A little Thanksgiving morning project time.

Mud room with part of the floor removed.

Mud room with part of the floor removed.

It is Thanksgiving. The weather outside is typical for a New England November day; cold, overcast and wet. A perfect day to take it easy and hang out inside and relax.

Or work on projects for a bit before heading over to visit family for the afternoon.

We are making progress on the mud room. This week I hung the drywall on the ceiling. We are planning on contracting out the drywall work, but with the old lath and plaster ceiling, I decided to hang the ceiling early to help keep the dirt level down in the house.

This morning I started attacking the floor. I started removing three levels of floor, getting one end of the room back to the original subfloor. I’ll probably remove the entire subfloor and replace it – it will make sistering the two joists on the north side of the room easier. Plus, that will allow us to do a full thickness (3/4″) floor and have it the correct level.

Susanna even headed down to the basement to work on the second window sash. The “Silent Paint Remover” does wonders, and the windows are looking good.

Susanna working on a window sash.

Susanna working on a window sash.

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Blog Milestones

I’ve made it writing for over 4 years in this blog. I have 396 posts (397 with this post) and 113,000+ words and nearly 700 pictures in the blog. The blog takes 800MB of disk space. While that may not be a great number of words or posts as far as blogging goes, for me it is an accomplishment.

I have too much of a tendency to like shiny new objects and get bored with old projects. However, forcing myself to sit down and reflect is a good exercise. It helps me keep focused (as focused as I’ll ever be) – though if you looked through old posts, I’m sure you would find it pretty random and wonder if I could ever find focus at all.

Anyway, here is to focusing (sort of) for the next four years.

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Fixing a broken window frame

Broken frame and upper jamb after removing the trim.

Broken frame and upper jamb after removing the trim.

We had to remove the trim around all the doors and windows so we could tear down all the plaster and lath in the mud room/laundry room. We are replacing the plaster with drywall. Apparently I wasn’t careful enough removing the trim around the window in the laundry room, and the window frame came apart when I pulled off the trim.

These are original double hung windows. The frame had come apart where the wood was thin – the dado where the parting bead was installed. We decided to glue the frame back together instead of trying to duplicate the piece in the workshop. I also had to repair the upper jamb which also broke in half.

To clamp the frame up, I needed to take the storm window out. That would mean the house needs to be open to the outside for a couple of hours, or I would have to install a plastic sheet on the exterior to cover the window. However, today the temperatures soared into the upper 50s and the sun was out. No problem leaving the storm window out for a couple of hours.

First I removed the upper sash. It was really stuck, and I cracked one pane of glass getting it out. Then I removed the upper jamb and pulled the nails out. I used some thick epoxy to do the repair. I replaced the upper jamb with a piece of 2×8 framing lumber that I cut down to size.  Once the epoxy had cured enough to no longer need clamps, I reinstalled the storm window. Now to scrape the paint off and wait for Susanna to finish the window sashes.

The window frame glued and clamped up.

The window frame glued and clamped up.

Full window frame glued up.

Full window frame glued up.

New upper jamb installed, glued in with construction adhesive and a couple of screws.

New upper jamb installed, glued in with construction adhesive and a couple of screws. The original had a dado for a parting bead. I’ll just make a small bead and glue it into place.

Window repaired with the storm window reinstalled.

Window repaired with the storm window reinstalled. We still need to scrap and repaint the frame.

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More project updates

Susanna and I have been working on renovating the mud room/laundry room space. It is a pretty big project, but we are making progress. The room has two windows, and one of the windows has a broken pane.

I have renovated old windows in the past. I’m not good at it and I don’t really enjoy it. It is detail work, and the workbench isn’t quite the right size for it. So typically I work on a pair of saw horses in the basement. Again, not ideal.

Workbench for repairing the antique windows.

Workbench for repairing the antique windows.

Susanna decided to tackle the windows. Of course I’m hoping that she will find it more enjoyable than I did and keep going when she is done with the four sashes in the laundry room. To make the project easier, I decided to make a workbench dedicated to repairing the windows.

The bench height is a little taller than my woodworking bench so you can see what you are doing without bending over too much. I made the top a couple of inches larger than the window sash size, and added a lip all around. The lip allows you to push on the window from any side and keeps the mess contained. I also added a shelf (place to store glass and tools) and a drawer.

The bench was made from scrap lumber that I had around the shop, and used hardware that I already had. I made the bench in a couple of hours last weekend, and as you can see, Susanna has already stripped one of the lower window sashes.

She has been using an infra-red paint removal tool, the silent paint remover, to help remove the old paint and putty. I’ll detail the process in a later post (if I get around to it).

