Let’s catch up

Hi.  Been a while, and I’ve been busy.  The house itself is (mostly)* done (sort of) and so my attention has been turning to outside.  Lots of gardening and landscaping, and a fun project or two thrown in for good measure.  Let’s take a look.

Sword making and restoration is not easy, but it’s fun.  I made all new fittings for an old katana.  Used curly maple for the handle and saya.

Came out great.  The restored sword is light, quick, and very sharp.  Good grip.   Good balance.  Very much ready for the zombie apocalypse.

We have frogs in our garden.

And birds.

And cats.

And bees.

And plants.

And more plants.

The pergola has kind of turned into a little shrine for relaxation and watching the world go by.  I should spend more time there, I know.  I put a wisteria in that planter bed behind the chairs, it should grow into the pergola nicely.

Made an outdoor table.

It’s such a nice place to sit and stare at the water.

Front planting beds are doing great.

Up the hill is where the shed is, and it’s like the Final Frontier.  The last untouched remnant of the old house is up there, because except for the green paint that shed is just about how we found it.  I made those stairs going up the rocks, and soon I’ll be putting a new deck up there and making the shed look nice.

The shop is looking great.  Cabinets are all finished.  I did the math:  it’s 102 cubic feet of cabinet space that I added to the shop.

I added a TV to the shop.  It’s great during hockey season.  It also swings around so you can watch it while on the elliptical.

And I found some cool cabinet knobs.

Inky likes the beach.  It has the biggest scratching posts.


Shop Renovation – Tables and More Cabinets

My shop needed some organization.  I didn’t realize until now how hastily put together everything was.  I didn’t have any time to spend on the shop because I needed to get the house put together.  Now that the house is habitable and, dare I say, finished, it’s time to make some storage and organization out there.  I have so many homeless, orphan tools in boxes and I don’t even know where they are.  Several times I’ve bought a duplicate tool because I forgot I had it.  Well, now, maybe some places to put things so that they’re accessible, it’ll help.

As part of all this, I’m raising the heights of my side tables a bit, and to do that I’ll build some drawers to go on top of them.  I’ll get more storage space, and I’ll be able to use all the tables to support large pieces of wood when I’m cutting them.

It’s easy to install the drawer hardware if you do it before everything’s assembled.

Not sure if lasers make anything any easier, but it is more fun.

The drawers are pretty solid, and I made some partitions in front to help sort things out.  It’s a pain to do, but worth it in the end.

Now I’ve got a little Festool work station going on.  And when I put a piece of wood on that saw, it’s the same height as the tables over to the right, so I can cut large pieces and they’re fully supported.

A little paint along this wall made a big difference.

Every once in a while, I open an old cardboard box and find some torn up cardboard and a small pile of cat food.  A mouse was nesting in this box.  I think he was gathering cat food to have enough to survive a zombie apocalypse.

More cabinets went up over the router table.

Even more cabinets.  And no, I’m not done.  I still have about 22 square feet of wall space I can cover with more cabinets.

Yeah, I know, I get more excited about shop cabinets than most people do, or should.

The Log Conundrum

Is the house finished if we still have these big freaking logs set in the walls as corner posts?  I don’t really feel like it’s my house while these logs are still here, providing living space to more insects than you’d find on the set of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  But like most islanders, we have to share our space with nature, at least a little bit.

There’s one in the corner in the picture above.  You may not see it, for your eyes are probably drawn to that ridiculous old lamp and whatever gang graffiti was scrawled on its side.  But once you see it, you can’t unsee it.  There are huge logs in the corners of my house.

They roll down stairs, alone or in pairs.  They’re big, they’re heavy, they’re wood.  They’re logs!  (don’t get the reference?  click here…)  And they came with my house.  For better or for worse, I decided to keep them.  Probably more of a pain to rip them out than it would be to just let them stay.  Some people have even said that they like the logs.  I think they’re all just saying that to be nice, though.

Okay, that’s it, that’s really every ‘before’ picture I have of the bedroom.  We had taken the paneling out in the above pic to put in a new electrical box, many years ago.  We did put the paneling back up when we were done.  I don’t know why.  Could have just left it like that.

Now, all the paneling is gone.  New 4×4 beams are in place, partly aesthetic and partly structural – they really help tie this room to the rest of the house which has exposed beams everywhere, and they also help hold up the floor in the loft above.  The logs don’t do a damn thing, except provide housing to wasps nesting for the winter.

To finish this room up, the bed had to come out and get set up in the living room for a few days.  I used our dresser as a work table in the middle of the room.  It’s a pretty solid dresser, made a great work space.

