Friday, January 29, 2016

Stained... Moving Onward


As you can see, I got the desk top in place. I definitely wish it could have turned out better but it is functional and that means more to me anyway especially since it is essentially built in cabinetry that I can't take with me should we ever move. My dilemma was that I had essentially an eleven foot wide space and cabinet grade plywood comes in eight feet lengths. I had to have a seam somewhere. If I put a full sheet of plywood along one side, the joint came near the main working area in the middle which would make it more visible. If I centered a full sheet of plywood, that meant I would have two seams, one on either end but would be more hidden with office equipment. The solution I would have liked to do was just make a solid wood surface eleven foot long but that is a lot of time and expense for little gain in my opinion. So in the end, I went with the two seams, one on each end and called it a day. On a side note, the two rectangular holes are for a surface mounted power strip with two USB ports that I mounted after finishing all the wood. Now I have plenty of space to plug in electronics and charge them without having to crawl underneath the desk to stick it in an outlet.


One of my frustrations with working with oak is that it is hard to stain a dark color. Always before I look at the selection of cans of stains and always choose the darkest one and in the end, it comes out honey oak colored instead. However, during a recent trip to the paint store, I noticed that they also have stains and can tint them any color. So when it came time to stain the office cabinets, I decided to give them a try. I found a color sample for oak wood and the nice young man mixed pigments into the stain and actually rubbed it on a piece of oak that he had until we got to the color I wanted. Best of all, the stain was only about a couple dollars more expensive than that in the big box store where the color is take it or leave it. Needless to say, I'm going to this paint store for all my future staining needs, especially since I tend to make most of my projects out of oak which is cheap and plentiful to find around town. Also notice in the above picture that I made some shelves for the upper cabinets. I'm not sure if I will use the shelves in the middle two cabinets but since I was making them out of leftover scraps and I had plenty to use, I decided to make them now anyway. Once we get all the office supplies moved into place, I can decide whether or not I need them or if we want to go with two shelves in one of the end cabinets since all the shelves are the exact same size.


Although I did move the computer, printers and such over to the new desk so I could get the old desk out of the way, I am done with the office part of the project for the time being. Later I will come back and build the drawers and doors to finish it. While I have the garage space tied up, I am turning my focus onto the Murphy bed. What you see above is the inner frame for the bed support part of it. The Murphy bed is going to be a queen sized bed and will fold up vertically to fit the space on the opposite wall as the custom office. I also plan to build a small closet/drawer combo for guests to store their things in along with a bookcase for scrapbooks, photo albums and such. I hope to get the majority of the Murphy bed pieces built this coming week while we are expecting to get "warmer" temperatures and them carry them all downstairs to stain in the dust free environment of the office. Once it is ready to assembly, I need to put down the carpet before assembling the Murphy bed. My deadline is mid June for all this and I should have plenty of time however I would like to get this project wrapped up by early spring anyway so that I can devote my efforts towards outdoor projects I have in mind. The Honey-Do list never seems to get any smaller.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Marco Rubio


One of the bad things about living in Iowa is our first in the nation caucuses. It means we are flooded with phone calls, television ads, emails and such all making sure that we get out and vote next week on February 1rst. One of the good things about living in Iowa is our first in the nation caucuses. It means we are also flooded with personal appearances from the candidates and allows us to get to know them more personally.

Last fall, the street in front of my house was closed so Hillary Clinton could visit my neighbors house. Since then, I think every candidate save for maybe one or two have visited town. Most of the time, I haven't been able to go see them due to their schedule or mine. However, a few weeks ago, my parents who are lifelong democrats called to see if I wanted to go see Donald Trump with them. My dad said something along the lines that he missed Woodstock and didn't want to miss seeing the Trump. I like watching a good train wreck so I jumped at the chance. On a blustery cold Saturday, two hours before the event was to even start, we showed up and froze our butts off in line waiting to be let into the event. Due to a misunderstanding, I didn't have a reserved ticket but my parents did so they eventually made it inside only to find out that the room where Trump was to speak had been closed by the fire marshal due to being at capacity. They opted to leave and since I was in the have no ticket line, I left with them. Relieved a bit but also disappointed.

So last week when I learned Senator Marco Rubio was coming to town, I signed up for my advance ticket and arrived two hours early. This time it was a Monday morning and though it was a Federal holiday, most people were still at work so it was a much smaller crowd. I could have sat in the front row but I knew cameras were going to be all over that area so I set one row back and eventually got to hear the man speak. He is very articulate, a word that I'm not sure Trump even knows what it means.

