Sunday, September 16, 2018

Beginning the Bathroom Remodel

A few posts back, I told the story of how buying a new couch led to painting 4 rooms, buying 3 new tv's (still to come), moving a bunch of furniture, building a couple of desks, and remodeling the upstairs bathroom. This is the story of the starting point of this bathroom.

I never really liked this bathroom. The upstairs bedroom was supposed to be a master suite addon (I think?) and it wasn't ever built properly. The original problem is that the roof was built too low. It's a very narrow staircase getting upstairs, the ceilings are very low (only 7'3") and the room is just small for a master suite. I'm not convinced that our bedroom furniture would actually fit through the doorway, much less all get into the room and leave room to walk. The BR closet is only 5' tall because the roof slopes down. The HVAC is totally messed up, it's cold in the winter and really hot all summer long, so we had to put a window unit in there. But it is a bedroom with a bathroom attached, so lets call that the master?

You get into the bathroom through a 24" wide door. The tile floor is popping up because the subfloor is plywood, not concrete backer board. There's a pedestal sink in there, because it's wedged into a strange cutout where the wall juts out for some reason. The wall is not wide enough at any one point to put a cabinet. There is a small closet with a few shelves, that is the only storage. We hung a curtain over the opening for that, no doors or anything. On the other wall, there is a toilet, slightly cramped space, and a standup shower that leaks into the laundry room downstairs, so we haven't used it in a few years. The leak is between  the back surround and the base, not a problem with the base itself. So we're eventually going to replace the shower surround too, but for now I'll just caulk it.

I got a bit excited about the demo, but still got some decent before pictures

Busted tile, pedestal sink, tiny closet that used to have a face frame

The pedestal sink is tucked into this angle in the wall

There was a face frame on this closet, and a lower shelf

The wainscoating had baseboard and chair rail and was all around the bathroom.
So you can already see a bunch of design problems in this bathroom. The ceiling is only at full height for about 18" before the roof joists force a slanted ceiling. Closing off that closet makes it look small. There is no storage. In general, it's pretty ugly, but the wainscoating does give a little bit of flair.

My design goals were to add as much space and as much storage as possible. Making the wall with the sink flush was a high priority. Kelley had the idea that there may be some more found space if we could make the closet bigger, and take some floor space back from the attic that would be ideal.

That's when we found this

I took a hammer to the wall. Found space!

tiny closet floor

Large wall to hide a toilet

I put a hammer into that wall next to the toilet and found clear attic space. So it looks like we can widen the closet and make it open, we ended up adding a 3'x 2' space to our heated square footage. I decided to rip off that drywall where the sink was, it exposed a vent/drain pipe. So furr those studs out to make the wall flush and make it a shiplap accent wall. That will add some lines pointed to the length of the wall (8') to make the room feel bigger. Knock out as much of that wall next to the toilet as I can and create an open closet. Replace the tile floor with something that looks long to again create that illusion of length/space. Add storage.

This is going to be a fun project with a bunch of interesting parts!

Thursday, September 13, 2018


I love construction. Boatbuilding is great, furniture is a lot of fun, but residential construction has always been where it's at for me. Habitat for Humanity is an incredible organization. They provide housing for people in need, and to keep it affordable they build solid houses with volunteer labor and some donated materials.

My company is great. We get 2 days per year to go do volunteer work. And there is a guy who coordinates with Habitat to get crews from LexisNexis out there! It's a match made in heaven for me. I get to take a bunch of my developers out there and show them how to swing the hammer. This is fantastic!


Part of the crew finding shade

My rockstar James

The tough part about this volunteer day was just the work we had to complete. Sheeting a roof isn't easy to begin with, but it was 102* outside that day. Full sun, no shade, no clouds, no breeze. They cut us loose about 2 pm because the heat absolutely put everyone under the waterline. It was easily 120* on top of that roof. it didn't play games. Still a great day and I'm grateful to be out there with some great people.

Front Porch Progress

Claiming that I've made some real progress on the front porch is an overstatement. But there has been... movement.. maybe you could call it that? I took some steps on the design and got an initial layout done. But step one is barely underway. At least the design has changed some after I saw it laid out on the ground. And we got a surprise!

Lines are down!

everything is square

I got the initial lines painted down for where I wanted to put the foundation walls of the front porch. This looked pretty good to me, but kind of funny as well. It looks sort of short and squatty. I needed some wife input on this one.

