Thursday, March 31, 2011

No one calls me "Mr. Patient"

About a month ago, seeds were planted in a Jiffy Greenhouse in an effort to get an early start on this year’s Victory Garden. “Kitchen window” planting is new to me so I don’t know what to expect.

The seeds germinated in a reasonable amount of time. After that, growth appeared to stop, and the seedlings now appear to be hanging out waiting for something. From research, I don’t remember Oliver having this situation.

Today, in an effort to appease the plants, watering consisted of a pre-mixed (weak) solution of Miracle-Gro. Viewing left to right, there’s parsley, green pepper, and tomatoes in the following image.

The tomatoes lazing about like they are caught me by surprise; but they’ve been like that for many days.

I don’t know if I need to be patient, or do something different. Comments are both welcome, and invited.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Shaving... with Tom

Several years ago, we had an addition to the house constructed which included a new master bedroom & bathroom. Although the size of the old master bedroom had to be reduced to that of a regular bedroom to accommodate a hallway to the addition, the old, small master bath retained its two-sink vanity simply because improving the bathroom was not part of that year’s plan.

In a tribute to how happily married couples work things out, since I am an early riser, I have kept showering in the old master bath just so Kim does not have to listen to me sing in the mornings while she tries to get more shut-eye.

While the shower looks okay, the old double-sink vanity’s general appearance in what is now “my” bathroom has never looked that good, and the gold-colored fixtures were starting to show age. On top of that, neither sink has ever drained particularly well since we purchased the place.

A few weeks ago, going against my normally frugal & minimalist nature, I asked Kim to call up the fellas who built the new vanity top for the Boyz’ bathroom, and get them to build a new single-sink version for my bathroom. She jumped on the request, and within a week or so, the newly made top, graced with the installation of a new faucet, made both of us happy.

But of course the whole project did not go as fast as it sounded in the above HGTV-like sound bite - There used to be one small drawer in the middle of the vanity to accommodate a sink on either side, and the new, single sink’s placement required the construction of two large drawers.

The Boyz’ bathroom was the opposite case – We went from one sink to two. The extra drawer slides had been kept from that effort (the drawers themselves were too small & nasty to keep), and were recycled into this effort. Fortunately, the Shop’s wood crib had sufficient lumber for the new drawers, and no wood had to be purchased.

There was one change I wanted for these drawers, and that was for them to have laminated bottoms instead of bare or painted wood. Unfortunately, the Shop was all but out of spare laminate, and I did not want to purchase the minimum size of 4’ X 8’ just to have most of the sheet leftover. But the wood crib did have two laminated-plywood sink cutouts left over from other projects which were big enough to fit. The problem was the cutouts were too thick.

Bathroom drawers are shallow to start with, and the typical ¼” thick plywood bottom sits in a dado ½” above the bottom edge. Were the 7/8” thick sink cutouts to be installed in a similar manner, the drawers would be both unusually shallow and heavy. The cutouts needed to be thinner.

In a move sure to horrify tool purists, the stacked dado assembly was mounted on the radial arm saw, and the cutouts were shaved down to 5/16” thickness.

After cutting lock joints & drawer bottom dados on the plywood sides, the drawers’ assembly went without incident, and attention was shifted to the new vanity top’s plumbing.

The vanity in this bathroom has come full circle in that the house was originally built with only one sink in the room. The last owners had the two-sink version installed as evidenced by their name written on the back of what was replaced. The sewer plumbing installed to drain two sinks into one pipe was found to be full of an unusual amount of buildup – It was easy to see why the sinks drained so poorly.

The original hot & cold shutoff valves had been replaced with versions that could control water to two sinks. These valves had to be replaced with single-sink valves which meant shutting off the water to the house.

The valve swap-out went smoothly. Unfortunately, when the house’s water was turned back on, the toilet was the first thing used, and all the trapped air in the cold water line shook up the settled crud in the pipes and the debris tried to exit into the toilet tank before finally stopping up the works. Due to the size of the crud, it did not make it much past the toilet’s supply line. Not much of it would shake out.

Not only was the hookup tube almost blocked, the crud fouled the shutoff valve so bad that it had to be removed to be cleaned. And there was more where that came from.

Deciding the next step would be an excellent father-son project, Number 1 son was positioned at the crud filled pipe with the Shop-Vac and telephone. Outside, at the whole-house shutoff valve, I called him on my cell, and the two of us flushed a lot of city-provided debris out of the house’s copper pipes.

The toilet’s shutoff valve had apparently been partially blocked for years, because the toilet now flushes with wild abandon and refills in record time. It was a nice bonus.

Kim is pleased with two large drawers instead of one small one because the convenient storage space should make me more apt to not leave toiletries on the counter.

At least for now…


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Arrow of Light Award

My Webelo Scout son just received his Arrow of Light award, and I could not be more proud of him. The Arrow of Light award is the highest award available to Cub Scouts, and Daniel worked hard to earn it. Awards were presented in a ceremony at last Monday’s Pack meeting, and Daniel officially joined the Boy Scouts in a cool bridging ceremony shortly afterwards.

Besides the sense of accomplishment, the award itself is an emblem which a Boy Scout can wear on his uniform. As a remembrance of the event, the Scouts were also each given an arrow mounted on a wooden plaque which listed their name, date, and accomplishment. With my shop-O-tools, I was elected to make the remembrances.

After studying a “go-by” loaned to me from the Cub Master, I decided the base plates would look good made out of the last of the rough-cut maple purchased from Coach Carden many years ago. The three boards had not been used until now because of strategically placed imperfections. But the relatively small size of the five blanks would allow me to cut around the blemishes. A poplar board was added to the to-be-planed pile to act as a real-time prototype/contingency plan since getting enough useable blanks from the maple was iffy.

Oddly, one of the maple boards measured 6/4” thick, and still had a shallow spot at final thickness.

I thought about turning the arrow shafts but someone left an old Univolt on the lathe bed, and it was too heavy to move.

Fortunately, the Pack Master had already agreed to supply the arrows.

One thing that the struck me odd about the remembrances handed out last year was how close one arrow feather was to the edge of the board. I think whoever built it had planned to center the arrow on the board, and then found the brass plate would have been obscured. So the arrow was moved closer to the edge.

Kim ordered the brass plates for our effort, and told me she requested the same dimensions as the go-by. So with that in mind, the boards were cut a half-inch wider and a little bit longer to keep the arrow just inside the edge detail.

The poplar contingency board did not stain as well as the maple. Fortunately it was not a problem because all five of the maple boards turned out well.

While it was a fun project, and I was happy to help the Scouts out, I will always remember being super-proud of Daniel for earning the award.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Leatherface Approach to Ornamental Grass

At the start of last year’s growing season, Kim informed me the ornamental grass near the Friend’s Entrance needed to be divided because it had grown large enough to block the lilies previously planted in front of it. I nodded a lot, but neither said nor agreed to anything because my resume already lists an ability to hack tough root balls with a machete/shovel in the inevitable sun for half a day, and I was not interested in refreshing the dates of my garden accomplishments.

This year she told me the same thing, and appeared to have remembered how I got out of doing anything the previous year. So, after a bit of scrambling, I told her that the task could be done with my chainsaw but cutting dirt would ruin the chain.

If or when she should purchase another chain to add to the collection’s rotation, I would divide the ornamental grass. Of course there was also the implied benefit to her of bragging rights, should she divide it herself, of her yard resume being as rich as mine.

A new chain appeared the next day.

One slice with an old chain and less than a minute of shoveling later the botanical decoration had been bisected.

The $20 spent for a new chain was money well spent.