Sunday, July 12, 2020

Laying hardwood floors: Some tips to make the process more efficient

I'm mostly posting this so the next time we put down hardwood, which I hope will not be for many months but not forever, I will remember my method!

1. Open the box of hardwood boards. Use a tape measure to measure the length of each board (finished side). Use a Sharpie to write the measurement (rounded to the nearest quarter inch) on the back of the board. You can watch Hamilton during this part because you don't need to concentrate too hard. Only do keep in mind that math and music are closely related and if you find, like I did, that you cannot retain the numeral in your brain long enough to get it written on the board in Sharpie, maybe wait till this chorus is over and try again.Only good luck with that because it will still play in your head.

2. Lay the boards out on a big flat surface (my front porch floor served) in order by measurement, longest to shortest. Set the really short ones aside because when you need them, you'll need them, but you won't need them for every course. Might as well not look at them all the time. Also it's time to pause Hamilton because... math.

3. Measure the span each row will have to cover. If your rooms are like ours, you'll have a lot of rows of all the same length, plus some oddball rows that go into a doorway (so they're longer by an inch or two) or cross a floor vent (and thus are shorter in total, with a short end between the wall and the vent and a longer end between the vent and the other wall).

4.Math ! Figure out how many of each length rows you'll need. Divide the other dimension of the room (or space with that length of boards) by the width of your boards. We had 2-3/8 inch wide boards, which is 2.375 in decimal, so I divided the length of the room (113.5 inches) by the board width, and learned that I needed 48 rows of 144-inch length rows for the non-oddball rows.

5. Select your boards for each row. I sat down on the porch floor with a calculator (on my phone) and a tally sheet. I started at the longest boards and started subtracting their length from 144 to get to as close to 0 as I possibly could. It was fun, like a puzzle. Once I knew exactly which boards I needed for each row, I pulled them out of the row and stacked them in stacks at the other side of the porch.

6. I had to stop and reconsider my method, because when Barry took the first few stacks upstairs and started trying to nail them down, he said a lot of them were just a bit too long. See, I was so worried about my rows being too short that I was rounding down when I measured their length, and ending up with more than 144 inches per row. So I knocked down my stacks and started over, this time going for 143-ish inches. So far so good.

7. If you get thirsty, refresh! I pulled one of these babies out of the Basement Fridge and it cooled me right off. Sprecher's makes the most wonderful bottled root beer you ever tasted. With maple syrup. How great can that be? Imagine the best root beer you have ever tasted, and then turn the dial to 11. That's Sprecher's. I get ours at Menards. I never even add ice cream to it, that's how good it is.

P.S. Barry just delivered the crushing news that Pepsico now owns Sprecher's. But they must be allowing them some autonomy because they are still making great pop. (We're in the Upper Midwest. It's pop.)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Our 1913 House: Living Room Remodel - The Big Reveal

I forgot I was posting pictures of the remodel project on this blog. :) Just updated Facebook. Anyway, yesterday our cabinet maker, John Pitts, in a final burst of energy, completed installing all the beautiful woodwork and then last night I moved our furniture back in and the living room is complete (except for some paint touch-ups and Barry is finishing restoring some of the old trim on the far side of the room). Here are photos from last night, of the main part of the room with the new woodwork.

The room is all I had hoped it would be: Warm, inviting, comfy, beautiful. The wood is quarter-sawn oak. All the boards are local from our area forests. The wood panels are not local, but are furniture-grade quartersawn oak plywood. John did a masterful job of designing the room, with great suggestions from period photos and drawings of Arts & Crafts living spaces, and executing his ideas beautifully. John said he has spent so much time in this house in the past few weeks that we should probably have him in our Christmas pictures. :)

You'll note there's no TV in this room. That was an edict I made when we moved into this house in October of 2002: No TV in the living room ever again. The living room is a place for conversation, for reading, for doing a puzzle, for sipping something delicious while enjoying the faces of those you care about. There are other places for staring at an electronic screen.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Another antique floor lamp redone and ready for use

Fresh from my success with that last lamp, I tackled another. This one is a little unusual in that the center reflector fixture is not a mogul fixture and apparently never was one. Still three lights in a cluster around it, and then also there is a nightlight in the base of the lamp, on a foot switch.

