Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Walnut Bench, New Legs (part 3)

Prime time.

I didn't spend more than five minutes trying to figure out what type of paint woukd be best for the type of sheen I am hoping to achieve.  Honestly, I don't know what I want.  I think I want the legs to be a supportive design element without stealing the show from the actually bench top.  So, I went with a black semi gloss from rust-oleum.  The "painter's touch" variety.  

I figured I will just try some bargain basement home center stuff rather than experiment with expensive Ben Moore stuff.

Walnut Bench, New Legs (part 2)


Remember the design fro the other day?

I headed down to the basement at night and quickly made a few cuts.  Also pulled out the Keeg jig.

I put these together in probably about an hour.  They look pretty good.  Sketchup still works.  It's been a while but it shines through as always... Without the hefty cost of AutoCAD.

Anyway, here is a quick mock up to see how it will look.

Next up is paint.  I think I am going to do black like my sketchup drawing. I really wanted to make these out do metal, but my welding days sort of stopped when I left college.  Anyway, black will make these disappear while giving a homage to metal with the color.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Walnut Bench, New Leg Design

The bench has some rustic legs, which are mortised in via peg joint.  Even with glue, these have failed to keep up with consistent toddler and contractor abuse.  I have decided to try another leg system.  I'm also going to give it a slightly more modern look.

I am not sure where I have seen this style leg first, but I definitely noticed it before.  I client I am currently working for actually has a somewhat similar leg style on end-of-bed bench in his house.  I had this idea for a while, but since he just moved in on Monday and I saw the bench, I put my speed square to the legs and saw the 9 degrees and it looked like it would work for me as well.

Anyway, I just sketched this.  Feel free to critique.  At my speed, you probably have a lot of time to voice your opinion, since nothing I do gets done to quickly nowadays!

I plan to pocket screw everything so that all fasteners are hidden.  Will these legs be strong enough? Only time will tell.  I'll just build it and see what happens.   Hopefully all that time I wasted in school for engineering will come in handy for once.  But probably not.

Here goes:
More modern? Maybe.  The style seems overdone, but I'm fresh out of ideas here.  I'm sure if I build this, and leave it my house for the next five years or so, at least one person will say something about it once.  But probably not.

That's how it will look. Here's an exploded view for when I start making the cuts.  I've done all the work for  you.. now you can build one yourself, if you so desire.

That's all for now. Happy Holidays, loyal reader.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Black walnut bench

Loyal reader, I have been trying to refinish a bench that was gifted to me about a year ago.  
The bench is a rustic slab-style bench of black walnut.  We have been using as an entry bench just inside the foyer of the house.  However, until recently, it was simply unfinished.  I wanted to give this thing a refresh so it looked like a real piece of furniture and not just a slab of wood.

After going through the cycle and sanding it up to 320, I decided to try something new for a finish.  Since I'm not really a woodworker, I have no idea about how to finish a piece of wood.  My idea of finishing wood involves me going to either my basement or C&R and discerning between which type of polyurethane I'm going to use.  Water or oil based.  I feel like a dunce when I go this route.  It's kind of like the McDonald's of wood finishing: cheap and fast.  But like the old saying goes: Cheap, Fast, Good... you only get to pick two out of those three.  

That's how I feel about finishing wood with poly.  Its cheap and fast, but not very good.

So, I got a recipe from a fellow woodworker which involved mixing up some toxins.  I'm really not that interested in chemistry, but the idea of doing a DIY finish has the potential to be more satisfying.  Also, I figured I would give it a shot and see if I could actually learn something.

The mixture is as follows:

1 part turpentine
1 part boiled linseed oil
2 parts spar vanish

And some of that can vary based on the moisture content of where you are finishing.  The problem with finishing this thing in my basement is that its a high-moisture area (especially since I don't have a clothes dryer).  Thus, I have been doing this refinish job for months.  The drying time can take weeks sometimes.

The best I can do is a before picture on the flip phone

I was not a photography major

Here is after four (4) coats of the special finish:

Still feels tacky, and I even sealed it in with one final coat of just spar vanish.  I'm going to give it a light sand with some 000 steel wool, then its time to re-glue back up.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Built-in Light fixtures

Loyal reader, I started this weblog post in September 2014. Now that it is six twelve months later, I suppose its time to finish this quick write up.  

Well, after about seven (7) months of having romex dangling out of the front of my bookcase, I decided it was time to install some sconces.

