Sunday, October 25, 2015

Extending the Curved Door Frame

I removed the crown molding from the wall facing the bathroom and surprise, a big piece of plaster fell off, revealing what was once an outside wall (our bedroom isn't original to the house). At first I was surprised to see a rectangular outline above the curved door, but now I realize that it was once a window, and the square part on top has been filled it with some very, very hard white stuff (that I had to chip, chip away, like Michelangelo, until the wall was flush again). Looked like some abandoned medieval ruin after I finally chipped it all away.

I've never liked how the wall beveled into the door frame. Over the past few days I've discovered why this was done, many good reasons. I don't care. The truth is, I've been staring at those doors for several years now, and I really, really wanted an excuse to work on one of them. Crazy.

For this job I'll need to extend the curved frame about 4 inches. I'll need two pieces: the door stop and the jamb, one overlapping the other. Getting the straight part of the jamb was easy enough--the old hinge area will be covered when I'm done.

Cutting the curves on a band saw didn't work--I knew it wouldn't. But will a 1/2 inch piece of pine bend that much (without steaming). To test the theory I built an arch frame in the backyard. I know I should use multiple, thinner pieces. Details...

I'm soaking the pine in the fish pond right now. Fun.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Big Picture (Window)

The final set of windows are joined together now, over 8 feet wide and with a fixed picture window in the center, much heavier than the ones I've done so far. It's ready to be lifted into place except that the opening is not quite right yet. I'll definitely need some help getting this monster off the ground and into its custom-built opening in the wall.

photo by Cheryl

Unlike the other window frames in this room, this big one does not have a stucco wall at the bottom. Instead, the wall opens into a tile overhang that extends out toward the driveway.

What I discovered after pulling out the old window and its layers of framing is that the opening is about 1/2 inch shorter than it needs to be--the window might fit, but there would be no room for adjustment. And the horizontal opening is about 1 inch wider than I thought it would be. My fault in both cases because I trusted that the existing wood frame would match the stucco opening. Not even close.

There is no trusting in carpentry.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Christmas in September - New Windows!

The new windows for our bedroom are here, seven altogether, all wrapped up like Christmas morning. Big and heavy, beautiful and frustrating because I have so much planning and research to do before I can actually do anything with them.

These new double-hung windows will replace the old, rusty, drafty casements. We'll be able to open them all the way (unlike the casements, which can only open outward a few inches before smacking into the awning). And the new guys (and all the framing) will be stained pine instead of the painted frames that we had.

Next step: the seven windows will be going into three openings, so I'll be joining the windows into groups of two, two and three. Fun.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Bedroom Renovation

A steady rain is falling today. It's nap time for Corky and Jam but not yet for me. At this stage of the project, while I'm removing the trim and drywall and making a dusty mess, they're not allowed into the work area, so they sit just outside the door and sigh.

Our bedroom was an add-on to the original house, done probably in the 40s or 50s, at least that's my guess after looking at the drywall that I've demolished so far. It's thinner, harder and more brittle than modern drywall. And, like the rest of the house, there's no insulation in the walls.

Mostly I wanted to be sure that the framing was in good shape to support the new windows that should be here in another four weeks. Everything looks fine.

It's nice to have a project going again, to be working inside and to be demolishing stuff. Once I get all the dust and jagged edges of the way, I'll bring in my project managers to keep me company, if I can wake them up.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Not Going Back Up There

Corky told a joke yesterday. I guess it was funny--who knows? He told it to Jam, not to me.

I'm pretty sure that Corky's joke was about me, probably something about my fear of heights, just because I built that scaffolding instead of using a ladder like a normal person.

But now the roof is done, and I don't intend to ever climb up there again. Yesterday I dismantled the scaffolding, which had the added purpose of protecting the little Kaffir lime tree that is growing near one of the posts.

Whatever Corky said, Jam had a good laugh. I deserved it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Remembering Sister Agatha

What's wrong with this picture?

To answer that question, I need to transport myself back to Sister Agatha's grade-school classroom. We had just been handed an unusual test, several pages of questions stapled together, probably 100 questions in all, and nothing to do with our class. At the top of the first page, in big letters, it said:
Of course, I did no such thing, because why should I review questions that I would soon answer. I answered the first question, then the next. No problem, these were a snap.

In about 30 seconds or so, someone stood up and turned in the test. Then another person--I can't remember who, but I do remember the look of self-satisfaction on their faces, whispering some secret to each other. I continued on but then a few more people happily walked up to Sister Agatha's desk.

I worked harder now, faster. Then it hit me--no way they could have finished that quickly. Unless...

I scanned through the remaining questions and there it was, question number 97: "If you'd read this, hand in this test right now. You are done!" Damn.

That's how I felt on Sunday when I discovered that not all the roof tiles are the same. The tapered tiles have a narrow end with a hole. At least the first hundred or so (the tiles on top of the pallet) have a hole on that end. Then I found a tile with the hole on the wide end. Must be a mistake. So I continued on, blind to what I should have known, which is that half of the tiles have a hole on the wide end. I should have gone through all the tiles first, but was I a hurry. Again.

Turns out that the tiles I just discovered are "pan" tiles--they go on the bottom. To fix things I had to remove all the tiles and start over. Yes, Sister. Sorry, Sister. Yes, I will remember to follow directions in the future.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mission Tile, Tapered vs Straight

Just for fun I sometimes carry on an internal dialog in which I explain, to myself, how something does or should work. I then challenge myself, call myself a naïve, simplistic fool and then demand a better explanation, which I calmly provide to myself in a condescending tone, on and on, back and forth until I can understand a thing or at least pretend that I do.

