1. Buy dimensional 3/4″ poplar boards.
2. Plane to uniform thickness.
3. Rip 2″ and 3″ strips on the table saw.
4. Two dado cuts on table saw for 1/4″X 3/8″ panel groove.
5. Run each section on router because table saw is a POS and there is depth variation in all the grooves…
6. Threaten table saw with large iron maul – mean it.
7. Grumble a little.
8. Cut door stiles (sides) to length – Measure opening for stiles, subtract 4″ for stile width and add 3/4″ for double 3/8″ panel slot.
9. Write all measurements down on a non-descript sheet of paper.
10. Put measurements somewhere safe.
11. Take a 2 week to 4 month break because life gets busy.
12. Lose paper with measurements.
13. Tear house and shop apart looking.
14. Give up and re-measure.
15. Cut rails.
16. Lay all parts out and label, check sizing, trim two pieces, and pray a little.
17. Set up horizontal drill press to drill for dowel joints.
18. Screw up at least 4 initial holes.
19. Hit head in shop at least 3 times.
20. Build sweet dowel trimming jig for table saw – let head swell a little.
21. Cut 3/8″ off each dowel (8 per door).
22. Drill 16 holes per door.
23. Sand the cut-off end of dowel.
24. Dry fit first door.
26. Get out every bar clamp, hand clamp, and Quick-clamp that you own and set up clamping station.
27. Find original measurements for doors in the “safe place.”
28. Say dirty words very loudly. Repeat.
29. Add glue to dowels and joints and assemble door.
30. Apply judicious blows from wooden mallet to seat parts.
31. Get glue on hands and in hair.
32. Clamp up.
33. Wipe extra glue on door off with wet rag.
34. Repeat last 6 steps 8 more times.
35. Scrape clue, plane joints, and sand doors with 3 different paper grits.
36. Check and adjust door fit to openings and prime after more planning.
37. Re-prime and paint with two coats of white cabinet paint.
38. Mark, mortise, and install hinges on door.
39. Install red glass pulls.
40. Mark and mortise hinge/door onto cabinet.
41. Check fit and adjust 2 to 9 times.
42. Repeat steps 28 thru 41 eight more times
43. Drink three beers and swear to never build your own kitchen cabinets from scratch ever again!
Archive for category House
1. Buy dimensional 3/4″ poplar boards.
So… My J-O-B has made us an offer that is very hard to refuse: a two year stint in the south of France and they will fly us home 3 times a year. We get to keep our house and I get to come back to my job in Seattle when that period ends. THE SOUTH OF FRANCE!! Warm weather, amazing wine, spectacular cheese, lavender, honey, the French vacation plan. We would be living outside of Toulouse – the third largest city in France. It sits at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, is an hour from the coast, has one of the 10 best Saturday markets in Europe (so says the interwebs), and has more sunshine in 6 weeks of summer than Seattle has all year. We are so freaking doing this!
There is some red tape that we have to cut through, namely a work permit. Since around 27% of the French population under 30 is out of work, getting a permit right now, even in the aerospace field, is tres difficile. Fingers crossed. If this happens, then The Nana will move into La Maison du Talley, pay the utilities, and keep the zombie horde away. Visualize a sweet grandmother rocking away on the front porch with a shotgun across her lap. Add a Marlboro hanging from the corner of her mouth and you will have an accurate picture of The Nana.
I will miss my shop and my yard for those two years, but I will plug the hole in my heart with Cote du Rhone, Comte, a day trip or 6 to the Mediterranean coast, weekends in Paris/Rome, sunshine, and a yearly vacation to Morocco. I will be taking a chest of hand tools and am planning on making some small detailed pieces while there. I also plan on scouring the flea markets over that two year period for planes, chisels, and joinery tools.
Stamps-With-Foot is not concerned about logistics or housing or much of anything other than “How is Brodie going to handle that long flight?!” She feels that we will be taking Brodie back to ancestral homeland and has spent some amount of time talking to the dog about this possibility – trying to get him psyched about the proposition…
We had a quiet West Seattle weekend: Friends over on Friday and we all drank no small amount of great Italian wine and ate the last of our French Comte cheese. I worked around the house and in the shop (me and the lathe are friends) Saturday morning while Stamps-With-Foot nursed a touch of a hangover and snuggled with the Brodie – He didn’t complain. Sunday was lazy with Brunch at Meander’s in White Center (Go For the Chicken and Waffles!) and afternoon coffee at C&P. After coffee and reading, there was a trip to Trader Joe’s, home for left-overs, some quality hottub time, and then we finished the evening with glasses of port, sitting in front of a fire.
This weekend was busy with friends, a dinner out, St. Paddy’s Day activities, an outing to the Roller Derby (?!), and the 9th anniversary of the day that my sweet wife and I met was on Sunday. Even with all that, we still got bunches done around the house: Our under-bed dresser finished, bathroom table drawer installed (a little work on that left), wine crate storage boxes made, basement lighting installed, and the basement work bench is moving along.
The drawers for the under-bed dresser and the one for the bathroom all came from a wooden donor-dresser that my father-in-law drug home from a garage sale last summer. He paid $4 for it and it was in pretty bad shape, but it was solid wood and had potential. It was mistakenly left in the weather (plastic cover leaked) for a month before I salvaged the drawers, cut out off the top and used the sides for kitchen cabinet door panels. I re-squared the drawers, added dividers in the fall, and over the Christmas break sealed the insides (The Ruminator helped). After lots of filling and sanding and more sanding, I stained the fronts to match our bedroom furniture, then built ¾” plywood beams to hang the drawers from bed frame and used some scrap oak flooring as drawer guides/runners. The final product really looks good and is super functional. While some husbands bug their wives by filling the house with brought-home junk – I give my wife more and more and more storage and organization space.
On Sunday, I put the final coat of finish on the basement workbench top, let it dry, and then installed the three runs of aluminum t-track. Stamps-With-Foot bucked up and helped me wrestle its 200 pound beech and maple mass onto the steel base. I secured it with screws and covered the top with carpet squares while I finish the upper shelf/cabinet. I installed a outlet power strip under the main body of the topper and removed the old drawer dividers. I will soon add a plywood back with a mirror, a light under, a dedicated air supply line, install the desk drawers under the bench and mount 4 reclaimed letterpress drawers directly under the top as well. Happy with the progress so far.
I decided to work on the kitchen cabinet doors, cut some plywood sheets down, and tackle a bench top while the sun was shining. I opened the shop, brought out a plastic truck-bed toolbox to cut on (my 4 sawhorses are currently being used elsewhere), pulled 3 full-sized sheets of ¾” and ½” plywood out of the lumber rack and drug it all out into the backyard. After marking the first sheet, adjusting my saw blade depth, lining up my rip fence, and checking for clearance – I started my first cut and immediately ripped a 6” long kerf-cut into the top of the tool box that the sheet was sitting on. Dammit! I cut the rest of the plywood up without incident, but grumbled thinking about the mistake (I will fill and patch it with molten P-Tex plastic at some later point). After stacking all the assorted pieces of ply back into my cluttered shop, I man-handled the 170+ pound beech and maple in-work bench top from the basement and placed it on the now-damaged toolbox – trying very hard not to either herniate a disk in my bask or tear what is left of my shoulder.
