Sunday, May 31, 2020

Garden Shed part two

Two weekends ago, or a fortnight in Ye Olde English, The Amy Sheep and myself removed a thirty (30) foot tree from the spot where we want to build our new shed. What we left was the stump, and as longer term followers of this blog might recall, we've dealt with one of those before.

This time round we didn't want to rent the big stump grinder: it would be very difficult to get it down the slope to where we need it, and we don't have the budget for this project - the last stump was five feet in diameter, so we didn't have a choice with that one. 

Plan A was to rent a smaller stump grinder for considerably less wonga. This didn't go to well sadly: the stump grinder was pitifully weak and the motor kept cutting out. After messing about with it for half an hour I bailed and returned it. The motor issue was a convenient excuse to get my $$$ back frankly.

Onto plan B, which was a star wedge and the BFH. This plan lasted about 29 minutes less than plan A.


Plan C was for Amy Sheep to dig out the stump.....this went the same way as Plans A and B, but it did clear the path for Plan D.


And Plan D was the chainsaw....


We were definitely onto something this time....


This plan was carried out in full:


The stump was our last obstacle to world domination what will be our new tool shed. But, before we can build the shed, we need a level playing field. Or at least a level pad slightly bigger than the shed's 8' x 4' footprint. The ground in this area is drops about five (5) inches from the right rear to front left. We used some 6" x 4" "pressure treated" (PT) timber to build a retaining barrier for the foundation. This is timber that has been treated with wood-preserving chemicals under high pressure, and is thus highly resistant to fungus, termites etc. This is important for any timber which is in contact with the ground. 

The first piece was installed level, and parallel to the fence - getting it level took a little bit of back-and-forth. I anchored the timber with several two foot pieces of 1/2 inch diameter rebar which were deployed with the BFH: 


The holes were drilled with this tasty bit of kit:


A second retaining barrier was added at the low side...


And then we laid down some base rock - or road base, as it's known some parts of the country. This is material that varies in size from half inch diameter down to sand and is very easy to compact.


We tried to rent a compactor, but we couldn't find one locally, so I had Amy Sheep do it instead with a scrap of 4" x 6" lumber. After that we had to cash out our chips for the day.


The next morning, after a quick trip to pick up more base rock, we set about leveling out the pad.


The next step was to cut and install the skids that the shed will stand on. The skids were cut from 8' lengths of 4" x 4" PT, and we used all six pieces although five would probably have been enough. 


The first skid stands on top of the retaining barrier, so it was easy to get that one level, and then we worked across the pad. 


I cut some spacer blocks from a scrap of 2" x 4" lumber, so it was easy to get the skids parallel, and then I tacked them in place once each skid was leveled out. 


This is the finished foundation pad with the front and rear rim joists installed. I used the fancy GRK screws to set the lumber in place, and then made sure the structure was square before I shot in more nails than were strictly necessary with cordless dewalt.


We framed out the floor next - we used 2" x 4" doug fir for the floor framing. Normally 2" x 6" is required for flooring, and that's what I used on my last shed, but this is tiny by comparison and we can save two inches on the overall height this way. We stapled on some fine mesh screens in the spaces between the skids - we want plenty of airflow below the shed but hope to exclude non-airbourne matter.


The floor is a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood which was nailed on good an' proper and gives us a very solid base on which to construct the shed. One major advantage of the 8' x 4' footprint is that a lot of the materials can be installed without any cutting.


After all that, was it level - well, yeah, it pretty much was, thanks for asking.


There was bit of Sunday afternoon left over so we cleaned up the yard of leftover bits of cherry tree...


...and converted this pile of de-limbed branches....


...into a pile of firewood - the bigger pieces will need a couple of years to dry out before we can burn them, although it will be closer to five years before we need to given our incredibly low consumption rate. It's actually more important to me to look out of my kitchen window and see neatly chopped firewood than it is to actually burn it.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Antique Medical Tins

I like to collect stuff. I'm not really sure why, neither of my parents are collectors - they call collecting "hoarding" and talk of hoarders with the disdain, even though I know for a fact my Mom had a pretty decent stamp collection in her youth. And my maternal grandfather used to collect old keys; he had hundreds of them hanging from the ceiling in his garage. With me it started with vinyl records and cds, posters, stuff like that. More recently its been tools, antiques, guitars, cloth patches, and even original matchbox cars, some of which I've been restoring.

