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Me and a frog (August 30, 2004)

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Somehow, Cleveland has survived, with her gray banner unfurled -- the banner of Archangelsk and Detroit, of Kharkov and Liverpool -- the banner of men and women who would settle the most ignominious parts of the earth, and there, with the hubris born neither of faith nor ideology but biology and longing, bring into the world their whimpering replacements.

Gary Shteyngart


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Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

Dovetails

I've been working for a while now on a wall unit/desk for Sylvia's room; making pretty good progress. I'd say I'm a little ways past the halfway point which means delivery around February. Right now I am framing the upper level of shelf units (the piece is made up of 2 lower units, 2 upper units, the desk, and some smaller "cubby" pieces), and using dovetails to join the frames together. This is about the 4th time I have cut dovetails, and the first I am using them somewhere they will not be visible. (Which is actually probably the better thing to do first -- but it did not work out that way.)

I cut all the pins yesterday and the day before, and last night did my first set of tails, second set this morning. It is going pretty quick and the results are noticeably better than any I have previously done (with one possible exception -- the cherry dovetails I did for a jewelry box came out pretty nice but those don't count because (a) they took me a really long time and (b) I never finished building the jewelry box). They fit, quite tight, with very little adjustment. ("Adjustment" = "messing around with a chisel, trying to make the dovetails fit even though the cuts were not in the proper place".) I'm a little surprised because the cuts are visibly not exactly straight nor square, and the marking imprecise; my conclusion is that dovetails (at least in softwood) are a forgiving joint.

Update: Finished the 3rd and 4th sets of tails, an hour and a half from marking to fitting. And very little messing around with a chisel.

posted morning of December 29th, 2004: Respond
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Thursday, December 30th, 2004

Dovetails cont.

This evening I glued up the frame for a section of the wall unit I am building -- I described cutting the dovetails in my previous post. The end result is pretty good (if slightly off square); but the glueing-up process can only be described as a failure.

The plan was as follows:

  1. Lay the right-hand side board on the bench top, outer face down.
  2. Put (Elmer's white) glue on the right-hand pins of the top and bottom boards, and join them to the side board.
  3. Slide the backing boards into the grooves cut in the top and bottom boards.
  4. Put glue on the left-hand pins of the top and bottom boards, and join the left-hand side board to them.

Straightforward enough -- what I didn't realize was I needed something to hold the top and bottom boards close to each other as I was sliding in the backing boards... I see now that what I should have done, after about the first three backing boards were in place, was fix a clamp to hold everything in place. (I think but am not sure, that my longest bar clamp would be just about long enough to do the job.) Instead, when the backing boards started falling out, I ran upstairs and started screaming bloody murder for Ellen to come help me hold boards in place. And she did, and everything came out all right in the end, except I wish I could keep my head on straight when a problem comes up.

posted evening of December 30th, 2004: Respond
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Sunday, January 30th, 2005

The wall unit for Sylvia's room is coming along nicely (though I expect to be done in March now, not February) -- tonight while I was cutting dovetails for the remaining section of it, Ellen and Sylvia were painting one of the completed sections.

Sylvia and I went over to Mark's house today, where Christine and Bill also came to visit. We had a great time, including watching Harold Lloyd movies and learning from Bill how to play "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues".

posted evening of January 30th, 2005: Respond
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Saturday, February 5th, 2005

A month ago I posted the story of a glue-up gone wrong. Today I glued up a second similar cabinet and thanks to input from the gang at WoodCentral, it went much better. The key difference: as advised by William Duffield, I did not put the backer boards in slots, but instead cut a rabbett and will nail them in place after the frame is dry. This means in the glue-up, I only have to worry about four boards instead of ten, much more reasonable. Also I thought through my clamping beforehand, so it was easy to get everything put together once the glue was on; and I made pinch sticks to measure the diagonals of the cabinet. I think these will be my most successful dovetails to date, which is not saying too much but is a good feeling anyways.

posted evening of February 5th, 2005: Respond

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

Summer projects

So I have several projects I'm meaning to do, working on the house this summer. They are generally divisible into two categories; woodworking projects and patio/stone projects.

