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This Old Crack House

From log house to farmhouse. Farmhouse to townhouse. Townhouse to apartment house. Apartment house to crack house. Crack house to our house. Our house to our home.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

In 2008 I Resolve Blah, Blah, Blah

Last year I made these resolutions. You can check it HERE if you really don't believe me.


Not smack my fingers with a hammer, not get aniline dye on my face, not get grouters finger, not suffer any plumbing woes, not get arrested while taking Elizabeth shopping, not electricute myself, not to buy any more sausage stuffers, get rid of the world's heaviest bath tub once and for all .... AND to ACTUALLY move into the place!


So, lets tally the results and do a carryover ..... I'm still alive. Plumbing woes didn't work. The bath tub is outside the house so we moved a little bit in the right direction there and oh yeah, we still haven't moved in. No surprise there.


So this year I will get the chimney rebuilt, the others lined. The second pellet stove installed. The front porch removed and maybe rebuilt. Lots of itty bitty crap done and maybe, just maybe we will move in.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Refinishing Vintage Lighting (part 2)

For those of you who have been waiting for the next installment of this cliffhanger of an article, here it is!

The next morning I stuck my head outside the doghouse. I failed to see my shadow and realized several things. It wasn't February yet. I really should move the dog house out of the basement someday soon and most importantly, it was time to paint my light parts.


I spray painted them with Rustoleum Metallic Gold enamel paint and the result was this.







Kinda boring, eh? Time to spice them up a bit.

Well, I have this jar of acrylic glaze left over from when we painted one of the rooms in the "Old Crack House", I could also have used an acrylic varnish but that was in the basement of the aforementioned "Crack House" and I was three blocks away feeling kind of lazy. I mixed some raw umber acrylic paint with some of the glaze and brushed it over the gold being sure to allow it to sit in the detailed areas in order to enhance the detail. This also darkens the gold color and gives it a bit more color depth.


Did you notice how I used the washing machine as a workbench and a back drop once again?
After this had dried I painted the black detail in by hand using a #1 artist brush. I let that dry which doesn't take very long and was ready for the fun part.
Now for the "Magic". Get ready to throw the eggs and rotten vegetables .....

I painted over the the entire painted area with a thick coat of amber shellac. I was certain to allow it to pool in those crevices to enhance the detail and darken the gold paint. It adds another depth of color to the gold spray paint.




In this picture the piece on the left has been shellacked, the piece on the right has not. If you can't see the difference you could certainly smell it in my basement!

The next thing I did was apply two coats of clear shellac tinted with turmeric. I have a small baby food jar of this stuff left over from refinishing an old light fixture several weeks back. This actually acts as a "glaze" and adds a golden color to the high spots. At this point the fixtures have a super wet look. Too glossy really.

So I sprayed them with a satin water based polyurethane, rewired them

and now they look like this

I put them on Ebay this afternoon.

Oh, I almost forgot. This is the one we are keeping. It is way too art deco to give up!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An Unforgetable Christmas

No one wanted to cook this year so we spent Christmas Eve at the "Outback Steakhouse" where the rack of lamb was the popular choice. This ended up being a good decision in the end. Christmas day began at 8:30 AM with a phone call from my mom in England which woke me up. Elizabeth managed to sleep until 9:00 AM and then took off down the stairs to see if Santa had stopped by. He managed to give her everything she asked for and a tiny bit more (our little trooper doesn't want for very much) and she proceeded to play with her toys for a few hours until Grandma and Grand dad stopped by to pick us up so we could go ice skating downtown.
Elizabeth was looking forward to ice skating and was quite confident she could do it. After all, she had watched "Caillou" ice skate on PBS. After a few times around the rink with me she wanted to go off on her own and did very well until she fell after about 20 feet of shuffling.
To cut a long story short, she broke her leg (a fractured tibia to be exact) and we spent a couple of hours at the hospital where she was very brave. She smiled when she was told that she will be spending more time watching TV over the next few days. After getting a splint put on she insisted on stopping at her grandparents house where a forgetful Santa had left something for her as an after thought. Surprise! Her very own bicycle!
Isn't it ironic don't you think?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Presenting .....

