that very same head block in to Tim at Mad River Millworks and was told he probably couldn’t reproduce it exactly like it was.

The head block is elegant, and seems simple enough, but it is surprisingly complex to make. When I took it in to Mad River Millworks Tim looked at and turned it over several times. He’s not a real talkative guy so I stood there silently while he looked at it. He went back in to his office and pulled out a few books. He got on the phone and called a supplier of router bits, I assume. He made a trip out to the shop and rummaged around while I stood there quietly. After about 15 minutes he came back to me and suggested maybe it was made of several parts. He pulled out his pocket knife and scrapped away the paint on one side. Nope, it was all one piece. He finally said he wasn’t sure if he could make it. If he did, it would need to be made in 3 parts and then glued together. I left very disappointed.

So then on January 25th I took it to Eric at The Blue Ox and asked him about reproducing it. Eric is also not very talkative. Maybe it’s a woodworking thing. Eric looked at it from all angles and finally said, “How the heck did they do that?”. My heart sank. Eric muttered a few more things under his breath while I stood there quietly. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more and I asked, “Well, can you make it!?!”. Eric looks at me and says, “If they made it 100 years ago, I can make it now”. He said he would need to study it and he would get back to me. I left the head block with him hoping for the best.

A few days later I got a message from Eric, or maybe it was his wife, Vivianna, saying they could make the head blocks. I needed to come back in so they could write up the order and I would need to leave a deposit. I’m sure I was in my car before the message finished playing. As I said, Eric is quite and usually looks like he is at the end of a long day no matter what time it is. When I walked in to the office he comes up to me with the head block and he’s very animated. He goes on and on about how complex the head block is to make. I think he said it takes 17 different steps to produce one head block. At this point, the important thing to me is that he can do it, and he did. A few weeks later I had a box full of new head blocks.

I know all of this happened on January 25th, 2005 because they wrote my name, the date, and the order number on the back of that head block I took in. As I wrote yesterday, now three and a half years later, I need 4 more of those head blocks. Three and a half years ago when I counted how many I needed I didn’t anticipate all of the changes that would happen in the house. So today I took that same head block back in to Blue Ox to get 4 more made.

In 2005, when I got the others reproduced Eric told me he documented – with photos – all of the steps it takes to make one head block. I felt confident I would get my head blocks, it was just a question of when I would get them and how much it would cost.

So I walk in to Blue Ox on my lunch break today with that same head block. Eric and the book keeper are the only 2 in the office. Eric is rummaging around for something. I hold up the head block and say, “Remember these? Would you believe, I need 4 more?”. Eric mumbles something to me – at least I think it was to me, and heads out to the shop.

A lot of time goes by while I stand there at the counter by myself. I pass the time trying to get Tanks attention. Tank is a cat that in the past has been very friendly to me. She is sitting on the floor of the office, not quite in the middle of the room, but not really off to one side either. It is enough to be in the way, for sure. She is not lying down, but just sitting there with her back to me. I whistle to Tank and try and get her attention. She turns and looks and is not interested. After a few attempts, she doesn’t even bother to look anymore. The bookkeeper tells me Tank is mad about something but no one knows what. I don’t give up, because I’ve got nothing better to do, but Tank wants nothing to do with me.

After about 5 or 6 minutes of standing there by myself my internal clock starts to wind down. I'm about ready to go out in to the shop and hunt Eric down. Obviously he had something on his mind but I’m on my lunch break here. Just then Eric comes back out of the shop with 6 head blocks just like the one I’m holding. In fact, they are my head blocks! They are covered in saw dust and they’ve been sitting in the shop since January of 2005! As it turns out, when he made the 40 or 50 head blocks for me three and a half years ago, he made 6 extra ones. It was as if they had the damn things in stock and all I had to do was go in and pick them up.

So now I’ve got my head blocks and the butler’s pantry is trimmed out. The bookkeeper hunted for the old order to find out what they charged me back then, but couldn't find it. They switched to a new system a few years ago, so the order number of the back of the one I brought in was useless. Finally Eric just says to charge me $25 each for them. That is exactly what I speculated I paid for them in yesterday's post. I could look that up if I really wanted to because I know exactly where the receipt is. I put it in the wall that I rebuilt between the kitchen and dining room where they installed a Murphy Bead in 1926. I could look it up, but I would need to demolish the wall to do it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Trimmed Out…Almost

If not for my lack of 4 head blocks I would have gotten all of the trim on today. I’m going to go down to the Blue Ox Mill and order them tomorrow. At best it will be a couple of weeks before I get them. Its not like it is the last thing I need to do in there. Still, the trim work looks very incomplete with out them. The odd mix of old stripped, old painted, and new unpainted trim in both redwood and poplar only adds to the unfinished look of the trim.

I have other head blocks that I had made a few years back, but they are all made from nice, old-growth redwood. I can’t be sure the 4 new ones will be as nice. Since these new ones will be painted, I’ll wait until I get them to finish the trim.

