Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coffee Table Zombie 3

Cutting the wood to length is not worth writing much about.  The only hard part was finding a way to hold things stable while I cut.  I'm just pleased that I didn't A) hurt myself, B) waste much wood, or C) cut my miter box in half.

The top frame is made with half-lap joints; basically cutting half the thickness out of each board where they meet at the corners, and using the increased surface area to glue them together more strongly.  This is a nice, simple technique that's easy with the right tools; preferably a router or at least a circular saw.  It is a huge pain in the butt without the right tools.  I only had a hand saw for cutting, and a wobbly folding table for a work surface.  I don't even have a vice.  It's very awkward to cut near the end of a board if you can't secure it.

On TV, I've seen people make notches like this by cutting across the grain with a saw, then simply popping the wood out along the grain with a chisel.  This did not work.  Maybe I have the wrong kind of chisel (I think it's for cracking the shell of the World Turtle) or the people on TV were using softer wood.  But I had to sweat for every bit of these cuts.  This was definitely the hardest part of the project.  And honestly, I wasn't very safe, holding the board and saw so a slip could have taken a chunk out of me.

The results (of cutting wood, not me) looked like this:

Some of the results also looked this like:

Remember where I said I forgot to geometrize the dimensions of the lumber itself?  This is where it bit me.  I cut too big a notch.  If this blog were "Competent Homeowner" or even "Slightly Greater than Half Assed Homeowner" I'd have to throw that piece out.  But the way I see it, I can still get a pretty strong connection.  The board's cut in half, but that makes it basically a 2x2 on the end, which is still pretty darn strong.  I decided to use screws in addition to glue on the corners, and use the botched piece anyway.

Maybe I should have stuffed something in that gap, like a shim or a biscuit, which is English for "cookie".

Friendly Hermit

I bought this particular house mainly to do a better job at being alone.  It's quiet and private.  I filled the 2nd bedroom with geek toys, leaving just enough space to swivel my chair.  The 3rd bedroom is absolutely empty, and I still kind of wish I could have found a place like this without a 3rd bedroom at all.  The living room is really for reading.  The "great for entertaining" deck is really for taking naps in the fresh air.

But the really good memories I'm making here are from having people over.

I had a small Christmas party this weekend.  I left to pick somebody up, and when I got back my godson was napping in the living room with his mom, while his dad replaced the brakes on his car in the garage.  And I was really glad that I had made my friends comfortable enough to do that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coffee Table Zombie 2

I own a tape measure, hammer, electric drill, and hand saw.  I can build anything, so long as it's ugly.

To ressurect my legless coffee table, the basic idea is to build a simple but sturdy frame and legs, then set the new frame into the recess on the underside of the tabletop.  I drew up some simple plans, but I failed to consider the size of the lumber, only the overall dimensions.  This will bite me in the butt later.

I already had some basic tools, so a $30 trip to Home Depot got me ready.  I was pleased to learn that I can fit 8-foot long 2x4's in my car with only minor damage to the dash and stereo.  Also, carrying lumber makes me feel cool.  Not as cool as carrying a ladder, but it's it's nice.  But I digress...

Before starting work, gather the tools and materials:

Most of this is obvious, but I should explain that the ammunition boxes in the back are for pressing joints together while glue dries.  Probably.  And the big yellow box which looks like a kid's toy is a cheap miter box, basically a guide for cutting straight lines with a hand saw.  The miter box has plastic cams to lock a board in place, which is simple and brilliant.

It's hard to see, but there's a tape measure on the table which is older than me.  It was my grandmother's.  She was a seamstress for many years, and after she passed away this was one of the few things of hers I inherited.  The others are ceramic knickknacks and a couple end tables, one of which my grandfather (who I never knew) made.  That tape measure is probably full of lead and asbestos, or ribbon candy, but I like using it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Coffee Table Zombie

 This is my coffee table:

It is suffering from a bad case of not having any legs.  We've mostly been using it as a quarantine zone; my five-year-old godson sits on it when he has snacks so he can't spill on the carpet.  It was the parents' idea, not mine, so it's not arrogant.

I'd been using the table as a headboard in my last apartment.  I lost the legs after a previous move.  Actually, I think I threw them out, because the legs are meant to bolt into the tabletop, and the movers busted the supports:

I like the table.  It actually looks better in my new living room than it did in the Texas apartment.  I decided to fix the table, but with the underside damaged, I don't have anything good to screw legs into.  There's a separate metal band that's meant to reduce wobbly leggedness, and it worked great with the original leg, but it was very difficult to align and put on, so I don't trust my mechanical skill enough to use it with any unofficial legs.

I think I need to basically build a new table, sturdy enough on its own, and attach the top in a "this is not a load-bearing woozle" sort of way.  The underside of the table has a large recess which would define the shape of the new supports, and be a convenient way to connect the two without making major changes to the nice factory tabletop.

It's time to unwrap my hammer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Make Yourselves at Home

I mainly bought this house to be better at being alone.  It's worked, but so far most of the best memories I've made are from having people over.  It'd been over ten years since I've invited somebody to my home, not since college where nobody cares if your place is trashy.  Sure, a few people came over, but they always invited themselves and I just didn't stop them.

Now I can do, and I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly, "dinner parties".

I had a small Christmas dinner last weekend.  After one group of guests arrived -- a married couple and their son, my godson -- arrived I had to leave to pick somebody else up.  They're my oldest friends, good as family, so I told them to make themselves at home.  The house is probably better off in their hands anyway.

When I got back, it was dark and quiet.  The dad was working on his car in my garage.  Mother and son were taking a nap in the living room.  I was really glad they felt comfortable enough here to do that.  It was not a "successful dinner party" sign by the book, but it was one of the best moments I've had here.

