Coat Hooks

Coming togetherI’m finally getting to the point where I can work on actual woodworking projects in my shop as opposed to just working on my shop.  Oh my shop still needs work, that hasn’t magically come to an end.  Still a lot to do and not enough time to do it and things are just hard to come by when you live on an island.  But it’s close enough that I could make some boards to hold up some coat hooks I bought.  I had a scrap of walnut left over from something I made probably ten years ago (and yes I moved it from Denver to here) and I really love making projects out of scrap wood.  Resourceful, doesn’t let anything to go waste, and it’s free!

End PiecesAs you can kinda see, it’s just going to be a plank of wood framed on top and bottom by some half crescent trim.  I used a router to make the crescent along the front but I hate to use the router against the grain on hardwood.  I have a good router and good router bits but that’s a tough cut to make no matter what you do.  I’d rather just do it by hand.  Clamp the end pieces down and use a nice smooth bastard file.

Done by handThat’s the edge just with the file alone.  No sanding required.  In fact, sanding will make it dull.  If you use a really fine file, it has an effect similar to a cabinet scraper.  On hardwoods, the effect is a nice, glassy smoothness. They weren’t quite perfect, but this is just a thing to hang keys off of.  I’m not making another statue of David here.

ClampsGlue up time is when you wish you had more wood clamps.  Or different wood clamps.  This is one aspect of woodworking I am really not that good at.  Invariably I get something clamped out of place or I squeeze too much glue out or something just goes wrong.  I’ve learned to live with it and just go with it.  Every piece I make, no matter how simple or how complex, has anywhere from 2 to 55 flaws in it, and the only person who loses sleep over them is me.  No one else ever sees them.

In this case, the flaw is that one of the crescent trim pieces bowed during the glue up, so it was not flush with the back.  If you stand on a ladder and look at the finished coat hanger from the top you can totally see it.  Otherwise, it doesn’t exist.

GlueEvery bottle of glue warns me not to let the glue seep out when you clamp it.  But it’s futile.  A little bit seeps out and bubbles around the joints.  I use gorilla glue for a lot of applications.  Sometimes I use yellow glue, or aliphatic resin, but I usually save that for tongue in groove or mortise and tenon joinery.  When it’s just flat grain to grain, I prefer the foamy, expansive gorilla glue.  It’s not very user friendly but it is more merciful if you have some gaps in your work piece.

I’ve trained myself to just be good at scraping that excess glue out with a razor blade, or a small plane chisel.

PolyurethaneThere are a lot of ways to treat wood to protect it from the elements, but my favorite for indoor projects is polyurethane.  The secret is to give it 3-6 thin coats.  Do not glop it on like makeup on a televangelist.  The first coat of poly should just be enough to soak into the wood.  Just get it wet.  Let it dry a couple hours and smooth it out with a green scrubby pad and put more coats on every two hours.  The more coats you get on it the happier you will be with the results.  I use a brush for small stuff but a nice foam applicator is best for large flat surfaces.

Coat Hooks

Key HooksThe final product looks great.  Naturally they make the paneling look even worse.  And the rest of the house for that matter.  But hey, it’s a step forward.

The board attaches to the wall by means of screws hidden behind the metal hooks. So you attach the board to the wall then attach the hooks to the board.  Simultaneously clever and a pain in the butt to install.  I was hoping to find a stud to secure the coat hooks to but no, they’re just anchored to that lovely 1/4″ paneling for now.  Maybe someday.


Blue tape. Scaffold. Rollers and brushes.

blue tape

Yeah, when you see all that blue tape and plastic sheeting, it can only mean one thing.  Over the course of three weekends we painted the house.  That colorless layer of latex, peeling and flaking off in places, permanently dirt covered in others, was just getting on our nerves.  Pretty sure that was the only layer of paint the house had ever seen before we came along.


Graffiti would have been an improvement, if we had any gangs or crews of taggers on our island.  Which we don’t.

