Believe it or not…

I’ve done a bunch of housework since February, I just don’t have internet at the house so I often forget to post anything. Besides, you like pictures with your stories, I know you do.

More of the exterior is painted, the garden beds have been expanded a little, the raspberry bushes are coming in all over, and more light fixtures have been upgraded. But all of that is but words. Pictures, and more frequent updates, hopefully soon.

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Tea shelves

Today on Well That Was… An Idea… a good idea to turn scrap wood into a useful kitchen organizer.

We’ll be back after these commercials.

(That’s your clue to click on all the banner ads on this site and make me millions.)

So I had a cabinet full of boxes and bags of tea. I also had a small gap between a door and a cabinet, and plenty of scrap wood just waiting to be project-ed.

Top: Scrap wood. Bottom: Scrap wood, lovingly sanded.

Ten minutes with a random-orbit sander can take weathered wood and turn it into a paintable, or in this case stainable, surface that retains the scars and irregularities of the scrap.
I should do a full post about making black walnut stain (the gist is pretty straightforward – throw husks into water, boil for a while) but meanwhile, here’s what one and then two coats on these pine boards looks like:

Installing was straightforward: sink a couple of 2″ drywall screw from the other side of the cabinet into the board:

Voila. Now I can find things.

Worth noting: the straightforward install was not the original method. That method did not work as intended. Learn from my mistakes and do it right the first time.
The plan was to drill holes into both the back edge of each board and the face of the cabinet and use wooden pegs to connect the two. There are two main areas where this can go less than great. The first is lining up all the holes correctly. A drill press can simplify drilling the holes into the boards (it’s not necessary – see my trick below), but you’ll be going freehand into the cabinet. 

The second problem is you’ll want a peg that goes all the way through the cabinet wall and sinks into the board; much easier to achieve this with a screw or nail.

There’s actually a third difficulty if you’re going into artificial surfaces (like the heavy particleboard of these cabinets) – it’ll be almost impossible to drill a hole of the exact right size so the peg can be tapped in yet won’t slide out over time. Natural woods will be slightly more forgiving. Regardless of your woods, skip this approach and just use the screws.

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I need this like I need another hole in my random metal rectangle

UPDATE: Figured it out – these are rail tie plates for railroads. They’d be attached to the tie and the rails would lay on top of them. I put two and three together when I found another one attached to a decaying tie used for a landscape boundary in the backyard. Why these were buried next to the house, I can’t say for sure – they quite possibly were forgotten during some renovation project.

I haven’t Googled that thoroughly, but anyone know what these things are? Heavy old metal, possibly iron, about ten inches long (each; there are two in these pictures, next to each other). These were uncovered while digging an inch below the grass, but I’ve found one of these lying around in my basement as well.

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Oh look, there’s a closet in here…

An upcoming trend on this blog (should I manage to get back into anything resembling a habit of posting regularly) will be the Virtues and Varieties of Shelving and Storage. I’m not a believer in having tons of stuff – if I ever rent a storage unit, please slap me. I am, though, a believer in having the stuff you do have simultaneously accessible and out of the way. Shelves, appropriately sized and positioned, are a great way to do just that. Duh.

This is why I don’t write for the IKEA catalog. Anymore. Curse you, Lars…

Lets skip to the end for a moment. Here’s what I built:

The closet in my foyer is a small triangle, the result of doorways being re-positioned in the 50’s or earlier. Its size and shape make it so even a few items on the floor rapidly became a messy pile. It also presented an interesting planning challenge, namely figuring out the angle of the triangle’s apex so the shelf could fit as cleanly as possible into the back.

There’s probably a more technically-adept way of pursuing this, perhaps with calipers, or a degree in mathematics, but all my geometric scratchings just resulted in a worn pencil, so I went back to trial and error. I set the miter saw to what seemed like a good angle and made two cuts:

Then I trooped back and forth between the foyer and the workshop just fitting this one piece of wood into the back corner, and altering the angles needed until it fit ‘squarely’. I think I hit an acceptable fit on the third try – for many reasons, this is not an instance where extra time spent getting it justsoperfect gets you much of an improvement in end-quality.

