Das Beisler Haus: Erweiterung! Pt 1

October 27, 2019

The Beisler house has embarked on a huge project, one that will change the house profoundly.  As I understand it, Nephew is building an addition that will extend both his kitchen and the second floor.  I have to tell you - I have never undertaken such a large project so, kudos to Nephew!  It's fun to follow the progress, and I love that Nephew is a man of the same heart, with a desire to, in his own words, "do our best to make an old house to our dream house, a combination of old, new and some Fränkischer Tradition."  It'll be interesting to learn which traditions will be evident in the addition!  And so the project has begun and as with any other job there was prep work:

Because of the frost line in that part of Bavaria, the footers were dug to a depth of 90 cm, which is roughly 36 inches for us Imperial types.  Conversely, here at House 173, footers must be minimally 48 inches, or the equivalent of about 122 cm.  The footers are also 60 cm wide.

In Nephew's words, the foundation was made of our German Stahlbeton (steel-reinforced concrete), which required 6 cubic meters of concrete (again the Imperial equivalent of 212 cubic feet).

Then the foundation blocks were laid.  It looks like the skim coat has already been applied too, but it looks so smooth I wonder if it is some kind of sheet product?  Also, I'm not sure what the dots are, but they seem to be on the seams, which makes me think maybe this is a sheet product and perhaps the dots have some kind of mechanism that locks them together (?).

Then the subfloor for the extension's first floor went in. This picture really gives a sense of the scale of the addition's footprint:

And the supports in place, while all that dries.

It's clear this is going to be a great project, and so far all this has been done in 9 days!  Apparently the project will be complete by July of 2020.  It's funny, with as fast as this is getting done, I wondered why it would take til next year.  Well, for someone accustomed to wood houses, the answer didn't dawn on me...all this concrete and mortar needs to dry well before adding things like windows, etc.  They've already accomplished much more, but that'll come in the next post!  Here's a sneak peak:

Stresses me out just looking at it all!  Anyway, here are some bonus pictures:


812: The Home! - Taming the West Wind

October 26, 2019

Percy Bysshe Shelley, you know - Mary Shelley of Frankenstein fame's husband, expressed it so aptly...

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

And as autumn waned into winter, cold was the night when the west winds blew into the face of 812.  The house faced the west, and with that old door and the fact that the old place wasn't insulated back in the day, our family lived on the chilly side (definitely an understatement) in the winter when those west winds blew straight in the face of 812, right through the front door.  

My kid brother in 1972
The picture above was taken in 1972 when our family had been in the house for maybe a year or so, and I think we were renting at the time.  The west wind always knocked at that door behind my brother, and just inside that door was the living room...

I have no photographic evidence, and there's always the chance that the passage of decades has clouded my memory, but I think I recall mom occasionally turning on the oven and the burners on the stove to augment the heat from the furnace.  And I'm almost sure of this one - many were the days the house was imbued with the acridly-sweet smell of kerosene heaters!

By 1978 my folks had bought 812 and dad went right to work on the whole place.  I don't recall the order of things, but at some point it was time for the front porch to come off.  Dad's idea was to build an entry that faced south so every time someone came in, the cold wind wouldn't  just bum-rush the whole house.   I can still remember dad digging the footers and framing the room.  My most vivid memory though, was when dad framed the opening for the window.  

He didn't actually have the window yet, but knew the dimensions so he just went ahead and built it.  When the window arrived, it snapped into place and was installed with almost no need for shimming.  Pretty good figurin'!

I also remember that when he tore down the porch, he saved as many of the cedar shingles as he could so they could be placed in the areas where the porch roof met the house and where the new room met up with the front of the house.  From day one, the room blended in perfectly!

The inside became the perfect spot to enter the house instead of directly into the living room.  812 had a foyer!

Dad even built a bookcase in the room...

For years that bookcase displayed our baseball trophies and dad's collection of Avon decorative cologne decanters that mom gave him on birthdays and holidays.  I wish they still had those old decanters, but here's an internet picture in case you don't know what I'm talking about:

However, I still have some of the old trophies, and even put a couple in the bookcase in the dining room here at House 173.

The front room at 812, along with innumerable other changes made to the house, tamed the west wind and helped to make 812 truly the family home.  Here's what she looks like now!

Made at 173: The Workbench

October 13, 2019

I follow quite a few Youtubers who post about their woodworking, rehab and DIY projects, and every so often they post about building their incredible woodworking or shop workbench.  The variety of bench styles tremendous!  Some are beautiful -

Some complicated:

And some are behemoths!

And some are simple and utilitarian.  But no matter the adjective, the single most important common factor is that they serve the needs of the user.  If you're like me, a simple homeowner, DIY'er and weekend woodworker, it's fun to look at these most important of all tools, and I just wanted to take a minute to show the workbench here at 173.  Brace yourselves though - it's not nearly as fancy as any of those pictured above.

It's of the very simplest of construction, but this simple bench has faithfully served 173 for some 20 years now.  It's not huge by any means, but measures 78" long by 27" deep and 34" tall.  I've thought about building a new "fancier" bench, but I have a bit of a sentimental attachment to this ol' beast, here's why... Back in 1999, relatives from Germany came for a visit to help me put in new basement windows and a new basement floor.  After two gruelling weeks, we built this "temporary" bench with old 2x4s and 2x8s that were left by the Moshers when we bought 173.  So, the bench cost a grand total of $0 to build.  To sum up, the 173 workbench was:

1- Made at 173
2- Made by family
3- Made of old growth wood that has been at 173 longer than us
4- Made of nothing but scrap wood.

Put those altogether and there's the crux of why I've never seriously considered replacing it.   I did however, pick up a new bench for the main part of the basement...

That bench holds the drill press and stores some of the benchtop tools like the router, scrollsaw, etc, and gets a lot of use too.  But the workshop bench is the main one here!  Here's what she looked like when I was fixing up the basement a bit...

What a mess that was!  You can barely make out the bench.  After the basement was finished, including the workshop, 

I started making alterations here and there to the bench.  The benchtop is made up of three 2x8s and I used to keep an old hallway runner on top - I'm not sure why.  But with the kitchen re-do in 2017, I put in Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring and had a bunch of small plank cutoffs leftover, so I thought heck - why not give the bench a strong, durable top over the 2x8s?

It's been on the bench for over a year, and this stuff has held up nicely, and makes it super easy to clean!  Then, a couple months ago, noticing I was running out of product and tool storage space, I decided to add some drawers...

Of course they're made from scrap pine and MDF boards, I just can't help myself!  The drawer fronts came from the old dining room bookshelves removed when we re-did the dining room in '17 - '18. 

And I kept the drawer-slide mechanism uber simple!

But for the large drawer on the right, there was an obstacle...

The vise has been in that spot pretty much since day one, and I really didn't want to move it because it seems to be the perfect spot for it, so I just worked around it - literally...

That's important because I built the drawers a little short so they could be recessed out of the way in the event (which is actually not a rarity for me) that I need to clamp something to the bench...

 The only other feature to point out is that this workbench is rock solid.  No matter what I do, this thing doesn't move!  Of course that may be due in large part to the fact that it's secured to the foundation...

And that's the workbench at 173.  It's no work of art, it's not complicated, in fact - it's probably among the ugly ducklings of workbenches.  But it works.  It's solid, original, sentimental in some odd way, and I love it!

Here's a couple bonus shots...

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