Sunday, March 24, 2013

Eeyore Nails Up Trim

Where we came from (2003)
    After I got home from church early this afternoon, I stood in the hallway looking at the new casing for the doorway to the kitchen.  It looked-- off.    In fact, the right end of the head seemed to be sloping downwards.  But how could it?  The jamb pieces are exactly the same length.  The head piece is nailed into them square.   A check with the level-- several checks with the level.  Oops, it was true:  The right end of the head was a quarter inch lower than the left.

    Huh.  The new casing may be straight and level in itself, but that doesn't mean the floor is.  I guess this would explain why the righthand jamb trim seemed to extend 1/4" too high with the original notch.

    Knew I had to get that right side raised up or it would look hideous once the lintel was reinstalled.  Problem: the foot of the casing was wedged against the plywood over-floor.  Hard to pry it off without destroying the joint with the head piece and maybe tearing up some wood.  Possibility: I'd put only two nails in that jamb casing, and they were towards the top.  And flexible.  So I got the little pry bar in under the piece and jacked the assembly up (a flashlight revealed that the nails were bending).  Once it was high enough, I cut some pieces of paint stir stick and shoved two layers thereof under the bottom.  And one piece to go under the plinth to bring it up a bit.  Funny, that's all it took.  And interesting, too, that the enlarged notch in the face trim still seemed to be needed.

    So I got the casing secured in its new position and nailed the face trim up.  But for some reason, I simply could not get the wall trim at the end of the bench to snug up to it.  Still has the same damn gap.  Was it cut at an angle such that the back side is broader than the front?  I can't figure it out.  And I wasn't in the frame of mind to do any more sawing.

     Why?  Because Thursday something possessed me to decide that the lefthand face trim to the kitchen was about an eighth of an inch too tall.  And I cut it down.  And from the floor it looked fine, like it matched the portal trim perpendicular to it.  But when I got up on the stepstool to check where the top of the righthand face trim was hitting, I discovered that now the trim on the left was, yes, an eighth of an inch too short. 

    Good reason to keep the light levels down in that hall . . .

    On to the next bit.  Cut the shims to go under the long baseboard.   (No, wait, I did that before.  N'importe!)  Three quarters of an inch high to bring it up to meet the baseboard on the south wall.  Not for the first time am I giving thanks that the quarter round is a nice substantial 3/4" high.  And oh, boy, you can see how that floor slopes as you follow the pattern of the wallpaper along with baseboard.  (It's straight at the top.  Really it is..)

    So the baseboard is nailed up.

    And then I got ambitious.  Not excited or energetic or thrilled, just ambitious.  Decided to see if I could put the lintels back up by myself.  Turns out I could.  Portal lintel up first, for the kitchen doorway lintel butts into it.  But oh, boy, when I cut down that lefthand face trim I sure added to the already-full list of things to caulk.  The lintel can't sit on it; since the lintel's height and level are determined by how the cornices come together.  Clear caulk (touched up with shellac) is my only hope.

    And you know how they say "Measure twice, cut once?"  I did on the new chair rail that'll go to the right of the doorway to the front room.  Made sure I had the cut on the correct side of the line, too.  But for me, it should be, "Measure twice, cut once-- a sixteenth of an inch bigger than you think it needs to be."  Because that's what I was lacking, that or a fuzz more, when I tried the cut piece in place.

    Bugger.  Right there at eye level.  And sliding it away from the corner didn't look too good either.  In this case I cut a sliver off the waste piece and glued it on.  I'll touch it up and hopefully it won't be too obvious.  If it's made the piece too long, I'll sand it down, no more saws for this.  But the glue bottle says don't stress it for 24 hours, so I won't.

    Should be really thrilled the major hallway trim is back up.  It's looked like hell for years.  The neighbors must have thought I was a real bum every time they glanced through my hallway window-- how pleased they will now be.  I hope for a time when I will be very pleased, myself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Creeping Along

I really expected to be a lot more excited about this.

Reinstalling the trim in my 1st floor hall, I mean.

After all, it's been down and the space has been looking scabby since September of 2008.  On summer evenings these past four years, every time I've hung out with the neighbors on their front porch, I've looked through my hall window and been faced with the busted plaster that should be concealed behind the trim.  And I've thought, "Damn!  I can hardly wait till I can get that woodwork shellacked and back up. It sure looks like hell from here."

But like Martha in the Gospels I've been worried and distracted lately by many things and tired out by the flu and now that the time has come for me to remount the hallway trim, I'm not that enthusiastic about it.  But my intellect tells me it needs done and urges that I may feel better about things if the house is neat and assembled and orderly.  So here I go.

All this is to explain that each day I do what I'm up to doing, and when I get tired or feel like I'm about to scream, I stop.  Which may be all that can be expected, when I've already spent the bulk of the day substitute teaching.  Which cannot be stopped when one gets tired or feels ready to scream.

So, the thrilling and breakneck progress since Tuesday:

Wednesday, the big deal was to redo the switch to the outside light, the one over the front door.  The switch is cut into the jamb trim on the lefthand side of the doorway to the front room.  I'd been subjecting the previous owners--whichever one it was-- to direst obloquy because obviously they'd failed to install the switch in an electrical box, nor did they use a wire nut to secure the two neutral wires, the style of switch not having screws to fasten those into.  Instead, everything was wrapped with electrical tape.  How foolish and dangerous!

