Monday, February 29, 2016

Plan Three

When everything is done, I would like the Murphy bed and accompanying furniture to look built in to match the built in office on the other side of the room but not so built in that I can't take it with me if we move someday. Previously this room had two prehistoric looking and functioning closets. They were deep and thus took up lots of room but were not walk-in and only had one pole across to hang stuff on. The sides and back were thinly paneled concrete so there really wasn't much to anchor any new shelving easily. We removed all that which makes the room seem much larger now but lost some potential storage.

Making a small closet next to the Murphy bed isn't a simple challenge. The Murphy bed itself isn't deep enough to accommodate a traditional hanger for guests to hang up cloths. In reality, I should say for my wife to use as a spare closet when guests are not using the room. The space is barely wide enough to accommodate a hanger put in sideways. I scratched my brain and searched the internet awhile for perpendicular closet rod which wasn't really helpful until I finally hit upon a page that had what are called valet hangers. It was exactly what I needed. I did another search using that term and soon had a valet hanger that can hold up to 35 pounds of clothes in the orientation I need and then can collapse flat when not needed. Perfect. So I then proceeded designing the closet/dresser/nightstand you see above. The top part will have a door and be the closet part. The middle part will be open to the wall and be the night stand part. The lower part will eventually house two drawers and be the dresser part... all in one compact little unit. I will use plywood box and face frame construction like I did the office cabinets so everything looks half way matching. I now have four more sheets of plywood waiting in my garage to start building this and the bookshelf that will go on the other side.

Friday, February 26, 2016


I had to take a break from work for a morning of errands. I'm on my wife's health insurance and we get discounts for being healthy so once a year I have to submit to testing. Once that was over, I decided to use the opportunity to drive across town and mail some packages but the place wasn't quite open. With twenty minutes to kill, I pulled back behind the business to where the parking lots butts up against a lagoon which was formerly part of a large oxbow in the river channel before it got straightened out. I usually take a book with me in case something like this happens and I did read it awhile but the reflection on the lagoon surface kept grabbing my attention from the pages. Finally in order to get some peaceful reading time, I hopped out of my car and took a picture of the reflection to quite the old brain down. By the time I got to the edge and got my phone camera app running, a slight breeze had disturbed the surface to mar the perfect reflection. It made me want to sit there for awhile and wait for the reflection to calm but I didn't want to turn into Narcissus. Instead I went back to the comfort of the car, (it was still quite cold out) and went back to reading. This time I was able to focus on the book.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lessons Learned

Well here it is finally in the mostly complete state. It is as complete as it will get until I get the rest of the stuff along that wall designed, built and installed. As that time, I will probably add some crown molding or something along the top to disguise the wires and finish out the look.

Overall I am pleased with the entire process and don't regret it but there are some things I learned that I would do differently. It was certainly worth the effort and cost savings of doing it myself over buying a prefab kit that I just assemble on site. It was however not without its problems that I'm not sure how I will deal with right yet. First the problems.

In order to get the strength necessary, the sides of the bed platform and the cabinet needed to be made out of plywood. With many laminated layers in different directions, it is much stronger than any solid wood you can buy. However, when working with large panels of it, it is more flimsy than solid wood and so warping can be an issue. When I was building that cabinetry for the office side, all the panels are small enough it isn't a problem. However, with these long panels, it was a problem. Although not really noticeable, the panel that spans the top of the cabinet and the one on the right side are both bowed inward creating slight rubs as the bed raised and lowers. With the top, I solved it by shimming up each side of the cabinet, screwing the top panel to the wall in the middle of the panel and then unshimming the side and allowing them to sag back down. It didn't help as much as I had hoped but it was enough to create a slight gap. The right panel however doesn't have a ready solution. I'm hoping that perhaps when I build my book shelves on that side that I can suck that side of it against the shelf sides and create the proper gap that I'm looking for. Neither rub however really is a detriment to operation of the cabinet so it really isn't something I will lose sleep over.

