Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Kitchen Island

My kitchen has a big island in the middle of it. I designed it with multiple work zones: an antique butcher block forms one corner conveniently near the stove; a marble slab covers the other end for working dough and making candy; a long run of open space provides room to mix ingredients and stage stuff; in the middle are my stand mixer and food processor.  
The end by the stove
The end nearest the table
Supporting part of the worktop is an antique cabinet that used to be in an optometrists office - it was full of old lenses and blanks for making eye glasses when we got it. Chris had to do some woodworking repairs and I had to scrub the heck out of it (it had been stored in a garage for years) but it wasn't in bad shape overall. It had originally been constructed in sections and I chose to utilize only the ones that had stacked drawers (I'm sure we'll find good use for the others, probably in the studio).
The unit with large, deep drawers supports the side nearest the sink and has baking pans and food processor supplies. 
Wow, do I need to paint that kick board!
The other drawers hold similar stuff
The unit with shallow drawers sits on the side nearest the refrigerator and is full of baking tools and supplies.  
Yup, that kick board needs paint too.
Before anyone says there is no way those drawers will stay that organized, yes, they will. I've had them like this for well over a year. You just need the luxury of space. An overriding goal in this kitchen design was to have enough space to not stack or jumble things. These drawers (and many of the other drawers in the kitchen) are shallow (3" or so) so I can fit more of them into a standard cupboard space. More drawers = less jumbled mess.
I can always find my measuring spoons
Chris made the worktop by joining some ash boards that we picked up at auction. Originally I was going to use maple from the property but the grain on these was just too good to pass up.
Custom fitting the new top 
One corner of the worktop was supported by shelving that had consisted of 2x4s and plywood for the last few years. I wanted something much prettier so got some old sewing table legs. These things were nasty - rusted, pitted, and no table attached at all. Just two legs left outside for who knows how long. I scrubbed them, scraped them, sanded them, and painted them. And they look awesome!
The restored antique sewing table legs
What it's replacing (and look at that grain!)
In place and ready to fill
Love the pop of red 
Four shelves of wonderful: shallow top shelf for electronic scale and a cutting board; next shelf for sugars, choc chip jar; then mixing bowls; bottom for flour (yes, I have five bins of different flours down there - don't judge). Everything is easy to grab as I'm mixing and just as easy to put away despite messy fingers. 
Probably should have pushed back the dog food bucket...
Chris didn't care for the simple maple blocks that we had supporting the worktop so he carved some new ones.
Chris getting cute with the worktop supports
So now the island is finished and it's functioning beautifully. I can easily move the mixer and food processor to a side counter (or even to my workroom) when we host dinners so that space is available for a buffet. And it creates a nice gathering area in the kitchen - plenty of room to move around it while still providing access to food, drink, and tools. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My turn at pottery class

Chris had such a great time at his pottery class that we bought a kick wheel so we could turn at home. It quickly became apparent that I could benefit from some formal instruction as well, so I signed up at the studio for a beginner's wheel class. 

Looks like a bowl to me...
I learned an amazing amount and I'm proud to say that the quality of my items improved dramatically as class went on (in large part because Taylor, our instructor, was great). If anyone is interested in a pottery class I can't recommend Saratoga Clay Arts Center highly enough (no sponsorship, just loved the studio). And if you turn or hand-build at home but don't have a kiln, they charge for firing by the piece.

These pieces have been trimmed and bisque kilned, just waiting for glazing.
Salt pig, succulent planter, dram tumbler
Glazing was a bit overwhelming. There is a huge wall of example tiles and an amazing number of glazes available to you. Taylor warned us to keep good notes on what glazes we used so we'd be able to decide what we liked on the finished pieces. Why would that be important? Because the glaze goes on looking totally different from the color/finish it becomes after firing. All the reds on the pieces below? Some were black. Some were purple. Some were, indeed, red.
Trying to keep track of what glazes went where
I took good notes but ultimately too many of my pieces were basically the same shape (wine coaster, dram tumbler, ring bowl) and it was hard to match them up to the list. Next time I'll take a photo of the raw pieces and write my glazing choices right on the page (learned this from one of the more experienced potters; she keeps a binder of her work). No matter what though, realize that glazing is truly an art and you're never positive what you'll get. Much depends on where it's placed in the kiln and how the heat impacts the glaze. One time it might look one way, another time, quite different.
Some(!) of the haul
I did many wine bottle coasters and ring bowls for the family for Christmas and you want a nice smooth bottom so they don't scratch the table.  The glaze can leave some slightly sharp edges so you use sandpaper or a sanding disk to smooth them. It's really more a polish than a true sanding.
Smoothing the bottoms
In all, it was a great class and I had a lot of fun. I've still got a lot to learn and I definitely need to improve my technique but Chris and I will have a great time figuring it all out on our own wheel. Now we just have to get it set up in the studio.

