Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Over-bench Cabinet

Time for something completely different! I think I set my workshop up property about eighteen months ago. Apart from moving a few a few tools around I've been happy with it. I always planned to build some sort of display shelf above the peg board, but wasn't a top priority....until now that is.

When I put up the pegboard I started with a 4' x 8' sheet, and I cut off about three inches at the right edge so the pegboard didn't obscure the electrical panel. After a while I realized I didn't need the top few inches of the pegboard because I have to really stretch to reach it - the depth of my workbench doesn't help.

This is how it looks with the pegboard trimmed down about six inches - I had to take it off the wall to do this, which was a bit of a drag.

Once the pegboard was back on the wall I cut and installed some 2" x 4" spacers which I beveled at 30 degrees on the front edge - the main reason for the spacers is to work around the copper pipe in this area.

This is a piece of pre-primered exterior siding that was left over when we converted the sliding door in the office to a window.

I cut the siding into two strips on the table saw - both of these strips were beveled to 30 degrees as well.

The edge panel was made from some scrap plywood which I fitted around the waste pipe:

A couple of dividing strips were added, and then I primed and painted the cabinet over several days. I painted the waste pipe as well in order to hide it as much as possible.

This is how it looks with some tat installed:

I covered the two large sections with some polycarbonate I had left over from another project:

I did not have enough polycarbonate for the central section, so that will have to wait until the shops reopen...

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Movin' Leaves

With the weather we've had the last few days, it really has been a joy to be out int garden! We get a LOT of leaves in our backyard - the first Autumn we were here we spent several weekends blowing and raking and we filled probably 50 paper sacks with leaves. Once the sacks are full, I had to wait until the Wednesday night, and then lug them all to the top of my driveway to be collected. And it ALWAYS seemed to rain in between. Paper sacks over-filled with wet leaves don't travel well....

Anyway, last year, about halfway through the process, I had a better idea: a leaf bin we could use to make mulch - we can always use the mulch in the yard, but that was a secondary consideration. I learned how to mulch leaves when I was a pre-teen and I did yard work with my Dad's frenemy Elvis Presley (Note...after my exposé on my Dad's old friend Ron Tent, I've been banned from mentioning anything close to a real name in my blog...).

This plan actually worked very well; six months on and the leaves have reduced in volume by half - it takes two (2) years to properly mulch leaves, so this is great progress. The only problem was the leaf pen I built was knocked up (ooh err) in about fifteen minutes and looked like $hite on toast; even a blind donkey would have shied away from it. Until last weekend, most of it was obscured by vegetation, but with that section of the yard cleared out, the leaf bin had to GO GO GO!!

I thought it would look much better re-located below the "tree" and with the 2" x 4"s replaced with something a little more rustic. It's not really a tree, its a dead trunk which is overhung by vegetation from the neighboring yards...but it looks like a tree from fifteen feet.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and after a nice lie-in and a pancake breakfast, it was time to GET SERIOUS. This simple project actually turned out to be the most fun I've had in a long time because Sam Sheep came out to help. It's a slight regret that I didn't take any "in progress" photos, but I was concentrating on showing Sam how to (safetly) use the circular saw and nail gun...and how to avoid getting scratched by the chicken wire, although I failed to heed my own advice on the latter...

It's not quite finished, but this is what we came up with: the same piece of chicken wire is stapled to the fence at both sides and supported at the center by a dead tree trunk that we salvaged from the wood pile. Sam nailed a piece of plywood to the end of the trunk so it has a base to stand on, and we added two smaller branches to make a more-or-less stable tripod.

That was the simple bit. Transferring a massive pile of partially decomposed leaves fifteen feet across the patio was something else - I couldn't have done this without Sam's help.

This is how it looked after we swept up the patio. Best of all, only a tiny bit of the chicken wire is visible form the upper level kitchen window!  We were not quite finished, but by this point it was lunchtime.

With the shelter-in-place edict still in effect we are limited on where we can go to exercise never mind have lunch. One place than we can still visit is Alameda Beach, and it was the perfect day for it - even if we have been there twice this month already. When we do go to the beach, we like to hit up In N' Out on the way. Ruby Sheep used to be a hater on this plan until she discovered the secret menu, so these trips have turned into universal crowd pleasers....and it's not very often we can say that.

We had a top time at the beach even though it was as busy as a regular Saturday. The weather was perfect, in fact my brother and I would have called it a "Daddy-in-the-sea-day." This nomenclature arose in about 1980 when our family was at the beach somewhere in southwestern England and I asked my Dad to join us in the sea. He said he would come in when we could look around in every direction and just see blue sky; any hint of a cloud and he had to remain in his deckchair. I tried this old bollox with Sam when he was really little, but it didn't get me very far - we don't have clouds in the East Bay very often and when we do we don't go to the beach.

By the time we got back from the beach I was far too tired (and too sunburnt) to screw around in the yard  - an hour in command of the TV remote control was more what I had in mind, so the leaf pen had to wait to the following day for the finishing touches.

The next day was Sunday, so naturally I kicked it off by loafing around in bed for longer than was strictly necessary and then read the news ont inters-webs. That took about thirty seconds since I'm sick (!) of reading about Covid-19 and the $hit state of the world economy and there's nothing else in the papers. Amy Sheep and I went out to the backyard and were just contemplating some activity when we were called away to play monopoly. This time around I failed to "over stretch my financial resources too early in the game" and emerged victorious. I took this as a sign that it would be a good time to get the chainsaw running.

I bought what I consider a good quality chainsaw almost....well, maybe a year ago? It's been a while. It should be a good tool, it certainly it cost serious moolaw, but I've been having problems with the chain coming off the bar. Once that happens, you have to buy a new chain, so after two iterations I lost interest. I bought a new chain months ago, but getting this tool going has been on the burner behind the back burner. Whatever, I decided that today was the day. I watched a couple of videos on changing the chain, and I tried my best to copy them. After some too-ing and fro-ing, I had my way with the chain, and after another frustrating bout of tugging on the pull cord, I got the saw up and running.

As you can see from my safety gear, I haven't used the chainsaw much...

The first cut is the deepest! This is how the leaf pen looks after I cut down the post/old tree in the corner. I have lots of other stuff to do with the chainsaw, but I like to go out on a high so instead I returned the saw to the workshop and moved onto a couple of projects that will feature in this blog eventually.

This corner of the yard really is a blank canvass now. Once the garden centres reopen, we can go shopping for saplings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Fire Day

What a strange time this is....I mean it really is! Over dinner the other night I told the three junior Sheep that all kids are entitled to one (1) totally unexpected disruption to school - due to an unimaginable catastrophic event - and that Covid-19 was theirs. They weren't exactly overjoyed by this news - the reality of nearly six weeks of home school has bitten down on all of us at this point - but they did say, pretty much in unison: "We know what yours was."

The following events took place in (I think) Spring of 1978, and while they are memorable enough, they had not passed through my mind in probably twenty-five years until one day when I was driving Samuel Sheep to school. We lived in the white house at the time (as Sam called it), so this would have been around 2012-2013. (Note: one thing about constantly moving house every one or two years is that you can date anything in the past if you can remember where you were living when it happened).

Anyway, one day in the car, Sam was asking me to tell him stories about my own school days. He had a thing about hearing old stories at the time. At first I couldn't think of anything; then I said, "Well, did I ever tell you about the time Vincent Prodigy burned down the school?" To say he loved hearing that particular story would be an understatement; I had to tell it every morning for weeks afterwards. At this point all the kids have heard it and could probably write their own versions. Here's mine, as I remember it....

I went to what was then called Ridgeway Infants School for kids aged 5-7, in leafy Sanderstead. We drove by it about four years ago when the Sheep family was vacationing at the old 'stead, and it's still there...although they built a housing estate on the playing field....

On this particular day, we had been outside for morning recess and were all lined up outside the classroom door waiting for out teacher, Mrs Earwig*, to slope back from the staff coffee room/opium den. By the time she arrived, wisps of smoke were rising from under the door; a quick check inside apparently confirmed the whole room was ablaze, although I was too far back in the line to see for myself. In some embellished versions of this story, the teacher ripped off her left stiletto and used it to smash the fire alarm glass; what is certain is that the alarm was well and truly raised and the entire school population was herded out to the yard.

I can remember standing around in the yard for an absolute lifetime while an entire battalion of firemen trooped into the school to deal with the inferno. All the firemen were wearing thick, bright yellow over-trousers that made them look like weebles and clearly made walking in a straight line uncomfortable; this was 1978 so they didn't have firewomen back then and clearly they also didn't have anyone advising them on how to look professional. Or walk straight. Fortunately, they had been taught how to put out fires, and they did so in spite of their dress.

Eventually, long after lunchtime had passed, my group was moved to the school assembly/dining hall where I was informed that a telephone call to my home had gone unanswered, and I had better make my way back to the yard and await further instructions. As I meandered back outdoors, I watched several friends get picked up. Then, as luck would have it, I ran into my next door neighbor and her Mom who offered me a ride home. I assume the school were notified, but I don't recall that bit at all.