As for the thing I would do differently, when I was tossing this idea around in my head, I thought I would like reading lights in the cabinets. I bought a kit that was made for cabinet lighting and dropped some wires from the ceiling. When I went to finally install the kit, I realized that it was designed to actually plug into an outlet along the floor. I could have installed an outlet there had I known and thus not had wires poking up that I now have to disguise, but I didn't. I also installed a switch on the wall to control those reading lights but the kit came with a knob that dims the lights and the lights always default into the dimmest (i.e. off) mode rendering the switch useless. With the switch on, you can touch the dimming knob to adjust the brightness of the light and turn it off without leaving bed so I guess it is more convenient in that sense. It also means one can't accidentally switch the reading lights on with the bed closed and forget about them since they default to the off condition. These are LED and don't produce much heat but with other bulbs, it could create a fire hazard.

I'm pleased with the result and am currently working on designing plans for the cabinet which will go in the corner on the left side of the Murphy bed. It will act as a tiny closet/dresser/nightstand for guests using the Murphy bed. More on that in future posts I'm sure.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Set Back

With the youngest daughter nursed back to health, I started in on the assembly phase of the Murphy bed process. Other than a couple trips out to the garage to recut the mattress liner plywood sheets to actually fit, things went pretty smoothly. By noon, I had gotten what you see below done and that is when I got the call from school that my oldest daughter was now sick.

Originally I had thought the youngest one had eaten some bad food but now I suspected some sort of stomach bug was going around and the school said they had sent quite a few kids home with whatever it was. Fortunately being older and wiser to the way our bodies work, she didn't require nearly as much attention as the youngest one.

The following morning I woke up and my stomach kind of felt knotted up. The oldest one still hadn't ate anything since the day before but seemed fine. I kept her home from school anyway and got the kids fed and into their morning routine. That is when I had to make a trip to the bathroom and found out for sure, that I now how whatever they have. Oh the joys of parenting. So for now, I'm going to doze the day away while periodically checking the girls to make sure they are doing fine and hopefully kick whatever this out the door by the weekend. (Written on Friday morning.)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Will It All Fit Together?

The last of the pieces are hopefully built with the exception of how I will eventually tie it into the ceiling to give it a built in look. I will probably wait to do that until after I get the accompanying storage/closet cabinet on one side and a bookcase on the other side built and installed so I can do everything at once.

I was able to sneak out and finish applying multiple coats of polyurethane and get everything carried down to the basement where I will do the final assembly once it spends some time in a warm environment to fully cure. If all goes well, we should get it assembled this weekend but may not have a mattress to put in it since we haven't even looked for one yet. Hopefully you can still buy mattresses less than 12 inches thick these days.

As I was reading through the assembly instructions, I had to laugh because almost every step requires the aide of a helper. The building instructions also listed the need of a helper on several steps and thus far, I have done everything myself. When you have the time, I enlist the aide of jigs and such to help me while the rest of the world is out working on their 9 to 5 jobs. None the less, by getting this ready to assemble this weekend, I have a helper albeit and small petite one, to help me if necessary.

This part of the process always scares me a bit. I have invested a lot of time and energy to bring this project this far and if the assembly doesn't go smoothly and the whole thing looks like crap, it is all for not. It has happened and then I have to come up with solutions to cobble things together to make it work even if it doesn't look attractive. It keeps me up at nights sometimes so I'll be glad to get it done so I can move onto worrying about other things.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stained But Not Finished

Well there isn't much to say. I did get the pieces stained and we did get warmer weather complete with snow and a touch of freezing rain which is why school got canceled and my plans for getting several coats of polyurethane on the pieces today went out the window. Our littlest one evidently ate some bad food somewhere and was up all night trying to hurl every 30 minutes or so. She is a bit dehydrated this morning but on the mend fortunately. Tomorrow, due to previous obligations, I won't get any time in the garage so I'm hoping for the day after. I would really like to spend some time in the basement this weekend assembling this thing. We shall see.

I should comment that adding the scrap boards on the ends to allow me to do both sides at once did work out well. I should have done that when I did the door which took me the better part of a week to finish both sides.

