Friday, June 30, 2006

On Injured Reserve

The plan was to start the prep work on the exterior front of the house today. I really want to get back to painting. Can you believe that tomorrow is July 1st?!?! Where the heck is the summer going? Anyway, those plans have been put on hold because of a minor mishap I had when I fell down and went boom. It is minor and it actually happened a few weeks ago. I thought I was all better, but I seem to have re-injured it.

What happened was this. I was at work (Yes, I do have a job) carrying a box that weighed about 30 pounds and I lost my footing. I smashed my right shoulder – my scraping shoulder - right in to the sharp corner of a very large and very immovable stainless steel refrigerator. I smashed it good. I was a good 4 feet away from the refrigerator when I tripped so all of my weight, plus the extra 30 pounds of the box, along with the momentum of falling, crushed my shoulder in to the sharp metal edge. It hurt. It hurt bad.

For a few days it was really sore but not enough to really slow me down. This was when I was painting the second story above the porch so I did a lot of scraping and sanding with what is normally referred to as my non-scraping shoulder. I was also eating ibuprofen like they were M&Ms and icing my shoulder every night (As a side note: I think I’m going to be covered with IbuTumors in 20 or 30 years because of all the ibuprofen I’ve eaten over the last 10 years). Several days later there was still this crease of pain right at the spot where I made contact with the fridge, but it was healing nicely.

If you would have asked me last Friday how my shoulder was I would have said it was fine. Then on Saturday (As another aside, I’ll point out that last Saturday I was supposed to be laying on the couch eating junk food, drinking red wine, and watching rented movies) I was working on the marble in the kitchen. When I drilled the 5/8th inch pilot hole for the router bit I had to bare down on the drill for about 10 minutes to get the hole drilled. My shoulder didn’t like this at all. I’ve pretty much been in constant pain ever since. In fact, even writing this blog entry hurts.

I made an official mention of this at work but I didn’t want to do a workman’s comp thing. Mainly because I hate standing around waiting to be poked and prodded in the Dr. Office, but also because if I was on workman’s comp I really couldn’t work on my house while I’m supposed to be on workman’s comp. Instead, I just go in and do a really half-assed job at work, while I continue to work on my house. Well, that plan is sort of failing me. My shoulder is absolutely screaming at me now and the more I use it the more I’m in pain. Not only does the pain increase, but it moves down my arm. It sounds worse than it is, but it’s to the point that I need to stop working. And even worse, I need to stop blogging until it gets better.

Despite all this, I actually have some good news to report. If you recall several weeks ago I wrote about a little windfall I had from an old software deal I made in a previous life. The company had lost contact with me, and I thought the deal had soured, so I had forgotten about them. Anyway, sales picked up and they tracked me down saying they had some money for me. Bring it on!

I was told the amount was “well over a $1,000”. I didn’t write about it at the time, but my natural pessimism kicked in and I’ve always had this feeling in the back of my head that he was mistaken. I just knew it would turn out to be “well over $100” and he had made a type-o or something. I’m mean really, it was too good to be true. How often does a houseblogger strapped for cash get an email out of the blue from someone telling you they have a $1,000 they want to give you. Sure there is the Nigerian businessman with wads of cash to give you, but this was bonafide.

Regardless of how much money there really was coming to me, it was free money. I wasn’t going to look a gift check in the mouth so I kept my pessimism to myself. As these things work in the corporate world, cutting a check for any amount takes an act of Parliament (they are a Canadian Co.) and so I only just received the check today. Well, it was over a thousand dollars all right. In fact, it was “well over” a thousand dollars. That was no type-o and my pessimism was all for nothing. The check was for $3,452.00 US Currency! Woo-Hooo! The best part is, about a third of the funds where generated in the first quarter of 2006. That means that more quarterly checks might be coming!

It’s funny how my mind works when it comes to money. The first thing I thought of when I saw the check was, “Man, I can pay off some bills”. In reality, though, even though I do have some bills they’re not so big that I need to waste all this money paying them off. I do need some consumer goods. A real refrigerator would be nice. About 18 months ago one of the refrigerators in one of the apartments over the garage died. This was just before I was going to start the big kitchen remodel in my house. I knew I was going to be without a kitchen for a while and not doing much cooking, so I took my almost new fridge and put it in the apartment. I then went out and bought a little fridge for me to use, like the kind you might find in a hotel room.

It’s amazing that I’ve gotten used to having this tiny fridge, but I do need a full size fridge for the house. The small fridge is especially bothersome when I have guests over. Two weeks ago when I hosted the Splinter Group I had to eat all my food so I would have enough room to chill beverages for 20 guests. Kind of a pain. So most of the money will go to pay down my few bills I have but I will be buying a new refrigerator. The timings good. I’m in pain and unable to work on the house, and there might be a few Forth of July Sale-Abrations going on. Let the shopping begin.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Baring It All

I don’t normally take close-up shots of some of my less than stellar work, but I thought it only fair to show this in case someone else wanted to try something like this. I’m not proud of this and this is the worst of the worst on the marble. Keep in mind that I had major problems with router bits (excuse). The edge around the perimeter looks much better (mostly true), and in fact, the other two sides of the sink look better (mostly true as well). Also, keep in mind that these are close-up shots with a flash at an angle that most people won’t be viewing it (excuse). All of that to explain that it looks much worse in pictures than it does in real life (i'll give that one to me). At least that’s how I see it while I’m wearing my full-body denial suit fitted with the rose colored face shield. I highly recommend all DIYers get one of these suits. They are wonderful.

So this is the left and right side of the sink. Both of these are sides that I had router bearing melt down. Even with adjusting the template and sanding it still came out wonky.

Not too bad. There is a dab of putty near the top.


This one hurts. I'm thinking about trying to fix it but I can't take anymore marble off.


Yes, it’s far from perfect, but the way I see it (The denial suit is important here. Don’t forget the face shield.) is that I couldn’t afford to have someone make a custom kitchen island with copper sink, disposal, and marble top for well under $1,000, which is what I spent. This is probably a four to five thousand dollar kitchen island, if you include everything like electrical and plumbing, and with the discounted price I get a few wonky lines on the marble. BFD, right?

Now on to happier business. First, let me get out of my denial suit. There we go.

I got the drain and disposal hooked with only one trip to the hardware store. It was very close to being zero trips. I had assembled the drain months ago and look how close it was.



Then one trip to the hardware store and $8 later…



The best part is - No Leaks!!! It’s a beautiful thing. The last step is to put a small bead of caulk around the edge where the copper meets the marble, and then I’m done baby! I can go back to painting the house.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Benefits of Marble Dust

You wouldn’t think covering everything in your kitchen with fine coating of marble dust would have any benefits, but it does. With the marble dust covering everything I could easily see and dispose of every cob web in the kitchen. Of course, there were only three, so that might not make up for all the work it is taking to get rid of the dust. With that in mind, I’m going to recommend that you not run a router on marble in your house with out a vacuum attachment. That’s a NO on the recommendation. A big fat Negatory.

Getting it off counters and walls was not too hard but the floor is another story. That is where the bulk of it ended up and sweeping it is impossible. It is just too fine. You can get a lot of it up with a broom but it is still pretty thick down there. I’m afraid if I mop I will end up with white paste on the floor. I’ve called around to 3 or 4 friends to borrow a shop vac and they all either don’t own one or are not home. In other words, they’ re all useless to me at this point.

I had a change of luck today. I was able to install the sink and faucet with almost no difficulty. I didn’t think that would be possible based on how things went over the weekend. I slid the marble back about 2-feet and supported it with a board underneath. I then dropped in the sink in – plop! After a few minutes of playing around with shims I slid the marble back in to place. Not too difficult.

I then cut the hole in the marble for the faucet. I laid my trusty template back in to position and marked the spot of the hole. I used a carbide grit hole cutter and it went pretty fast. In fact, it went a lot faster than cutting the 5/8th inch starter hole I drilled for the router. That thing took about 10 minutes to cut with a masonry bit. The carbide grit hole cutter went through the marble and the wood underneath in just 2 or 3 minutes.

After that it was just a matter of mounting the faucet and attaching the supply lines. It was a little awkward working in the cabinet after the sink was in place, but everything went smooth. No leaks. Tomorrow I’ll attach the garbage disposal and drain. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cooling Off Period

Well, it’s done. The method of cutting short sections and letting the bit cool down in between worked reasonably well. I still fried another bearing but it held on long enough. The last few inches were a little wobbly. I won’t lie to you, it doesn’t look bad, but there are parts that look a little amateurish. It’s hard to say how much other people will notice. I think I might have to sell this house if I let these things get to me too much.

