Thursday, April 21, 2022

What is it?

 What would you guess this is?

If you guessed windows, you are correct!  We have a bank of 3 double hung windows in the dining room that are part of a wooden frame and panel wall.  The more we looked at restoring it, the more we realized that much repair work was needed.  Therefore, we began meticulously deconstructing the bank of windows.  This is just some of the parts that make up the windows.  Still to this day I find myself shocked at the craftsmanship that went into simple things.  It is nice to honor this work and history by restoring it and readying it for another century of operation.

Happy restoration!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Dining Room Wood Finishing

It seemed that the interior wood finishing of our dining room would never get to final finishing stage.  To recap, the woodwork of our 1914 craftsman home was under decades of paint.  We started paint stripping in 2019 soon after purchasing the house.  The situation went from bad to worse.  Turns out that portions of the millwork had been sanded back to raw wood sometime in the 1950s (approx).  There were several coats of lead based paint in direct contact with the wood, which makes it next to impossible to to remove the paint.  Therefore, we resorted to sanding almost all of the millwork back to raw wood in the dining room.

Our goal is restore the millwork back to the early 1900s finishes.  It is becoming harder and harder for the DIYer to find the products necessary to restore woodwork with the finishes that would've been used during that time period.  Todays stains, gels and polyurethane finishes just don't reproduce the depth or richness found in historical finishes. 

In comes Dalys.  Dalys is a small scale finish manufacturer/producer located in the Pacific Northwest.  It always helps to know a guy when you approach a project like this.  Brian is our guy.  During the summer of 2021 we sent a small piece of millwork to Brian at Dalys for finish matching.  We also sent a sanded raw piece of matching millwork to him so that he could test his match.  From there, he sent us the following finishing products:

Here, you see the following products:

  • Benite - Wood conditioner that treats and hardens the wood.  Brian's tests were producing splotched results due to the age of the millwork.  This pre-conditioner treats the wood work and prepares it to receive the final finishes.  It hardens the wood by 10-15%.
  • Aniline Water Dye - This dyes the woodwork the base/background color.  This is custom mixed to produce the red/orange tones that are present in our original finishes.  
  • Oil Based Wood Stain - This is a custom mixed wood stain that brings our the darker tones of the millwork grain.  
  • Blonde Dewaxed Shellac Flakes - Flakes used to mix shellac.  We are still running tests to find the right cut/color of shellac to reproduce the color and original luster of the woodwork.
Just when we thought we had everything ready we discovered that denatured alcohol and related products have been outlawed for sale in California.  WHY?!?!?!?!  Pure grain alcohol or denatured alcohol is what's used to dissolve shellac flakes.  We had to mail order alcohol out of state so that we can mix the shellac.  Just be aware if you live in California you will have extra red tape.  How frustrating.

At this point we have applied the Benite wood conditioner and are ready to do the final 220 grit sanding.  For this process, we are taking it down to 220 grade because we're using a water based dye.  This EXTREMELY dry 100+ year old woodwork wants to soak up the water based dye which can make it much too dark.  The 220 sanding will close the grain and prevent it from soaking up as much dye.  

In the picture with the products you'll see our test board.  Here, we have applied the Benite, dye and stain to an original piece of the millwork.  Always do a test before you apply it to the wall.  Results will vary depending on the species of wood, the age and many other factors.

The next step is to do the final sanding and then apply the dye & stain.  We also need to start the process of mixing the shellac and finalizing a cut and color.  

Looking forward to posting some final results photos in the coming weeks!  2 1/2 years in the making....

Friday, March 18, 2022

Gone Native!

 In 2021 we undertook a sizable project tearing out our front yard and reconcepting it as a native garden.  We have a small front yard of about 800 square feet.  The purpose of the project was to simplify, beautify and reduce water consumption.

The garden really leapt to life and has grown in quite a bit since planting in December of 2021.  We saw the rock swales flood a couple of times this winter which diverts less water into the storm drains.  We continue to water these plants for good root development and expect to be able to cut back on watering later this year once they're established.

We did this project using the Long Beach Lawn2Garden program, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to convert lawn to garden.  The process was straightforward and we experienced no challenges with the process.  

We kept the plant list to plan with few exceptions.  A full list of the plants used can be found here.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Mixed Bag 'o' Projects

 Been some time since we last posted.  Here are a few projects we've been working on:

First, for fun - the catio/passthrough!  We have this single old casement window that was retrofitted into our sunroom windows.  This window proved difficult because it opens out and therefore requires an interior screen.  After two years of considering what to do, we built a custom catio/passthrough!  The passthrough function allows us to pass through kitchen supplies and dishes between the indoor kitchen and our outside kitchen and dining area.  We do quite a bit of outdoor dining and this will get used quite a bit when we host parties.  In addition, it serves as a cat-patio for our two indoor cats.  So far, the cats seem quite pleased with the results!

Not quite as fun, but still rewarding is the restoration of our dining room window sashes.  We are taking them back down to raw wood and glazing/repairing where required.  These redwood original window sashes are in surprisingly good condition considering the 108 years of south facing weather they've received.  This is our first foray into window repair and we've learned a lot already.  Digging into this project, we learned that most of our interior windows are double hung.  We're going to give it a go and restore some of the upper sash window movement as we progress.

Lastly, we've enjoyed spending time in our garden and seeing the hard work from prior years pay off.  Spring has sprung in Southern California!  More garden photos to come throughout the 2022 growing/gardening season.

The focus this year is the completion of paint stripping and wood working/restoration efforts in our dining room.  Late last year we received the stain matching products from Daly's based out of the Pacific Northwest.  We have work to do to custom tint the shellac to try and replicate the luster this house was built with.  No chance of getting bored anytime soon.