Woodworking

  • Today I finished installing the wall unit I've been building for Sylvia's room, that's been dragging on since late last year. Oh happy day! (Actually the desk part of it remains to be done. For now Sylvia's work table fits okay in the space where the desk will go, and she has not quite outgrown it yet. I plan to build the desk in August or so.) Ellen will be painting the wall unit in conjunction with painting Sylvia's room, which she is planning to do in the next few weeks. Before she can do that, I need to install a chair rail around the room; I ought to get to that sometime this week. Also Ellen was mentioning that it would be nice to build a small shelf on the wall by the head of Sylvia's bed, to hold a box of tissues and some other things.
  • Two summers ago I built Sylvia a sandbox in our back yard, with the intention to build a playhouse above it. That is currently the next project on my plate, and I am going to start designing it this afternoon.
  • Ellen has asked me to build an enclosure for our garbage cans, which are currently loose in the side yard. I will be doing that after the playhouse is finished, hopefully in a month or so. I need to do this in conjunction with some of the patio work below.
  • Also in conjunction with the patio work, I would like to build a small shed by the side of our house, to store our barbecue and some garden tools.

Patio

The major project last summer was laying a bluestone patio in our back yard and a slate walkway next to our driveway. A few things remain to be done before that is really finished.

  • The slate walkway is just slightly too low, about 1/4 - 1/2", and it drains poorly. A quick project of a couple of hours will be just going down the length of it, lifting up each rock and packing more sand under it to bring the walk up level with the side of the driveway.
  • A section in front of the porch, where I am going to build the enclosure for the garbage cans, needs to be leveled and filled with sand and stone. This is only about a day's work, but I need to finalize the design of the enclosure first.
  • I would like to extend the back yard patio in one place to make it reach the fence. This is where I am planning to build the shed.

posted afternoon of April 17th, 2005: Respond
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Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Home Improvement update

I spent today putting the chair rail molding into Sylvia's room and spackling various bits in the room to prep it for painting, which Ellen will start tomorrow. (this afternoon when I took Sylvia to the library, Ellen finished touching up the paint job on the cabinets.) The molding is a bit freehand; I wanted to match the chair rail which is in the entry way to the room (the room is part of an addition to the house built in the mid-20th century; the entry way is part of the original house), which is a pretty simple curve. I went to Home Despot and found that all the moldings they sell as "chair rails" are big things with lots of compound curves and would look ugly in this application. However they sell a baseboard cap which is pretty close to what I wanted, except with a lip at the bottom and an extra curve at the top. So I bought that, and just shaved off the top and bottom with a block plane. Not too bad for ~24' of molding, but it would quickly become onerous with much more. (Also while I was at the HD I got hardware for Sylvia's playhouse, which I am certainly going to start on this week.)

posted evening of April 23rd, 2005: Respond

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

Project pix

Got my scanner working!

posted morning of May 26th, 2005: Respond
➳ More posts about Bathroom Renovation

Monday, July 11th, 2005

Summer projects

A status update on my still-outstanding home improvement tasks for the summer.

Woodworking

  • Ellen painted Sylvia's playhouse to match the garage which it is next to, and it looks very nice. It's gotten a good deal of use from Sylvia and various friends this summer, as I was hoping it would.
  • The garbage-can enclosure is up. I finished installing it last weekend, and had the inspiration (born of laziness) to make a raised garden with the dirt I had excavated, instead of carting it away. I finished that this weekend, using some rocks from Eva's property (where we visited Saturday) to complete the retaining wall. Under the dirt where I excavated is an old slate patio in very bad condition; Ellen had the inspired idea to use the fragments of slate to create a walkway leading to the front garden.
  • However, I still have to build the gates for the enclosure. Once I build and hang these, Ellen will be able to paint the structure.
  • We cleaned up the garage and actually have a decent work area there now. Janis had given me some old trestles for a work table, which I nailed together with maple planks, and built a shelf above it.
  • I have an idea that I may actually get to building the small tool shed sometime in August.

Patio

  • The slate walkway along the driveway is level and drains well, which has made me realize that the driveway itself is not level, and drains poorly. Aargh...
  • I ended up underlaying the garbage can enclosure with limestone instead of bluestone, because it was available in a more convenient shape. Damned expensive though!
  • I'm planning to do the extension of the back patio next Friday, when i am taking the day off. If this goes according to plan, then I will start drawing up plans for the tool shed next weekend.

posted afternoon of July 11th, 2005: Respond
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