Saturday, July 22, 2017

Upstairs Built-In Is ***DONE***

Yes you read that correctly.


This has been a looooooong ongoing project that got started years ago when I demolished and rebuilt the upstairs closets. I started this in 2011!

The main box/cabinet is here:
Then the door got built and installed in Oct 2012:
Then in Nov 2012, I got the door painted, and the hardware installed:
Then in 2015 I made the shelves... yeah, slow and steady progress here, folks!

Also, before I continue, I'm aware of the "3rd Party Hosting" issues with my old Photobucket account. I don't have an easy solution at the moment (other than forking over money). I don't know if they no longer support 3rd party hosting AT ALL, or if the monthly usage is spent and it will eventually reset. I currently have 868 photos in that "problem album", and to manually save all of these, then transfer them to another photo hosting site, and then re-edit each photo in each post one by one would be a HUUUUUGGGGGE undertaking. It already takes me hours to write, edit, check, and publish regular posts, so that would take me days/weeks/months of work. I'm not sure what to do about it yet. This blog is completely free (and largely for fun) and I have no sponsors or any kind of ads on it, so I'm not really motivated to spend a huge amount of my free time to fix the problem right now, which is really unfortunate for my readers.

Anyhow, the drawers were the last part of the built-in to finish. Two drawer boxes, a pair of metal slides, and some drawer faces. I decided to use all kinds of short pieces of scrap wood for the drawer boxes. Not only is this a perfect place to use them, but the lovely mix of old and new wood will look great with the clear varnish. I used scrap wood on the back tongue-and-groove of my cherry bookcase, and it's one of the nicest details of the entire cabinet (which you don't even get to see when it's filled with books!)

Here's what I dug out of my stock. It is all entirely random bits of wood. Large, small, thick, thin, and a mix of pine, spruce, cedar, and fir. Some was painted, some was stained and varnished, some was water damaged, and many of these boards had nail holes from previous use as something else. You can see one of the pieces is a chunk of a pine door jamb.



All these were squared-up, given a pass in the joiner, and then glued into panels. Once dry, those panels were planed down until everything was smooth on both sides. I didn't really care what the thickness would end up as (because I was using so many odd sizes and thicknesses), but it ended up close to 5/8".

I decided that I wanted to have dovetails on these. I have a router dovetail jig that I never used, so I played around with it and even made a special base plate for my router, but I wasn't able to get good enough results with the setup I have (I need another size collar) so I decided to do HAND CUT dovetails instead. This is only the second or third time that I do hand cut dovetails, but they turned out pretty good! I used a combination of a Japanese hand saw, a scroll saw (to cut out the bulk) and a sharp chisel. You can also see some of the various wood grains in the drawer box sides.


Boxes done. The bottoms are 1/4" thick Fir plywood, which was a leftover, and which will match the interior of the built-in cabinet.


Dovetails puttied and sanded:


The two drawer faces are here (made from clear pine), and the other large panel is SPOILERS! Ignore it! Don't look at it! Shhhhh...



A bit of varnish, and some paint, and VOILA!




A quick side note to mention that the two drawer boxes are not the same size (neither are the faces). They are meant to look pretty much the same, but because of perspective (where you are always looking downwards), the bottom one is made larger to compensate. The bottom drawer box is about 10 1/2", and the top one is about 9". Because I wanted the same number of dovetails, they both had to be measured to different sizes using a divider/compass (using the traditional method). It's not a big deal, and it's a detail no one will ever notice, but I wanted to point it out. Also note the beautiful wood grain on the boxes!


I agonized just a little bit over the hardware. Originally I was thinking of using two small wood knobs (two per drawer), but the drawers are not wide enough, so it would have looked dumb. Then I also had some XL wood knobs (one per drawer), but nixed those too. I had 2 or three other types of knobs and handles, but I ended up picking these cast iron cup pulls. I have 5 of them, and I kind of wanted to keep them together as a set, but since I will have similar Victorian style plates on my house doors (eventually), I thought these would match well with the rest of the overall house hardware. They were just raw grey, so I spray painted them gold, and I installed them with SLOT screws: a very important detail. If you are the kind of person who installs beautiful antique hardware with new modern Phillips screws, you make me want to cry!