Immigration reform is high on my punch list of concerns for the next president and I was curious at to Rubio's position on it. He is a first generation American so has lived it personally as I have with my foreign born wife. He agrees with most republicans that after extensive checks, many illegal immigrants here should be given a work permit so that they can start paying taxes and live here legally. However, he goes a step further and thinks that if they can prove they are productive inhabitants of our country and pay the penalty for breaking our laws, that they should have a path to permanent resident status. However, before we get going to far down that path, we have to get our borders in order or otherwise, as soon as the 12 million or so people already here get processed, it won't be long before 12 million more illegal immigrants have taken up their place.

Health care reform is also high on my list and he addressed it well. He favors a healthcare system that takes care of those that were uninsurable under our previous system. But he thinks that for those who can be insured, our health insurance should look a little bit like our car insurance. You can't watch live television for very long before you see numerous ads for car insurance companies promising us more coverage for less cost. Why? Because they compete. He wants to make it so we can get health care from any insurance company in the United States and thus make them compete for our business.

There were several things I didn't completely agree with Senator Rubio on such as his promise to overturn every single one of the Current Occupants executive orders. Although I'm sure there are more than several that need to be burned, I think it is probably a waste of time and probably can't be done legally other than to issue new orders over ruling old orders which really doesn't solve the problem of presidents MAKING legislation.

I also don't agree with Rubio's assertion that we need to go to war against ISIS and lead the Sunni's to defeat them. I've had enough of war. We've been at war nearly half my life already and really, I can't see that we are better off now than we were back then. We just can't sit back either so I understand that something needs to be done but I'm just not sure American boots on the ground leading the charge is the best solution.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to Senator Rubio and feel that he is a very charismatic gentleman and would probably serve the office of Currant Occupant very well if he gets elected. Although I haven't made up my mind, more than likely I will be voting for him come next Monday and then I can sit back and enjoy the silence while you all from other states get your chance at the political noise.

Word of warning to those who are familiar with this blog in past elections. I have 100% record of shaking the hand of the candidate who ends up being president and I did shake Rubio's hand. For those newer to this blog, my record consists only of Obama so take it with a grain of salt!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Overcoming Frustrations


When I made the upper cabinets, I made the wide face frame so that it would end up flush with the inside of the cabinet so that when you slid things out from the cabinet, it wouldn't catch on anything. Although I never mentioned it before, I must have oriented the middle bottom piece on the face frame with the grain in a weak orientation so every place I added a screw, it split a tiny bit. A little putty and sanding before I stain it and those place will disappear but it was a lesson to be more careful in how you orient the wood grain when screwing. Ideally you want your wood layers as perpendicular to your screws as possible. So with that in mind, I set out to build the face frame for the lower cabinets and had perfect success. I even saved one piece of plywood to use as a flat work surface until I had the face frame built.

Once the carcasses were screwed together in pairs and set in place, I put the face frame in place. I was so frustrated trying to heft the overhead units in place in one piece, that this time I put the face frame on in place. This meant that half the predrilled screw holes around the perimeter of the carcasses were covered by the walls and the floor. While this would have been a problem on the uppers which is why I went the route I did, the lowers I just added the missing screw holes on the insides of the cabinets where they technically are visible. However, I'm not so concerned with them since eventually there will be drawers that will hide those holes. For the holes showing on the inside of the footwell part of the desk, I simply cut another piece of plywood to act as a finish face, much as I did on the uppers to hide the wiring from the under cabinet lighting.

There is a plumbing clean out port on the wall to the right that I found buried under drywall. I buried it again under drywall but framed around it so that I can easily cut it open if needed. However, that means my built in lower desk unit needs to be removable if for some reason the plumbing under the concrete of the house ever needs to be cleaned. After 40+ years of use, it hasn't thus far but you never know. So rather than build my lower cabinets full depth, I left them short of the wall and not attached. I instead attached a strip of wood to the wall. After I get the desktop in place and fastened to the lower cabinets, I will add a few pocket screws from the bottom side up through that strip attached to the wall into the desktop. If for some reason I ever need to access the cleanout port, I will remove those screws and drag it back far enough to access it and all will be good with the world.

