A Vow I Might Regret (& Possibly Break)


I ran out of room on my sawbenches – ladder to the rescue!

After a summer filled with travel, teaching, fun and family visits (and the day job, of course), I’ve finally the time to get back to work on the guest bathroom. I vow it will be completely done by November 9 – one year to the day I picked up my sledge hammer and started swinging at the walls.

Today, I sanded down the raised grain and fuzzy patches left by dip-stripping the original trim I’d unearthed in the garage, then I got out the paint and brush. Why, you might ask, did I bother to have it stripped just to again paint it? There were enough layers of (probably lead-based) paint to obscure the details. Plus, I figured the chemicals would kill any wee beasties hiding inside.

At work, I’ve already moulded (by router) the ogee edges of the two stools (the decorative piece that goes atop the sill to butt up to the window’s lower rail); this week, I’ll pull out the moulding planes to replicate the fairly fancy trim that wraps the top of the aprons (the bit that goes under the stool) to match those in the rest of the house, and to shape the aprons’ bottom edges. (Easier, cheaper and more efficient to use the hand tools I already have than to try to find (and buy) the necessary router bits.)


Replicating this will be a bit of a challenge.

Before I can install the trim, however, I have to get creative to overcome some remuddling. The bathroom walls have 1/8″ drywall (yes – 1/8″; no wonder the walls are curvaceous) over the plaster, and it stops a couple inches short of the window casing. As a result, the wall protrudes 1/8″ farther than the casing to which the trim must be nailed. That will cause problems a) with the trim sitting level to the wall, and b) with properly installing the window stops (oh yeah…gotta make those, too). So, I have to run about 37′ of 1/8″ x 2″ (or so) of something to install flush to the casing before I can install the trim. And I’ll have to scrape the casing first, to boot.


How very vexing. (Those are, BTW, temporary stops)

The biggest challenge by far, though (with the plumbing now out of the way) will be the base moulding. It’s an 8-1/2″-wide multi-part undulating design that’s going to be a pain in the keister to make – so once I decide how I’m going to do it and get the tooling dialed in, I’ll run scores extra feet thereof for places in the house where it’s missing, and for the kitchen remodel to come. (After a year of haunting architectural salvage stores and sites, it has become painfully clear the only way forward is to sneck up and make it.)


Replicating this will be more than a bit of a challenge. Also, I need a new vacuum cleaner…and someone to run it.

But tomorrow, my plumber is coming to put in the sink shut-off valves and drain – so I’ll finally, after one year, once again have a full suite of working bathroom fixtures in one room! Plus, he’s going to install the mixing valve and run the pipe beyond it for the shower head in my walk-in shower – so I’ll finally be able to move forward with that project as well!

And by now the first coat of paint is probably dry. Time for coat two.

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‘Woodworker’ & ‘Woman’ are Separate Nouns

(reposted from popularwoodworking.com)

I’ve been trying for weeks to write this editorial; it is difficult to do because my idealist view competes with reality. I have long been ambivalent about woodworking shops and classes specifically for women, because I don’t want them to be necessary. But they are. Also, I don’t want to seem as if I’m trying to be the voice of all woodworkers who happen to be women. No doubt our experiences, ideas and ideals differ. So here’s my take:

As a woodworker who happens to be a woman, I have experienced time and again what it feels like to be a “woman woodworker.” Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am a woodworker. One has little to do with the other. “Woman” need not be used an adjective to modify “woodworker,” but it often is. Or worse, “woman” is perceived as “not woodworker.”

I have walked into woodworking stores and lumberyards and been asked if I’m shopping for my husband. I have been at industry events where there are many woodworkers trying out a new tool or sawblade or what have you, with the makers or booth workers looking on. I step up to try out whatever is on offer, and a couple of guys come rushing over to make sure I know how to use it safely. While I appreciate the concern, I do not appreciate the concurrent lack of concern for those with a Y chromosome. It is condescending; the assumption – whether conscious or not – is that because I am a woman, I need help. I do not. Or if I do, I’ll ask for it (as should anyone).