So there we go. 6 years, piece by piece, but it's DONE now.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I'm still alive.

Updates are coming! A few smallish projects are in the works, but I'm also very very busy.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

House Exterior Summer 2017

This is a post to just mention some of the exterior work that I will need to tackle soon.

Over the winter or spring, I noticed that my electrical pole had come loose from the top, where it's anchored to the house. The reason: the two top plastic brackets had broken. Easy fix, but it took me about a month to pick up the supplies and actually get it done. I replaced all 4 brackets with new ones, and I did that yesterday.

In the photo below, the blue arrows show the brackets I replaced. The red arrow is another clip that had been torn out. The clip was still attached to the wire, so I only had to change the screw.


I should note that even though this was only about a 20-30min job, this was TERRIFYING for me to do, because it involved being up about 15 feet on a crappy and rickety ladder. I don't deal well with heights.

The entire top of the pole was curved away from the house. I thought I had taken a "before" photo. I looked everywhere for it, and apparently I didn't take one.


There are still a whole bunch of other small issues on the outside of the house that will eventually need attention.

There's still the hole in the fascia from the squirrels (which is blocked-up with metal mesh wire). Then there are the old grooves/tracks/brackets from previous electrical hookups. I'd love to remove all this and patch the siding. I have all the siding that was on the porch that I could use here. Currently these tracks are letting in some water into the porch. I still have the hole in the ceiling tongue and groove inside the porch. All the porch windows are also badly in need of restoration. Lots of the putty is flaking out and they need paint.


I have an oak sapling growing under the porch as well. Probably due to a squirrel, since the large oak tree is about a block away. I've sprayed it with Round-Up (poison) but it will need another application. I also still badly need to redo the porch bottom. I'm getting rid of the lattice and installing panels.


A while back I had a piece of metal fascia flashing that tore off this corner of the house. I also have a few torn-off roof shingles.


Then there are the garage/shop doors. I've hated the olive garage door since BEFORE I owned the house. It's hideous. I had planned to install folding doors, but I may just keep this door. Either way I want to paint this either white or light grey like the porch base. I also need to fix the trim around the 2 doors.


Two problems here. For some unknown reason, my exterior plug isn't working anymore. I have no idea why, but it will need to be fixed. Then there is the window. This is not high on my list, but the wood frame around the cement (that holds in the window) is pretty badly rotted. There is always water splashing on this window (it's always dirty).


On the other window, I noticed that the chip-board (installed by a previous owner) is starting to rot and flake apart. It might be nice to close this off with brick or cement, or even metal flashing rather than wood. I was also told a few years ago that the black PVC pipes for the furnace are no longer up to code. They now need to be the white PVC, since apparently there's a chemical in the off-gassing that causes the black pipes to deteriorate.


Patching & Sanding A Friend's Floor - Part 2 (Done)

Here's the rest of Devin's floor refinishing adventure. And oh the fun we had (sarcasm)!

When we last left off, I had scavenged a bunch of old flooring from the hallway to fix the main floor in the living room. That done, we needed new pieces to replace what we took. I gave Devin a cut list of the wood I needed. Basically 4 boards 5" x 40" OR 2 boards 5" x 80" of birch. He went to basically the only place in town that sells hardwood lumber, and dropped off the boards late in the evening. I think he dropped off the wood on Tue night around 11:40pm.

It was too late to start working on it, so on Wed night, I started cutting the boards. Obviously there was WAAAAY too much wood. We needed 14 feet, and I had about 32. It was also very thick (about 1 1/4" and I needed only 3/4" final thickness). Well, as I started to plane the first board, I had to stop immediately because apparently they gave us silver maple (aka soft maple) instead of birch. I was pissed. I already have a fairly low opinion of this company, and this was just typical for them. This was NOT going to work. Maple vs birch have different grain, different colour, it was a no go. I messaged Devin, and he was also NOT happy about this (because he'd have to come back to get the wood and go back to return it. I had told him he'd have to exchange the wood since it was their screw up. He was worried they might not take it back since the wood was already cut, but the pieces were large enough that they could reuse them (40" is long enough for stair treads, which they make), and I told him it was not his problem to worry about. He was able to easily exchange the wood on Thu.