Side view of workbench. The rear legs are from a 4x6 post I had - the bench is very solid.

Side view of workbench. The rear legs are from a 4×6 post I had – the bench is very solid.

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More little steps… patching Will’s ceiling and floor

Will's floor and ceiling patched where the chimney had been. Now to clean the room and move him back in - but that will wait until I return.

Will’s floor and ceiling patched where the chimney had been. Now to clean the room and move him back in – but that will wait until I return.

This weekend, Susanna and I made the decision that we didn’t want to have Will’s ceiling replaced. The renovations on the first floor are enough without having to worry about the second floor.

Today I took a piece of plywood to patch the ceiling. I routed a nice edge on the wood, and covered the opening. Once painted it should match the ceiling and not stand out so much. It is not fancy, but should be good enough. Heck, we lived with a chimney in that room for years – a patched (and painted) ceiling will be an improvement. And anyway, neither Susanna nor I have to hang out in that room and Will was fine moving back into his room sooner.

I took some oak flooring that I had inherited from my dad when he moved from St. Louis to Columbia. It had been sitting in his basement for I’m sure many years and it moved to our garage to collect dust. While the flooring isn’t a perfect match, it is pretty close. Again, it is good enough. If it bothers Will, he can cover it with an area rug. And it is a drastic improvement.

It was a huge relief to decide to simplify the second floor project. Now I can focus on working on the laundry room and mud room. That should keep me occupied for a while. But not too long. We are planning on hosting a party on New Year’s Eve, so I’ll have to have the rooms done by then.

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Getting things done – a little at a time

Mud room with chimney gone...

Mud room with chimney gone…

It seems that I finally start getting productive at house projects the week before I have to head out of town for work. Then, when I come back, I have to readjust and it seems to take a while to get back into the same routine.

I’ve had a busy week and made lots of progress in little steps.  I’ve been able to get work done right after the boys get to bed, and still be done in time to hang out for a bit before Susanna and I go to bed. Hopefully, when I get back I’ll remember to jump right back into the routine.

This week we had the chimney taken out. The chimney went through the mud room/laundry room on the first floor and Will’s bedroom on the second. That means, until we get this project finished, we will be short two rooms. The project is a couple of big steps (demolition of the chimney, installing drywall, installing the floor) which we will contract out. But, there are lots of the little details that we will do ourselves. While the walls are down (and Will’s ceiling), I’ll take time to insulate better and update electrical and plumbing.

New switches by the back door. One for the mudroom light and one for the back porch light.

New switches by the back door. One for the mudroom light and one for the back porch light.

I’ve been working on the electrical this week. I ran a new wire to the  light over the weekend, and tonight ran a new wire to the back porch light, and added a switch next to the back door. Previously the back porch switch was outside on the back porch – what a pain in the ass. I still have to run a new wire to the kitchen light (while I have access to the space from the ), add outlets and more lights in the /laundry room, and switches to Will’s light.

I’ve also taken time to keep moving on other projects. I spent a couple of evenings cleaning the workshop, and one evening fixing the dog pen.  I’m sure I’ll be exhausted by the time I get on an airplane Monday.

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Next Project

Dumpster delivered for the next project...

Dumpster delivered for the next project…

Here we go again. More home improvements. Hopefully this one will go quickly – we are paying contractors to do most of the work. But it still requires moving furniture, managing contractors, and some work on our side.

Our fall plans are to have the chimney removed (it is no longer used, and is in the middle of Will’s bedroom). We will have the ceiling replaced in Will’s room, and I will patch the floor. However the big improvement will be to the mud room/laundry room.

We will gut and rebuild the mud room/laundry room. We need to insulate the walls, move laundry services, add a laundry sink, have the walls/ceilings covered with drywall, paint and have the floor done.  No problem.  The plan is to be finished by Christmas. Hopefully sooner.

Now back to Craigslist to look for an interesting antique sink for the laundry room.  No point in making things too easy.

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A quick workshop project (hip photo clipboards)

I was looking for a quick project to build with the boys in the workshop. I needed a project that they could do most of the work on – they were planned to be gifts.  I saw an idea earlier in on Matt’s Basement Workshop – and it seemed like a pretty simple quick project. Our lives this fall have been pretty crazy, and I didn’t think that I could get them to put enough work into a much more complicated project to finish in time.

The clipboards only took a couple of nights to finish in the workshop.  We built a total of 4 clipboards, they took one each and left two here.

