The Radiator Cover Megapost

December 22, 2019


Welcome to the Radiator Cover Megapost combining the 5 or 6 posts about the cover made for the dining room radiator in '18 - '19.



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!



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!








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!

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!

In our last post I wrote about the happy little accidents always attendant when I try to do a project a la carte instead of measuring and planning and sketching.  For instance, the first version of the end panels for the radiator cover...


But, I've since recovered and made consistent progress over the course of this past week.  The dining room redecoration, really started back in 2015 when I woke up one morning and decided that was the day 173 would finally have a dining room table...

    
...and immediately undertook to refinish it...


Throughout this protracted process, I endeavored to incorporate into each piece, a feature from another piece in the room.  One of those features is the rope applique that started with the table, carried over to the fireplace and now to the radiator cover.


Another feature is the fleur-de-lis, which started with the fireplace...


Which is the symbol of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, with which my unit was attached during Operation Desert Storm.  Besides that, I've just always like the symbol.  So, now I'm carrying it over to the radiator cover in a couple ways.  Primarily, I wanted to carry over the plinth idea 


Because the scale of the radiator cover is smaller than the fireplace, I needed to use wood thinner than 3/4".  It kinda worked out well because I also like to try to incorporate original pieces of 173 into projects whenever I can.  Back in '14 I did a lot of work on the basement, including the workshop...


...and I was able to salvage a couple boards, one of which was 1/2" thick - perfect for what I needed now!  


...which also was used to put a fleur-de-lis medallion on each end panel...


Here's another view:


Each night this week, after staying late at work, I made it a point to get at least some small task done, until by Saturday morning, the project looked like this:


Little did I know that this weekend would net the most advances in prepping!  Everything got caulked...


...and primed...


...and the first coat of paint applied!


As recommended, I put some foil-covered rigid insulation behind the radiator to reflect the heat into the room rather than warming the outside wall!


And now, the cover is assembled and in place:


You may have noticed that the pictures show screw holes and an unfinished top, there's a reason for that.


The Christmas tree goes in the dining room, and it's time to get 173 ready!  So, after Christmas the radiator cover will be finished - last bit of caulking, screw holes filled, second coat of paint, antiquing glaze applied, and polycryllic applied.  Geeze - not nearly as close to done as I thought!


I was looking through the progress pictures from the radiator cover and thought maybe it'd be fun to show some of the less-than-glamorous shots taken along the way.  We'll start with the new Kreg jig that really motivated me to get this project under way!  Here it is with the vacuum attached...


I know that's not very exciting but I love the Kreg jigs, so much so that I painted my old, beat up metal toolbox just to gussy it up for my Kreg tools...


Of course the new jig doesn't fit, but it's perfect for the rest of the jigs and supplies...


Anyway, after the stiles were cut, I used the 1/4" roundover router bit to cut a profile into the outer edges of the end stiles.  This will give them a bit of architectural interest, which will really show when the glazing is done.


And here's the radiator cover face frame in its very early stages.  


This was the first project where I really started to appreciate all the features of my new sliding miter saw!  If you look closely at the top of this board, you'll notice the flange that pivots from the saw's support arms making repeated cuts sooo much easier!  I also learned how to effectively use the built-in clamps, as well as how nice having a sliding miter saw is - as opposed to my old chop saw.


I spent a couple hours just trying to figure out the requisite number of slats, and the proper spacing:


Who would have thought putting in slats would be so complicated!  Of course, I probably overthought it.


Then there was the old 173 board I had saved a fews years back.  This was the only board I had with the perfect thickness for the plinth to carry the fleur-de-lis...


So I free-handed a couple plinths, but couldn't quite get the angles the same on both sides.


And I got close once...


Then it dawned on me!  I used a stop block on the miter saw!


And ended up with a pretty nice plinth!


So, that was just a few bonus shots just to tide me over 'til after the holidays when I can finish the project once and for all!  In the meantime, another picture of where we are at this point...


Getting there!

At long last the radiator cover is finished!  I started this project all the way back in November, and as usual - thought I could do it in a weekend.  It all started because so much work had been done on the dining room,


but the one last (and ugly) thing that remained was the radiator:


So, in November, off to work I went...


I had done some rough calculating...




But still ended up with a bit of a mess.  The end panels were poorly designed and had to be re-fashioned:


I also put in features to try to tie the cover in with features on the hutchtableplant stand and the built-in.  In this case, a plinth with the fleur-de-lis, and some rope applique:

 

And the cover really began to take shape:


A couple coats of primer and a few more of paint later:


All the pieces in the dining room are painted with Valspar's Polar Star in exterior enamel:

It's funny because in most light, the Polar Star doesn't look nearly as gray, as a matter-of-fact - it really looks like a toned-down white.  Which was actually part of the master plan way back when the years-long dining room makeover first began with the dining room table:


Anyway, the next step was applying the antiquing glaze.  For most of the pieces in the dining room, the glazing was done with Valspar's antiquing glaze.  

But, when it came time to glaze the built-in, Valspar had discontinued this product.  After faaar too much research, I settled on General Finish's glaze.


It's a good product, and worked great on the built-in, but it has waaay too fast a drying time.  I started glazing the radiator cover with it, but it ended up just looking dirty...


So I had to do some re-painting...


Then, lucky me, I found that I still had half a bottle of Valspar's glaze in the workshop.  This was so much better with a 15 minute dry time!  And with that, the cover is finished!


And looking down the other way, you can even see the plant stand in the background...


Finally, here it is in its natural habitat:


See ya soon!

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