Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The baseboards are in! All that is left for the millwork is shoe molding, which will go in after the floors are done, and picture rail, which will go in after the painting is done.

The baseboards were not all that fun. I had to replace long runs on two walls and then five short areas around the big opening and pocket doors. The long runs we're eight and twelve feet, and the short runs we're anywhere from two inches to a foot and a half. Each section of baseboard consists of a ten inch high main board and then a highly decorative, two inch high cap.

The top two or three inches of the main boards are comprised of a reeded areas and beaded areas. So of a twelve inch high baseboard, about half of it is decorative millwork. Because I was joining to existing baseboards, I had to do coped joints. It pretty much sucked. 

I won't go in to the details of a coped joints. You can Google it if you're interested. I will say that anyone who says coped joints are easy is either a highly skilled craftsman, only working with relatively flat stock, or doesn't really care that their joints look like crap.  

I read about and used the tricks like cutting a 45 degree miter to expose the profile and rubbing the edge with a pencil to highlight the edge. I clamped the boards to a workbench and used a brand new copping saw. It still isn't easy. My only saving grace was that I am painting the wood, so I could fill my less than perfect joints with caulk and putty.

The real benefit of being finished with the baseboards is that I can finally paint! That's right, I have paint on the walls. I had sort of settled on blue, but it never really sat well with me. For the past week and a half I've had paint chips pinned to the walls in my office at work. It is amazing how little I paid attention on a few long conference calls over the past week or so while I stared at paint chips. 

In the end I made a hasty, last minute decision and went with Sherwin Williams's Antiquity for the field, Chamomile for the trim, and Lucent something or other (Lucent Technologies? No, that can't be it) for the frieze and ceiling. Anyway, I don't entirely hate it, so that is a good sign.

This type of decision making doesn't always work out for the best. I hastily chose butternut squash for the butler's pantry only to get it on the walls and realize that is the same color used for traffic cones. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The 99%

No, it's not that 99%, of which, I am firmly a part of. I'm talking about those aspects of the parlor project which I am 99% finished with.

If you've ever done a project like this, you'll know what I mean when I say it is like a big puzzle. It is rare when you can completely finish something before you move on to the next thing. Sometimes this can be because you just get so sick of doing one thing for so long that you need to take a break and work on something else. Paint stripping comes to mind. Most of the times though, it is because the aspect of the project you are working on requires something else to be completed before you can put on the finishing touch.

The fireplace is 99% done. All that is left is the wood trim to be installed where the tile hearth meets the floor. That will happen after the floors are refinished, and the floors will be the last major project to be done. The fireplace mantel was refinished, new hearth tile installed, and the cast iron replaced.

The electrical just needs to have the ceiling fixtures hung and that will be finished. The fixtures themselves were purchased and rewired years ago, along with new wiring, outlets, and switches.

The plaster walls and medallions are all but done. I need to hang two new corbels, which should be arriving this week, and then paint. The plaster repair went on for a long time and the medallions I purchased years ago. The painting can't be done until I mark and measure for picture rail. Of course, I still need to choose colors.

The pocket doors are the one thing that I can say are finished. This weekend I got them hung, shellacked and the hardware installed. That needed to happen before I trimmed out the opening. I didn't want to be fooling with big, heavy doors around the newly installed trim.

The millwork needs the most work. I finished the casing, plinth and head blocks this weekend, but I still need to make and install picture rail. The little window was the last of the casing and head blocks. It had a Murphy bed nailed to it back in the twenties, so the casing was ruined. And of course, the head blocks were sawed off sometime in the eighties. They butchered these rooms over decades. I also need to install a few short runs of baseboard. I picked up the baseboard from the mill last weekend, so I may install it this weekend. I have to do some coped joints to meet existing baseboard and I am not looking forward to it.

The windows need to have the hardware installed. I have antique sash locks and lifts to put on, which are just for show because the windows don't open. I made the management decision years ago that I would leave all windows for another day. This is another job which can't be done until I paint.

