Sunday, February 16, 2020

Remembering Cassettes

Cassettes* are fashionable again! Yep, all the retro-chic kids have passed on the vinyl rebirth and now Sony Walkman's are highly collectible! I mean, who could forget that scene in the first Back to the Future movie? 

I never really bought cassettes myself - If I liked a record, I bought the vinyl, almost always a second hand copy actually. But I certainly made my share of copied tapes. Oh yes. And I can still remember the logo on the inner sleeve of a lot of vinyl records that came out in the early 80's.

Years before I cared a fig about music, I was aware that my Dad had a shed-load of copied cassettes. His good friend Ron Tent used to record them from vinyl, or occasionally he'd make his own if he liked the record enough to buy it. My Dad had an impressive "separates" Hi-Fi system that could fill a blog post on it's own. In later years I used it to make my own tapes and eventually we even had a tape-to-tape set up!

There were a number of cassettes in his collection that became legendary. For a start there was the copy of "Songs in The Key Of Life" that was kept in the car and was played so much it wore out. You know the baby crying at the beginning of that record? That's how I used to feel each time that tape was slipped into the pull-out under-dash cassette player. That album used to make me feel travel sick. I'm not kidding! When our car was ransacked by joyriders in the mid-80's, they left that tape behind...

Then there were the favored few tapes that got a regular airing at the barbecues my family would host from time to time. One of them was the "War of the Worlds" soundtrack, and another one was called something like "Midnight Express." These were both tapes Ron Tent had made. At the end of the Midnight Express tape were a few unrelated bits of music. The final piece was labelled "Pink Floyd The Wall" in Ron's blue biro. I loved this particular bit of music when I was a kid. My Dad said that Ron had recorded it from one of his son Phil's records.

I have lot to thank "Big" Phil Tent for actually, and I don't mean musically. Because he was a fair bit older than me, I used to get quite a few of "Big" Phil's cast offs. This was the era when you didn't throw anything away if you could give it to someone else; before the 1980's when everything was injection molded in Taiwanese plastic. One time, after "Big" Phil had had a clear out, I came by a stack of old board games. I like to think they were passed to my Dad in the City House canteen. Whatever the reality, this is how I came to own original 70's versions of Kerplunk! and Spirograph. And a couple of other ones I don't remember as well.

I can't actually ever remember meeting "Big" Phil Tent. We visited Ron Tent's apartment in Dulwich a number of times, but "Big" Phil had moved out by then. I did spend many hours playing with his old games though. Years later, when I listened back to the Midnight Express cassette, I discovered the music at the end was actually "Shine on you Crazy Diamond" and most of "Have A Cigar." At least Ron got the band right. Or maybe "Big" Phil was a bit careless about keeping his records in the correct sleeves? Personally I can't see it being the latter, because his Spirograph set was 100% complete including the thumb tacks!

(*We'll be back to the fireplace next weekend....)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Fireplace Remodel Day Twenty One

Today was officially work-from-home day, but fortunately that also left some of time to chip away at the living room. The thinset mortar was cured by this point, but before I could smooth it out I needed to protect the shinny new drywall we textured yesterday. The rough looking framing is designed so I didn't have to put any screws or staples into the new drywall.

After that it was full steam ahead with the orbital sander, and this is how it came out - really very flat and smooth...and totally ready for tiling :)

I went back to my desk for a couple of hours while the dust settled and then I painted primer/stain blocker on all the drywall that we textured yesterday:

I re-installed the doors on the broom cupboard. I also replaced the crappy 1980's brass hardware with brushed nickel and installed the same door handles we put in the kitchen. I'll be building similar doors for the cabinet next to the shoe rack...eventually...

It didn't take long for the primer to dry on the ceiling, so I followed up with two rounds of top coat over the course of the afternoon. At this point the lightwell and the hallway ceiling are officially finished.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Fireplace Remodel Day Twenty

La-de-dah! It might be Monday afternoon, but I got off work early and Amy Sheep was literally just back from San naturally we put t'ettle on tut stove and then sat down on the living room settee* broke out the drywall compound and started texturing the ceiling around the lightwell. Well, you would, wouldn't you? OK, you probably wouldn't, but we want the living room back asap and that means full steam ahead and both hands on the tiller. And Rome wasn't built on a Monday afternoon, was it?

