Category Archives: Woodworking

Win some – Lose some

After living rent free in my head for 8 years or so, I can cross the tile job off my list. It went way easier than it did 25 years ago, when I last lifted a notched trowel. Instead of damp sponging after applying the grout, we sprinkled dry grout over what I had just finished and rubbed it in with a towel. Did that twice for each go round, there were 3, and sat down at the finish line to have a cool refreshing barley beverage. If I’m not careful, I may just work myself out of a job soon.

Continuing on the winning streak… Are you tired of winning yet? The 3 orphan windows, with big sad eyes, found new forever homes, replacing the horrid combination pieces of crap, in the upstairs west bedroom in the wood side of the house. And the beauty thing of it was, I could do the whole removal and install from in the house. When I was 30, I thought nothing of hoisting a 300 pound roll of carpet on my shoulder and trotting up 3 flights of steps. Now, when I’m within spittin’ distance of 60, I tend to think twice about crawling up ladders with a 50 pound window clutched in my arm with the busted shoulder. Time and gravity will do you in, if you’re not careful. So, with age and experience, comes conniving and plain old cheating. Remember kids, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.

Got the 3 windows in, painted the sills and it was all done before the fat lady even came out of her dressing room. Fat Diva’s are really quite useless at home remodeling.

But, there was still a gnat in our brandy, so to speak. My truck was still in the shop and the mechanic was telling me he needed just one more drive around town to make sure it was working. Every time he drove it, something new popped up. My original complaint was with cruise control on, the overdrive engaged, all by itself and disabled the use of cruise control, which just plain sucks when you are driving the long and winding roads where we live. I told him the lack of truck was holding up the whole show. One more drive he said, and then come and get it. I did and on the way home, wait for it, set the cruise control and 90 seconds later, my old friend, Mr Overdrive, took charge and the rest of the trip home was laced with some inventively blue language.

So I can drive the dang thing if I don’t use cruise control which is kinda like living in Cuba, I’d wager.

T Minus 2 Weeks and Holding

Houston, we may have a problem…

A slight hitch in our giddy up with the house this week. While I was rolling last week, I built a new back door to replace the 1910 version that had been beat like a rented mule and had seen better days probably about 3 decades ago. The bottom panels, which had both split, were about a quarter inch in width and tended to let more in than they kept out. I think all the doors in the stone part of the house had been store bought and purchased at the same time. Every one of them are much thinner that you would think for that time period and they all had chatter marks in the wood from a dull wood planer blade. I suppose, like everything else, they were offered a choice between good, better and best for doors and other household things. The homeowners here either were very frugal or didn’t have much for walking around money. It was about 25 or 30 years since the house had been built and it was time for a little remodeling. 100 years later, we show up and think the same thing. I am sure the 1910 owners would be surprised to see not much had changed since their time, about as surprised as we were at least.

And since I go by the old Red Green saying “If the ladies don’t find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy” this house was dang near full time employment for a guy that couldn’t afford a better door, but could dang sure build one. The Mrs and I dropped by one of the big box stores, ok, drove 32 miles ‘cause we live way out in the sticks, and picked out 3 of the straightest 2×6’s, came home and started making sawdust. Made a decision early on to go old school with the bottom panel. The old door had raised panels that were embedded in the door and a bitch to fix when they crack and they always crack. Instead, I milled up some moldings from barn wood to capture a 3/4 inch plywood panel I used. That baby ain’t gonna split and you’ll break your foot trying to kick it in. I got bonus Gaia love points for reusing glass from an old window that we had replaced in the bedroom. Painted her brown like the old one and stuck it in the hole, and if one door is good, 2 doors are gooder, I built a screen door to go with it. The material came from a door of a greenhouse that I had built on the South side of the house 3 or 4 winters ago. It needed just a few tweaks and bingo, now it’s a brown screen door.

So the mudroom exterior doors are finished and next up was tile around the brick wall for the wood stove. The living room floor kinda rolls around a bit, as does the ceiling, so installing the cement board was interesting, but nothing new. They didn’t worry too much about level, square or plumb back when they built the place, and I just followed the curves and hummed really loud. Something must have took umbrage with the lack of plumbness or my humming, ‘cause the next day my back had filed a hostile workplace grievance and we were not on speaking terms for a good couple three days. About the same time, my faithful Dodge truck, which has moved us to and fro for the past 2 decades, came down with a bad case of the rats. As in rats chewing wiring, again, and causing my cruise control and overdrive mysteriously to cost me more money. Into this life, a little rain must fall. My Dad was not a mechanic, so I never learned the mysterious art of making broken vehicles work, but he wasn’t much of a carpenter either, so I musta got that from my Mom.

