Made at 173: Fixing Mistakes

November 24, 2018


Those of you old enough to remember (like me) can think back to the days when Bob Ross created miraculous paintings right before your eyes every week on PBS in the 1980s and '90s.  Every once in awhile, Bob wold make a miscue with his brush (although I could never see it), and his famous saying, in dulcet tones, was "We don't make mistakes, we have happy little accidents."  The spirit of this quote is that in making a mistake happy little accident, we learn and often create something even better!  Well, yesterday I messed up (in a number of ways) in making the end panels for the radiator cover...


In the spirit of such a quote, @rickmclellan replied to the 173 Tweet (yes, 173 has a Twitter feed!) with encouraging words, reminding me that learning from our mistakes happy little accidents is a process.  And how true it is!  Today I re-started the end panels from scratch.  What looked like this yesterday...


...today looks this way...


This design turned out much better for a number of reasons.  First, as you can see below, there is no rail toward the bottom of the panel now, which will make it so much easier to remove the cover if necessary:


It was also much easier to build than the contraption I created yesterday...


Today I just used butt-joints and the GRK screws I'm so fond of...


Also, I wasn't fond of how close the panel was to the radiator air vent...


I worried that one little shift could easily snap the vent right off the radiator!  So, after building the end panels today, I used a Forstner bit...


 to cut a recess in the top rail and a little into the panel itself to give the vent some more space:


I also adjusted the width of the panels.  Now, this doesn't seem like a big deal, but the excitement is that this was my first opportunity to use the edge guide on my Rockwell Versa Cut...


Talk about easy peasy!  Straight as an arrow!  This was also an opportunity to use my saber saw.  Again, not really exciting in and of itself, but I always appreciate this tool because my parents gave me this saw the first Christmas I moved back to New York after leaving the Army almost 30 years ago.  The miles on this good ol' Craftsman!


I'm so glad Craftsman is making a comeback!  I'm a bit of a sentimentalist, and these were the tools of choice for my dad when I was a kid.  So there we are...back on track after a happy little accident yesterday!

Made at 173: Radiator Cover Build-Failure

November 23, 2018


Yesterday I made such good progress on the radiator cover that I had fantasies in my mind of finishing the project today!  I mean, I actually thought the end-panels would be built, the whole thing assembled and the first coat of primer on - that kind of finished.  When will I ever learn?  Here's where yesterday ended:


I woke up today rarin' to go, went to Lowes and picked up a 3/4"x12"x4' engineered board (no idea what its actual name is) and a 1x3 to build the end-panels.  First I built the frames...


...using some scrap 2x4 pieces because of course - one 1x3 wasn't enough.  After building the first frame I tested it for fit and quickly realized 1x3 was waaay too big for the little space around the end of the radiator.  So, I ripped the 1x3 and 2x4 pieces down to a more manageable size, re-built the frames and cut the end caps...


What a joy to have a modern compound miter saw!  Made for quick, easy and accurate cuts, even on a 12" wide board!  A far cry from the old chop saw I used for years!


Anyway, after re-sizing the frames for the end panels, I got so excited I glued and nailed the first  cap to the frame.  When I headed for the dining room I noticed I had affixed the wrong panel to the frame I made for the left end of the radiator!  I was able to remove the cap from the frame, but left a gluey mess.  Nonetheless, I persevered and got all the pieces put together correctly, and set them in place for a dry fit.  


It looks okay from the outside but good grief, it still wasn't right!  Actually, it was right, but it just wouldn't do.  Here's why...


The problem is, everything is so jamb-packed in that once everything is assembled, there would be no way to remove the cover if needed without dismantling it.  Bummer!  Worse yet though - I misfigured somehow and the ends were way too wide, creating a gulf between the cover and the radiator...


That just won't work!  So, tomorrow I will scrap the end panels and start afresh.  I have no one to blame but myself - this is the product of building a la carte instead of making a plan!  As a matter of fact, here's the sum-total of the planning (on paper anyway) I did for this project:


So far, NONE of those numbers were right!  Well, tomorrow's another day!

Made at 173: Radiator Cover - Part 2

November 22, 2018


Here's where we left off:


The frame was done and it was time to cut the slats.  I fretted forever trying to figure out the necessary width of the slats and the spacing between them.  I've always been a little shaky with geometry, so I looked up different calculators and formulas.  In the end, I chose 1x3s for the slats, and by using some leftover parting bead from the aborted window project, it turned out 1/2" spacing was perfect!


If you notice above, the fifth slat in is longer than the others, that's because of a few features that went into my final design of the cover...