If I had to do it over I would have sent away for a high speed diamond bit. They don’t sell them locally. The carbide bit cuts fine but the bearings just aren’t designed for this sort of thing. They caused nothing but trouble. Other than that, the method I used worked well. The template worked well and the hole is the right size. Whew! It came out to be 13 & 1/8 inch square. The sink it 12 inches square with a 1-inch lip so that should give me about a ½-inch reveal of the lip all the way around.

I secured the under side of the piece I was cutting out with wood and then added more support as I went. Also, before I started with the router I scored around the edge of the hole I was cutting with a utility knife. I’m not sure if stone acts the same as tile but I know when I cut tile I just score the surface and it breaks on that line. The old Path of Least Resistance thing. The idea is that if it breaks in the last few inches hopefully it would break in the right place. Fortunately I didn’t need to test that theory.

The two places where the bearings burned out still had some very, very small dents in them. I filled them with putty prior to running the quarter round bit. The quarter round bit also has a bearing that will follow every little imperfection on the bottom edge of the cut I made. When it hits one of those bumps it will follow it. The putty smoothed it out some. I also sanded the edge a bit. Once the round over bit goes over it there is almost no putty left. I'll probably just chip it out.

A vacuum attachment for the router is a must if you do this indoors – even outdoors. The dust it creates is incredible. It is also important that you turn the vacuum on. I forgot to do this a few times and I did get some dust. It’s wasn’t too bad until I went to put the round over on the sink hole. The damn vacuum wouldn’t turn back on. I said screw-it and cut anyway. The kitchens going to be off limits until tomorrow. I think a case of Swiffers should do the trick. It was a fitting end to this project.

I still need to drill the hole for the faucet but I’ll wait on that until after I get the sink it. That will happen tomorrow I think. I also want to go around those last few feet of the perimeter edge again, but I’ll wait until I have a working vacuum. Here’s some random shots.

Outside Edge Round Over


Starting 5/8th inch Hole


Always Drill From The Finish Side


When Bearings Go Bad. Grrrrr!


Router With Vacuum


It Fits! Whew!


Still Life With Dust

Maybe It's The Hellmouth

If you read yesterday’s post you might think that Buffy was unsuccessful at closing the Hellmouth under Sunnydale and it had moved up the coast to Eureka. Naturally, this is what I thought and I laid in bed awake all night last night hoping that Buffy would come to my rescue, and maybe hang around afterwards. No such luck.

As to whether I really did fall through a trap door in hell, or if the hellmouth has reappeared remains open to speculation. I think it is safe to safe, though, that heat played a big part in my problems yesterday. The carbide blades on the router bits cut through the marble fine. The problems were with the constituent parts. As the bits cut through the stone they heated up past their tolerance and began to fly apart.

I can think of two ways to deal with this. The first would be some sort of lubricant. If I could lubricate the bit so it did not get so hot this would solve the problem. However, I can’t think of an effective way to do that since the bit is cutting down in a groove and the router is on top of the groove. The other way is to just work slower. Instead of trying to go through all in one shot I will take breaks.

The bearing on the Freud bit lasted about 12 or 14 inches before it disintegrated. If I cut 4 or 5 inches and then let it cool down I should be able to cut the remaining 24 inches with out a problem. I’ll just find other things to do while it’s cooling. In this house, that’s not a problem.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Trap Door In Hell

I’ve fallen through a special router bit trap door in hell. Yesterday I started cutting the hole for the sink in the marble slab. There are basically three cuts that need to be made. First I needed to put a finished edge on the outside perimeter of the slab. Next I would use the template I made to cut out the hole for the under-mount sink. Finally, I would put the same finish edge on the sink hole as I did on the perimeter edge.

This saga actually started Friday when I played around in the garage with different router bits trying to find the right finish edge. The one I liked was using a bit called a “Wavy Edge”. It is kind of like if you took a Roman Ogee and stretched it out a little bit. Because of the troubles I had with trying to get a sharp cut on the marble, because of chipping, I was forced to use only the bottom part of the bits. On a standard Ogee bit, using only the bottom, it leaves very little profile. It just doesn’t look right. With the Wavy Edge, because it is stretched out, I can use more of the bit, get more of a profile, and get a better look. The decision was made. Wavy Edge it is.

The Wavy Edge bit I had was well used, and I wanted a brand new bit for the marble, so I went to Sears to buy a new. I also had to get a new template bit, which I would use to cut the sink hole. I went down to Sears and wouldn’t you know it, they were out of the Wavy Edge bit. I’m not going to order one and wait for two weeks only to find out it’s out of stock and on back-order for 6 months. Instead, I went with Plan B, which is to just do a ½-inch round over. Simple. Classic. Elegant. I got a half inch rounder over bit and a half inch template bit. It came to around $45.

I decided to start with the perimeter edge first. I’ve never done this before so I’ll start on the back side and see how it goes. The new router has a vacuum attachment that didn’t fit my vacuum. Of course it didn’t, why would it? So back to the hardware to get an adapter. I get back and got everything hook up and I start in on the edge of the marble with the half inch round over bit. It cuts pretty good. I’m impressed. It is a very smooth, clean cut. The slab of marble is close to 20-feet in circumference. After about 15 feet the cut is not so smooth anymore. It doesn’t look really bad, but you can tell the bit is getting dull. I decided to finish up and I can get a second bit and just go over the last 5 or 6 feet again to clean it up. I would need a new bit so I decided to just move on to the sink hole and do it later.

I positioned the template on the marble which took quite some time. There is little room for error here. I can be off a half inch or so, but anything more than that and it would be noticeable. I should point out at this time that my idea to install the sink from below would not work. I didn’t work with a full-scale mock-up of the sink when I tested this. I only used a plywood cutout that was the size of the top of the sink. I should have made a wooden box that took in to account the entire size of the sink. Live and learn, right. What I was going to have to do was cut the hole for the sink and then slide the marble back. Drop the sink in and then slide the marble back in to position. It’s not the end of the world.

Before I started cutting I decided I wanted to make sure I could move the marble. I had never actually fixed it in place, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t move, but still, I wanted to make sure it would move. I tried to move it and it didn’t budge. I had all of my weight on that thing and it wasn’t moving even a centimeter. I worked at it from all sides and it just wouldn’t move. I then remembered that I had added another piece of trim after the slab was on and I had painted the trim piece. Sure enough there was paint gluing the underside of the slab to the base. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. This was like trying to open a 200 pound painted shut window. I freed it with a utility knife and I was able to move the slab. So it’s time to cut.

I started by drilling a 5/8-inch hole with a masonry bit. This would allow me to slip the router bit in and start cutting. I drilled the hole several inches from the edge because you can get blow-out on the back side as the drill bit exits the hole. Sure enough when the bit exited a chunk of marble the size of a quarter broke away. This was on the waste piece so it didn’t matter. I inserted the router bit in the hole, turned on the vacuum, and started cutting. It was a little bit slower than when I was doing the perimeter, but it was cutting fine.



Here’s what the template bit looks like. You have the cutting blade on the right, then there is a bearing, followed by that black donut thing that holds the bearing in place, and then there is the shank that goes in to the router. The router holds on to the shank and spins everything really fast but the bearing stays stationary. As you cut, the bearing follows the template while the cutting blade cuts the material. The black donut thing has a set screw that screws into the shank and holds it in place. The only purpose of the black donut is to keep the bearing in place.

So anyway, I start cutting. I first ran the bit to the edge of the template. Remember I had drilled the hole several inches from the edge. I worked my way down the edge and after just 3 or 4 inches I started to smell wood burning. Not good at all. This means something has happened to the bearing and the shank is now in contact with the template. The only thing that should ever be hitting the template is the bearing. I quickly turned off the router but the damage was done. When I pulled out the bit from the hole I found out the set screw on the black donut thing was missing and the bearing had moved out of the way and allowed the shank to come in contact with the template. This means that the router bit cut in to the marble where it shouldn’t have. It was a major mistake but not the end of the world.

Because this was the first side to be cut I could reposition the template a ¼-inch or so and recut. If this happened on more than one side I would be screwed. The question was, what happened to the set screw. I couldn’t find it any place but that’s not surprising because it is extremely tiny. I had gotten late start, so I decided to call it a night. The next day I would take the bit back to Sears. I needed to get another half inch round over bit anyway so it was no big deal.

Today I went back to Sears and exchanged the template bit for another one and bought a new half-inch round over bit. As I was heading out to the car I noticed I bought the wrong round over bit. I won’t bore you with why it was wrong. It just was. I went back in to exchange it and the correct bit was $13.00 cheaper than the one I had just bought. For some reason the new computer system issued me a gift card instead of a cash refund. This took almost 20 minutes to straighten out. It was unbearable. I finally got back home and started cutting again with the new template bit. After about 6-inches I smelled wood burning again. The fucking set screw had come out again. Unbelievable. I was livid. I just couldn’t believe it had happened again. I went back to Sears to get my money back. I’m not going to try another Sears bit, instead I’ll just go down to Pierson’s and buy a bit there. I took the bit back and handed them my receipt and asked for my money back. The new computer system issued me another gift card. AAAGGHHHHHH!

