Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Time to stop and start

Every now and then you just need to stop all of the projects and re-organize so you can get started all over again.   Yesterday I had planned on coming home and getting back to work on the bookcase project, but my wife's Mac battery blew a gasket and she needed to go get a new one.   So much for getting anything done.   My twin angels had a very busy day and skipped their much needed nap...again.   They were obviously ready for bed any minute.  Or...not.    Sometimes they will fight sleep like it's the worst punishment a parent could ever bestow on a child.   Other times one will give in to the sandman and relent, while the other sees this as an opportunity to have dad all to themselves.       I've tried to remain tough; no talking, no laughing, just re-route them back to bed with a kiss and walk away.     Knowing this probably won't work I go to the office next to their room and check email while I wait to see if this is really it.    Last night, after about the 4th time I let her sit on my lap as I read an email from my mother-in-law.   I offered her a chance to say something to Mimi and she came back with "I love her and I want her to come see me".     Mimi was thrilled.   Ok, very cute, now let's go back to bed.
Still not convinced this was it I went to my room to try and get a nagging knot out of my back by rolling on a foam roller and within seconds she was back.    She laid on my chest to "help" me as I tried to ignore her and keep going.    With a tiny voice and big smile she says "you're a stinky daddy".    We burst into laughter and I brought her back to bed...for the last time of the night.   Finally.

I actually managed to get a lot of organizing done in the shop, so all in all it was a good night, even though it wasn't what I expected.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A night off

My wife went to yoga last night so Daddy had a night off from projects and decided to have some fun with the twins.   Off to Blockbuster!   The girls had started to watch Peter Pan at Grampy's last weekend and seemed to like it, so I was eager to rent it and watch it with them.   It's one of those great memories I have from my childhood...Disney movies.     It is really challenging getting through those aisles with so many things at their level; candy snakes, movies, games, books, popcorn, you name it.   Blockbuster is hoping that you are weak and let them buy whatever they pick up to avoid a scene.   Ah, but I won. Ok, I cheated a little by mentioning that Friendly's was next door and we better bring the movies to the counter so we can get some ice cream.   I still counted it as a victory :)

Even though I tried taking them to Friendly's by myself about 6 months ago and they turned the place upside down I decided to try it again.   The key is getting the crayons into their hands right away and point out all of the exciting things on the page for them to color.    Then, be ready to order when the waitress comes over.   That way they get their ice cream before they get bored and start making salt and pepper mountains on the table.  

They needed to be reminded to use their spoons and not their hands, but they did a great job and only wore about 10% of the ice cream home.   Progress!

I loved watching the new digitally-remastered Peter Pan with them.   It is amazing how many things you forget about over the years.   Did anyone else remember that the dog was the nanny?  

After they went to bed I was too tired to work on anything.   This may have been a night off from projects, but somehow I feel like I worked my butt off.    

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Fix a Wavy Sheetrock Wall

I hate sheetrock.   Now that we have that out of the way....  Being dad the Handyman means doing things you like as well as things you don't like...or even hate.    I've got the Taunton book on sheetrock, all the best tools, and have read countless articles on it so now I am an expert.    Right?   Well, if you've been around while I've worked on it you know I am far from it.

My house was built during the late 90s boom in our area, when straight lumber was hard to find, and contractors who gave a crap about quality even harder to find.   Oh, and inspectors to make sure they were doing a good job?   Hello?  Beuhler?   You only need to check out my collapsing deck to know that nobody was checking this work for quality.   I think they drove by to make sure a house was actually there and then signed off on it.

As a result my house has incredibly wavy walls.   The previous owners solution to the 1/2" gaps behind the counters was to caulk it 'til it hurt.   And hurt it eyes.   It's so ugly that I can't take it, and I definitely can't do the same thing when I install the built in bookcase I am nearly finished with.

I have a 1/2" gap over a 24" stretch of wall.   The options are to tear it out and fix the studs, or mud, mud, mud.    I chose to use mud.

