Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Inching Along

This is another of those boring just-for-the-record posts.

I didn't get called in to teach this morning, so I took advantage of the time to clean up and restore the bullnoses on the treads of the stairway to the 3rd floor.  Primarily used the mouse sander as my sculpting tool, at first with 60-grit sandpaper.  But then I ran out of precut sheets and I was too lazy to go downstairs and cut more.  So I used the 80-grit and it did just as well, maybe better.

Once I got the worst of the dirt and irregularities off with the electric sander, I went over the nosings again with a 40-grit 3M sanding sponge, one of those parallelogram-shaped affairs that lets you get into tight corners.  I discovered to my great relief that sanding down the surfaces removed a lot of the bad irregularities at the nosings.  It'd looked before like I was going to have to do a lot of fiddly filling, especially on the bottommost tread.  But no, the splintery bits are pretty much all gone.

Filling the remaining holes and dings with Zar wood filler would be the next thing, now that I've gone over the sanded surfaces with dena-tured alcohol.  But there was that hammer dent I'd been meaning to steam out for ages and never did till today.  Yeah, the technique with the wet washcloth and the travel iron (less chance of burning bare wood) raised it right up just as reported.  In fact, it's now higher than the wood around it, like a big black mole, since it's now as high as the original surface.  That's fine, it'll get sanded down. 

But not till tomorrow or whenever, since all that water has to dry.

I suppose I could fill every other tread today except that one.  Maybe when I'm sure the alcohol is dry.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Back to the Salt Mines

I mean, back to sanding stair treads.

The new sander came a week or so ago, but I'd decided I'd had enough of correspondence and receipts and paperwork all piled helter-skelter since last January on every surface in my 3rd floor study.  And all over the bedroom, since my operation last April.  I simply could not bear the thought of redraping my study with plastic dropcloths with that muddle of papers hiding under them.  What if I needed some letter or bill?  I'm supposed to go searching, with sanding dust all over the sheeting covering the paper mess?  No, before I could go back to sanding it all had to be sorted and put into the file drawers where it belonged. 
Never mind the number of days I spent doing (or not doing) that.  It's done, and if I need a particular piece of paper, it's in its file.  Under the newly-draped plastic.

Since I no longer had that excuse not to-- I mean, since that task was out of the way and I could now sand, last night (Friday) I took up the new Bosch half-sheet orbital sander and got back to it.

And remembered why I hated the job.

Why, oh why, does it take three steady hours with 40-grit paper to take ninety years worth of crud off one blinking stair tread?  And that was one that had been started before!  And was clear of shellac. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth . . .  Damn!  if I weren't Protestant I'd think I was doing penance for something. 

But the thing I feel most guilty about is not having this sanding done a lot sooner, which would make the penance be what I was supposed to be doing anyway.

Today and this evening (Saturday) I finished rough-sanding the three bottom treads.  But 10:30 PM found me across at the neighbors' watching the fireworks the next borough over was shooting off for their 75th anniversary celebration.  Got to talking about the work I was doing on the stairs and all, and the husband said, "Do you have a belt sander?"  "Yes, I do.  But I'm not using it for this.  I can't keep up with it, it gets away from me, and it leaves gouges."  "Oh," he says, "you just have to hold it down to keep it in one place.  It'll take that stuff off in no time."

Well.  When the fireworks were over and I got back to work, I gave it a good thought about getting out the belt sander, regardless.  The bottom tread has some deep scratches in it, made I have no idea how.  Don't think a dog did it, they're with the grain.  A kid running some wheeled toy across it?  I don't know.  Maybe the belt sander would be the best thing.

On the other hand, maybe the belt sander would take so much wood off I wouldn't have any tread left.  So I finished up with the half-sheet sander after all.

(Which, I have discovered, you have to be careful to get the lid firmly back onto the dust-catching cartridge after you've emptied it, or the dust will escape and go everywhere.)

By a little after midnight all the treads of the stairway to the 3rd floor had reached Good Enough stage.  Next thing is to clean up (and in some cases, restore) the bullnose on them.  Once that's done, I'll top up the unsandable pits and gouges with wood filler.

Which considering my schedule, may not be till Wednesday.  We'll see.

Then I get to break out the 80-grit paper and, oh joy, start sanding again.