Monday, February 15, 2016

In Pieces

With warmer weather starting to arrive, albeit with quite a bit of snow, I have started making progress again on the Murphy bed. What you see above leaning here and there are hopefully the rest of the major pieces for the closet. The two longer ones leaning on the left are the cabinet sides, the one leaning on the pile of scraps in the center will be the headboard, the one leaning to the right will be the cabinet top with holes cut in it for reading lights and the rod will attach to the fold out legs when the bed is in use.

In an attempt to maximize my limited space and to make more efficient use of my time, I attached scrap pieces of wood to the ends of the longer pieces. This should allow me to finish one side, flip it over and then finish the other side all in one shot. I will know later this morning if that works well or not.

The splotches of tan colored substance is wood putty. Since these are made of plywood for structural strength, the exposed edges look less than attractive and must be covered with veneer. I can buy veneer tape in 25 ft rolls and it applies reasonably well but just attaching it to a plywood surface will never make it perfect, at least with my skill set and available tools. So I end up applying putty to the hairline gaps and defects and will sand it out before I finish it. With a dark stain, it shouldn't be visible at all. At least that's the plan.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Stags, Pancakes, Bingo, Superbowl and Girls

Life's been a bit hectic recently which has been fine with me since we are in a cold spell and the garage really doesn't get warm enough to linger for long periods of time. It gives me a chance to take a break from my woodworking and focus on other things for a week. First up was the annual stag party that my fraternal organization holds for other males around the community. Basically it is an excuse to drink lots of beer, eat at a buffet and shoot the breeze with others. Because we play the hosts, it meant lots of food prep work in the week leading  up to it and then on that morning, I spend several hours prepping the bar only to be swamped later on with the three others helping me. Beer goes out by the fistful of bottles with the occasional mixed drink or draw thrown in the middle. The crowds starting coming in at eleven and when I next had a few seconds to catch my breath and look at the clock, it was 3:30 and I was off to go to church because on Sunday morning, I was making pancakes.

The same fraternal organization holds about four or five pancake breakfasts for the community on designated Sunday's throughout the year and as things lined up, this one was the morning after our stag party. So not only did we have to finish cleaning up, but then set up and serve pancakes and sausage to the multitudes. It was afternoon before I finally got home and then prepped for a Superbowl snack party at our house that I wouldn't be able to attend. Nope. My one Sunday night a month when I volunteer to run the bar at our fraternal organization for the people playing bingo happened to coincide with that weekend. Not only did I have to serve the normal group but I also had to serve others watching the Superbowl too. After nearly two entire days of standing on my feet on that hard floor, I finally broke the cardinal rule and drug a stool behind the bar to sit for a minute in between customers.

Monday dawns and one might think things would get back to normal but not on this week. After a week of sales, the Girl Scouts, my daughter now one of them, were now wrapping of their first week of sales and after checking all the money, the orders and getting our order in, I had to grab the oldest when she got off the bus and go pick up the order. As I expected, it was utter chaos at the Cookie Shack as they refer to it. After about forty minutes, we were able to wheel our 108 boxes of cookies out to the car and escape home. We then spent the rest of the evening boxing up the orders in grocery sacks and labeling who they are too and if they owe any money.

I went to bed early and slept like a God must. My mother-in-law has meetings most of the day so I get the day off taking care of the littlest one... at least until this evening. That is when our fraternal organization has its monthly meeting and this meeting that I have to lead as the president will most likely be long and contentious. I might blog more on that later but for now, I'm going to relax my mind and grab some pretend tea with my daughter. She makes a pretty good pretend tea.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Jambaloney is blogger up in Canada whom can do just about anything with nothing. He takes scraps of wood, plastic and tin and can whip up an entire building. In fact, I have long suspected he is the son of Canadian Red Green but just doesn't have the duct tape gene. He was the inspiration for this post so I decided to put his name in the title.

After many coats of polyurethane, my largest and heaviest piece of the Murphy bed I was building was ready to be moved. The only part was that it was just a bit too heavy and awkward for me alone to move. I debated on trying to get my wife to help out moving it but she just doesn't have the strength and there isn't really an unfinished side to sit it down and rest on the journey from the garage, around the backside of the house and through the basement to the office. When she helped move the cabinets, we frequently had to sit the unfinished backsides down to rest or get things better lined up.