This weekend I set about explaining to myself about mission roof tiles. I love the way they look and how they fit together and how they last forever. We have straight barrel mission tiles on our house. I've studied them in preparation for the pagoda project, made notes and was prepared to go. When I finally found a place to buy some tiles--it is not an easy thing to do because most places will only sell to an actual roofer--I discovered that the tiles would be tapered mission tiles instead of straight.

"Is that OK?," the guy asked. Because he was selling me the tiles at the contractor's price, I just said "OK."

The tiles came this weekend. Sure enough, they are tapered. But why? I built a little mock-up to lay out the tiles and see if I could understand this. I found a website that described how to lay them out--it's a completely different pattern than the straight tile. Luckily, they are (I hope) exactly what I needed for the curved corners because they have more wiggle room.

I've attempted to hash this out in my mind. I go out and look at the tile and it sort of makes sense. Then I forget. My problem is that I've always had a problem with spatial awareness. For example, I'm upstairs now but I can't point to the location of any of the rooms downstairs. They are just down there somewhere.

If it were not for "left" and "right" I would be continually lost.

The roofing paper is up. Next comes the wooden framework for the tile.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Up on the Rooftop

When Cheryl and I were on one of our first dates, we were walking in a Las Vegas parking garage, on the 4th or 5th floor. Cheryl was being silly and ran toward the railing to look out over the edge. I panicked and grabbed her belt to pull her back, and her belt snapped open and there I was standing with her belt in my hands, babbling at her like a crazy person. I did this because I am so afraid of heights I cannot think straight.

I've been dreading the day when I would need to climb up on top of the pagoda's roof. I tried to do it last week but chickened out. Stepping from the ladder onto the roof seemed like an impossible challenge. And then how would I ever get back on the ladder? Yesterday I built some scaffolding just so I wouldn't have to step off from a flat surface. That's how scared I am.

But the scaffolding wasn't quite enough. I put my 2-foot step ladder up there just so I wouldn't have to make a big step up. Pathetic.

By this morning I had attached all the roof boards that I could while standing on the scaffolding. I slithered up on the partial roof, hugging the boards with my entire body so that the wind wouldn't toss me off (there's no wind today). I attached a few more boards in this really uncomfortable pose.

Then somehow I found a switch in my brain and turned it off. I sat up straight, and everything was OK.

I got the rest of the boards on pretty quickly, at least on this side. And I actually had fun doing it.

Now I have to do the side with no scaffolding... Crap.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not a Pagoda

After many months of planning and research, of scouring the web for pictures of Asian architecture, of searching through websites and blogs for ideas, of hacking into some online sites that sell drawings and stealing their ideas (though I never actually used them, so I guess it's OK).

After all that effort, this week I finally transferred the jumble of abstract ideas into something physical--I cut out the curved rafters for my little building in the back yard. We've decided to call a pagoda, though it is not a pagoda at all.

The curved rooflines of real pagodas have a purpose beyond decoration--they are just one element of an amazing suspension system, stronger than the strongest earthquakes. My curved roof is for show, a sort of affectation that allows me to pretend it's something more than a simple picnic building. Maybe it also helps allow me to pretend that I'm not just an old fart from Arkansas.

Sensing that the project now has some interest, Jam has resumed his role as project manager. What a good boy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Touching the Sky with Rafters

I invited Cheryl out to take some pictures, knowing that she would be pleased to capture my fear of heights with her new lens. But first I had to get this 12-foot ridge beam in place. Heavy.

Willow is back in charge of project development while Jam is busy doing crochet with Cheryl. He'll be back.

The straight rafters came next. These were easier than I expected to install, but getting the first one right was a pain.

What I'm really excited about is making the curved rafters for the corners. Here's what my Sketchup drawing looks like.

In this photo taken by Cheryl, I am back on solid ground, my dignity and confidence restored, grateful that I did not wet myself while up on the ladder. However, I know that to finish the roof I will eventually have to crawl up on top of it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Moving One Ton of Sand, Just Cause

It's been raining all day and our roof did not leak. Most people could say that sentence casually, without a second thought. But for us the concept is so hard to grasp that I still can't quite believe it. After 11 years and 4 roofing companies, the roof is finally watertight, or it appears to be, at least in one small area above the stairs. Shoot, now I am afraid to get up from my desk and check again, for the 100th time.

This weekend I finished grouting the stone patio around the grill area. But before I get started on the new roof (the one for the patio, not the leaky one in our house), I decided to move the remaining sand (about one ton of it, literally) from the side yard. Shovel by shovel, then in a wheel barrow ride of about 40 feet, and then shoveled out into another huge bag, so that we're able to do the landscaping next to the pergola before summer gets here. I'll be using the sand to make stucco for the old grill.

Also, I've left our lime tree next to the grill patio where it is clearly in the way. I don't know why--it just seems to belong there.

Next: building the new roof. Maybe with copper tiles.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Self-Confidence and Luck

Self-confidence is an adolescent, drunken friend tempting you to do things you should not do. It is a bad boy with no common sense and no grip on reality and especially no concept of what it means to grow older. It convinced me that I could lift the 12-foot beams onto the posts by myself without pushing the posts off center.

Self-confidence is a brother to self-delusion, working together to prop you up. But when one goes away, so does the other, which is sad because they are fun to have around.

I spent the afternoon listening to them. And then by accident I found a way to steady the posts and balance the beams long enough to stair-step them into place. It was luck, not planning.

So I feel pretty good about myself. Self-confidence, self-delusion and luck are my friends, at least for today.