Thursday, February 18, 2021

Slow Painful Progress


We are making slooooooooooooow painful progress stripping the original built-in cabinet.  Progress is extremely slow even with the Speedheater.  We learned during the process that the entire cabinet and all of the surrounding trim on the wall had been completely sanded down to raw wood.  We guesstimate this happened sometime in the 50s or 60s based on the nature of the oil based paint layers.  The extremely strong oil based paints made a VERY STRONG bond to the wood grain making it next to impossible to remove the paint.  

Throughout this process we have been using the Speedheater to remove as much paint as possible without damaging the wood.  When we scrape with too much pressure we gouge the wood, which we've  done in a number of places.  That will lead to more sanding and difficulty during the finishing process.  We have resorted to using chemical stripper to remove the final layers of oil paint that have adhered to the raw wood.  We are using Multi-Strip Advanced, which I have used in the past.  It is less toxic, but still pretty strong stuff.  The trick has been to leave the stripping paste on the surface for at least 10 hours before the final scrape.  It leaves quite a bit of paint residue, but we expect to be able to sand most of it out during the final finishing stage.

The good news is that we did a test run on the box beams and surrounding trim in the dining room and the original finish was not sanded off.  The Speedheater penetrates through the paint layers, softens the shellac layer, and the paint slides off like butter.  We are hoping that this cabinet and surrounding trim is the last of the sanded wood work.  Why would anyone bother to sand all of this and then cover it all up with paint?  Not sure we'll ever understand exactly what happened here.  The mysteries of an old house!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Another Win in the Finish Column


We took another project over the finish line this weekend!  This one wraps up the workshop makeover we started in January.  We got the workbenches and a really nice tool chest installed which mostly completes the space.  This small space was a big challenge, but we couldn't be happier with the outcome.  It is bright, well organized, and allows us to easily set up different tools depending on the type of project we are working on.  It is really nice to have this complete!  The sad part of finishing this means we have to stop procrastinating and start paint stripping the woodwork in the house again.  I'd rather do just about ANYTHING else .... :-)

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Lawn to Garden


After numerous walks around our neighborhood we have been considering a lawn to garden conversion.  There are quite a few people in our area that have done this.  Anyone else reading this blog been through this process in another city or in Long beach?  The city here offers a program to do this which includes a 3$ per sq ft grant.  The city recently replaced our street and curbs, and our front strip got pretty torn up in the process.  In addition, they took out the 40 foot tall eucalyptus tree that was located in the front yard along the sidewalk.  This has been an invitation for us to consider what to do with the small front-yard space.

I did a first draft landscape drawing of what it could look like should we choose to go this route.  Plants corresponding to the numerical identifier on the drawing can be found here.  I can't help but think that this would be much more visually interesting and require a lot less water.

Trying to convince myself not to do the conversion this year, but who am I kidding.  I might have this done next week :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Final Push to the Finish

 Why is it that the final 10% of work on a project always takes such a massive effort to finish?  Perhaps because it is always detailed, or maybe it's the mental difficulty of pushing past the finish line.  Nonetheless, our studio makeover project was no exception to this rule.  It was one of the first projects to be started in January of 2020 and yet we just pushed it over the finish line this month!  

I am proud to report that all the door and window trim is in!  Even the baseboards are hung :). We trimmed the doors/windows using poplar and left it natural with a shellac finish.  We used the newly acquired planer to custom mill the board depths to match the craftsman detail of the house.  Overall, very pleased with the outcome and happy to have this marked off the list.  The project was an excellent test of the workflow of the newly remodeled workshop and we are pleased with the result.  Looking forward to moving on to a different room now...

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Workshop Refresh

 Well, we never would've dreamt we'd be spending so much time at home in 2020 and 2021 working on home projects!  We've spent a lot of time in our modestly sized 12'x12' workshop.  Over the past year we've completed quite a number of projects and having this space has been helpful.  However, it was dark, cramped, and had some critter problems.  The old original sagging carriage doors definitely had issues and did little to protect the space.  Unlocking them and opening up the shop door was a 5-10 minute process.  Not exactly ideal.