After all of that I have the floors left to do. With every room, I say I'm going to bring in a professional to do the floors. I'm saying that again with this room, and I may just do it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The jig is up

I started in on the pocket doors today. Each door needs to come down and have four things done to it before it is rehung. These are not the original pocket doors. Except for the track and a partial piece of hardware to hang a door, the original doors where long gone by the time I got here.

These are period salvage doors I purchased locally. They are redwood, but they were not originally meant to be pocket doors. They were a large pair of French Doors, most likely from some public building. This causes some problems. First they are too thin to have traditional pocket door hardware. Second, they are a little too wide for the space. Third, they were a little too short for the space.

The size issues were not too difficult to deal with, but the hardware was another issue. I purchased the hardware above from  Charleston Hardware Company. These are really high quality reproductions and you'll notice that they have an edge pull instead of a mortised lockset. This is perfect for my doors because they are too thin for a pocket door locket. The real challenge was routing out holes on the face of the doors to accept the door pulls.

I started by making a jig to use with the plunge router. On the router there is a half inch wide straight cutting bit and a three quarter inch wide bushing. The bushing is the sliver sleeve around the bit. The bushing rides against the edge of the jig, while the straight bit on the router removes the wood. The words 'Top' and 'Edge' are written on the jig to make sure I don't accidentally install the pulls upside down.

When looking at the back side of the door pull, you can see that there is almost no room for error. I needed to make the hole big enough so the widest part of the key hole shape of the pull would fit in to the hole, but not so wide that the hole would be visible when the pull is installed. If the hole is too big it will not be hidden by the pull. This is we're the bushing helps.

The router bit is a half inch wide and the bushing is three quarters of an inch. That means that when the bushing rides against the inside edge of the jig, the resulting hole will be narrower in width than the hole on the jig by exactly a quarter inch. 

The widest part of the key hole shape on the pull is inch and three quarters and the width of the narrow part is inch and an eighth. I used a two inch hole saw and an inch and three eights hole saw to make the jig, so the jig would be exactly a quarter inch wider than the key hole shape on the pull. The really odd thing here is that I own exactly three hole saws. One was two inch and another was inch and three eights. What are the odds?

What all of that means is that when I run the router on the inside of the jig it makes a hole that is exactly the size of the key hole shape on the pull because the pushing accounts for the extra quarter inch. It is a thing of beauty.

I hope to finish up the doors tomorrow and get them rehung. After that I can start to think about picture rail. Of course, I still need to decide on a paint color.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fireplace B&A

Monday, July 09, 2012


The last of the hardware is in the house! The best part about that is that it means I don't need to spend any more money on that sort of thing.

On Wednesday I will pick up the baseboard from the mill, and with that, everything will be in place except for paint and lumber for picture rail. Of course, I still need to buy window treatments, have the floors refinished, buy rugs and furniture. In other words, the hemorrhaging of cash is far from over.

Ok, so it seems any sort of celebration is premature. Just forget this whole post!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Ready, set, tile!

Believe it or not that represents more than four hours of work. I had to do a lot of cutting and went about it meticulously.

The reason I was so meticulous was because I was afraid of making a mistake and running out of tile. Above is all that is left over. That is it!

During the week this week I spent most every night sanding, puttying, and priming the original millwork. Next I can begin to install the replacement millwork. I need to run to the lumber yard for some flat stock, and I want to get one coat of primer on it before it is installed, so that means that probably won't happen until next weekend.

I still need to deal with the pocket doors, but the hardware didn't come in, so that is on hold. Once the millwork is in and the new hardware is installed on the pocket doors, I can mark for picture rail and then paint!

Speaking of paint, I saw the image above last week and I'm now leaning in that direction for paint colors in the parlors. I was considering blue. I would need a third color for the frieze and ceiling. My one concern is that it too closely matches the colors in the foyer, a.k.a. "The Pie Hall". The colors in there are Lemon Meringue and Banana Cream.

