Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Goodbye 2014, hello 2015

I remember Mum saying more than once that the years go faster as you get older (they must truly fly by for her now!) and I think she's right.  This year has just ripped by and while we've been busy it seems that "the list" hasn't shortened by much.

But thankfully, our 2014 photos show some encouraging progress.  For example; the plastering upstairs is well underway.   The 110,000 litre tank is in, plumbed and full.  The pressed tin ceiling is up.  The bathroom cupboard is restored and ready to install.  The linen press doors are hung, and I've even started assembling their knobs.  
The knobs have been an interesting exercise.  A raid of our useful box resulted in 12 matching door plates and 3 other pairs with different designs - a harlequin set perhaps?.  We were staggered, as this is exactly the number we need for the upstairs landing!  We're still 10 knobs short, but hey, you can't have everything.
Brass knobs with copper plates
Heaven forbid that fitting the knobs would be a simple exercise though.  They had come from a very dirty shed and none of them showed a glimmer of brass or copper through their 30+ years of grime.  Further, as the doors don't have locks the knobs don't pass through the door or turn.  So, after hours of cleaning and polishing I opted to attach the knobs to the plates by tapping a thread into the knob and securing it with a short M10 bolt from behind.  Installation will be simple (famous last words), I'll just screw the plate, complete with attached knob, to the door.
The aim is to have matching door knobs and plates on the landing side, while each of the three bedroom doors will have a unique set (like the middle "pair") on the inside.  That's a 2015 job, along with some biggies, like:
  • finding 10 more "matching" knobs,
  • installing a hot water system (no more bucket shower!),
  • fitting a downstairs smoke alarm (an oversight on my part),
  • adding stair rails, and
  • more plastering.
I wonder how much of that list I'll be able to tick off on December 31 2015?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The swinging (18) 60s

The French doors I’ve collected aren’t really from the 1860’s, more like early 1900’s, but they would have been much the same. (Besides, “the swinging early 1900’s” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
The left and right pairs of doors are made from Australian cedar. We found them at the Grenfell tip, complete with 8 coats of paint, broken glass and rotten joints. The middle pair was discovered in Wombat, NSW, they are pine with cedar panels – kind of the negative of the Grenfell doors which are cedar with pine infill. The door frames are new, dressed all round (DAR) Australian Ash. All the timber is still raw, I will probably oil it with the same finish we used on the floor, but not until I’ve completed the glass.
Hanging doors isn’t one of my favourite jobs, especially when every door is a slightly difference size, out of square and with a bit of a warp. But hang them I did by following these steps:
1.  Cut door to correct height.
  • The door openings were made to accommodate the width of specific pairs of doors, the height was based on the shortest door less 10mm. This let me make the top and bottoms of the doors square.  
2.  Mortise hinge locations on doors.  
  •  Given every door is a slightly different width I did this by hand with a chisel.
3.  Attach hinges to door with 2 small screws.
  • There are four holes in each hinge. Using only two screws gave me the ability to change a hinge’s position if I needed to.
4.  Stand door in place with ply under it to set the bottom clearance.
5.  Mark hinge locations on door frame with a knife.
6.  Cut hinge mortises on door frames.
  • I could have used a router and template as the hinges and frames are uniform – but I did it by hand.
7.  Stand door in place and put 1 small screw in the top hinge and 2 in the bottom one.
8.  Remove ply.
9.  Test the fit and trim top if required.
10. Put “proper” screws in remaining holes. These are a bigger gauge and longer.
11. Replace all “small screws” with “proper” ones.
12. Have a coffee.

Getting a pilot hole in the right place for a hinge can be tricky at times. The drill bit sometimes moves and then the hinge ends up a few millimetres (or worse) out of place.  There’s two good ways to limit the chance of this happening. The cheap way is to press an awl into the timber where you want the drill bit to start.  Kind of a pilot hole for the pilot hole.  The better way is to buy a funky drill bit that has a spring loaded tip – enabling you to locate the drill bit exactly in the centre of the hole everytime.  Check them out here at Screwit Screws.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A cupboard with history

A couple of weeks ago we picked up the fifth set of French doors we'd been hunting for from a second hand place in Wombat, NSW.  To sweeten the deal the owner offered to throw in a small blue cupboard.  It looked like what we had in mind for over our bathroom basin -  so it found a new home along with the doors.
The cupboard has turned out to be quite interesting. Firstly, it has a small plaque on the door, "Childs and Co, Makers, 117 Regent St, Sydney".  When I pulled the cupboard door apart I found that the mirror was dated, 1904 - so that dates it pretty accurately.  The  top of the cupboard is made from a lovely single piece of Australian cedar, while the rest is cheaper, clear pine. Perhaps because the sides and bottom wouldn't have been visible from the customer's viewpoint?
The cupboard lacked a knob, so I had a dig in our useful box and found an Edwardian brass number - it's a fist holding a small bar. I remember we bought it at an antique fair about 15 years ago.  It has been waiting for the perfect home ever since.
We also added the piano sconce, again from the useful box.  It just jumped out and begged to be used. I've no idea where we picked it up.
So, 10 hours of stripping, refinishing and rehanging later we have a "new" cupboard.  Hope it fits!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Skirting the subject

Rolex and a sample of our
 "new" skirting board
Every now and then an opportunity pops up that is just too good to miss.  One of those came our way the other day.  An advert on Gumtree caught my attention – “for sale, approximately 60 lineal metres of 240mm to 300mm wide Australian cedar skirting boards.  Varying lengths, denailed but requires stripping.”  A phone call revealed that they had been removed from a nursing home in Cremorne and were around 100 years old. 