The "Steam Punk" sink alcove




I made the lights from some copper plumbing pipe that I had lying around. I did have to buy a few bits new. Since there is no space behind the wall to run wires, I made a wire run from the copper pipe that dumps the wires out under the sink where I have to install a GFCI outlet. Her is a close up of one of the the lights.



Those coiled wires at the top add to the effect but they double up as a grounding wire which runs inside the pipe to the plug outlet so that the copper pipe doesn't become "live". I finally found a use for all that cloth covered copper wire (from the antiquated alarm system that was installed in the 1890s) that I pulled out of the floors when I sanded them . Candlabra sockets insert nicely into 3/4 inch pipe but to use Edison bulbs I had to use an adaptor which looks aged because I painted the cardboard insulator sleeve with shellac.

I learned a few things about reproduction light bulbs this week. There are two types of "vintage" look bulbs on the market. There are several types availiable and they are all expensive. I bought a couple of bulbs from a light parts supplier for my ceiling lights that I want to make. (The critical parts are on back order so we all have to wait on those!) They are made by "Bulbrite" and say "Made in China" on the bulb. They look like old bulbs and the 40 watt bulb puts out about 30 watts but the filament has supports and isn't carbon. After ordering these at $12.50 each I managed to score a batch of 6 working reproduction carbon filament bulbs on Ebay for less than $30.00 including shipping. These bulbs are all 60 watt and put out about 25 watts but have a cool orange glow. These are on in the picture of the alcove above. The filament is not supported at all on the carbon filament bulbs. They are certainly better for ambiance than the Bulbrite bulbs but not brightness or energy savings! The carbon filament bulbs are made by "Ferrowatt" or by "Kyp-go". The latter supplies Rejuvenation with their bulbs.
So let me show you what I made tonight



1890s style table lights! These are a surprise for the missus. The bulb on the left is the Bulbrite bulb, on the right is the carbon filament bulb.
On a side note, that concrete sink has been sealed with a wet look sealer that cost $22.00 a gallon and all I needed was less than a cup of the stuff. (Looks like I need to make a few sinks to sell to use up the extra sealer!) That is why it is so shiney. Here is how the inside looks. Amazing what can be done with concrete.



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Refinishing Vintage Lighting (part 1)

A few days back I mentioned how we found some 1930s wall lights and I was going to re-paint them and rewire them and see if anyone wanted to buy them for their house. It appears that a few people are interested in knowing how I did them and since I don't have a progress report on the house just yet, I will divulge all my dirty little secrets because enquiring minds want to know! I get a lot of hits on this site from people wanting to know how to strip paint from metal. This post should answer all those questions. I strip paint from metal by either putting the items in a coffee can with some chemical paint stripper covering them, putting paint stripper on an item and sealing it in a plastic garbage bag overnight (if the item is large) or by boiling the items in water. Which method I use depends solely on which house I am at and how lazy I am feeling at the time. With the first two methods the items could be ignored for days but the last method involves a little bit of work and a highly sophisticated piece of equipment. Here is a photo of ours in action.



I choose to use the "electric wok on the Maytag washer for a work bench in the basement" method opposed to the "perfectly good saucepan on the stove as a workbench in the kitchen" method. Either method will get the paint off the metal items but either method could also land you in the doghouse for a week depending on the quality and usefulness of the crucible containing the water and whether or not you tell the wife what you are doing. If in serious doubt, I would recommend the "old pan on a camp burner on a workbench in the garage" method but would sneak a few pillows and a blanket into the doghouse just in case.
After a few hours and refilling the wok with water a couple of times the metal objects look slightly better than when I bought them, see



If you spend a little time brushing them with a brass wire brush which you can buy at a big box retailer, rinse them and place them on the lid of the wok after remembering to turn the thing off they look like this!



If you forget to turn the wok off and go to bed leaving it on all night you will know about it the next day and will be glad to have placed those pillows and a blanket in the doghouse! (Don't ask how I know.)
(To be continued .........)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Great Shellac Quandary of 2007!

This was left as a comment by Amalie over at "Oh Bungalow" I felt it required a post of its very own to answer.