After the ceiling we textured the hallway wall that is now about six (6) inches longer than it used to be...

...and same again on the wall to the right of the fireplace that used to be mostly brickwork.

After that Amy Sheep found something better to do while I slapped a second and final coat of paint on the lightwell, shoe rack and broom closet:

It was well past tea time when I was done. By now the thinset I put above the fireplace yesterday is starting to cure. 

This is how the rest of the living room looks at the moment:

*How could we, we don't have a living room!!

Fireplace Remodel Day Nineteen poached eggs on rye today,  but I did have a very nice lie in and I caught up with family in another time zone. It was another beautiful day on tut farm actually, with not a cloud in tut sky, nor a pair ot sithers on tut sideboard.

I wasn't really planning on doing much heavy work on the living room because I was cream crackered after yesterday, and my in-tray is overflowing with other urgent things to do. But then eeh-by-gum around 11:00 am the Electricity Board decided to cut tut power! Oh well, nothing to do but carry on applying thinset to the fireplace I guess....

Here's the morning-after look. The mortar I put on last night is still soft, so I had to work around it - I actually screeded from the top down this time.

Not perfect, but it is very close and the uneven areas can be worked out with the orbital sander...after the naughty monkeys at PG&E turn tut power back on.

Still no power, so I got my painting gear back out and put the first coat of proper paint on the shoe rack and the new baseboard.

The electricity was back on by now, but since I had the gear out I painted the broom closet as well...

...and the lightwell....all these areas still need another coat of paint, and the ceiling around the lightwell has to be re-textured and painted.

Then I went back down to the workshop and put down the first layer of polyurethane on the three shelves I made yesterday. After that, I reluctantly returned to my office...

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Fireplace Remodel Day Eighteen

Finally it's Saturday again! Amy Sheep fled the folding in favor of SoCal so I was planning a full day of HARD DIY while listening to my choice of music/NPR/power tool(s). We're all sick of not having a living room, so I need to get the fireplace completely ready for tiling, and I need to get everything else ready for painting.

So naturally, I started on the shoe rack. I gave all the wood filler a good going over with the orbital sander, and then it was time to start working on the shelves for the left hand side. The shelves are made from walnut (veneered) plywood, and I knocked them up with a combination of the circular saw and the router. I spent plenty of time getting the first shelf right...

I used the flush-trim bit on the router to replicate the first shelf and then I notched the corner of the bottom shelf and ironed-on some veneer. All ready fort' polyurethane.

Then it was back upstairs to put a coat of primer on the shoe rack. I didn't bother priming the bits that won't be seen or are unfinished.

The lightwell got a coat of primer as well while I had the roller tray out...

This is the broom cupboard in our hallway with the cabinet doors removed. (Note: more on them later...).

This is the same cabinet 45 minutes later after the primer has been applied.

As I was saying at the start, the most important thing right now is getting the fireplace ready for tile; here it is after I removed the timber forms from around the firebox. Not looking too bad.

There was some of the mortar equivalent of over-spray around the firebox (over-flow ?).

Also, the thinset sagged slightly at the thickest section creating several rippled high-spots.

This is the view after I went over the thinset with a 60 grit disc on the orbital sander. It worked quite well, apart from all the dust I created.

Then I applied more thinset to the next section of the wall where the tile will be going, and made it flat with my homemade screed board. It was getting late by now so I cleaned up my tools and called it a day. Which it pretty much was.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Fireplace Remodel Day Seventeen

Day #17 is another compilation of the bits we got done last weekend in between all the other things we had going on. The major thing we were working towards is getting the fireplace ready for tile, and finishing up making dust, especially in the hallway.

First priority was getting the new drywall to the right side of the fireplace and in the hallway ready for texture. This is more or less how it came out; the rough corners in the second photo have since been smoothed out.

We also finished up the drywall in the lightwell. This bit is not going to be textured, so we spent a little bit longer getting it all perfectly flat and blended in with the ceiling. The ceiling will be getting texture sooner or later.

It is not obvious in the next photo, but the shoe rack/cabinet has had some baseboard fitted, and a few other little tweaks.

Then it was back to slapping more thin set mortar onto the fireplace....

Mixing up another batch...

And screeding it smooth  with a very straight edge. There is some overlap around the firebox, and we still have the top half to do.

To be continued...