(Somebody just beat me with sticks, will ya?  It'll make a welcome change.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not on the Agenda

This morning around 6:35 AM I go down the basement for a paper sack to pack my lunch in.

I come back up the stairs without it.

Why?  Oh, just a little matter of water most of the way across the basement floor. 

I've seen this before, about six years ago.  Last time my water heater went out and needed to be replaced. 

This morning?  Blame the early hour, blame the chemo, blame my lousy eyesight, blame the fact that I'm all dressed to go substitute teach (for the first time since my surgery last April), but the mind goes into freeze mode.  Can I, might I do something to stabilize things and go ahead and go in? 

Revoke my DIY card, but I can't think of what all I should do.  What about the owner's manual?  It's up in the Appliance file, isn't it?  Yes, but can I focus well enough to understand what it could tell me about the subject?  I doubt it.

Wait a minute, wait a minute . . .  There's always the Internet.  I run upstairs, get online, and Google in "water heater leaking." ( It actually comes up as "water heating leaking," but no matter). And the first thing on the first site I open tells me the water could be coming from the temperature- pressure (TP) relief valve.  And if it is the TP relief valve, I, the homeowner, need to do something about it Right Away.  Because, the site told me, if too much pressure builds up, my tank could blow up.

My tank could blow up?????  What?  Really!?  I don't even know where my pressure relief valve is!  It's probably someplace on the bottom of the tank and here I am in my skirt and stockings and good shoes!  I'll never find it! 

Back down the basement.  I still need the lunch bag-- if I'm going in. 

Gosh, what a lot of water on the floor.  I pick up some trim that needs stripping to get it out of the way. Think, Kate, think! Could I leave this till 3:30 this afternoon?  Could I, should I?

But what if this was only part of the water that's in the tank, and it keeps getting worse?  Water on the loose Is Not Your House's Friend.

But I really need the money I'd be making today.

But what if the water keeps coming and coming?

I take a deep breath and call the school and beg off.

I still need to do something.  Oh!  My next-door neighbor is an air-conditioning repairman.  Maybe he knows something about plumbing.  They're up: I can see them moving around in their kitchen.  I pick up the phone: "Hi, it's me.  My water heater is leaking all over.  What do I need to turn off?"  The water valves?  Check.  Gas valve? Check.  Kthxbye.

The water on the floor looks like it's getting worse.  Slowly.

OK, notify the home warranty people.  Website alleges my contract doesn't cover broken water heaters.  Oh really?  That's not what my printed contract says.  I try the phone again.  And awhile later, again.  And awhile later, again.  I keep getting shifted into phone-transfer limbo.  Finally, a little before 8:00, I get a live person. The guy is helpful and puts in my service order.  He tells me to go ahead and drain the heater. OK.

Hour or so later, I get a call from the designated plumber.  He can't get to me till tomorrow.  Too many appointments today and he has to get me a new unit.

Oh, crumb.  Looks like I could have gone in to work today anyway.

Around noon, the plumber calls again.  He's had a couple of cancellations and can make it today after all, in about 45 minutes.

And he does.  And by 3:00 o'clock or so I have a new Rheem water heater, with copper pipes instead of those flexible steel kinds.  Mine were leaking anyway.  The old tank was leaking all over.  The old tank is gone.

The plumber turned out to be the same guy AHS sent out to tackle my bathroom sink plumbing a year or so ago.  That was nice.  And it kept the dog happy.

Now it's much later.  The basement floor is slowly drying out and the towels I used to mop up the floor are in the washing machine.  In hot water.

Nevertheless, all this was not on today's agenda.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dust in the Wind

Last Saturday my friend Frieda* called and said, "I've got us a sander!"

Wow!  That was fast.  The afternoon before, we'd been on the phone and she hadn't yet had the chance to take the Craftsman half-sheet sander I'd busted to Sears to see if it could be fixed.  And doubted she could until this morning. Could they possibly have put it right in that short a time?

Not at all.  The minimum fee for them even to look at the thing was $69, with no guarantee repair the cost wouldn't be higher.  So, Frieda announced, she'd bought a factory reconditioned model for less than that and she was bringing it right over for me to use!

And she did, and it's lovely.  It even has a dust collection bag on it.

What it doesn't have is a template to punch holes in the sandpaper so the dust will swoop up through those cunning little holes in the pad of the sander and into the dust collection bag.  Nor does it have a hose adapter so I can connect it straight to my shop vac.