Back sucks, truck’s broke and the work is waiting. Finally could bend a bit on Saturday and popped in the majority of the tiles. The Mrs helped with the laying part, which is nice so I didn’t have the danger of possibly going blind by going lone-layer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I had been a flooring contractor way back when and had done this kind of thing, oh, about 25 years ago, but it’s like falling off a bike. You never forget how. I had a friend ask me how my knees are doing compared to 25 years ago. I didn’t really think about it, when I have to get on my knees to do something, I get on my knees. They are holding up quite a bit better than my back, which tends towards high maintenance when it’s not feeling the love. A neurosurgeon that had looked at the problem a while back had stated that I appeared to have been stupid most of my life. “No,” I said, “just blue collar.” I think he might have mumbled, “same thing.” I was quite late on paying his bill.

Next up is the mudroom floor, *sad oboe*. It also looks rode hard and put away wet and we were advised to maybe spruce it up a bit. Our new realtor loved everything else, but was hatin on the mudroom floor. I flat out forgot where I put my dynamite, so I’ll resort to putting some floor leveler on it and maybe a garage floor top coat. We’ll see. More lipstick for the pig.

Cutting down the breeze

large-window-bathA window a day keeps all the drafts at bay. Well, being the overachiever that I am, I wentsmall-window-bath for broke today and ripped 2 big holes in the walls of our upstairs bathroom. It is well known that to remove a draft, you must first embrace the draft. And for a while there, it got a bit breezy in our throne room. Good thing our new downstairs bathroom stood ready to serve our throne-like needs without a hint of windchill. The Mrs, while she likes to talk about growing up with an outhouse, now, wants nothing to do with cold and you know what.

This would be my fifth window that I have installed in the last week or so, and have learned the ins and outs of how to remove the rotting old window frames and not take the whole dang wall with it. It is hard to tell how old these frames are. I am pretty sure what I am taking out is from 1900 to 1930. The square nails and joinery is consistent with that time frame. Every one of the frames was rotted on the sill and most of the windows allowed plenty of fresh air, for your health. Who wants to live in a stuffy house.

old-windowThe first frame I took out was our North bedroom window. The interior walls of oopsour upstairs are all horse hair plaster over stone walls. After 140 years, some of the plaster was not stuck to the stone walls as firmly as it used to be. When the window frame came out, a good bit of plaster around it decided to come out, too. After the dust cleared and after getting a good look at the damage, I was pretty sure that wasn’t gonna rub out. Fortunately, I was well practiced at plaster and sheet rock repair from previous projects in this house.

lumberI had gone to one of the big box stores and purchased a dozen 10 foot 2X12’s androtten made the new frames from that. Yes, it was a bit of work, but you need stout frames for a stout house. The new frame fit in the hole in the wall just like a new denture that was installed where your front teeth use to be. Flossing is important. They didn’t have caulk and didn’t bother to paint, at all. As your Dentist reminds you, rot takes work to prevent.


planing frame-finished window-fitted frame-installed

By now, you are probably wondering, just how do you fasten a wood frame to a stone wall. Well I am glad you asked. Back in the ‘80s, I was watching Tommy Silva from This Old House install a new window in a brick building. Tommy said to use spray foam and it will stick the window to the building and be plentyweather-tight strong enough to keep it in place. The old way was to have a wooden key fit into the wall and nail the frame to that. That’s what they did with the frames I was taking out. The old mortar was turning to sand, so the key came out with the frame. Once the new frame was plumbed with shims, I foamed it in and let it sit for an hour. The new windows are all plastic, and with 4 screws and a little more foam you have a nice new window sitting in a nice new painted frame.

So, got the bathroom all buttoned up in time for me to go downstairs and pinch the wife’s behind and ask for another slice of date nut bread. Did you know today is National Date Nut date-nut-breadBread Day? We had no idea that such a day existed, but the Chef of the house has been making coffee bread type things and just happened to have date nut bread on hand. The convergence of National Date Nut Bread Day, having date nut bread on hand, my getting done early on a 2 window job and getting handsy with the Chef, while wrangling some more date nut bread, made me think I should run out and get a lottery ticket. However, the Mrs didn’t slap my hand so I figured I better stick around for a bit.

Once the windows are finished in the stone part of the house, that leaves the real fun part left to do. Making all the moldings for where the windows meet the frames. Window stop or brick mold. The stuff they sell at the lumber yards is too modern looking and/or to puny in scale. I figure my Christmas vacation will be in the workshop making saw dust, followed by my New Years vacation, installing all the new moldings I have made. And by the time I get done with this house, I’m gonna need a real vacation. However, the Mrs is looking at affordable housing in the frozen North and all of them need some sort of rehab. Ho ho ho!

Have a Merry Christmas everyone.