Friday, October 26, 2012

Stone Oven

I've been ignoring the old stone oven in the back yard for years. On more than one occasion I tried to use it as a grill, but it was a failure, or rather I was the failure. After looking at some articles, I realize now that this is probably meant to be used as a slow-cooker oven instead of a grill. So I've cleared off the vines (almost) and am ready to give it a shot

First, it is pretty big, about 6 feet. It has an oven door in the front.

The grate sits about 10 inches down from the top.

And under the grate (behind the door) it has a big space, probably about 2 feet from the floor to the grate, almost 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep.

And a stone shelf extends to the right, at the same level as the grate, and it's about 8 inches high.

So how should this be used? My guess would be to put the food in the shelf to the right, put the charcoal into the box (a bunch of it), put some wet wood on the coals and then completely close off the opening above the grate so that the smoke is pulled up the chimney. This would keep the food away from direct heat. I guess I should use a thermometer to be sure.

Sound like a good plan?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Encounter with Black Paint

Everyone ought to bear patiently
the results of his own conduct.
- Shakespeare

This weekend I had the opportunity and good fortune to paint the metal frame of our big awning on the back porch. The awning canvas is away at the shop being adjusted, so the frame--a collection of steel pipes with black paint that has been peeling away for years--is bare.

First step was to sand the pipe to remove the loose paint. But before that I put some plastic tarp on the patio, just in case I might spill some paint on the stone. Of course the flecks of loose paint went everywhere, especially on the top of my head.

I had planned ahead. At Home Depot I bought spray paint and a can of paint, just in case. But the spray paint was messed up--the spray cap didn't fit, and when I tried to make it fit the paint went in all directions. I tried again and again, thinking that maybe it was a test of wills, but now my hands were covered in paint. Then it occurred to me that I might be able to discharge the contents of the can into a plastic container and then use a brush. Seemed like a good idea at the time. In the process, the plastic tarp became saturated, and some of the paint leaked onto the patio.

About an hour later, after scrubbing the stone with paint thinner and putting down a new tarp, I was back on track. No problem, I thought calmly, I'll just use the paint from the can, but when I opened it I discovered that it was sparkling white instead of the black that I needed. I stared at the white paint for quite a while just to be sure it was not black. It was not at all black.

I could just quit, but the frame would rust without paint, and I won't be able to paint it after the canvas is stretched on.

Wow. I realized that this was one of those very important moments when I have the opportunity to test the limits of my character instead of screaming and hitting things. More later...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dealing with the Details

Now that the tile is up, I'm faced with the nit-picky tasks of finishing the trim work on both sides. Given just a quick thought, a person (or a project manager) might see this as a trivial single task, just a quick swipe of paint and be done with it. But no, if things are to be done correctly, many steps and many types of work are required.

To start, I spent time yesterday cutting out little triangles of trim and gluing them into place so that the molding would be square under the corner of the step. No one would ever know about this if not for my plan to tell it to every single person who steps into the house.

Next I put on strips of joint tape and then joined the edges of tile to the wood trim. This will need another application or two, just to even it out. And then I'll tape everything and paint.

To our project managers this all looks like busy work. They are impatient now because the tile went up so quickly, and now they are certain that I'm dragging my feet. They don't realize that the worst is yet to come--I still need to grout and apply the silicone, and in this regard I admit that I am especially hesitant to go forward quickly.

The grout will be too white, I fear, and will look funny against the tile. And depending on my mood at the time, I may not care. I have a mood, a personality, a person inside me that is not allowed to work on projects. He does not give a damn if the grout color does not match. He tends to fix things with a hammer. For the most part, he is allowed only to watch TV and walk the dogs. Oh, and mow the lawn and pull weeds. Anything that is not permanent...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A New Geometry

Somehow, I've lost the ability to manage time and put away a few minutes to document this project or even to work on it. The details are never far from my mind, though. I see the rows of tiles, the little gaps above, below and between them. In my mind I see feet walking up and down, I see the steps creaking and giving, moving with a geometric give and take, wood moving in space or pulsing like under water, while the tiles are perfectly still at the concrete center.

And somehow I finished the tiling in one day this weekend.

The effect is pretty understated, not the colorful splash that you see on some stairs. I like it more and more, and I think Cheryl does, too.

The next step is to do the grouting between the tiles, and then do silicone putty above and below the tiles, where the world is on the move and a flexible relationship is essential.

More later.