Friday, February 19, 2010

Salvaged Redwood Garden Benches

Before 1970 or so, redwood used to be so common that houses were even framed with it. While I don’t know how much redwood our house (built in 1969) has in the walls, it did, for aesthetics, have exposed redwood ceiling beams in the den when we bought the place around 1995. Deciding we did not like the general look, the non-structural beams were removed and stored for a use to be determined later.

A couple of years ago, during a visit to my folks’ house, my mom lamented that two of her cast iron & painted wood garden benches were getting unsafe to sit on, and asked me to take a look. One of the benches was immediately recognized as one I had replaced all the wood slats on around a decade earlier. Sadly, I thought the white oak used for the effort would have lasted longer. But it didn’t, so both benches were loaded up, and we headed back home.

On the way home, it dawned on me that benches’ rebuilding would be a great use of some of the old redwood beams squirreled away in the garage. The next weekend, after an hour or two of ripping and planing, enough wood was sized to rebuild three garden benches.

Although seeing the wood’s grain is my preference, my mom is keen on a certain shade of green. Unfortunately, I really just don’t like to paint. But, there are some things you will do for your mom that you would not necessarily do for anyone else. Between that, and the better look achieved by painting the slats before installation, I sucked it up, and whipped out the paint brush. Prime, let dry, flip, and then prime that side. Paint, let dry, flip, and then paint that side. Repeat the paint part. It took what seemed forever.

But, the final product turned out quite well if I do say so myself.

Mother was, of course, thrilled to get ‘new’ benches. All was now well.

Earlier in this epistle I mentioned wood had been cut for three benches. The plan, at the time, had been to re-slat an old bench of mine at the same time as Mother’s.

But if you look closely at the dog’s tongue in the picture above, you will notice small flecks of brown which are amazingly similar in color to the chewed-off ends of my garden bench. It appeared to best to wait a while before rebuilding my garden bench to give 1-year-old Cookie time to grow out of her idle destruction phase.

Now, jump ahead to last week. I finally lined up a man to come blow insulation into my Shop’s attic, and he showed up Friday to do the Shop, and bring the house’s insulation up to the current City Code requirement for blown fiberglass of 15”. As the current temperature was in the twenties, I of course had to turn on the seldom used Shop heat after he left to see it actually cycle now that my Shop was completely insulated for the first time in 11 years.

The difference was impressive, and Saturday morning was spent in short sleeves cleaning up the place while watching the double element wall heater cycle on & off. While putting some stuff away, I noticed the redwood slats stored neatly out of harm’s way atop the wood crib. Between deciding Cookie had quit teething, and needing space to stage 60 bd-ft of basswood for a cabinet door project, now seemed like a good time to finish my garden bench.

In spite of painting’s low level of appeal to me, the bench slat’s master plan had always called for three coats of spar urethane. But the ole “paint-dry-flip” method of surface coating had to go. My solution was, what I will call, the Rotisserie Method.

The slats are supported each end by drywall screws. Notice I said “supported” – There was no reason to tighten the screws enough to dig in appreciably. Using this method, the slat could be turned as it was polyed thereby coating all six sides of the slat in just minutes. After curing, each slat could be individually removed for scuff sanding between coats. I was very pleased with both the results, and the amount of time saved by the simple jig.

The Boyz thought the ‘new’ bench sat as nicely as it looked.

Now that there is heat in the Shop and no more brown flecks on Cookie’s tongue, it’s time to replace the picnic table I built 21 years ago for my first house.

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gotta Have My Old Tunes

Even though iTunes is changing the way most of the world acquires & manages what entertains us, I still have close to 400 CDs of old music, most of which I still like.

Up until a month ago, a Sony 400 CD jukebox played random selections just about every evening around suppertime. Sadly, the music died one night.

Actually, it didn’t die as much as it started skipping & starting over so often I switched over to XM radio for entertainment. After a simple cleaning of the CD laser lens failed to restore joy, I decided to replace the ailing unit. Unfortunately, Sony discontinued the 400 CD version, and now only sells a 300 CD unit. You can probably guess what that meant.

Although it torqued me to have to purchase two units to accomplish what used to be done by one, I was fortunate to get a good deal on two new jukeboxes. But my annoyance totally evaporated after the units were hooked up & loaded with CDs: These boxes talk to each other.

While one song plays on one unit, the other unit searches for another song. When the first unit’s song is almost over, the music from that CD fades out while the other CD’s music fades in. No more dead air like I had gotten used to with the last jukebox. Too cool.

Although the guys at the office thought the setup was neat, after the oohing & ahhing everyone seemed taken aback that I had so many CDs to start with. Well, many of the CDs, if not most, started out as LPs, cassettes, or (believe it or not) reel-to-reel tapes.

Back when I was around 15 years old, Mr. Riggs gave me an old, broken, reel-to-reel tape recorder and said I could have it IF I got it working. If I couldn’t, he planned to break it down for parts. My journey into the “Hi-Fi” world had started.

Using my dad’s Magnovox stereo as a base station, I started recording LPs I liked borrowed from my upperclassmen friends. A year later, my after-school jobs financed the buildup of the first of what was many stereo systems. That is another post in itself. Ultimately, I had accumulated a lot of music before CDs were ever a glimmer in the music industry’s eye.

Although I did start collecting new music on CDs when the medium became widely available, my tapes & LPs were still played regularly.

When the Boyz were born, there was lots of time suddenly available as Kim & I stopped going out as much. The playpen was set up in the room where the computer was located and, over several months, most of my “worthy” music was converted from its original format to CD.

Now that I think about, I just looked, and I still have 24 cassettes waiting to be burned to CD. Maybe I will do that over the upcoming President’s Day holiday my company is giving me.

iTunes is a great way to get new tunes quickly. Unfortunately, to me, the music does not sound as good to me as CDs do. Podcasts work well with iPods, though.

That’s my first iPod pictured above. Between my newest iPod, dueling jukeboxes, and XM radio, I feel I’ve got the audio-only world of recorded entertainment covered.

But someone else probably felt that way when he said, “Mr. Watson! Come here - I want to see you!

Time will tell.