Monday, April 18, 2011

Collateral Damage

Now that the kitchen is mostly finished, we were able to turn our attention to a couple other rooms. The new room behind the kitchen, used for our homeschool room, was the first order of business. A set of book cases from IKEA, including one that will mount the TV, was installed along one wall. We moved the couch and the computer table from the living room in as well. One of our goals was to reclaim the living room, which had been the homeschool room for the last eight years. After moving some of the furniture out, the living room began to take on a larger, empty look. One of the casualties of all this was the entertainment center, which has graced our living room for the last 25 years. Since the TV was no longer in it, it was now a rather superfluous piece of furniture, and was no longer needed.

We just had one problem. What do you do with a 25-year old entertainment center that will not fit modern flat-screen televisions?

A year or so ago, when our old 19-inch tube died, we broke down and bought a flat screen. This started the whole problem, because it would not fit in our entertainment center. So we listed it for sale on craigslist. Cheap.

We didn't get a single inquiry. We found out that the thrift stores are lined with old entertainment centers, along with the old TVs that used to fit in them. The demand for them is zero. Even the nice ones, like ours. It was quite a purchase back then, and was still in great shape today.

I couldn't bear to reduce such a nice piece to kindling wood, so I cut out the interior center wall and re-hinged the doors so that it now fit the TV. Problem solved, for now.

Fast forward to today, when it no longer contains a TV at all. The craigslist route still yielded no hits, even though it was listed as being able to fit up to a 50 inch screen. It was still a shame to heat the home with such a nice piece of furniture, so I again took the saw to it, this time doing a little bit more major surgery. I disassembled the entire cabinet, removed the TV portion of it, and re-assembled what was left, leaving a tall, narrow cabinet that could still be used to house electronics, or could be used as a nice curio cabinet. It turned out rather well, as the pictures below show:

Before: The piece that nobody wanted

After: Entertainment center on a diet.

One other benefit: This one will actually move. The original entertainment center was so large and heavy that the people that helped us move it 20 years ago told us they would not help us move again if we still had it. It has sat in the same spot for all of those 20 years.

Our kitchen and addition area is already getting good use, even before it is fully finished. David had a few friends over last night. At least what we thought were a few. They just kept streaming in and all gathered in the kitchen. We lost count at 16. They all piled into the homeschool room and watched a movie. It sort-of reminded me of those how-many-people-will-fit-into-the-back-of-a-volkswagen challenges, only this time it was my furniture under all that humanity.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Details, Details

Wow, It's been a month and a half since I have posted anything. Time flies when you're having fun. And sometimes time just flies.

Our kitchen is progressing. We're getting down to the smaller details, as you will see in the pictures that follow. There are just thousands of those smaller details to take care of.

The first small detail (OK, maybe a bit larger than 'small') was the tile work. We decided to to an accent above the stove using the tile set at an angle, and framed in small squares. Deb then made little accent pieces from Sculpy clay, baked them, painted them copper/bronze color, and then fastened them to the tile. It turned out rather nicely, if I say so myself.

Tile work in the sink area.

Starting the accent above the stove.

Accent complete (click on the picture for a larger view)

Accent pieces added. I also have the range hood power unit hung in this picture. Building the range hood is another 'small' detail.

The next 'small' detail was the wood floor in the extra room off the kitchen. We are planning to use this room for our homeschool room. A few months back there was hickory wood plank flooring on sale at Home Depot so we picked up enough to do this room. It sat in the basement, occupying quite a bit of floor space, for a few months. I finally got to take some it out of the box to see what it looked like shortly before installing it. With a floor nailer purchased on Ebay and a couple Saturdays, I managed to put the floor in. Without Joshua's help, I probably would still be working on it.
Yours truly, just starting out.

A rather long evening's work.

Just finished.

Love the look of a hickory floor!