I mixed the 45 minute mud to peanut-butter consistency in a 5 gallon pail.    Transfered it to the 12 inch trowel with a curved trowel, made just for taking joint compound out of buckets.    They make cleaning so much easier too.     I took the trowel at 45 degree angle to the wall, near the bottom and worked my way up as far as I could go.   I did this a few times to get it fairly smooth.    That took about 5 minutes.   Cleaningup took about 20.   Fun.    The first layer doesn't have to be pretty since it is just taking up some of the gap.  The biggest problem is that the 12" trowel isn't wide enough to cover the edges of the gap so I don't know how this is going to work.   I decided to take one of my daughters to their favorite store; Home Depot!   Believe it or not, they love going there.     I picked up a cement trowel that is 20" long and my daughter approved.    We also need a new wheelbarrow and she liked the blue one, which was the contractor-grade, so we were both happy and took it home.

Layer 2:   The next day I went for the second layer.   Unfortunately I didn't mix it like peanut butter this time.  It was more like jelly.    Not good.    I should have went back and added a little more powder but instead I tried to keep working.    I did the same bottom to top "technique", this time with the new trowel.    It came out bubbly, the stuff poured out all over the place, and me.   The good news is that the gap is only 1/4" now so I actually think I'm making progress.    I'll try again tonight...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life is good

Last night I got home a little late and the girls were already in bed so I didn't get my normal hero's welcome that I've grown to love.   While I was on the computer one of them woke up and was crying so my wife brought her in and held her against my chest.    I already miss that because they are growing up so fast they don't need dad to hold them tightly anymore.   She looked up, half awake, and gave me a smile as she snuggled in as close as she could and fell back asleep.   Life is good.   It almost makes you want to have more kids so that you can enjoy those first few years all over again.    Of course that would probably mean more things to build.    What a shame ;)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mirror for my wife

The only mirror my wife has had to use while getting dressed is a $6.99 Home Depot special that lost it's cheap frame years ago, and now leans against the wall with a bend.   So rather than dress in front of a fun-house mirror again this year I decided to build her a new one for her birthday (her 29th I think :)).

The plan; a simple, mission style oak mirror that will last a lifetime.   

16" x 60", oak, no bevel.

Step by step;
Buy 1 x 4 oak from HD long enough to have a few inches left on each board
- Cut the stiles (sides) to 59 1/4" 
- Cut the top and bottom to 22 3/4"
- drill 2 holes using Kreg Pocket Jig in the top and bottom of each side
- Sand all the wood with 80 grit, then 120, than 220.  
- I also used a scraper to burnish the wood and get it super-smooth, but that's optional.
- line up the frame on a workbench/table so that the tops and bottoms overlap the sides by 1/2" on each side.  This gives it that mission-style, rather than just a plain, picture frame.  
- hold each joint in place by clamping it to the workbench with the Kreg clamp so that it is centered on the joint
- drill the holes into each joint to create the frame.
    * This is much easier if you have pipe clamps to hold the joint together, or use the new clamp that Rockler has, but I didn't have either so I just used hand pressure from one side against the pressure of the drill.   The great thing about the Kreg jig is that the flat-bottom hole it creates helps to pull the wood together.  I managed to get 4 tight joints after a little practice with it, and one minor bruise on my finger.   I had my girls kiss it better though, so all is well ;)
 - Sand everything down, especially if you ended up with any wood raised higher than another piece at the joint.   This happens because the wood at HD is not perfect and unless you have a planer you just have to deal with it.
    *  Don't use a powered sander too close the the inside corners or you will leave a insightly indent on the vertical piece you are going against.   How do I know that?   Uggh.   Learned it the hard way on a my shop cabinets.   
- clean off your table and then turn over the frame
- clamp it down in diagonal corners
- use a 3/8" x 3/8" rabetting router bit in a hand held router to create the recess for the mirror
    * remember to go clockwise when routing the inside of a frame.   Don't go counter-clockwise because you'll tear up your wood and have to spend a bunch of time fixing it with a chisel to make it look nice again.   How do I know that?   Hmmm...
 - You will have to stop and move your clamps, but it's easy to get started again.   Just start an inch back from where you left off and ease into the uncut wood again.
- Once the routing is done you are left with rounded inside corners
- Use a VERY SHARP chisel to square the corners by lining up the chisel and tapping with a rubber maller or "dead-blow" hammer.   Use the hammer as little as possible, but with oak you will almost definitely have to use it.   Don't use a dull chisel on your nice mirror frame.   Don't.    Learn to sharpen it or have someone do it for you.   Take your time with this.  Enjoy this part of the craft that is as old as...well, it goes way back.
-  Sand the areas you routed
-  I like Watco Danish Oil so now is the time to apply your first coat.   The way I do it is to put on a good amount with a brush and then use #0000 steel wool to work it into the wood until it looks almost dry.
-   let that dry overnight while you go get your mirror
-  Measure the inside dimensions down to a 16th of an inch.   Why?   Well, just in case you are not perfect, and may have misscut the ends by a tiny bit you want to make sure now.
- Take those dimensions to a glass store and have them cut you a mirror that is a 16th shorter on each side to allow for wood movement.   Mine cost $51.

