Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scary Things

I knew the shellacking was going too well up to now!  I knew the Demon of Klutziness was going to pop out and get me at some point!

Or did I just ignore the Angel of Good Sense?

Friday, I had the fresh shellac for the stairs all mixed up and ready to go.  I'd been decanting the stuff into a square plastic Rubbermaid storage container, which was handy for the brush and had a nice lid to seal it between coats. 

That evening down in my workshop, I poured the tinted mixture into this and managed to fill it all the way to the top.

"You're going to spill that," my good sense told me.  "Pour some of it back."

"No, I won't.  It's better to have more in the plastic container.  I'm going to need it for the last two coats."

So I took the closed and brimming container of shellac upstairs.

Once up at the top of the 3rd floor stairs, the first thing I realized was that I'd forgotten to add the teaspoon or so of 91% isopropyl alcohol to keep it workable longer.  But I was too lazy to go down the basement to get the bottle and add it.

Next thing I noticed was that there seemed to be a lot more hairs and dust squiggles landing in the wet shellac than there were last Tuesday.  You think maybe the vacuuming I did a few days ago didn't last till the end of the week?

Struggling with that, I got the first four or five treads done well enough.  But on the fifth or sixth one down, I was reaching for the smaller brush to do the nosing, and-- out popped the Demon of Klutziness!!!!

No, I got careless.   I jiggled something, or joggled something else, and that full container of shellac tipped over and cascaded down the stairs.

I knew it!  I knew I was going to do something stupid like that!

There was no time to wring hands, or be dramatic, or even take pictures.  The river of shellac was washing over at least three treads, and I had to clean it up before the whole job on all of them was ruined.

I grabbed a clean jar I had at hand, and brushed all the runny shellac I could into it.  Once that was closed and in a safe place, I quickly brushed the wet remainder over the treads that needed to be done anyway

What I didn't think of was that the lowest tread that was spilled on, the one with the least renegade shellac on it, was the one I should have brushed out first.  By the time I'd dealt with the overflow and the two treads above, this one was splotchy and blotchy and too tacky to do anything with.

Yesterday noon I tackled it.  Applied another coat of shellac, hoping it'd blend in as advertised.  So I took a pad of sheep's wool wrapped in a piece of old T-sheet, soaked it in denatured alcohol, and rubbed off the top layer or two off.  That removed the blotching.

Today I've been reapplying the coats to that tread, and I think it's to the point where my scary mishap doesn't show.  Just now this evening I've got the official sixth coat on all the steps . . . which should mean I'm done with them . . . if I didn't think they really need a seventh coat to get the color I want.

We'll see how that goes.  Hopefully the shellac spooks have had enough and will leave me in peace!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm Finally Doing It

Finally, finally, after months and years of reading and researching, talking and blogging, ordering and mixing, tinting and testing, I'm finally doing it.  I'm finally laying shellac onto a surface here at the Sow's Ear.

As you might have guessed, I'm starting at the top, with the treads of the stairs to the 3rd floor.  The treads are going on in and 1.5 pound cut of Kusmi #1 button lac dissolved in 195 proof denatured alcohol and tinted with mahogany aniline dye.   I'm not staining or dyeing the wood first, but putting the tone down in layers, so I can get the color I want.

I can't find the sample I did a few weeks ago, but I know it took six coats to get the right color.  It's all right, because freshly-mixed shellac dries quickly (you can recoat in forty minutes to an hour), and more coats diluted to a thinner consistency makes for a more durable finish.  Actually, I'm adding a nitch of isopropyl alcohol to retard drying so it won't get tacky before I get the brush marks blended in.

Here's today's progress.  Please note that my camera renders the color entirely too reddish, no matter how I adjust it.

11:35 AM:  The stairs to the Study stripped, sanded, dusted, and ready to be finished.

12:11 PM:  All taped to keep the mahogany-toned shellac off the risers.  Those'll be done in a warm walnut to like what was on them before.

(Wait a minute.  Almost  all taped.  Missed a spot.)

12:16 PM:  The top treads, without finish, and

12:27 PM:  The same, with one coat.

12:45 PM:  Making progress.

3:39 PM:  Two coats on.

6:27 PM:  After a light 220-grit sanding, ready for coat No. 3

7:10 PM:  Three coats applied.

8:43 PM:  Ready for No. 4

9:19 PM:  Four coats completed.  I'm running low on shellac, so I'll need to dissolve the rest of the buttons I have before I can finish this stage of the job.