When we got back to the ranch my Mom was still AWOL so I went next door to hang out until she deemed to show up. Being off school legitimately without being ill was great. I guess eventually Mom came and collected me, otherwise I'd still be there now.

School was open again the following morning, but our classroom had been gutted by the fire. They set up tables for us in the school dining hall, and then we moved to a portacabin after a while; I had moved up a grade or two before that part of the school was rebuilt. I found out that Vincent Prodigy had taken matches to school and that he set fire to the library corner right before recess. My Mom said he did it because his parents didn't give him enough attention. She also said that Vincent had been sent to a "Special School." I didn't know what a Special School was, but I was f$%&ing certain I didn't want to go to one. I wondered if every kid who was sent there was an arsonist or if you could be sent to a special school for forgetting your PE kit?

Whatever the reason he did it, none of us ever saw Vincent Prodigy again. One of the girls in my class said that he burnt to death in the fire. I thought that was unlikely because it wasn't mentioned in the brief report in the Croydon Advertiser that my Mom clipped out of the paper. Someone else said that his family moved away, but I knew that was bollocks because his older brother Robert Prodigy was a year ahead of me right through junior high. What is certain is that throughout my school career I wished in vain for another fire day.

(*All names in this blog post have of course been tinkered with...)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Temple Newsham Golf Club

I've been fortunate to inherit two of my Grandmother's paintings. One of them was given to me without a frame - this painting actually hung in my parents dining room for probably twenty years, but apparently never had a proper frame.

The painting shows the clubhouse at Temple Newsam Golf Club. I think it was probably painted in the late 1960s. The clubhouse is still there today, although the entrance has been changed around to make it accessible to all, and the windows have been replaced with modern double glazing. It's an odd shaped building which is actually very well represented in the painting.

The golf club recently fought off permanent closure when Leeds City Council tried to convert both golf courses into cycle parks; the eventual compromise left two new course layouts: a reduced 18-hole circuit and a much smaller 9-hole half-round. Personally I can see the advantage of a short course. I've only played proper golf once, but by about hole thirteen I was in serious need of a strong cuppa tea and a new upper body.

The Covid-19-related slowdown in my business (and every other one too of course) means I have some extra time to tinker int 'shop, and I decided to invest some of this time in knocking up a decent frame for Grandma's painting. I want to hang this in my bedroom near to another of her paintings. I found a piece of 2" x 1" black walnut left over from another project,* and I cut it into several ½" x ⅜" strips on the table saw - this painting needs a narrow, understated frame.

I cut a rebate on the router table, which gave some square edge molding close to what I was looking for.

I cut a tiny bevel on the leading edge - this softens the molding and makes it look slightly narrower.

The miters were glued and pinned with what Amazon calls "V-nails." They were wedges in my day, and you installed them with an underpinner. I left the frame in clamps overnight, although this is probably not necessary.

The next day I applied walnut wood filler to the corners and when that was cured and sanded, I wiped on some polyurethane.

This is how it looks on the wall:

The "Lamp Light" painting is hanging in the same room:

*(Regular readers can probably guess which one!).

Monday, April 20, 2020

Out Int Yard

Well hello from the back yard! It was a beautiful day in the East Bay this past Saturday, and we wanted to get outside and enjoy it! The exterior of the house and the yard has been even further down the to-do list than the garage for the past almost three years, but with our living room/fireplace remodel completed ahead of schedule, we've been looking at the outside.

The back yard is actually pretty well established - a mixture of trees and vegetation, and we're quite happy with it....except for one bit at the right side towards the rear. This little patch of trees/vines and the ever-expanding agapanthus had to go!

I put Amy Sheep to work with the spade and the fork while I went to inspect the wood pile. The fireplace has been out of action since immediately after Christmas, so we've hardly burned any wood in the last year. This pile is a mixture of almond and walnut which has been well aired/dried out. This wood comes from California's huge nut growing industry; when the trees age out, the wood is sold on through home centers.

The pile at the back has been drying for about eighteen months. This came from a dead tree our neighbor had cut down. We don't burn much wood, so this will keep us going for 4-5 years. Some of the bigger chunks will need to be split before we can burn them. Splitting logs is tough work that's best done when you run out of smaller pieces.

We have done some projects in the yard over the last couple of years. Amy Sheep built a very impressive swing with an oak seat...

...and Ruby Sheep put up a very fetching hammock...

I went over to see if Amy Sheep needed any help and was relieved to discover that the ground clearing project was almost complete; phew, I did not have to get my hands dirty after all.

This is the pile o' rubbish we hav-ta get shot ov. I'll have tut bread snappers bag that up the next time I see one of 'um messing about wit tut cell phone.