I get to a point where I just go numb. When I’m mildly irritated in a situation like this I can get noisy and demand prompt satisfaction. At some point though, things just begin to shut down. That’s where I was at with this. It took forever for them to straighten it out and get me the $23 for the stupid router bit. I went down to Pierson and bought another ½-inch template bit.

I got home and repositioned the template again. This is it. I can’t have anymore screw ups like this. I haven’t even cut one side and I’ve had to adjust the template twice. I got it adjusted again and started cutting again. I rounded the corner on the first side and was headed up the second side. This new bit was cutting very nicely. Very clean and even faster than the Sears bit. One side is about 12-inches long. I was about 10-inches down the second side and something sounded odd. I quickly killed the motor and moved the router away from the edge. I pulled the bit out of the hole and the bearing was shredded. What little bit of it that was left was just hanging there. It had caused a little damage but it was very minor. I got lucky.

At this point I’ve gone through 3 bits. What is really irritating is that the bits themselves are fine. It’s the set screws and bearings that keep taking a crap on me. I thought, ok Sears is out of the question. Do I head back to Pierson’s and get another Freud bit. I decided to go to Myrtle Town Lumber and get a Vermont bit. They can be less expensive than other bits so I’ll just buy two of them and use one for each of the remaining two side. I go to MTL and wouldn’t you know it they are out of ½-inch template bits. However, they did have replacement bearings. I could get a new bearing to go on the Freud bit. There’s a problem, though. I had already tried to remove the shredded bearing and I didn’t have an Allen Wrench small enough. I have 2 sets of Allen Wrenches, a standard and a metric set, and neither of them had wrenches small enough.

I went over to the tool aisle and found $5 set of wrenches that had several tiny sizes in them. The question was, do I need metric or standard. The bit I bought at Pierson’s was called Freud. That sounds German so I grabbed the metric set. Then I thought, that’s just what those bastards want me to think. I put the metric set back and grabbed the standard. It’s kind of surprising that after all this I’ve only actually paid for one template bit. The new bearing is $6 and the wrenches are $5, so that’s not too bad.

I got back home and tried the new wrenches. It worked! I had bought the right wrenches. It was a small victory, but a Victory none the less. I'll take anything I can get at this point. I looked up at the ceiling and shook my fist as I yelled, “You bastards! You didn’t get me this time!” I then went to put on the new bearing…………and it wouldn’t fit. Of course it wouldn’t fit. Why should it. I have a bit with a ¼-inch shank that fits a router with a ¼-inch collet, so why should a bearing for a ¼-inch router bit fit. It’s because I fell through a trap door in hell. That’s right, I’m in hell.

I decided that the Vermont bits had a different ¼-inch shank that the ¼-inch shank that was on the Freud bits (This is hell logic. It only works in hell.). I got back in my truck and headed back to Pierson. I figured if Vermont had replacement bearings then maybe there were replacement bearings for the Freud bits. I got to Pierson’s and sure enough there were. The case with the router bits is locked so I had to get someone to unlock it. I pointed to the ½-inch template bit and told him I need a replacement bearing for that bit. They had several to chose from. He rummaged through the selection and pulled one out. He grabbed a template bit and held the bearing up. It looked good to me. He then pulled a little caliper measuring device out of his vest pocket and measured it. Everything looked good. I blazed home and tried to put it on my bit………………….and it wouldn’t fit.

That’s where I’m at now. I have two sides cut and a bit with no bearing and a bearing that won’t fit the bit I have. I’ve decided I’m not making another trip back to the hardware store today. I just need to let this day evaporate in to history. Tomorrow I’ll take my bit down and make sure I get the right replacement bearing. I’ll buy two or three of them so if I burn more of them up I can just replace it and move on.

When I was at Sears the second time today waiting for what seemed like an eternity for them to refund my money I was checking out a $1600 backyard BBQ grill. It was as long as my truck and more granite and stainless steel than most kitchens. As I was looking at it a pleasant young woman walks up to me asks, “Did you have any questions sir”. It was all I could do to keep from turning to her and asking, “Yes, I did have a question. Can you tell me, why does my life suck?”

Saturday, June 24, 2006

More On The Other Petch House

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had found the house that The Petch Family lived in just prior to them moving in to my Petch House. Well, today I was driving to the hardware store (I know, I didn’t rest 4 days like I said I was going to) and I passed by the house, which was odd because I rarely take that route to the hardware store. I had been out earlier and someone parked on the street in front of my house where I normally park. When I got home I parked across the street which meant my truck was facing the opposite direction. Not that you asked, but that’s why I took a different route to the hardware store.



Anyway, I’m driving down J Street and the owner of the old Petch House is having a garage sale. SCREEECH! I stopped. When I walked up there were 3 people out front. There were 2 men in their mid to late 60s and a woman of a similar age. They were all engaged in a conversation and I wasn’t sure which one was the owner. I poked around at the tables of stuff being offered – nothing looked too interesting – and waited to see who would leave before I introduced myself. After only a minute or so one man and the woman walked off and the process of elimination had worked it’s magic once again and the sole remaining man was undoubtedly the owner. I introduced myself.

The house, you’ll recall, is an 1887 Eastlake Cottage with copious amounts of gingerbread. The picture I took does not do it justice. The front porch just oozes charm. It even had what appeared to be the original Eastlake front door hardware with two skeleton key holes. It has all original windows, and just trim work up the waa-zoo. The house is obviously very well cared for, although I must admit I’m not a fan of the multi-toned purple paint job. There is also a clock in the attic gable. This was most likely a small round window at some time but there is now a round clock face instead. Nit-picking aside, that house looks great.

As I said, the owner is in his mid 60s and looks very conservative. His look is fairly typical for men his age in this city. He would fit in perfectly down at one of the saw mills or the barber shop on the corner. There was a relatively new and very large pickup truck parked in the driveway and the yard was neatly trimmed. Considering the way a lot of the old-timers in this town view “those old houses” I wasn’t sure what to expect from him. I half expected him to go on and on about how the house was an old piece of junk and he couldn’t wait to move into a double-wide someplace.

I started by just saying that the people who first moved in to my 1895 house lived in his house first. He didn’t really say much. I think may have I gotten a very solemn “Really?”. I think he was trying to decide if I was playing an angle or something. It is kind of an odd way to start a conversation, I guess. I continued anyway. “Yea, the people who bought my house in 1895 lived here first”. He warmed up a little bit and asked a few questions. As you all know, I’m not short of words when talking about my house but I decided not to overwhelm him with a 10 minute monologue on the Petch family and my house. I kept it short and gave him just basic information. I of course complimented him on his house and that’s when he opened up.

He went on to tell me that his parents bought the home in 1939 for $1,100. He told me he was born in the house. I’m still not sure if he meant he was actually born in the house, which is quite possible, or if he meant this is where his family lived when he was born. Regardless, the really interesting part came next. He told me in the 1950s his dad stripped off most of the gingerbread below the frieze and put asbestos siding on the house and covered the skirting with fake brick. Most of the gingerbread on the house that is there now has been replaced by him over the last 20 years. He stripped off all the asbestos siding and has been restoring the house himself! Sound familiar?

We had a great conversation as we alternated between bashing new construction techniques and extolling the virtues of antique houses made of old growth redwood. This guy was totally in to it. He asked again which house was mine and I gave him the street corner (we are only about 5 blocks away from each other) and he said, “The blue one”. I said, “No, one block down”. Then he replied, “Oh, the big one with the weird brown and green paint job”. That was my queue to tell him more about my house, which I happily did. It was kind of a neat experience to meet him. I think I got more out of it than he did, but that’s OK. It was nice to meet someone who was born and raised in this town that doesn’t hate “those old houses”. Not that all the old-timers feel that way, but sometimes it sure seems like it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nap Time

Everyone seemed to have a good time last night at the Splinter Group Meeting. The final head count was 18, and I didn’t run out of drinks or hor'devours, so I’ll say it was a success. The members of the group are from two different neighboring towns and so we meet at different members houses in the two towns. The pot luck dishes are split up so that people who travel bring desserts and salads, and the locals bring hot dishes. It works out so that you don’t have to do a lot of coordinating to ensure that you don’t end up with 10 salads, 3 cakes, and only one hot dish.