"You've done some really beautiful things-- especially with shellac! That's why I thought I'd ask for your advice now that we've decided to shellac our antique heart pine floors. That's how they were originally finished, and beautiful warm amber tones-- from blonder to a deep red mahogany color. They were in need of a refinish, so we've sanded them and decided to go back to shellac. Goodwin Pine suggested using a 3lb cut of dark dewaxed shellac, thinned to a wash (wouldn't that be the same as, say, a 1lb cut?) and then using a water-based poly on top. We can only find regular amber shellac, premixed as a 3lb cut not dewaxed. Any suggestions on finding the flakes at a reasonable price? We also have no idea how much coverage you really get out of a gallon, or how many coats we ought to do...I guess that last one depends on seeing what we like as we go or if we get regular amber or garnet(which is better?). I just hate having to guess at ordering-- too much that's difficult to return or not enough that's gone halfway through-- or the wrong thing alotgether. It's the first time either of us has ever done much with shellac, so we're kind of in over our heads...Any advice you can give us would be really great!!! "


I remember being in the same predicament way back when we were ready to start finishing the woodwork. There were no blogs about using shellac back then so I read everything I could find and then ordered a bunch of seed lac and shellac flakes from shellac.net. I also bought a can of Zinsser Bullseye amber shellac from Home Depot or Lowes. I wrote this post a while back and a couple more around the same time describing the experimentation process. What I can tell you is this. Rub a little linseed oil or mineral spirits (paint thinner) on the sanded wood to see if it darkens. If it darkens then that is the color it will be with any kind of clear finish. Adding shellac whether it is lemon, amber or garnet won't really matter because the tone of the shellac is lost by the color of the wood. When I played with the lemon shellac and the dark seed lac I found that in the end there wasn't a huge difference in the finished wood. The differences were so subtle that it is lost in something as big as a floor where there are so many variations in the wood planks. It would make a bigger difference if applying it to new wood and possibly maple or oak. I think you will find that your old pine is going to turn an amber color right off. In the end I settled on only using the store bought clear or amber shellac because it was easier to acquire when I would run out. The mix and color was consistent and most importantly I didn't have to spend huge amounts of time filtering the bits out! If you add the price of 3 lbs. of shellac and a gallon of alcohol and figure it might give you a little more than a gallon of shellac the price is comparable or even less if you buy the pre-mixed stuff. I have gone through gallons of the stuff at our place, maybe a dozen or so.


Use a 2" brush and apply the shellac two or three board widths at a time along the length of the room keeping a wet leading edge to prevent lap marks.I think I averaged two or three quarts per floor. Our rooms are big though and I tended to thin to a two pound cut. You can mix amber with clear and end up with a paler tone. You can also alternate layers of clear and amber. It really won't make a noticeable difference since it is a floor after all and not an exquisite piece of furniture. You can darken shellac with aniline dye. You can tint clear shellac with a little turmeric for a golden yellow color. The wood will start to darken with more and more coats of amber shellac. This starts to be most noticeable after the third coat. I applied at least three coats and sometimes four. I lightly sanded with 220 grit sand paper after the first sealing coat and every two coats after that to get the rough bits and dust out. Since you plan to finish with a polyurethane then stop at three coats of shellac because the poly will give you the final smooth surface. I would apply two thin coats of polyurethane as the final finish. Unless you are going for a high gloss wet look, I suggest that you finish the floor with two coats of paste wax furniture polish applied with superfine steel wool and buffed with a rag. Your floors will be super slippery for a week or two but they will feel super smooth and sweeping them with a brush becomes so much easier! It's fun watching the pets slide across the floor too! So for ease of acquisition I would tell you to buy a gallon of clear shellac, two quarts of amber and a quart of polyurethane. That should do at least two average floors. You could have the floors done in two days because the three coats of shellac and a coat of poly could be applied in about 6 hours and your second coat of poly put on the next morning. Waxing is a little hard on the knees and fingers but worth it. It eliminates that plastic look that polyurethane gives.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wall Lights Anyone?