Obviously I'm not much of an artist, but this gives an ideas of what the plan was.  I figured in a space at the top to allow war air out (heat rises after all) and a cold air return at the bottom.  Also, I want to be able to use this as a bit of a window seat, and that's where the long slats come in - just a little extra support!  Moving on, you know how everyone has their peccadilloes?  Well, as you may know if you've been following 173 for any amount of time, I have a tendency to over-build, and because I worry about the expansion and contraction of the wood due to the heat, I used some serious screws to attach the slats...


GRK Fasteners makes some great products!  Don't worry, this isn't an add - they don't even know I exist...but I used their architectural screws when I re-furbished the front stoop, and was amazed!  Sounds like hyperbole but seriously, they're tough as railroad spikes and, because of their design, I didn't need to pre-drill at all!  So when deciding on the screws for this project - it was an easy decision!


Here's something worth mentioning, I took great pains to ensure the slats were as near-perfect to perpendicular (look at me - using geometry terms!) as I could get them.  Only the very last slat needed to be skewed about a millimeter at one end to make it right, otherwise the slats went on rather quickly.


I really wanted to line the screws up nicely so the face looked nice from behind, but I was trying to not put a screw in a growth ring so as to aide in adding strength and avoid splitting.  It worked but the backside looks like a prison break!  And here's where we leave off today!


Now starts the details and building the ends of the cover...Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Made at 173: Starting on the Dining Room Radiator Cover

November 18, 2018


Winter came early this year!


Of course for me it's okay because I love winter!  The problem is, when last we met I had taken out windows in the bedroom, and planned to get them painted and rehab'ed before winter came.  As it turns out, I did get some work done...


But then the winter turned and I had to put the windows back in before the snow flew.  In this case I ripped a new parting bead so I could re-install them...


I also managed to restring the window weights... 


But alas, the windows will have to wait 'til spring.  But all is not lost!  I decided now was as good a time as any to build a cover for the radiator in the dining room.  This particular radiator has looked bad for some time, as you can see in this picture from a few years ago...


But after all the work that's gone into the dining room, it's really time to do something with the radiator.  Finally, today I got started on building a cover.  Like just about everything I do around here, I've contemplated the design, finish and building steps faaar too long!  But - that's how I roll I suppose.  One thing I try to do in the dining room is to make different pieces look like they belong together.  It all started with the table, elements of which I tried to carry over to the hutch and plant stand, and certainly to the fireplace and bookshelf built-ins.  So, after cutting the rails and stiles...


...I decided to round over the outer edge of the stiles leaving a little reveal...


...like I had done on the fireplace facing legs...


Then, using the new Kreg jig I got with my birthday money (yes, I still get money for my birthday!) I made the pocket screw holes...


...and assembled the face-frame.


Obviously, there's still a long way to go but I'm happy with what's done so far.  And here's where we leave off for the day:


We'll see how the week goes at work, hoping to get more done in the evenings!

Window Work - What was I Thinking?

November 4, 2018

I've done windows here at 173 quite a few times now.  I put new windows in the back porch, new windows in the basement, re-glazed and painted the window on the north side of the house...


But, for a couple reasons, I've always avoided working on the interior of the windows.  The first reason is that the woodwork is so beautiful I've been afraid I'd mess it up.  The second is that they look intimidatingly complex.  So much so that I've had to watch videos and study diagrams...


But, the other day I took the air conditioner out of the window, and thought - gee, I should re-glaze this window - it won't take long!  THAT should have been my first sign - I'm ALWAYS wrong when I say something won't take long.  Besides that, here's the radar picture for the day I pulled the windows out (173 is in New York):


And here it is the day after:


Life's about timing right?  Anyway, the die was cast, the Rubicon crossed, now I was committed to the task!  Here we go...A number of things are noticeable in this picture:


The color of the interior wood is beautiful, but towards the top you can see where some of the shellac is alligatoring.  You can also see where (many years ago) some green paint was left on the window, and also noted is some of the crumbling green-painted glaze accumulated in the corner.  And, the overall condition of the sill and the storm window. 


I was surprised when I pulled off the first window-stop (above) and the whole window just wouldn't come out.  Turns out the windows run on an aluminum track.  


It took awhile to figure out, but after close inspection I figured out that the tracks were held in place with just two tiny nails.


So, the picture above shows both the top and bottom windows open a bit.  I can honestly say this is the first time the top window has been down in some 21 years!  Here's a picture of the outside of one of the windows...


I bet 173 was strikingly beautiful when it was white with fresh-painted green trim!  The glaze was so old it took very little time or effort to remove: 


Here's one window after sanding and putting in new glaze...


Definitely not as good as a pro, I monkeyed with the corners for a long time but never really got them figured out!


When pulling out the windows I broke the parting beads that separate the windows.  I can't find a pre-cut board that fits properly, so now I'm cutting my own...


Well, it's November, obviously more to come!!

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