My Shop/Garage is pilled deep and high with lumber, hardware, undone winter projects, wood shavings, tools, sawdust, flotsam & jetsam, etc…. I spent an hour trying to set up my router and in all the clutter and mess I couldn’t find a ¼” collet for one router and the other does not have an integrated fence, so using my big monkey brain, I improvised a fence. All I really wanted to do with the top was to route channels for t-track and thoroughly sand it down before taking the beast back into the bowels of the basement to apply stain and a tung oil finish. All was going as planned and my first cut was perfect. The second cut went just the same, but at the very end of the third cut my improvised fence failed and the router wobbled – gouging the top that I had spent a month building. Jesus H. Christ I was pissed! – Mostly at myself, but there was some vitriol left over for the machine in my hands. I said dirty, hateful, vile things while resetting the fence and making an adjusted cut. I moved on to make my last cut in the very front lip of the bench and while the fence held, I stood up mid-way through the pass and the router wobbled, making the bit chew into a section of wood where I did not want it to go. I gritted through the rest of the pass and finished the cut, but the second I was clear of the wood, I wanted to throw the still running router on the ground and beat the electric life out of it with the pruning shears that were leaning against the garage wall. I had to walk away, hand over my mouth, and just breathed deeply with my back to the offending router, my own incompetence, and the damage they had both wrought. My moment of reflection was short lived because just as I turned, I felt the first drop of rain fall from what was minutes ago a blue sky that had ominously darkened while I was focused on my router-rage (I swear it happened just like that – strait out of a hip urban dramedy…). SHIT!! I ran for something to cover the bench top. The only thing I could find was a pink tent fly and a sheet of cardboard. I covered everything and retreated into the shop, right eye twitching with disbelief/confusion/anger. I spent the next hour drinking coffee laced with sawdust and moving piles of crap around in my shop.
When my sweet wife got home she MAY have found me in the shop muttering to myself, pacing, covered in saw dust, contemplating the logistics of building a giant sealed dome over our entire lot. She talked me off the ledge, helped me put the top back into the basement, patted me a little, told me I was pretty and smart and a good boy, put me in some fresh, sawdust free clothes, and took me out to see a movie.
I got up the next morning and after a yummy breakfast of flaky croissants, bacon, eggs and two cups of coffee, I went downstairs and chiseled out the offending screw-ups, then cut and glued maple patches in. After calming down some and after a good night’s sleep, I felt better about the whole thing, but me and that router are still not on speaking terms.
I have come to both love and accept my wife’s little quirks. I don’t understand them all and from time to time I have to just shake my head and mutter after finding something odd in the recycling or noticing that kitchen silverware was used to dig in the flower beds for example. I have also discovered that it is best to work within the confines of these quirks instead of confronting them/her with what most people would call reason. That confrontation would lead to a two hour discussion that would, in turn, lead nowhere. I would have to apologize for even bringing it up and then I would have to buy her something shiny for my transgression. In the end, I would be right back where I started – muttering to myself and slowly shaking my head with my lips pursed in an expression of both frustration and amazement.
Stamps-With-Foot is very visual and she has to SEE something for it to be real for her. Visualization of a concept like arranging pictures on the wall, where flowers COULD go in the yard, or where to move a chair in the living room is an exercise in frustration. This normally means that after a week+ of debating where a piece of furniture should go, I will move it 4-9 times before she decides that the original decision was the correct one. This comes up for me because we have been talking about to swapping offices at home. Her sewing/estrogen room will go upstairs to the sunny well-lit wood-floored bedroom at the front of our house and I will move my faux-Edwardian office/man-cave into the basement so that it will be co-located to my tiny hobby machine shop, work bench, and our den: A win/win for us both of us as long as I don’t have to move crap up and down and around for two days.
In the spirit of working with her previously addressed/documented traits, I formulated a plan to have it all work in my favor. I measured and drew a scale model of the room upstairs, showing locations of the doors, windows, and air vents. Then, I made scale cutouts of all the furniture that she could possibly have in the room. I left her with the drawing and cutout so that she could torment and second guess herself in peace while I went into the basement and worked on my new machine shop bench. 24 hours later and after looking at every possible combination at least 6 times, she had determined a location for each and every twig for her sewing nest and taped her choices for furniture location down on the drawing. I have elicited a promise that her decision is a final one and that if there is a change in any of the locations it will be made before the very first piece is picked up and humped upstairs.
Now all that is left for me to do is to bribe/con some friends and neighbors into helping move all the crap, putting it in its designated place and then to disappear in to my basement to plot my plan for world domination…. Mwahahahaha….
- Looked at hutch for too long and decided to get it done.
- Started with bottom section – doors removed.
- Stripped off all old paint and varnish from outside with “environmentally friendly” orange stripper.
- Scraped and scraped stripper off.
- Cussed “environmentally friendly.”
- Put more stripper on.
- Scrubbed off again.
- Wife helped for 40 minutes, hated it and didn’t touch either section again.
- Shoved a 1″ splinter under one of my fingernails.
- Said the “F” word 5+ times, bled on base & floor and thought about cutting it all up for firewood.
- Washed whole thing with paint thinner to stop the stripper residue from working any more.
- Let dry and sanded whole case with 120 grit.
- Sanded with 220 grit.
- Sanded again with 220 grit.
- Stained with a crazy pricey, but color-matched mahogany tinted oil-based stain.
- Used wife’s special dish gloves.
- The old, old fir had issue with the stain and was a little splotchy in some really key spots.
- Was grumpy for two days.
- Second coat of stain used to blend some areas.
- Put on first coat of wipe-on poly acrylic semi-gloss finish.
- Wife found stain covered dish gloves and I got in trouble.
- Went to store and bought wife new gloves.
- 24 hours later, scuffed finish with white 3M pad and applied finish coat 7 more times.
- Spent HOURS on the final coat.
- Repeated all above steps with the four raised panel doors.
- Installed 100+ year old glass pull-knobs on doors.
- Whole process took two months.
- Moved base into finished side of basement for use as a media cabinet and LCD TV base.
- Went downtown to Chinese-owned granite shop on Seattle’s 1st Ave and haggled over granite for top.
- I am a poor negotiator in Chinese.
- Left and came back with Mandarin speaking co-worker.
- Got GREAT deal on custom top. 1/12th of the price that I was quoted at Home Depot – really!
- Built A-frame jig for back of truck to haul granite.
- Picked up top and hauled home.
- Bribed 4 neighbors to help move it into place.
- Neighbors won’t answer my call anymore…
- Four months from start to finish.
- Two weeks later I started the top section.
- Decided to make top section into a living room “built-in.”
- Built, painted and installed new 8″ base for the top section in our living room to match existing trim.
- Removed the doors, hardware, and hinges.
- Repeated steps above with the exception of splinter under nail and use of wife’s gloves: I learned my lesson the first time.
- Cut hole in back for outlet already on wall.
- Had other, unsuspecting neighbors help me move the top section up.
- New neighbors called me names after it was all done.
- Hole for outlet 1″ off to the left.
- Said hateful words.
- Grumpy again.
- Calmed down and used Dremel tool and coping saw to remove section from one side and glued it to other side.
