The Tool…

So yeah…using a tool…to do some tool kind of stuff…’cause tool kind of stuff is the sort of stuff you do when tinkering on Old Victorians…

…and then of course…I needed the tool to fix the tool…which I couldn’t find because…yanno…you don’t need the tool to fix the tool very often. I didn’t have another tool to fix the tool because…well…I don’t need that kind of tool to fix the tool on this project very often so that tool is with the other tools…in another city.

But see, the tool to fix the tool COMES with the tool…but as I mentioned before…I couldn’t find it.

The hardware store was fresh out of tools to fix the tool…or…maybe they weren’t out but just couldn’t find the tool to fix the tool too!

So I bought another tool…which also came with the tool to fix the tool…which I promptly used to fix the tool…and then decided to put somewhere safe and obvious so I wouldn’t lose the tool to fix the tool again…yanno…in case I needed the tool to fix the tool.

So I decided the tool to fix the tool should go with other tools of the type of the tool (the tool that needed fixing, not the tool that I needed to fix the tool…follow?).

So I took the tool to fix the tool and put it with the tools of the sort of the tool that needed fixing…and of course…if you’ve managed to read this far you probably know what’s coming…in placing the tool to fix the tool with the other tools of the type that needed the tool to fix the tool…I of course…FOUND the tool to fix the tool…(the lost tool to fix the tool, not the new tool to fix the tool)…so now I have TWO tools to fix the tools…which works out okay since I now have two of the tools that need the tool to fix the tool…and they are stashed in a safe and obvious place…just so I can go buy yet ANOTHER tool to fix the tool the next time I need a tool to fix the tool.

So basically I spent $15 bucks to find the place where I stashed the tool to fix the tool.

More coffee, methinks….

The tool...with the tool to fix the tool...

The tool…with the tool to fix the tool…

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Miscellaneous, Tools | Leave a comment


“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”
– Robert A. Heinlein

Geronimo, the big orange cat, is meowing pitifully from somewhere in the Old Vic. It sounds frantic…and pathetic

I’d let him stew for a while…there’s really very little trouble the cats can get into here. Well, there’s little trouble once we plugged the durn cat-leak anyway. Besides, the ghosts like the cats, and Geronimo in particular.

Yeah, I’d let him stew…except the wife worries more than I do and flashes “the eyes” at me. She’s even cuter than the durn cat is.

Sigh. The things I do for pussy…ur…uh…cats. Pussy cats.

I go hunting and eventually end up upstairs. It takes a bit of time, as it’s a big damn house and he is not constantly crying. Finally I locate him.

Yep, he is, somehow, locked in a closet.

I open the door. We look at each other. He’s just sitting there in that uber-dignified cat way, tail wrapped around his front paws. For as pitiful as he sounded he seems remarkably calm.

“What the hell, cat?”

He calmly blinks. Basically the cat version of, “What’s up dude?”

“Well? Come on!”

He just meows and makes “the eyes” at me.

“Dude, I am NOT carrying you. Out!” and I point toward the stairs.

He gives me an insulted look and the 19-pound package of muscle and grace leaps out of the closet (tawump), gallops across the hall (galump galump galump), zooms down the stairs (kathump kathump kathump), and races into the parlor (thud thud thud) to join the wife watching TV.

So, a close look in the closet reveals his secret. There’s a passage into the side attic upstairs (several actually), and there’s a hatch in the back of the closet to an attic over the porch, so obviously he navigated that connection.

Mystery solved. Cat safe. Pettin’s and purrin’s all around. All is right with the world.

Well, until…

A couple hours later the pitiful, frantic meowing starts up again. So do the wife’s “cute” eyes.

I step out in the downstairs hall, listen carefully. And yep, it’s coming from upstairs in the same general direction.

I yell, “Geronimo! You doofus! I am NOT rescuing you from the same damn closet again! Get your furry orange butt down here!”

(KAThump!) from the closet back into the porch attic
(dadump dadump dadump dadump) through that attic and into the side attic
(tawump!) out of the attic into the hall
(galump galump galump) across the hall
(kathump kathump kathump) down the stairs
“GaYAAAA!” (the 19 pound furry missile bounces off my legs on his way through the hall door)
(thud thud thud) and into the parlor to watch TV with the wife.

The big orange butt...

The big orange butt…

(shakes head)

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Pets | Leave a comment

One, two…

Making a *tapered* column plumb on a curvy Victorian house that wasn’t necessarily built square/plumb in the first place is a challenge…but column # 1 was installed on Friday.

