Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Saturday Night's Entertainment

Making slow and desultory progress stripping the last of the paper and glue off the north living room wall and those parts of the west and east walls I can reach from the ladder.  The big question is, is the whitish goop that appears to have been rolled over the walls, thicker in some places and thinner in others, wallpaper paste or is it size?

If it's paste it has to come off.  If it's size it can stay, and I'll just paint a fresh coat of primer/size over it.

. . . Inclined to think it's size.  The glue that was on the stairhall walls came off really easily with the vinegar and water.  This is more like, well, paint.  It's true I'm picking up some kind of viscous white stuff with my wallpaper scraper, but they say that vinegar can dissolve finish plaster and spackle.  And there's plenty of the latter here.

And it's not like I'm painting these walls.  I don't think they've ever been painted, and anyone who tried now would be a fool.

Wait a minute, though.  Maybe they've never been painted, per se, but that doesn't mean they've always had paper.  Because I just discovered something.  I think the living room walls were colored at one point.  Not painted, but the top coat of the plaster seems to be tinted with an old-gold pigment.  You'd think I would have noticed that before, but with the size-goop over it it looked brown.  I thought it was the brown coat or something.  But no, this is streaky.  Nice color and effect, especially with my black marble fireplace-- which wasn't here in 1916.

No, I'm not going to try to clean the walls so well the gold shows all over.  The more I scrape, the more I destroy the old spackle patches.  It'll all be covered anyway.

. . . But hey, what's this I see?  Around the top of the living room, to about 11" down, there's a band of lighter yellow-gold!  And there's patched holes along the line between the two colors.  Hey, do you think this room had a frieze band?  And a picture rail?  Looks like it!  (I love domestic archaeology.)

A lot less fun is seeing all the little cracks in the plaster on the east and west walls.  And that doesn't include the ones some previous owners covered with paper tape.

My wallpaper scraper is playing merry hell with that paper tape.  And leaving random gouges in previous applications of levelling spackle.  I hate to think how much joint compound I'm going to have to use to get a decent surface.  And if I may be permitted to worrywart further, I hope the bulge in the upper part of the north wall won't disrupt the matching of my wallpaper.  The old beige moire-effect paper didn't betray any problems.  And I don't think the bulge is recent.  Trouble is, a survey of my photo collection has shown that apparently I didn't take any pictures of that wall when I took down the trim.  Guess I didn't think it was interesting enough.

I couldn't stand the way the plaster is so much thicker and protrudes so much up there on the righthand side at the corner where the doorway jamb and head casing meeting and where the trim has to be nailed up again.  I fetched the jamb trim piece up from the basement to gauge how much plaster I should knock off so it won't stick out so much.  Chiselled away at the finish coat, and I think I've got the gap down to an acceptable level.
The trim piece won't lie totally flat, however.  It has a bit of a warp to it.  I've noticed that in some other trim pieces, and I've worried that it might be my fault, for leaving the trim standing on end the past three or four years.  But how possibly would any of it have enough moisture left in it after more than ninety years to warp?  I certainly keep the humidity in the basement at a reasonable level.  Still, there it is.  Have I messed things up by working so slow?

But then I recall when the trim was still up, how in many places I observed that the jamb casing was sitting cockeyed to the lintels.  Much more likely it was installed a little green back in 1916 or whenever, and warped in place.  I know I've been knocking down a lot of dried filler where the trim edges used to be.  But clearly, this should put a damper on my dreams of reinstalling it all straight.

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