The whole lamp has always been frustratingly wobbly, never standing straight. So I hoped to fix that while I was at it. We have never used it. I bought it at a sale sometime and never did the work necessary to make it useful.

Before pictures:

I took the whole thing apart and cleaned it. Boy, was it in need of cleaning. Rusty on the insides of the iron pieces, corrosion on the other metals, and a horror of rotten wires inside. Plus a dead mouse. Not really. But you could have hidden lots of things in the cobwebs up inside the base, amongst bare wires. Scary.

After I scrubbed, derusted, and decorroded the metal parts, I sprayed all the parts except for the center rod and tube with a clear matte acrylic spray to protect them from the next round of moisture damage. Once they were dry, I began rewiring.

This lamp had key switches on each of the 3 cluster lights, and a key switch on the reflector light, and a foot push button switch on the nightlight - BUT there was also a push-button switch underneath the cluster that was a master switch for all the top lights. Okay for what it was, but not what I wanted, and that many key lights seemed weird to me.

I replaced all sockets on the top portion with new keyless sockets to simplify things. I kept the nightlight socket which was in great shape once cleaned up. I then rewired with a new 3-way rotary switch in the place where the push-button switch had been under the cluster body. I wired it a little differently than traditional, putting the cluster of 3 on the primary switch, the center reflector light on the secondary, and then the tertiary position was all three on at once.

The reason for the wobbliness I'm embarrassed to say I never really solved. The center rod is not long enough for the way the lamp is set up. The last person to work on the lamp had decided to move it up higher so that it held the reflector socket in place, but this meant it did not go all the way down to the base and that's where the wobble was. Basically it was a plastic piece holding the whole lamp upright, and not very well. I elected to use the rod with the threading making good contact at the base, for stability. But this meant it only connected at the top where the cluster body connected, and the reflector lamp was left hanging by its cord. I "solved" this by using plumber's putty to first settle the porcelain reflector socket inside its holder, then fasten the holder to the cluster body, pulling up the slack on the cord inside the cluster body. I held my breath to see how this worked, and it was successful: The center reflector light is solid and firm and doesn't seem like it's anything less than attached the way it's supposed to be. This morning after the putty was dry I used a gold metallic oil-based Sharpie pen to color the putty this morning and everything looks really good (to me).

Again, we used Edison-style LED bulbs, this time with an amber tint. And this lamp already had an opal glass shade for the reflector light so I went ahead and used it.

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These were taken before I Sharpied the plumber's putty. The next one shows it with the color corrected.

And the base, lit and unlit:

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Finally the lamp base, which is made of cast iron, has 6 little bare metal feet that can scratch a nice floor, so this morning I used 2 packages of black Sugru modeling compound to form 6 little "socks" for the feet. The weight of the lamp now rests on this and it's drying.
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By tomorrow morning this lamp should be ready for use.

Our 1913 House: Remodel, Continued

Frog and his son DJ, with help from other contractors, have made great progress on the front rooms remodel. They have removed all the lathe and plaster from walls and ceilings, removed the center wall (while bracing up the second floor), put in a lam beam to hold the weight, framed in the outer walls, replaced a window, added lots of good wood bracing and framing both to reinforce the weight of the second floor and to provide space for spray insulation, and have replaced/moved some ductwork. There's just a little bit more framing to do, I believe, then electrical, then insulation, then drywall.

Some pictures:

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Friday, April 05, 2019

Our 1913 House: Living Room(s) Remodel Begins

I'm excited to share that the last part of our first floor that is not insulated is up for its turn for remodel! Our house (built in 1913) has two front rooms. We call them "the living room" and "the other living room." They are divided by a wall with a doorway that once closed with pocket doors. There's stained glass in one window of each room.