He has a spare key to my place (in case I get locked out), so he just dropped off the wood while I was at work (otherwise we'd have lost another full day since he works till 11pm). I was able to cut the boards on Thu night, and then install them on Fri so that we'd be able to sand on the weekend.

Custom milled tongue-and-groove floor boards:


Installed. I had made the new boards JUST A HAIR wider than the old ones to make 100% sure that I wouldn't end up with a gap, but instead I ended up having to cut off about 1/2" from the last board.


So then came Saturday. Ughhh. So based on some internet research I had done (brief research, I should mention), and based on one post I had seen, a few people had suggested using the square/rectangular orbital sander to sand the floor. This seemed like a perfect option because the floor was pretty flat, HOWEVER, this was not the case. In my mind an orbital sander should have worked fine. Slower than a belt, but because of how it sands, you have little or no risk of gouging the floor.

We rented the rectangular orbital sander, with various grit papers, and started the rough sanding with 20 grit paper. If you're not familiar with sanding grits, the lower the number, the rougher it is. 150 to 180 is usually about the finish you want to sand down to when making furniture in hardwood or softwood, but for rough sanding, I generally use something like 80 grit or 100 grit (on tools like a belt sander). So with 20 grit, it's rough like an ASPHALT ROOF SHINGLE. With paper this rough, I thought it would sand pretty quickly. I expected the sander to carve deep scratchy swirls through the floor in no time.

Again, not the case. Learn from our mistakes here. We sanded with the 20 grit for about SIX HOURS (three of us - Dev, myself, and Devin's father) and it had barely taken down the varnish!



At this rate, we'd be sanding for DAYS. We gave up around 9pm. This was just NOT going to work. It sucked because we wasted the rental and the paper, and also an entire day. On Sunday we rented a belt sander (a smaller one than the 240Lb beast that they had used at the Victorian Farmhouse, see here: and with the belt (and using 40 grit paper) we took down the wood to bare floor in just minutes. The belt sander is much harder to control, but it was so much faster, and we REALLY needed it to level-out the patched areas (which needed lots more sanding).

This was after maybe 40 minutes of work (Sunday May 28th around noon):


We took turns sanding, first at a 45, then with the grain. I think we did 40 grit, then 60, then 80? Or maybe only 40 and 80? They only had a few grits for this sander.


All the belt sanding done (edges left) and a sample of the stain in the top right corner. Devin and Gen wanted the floor to be close to the original colour it was (shellac) so we found a stain that was VERY close. Varathane Ultimate Wood Stain in the colour Golden Pecan.

Devin Living Room Done 12

Patched area:

Devin Living Room Done 10

The finished sanding with the belt was done with 80 grit (they didn't have a finer grit). I tried my best to smooth out as many bumps as possible, but there were still several of them. I used the hand held belt sander with 80 grit belts to fix most of the small divots and grooves near vents and corners. I used oblique lighting (with a lamp on the floor) for this. The edge sander was rented on Mon or Tue night and I did that alone (Dev was at work, and Gen is pregnant). It did not take very long, and the edge sander is fairly easy to use. They had lots of different grits for the edge sander, but I only used 40, 60, and 80 again.

The ideal would be to then use that first orbital (rectangular) sander and finish-sand the floor to remove any leftover bumps, but we left the floor at this stage (sanded up to 80 grit). Devin did all the staining and varnishing himself during the week (with Gen sleeping over at her in-laws' house away from the toxic fumes).

The floor turned out pretty good. I like the final colour. I haven't seen it in person yet, but I have photos from Devin & Gen.

Devin Living Room Done 04

Devin Living Room Done 07

That one darker board is actually cherry (not birch). It must have gotten mixed-in at the factory.

