Category Archives: General Building

September 2018

It’s now getting close to the end of September. The weather is rapidly cooling off here. We’ve had frost several times (and had the wood stove up and running) and the leaves have begun to change colour.

We’ve been doing our regular thing, working on getting some projects finished that we started earlier.

If you recall from previously, we were working on building the drawer for the bottom of the pantry. That has now been completed and you can see the finished results here.

We also finished redoing our front steps. They turned out pretty nicely.

Another project we were working on was finding something to cover up the column of wires that goes from the floor to the ceiling up in the bedroom area. You can see it over on the right side of this picture.

Not only is it a column of wires, but some of them are attached to a set of switches so we can turn on and off the lights in that section. Originally, those wires were embedded inside the wall that made up the closet where the toilet was located. After we removed all of that, we were left with the wires. We had thought of putting up a big wall with closets and storage across that section and putting the wires back inside a wall, but we decided we liked the openness of the trailer better.

So we came up with another plan.

After the big storm that blew down several trees on our property I got the idea of using a log to cover the wires. We had a small maple tree that got knocked down when a big poplar snapped and fell on it. So I cut a section out of it and started to work on it.

First, I had to cut it in half and this was the most difficult part of the entire process. The log wasn’t perfectly straight so I needed something that could follow the curve of the wood. A big format band saw would really have helped with this, but I didn’t have access to one. A friend of ours had one of those portable/hand-held band saws, but it didn’t have enough clearance to cut the log.

So I settled on doing it the hard way with my sawsall/reciprocating saw. And when I say the hard way I am not exaggerating. It took me 3.5 hours to cut that log that was 193cm (76″). Actually, I only made it to within about 20cm (8″) of the end and the saw seized up so I finished it using a hand saw. My hands and arms were pretty woobly after that, but I did end up with the log cut in half.

The next step was to cut out the core so the wires would fit. A router would have been handy for that, but I didn’t have one of those either. I used my skill saw instead. I cut a 2cm (3/4″) trench right down the center of each of the half-logs. Here’s the first one.

After the trench was cut, I reconfigured the blade on the skill saw to be at 45° and cut out the sides, making a triangular trench down the center of the logs. Here you can see the first one is finished.

Despite the curvature of the log, using the skill saw worked quite well. Fortunately, the depth of the cuts wasn’t a lot; if it had been more, it would have been much more difficult to turn the saw to follow the curve of the wood.

Now having the cores cut out of the half-logs, the next thing to do was strip the bark off it. I took one half and Kat took the other. We both had a machete and went to work. It didn’t take long and the machete made short work of the bark.

We were getting close, but I still needed to add a spot for the light switch. In disconnecting the switch from the wires, one of the metal contacts on the switch was pulled out, thus destroying the switch so we had to order a new one. Luckily, Amazon sells replacements.

I took some measurements and cut a spot for the new switch to sit in.

And here you can see the switch sitting nicely in it.

Once that was completed, it was simply a matter of putting it all together. I clamped both pieces together and predrilled the holes for the screws. Then we took it inside, I wired up the new switch, we clamped both pieces together and I screwed it tight.

And here you can see the results. This is the switch side.

This is from the opposite side.

It was green wood so we didn’t put any varnish or other finishers on it yet. We’ll let it dry out over the winter and then see what we want to do in the spring. With the fire running all winter, the humidity drops significantly, so much of the moisture of the wood should be pulled out.

Yay, more things accomplished!

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Summer 2018

I realize it has been over a month since my last post and people must be wondering what the heck is going on. The best answer to that is “a little of this and that”.

Some friends of ours bought a house in the area so they could move up here full time, but it had been abandoned for five years so it required some work, to say the least. I volunteered to go over and help them with whatever they needed. By that point they had finished much of the heavy stuff (replacing the drywall, wiring, redoing the kitchen, painting, etc), however they had this large pile of rough cut poplar that they were going to use for trim around their doors, windows and for their baseboards. They had bought it from a friend and there was quite a bit of it sitting on two pallets.

When I got there the first day, they had me working on this and the method they were using was to sand each piece so it looked nice and then cut to the 3″ (7.6cm) width that they wanted. To give you some idea, this is what we were starting with.

I managed to get five and a half sanded down by the afternoon and then I was helping hanging doors and putting up shower curtain rods for the rest of that first day. I did realize very quickly though, while sanding those boards that had I known that this is what I was going to be working on I would have brought my planer.

So the next day I did. I set it right beside the table saw.

By early afternoon, I had the entire pile of lumber planed down looking quite nice.

That was about 50 boards, give or take a few, of varying widths. Needless to say, it sure saves time when you use the right tool. If we had kept up with the sanding, it we’d still be working on it two weeks later.

After all of the planing was finished I stared running them through the table saw to cut them down to size. They also wanted a 45° bevel cut on one edge, so I did that as well.

All in all, I think they turned out pretty nicely. They certainly weren’t factory perfect, but they were a far cry from what we started with. Kat showed up after I had made a large pile of the trim pieces and got to work varnishing them.

They chose to go with completely transparent varnish so it was a little difficult to see which ones had been varnished and which ones hadn’t, but luckily we were fairly organized and just kept those piled separately. Here are some varnished ones.

Yup, they look exactly like the unvarnished ones.

Anyway, all this work turned out to be quite a boon for us because our friends also decided to pay us for our time, which was very welcome.

In other news, I have a few other things going on around the trailer. I have been using the brush saw quite a bit, trying to clear out the area up at the top of the hill where we plan to put the Earthship. I also worked on the plan for the pantry we want to build for the trailer. I found we already had enough materials so I can build the drawer at the bottom of it, so I’ll be working on that. The front steps also need to be refinished as they have been turned mud brown from us tracking in and out over the winter. We only managed to get one coat of varnish on them when we put them in last year so I’m hoping to plane off the mud stands and put multiple varnish coats on them this time.