I also cut column # 2 to length and embarked on its “prime dry prime dry prime dry attach endcaps” regimen.

Fits right in!

Fits right in!

The ordeal of putting multiple coats of primer on Column # 2 was made more interesting as all the neighborhood cats came to visit…and some insisted in helping. Slinging paint at cylinder with a couple cats doing figure eights around your ankles while others sit by offering helpful advice or encouragement can be fun!

I can’t wait till it’s time to stain the back deck.

A few hours of priming, painting, and installing endcaps later I got the second column installed.

I also did a bunch of trim work, puttying of nail-holes, lots of caulking, etc in the area.

Everything still needs a finish coat of paint, but I’ve also got SO MUCH more trim to put up against the soffit…much of which is…of course…a strange size (4-1/2″ for the initial trim). I’ve got to get some 1×6 and rip it down for that.

SO much missing trim...

SO much missing trim…

There is SO much missing trim to do that I expect I’ll give everything a finish coat of paint first…as the primer isn’t supposed to be left uncoated for more than a couple weeks…and then maybe hit the major stuff first and circle back around to the trim and fine details.

I imagine weather will interfere here shortly as well.

Not sure if I’ll start the underpinning or move on to the next section of porch next (more structural work there). I have SOME materials for each direction…but not enough for either…so it’s a harder decision than it should be.

And of course…once I get the underpinning on…I’ll be right back where I started at the beginning of the year…needing to install railings.

Sigh. It’s a process.

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Carpentry/Structure, Front Porch | Leave a comment

Column prep…part the first.

Okay, on the agenda this weekend, box in the box beam and install a couple columns.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

It’s not. The sheer amount of steps required in prepping a column take up a lot of time…fiddly work…but important to get right for a couple reasons…one is the longevity of the column, the other is, of course, so it will actually FIT.

Measure 34 times, cut twice.

Measure 34 times, cut twice.

These things are expensive…and have to be cut to length…perfectly square and perfect length.
Both ends require a cut (square off the top and cut extra off bottom).

So…desired height, subtract the column base…and the header…and the cap…and take a saw to your nice expensive column.

Heard the adage, “Measure twice, cut once?”

Well, it doesn’t apply here. It’s more like, “Measure thirty-seven times, calculate differences 42 times, make a mark, and repeat…till all results are the same 245 times in a row.”

Or something like that.

The math was actually pretty simple:

U + fucca + this + up = bigHonkin $$$

So…after measuring 842 times and doing the math at least…twice…it was time to take a hand-saw to my nice expensive piece of wood.

How confident am I? Well, I’m SO confident I actually cut the thing!

Of course, I only cut ONE of the things…there are THREE that should be this exact measurement.

Yeah, I’ll cut the other two AFTER I fit this one in place.

Chop chop! Weeee!

Harder than you'd think...whacking bits off that you know you can't put back on.

Harder than you’d think…whacking bits off that you know you can’t put back on.

You may recall a couple weeks ago I slathered the insides of these things in the blood of my enemies…or some nasty old oil paint that will outlast the next ice age…whichever is more politically correct…well, now it was time to prime the outside. The column maker calls for two to three coats of a premium exterior primer, and I only intend on replacing these once in my lifetime so two to three coats it is! I mean, I’d hate to die an early death and have the coroner’s report say something like, “Column failed. Heart stopped. Patient’s last words, ‘Oh HELL no!’

It’s actually kind of a pain…painting a cylinder…I elected to stuff a 2×4 through the middle and “hang” it on some sawhorses for easy access. Since I needed to paint the ends as well it was impractical to stand it up somewhere.

Kind of a pain, actually...painting a cylinder.

Kind of a pain, actually…painting a cylinder.

Between coats (drying time) I worked on boxing in the box beam that these columns support. I neglected to take pictures of this process, but suffice it to say, I took a piece of the “most expensive plywood ever” (3/4″ exterior grade, no voids, smooth one side), and subdivided it into the 13″ wide by 20ish foot long covering for the exterior of the box beam. This provides additional strength, and gets the covering to the thickness needed to match the existing details on the house. I then primed the exterior face and edges, and screwed it on up. I still need to fill the screw holes, add some trim and top coat the paint…but that’s coming after I get at least two of these columns in.

NOT a cheap chunk of plywood...turning it into "trim" makes my wallet hurt.

NOT a cheap chunk of plywood…turning it into “trim” makes my wallet hurt.