With the angle noted, it was an easy job to knock out several more cuts using a tape measure and a combination square.

Same thing for the second grouping of boards, just without switching the miter back and forth:

This project was done mostly with two-by scrap for durability (how careful are you with the things you toss into the front hall closet?), because I had it around, and it’s easy to work with and forgiving (assuming you have an accurate enough saw). The rail is an easy cut since we already know the angle; I added a piece of scrap one-by to hold the stack together more cleanly.

The two-by rail could screw directly into the wall (if I knew where the studs were), but I went with a couple of simple legs made of two-by, and a ‘fancier’ leg cut from an old broomstick. Using a paddle bit, I set the leg about a half-inch into the shelf…

Then screwed in cleanly from the top:

Looks pretty, eh? This is why it’s nice to have piles of miscellaneous (sorted) fasteners, so you can find the right size and finish for the job.

Now I only planned on three legs – two two-bys on the long edge, and what turned out to be the broomstick – to maximize access under the shelf. I debated about the placement of the broomstick leg, ultimately deciding on the ‘front’ placement because I expected any unbalanced loads to be towards the front. Maybe this will prove completely wrong; if so, expect a lengthy report on the matter. In all likelihood, it won’t matter a lick – with the partial triangle shape, this is a stable design even though the leg isn’t placed at the center (if it was placed further ‘out’, tipping would be quite possible).

Next week: more projects that take longer to post than to complete.


So much for that schedule…

…which, I think, may already be the title of a similar post.

Hang on, I’ll check…

(flip, flip, flip)

(waiiiiit a minute, this isn’t on paper…)

Anyway, I have done many, many things on the house since the last post. No, really, you must believe me. What exactly, I can’t remember, because, you know – so many things! Yesterday I do remember. My friend Amanda wants to… learn about home repair? Is bored? Whatever the reason, she’s been asking to come over and help me on projects in exchange for food and drink, which is exactly in my price range dontchaknow. While the initial intent was to tackle getting the gutters back up, there’s still a bunch of pain in the neck prep work before we can even put the patches on the old holes, so I left that for the day.

Instead, we wound up rearranging a huge amount of stuff between the shed and the back room, freeing up tons of space, making tools accessible, and hitting upon the incredible conclusion that, of all the tools and materials that need to be in storage right now, that maybe that pile of plate glass panes that was in the shed could be what gets stored in the basement. You know, instead of anything wood or metal.

Geniuses, both of us.


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Fans installed

Upstairs ready for new tenant arrival.

And somehow I feel like I’m just losing days of time here. I think it’s the fact that I don’t have internet at the house right now, which has been wonderful for productivity (I wander outside and weed or move things as opposed to getting distracted by or whatever… for… hours) but I think it screws with my sense of days since I don’t look at my online calender as frequently, I don’t see days listed on web news stories, etc etc.

First world problems of the Gen Y existentialist variety…

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Ceiling fan purchased…

Operation to commence tomorrow.

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You know why I’m sitting in the green room watching Hulu right now?

Because I did stuff all day today and I deserve it, that’s why.

Up early to scrape the last of the gravel up and pile it by the parking spaces. Realized that the back yard gets more sun than I remembered, especially early in the morning, which is not good when the temperature is expected to be near triple digits. Moved all the bricks that had been supporting the big pile of wood to where the gravel had been out back, thus freeing up another ten feet of driveway.