Plan B was to create a Facebook post about it trying to use subtle wording to get someone to volunteer to help me move it but that didn't pan out. So I moved onto Plan C which was to call people I knew. The problem is that most of the people I know who have time to do things in the middle of the day aren't physically up to moving heavy objects down an icy grass covered slope and into my basement office. I called upon a couple youngish guys I know who work from home and sometimes have time during the day but they were both gone. I was down to plan D which I hadn't even come up with yet. That is when I asked myself, "What would Jambaloney do?"

I started out by sliding it off my improvised bench and standing it up on its side on an old painters tarp I had. I tried lifting it using my shoulders on the inside edge but it was just too heavy and awkward and not enough clearance. If I was seven foot tall, it might have worked but I'm not. I could lift one end up easily though so I just needed a way to drag it all that way without damaging it. I got my old dolly that I've had for years and aired up the tires that are perpetually flat and slipped it under the heavier end. I lifted up on the opposite end and thought I might actually be onto something. I searched through my piles of ropes, straps and tie downs and found two that were just barely long enough to go around the thing end for end and hold it firmly to the cart. I put another shorter one around the middle just to help hold the painters tarp in place.

Well I was able to grab onto the bottom strap as sort of a handle and lift up on my end and walk backwards pulling the entire thing like a top heavy wagon. I made it about four feet before I absolutely smashed the heck out of my hand between the Murphy bed and the garage door header. At least it was my hand and not the Murphy bed. Smarting with pain, I was still able to make it all the way down the icy grassy slope and into the basement without mishap. It is now safely resting on my newly carpeted floor so I can continue making the rest of the pieces in the freed up space in my garage. And I did it all myself with what I had around me. Thanks Jambaloney!

Monday, February 8, 2016


With the door installed but out in the garage for finishing, I thought it was probably time to start doing the flooring. All the pieces of my Murphy bed need to be laid out on the floor to assemble before standing it up and fastening it in place and I didn't want to scratch the crap out of the nicely stained face on the concrete floor so I thought now would be a good time for the carpet. I'm not planning on doing anymore sanding or dust creating things in the office for the rest of this project so why not.

When we started kicking around this project, I had my heart set on a large format tile floor. It is durable, easy to roll around on an office chair and is a nice work out surface for our winter exercise sessions. I thought about a hardwood floor but was concerned about moisture being that this room is in the basement. I have never seen any water in the basement during some extremely wet years so it is considered a dry basement but the rest of the finished part has laminated hardwood flooring in it installed by a previous occupant and all the joints in it look like water damaged cardboard. I'm guessing there is enough water vapor leaking up through the concrete to have caused that and though solid hardwood flooring probably wouldn't do that, I'm not positive. I probably could put down a water vapor barrier under the floor and prevent that even with laminate but my wife had other ideas.

She wanted a carpet floor so it was warm to walk on since it was on a cold concrete slab. That was what had been in the room when I gutted it and it smelled like a wet dog when I took it up. I'm not sure if it was from water damage or the previous occupant who had been living in it. When we toured the house, the boy who used that room as a bedroom was mentally challenged and just glancing around the room I saw enough moldy food scattered here and there to feed a world of ants for a long time. Since he was in his 20's, I guess his parents didn't get involved and so it just was. Any how, I was resistant to putting carpet back in the room but my wife was equally insistent. This went back and forth for awhile until we hit upon the idea of carpet tile. I was still resistant having never used the stuff before but after she mentioned it, I started seeing it in use everywhere I went from libraries to bank lobbies. It seemed quite durable and could be installed by the weekend warrior and sections could be easily be replaced. I went to look at some in the big box store and found that it had a thick rubber backing to it which would act as a moisture barrier if there was vapor coming up through the concrete. I was finally sold on the idea and we bought our carpet tiles.