I’ve been at woodworking press events where I was overtly and repeatedly sexually harassed to the point where other attendees began keeping close by in an effort to forestall it. (Concern I absolutely appreciate.)

I’ve been in woodworking classes where more than half the male students therein asked if I needed assistance; they did not ask the other men. I have taught woodworking classes wherein more than one man repeatedly pointed out “that’s not the way ‘XY’ does it,” to the point where it was clear “XX’s methods couldn’t be as valid.” (To be fair, I’ve heard from many instructors that there’s typically one person like that in almost every class, the gender of the instructor notwithstanding.

Now this is not to knock men (and not all men do any of the above); I like men. I just don’t like it when people assume I can’t do something or do something well because I am not one.

Which brings me to A Workshop of Our Own – a Baltimore collaborative woodshop for women and gender-non-conforming furniture makers. The goal, says founder Sarah Marriage, is to “provide women an area to work, free of male judgment or harassment,” and that when one walks through the door, she is perceived not as a “woman woodworker” but as a woodworker. That is good and it is necessary. It is only when we can be perceived and valued independent of gender that we will achieve gender equality.

After studying architecture at Princeton where classes were about equally populated by women and men, Marriage attended the College of the Redwoods (now the Krenov School) to study fine furniture making, where she was surprised to find herself firmly in the minority. “It was good environment, but there was something about it – a feeling of being a little bit outnumbered.

“There’s a little more of an attentiveness to you than to your male cohorts, and when you make a mistake, it’s a bigger deal than when a man does,” says Marriage. “I think in some ways there’s a fundamental underlying mistrust of your abilities.” After graduating and beginning to show her work (which is stunning – I can only hope to some day have her skill and design vision), Marriage said that though her name was on the wall, she was often asked if her husband had done the work.

Her experience, like mine, is nothing terrible. It is, as she says, just the constant awareness of being a “woman woodworker,” of “having to be the voice of all women because you’re the only one there, and the only one who might say, ‘hey, let’s not drool all over the ULINE rep.'” It’s draining.

So she founded A Workshop of Our Own, a full shop by and for women, with classes for women, as well as for children regardless of their gender. “The idea of teaching boys as well as girls is to expose the younger generation to women doing this job. Not only are girls empowered, but boys are educated,” she says. “Patriarchy is bad for everyone. You have to deal with the fact that the situation is suboptimal; you can’t just act like we’re equal. You need to actively work to correct it.”

You can help. Right now, A Workshop of Our Own has the opportunity to buy the building in which it’s located – but time is short. The collective needs to raise $100,000 overall and there are five days remaining in the Indiegogo campaign. Not only will you be supporting a good and necessary step toward equality, you can get some cool stuff in return. Check out the rewards, check your checkbook, and see if you can’t find a few dollars to help.

In my lifetime, I can likely expect to at best be perceived as a “woman woodworker” when I walk into a tool store – and that would sure beat the assumption that I’m shopping for my husband (or shopping for a husband). But I’m hopeful that, with a few more efforts like Marriage’s, those two words are used as separate nouns for future woodworkers who are women.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. Lest you think I’m wearing blinders, men, I hope you can some day soon walk into a fabric store and have it not be assumed you’re shopping for your wives (or for a wife).


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Ray Davies is So Right

showerThe basement ablutions are beginning to wear. But hey – I have a basket – all I need is to put some lotion in it and I’m ready for a remake of “Silence of the Lambs.”

Yes, I could clean it (somewhat, anyway), but my plumber swears he’ll be here this week.

The guest bath has been ready and waiting for shutoff valves etc. for two weeks, the walls are painted and all the fixtures are in the room. Sure, I could finish making then paint and install the trim in the meantime…but then I’d have to shower. In the basement.



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Half of a Sink (or, The Wussy Remodeler)


The finished floor – and the only fixture (part) I wasn’t too much of a wuss to get upstairs without help.

I want my friends to remain my friends (I also want my new tub to survive the move). So I’ve hired a piano moving company to shift the 335-lb. cast iron behemoth from my front hallway to the guest bath on the second floor, and to carry up the toilet and sink basin.  The movers are kindly fitting in my 1/2-hour job  later today, after completion of a proper move in the area.