As you may notice and as I have said, the concrete floor is not level and slopes towards the left in this picture. This made it frustrating to level the cabinets and get the face frame attached. I struggled with it for a couple hours at the end of the day and finally gave up. I slept on it and sometime during the night, I realized I just needed a few more hands, i.e. clamps to help squeeze things into place in a controlled manner and hold them until I could get the fasterners screwed in with my two hands. In the morning, I put that into play and about an hour later, I had every thing together as you see in the picture below.

My next step is to get yet some more plywood for the top. Because the back wall is of course not perfectly straight and has about a 3/8" dip at one point, I'm going to have to cut the plywood oversized and them scribe it to the wall so I can get a perfect fit.  Once it is in place using the factory edge as the straight edge to make sure the face of the cabinets are in a straight line, I will fasten it down and then add some supports in the middle to help support the weight of the office stuff and prevent the desktop from sagging with time. Finally I will do some touch up sanding and then stain the whole works. Then it is on to the Murphy bed project.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Under Cabinet Lighting


Because I like to work with wood and spend quite a bit of time sitting at my office desk drawing out plans for my next project, I like having adequate lighting. Always before, when I was lining up a straight edge, I had to know where my light source was so that I could see the marks on my paper and not loose them in the shadows. So when I redid the drywall, I made sure to add a light switch and a wire for lighting that I planned to add when I got the upper cabinets installed. Before starting the lower cabinet installation which you can see in the bottom right of the picture, I thought it best to go ahead and install the under cabinet lighting while I had easy access. In fact, I did it while sitting in my rolling office chair. How lazy is that?! It had a junction box that I hard wired to my switch and attached underneath the far right cabinet. I then screwed up my four 18" LED lights to the center of each cabinet box, drilled some holes between the boxes on the bottom side and daisy chained the lights with the provided cables. The cables were only about 12" long which was a problem when the two center cabinets were offset from the two end cabinets by 12". Fortunately the manufacturer also sold 30" cables so I bought a couple of them to go around the offset. Because those wires were visible, I cut two pieces of plywood and cut a slot for the wire to pass through on one end and screwed them in place on the exposed ends underneath the shorter center cabinets. The wires are now completely invisible unless you stick your head underneath for a gander. I can't wait to try them out when I get my desk surface in place.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Carcasses


In making the previous post, I realized that I didn't have any pictures of the process of building the cabinet carcass that the face frame gets attached to, so as I made the lower boxes, I made sure to remedy that. I started by cutting out all the pieces. My face frame pieces are 2" wide and two pieces of plywood are 1-1/2" wide which means that the face frame overlaps the side of the box by 1/4" on each side. I do this to allow some forgiveness in getting everything straight and square since the only people who will be able to see an unequal overlap are those who are curled up inside the cabinets. Not likely to happen. As a result, because the lower units all will have drawers, I had to attach shims so that the full extension sliding drawer rails will extend out past the face frame and that is what you see in the above picture.


As I learned when I remodeled the shop and spent hours contorting myself to add sliding drawer rails after the fact, I opted to do them before the fact this time. It required a bit more calculating to get them in the right location but was MUCH MUCH easier to install this way. When I get around to making the drawers, I will simply unclip the other half that will attach to the drawer and do so before sliding the drawer back in.


I won't go into the pocket screw details again since the last post talked about that. But I grab the pre-drilled for pocket screws top and bottom panels of the carcass and after gluing them, attach them to one side panel. Since these boxes are going to be two filing cabinets and two storage cabinets with pullout drawers, the insides aren't really visible so I didn't worry so much about glue squeeze out or scratches to the interior surfaces. On the upper cabinets which are visible, I made sure to clean up the glue before it set and sanded all the interiors of the cabinets before assembling them. On the far side, the end panels are flush with the side panels. On the near side, I made it so the back panel is inset. This makes it easier to square the cabinet before I finish screwing it together and also gives me some fudge factor if the walls aren't completely flat and plumb. I can remove material to get them to sit tight. That is also why the bottom panel (the panel on the left) isn't flush as well because my floor isn't perfectly flat.


The next step is to add the remaining side panel making sure the drawer slide rails are a mirrored version of the other side. For some reason, this carcass as it sat in this picture was way out of square compared to the rest that I build. I think it was because I was using up some scrap pieces of plywood from a previous project and I must have had my skilsaw set at a slight angle when I initially cut them.