- Trimmed out outlet hole.
- Stained and finished outlet trim.
- Had wedding and took 30 day break in the rebuild/refinish process.
- Started looking for matching trim and crown molding at reclaimed lumber yards.
- No Luck.
- Had crown custom milled at high cost by a shop in SODO that had 90 year old machines running on their floor (shop closed about a month after I was there last
- Started the process of refinishing the doors.
- Installed crown molding.
- Shot nail through molding and into palm on final piece of crown.
- Bled on top of hutch – no dirty words.
- Installed refinished doors.
- Built two interior shelves out of 80 year old fir floor boards. Stained and finished – look original!
- Smacked the back of my head when installing shelves and almost knocked myself out.
- Sourced and purchased piece of wavy restoration glass to match original broken pane.
- Stained and finished the crown.
- Put final coat of trim paint on the new base.
- Installed the one missing glass pane.
- 5 months after base installed the top is done and looks like it has been in our place since 1928.
My son was here for a week+ for the holidays and we did cool stuff as he is the Igor to my Dr. Frankinstein. He left on Friday morning and to keep myself occupied so I wouldn’t mope around all weekend thinking about how much I missed him, I busied myself with a few on-going projects:
Underbed dresser – 95% done
Letterpress drawers made into occasional tables – 50%
The never ending kitchen remodel – 85%
Sofa table rebuild – 20%
Bathroom drawer for wife – 50%
Candle box – 100%
Glass cabinet handle installation – 45%
Hall mirror – 22%
Helping a friend move – 50%
While fitting the final pieces of the under bed dresser (built from an 1980s $4.00 garage sale upright five drawer) for our room and I transposed two numbers and cut something a touch too long. Grumble… Grumble… I went out to the shop, measured for screw clearance and put it on the table saw to rip down just a touch. I missed one screw, but my $56 carbide tipped cabinet blade didn’t. Sparks and bits of carbide flew. I said dirty words and came into the house to drown my sorrows in a Mexican coke, Jack with honey and an old Clint Eastwood western while propped up in bed with my grumpy face on.
We had an eventful, rain soaked weekend. Lots of stuff got done, but it wasn’t the sort of thing that great novelists write thought provoking prose about. Maybe a SNL skit though. Details below.
Home from work and into jammies.
Sent some e-mail and web-surfed.
Yummy pizza for dinner.
Finished watching season 6 of Dexter – Debra KNOWS!!
Heard weird water noise outside of basement window…
SHIT!!! Gutters clogged!
Ran outside, pulled ladder out, said DIRTY WORDS.
Up on rickety old wooden extension ladder after midnight in a rainstorm…
Prayed for the death of my neighbor’s pine tree.
No, really. Prayed for the tree to die or for neighbor to sell me his house so I can have the pleasure of turning it into mulch.
Dried off and apologized to Stamps-With-Foot for snapping at her while 15′ in the air, digging out leaves from the clogged downspout.
Off to bed.
Passed out and dropped Kindle on the floor -still works.
Up at 10:00 – no time for coffee – grrrrrr…
Drove downtown with my mother to see a talk by Clay Jenkinson – a Jefferson and TR scholar – my two favorite presidents.
Coffee and half a cookie for brunch – health food…
Presentation was great – funny and enlightening.
Took Mother to grocery store then home.
Called The Ruminator and chatted about Christmas lists and school and stuff.
Cleaned living room floors and rug.
Cussed the neighbor’s tree again – pine needles everywhere.
HATE that tree.
Took sweet wife to see shiny vampire movie instead of new 007 – we suffer for those we love.
Snuck food and cookie into movie.
Came home and obsessively checked gutters for clogs and basement for water for the next 24 hours.
Cursed tree – shook fist at it like an old man.
Spent some time in the hot tub in the rain relaxing/fantasizing about a chainsaw, limbs on the ground, and wood chips everywhere while laughing maniacally.
Went to look at Pintrest “for a minute” before bed – closed iPad 4 hours later at 3:45am.
Skype/FaceTime call with friends in Germany.
Worked on mid-century modern style bookshelf for bedroom.
Poked 20ish holes in wall looking for a studs. Stud-finder worthless on plaster walls.
Threw stud finder.
Hung shelf in a partial stage of completion. Will paint later.
Worked out Christmas budget with sweet wife.
Re-arranged living room to make room for Christmas tree.
Set iPad on top of built-in hutch to keep it out of the way and “safe.”
Watched helplessly as iPad slipped into crack and fell 5 feet and between hutch and wall.
Stared at wood, disbelieving.
Said foul, vile, hateful things.
Paused to collect myself.
Said foul, vile, hateful things again.
Contemplated getting the sledge hammer and splitting maul out.
Had to walk away before I broke stuff.
Went to Target: mood did not improve.
Shopped for Christmas tree in driving cold rain: mood still poor.
Found a nice, full 7′ tall Noble Fir.
Let tree air dry a bit and put it up in living room.
Worked on Christmas cards with sweet wife.
Wrote some funny stuff on cards to friends and family.
Went out to my little shop and cut two long 1/2″X5/8″ sticks of fir & popular.
Attached L-bracket to the ends.
Fished iPad out using the chopstick technique.
Wife so impressed, she bragged about my big ol’ brain on Facebook.
For just a second, I thought “When McGyver spends alone-time with a bottle of lotion, he is thinking of ME….”
Remembered that I was the dumb-ass that dropped it there in the first place and decided not to let me ego run rampant.
More Christmas cards.
House smells like Christmas.
Taught cat to hop onto edge of tub.
Fought internal demon to keep from teaching her to swim.
Also resisted the urge to splash.
Shower and shave – need new blades
Dog snored like a 70 year old alcoholic man with sleep apnea.
Put him on wife’s side of the bed so they could snuggle.
We have a new resident living at La Maison du Talley: Izzy Osborne the cat. My mother recently moved from a house to a smaller apartment and her cat went nuts. Screaming, scratching, and peeing on everything and everyone. The Nana was beside herself with anger over the mess and with worry about what would happen to her kitty. This cat and I have history. For the last 7 years she has attacked me, drawn blood, hissed, growled, spit and slapped at me almost every time I got near her. There was an air of loathing in her yellow eyes every time she looked at me. Mean is an understatement! I have repeatedly teased The Nana about the cat being the Devil’s own and that her kitty brain was busy plotting evil, hate, and plague.
Stamps-With-Foot and I grudgingly agreed to bring her to our place to live in the back yard (I refuse to have a cat in the house – refuse) because I didn’t want my mother to get even more upset. Izzy wanted nothing to do with us for the first few days and even walked back to The Nana’s old house a couple of times. We went and got her – visualize armor made from a catcher’s mask and welding gloves – and once she figured out that we would feed her a couple times a day and not let Brodie use her for a chew toy, I guess she decided to stay.
She is a whole new cat… She purrs when I feed her, she will let me touch her, hasn’t attacked me even once, and her look of revulsion toward me is gone. While sitting in the yard on Sunday, she got into my lap and demanded some scratching – it was shocking. I was even able to pick her up yesterday without pulling back two bloody stumps from where my hands used to be. It is like she has experienced a complete reversal of personality. The thought has crossed my mind that she is just trying to lull me into a comfortable place, biding her time until she can corner me in the shop and eat me or catch me napping and come at me like the face-sucker from the Alien movies, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt for now, pet her when I feed her and pay her some attention when outside. You never know, she might earn her keep and find a mouse or two trying to invade the yard.