Devin Living Room Done 08

So yeah. This was a back-breaking and labour intensive job. Days of work. Sore for days afterwards. Yes it's much cheaper than hiring professionals, and you have a lot more control over finishing touches, like where we did patch/putty a bunch of gaps, nail holes, etc, and we sunk-in several nails that we missed while we sanded. A lot of floor refinishers won't bother to do these little extra things (like at the farmhouse).

HOWEVER, on the flip side, the roughly 1200$ to 2000$ that most flooring guys will charge is well worth the time and effort involved if you're not too physically fit, not too DIY savvy, or if you just don't want to deal with the overall stress and pressure of possibly messing-up and gouging the floor, then hiring people might be the better option for you.

For those who are curious, the breakdown was something like this:
- About 150$ for the useless rectangular sander rental + sand papers + pads (which would have been better for final sanding)
- About 150$ to rent the belt sander for the day (including sand paper)
- About 30$ for the edge sander for a few hours + papers (I think I used 4 discs total)
- 45$ in stain (two 20$ quart cans +tax)
- 180$ in varnish (two 80$ gallon cans for 3 coats +tax)
- 15$ for a package of 80 grit belts for the hand held belt sander
- Paint brushes or rollers, painter's tape and other supplies (about 20$ ish)

Total: About 400-600$ depending how many sanding sheets/pads you need, and whether or not you bother to rent the rectangular orbital sander. Prices are in Canadian dollars. The rental places will refund any unused sand paper sheets so just take a bunch and return what you don't use.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Patching a Friend's Floor

So my friend Devin decided recently to rip-up the carpeting in his living room. He knew there was hardwood under the carpet, and it was one of those "we'll eventually fix it" projects, but since he has a baby on the way, he's decided to tackle a bunch of projects NOW.

So he sent me a message a few days ago with a few photos and asked me if I could give him a hand.


Since this used to be two rooms, there was part of a wall that had been poorly patched up. Originally Devin just wanted to fit some boards in there across the grain, but I told him that would look like crap, and that we could probably steal some flooring from one of the closets and just patch it in.

When I got there on Saturday afternoon however, the entire household was in a panic because there was a pipe that had burst in the basement. He and his parents were in the basement most of the day cleaning up and inspecting the damages. Luckily the pipe hadn't leaked for very long.

As this was going on, I made the discovery that our plan was NOT going to work.

If you look at the photo above, the shop vac is in a tiny hallway that leads to the bathroom, with one bedroom on the side, and one small closet in the hallway. To the front lower left of the photo is another bedroom (with a closet that buts up to the one in the hallway). When I checked the closet flooring in the hallway, I found that it was 2 1/4" wide birch boards, which are a half inch too wide (the flooring in the living room is 1 3/4" birch). Same in the two bedrooms and all 3 closets. Because of this, I made the executive decision to pry up a small amount of flooring from in front of the bathroom door (the span of the hallway). I made a quick calculation with Gen (who was taking it easy on the sofa - because she's pregnant) that the patching I'd need to do would only require about 7 floor boards from the hallway (which works out to about a 1 foot section of flooring. We could install new wood here, and it would be much less noticeable than in the middle of the floor in the living room.

With this decided, I spent probably an hour just trying to carefully pry-up that first board or two without breaking too much of anything. A few boards did snap into pieces, but I was able to reglue them at home and use them.

On this side (sorry for the blurry pics, they're all I've got) there was a section of wall as well as a heating grate hole (plus the cold air return near the wall).


I started with this section. All the boards had to be cut to make a random staggered pattern. Once the boards were trimmed (using a multi-tool with a wood cutting blade), I then carefully cut and installed each section one board at a time. This it tedious since you want a nice tight fit. If it's too tight, you risk chipping or cracking the edges of the boards, and if it's too loose, you get unsightly gaps. I spent about 7 hours on this the first day (Sat), and finished this section and the other side on Sunday.

