Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fitting the compass rose

Chris has cut out the compass arms and glued the segments together. As a reminder, the light wood is birch, the dark is walnut. Even without any stain or finish on it I think it already looks amazing.

Fitting the pieces
We took a compass reading so that the arms would actually point the correct directions. North is, appropriately, at the top. It makes the compass rose crooked on the landing, but we think it's much cooler than just centering it.
Positioning the rose to point North
Once the rose was positioned, Chris had to start piecing together the floor boards so they'd fit around the arms. I suppose technically this is marquetry rather than inlay since the pieces go all the way through. The North symbol and the copper ring will be inlay as they'll just barely be inset in the wood. At least that's the plan - we've got a lot of practicing to do before we try that for real. The thought of messing this up after all the work that has gone into it is enough to make my stomach hurt.

The floor boards are white oak. We got them from a friend who'd had the wood stored in his basement for the last 30 years (a very dry basement fortunately). He didn't want it anymore and was going to burn it (no!!!!) so we scored a good deal on it. None of them were tongue and grooved however, so Chris used the router to do so.

Each floor board is custom fit to the compass points
It's painstaking work fitting all the pieces together and there has been a bit of cussing when something has to be done over. But it's really coming along much faster than I ever expected. 
Almost finished
I'll be testing different finishes on scrap lumber so we can get the tones just right. The color variations you see from photo to photo are just tricks of the light (taken in daylight, with or without flash, or under the work lamp).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Installing the ceiling grates

When we designed the house we chose not to put any heating units on the second floor. We have solar powered radiant floor heat through the slab on the first floor but our main heat source is the wood stove.

Everybody loves the wood stove
Really, really loves it
We did this with the assumption that heat would travel up the stairwell (much like it did in our Troy house). Just to be safe we also cut two air ducts into the ceiling/floor to help with air circulation. One is right above the wood stove (maximum heat transfer) and goes into the upstairs bathroom; the other is in the kitchen and goes into the master bedroom.

This has worked great. It's quite warm in the room off the stairwell, very warm in the bathroom, and about 5 degrees cooler in the bedroom, which makes for more comfortable sleeping anyway. On the downside, we've had two holes cut into the ceiling for the last two years. Obviously we have not had holes in the floor - we covered those immediately with antique grates. But we never seemed to get around to putting in the ceiling grates; just wasn't a priority. 

But we finally did it!

In the kitchen - screwing in the supports

And over the wood stove


Close up
It's a small change. Barely noticeable really. But it's one more step toward finishing the house. And we get to cross it off the 2015 goals. Woot!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Designing the stair landing

The main staircase to the second floor has been in construction mode for a long time. It's safe, it gets us up and down, but it's got temporary stair treads, a plywood landing, and rough railings. Chris decided it was time to start finishing this area and has been planing wood (flame birch for the treads and white oak for the landing) and coming up with ideas for the landing. He wanted something decorative on the landing and we decided to do some inlay. A compass to be specific.

High tech way to draw a circle

Drawing the design

Labeling everything

Cutting out the pattern

Itty bitty pattern pieces
He's going to take those tiny pieces of paper and use them as patterns to cut out the wood (walnut for the dark parts of the compass rose, birch for the light, copper inlay for the circles) and do an inlay. My part was easy - help design the compass rose, draw it, cut it out - I'm done. Now he gets to figure out how to do the artistic stuff. I'll have many more pictures to come.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Already moving things around

As I've mentioned many times, I like to live with something for a little while and tweak as needed. Sometimes it's a big tweak like tearing out windows that are only a year old, sometimes it's just a matter of moving the butcher block yet again.

With the bed raised and all the boxes neatly tucked underneath it, I had a chance to utilize my room a bit. Although the function was good, the aesthetics were not.

I wanted to build a desk at the foot of the bed for office work. Then my sewing table would reside under the window for the good light. The plastic tables in the middle will be replaced by an island with storage underneath. Sounds pretty good, right?

The desk was supposed to bridge the bed and second file cabinet
But over in the Northwest corner, things weren't working for me. This dresser was just too tall. It looked and felt wrong; crowded; visually jarring.
Great storage. Wrong place.
So we got to work and moved things around again (my poor husband; he's really great about this stuff). The dresser now sits at the foot of the bed; Sheila (my sewing dummy) is in the dead space between the dresser and the wall - easy to get to but out of the way when not needed; the sewing table   is next and still gets good light but is no longer centered under the window.
The boxes will be hidden behind a curtain (see first photo)
And the file cabinet moved down to anchor the Northwest wall.
Temporary - it's all still temporary
So now I'm living with it again and it's working better. For the most part. I now know that I want a long work table on that North wall to extend from the file cabinet to Sheila. I'll use that as a combination work area, office space, and sewing table. The filing cabinet will actually move underneath the island, opposite the other file cabinet (now I can paint them both like town houses and it'll look so cool - like they're across the street from each other). The red office chair will have to go; it just has too big a footprint for my limited floor space. I'm leaning toward a small rolling stool instead. Maybe an antique piano stool or lab stool would be cool. We'll have to see what I can find.