Everyone arrived around 7:00 and the last of them left around 10:00. I’m not really sure how long I spoke but I would say it was about an hour. I spoke about the house and recent projects, but most of the time was spent on the 19th Century production and distribution of electricity and gas for lighting. I started researching all this in a very casual way a few years back when I found the old gas pipe in the ceilings while I was rewiring the house, so it wasn’t like I had to spend a lot of time over the last few weeks gathering this information. I just had to review it and print up some things.

I had copies of ads for carbide gas machines and compressed gas machines for generating gas for lighting. I also had schematics for coal gas plants. On the local angle I had the advertisements for the retail establishments for places that sold gas and electric lighting. In 1893 you could have wire run to your house for $1.50 per 1000 feet and this was equivalent to running pipe for gas. I also found the location of the old coal gas plant in the city on a 1902 Panoramic map and I printed up a copy. I had a good time.

I have never had good study habits. I printed everything up last week and it had been sitting in a stack on top of the TV ever since. About an hour before everyone arrived last night I reread everything and then just winged it when it came time to speak. It went well, I think, and the few glasses of wine I had with dinner helped immensely.

Right now, I am just whipped, though. I worked my ass off the last few weeks and what little bit of my ass I didn’t work off was seriously dragging today at work. I was in full zombie mode. I got home around noon and promptly slept for about 4 hours. I’ll probably be up until 2 AM now, but I don’t care, it felt good to sleep.

Plans for the next 4 days are to do absolutely nothing. I will be slothenly and slug like around the house. I will not work on a project. I’m going to lay on the couch, eat junk food, drink red wine, and watch rented movies. That is it. No working on the house…..unless I got bored, then I may install a copper sink on the marble top island. We’ll see.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Splinter Group Meeting Tonight

I have I think 14 confirmed RSVPs which means I can expect 14 to 20 people. I’ve spent most of my free time yesterday and today cleaning and, well, saying the house is clean may be a stretch, so I’ll just say the house is cleaner.

There will be a cocktail hour and then a potluck dinner, after which the “meeting” will begin. It is all very informal. There is usually not much to talk about during the meeting portion but sometimes it can go on for a half hour or so if some one has made a cool find or a lively topic comes up. After that the floor will be turned over to me.

I will be talking about Victorian era plumbing, electrical, and gas lighting. I will focus mainly on production and distribution. Sort of behind the scenes stuff. It ties in well with my house because Mr. Petch ran both the coal gas plant and the electrical plant here in town. He was also an electrician himself, and ran a retail lighting store here in town for a while.

I had the idea for this discussion last year at another gathering. A member of the group talked about Victorian era linen when they hosted the group. It was informative and detailed, and for me, boring as hell. It’s just not what I’m in to at all. It was in some ways my worst fear come true.

When I first joined the group I didn’t think I would last that long. I envisioned hour long discussions on the strategic placement of doilies in the Victorian home and other such electrifying topics. It’s really not like that but that discussion on linen just seemed to go on and on and on. I was sitting on the couch between two woman who were really in to it and after a while it was like I disappeared as they ooohed and aaahed to each other as each piece of linen was passed around. After what seemed like an hour of that I made my way to the kitchen and drank wine until it was all over. Tonight is all about payback.



I’ll leave you with an image of the original 1895 Fuse Box for my house. The hot from the city came in across the top and the neutral ran across the bottom. Then the wires to feed the house came off the screws in the middle. Note the distinctive lack of fuses or even anyplace to put fuses. In fact, there were no fuses. I think this might really be called a bus and not a fuse box but I don’t think anyone would know what I was talking about if I called it a bus.

In a way they didn’t need fuses because the only thing there was were lights. There are three circuits there to feed eleven lights in the house. Even if you have every light on in the house you probably wouldn’t be able to over-heat the system. The house never burned down, so I guess it worked as it was designed to.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Planning My Future

Retirement? No
Vacation? Noooope
Education? No Sir-re-Bob

I’m planning my summer house painting project! Oh yes, ladies and gents you can expect endless blog entries all summer long as I go over every last little excruciating detail of house painting. I will be keeping my blog readers on the edge of their seats all summer long with heroic tales of painting. You can look forward to endless photos of the same section house over and over and over again as I detail every single paint stroke in detail that has never been seen before. It's going to be awesome.


“Will he change colors half way through?”
“Is he ever going to wise up and rent scaffolding?”
“Why doesn’t that idiot use a sprayer?”
“And what about the long lost dream of the boom lift?”

This is just like Homer’s The Odyssey. Maybe even better.

Enquiring minds want to know. People want answers and I’m here to provide them. Below is a map of the house broken down in to sections. The first two sections already painted have been marked out in green. After that there are 8 sections to be done. On the back of the house sections 6 & 8 are the second story above the wrap around porch, and section 7 is the first story under the porch.



When looking at the map you might think I would start with section 1 and work my way around to section 8. Wrong! That would be boring. No, I’m going to do section 3 next. You see, this is exciting already. I’m mixing it up a bit just to keep you on your toes. You might want to print that map out and put it on the fridge so you can follow along at home. That’s what I’m doing.

The main reason for doing section 3 next is because I need some more dark green on the front of the house. With the porch being mostly trim done in Clary Sage, and the second story being mostly shingles done in Clary Sage, there is just a hell of a lot of Clary Sage on the front of the house right now. It kind of bugs me. So section 3 is next and then where will I go? Who knows? It’s a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures in house painting.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Little Porch B & A

I need to remember to take better Before shots. Part of the reason for not getting a good Before shot this time is because I really wasn’t planning to do all this work right now. I had to go back in to the archives and find an old shot of the house and then crop the porch. The shot doesn’t have very good lighting, but then maybe that’s good thing. Light has not always been this houses friend when it comes to photos.

I did add the reeds I spoke about yesterday. You can see them in the last photo (click to enlarge) on the front of the two posts at the base of the steps. I’m really glad I added them. It adds the little detail that seemed to be missing. I also got the deck painted and added the Sharkgrip to the steps (I never did talk about Sharkgrip).

Old Brown & Green


New Bright & Green


Full Frontal


As you can see I still need to do the rain gutter. That will be next week when I have money. There is also the unresolved issue of the heater vent on the second story. You can see it to the right. At one time that vented a free standing heater in the front bedroom. This is left over from the apartment days. I’m pretty sure the vent will go at some point but because I haven’t really figured out a heating system for the house it will stay for now.

The other thing that needs to be dealt with is the front door. It needs a little more work than I willing to put in to it right now. It is generally in good shape. There is some plywood screwed to the base acting as a kick plate, I guess. That will need to come off but I’m not sure what’s behind it. There is paint build-up that needs to be dealt with. I also need a new lockset and a piece of glass is loose. And it needs proper weather stripping.

The last thing is the mail slot. It pains me to think that the POs may have cut the slot for that crappy, crappy brass mail slot that is on there now. The house was a rental for so long I can’t imagine there was a slot there for the tenants. I can only hope that there was a slot there in 1895 and that one was not cut in the last 6 years by the POs. Regardless of when it was cut, the crappy brass slot that is there must go.



I bought the one above on Ebay several years ago. It is very large which is what I need because the crappy brass one is large as well. Most of the period mail slots I saw were rather small. I don’t remember what I paid for this big one but it wasn’t cheap. I searched for months on Ebay and was beat out several times for similar mail slots. Not for that one though. I sniped at the last second with an absurdly high bid and got it. I’ve got the get the rest of the house painted, though, before I deal with that front door. I can’t get bogged down any longer on this porch. I think it’s been over a month now. Way to long.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I’ve changed my mind….or have I

Plans change. Ideas are fluid. Inspiration goes in and out like the tide. Every other day I get an idea, play with it in my head a while, and then drop it….or maybe I don’t. Recently there was the wine rack idea. I played with that for a while and then dropped it. I then had an idea to add another piece of trim under the redwood counter in the kitchen. I saw a picture some place very recently of a kitchen counter with a piece of trim under the edge of the counter. I thought it looked really nice and I was going to add it to my counter. There was a problem, though. There always is.

When I made the counter I made it 3/4 of an inch too short. It’s amazing how these things happen. On the one open end it only hangs over the edge of the cabinets about a half inch. On the front edge it hangs out a little over an inch. When I decided to add the trim piece I had forgotten about this little faux pa. Yesterday I started to make the trim and realized that anything I make must be less than a half inch thick or it will stick out on that one side. That is not very thick. Also, because I had milled the grooves in the apron part just under the sink the trim piece could only be about an inch high. I’m limited to a very small piece of trim. I started to think it would look lost under there and decided not to do it. Then I decided to do it anyway, and then I changed my mind back. Then later I changed my mind again. This went on most of the morning yesterday.