We went on an antique mall excursion last weekend and scored 4 wall sconce lights that were in dire need of some TLC (tender loving care for the overseas visitors). Three of the lights are matched so we have a pair and a spare. The fourth one doesn't go with anything and was already stripped of paint and missing some parts. That is the one we want to keep of course though I have no idea where we can put it without putting in a new electric line and wall box. The set of three looked like this and I have already done my painting magic on the third.



Any way, I am in the process of stripping the last two and I have some light parts on order to refinish these (and to complete the "Steampunk" ones that I threatened to make a few weeks back). I have to replace the switches and have already rewired and soldered the original plug outlets so that they can be used. The patent on the back of the plug is pictured below and gives us an earliest date of 1928 though the cream color and sprayed flowers of the originals wreak of the 1930s when bright colors could be manufactured cheaply and thus were in "Vogue".



Here is what I have done with the one that I have painted. I plan to do the same to the other two.



There is no reason why we need to keep these. We have all the wall lights we will ever need for this place. If anyone is interested in these let me know. I will consider any reasonable offer otherwise they will go on ebay and you can take your chances. They will all be finished and ready to install in the next couple of weeks. I am waiting on parts. I can forward pictures to interested parties when the things are done.
For those DIY people who want to know exacly how I painted these you can leave a comment and if there is any interest I will type up a post and maybe show a picture of the light we are keeping!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Houses in the "Hood"

Here is an interesting house;




It has a double bay section in the front. It was bought by a couple who lived across the street from our residence about the same time we bought the "Crack House." They are the third or fourth owner of this place I believe and I know they have a picture of it from about 1900 on their wall. It has been slowly getting painted. Every time I drive by it a new bit is done. I guess this would be catagorized as an Italianate cottage style.
There is another house just like it up the street that could use a little TLC.





Don't look at me! I've got my hands full with the two houses we already have....

Another Reason to Move to Dayton

This was posted on an AOL News bulletin and I thought it was good general information. I used to sell insurance between 1987 and 1994. It was an interesting experience. It taught me a lot about people. The official site is here if the link is still active.

Homeowners in some coastal and hurricane zones are about to see their home owners insurance premiums as much as double this year, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry information group. But you don't have to take the full hit. If you haven't already asked your insurer for discounts you may qualify for, now is the time to do so. If your home owners and auto insurance policy are from the same company, for example, you could get 5% to 15% off your homeowners premiums. So could membership organizations like the AARP or AAA, or even your alma mater's alumni association. And if you live in a hurricane or wildfire zone, improving the strength of your home -- by installing special protection on your windows and doors so they're more wind-resistant, for example -- could also get you a premium discount. (For details on the specific hazards in your area and suggestions on how to strengthen your home, use the ZIP code search of the Institute for Business and Home Safety Web site.) Regular cost: Homeowners insurance premiums are expected to average $776 in 2007, according to the Insurance Information Institute, up 2% to 4% compared with 2006. But coastal communities and hurricane zones will see premium hikes of 20% to 100%. Smart savings: Special discounts can save you as much as 20%, including discounts for disaster-proofing your home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Time for Christmas

I've been playing with some gift related stuff over at "Zazzle" and came up with a few new items that would be perfect for the single guy or gal in your family! Here is a preview!
I wonder what Freud would have to say about this?


Monday, December 10, 2007

Natural Progression

I guess it was inevitable really. After finishing umpteen doors, hundreds of feet of trim and molding and a crap load of windows I couldn't be happy. There had to be a void that needed to be filled. I mean, after all it has been several months since I held a heat gun in my hand or whiffed the aroma of shellac. What could I do to fill the void? There had to be something staring me in the face that I was missing. Then I realized that there was! About 4 years ago Deborah stripped the paint off an old chest of drawers then stored it in the garage where it has sat ever since. Every time I get in the car I would see it and say "One day I'm gonna finish that thing." Well that day (week) finally came. Since Elizabeth's grandparents have been sick for the last two weeks I haven't been able to get them to play the role of toddler sitter while I work on the "Crack House" so I was itching for a project that I could complete during the day while Elizabeth played in the front room. She played with her Barbies, ponies, puppies,crayons, did a jigsaw puzzle, chased the cats up and down the stairs (wait, she promised she would stop doing that), recited a score of nursery rhymes, read a couple of books and begged me to give her some Halloween candy. All this within a 15 minute time frame! Then I would get to play Candy land a dozen times followed by Saggy Baggy's Circle of Friends, Feed the Kitty, and the Dr Seuss Green Eggs and Ham Game until Elizabeth won and a couple more times until she won again, before being allowed to continue working on the chest of drawers.
It didn't need much in the way of stripping. The edges and corners of all the panels needed some attention and the mirror and arch needed to be stripped but that was it. It did need some sanding and of course a pass over with alcohol to remove some of the original shellac. Anyway, after much sanding, at least three coats of shellac and two coats of wax polish I present the chest of drawers which has been moved to the second bedroom where there is no room for it, just like there was no room for the stuff that it displaced and that will be hidden within its drawers.