That where I am at right now.    Tune in tomorrow to see how it ends!

After a few more coats of Oil it's ready to hang.
I used to make my own wooden cleats to hang things by cutting a piece of wood at a 45 degree angle and attach one part to the wall and the other to the thing I was hanging.     However, Hangman Products came up with an aluminum one so I used it for the mirror and it works great!
I used standard mirror clips for the back and the project was complete...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bookcase for my girls

When we moved to this house while our twins were in the NICU, we made the decision to give up a formal dining room so the girls would have a place on the first floor to play.    My wife is a teacher who is working with our girls until they go to school, so she did an amazing job of setting up the room after I painted it.

She wanted storage from day 1.   It's now about day 955 and I thought it would be a good time to get started :)

She wanted a low bookcase because these girls are born climbers and anything higher than 3 feet would become a new conquest.

So, I planned to build a 36" high, 24" wide, built-in bookcase.    I chose to build it out of 1x12 poplar since it's easy to work with and takes paint they tell me.     I adapted a plan from Fine Homebuilding to meet my needs;
Day 1: the first day for me is always drawing out the plans.   A new step that I added from the FH article was to use a "Story Pole".    If you haven't done this before you NEED to do it.   It makes any kind of shelving work much easier.    A scrap of 1/3 works great for this.   As you are determining the overall height, shelf heights, molding, etc. you mark it all on the story pole.   Then, when you areready to cut you transfer the marks on the pole to the wood work.   Since I was making a built-in, I had to make sure the baseboard would come up to meet the bottom shelf, and that the to top of the top shelf would be covered by the molding.  
Day 2: transfered all of the marking to the wood and used my DeWalt sliding compound mitre saw to cut the sides and shelves to length.    Next transfer the marks from the pole mark the shelf locations.    Then I put the dado blade on the table saw and cut 3/4" wide 3/8" deep dadoes in the boards to recess the shelf edges into.   The FH article suggested this was a waste of time and that you could just glue and screw, but my kids WILL climb on this thing so I went for the extra strength.   Plus, if you mark and cut well it makes it simple to put the shelves in place for glueing and screwing.

The balancing act of the Handydad

Guys, tell me if this sounds familiar; you get up early and walk the dog.   For a brief moment all is peaceful as my chocolate lab discovers all the new smells left in our woods from the night before.  He takes care of business and we head back home.   The twins wake up and I help them go potty.   Then we head downstairs for breakfast.    Mommy gets up and takes over while I get ready for work, get my kisses, and head off.
After work I get more kisses, take the dog for a walk and then am faced with my daily dilemna; get to work on the latest project list or spend time with these beautiful girls.   Usually the girls win unless the project is critical, like last week's new shower valve.   Until it was done everyone was sharing mom and dad's bathroom...which puts it in the critical category.
Normally we eat dinner with the family, work on a part of a project and then come back in to read stories until the girls fade away.
Now, it's about 8:00.  Time to get something done around here!
Yes, 8:00 is the new 5:00.  Time for the handyman part of my job to start.   Most of my best work gets done between 8 and midnight because everything is quiet and I can focus on what I will screw up next.\