It looks kind of terrible right now, but once it's all sanded and the odd nail holes are filled, it should all virtually disappear.


On this side I had to groove into the sub-floor to bury that electrical wire.


I think I must have done about another 6-7 hours on Sunday, too. I went in around 11:30 and didn't get back home until supper time. Maybe 5pm or 6pm?



Overall it turned out pretty good. I did end up running a bit short on wood, and taking up an 8th row, but the overall section to replace will only be about 15" x 38".

The seams in the floor overall are very tight, but I suggested to Devin that he should putty these gaps (there aren't that many). I'll probably give him a hand to sand next weekend.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Cleaning (and a bit of a rant)

If you're the kind of person who dumps a bunch of trash on somebody's lawn...


Or you're the kind of person who thinks it's totally fine to just take the shopping carts home with you and randomly ditch them somewhere...


I have news for you: you are a GARBAGE human being! Seriously. What's wrong with people? Who does this?

As if I didn't have enough trash and dead branches to pick up in my yard. Anyhow, today I finally did a big post-winter yard cleanup. I picked up all the trash (cups, bits of plastic, water bottles, and various wrappers and papers), picked up 2 full trash cans full of dead branches (which I had been piling next to the house all through winter), and I also raked-up two full leaf bags of dead leaves, more bits of dead branches, dead grass, and bark chips.

By the time I was done, I was too exhausted to mow the lawn, but it will need to be done in the next few days. Half the lawn is barely an inch tall but the other side is already about 4 or 5 inches tall in some spots.

Luckily those 2 carts were picked up and I didn't even see them get scooped-up.




Friday, March 31, 2017

Too Many Chairs

I had a conversation at work today with my boss where I eventually ended up uttering the comment: "I need more chairs like I need a hole in the head".

This prompted me to actually go through the house tonight and COUNT all the chairs.

Apparently I have 38 chairs.

38 chairs is TOO MANY CHAIRS. I mean, seriously, that's insane. Now I should mention that I counted everything that could be considered as a chair. What I mean by this is that I included "chairs that can't currently be used", like antique chair frames that need upholstery, and broken chairs that need repairs or refinishing. I also counted junk pieces like the busted-up chair I keep in the garage just out of convenience (it's covered in paint and the original seat was changed to a piece of painted plywood long ago), and other oddballs like my computer chair, a small bench, as well as chairs like the fancy wing chair in the living room, and the deteriorating "papasan chair" in my front porch (which I want to get rid of).

Refurbished wing chair (free - found at the road, but I redid all the legs and changed the shape of the back):

Lovely antique straw and kapok stuffed chair found at the road:

Out of the "incomplete" ones, I was donated 3 chair frames. One is a completely disassembled Victorian chair in a box (it needs repairs, refinishing, gluing together, and complete upholstery), and a pair of beautiful inlaid French or English tub chairs (just the bare frames, these will be GORGEOUS but need a bunch of work, too). I need to take a photo of those chair frames. I also have a fairly plain bare frame with springs from a roadside find that I picked up probably over a decade ago.

Plain bare chair frame (roadside find) with a solid elm frame (an old photo from back at the apartment):
 photo FreeChairFrame01.jpg

Then there are the full set of chairs for the dining room (8 of them), and the chair and bench that go with my walnut bedroom set. Aside from these, all the rest are random finds. Some were bought from yard sales, one came from an auction, and several others were free or nearly free. Pretty much all of them are antique, or at least 60 years old.

Dining room chair set (mahogany):

Gibbard furniture set which has one chair and a matching bench (shown in the next photo):

Old (vintage?) chair with fancy arms and turned legs (yard sale find):

I do have at least a dozen that I want to get rid of. Obviously the majority of these are piled in the basement right now, so they aren't being used in any way.

So yeah, it's not like I'm hoarding chairs or anything (not purposefully anyway!), but I definitely have WAY TOO MANY.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Finished Shop Hutch

This post is almost a year late by now, mostly because I wasn't happy with how the photos turned out (poor lighting and many with a yellow hue), but I decided not to retake the photos and just post what I have.

