Thursday 28 June 2007

28 walnuts and 4 mummies

We are renovating again. The sunroom above our front porch is a great room which we had been using as a TV room. It had a few issues though. Crappy windows, old carpet, poor insulation and powder blue paint throughout. Need I say more.

The plan was to remove some of the trim on the inside to get a look at the framing so we could measure for new casement windows. I have done my fair share of old house renovating, helping my Dad renovate the houses I grew up in, and now two of my own. I am pretty confident in what I am doing and have seen a fair amount of unconventional construction. This sunroom caught me by surprise. There was no framing between the windows. Nothing. The windows themselves were structural. After much panic, I called a long time trusted friend Ed Harder. He is the guy who built my studio. He came over and assured me it was managable and was even a bit of an advantage because now I could frame it how I wanted - to maximize windows. After talking it through, I regained my confidence.

The next step was to finish gutting it. There was some nasty blown in fiberglass insulation in a few of the wall cavities below the windows, and a false drywall ceiling. The original ceiling was T&G decking and looked quite nice... except for a previous owners decorative plastering. The 70's must have been rough. Once I got to the original ceiling it started getting interesting. First off, there was an odd odor that appeared periodically. That was missed clue number one. The second clue - was a walnut dropping on my head.


It all came back to me. When we bought the house, we had a new steel roof put on, the sofits, facia and eves troughs done, and all the gable ends redone in cedar. When the guys were doing the sunroom, they commented on the squirrel population living in the roof. From this point on, I went a lot slower anticipating the worst. Three T&G boards, and a higher percentage of walnuts later - squirrel No.1 appeared. It was a perfectly mummified adult squirrel, cozied up against a joist. Scooped him up, bagged him and continued on. I found more walnuts and two more mummies in the next hour. when I had the ceiling out, I figured I was done with the mummies, but I found a forth curled up above the sofits in a corner. Most of the space is now gutted, except for the window frames which will come out once a temporary wall is built to support the roof.

I did find a treasure in the ceiling - an old toy chicken. I also kept a few of the cut nails that were in some of the T&G boards.

PS - there were no squirrels in the chicken.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Konrad,

Love your site - most enjoyable reading and filled with gorgeous pictures.

Do tell us more about your project won't you? It looks both interesting and challenging - especially since you are playing around with an old building, load bearing timbers and detailed workmanship.

I know what the challenges are like having renovated old homes in the past. Nothing is ever straight nor are they straight forward.

If your tools and mud room cupboard are anything to go by, the final result will be astonishing.

Thanks, in anticipation.


19 July 2007 at 23:57  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the note and the very kind comments.

I have taken a bit of a break from the TV room to get to some other (planemaking) work. There are futher photos and comments in the personal work section of the gallery.

Right now, I am trying to find some 14' white oak to use for the window sils. All the electrical boxes and light fixtures are located and installed - and we are waiting for our electrician to come by and help me wire everything. I will update the gallery more frequently, but will make a blog entry at more significant stages.

Best wishes,

20 July 2007 at 06:50  

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Thursday 21 June 2007

Irish Corona & other tales from Edwardsburg

What an amazing weekend. It started off a little shaky – 33 degrees (95C), a black pickup truck and no air conditioning. I carpooled with my friend Steve – and despite the heat and blasting side winds – it was a great road trip. Steve – anytime you want a co-pilot…

The first 15 minutes were a good indicator of things to come– John Sindelar’s tool museum. What an amazing display of fine and rare tools! For anyone that has not seen it, I would highly recommend attending next year's show – it is worth the trip just to see the collection. It is one of those collections where you are looking at something, and you know it is of significance but you have no idea why. Case in point – John picked up a mystery object and asked us to identify it. After more than a few blank looks he finally ended our suspense by telling us it was the first patented rotisserie. Now imagine 5 rooms of tools like that! Just incredible.

A few hours later, magic moments two and three walked in - Jim Leamy and Paul Hamler. I had wanted to meet these two for quite some time, so to be able to meet them both at once was almost too much. Jim proceeded to cart in 8 boxes and set up right beside me. It was plow plane after plow plane, until he had filled a 6' x 10' table with at least a dozen examples of his exceptional work. I had seen photos of them, but trust me - they do not do his work justice...and they simply blew me away. Ebony, Rosewood, ivory everywhere. I am still trying to decide which one I like best.

Paul Hamler set up shortly after Jim did. He was particularly proud of a new scraping plane insert he had just finished prototyping (he had the aluminum prototype there as well). It was a marvel of re-engineering and casting. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to spoil his fun – but suffice to say, I should be getting production insert No. 3 (right behind Chris Schwarz). This was the first time I had seen Paul’s miniature work as well – his reputation is certainly deserved. They were awesome.

The actual 2 day show was great. There were vendors selling tools outside in the parking lot, Paul Hamler, Jim Leamy Chris Schwarz and I were set up inside giving demonstrations on sharpening, using scrapers, bench building and woodworking in general. It was a very low key, slow paced event. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves – I know we certainly did.

There was a short lived sad moment when I learned that a very fine Emmert patternmakers vice sold for $325 at the auction… but it was quickly remedied… though that will be the subject for another entry.

On the last night, a group of us decided to go out for dinner to celebrate the great weekend. We left in 4 vehicles and within the first 2 minutes, while stopped at a train crossing, were rudely interrupted with the screeching noise of the train derailing. We turned around and found another way out. This split up the caravan of 4 into 2 groups of 2 vehicles. We eventually found the restaurant – walked in, and turned right around and walked out. It didn’t smell right - so we waited for the other two cars to arrive. After meeting up with the rest of the band, we agreed to head back to another establishment we had passed earlier...on the other side of the tracks (literally, not metaphorically). We went in, and ordered a round of beer. The waitress returned to say they were out of our selection, but the bartender had substituted it for something close. It was not even close - but it was still beer so we drank it anyway. Feeling bad, she returned to tell us they did have some Guinness. Music to our collective ears – and we proceeded to order that. Moments later she returned to tell us that in fact – there was no Guinness either, but they did have something similar - Corona. It was this particular bit of news, followed by “this is my first day” that made us realize this was no ordinary night out. I swear I saw the manager scampering across the road to the store and return with a 6-pack under his arm. Guinness was finally presented to us a few minutes later. He made ammends by saying we could keep the Guinness glasses, and mine now sites proudly by my bench holding my paintbrushes.


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