I did get to do some work at the house on Sunday though. The back splash for the sink has been ground, polished, installed, grouted and slurried. All in the same day! Here is the current picture. That plumbing on the corner is a prototype for some side lights. Those plastic tubes on each side of the water valves will be replaced with copper that will hide the electric cable that supplies the side lights. Stay tuned for more, later!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Spreading the Love

I finally did something that I should have done a long time ago. I have added links from this site to many of the ones that link to me. So, if you are reading this and have a link to this site check and see if I have found you out and added a link back. There are some 30ish new links below the one to HouseBlogs.net on the right side of the page. If I missed you, let me know and I can add you. If you are reading this and haven't updated your blog in a while (and you know who you all are) you might want to do that too!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's All About the Money!

Like many other HouseBloggers out there we entered the Remodelling My Space blog competition in the hopes of winning some cold hard cash that we could use to help offset the cost of supplies (after paying taxes of course!) In order to move closer to completion of the "Old Crack House", which will soon be a seven year long project, I had hoped that we had a chance of winning the popularity contest portion for $1000.00. However, after getting an unlucky amount of votes in six months while others accumulated mounds of votes in minutes I realized that being popular was futile! Who needs to be popular anyway? Now the competition is over and the judges are off doing their thing this week and results will be posted in a week or so, but in the meantime I got this message from the site owner;

To kick off the Christmas season, we're going to have a little mini-contest that will end on Sunday night (December 2, 2007) at midnight....
Here is the contest criteria:
$100 will go to the blog who writes the most creative post about our 'Christmas Tree Decorating Ideas' pictures on this page (link to this page required):
http://www.remodelingmyspace.com/christmas-decoration-ideas/christmas-trees/pictures-decorated-christmas-tree-themes.htm
You know how much we love creativity, so be very creative with your post (no hints)!
Once completed and posted, send me an email with a link to your post, so it can be reviewed. Post must be entered by midnight Sunday December 2, 2007.
Judging will take place Monday and will be announced on The ideaBlog on Monday evening - we'll also send you an announcement.
Judge will be: my Mom. :) (Isn't Christmas about family?)
Who's up for a little Christmas tree decorating?!

So, since this may be my last chance at some $$$ for a while I have carefully thought about what I needs to be told.




There are a lot of people out there who will do crazy things for $100.00. In fact, I have been told that there is one particular woman on Third Ave who will do ANYTHING for $100.00. So if I win this I plan on going to seek her out, give her the money and get her to paint my house! Anyway, I digress.

I checked out that link about Christmas Trees and I realized a few things.
The first thing I realized is that people who have Christmas trees are loosely followers of one particular religious group. I doubt that devout Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Druids, Atheists or worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster would decorate their homes with Christmas trees.
The second thing I realized is that people who are contestants in the Remodelling My Space competition who got the same email message as me would have to believe in Christmas trees and be willing to put one in their own house before they would give up a link on their blog (and lose blogshare value). That means that some people may not bother to post anything and try to win a measly $100.00 especially if their blog share value would plummet from the added link. So maybe I actually have a chance!
The third thing I realized is that I really didn't have anything else to write about this weekend and most importantly ............ besides the fact that I am out of beer, I am now fully confident that with that $100.00, a couple of cases of beer and the help of that woman on Third Ave I can produce a thing of beauty like this




from my Christmas tree.