Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Universal Forest 3 Step Stair Stringer

You Don't Botch Your Notches with Pre-Cut Stair Stringers

The 1895 farm house we owned in Illinois had porches galore: most houses don't have that many doors, let alone exterior doors. More than a century of benign (and occasionally malignant) neglect took its toll on those porches, though, just in time for yours truly to be called on to repair them. The porch we used most - the one at the kitchen door - was in such bad condition it looked like a lawsuit in waiting, so our second year in the house I tackled it head-on. It wasn't the toughest project of the summer, but it also wasn't the easiest. The ledger by which the porch attached to the house remained sound, but that was it. Everything else was toast: frame, deck, railings and stairs. And when I peeled off the old stair treads, I found those gorgeous old cedar stringers were in no condition to be re-used. Oh, dear...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CRL Red Devil Window Zipper

Take This, Window-Painting Idiots!

Repeat after me, everyone "There is a special spot in Hell for anyone who paints a windows shut." I’m specifically envisioning the people who used to own my house burning... Oh, sure, I know it’s almost impossible to paint a window, either the inside or the outside, without painting it shut. In other words, that special place in Hell should be reserved for whoever paints a window and then doesn’t bother to unseal it (including my previous owners, of course).

If you've ever lived in an older house or apartment and learned you couldn’t open windows that had been sealed with a layer or six of old paint, don't be concerned because there’s an easy solution: the CRL (Red Devil) Window Zipper. Usually you’re reduced to tapping the all-purpose putty knife into the space surrounding the frame, but the Window Zipper is specially designed for this job and this job alone.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Craftsman Air Tool Oiler 16309

Oil Air Tools the Smart, and a Little Lazy Way

The owner's manual of every air tool includes instructions on lubrication; usually something like
Oiler 16309
"place a few drops of oil into the air inlet every day" for most tools (paint sprayers excluded); maybe one or two drops if it's a grinder. So you're sure to get the point, most manufacturers include a two-ounce bottle of oil along with their nail guns, air hammers, and orbital sanders. For continuous-use tools, though, like grinders and sanders, manufacturers recommend that using in-line oilers. The moisture in compressed air has a tendency to rust the bearings and vanes of these tools, making them prone to problems, even with in-line filters.

That's why every time I hook up an air tool to my compressor - especially here on the humid Gulf Coast - there's a Craftsman 16309 Air Tool Oiler in the line; even if it's a nailer instead of a grinder.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Basin Wrenches

Before You Change that Next Faucet, Pick up a Basin Wrench

Unless you've done something more than the simplest of plumbing jobs, you probably still grumble about how much a plumber's time is worth, at least according to their bills. If, however, your "vast" experience goes beyond installing a new valve or flapper in your toilet tank or replacing a leaky faucet washer, you may know better. Once you get beyond the jobs you can complete standing up, you start to appreciate the skill of trained plumbers; perhaps even more so a trained plumber's collection of tools.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Minwax High Performance Wood Hardener

Get Your Wood Hard with Minwax

Our fourth house was our oldest yet, older than the previous one by something like ninety years. I'm here to say that there is joy to life in a Victorian-era farmhouse more than a hundred years old, especially architectural details never seen in the stapled-together tract houses we of the 99% live in. Ours had plaster medallions, leaded-glass windows, plinth blocks on the moldings everywhere in the house, and ceiling lights whose every socket had its own switch (that no one shorter than 5'-10" could reach without a ladder) .

Turret with (repaired) window complex. 
Owning old houses also has its woes. For one, there's the shortage of plumb walls and square corners - though I once lived in a ranch house built in the 1980s that wasn't all that square, either. Second is having to find visit the local architectural salvage yard every weekend for replacing things they don't sell at Home Depot. Then there's dry rot. Pure, simple, dry rot, the natural enemy of wood that's exposed to moisture for a century or so. Dry rot is surely the bane of old houses' existence.

An eighty-MPH wind gust blew in one of the windows in our turret. More accurately, it blew in a window complex of perhaps a dozen panes, half curved. Broken glass was everywhere, but for the most part, the frame was intact, with only a few cracks I could clamp and glue plus a few rotted spots. The rotted spots troubled me, because re-glazing windows in a rickety frame is courting disaster. How was I going to replace a few spongy muntins in a frame four feet wide and four feet high without replacing the whole works?