Drove north (did anyone ever say ‘Go north, young man! (or woman!)’? Somehow I don’t think so, or at least not seriously.), even though I always swear to avoid going up Rt. 58 and into Elyria or Lorain around midday. Stopped for lunch at Blue Sky Diner because a) it’s delicious, if terrible b) I was hungry and c) it meant I could get out of the car after stop-and-start traffic on a bright, sunny day where the temperature was expected to be near triple digits. The plan – and you know what they say about plans – was to stop by the Restore, then Goodwill/Sears (I had a gift card), then Lowes, then a used car dealership looking for, in total:

  • one brake light bulb for my Landcruiser
  • plastic sheeting, for to well cover the lumber
  • a ceiling fan/light unit for one of the upstairs bedrooms
  • a car with better gas mileage
  • anything else that looks interesting/useful
Here is what I did get:
  • two brake light bulbs for my Landcruiser
  • plastic sheeting, for to well cover the lumber
  • two green glasses (I love those for some reason) and a picture frame (Goodwill, in case you were wondering)
  • two awesome wood windows with original hardware that I have no need for at the moment but were in too good condition to pass up
After sitting in the car for way longer than I wanted to during all this (you know what’s weird? When your forearms sweat because they’re in the sun while your hands are on the wheel. It’s weird, trust me. And mildly unpleasant. And creepily like that scene on the Golden Gate Bridge in ‘The Core’ which is an awesome movie but I digress.) I saw a very threatening sky, and knowing that thunderstorms were expected this evening I scrapped the last two stops on the trip and returned home, for to well cover the lumber.
Oh, first I had to spend fifteen minutes in the parking lot at Sears trying to pull out the old burned-out brake light because I am a dumbass and never remember things like ‘these type of lights are push and twist, and then they pop right out’.
Home, to lay a tarp over all the bricks (keeping ground moisture seeping into the low boards to a minimum) then move the roughly forty planks to their new home, cover them with the plastic sheeting, and clean up the various planks and beams scattered about the yard on which the boards had been drying.
Here’s my clever tip for the day that most people already know but too many of us forget – water does a spectacular job of transferring heat, part of the reason that we sweat, so if you’re working outside, especially when doing something physical, douse – just, seriously, *douse* – yourself with some water, especially the top of your head, every so often. It’ll keep you from having heat stroke and it’ll keep you working steadily instead of crashing to a halt while you move old oak boards in a desperate attempt to get them stacked, covered, and weighted down before the impending torrents… impend? on us? I did so, barely, powering through on endorphins and the thought of an orange soda from the vending machine in the green room (the machine never gets restocked during the summer, because corporate America hates actors that’s why). Success. Sweaty, dirty, tiring, success.
Does this sound like a rant? I hope not. I don’t like ranty-blogs. I mean, I don’t really like most ‘here’s my day’ blogs anyway and this has turned into one of those as of late, so maybe some more self-loathing is in order.
Anyway, now I have my driveway back! And the lumber has been well checked, mostly dried, and safely stowed. And I’ve been watching TV for an hour and a half now before Hamlet. Good times. Good times.

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Oh man! Today I did stuff!

97 degrees today and I decided to work outside most of the day. With the breeze, working mostly in the shade, and drinking plenty of water, it was fine (I think – check back tomorrow to see if I’m dead). Peaceful at times, actually – a good day’s work in the great outdoors, or whatever a small backyard is considered.

All the joists are laid out and soaking up rays. 95% of the gravel has been moved from the yard to the new parking spaces, to be spread about soon. Tomorrow I’ll flip the boards and figure out how to stow them where the gravel was, thus freeing up my driveway for, y’know, a car or something.

This would probably make more sense with pictures. And it would probably matter more if anyone were reading this blog aside from me. You are? Well click on an ad to say hi or something.

Tomorrow: more stuff. Yes.

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Lumbering about with lumber

Remember the other big pile of wood? With two straight days of near triple digit sunny weather, I’m temporarily covering my lawn with the stuff to dry and de-mold it, and see what condition it’s in. Then maybe I’ll sand some of it, but mostly I think I’ll just be wrapping it tightly in plastic and putting it somewhere else in the yard for use next year. Oh the planning…

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