Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Supplier

Believe it or not the front door still is not finished. Of course, I haven't worked on it a whole lot since October, but still, this project is really dragging, even by winter standards.

I finally found a lockset I liked and was willing to buy. Sure, I could spend $500+ of the finest restored 1890s lockset, but I think we all know that is not going to happen. It's not that I can't afford it, its that I don't want to. If the last thing I had to do on this house was to buy a lockset and install it, then the sky would be the limit.

As it is, I do more major projects in 1 year than most people do in a decade. For me, thinking about funding for future projects means thinking about what I will be doing next month, not next year or next decade. I must always broaden my tunnel vision and keep the big picture in mind.

So I searched and I waited. I found a few promising items over the past few months and made some low-ball bids on eBay that didn't pan out. No biggie. I've lost a lot more auctions than I've won. Then a few weeks back the set below showed. Fully restored and ready to install. Really, very nice. Installation was a breeze and for the first time in decades the front door does not rattle when the wind blows. I don't have to giggle the knob to get the lock to engage. Simply close gently and listen for the click. It's a beautiful thing.

Not a great price, but a good price. Very fair. Both the buyer and seller knew what they had and what it was worth and a peaceful and prosperous transaction ensued. You gotta love commerce when everyone ends up happy.

Of course, I needed other locks for this door. There are the two slide bolts that keep the stationary door in place. These have been a challenge to find. Really, the top one has been the challenge. I need a 24X1.25 inch mortised slide bolt. I beginning to think that the original bolt was custom made for my house. OK, not really, but I have found that that size bolt just does not exist in the salvage hardware world. If I needed a 20-inch long bolt or shorter I would have 100s to chose from.

I eventually found and bought one that was listed at 18X1.25 inches only to find out it was mislabled on the web site. Very frustrating, but it was returned for a full refund. The 1.25 inch is the really important measurement. I can fill in at the bottom with wood or even a piece of the original bolt. It must be 1.25 inches wide though, or I can't mount it.

So after I bought the lock From Filip at Penn Antique Restoration in Scranton, PA I asked if he had any locks that would fill my needs. In no time at all a few pictures arrived with a very nice selection to chose from. Two were 20X1.25 inches and in the same pattern as the original lock!


After a few more emails to confirm size and condition, and before I was given a price, I was asked if I wanted them as-is or cleaned and restored. I love this. I love being given the option and I also love dealing with people who understand that time is money. Some people think they yank something out of their attic, slap it on eBay, and get top dollar for it.

As many of you have already guessed, I'm buying these in original, as-is condition. After some grunt work to get them in shape I can mount them and then finish the weather stripping. After that I can replace the glass and finish these front doors once and for all!

Friday, November 19, 2010

One Box To Rule Them All

For years I have wanted and worked towards a wired home. I want to have music, video, photos, internet, and other types of data available in all rooms at all times, but I didn't want a computer in every room, nor do I want to - nor can I - spend thousands on some high-tech, off-the-shelf system that is operated by sleek, wireless touch pads like something out of a James Bond movie.

So I pulled wires for cable TV, internet, and phone in to 7 rooms of the house. The confluence of all of the cables is in a cabinet in the butler's pantry where it all meets in a Steren home networking box. This was a good start. The router in there is wireless N, but I've found that connection rates drop by as much as 50% just 2 rooms away, so all of the wires are worth it in my opinion.

Next, for $199 I plugged an HP Media Vault in to the router. This is an NAS with Media Server, for the techno-savey out there. For others, think tiny computer with no keyboard, monitor, or mouse and just one button on the front. The HP Media Vault works as a file server, media streamer, and as a print server for the printer that is plugged in to it. This is all located in the same cabinet as the Steren box. It is pretty much idiot proof and works great. There is little or no configuration. Just plug everything in and turn it on. Anything I put on the Media Vault is available to any computer in the house and any computer in the house can print to the printer plugged in to it Media Vault.