After several hours of chopping and priming and fretting and measuring stuff, it was time to install the column cap and base. Diligent squaring up of “stuffs” (again, kind of a pain on a cylinder), a coating of sealant, some carefully drilled pilot holes, and a few screws and taaDaaa! One column, ready for install.

Caps installed.

Caps installed.

And THAT…my friends, is a pain in the ass…ur…rather…it is a
*deep breath*
Custom length, double-oil-paint interior-coated, triple-primer exterior-coated 10″ tapered column…cap and base (also primered) installed and the whole thing ready for installation and a top coat of paint.

That is one solid pain in the ass...

That is one solid pain in the ass…

And there’s only 11 more to go…

Well…only five of those are new (so far). I think I can salvage the six columns immediately adjacent to the porch steps (there are three right together on each side of the stairs), but we’ll see. I expect salvaging the existing ones will be more work than prepping a new one!

Oh…and does it fit? Well, that’s a cliff-hanger isn’t it?

Tune in for our next exciting episode of, “This things gonna fit if I have to use explosives.”

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Carpentry/Structure, Front Porch | 1 Comment

Halloween was a success…

Heavy rain Friday kept us from decorating early, but the weather broke Saturday in time to get some of it done and have a nice Halloween night.

The spider in his web made his appearance of course:

Six foot spider. His web is woven from 100' of rope light.

Six foot spider. His web is woven from 150′ of rope light.

The web is woven from 150′ of rope light and is amazing at night…alas we were so busy with trick-or-treaters I never took any night time pictures this year. (some older ones here)

The cats were hanging out as usual. The crouching one turns his head at random intervals…this does seem to startle the little kids and a few of the adults.

These are 8 feet tall/long or so.

These are 8 feet tall/long or so.

And new this year…a dragon! He’s 12 or 13 feet tall and even flaps his wings!

Dragon in the yard. I ain't cleaning up after him!

Dragon in the yard. I ain’t cleaning up after him!

One little boy wouldn’t come in the yard…he was afraid of the dragon…his *little* sister tells him,
“That’s not a real dragon.”
“How do you know?” says the shaky little guy.
“If it was a *real* dragon it would have eaten YOU already!” as she laughs and gleefully runs up to get her candy.

Gotta love little sisters, right? (or put frogs in their hair!)

We also heavily decorated the porch…lots of glowing jack-o-lanterns, skulls, witches and such…oh…and the Medusa head that detects motion…her eyes glow red, her snakes wiggle, and she says things like, “Look into my eyes!” and such.

I’m thinking we had about 40 different things plugged in!

I again failed to take pictures of that stuff. Aw well, there’s always next year!

We had around 200 kids. Very polite, lots of great costumes. We saw tons of Ninja Turtles and at least as many Spider Mans (Men?) (not often ya need to pluralize a proper name…that happens to have a plural form when not used as a proper name…properly…or something like that)

Something over 50 pounds of candy and 150 real glow sticks were given away. The glow sticks ran out first, and the candy gave out at about 8:45pm (we are not stingy with it), so we shut it down.

I am a HUGE fan of the glow-sticks…we tried glow bracelets last year but they were dim and unsatisfying…so this year I sprang for real glow sticks…very bright and last for hours. They were a big hit and we could see them waving and wandering for blocks down the street. Very cool to get some light on those kids…cars and excited/hyper kids sometimes don’t mix well.

For us in attendance at the Old Vic, we then followed up with homemade chili and fresh homemade cornbread for a late dinner.

I even found me a busty pirate wench to drag off to my cave for the night!

A great night!

Posted in Miscellaneous, Yard | 1 Comment


Didn’t get much done this weekend since we were too busy getting thoroughly rained upon…seriously…something like 12 inches in 48 hours. Fortunately, Serious Roof is serious…and I can’t tell you how happy I am that all the rain stays on the outside!

When the weather did break I spent some time coating the insides of the new porch columns with oil-based paint (as they require). I have to use a mop to reach inside to do it. A $1.99 one from the dollar store serves nicely.

Thing is, this is 30-40 year old oil-based paint that came hidden in a nook (or possibly a cranny) of the Cupola Art building (no, it doesn’t have lead in it).

Once mixed up it’s perfectly serviceable and this is a great use for it, particularly since nobody will ever see it again. This saves me around $45-55 bucks for a gallon of paint to do this job!