No box, no wire nut-- tsk, tsk
But as I was shoving the new box into the front of the trim and pulling the existing Romex through the knockouts, I had to notice that oh, look, the cutout in the trim is exactly the size and shape of a standard electrical box.  And it crept in on me that four and a half years ago when I took that trim down, I was afraid of messing with that switch myself (it had to be dewired to get the woodwork off the wall).  So oh, yeah, I got the professional electrician I was using at the time to come and pull it out for me, didn't I?  Along with the two in the long living room baseboard.  I now recalled him asking me if I wanted him to take the switch out for the time being, me saying No, I needed the light, and him, yes, taping everything up as a temporary fix, because what was the use of him putting it back in the box when it would just have to be taken apart again when I remounted the trim?

Back together and boxed
So who's the danger-mongering fool?  Nobody, I guess, since a pro did it for me.

Don't know what became of the original box.  I utilized one I bought for another location and didn't use.  Used the original switch, since it's more solid than the flimsy modern one I thought to replace it with.  It's all back together, the outdoor light lights, the jamb trim and the lintel are nailed back up, it's all fine.  Previous owners, my apologies.

Then came a step that I really should get excited about. Wasn't excited Wednesday night, but I guess I'm getting there now. It's when I nailed together the replacement casing for the doorway to the kitchen and got it nailed into the ragged, nasty opening that's been taunting me for months and years on end.

New casing ready to rise

This casing is the thickness of the wall, unlike its predecessor
Fun, fun, the new white pine had a little warpage and on neither side did the jamb pieces automatically snug up to the edge of the cutouts in the plywood over-floor.  And they had to, or the plinth blocks would be sticking out into the opening.

Warped at the bottom

Blocked and shimmed into submission
Didn't feel like messing with it then.  I saved the fun for Thursday night.  Got them persuaded out as well as I could, but I think some caulk will be in order on the left side.

Other than that, Thursday and today, the jollification has been with the face trim in the northwest corner, between the portal to the living room and the doorway to the kitchen.  It was a bit of a Chinese puzzle, how it was all supposed to go back together, and I was glad I took pictures back in 2008 when I took it down.   There ensued a saga of blocking and shimming which I won't bore you with (though I have to say it amused me to be putting the original blocking back in, especially the pieces I used to test shellac colors)..  Some of it had to be done twice in the same place, when I realized (in time, thank God) that what the woodwork needed for proper reassembly was not notching and cutting and trimming, but a bit more blocking and shims behind a piece I'd already nailed up.

(Gimme that pry bar, will you?)

2nd attempt. This butt joint was really off before.
Finally together

So finally the vertical pieces are back up in the northwest corner, left of the kitchen doorway.

Not so the jamb trim on its righthand side.  It's overlapped by the nosing of the hall bench, and a notch was put in in days of yore so the trim could slide in between the bench nosing and the wall.  But when I test-fitted it, the trim sat a quarter of an inch too high.  In relation to its plinth, in relation to the head casing, in relation to the jamb trim to the left side of the doorway.  Weird.  Had no compunction about taking the Dremel and bringing the notch the required distance higher.  This piece of trim is presently down on the basement sawhorses in the process of receiving a few coats of shellac on the enlarged notch.

Enlarged bench notch in progress.  Dremel battery needed to recharge
But in addition to this, I couldn't get it to sit snug to the horizontal trim at the end of the bench.  Kept rocking, with the bench seat as its fulcrum. On Thursday I thought it had a bump I'd have to take out to get it to work.  But bother that.  The level says it's straight.  Silly to start butchering the woodwork.  Just pry the horizontal trim off and reinstall it flush left to the jamb trim once it's up.  Still have no idea why the gap is there, but since it is, it can go in the dark corner and get a bead of clear caulk.  Easier and less destructive that way.

A little retrograde motion

Well, easier and less destructive until I cracked the board down the middle prying it off.  I'll do my best to hold the pieces together and put it back up as is.  If I have to glue or fasten them, I'll ruin the shellac job.

That's all for tonight.  Once I get that jamb trim up, it really would be nice to get the lintels up.  The lack of them is what has been so glaring from the neighbors' porch.  But the way the cornices are mitred together, it may take an extra pair of hands.   Or two.

It's not like I don't still have plenty to do in there without tackling that . . .

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Something, at Least

Starting this past weekend I, for the first time since mid-February, have gotten some work done on the house.

Wax on, drying
Saturday I only got a coat of floor wax onto the main stairs (which I gave a fresh coat of shellac in January) and the painted hallway floor.  Exhausting, and it took an absurd amount out of me.  Not sure if it did much good.  Actually, now it picks up footprints where it didn't before.

Buffed out, more or less
Never mind.  It's reversible.  I'll deal with it later.

Then the past three days I've been putting trim back up in the hallway.  Yes, really.  Bit by bit, and my brain is still so fried from coughing that I have to stop whenever things get too complicated, but it's getting there.