Yes, Imthisclose to installing the fixtures – good thing, because the downstairs tub is now leaking around the drain so much that I could turn on the water then traipse down to the basement to take a shower. In other words, I need to immediately become a peripatetic bather, simply wait for a good rain, or resolve to not care that I stink.


It took about 1 lb of Tiger Flakes (at a 2-lb. cut) for two coats of the 9′ x 15′ room.

The weekend before Handworks, I sprayed two coats of garnet shellac on the yellow pine floor in the guest bath, both to block lingering faint odors that I could not smell but the cats could (which leads to very bad behavior indeed), and to warm up the wood color.


As the poly was drying, the screen in the back window was slowly starting to fall in toward the wet finish – much anxiety! But it managed to hang in there until the floor was dry enough for me to walk on it. Whew!

I topcoated the shellac with two coats of Bona “Mega” waterborne polyurethane, a low VOC finish that, because there’s no component to add, is easy to apply without having to get the timing exactly right (as is the case with the same company’s “Traffic,” which I used on the kitchen at my last house). The Mega also has less odor than the Traffic – though I’ve read that it’s not quite as durable. I don’t mind; it will be just me and the cats using this bathroom for now (I’m in the midst of designing a suitable base for litter boxes). Once I get “my” bath done (when I win the lottery?), it will be just the cats and the occasional guest using this one (and me, when I wish to soak in a tub – my bath is getting a walk-in shower).

This weekend, I’m skim coating the walls (perhaps only where my novice work will be well-hidden by the fixtures, then later hire a pro for the “show” portions) and painting at least those areas, then installing and painting the window trim on the tub wall (because it would suck to try to do that with a tub in the way).

I’m really hoping my plumber can fit me in early next week – as are my co-workers.


I’m about to be bereft of my current excuse for not yet having finished the stair and hall work. I’m sure I’ll come up with something…

p.s. Many thanks to Montgomery Moving & Piano for taking pity on me.

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Hurry Up & Wait


I borrowed a four-pad random-orbit sander from a nice fellow in the Cincinnati Woodworking Club – thank you Ray! He also has a drum sander, but this floor was already stripped and flat(ish), so I’m saving the drum-sander joy for the rest of the house.

You know what you can’t just pick up at the home center? Any of the supplies or products I need to finish the guest bathroom floor. So thanks to the Internet, I’ve stuff coming from around the country. Because naturally, I couldn’t find everything I needed all in one place.

I spent most of yesterday sanding it up to #120  grit, then did my best with a palm sander and sanding block to knock off the splintery edges I created (oops) while pulling up bits of it to run the plumbing. (Taking out old floorboards sans damage is quite a skill – and despite a fair amount of practice, I’m at best semi-skilled.)

I have garnet shellac “Tiger Flakes” coming from Tools for Working Wood in New York. I’ll spray two coats of that in a #2 cut to a) impart some warmth and color and b) block any lingering odors I wasn’t able to sand out.

From Midwest Flooring Distributors in South Dakota, I’m awaiting a 12″ floor coater and sleeves for it, and a couple trim pads. (I know I’ll need but one sleeve and pad for this job, but refinishing floors is such great fun…I might be doing it again…if not soon.)

And from the shopping aggregator Jet (so it could be coming from anywhere), Bona “Mega” in satin. I’ll put two – maybe three – coats of that atop the dewaxed shellac. Yes, yes. I know – “Mega” is waterborne and not quite as durable as an oil-based poly – but I can’t afford to move myself and the cats out while VOCs dissipate from any sort of oil-based finish. (I used the two-part “Traffic” on the kitchen cork at the old place – a bit stinky, and a limited shelf life once the catalyzer is added. I’m going for the easy solution this time.)

I’m hopeful I’ll have everything before next weekend so I can get the finish done … because for the two weekends after, I’m already booked. This has gone on far too long already!

While I wait, I’m trying to find an expert to pour or fabricate the shower pan for the bath off my bedroom. There’s not much I’m afraid to try…but a shower pan is among the things I’m afraid to try. Poor results could be catastrophic.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying this stunning floor treatment:



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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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