But when I add the back panel to the carcass, it flexed back to nice and square with the help of a large clamp on the diagonal that was too long. Once I got it screwed to all four sides, it was completely square and rigid. The face with the opening is facing down in this picture and note that I have screw holes on both end cap panels to help hold the face frame to it when I get it built. In the upper cabinets, I had some on the sides as well but I don't have any on these yet. I am going to add them after the fact when the face frame is in place so I don't have to lug this as a single unit like I did the upper cabinets.


Finally, you see all four of the lower cabinets completed. I am going to screw two of them side by side for each end of the room and then put a plywood top that spans the top of them that will be my desk surface. The cabinet plywood that I buy has one grade A face and one grade B face. The grade A face has much more grain pattern than the grade B face so I try to have the grade A face pointing to the inside of the cabinet. Because I will have an opening in the middle of the two assembled lower cabinets where I sit in my desk chair with a grade B face showing, I will eventually cut two more plywood panels that I can attach with the grade A face showing outwards. You will be able to see more about what I mean in a future post where I attach the face frame.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Upper Cabinets


I started my cabinetry build by building what is called the face frame. It is made from solid hardwood and covers the exposed edges of the plywood boxes and will be what my door hinges attach to eventually. I used pocket screw joinery to make the face frame which is really easy to do. It is also one of the cheaper methods since it only takes a plastic jig and a drill bit versus lots of expensive tools and lots of clamps. It is also one of the most versatile methods that I have worked with.


Above is the blue plastic jig with a clamp on it. You essentially clamp a piece of wood to it and it allows you to drill the oval shaped pockets with a flat bottom to them. That is where you insert your pocket screws that attach two pieces of wood together. They make special clamps that allow you to hold the pieces together while you screw them but I used ordinary hand clamps to hold the pieces to the sheet of plywood below while I fastened them together. It took me probably two hours to rip the pieces to size, plane the edges and cut them to length. It took me only about fifteen minutes to clamp and screw everything together for the face frame using pocket screws.


I next made four cabinet carcasses out of the plywood but failed to take a picture of them for some reason. Because I am doing this alone and don't really have a tablesaw big enough to handle full sheets of plywood, I have devised a much easier method. I stack the plywood on saw horses as you see above. I separate the top sheet that I want to cut down to size using a couple scrap 2 x 4's and use a scrap strip of plywood that is full length and has the factory edge marked as my straight edge. I clamp it to the plywood and run my skilsaw along it as a guide for making straight cuts. In this way I can cut pieces to size pretty accurately.

Once I have all the pieces cut to size, I also used pocket screws to hold them together. Once they were all build, I attached one of the smaller middle boxes to the back of the face frame using pocket screws while making sure my overlaps were where I wanted them. Then I worked from the middle towards each end adding boxes one at a time fastening them to the face frame and to the box beside them until the hole works was firmly connected together as one unit. Sitting one end on my daughter's sled and me carrying the other end why my wife steadied it so it wouldn't tip over, we slid the whole works around the house and into our walkout basement door. Once we drug it into the office using rugs, we got it setting in the correct orientation on the floor beneath where it was to go.


I had hoped that my wife would be able to lift it enough to set one end up on a gray barrel for support but this require coordinated lifting to avoid getting cockeyed in tight tolerances and though my wife tried, she just wasn't able to do so. I eventually turned the cabinet diagonal to the wall and got one end up at a time onto the barrels. We tried again to lift it up in place from there but evidently the sag in the tape measure that I had build too had caused us to measure longer than the intentional gap I had left. As a result, instead of a planned gap I ended up with perhaps a sixteenth of an inch interference fit. So once again I turned the entire unit on a diagonal and got it lifted up to the right height and set onto some dimensional lumber cut to the correct length to help hold it into place while I pushed it back to flat onto the wall and in the correct place. I ended up gouging my freshly painted drywall a bit but overall, it was wedged so tightly into place, that even after I removed the boards you see above it stayed in place. I still screwed the cabinet firmly to the wall and I will have to repair my drywall a bit but will wait until later on in case I add some more dings.

Overall I am very happy with the cabinets and can't wait to get the doors build and installed but I'm going to wait until I get the lower part built, both parts stained and my desk contents transferred over. I can then build, stain and attach the doors at my leisure with plenty of work space. For reader reference, the black and gray cables in the left cabinet will be used for a future cable box that will control a future wall mount flat screen television should we someday add one to this room. The yellow wire on the left will control the under cabinet lighting I plan to install via a switch just out of frame on the right. Also, not clearly seen was that I used a jig to drill shelf pin holes in the sides of each cabinet so that I can make some adjustable shelving for them at some point.

As I write this post, I have the plans drawn for the two lower units which I am going to build next using the same pocket screw techniques and they will be connected with another similar face frame and a plywood top which will act as the desktop. After that, I plan to build some organizing structures to replace the drawers I had on my old desktop. More on that as I build them.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Some Wood and a Plan


I cheated a bit. I watched some Youtube videos on making your own cabinets so now I think I know what I'm doing. I decided I would start with making the upper cabinets that will go along one wall. I am going to make a face frame out of solid oak and the plan for that is below. The rest of the construction will be cabinet B2 grade veneer plywood which has a fairly nice face and the veneer makes it strong when combined with pocket screws which is what I'm planning on using. Since these are custom built cabinets, I decided to skip using standard 36" sizing on the two end cabinets and instead size them so the doors for all the upper cabinets will be the exact same width which will simplify construction. I'm going to make this one solid unit and then hopefully using some jacks and wood to help, lift it into place and fasten it to the wall in one go. This will help ease the alignment and fastening issues of one person working alone and will also help factor out any inconsistencies in my drywall job since I can shim it as I fasten it.


Although I have used plywood box and face frame techniques before, this will be the first time I have use pocket hole screws to hold everything together, especially on the face frame. I especially wanted to do it on the face frame so I can try the fit first before building the rest of the boxes and if necessary, take things apart to tweak it. I plan on showing more on that process as I go along. If all goes well with this part, then I plan on continuing the same process in building a Murphy bed, two lower cabinets that the desk will rest on and a bookcase. I'm hoping our late winter is like our early winter and fairly warm to make working out in the garage more enjoyable because I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time out there over the next month or two.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Topped Out


There were several reasons why I ended up redoing the ceiling in my office remodel project. Originally there was wood paneling in the room and the false ceiling had been attached over it and then later drywall on top of that. It essentially made both the ceiling and the walls built in place and you couldn't remove one without the other. I wanted to remove the ceiling for a couple reasons. One, I wanted to push it back up to the bottom of the floor joists and gain about six inches in height back. Two, I wanted to install more and better lighting. Three, I had a return duct that didn't return any air due to house changes by previous occupants. By removing it, I gained about two feet of higher ceiling part of the room. If I redid the ceiling, the drywall was now to short and I could have patched it in up to the new ceiling height but because I wanted to redo the electrical, I tore everything out and started from scratch.

For the ceiling, I went with the CeilingMax system which I have used before and like. It attached directly to the bottom of the floor joists to give you maximum amount of headroom but still allows you to remove panels like a suspended ceiling to access wiring and plumbing both of which I have above. My kitchen is above this room and it is a future project so I know I will need to access this space sometime in the future. You start by screwing plastic tracks to the underneath side of the floor joists and adding t-tracks in-between to space them correctly and help hold the ceiling tiles in place.


Once you get a few ceiling tiles in place, there is another piece that clips up into the first piece that retains everything in place. It goes up fairly fast (it took me about 10 hours of labor to do the entire job and looks just like a suspended ceiling would. As you can see below, it looks plenty nice for an office and future spare bedroom. The ceiling lights are now installed so no more hitting my head on dangling bulbs and best of all, the provide an even light through the entire room for much less wattage than the three can lights I had before that acted more like three flashlights trying to light the room.

I need to finalize my cabinet plans now and get the wood. I would like to build them down here in this room where it is nice and warm but I just don't want to suffer through anymore dust and messes trying to use my office so I will probably build them in the garage where it is nice and cold right now. I have built lots of furniture but never cabinets so this will be a new process for me and I will probably document my steps along the way in case others might want to try it. Since I am building the cabinets and a bookcase, I'm now flirting with just ordering the hardware for a Murphy bed and building my own cabinet for it as well. That way I can stain everything to match color wise. I found some plans online and I am going to have to review them to see if it is something I want to tackle or not. Like the cabinets though, I save several grand by doing it myself if I include my labor for free. That is a pretty good motivator.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Arm and Both Legs

You have seen my office desk in many of the past photos already. It has served me well for almost 20 years but it is time for a change. It just doesn't work well for the two people who use it and the two growing up who will most likely be using it for school research projects in the future. I need more space to spread out plus more space to store things. So when we decided to remodel the office so that we could use it as a spare bedroom since our current spare bedroom is in full time use by my mother-in-law, I decided it was time to put some thought into the future of it being an office.

