Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.

Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.

This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.

It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Eyes Have It — Work Halts

Another detached retina — my second.  The first one (from a couple of years ago) was a complication to cataract surgery.  Recently, I developed a common complication to cataract surgery: a clouding of the capsule that holds the eye's lens in place (posterior capsule opacification).  This apparently happens to about half of all cataract surgery patients, although they don't tell you that before you get the cataract surgery.  The simple procedure to fix the clouding problem takes about two minutes; they use a laser to burn a hole through the clouded capsule membrane — this procedure is called YAG laser capsulotomy.  It also has as a "rare" complication — wait for it — a detached retina.

Something seemed to be off with my right eye vision a few days ago (a Friday), so I began looking for the symptoms of a retinal detachment.  Found it after lunch: a very small dark semicircular area (with wavy distortions) intruding from the edge of my field of view.  I drove down to the university eye center where my first retinal detachment was fixed, but they were closed for a Caesar Chavez holiday (?).  I drove home and finally ended up that evening (8:30 p.m.) at the main university hospital, with my detachment ominously larger.  An on-call ophthalmologist confirmed the detachment.  She called the on-call eye surgeon and we relocated to the eye center (15 minute drive).  The decidedly unpleasant but necessary procedure was finished just before midnight.  I drove home with my right eye patched. 

The pneumatic cryopexy procedure uses a extremely cold probe to seal up the small tears and holes in the detached retina, which also tacks the retina to the underlying tissue.  When that part is done, a special gas is injected into the eye.  The resulting bubbles float to the top of the eyeball, and the patient (me) orients himself so that the detached retina is at the top of the eye.  The floating gas bubble then holds the retina to the inside of the eye until it bonds together. 

My detachment was at the upper right of the eyeball, so that means I have to continuously keep my head upright (front to back), and tilted to the left, for pretty much a week.  That includes sleep time, propped up on my sofa with my head appropriately positioned.  Not something you would want to do forever, but sure beats blindness.  (If left untreated, a detached retina can lead to blindness within a couple of days.  The more promptly treated, the better the chances for a good outcome.  Nasty business.)  Still blurry at this writing.

Which brings me to the point of this post, and its relevance to my house remodel/renovation.  Hard to get any work done if you can't freely move your head around.  Certainly I can move my head out of position for brief moments, but carpentry is out of the question.  There is also the matter that lifting heavy weights is forbidden — your core stiffens and blood pressure spikes, which can do damage to delicate blood vessels in a healing eye. 

But before this disaster, I did make some remodel progress.  The first was the decision to build the water bed platform next.  The base I designed consists of three main parts: 1) a simple 2" base constructed from ripped 2x4s to raise the platform off the floor, 2) a 10" high cabinet section that will contain drawers, and 3) the section that contains the 8" deep water bed mattress. 

The plan is to build the center drawer section first.  It will be constructed of three sub-sections: two identical drawer sections on each side of the bed, and a third section in between.   I had one sheet of 3/4" cabinet-grade plywood on hand, which would be enough for the top and bottom of one of the side sections.  I would use the same tongue and dado slot technique that I use for all my cabinets to join the corners.  Normally I cut the slots with a dado blade in my table saw, but in this case the dados would have to be made in the ends of a 7.5-foot long piece of plywood.  In other words, sideways, and too cumbersome to do on the saw.  The slots would be 3/8" wide, and look like this:

I cut these using a router with a template guide and a 1/4" carbide spiral straight bit:

And built a jig with a half-inch wide slot to guide the router.  That gives a 3/8" dado.  The jig has a piece of plywood with a stop screwed to the bottom, that when pushed up against the end of the plywood, positions the slot correctly.

Worked great!  Needed to cut eight slots with it: top and bottom pieces for the two drawer cabinet sections.  At this point, I needed lots more plywood.  I ordered from Home Depot for delivery, and it arrived Friday morning:

That's enough for the bed and most of the pottery studio cabinets, and also the laundry room table.  Alas, an hour later I discovered my new detached retina (a recurring nightmare), so the plywood sits.

I also made a decision about my long-awaited kitchen countertop, which had been planned to be solid surface acrylic, ordered from a contractor.  I was ready to make a fourth attempt going the contractor route when I decided to epoxy-laminate my own from maple strips (with a couple of walnut stripes down the middle).  I will use low-viscosity West System epoxy (generally used for boat building); it soaks into the wood, stabilizing and water-proofing.  I would finally roll on a couple of coats of epoxy on the surface and sand to a nice satin finish.  We'll see how that goes . . .

But first, need my vision back.