I also got the panels glued up to make the cabinet doors. I’m not sure how much more I will get done on that during the week. I need to buy a panel raising bit for the router, and I may need to modify the fence on the router table to accept it. I also need to make the rails and styles for the doors. I’m hoping I can get that done next weekend.

Mid week, I want to primer and paint. I’m going with SW’s Honey White for the trim, same as the kitchen, and I’m still thinking about the color for the plaster walls. I need to primer everything, and then caulk the seams of the beadboard, so realistically I won’t get to the plaster this week. Any thoughts on color would be helpful. Green is out of the question.

As soon as I post this blog entry I’m going to measure and pick out some tin ceiling patterns. This is a small, utilitarian room, so nothing too fancy. I’m looking at Brian Greer’s Tin Ceilings.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Coming Up Short

Four yeas ago, or so, when I pulled down the 2 story addition, I salvaged most of the old redwood to use for various projects around the house. This was probably one of the smartest things I ever did. I have saved thousands and thousands of dollars in wood over the years because I was able to use all of this old wood in various projects.

One of the things I did with the 2X10 floor joists was to have new head blocks made for the ones that the idiots sawed off when they put sheetrock in the parlors. For those who don’t know, a head block is a very fancy, high-Victorian corner block. Most corner blocks are square with a bullseye or rosette in the center. The head blocks on the first floor of my house have an additional crown and rail detail to them. They stick up about 3-inches above the header casing. The bozos who sheetrocked over the plaster in the parlors felt it was too much trouble to sheetrock around the crown, so they sawed them all off. Thanks guys!

So I had these beautiful, old-growth redwood 2X10 floor joist that I took down to the Blue Ox Mill and had them make up a bunch of these head blocks. They weren’t cheap so I counted carefully what I needed and then I ordered 2 extra just in case. Well, I ended up using the 2 extra, plus 2 more in the bathroom and mud room. I also didn’t plan on the partition in the butler’s pantry, so I’m now 4 short. I need to get 4 more made for the butler’s pantry. I think they were around $25 each and I supplied the wood. This is proving to be an expensive little room.

Even though I still have a lot of the salvage wood, most of the good stuff for finish work is gone. What is left I need to save for the dining room cabinets. So today I went and bought clear fir to make the cabinet doors for my cabinets in the butler’s pantry. I needed some other supplies so the total was nearly $90. On the way to the lumber yard I stopped and put $51 in the gas tank. On Thursday I bought a gallon of primer, a gallon of paint, and a new brush for $62. Of course, I needed the Buffy The Vampire Slayer 7 season DVD collection for $140. No butler’s pantry would be complete with out that. Then another $40 in miscellaneous networking and paint stripping supplies on Friday. The one gallon of paint I bought is only for the woodwork, so I’ll need another gallon for the plaster. There’s another $30. Tomorrow I’m going to price the tin ceiling. I have no idea what that will cost. I think that will be the last big expense though, but it just goes on and on. There will be numerous trips to the hardware store where I’ll spend $10 to $50 at a time.

Fortunately, I got a letter today from the IRS telling me that my Economic Stimulus Check is in the mail. The letter said I should receive the check by the 11th and that’s less than a week away. I’m not sure why they didn’t just send the check instead of a letter telling they are sending the check. Anyway, I guess I should thank the Chinese for loaning my government the money so they can give me some money so I can go buy some Chinese import goods and then I can pay back the Chinese loan with interest through taxes.

Thanks….I guess.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Legacy

Six years ago when I bought this place it had some very funky people living in it. I mean funky with a capital ‘F’. I wanted nothing to do with them so part of the escrow agreement was that the current owners would evict all of the tenants before I took possession of the property. It didn’t go smoothly, and that is the main reason I did not want to inherit them.

There were tenants in the apartments, but there were also tenants renting the garages. On the last day before escrow closed I did a final walk-though with my realtor and one of the tenants was still in one of the apartments. This was a train-wreck of a woman. She was in her late 30s. She had not paid rent in 3 months. Her water and power had been cut off and in the dozen or so times I had been to the property during escrow she was shit-faced drunk. I mean falling down, slobbering drunk.

It was about 10 in the morning when I made the final walk-through and I told the current owner and his realtor that the deal was off and I was walking away if they didn’t get the tenant out. I told them I would be back after work and the tenant had better be gone. While I was at work, the owner rented her a motel room and a storage unit, and then hired some day-laborers and a truck to move her off the property. When I got back after work they sheepishly told me that there were a few tenants renting garages that they could not get a hold of. The owner and his realtor were literally holding their breath waiting to see how I would react. I reluctantly told them I would take the property and take responsibility for the garage tenants. How bad could it be, right?