Finally about 3 o’clock I decided to do. I first thought about doing a very small piece of crown molding and just doing the front. I actually made a 3-foot piece of crown molding on the table saw that had about a 1-inch profile on it. I then decided it would look stupid to have it only on the front so I dropped the idea. I then gave up on the whole idea and decided it was not worth the hassle.

Then I changed my mind.

I went back out to the garage and made up 14 feet of 3/8 X 1 inch trim with a slight ogee on it. I took it in to the kitchen and held in place and thought it looked nice. I went back out to the garage and oiled it with some BLO & turpentine. I thought that today I would put a couple of coats of shellac on it and then install it this afternoon. Then this morning I decided I didn’t like it. It was too small after all. It’s still sitting in the garage right now but now I’m thinking I might go ahead and put it up. I can tack it in to place with some small nails and not drive them all the way in. After a few days, if I don’t like it I can get rid of it.

Then today I was out walking and I had another idea. The columns I made for the porch always seemed a little plane. They're nice, and have a nice cap, some trim around the bottom, and nice beveled edges. Still, they have always seemed to lack something. The big columns from 1895 all have flutes on them but I couldn't figure out how to do that in my meager wood shop. Now I’m thinking I can add reeds to the front of the ones I made. It shouldn’t too difficult. I have a router bit that will do a half inch bull nose. I can just make bull noses and then cut them off and it will give me a half round reed that I can nail to the front of the post. I’m thinking 3 reeds with a long one in the middle and 2 shorter ones on either side.

The trick, of course, is going to be making them and getting them installed before I change my mind.

Oops, too late….or is it?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Another Layer of the Onion

Yesterday I wrote about the little Eastlake Cottage that was the Petch Family home just prior to them moving in to The Petch House and it got me to thinking about how their lives evolved. According to the business directory in 1893 Thomas Petch was the superintendent of the Eureka Gas Works, a coal gas plant at 117 H street down on the water front. It lists the Electric Power Plant at “The Foot of H Street”. They must have been next door to each other. Also in the 1893 Directory it lists The Eureka Electric Light Works with a man named Fred Bell as the superintendent. This facility is also on the water front but about 5 blocks away on C Street. This appears to be a retail outlet selling lighting and installing wiring.

Also in the 1893 Directory there is an ad for the Humboldt Electric Light Co. at Third & Sixth streets. The ad states “Lights by Meter equivalent to Gas at $1.50 per 1000 feet”. I guess they were trying to show that to get wire run to your house for electric lights was no more expensive than if you had gas pipe run to your house for gas lighting. Both the Eureka Electric Light Works and The Humboldt Electric Light Co. were operating at the same time and neither of them advertised gas lighting. They were strictly electric.

However, in the 1898 Directory (‘94, ’95, ’96, & ’97 don’t exist) it lists an ad for The Eureka Lighting Co which now operates in the same location as the 1893 Eureka Electric Light Works on C Street, and Humboldt Electric Light Co. is no longer listed. Thomas Petch is the superintendent and for the first time it lists a President, Secretary, and Treasurer all with San Francisco addresses. The 1898 business directory lists the Electric Light Co. and the Gas Light Co. both operating out of the C St. location.

It would seem that at some point between 1893 and 1898 big money came down from San Francisco and consolidated all the different gas and electric lighting retail stores, and possibly purchased the power plants on H Street as well. There was the retail businesses on C Street and the one at Third & Sixth Streets. They both now operated in the C Street location and now offered gas and electric lights instead of just electric. This new facility also sold coke, coal, and coal tar.

Coke is a form of coal that is created by cooking off the organic properties in coal. You are left with a product that burns at much higher temperatures than the original coal. Coal tar is a byproduct of the process of making coal gas. For a while it was seen as a waste product until the discovery of Aniline dyes. Aniline dyes are a derivative of coal tar and were discovered accidentally by an Englishmen named Perkins. He was looking for a synthetic form of Quinine to fight malaria. Aniline dyes where the first synthetic dyes created in the middle of the 19th Century and revolutionized the making of textiles, paints, and wallpapers. Perkins became filthy rich. The first dye created was mauvine, now called mauve, and was a favorite of Queen Victoria.

But back to business of lighting….

It would seem that Thomas Petch was in the right place at the right time. The SF people came down, bought everything up, and hired Thomas to run the consolidated operation for them. No doubt this would have meant a big fat raise, which enabled him to move his family from the very charming, but very small and rented 1887 Eastlake cottage, in to the brand new and palatial Petch Manor House.

The house would be a showcase for the business because it had extensive wiring in it with wall switches in ever room, including some 3-way switches, and no doubt was filled with stunning combination gas/electric fixtures. Who knows where the fixtures ended up but I would give my eye teeth to have them today.

Unfortunately, in another 10 or 15 years it would all go to hell when Thomas and Phyllis Petch got divorced. I know that by the ‘20s PG&E was running the show here in town. Maybe they were here in the teens. Perhaps they came in and forced out Thomas Petch. Maybe hired goons were involved to emphasize the point that someone else was running things. We’ll never know. Without a decent job maybe Thomas began to drink too much. That is all speculation. I do know that after the divorce Thomas eventually moves in with his sister in Santa Clara and operates the Gas Plant there during the 1920s. Phyllis turns the once stunning Queen Anne in to a boarding house. It was probably still a very nice house but that was the beginning of a very long and very slow decline.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Another Petch House

I found the house the Petch Family lived in before buying The Stately Petch Manor House. That is to say, the original Petch House. Uh, my house. It’s in the same neighborhood and only 1 block down and three blocks over from here. It is an 1887 Eastlake cottage and appears to be very well cared for.

1025 J Street


I wish I had gotten a better shot. There was no parking, and because of traffic I was only able to stop for a second and snap the picture. The porch, which you can’t really see, has a lot gingerbread and some meaty turned columns on it. There are more windows on the right side with the same trim as that front triple bay.

I was never able to find a lot of information about where the Petch Family lived prior to them owning The Petch House. From census data I knew they lived in Eureka before 1895 but I never knew where. Down at the library they have city directories (phone books before phones), but it is an incomplete set and there are gaps in the years. Also, some of them are only business directories and not residential.

I was down at the library a few days ago doing some research because I’m going to be talking about Victorian era lighting, plumbing, and electrical at the upcoming Splinter Group meeting. I’m going to be focusing on production and distribution. I know that Mr. Petch was an electrician and operated The Eureka Lighting Co, selling gas and electric lights, along with other things. I also know that he operated the Coal Gas Plant in Santa Clara after he was divorced.

Anyway, I was trying to find out where the electrical and coal gas plants were located in the city. When I found the coal gas plant in the business directory of 1893 it listed Thomas D. Petch as the superintendent. Surprise, surprise. It also listed is residence at 1025 J Street. The other Petch House.

According to the records the house was designed and built in 1887 by a local architect by the name of E. Mowry. Mr. Mowry still owned the house in 1893 when the Petch family lived there so they must have been renters. Of course, in just 2 short years they would be living the dream, just as I am now, in that gorgeous 1895 Queen Anne that we all know and love today as The Petch House.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Good Day Sunshine

Woo Hoo! We went from rain and drizzle yesterday to brilliant sunshine today. At my real job I’m not what you would call a dynamic go getter. I’m frequently late and any real effort is spent on trying to get the hell out of there are soon as possible. Ninety percent of my usable brain cells are spent on what project I’m working on at home. Of the remaining 10% some of them must be devoted to work but I really can’t give it a value. Hmmm, now that I think about it, 90% is probably devoted to thinking about woman, 9% about the house, and the remaining 1% is up for grabs.

The point of all that is to say that today I woke up to blue skies and I bolted out of bed and was a dynamic go getter only because it meant I could get home fast and start painting the second story over the porch. It took me about 4 and a half hours to strip the shingles to bare wood and get them primed. A new world record.

This means, of course, that not only do I get to start with the first top coat tomorrow, but it means I’m back on schedule! Here is the beautiful sunny view from my working spot on top of the porch.



This is pretty cool. In the picture below you can just make out the 1895 pencil line the carpenter drew to make sure the shingles are put on straight.



When I was working on the porch roof the crazy lady passed by that I wrote about a few days ago. I tried to get a picture of her but she moves surprisingly fast for her age. You can just see her with the blue shopping cart hidden in the trees. Come to think of it, that might be Big Foot.



And finally, in the WTF Category we have the following group of nails and screws I found in the corner of the porch roof. I’m not sure exactly what someone was trying to secure up on the roof. What ever it was it’s gone now, so they obviously needed a few more screws.