It is called “Meteor Maroon” and it is a truly hideous color. It looks like I’ve slaughtered somebody on my lawn.

The blood of my enemies?

The blood of my enemies?

Bathing in the blood of my enemies. Seems like a good name for a paint color…or perhaps a band.

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Carpentry/Structure, Front Porch | Leave a comment

A little bling for the babe…

My lover was lusting over this Etagere…imagining it occupying a particular corner in The Old Vic…and I couldn’t leave it at that. Lusting after another…even if it was a bit wooden…and old…could just make me jealous…

I pondered getting it for her for Christmas…yep, that’s coming up…but I have this rule…NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE HALLOWEEN! I figure I’ll be ready for Christmas…about a week after Christmas. That’s considerably better than most years.

She’s been looking at it for a while…told me about it a couple times…and showed it to me last weekend at Gateway Antiques Mall in Clarksville. Decent price for such a nice piece…possibly it wouldn’t last till the Christmas season.

So, yanno…I just bought it for her. It will look good here…once we get some more decorating going on.

Those more dainty than me tell me this is an Etagere.

Those more dainty than me tell me this is an Etagere.

Unsure of the age. It’s delicately yet finely built with old techniques…and has wavy glass…but that just says “old”…not how old.

Doesn’t really matter though. That’s one of the beauties of owning a Queen Anne Victorian. They were rather famous for widely varying styles throughout the home…as long as it was “interesting.” Suits us well.

Etagere, hutch, or's a very nice piece.

Etagere, hutch, or shelf…it’s a very nice piece.

Of course, being a guy…my actions may not have been completely benevolent…as I bought myself a present as well.

Oh…and I sort of figure I’m getting laid tonight…

“Gee lady, what do you want to do tonight?”
“Same thing we do every night hubby…try to take over the world!”
“Wait, what? I left my ‘take over the world’ jacket at work.”
“Oh well, the OTHER thing we do every night!”
“NOW your talking!”

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Furniture | Leave a comment


In the “It’s always something” category:

Punched the blast door button (garage door) at the Suburban Blah House this morning, naively thinking I was about to jump on the bike and head to work.

The door made an unusual noise…a subtle mechanical sound that my brain instantly translated into, “ACCKKKHHHH GAWD IT HURTS HEEEEEELLLLLPPPP MEEEEEEEEE! AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeee!”

I looked sharply toward the door just in time to see daylight where the sun shouldn’t shine…namely a wide gap between the first two panels as they started their upward journey. After they made the corner, all worked as expected.

A brief look told me I had a broken hinge. Another look told me I had ANOTHER broken hinge (same panel, opposite side).



Since having a couple hundred pounds of steel garage door crashing down on my head (as well as anything else that may be in its way) is somewhat annoying (not to mention expensive) I was not willing to risk moving it again. I extracted The Dragon from peril and let the wife know the door was not secure and I was going for parts. That’s code for, “Feel free to shoot anybody that’s not ME that enters the garage…or yanno…make ’em clean the thing or something.”

Did you know there’s half-a-dozen or so different types of hinges on these things? I needed a couple “#3’s” for this particular junction so of course, I found every OTHER type in stock until I had zoomed around to 4 different stores.

Ten minutes with a 3/8″ socket wrench and we were back in business.

I replaced the rollers while I was at it…

Blast doors need regular maintenance.

Blast doors need regular maintenance.

Always something…

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Suburban Blah House | Leave a comment

‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all mad here.’

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

In our last exciting episode, we ended the day with a quite large hole in the floor where major structural support used to be. Ur…AND not to mention a rather large hole in the wall where the pile of crap on parked on the deck used to be…

The Old Door.

The Old Door.

I should note that I’ve encountered stuff like this posted on buy/sell/trade lists…the listing would read something like: “Slightly used French doors and frame. Vintage. Only used once. Excellent condition. $900 FIRM! CASH ONLY. Must pick up. Bring trash bags.”

Since I was out of lumber (the size I wanted anyway) and had taken enough beatings for the day just cutting out all this mess and installing five or six-hundred pounds of new pier underneath the house, we tacked a tarp over the wall to keep the mosquitoes out and set down to dinner.

The rest of the evening was spent playing host to a parade of the neighbor’s cats as they all came by to examine the unprecedented access to my kitchen and sit down for a visit.