Two of the garages where rented to a guy who stored two beautifully restored cars in them. He paid rent every month on time. I never laid eyes on him and one day along with his rent check was a note that said he was moving out. He said the cars would be gone by a certain day, and sure enough, on that day the garages were empty and I’ve used them ever since. A 3rd garage was rented to someone who never paid rent. One day I cut the lock and that lead to the long saga of The 80s Porn Closet.

The last 2 garages were rented to a woman, who it turns out only lived 4 blocks down the street. I didn’t know this at the time because all I was given a phone number and a first name. You can see that the rental agency that handled the property was a first-class operation. I made repeated phone calls to the number I was given to try and get a hold of this woman. After a few weeks the tone in my voice grew more stern and I finally left a message saying if I didn’t hear from her soon I was going to cut the locks and take all of her stuff to the dump. She called back that day. This sort of set the tone for our relationship over the past 6 years.

I won’t go in to all of the details of my relationship with this woman, but suffice it say, it has not been a good one. She is not an inherently bad person, she is just a flake. She is in her late 50s or early 60s. She smokes a ton of pot, and she is an extreme pack-rat. She has no sense of time or when she is imposing on someone. She always paid rent late - twice, more than a month late, and she would show up at my house and 9 or 10 at night to pay rent. She would show up and force me to stand there with the front door open while she wrote out the check.

I always wanted to kick her out, but if the truth be told, I needed the money. Not only that, but I knew it would be a major pain in the ass. She had rented these garages for more than 15 years. I tried to be nice, and cut her some slack, but I finally had enough of her antics. About 3 years ago I raised her rent and told her to only send the checks to the PO Box. As part of the new rental agreement I got a deposit, something the old rental company never bothered to ask for, and it was stated that if she was every late again it was an automatic 30 days notice. I figured she would be gone in a month, but I was amazed when she started paying rent on time. I honestly didn’t think she was capable.

Regardless of this, I knew her days were numbered. I told myself every 6 months or so, “This is the month! This is the month I give here notice!”. I never did. Finally, last year, I talked myself in to giving her 30 days notice on January first. Well, that didn’t happen. I did give her notice, but it was only last month. I walked down to her house in the second week of May and told here I was giving her notice on June first. She took it better than I thought she would. The garages were packed with junk and I wanted to make it as easy on her as possible.

There is a semi-vacant lot on my street and I arranged for her to be able to use it to have garage sales. I told here I was willing to work with her, but I needed to see progress. On June 1st I walked down and gave her the official notice. Immediately she started trying to get more time. I said no. I’ve given her what amounts to 6 weeks notice and that was more than enough time.

Weeks went by and nothing happened. Finally, a few weeks ago she started moving stuff out. She had some people helping her but it seemed to be going very slow. By June 30th, just 4 or 5 days ago, she had not even emptied one garage. I called her and asked what was going on. She was on here cell-phone while we were talking and she told me she was parked (on the sidewalk, as it turns out) near the garage. I went out and talked with her.

This was Monday. I told her I would give her a few more days but I had better see a truck and things moving. She assured me she had a truck rented and she would be out by Wednesday. I said Wednesday was fine, just get it done. I told her I wouldn’t charge her more rent (she never paid June’s rent) just move out. As I walked away she said, “How about Thursday. I’ll be out by Thursday”. I said fine, whatever – Thursday it is, JUST GET IT DONE.

When I got home from work on Wednesday there was a large Uhaul van but I didn’t see any people. I didn’t go over there to say anything. At this point I want her gone so bad, just the sight of her gives me knots in my stomach. I was thrilled to see the truck, but it would have been nice to see a steady stream of burly men carry boxes.

When I got home from work yesterday there was crap flowing out of the front garage and on to the sidewalk in front of the garage. I couldn’t believe it. There was no one in sight. I went to the other garage - the one she worked on first and opened it up and it still had some junk in it. It was basically a lot of garbage that she didn’t want, although there is a clawfoot tub in there.

I went inside and called her. I was pissed. I got her voice mail and I told her that I was finished screwing with her. She needed to get everything out tonight and that was it. She called me back and pleaded for more time. I told her to forget it. She needed to get over here right now and get her stuff out. At the end of the night I would be putting my locks on the garages and any thing that was left was going to the dump. This was at about 5:30. By 8:00 she hadn’t shown back up. All of the crap that was still sitting out on the sidewalk I tossed back in. I cut her locks off and put mine on.

I have no idea what is in either of them – aside from the tub. I have a $250 deposit that will cover the dump runs and June rent. It is just pain in the ass. I’m so glad she is gone. It probably won’t be for a few weeks before I will be able to go out there and go through all of the stuff she left. It is amazing how much is still in there.

In hind sight, it might have been better to be more pragmatic about it and give her more time. At least I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Being a pragmatist doesn’t help me to sleep at night though. I did what was best for me. I’ve already decided if she calls again asking for her stuff I’m going to ask for an additional $200 deposit and June’s rent. She will need to show up with a large truck and a few people. I will unlock the garages for 1 hour and if she can get it all out in that time I’ll return her deposit. I don’t think she could do it.