Category Archives: Counters

Counters and mortise locks and dish racks and coat racks and porch posts and…

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Oh my. Gad zooks I’ve been a while! Things are doing very well, and I’m at the point when I can almost say my house is done 🙂 It’s not, exactly, but it’s so darn close that most people probably wouldn’t know to look at it. Ideally, I would delve into each section of progress in individual posts, but life is running away with me so I hope this picture laden compilation will do.

Firstly, a bit on the kitchen. The counter is attached (with little, 4 screw angle irons), I’ve gotten all the shelves in, the sink installed and the stove set up nice on top. It’s a denatured alcohol version by Origo where one pours said fuel directly into the unit, and since it doesn’t really need to get cut into my counters to work, I decided that it was fine just as it is. I’m quite please with it actually, because now I can put it elsewhere if I need more counterspace, then bring it back again when I don’t. I could also use it outside or take it camping, or just keep it in my car so I could cook wherever I go 😀 Less likely, but it is good to have options…

The finishing of Flemming’s priceless counters was an annoying puzzlement that spanned many attempts, reattempts and re-reattempts plus that ‘this is never going to work’ feeling that can do a number on one’s perseverance. But work it did, by cracky, after much ado. Essentially, this particular wood took very poorly to water. By poorly, I mean that each time any amount of water got left on the surface for any amount of time, the grain would raise and the wood would turn white, leaving an entirely displeasing trail of bumpy ugliness.

I’m sure this all could have been quickly solved by a layer or however-many of polyurethane-type counter finish, but that would have been too easy. I hate that stuff, probably for no good reason, but I’m an advocate for easily re-doable finishes and was dead set on oiling it. Boy howdy did I oil that thing. I put over 3 pints of oil on it (butcher’s block oil, i.e. mineral oil) thinking that the waterproofness would improve when it was saturated. I was wrong of course, and no amount of oil, different oil, beeswax or anything I thought of could keep this grain from raising.

With the advice of a few clever neighbours and a slow return of some good sense on my part, I finally stopped trying to keep the grain from raising and and started trying to get it to raise. I covered the whole thing in water. I literally poured cups onto it for several days until every little piddly section was grain-raised to the max. After it dried, I sanded everything down and there you go! Simple as that. Grain raising white spots of doom? No longer an issue.  I then oiled it again and now my counter is ready for anything. Well, at least water.

My cats live with me in and out of Little Yellow now, and they are the most delightfully entertaining, boot chewing, and lap warming little jumping beans. They are all curled up innocent-like on my knees right now, purring their tiny hearts out.

I spent the last 2 weeks scouting somewhere to put my house up by San Francisco. I haven’t got anything definite yet, but I have a few thoughts for the short term, and I plan to move by this time next month. It’s terribly exciting. It’s also terribly terrifying, but that’s the path I chose, and if my life didn’t have a reasonable balance of the two, I doubt I’d be very happy 😀

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Sink holes and light fixtures…

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Gathering the nerve to cut into Flemming’s irreplaceable counter tops took a lot of thought. A lot of thought, a lot of measuring, and a lot of ‘you can do this’ talks with myself. But all went well, and I also drilled holes for the faucet behind. Somehow everything just barely fit in the tight space.

The faucet was presumably designed for a thinner counter, so I had to chisel down about 3/4″ between the knobs on the underside to make it work. I know the router would have been faster, but I didn’t want to risk it going all skully wompus on me and, in memory of Flemming’s approval of hand tools, I spent the time and did it the old fashioned way.

I ended up with a lovely stainless steel sink (16″ outer rim to rim) from Opella. The plan to use an old brass jelly pot fell by the wayside as it turned out to be just a little too small, so I bit the bullet and bought a proper one. Probably for the best though, because it came with a seriously nifty cutout template.

I’ve been slowly compiling my light fixtures for the last few months (the wonders of ebay), and it’s so exciting to see them all up! I have 6 lights on the inside; 1 from the ceiling, 1 over the window seat, 1 in the kitchen, 1 for the pink room, 1 for the bathroom, and 1 in my sleeping loft. I found the cheapest source of well made, solid brass fixtures (I adore brass) to be little, clear glass lantern types intended to be used outdoors. It cost $54 for all 4, and they make me think of fairies 😀

They are meant to be turned on and off by switch, but since I only have switches for the ceiling and window seat lights, my neighbour put in little pull chains through a hole drilled in the back and they now operate brilliantly at the source.

The main ceiling light/chandelier from hell was the hard one. The amount of space available at the ceiling peak is pretty narrow, and it was clear upon looking there was no chance the 5″ wide ceiling connect-y bit that is supposed to cover the workings was going to cut the mustard. The solution came in some kind of copper cup thing from the plumbing section at Home Depot that happens to match the fixture perfectly. My awesome neighbour rigged it so that it’s securely attached to the ridge beam and contains all the crazy wiring up there.