The hardest part was figuring out how to lay the tiles so I didn't end up with narrow tiles around the perimeter of the room and laying the initial row down the center of the room in a straight line. Once that was done, it was a matter of laying down the tiles and using the supplied carpet tape to adhere the four corners together. The last row around the perimeter of the room took a bit more time since I had to cut each tile but to do that all I needed was a sharp utility knife and a straight edge. Based upon my initial experience, I am pleased with the product and the easy at installing. I hope it will hold up well over the coming years so I can form an opinion on it. I don't think I would do a main living area in the stuff but for a small lightly used room such as a home office, I hope it does quite well.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Doors

While making the umpteenth trip to the big box hardware store on the opposite side of town, I decided that the time to replace the door in my office/exercise/guest room remodel project was upon me. I had every intention of buying a cheap hollow core pre-primed door to replace the wooden hollow core one that was in there albeit in two pieces hanging together. (A previous occupant had obviously put a shoulder to it with too much force.)

I looked at my choice of doors but out of the corner of my eye, I saw unfinished oak doors in the next rack down and I thought, why hadn't I thought of that. All the furnishings in this room have or will be stained oak when I'm finished, why not make the door to match. It did cost me an extra $70 to go with the door you see above but it is solid wood and it would take a bigger man than me to get a shoulder or any body part through the door panels. So while finishing the interior parts of my Murphy bed, I threw the door on top of some buckets so I can finish both at once and save a bit of time.

This door was only the third door I have installed in my life and really only the second one in my mind. The first door was replacing a door in my prior house during a basement remodel when the old one ended up swinging the wrong way. My brother and father helped me with that door which ended up in frustration as we all had different and 'better' ways of installing a door. At the time, my knowledge base that I have gained through Youtube and weekend home improvement television shows was much more limited and so I let myself be over ruled at times. We ended up getting the door in place but it wasn't in square, never functioned perfectly and thus I try to wipe my brain of that memory.

The second door I ever installed was just a year ago when I replaced my front entry door after residing the house. My knowledge base was much better and I did get it replaced but it wasn't perfect. Since it was a chilly day, I was hustling to try and save heat and didn't get the thing in plumb and had to take everything off and do it a second time. That time went better though somehow, I never got the upper door case piece level, a fact I didn't notice until I went to put the trim on. The door gaps on the left and right side are perfect but the one on top has about an eight of an inch difference and it bugs me when I notice it though I'm sure I'm the only one who has noticed it.

This time, seeing that it was an interior door and I had more time, the pressure was off me. Plus I had actual experience so things went smoothly. I got the door in plumb and level and my gaps are nearly perfect all the way around this time. I kept up a fast pace installing door number two and it took most of a day to get everything installed. This time around, I worked slowly and methodically and got the entire job done in about two hours. It just goes to show that the turtle always wins, even when installing doors. As I wrap up this post, the stain is probably dry on the door and the Murphy bed so it is time to go add the first of three coats of polyurethane and then I can flip the door over and do the other side.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Caucused Out

Caucus chaos! The end of the long line begins in the center of the photo and goes left over a hundred yards probably. Those standing around the tables are registered voters checking into their precincts to receive their wrist bands saying they are registered and can vote later in the evening.

When I got with in four blocks of our caucus site and saw dozens of people walking down the sidewalks towards it, I knew right then that we were experiencing record turnouts. I drove around a bit and finally was able to shoehorn my car into a very tight parallel parking situation a block and a half away from the site and made my way towards the front doors. A huge line extended out the front doors of unregistered voters looking to register or switch their registry so I knew there was a huge turnout. The crowds made the 2008 caucus, our previous record, look like a small gathering. Fortunately because I'm registered with my party, I was able to walk right past these long lines and check in just a few minutes later. Some of those registering waited for almost an hour to get through the line.

After checking in I made my way to the auditorium where we waited for the speech portion of the program. Each candidate can have a proxy give a speech as to why we should vote for their candidate in an effort to switch our votes. It is normally presented by locals who read their speeches off of typed up notes and not very informative or emotional. However, the proxy for Ted Cruz this year flipped over that stereotype on its head. They brought in some ringer from North Carolina that gave a speech out of some television movie of a black brimstone and hell fire preacher. I felt like I was at some sort of revival instead of a caucus. That really got the crowds buzzing. The Trump supporters were there and just like him, they were the most obnoxiously vocal but their proxy probably gave the worst speech of the night.