The stairs and Rolex
(with his winter coat on)
The last time I saw anything vaguely resembling this was at the Grenfell tip.  There I stumbled across some french doors and 10 metres of very rough specimens in the building rubble – these are now part of our stair case.
By 5:00pm the next day, after a 613km round trip, 76 lineal metres of gold were stacked in our garage.  By my calculations that’s 5 metres more than I need to complete the upstairs’ bedroom.  And here I was thinking I could hang up my hot air gun for a while.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

(de) Pressed Tin

Before, during and after
After restoring 10 sheets of antique pressed tin for our bathroom ceiling I feel that I'm somewhat of an authority on the subject.  At least on the topic of how to prepare and paint the stuff - but it did take some experimentation.

Plan A for ridding the decades of paint, dirt and unidentifiable gunk was a wire brush on an electric drill.  15 seconds later I'd only melted the layers into a very robust, potentially Nobel prize winning composite that adhered to the tin better than ever.  I changed tack and resorted to plan B, the 600c hot air gun.
This also worked to consolidate the surface into a single layer; much like a slice of cheese, but in contrast to plan A it weakened the grip between the tin and the surface.  But if I overheated it I ended up with something more like butter than cheddar, which was easier to spread but decidedly harder to remove, especially once it became cold.
Whilst effective the hot air gun was tediously slow and incredibly messy as it took a few passes to remove the melted goo completely.  Two sheets along it dawned on me that perhaps a combination of the two approaches, hot air and wire wheel, might work. 
So after some more fiddling I came up with the following modus operandi which was about 30% quicker than relying on just the hot air gun:
  • Heat an area of about 30cm x 30cm until the finish just starts to bubble (cheese not butter).  This weakened the connection between the tin and the coating.
  • Allow to cool for a couple of minutes.  This resulted in the surface becoming very brittle.
  • Scrape the surface with the back of a chisel.  For me this removed around 90% of the paint and made far less mess than the wire brush did when it flicked chips at 257km/h all over the shop.
  • Run over the remainder with the drill/wire brush combo.  The resulting surface was 99.9% clean – or better.
Including the subsequent panel beating and applications of rust converter, red oxide primer and undercoat each sheet took hours and hours to prepare.
Have I mentioned I’m not going to recycle a pressed tin ceiling again?

Friday, January 31, 2014

The right tin to do

We've long liked the idea of a pressed tin ceiling for our bathroom and loo.  In fact, we had planned for it from the start, or at least we thought we had.  The hiccough we hadn't anticipated was the cost of freight - which brought the cost of materials to well over $1,500 before installation and finishing.  We really couldn't bring ourselves to spend that much and there didn't seem to be any viable second hand alternatives around.
We'd resigned ourselves to a garden variety plaster ceiling when I mentioned it to my brother.  Stagger me if it didn't turn out that he had a house worth of pressed tin that he had picked up 30 years ago from a demolition in our home town, Grenfell.  Not only did it have provenance (last century the owner had been my pre-school teacher) the price was right.  All he wanted was a set of white rear louvers for a 1956 FC Holden sedan.  How hard could that be?
With hindsight, the price was very much higher (and I still haven't found those louvers) .  Each sheet had three coats of enamel paint which needed removing along with 80 years of dust on the upper side.  All rust had to be treated, edges radiused and dents panel beaten.  Then followed an undercoat of red oxide primer and 3 top coats of white gloss.  Total time per sheet - don't even ask, but suffice to say that's two weeks of my life I won't get back!
Pressed tin in the bathroom
Installing it brought its own challenges, particularly for two vertically challenged builders like Jeanette and I.  But I have to say the end result is just what we were after.
We still have the cornice to go - I'm wondering about carving an egg and dart design into Tassie Oak. But I hope I talk myself out of it!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A concrete solution

It's not pretty - but it's finished!
Nette and I have finally discovered our dizzy limit – it’s one cubic meter of concrete.  The good news though is that we finally have a solid floor in the shed. 
It occurred to us early in the shed construction phase that with an area of 5m x 8m to lay the two of us were going to struggle to do it in one pour. So, with our second hand electric cement mixer, a couple of shovels, over 50 bags of cement, blue metal, sand and Rolex the watchdog to supervise we split the area into four and tackled it over several weekends.  We now know that with both us working virtually non-stop for 7 to 8 hours we can mix, pour and finish one cubic meter of concrete – and dare I say it - not a centimeter more.  
Step 1-build shed. Step 2-lay floor?
The result isn’t beautiful, but it’s finished.  

You may well be thinking that building the shed and then laying the concrete is the wrong way about – but it does have some advantages. Firstly, the shed walls help secure the formwork. Secondly, you are working under cover when mixing the concrete.  But most importantly, even we couldn’t get the size and position of the slab wrong. 
Next – the bathroom ceiling