There’s an electric baseboard heater that’s more than a little ugly but puts out good heat, probably because it doesn’t have to be energy star compliant or some crap.  It’s the kind of heater you can cook hot dogs on if you needed to.  I painted it copper, made it a little more passable to look at.

Now we’re all done, logs and all.  New lighting, new paint, new trim, new windowsills, new caulk, new paint, new everything.  Only those logs remain, and at least I slathered them with spar urethane.

I encased the ends of the beams with brackets to conceal the joist hangers.  I think my creativity was kind of running out at this point, but they look okay.  Anyway, best solution I could come up with.

I really like the closet doors on their big barn door hardware.  The space is a little tight and they could still use some adjusting but they look good to me.

The iron weighs more than the doors do.

New copper switchplates, custom made copper finger pulls for the doors.

Drawer No. 2 is obstructed by that big dresser, but you can still access the space through a trap door inside the closet.  I’m hoping that dresser can move to another bedroom someday, if we add on to the house or something.

So, what are you thinking?  “Hey, Joe?  You know those big logs that washed up on the beach?  I think we can use them for corner posts on the next house we build.  Wouldn’t that be great?”  Seriously, how many beers do you need to get to that point?

I guess I’ll call the house finished, logs and all.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel May Not be a Train

I’m almost done.  I’m so close that I’m giddy with excitement.

Demolition has been completed.  The old paneling is fully abated.

Insulation has been exposed.  Scratchy, itchy insulation.  At this time, it’s 77% fiberglass and 23% cobwebs.

Beetles were discovered.  Colorful, iridescent beetles, and they labyrinth of tunnels they ate through our framing.  The beetles were killed, and their tunnels filled with caulk – not because it does any good, but because I felt like it.

Closet doors were assembled, and they definitely don’t look store-bought.

They fit perfectly.  Which is really unusual for me.

Wood has been purchased, enough to finish all the trim in the house.  There’s so much wood in my shop now I barely have space for it all.

Each board has been cut, marked and labeled.  Some boards have been labeled more than once, as I mis-cut pieces and had to make corrections changed my mind about what I wanted to do with them.

The windowsills are assembled.  I have a particular style of windowsill that I like, which seems to require a few hours of assembly for each one I do.  I swear, I am the undisputed master of doing things the hard way.

And as usual, cats were no help.

It’s almost a closet again

It’s been a trying few weeks.  All our clothes and shoes have been scattered to the four corners of the house while I’ve been working on the closet.  Our hanging clothes hung from one of the beams in the living room, blocking the television from my favorite chair.  Shoes and boots have been on a towel next to the tv.  Other shoes and boots are in a box out in the garage.  Sweats and sweaters are on a high shelf in the laundry room.  My jeans are on the bookshelf behind me.

It’s the War Zone.  We’re used to it by now, and we know the drill.  It doesn’t last forever, and when things go back where they belong, it’s refreshing to see the house all nice and clean.  It’s like the day you put all the christmas decorations away. They’re nice to have out for a while, but eventually, you want your house back.

The drawer fronts came out great.  Cannot complain.  I just did simple tongue and groove with panels, which got glued and screwed to the drawer box.  They should last the life of the house, or longer.

It’s really nice to be working with oak again.  Hardwoods are hard to come by out here, and expensive.  These are the frames that go on the built in boxes already in the closet.

I rarely do mitered joints (because I’m not very good at them) but the corners on this one came out pretty good.  I cheated.  Before I cut the strips, I cut one end of the board to 45 degrees, so that I had at least one perfectly clean miter without any tear-out or burn marks.

Everything installed pretty smoothly.  A lot of math went into all that, and I guess I did it right this time because I didn’t have a whole lot of problems.

For closet doors, we got these hugely big rails for barn doors.  This thing is very heavy and I had to put in a new header to support it.  The header is bolted in place with these gigantic lag bolts and then reinforced with some additional framing.  I think these are going to be the strongest doors in the house.

The hardware instructions were ridiculous enough, but I ended up modifying the install anyway so they were completely worthless to me.  I ended up drilling holes in the brackets to accommodate another lag bolt to make sure it was secure enough.  This steel was tougher than the cheap packaging would have you think it is.  A hint:  when drilling through thick metal use a little machine oil on your drill bit.  It makes a big difference.

Nice!  I don’t even need doors, I’ll be happy just looking at my open closet.

The drawers work great, very smooth operation.

Using a polished copper hanging rod really helps the clothes slide a little bit.  The old rod was badly worn.  Kind of looked like driftwood found on the beach.

Here’s the rails for the bypass barn doors. The house isn’t level but these needed to be, so they do look a little crooked if you stare at them long enough.  But the last thing I needed were sliding closet doors that rolled out of place when you weren’t looking.