LightWe used an airless paint sprayer, which means we spent about 9 hours taping everything off and then 20 minutes painting, per section.  A sprayer is really good at painting odd shaped objects, such as bat and board siding, but it does go through a lot of paint in a very short amount of time.

wet paintThis is a small house, but for some reason it’s still a bitch to paint.  Go figure.  And yes, I painted the rusty flagpole too.  How do you paint a flagpole?  Get some rustoleum and put it on a 4″ paint roller and put the roller on a telescoping pole.  The roller can reach about 10′ off the ground, or 20′ if you stand on top of a ladder.  My advice is to paint the top part of the flagpole first, so you can hold onto an unpainted section of the flagpole for balance.  Otherwise you just get wet paint all over your hand.

Unsafe scaffold

There’s the scaffold setup for the other side of the house.  Note that part of the scaffold had to rest on the deck.  The other part?  Well, I had to make those footers out of 2×6’s.  Fortunately I have about 900 board feet of 2×6’s leftover from the garage construction.  It was wobbly as hell but the wobbliness came from the two legs seated on the deck.  The footers I made were sturdy enough to support a Mack truck.

Scaffolding is fun.  Remember the jungle gyms we used to have on playgrounds?  (younger readers may not have these; they were probably replaced with something much safer)  Well, those things were training for your future on a scaffold painting your house someday.  When you’re trying to keep your balance on them, you use muscles you didn’t even know you had.  I’m not exactly afraid of heights but I’m not too fond of them either.

all finished


The trim around the windows we left white.  We weren’t terribly happy with it at the time but it’s grown on us.  The five logs adorning the front of our house were painted that same disgusting beige as the rest of the house so I painted them with varying shades of brown to make them look more like real logs.  At first they looked cartoonish, but after some dry brushing they acquired a bit of texture and now they either look really cheesy or they look like real logs.  Or both.  No one’s really had the honesty to tell us yet.

even side looks nice


This is the ugly side of the house.  The side with the electrical connections and disfigured deck and crap.  The side people first see when they approach the house.  Anyway, it looks much better.  And I have plans for it.  Slowly, over time, it will improve to the point that people might actually look at it and say “ooh, nice house.”  We’re about a million miles away from that point (not to mention dollars) but someday it will come.

new lights too

We got some new light fixtures for the side and the rear, and they look much better than the Ace Hardware clearance flood lights that used to be there.  Previously on the side, there were two flood lights set on a motion sensor.  Not a bad idea in theory, if you didn’t mind being blinded every time you walked up to the side door.  Pretty sure they caused brain damage in the short time I tolerated them.  They are now trash.  We don’t miss them.

nice place to relax

The front deck has now become a nice place to relax.  To sit and just stare at the sea.  Do I ever sit in those chairs?  Ha ha ha!  I own a house on Orcas Island.  I have things to do.  Sit in a chair, ha, that’s a good one.

chairPainting the house was a real milestone.  Now that it’s done, we’re a lot less embarrassed when people have to come over or walk up from the road or simply see us out in front of the house working on some chore or another.  It used be like “yeah, we’re just contractors.  Migrant farmers.  Just passing through.  Live here?  Oh, ha.  Who would live in such a dump?  Of course we don’t live here.  Silly tourist.”  But now, finally, the place is starting to look like a nice little house, and we don’t hide our faces when the cars drive by.  Maybe someday I’ll actually sit in one of those chairs and just, well, sit there.

looks nice now

Yeah, it looks much better.  I really do enjoy painting, it’s fun and kind of soothing and there’s a huge sense of accomplishment at the end of it.  But as far as I’m concerned the next person who paints my house can be the executor of my estate.

Summer Solstice Parade

Solstice Parade


This’ll separate the wheat from the chaff.  If you watch this parade and you still want to live here, you’ll do fine.  If you shake your head and wonder how much pot you have to smoke to do something like this, island life may not be for you.


The people in the amusement park ride were hilarious (third row of pics, left side).  They walked down, two abreast, in a snaking roller-coaster pattern and every so often they’d raise their hands in the air and scream.

Celebrate Sun

Lights and Fans

We’re pretty close to having replaced every light fixture in the house.  Makes a big difference.  It’s a small house but it’s kind of a big space, and the dark wood and paneling make it tricky to illuminate.  Not that the paneling is going to live much longer.  We’re either going to paint it or put up drywall, but the paneling has to go.  In many cases, the new light fixtures just make it look worse.

