Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some Progress, No Pictures

The other day, I got an email from a friend who's building a house in the vicinity. Did I want to meet her on Monday the 18th at Baird Brothers Sawmill in Canfield, Ohio, to help her pick out trim? "I know you've been meaning to go up there yourself sometime," she wrote.

Yes, indeed, I was, and with the offer of mileage one way and a day free from substituting teaching due to the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, it didn't take much persuading for me to move my trim-buying plans up a bit and go.

It took a couple of hours to get through her business, after which she headed back to the office. Me, I was just getting started.

I'd done some research, looking for the right profile for the new chair rail in my stairhall. And the closest thing I could find in any on-line catalog from any area millwork outfit was Baird Brothers' No. B910, which isn't really chair rail at all, but window mullion.

Never mind. I want something symmetrical; I'd go with 5/8 x 2 or 2-1/2 material eased at the edges if I could get it; and this window mullion profile will do fine.

At least, that was my plan coming in. When I saw the sample piece on the display board, I was no longer so sure. It seemed awfully narrow . . . Maybe it wouldn't do after all?

Hate to say it, folks, but the sales assistant I drew when my number was called wasn't immediately forthcoming with ideas. "So what can I do for you, then?" responded he.

Well, he could bring me a piece of the B910 I could butt up to the piece of door trim I brought from the house to see what the effect would be with both together. He did, and thank goodness, now it didn't look so mimsey. I took another keek at the display board later: Ah, yes. I'd been thrown off by the fact that the samples are all clear-finished oak on a clear-finished oak board and kind of blend in. I'd change that, if I were they . . .

All right, that moulding profile will work. I got out my handy-dandy Excel tables I stayed up till all hours the night before working on, complete with all the actual lengths I needed for the hall and the (longer) lengths of uncut moulding I would get to cut them out of. Sales guy took down the figures and asked, What else?

Oh, about 118' of quarterround for the base shoe. What I have now at the perimeter of the fake Pergo is 5/8 x 5/8, and I stayed with that for the living room and dining room. But the floor and the bottom of the baseboard in the upstairs hall parted company a long time ago, and require something more substantial to bridge that gap. So it'll be 3/4 x 3/4 material in the hall, upstairs and down.

Except for one place, probably. I commented to him that I had a curve to accommodate and would probably have to do a lot of kerfing and steaming. And showed him the floor plan I'd brought with me.

Oh, why not try flexible base shoe?

Hmm, sounds interesting! He brought a coil out, and yes, it's plastic (kind of a putty tan) and it's 5/8 x 3/4, but he says it'll take shellac and affixes with the usual nails, and it'll be a lot less grief to install than the wood. But, I said, I would go ahead and buy enough of the wood quarterround to have a go at taking it around the curve . . . if I'm feeling that Authentic.

I picked out the chair rail lengths in the warehouse. That, after all, was the point of my original plans to come up to Canfield in person instead of ordering my trim on-line.

Now I had to feel a little sorry for the sales guy. First couple of pieces I liked pretty much right off. But they set a standard I had to match. We were going with red oak, since yellow pine is no longer available and English oak is what the yellow pine was supposed to be emulating. All plain sawn, of course, so grain mattered. Not too straight: that's boring; and not too cathedral-y: that's crude. Something interesting but not obtrusive; a grain pattern I'd be happy to see at eye level in my entry hall. Took awhile to get what I wanted. He said, "Don't worry about getting specific lengths, we'll cut them to measure." OK, good, that frees things up a bit.

But by the time I was done choosing, he taped them all up together, uncut. "Don't the shorter lengths need to be cut?"

"No, that's okay."

"But I don't need quite that much . . . " I faltered, not having the nerve to say I didn't want to pay for more than I needed. Happily, he knew what I was getting at.

"No, I'll only charge you for the lengths you asked for."

And so he did. I'm a little reluctant to mention this, because I don't want to give anyone the idea this is Baird Brothers' standard policy. But I have the feeling that he'd weighed the cost-efficiency of cutting the pieces vs. that of getting back into the sales room to wait on more of the customers that were flocking the place yesterday, and decided that throwing in a few extra feet of moulding was a better deal for the shop.

They have free delivery within 100 miles, and the truck is scheduled to come with my trim sometime tomorrow. Anyone want to make any bets as to how soon I'll get it up? When wagering, please consider that unless I do my shellacking in the living room, it'll have to wait till Spring. I can't be generating denatured alcohol fumes in a closed space with the gas furnace and water heater going.

As to why no pictures, my digital camera kicked the bucket on New Year's Eve. I have another one on order, but it ain't here yet.

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