I helped Amy Sheep level out the cleared area - we'll be planting one or more immature tree(s) in this spot once tut garden center reopens.

We downed tools for a quick cuppa tea, and I happened to mention to Amy Sheep that I had recently acquired a pressure washer for cleaning the garage floor. I was planning on heading back to tut 'shop to pootle about with one or two vanity projects I'm working on.....but instead I found myself showing Amy Sheep how to fire up the pressure washer. I managed to stall her for few minutes by suggesting she swept the patio first.

Then I showed Amy how to use the new bit of kit, before I quietly sidled back to the sanctuary of tut 'shop.

a continuing tradition...

This is how the patio came out after all Amy's hard work. Hopefully it will get us by until I build stairs down from the upper deck; when that happens, we'll replace the patio with paving slabs.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Garage Floor part one

In addition to the workshop, the house came with a super-sized double garage. The thing is, we've been so focused on remodelling the house over the last two years that the garage - and the '68 for that matter - has hardly had a look in. The photo below is how the garage ended up after minimal effort: bench and tools on one side, covered-up-car on the other.

I've had plans for the garage for a while, but the doing bit was pencilled in for 2021 at best....it's funny how things work out. The first step of this project was to hump everything from the garage into the unfinished part of the basement. Well...everything except the the work bench because that wouldn't fit through the basement door.

I put the '68 out on the driveway while I rolled up the carpet....

The right side of the garage has some pretty heavy oil stains, and the Mustang has probably added to them - it's a Ford after all. I need to get rid of the bulk of the oil before I can apply my epoxy-based floor coating.

I've done the old oil-off-concrete removal thing once before, so I know what to use - it was actually about ten years ago, but I still had half a gallon of the product on my shelf. Pour-N-Restore™ is a viscous white paste, which you spread onto the stain. This product absorbs the oil over a period of 5-8 hours, after which a powdery gray residue remains which can be swept up with a stiff broom.

I already know the product works, but it's worth documenting. I used a scrub brush to spread out the product, but it is not necessary to scrub aggressively.

This is the spread-out look:

Next day after sweeping, and the stains are about 20% of the original size; the most stubborn areas were given a second application. The other side of the garage was done in the same way after I moved the car over. It is not necessary to remove the discoloration entirely - the concrete just has to be clean enough that water does not bead up on the surface.

After three of four days of on-and-off pootling around with the Pour-N-Restore™ I had gone as far as I could. Then, on Friday April 17 I finally had a full day with nothing better to do than crank up the Big Beast - or as my paternal Grandfather might have called it, tut 'lectric 'ose pipe. There is a decent argument that I should have started the project with this bit of kit, but I didn't own it back then...

The '68 had to make way for this...

The power washer did a really good job, but I was disappointed by how much oil was still present in the areas I thought I had cleaned...I guess I should have done a second application everywhere...

I tried sploshing on a bit more Pour-N-Restore™ and working it over with a stiff brush...and this method worked fantastic! A quick re-do with the pressure washer and no more oil stains at the right side of the garage:

For some reason, it didn't work at all on the left side - the stain in this area was really stubborn.

More concerning was that water was still beading in this area, which means my epoxy coating will be difficult to apply...

So...time to GET SERIOUS! Fortunately I already picked up a couple of gallons of Muriatic Acid for this eventuality....(In my old life I would have called this HCl (aq) or conc. hydrochloric acid, chemical formula H2O.HCl).

I tested a small sample of neat acid to make sure it worked, and it did.

This is the look after I washed the floor down with a 3:1 water/acid solution, then rinsed and repeated. The concrete is a lot cleaner than it looks in these photos.

There is an annoying ledge at the rear of the garage where the foundation is exposed. It's very difficult to keep this area clean because the concrete is so rough. The pressure washer made light work of the dirt though...

And then I mixed up some thin set mortar I had left over from the fireplace remodel. Amy Sheep was not on hand to do the mixing this time, unfortunately.

This is post-install - I didn't worry about getting the thinset level, I just want a flat-ish ledge than I can sweep down when I need to.

It was about 3pm by this point and I was in serious need of a nice cup of tea and a sit down, not to mention a bourbon cream, or maybe even a club fruit. And some dry clothes - my work pants were soaked from the knee down. The floor wasn't quite dry, but I put the '68 back in the garage anyway and sloped off upstairs to put tut' tettle ont stove and to see if my locust-like bread snappers had left me any cookies.* Tune in next time to find out what color epoxy I'll be installing...!

(*All they left was an empty box and some other wrappers, as per usual).