The hutch has been an on-and-off project since I started building it some time in 2012. Here are the relevant posts I was able to find about it.

To recap the project just quickly and generally: this is a large cabinet I decided to build entirely out of scrap materials. I spent almost no money on this build. The only expenses were hardware (13 wood knobs at about 20 cents a piece, plus several inexpensive brass hinges), and paint. A lot of it was built from scrap 2x4s, scrap 3/4" thick pine (lots of which was already coated in old paint and full of nail holes), and scrap plywood removed from the house (sub-floor and other bad repairs). The upper doors were made from salvaged basement windows (found frequently in the trash). As mentioned in the last post above, the hutch was finished last summer.

For the longest time, the part of the hutch I was avoiding finishing was building the drawers, and fitting the lower doors. The lower doors were made from the painted plywood doors from the old laundry room cabinets upstairs (demo'd sometime in 2010 or 2011). I decided that fake tongue-and-groove doors would look a lot nicer than flat doors, since I was going for a 1920s look, so I routed grooves into them. The drawer runners and spacers were also finally installed (all junk wood), and I cut the drawer faces to size (also from the old plywood doors). Once these elements were done, all the exterior parts were ready for paint. They look painted already, but it's all old existing white paint.




I decided to prime all the raw plywood, since I knew it would suck up too much paint if I skipped that step. I also puttied most of the holes, and put acrylic caulking along the crown and in any wide gaps or holes.


Note that the interior (top part) had already been painted with "sand" colour oil paint (a few years back). There's also some of the replacement pieces of glass in there for the doors.

It took me a while to pick a shade of green, but I ended up picking something very close to the green in the room upstairs "Olivine". This was custom tinted oil paint. Why green? No specific reason, but some woodworking tools tend to be painted a similar green, and green tends to look nice next to raw wood and white (walls will eventually be just white).




I think I only did one good coat of the green oil paint.



The doors and drawer faces had to be done one side at a time, because it's just too sticky and awkward otherwise.



Doors were painted on both sides. It's always better to start on the backs, and finish with the fronts.


A bunch of the brass butterfly hinges were bought on sale, but I also found some at the Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity).


At this point, I hadn't built the actual drawer boxes yet, so these were just mocked-up for show.


I really like wooden knobs on furniture. They seem to have largely fallen out of style though. Most people prefer metal ones.



Fast-forward a few weeks, and I had built the drawer boxes, and also installed some shelves in the upper left. You might get a vague idea of the size from this photo also. The hutch is just shy of 98" tall (just a hair over 8 feet), and the countertop area is 8 feet wide exactly (I made it so that the top could be made from a sheet of plywood). Countertop is about 3 feet high, and 23" deep.



The shelves hold tools like my router, hand planes, and some sanding items.


The other half holds a lot of my larger hand tools like my saws. I have a few hooks on the right for ear protection and more saws.


I still want to add a shelf on each side of the base.



The drawers are just simple plywood boxes. They currently hold things like chisels, router bits, and a few other odds and ends.


I want to stress that while the cabinet looks great, and I'm super happy with it, it's really nothing fancy. I can do precision master carpentry, but this is just a very rough piece that is 90% nailed together. There are a lot of crappy saw cuts, several crooked lines, and rough parts. Some pieces are thicker than others, some have cracks, dents, and broken bits. There are also two cracked panes of old glass that I left alone (the missing ones were replaced).


The crown was a donation from a guy down the street who saved them for me (a few different lengths). They were going to the garbage. You could easily just make a 45 degree crown or a cove crown cut on the table saw instead. There's also always places like the Re-Store that sell all sorts of crown for a few dollars per piece.


A lot of it is also cheap plywood, so you can see all the rough texture of it. If you had more money for better plywood (or MDF, or solid wood), a hutch like this could be made much nicer.


All that said, I have maybe 50-60$ in this, but obviously LOTS of time. I am really happy with it. Eventually I will also restore that giant Victorian countertop cabinet (with the 15 drawers) and a bunch more of my tools will go in there too.