We ended up deciding to go from this 16'x10' outline to a 20'x8' layout. We didn't really gain anything by having that extra 2' going away from the house, but the extra 4' to the side of the door is enough to put some seating. That's going to be more useful in the long run. First thing first, paint the new lines... move the rosemary and dig up that stump.

Ak! bugs!
Those little white specs on the stump are termites! We have an active colony of termites chewing up a stump only 7' from our house. This is not good. Needless to say, we called Orkin that day and got a quote. We already use them for mosquito treatment and some in-house stuff, so they came and put 100 gallons of termite poison around the perimeter of the house, both around the outside and inside the crawl space. They also fixed our insulation under the house, and put down a moisture barrier. we really need that done anyway.

Narrow, but wider

you can still see some of the old lines out there

decided to add an extra foot
I like this size a lot better. That corner comes a bit close to my muscadine trellis' but I don't think it creates a real bottleneck.

Code says if that's where I want the exterior lines of the foundation wall to be, then I need to have a foundation that's 6' thick and 16" wide. Since I also have to be 2 blocks underground that means I need to trench 22" deep and 16" wide. Got to allow at least 2" of the concrete on both sides of the concrete block to stay within code. Also have to plant rebar in there in just the right spots to fit the cinder blocks over the rebar. So I made a storyboard to be sure I got the depth I need.

The storyboard with foundation, block, and brick marked

and started trenching!

So we have a start. kind of. I have a design, a storyboard, and the outline of a trench. When the trench actually gets 22" deep and I have the estimated 43 bags (80lbs each) of concrete to pour the foundation it will be real. The new trench has to cut across the existing stairs, so I'll have to start some destruction soon. This is getting real!

Monday, September 10, 2018

How I Finish

Lesbian porn

Now this blog only gets about 2 page hits per post, compared to my other blog that used to average about 1000 page hits per post. So I hope both of you guys thought that shit was funny....

For this walnut end table I did a bit of research on the best finish to apply that would be durable and shiny. Get me that look I wanted. I ended up combining several techniques into something I'm going to repeat. A lot of these pictures are going to look exactly the same, but there are different types of products and techniques applied to the wood instead. So here's what I came up with.

Walnut is a porous wood, so to get a smooth, consistent finish you have to fill the pores. There are commercial products that are grain fillers, but I found a different way and I love it.

1. Sand everything with 80 grit
Looks a little ashy, eh?
2. Sand everything again with 120 grit
Slightly less dusty, but it's a fine dust
3. Wet sand everything with 220 grit.
To do this I used tung oil and a 220 sanding block. Wipe on the tung oil with a shop cloth. Before it dries, scrub the sanding block around the wet spot. The sawdust created by the sanding will fill the pores of the walnut. The oil eventually will evaporate, leaving the resin absorbed into the wood holding the sawdust in place. This is a genius approach, and really makes the biggest difference over every other step. You have to fill the grain! Sure, you could use a commercial grain filler, but using the sawdust of the board you're finishing creates a seamless look. Sometimes commercial grain fillers can leave dark spots, or inconsistent coloring. Wet sanding does not.
Starting to shine
4. Wetsand everything again!
Repeat the above procedure. Doing 2 coats of tung oil with a 220 sanding block really seals up the grain. Notice how the end grain seems more solid now. Be sure you wait at least 24 hours between coats.

5. Apply a wipe-on satin polyurethane to everything. No need to sand first, but a quick wipedown with a dry shop cloth wouldn't hurt. Wipe-on poly is thinned down some from the brush-on stuff. Use a shop cloth folded tight, wipe with the grain. It will dry quickly, so you may only have to wait 3 hours in between coats.

** special note here - with some projects, it's totally ok to keep on wiping poly and be done. Satin poly doesn't have a shine like the glossy stuff. The coats go on very thin. My mother loves this stuff (Minwax satin wipe-on poly), and she'll put on 9 to 15 coats only buffing with a #0000 steel wool in between. It does make for a fine, sturdy finish to a table that won't leave water rings or anything less protective. For this table, that's not exactly the look that I wanted.

With satin poly

5. Sand everything with 320 grit, then wipe on the 2nd coat of poly. If you're doing this on a saturday, you can easily get on a coat after every meal.

6. Sand everything with 400 grit, then wipe on a 3rd coat of poly. This is when it finally starts to "feel" different. After the 400 grit and 3rd coat dry, this table started to feel hard. Like the finish was glass. It was weird, but exactly what I was looking for.