I decided the way to go would be to install some upper cabinets along one wall for storage and make a built in desk that spanned the same wall with some lower cabinets beneath for filing space and more storage. I figured that I could pick up some basic cabinetry for a reasonable price to make that dream come true. It hasn't turned out that way so far. The way I had things layed out, two of the upper cabinets are common and easy to find. However, the middle cabinets are not common sized to fit the distance and thus impossible to find unless I order them made through a cabinet manufacturer. The average desk height is about 30 inches and the average kitchen counter top is closer to 34 inches. I had thought about using kitchen lower cabinets which are easy to find but this makes everything too tall to use comfortably from a chair. Finally, I have searched the used market and can find one or two of the cabinets but finding ones suitable for the lower cabinets in height is all but impossible.

I went to the local big box store and looked at their stock of cabinets but they were extremely cheaply made and looked it. They also didn't have the oddball sized middle upper cabinets that I needed nor the 29 inch lower ones needed to fit under a desk surface. I next went to the local cabinet warehouse and a nice man said he could definitely give me everything I needed. I chose a very basic design and finish with absolutely no frills and he priced it out for me. It came to a whopping $3800!

I have a hard time paying $3800 on essentially five cabinets that are going to be in an office that nobody sees except for the occasional overnight guest. Another choking point is that for that kind of money, they aren't delivered nor installed. I have to pick them up and install them myself. Finally, I'm guessing that I can build those cabinets for around $500 in wood and supplies though it will take me a fair amount of labor but hey, I have the time these days. So, I guess I am going to be custom building my entire office setup for this project. I'm actually looking forward to it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Red Tide

Portuguese Man of War
After 18 hours of driving over two days, our first order of business upon arriving at our beach side rental is to take a walk on the beach and stretch our legs. We started out and ten minutes later we turned back because we were all having trouble seeing and breathing. The wind was brisk and large clouds of sea spray could be seen blowing inland so we assumed that was causing our respiratory woes and tried again the next day. Although we spent an hour walking, we still had itchy sore throats and stinging watery eyes. The wind was still there though not as brisk so it got the blame. This went on all week and though not pleasant, it generally cleared up as soon as we went back inside so we forced ourselves to walk anyway. We still all had sore throats especially during the nights but nothing we couldn't handle.

Finally on our final day there, we were talking with some people who let us know the dirty little secret that they keep from us tourists. There was a red tide parked offshore due to the unseasonably warm waters. It is essentially an algae bloom that releases particulates into the air and causes all the respiratory symptoms we were experiencing. It was also killing large numbers of fish and other creatures that were washing ashore. I wondered what it was doing to our health but apparently long term affects are not really known. Seeing that my grandfather has bad respiratory ailments already, it was a good thing he didn't make it on this trip or it might just have been his final trip.

On our third or fourth day into our vacation, our morning stumbles hacking and rubbing our eyes along the beach saw hundreds of these blue 'jellyfish-like' things washed ashore. I'm glad I didn't poke one because later when our eyes had cleared up enough inside to do an internet search, I found out they were Portuguese Man of War. I had never seen one up close and on that day, I got to see more than I ever care to see again. We also saw several dead starfish, birds and other fish. The fish below was a more colorful version which I have never seen before and don't know the identification but if I had to guess, I would say some sort of puffer fish.

I'm back home now and the sore throat seems to have finally gone away so I hope the effects of the red tide are now gone for good with no lasting side effects. Now that I know about it, I have found lots of literature online of Florida's efforts to keep it under wraps so not to damage their tourism trade. I'm guessing as global warming heats our planet up, with will be harder to do so.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The End of an Era

Sunrise on the Gulf coast
Many of you know that the reason I travel 18 hours by car down to the Gulf coast this time of the year is to visit my aging grandparents. Six years ago they decided they were too old to drive up to Iowa during the summer to visit family so we the family hatched a plan to go see them. We would drive down to the Gulf coast, rent a place where we could hang out on the beach and visit with them for a week and they didn't have to drive so far. It worked well for the first three years. The my grandfather's health declined to the point where I think he had just given up on living and so he declined to come on the fourth year and forced my grandmother to stay home with him. Of course the rest of us didn't know this until too late to back out of the rental so we all drove 18 hours to spend time with ourselves. The following year my grandfather started getting treatments and his will to live came back so on short notice, we rented another place since our usual place had already been rented out. So much fun was had that we decided to do it another year and we rented the new place again. The day before we left, we got the call that this time my grandmother didn't want to make the journey for health issues and so the Iowa contingent of my family again traveled 18 hours to spend time with ourselves.