I also have plans for utilizing the blank wall space. Just need to get the floor plan finalized to make sure I have easy access to anything I wall mount.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Well that didn't take long...

T'bd quickly found the bed and realized something wonderful.

The dog can't get up there.

Poor Cooper sits on the floor and moans. T'bd sleeps right at the edge of the bed on that blanket - visible but unreachable.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Adding a raised bed to my room

Storage space is always at a premium in any room but it seems like it's particularly important in a space that serves multiple functions. As mentioned previously, my room wears many hats - craft space, sewing room, office, and pantry. 

It also has a twin bed for naps, reading cookbooks, or guests - whichever comes up at the moment. Unfortunately beds take up a lot of space and don't tend to offer multi-use functionality. Unless you lift them off the floor. Then a whole new world opens up.

I didn't want a dorm-style loft bed as that would just be too high for me to use easily. But something up high enough to store boxes underneath? Yes please!

Painting the sides

Mounting the support rails

The file cabinet set the height as it supports one corner

Four sides mounted

Everyone uses walnut as their bed slats, right?

Checking it out 
It took Chris several days to plane the boards smooth (we used some of our rough cut pine) and then I painted them. Everything else happened wicked quick and it's now functional. I have wooden moving dollies that the boxes sit on and I can slide them in and out as needed. Boring, seldom used stuff like tax and investment files are at the back; craft supplies and my fabric stash are easily grabbed at the front. I'm still figuring out the best way to get into the bed - I'm using a step ladder at the moment - but we're thinking some cool sliding bookshelf steps next to the armoire would be awesome. And I want to paint the filing cabinet something cute and fun; maybe a town house kind of thing. In the meantime, this setup works great and I love being able to use the space underneath.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


It's negative 10 degrees F outside this morning. Poor Cooper took one step outside and gave me a look of reproach that no dog should be able to convey. She was a trooper though - went deep into the yard for her morning potty break. Doubt it'll be much of a walk today though.

Hope you're keeping warm!

Monday, January 5, 2015


I've mentioned before that our streams are most active in winter. They pretty much dry to a trickle by August and don't start really flowing again until late fall. But once they get going, boy are they pretty.

How much longer can that middle tree last???

Matt's Stream

I can usually hop across at this point

Looking downstream

The pond that's only a pond in winter.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 Goal List - because I just can't resist

I know I said we'd only do the first quarter, but let's see what's ahead of us in 2015.
  1. The Pantry - otherwise known as "my room". Lots to do in there and fortunately we've already gotten started: clean out room, build loft bed, stain window trim, trim windows and walls, build and install cookbook shelf, refinish armoire, paint dresser, cut in wall paint, put door on freezer closet, finish door trim (2 openings), build desk, paint file cabinets, build work island. Painting of furniture is actually more a "craft" than a "to-do" since it's optional and fun.
  2. Install a tin roof on the equipment area
  3. Trim out the interior of the house (not sure if we'll do the entire house at once or go room to room). That darn wood has to be dry at some point.
  4. Replace construction stairs with permanent treads and landing
  5. Replace construction railings with permanent ones.
  6. Build Chris's workshop!
  7. Build storage on the front porch
  8. Get the Bridge done? Maybe.
  9. Work on installing the garden beds and east-end stone patio
  10. Install permanent kitchen sink
  11. Upstairs closet doors - build and install
  12. Pretty up the porch - rebuild the pallet day bed, put some pillows and cushions out there, and generally make it more pleasing to the eye.
Nice-to-do includes: finishing the mudroom (making it pretty as well as functional), cosmetic fixes (ceiling heat grates, repair ceiling where scraped, hanging art, etc), work on the trail system, design the kitchen cabinetry, and reorganize the garage if the shop gets built. Of course the year will be full of the usual things as well - road and yard maintenance, cutting and splitting firewood, equipment maintenance, agility training, travel and visiting with friends/family, and all the other stuff that fills our days. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! May fortune smile upon your household in the year to come.

December 2011

December 2012

December 2013

December 2014