Nov 262007

It took only a few hours, but it was spread out over nearly two weeks – but the cabinet face frames and drawers are finally “finished”. The drawers got two coats of a thin shellac (marketed as a sanding sealer) and the face frames got one coat of the Java gel stain, two coats of the shellac (this time used as a sanding sealer), and three coats of oil based polyurethane. I sanded or scoured lightly between each coat, and wiped it down with a tack cloth, and the extra care paid off, the finish is very smooth, and there is no dust or grit anywhere. The java stain was tricky as it dried quite quickly, I didn’t remove it quite fast enough on my first attempt – so I had to go back and wipe some off with a rag dampened with mineral spirits. The shellac dried extremely quickly (sandable in only 45 minutes) so I had to work quickly with that. The poly though was a dream to work with. I had plenty of working time, and it went on smooth and quickly leveled itself out – nice product. Thanks to the guys at my local Rockler for the tips, as well as Bob Flexner, author of Understanding Wood Finishing. More pics when the doors and drawer fronts are ready…

Sep 242007

I picked up 34 board feet of cabinet grade alder from Emerson Hardwood and got started on the bathroom cabinetry (the vanity and linen cabinets).

Step 1: Plane the material to a uniform thickness. My neighbor was kind enough to lend me his planer – again. We put brand new blades in it and it did a fine job taking everything down to 3/4″. Rough lumber can be tricky to rip to width for a couple reasons. First, it doesn’t have a straight edge to start with, and most of us don’t have jointers with 8 foot beds. Second, the full width boards still have some pretty powerful internal stresses that like to come out as you’re ripping them into narrower pieces. To address the first issue, I simply ran each board through the tablesaw with its concave side sistered up to an 8 foot long straight piece of cedar I had lying around, with a little stop at the leading edge to help make sure they pushed through together. For the second issue… well… there isn’t a lot you can do except rip things a little wide and hope you can take out any new twists with the planer.

Once ripped to a 1/16″ oversize, I ran all my stock on edge through the thickness planer a couple times. This removed all the saw marks (which I think are inevitable on rough lumber) and made all the like pieces exactly the same width. I then took a moment to make sure my miter saw was setup at an exact 90 degrees, and started the process of cutting the pieces for the face frame to length, starting with the longest ones, and finishing up with the short ones.

I decided to follow the advice I have heard so often and assemble the face frames with pocket screws and no glue. I figure worst case I can add the glue later. Having planed everything myself, made using pocket screws a lot easier than trying to use pre-planed lumber (which isn’t always all the same thickness). The vice grips held the pieces tight, and it went together pretty quickly. The end result was square and nearly perfectly flush on all joints. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for quite enough waste, and will have to rip 6 more feet of 2″ stock for the face frame of the linen cabinet. The vanity face frame however, is done!

Sep 152007

Scientific America featured an article a few years back titled “The Burden of Choice”. It discussed the pros and cons (mostly cons) of the many choices we have available to us on everything from socks to what to order at dinner to houses and how those choices affect different personality types, specifically the satisfizers and the maximizers (I fall squarely into the latter category if there was any doubt). After reading said article, I have made numerous changes in my life to reduce the amount of stress I experience due to the numerous decisions I have to make. I now try and reserve my obsessive compulsion to research the bloody-hell out of every purchase to things that I truly care about: power tools (not dish brushes), cameras (not printer paper), and yes, toilets! Let’s face it, after 3 years of plunging that hateful late 90’s 1.6 GPF POFS (if you don’t know, you probably don’t want to) I was determined to get a toilet that did its job without needing me to hold its nasty little hand through the tough parts. Amazingly, good quality toilets range in price from about $200 to an obscene $1200 – and I’m sure you _could_ spend more if you really wanted to. The interesting bit: I haven’t found anything functional that warrants the higher price tags on the spendier models – it appears to be designer line markup. Following the sage advice of my local George Morlan we picked up a simple bare-bones regular height (for the many children queued up to use it) elongated bowl (for the one male child queued up to use it) Toto toilet. It took me much longer than planned to install due to my rather … sub-optimal … existing closet ring, but I got it done (and done right). It’s survived its first day, here’s to wishing my $5 plunger (a non-critical purchase) a pleasant behind-the-utility-sink-dust-covered retirement.

Sep 132007

We got the doors back from SprayKote Shop Finishing and installed them. The laundry room is now 100% d-o-n-e. Finally. We’re very happy with how it all turned out, but more than anything it’s just nice to be able to do laundry indoors, away from the dust of the garage/woodshop. It’s also nice to have finally checked something off the todo list, so many of our projects have been lingering.

