Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Two men, Three boys and a Horse!

Anyone wanting to build an authentic period brick sh*thouse needs to get one of these!

Here is a pre Civil War advertisement that I found amusing.

If you were to ask what you could achieve with two men, three boys and a horse today, you might find yourself in front of a judge. I'll bet even money that the horse would have a lawyer, too!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Maybe I'll try this next year!

I found another interesting Victorian solution in "Lee's Priceless Recipes". Just think, if I had done this a few months ago my pipes wouldn't have frozen this month and would be doing the Happy Dance and not singing the Plumbing Blues

Cellars, Freezing In.- Paste the wall and ceiling over with 4 or 5 thicknesses of newspapers, make a curtain of the same material, paste over the window at the top of the cellar; paste the papers to the base joist overhead, leaving an air space between them and the floor; it is better to use a coarse brown paper; whatever paper is employed sweep down the walls thoroughly, and use a very strong size to hold the paper to the stones; it is not necessary to press the paper down into all the depressions of the wall; every air space beneath it is an additional defense against the cold.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rejuvenation Lighting Analysis

I got my 30th anniversary edition of the Rejuvenation Light Fixtures catalogue yesterday and promptly sat down and "Ooohhed and Ahhhed" at the fixtures. Then I thought about when I got my first light fixtures from them in 1997 and whether the prices were much different. So, what do you think I did? Actually I went to my closet and looked through a bunch of old catalogues that I have kept and found the 20th anniversary catalogue from 1997 and the 12the edition catalogue from 1998! Then I went through and compared some fixtures. My findings are quite interesting. If anyone from Rejuvenation is reading this I'm certain there is a perfectly good explanation to what I am about to reveal and it would be quite appropriate to post it in the comments. I am posting this purely as information and without malice or intent to cause problems. I would expect a 30% average increase over a 10 year period based on a 3% cost of living adjustment per year so any results in that range would be satisfactory. Some of the results are way beyond that range.
There are many more fixtures now then there were in 1997 and some of the old fixtures have been discontinued or at least aren't listed in the new catalogue so I can only compare fixtures that are still in production or only slightly different from the original. I am also only listing the fixture price without any shades since that could cause the price to vary in an unfair manner. I'm not going to post pictures of the fixtures, you can go to their website to view them if you want. I haven't listed all of the fixtures either because I don't have the time. Instead I have listed 10 fixtures of increasing compexity and then another 5 with a big increase over the 1998 catalogue price since some weren't in production in 1997. I have listed the current name and model # of the fixture and have listed prices in the catagory 1 finish (the least expensive) since I understand that metal costs have increased substantially in the last three years for certain metals. I have also listed the 1997 price as well as the current price and the % increase as a % of the 1997 price. I shall not express any opinions or conclusions other than, if you plan to purchase certain fixtures in the next ten years you may want to do it now. Otherwise start saving.

I can't post this in a chart format with Blogger so the figures may not line up properly with the column title.

The "Not so Bad News"

Model # /NAME /$1997 /$2007 /$Increase /%Increase

AA9479 /Burnside / $54 / $79 / $25 / 46%
AB0976 /St Helens / $57 / $72/ $15 / 26%
AB6982 /Carlton / $112 / $126 / $14 / 13%
AA2513 /Upshur / $63 / $81 / $18 / 29%
AA4819 /Mocks Crest / $156 / $212 / $56 / 36%
AA0399 /Abernethy / $310 / $409 / $99 / 32%
AA3858(4) /Brooklyn / $284 / $375 / $71 / 32%
AA9047 /Fremont / $272 / $352 / $80 / 29%
AA1696 /South Shore / $1269 / $1595 / $326 / 26%
AA6068 /Nob Hill / $2255 / $2836 / $581 / 26%

The "Really Bad News"

Model # /NAME /$1998 /$2007 /$Increase /%Increase

AA1312 / Vincent / $115 / $223 / $108 / 94%
AB4868 / Lafayette / $74 / $128 / $54 / 73%
AB3763 / Oceanside / $70 / $140 / $70 / 100%
AA2417 / Drake(Salem) / $895 / $1549 / $654 / 73%
AB5685 / La Grand / $65 / $113 / $48 / 74%

The "Excellent News" for you Art Deco people. These two are on the clearance list and discontinued. Per their web site.