We set out to reimagine this space knowing that we wanted a creative space that could support any number of hobbies.  I recently bought a small MIG welder in hopes of building some garden type features.  In addition, it would be nice to do some creative wood working projects as well as continue to support our home remodeling efforts.  I started the remodel process by drawing the space to scale and making cut-outs for all of our equipment.  I spent a good four weeks moving things around and tweaking the plan.  12'x12' isn't a lot of space when you are looking to house saws, tools, and workbenches.  I scoured the web for shop layout plans and youtube videos.  I found plenty of inspiration, but it still required a lot of modification to suit our specific needs.  

We finalized the plan in the last couple of months by making a couple of critical decisions.  First, we decided to remove the old carriage doors and have a garage door installed.  When working with large wood stock, it is sometimes necessary to have the door open to get the larger pieces through the table saw or planer.  Therefore, it was critical that the door be easy to use and open.  We plan to reuse some of the old wainscot stock from the removed carriage doors on the interior wall as a way to preserve some of the material and history.  And secondly, we decided to put all the wood working tools on mobile bases so they can be stored against the walls and pulled into the center when needed.  This allowed the space to be multi-use and not entirely dedicated to wood working.  

We are extremely pleased with the design, and have have completed much of the work.  We went with a vertical wainscot paneling on three of the walls and then plan to use the recycled vintage carriage door wainscot material on the garage door interior wall.  This material will be hung horizontally to provide contrast, and will be planed down so that it is a simple raw wood with a clear finish.  We have since worked on a couple of projects in the space, and are pleased with the workflow.  The brightness and openness of the design makes it much easier to work in the space and to see what you are working on!  Soon, we will be installing an L shaped set of workbenches on the right side and back wall and plan to build some overhead cabinetry for tools and additional storage.  We look forward to many future projects working in this bright and comfortable space.


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Winter Planting


We've been focused on the landscape plantings to capitalize on the cooler temperatures and what little rain we've been receiving this winter.  Having grown up in the midwest, I'm still adjusting to the climate in southern California and the idea that some plants grow all year long.

We visited the Theodore Payne Center just north of Burbank today.  Much of the gardens are closed, but the plant nursery is open.  Today we found the following plants on our list:

  • Juncus Patens, both Elk Blue and Occidental Blue
  • Bouteloua Graciis
  • Heuchera 'Opal'
  • Gambelia Speciosa, Firecracker
  • Ceanothus Joyce Coulter
Our experience at Theodore Payne was good.  You can find their inventory online which is updated regularly.  This was extremely helpful and allowed us to plan our visit based on what was available.  Once at the nursery we found the signage and layout to be very good.  We were able to identify everything on our list in around 20 minutes.  Each pot is labelled, and therefore it made it much easier for us.  We will definitely continue to use them as a resource as we build out our native plant landscape.  We found that there were plants and Theodore Payne not at Tree of Life and vise versa.  Definitely check out both as you build out your native landscape plan.

We are down to two plants left on our list that we have yet to find.  We're hoping we'll luck out later in the spring as the nurseries begin putting out new inventory.  We're excited to see everything start to root-in and grow during the winter and spring months.

A pretty good start to 2021.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The 2020 Miracle!

I have long wanted a more powerful and larger range.  However, it is hard to justify installing one when you've just moved into a new home and there are so many other things that need to be done.  It is especially difficult to justify when you have a working stove and oven that gets the job done.

Well, then a miracle occurred.  Our oven stopped working this year and it wasn't reasonable to repair.  Therefore, it was essential that we buy a new stove :)

In comes the dream range, followed by the installation of a vent hood and backsplash!  We went with the dual fuel Kucht range, NXR hood and NXR full stainless chimney cover.  The backsplash was custom fabricated by Commerce Metals.

This project tested our skill level.  Retrofitting the house for the hood took much more work than we originally anticipated.  We watched countless videos before making a hole through the lath and plaster ceiling to ensure that we did not damage the surrounding plaster.  We designed custom brackets for the back of the hood to allow it to be secured to the existing wall studs.

I have thoroughly enjoyed cooking on it, and appreciate having the high power burners for searing and for high heat cooking applications.  We also installed the shelving to the left which puts pots and pans, essential kitchen utensils and oils and spices near the stove.  We are extremely pleased with the outcome.

There is much work to be done in the kitchen, but after living with it for a year we plan to keep the exact same layout.  It is a great cooking triangle and has proven to be an efficient space to cook in.  We will be refacing cabinetry by building custom shaker doors, replacing counters and installing new floors.  Much of this work will be DIY in the months ahead.