It has been roughly eight months since my shop was robbed. It is just now that I have found the will and desire to start building furniture again. I have let projects and repairs pile up and let my garage shop digress into a sawdust filled junk-room. There have been parts for Adirondack lawn chairs in my basement and shop since December. I finally got around to gluing them up and screwing the pieces together when my son was here this summer. That little project led me to start cleaning the shop and find all the stuff that has been waiting on me. I dabbled with a couple of boxes, then started making pieces and organizing tools and supplies to tackle the larger stuff. Below is a list of current projects that are in work:
- Painting the Adirondack chairs
- Re-build of my father’s 1971 bookshelves
- Kitchen cabinet doors
- Misc. Lathe tasks
- Kitchen cabinet pullouts
- Camp Kitchen box build and paint
- Campaign furniture for luxury car camping
- Hall mirror
- Copy of a 12th Century Abby oak door
- Fireplace surround and mantle
- New Kitchen cabinet pulls and knobs
- Garden tool shed
- Christmas gifts
- Garden table
The above are started and in-work. I have plans to also build the below items soon:
- Small basement work bench (reloading and winter projects)
- Rebuild bookcase in master bedroom
- Murphy bed for my home office
- Box ceiling for master bedroom
- Home office bookshelves
- Chicken coop
- Ornamental planter box
- Cookbook shelf in kitchen
- Rebuild my standing desk
- Basement stairs rebuild
Magical Spring has finally come to Le Maison du Talley. Our rhododendrons are back and in full pooping bloom after they were hacked back last year. The tulips, daffodils, and poppies have all decided to bloom at the same time. The Spanash, English and Provence lavender has taken root and flourished along the front fence. After a two year struggle with blossom-rot, the two cherries up front are full of flowers and green cherries. We have Mandarin orange blossoms, apple blossoms, apricots, figs, raspberry buds, a fence line of blooming roses, and 3 Meyer’s lemons on the dwarf tree in our backyard mini-orchard.
Stamps-with-Foot and I planted garlic and onions in the fall that are close to being pulled and we spent an afternoon planting tomatoes, squash, corn, and zucchini in two of our raised beds. After in initial problem with early blight last year, our two full beds of tomatoes went NUTS! and we had more that we could use or give away. We were more selective this year and planted just a couple varieties and only 7 plants. I hot-housed a bed of spinach, Swiss Chard, and beats all winter that is now in full production mode.
I plan to be home more this summer and really spend some time tending and harvesting, although one wouldn’t know it from all the traveling so far. I can’t wait until mid-August when I can sit in my cotton hammock, gently swinging over my Ireland-green grass, drinking a Dunkel Weissbeir, snuggling my wife, and patting our puppy while gazing out onto our yard and garden.
Horror of horrors, I did not touch my yard this weekend. My lush, Ireland-green grass (I am a wee bit narcissistic about my grass) was left to grow and stretch toward the sky in the weekend sunshine. I spent all available daylight hours outside and didn’t even attempt to take the mower out, turn the compost, or battle with my creeping nemesis - the dandelions. Stamps-With-Foot did a little weeding on Saturday, but the bulk of our weekend was committed to getting the kitchen cabinets done enough so that we could do a test fit and install.
Success! My wife was a priming and painting machine: taking care of the microwave cabinet, the lowers, and the drawers. The lower cabinets were positioned into place and their rock-maple tops fitted (waiting on the drawer fronts and pulls to be finished). I cut all the frames for the doors, assembled the fridge cabinet, installed it with my wife holding the thing up in the air (hehehe), tacked together the trash/recycling slider, and cut the shelves for the microwave cabinet. When completely done, our cabinet space will increase by more than a third, will include al the latest and coolest amenities (slides, organizers, spice racks, pullouts, etc…), and the new cabinets completely match the original 1928 built-ins, both in construction and style.
I need to finish the fridge top cabinet, install the drawers, add a corner cookbook shelf, tack up cove-crown around all, and one final coat of paint. SOMEDAY, this will all be finished and we will have the most awesomest kitchen a tiny, period appropriate, craftsman house can have!
I added a pic of Brodie lounging in the sunshine, just because.
This is starting to get out of hand. We have six desks in our home and I need more. It may have now turned from fetish into a sickness. We are using them for all sorts of stuff: a work table, a liquor cabinet, a sewing/project center, paper repository, and for their intended purpose of writing and surfing the interwebs. Whenever I travel I have a wandering eye for bicycles and desk-like furniture – imagine Ron Jeremy leering at the contestants in a beauty pageant and you will have a good idea of what happens to me when I see a brazed bike frame or a Georgian secretary… I have seen a couple of pieces lately that I NEEDED! I needed them WAY down deep inside – like the Pope needs Jesus.
The one and only thing that keeps me from being more of a desk hoarder is my epic lack of proper funding. It makes me sad to leave them in the store all alone, where no one caresses their tops, opens the drawers slowly, tells them that they are pretty, and where they will end up with someone who will not treat them as nice as I would have.
Below is a selection from of desk-p0rn from the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the Charleston Antique district, Harrods in London, Restoration Hardware, misc. furniture shops, and my favorite Seattle antique store.
A list of stuff and things that I want currently – not that I necessarily need, but that i wuold like to have or see done/happen:
1. More time to read, write, build, snuggle, climb, bike, run, laugh…
2. A twin Murphy-bed in my office disguised as a mid-century modern wardrobe so that we have more guest space.
3. For my year-long kitchen project to be finished
4. To remember the password for my old laptop so I can have access to 10+ years of pictures…
5. My very own spending money that I can do with what I wish without submitting to a vote/need analysis
6. To have my FVCKIN’ tools back that some asshat stole…
7. A few new t-shirts for summer and a flat belly to reside under them.
8. For my Mother and Sister to find the perfect place in life
9. For all the dandelions in my yard to cease to exist
10. I would very much like for the really sad, really pregnant girl I say in Seattle yesterday to find someone/something/someplace that makes her warm, happy, and safe.
A couple of months ago, we were robbed – my shop was cleaned of tools. It is just now that I have calmed down enough to write about it and not rant and want to get up and throw things/commit serious bodily harm to someone. All of my hand tools, small power tools and a rolling large tool box were taken. It was a huge blow, not just in dollars, but in sentiment as well. There were carving chisels that were my grandfathers, most of my father’s wrenches , 80 year old spoke shaves, saws, a brand new – never used – router, and all my air nailers. Cleaned out.
We were in the UK and Ireland for 9 days and a couple days after we got back, I had a miserable day at my J-O-B and just wanted to work in the garage/shop and make a big pile of plane shavings – stress relief. I walked in the door and there was stuff everywhere (more than usual). Boxes off shelves, lumber moved, clamps scattered… I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing – did my wife move my stuff… No… Wait… Fvck!! I got crazy mad, then wanted to cry. My stomach tied itself in knots and my heart was sick as I made a mental calculation of what all was in my tool boxes. I called the cops.