I told them "make yourselves at home", which is a cliché, which I happened to mean literally.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another reason I live here

In my new office/nerd-hole, I can open the window.  When I do, I smell fresh air.  I hear the breeze, birds, squirrels, and very little else.

In my last apartment, I couldn't open the window.  I mean, physically, I could, but not emotionally.  I would smell car exhaust and hear (more than usual) revving engines, horns, people screaming profanity, and this one obnoxious dude hocking massive loogies off his balcony.

This is better.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How to clean spiderwebs from high ceilings

My living room has very high ceilings.  They have no practical value, but I like them.  Spiders like them too.  They set up an impressive network of webs in the highest corner.  I think the classic solution is to get an extending rod, but I haven't seen any in the stores and they're surprisingly expensive to ship.

On what should be an unrelated note, I bought my godson a remote control helicopter for Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do you have to wash a house?

Do you have to wash a house, or is it effectively self-cleaning because it's always left out in the rain?  Like with cars?

That reminds me, I need to leave my car out next time there's a storm predicted.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Hire a Cleaning Service

Step 1: Google "How to Hire a Cleaning Service" and click the first link.

If that's how you got here, have clicked the second link instead.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Furniture shopping

I mostly resisted the temptation to buy new furniture.  My parents generously bought me a dining room set, which I ordered to have for Thanksgiving, and which I may actually have for Christmas.  My coffee table has issues and no legs.  My bed is kind of broken, but it's a soft flat place with padding so it's still a bed.  My living room furniture is just bad.  So there are some areas I'd like to improve, but so far I haven't.

I'm not thrifty or responsible.  It's just that when I go to furniture stores I mostly find ugly overpriced junk.  Why is "contemporary" code for "ridiculous, impractical, expensive, garish, and flimsy".  Just for brevity?

I don't mind expensive and I don't mind cheap, but never the two together.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Firewalls are Less Exciting Than They Sound

During the home inspection, my house lost points for having gaps in the firewall between the garage and main house.  The inspector told me to just fill the gaps with fireproof caulk.  It sounded like an easy enough job.  So I warmed up my caulking iron and bought the first tube of caulk I saw with "fireproof" on the label.

The step I skipped: asking what a firewall is.

Apparently there is a general worry about fires starting in the garage, then spreading to the main house.  I'm not sure if this is because the car lives in the garage and fire makes the car go, or because people store chemicals in their garage. Quick Googling reveals that having extra-thick drywall between the garage and house is a fire safety feature.  Drywall burns slowly enough that it slows fire's spread.  Gaps in the firewall allow fire to jump past the slow-burning materials.  So I assume the inspector was referring to the drywall as a firewall.

I didn't see any gaps in the drywall, so I caulked up a loose board below the door to the house.  The bright blue caulk did a fair job adhering the board to the... is it a wall?  Base-board?  I don't know what it was, but I glued the board to it.

On what should be an unrelated note, my friends have been very understanding about not wearing shoes on my carpet.  Even the five-year-old.  So the next day, when I noticed several bright blue footsteps in my carpet, I knew I had only myself to blame.  I had trod the most annoyingly bright caulk ever into the house.

At least it's fireproof.

Still more frustrating, the caulk isn't curing like I assumed.  After nearly a month, it's still slightly tacky.  This means A) I'm going to track caulk into the house again someday soon, and B) paint won't stick to it properly.  I cross the blue line of shame twice daily.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Are they still o-possums, or was that just in Oklahoma?

Somebody yelled in the street at 2am.  This simultaneously pisses me off, and makes me giddy at how quiet my new "normal" night-time noise level is.  I grabbed a flashlight and walked through the house to make sure it was just somebody out in the street.  I'm not sure what else I thought it might have been.  World's worst burglar?

While walking, I spotted an animal in the back yard tottering toward my window, then saw it again a few minutes later tottering away.  I shone the light out but didn't see much.  It was low to the ground, bigger than most housecats, and broad for its height.  Raccoon?  They can get big, but I think I would have seen the markings on its fur.  I'm thinking opossum.  They totter.

Opossums in the neighborhood could explain the monster den in the corner of the yard.

I heard some more obnoxious voices from the road, and something like a car trying to start with a weak battery.  Yeah, that's frustrating.  Yelling at 2am doesn't help.  Shut up.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Let left leaves linger?

My yard is setup mostly with gravel walkways between the lawn and decorative plants.  Is it actually necessary to rake leaves out of the flowerbeds and away from trees?  Or can you just rake the lawn for appearances? 

It seems like they should break down.  When I go hiking in the summer, the ground isn't govered with leaves.  I don't think they rake the woods.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Welcome to the Nerd Hole

I have a great living room for company, but I actually spend most of my time in my home office.  I rarely work from home; mostly I play games and watch funny cat videos.  So I call it my Nerd Hole.

I had the same basic setup in my apartment.

So I spent a bundle of money to buy a bright and airy 1100 square foot house that's a lot of work to keep up... all so I could live in the same dreary and claustrophobic 90 square feet I already had.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You can get TV wirelessly these days

I don't have cable TV, and I don't have much interest in renting DVDs or Blue-Rays.  I think they're all dying technology.  Hulu is killing TV-as-TV, and streaming NetFlix is killing physical media for video.  I do have a biggish TV in the living room, and it gets Netflix via the Wii.  No Hulu out there, but I watch on my PC.  All connected by wireless Ethernet.

There's one coax cable running into the house, and that's it.  I can throw a funny hat over the modem and router and be done.  So much nicer than running cables.