Oh - and remember that red and green salt pig above? Yup, black and green now. And look at the garlic roaster! It was pale and uniform - now purple and two tone.
Garlic roaster, tumblers, salt pig, bowl, coasters

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas to all

Oh Christmas Tree 
Oh Christmas Tree
How lovely
are thy
Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The upstairs

I don't talk much about the upstairs of the house. Mainly because once we got clothing storage (oh my, was that really three years ago?) and a place to sleep, we've pretty much left it a hot mess. Painted plywood floors, untrimmed windows, boxes piled high in the bathroom (which still only has a toilet). Sigh.

But this fall I decided that while Chris was finishing up the kitchen cabinetry I'd do some finish work of my own. I'd install hardwood flooring and while I was at it, I'd switch the bedroom from the east end of the house to the west end and create an art/music studio where the bedroom used to be.

We cleaned out the west room which contained all Chris's music equipment as well as the guest bed. Then I started on the south wall, got midway, and moved anything still in the room onto the area I'd just finished. That way we didn't have to totally empty the room and could continue to use the east room as our bedroom. 
The future bedroom but not the future bed
Once the new and future bedroom was floored and the stairwell was trimmed I continued the flooring through the dressing room and into the studio-to-be. Traversing that hallway was a real pain because of the door and wall placement. I ran the boards through the studio doorway in a staggered pattern, finished the dressing area, and then did a lot of measuring and math to figure out where to start the boards on the south wall of the studio. Then I laid boards and hoped a lot that they'd all match up when I reached the dressing room door again. And they did! Mostly. Okay, they were off a bit. Which is when Chris did some woodworking magic and custom fit the row that needed to be slightly more narrow than standard. After that I could just continue on to the north wall to finish.
On the way to the finish
And here it is! A beautiful expanse of oak in 3 1/4 inch boards. Once we finished the flooring it just made sense to do the window and door trim too (hello scope creep).
Baseboards going in
Before window trim (or organization for that matter)
Just a wonderful expanse of flooring (and a note that we still need closet doors)
North wall of studio - trimmed!
South wall (and a total mess)
The studio is going to contain a lot of stuff - music equipment, painting easel & supplies, and the pottery wheel if we can figure out a way to keep it from ruining the floor. It will also have the guest bed and serve as the library for all our books. Book storage is a problem - we have lots and lots of books. And I didn't specifically design a library into the house plan (oops). So we have full bookshelves and still many full boxes of books that haven't yet been unpacked (I didn't realize how much book storage space we had in the old house. They must have been everywhere). I didn't want to give up floorspace to bookshelves, so what to do? I realized that we have lots of wall space - why not use that? A bookshelf molding idea was born. My thought was that it would be like crown molding but functional. So 20 running feet of bookshelf was mounted about 8 inches down from the ceiling and now holds some of our books. I like the look in the studio but I'm not sure I'd like it anywhere else in the house. We're holding the idea in reserve until we get this room fully sorted out (and I cull some of the book inventory).
East wall with bookshelf molding
Installing door trim
We're incredibly pleased with how much more finished the house feels with just these changes. In fact we like the feel of it so much we put our Christmas tree in the bedroom to celebrate.  
The new bedroom
This was all the waste - not bad!
There is still work to be done upstairs: install doors, install the bathroom, finish the Bridge, and organize the studio. But this was great progress and we'll tackle those other things next year.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Solving the pull problem

The drawer and door handles for the kitchen have been a bit of a struggle. I really wanted to use antique cutlery for the pulls. But I really didn't want to drill through the utensils and leave a bolt head visible. So the first attempt was Loc-Tite. That ultimately failed so I moved to attempt number two which was JB-Weld. Most of those failed as well. The metal utensils were simply too slick, even with sanding/roughing the surfaces, for the adhesives to hold up to repeated openings (even if you're being gentle, there is still a jerk when first breaking the inertia of a closed drawer).