Police came, took a report, I called in insurance company, and started looking on Craig’s list and in local pawn shops, while taking slow and painful inventory of what was gone. Not one tool, chisel, saw, router, or wrench ever showed up. To add insult to injury, I know who took it all. We had some contractors do some work at the house around Christmas and one of them was a little sketchy. Not weird junky-itch sketchy, he just looked around at everything in the house and yard with an appraising eye and followed me into the shop to get some supplies I had for him to use and he lingered just a little too long. I didn’t really put it all together until weeks later. I won’t go into details because I cannot “prove” anything and an online accusation could lead to court or this guy showing up at my house again and that would lead a different sort of court case… But I KNOW this guy has my stuff. I know, not a hunch, not a feeling, I know. I called the police to tell them what I had found and I was told that unless he was seen on a public street with one of my tools in his hand, that they could do very little. No warrant to search his vehicle, or house, or shop would be forthcoming… Man, it pisses me off that I paid this guy for slow work that I had to finish AND he took my property – tangible links with my father and Grandfather.
I filed a complaint for the workmanship issues and uncompleted work with the BBB, gave him a craptastic review on Yelp, and let the guy who recommended him know what all exactly happened. Maybe I can save someone else’s stuff. Additionally, I cut the plug off of a power planer months before the break-in because it had an electrical short to the metal housing. I hope that he puts a plug on it and the thing shocks the living shit out of him or that one of the carving chisels slips and relieves him of a reproductive organ in the lower abdominal region…
The sun is out and it looks like spring has finally come to Seattle. I had a full weekend off and was in the country for a change, so it was time to get busy waking the garden and yard up, prepping for planting, take care of some spring cleaning and enjoy a sunny warm day outside. Below is how this past Sunday went for me:
Up and out of the shower by 10:00am
Wife made yummy breakfast with Trader Joe’s Croissants
Coffee made me human
Put on my overalls
Removed extension cords that powered Christmas lights
Started taking down Christmas lights – 2.5 months late
Realized when on top of ladder that I needed long reach tool I made last year
Spent 30 minutes searching…
Remembered that I turned old tool into something else
Muttered dirty words
Spent 10 minutes making new long reach Christmas light removal tool
While on top of ladder, cleaned gutters – 5th time in 12 months…. Stupid Pine tree…
Cleaned and swept shop a little
Took apart one of our winter hot houses.
Planted forgotten bag of tulip/Camila bulbs found in hot house
Shook head and hoped that they will come up
Feed roses some of the pink Miracle Grow good stuff
Treated roses for Black Spot as preventative measure
Killed some evil dandelions
Laughed manically while committing the deed
Reconnected the garden irrigation system
Wife brought me coffee and a kiss
Mulched the apple and cherry trees
Ran out of mulch
Started to Home Depot and somehow drove past and all the way to Second Use
Found $220+ of oak flooring for $25
Bought oak flooring…
Picked up more mulch at Home Depot and replacement drill for one that was stolen
Wife didn’t raise eyebrow at truck full of wood
Got away with unplanned purchase this time…
Trimmed dead shoots from lavender
Mulched around all the lavender
Sweet wife made me lunch
Moved new cabinet from shop into basement
Started to move charcoal grill
Found football sized mass of blue and black mold inside grill
How in the hell does that happen??!?!?!
Gagged more than a little
Muttered more dirty words
Cleaned out mold, scrubbed every surface with bleach solution and wire brush
There were some additional words spoken that start with F
Made HUGE hot fire with oak shop scrap to kill EVERYTHING in grill
Grill now ready for spring
Laid out spot on outside garage wall for new garden tool shed.
Cut stakes for raspberries
Dark outside so went into basement
Sanded kitchen cabinet shelves that are under construction
Put a coat of primer on them
Installed in some drawer slides in what will be new 15″ cabinets beside the stove
Fv#%ing drill battery ran out of juice
My lovely bride made a yummy dinner
Can’t find new charger for new drill
Wrapped last of wife’s birthday gifts
Put finishing coat of clear-coat on Persian table base that I have been redoing
Somehow got finish in my mouth
Spat and tried repeatedly to scrap the turpentine taste off my tongue
Went to bed
Not a single word read before I passed completely out.
I bought my sweet wife a hot tub for our wedding anniversary. We had been looking for a while for just the right used tub, but most that are out there are utter crap or cost almost as much as a new one. We found a machinist who wanted to sell his immaculately maintained soaker so he could put in an outdoor kitchen. It is an older tub, but he had all the maintenance records on it, the interior looked brand new, it worked great and we paid about what it would have taken for him to have it hauled to the dump. I hired three giant Pacific islanders to deliver it – money well spent – then dug the trench for the electric and ran the wiring almost right away. I then made five trips to Home Depot and bought 2,450 pounds of gravel and sand to make a base. My nephew and I moved the tub into place with rollers, planks, a lever, and wedges. It is within 1/2 inch of where I planned it on paper and is dead level.
Due to my homeowner’s insurance restrictions, I am not allowed to wire into my main panel – it voids my fire coverage (yours probably says the same thing…), so I hired three successive electricians to tie it all in (one showed up high, the second was a complete no show, the third finally doing the needed work). While the third and final electrician was there and since I was paying for his time, I had him install a generator transfer switch, an exterior generator plug and a grounded exterior outlet. I reasoned that when the power goes out, I can crank the generator and we will still have the fridge, lights, TV/DVD, and heat as long as we have gas.
Stamps-With-Foot LOVES the tub. Given to her own devices, she will sit in it all day like a Japanese snow monkey. It was great when the snow storm hit us this year in January. We sat in the tub with snow piled all around, reflecting the city lights off its white surface. I will build a deck over our existing concrete pad, from the house to the tub this spring, which will make her doubly happy.
2011 was a hard year for us, like it has been for so many Americans, on a number of levels: I was gone constantly for work – over 100,000 air miles, we had some serious medical bills, there was money spent to help some good people out of a bind, some unexpected home repairs, a layoff, taxes, etc… I also chose 2011 to really work on my weight: putting it on, not taking it off. I just stopped running, biking and lifting for the last half of the year. I blame it on many factors: my work schedule, stress, an injury, laziness, apathy…
As I stand in my birthday suit in front of the mirror, I have done a fine job turning myself into a bald Troll doll. As I had to promise my wife that I would go out without pants anymore (long story), I doubt that anyone will see me in this state, but I KNOW. When dressed for working outside on the weekend, I look remarkably similar to a fvcking garden gnome. I am not happy about this state of affairs! My New Year’s resolution is to rid myself of this baggage by summer. This is also the year that I would like to spend less on shit the I want and truly determine the things that I need before my debit card comes whipping out. I WILL finish all my current cabinet projects, rub my wife’s feet more – it makes her happy. Eat MUCH less sugar, have a prosperous garden and mini-orchard this year. On the literature front, I am planning to put a big dent in the Conan Doyle Sherlock Homes tales, spend some time writing, read all the new crap that I have bought for my Kindle that just sits there and moves farther back in the queue as I keep buying new Kindle crack.