Updated Schedule
Tomorrow: Finish prepping porch roof area and prime.
Monday: Paint first coat on porch.
Tuesday: Second coat on porch and start sanding second story shingles above porch.
Wednesday: Bitch and Moan about the weather
Thursday: Finish second story prep and prime.
Friday: Regain composure and paint first coat on second story. Scrounge wood for kitchen trim
Saturday: Second coat on second story. Mill wood for kitchen trim and start installation.
Sunday: Paint porch deck and use Sharkgrip on stairs. Finish installing kitchen trim and putty nail holes.
Monday: Sand kitchen trim and shellac.
Tuesday: Start to clean the feculent hell-hole that is my house.
Wednesday: Get ready to party.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Another Beautiful Summer Day

Which of course means it’s raining today. I feel I’ve dodged the bullet the last few days, though. When I checked the forecast on Google on Sunday it had little rain clouds Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Monday and Tuesday we had very light sprinkling in the morning but then nothing the rest of the day. I wouldn’t even call it rain really, and it was over almost before it started. The clouds looked dark and nasty both days but no rain fell. It was great because I took a chance on painting and it paid off. Today, not so lucky.

We aren’t getting much rain but it’s enough to dampen the siding. I was planning on starting prep on the second story today (I’m already behind schedule because I was supposed to start that yesterday), but I can’t see sanding wet siding in the rain with an electric sander. If it lets up, and I think it will, I can go putty some holes and maybe do a little sanding on the sunburst over the stained glass window. That pretty much needs to be done by hand.

In order to keep on schedule, though, I think I’ll start some major cleaning inside. I can rustle up all the dust bunnies, change the cat poop dirt, polish the bathroom (and then hold it for the next week), and a few other chores. Those were all things I was planning on doing Tuesday. I also had scheduled a nervous breakdown on Thursday but if I can push that back a week then I should be back on schedule. Also, Checking Google today shows clearing skies the next few days. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Crazy Lady Seal of Approval

We have a Neighborhood Post Consumer Waste Management Technician. She’s in her late sixties, pushes a shopping cart around the neighborhood going through trashcans, and while she doesn’t appear to be on drugs or drunk I’m willing to bet she wasn’t at the top of her class in high school. When I first moved in to this house I thought she was homeless, but she didn’t quite look disheveled enough. It turns out she lives 6 or 7 blocks away at the end of my street in a well kept little cottage that looks like it dates from the 40s. She must be on social security and uses the bottles and cans to supplement her income.

The first time I met her was only a few weeks after I moved in. I was in the front yard doing something and Mortimer, my cat, was hanging out as usual. She was pushing her cart up the sidewalk and she stopped and stared at Mort for a minute and then asked, “Is that my cat? I used to have a cat just like that but he ran away.” I assured her he was my cat in away that would limit the conversation as much as a possible. “No, he’s my cat. I’ve had him for years. Absolutely positive he’s mine. No doubt in my mind.” She moved on, mumbling to herself how he look just like her old cat. A few months later as I was walking through the neighborhood and I over heard her asking some people if their dog was her long lost pet that ran away a while ago. It was an almost identical conversation to the one I had had with her about Mort.

At first I wasn’t too thrilled with her coming in my yard and getting cans and bottles out of my trash. It’s not that I thought she was going to steal anything, it’s just, you know, so inner-city-ish. There was something a little depressing about seeing an old woman pawing through my garbage. When I first moved in here things were so chaotic sorting my garbage was way down on the list of priorities. Eventually I built the Trash-O-Matic 5000©A Waste Management System®. After a while the tenants and I were all sorting the garbage with it and it made it much easier for her to collect her bounty. I didn’t mind it so much anymore.

Trash-O-Matic 5000©A Waste Management System®


As time went by I got more accustomed to her coming around and I kind of liked it. We have curb side recycling and garbage pick-up from the city but I don’t pay for the services. Because of all the work I’m doing I seem to be going to the dump on a regular basis so I just take the garbage myself. Now, with the Neighborhood Post Consumer Waste Management Technician coming by on a regular basis I only have to deal with garbage and recycling about once every other month sometimes. She’s really very handy.

Also, she always has a kind word about the house and the work I’m doing on it, and I no longer fear she’s going to try and drag off one of my cats while I’m at work. I think aside from myself and my immediate neighbors she has been watching the restoration more closely than just about anyone and today she gave me her official approval on the new paint scheme. I don’t remember her exact words but it was something like, “Yes! Yes! Those are very nice colors. You do very nice work. I could see how good it was from the end of the block and I really don’t see to good anymore.” It was as if the colors had just been blessed by a Priest from the local church.



Monday, June 12, 2006

The Ten Foot Rule

It is always a struggle to balance necessity, want, finances, and time. When restoring my house I’m constantly confronted with questions like: How far do I go? How far can I go? How far should I go? When working on an old house sometimes these questions answer themselves and other times they don’t. My basic philosophy is to never go too far. Never get rid of something just because I’m not able at this time to restore it completely. It is better to live with something that is less than perfect than to get rid of it and replace it with new. That is easy to say but it’s not always easy to live with.

A friend of mine is painting his house as well this summer. Well, actually, he has a guy that has been stripping paint off the gingerbread detail and priming. I think later this summer he will bring in a crew to do the real painting. He has a lot more money than I do. He’s not nearly as obsessed with restoration as I am. And he is no where near as neurotic about these things as I am.

He complained to me one day that the guy he had stripping paint off the gingerbread was taking too much time. He went on to explain to me The Ten Foot Rule. It’s very simple, really. The rule basically states that if something looks fine 10 feet away than it’s good enough. It’s a good rule, I guess, when dealing with old house exteriors. Especially an old Victorian with all the gingerbread and detail. Unless you have the big bucks to have an army of people come in and spend weeks or even months stripping every last piece of trim back to bare wood you really have to compromise at times.

Still, at the time, I scoffed at my fiend’s Ten Foot Rule. Damn it, I thought, it should look the same whether your 10 feet or 10 inches away. I didn’t say this to him at the time, but that’s what I was thinking. Then I started working on the porch. Oy! Specifically, the little zigzag blocks just above the porch brackets. Oy! Suddenly The Ten Foot Rule started to make a little more sense. I would never apply it to interior work but I’m faced with a situation here that would require much more time to do it right than I’m will to give to one project at this time.

I think my best case scenario had me painting the house until October. Realistically, to do the porch right and strip all the paint off the gingerbread would require another 3 to 4 weeks. That would have me painting in November when we normally get enough rain fall to make even Noah flinch. It’s just not doable at this time.

So I’m applying The Ten Foot Rule to the upper areas of the porch. I did scrape off some of the more obvious globules but for the most part I sanded, primed, and slapped on another coat of paint. It’s not something I’m proud of, but really, from 10 feet away it doesn’t look too bad.

Tomorrow I’ll post pictures and you can judge for yourselves.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Plan of Attack

I have 11 days until the Splinter Group meeting at my house. I had mentioned the other day that there were some definite things I wanted to accomplish before the meeting. Most centered around the porch and house painting, and then I mentioned the wine rack idea for the island. Well, the wine rack is out, but I have added some kitchen trim work to the list. Here’s the original list.

1)Build new stairs for the porch.
2)Build new newel posts for the new porch stairs and finish the hand rail
3)Rebuild the soffit and put on new rain gutter for the porch
4)Finish Painting the porch and the second story over the porch
5)Build the new wine rack for the island

One, 2, and 3 are finished. I do still need a rain gutter but I’ll call a pro after I paint, and pray for no rain in the mean time. As for 4, I still have the post brackets and everything above that to paint on the porch, and then the second story section above the porch. The second story section is the just two small walls directly above the porch, and one wall has a window, so it’s not a huge area. Also, I can stand on the flat porch roof so I won’t have to fool with ladders.

The new trim idea for the kitchen is to add a small, maybe 1X2 trim piece just under the kitchen counter where the sink is. It’s only a couple of hours worth of work and I think I can slip it in later in the week when I’m painting the second story above the porch. Because I will be painting a small area there is only so much work I can do in one day. The painting will be done over 2 or 3 days but really I can only work for 2 or 3 hours at a time and then I will have to wait until I can start the next coat.

The meeting is a week from this Wednesday, and I will need Tuesday and Wednesday to get ready, so that leaves me 8 days to work on the projects. Here’s what I have mapped out.

Tomorrow: Finish prepping porch roof area and prime.
Monday: Paint first coat on porch.
Tuesday: Second coat on porch and start sanding second story shingles above porch.
Wednesday: Finish second story prep and prime.
Thursday: I’m well behind schedule at this point so I spend the afternoon on the bathroom floor in a fetal position, gently rock back and forth while I mumble over and over, I’ll never finish on time.
Friday: Regain composure and paint first coat on second story. Scrounge wood for kitchen trim
Saturday: Second coat on second story. Mill wood for kitchen trim and start installation.
Sunday: Paint porch deck and use Sharkgrip on stairs. Finish installing kitchen trim and putty nail holes.
Monday: Sand kitchen trim and shellac.
Tuesday: Start to clean the feculent hell-hole that is my house.
Wednesday: Get ready to party.

