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, May 27, 2018

Pottery Wheel Side Table

The pottery wheel side table turned out to be a byproduct of my lack of wood for building the desk credenza and/or more drawers.  By that I mean it jumped to the top of the list, because it could be made from what I had around — bits of maple and cherry and even a little mahogany, plus some small pieces of plywood.  And since it is a functional piece for the pottery studio, I took some whimsical license in its design.  It certainly doesn’t look like a living room piece. 

Some of the cherry came from my stash of old rough milled wood, from a half-dead tree cut down many years ago.  Pieces cupped, twisted, split . . . but when put through jointer, table saw, heavy-duty band saw, and thickness planer — very nice indeed.  Still had the bark on it!

The function of the pottery wheel side table is to hold clay and pottery tools while working the clay on the wheel.  So it needed to be about the height of the wheel and relatively small — about 18” square.  There had to be enough space underneath to mop the floor (need to keep the silica dust under control).  There would be enough space under the top for storage; I elected to make a pull-out tray (a variation on a drawer) for that space. 

The legs are basically 1.5” square, made up of four separate 3/4” square pieces of wood glued together.  The outside and inside of these pieces run from the floor all the way to the top.  The other two pieces are half-length.  It’s a strong design, but a bit complex, almost a puzzle.  All in all, about 50 pieces of wood went into this table, all glued together without screws or other fastenings. 

This is how it went together:

The top was built concurrently.  It was laminated with five pieces of wood (cherry and maple), and then a beveled raised frame was glued on the outside.  (the center maple section was actually a leftover from my kitchen countertop, a piece of laminated side splash I decided not to use)

As with the kitchen countertop, I applied an epoxy surface to the top, then dry sanded, wet sanded, and waxed.  Pottery is a wet hobby, and the top had to be completely waterproof. 

This is the table without any finish (top is just sitting there, not fastened yet).

This is a side view.  The living room credenza (when I get to that) will be made of cherry (trim, drawers, and top), with the plywood panels painted the same blue.

Here it is with the drawer-tray open.

I used a half-blind dovetail joint for this drawer; it doesn’t have a separate front.  First time with this joint for me, and it didn’t proceed without incident.  It might have had something to do with the front being made of 3/4” stock and the sides from ½”.  Not sure what it was, but I will be making more of these half-blind joints in the future, so will have to get it all figured out.

This photo shows where the little table fits in.  The tools placed on the table were staged; I will be doing a post showing a bowl being made — from lump of clay to finished glazed piece.  The important role of the table will then be fully revealed.

The Drawer Factory

I did manage to find enough suitable cherry from my stash of old wood to make the drawer for the pottery table, and another drawer for the bathroom vanity (and its front), but then discovered I had run out of 18” drawers slides (more now ordered).  I’m planning to make a run down to the hardwood store this week to stock up on drawer wood, and the new slides should be here in a week or so, so more new drawers on the way. 

Still need to move on the credenza, and have now started the design for the porch roof.  So as always, something will happen. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bamboo Flooring in the Living Room

I already used the same bamboo flooring (by Cali Bamboo) in the master bedroom and the main hallway.  It's a wide "fossilized" treated bamboo that clicks together (no glue or nails), so it goes down very quickly.  The advertise it as the hardest (wood) flooring there is (even though bamboo is technically a grass, not wood).  It really is very hard; the dogs running all over it make no marks at all, and no scratches from furniture sliding on it. 

My previous posts on putting down this bamboo explained how it clicks and locks together, so I will not dwell on that aspect.  What's new is the way I joined the hall bamboo with the living room bamboo, which are at right angles to each other.  I had the same situation where the bedroom bamboo met the hall bamboo, but in that case I used a special raised molding supplied by the manufacturer to transition. 

The joint between the living room and the hall is long, and I wanted the connection to be flush, so I needed a different approach.  Initially, I thought making the flush connection would be difficult and time consuming, but it turned out to be easy and fast. 

The edge of the bamboo from the hall looked like this, with the locking tongue sticking out where the ends of the living room bamboo will meet.

The ends of the bamboo that have to butt up against this edge are flat, cut off with my miter saw.  Each piece of bamboo flooring is just over six feet long; when putting these boards down, you just lay one after the other until you get to the far end, then measure the needed length for the last piece and put that in place.  The random-length piece that was cut off then starts the new course, so that the joints are staggered.  So that's why they are flat at the starting end, and do not have a corresponding locking end profile, like the ends of full pieces.  Anyway, they look like this:

Ideally, you would machine the end to interlock with the side edge tongue on the hall bamboo, but that would be overly complex and not realistic.  So my approach was to use a sharp carbide scraper to make the tongue flatter, and then run the ends through my table saw fitted with a dado blade to form a shelf or sorts.  Ready to cut:

And the results, showing the underside of the board:

The end of the board then fits over the tongue, and so that the boards do not move relative to each other, I applied a bead of urethane glue to the joint, and set the new board in place, using weights to keep the two sections flush while the urethane glue sets (it expands as it cures — moisture activated).

The overall process for replacing the floor was relatively straightforward, with the slight complication of this being a small house with no place to put all the living room furniture while I replaced the floor.  The room is twelve feet wide and the required underlayment comes in four-foot wide sections, so the floor went down in three sections.  The furniture for each section was moved to the other two sections as work progressed. 

First step was to remove the old baseboard, carpet, carpet pad, tackless strips, then scrape the glued bits of carpet pad until the concrete slab was flat and clean.

 Underlayment then goes down and then successive courses of bamboo.  And as mentioned before, cut the last piece to fit, and use the cut-off to start the next course.

Since I needed to move the furniture back on the first section of bamboo before starting the second section, that meant I needed to install the new PVC baseboard next (lest I have to move the furniture a second time). 

The second third is the same, except that after putting down the new strip of underlayment, the seam between the two sections of underlayment is sealed with a special vapor-barrier tape.  In the photo, I've already covered up the seam with a new course of bamboo. 

And the second third is done.  This goes very quickly.

The last third is the same, and then with the new baseboard in place, it's done.

The Drawer Factory

I didn't have quite enough bamboo to finish, and had to order another box and wait for it to come in.  Time to build more drawers — seven of them.

Another drawer for the master bathroom vanity, to wit, the bottom one here:

And the last two drawers on the far side of the platform bed (still need the one in the foot of the bed). 

A couple more drawers in the pottery studio, bringing the total built to ten (six remaining):

And finally, two more in the kitchen (the lower two in this stack):

Next up, I had wanted to build the bi-level credenza to go next to my desk to hold my big printer and associated desk things, but I didn't have enough plywood.  So I have started on the pottery wheel side table (a real Chinese puzzle to put together).  That will be the next post.

I also ran out of wood for drawers (poplar, cherry, maple), but I'm putting off the long round trip down to the hardwood store in San Diego.  Also putting off ordering a truck delivery for plywood, etc. from Home Depot, because the next major project is the roof for the new front porch, which will require a lot of building supplies.  Need to get all my ducks lined up before proceeding.  Can do more yard work in the meantime.  Sigh.