Thursday, July 21, 2016

Victorian Farmhouse - Part 13

Continuing on, with our farmhouse restoration adventure, we spent some time redoing the HVAC drywall corners. The one in the living room was completely redone (since we moved the pipe over), and the one in the office was just terrible. Badly cut 2x4s and painted plywood, hardly elegant or durable.

Unfortunately I was in a hurry to get sh*t done, so I have no photos of the actual wood framing, but it was similar to how I did mine (basically a ladder layout all screwed together and very solid). For the living room side, the bottom 3 feet had to have a relief notch cut to accept the space taken up by the tongue and groove paneling.



Oh yeah, I also started installing the mouldings, too. The bottom part is still open, because I didn't patch the floor yet, and I'll need to screw it to the bottom brace of the framing, since I have nowhere else to anchor the floor.

The first few mouldings to go in were the tops of the arches, and the living room side of the arch. I had wanted to wait until the floors were sanded, but there are no baseboards to remove on this side, so the floor refinishers will need to sand up to the wood paneling anyways.

So these were NOT 45 degrees. I knew they wouldn't be 45 degrees. I installed them perfectly without any screw-ups, by using an old woodworking trick. Any time you need to install tricky angles, all you need to do is trace a line, and then mark the angle. To do this, you place your moulding where it needs to go, passing the intersecting point, and draw a pencil line. Do the same with the opposite moulding, then you will end up with 2 "x"s. If you need to, you can draw a line between these, but all you need to do is mark both ends, and cut whatever that angle is. This trick works really well for tight interior triangle corners, but also for any other tricky angles. The best part is that there's no math or angles involved. Just lay the pieces where they need to go, trace, and mark. I believe these were off by half a degree. That doesn't SOUND like much, but it would equal to a good sized gap.

AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, leave a reveal. DO NOT install mouldings flush with the edge of the door jamb. In old houses, the reveal can be almost 1/4", 3 /16", or more rarely 1/8", I would never use anything less than 1/8". The wider the better (and it makes your trim look larger).

Here's a quick graphic I made to explain the moulding trick.

One of the next things I worked on was to fix the bottom edges of the walls in the office and hallway (the only place in the house that uses the large 9 inch baseboards. Originally, they only plastered right up to the edge of the baseboards. The baseboards themselves were only held in place over a few small spacer blocks. These were not very accurate, and in many places the baseboards were now crooked, or partially buried behind the bottom edge of plaster. I really didn't like this, so for the "filler" blocks, I installed a pait of strips. The gap between the top strip and plaster can then be filled in for a nicer, stronger, and more durable job. Here's one section of it.

On this one wall, I was able to just install a piece of half inch drywall, but in the other spots, this wasn't going to work (much deeper gap).

I wanted to install more of the casings, so Pierre and I sanded the edges of the floor where the casings would land.

First layer of compound in the gap.

I started caulking the gaps, but there's LOTS AND LOTS left to do. This shows a before and after of one of the really awful gaps along a door casing in the hallway.

We bought a CASE of Dap. We're puttying and caulking everything. This is one of my favourite parts.



More filler strips.

More caulking. Doesn't that already look so much better?

More mud to fill the gaps.

Back at my home workshop (which is still a mess, but getting better), I had offered to make the missing rosettes. There were only 6 missing, so it wasn't a big deal. I salvaged some nice thick old pine from the old door jamb of my front door. The original rosettes are 1 1/4" thick, with 7/8" thick casings. The new reproduction casings, however, are only 3/4" thick, so I made the rosettes 1/8" thinner to match.

This was the first one, and the other 5 blanks.

Unfortunately this one is blurry, but it shows one of the blanks mounted in the lathe, with 2 reference lines on it, the first rosette off to the side as a visual reference, and a cardboard template (pizza menu). The pattern was simply made from the line drawings I made a while back (image below).

They're #5.

The completed rosettes. There are slight variances since they were all eyeballed, but they're pretty near identical to the originals.

I also made new bullnose mouldings for the missing pieces of the tongue and groove paneling in the living room. Nothing fancy for these, I used an old 2x4 ripped in half, roundover bits, and the notch was cut on the table saw.

They'll look even better painted. I love this pattern, and how they catch the light. They weren't difficult to make, either. Less than 10 minutes a piece. I'm sure I had all 6 done within an hour.

The initial inspection for the electrical went fairly well, but there were a few things to change. With that out of the way, we put up the drywall in the hallway. We had to add a few shims to level the drywall near the staircase opening, but nothing too complicated.

All my pics of this are blurry, but it's just drywall. Nothing too interesting.

I started to reinstall the bullnose caps.

This is one of the pieces that were missing for some odd reason. Looks good though!

Fixing the floor, and getting this messy corner done will be next on my list.

With that, we're now all caught-up. I'm heading back to the farmhouse this Saturday.


  1. I enjoyed the updates! You have a great attention to detail and knack for matching stuff with common materials; I try to do the same with my projects too.

    I really like your work on the rosettes! They look great, and it's one type of trim I've been intimidated by. I don't need to make any for our current house (Foursquare from the teens, with full-width head casing), but hope to someday restore a Victorian, which I expect will require making rosettes. I did recently make a whole batch of cornice moulding for our head casings, all on a table saw and router table, but I've never done any turning work. Your example gives me hope I can manage it when the time comes.

    1. A lathe is a fun tool to have, but it's a tool that isn't used very often. Most rosettes tend to be cut using pre-cut patterned blades (the blade being held in the lathe tailstock, which is then advanced into the spinning work). I use my lathe very infrequently, but because I work on clocks, I often need small turnings, half columns, and other rounded items.

      Matching items (pairs of columns, or sets of legs) can be a challenge, but even on very old pieces, a lot of times they just barely match. I have one antique table (maybe 1860s) with one leg where the turning elements are about 2" off from the other 3. You can see if here:
      and the really crooked leg turnings can be seen here:

      If you're thinking of buying a lathe, all I'll suggest is that you try to get a very heavy (preferably old) one. The heavier the better, because it dampens all the vibrations and wobbling you might get when turning columns or large bowls. Mine is a crappy table top one, and I didn't pay much for it.

      For anything else, you can usually find a plethora of YouTube videos and tutorial online these days. That's how I taught myself to install and grout tile like a pro (having never done it before).

    2. Seth, I had a quick look through some of your Google photos. It looks like you have a really wonderful old house with unpainted Fir trim! Do you have a blog somewhere?

  2. Thanks! We looked at a number of similar houses in our neighborhood, and the unpainted millwork was one of the reasons it stood out. It's a relatively simple Foursquare, but very complete and original. I've been going through pretty much the entire house restoring it, duplicating missing elements, and making some alterations, but all with a careful eye to match the original style. I'm a strong believer in consistent style, and can't stand the ultra-modern remodels in old homes; they just look incongruous and out of place.

    I haven't spent the time to keep up a blog (I started one, but only a single post so far, haha), but I do take copious pictures of my work, at the very least so I can keep track of my work later. I just added a bunch of photos of my cornice moulding project to the G+ album. It's one of the little projects in most proud of. The original builder must have saved a few bucks by skipping it, and now that it's all up, it's so obvious how it should have been there all along. I based it on profiles from a historic millwork catalog, but tweaked it to be able to make it from two layers of 3/4" stock and common router bits. I even made each piece from a single 1x4, ripped down the center, so the color and grain of each piece of moulding would match, so it looks pretty convincing like its milled from a single solid piece.