I was also up at the cottage on the Canada Day long weekend and we had a lovely sunset on Canada Day.

It was great weather to be up by the lake as it was so hot. If you were in the city… well, you probably suffered if you were outside.

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll have some more updates soon.

New Kitchen Ceiling

Just in case you thought we were finished all of our trailer projects for this year, we have one more to share.

Kat was never fond of how the paneling on the ceiling turned out when we redid the kitchen area in the trailer. We had put up some thin panels and painted them white. It was fine and it worked, but some of the seams were unseemly, as it were.

In any event, after we refinished the bedroom area in the trailer last year with pine tongue and groove boards, there was quite the contrast between the kitchen side and the bedroom side. So we decided to rip out the kitchen ceiling and redo it to match.

Here is the start on the south side, working towards the north.

We worked in sections, stripping off a row of the panels and then putting up the tongue and groove boards as we went. The first section was a bit slow as I was working by myself for that part, but Kat joined in for the other sections so it went much quicker.

Here is the start of the second section, just after we had ripped off the ceiling panels.

We were anxious to get that center section done in one day as that is where all of the lights are mounted. Not that we haven’t spent time with no lights before, but it would be better if we could get passed that all at once.

I was doing all of the cutting outside while Kat was doing most of the nailing inside. We would both help to put the new pieces in place, as they can be a bit unruly, especially the longer ones.

We were successful in completing the center section in only one day, though with the daylight hours dropping as we approach winter it was getting a bit dark in the trailer when we got to the end.

With nothing to do on a rainy day, I took it upon myself to rip out the rest of the ceiling on the north side. There are no power tools involved so you don’t use up any battery power getting that done.

It wasn’t long after that we hunkered down and filled in the rest of it, leaving us with quite the nice new ceiling.

We even put some of the pine around the inset for the vent box.

There are still a few minor details to take care of in terms of putting in the trim pieces, but the major work is now done. The hardest part was ripping out the old ceiling. It was stapled and glued so we made quite a mess pulling it down. Then we had to chisel off the glue and any remnants that remained before we could start putting the new stuff on. Your arms do get tired after you have been holding them over your head for quite a while.

All in all, it wasn’t a necessary change, but it sure does make the place look nicer.

Kitchen Counter, reprise

Okay, way back in July I posted about finishing the kitchen counter around the sink. In case you forget, this is what it looked like:

As you can see from that picture, there was still some work to do below the counter: namely build some drawers and cupboards. The drawers were finished fairly soon after the counter but we had a few delays with the finishing of the whole thing.

Let me share that particular adventure.

After we had put the counter in, I immediately went to work on the new drawers. I used the same technique I came up with while working on the kitchen cabinet. So it wasn’t long before I had the basic drawers constructed and ready for a fitting test.

Here is Fizgig trying out the first drawer.

He had to try it while it was pulled out as well. He matches the wood pretty well.

The high back on that drawer will make more sense in a moment. Moving along, I made the other two drawers that were to be installed above that first one. We put them in and it all looked good.

Of course, after that they headed out to the staining department. Our staining department (Kat) was also busy working at her new job this summer, so finding time for her to get some of these projects completed meant things were delayed more than once.

In any event, the drawer interiors were all stained a nice red and put back into position.

At this point, I also installed the interior hardware for that bottom drawer.

Yes, we made it a drawer for all of our baking trays and cutting boards. It is awesome because those types of things are a pain in the butt to put in a stack in a cupboard. If you want one close to the bottom, you have to shuffle through the entire stack. We knew when we had put in a drawer like this when we lived in Ottawa that having a similar drawer in the trailer would be really handy.

After that, we needed to put the drawer faces on along with handles and knobs. We also needed cut the pieces for the cupboards, put their edges on and finish them as well. You wouldn’t think that would take very long, but it did.

The drawer fronts didn’t take too long, but the cupboards sat around for quite a while. Part of that was Kat working, distractions of other projects and the fact that several measuring mistakes were made. The cupboards were cut to fit the space, but once you put the hinges on it forces them to sit within a certain small area. I ended up having to trim and redo two of the cupboards because they ended up being too big to fit once mounted to the hinges.

This also meant that Kat had to refinish the edges that I trimmed, which delayed things even further. As a result, it was the third week of October before we reached this stage.

We finished all three new cupboards and everything looks rather nice now.

There is that small space between the center pair of cupboards and the one on the right that needs to have something put in it. I do have a plan for that, but as it is cosmetic, it may wait until next spring as we do have some other things that we are currently working on.

I should mention that the cupboard on the right holds a little secret: I mounted our recycling bin to it and it is hinged at the bottom.

You pull it out and have easy access to the recycle bin, and it’s also kept out of sight which helps to reduce the clutter. You can see I put in some stops to prevent the cupboard door from dropping to the floor (they’re just below the white recycle bin).

In addition to this, while we’re getting caught up on things, remember that bed frame with the drawers we built last year? It looked something like this:

It sat like that for quite a while, with no faces on the drawers. That has now been resolved as well.

Kat painted them green and I put them on sometime in August. It’s so nice to have handles on those things, having scraped the flesh off my fingers a few times trying to get the drawers open without handles.

That gets us caught up with the kitchen and bedroom. We have a couple of other things going on, but time is rapidly running out. It is getting colder, we run the fire quite a bit now and we’ve even had a bit of the white stuff.

We’ve also started into more cloudy weather, so we’ve been trying to conserve our solar power to make it last as long as we can. This means no long days using power tools.

Winter is coming. Are you ready?