Are you old enough to remember standing in front of a wooden box in your school/neighborhood library, flipping through yellowed note cards, looking for the tittle/author of just the right book? As I sat in Mrs. Peterson’s 3rd grade classroom, learning the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System, I would have never imagined that I would one day look back on it all with smiling nostalgia. Going to the library and thumbing through the old oak card catalog drawers – pulled out and sitting on a table – and finding titles like The Roghfort Gang, My Side of the Mountain, How to Eat Fried Worms – happy memories.
The days to the DDS and the card catalog are almost completely gone. Almost all libraries – large, small, rural, urban – have digitized their catalogs/holdings and have sold off or just thrown out their cabinets (insert look of horror). I had looked for my own case for the last 3-4 years before finding one at a decent price that fit in our home. A fine old card catalog should be de rigueur for a bookworm’s home office/living room. When I found that perfect one early this year, I may have caressed and spoke to it in soft loving tones for the first few days. I moved it right into my office, re-arranged the drawers, and mounted my book press on the top. Something was still missing though. I realized that I needed labels installed in the brass pull/placard to complete the piece. I set up a template in Visio and set the lettering to an interesting script-like font that I found at dafont. Then I had a little fun with naming the drawers from A to Z.
As mentioned before, the previous owners of our home filled what used to be a cascading koi pond with a couple of years worth of used cat litter. The removal of this “gift” was a project that I was NOT looking forward to, but it had to be done. While it was officially still winter, I started the spring prep in the yard/garden and the litter box was the first project on my list.
I dug the bed out and hauled the old liner and kitty-nuggets away. I had thought about turning the area into a raised root vegetable planter, but the thought of any leftover cat poo getting into my food gave me the shakes. Stamps-With-Foot has been eyeing my vegetable boxes with intent to “ maybe add some flowers” so I decided to give her some space to plant non-edible flora in the backyard, which by agreement is my gardening domain.
There was already a course of interlocking wall block down, so I rearranged the foot print and after a trip to Home Depot for material, I laid four more courses down to give her a two foot tall planter with about fourteen square feet of planting space. (As a note, I have mad masonry hammer skills.)
After finishing the walls and filling the new planter with topsoil and a fresh layer of compost, I soaked the blocks with water and added moss bits from the old wall/garage roof to the seams because my little wife really likes the mossy look of old walls. I blended some moss up with yogurt that next weekend and spread it on to assist the growth process. By next summer the planter will look like it has been there for twenty years and the odd floral planting will not “happen” to show up next to my veggies. The pics below show the original ivy-covered state and how it looked up until late summer.
I have, for years, prided myself on my ability to make or fix just about anything found in our home or yard. Instead of having to hire a repairman or contractor, I have just done it all myself. That sounds smug, but I don’t mean for it to be – bear with me and you’ll see where this is going…
In the years since I met my wife, I have made: squirrel feeders, two loft beds, cutting tables (sewing), bird houses, 5 cutting boards, bookshelves, 2 hutches, kitchen cabinets, a hall tree, reupholstered chairs, refinished countless pieces of furniture, designed/built drawer organizers, patched walls, made a bat house (?!), hung drywall, sewn dresses, painted countless rooms (one with 5 coats of paint…), unclogged toilets & sinks, said some dirty words, welded a bumper, made a working boomerang for my son, etched glass, rescued old furniture from the burn pile, repaired a ukulele & 2 guitars, built window box planters, installed crown molding and fancy trim, bound books, constructed pellet gun targets, fixed printers/plotters, organized crap, made many of my own hand tools, hung doors, planted a garden, cleaned gutters, reseeded lawns, planted a mini-orchard, baked bread, made 2 yards Ireland-green, hung light fixtures, split firewood, soldered pipes, installed irrigation systems, pulled dents from two fenders, cut down trees, built 2 decks, sharpened countless kitchen knives, BBQed like a spatula wielding God, crafted raised garden boxes, installed 4 wireless home networks, baked turkeys, epoxied stuff back together, framed pictures, made pies, rewired lights & switches, changed automotive oil, installed shocks, brewed beer, hung about a 1000 pictures, replaced an intake manifold gasket, rewired the TV and remote, built-up 8 bikes, re-glazed windows, built PCs, replaced/rekeyed locks, and have been the entire family’s Computer Help Desk – on call 24hrs a day...
While this has saved me a few bucks here and there, it has had a couple of unwanted effects as well. 1: While I CAN fix this stuff, I don’t have the time to work, write, see the kids, snuggle my wife, and walk the dog and still take care of all the crap on my list of stuff to fix or build. 2: My wife knows I can do it all and so she is forever finding new tasks for me AND she breaks shit constantly. Now, the first thing is just one of those parts of married life that one has to just accept. It is like the 9th unwritten wedding vow: Do you, __________, promise to trap mice, carry grocery bags, repair the little things on the coming honey-do list, and put the toilet seat down, so long as you both shall live?
The second issue is more an unconscious development than a malicious attack on our household goods. Some examples:
- A cutting board gets left in a sink of water overnight and warps/splits. “It’s OK, you can fix it right?” She says when I find it in the morning and make the grumpy face…
- Kid who worked at the grocery store puts HUGE dent in car door with a train of shopping carts. No report is made. “Can you smooth that out?”
- First day in our home in Seattle… Me: Don’t use your hair dryer upstairs, the old wiring can’t handle it. Her: OK. After two tripped breakers when she plugged it in anyway the next morning, I found myself at the bottom of the stairs, crumpled in a ball, with a dislocated shoulder after I fell down said stairs trying to turn the breaker back on.
- Me: “Where is my bike lock cable?” Her: “Oh, that… I used it the other day and it fell off my bike somewhere and I didn’t notice.”
It is my fault, I have trained her to be this way – it is a learned behavior. If we had to pay cold hard cash for all the little/huge messes/dents/dings/cracks that seem to follow Stamps-With-Foot she would be more careful. I love my wife. She is amazing in so many ways – in most ways, but I swear the very next thing time I have to fix around the house (caused by her own personal tornado), my lovely/girly/sweet wife is going to get covered in sawdust, mud, paint, goo, putty, primer, glue, stain, and gunk – just because.
We were given some really nice kitchen knives for our wedding – REALLY NICE. I take pride in the fact that we never have dull kitchen cutlery and when my chef father-in-law comes for visits, he always remarks on the usability of our chef’s and prep knives. Those were just Target specials that were leftovers and cast-offs from my parents and friends. I was fine with them banging around in drawers and odd knife blocks. Well, the new Globals, were above a shabby knife drawer and required a case that befitted there quality and beauty.
As part of the kitchen remodel, I am adding little touches that make cooking in our kitchen as easy and pleasurable as possible. I decided to add a custom wall-mounted knife holder that would both protect the generous gift and make them immediately ready to use.
Knives need a good hard wood to protect them (hardwood retain less mosture) and the harder the wood, the longer it will last through the years of little nicks and jabs as knives are withdrawn and put away. I had some reclaimed maple flooring sections that came out of a local school gym that were just the right width and were bone-dry. I went out to the table saw and cut 10 kerfs from ½” to 2 ½”. I then glued and clamped two pieces together and let them sit for a day. After the glue was fully cured, I cut off the original flooring grooves, drilled mounting holes, sanded it with 220 grit, and mounted it in the kitchen. Dowels were installed over the screws in the mounting holes to make the installation seamless. I taped off the wall and the contact strip where the knives would enter/exit and painted the rack and painted the rest a gloss white to match the eventual color of the cabinets. One added benefit is that our Globals show very nicely in their new rack! I am working on replacing the 9” crap chef’s knife with a Global sashimi blade and a 9″ bread knife. Both the whe wife and father-in-law approve.