The laundry room got a pretty dramatic change.  The Jimmy Carter era florescents were removed and replaced with nice halogen track lights.  Seriously, we found a price tag on one of the florescent bulbs and it said $1.95; I think they sell now for about $12 at our hardware store.  The new lights aren’t as bright, but it’s so much nicer in there without that crappy, dingy contraption of cracked plastic and jagged sheet metal.  I thought about keeping the florescent lights for the shed or something but I just couldn’t stand looking at it for a minute longer.  As of today, it’s in a pile at the solid waste landfill.

That ceiling fan… it was a bitch.  It’s about 17 feet off the floor and the only ladder I have for that height is rated at 200 pounds.  Okay, I weigh a solid 220 and the fan weighs 50 so both of us on it made it more than a little wobbly.  Yes, I had to disconnect the existing fan and carry it down the ladder, then carry the new fan up the ladder and connect it.  I gotta say, though, ceiling fan technology has come a long way.  They make those things as convenient as humanly possible.  They even think to include a spare bolt because they know, just know, that when you’re 17 feet off the ground it’s very possible you will drop a bolt and it’ll be nice to have a spare one in your fanny pack.

The new fan looks great.  It’s dead silent, but for some reason Inky is terrified of it.  She knows when we turn it on.  Her ears fold back and she peeps a little meow.  Sometimes she hides under the bed.  I’m not kidding.  It’s like she hears some alien mind control waves that humans can’t detect.  She’s gotten better about it now that it’s been up for a while.


We even got a new lizard.  Cool, huh?

Fawn Season

Hide and seekThese fawns are probably just a few weeks old.  They’re tiny little things, not much bigger than our cat.

We learned a few things about fawns the other weekend. The mother deer sometimes leaves them while she goes off and forages.  And they just nap.  Like, all day.  Just sit there and hide in the grass.  We didn’t want to get too close to them because we didn’t want to spook them, but I got a few pics.

Mom's back Mother finally returned later in the day and picked them up.  Would have been nice if she paid us for day care service since we looked after them pretty much all afternoon.  But no.  She just came by and ate more of our grass.

And she stuck her tongue out at me.

Punching Bag Brackets


Sad and LonleyFor months, my punching bag has sat in a lonely corner in the garage, with ladders and push brooms leaning on it like it were a garbage sack full of leaves.  Before that, it lay in an even lonelier corner in a storage unit far from here.  It once held a position of honor, a place we went to create copious amounts of sweat and expend kinetic energy.  It was a staple of my workouts.

The PlansOnce we built this garage, I didn’t think the joists would be strong enough by themselves to hold the bag up.  They probably were, but the engineer in me really likes to over-fortify things.  So I thought to make these large brackets to help spread the load out and stabilize the joists it hangs from.

I’ve got a plethora of scrap lumber, not the least of which a few 2 x 12’s just waiting to be sawn into something useful.  Some people pay extra money for wood that looks distressed or a little weathered; I got it coming out of my ears.

Reclaimed Wood

The piece on the left is as I found it.  The piece on the right is after sanding.  Turns out very nice.

Here they are being cut and sanded down.  No matter what you do to construction lumber, it’s always going to look like construction lumber.  But if you cut and sand carefully and give it some crisp edges and shape it carefully, it doesn’t have to look like you have 2×12’s sticking out of your wall.  I had some leftover sikkens, which is basically linseed oil with some pigment to it, and that worked great for wood treatment.

Ready to be punched Installed

The final product works great.  I still need to adjust the chain a bit but otherwise the bag takes impact well and I don’t feel like I’m going to pull the whole roof down when I work out.


The Riddle of the 38 Pots

When we bought the house, the deck was bordered by these terracotta pots.



Thirty eight of them.