One of my favorite things to collect is antique metal tins. This collection started with the old Germolene dinner money tin I used to take to school back in the mid-70's - back when a one pound note was enough for a whole weeks school dinners. Mind you, I would have happily paid a quid a week NOT to have to eat the muck they used to serve up.

I spent a little while organizing some medical-themed tins into a rectangle and then I made the frame shown below from some off-cuts of 2" x 1" oak I had on hand. I cut identical rebates at the front and back of the frame. This is actually a project that I started over a year ago and then finished up during the shelter-in-place that's just ended.


The frame had been sitting around for a while when it was rediscovered. I sanded it down to 400 grot and wiped-on some English chestnut stain.


When that was dry, I laid on two (2) coats of satin polyurethane.


The front "glass" will be cut from a sheet of polycarbonate. I might replace it with non-reflective glass in the future.


The back panel consists of a scrap of pegboard and a sheet of mount card to which the tims were attached with double-sided sticky tape, as it is known to Blue Peter viewers. The back panel is removable if necessary.


This is the finished look. The metal corner pieces which hold down the glass/polycarbonate are nailed on with the world's smallest pins. My favorite tins now is the green Selaxa tin that I inherited from my maternal grandfather (it was in his tool chest), and the Germolene tin. My brother used the adjacent Elastoplast Airstrip tin for his dinner money.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dandelion Wine

At family dinner the other day we were talking about when we should introduce the little Sheep to alcohol - the two budding rams are at the age where they will be exposed sooner or later, and it may as well be under adult supervision.* I think I was about twelve when I was started being granted a tiny glass of homemade wine whenever we happened to have Sunday lunch at my Grandma's house. A year later I was drinking at the bar of some pub in Stratford during a Shakespeare-related high school field trip, but at least my family got in first!

Wine at my Grandma's house was always homemade; I don't remember much about it except that it was always sweet and I didn't get much of it. My parents used to make homemade wine and beer when I was super young; they stopped doing it in the 80's, but before that it was game on! 

My Mom used to take my brother Paul Circus (PC) and I on regular trips to the South Downs where we would collect raw materials - she would bring a pair of orange handled sithers, snip the flowers from elder trees, and pack them into carrier bags while PC and myself were enjoying ourselves.


Later in the year we would collect elderberries, at least a couple of bags worth. Back in the kitchen the elderberries would be separated from the twigs with a fork prior to fermentation; elderberry was always my favorite red wine actually, something fifteen years of living next to the Napa Valley has not changed.


The most memorable pickin' trip took place in about 1979 when the three of us went out looking for dandelions. Yeah, they're weeds, but you can also make wine from them. We didn't have to go far on this particular trip: there was a large patch of waste land about ten minutes walk from our house where dandelions and many other weeds were abundant. They built some nice houses on this spot in the mid-80's, but before that it was part community gardens and part dumping ground.


You can pack a couple of carrier bags with elderflowers quite quickly, but dandelion heads....that takes a long time. And you get sticky, foul-tasting sap on your fingers. The other issue was the dandelions were intermingled with tons of stinging nettles.


Paul Circus was on the 2 maybe 3 years old borderline at the time of this event so almost certainly doesn't remember this story, but here goes anyway: We had been pickin' for quite a while and had got about a bag and a half of dandelion heads, so probably 75% of what was needed. PC and myself had lost interest in the quest and were more concerned with poking through the various pieces of trash that had been dumped around us.

One of these items was the passenger seat out of an old car - the foam was escaping and it looked really damp, but PC was ready for a relaxing sit down, and ignored Mom's instructions otherwise. I have to say, it did not look like comfortable seat. Anyway, he sat in it, I think for about two or three seconds before the seat collapsed, and deposited PC into a huge patch of nettles.