Sep 032007

I finished my first architectural column this “holiday weekend” – hey there must be a reason they call it “labor” day. We are really happy with the look of the finished column, and I think it should last for a few decades with all the biscuited construction. However!!! It took me 4 days (a few hours each) to finish this one column, and I have 8 more to do in the back, 2 of them only being 3 feet tall, 1 being 16 feet or so. So, I desperately need to speed things up. I’m considering eliminating the biscuits in favor of stainless steel finish screws and Gorilla Glue, rather than biscuits and Tightbond III. The screws will keep the joint clamped tight while the glue dries – less clamping is a time saver, the Gorilla glue will completely cure in 4 hours – rather than overnight, not having to install the biscuits will also save some time. The Gorilla glue will also expand, filling any irregularities in the joint that I had to fill with putty in the biscuited version. The drawback – I _HATE_ working with Gorilla glue…. everything comes at a price right?

Aug 262007

So after months of deliberation, I finally decided on an architectural and construction design for the column wrap for the post on the front porch. The wrap is made up of 4 identical pieces of 5/4 finger jointed clear cedar. Each has a chamfer with a radius stop, and slots for biscuits on one edge and one side. I assembled three of them into a U shape in the garage with some help from Vernon and Mary Lou helped me install the last of the fourth after I installed the partial box around the post. The last board had to have both sides done at once, a total of 14 biscuits. If you haven’t worked with biscuits before, they expand on contact with wood glue, leaving you only seconds to get the joint clamped up, or they’ll never go together (or come apart for that matter). Fortunately we had prepared for the glue-up quite well, and all went fairly smoothly (big Thank You! to Mary Lou – no way I could have done that on my own!). I still have to install the 3/4″ think mitered base up to the 11″ mark and then add the base cap and crown to finish it off. That might be a few days, and I thought you all might enjoy seeing something other than that 4×4 PT post sticking out of our front deck.

Aug 212007

After several months spent framing decks, decking decks, and finishing off the laundry room – the ceiling over the back deck remained unfinished. I wasn’t at all excited about installing the tongue and groove cedar planks anyway, since it would require scaffolding, and a lot of up-and-down the ladder work. So I caved and invited my contractor back to finish it off. They picked up the lumber, setup, installed, and were out of here in 1 day. It would have taken me a LOT longer. We used pre-finished boards from the supplier, so all I have to do is touch up the raw edges of a few specially cut boards (trim around the skylights, etc.) The ceiling really helps finish off the space. I should be installing the lights in the next couple days.

Aug 122007

The doors to the laundry room turned out to be quite a project. The opening is only 57″ (rather than a standard 60″), so I had the choice of getting custom made doors, or saving a few (hundred) bucks and modifying a stock size door. I chose the latter. I had to rip the doors down to width, and add an inch to their height.

The narrow laundry room posed another problem though: standard bi-fold door hardware doesn’t open wide enough to allow access to the machines’ controls and detergent trays (that and it’s tinny, cheap, and generally unpleasant to use!). Instead we chose Johnson full access bi-fold door hardware, and used standard 3.5″ oil rubbed bronze door hinges (rather than the cheapies that came with the kit). The doors now have hinges that match the rest of the house. Since there is no rickety track and pivot hardware, the doors can rise floor to header, without the need to add extra trim to hide the hardware! Since the doors open 180 degrees, they lay flat against the wall (giving some needed space back to the hallway).

Aug 012007

After much dilly-dallying, the washer and dryer are finally installed in the new laundry room. It’s truly amazing how many little steps are involved in completing such a space. It occurred to me, however, that the hallway in general was a very complex little space: at only 165 square feet it has 10 corners and 9 doorways! The laundry room has vinyl cove-base which I coped on the inside corners. The shelving is just stock Closet-Maid fare – one of my favorite organizational products – the track and standards system is easy to install, with minimal hole drilling – two thumbs up. Because the room is so shallow, I did have to vent the dryer through the floor (directly under the machine); this complicated installation, but wasn’t too bad considering. The bifold doors are next, we’ll be using full access hardware from Johnson so the hinges will match the rest of the doors in the hallway and we’ll actually be able reach the knobs and trays on the laundry machines :-)

Jul 152007

Over the last two weeks I’ve only had an hour or two a day to work on the house, so progress has been slow. Still, a little bit at a time and things do finally come together. The front porch decking is finally complete. If you look closely, you can see the bungs that I used to fill the screw holes on the last two boards. I also made some progress on the laundry room: the electrical connections are done, the wall plates are on, and the shelving is installed. The doors should arrive this week, and once they’re in, I’ll finally be able to trim it out, install the machines, and run the dryer vent… man, still seems like a long list!