Stamps-With-Foot hates doing the dishes. She has about as much appreciation for dirty plates as the Dali Llama does for Chairman Mao… Since moving into our 1928 wonder, we (mostly she) has been hand washing the pots, pans, silverware and plates and letting them dry on our limited counter-top space. When discussing kitchen options a dishwasher was her number one priority. There was some huffing and foot tapping… I did as commanded and cut out a cabinet beside the sink (GOD! It hurt to alter the original cabinetry!), planned for plumbing and wiring, worked out the floor build up, cut access holes, made trim pieces, marked off measurements, etc…
For insurance reasons, I brought in an electrician to run the new power line back to the panel and while he was there, I had him install three outlets above the counter (there were none), move the stove power line and add a receptacle for our future over the stove microwave. That sounds fairly simple, but there was some drywall to remove, some 420 time, weird access issues, and a stove cord he drilled through… It took him two visits over a three week period to complete the needed work. The plumber (I don’t plumb, I suck at it and old galvanized pipes scare me!) was easier to get a hold of, a nice guy, knew his stuff, and completed his part – two valves and line installation – in just a single morning. I do recommend the later type of contractor instead of the former!
So, after maybe 6 hours of my labor and $1200 (washer price + craftsmen), my wife now has a dishwasher and lots of outlets to plug crap into. Now, I can get on with the rest of the kitchen remodel – 9 feet of new cabinet build and installation. I won’t need any additional professional assistance, so hopefully the rest goes smoothly and quickly.
The wife and I strive to have as little impact as possible on the world around us. My green lawn is chemical free, our firewood is shop-scrap and blown-down timber, our garden is organic, we conserve water and electricity, I compost our kitchen and yard waste, we are looking at honey and egg production this year, we recycle or reuse over 92% of our waste (real number – I calculated it out over a three month period by volume), I build furniture and cabinets from recycled and thrown away wood, and we either carpool or I ride to work most days.
However, we have a dirty little secret that needles at my green-bent little soul at least a couple of times a day – the massive 1942 oil-fired heater in our basement. We burn diesel to warm our home. Worse, we burn it in an antiquated heater that our service person said was “…about 30% efficient…” I feel like I and wearing a scarlet H (hypocrite) on my chest. We HAVE to do something about it!
I had considered switching to biodiesel, but so much oil is used in the production of bio-crops (tractor feul and fertilizer) that there is actually more oil used to produce most available biodiesel than regular fuel. I do not have the time, room, and am not zoned properly to produce my own biodiesel from used fryer oil. We have instead decided to replace our war and famine-fueled antique oil guzzler with a modern heat pump. I wanted a closed-loop geothermal system and we have the ground space for it, but the $25K price tag put it out of reach. We have instead opted for an above ground model that will have an electric booster for when the outside ambient temperature falls below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It will increase our winter electric bill some, which now sits at ~$40 a month, but it will give us air-conditioning for the one week a year that we need it and the projected price increase (~$20 a month) will be offset by the $2K+ savings on oil every winter. The system has a 20 year warrantee and will pay for its self in fuel savings in three years J I wanted it installed last fall, but it looks like it will go in this summer.
Additionally, I am installing a fireplace insert upstairs and am building an electric “fireplace” for the basement family room to help out when the temperature drops. We have only lost power once in the year and a half that we have been in our home, but just in case I am having an auxiliary generator adaptor wired to our main panel during the kitchen remodel so that our heat pump, fridge, freezer, stove, water heater and a few lights will be available if a storm or wind knocks our power out.
It seems that La Maison du Talley is in constant project mode. There are two furniture refinishing projects happening in the unfinished side of our basement, there is an inch of sawdust on my shop floor, the front and back yards are still in various stages of completion, and my project idea/sketch book is quickly filling with new stuff.
I have finished a good number of things on my plate and have vowed to finish everything currently under construction or re-construction before beginning anything new. I decided that as winter closes and spring dawns to take advantage of the better weather and rising temperatures (better for painting and finishing) and get some stuff knocked off. In that vein, I had a very productive weekend:
I built and installed an irrigation system for the backyard made with ¾ PVC. There are drip hose attachment points, ball valves, and splitters for ancillary hose attachments. I built it so that I can later install a timer for watering the fruit trees and veggies when we are out of town and a coupler to flush the pipes with compressed air before the first freeze every year. The total cost was less than a $100, I spent maybe 8 hours of labor from concept design to finish, and the shear convenience of it will pay off in spades in the years to come.
Last spring I acquired the top half of a built-in dish cabinet/hutch that had been ripped/sawed out of a 1920’s house. It was missing one side, had no back, covered a thick coat of unknown layers of paint, and scrapes and gouges all over it. I looked past its current state and saw some potential for some period appropriate and beautiful basement storage, so I picked it up for a steal and brought it home. It languished there in the basement, covered with plastic and accumulating junk on top through my shoulder recovery, the excitement of the summer, and during our fall of rest and relaxation.
I got serious about it a couple of weeks ago and after, squaring the cabinet with joined pipe clamps, I installed a beadboard back – real beadboard and not the plywood facsimile. I had Stamp-With-Foot help glue and drive a few nails so she would get an appreciation of the scope of the rebuild. I also took her with me to the millwork store and she picked out some decorative edge molding that I incorporated into a built up crown detail. I really appreciated her input as it made the project seem more like ours than just mine. After re-gluing and adding screws to all the joints, I installed a new side piece and 3” structural beams for mounting it to the wall – it will be holding a good bit of weight and I wanted the load evenly distributed on the whole piece.
My little wife helped me man-handle it into place and attach it to the walls. I spent an evening last week gluing up a custom top with clear grained popular and pine – it will have additional recessed storage in the top. While milling the edges on the top edge, I realized that I had used my father’s tools to do almost the entire job. I made me both smile and a little sad. My father helped give me the skill to build cabinets and furniture; he taught me that doing something right and making it beautiful were one and the same. I am using his tools because they became mine when he passed away and it made me wish that he were still here to see my adult ability to build and create, to help teach my son (his namesake) the same lessons I learned, and to just sit quietly and listen to him talk about his day and experience his warm smile.
I spent Saturday night and Sunday evening installing the new top and bits of trim. I built all the pieces perfectly square and there was a hiccup during installation as the walls of our 1928 house and the actual dimensions of our “new” 1920 cabinet are anything but… I called the wife down, she gave me her opinion (better than my own in this case) and I spent some quality time with a razor-sharp draw knife, a svelte jack plane, and creatively used a couple of long shims to make it all both work and look good. All the trim is now installed and the whole thing turned out really nice. We will do a little more scraping before priming the bare wood and paint it all with a gloss white trim paint. I will ost about it again when the finished cabinet is ready for unveiling.