And the dust in my third floor study was horrible already.  The dropcloths over the file cabinets, tables, and bookcases were skimmed over with an orangish film.  In some places, an opaque orangish film.  Dust was on the books and on the papers in the file trays.  Orangey pine dust coated the rug.  It had to be controlled.  So I thanked Frieda and told her that before I use this new sander I'd see if I could obtain the right dust collection accessories for it.  Then when I give it back to her and her husband, the accessories will go with it, my contribution.

I spent a lot of time online Saturday, trying to find those accessories.  Finding nothing, I called the local Sears.  They couldn't help me there, but got me to the correct website.  After a certain amount of Internet rabbit chasing, I located a pdf shop manual for the sander, that linked to an exploded diagram, that linked to a list of parts you could order from.  Hmm.  Here's the vacuum attachment, where's a replacement punch template?

Got on with Sears Craftsman Live Chat.  Agent One passed me to Agent Two.  She didn't know, but maybe Agent No. Three would.  Oops, No. Three isn't connecting!  But here's the number of the parts people, call them.  They were already closed for the day.  All right, I could try on Tuesday.

Actually, I tried on Wednesday.  I called the number.  No, they don't handle that sort of thing, try this other number.  Called Number No. 2.  No, they only handle hand tools.  But here's another number.  Called Number No. 3.  Agent looks, and says, No, you can't get a replacement paper punch template for the Craftsman sanders.  It only comes with new ones, sorry.  But maybe I could call my local Sears store and ask them.  No, I said emphatically.  That's where I started on Saturday.

So it looks like I won't be able to rig this reconditioned sander for dust collection, and, as I've said, the dust so far has been terrible.  It's been bad enough upstairs on the third floor: it'll be intolerable as I work my way down.  I feel embarrassed thinking that Frieda spent her money for this thing, but I don't think I'll be able to use it.   I need something cleaner.

And something should be coming, in a few days.  Yeah, I dented my budget further and ordered the Bosch sander I was looking at on  With shop vac attachments.  To make things more audacious, I did it on the computer at the public library this past Wednesday night.  (My Internet connection was down this past week and the wireless router still isn't working correctly).  Yes, I remembered to look for the security code in the URL.  And I made sure to log out! 

Anyway, maybe it'll come by Monday or Tuesday and I can get back to work.  In the meantime, this evening I did an interim cleaning of the third floor.  I'm sure pine dust shaken off the dropcloths is very good for the grass.  And that and my fingers are the ideal tool for pushing a sticky combination of sanding dust and pet hair out of the fins of the shop vac filter . . .

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Treading Water

I meant to give a status update on the stair sanding earlier this week, but other stuff (like laziness) got in the way.

As of Saturday I have seven and a half out of eleven treads sanded on the stairway to the 3rd floor.  Why the half?  Because around 8:30 Saturday evening, I was doing the back-and-forth, back-and-forth dance with the borrowed Craftsman dual-motion half sheet sander, when all of a sudden it balked.  It didn't want to glide sideways unless I really pushed it.  I checked and yes, the lever was set to Orbital, but it didn't feel like the orbital setting was on.

Short minutes later, a piece of dirty white plastic fell out of the thing.  The sander was still running, and I tried using it in straight-line mode, which it seemed happier about.  But a little later, it coughed out another piece of plastic.  At this point I'd been at this one tread for over an hour and not making much headway, so I gave it up before the tool gave out altogether.

Monday, Frieda* picked up the sander (when she came round to drive me to my latest chemo session); this evening on the phone she told me they were going to take it to Sears to see if it could be fixed.  My theory is that the plastic is off the mechanism that keeps it in the orbital position.  With it broken it won't stay, and I won't make much progress.  At least, not the right kind.

I didn't have the cheek to ask her how soon she thought they might be taking it in.  She and her husband have been nice enough to let me borrow this thing and don't plan to make me pay for fixing it.  But I'd kinda, sorta, really, like to know . . . because I've  been on where they're selling a highly-rated, greatly reduced-price Bosch orbital half-sheet sander with a lot better dust control, and if I have the excuse to spend money I don't have on something that'll get the job done better and quicker and cleaner, I'd like to know sooner, not later.

Well, patience.  I do have other things I need to do, even if they're not house-reno related.