NAME /$1998 /$2007 /$Increase /% Increase

Clearance Lotus Isle / $270 / $190 (orig $353) / -$80 / -30%
Clearance Tropicana / $215 / $160 (orig $297)/ -$55 / -26%

Other interesting information is that the push button switch plate (single) was $9 each in 1997 in one finish only and are now $15 each with a choice of 14 finishes for the same price. A 66% increase only if you buy the polished brass finish. In 1998 they offered a catagory 2 finish for $11 each and a catagory 3 finish for $13.50 each.( An increase of 27% and 11% respectfully)

The old style carbon filament bulbs were $10 or $11 in 1997. They were $10 or $12 in 1998 and are now $12 and $13.

I have not been compensated for this report but if anyone from Rejuvenation would like to compensate me for my time and want a few photos of their fixtures in the "Old Crack House" for the next catalogue and wonderful praises for the life of this blog, there are a couple of ceiling lights I have had my eye on for the last six years that I won't be able to afford in another 4 years (unless they are discontinued) that would look perfect in my house!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oh No! It's ANOTHER Shellac Post

I'm just feeding the frenzy.

I am now going to show you how to take cheap crappy "Made in China" door hinges that cost $1.07 each at Lowes and make them look like they fit in an old house. Now, I will admit that if I had a can of black gloss spray paint, this would have been an easier task. I don't have any black gloss. I only have white gloss and clear varnish sprays. So I am going to use something that I have, hmmmm, what could that be? Oh look, I have walnut colored, aniline tinted shellac left over from the floor and the stair risers that I did in 2005!

This stuff looks really good when it is painted over polished steel. I used it on an Eastlake latch lock that I found for $4.00. It only needed one or two thin coats and then I sprayed it with varnish. I don't have any photos yet but I'm sure I will when I mount it on the door that these crappy hinges are for.
So what about those crappy hinges? Well here they are.

This is them with one and two coats of tinted shellac to show you the effect.

I want them to look painted and dark so I have to apply many coats of shellac. The end result is a very dark brown that appears to be black. When done I spray them with enamel gloss varnish to protect the finish. Here is the end result.

The hinge on the right shows the reverse side where I had to ensure that the visible part of the hinge was coated. You can see the broad range of color that adding additional coats creates.

Based on the position of the door, no one is going to notice these hinges anyway which is why I went "cheap, cheap, cheap" when I saw them.

I think I can lay off the shellac posts for awhile. The word is out.
For all the guys out there who read this, the word of the day is "Legs." Help spread the word......

Friday, February 16, 2007

"Yeah. That's the ticket!"

One by one I am creating converts. If I were saving souls I'd have a front row seat on the highway to heaven!

It has only taken two years and umpteen dozen posts but finally the two most resistant hold outs have succumbed to the charm of shellac! Now here is the challenge. If John and Chris can admit that they have tried shellac (and like good presidential candidates, neither have inhaled, or so I have heard.) then so can YOU. Yes I mean YOU! You know who YOU are. YOU are the one who has read all my posts. YOU are the one who hasn't decided whether to stain or paint your wood. YOU are the one that has said "I MIGHT try some of that there shellac one day." You are the one that remains sceptical about this lost secret in wood finishes. YOU are the one that hasn't been SAVED!

YOU need to check this page out and click on the link about shellac finishes if YOU still won't believe me or the dozen or more houseblog reading converts that I have guided towards achieving spiritual homeowner nirvana.

Yes YOU are the one that is preventing Zinsser from offering me stock options!

I need to form a non-profit corporation for my converts. I need to elect a board of directors. I need to raise money to build a shrine to the lac bug. I shall need a lac bug or two to worship and sacrifice vegetables to. I need a good name...... how about The "Community Alliance of Shellacked Homes"?

Just make your checks out to C-A-S-H.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Howdy Ho Boys and Girls!

"You smell alot like flowers!"

We've been teaching Elizabeth to read. She formed her very own first sentence today and found it highly amusing...

It reads "the brown poo-poo can dance on water" and was entirely her compilation. We started teaching her to read in December and she currently has a reading vocabulary of 70 words. We add several new words each day. Todays new words were fingers, reading, look, stand up, on and poo-poo. She can count to 50 easily and has a broad Spanish vocabulary as well which is good because she will be able to translate those signs for me in Home Depot and Lowes in a few years when I think speaking Spanish will be mandatory.

She will be four next month!

*If anyone is interested there is a program that we are using that works on the same principle as baby signs. Your child can actually be able to read by 18 months of age if you start them in the first year. We discovered it in November and Deborah can take orders for it. It consists of 5 DVDs and cost around $70. It obviously works. There is also a cool website called STARFALL that is geared towards early learning too for those of you who have pre-schoolers.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What's On Your Wood?