Next, I installed a $50 TV card in to my PC. This allowed me to record TV in the same way Tivo or a DVR would. The software downloads program guides from the cable company and it is just a matter of clicking on a show to record it. You can set it up to record the same show every night or week. The shows are recorded to the Media Vault. Along with all of my photos, and CDs I ripped, the Media Vault now has all of my media and documents. I hate Suddenlink cable and shudder at the thought of giving them more than the $23 I pay for their service now, so I don't get a DVR from them. I'm half tempted to get an HD antenna and dump Suddenlink altogether.

Now I needed something to bring it all together. I don't mind laying in bed with the netbook propped on my chest to watch a TV show, but that would never cut it for the parlor.

I briefly looked at Google TV, but it kind of seems like it is Not Ready For Prime Time. Even if I went that way, I'm not sure it would have accomplished everything I wanted. What I ended up buying was a Sony Playstation 3 for $299. Who would have thought a game console would have been the key to bringing everything together in the parlor.

Here is a list of what the PS3 will do:

  • Play music CDs
  • Play DVDs
  • Play Blue Ray discs
  • Built in web browser
  • Stream TV and movies off Netflix
  • Stream TV off Hulu
  • Stream recorded movies off the Media Vault
  • Stream recorded TV off the Media Vault
  • Stream music ripped from CDs off the Media Vault
  • View photos off the Media Vault

All of that and it is actually smaller than the DVD player it replaced! If that weren't enough, the remote is wireless, not infrared, so you don't need to point at the TV, and it recharges when it is plugged in to the console, so you never need to replace batteries!

Oh, and apparently the PS3 will also play video games, but I haven't gotten that far yet. Don't own any video games, not a problem. You can download them from the PS3 store that is accessed through the console. There are free demos of a lot of the games, too. This is probably starting to read like a paid endorsement for the Sony® PlayStation® 3. I wish it was, because I could use the money, but it isn't. The PS3 really does all of that and it does it well. I think what impressed me the most was how fast the system comes up. It is minor, but this is something that has always bothered me about my DVD player. After pushing the On button I had to wait close to 20 seconds for the tray to slide open. What the hell is it doing in all of that time?!?!

The Netflix app is really impressive. I'm amazed at the quality of the picture. For $9.99 a month I can stream what I want and get DVDs in the mail, which are ordered through the PS3! When streaming TV there is a momentary laps in quality in the first 10 seconds and then after that the quality is as good or better than live TV. I have low-end DSL from At&T for $19.99 a month. If I upped the service from AT&T, that first 10 seconds would probably improve, but that's probably not going to happen.

So, I'm not a gamer, I own no video games, but I own a PS3 and I love it! Go figure.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Front Door Very Close

I need a lockset, some weather stripping, a new threshold, and a slide bolt, but the worst is behind me.

This is what it looked like when I started. It is hard to tell, but the paint is terrible. That is plywood nailed to the bottom. There is a crusty plate with the original doorknob. The biggest insult is the modern, crappy, brass plated mail slot. The slot cover is bad enough, but the worst thing is, I think this was added just a few years before I bought the house. Meaning, someone took a saw to the door very recently and added the slot.

Here it is with most of the paint stripped off. What you are seeing are remnants of the original 1895 black/gray/white paint job.

Here it is primed and with a new mail slot. Well, different mail slot. That is a cast bronze slot from the 19th century,

And here it sits today. The colors are the same as on the rest of the house: Clarey Sage, Basil, and Livable Green. With any luck I can finish this up this weekend.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Good Door of the North

For weeks the front doors have had a thin coat of ragged black paint left over from 1895. This was what was left after I stripped off a few layers of old and new paint paint. The new paint was the worst. It was a thick, gooey layer of latex paint that was slopped on by a Starving Student painting company about 10 years ago.

But now, just in time for Halloween, I give you Galinda, The Good Door of the North. It's like these doors are just begging to be hit with eggs tonight.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dotting Is and Crossing Ts

Six months later I can say I am officially done with the foyer. Whew! Never thought I'd write that! I was waiting for the little table to arrive via FedEx and it arrived today. While it is true I still need to work on the front doors and the pocket doors leading in to the parlor, those are big enough projects that I can consider them projects in and of themselves, so they don’t really count. It is all about compartmentalizing, people. That is how I keep from going insane.