If I wanted to use cutlery I'd have to drill through and figure out a way to make it appeal to my sense of aesthetic.
This was definitely not the look I wanted
I'd gotten cute with some of the decorating on the glued pulls and realized the copper spiral looked pretty cool. And I could use that to cover the bolt heads!
These decorated but undrilled pulls gave me my idea
The actual drilling was easy - the drill press, a clamp or two, and a sharp drill bit made quick work of going through the utensils. It was really neat to see what various metals were under the silver plating - copper, brass, and a mystery grey material (not lead - that would be too soft, probably nickel) all showed up as the surface was breached. Then drill through the drawer front, bolt together, turn some copper wire, and decorate. Here's how it looks:
Much better than the first picture
These are wicked hard to photograph. Here is the north wall - first stack is forks, second stack is knives, third is spoons - a complete place setting.
Maybe you can zoom?
 Here's another closeup of one of the spoons.
I love the copper/silver contrast
I hunted antique stores, my Mom's house, my stash, and flea markets for the cutlery. These ice tea ( ice cream?) spoons came from Newberry's!
So you can see both ends
Here's a shot from when it was just glued and tied. I made sure to place the new drill hole so that the logo was still visible. Several of the utensils had maker's marks or initials on the handles and I tried to make sure those could still be seen.
Before drilling
And here's a shot of the cocktail forks from the leftmost stack on the north wall. Yes, those tines are sharp but the drawers are set back deeply enough that I don't catch anything on them. Although I do put corks on the tines when the little ones come to visit. A quick and simple solution that saves a lot of worrying that they might poke an eye out on those things.

Such cool lines
I really liked the decoration I used on the left side of the fork but I'd have to remove it if I drilled through. So I drilled the right side and left the other glued - here's hoping it doesn't fail.
Mash up of attachment styles
The south wall (sink wall). 
All spoons
So now the drawers and doors all have pulls and they're all unique. Drilling and bolting the pulls has made them incredibly secure and I actually like how the copper coiling helps tie together what could be a visual mess. Since the cutlery is all different styles the color and shape of the copper coil adds a consistent design element. Perfect. And let's talk cost - antique cutlery is very inexpensive unless you're actually buying silver sets. I paid anywhere from 25 cents per piece up to $2 for a few that were an unusual shape or style. Compare that to $8 per piece for even inexpensive drawer pulls and I think I got a bargain.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Building (digging?) a greenhouse

There used to be a little house (camp) on the property. It had burned out and the owners bulldozed it down, but there was enough evidence to tell where the edges were. There was also quite a bit of debris - old bed springs, stove parts, glassware, bottles, etc. Since I wanted my garden on that section of the property we've been slowly clearing it out and cleaning it up. This actually required quite a bit of digging as the land is uneven and the stone foundation walls of the old camp are still present in places.

We'd already cleared the main cabin area and left that as a step-up from what will be the main section of the garden. This was, unfortunately, the best photo I could find of the step-up. It's the view from the east and the main garden will be to the north of that. Chris built up the stairs and restacked the wall that separates the step-up from the main (it's covered in debris and grass in the photo - oops).

Chris was working on leveling the main part of the garden when he found another wall edge. And as he was digging it, the ground sort of collapsed a bit, and he found an old stairwell. He kept digging and clearing and pushing and eventually found the edges of a basement. Cool! We immediately decided that was too good to pass up and decided to build...something. But what? Root cellar? Too far from the house. Plus I do still want the garden there. So we decided on a greenhouse. Specifically a pit greenhouse. Stone walls below grade, then either stone or cordwood knee-walls, then glass upper walls and roof. Needless to say, this will be a slow moving project.
Original walls and destroyed stairwell behind Chris
Remember this area had been burned out and bull dozed so there was a tremendous amount of clean up to do. 
Cleaning out
And then Chris got started building the other walls from stone we scavenged from around the property.
Defining the walls
 He replaced the stone slabs for the stairwell first.
New old stair treads
And then started building walls.
Lots of stacking going on
You can see the chicken coop just behind the tractor and the chicken pasture / fruit garden is there too. This is going to be quite a complex when it's done - upper garden/patio, vegetable garden, greenhouse, chicken coop, and fruit garden.

He got about 2/3 done with the below-grade walls before other tasks and weather pulled him away. So this will move to the top of next summer's project list. Maybe I'll be able to plant some cold weather crops next year! Kale in December! Ah, to dream.