It certainly wasn’t easy though. I had idealistic plans of removing it every time the house goes down the road, but I can assure you that after the time and trouble that little shit gave us, I’ll just be taking out the light bulbs and wishing it luck. Guess I could bubble wrap it or something.

What a beautiful change to have all the lights up! It looks more and more like the space I want to live in with every day. And really, you pull a cord or flip a switch and the things just turn on. I like to think it’s magic 😀

Cabinets framed…

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Perhaps nothing has caused more procrastination than my kitchen cabinets, and considering just how much procrastination I am capable of, this is really saying something. For a while my dad thought it’d be better to find someone else to make them, but Little Yellow is quite in need of her cabinets, so we have faced our fears and plowed ahead.

I bought a bunch of 1 x 3 pine to build the frame and we mostly based it on the cabinets in my parent’s house, since they are so conveniently there. This left us ripping the horizontal sections to 2″ and leaving the vertical ones as they were at just under 2 1/2″ I believe.

Have you heard of a Kreg jig? I hadn’t, but holy grandmother Moses is it a spiffy thing. My wonderful neighbor lent us his set-up and (having previously attempted dowling and biscuit joining) it was such a quick and excellent way to stick wood together that I was almost giddy during the framing stage. I think I’d like to keep this stuff on my bedside table, just for those springy, wood joining emergencies.

It is essentially a system that allows you to drill into wood at an exact angle, so by then screwing their fancy square headed screws in with a little Titebond III (great glue, strong as all heck), you effectively secure two sections. It worked really well for us and we had the frame up in no time. Before attaching it, we had to build a floor on the toe kick, make both sides with 1 x 6 tongue and groove, and stick a 2 x 2 support runner against the wall to hold the weight of the counters.

Being suckers for instant gratification, we put Flemming’s counters on as soon as we got the frame up, and what a sight. They are just breathtaking. I honestly believe they make the whole house.

Since then, my dad has started making the cabinet drawers and I’m on doors. By spectacularly fantastic luck, the 1/4″ wall paneling fits like a freakin’ dream into the groove of 1 x 6 T&G, so all I’ve had to do is rip the 1 x 6 down a little, chop saw 45 degree angles on it, stick some panels in the middle and Bob is most certainly your uncle.

I’ve been biscuit joining/ gluing them together with pretty good success, and I have to say I’m darn proud of my wee doors 😀 There are 4 on the main cabinets (one big under the sink, two smaller beside it, and one smaller still at the L corner) and 2 on the little linen closet cabinet thing I built in the space between my two tall shelves.

I decided it would be a good idea to have another closed off space for various, not necessarily kitchen related storage, so I tested out what my dad and I did for the big cabinet framing and made my own little one. I used cedar for the shelf, as I hear it’s good for such things that hold fabrics, but I’m not sure what I’ll do for the counter. Nothing can really compare to the master carpentry of Flemming’s, so I’ll likely end up doing something pretty plain.

I’m so happy to have the semblance of a kitchen!!! I simply can’t wait til it’s functioning. On the subject of kitchens, apparently I can navigate jig, miter and table saws, but those paring knives still pose a viable threat. Twice I’ve cut myself with the damned thing in the last week, twice.

I’ll put up clearer pictures of the counters soon 😀

A Danish master carpenter…

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I’ve made some wonderful progress around the house this last week which I will go into soon in another post, but the following story is more important right now.

Last Saturday, my dad and I went to meet an incredibly skilled Danish master carpenter who lives in the next valley. Not everyone can just call themselves a master at their craft, but he’s been at it since his apprenticeship in Denmark at 14 and makes the most amazing wooden things in his very well organized shop. He talked endlessly of tools and Copenhagen as though he’d known us forever, gave us a box of organic eggs from his chickens, and agreed to make slab counters for my kitchen.

The next day he came to check out the exact dimensions in Little Yellow, and by Wednesday at 9:00 am I had custom counters; milled, glued, and expertly crafted from local pine hauled out of the woods. He proudly stated when he arrived that I now had $1000 counter tops, and he charged me $60.

I found out Sunday that Flemming Nielsen had died in his sleep that morning, June 10.

It’s so strange, I can remember everything he said to me and he was so alive only a few days ago. It all went so fast, 4 days after meeting him I had my counters and 4 days after that he was gone. We almost didn’t make it out there Saturday, what if we’d waited until this week?

My beautiful counters had to have been one of the last things he ever completed and I am so sad yet so grateful to have known him briefly as I did. I will think of you every day and what your did for me and Little Yellow, rest in peace and thank you so much Flemming.