The "before" pictures are really a retrospective of before and during the project. Anyone interested in the entire project, start to finish can select the “foyer” label from the drop down list on the left. The “after” photos at the end are all new shots taken today. I think they come closer than a lot I’ve taken at capturing the real color of walls, wood, carpet and rugs. You can thank the late evening, overcast sky for that. Between the front doors and the window in the stairs, a lot of my shots tend to get washed out.

After, finished, done, ready to move on!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ready for Halloween

How's that for a scary looking pair of front doors. Depending on how much I get done this week, they may still look like that a week from now.

I stripped off the paint and what you are seeing are the remnants of the original paint job from 1895. I think it was black with gray or maybe black, gray and red. There is some red on the trim around the panels that is very early. There was also the brown paint from the 20s and then finally the green from a decade ago. Once again the green paint that was applied over the other, failing paint jobs was what caused much of the work. Sometimes doing nothing really is better.

I did the panel on the interior to finish off the mail slow. This hides the wood I had to add when I went from the wider, modern mail slot to the narrower, antique slot.

This is the other side. Next up sand and paint, which would be easy except I need to decide on the color scheme. It will most likely end up being the 3 shades of green I used on most of the rest of the house. That would be Basil, Clarey Sage, and Livable Green. The question is, do I highlight with the fired brick that I used on the water table, crown molding, and window sash.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Front Door

I decided to try and get in one more project before I succumb to a long winter of football, red wine, and bad Saturday afternoon movies. I've put off the front door long enough and now that the foyer is 99% finished, it might as well have a revitalized front door to go along with it.

The foyer is waiting on the delivery of a small table to go just inside the front door and then I can stick a fork in this bad boy and call it a day. I shied away from the Ethan Allen table for a few reasons. First, it was the hand painting on it. I loved the design of the table, but the painted flowers just didn't sit well with me. If I'm going to get something with hand painted detail on it I need to see it in person.

Even with that, I came close to purchasing it, mainly because I really couldn't find anything else I liked. I looked at so many tables, I got the point where I just didn't care anymore. I just wanted to be finished with the foyer and this purchase was the one thing holding me up. When I got to the last page of the order form on the Ethan Allen web site the shipping and taxes nearly doubled the price of the table. It felt like the old bait and switch, so I backed out.

I then found another table on another site. It was almost the same price of the Ethan Allen table, but shipping was free. I ordered it and then got and email saying I could expect delivery on 2/11/2011. I'm not joking. I went back to the site, canceled the order, and bought a nearly identical table – honestly, other than this one being in stock and costing $10 more, there is no difference – that should arrive on Friday. If it does, there will be a nice selection of before and after pictures of the long, drawn-out foyer project. I estimate I have 120 hours of labor in the stairs alone.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be about my pour front doors. You can read the back story about the interior here, but this is about in the outside. The 2 big issues about the outside are 1, the plywood nailed to the bottom of each door, and 2, the modern mail slot.

It turns out the plywood was hiding something. These are double doors and the one on the left is stationary and held in place with 2 slide bolts, one at the top and one at the bottom. The bottom one had a blow out at some point. Somebody either ran in to the door or something and ripped out the wood around the bolt. This is right where the bottom mortise and tenon is, so it was good they did something, but that ratty old plywood had to go.

I stripped the paint off and then glued and tacked in some pieces of wood to sort of hold things together. I can't fill with epoxy because I want to replace the mortised slide bolt.

After that I put a beveled panel over the hole and added a bottom rail. After I did this, I came up with a better idea. I could apply a brass kick-plate to the bottom. I'm not sure if I'll undo what I've done.

The mail slot that was there was a modern brass plated steel number that looked pretty crappy. The plating was already flaking off even though it had not been there that long. I put on this nice antique cast bronze number. The main issue was that the new one I took off was wider than the vintage one I put on, so I had to add wood to the slot that was cut in the door.

Not an issue on the outside because I will be painting. The inside is another story. More on that later.