And finally,

9:29 PM:  Huw the boikitteh, thoroughly disgusted with me for enleashing all those funny smells and for not allowing him to go up to the 3rd floor study, all day.

What I've Been Up To

A pictorial tour of the last couple-three weeks at the Sow's Ear:

Late on Tuesday, October 5th:  Flaws, holes, dings, and dents filled with Zar filler tinted with mahogany aniline dye dissolved in denatured alcohol.

Wednesday the 6th:  Nothing accomplished on the stairs.  Made quince jelly instead.

Saturday the 9th:  The five top stairs sanded down with 80-grit sandpaper.

Baby gate put at bottom of the stairs to keep the dog and his claw marks off the bare wood.

Sunday the 10th, approximately 7:00 AM:  The boy cat knocks the metal gate on the floor.  Replaced it with a wooden one.

Monday, 11 October:  One more tread and part of another medium-sanded.

Meant to do more that day, but I was watching my friend Hannah's* daughter Letty*, who was off school for Columbus Day.  We went to the riverside park and picked up windfall crabapples.  Twice.

Tuesday the 12th:  No stair work: made quince cheese.

Wednesday the 13th:  Medium-sanded the rest of the treads. 

Used the travel iron and a wet washcloth to raise the dents where I knocked the mouse sander and the canister vac down the stairs.

Dotted in some more tinted wood filler where I'd missed some spots.  Went a little nutty and used the rest of it on the hallway floor.

Raked and bagged leaves in the back yard while the filler was drying.

Thursday the 14th:  Fine sanded the stairs. 

Steamed the bottom tread again where I lost control of the mouse sander and let it plow into the wood. 

Decided I couldn't stand the stray nail tip some previous owner rammed through a riser from the closet below, and figured out a way to cut it off and countersink it.

Discovered I'd missed some holes and dings I should have refilled and sanded.  Too bad.  Any more material comes off these stairs, they'll have no intregity left whatsoever.

Since then, I've raked more leaves, gone to my second wedding of the month, gathered up the drop cloths and cleaned up a prodigious amount of sanding dust, substitute-taught a few times, gotten a sore throat, spent this past Sunday in bed, and, yesterday, had my final chemo session.  What I've been up to today, Tuesday the 26th, can wait for a separate post.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Discreet DIY-Related B1tch-and-Moan

Something I didn't mention in my last post:

The other day, when I was using the mouse sander to groom the ratty nosings on the stair treads to the 3rd floor, I was doing my usual thing and taking pictures of the progress whenever I got a tread done.

Well, after I'd been working awhile I picked up my digital camera and was fiddling around with the controls, setting the focus to close-up, adjusting the light color temperature, that sort of thing.  And darned if my right hand wasn't shaking and I could hardly push the right buttons at all!

Weird, weird, weird.  I really hadn't been sanding that long, either.

I shook off the cramp or whatever it was and got back to work.  And comforted myself with the thought that it couldn't be the peripheral neuropathy that sometimes appears as a side effect to the chemo drugs I'm taking.  That would be a pins-and-needles sensation in the fingertips, and that's not what this sudden trembling seemed to be.  Besides, I got over it and things seemed fine.

But by the next day . . .  Well, I can't accurately describe the course of things; I'd rather keep detailed records of holes filled than of chemo side-effect symptoms experienced.  (Does that mean I'm a normal person-- or that I'm not sufficiently attentive to my care?  Whatever.)  It's just that while the shakiness has not recurred, by Friday my right fingertips were definitely tingly, sausagey-feeling, or occasionally painful, and as of yesterday the left ones seem to be joining in.

Damn and blast!  I am sooooooo talented!  I can't throw up like normal chemo patients do, I gotta get peripheral neuropathy.  Which damn well better not go any further and better not be permanent.

But here's the deal:  this evening at church a friend who's a nurse was making noises to the effect that running a sander can exacerbate the problem.  Now, the next thing on the DIY agenda is filling the holes in the stair treads.  But after that, the sander has got to be run.  Those steps have to be fine sanded before they can be refinished, and I'm the person who has to do it.  There is no money to hire a pro, even if I trusted anyone else to do the job I want.

And leaving the stairs and hall floor unfinished isn't an option, either.  In this economy nobody can afford to have a house torn up any longer than necessary, especially not me. 

I know the motto on my blog banner says "I'll make a silk purse out of this house if it kills me."  I don't plan on fulfilling that resolution, not really.  But under the circumstances, it really looks like I'm going to have to--  Well, let's just say I hope the new Bosch sander won't send up too much vibration when I'm taking down the wood filler.  In any case, I've got to try.