Yesterday I spent some time putting in baseboard molding and also made some accent strips for the bottom of the upper cabinets. These served two purposes: to add a black accent to the bottom, and to hide the undercabinet lights. For the cost of a router bit, some scrap lumber, and some black paint, it turned out rather well...

A view of the black accents. The next picture shows a closer view.

The 'before' shot. The lights are visible here. They don't show up in the picture as much as they do in real life. At the right angle, they could be downright annoying. Now that's all hidden.

Next up, building a range hood, finishing the trim, finishing the insulation, and a bunch of other things that I've already forgotten about...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Being Dutch

I was cutting up the remainder of a ham the other day after dinner. Abigail was sitting at the island where I was working, watching me. "Why are we keeping the bone?" she asked.

"Because it makes good soup stock," Deb told her.

"Because we're Dutch, and we don't throw good food away," I said.

"OK, we're Dutch, you're Chinese," I added after a short pause.

Abigail got up from her seat and disappeared to her room. In the short time she was there, we could hear laughter drifting down the hall.

When she came out, she was laughing uncontrollably. Between gales of laughter, she announced, "Now I'm Dutch!" She had taken a wad of silly putty, fashioned it in the shape of a large nose, and stuck it to her face.

This is a glimpse of what it's like to be a multicultural family. The differences can be described with a wad of silly putty.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Story Behind the Stove

Today I did quite a bit of finish work on the island. I'll let the pictures below tell most of the story, but the progress today consisted of the beadboard on the back side of the island (Deb was getting rather sick of the OSB that has graced it for the last several weeks), finish panels and trim on both sides of the island, and a single course of tile on the front of the island between the two levels of butcher block. About the only things left are the grout for the tile and some shoe moulding around the bottom.

View of the front of the island. Just for a frame of reference, if this were the old kitchen, I would be standing in the back yard when taking this picture. The old wall stood midway between the island and the countertop in the foreground of the picture.

View from the family room.

A closer look at the front. The blue boxes in the island will soon be filled with electrical outlets.

A couple days ago, I finally got the stovetop installed. There's a rather long story behind the stove. We took a chance and ordered a "refurbished" cooktop from the Sears mail-order outlet in mid-October. It represented a rather significant savings over the list price, and this particular model was one we liked, having seen a similar one in a local store.

It took quite a while to arrive, and we were beginning to wonder if we were going to see it at all. When it did arrive, it was very poorly packaged, having been wrapped in a single layer of cardboard followed by plastic shrink wrap. Most of the stuff I have bought on Ebay has been packaged much better than that.

Removing the shrink wrap and inspecting the contents, we discovered that there were a few pieces missing. Deb got on the phone and after an unbelievable amount of phone-tag with several different people, managed to get someone who was able to order the parts. It was quite another job just to describe the parts that were missing so we would have a chance of receiving the correct ones. Deb wisely took down that person's name and direct phone number.

In ordering the parts, the representative also offered to send us some of the accessories that can go with this model; a griddle, a wok-ring, and a few other items. We thought we were all set when these parts arrived several days later.

Fast forward several weeks. I got the countertops all in and ready to install the cooktop. In gathering all the pieces, I discovered there was an additional part missing, a gas regulator and an elbow that I could not match at the local bog-box home improvement stores. Deb called the direct line, and the person recognized her immediately. This time I managed to find an assembly drawing on the Internet (did I mention that the stove came with no manuals or paperwork?) and gave the person actual part numbers.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the elbow was back-ordered until January 19, several weeks hence.

We received the regulator a few days later, and a bag containing 10 gaskets a week after that. then January 19 came and went. Deb called again. Apparently they got something screwed up and ordered the wrong part for us. So now we had to wait another week for the elbow.

When it came, there was much rejoicing in the Friend home. Particularly from Deb, who has been working with an electric hot plate for several months. A rather anemic hot plate that takes forever to boil water.

I finally installed the cooktop. I was half-expecting it not to work due to some missing internal piece, but was rewarded with an enormous flame from the center burner.