I know what's on my wood (since I put it there) but do you know exactly what is on your woodwork or floor? I found some recipes in my new Bible for old house renovators; "Lees's Priceless Recipes" published in 1895. These may open your eyes a little.

Cheap Oak Varnish
Clear pale resin 3 1/2 pounds, oil of turpentine 1 gallon; dissolve. It may be colored darker by adding a little fine lampblack.

Varnish For Woodwork
Powdered gum sandarach 8 parts, gum mastic 2 parts, seed lac 8 parts, and digest in a warm place for some days with alcohol 24 parts, and finally, dilute with sufficient alcohol to the required consistence.

Dark Varnish For Light Woodwork
Pound up and digest shellac 16 parts, gum sandarach 32 parts, gum mastic (juniper) 8 parts, gum elemi 8 parts, dragons blood 4 parts, annotto 1 part, with white turpentine 16 parts, and alcohol 256. Dilute with alcohol if required.

The source of the resins are generally trees and would be the sap or bark. Reading through several of the recipes, common resins used were amber, copal, sandarach, camphor, mastic, anime, elemi and dragons blood (which has a dark red color). I wouldn't know where you could buy this stuff today!

Back in "The Day" there weren't penetrating wood stains like we use now. The varnishes were colored and translucent allowing the wood grain to show through the finish. So, if you plan to refinish your woodwork and want it to look like it would have in the original condition, don't use stain and polyurethane because all you end up with is a coat of plastic varnish over colored wood. You would do better to use a topical stain/varnish combined or do what we have done (and many other houseblog readers), use amber or colored shellac over natural or stained wood. You can wipe polyurethane over the varnish to protect it when you are done.

If you are fixing up an old house, any books giving recipes for paints and varnishes are a good resource because you gain an understanding of what you may be dealing with in your particular work. They also give you an understanding of what items are used in modern concoctions bought from store shelves. Now when you read the words "Resins" in the ingredients, you will know what those resins may be. Some of these same resins are used in medicines and incense but don't go around drinking varnish or inhaling aromatic smoke if you get a cough!

Friday, February 09, 2007

The "Phuck It Chronicles With Pictures"

If you ever think that YOU have it really bad with your house remodel then you need to read THIS blog every spring when I go through my water woes. The good news is that every time this happens my plumbing creativity gets better. If my plumbing problems are limited to the basement this year then I am lucky. This proves that no matter how well you think your lines are drained there is always some water left that will freeze and expand causing pipes to separate or splinter. I shut the water off and drained the lines in November. Then I cross my fingers and hope the basement won't freeze.

The worst part about the current problem is this;

Or more precisely, this;

This is the shut off valve. The pipe is 1" dia. and has separated above the shut off. I have no idea if water is in the valve or if the valve has cracked so I called the water department and asked them to shut off the water and remove the meter. If they remove the meter then I don't have to pay for water service so this will save us about $20 a month until I have the water turned back on. That valve above the shut-off is a pressure control valve. It costs $150 to replace so I am hoping that hasn't cracked on me. It is set at 60 lbs pressure but the city water comes in at 40 lbs on a good day so I question it's functionality. The problem is that soldering anything to the supply line takes forever because it usually has water in it. I'm hoping that if the meter is removed near the street then the line will drain and I can solder properly.

What I plan to do now is cut the pipe down nearer to where it enters the wall and put a shut off valve at that point followed by a boiler drain and then another shut off valve. That way if there are any un-repaired leaks that become apparent after the water is turned back on, I will at least have water via the boiler drain to use. If we ever have to go through this again I can drain the line back to the boiler drain. If I'm clever I will use a compression fitting in the line so that it can be disconnected readily.

Then there is this. It looks bad but this is the easy repair;

Another reason to use cpvc! Nothing beats the convenience of gluing and twisting! This is near the location where the water heater is going. I'm glad I didn't put that in yet! I will re arrange this section and add some shut offs to the supply lines that feed the second and third floors as well as a draining valve so water doesn't collect in this area again. I am going to wait until April or May before I fix all this stuff. I still have to run lines to the first floor powder room and while I'm at it I may as well run the lines to where the water heater will eventually end up so I don't have to do it all again later!

The most annoying find is this;

The 2nd floor toilet valve.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

The "Phuck It" Chronicles of 2007!

Well it happened.

I guess it was unavoidable really.

Sub zero temperatures for over a week.

The basement temperature has dropped below freezing and my water pipes have popped in several locations including the shut off valve.