7. Buff with #0000 steel wool, and apply a 4th coat of wipe-on satin poly. Repeat this as much as you want, buff it down and wipe on another coat. The thin layers will add up. Nothing wrong with getting 15 coats on like this. I think I stopped at 5 coats.

8. Wipe only the top with a high gloss polyurethane. I actually used a brush on poly, but wiped it on with a shop cloth anyway. You're supposed to thin it with some mineral spirits before doing that, but I just wanted to avoid brush strokes. I didn't buff with the steel wool or anything, but I did put on two coats. And I just put it on the top of the table and the top of the shelf. All of the legs, sides, and stretchers just got the satin. I wanted to see the difference between what I wanted to look protected.
You can really tell the difference between the gloss and satin finishes

Happy finisher with my shiny table top!
I've already used this same technique on some cypress shelves for a bathroom remodel and got the same fantastic results. I love the way this table turned out. The finish is perfect and will hold up for years. 80, 120, wet sand 220 with tung oil, poly 320, poly 400, wipe on poly till the cows come home.

So after it dried I had to get this table inside to take its rightful place next to my recliner. I built this to a specific size for this location, so we can compare it with the table it's replacing.

ah, finally in place

The drawer fits!

you vs the table you've got to replace

why not close the drawer here?

In it's final home, covered in junk
I am so glad I built this table. This was a perfect way to recover from my surgery. It was a great build, and this finishing technique that I picked up will come in very handy over time.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Assembling the walnut table

Now that we've gotten everything cleaned up and the pieces are all shaped, it's time to put this table together. Glue up and assembly is quite a process. The pocket screws attaching the base to the top are the only metal connectors in here, but everything has to be assembled in a specific order and with some precision in order for this table to end up ok.

I had a bad idea to add dowels to the top of the legs and make a mating hole in the underside of the top to give some more glue surface. That's totally not needed, and I ended up cutting off 3 of the 4 dowels. The one that I left ended up being my starting point for assembly; it was a rear leg.

Glue the leg into the top, then put glue on both the mortise and tenon for the back, and glue into the other rear leg. Add the pocket screws and more glue to get that attached to the top. Then glue and screw the sides into the back legs. I cut the bottom with notches for all four legs, but that means it has to be installed in the slot before the front legs are attached.

Dry fit with markings

Looks like a real table

With the bottom in, everything has been glued and screwed
So I can't attach the base to the top with the bottom in place, and I can't install the bottom with the front legs in place. Quite the pickle!

Next I have to build a drawer. The fourth side that I had originally cut became a drawer front, and I wanted to try some new stuff in there. For the sides, I had some rough scrap pine laying around. With the base assembled and attached I could finally get the exact size I needed. I didn't want to have any hardware involved so the drawer had to be the exact height, width, and length to fill the void.

rough pine

Glued up drawer

drawers take a lot of clamps

Half blind dovetails are really hard


The finished drawer
I've never done dovetails before. Always wanted to try, and I've done finger joints before (think square dovetails) but never dovetails like this. I didn't even have a template to draw out the angles, so I just made something up and went for it. The joints for the back of the drawer were pretty straightforward, I was able to make straight through cuts and clean out the voids. But attaching the sides to the front... that's another story. This was the first and the last time I will try half blind dovetails. I put a dovetail bit in the router and tried to hollow out the tails. The height was right, but it totally tore up the sides of the board. It was really much harder than I was expecting.

I can see myself doing dovetails again, but not half blind. Dovetail a box and attach it to the drawer front.

Now those damn stretchers....

Stretchers seem a bit short?

Holding the shelf in place

I ended up having to cut up those stretchers pretty hard to get the half lap joint to fit. But eventually it did fit, and I glued the shelf on top.  It ended up being a really nice touch.

Also a nice touch, I picked up a 1/8" cherry dowel and cut some pegs out of that. Every mortise and tenon joint was reinforced with 2 pegs, cut flush. The cherry created a really nice color contrast that shines in the finished product. And it helps strengthen the joints. I put pegs in where the stretchers attach to the legs, and used them to attach the shelf to the stretchers as well.

Now with more shelf

Note the cherry dowel pegs into the top of the legs

really came together

This whole thing came together really well. I'm still cautious about how much weight I can put on the bottom shelf. But seeing all of those complex joints come together tightly is a miracle. Now all we have to do is put a finish on it! But how do you finish walnut?