We like the beach but driving all that way just to see it isn't really something we care to do when there are many other beautiful places to spend time much closer. So I think this was the last time we will head down to the Gulf for a family reunion. My grandparents are to the point where they are thinking about selling their house in Florida and moving back to Iowa where they can be close to family and assistance and make the final transition from apartment to assisted living to the great beyond. Hopefully this summer we can get all arrangements made for this but if not, perhaps next winter we will just fly to their house in Florida and stay in a motel nearby for our reunion instead of the beach.

Sunset on the Gulf coast
Despite not having the grandparents there, we had a good time on the Gulf coast with my parents and my brother and his family. It wasn't the location but the fact that we were all spending time together under one roof. The location this time was much different than the years before. This time it was very warm and wet the entire week instead of being cool and sunny. In fact, we saw the sun only for about 4 hours the morning after we arrived and then never saw it again. We still walked on the beach every morning though we struggled but more on that in the next post. We ate good food, played games, saw the latest Star Wars movie and spent lots of time drying our rain soaked clothes.

On the way back, we had genuine concern on whether or not we could make the drive since it carried us along flooded Mississippi and Missouri river valleys. We left at five in the morning to give us plenty of daylight before reaching them and we only just did. We got to the preceding edge of the flooding at dusk and the roads were just passable having been cleared as the water receded. At one point it was less than a foot below our interstate highway we were traveling on. As we continued over the flooded river valleys, it got dark so all we could see was the headlights reflecting off the surface of the water so we knew there was devastation all around. Fortunately, we were able to get through and make it to home much later that evening.

Daytime on the Gulf coast

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lessons In Mud


I've done some drywall patching over the years but this is only the second full room drywall project I have attempted. I'm getting better but I still have some learning to do.

The first time was when I redid the entire basement at my previous house. I had my brother and father help me but it was the first time for all of us. I bought a self adhesive drywall tape for all the seams but it required lots of mudding to cover it and in-between every coat, we sanded as if it might be our final coat, i.e. we did a meticulous job. Not only did it require lots of time and extreme amounts of effort, it was all undone when we applied the next coat. When we finally finished and thought everything was perfect, we applied paint and of course all the defects that we missed showed up easily. I was so disgusted that I just kept on painting and hid the defects with furniture or pictures.

This time around, I decided to do some things differently. I switched to using the drywall paper tape that isn't self adhesive since it is much thinner thinking that I wouldn't have to use as much mudding compound and thus not have to sand so much afterwards. The second thing I did was to just sand things smooth between coats but not worry about the defects until the final sanding. My thought was that perhaps I defects would hide themselves in subsequent coats and the final sanding would make everything look nice.

In the end, I spent much less time and effort sanding, especially on the first couple coats of mud. I could sand the entire room in about an hour and have it remudded and hour later, much less than the half day I would have spent sanding using my old method. On the final coat I still spent that half day getting everything perfect but since I didn't have two half days before it, I had more pep in my engine to complete the task.

However, switching to the thin paper drywall tape didn't work out so well for me. In short, I got bubbles everywhere. The tape apparently would unstick itself from the mud bed I pressed it into and then dry that way. Then when you pressed on the area after it dried, the bubble would crack and leave a horrible looking scar on the wall. The only way to fix this was to cut the bubbles out with a knife and repatch those areas which I did in about thirty spots around the room. The only thing I can think that may have caused that was that I didn't have enough mud initially spread on the joint so that there were dry spots where the tape wouldn't stick and thus create the bubbles. If I do this again, I guess I would give the tape one more go and see if that fixed the problem because I had less problems sanding through the mud and exposing the tape as I did with the much thicker self adhesive tape that I had previously used.

When I finished prepping the walls and primed them with paint, I found several defects that I hadn't sanded down well enough. However this time I wasn't so worn out from all the sanding so after the primer dried, I simply remudded or sanded down the areas and reprimed them again before I painted the room to the final color. I am pleased how it turned out.