I do love the built-in drawers.  Such a huge difference over the last ones.

Next up, I’ll make the Bam Doors … er, the Barn Doors for the closet.

The Domino Effect

Got a bunch of snow this week, way more than usual.  Kind of a good thing, as it keeps my mind off of wanting to do landscaping and lets me focus on the project at hand.  Let’s get this closet wrapped up.

I wanted to get the built-ins fully assembled this weekend but needed to get a bunch of things done first.  That’s how these things go sometimes.  I couldn’t get the final measurement on the front of the built ins until I finished the drywall, so I’d know exactly how wide it would be.  So I figured I’d just do the two walls adjacent to the closet.

But that’s where the Thermo Stadt is, and I needed to relocate it so the new closet doors wouldn’t hit it.  And it’s kind of a special one, it’s not just a little wire that can be moved easily.  It’s 220 volt electrical wire.  So I had to move the electrical box, move a couple of studs, re-frame the corner.  No big deal, just added two hours to the project that I wasn’t planning on.

Oh, and did I mention the light switch at that corner extends out from the wall by about 3/4 inch?  It’s always been that way, but now that I’m opening this wall up I may as well fix it.  This will be my only opportunity.

And may as well keep putting up drywall.  I had to dig those sheets out from underneath about 200 board feet of scrap.  Now that I got them out may as well cover what I can.

So, yeah, I didn’t get a whole lot done on the built-ins.  I got most of the frame cut out and dry fit into place.  Still need to sand, join, glue, clamp, stain, poly, poly 2, poly 3, etc.

Everything fits nice and snug, though.  This should be a strong built-in.

And if I decide I don’t want that Thermo Stadt anymore, I’ll have these industrial looking hooks I can hang a bathrobe from.


Last Look at the Old Closet

Closets get beat up over time, and because they’re usually full of things no one ever really sees the damage, and so they tend to get neglected and fall into disrepair.  Our bedroom closet probably hasn’t been touched in 40 years, and it showed.

Here’s the last look at the old closet, just minutes before being smashed to pieces.

The closet rod was so old that we’d get wood dust on our clothes, scraped off by the hangers whenever they got moved.  I don’t know where they found that old bracket in the middle, but the faded price tag on it said $1.49.  That might have been a lot of money at the time.

They went really overkill on the nails, using those huge hot galvanized bastards that just weld themselves to the stud they’re nailed into.  Steel was so hard you couldn’t even lop the heads off easily.  Lots of swearing during this phase.

The wood is actually good old douglas fir.  Well, knotty, warped, splintery, submerged in shellac, and someone rubbed wood putty into the holes with their thumb.  Other than that, it’s good wood, and I was able to salvage about 20 board feet of it for a future project.  I’m thinking of using it to make a big outdoor fire, but we’ll see.

While pulling those planks up, I found the Tomb of Lost Shoes!

This just annoys me – random, crooked coat hooks installed with bad screws into bad drywall.  I like having lots of robe hooks, but neatly arranged and correctly installed.  I’m funny that way, I guess.

After a few coats of Killz and latex paint, it’s looking and smelling much cleaner.  This house has taught me to love the smell of fresh paint.

There we go.  Nice wooden bracket, Lots of hooks in the back for belts and what not, an attractive copper rod  to hang clothes from, and a nice flat melamine shelf to rest clothes on.

I like using copper pipe for closet rods.  I reinforce them with a wooden dowel along the inside so they’re a little stronger and won’t bend so easy.

And the new drawers are fantastic.  I still need to make the top and the face frame and drawer fronts.  I’m doing everything out of red oak, though I need to use plywood for the lid.  Yeah, I know that drawer #2 can’t open because a dresser is in the way, but I have a plan for that.

It really did snow this time.


I need to remember to take some pics of the existing drawers when I smash them to pieces while cackling like a maniac do the demolition work.  I just want the world to see how special they are.  Well, the internet.  Okay, the ten or twenty people who visit this blog.  The existing drawers are just hideous.  Maybe that’s why I’m putting so much time and care into the drawers that will replace them.

The new drawers are coming along wonderfully.  I’ve only screwed up like four or five things so far, all easily fixed, so I’m going pretty good by my standards.  I didn’t have much time this weekend, though, as I was up on the hill behind my house clearing brush with a machete.

This is no-man’s-land.  We get these vine-like bushes that sprawl like weeds, and overtake everything on the hillside.  They’ve already devoured a spruce tree near the driveway.  I needed to clear a bunch of them that were threatening the shed behind the house, and ideally on a warm, dry day before spring.  Once spring comes along, they’re heavy with new growth, full of bees, swarming with wasps, and covered with new, sharp thorns.  Got my opportunity on Saturday, a nice dry day here, so I was up hacking way at them.

