The Funny Smell Of Wood Stain

Finishing wood is not what I’m best at.  I do a passable job, probably better than most.  I prefer using an oil based stain and then a few coats of polyurethane on top of that.  Everything else I’ve tried has either resulted in disaster, a poor finish, or a disastrously poor finish.


The wood I’m using isn’t very high grade.  It’s fir construction lumber. You can say I’ve lowered my standards but it actually fits in well with the house (which came with low standards built in).  I planed it, routed it, jointed it and sanded it.  I sanded for hours today.  Burned through about $20 worth of sanding discs.

other post

For the most part, the wood looks nice and smooth and has some minor resemblance to something a professional would do.  In some places (such as the above pic) I left a few rough patches in deliberately, to give it a distressed look here and there.

work to do

There’s still quite a bit of work to do, including more trim and finish work.  This pic shows a particularly challenging area.  Like all the exposed 4×8 beams in this house, this one has a nasty warp to it.  The trick will be to put some wood trim around it and make it look nice and straight even though it connects to something as twisted as a bent corkscrew.  I’ve got some ideas, though.  It should look good in the end.

postI like the way I was able to make a cap around the top of this post and join it into the false bottom that runs the inside length of the beam.  The false bottom is there to make room for the light fixture, and run the electrical to it.  I ran the electrical through a steel conduit so it should be fairly safe.  I considered digging a channel through that beam for the electrical wire but it was too warped to do that safely and it wouldn’t even look good if I managed to do it without screwing it up.  Which probably wouldn’t have happened.  Putting a little slab of wood on the bottom was the way to go.


So now the entire house has that volatile oil smell that probably won’t go away for about a week while the stain cures and sets, not to mention the polyurethane I plan on putting down just as soon as I think it’s dry enough.  Two coats on the majority of it, and a few more coats across the top where it will need the protection.


There’s the top shelf.  May it live forever because I don’t feel like replacing it anytime soon.  Slowly but surely, this is changing into the house we envisioned, as opposed to the house we purchased.  Things are transforming. At first we had to spend a lot of money on things we needed but didn’t see (like a new boiler, for example) but now we’re working on the things we see every day.  When I wake up and wobble out of the bedroom every morning, this area is the first thing I see, and now it’s going to look a lot nicer.  And soon, the whole house will be updated.

Or maybe it’s just the stain fumes getting into my head.


How To Attach Your Bookshelf To The Wall And Not Look Like A Redneck

So, almost two years ago I made the Jeff Foxworthy inspired joke “You might be a redneck if you mount your bookshelf on the wall with 2×4’s.”


Yeah.  You see, we have these little hot water radiators that heat the house.  They work ok.  I guess.  But you can’t really put furniture in front of them or you lose all that heat.  Plus, the furniture doesn’t go right up against the wall.  Ergo, I mounted my bookshelf up on 2×4’s and installed it into the wall.  The resultant space beneath the bookshelf was a favorite cat hangout, due to the nice warmth it gave and the opportunistic view of the birds out the back door.

Well, I always knew that when I got around to destroying the paneling and replacing it with drywall, I’d make something a tad nicer than a 2×4 block to support the front load of this 600 pound bookshelf.  But first, a bit of history about the stupid bookshelf.


This was one of the first pieces of furniture I ever made.  I had some spare boards from my old house in Denver, good aged fir 1x12s with really nice patina and very good strength.  These were from old growth trees, and the wood is nice and dried now.  It’s a shame they were butchered by my amateur techniques but there you have it.

The poor thing has been through the war and crossed several state lines to be where it is now.  It’s never had a proper backing, so I bought some 1/4″ plywood that I’ll stain and affix to the back. Other than that, I’ll give it a few coats of polyurethane that it always deserved and patch it up nice.  And when I put it back on the wall, it’s not going to be on crappy paneling but real sheetrock, just like modern homes.  And it won’t be on 2×4’s!!


I made this little base to support it, and it rests on a ledge that’s screwn directly into the wall studs.  I’ll stain this to resemble (not match, I never have any luck trying to color match) the bookshelf and I think it will go together nicely.  In another week or two, this monster bookshelf will be built into the wall and suspended over the heaters and our cat will have a nice warm place to watch birds from.


In other news, we’re making progress on the wall demo.  I’ve almost finished all the electrical work.  It was finished last week but we decided we wanted lights dangling in that little open space so now I have more electrical work to do.  I had to run the wire through a 4″ post, a 4″ post with 2×4’s joined to each side (that was fun to drill through) and now I get to decide which of the three circuits I want to draw power from.  That wall has wires from (1) the bathroom circuit, (2) the laundry room circuit, and (3) an unknown circuit that has some kitchen outlets on it now.  I’ll sleep on it but I’m probably going with (3).


One of the funner bits of woodworking I got to do was make a cap for the half wall.  I used one of the remaining 2×6’s I had left over from the garage construction, and planed it down to about 1 1/8″ so it doesn’t look like a 2×6.  I had to cut holes for the posts and install them around like that.  I was going to do some fancy pants joinery like triangular feather joints at the corners, but I really need to finish this project by 2016.  And I have a full time job that eats up more of my time than I spend sleeping.  So I’m probably just going to use tenpenny nails.


A little glue, some cabinet mounting screws, some time with the Festool sander, and it’ll look great.  Okay, it’ll look adequate.  And I’m proud of myself:  it’s one of the few things in this house that is actually level.  It’s kind of weird.  Makes the rest of the house look lopsided.

no help

Of course, some of those who live here would be perfectly happy if everything was made out of cardboard.

Down With Crappy Wood Paneling!

Now, we’ve always wanted to remove the wall between the kitchen and living area.  We’re really sick of having to run around the corner every time someone scores a hockey goal.  With the wall out of the way, we can raid the fridge and watch hockey at the same time!  And, it really opens the house up, making the tiny kitchen bigger.

And we hated the paneling.  HATED!

It wan’t even real paneling, just the cheap imitation pressed cardboard stuff.  Removing it took about 15 minutes.  Didn’t even put up a fight.  Just popped right out like it knew its time was up.  Naturally, it’s what you find behind the wall that sets the tone, and budget, of the project.


I’m not terribly sure what to make of the slanted wall area.  It’s a shadow of its former self, and I think it used to be a tepee of stone and mortar.  I think that’s about where the old wood stove used to be.  Or an open fire pit.  Or something.  No idea what they were thinking.


Now the first thing we had to do is empty out some valuable cabinet space.  There was about 24 cubic feet of storage area in those cabinets.  There is not a lot of storage here so we had to get creative.  And throw a lot of crap out, too.  But once those shelves were empty, I could proceed to demo the cabinets and get working on that wall.


The cabinets were all one piece, so it required a little surgery to separate them.


And a little brute force.


There’s about half the cabinets and most of the paneling.  Out by the trash where it belonged.


After one weekend, we’re not even close to being finished.  In addition to demo and framing and re-framing, there was a lot of electrical work that needed to get done.  There was an outlet hidden behind the cabinetry, a perfectly good outlet that no one could get to.  We used to plug in the coffee by using an extension cord that reached behind the stove.  Shameful.

Much Better

So now all the framing is complete and I have one sheet of drywall in on one side of the half wall.  There’s some more drywall to put up and quite a bit of finish trim to do, but it’s coming along.