The odds makers in Vegas are already crunching the numbers. Can it be done on time?

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Upper Decks

Before we get in to today’s porch destruction and repair project here is a shot of the zigzag blocks I talked about a few days ago. This also shows a close-up of the corner brackets on the porch post.



For some reason the paint is in good shape on the brackets. This is good because that means I don’t have to spend hours on a ladder stripping the paint off them. There are 5. The zigzag blocks didn’t fair so well, though. There are several dozen and I can’t say how much time I will spend on them. My internal clock that dictates how much time I can spend on a project is getting to the end of it’s cycle. It’s odd that I can be patient when dealing with a huge project like the whole house, but on individual projects I start to get antsy if I feel they are taking too long. Remember, this nearly 3 week old porch project started as a 2 day project to replace some rotted posts. It needed to be done, so I guess it doesn’t matter, but man, am I ready to move on.

The reason for the close-up pictures of the zigzag blocks is because I’ve started to work on the roof of the porch. It’s not too bad but the parts that are bad a really bad. The original idea for today was to paint the porch deck. I stopped by Sherwin Williams and bought another gallon of Clarey Sage, a gallon of primer, and some stuff called Shark Grip (more on that later), and another pail liner and the total came to $83.00! I really need to plan better and buy this paint when it’s on sale.

I got home and started thinking that if I paint the porch decking it may hinder my ability to work on the porch all weekend. I’m not going to want to drag ladders around a freshly painted porch deck. So instead I moved on to the rotted soffit and rain gutter. The rain gutter actual fell off last year when I was trying to repair it. It had sagged to the point that there was a water fall directly over the front steps. Very annoying. Does anybody know just how much rain we get here? We don’t get snow we get rain. So I tried to fix the gutter and half way through the damn thing fell most of the way off the porch. It’s never been the same since. I did a butcher of a patch job with flashing and roof cement that never really worked so well.

Today I removed the gutter, fascia, soffit, and the top half of the 2 part crown molding. Here’s what it looks like now.



The piece of crown molding I took off was sagging already and I’m amazed that I never lost it in wind storm. It was just barely hanging on. It’s weird how the wood can be solid as a rock but the nails are just gone. It is about a 10 foot piece of trim and there was maybe 3 nails left holding it in place. I think the paint and caulk did more work than the rusty nails. It kind of makes you wonder what is holding together the rest of the house. It’s best not to think about that sort of thing too much. The important thing is, the wood was solid.

The soffit, on the other hand, was not so solid. Here is a front and back photo of the soffit.





It is just a shell of a piece of wood. These are pictures of the left hand corner above that outside column. The water just goes to that corner, runs down, and rots out everything in it’s path. I guess it’s amazing it was still there at all. The one good thing about it is that it is only 5.5 inches wide. That means that I can use a single piece of modern lumber if I need to. I don’t think I have any 12-foot pieces of clear redwood left in the wood shed. If I went and bought a piece of modern 1X6 lumber it will only be 5.5-inches wide.

That 12 foot long 1X6 soffit is the only big piece of wood that needs to be replaced up there. It could have been much worse. Some of the ends of the T&G bead board ceiling are a little rotted but not enough that I need to replace anything. I will just cut away the rot and shore it up. I do need to replace all the little triangle pieces that the crown molding is nailed to. They sat up against the rotted soffit and so they rotted as well. That’s why the crown molding was hanging by a thread. I did 3 today, and I have 3 more to do tomorrow. You can see the new ones in the picture below.



In away the little triangles acted as a rot barrier between the soffit and the outside ceiling joists. It is in good shape, thankfully. The other odd thing is that bottom piece of crown molding you see in the picture (the red piece). I didn’t remove it but the gap behind it was completely packed with dirt and debris. It was really packed in there. I had to get a screw driver and dig it all out. All the dirt rained down on my new paint job. Grrr! I’m amazed that it didn’t collect moister and rot out the molding. Go figure. The only other problem is all the studs that everything is nailed to. The boards themselves are fine, for the most part, but a lot of the nails have rusted away to nothing. It is such a narrow opening that it is very tough to drive in new nails. I need a helper monkey. Anyone know wher I can get one? You know, like a little spider monkey I could shove up in that gap to hold nails while I swing the hammer. Man, that would be so cool!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Porch & Porch Posts Painted

And I’m pooped.

It’s amazing how time consuming this little porch is. I spent three weeks painting that whole side of the house and I’ve been working on this little porch for 2 and a half weeks now and I still have a week to go probably.

I was able to get one coat on everything I had prepped but the interior part of the lattice. I decided to go ahead and paint the steps now because it was getting late and I don’t get a lot of visitors mid-week in the evenings so I think it’s a good time. I put a ladder with a “Wet Paint” sign in front of the stairs. The only ones who will be inconvenienced is the cats. The front porch is a popular evening spot for them to sit. Every time I get off the couch Mortimer bolts for the door.



Here’s where it’s at. Tomorrow I’ll put a second coat on everything and I’m thinking I may go ahead and do that window now. I was going to do it when I did the front bay but I’m not sure if I can stand to look at it once the rest of the porch is finished.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mother May I

If weather permits I’m going to start painting the porch tomorrow. This morning I woke up to either a heavy fog or a very light mist, depending on how you want to look at it. By 8:00, though, it had cleared up. Well, “cleared up” might be putting it strongly. Let’s just say that there was no noticeable precipitation collecting on things after 8:00. I can’t say that I ever saw the sun today. Tomorrow calls for AM Clouds and PM Sun, so I think Mother Nature is going to cooperate on this one.

I’ve pretty much got everything prepped from the porch ceiling down. The trim around the one window is the one exception. That is probably 1 or 2 days worth of work (I only work on the house in the afternoons) and I’m not willing to put off starting painting until Friday. I’m going to include that window with the bay, which technically it is a part of.

I also still need to prep the 4 brackets and the gingerbread above the columns, but again, I just don’t want to put this off any longer. I shouldn’t let that primer sit exposed for too long before I put a top-coat on it. Today I went ahead and stripped the pilaster at the back of the porch and then got everything ready for paint. That included sweeping off everything, lightly sanding a few of the primed parts that have been primed for a while now, and then putting another coat of primer on everything. Oh, and I also caulked before I put the second coat of primer on. This porch really just takes forever and a day. The only things I didn’t prep were the stairs and porch deck. That will probably need to be a weekend thing.



Above is the picture from yesterday’s post but it’s a good reference for color selection. The siding will be the Basil. All of the columns, newel posts, and railing will be Clary Sage, and the balusters will be the Livable Green. Although I’m not painting it tomorrow, the rest of the porch will follow the same scheme. You can see there are the little brackets with the sun bursts at the tops of the columns. They will be just like the other brackets I painted. The boarders will be Clary Sage. The field behind the sunburst will be Basil. And then the sunburst itself will be the Livable Green.

What you can’t really tell in the picture is what is just above the brackets. There is that flat board that sits right on top of the brackets, and just on top of that is a repeating pattern of zigzag cut blocks. They don’t show up in the picture, but they are pretty cool (I just love this house) . I’m thinking about painting the board on top of the brackets Basil, and then the zigzag blocks Livable Green. Then above the blocks there is a small bead detail that will be Clary Sage, and then the frieze below the red crown molding will go back to Basil. The Soffit and fascia above the crown molding will also be Basil. Dare I say it, It will Pop!

So, Mother Nature may I please have a good day for painting tomorrow? There, I asked nicely.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Knot A Bad Idea

As I mentioned yesterday I bought 2X12 Con-Heart Redwood for the new porch steps. The construction grade wood has the occasional knot in it and I was concerned the knots would continue to seep sap and it would bleed through the paint job. There were a total of 4 knots to deal with. Two were quite small, but the other two were big, greasy knots that could ooze sap for the next 100 years if left alone.

The original idea was to use an extra heavy dose of primer on them but I had my doubts from the start as to whether that would really work. There was also the issue of the knots being visible whether they oozed sap or not. One had some cracks in it and it would always be visible. Then today at work I had an idea. If I can’t cover them up, then why not get rid of them.

To accomplish this I took my drill with a Forstner bit and ground the knots down about a half inch or so. I also ground down a little wood around the knots as well. Then I filled with putty and sanded smooth. It’s my new patented Knot-Be-Gone method. Today I put on a coat of primer and it seems to be working well.