This was obviously a major trauma. When my Mom managed to pull him out of the nettles, every bit of exposed skin - arms, legs, face, neck etc., was covered in huge welts. It looked bad. But PC was more concerned with letting my Mom know he'd been pushed off the seat by me! Luckily this charge didn't stick because I was ten feet away and, even more crucially, my Mom was actually watching instead of picking dandelions.

If anything, the passing of this information onto PC made him even more upset. I was gutted too, because our dandelion collecting trip was immediately abandoned and I had to lug one and a half bags full of dandelions back to the house...while my Mom carried a screaming PC over her shoulder. I'm pretty sure I never got to sample the dandelion wine either.

(*wait....maybe they've already been exposed!)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Garage Electrical

It's Memorial Day evening 5.25.20, and finally I have time to write in my blog. The covid-19 slowdown in my business is well and truly over, and the days weeks of dividing my time between the garage and workshop are just a pleasant memory. My particular business has always been a case of making hay while the sun shines, and the last week or two have been blue sky in every direction; a situation which I obviously hope will continue indefinitely.

In the occasional spare moment I have been trying to put the garage back together. The garage was always a bit of a desert as far as power outlets were concerned. I have outlets built into the front of my work bench, but until I emptied the garage they were not-very-safely-connected to an extension cord and plugged in behind the fridge. Something had to be done!


The first step was to convert the outlet at the wall behind the fridge to a box where I could attach some conduit - I don't want to embed the electrical in the walls in the garage and they are mostly masonry in any case. Well, actually, the first step was to shut-off the circuit breaker...

The new conduit begins at the back wall, continues across the ceiling...


...comes down at the side of the bench....


...and continues underneath the shelf, where it connects to the bench outlets.


This is the look about a week later after all the wiring was done:



A few days later my shinny new cover pates showed up in the mail:


By now I have most of my "stuff" back in the garage...




Shirley not the end of the garage project? Stay tooned to find out!

Monday, May 18, 2020

More on the Garage

Apart from my post about the tree that we chopped down on Saturday, it's been a couple of weeks since my last post and in "normal times" it would probably be a couple more before the next one. The last two weeks have been the closest to the old normal since the beginning of the Shelter-In-Place order: traffic is back on the roads again, most of the big box stores are open in an amended form, and my business is back to about 75% percent capacity.

As a result, I haven't had as much DIY time as I have become accustomed to, but I have still been chipping away, and I have plenty more to blog about. I have to say that the garage looked one thousand percent better with it's sparkly new floor....but it made the walls and ceiling look very tired. Having already gone to the trouble of completely emptying the garage, it felt like now was the best time the only time I would ever bother to re-paint.

I used the same Benjamin Moore white dove paint we've used for all the ceilings in the house, but this time I used semi-gloss instead of flat; I'm hoping it will be easier to wipe down, if I ever do any wiping down....The walls came out very nice - I put on a thick layer of paint, and I only needed one coat. I also had help from Amy Sheep and Ruby Sheep with the ceiling.


Now then, now then....the garage door looked awful. You can really see how how awful in the next photo which was taken after I painted the top panel:


A friend from BAMA calls this process "chasing ugly." You fix the worst bit, and then the next bit looks bad, so you just end up chasing the "ugly" all around the car garage. Fortunately, once the door was done, there wasn't anything else to paint...and ugly was no more.


I mentioned earlier on that my work bench was too big to fit through the door between the garage and the basement. I had to take it around the side of the garage and park it in the backyard. This is the same bench that I built in about 2008 - well it's half of it actually, the other half is installed in the workshop.


This bench was originally built with a tool-well at the back which increased the depth by about a foot and made it more difficult to reach across the bench...and became a place for storing crap; I certainly never put any tools in it. I decided I would rather have an extra foot of width in the garage which may be important when I get my next Mustang.


I trimmed the bench down a couple of weeks ago when I had twenty minutes to spare and the sun was out:

Back in the garage, and I had to make some shims in order to level the bench, and then I bolted it to the wall. Now it won't tip over the next time we have an earthquake.


Filled the garage back up....


This is how my over-bench shelf used to look. Obviously it was too ugly to stay like that...


....so I chased it into a confrontation with some black paint:

To be continued....