I should mention that “The Girls”…the two Siamese cats that stand watch over the Old Vic…the ones that did not so much as bat an eye at the 10-days of banging and chaos that entailed the massive roofing project…were CLEARLY unhappy about being denied access to their kitchen and view-port (back door). Two new girls in the house...two Siamese cats

Saturday morning I was rousted out of bed, and in no uncertain terms instructed by the girls to get with the program and correct this deficiency.

I promptly made coffee and popped out on the deck into the gorgeous morning with my laptop…and waited for the lumber to come to me. (It did…ya gotta love small town lumber yards!)

After a few hours of construction and cursing in at least two languages, Serious Door Sill was constructed and installed.

Serious door sill

Serious door sill

Serious Door sill was…for lack of a more accurate term…an “absolute bitch” to get in there.

That’s four treated 2″x 8″ and nearly seven feet long. It runs from the new pier on the corner of the kitchen proper, to the corner of the mudroom. Just the beam weighs in at something over 100 pounds. It’s a tight fit. You could park a truck on it (please don’t).

Once Serious Door Sill was installed, we added a few other structural elements to attach the actual door frame to the house, as well as flashing over the sill and so on. Getting on into the evening it was time to install the frame.

Except the bolts I had turned out to be unsuitable. Because of the late hour I had to make a run to another city to the Home Owner Hell store to get some. Sixty-mile round trip for $3 worth of bolts. Ah well.

Soon…Serious Door was hung.

Serious Door from the outside.

Serious Door from the outside.

It is a perfect fit.

Serious Door from the inside.

Serious Door from the inside.

Note that “Serious Door” is NOT a misnomer. I cannot by myself pick up even one door. Two men can handle them, but not with ease and low risk of smashed fingers/toes without employing tools. We had to use a kind of “six-foot lever and fulcrum/walk into place” action to hang them.

Pin and barrel hinge top/male.

Pin and barrel hinge top/male.

Pin and barrel bottom/female.

Pin and barrel bottom/female.

Note Serious Door hangs on pin/barrel ball bearing hinges (with zerk fittings!).

“Ball” bearing is a VERY accurate term for each of these hinges…a single heavy ball in the bottom of each barrel does the job.

And THAT was enough for day two. I went to bed laughing out loud at the guy trying to sell me installation for Serious Door. “Three hours! Tops!”

Sunday I spent tinkering with fitment of the door hardware. I installed the weatherstripping, inserted the latches for the “dead” door, drilled the frame for same, and installed Serious Lock Set for Serious Door.

I have to brag on the wife a bit…Serious Lock set is about $200 worth of high-end hardware that matches Serious Door perfectly. The wife bought it about 4 years ago in a fit of bargain hunting. She was purchasing something else and found Serious Lock set in the “closeout” bin with a dented box. She paid $35 for it.

I remember saying, “That’s a GREAT price, but where the heck are we going to put it?” She just smiled and told me she had no idea, but she was sure I needed it and just didn’t know it yet.

Not sure why I ever question that.

Serious Lockset

Serious Lockset

I still need to trim out the door inside and out…AND of course the installation of Serious Door has outlined the scope of the “replace the flooring just inside Serious Door” project for later.

I intend to get the basic trim up next time, and then get back to the front porch project for now.

Daniel Meyer

Posted in Carpentry/Structure | Leave a comment

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alternate title: THIS IS SPARTA!

Serious Door install is requiring an entire new sill. A rather massive beam that runs the portion of the width of the mudroom that extends past the house proper.

As I’ve mentioned in the past…when I tackle something it’s not a matter of “if” it gets done…it’s simply a question of how big a mess I’ve got to make.

This would be considered a “medium sized mess”.

You’ll note the Dewalt Sawzall…named “Destructor of Worlds”…on the floor…I’ve stated on occasion that I could take the entire town apart with that, a Stanley wonder-bar, and an 8 pound sledge. I’m unclear on why folks think I’m kidding.

Slight modification needed...

Slight modification needed…

Not seen in this pic….had to “install” 10 or so concrete blocks underneath to hold up the interior floor beams before I cut the sill out. Also installed a new pier at the corner of the house proper as the sill did not have proper support there. That’s 8 blocks and two pads and 3 bags of concrete.

More repair...

More repair…

This is, of course, a classic situation on Old House ™ projects. You just never know how far down the rabbit hole you’re going to have to go…until you get there….

I believe I may have stepped on Alice’s head.

I’m currently waiting for a lumber delivery…sipping coffee and browsing the ‘net out on the deck in this gorgeous morning weather (62ish degrees?).

Life is good.

Posted in Carpentry/Structure | 2 Comments