Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Seems like every time I write about a little progress on the house, I want to start with the word "Finally..." I have to keep telling myself that I'm retired and that "Mañana" is a perfectly acceptable word here in Sábado.

One of the things I signed up for was covering the 6x6 porch posts with bungalow-style tapered columns on stone bases. The stone work was easy - just a tube of special construction adhesive and some fairly careful stacking.

The columns were a little more involved.  Even though the inspector is gone, I wanted to stick to the fire standards and make them out of Hardie Panel - the cement-based board used for the siding, battery box, etc.  This means using a special diamond blade (I hit a screw with the first blade so had to buy a new one).  I made a jig for the table saw to miter the tapered sides...

...installed some centering blocks...
...laid a bead of glue on each joint (Note to self: next time pay attention to the label and wear gloves.  This is some hella tenacious glue that will require exfoliation to get rid of on my hands.)


...and added some home-made clamps.  Only made enough clamps for one column, so I followed up with some reinforced strapping tape so I could move the clamps on to the next column.


A bit further down on the Mañana list is rails for the porch.  This is what I'm considering putting between the columns:

The only progress I've made on the kitchen so far is the range hood. I bought an insert and built the hood out of wood, painted to match the cabinets.


Part of the reason I haven't been getting much done in the shop is that it has just been so darn hot, and the shop building is uncooled and uninsulated. So when Bro-in-law Danny came to visit for a week, our first project was installing a swamp cooler.  It's a nice one that hangs on the side of the building, and I got a great deal on it because it was an unused return in a beat-up box.

Being an evaporation water cooler and not an actual air conditioner means that it's very kind to my batteries (about 300 watts full blast) but it's also not as effective as an AC.  Especially if humidity is high.  It does the job though, and makes it much more pleasant to work in the shop now.

Because it blows straight in, I added some vanes to spread the cool air around a little bit.

What else? Oh, I freshened up the finish on the ole 1972 grandfather clock and set it in its place of honor.  This was the prototype of my first professional woodworking, which led to a short career as a clock builder, and a book, which led to a career in publishing, which led to a job as a tech writer at Qualcomm, which led to the stock options that made this whole dream come true.

Speaking of columns, here's a rough sketch of what I have in mind for the colonnade between the living room and the "hall."

And I now have a door bell for you to ring when you come visit me!

I'll be watching for you!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Home Sweet Home!

On July 8, 2016, my contractor Alex Bain, of Action Construction, handed me the keys to my new house. (And yes, that's a check I'm handing him...)

One year ago, I was whacking weeds on the property,

And a little over nine months ago we broke ground.

Today, July 17, 2016, I've been in the house about a week, settling in, trying to get a few things put away. Jim Medina's car trailer has been storing a bunch of boxes and assorted things, and I'm getting that emptied out so I can go to the kids' house in Alpine and load it up with the rest of the stuff I haven't used in two years.  Should take most of it directly to Goodwill or the dump..

Could have moved the trailer closer to the house, but it was more fun with the little tractor.
The contractor's work is done, but mine is just beginning.  I have plenty to do in my woodshop before the house is complete, as I'll point out in this quick tour of the house as it sits today, one week in.

Still have to build those tapered columns on the front porch.
Brand new couch, with dog blanket. Map tablecloth a gift from my friend Gigi.
The coffee table, gift from Julie Schaefer and "Bubba," does a cool trick for dining on the couch.
Little hobo-with-woodstove on the woodstove from LeeAnn, painting of Venice from Merrily

Tree wall sculpture (gift to myself)
Old faithful recliner - the piece of furniture I've missed most.

Mostly I eat in the "breakfast room" where I sip coffee and read The Sun magazine (gift subscription from my old pard Randy Simpson).

Laundry room is all set up and being put to good use...

...but I still like to hang out my towels...

...on my spiffy retractable clothesline (gift of good friend Kellie) 

Back porch waiting for screens (stained glass table gift from LeeAnn)
Former TV cabinet in guest room..
...turned computer desk.  Given to Jami, then "borrowed" back...

Brand new bed...

...also with dog blanket... (beginning to see a pattern here?)

The old antique dresser, with coin bank from John & Anne Godley (for saving up for a trip to England)

Barn door hardware on the closet doors
"Costco closet." I need to stain all the doors like I did the sliding closet doors.
Pure white countertop by Alex Bain.  This cabinet too is awaiting doors and drawers. Plant a gift from Merrily & family.

Love that waterfall faucet
Installed one of those curved shower rods like you find in swanky hotels

Had them install the medicine cabinet so it opens toward the shower... for shaving in luxury...
The home-made kitchen countertops are a combination of quarter-sawn oak and the same marmoleum used in the dining nook. Chopping block a gift from my oldest buddy Bruce Bell.

They'll get all those drawers and doors as soon as I can get them done.  The wood parts of the countertops have about 8 coats of finish on them, including two coats of penetrating epoxy, so they should stand up to getting wet.

Trying my best to simulate Greene & Greene Craftsman furniture, I threw in a "cloud lift" in the backsplash.  The plugs hide screws into the wall.

Only a Greene lover will recognize this as a detail from some of their tables...

... like this.
Cast iron sink large enough to wash a small dog...
... for obvious reasons

I'll get all that stuff done... eventually... when I'm not sitting in one of these rockers watching the upside-down sunset or in the recliner feeling that lovely air conditioning, provided free courtesy of the sun.  When I do, I'll update this blog, but in the mean time, happy trails, and y'all come to the country sometime...

-Gary W, luckiest man alive.