I know you won't believe me, but it wasn't pure laziness that derailed this project for so long.  I honestly couldn't find any fixtures that would fit this bookcase.

Let me rephrase... I couldn't afford any fixtures that would fit this bookcase.

Okay, let me rephrase again... I didn't want to afford any fixtures that would fit this bookcase.

But seriously, with four identical lights needing to be wired to this bookcase, I'm not going to spend $380 a piece. I let you do the math, but that probably ends up costing more that four times the cost of building this bookcase. Total.

Sorry Barn Light Electric. I think the last "farmer" who could afford to put $400 sconces throughout his "barn" had a last name of Escobar and hailed from MedellĂ­n.  

The world of "lighting design" is an industry that casts a dark and sinister shadow.  To me, its all overpriced junk designed to rip of wealthy people that may or may not have more money than brains.  With a pipe bender, and some scrap brass, I think anyone could make those rusty looking barn fixtures.

So, I have been looking at the internet and the local lighting stores for ideas.  And for months and months, I was feeling depressed and uninspired.  I wanted something like the picture below, but these are so expensive that they don't even bother pricing them.  I'm guessing they are in the $500/ea range.

I almost scored a set of used ones from a guy on ebay, but I think my style of hardball negotiation scared him away.  I called him out on selling some pure overpriced junk and had him reduce the price by almost 50%, but I couldn't close the gap.  I wanted all three shipped for $130 and he wouldn't go below $150.  His loss. I hope they get good use in a dusty box in his garage.

What was my goal with lighting this bookcase?  I really wanted a down casting sconce. For some reason, these kind of lights are sort of rare. They just aren't big sellers, and most of the time down casting lights are reserve for outdoor applications.

I also found that having hard wiring sconces is not exactly for your typical working class household.  Most average Joe Homeowners are going to do plug in sconces rather than punch holes in their walls to fish some romex up to a legit junction box to do sconces.  I had no idea before I got into this project, but it does make sense.  Lesson learned: Hardwired sconces are typically for people with disposable income.

Well, that doesn't exactly include me.  So, I started looking at these crappy "layman" plug-in sconces.  I was thinking that if I found one with a proper canopy, I could probably do a hardwire conversion inside the canopy.  I was getting desperate.  But the whole pricing thing was very discouraging. I can't spend $2,000 on the lighting for this bookcase.   My entire house is probably only worth a few dollars more on the open market!

So, I turned to every college kid's home decor venue of choice: Ikea.  Well, I actually didn't just turn there, I was just cruising around looking for cheap plug in sconces with ability to modify as mentioned before.  And, I found these: the Ikea "Arstid".  Behold:

If you use your imagination while simultaneously feeling sorry for me, the word "elegant" *might* just pop in to your mind.... maybe.
In a way, they are pretty nice.  I mean, they definitely aren't the stately bookcase lights fit for a walnut-clad, ivy-league library.  But, they look decent and seem to have the illumination capacity and style I was looking for.  Besides, the arm of the light is out pretty far which allows for books to slide under the light with ease.  The physical shape of the lamp was another obstacle in this process.

The trouble with the Arstid lamp is that we will need to some modifications to make them work.  Let's give it a go.

Fresh from my local Ikea dealer

An "apartment therapy" appropriate plug-in sconce.

The issue: fully domed w/ backplace. Not exactly setup for hardwiring.

Well, that's going to be a problem. Let's start dismantling these.  Warning: warranty-voiding content below.



Let's just do away with this pesky plug. Obviously, we leave enough of the leads inside the canopy so we can wire this thing directly to our Romex.

The pull switch cuts the black wire like a typical switch does in a wall. I'm keeping the pull switch in because... well I don't know. Maybe I want to turn one or two of these off instead of having all four on at once. (Nearly a year later, I've never pulled any of the pull switches, and these lights are on almost constantly at the house.)

Let's mark it for future electricians at this house, and for ease of installation when I'm up on the ladder.

Okay. Now, about this back plate. We need to get one (or two) stripped 12/2  romex wires through the back of the canopy, which will attach to the leads for the lamp.

Right now, we are stone walled. Solid back plate.

Tin snips do the trick.

"Custom" hanging bar

Ahem... let's just re-shape these a bit and...

Relatively, sort-of straight. Perfect.

Great. Only three more to go.

That's the basic process of lamp modification.  Now let's get to hanging these things on the built-in.  I surfaced mounted these to pancake boxes because I just wanted to get something up on the wall and see how it looked.