It’s rocky, it’s overgrown, there is no good footing, and thorny plants and vines are everywhere.  But it’s remarkable how peaceful it all is.  One of these days I need to forge some kind of a trail or a path up there.  Maybe make a hidden Buddha shrine or two.

So after a few hours of grueling labor it was back to the shop.  I decided to cover the end grain of the plywood with oak strips.  I wasn’t going to do it initially, it’s kind of a pain and takes a bit of time and care to do correctly, and all the other drawers in this house have exposed plywood end grain.  But I wanted these to look nice.

Nicer, anyway.

The drawer glides are these big beefy 24″ steel contraptions that are several orders of magnitude stronger than the drawers themselves.  They’re a little finicky to install but when it’s all done the drawers open and shut beautifully.

Looking pretty is nice, but at the end of the day, they just need to open and shut.

Drawer fronts and framing will all be out of red oak.  I need to install this base first, though, before I can make the exact measurements of where everything is supposed to be.  It’ll be fun getting this into the closet.

All that hard work this weekend.  I need to go down to the beach again soon!

The Last Undone Room In The House

One room left in the house that I need to finish:  the bedroom.  It’s a tough one because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly.  I want to minimize the length of time that the bed is out in the living room in front of the TV.  Though that could be kind of fun.  Anyway, I’ll tackle the bedroom in phases, and the first is the closet.

Look at that lovely sea of birch paneling and fir trim.  Waking up to all that orange is like waking up in a can of orange soda, only it smells like old shellac.

These drawers never opened or shut right.  I replaced the pulls with some nice bronze antique-y pulls I’ve had for a while, and they’re still hideous.

I like the idea of built in drawers, though, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do with the existing drawers to make them better.  Plus, we’re going to do barn doors for the closet doors, which will extend them out a bit and make our closet bigger.  So I’m rebuilding the drawers from scratch.  May as well; I’ve rebuilt the whole damn house from scratch so why do something different now?

There’s the frame.  These drawers are going to be HUGE!

Two full sheets of plywood are going into this, and I think I need one more sheet to do the top.  Seriously, I need a plywood tree.

You could hide a dead body in this drawer.  It’s absolutely massive.  I’m starting to wonder how I’m going to get it in the closet.  That’s as far as I got this weekend, and as usual, a project I thought would take me a couple weekends or so will probably take me two months.

The Triangle of Doom

We have this gable wall over our kitchen and dining area that I’ve been procrastinating for quite some time.  It is the Triangle of Doom.

triangle-of-doom I always thought I would drywall it, in my quest to rid this house of cheap paneling, but putting drywall up there invited its own problems.  For starters, I don’t think it was framed very well (no other wall in the house was) so putting drywall on studs that aren’t particularly flat is problematic.  Fixing framing problems on the ground floor is lousy enough, but 8 feet off the ground makes it a real pain.  Getting up there is not easy, unless you build custom scaffolding to get around those beams and cabinets, and fit into the tight spaces in the kitchen.


I could get up there with ladders well enough, but didn’t want to haul up drywall sheets and mount them while on a ladder.  So I just decided to just paint it.  A nice dark color would hide its imperfections pretty well.


Let’s go with Epic Adventure!


Damn, that’s blue.  Doom Blue!


I lightly sanded the entire Triangle (of Doom) with a sanding pad on a long pole.  That was fun.  The primer went on very well.  The first coat takes the longest, and every other coat goes on quicker and quicker.


I think that’s about coat no. 3.  I went with five coats of paint, really wanted to get this thing covered.


I feel like painting it was the easy part, now I had to install the trim.  The apex of the Triangle (of Doom!) is about 16 feet off the ground.  I had to make a trim piece that would wrap around that beam up there, get it finished and ready to install, carry it up there and fasten it into place with some trim screws.


I had everything stained and sealed before install.  Holes pre-drilled for trim screws.  It’s so dark and so high that you don’t really notice the holes for the screws.


All finished.  For about 1/5th the effort of putting drywall up there, the end result looks pretty similar to what it would have ended up looking like.  And if we ever add on to the house, that’s the direction we’ll probably go, so that triangle may be Doomed anyway!

So, just one more room to go and the interior of the house will be entirely finished.  I’ve saved the bedroom for last.  Before I start it, I have some stuff to do out in the shop (that work is never done) and I want to do as much prep work for the bedroom as I can.  When I’m all ready, I’m going to move the bed into the living room for a week while I gut the entire room down to the studs, and re-do it from scratch.  I’ll keep it simple but it’s going to be a big job no matter how I cut it.

Been here 4 1/2 years.  Hoping to have the house done in five.