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.


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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!).

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

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”

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

No Drinking After 10 p.m.


It may not look like much to you, but to me, it represents (exhausting) progress!

I’m still nowhere near finished with either of the two new bathrooms – and for the last three months, I’ve been without a second-floor toilet. That’s meant stumbling down the back stairs (because the front stairs still have no rail) in the middle of the night should I need to adjust my fluid levels.

A few weeks ago, such a midnight need led to a slip resulting in a massive bruise on my posterior – so I decided to stop all fluid intake after 10 p.m. I want my bourbon back.

Today, my electrician (finally) hung one of the two exhaust fans, and he assures me the other – and the rest of his work – will be installed by Friday afternoon. Then I can finish the floor, start hanging and patching drywall, and install (and use!) the toilet. (“Is there a felicity in the world…superior to this?”)

In the meantime, though, I’ve been awfully busy in my off-hours with editing  – and I was happy to have the work not only because I enjoy it, but because I chose an expensive toilet (the wax ring might put me over budget).

hiller250But just moments ago, I emailed back to its author the last of my current freelance jobs. I’m quite excited about that book; it’s an earthy and at times hilarious collection of life/work stories and anecdotes from a well-known cabinetmaker…but I can’t say anything more until the author unveils it. Update: Nancy Hiller just posted the image at left on Instagram. I hope you read it and enjoy it as much as have I.

So now I’m back to fretting about the lack of progress in my bathroom – both mine and the electrician’s.

I’m very much looking forward to my nightcap consumption resumption.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

My Woodworking (Among Other Things) Mentor: Christopher Schwarz


I am extraordinarily lucky to have the job I do today, and to do work that I love. It is almost entirely due to Christopher Schwarz.

In the summer of 2005, I notified my supervisor that I was leaving my Creative Services job after seven years (wherein my duties included writing marketing materials for Popular Woodworking Magazine and the WoodWorker’s Book Club) to return to school full time in pursuit of a teaching career in higher education.

About a week later, Christopher Schwarz and Steve Shanesy asked if I was interested in becoming the managing editor for Popular Woodworking Magazine. Sure – why not. So my resignation turned into a department transfer. I wasn’t committed to staying long-term; we worked it out so I could take the necessary coursework for a Ph.D. I planned to leave after I finished my dissertation (it was a four-year plan).

Fast forward to February 2009. I took (and passed – whew!) my candidacy exams (already behind on that four-year plan) after taking almost all of my 2008 vacation in December, and my 2009 vacation in January and early February. If Chris hadn’t covered my essential duties during those months, that would simply not have been possible. For that, he has my eternal gratitude. (I know exactly how much it sucks to work two full-time jobs while getting paid for only one.)

Fast forward to now. Little did I know in 2005 that I’d fall in love with making big sticks of wood into smaller sticks of wood then sticking them back together. And while I’ve had the good fortune to learn in person from many incredibly gifted woodworkers, it was Chris’ love for the craft that inspired me most to keep learning, to keep trying new things and to become proficient (most of the time, anyway) at the subversive and rewarding act of making things instead of buying them (read “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” (Lost Art Press) for more on that). Or maybe I just respond well to his squirrel jokes. (Time-limited on writing a dissertation, I resigned my candidacy in 2015. While I miss talking about and teaching Shakespeare, I’d miss woodworking and being around woodworkers full time a lot more. So much for plans!)

Chris is an excellent teacher of woodworking, editing, writing, life and appreciation for craft beer; he is my éminence grise, and my friend. Yep – I’m extraordinarily lucky.

But he hates this kind of thing…so he might not ever talk to me again.

Note: January is National Mentoring Month; the above is in response to Joshua Klein’s request to post about our woodworking mentors; check out more at Instagram under the hashtag #woodworkingmentors.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments