Call me ‘Pig-Pen’


Stupid home inspector. And stupid home buyer for lack of due diligence.

I don’t think Charles Schulz every revealed “Pig-Pen’s” given name; henceforth, let’s assume it’s Megan.

Faced with a drain leak in my only working tub/shower, I called my plumber. I thought the junction from the P-bend-straight bit to the angled bit was the culprit. Nope, he said. The area around the tub drain is almost rusted through. “I can try to fix it, but that will probably break it completely.” Um, no. This bathroom is coming out when I redo the kitchen. It just has to last a little longer. Please.

So I’ll be a) Showering sparingly b) Speeding up the bath rehab from desultory to OH F*CK – HURRY!!! Which means I’ll be getting dirty, and staying that way longer than anyone would like. Apologies in advance to my co-workers.

But for now, I’ve fixed it.


It’s not actually that dire if water gets on the “bathroom” (aka Portal to Hell) floor below; from there, it goes into the floor drain outside the room’s entrance. That’s right – there is no proper shower drain in this “bathroom”… but if I don’t hurry with the second-floor work, I may be forced to shower here.

I’d rather stink.

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Bringing Down the House, Possibly


Load-bearing or not – that is the question. The studs are toenailed directly to the 3/4″ pine floorboards; there’s no plate, and they don’t sit atop a joist.

Above is the wall between my bedroom and the bathroom – and I must cut a doorway in it in order to move forward on my bathroom. Right now, the way in is what will become a shower wall – so I can’t frame that until there’s another entrance.

If I decide on a 28″-wide door (of which there are already two original ones in the house), I can remove a single stud. Plus, I can then cut the plaster to just those studs, and (hopefully) have a lot less plaster repair when I’m done…possibly none, if I can get clean enough cuts, because the raw edges would we covered by the door frame and it’s fluted moulding.

But that would mean building a door frame from scratch, and finding a matching 6-panel door at a salvage yard.

If I put in the door frame I took out of the former hall doorway to the bath, I can simply use the door I have that I know fits it, and it will match the three other doors/doorways already in the room (to the hall, and to two closets). But to do that I have to take out two studs, and take out plaster all the way to the corner on the other side…which will almost certainly result in some damage to the plaster on the adjoining wall.

What to do…

Either way, I’m planning to put in the same sort of triangular door framing that is on what I know is a load-bearing wall…just in case I’m wrong in thinking this one isn’t. After all, that framing has held up a floor above (and a formerly slate roof) for more than a century.


This doorway is going to be the shower entrance; I’m planning to leave the frame at the top exposed, because it looks cool. (The showerhead will be 50″ to the right and about 3″ below the top of the door opening, plus there’s an exhaust fan already installed; I don’t think moisture will be an issue.)


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Banner Reuse/Restore Day

soapstoneThis morning, I picked up my moulding from Quick Strip – and he did a great job. For $80 and a week of patience, four fluted window casings, three cornices and one sill have been stripped of many layers of paint. Now, I have to wait for them to fully dry, then refinish them to look like they used to.

I tested some finish approaches last year on some moulding I’d sanded down to bare wood – a coat of garnet shellac, followed by walnut toner and another coat of shellac looked pretty close – we’ll see if that works out here…I’ll test it on the back, of course.

And on the way home from Quick Strip, I stopped by Building Value – a local, inexpensive re-use and salvage center, just to see what they had (as I do almost every Saturday – it’s only a mile from my house), and found a stack of soapstone slabs that had been removed from a chemistry lab at Cincinnati State Technical College. I was gobsmacked – I’ve been looking for salvaged soapstone for a year, now! So of course I immediately whipped out my check card. The 1″ x 25″ x 6′ slab I purchased for just $60 will become the vanity top in my bathroom. Some day.

While I’ll certainly have to fabricate a lot of the mouldings, stair parts, etc. as I work on this house, I love re-using salvage parts as much as possible, even though it means waiting until the right things show up. Like the chandeliers I need for the living room, dining room and front hall – which reminds me that I need to run down to the Wooden Nickel for a look-see…just as soon as I can find a kind neighbor to help me shift that soapstone out of my car and into the garage.


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Multiple Thicknesses – Who’d Have Thunk?


I found two fully intact cornices, and one almost-intact sill (plus plenty of five-fluted side casing not shown here). It’s all being stripped right now.

Yesterday, I dropped off with a local furniture stripper the original window casings, sills and cornices – which I think came out of the very room into which they’re going back – that I unearthed in the garage. By next Saturday, they’ll be stripped of the multiple layers of paint (and grime). My plan for today was to hang and tape the drywall in the guest bath in the critical areas that would then allow me to install said mouldings (after some repair and scavenging of parts to make a second sill then refinishing), then refinish the floor.

I figure it’s best to have all the large, messy stuff done before tackling that floor.

I’ve had 3/8 ” drywall in my hall awaiting said project for two weeks (last weekend, I had some editing that simply had to get done).

But I forgot the critical “measure twice” rule…or at least I didn’t apply it properly, and measure in multiple locations. Because who would use more than one thickness of drywall in a room – particularly on a single wall?

Well – a former owner would.

Under and around the window, I did indeed need the 3/8″ drywall, so that’s now screwed in place. But it turns out that to patch the Romex channel behind where the sink will go, I need 1/2″. And to fill in what was a doorway to the pantry (now part of the shower) that is alongside where the toilet will go, I need 5/8″. And it’s raining – not a good day to strap drywall atop the Outback.


At least I got some of it in.