Romex thru pancake.

Conductors ready for connection.


Wire it up and this project is a wrap.  The finished product:

It actually works.

On the first one I covered the pancake box with a 4" hose clamp.  I know, this sounds terribly budget.  But no one actually notices.  No one really notices the other three that I did not put a hose clamp on either.  The bottom line: no one really notices anything.

Here are some glamour shots, just because...

The bookcase is so massive that its hard to fit in the frame of the camera.

This post is about a year old, but who is counting?  Thanks for indulging, Loyal Reader.  You saw it here first on Occupy Wolf Street.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rim joist moldings at stairs + living room crown

Loyal reader,

I don't have much to say on this post except there is a detail in this house that I really look at and appreciate from time to time.

Upon realizing that the entire upstairs of the house was being held up by a 1x8, I had to quickly come up with a game plan to save the house from further sinking and/or collapse.

Over the years, the center of the house (at the stair opening) has sank steadily, only on the 2nd floor.  If you have been to the house, you have noticed it.  Walking upstairs in the hallway sort of feels like this:

My hallway is about as balanced as our judicial system. Above is a scene from the spinning tunnel of a fun house.  Just subtract the word "fun" from "fun house" and you have.. well... my house.  I feel just slightly less giddy than these folks when walking through my hallway.
I'm not exaggerating much. The hallway is about 5' wide at its widest area (top of stair landing) and it is seriously 2 inches out of level.  I lasered it in penney's room when I was renovating it, and its about 3 1/2" drop over about 9 feet.  In short, I have few good things to say about the people who built this home.

So, all of this drama is rooted with this staircase.  And the trim** that covers the joists (between 1st floor ceiling and 2nd floor, uh, flooring was out of level by about two (2) inches.  I can't remember the exact number because my brain has opted to black out that portion of out-of-level-ness in the interest of my own self preservation and well-being.

Since I leveled the ceiling downstairs (which was out over 4"!) I was stuck with a tough detail where the new level plane of the ceiling hit the stairs.  Those of you who have re-leveled a ceiling, you know your new ceiling resides at the lowest point of the old ceiling (if you care about preserving every micron of your ceiling height).  Thus, at this point in the house, I had to make up about 2".  And, to make matters worse, this is the point where I tie the new moldings into the old [way out of level moldings].

Anyway, I pulled the old trim and came up with a whole new profile that slowly regained that two inches back.  I gained about 1" ripping the backs of the moldings and making at custom profile which steps up, and cut a few discrete tapered pieces and voila!  The whole thing came together pretty nicely.

Aforementioned detail.

Really, what I appreciate most about this detail is the say the 3-piece custom (sneakily stepped up) stair trim hits the crown molding.  The outer most piece of the stair trim has the same ogee shape as the top most profile in the 3-piece crown of the living room. It took a lot of planning to land that last full 16' piece of crown, make the return into the wall, while simultaneously seamlessly transitioning into the stair trim.

I know that its hard to visualize in words, and the picture above doesn't even show that transition that well.  But, I'm not easily impressed.. by anything... especially anything that involves me.  But this small detail in this house is noteworthy.

This concludes this evening's masterpiece theater.  I hope you enjoyed it and we will see you next time.

** Bonus points for who can tell me what the name of this trim is?  I don't even know the architectural name for this detail in a house. I'm at a loss.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Website Redesign: In Progress

I just updated the database and pulled over everything into the new one successfully.  Then added a little jquery pizazz to the menus, and changed the splash page.  I just squeezed this into the last few hours, so I doubt I'm even close to final.

This is a website, not a job site

Check it out and give me some feedback.  I realize that design-wise, I still have a long ways to go.  So treat this as a concept.

Revamping the website is sort of pointless now that I'm a full time carpenter again, but I want to add in my programming and design endeavors somewhere in this site.  At this stage in my life, I should probably start focusing on one single discipline to be an expert in. I'm too disjointed with my skills.

I also know that you, my loyal reader, love your mobile phone. I intend to optimize the site to be cross-platform.  I originally made this website in two weeks before I moved back to philly... having no experience in html, css, javascript, mysql, etc.  At this point, the whole thing is pretty dated.  The underlying portfolio pages need a fresh look as well, but overall, the indexhibit style is DIY and awesome so I may keep it in the same vein, with some slight tweeks and customizations.

Messing with image resizing is so annoying that I don't think I'm going to do this type of cover page ever again!