The project required picking out some scrap – we found a piece of yellowheart in the wood pile. The lumber was milled and glued up into panels.  We then cut out 4 boards from the panel – in hindsight I think we should have made the boards a little smaller (though it is never too late to remove wood)- a 5×7 picture seems a little small on the clipboard.  The keyhole hanger was inserted in the back (we removed the waste using a drill and chisel). The boards were finished with a coat of varnish and the hardware was installed.

A completed clipboard with a picture added.

A completed clipboard with a picture added.

A simple keyhole hanger flush mounted on the back.

A simple keyhole hanger flush mounted on the back.

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On not writing (or taking a blog break)

It has been nearly a month since I have last written in this blog.  I’m still here; I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth. And no, neither of my regular readers mentioned anything about my break from writing.

Taking a short break from blogging.

Taking a short break from blogging.

Life has been pretty busy.  Actually crazy busy.  There has hardly been time to have a beer take a moment to reflect on life. I really should be better about keeping up on my writing – I hardly know where I left off in my writing.

I did finish one of the toy boxes. I think I even wrote about it. I have started and nearly finished the second box. And by nearly finished, I mean I have the carcass glued up. I only have to build the face frame, add the trim, shelf, top and all the hardware, and finally the varnish.

It seems like the past couple of weeks were filled with soccer, weddings, non-existent or short work trips, and more soccer. We did find time to take the dogs for walks, entertain the boys’ friends, pull the boat from the water, clean the boat, remove stringers from Ben’s boat (but not yet install new ones).

We had a weekend babysitting Michael while his parents spent time in the hospital bringing his little brother into the world. Susanna was in heaven. Both boys spent lots of time hanging out and reading to him. Susanna spent the whole weekend very happy to have a toddler in the house.

We tried a week without video games (or social media for the parents). It went as well as could be expected. It didn’t kill the boys, though at times I’m guessing Will didn’t know if he would survive. I’m not sure if it was harder for the kids or for the adults.

Ben spending time with the sander on the bottom of his boat.

Ben spending quality time with the sander on the bottom of his boat.

Another weekend, Ben and I dragged Will down to Norwalk for the annual boat show there. Of course both of them spent the entire time touring boats that were more expensive than our house. We bribed Will by agreeing to go see “The Maze Runner” in IMAX on the way home. Susanna decided it was more fun to stay home sick than go to a boat show and watch a science-fiction movie.

It finally felt like life settled down a little this weekend. After a bumpy start this morning, the boys were able to have friends over all afternoon. I even spent time making toy guns for six of the seven kids that were here.  Hopefully tomorrow I can get back in the workshop and work on toy boxes (and can be a little more ‘almost done’ by tomorrow night).

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Project Delivery

Toy box delivered to the customer.

Toy box delivered to the customer.

At the beginning of the summer, Susanna asked me to make three outdoor toy boxes for the her preschool (her classroom shares the three playgrounds). The school paid for 9-sheets of plywood and some wood varnish. I donated my time, some additional lumber, hinges, and screws as needed to finish the project. This is my first commission project – even though I’m not getting paid, there is a customer involved.

The plan was to finish all three and deliver them at one time.  However, the summer was busy, and I don’t have that much space in the workshop, so I am working on one at a time. I finished the first one last week and delivered it today.

I learned some lessons on the delivery:

  • Next time make sure to bring some tools to tighten up any fasteners that loosen up on the drive.
  • I should have removed the doors for the drive, the doors are heavy and it is a pretty bouncy drive down to New London.
  • The magnets are too weak.  I’ve ordered new magnets to hold the door shut.
  • I should bring some equipment (rakes, etc.) to level the area where the boxes are to be placed.

I’ll have to head back next week and tighten fasteners and change out the magnet holding the door shut with a stronger magnet. Despite all that, it feels good to get a project out the door.

The boxes are 5-feet wide, 3-feet deep and almost 3-feet tall and are constructed from hardwood plywood (from the box store) with a mix of red and white oak for edging. The hinges allow the doors to swing all the way open and are held open by magnets on the sides of the boxes – hopefully having the doors out-of-the-way will keep the kids from hanging on them. I think these boxes would hold up longer if they were constructed from MDO – but the materials could cost twice as much, and I think I would have to paint the MDO.

Now onto the next box.  Maybe I’ll change it up a bit and use maple for the edging. Or sapele. No wait that I’m saving that for the boat.  I’ll be pretty tired of building boxes when I’m finished… but heck, Susanna wants one for up on the patio.  Anyone else interested in outdoor boxes? Considering a sheet of good (i.e. non-box store) plywood costs over $100, it would certainly be much cheaper to get plastic boxes from the box store, but the wood boxes look much nicer.

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