Seriously, pots

They ringed the entire house.  Most of them were empty, or has moss growing in them.  Those that were not empty were filled with hardpan, weeds and mold.  This travesty could even be seen from space:

Space View

To create this abomination, someone had to take a saw and cut thirty eight circular holes in the plywood that went around the deck.  That probably took all day and burned a six pack of beer in the process.  Who would do such a thing?  What manner of madness would compel someone to construct this affront to common sense?  I have been attributed with an inhuman amount of patience, but even I would only make it to the third cut out before I said “screw this shit” and stopped doing it.

gnaws at the mindStaring at those pots day after day on our deck gnawed our minds from the inside out.  Not only did it look tasteless and tacky, but it made no logical sense.  Were we really going to put potting soil in every damn one, pay money (real money not monopoly money but legal tender for all debts public and private) for plants that for all intensive purposes is just DEER FOOD.  You may as well just fill them with kibbles and bits and let the critters go to town.

Yeah, we’d had enough.  We took the pots out, and got a bunch of slate tiles to put in their place.  I haven’t yet cut the angled ones, but as far as I’m concerned they look lovely.

Home Improvement didn’t stop there this weekend.  No sir.  We also went down to Bullock’s Nursery here on the island, which is like no nursery you’ve ever seen.  It’s basically a hippie commune and among the many things they do they sell plants.  And like a farm, they have chickens walking underfoot while you shopped.  Never been in a nursery with chickens.  Anyway, the people there were very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  We were quite grateful they took the time to help us out since we’re coming from a completely different climate.  We went in intending to just get some barberry and lavender; simple and deer proof.  But like kids in a candy shop, we ended up buying all sorts of fun things.  They may even be deer resistant too.

We worked pretty hard today, getting all those plants in and the rocks set down.  Our ground here is soft and digs pretty easy, but it’s very, very rocky.  Just digging a hole for one plant and you’ll pull out some rocks the size of a small head.  The plants look great, and so far the deer have sniffed them but they haven’t nibbled.  We left the underside of the deck open, for now at least.  We also left the wooden beams as a border for the planting area.  I hate them and someday they will go away, but for now they serve a purpose.  And I got a hundred and ninety things on my to do list before I go and fix something that isn’t broken.

We did keep a few pots.  If you look closely at the pic of the one with the mushrooms you’ll see the snail I found today.  He seemed pretty happy and looked right at home with the mushrooms and weeds and moss and stuff.  It’s been critter overload around here lately; bees the size of dogs, bald eagles, raccoons, turkeys, deer, you name it.

I did notice one thing – those pots were made in Italy, and they’re pretty good quality.  I actually expected them to crumble in my hands as I removed them but only one or two were even cracked.  Whatever madman came up with this idea obviously really loved it.  There’s no other possible reason.

This is snow

Yep, snow.It hasn’t snowed a millimeter on the island so far this winter, but we took a road trip that went over Snoqualmie Pass and got our snow fix for the winter.  It’s on the mainland just east of Seattle.  Everyone told us the horror stories about how bad the weather could get up near the summit.  Snow, wind, ice, slippery roads, California drivers, all of it.  But we got up there and honestly it wasn’t much different than my drive to work in Denver.

Chains were required at the summit on the eastbound trip, unless you have four wheel drive which fortunately we do.  It was a bit snowy for a stretch of about 10 miles but once we got out of that it was clear and sunny and the roads were dry.  And it was raining and wet on the west side.  So we pretty much got all kinds of weather in one day.

Landscaping ideas

We walked around town the other day looking for landscaping ideas.  It’s getting a little nicer out, the days are longer, and we’ve even heard whispered rumors that the sun has been shining here and there.

Our property doesn’t get much direct sunlight, but the plot is pretty well cleared and we get a lot of daylight.  We’re going to build a fenced courtyard between the house and garage so we can plant things that would normally be considered deer food.  I’m considering getting a large tiger to help fend them off.

The really nice thing about here is everything stays green, even through the winter.  That will be a nice change.

That compass was kind of neat.  I bet those things are cheap, too.


IMG_1136The sun came out the other day.  Not that we could see it.  We’re on the north face of a mountain, and the sun rises and sets behind it so we don’t get to see it directly from about October until April.  But we did see a rainbow, and we’re pretty sure it was caused by the sun.  So we know it exists somewhere.

On a clear day we can see the mountains in Canada.  Maybe one day out of a hundred.  They’re usually obscured by clouds and fog, but once in a while they reveal themselves.    These big magenta crystals rising above the mist and the water.  IMG_1143It’s pretty neat.