My guess is that whomever last re-did this room used whatever drywall he or she had on hand. New elevation or new wall? Grab whatever there’s enough of to cover it.

At least I get out of mudding for the day – no sense in mixing up joint compound until all of the patches are in place.


I suppose I could clean up some of my mess in the meantime…


…but I want to enjoy the lack of a trash pile for just a little longer.

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I Need Professional Help

cubeI realize posting here is a long shot, but what the hell. See that empty cubicle in the photo above? I need an excellent copy editor/line editor/details-oriented person – who knows woodworking or is eager to learn the craft – to take it over.

Rodney Wilson, the former managing editor for Popular Woodworking Magazine, did an excellent job in the year or so he was here, but left to take a job more in line with his interests. I wish him nothing but good luck  – but he’s been gone for two workdays now and already, I miss him terribly.

I joined the Popular Woodworking staff in 2005 as managing editor. My plan was to stay for a year or two as I finished my Ph.D., then leave to teach early modern drama at a small college (so that I could help at least a handful of people learn to love Francis Beaumont’s “Knight of the Burning Pestle” as much as I do). But I fell in love with woodworking, and 12 years on, here I still sit. (I continue, however, to urge everyone to read at least a little Shakespeare.)

So I guess I’m looking for someone kind of like me (if perhaps better-tempered). Someone who loves the power of the well-written word and can help to effect that in our content, but who also likes makes things with his or her hands. Someone who understands how important it is to pay contributors on time, and who doesn’t mind the associated paperwork (well – it was paperwork when I started; now it’s on the computer). Someone who isn’t afraid to gently harangue writers (and, er, me) to get stuff done on schedule. Someone who loves having access to a full woodworking shop, and wants to build things and write about it. Someone who wants to live in Cincinnati – a marvelous city with excellent restaurants and services, and an incredible stock of affordable and historic housing (there’s newer homes, too of course…but where’s the fun in multiple working baths, I ask you?!).

The job posting is on our corporate website. If the above sounds fun to you, check it out – or pass it along to a qualified friend. Please!

Oh – and because an empty cubicle isn’t terribly enticing, here’s a few shots of the shop:


A couple table saws…


12″ jointer, 20″ planer, almost-hidden band saw and lathe …


Plenty of clamps, good hollow-chisel mortiser and drill presses, and plenty of hand tools in the window racks behind the clamps, and in drawers where you can’t see them…


And the terrifying storeroom (if you don’t already know, you don’t want to!).

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A Series of Renovation Mysteries


“The Case of the Disappearing Tape Measure”

“The Mysterious Meow: The Cat That Got Trapped Under the Floor”

“Out of Square: The House That Shifted in Six Dimensions”

“Wedged for Eternity: The Case of the Immovable Cut Nail”

“Plastered: The Case of the Never-Ending Dust Cloud”

“The Junction Box Puzzle”

“Off Center: The Holes That Refused to Align”

“The Case of the Elusive Electrician”

“A Bathtub in the Foyer”

“Here There Be Bats”

“Charged but Never Delivered: An Online Order Nightmare”

“Cardboard: The Case of the Ersatz Litterbox”

“The Plywood that Flipped Mid-Measure”

“Death by Dropping: The Two-Story Fall of an Adjustable Square”

“Raiders of the Lost Arc: The Buried Live Wire”

“A Ceiling to the Head”

“Shift This: The Case of the 500 Lb. Bathtub”

“The Enigma Switch”

“Broken Lead: Every Pencil”

“The Mysterious Massive Bruise”

“Skeletons in the Interstices”

“Copper: A Puzzling Labyrinth of Piping”

“The Cat That Chewed Romex”

“Weekend Nightmare: A Visit to the Home Center”

“The Case of the Crap in the Attic”

“There Will Be Blood”

“The Leftover Fasteners: It’s a Mystery”

“Wires to Nowhere”

“A Rustling Behind Walls”

“Mold: A Terrifying Tale of Old Drywall”

“The Trash Pile That Wouldn’t Stop Growing”

“Splintered: The Case of the Overworked Tweezers”

“Still Live: The Case of an Original Gas Line”

“Impossible: A Tale of OSB Optimization”

“The Case of the Always-Dead Batteries”

“WTF: A Whodunnit of Former Owners”

“The Not-So-Mysterious Death of a Bank Account”

“The Girl Who Bit Off More Than She Could Chew: A Cautionary Tale”

“The Legend of the Finished Renovation”

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Lignin-laced Water


Yes, yes; I’m going to sticker it. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

With a 3-day weekend ahead, I thought: Perfect time to frame out the shower walls and put in a proper sub floor. Heck – I might then even be able to get the underlayment for the tile walls hung!

I have to frame a wall into what was a doorway at the back left corner, and scab 2x4s onto the existing studs along the rest of the left-side wall of the shower…or perhaps only on the studs to either side of the vertical water pipes. With the original studs installed flat on that non load-bearing wall (I’m sure that extra 2″ of floor space made all the difference), there’s not enough depth in the cavity to fit a thermostatic mixer for the water. One needs, it seems, a minimum of 2-7/16″

Of course, if I make only that one cavity deeper, it makes the tiling to come more of a pain in the posterior, with two additional inside and outside corners to navigate (but that extra 2″, well, it does make a difference…).

But I screwed up. I should have bought the lumber weeks months ago to give it time to dry; what I have here are sticks of water held together by a bit of lignin.

I won’t be framing this weekend. Perhaps instead I’ll make a solar kiln out of the old windows piled in the backyard – I’m not convinced this pine has never been in a kiln of any kind.

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