I am getting really close to needing to make a decision on paint colors.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Book Signing & Documentary

At one time I had a fantasy about turning the Petch House blog in to a book. I dreamt of it becoming a best seller. I would be interviewed by Charlie Rose and Terry Gross. Then of course, I would sell the movie rights to some big Hollywood so-and-so. In the movie, I would be played by George Clooney, of course.

The point of this dream was not the fame, but the fortune. With all of the money I would make I could hire an army of craftsman and have them work on this damn house!

While this dream never came true for me, it did come true for Ron Tanner. Well, I'm not sure about the level of fame and fortune he is getting, but he did write a book about his and his wife's experience of restoring a spectacular 4,500 square foot Victorian in Baltimore.

In Ron's case, his home was not a crack house like the Petch House, but his was a frat house, which in some cases may have been even worse. I think people smoking crack and shooting heroin have less energy to thrash the house. Not so with those active, rambunctious frat boys. They really did a number on Ron's place.

So what do Ron and his Baltimore Victorian have to do with me and the Petch House? Well, aside from the weird Baltimore connection (I went to Baltimore for vacation this year, my interim was from Baltimore, and now this), Ron is on a book signing tour and will be in Arcata this Saturday at Northtown Books. You can read about the event here.

In addition to that, Ron is filming interviews with other clinically insane individuals who have an unnatural desire to fix up these old places. The interviews will hopefully become part of a documentary he wants to make. On Sunday he will be swinging by the Petch House to interview your's truly. That's right, the Petch House might make it on to the sliver screen even without me writing a book!

Of course, once that happens, the offers will come flying in. Does anyone know how to get ahold of George Clooney's agent? I want to make sure he is free for shooting.

And where is that girl with my latte?!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Bump And Grind

I think the worst is behind me on the fireplace. I got the new surround installed today and boy was it a lot of work. Both the new one and the original are installed in the same way. On the back of the surround there are four eyelets. Attached to them are four rods which are embedded in the mortar. In order to get the old one out I must remove a lot of brick. This means grinding away at mortar, all the while being very aware of the tile which surrounds the cast iron surround.

The one in the dining room was in better shape. This one had a lot of rust in places and started falling apart as I tried to remove it. In the dining room I was able to reuse the four hooks to install the new one. These were too far gone and so I had to make new ones. Below is what the new surround looks like with all of its pieces. Next week I want to install the hearth tile, and with that the fireplace will be finished! And for those of you who are curious, no, I will not be rebuilding the firebox and lining the chimney. There is not enough time or money for that this year.

I also started to do some work on the pocket doors. Not only are these doors not original to the house, but they weren't even pocket doors when they were made a hundred or so years ago. 

When I got them they were fitted for hinges and had a mortised passageway lockset and bolts, which would be used for a pair of French doors, which is what they were. Because of this, they are too thin for traditional pocket door hardware. So I need to hide the old mortise for the lockset on one door and the mortise for the catch on the other.

The plan is to fill the mortises and then cap the entire leading edge of both doors. The second to last picture above is one of two eight foot long peices of trim I made yesterday to cover the edge. I spent a lot of time on the router, so I hope this works and doesn't look like crap. If it works, this will give me a fresh place to mount the new edge pulls, which I've purchased from Charleston Hardware Co.. If it doesn't, then I'm screwed. I'm hoping they come in this week. I will need to make a jig for the router to do the installation, but I can't do that until I have the parts.

This week I'm going to concentrate on sanding. Well, maybe 'concentrate' is a poor choice of words. The mindless chore of sanding takes anything but concentration.

And finally, I was able to get some of the new head blocks up. I have been wanting to do that for a very, very long time. The parlor project aside, the project of reproducing and replacing the butchered head blocks per-dates the blog. This has been a long time coming.