Phuck it, phuck it, phuck it, phuck it, phuck it!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dealing with "The Man"

The wife called "The Man" about the letter from the gas company. She had to leave a message because "The Man" wasn't in when "The Man" told us to call. She told "The Man" that they could meet me at 8:15 am the next day and that they had until 8:30 am to arrive because I wasn't going to wait in below freezing temperatures for them to check our meter. She waited an hour and called "The Man" back. "The Man" was a woman who verified what we suspected about why they wanted in the house. After it was explained that the gas was shut off and the house was still under renovation we were released from our obligation to let their minions enter the house.

Today I took these pictures. This one shows the iced over windows on one of the exterior doors. The ice is on the inside.

This shows the temperature on the first floor!

The basement is holding up well. The water that I have in buckets down there hasn't frozen yet.

Besides the 4 inches of snow and the sub freezing temperatures some idiot stole the rear license plate off "The Beast" sometime in the last few days so I had to file a police report for that in case the same idiot decided to use it while committing an illegal act such as stealing gasoline at the pump.....
They can't readily take "The Beast" since I removed the battery back in October. Honestly, I'm surprised the plate wasn't taken sooner!

Friday, February 02, 2007

It's That Day Again!

Hey! I woke up this morning. Got out of bed. Got dressed. Ate breakfast. Put on my coat. Walked outside and saw my shadow! You know what that means? My porch light works!

I'm going to look through some of my old books and see if there is a recipe for groundhog.....

Thursday, February 01, 2007

What a Crock of Sh*t!

We went through this about a year ago and I remember posting about it. Here is the scenario.

The gas is turned off in the house and has been for months. After disconnecting the gas line to the water heater I got lazy and didn't put pipe sealer on the cap and the resulting leak was costing us $1.00 a month so I shut the gas off at the meter and haven't used it since. There is frost on the inside of several windows, the toilet water on the second floor has frozen over and got a splash of antifreeze to help prevent this. The first floor is just above 32 degrees. Two of the double paned replacement windows on the cottage side have cracked (one already had a small pellet hole when we bought the place) and the other is in the laundry room and I suspect is the result of a change in air flow due to sealing up a door. It is very cold in the house, the warmest rooms are in the basement.

This letter came from Vectren yesterday. For anyone not living in Dayton, Vectren and Vectren Source (a Vectren company) are our only supplier(s) of natural gas here. It reads;


As part of our continuing effort to provide you with safe quality service, Vectren Energy Delivery periodically inspects gas meters to insure they remain in good working condition.

It is imperative that you call our office within ten (10) days to schedule an appointment for the necessary inspection. For our inspection, we will need access to the meter, as well as access to your gas appliances and all gas appliance controls. If we do not hear from you within ten (10) days to schedule the inspection, we will disconnect your gas service due to refusal of access to premises (VEDO Tarriff Original Sheet No. 63, page 4 of 4, paragraph 4(C)(8), leaving you without gas service until you contact us to schedule the necessary inspection. If we must disconnect your service, your service will not be restored until the inspection which may be as soon as the next working day following the disconnect, or up to three working days thereafter.

To avoid the inconvenience of disconnection, please contact our Billing Department between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 812-492-6141 to schedule a time for this inspection on a day and time convenient for you. We schedule inspection appointments on weekdays, Monday-Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

We value your safety and the safety of all of our customers. We truly appreciate your immediate attention to this matter, and we thank you for the opportunity to provide gas service for you.

How I interpret this;


We have noticed that you are not using any gas during the cold weather season and suspect that you have bypassed the the gas meter.

We would like you to call us within 10 days, and incur long distance charges, so that we can send someone out to verify this for us. We not only have to look at your meter and supply lines but we also need to test your gas appliances to see if you have diverted the supply line to avoid paying our overpriced recovery charges for something that is relatively cheap to provide. If you don't call us within 10 days we are going to shut off your service because that is proof enough to us that you are guilty of stealing our gas and we have a policy that you will never see but we will quote the exact reference anyway just to prove that we are within our rights to act this way. If we have to shut you off there is no way in hell that you will get future service until you prove to us that you can't steal gas from us again. If we are wrong though we can turn your service back on very quickly.

In order to allow us to continue charging you a $7.00 billing fee each month, please contact our Billing Department between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 812-492-6141 (don't expect us to pay for your call), to schedule a time for this violation of your right to privacy on a day and time convenient for you but don't plan on making us work on weekends. We schedule inspection appointments on weekdays, Monday-Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

We really don't want to have to press charges against you or any of our customers without proof so we truly appreciate your immediate attention to this matter, and if we misjudged your character we will apologise in 150 years when the world runs out of natural gas and we have no customers to screw over..

What would you do?