Today the demolition started and this video shows you what it looks like:

I'll post more as we go.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Christening gown from wedding dress

We are expecting a new grandson in June, our youngest's child. A few months ago she asked me how I felt about making a christening gown for him from my own wedding gown, since she had not one of her own. (I had made a gown from her sister’s wedding dress.)

My wedding dress, though I loved it at the time, is very dated to the mid-1980s, for good reason. Lots of fluff and lace and froufrou. Not my daughter’s size or style. As no one will likely ever wear it again as a wedding gown, I was thrilled to be asked to repurpose it. I used Butterick 6045, the same pattern I had used for her sister’s. The thing about using a repurposed wedding gown for a christening dress is, you can reuse so much of the fancy work simply by careful cutting of the skirt to incorporate the existing hem. Some of the bias lines are going to be off a little bit, but it still works. So while this looks like a lot of work on this dress, honestly it wasn’t as much as it appears. 

The only things that are not original to the dress are the thread and some interfacing. Everything else came from the dress: fabric, lining, lace, ribbons, beadwork. Oh, and buttons! 

If anyone has a wedding gown to reuse and would like to give it a try, I would be happy to consult.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Goodwill find: Printed cotton yardage from Cameroon

I realized I had this post in draft from last summer and never posted it. No time like the present!

While thrifting at Goodwill, I found two 5-yard pieces of printed cotton yardage from Cameroon, West Africa. Of course I bought them. They had paper labels reading CICAM, which, on researching, I found means they were the product of an initiative to help Cameroonian people to market their skills and traditional produce during the 1970s.

I made two kaftans out of them and wore them a few times before it got too cold for cotton last autumn. Looking forward to being able to wear loose, lightweight, breezy clothes again someday!

Non-plastic beeswax blend food wraps project

A few months ago I ordered my first set of waxed fabric food wraps from (etee stands for Everything Touches Everything Else). I had never tried wax wraps before. Once I had the family trained on how to use them (no, you don't throw them away, no, you don't use hot soapy water to wash them, no, you can't leave them in the bottom of the sink in a pool of sludge), we were sold. Except for one thing: Plastic wrap and plastic bags are transparent, and these aren't. Barry complains frequently about all the mysterious blobs wrapped up in canvas in the fridge and gets tired of opening them to see what's in there over and over again.

This morning I took half a day off work for a dental appointment which, due to miscommunication, was only an hour long instead of three (I thought I was getting a crown, but I have to go back another day for that), so I had some time on my hands. I had collected the supplies to try the wraps explained on the blog at Mountain Rose Herbs. I had plenty of beeswax already, and had previously ordered jojoba oil (actually it's a wax, but a liquid wax) and copal resin (from pine trees, basically dried sap). I collected pure cotton quilting fabrics with prints of fruits and veggies and cut them into roughly 12-inch squares with pinking shears. Then I got to work.

I melted the copal resin in a double boiler (and it took nearly an hour, so allow time for that), then added grated beeswax and jojoba oil in double the proportions directed as I figured since I was going to the effort I might as well do a bunch. The copal resin did not want to incorporate into the waxes, but with patient stirring, eventually it did. When all the waxes were finally melted and blended, I spread my fabric squares on baking sheets (I didn't have any parchment paper), and used a 3-inch foam brush to spread the liquid wax quickly over the fabric. I'd recommend a foam brush for you, also. Very easy and no bristles to come off!

I followed the directions to warm the squares in a medium hot oven and spread the liquid around until the squares were completely saturated, then cooled and washed them.

And here's the result. I probably used too much wax on each one as they are pretty stiff, but having worn out a couple of the etee wraps already, I would rather err on too much than not enough wax, as you lose a little bit every time you use and wash one of these. You can see some excess on the tomato wrap.

And here's the onion wrap with half an onion in it.

Now we'll know which fabric-wrapped blob in the fridge is part of an onion, which is a leftover half of a sweet pepper, which is a half lemon, and which is a tomato half to slice for a sandwich.

I'll be watching for fabric depicting other fruits and veggies in time to come.