We gave it the boil test. We had a pan of water boiling in short order. Life is now good.

The big center burner is meant for high heat stuff like stir-fry. We had a stir-fry dinner the next day. It was done in no time and was delicious.

Although there is still a lot of finish work to be done, the kitchen is now fully functional.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Coat

I now have the metal supports for the island built and in place. Next step is to put the butcher-block top on it. I decided to build my own supports because we just couldn't swallow the $120 each for the fancy corbels they recommended when we bought our cabinets. After doing the math for three of them, it sounded like something we could do better on our own.

The six-foot piece of angle iron cost $14.95. It took some time to figure out how it would all go together, and some time in the barn cutting and welding, but the end result worked out pretty well.

The Plan:

The Product

The Collateral Damage:
While grinding and welding on these supports, I set my coat on fire with the sparks from the grinder. I smelled something different than hot metal, and, looking down, saw a flame crawling up the front of my coat. I quickly snuffed it out. The two layers of clothing under the coat were undamaged, but, had I been wearing less clothing, I could have had a new belly button.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hazard Pay

I never knew that remodeling a kitchen could be such a dangerous job. While making some metal brackets last night to hold up the top surface of the island, I set my coat on fire. Somehow, old nylon jackets and welding/grinding don't go together.

Maybe I should get hazard pay.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Plan is Coming Together

I love it when a plan comes together.

In this case, it's a plan started last June, with the first ground broken in September. The Plan will still take a while to complete as there's still a bajillion details that still need detailing, but things are falling into place:

I had three days off between Christmas and New Year's Day. Perfect time for attacking the counter tops. The above picture has the surface all prepared for the laminate, all I had to do was cut a piece that originally was 5 feet wide by 12 feet long to the right dimensions and glue it into place. Easy, No?

Laminate glued down, with the rim of the sink set on it to show the eventual location of the sink. Managing a piece of thin laminate that big is not an easy task but we managed to get it in place with only a little bit of damage. My camera has been acting up a bit lately and likes to trash parts of some pictures, turning them either plain shades of gray or some vibrant primary color.

With the laminate down and the sink in place, it was time to start on the island. Here the four island cabinets are set in place. We decided to set off the island in a different color, giving some relief from the acres of medium maple color.

Another view of the island after I built a half-wall behind it. The top of the island will be butcher block and will be two levels, the first you can see in the picture and the second will be on top of the half-wall to be used as a breakfast bar.

A view of the island from the opposite side. This was before I cut the eight-foot piece of butcher block down to six feet to fit the island.

After I cut the butcher block to length, Abigail helped by putting the first coat of tung oil finish on it.

During all this, Deb was trying to get the ceiling painted before we put too much nice stuff on the floors and cabinets. She enlisted the help of Josh. He helped out willingly, but painting is not his favorite thing to do.

We had some friends over and they helped us with the floor. After all, what are friends for? It took an entire evening to get the underlayment down. The next evening we laid the tile. Josh managed to get most of the pieces that needed some strange notch cut out of them. The mark he made on this piece doesn't show up in the picture very well, but it had to fit around the refrigerator return in the next picture.

Once he cut the piece for this location, it fit perfectly.

Here the tile has progressed around the island in front of the sink. We eventually finished the tiling a couple days later. Well, almost. We ran two boxes short, so right now we have an area with exposed glue by the garage entry and in the pantry closet. This results in some rather interesting tactile experiences for those guests who come into our house. This glue remains tacky for a very long time, and just about anyone that has come into our house via the garage has ended up with at least one foot in the glue. We've heard various expressions of surprise as they attempt to lift their foot out of the glue and are met with stiff resistance or leave their sock on the floor.

While we're working on getting the remainder of the tile (to prevent our guests from getting glued to the floor), we're working on grouting the whole area. This is a tedious, time-consuming task as our indentured servant, Josh, can attest.