After the speeches, we divided up into our precincts and about fifteen minutes later, my vote was cast. Almost 90% of the crowds immediately thinned out and went home leaving us regular caucus goers to enjoy the evening and mingle while the results were being tallied. In my precinct, Trump won by six votes over Rubio with Cruz coming in a distant third. I wasn't surprised about Trump winning or Cruz coming in a distant third since my precinct isn't what I would call evangelical voters. I was impressed with how well Rubio did however which gave me hope that perhaps there is a chance that we can nominate someone who isn't Trump or Cruz. As you most likely know, overall, Cruz one our state but Trump and Rubio tied for second with 7 delegates apiece.

Once the fair weather voters were gone, the rest of us got down to business electing officers and delegates. You are reading the words of one of those delegates selected to represent my precinct at the county caucus in March and perhaps if elected the state caucus this summer. I'm excited since this is the first time I've ever gone beyond the local caucus to see what the other events are like. More on that later.

Having voted for Rubio, perhaps I'm biased but I feel much better about his chances of winning the overall Republican nomination after Monday night. The last two evangelical choices at the last two caucuses, Huckabee and Santorum, never did well nationally and I haven't seen any reason to believe Cruz will be different. My hope is that his supporters and those of the moderate candidates that didn't get any delegates last night will trickle over to Rubio as the primary season progresses. If Rubio gets the nomination, I think he has good odds of winning against either Sanders or Clinton. For those of the Democratic persuasion, as of writing this, Sanders and Clinton are still in a tie and not all votes are in but regardless, Clinton will end up with at least one more delegate and upwards of three depending on which way the last caucus yet to report went. I'm guessing she hoped she had done better and as someone who really doesn't like either one, I'm rooting for a long drawn out nomination process to divide up the party a bit come election time.

After getting 10 to 20 political robo calls a day for the last two months, my phone is blissfully silent. I have done my civic duty and now I get a chance to rest and not be subjected to politics other than the first ten minutes of the evening news and I plan to take full advantage of that until I have to go serve as a delegate in March.

About 1/3 of the caucus goers were able to squeeze into the auditorium before the fire marshal closed the doors. The rest of the caucus goers had to stand in the cafeteria area in the top photo and listen to the speeches there.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Meeting Murphy

There are two components to the Murphy bed I am making. The first and most complex to make is the actual bed support that holds the mattress, folds in and out and contains the decorative trim so that it appears to be something other than a folded up mattress along a wall. The second piece is the cabinet which the folding part folds up into. Above is the first part most complete. I still need to get a couple sheets of 1/4" plywood to screw to the struts for the mattress to sit upon but haven't yet done so. The headboard which prevents the mattress from crashing to the floor when folded up and the footboard which prevents the mattress from sliding out when folded down are made from solid wood as are the struts in the middle. The side boards and the face are made from cabinet grade plywood with a veneer strip covering the exposed and unattractive edge. The side boards take most of the stress of the whole contraption and thus be made out of plywood which is much stronger than solid wood believe it or not.

Below is the bottom side of what you see in the above picture and is the side you will see when it is folded up into the cabinet. I bought some 1/2" lumber to divide it up into panels to make if blend with the future doors to my office cabinetry I have yet to make. In this picture I just finished staining it but haven't  yet applied the polyurethane. I will probably just do a couple coats to protect it and not apply the ten coats that I put on my desk surface to make it smoother like glass. I would have liked to apply the stain and poly in the relatively dust free confines of my office but I'm not man enough to carry that down there myself... nor even with my wife's help. So since it will be a few days before I can line up the help to get it carried down, I am just staining it in the garage and will have to do a little sanding in-between coats to keep it as smooth as possible. I think since I'm doing this in my garage, I might as well install the carpet in the office since I'm done with any construction work there although I will replace the door first. The door is a hollow core door that somebody has put their shoulder into hard enough to break it. It functions just barely as a door but since we haven't ever shut it other than to keep the dust down recently, it hasn't been a concern. With guests due to use this as a bedroom here in a handful of months, I need to get a new one.

Once I get the carpet installed and this piece carried down and into place, I can turn my attention to the cabinet part which is much simpler to make and shouldn't take too long.