 Sunday, two pieces of baseboard nailgunned on.  This is to the left side of the doorway to the front room.

Lined up with stair stringer

Gap between floor and wall filled with old paint stirrers!
Baseboards nailed up

Yesterday, blocking added to the head of the doorway to the kitchen, and shims cut for the baseboard to the right of the door to the front room.

Blocking to nail the head trim to

Gap shimmed on the righthand side
Tonight, nailed up the plinths for this doorway, the righthand baseboard, and the righthand jamb trim.  Also took a rag and some walnut-tinted shellac and touched up the places where I'd damaged the shellac job while redoing the floor.  Of course I managed to knock the cup of shellac over and spill it on the floor, but I had a rag handy and wiped it up.  Any residue I can take some alcohol to later.  I mean, I don't think alcohol will damage an acrylic finish . . .

A lot more shimming is needed before I go any further.  The doorway to the kitchen is a Chinese puzzle, the way the trim fits together.  And I haven't got the concentration or the stamina to work it out tonight.

But this is something.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

One Step Forward, Several Steps Back

This is a retrospective post, started a good five or six weeks ago.  Why it wasn't finished then, or even on the official post date, will become obvious as you read . . .

It began in my first apartment after I graduated from college in the late 1970s.  After a year of so of stacking my LPs against the wall, I was finally able to afford a bookcase to hold them.  Tall and narrow to fit the available space; Scandinavian design with real teak veneer over particle board, very simple and modern.  My tall teak bookcase has accompanied me from apartment to apartment, getting dinged and losing pieces in the process, and finally has ended up here at the Sow's Ear.  But what looked good or at least all right in other settings simply doesn't work now that the red William Morris wallpaper is hung in my living room.  I'm not really keen on painting natural wood pieces, but the teak finish looks shoddy and cheap in my repapered living room.  Buying a new bookcase isn't an option right now.  Best solution?  Paint it black to match the mantlepiece.

I wanted to do it in oil base paint, since books and album covers stick to latex.  Took awhile till the semigloss black was available at the Sherwin-Williams, but at last, a week or so before Christmas, I picked up a quart and set to work.

This is when the trouble began,and trouble that's all the more troubling because I deliberately and foolishly overlooked it at the time.

The oil-based primer didn't brush on smoothly.  I ought to have deduced something from that.  But no.  I had the sillyassed idea that somehow the black top coat would even things out.

It didn't.  More streaks and ridges.

Well, maybe it just needed a second coat of black.
Oh, dear.  Streaks, ridges, drips, sags, and blobs.  It was terrible.  A friend who saw it said it looked great, but I couldn't agree (I think she was just being affirming and wanted to save me work).  Could I sand it down?   Yeah, right, and bring up all the white primer undercoat.  Sure.  No, the paint simply Would Not Do.

Did I feel like a wastrel and an idiot?  I did.  The behavior of the primer should have told me what would happen with the paint.  Should have returned the can unopened and gotten my money back.  Though maybe I was optimistically thinking of the decent job I achieved with white oil-based paint on the bookshelves up in my study.  That was SW paint, too, and it levelled out fine.

Decided to do what I should have done all along:  Refinish the tall bookcase in black shellac.  Ordered some black aniline dye powder from  But did nothing on the refinishing for over a month, being busy with the hallway floor.

But now the paint and acrylic topcoat are done in there, and I needed to allow it time to get good and hard before I take down the baby gates and allow traffic on it.  Good time to deal with the tall bookcase.

Weapon of choice?  The heat gun, of course, followed by a rubdown with the Western Wood Doctor refinisher.  Started with a couple of the shelves that were loose.  Then I managed to get another pair of shelves free and set to work on the carcase itself.

Didn't take as long to get the paint and primer off as I'd expected.  Things were going along pretty well.  Only trouble was, I had the thing on its side with my head poked into it and the heat gun kicks up a lot of dust and fumes.  And I wasn't wearing a mask.

Why not?  Well, because I wear glasses.  And if I wear a dust mask, especially in the winter when the temperature in the house is lower, my glasses fog up and I can't see.  Can't see, can't work.  Makes perfect sense.

But the Sunday before Presidents' Day the fumes really started getting to me.  I mean, my throat and sinuses hurt.   Stopped for the night before I'd intended to.

Where I've left it
Next day, it hit me, "Idiot! you have that special mask you got when you were cleaning the fiberglass insulation out of the attic!  It's got a gasket!  Why not use that?"  So I did, and what do you know?  No fog, no fumes, everything was fine.

But everything was not fine.  Too late!  The day after that I had a bad sore throat. After a few days, that gave way to some sort of full-on respiratory ailment.  Aren't I clever?  I know the tagline of this blog is "I'll make a silk purse out of this house if it kills me," but that is not what I literally had in mind.

Finally took myself to the doctor's yesterday.  Yeah, I've got the flu.  They prescribed me an antibiotic, the five-day kind, which seems to be doing some good . . .  But no work on the house till I get over this.  I barely have enough energy to drag myself to work, and I do that only because I have no sick leave.  I've set myself back and I'd earnestly kick myself for it-- if I were well enough to care.