Note: Stamps-With –Foot has now informed me that this is the last project that I will do in the house until I install a dishwasher and build the additional cabinets in the kitchen. I will NOT complete the 1942 Philco Radio refinish, nope to reseeding the grass, the nook table remake will wait, no new fruit tree planting, the crown and headboard in our bedroom has been pushed and gym entertainment/storage cabinet is nixed until the Kitchen is done…
I am having a personal crisis of conscience: I love trees, I really do, but I want evil things to happen to one particular example of flora in the neighbor’s yard. Less than a year ago I spent an entire morning precariously balanced on a 1950’s vintage wooden step-ladder, pulling pine needles out of the gutters of our new home, saying dirty words the whole time. With that experience fresh in my mind, I had some limbs trimmed a few months later that were on my side of the fence and hanging over our roof so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the downspouts clogging. The best laid plans of mice and men… Just because I have a smidgen of OCD, I did my yearly gutter/shingle inspection and upon popping my head up above the edge of the roof, I almost had an aneurism! Every gutter on the south end on the house (under the neighbor’s tree) was filled to overflowing with fvcking pine needles. Son of a…. I spent four hours raking my yard/pulling debris from the gutters and plotting the murder of a pine tree. Driving my hate was the realization that I have spent a week of Sundays and $1000+ engaged in a losing battle with this conifer. Are there hit men for trees? Would they make its demise look like an accident? How would a tree “slip in the tub” or “leave the gas on?”
It is really not the tree’s fault. I am the interloper. I am the higher ape with a Machiavellian need for order in my yard. The tree is just being. I realize these things on a intellectual level, but all that flies out the window the second I see a heap brown needles in my soft, green perfect grass, I start day dreaming of copper nails and the sweet lullaby of chainsaws.
I have spent something like 40 total hours of labor over the entire summer and spent ~$250 to build the most over complicated raised garden bed boxes within a four mile radius. I have obsessed over the design & materials, changed the layout and location no more than 4 times and used child labor (my 9-year old son) during construction. We now have Garden Boxes that can support the weight of our entire house and my wife mentioned that I might need an intervention.
It all started when we decided to grow some veggies and I didn’t want to use treated lumber from Home Depot. I considered landscape bricks, but the total project cost would be over $700 for three 8X3X2’ beds. I wanted to use 3-inch thick cypress beams, as that particular wood is rot proof for 50+ years, but that type of wood is outrageously expensive here in the Pacific Northwest ~$1000 for the needed lengths. I considered redwood, but it was also too pricy to be left out in the yard, half covered with dirt. The predicament was solved for me when I happened upon a bunch of 4”X10”X8’ fir beams that were end cuts from a beam roof construction project in the neighborhood. As they were “scrap” I picked them up for a song.
In addition to the boxes, there will be an espalier apple tree and two columnar apples on that side of the yard. I wanted the garden boxes to mesh with that plan and still be functional, pretty, and to fit in with the style of our house & yard. To help with that goal, I decided to lap joint the corners of the boxes and use hardwood dowels to both keep the joints together and as homage to the period craftsmanship of our home. I know I have OCD. Since I was already using dowels, I wanted to marry the planks together (see drawing) so that the whole structure would be stronger and resist and bowing in the middle as the dirt pressed on the sides of the beds. I felt it might also be nice to add replaceable cedar top rails to shed water and to take the brunt of any abuse. I may have over-thought the concept and might have been better off just using concrete cinder blocks…
The finished product with espalier apple trees cartooned in.
Here are the exact steps to take in building raised garden boxes just like ours:
Buy lumber – get great deal
Bring home and cover with tarp
Let sit for a month
Measure and layout each joint with son’s help
Let son drop board on your shin
Try REALLY hard not to say curse words
By son ice cream.
Limp for a couple of days
Carefully cut all end notches with son
Tell him no when he wants to run the circle saw
Tel him no when he asks again every 10 minutes
Lit it all sit for 2 more weeks
Find really expensive combination square your son left in the grass
Smile because you love him anyway
Drill all dowel holes in the middle of the individual sections with spade bit
Let sit for a week in rain because you forgot to tarp it
Assembly all sections dry for 1st box
Realize that the pieces are now warped and twisted more than a bit
Say a LOT of curse words
Hand-fit each joint with a mallet and chisel
Cuss some more
Purchase ¾” X 2’ auger bit
Assemble 1st box with glue and dowels
Get HUGE splinter in palm
Say hurtful, mean things to the lumber & loudly question the legitimacy of its parentage
Cry a little while digging the jagged hunk of wood out with utility knife
Use Super Glue creatively as first aid supply
Spend a full hour getting 1st box square using one hand
Call it a night
Make sure the thing didn’t move while you were sleeping
Drill corners for dowels
Almost burn up drill
Look at sky and count to ten
Run out of waterproof wood glue
Say dirty words all the way to Home Depot
Buy bigger drill, glue, and more dowels
Apply glue and hammer in dowels with wooden mallet
Look over to see puppy chewing on your hat
Say the F-word
Retrieve soggy hat
Clamp box up with 8 huge pipe clamps
Let joints dry/sit for a week
Construct next two boxes with minimal dirty words
Let sit a further week
Ask 15 year old daughter if she wants to help
She will look at you like you are insane for the mere suggestion
Try not to break her phone when she returns to texting
Look up and count to twenty – repeat
Spread out boxes in yard and turn over
Apply two coats of white primer to bottoms of boxes
Get paint on favorite pair of shorts
Let wife help paint over primer with green outdoor paint
Look up and notice that wife has painted halfway down the box…
Take paint brush from wife
Say sweet things to her and laugh about the extra paint coverage
Let boxes sit for two days
Finish painting bottoms green (keep ground moisture out and blends with grass)
Let sit a week
Position in yard where they should finally go
Ask visiting friend for his opinion
Take his advice (as it is better than your plan) and reposition
Let wife see
Move 3 more times to make wife happy
Move back to position friend suggested
Let sit for a week
Get married to wife a second time and almost loose mind to stress
Have house full of guests for a week
Try not to kill Ross when he makes fun of your yard
Drink lots of beer
Buy gravel and hardware cloth for box foundation
Cut sod from under box locations and move to bare patch in front yard
Wife will work hard in front planting lavender and arranging sod
Lay hardware cloth and pour gravel footings
Spend Saturday with wife finally placing boxes
Drink beer and wine until you hurt the next day in celebration of your hard work
Let sit another week
Cut top rail on table saw
Decide to really complicate things by adding hardwood splines to top rail joint
Devise special spline jig for table saw
Cut last rail too short
DO NOT throw anything, close eyes and count to ten
Revert to cussing
Trip to Home Depot for extra cedar
Re-rip and re-miter last rail
Glue joints of rail and try not to glue rail to box
Wait 3 days and cut away spline waste
Find “cute” little ceramic tiles from the 1920’s that wife will love for boxes
Spend 2 nights in shop making custom cedar frames for the tiles
Add corner splines to match boxes just because
Measure twice to find box center
Attach tiles to front of the boxes with proper outdoor screws
Coat top rails with food-safe clear coat
Wait 2 days
Apply another coat and repeat
Show wife your handy-work and wait for her to swoon
Point out the joint details and all the thought that went into the build
Wait for batting of eyelashes and the swoon…
Mention the period tiles and their perfect symmetry