Here is the current look of the porch. If I had to do it all over there are a few minor things I would do differently. I’m happy with it, though. There were sooooo many places I could have screwed this up. Especially on these last rails and balusters for the stairs. The hand rails I just barely made long enough. I think I cut about 2 inches off them when I cut the bevel, which is a little off, by the way. Those could have easily been screwed up and then I would have had to make more. Major pain. I was really sweating the balusters, though. Those are the same profile as the other porch balusters but they are longer for the stairs and I only had 4 of them. If I screwed one up I either would have had to go and get one made, or do a hack job to try and get it to work. There was a big sigh when I drove in the last nail.

I was going to move on to the rain gutter next but I think I might strip the pilaster and then start painting everything I’ve prepped to date. Some of the primer has been on there for almost 2 weeks now. I think I’ll wash everything down, reprime some of the older parts, and then go ahead and paint. First, more paint stripping. Yea! Fortunately, this is good paint stripping weather. Yep, nothing like a few hours of paint stripping to make a man feel like a man.

Woman! Bring me my heat gun.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Porch Pooped

My 2 day porch project will be entering it’s third week tomorrow. I would guess I‘m about 75% complete with the work that needs to be done before I can start painting. I was hoping to get more done today but I just ran out of steam. Attaching the bottom step and riser to the concrete step was a real chore. It didn’t help at all that they did a lousy job pouring this thing. It is not level or centered with the 1895 concrete walkway or the porch, and really, it’s just ugly all the way around.

I used these blue cement screws to attach the wooden step to the concrete step. You drill a 3/16-inch hole with a masonry bit and then you can screw these special blue cement screws in to the hole. I’ve used these before and I always seem to have about and 80% or 90% success rate with them. Sometimes they strip before they go all the way in. Sometimes I can’t seem to drill a hole deep enough, for what ever reason. I think the problem is with the aggregate in the concrete. I think these screws, and the masonry drill bits go through the cement part fine but when they hit an especially hard pebble it causes problems. Today was no exception.

To make matters worse, once I got the wooden step on I realized it was positioned wrong. It didn’t hang out far enough to hang over the bottom riser. If I thought those blue cement screws were hard to get in, that was nothing compared to getting them out. What a pain. After I got the step off I had to pull out the riser above it about an inch or so and then reattach the step. It now hangs over the bottom riser fine. Way more work than it should have been. I don’t really like doing work like this out in front of the neighbors, and I don’t always think things through all the way.

I used 2X12 Con-Heart redwood for the steps and 1X8 cedar for the risers. The “Con” in Con-Heart means construction grade. There is Clear-Heart Redwood and Con-Heart Redwood. Both grades are all heart wood (No sap wood. The bugs eat sap wood whether it’s redwood or not) but the Con-Heart has some knots in it, while the Clear-Heart has no knots. I bought a 12 foot piece because I needed 2, 6-foot steps. Only the bottom step has any knots in it so it’s not too bad. I’m going to have to prime them several times or the sap will bleed out of those knots. To be honest, the sap will probably seep out of the knots no matter how much primer I put on them. Oh well, no much I can do about it. It’s just 2 knots.

This is the first time I’ve ever worked with cedar before. It smells nice, that’s for sure, but boy is it a wimpy wood. I thought I was working with balsa wood. It is very light and very soft. Again, it has knots in it. I’m hoping this won’t be a problem when I paint it. I’m wondering if I should switch to an oil based primer. I’ll talk to the guys and Sherwin Williams and see what they say.



Here’s where I’m at. I was also able to get the lower newel posts I built yesterday attached and that's where I stopped. Tomorrow I want to get the handrail and balusters on and then I can go back to stripping in front of the neighbors. I'm getting tingly all over just thinking about it. I have the one pilaster on the back, left of the porch. After that I can move up to the soffit and rain gutter. I’m still not sure how bad that is.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Post Production

I cranked out two more newel posts for the porch today. These went a lot smoother than the first two. No tools were crushed in the making of these post and that is always a good thing. As with the other ones, they are still not as good as I would like. They look fine, and really, they will fit right in on the porch because the other columns from 1895 are less than perfect after 111 years of being outside. It’s a little annoying though.



Tomorrow I will rebuild the steps. I need to cut three stringers and maybe replace a few of the stair treads and risers. Also, the first step is a concrete step that is not original and it looks it. I want to cover that with wood and then put the posts on it. What all of this means is that {hold your breath} I’m going to have to go and buy wood {Gasp!}. I know, it’s strange. I need 2X12 for the stringers, 2X10 for the treads, and 1X8 for the risers. It could get expensive but I’ve got to do it. I think I can reuse the two treads and one of the risers but everything else is shot.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I Blog, Therefore I Am

Have you ever rushed to finish a project so you could post it on your blog? Or maybe you didn’t rush to finish but you may have worked a little longer that day than you normally would have just so you could get that good photo for the blog. I know I have. The blog doesn’t drive every project, and I’d probably get just as much done with out it, but there are days that I will do a little more painting or drive a few more nails just so I will have that picture or be able to post about an accomplishment. I guess it’s a good thing in a way.

I remember the time last summer when I went to a picnic at a remote cabin and I forgot my camera. I wasn’t bummed so much because I didn’t have pictures for myself. I don’t really need them. It was the blog that suffered. I didn’t think to myself, “Damn, I wish I had brought my camera so I could get pictures of this.” It was more, “Damn, I’m not going to have pictures for the blog when I write about this cool, remote cabin.”

The blog really has become a whole other aspect of my life. It’s a new kind of relationship to have with people. Aside from relationships with friends, lovers, family, and coworkers there is now this new dimension of blogging relationships. I have relationships with friends that are different than relationships I have with family. I relate to those two groups differently. The same could be said for coworkers and friends. They are different groups that, while I’m still me, I relate to them on a slightly different level and I react to them in a slightly different way. Now I have this blog and I regularly read other blogs. In a very real way it has become a different aspect of my life.

Whether a blogger is in California, Illinois, Minnesota, Alabama, Washington, Canada, Ohio, Arkansas, or a number of other places they sort of seem like a group of friends no different than friends here in my own town. We share common interests. We can relate to each others experiences, and there is an almost real-time interaction. Just because it lacks the tangible aspect of being able to sit across the table and see the face, shake the hand, or give the hug there is still a very real emotional aspect to the relationship that is very similar to other relationships I have.

The best part of being apart of the Blogging Community is that the other blogs put….well, if not a face, than a person….hmmm… how to express it. I think that the individual blogs humanize individual regions of the country. Chicago used to be one large teeming mass of humanity that I had never been to, and a place where I didn’t know a soul. I could list statistics about the city like the tallest building, the closest lake, and when it burned down, but now I know people there and it feels like I have an on-going relationship with them. I can tell you what they did over the weekend, what pets they have, and most importantly, I know about their houses. And who ever thought that I would ever in my life know anyone from Eutaw, Alabama. Now, it almost feels like I went there on vacation at one time.

I’ve traveled a lot around the country, but I think I’ve learned more about the people from different parts of the country from reading blogs at houseblogs.net than I did by staying in a motel some place and seeing the local sights. Not that there is anything wrong with visiting new places, it’s a lot of fun, but blogs bring a new dimension to it. It’s a very different and interesting experience. Who would have thought this cold, sterile little gray box sitting on my table would give me a more intimate look at so many different parts of the world. I’m not isolated in this Blog New World, quite the opposite. New technology has expanded my world on a much more personal level than I would have thought. It hasn’t replaced anything, it has only enriched it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kitchen Debutant Ball

The date has been set. On the 21st I will be hosting another of the Splinter Group gatherings at my house. I did this last year when the kitchen was a little past the half way point. Even though it’s still not finished, because I still need to install the island sink, it’s done enough that I can call it done.

I’ve decided I’m not going to attempt to install the sink before the party. If I screw it up I don’t want to have everybody giving me their opinions of how I should have done it, or what to do now that it’s screwed up. I also don’t want to be pressured in to try and fix any mistakes in a hurry.

I have thought of something I do want to add to the island before the party, though. I’m stealing this idea straight off an island I saw in a Ballard Designs catalog. If anybody asks at the party, though, I’ll say it was my idea. I want to make a wine rack out of one of the shelves. It is a really simple design, which is what I like. I’ll take two boards and make and X with them on the bottom shelf. That will give me 4 triangles to hold wine bottles. It should hold 12 to 16 bottles. I’m also going to rent me up some cook books from down at the li-bary and get me one of them little plastic ivy plants to liven thangs up a bit. Won’t that be purtyful.

Artist Rendering


So I have 3 weeks to get ready for 20 or 30 people. Here’s what I want to accomplish before then.

1)Build new stairs for the porch.
2)Build new newel posts for the new porch stairs and finish the hand rail
3)Rebuild the soffit and put on new rain gutter for the porch
4)Finish Painting the porch and the second story over the porch
5)Build the new wine rack for the island

The pressure is on. Can he do it?