Monday, February 27, 2012

Framing Adjustments

After the inspector visited and told me I could do what I wanted as long as I didn't mess with any of the structural members, I got to work.  The existing framing is a weird mishmash.  The real structural elements are 2x4 roof rafters at 24" o.c. spacing.  The span is about 11', so that's definitely undersized by modern code, and there are no collar ties attached to it.  All of the spreading load is resisted by the exterior wall, which is held together by the second story floor joists.  Stuffed in between those rafters is an interior subframe at 16" o.c., intended to support the lath and plaster.  None of it bears on the walls or goes to the crown of the roof, and it's got what looks like collar ties, except that they're barely toenailed on and can't resist any tension at all.  The kneewall studs are tacked to this framing instead of the actual rafters, so they're also not helping with the roof loads.  There's a lot of wood in here, but most of it isn't really doing anything.

That said, the house turned 100 last year and the roof looks flatter and straighter than many much newer houses.  The old wood is mostly really nice old-growth Douglas Fir, and the 2x4's are bigger than modern materials.  It is nearly 2" thick, some of it with saw marks from the mill, and the growth rings are 1/16" or less.  I'm saving some scraps to use for drawer fronts and other furniture parts, because it's beautiful and you just can't get material like this any more.

I started by removing the extra wood that was there to support the lath and plaster.  Then I  beefed up the structure with additional framing in key spots, metal framing connectors and more nails.  The kneewall studs all got moved over under the structural rafters, and I'm installing new collar ties / ceiling joists, which will be properly face-nailed to the sides of the rafters.  I also put headers over the closet doors, so all of the rafters now have a secondary load path down to the floor.  Never mind that there's nothing under the floor joists there...

Finally, I'm framing the openings for a couple of new 2' x 4' skylights.  I'll have to wait for a sunny weekend to cut into the roof and install those.

Tool Porn

Despite reading Christopher Schwarz's new book where he espouses a minimal set of tools, I've been on a bit of a bender over the last few months.  Yesterday my new shoulder plane came from Lie-Nielsen.

Lie-Nielsen Small Shoulder Plane
I bought it at their recent Hand Tool Event at the Northwest Woodworking Studio, where I also picked up a Blue Spruce marking knife and signed up for a class this coming weekend where I will build myself a small brass plane.  Update:  Dammit, the class got canceled.

I try to only buy any tool as I have an immediate need for it.  I've got a storage cabinet coming up, and thinking about building the frame made me spring for a 5/16" Ray Iles mortising chisel from Tools for Working Wood.  I threw in a pair of Gramercy holddowns while I was ordering from them.  Both of those items are awesome.

I really enjoy making my own tools, mostly because I just like to make stuff.  Plus I'm cheap.  They rarely come out as good as a high-quality commercial item.  I followed an idea from a magazine and made myself a wood-bodied router plane.  The iron is a big hex key (allen wrench) ground and honed.  It works fine, until you compare it to an iron-bodied commercial version.  I do have a few simple items that I made that I use all the time.  One is an awl that is simply a nail with the head cut off, stuck into a maple handle that I sanded to a roughly comfortable shape.  I ground the tip to a crisp square profile (google birdcage awl), and it's great for locating and starting holes for screws or whatever.

That tool brings me to my next major item...  Delta has a $50 rebate going on their 46-460 midi lathe until April 30.  I've told myself that if I can get the spare room remodel finished before then, I'm getting it.  My tool handles should improve drastically, plus I can make knobs, turned spindles, and other furniture parts, and who knows what else.  No, I don't really need it, and I would probably be fine with a crappy little Chinese lathe from Harbor Freight, but that's against my religion.

Insulation and Fire Safety

Some time around 2003, our house received a cleanup and utilities upgrade.  Part of that was a layer of blown-in cellulose insulation in the attic and upstairs cathedral ceilings.  Unfortunately, the roof was replaced soon after, and a bunch of nails and roofing debris wound up mixed into it, but I collected some of the cleaner material and re-used it by dumping it down the first floor wall cavities from above.  I'm going to go buy a few more bales of the stuff and dump it down all the cavities, before installing some 2 x 4 fireblocks at the top of the first floor level.  Between the fire-retardant insulation and the fireblock, that should be a pretty good upgrade in terms of fire safety for that part of the house.

But I'm installing foil-backed foam in the ceiling, and I'm sure untreated urethane foam is extremely dangerous and flammable.  And what about the urethane spray foam I use to seal it into the framing?  I'm using paper-faced fiberglass batts in the exterior walls.  I wonder how those all compare?

There are several videos out there, mainly looking at blown-in cellulose vs. fiberglass.  One shows an ASTM test comparison, and the cellulose really seems to actually catch fire and much of the surface chars.  That seems to be a big contrast to other videos, like the one where a guy melts a penny in his hand with a propane torch, supported by a wad of cellulose.  I think the difference is the pre-heating done as part of the ASTM test method.  Cellulose, like wood, will decompose to carbon (charcoal) when heated to a high enough temperature.  Flammable gasses are given off during this process, and I wonder if it's these gasses burning that you see in the test.  I imagine that the cellulose just below the surface looks fine.  However, the point still remains, that no matter how much borax or other fire retardant chemicals you treat cellulose with, it's still cellulose, and chemically represents a source of fuel.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spare Bedroom Remodel - Demolition

Our "spare" bedroom is going to become a baby's room in another six months, so the lack of insulation, old and insufficient wiring, and especially the lead-based paint just aren't going to cut it.  Step 1:  Destroy!
Nick and Brian taking out their aggressions
A couple of friends came over on Saturday morning, and we spent about five hours beating on the walls to knock the plaster off the wood lath, and shoveling the debris into buckets and boxes.  The scale at the dump says 1600 lbs. of plaster came out of there.

The next layer is the wood lath strips, which pull off pretty easily with a Wonderbar / Superbar type prybar.  Unfortunately, someone blew in a bunch of cellulose insulation about ten years ago, so the ceilings and kneewalls are full of that, mixed in with nails, roofing debris and other junk that was dropped into the attic space over the years.  A super bonus are bird nests (and mummified Starlings) and mud wasp nests that were built near holes in the siding.  All that deliciousness falls out on my face as I pull the strips off, so it takes a long time.  I bundled the lath up with string, and it goes off to a recycling place that takes wood waste.  The cleaner portions of the cellulose will get dumped into the first floor exterior walls once I have access, and the rest of it gets bagged up for the dump.

One fun thing about taking apart old houses are the artifacts.  I've collected a big enough pile of stuff that I think it will get it's own post.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Make a Sanding Block

I recently patched a bit of the subfloor in our kitchen.  To level the repair, I spread some putty, and needed to quickly sand it flat before gluing the resilient tile down.  I have a couple of rubber sanding blocks, but I wanted something really flat and solid, so I made a wooden block.  I think I'll make a few more, so I can keep them loaded with a range of grits.
Basically, it's a chunk of wood with a couple of raised ridges on the back.  You can either cut out the wood between the ridges, like I did, or glue two strips on top.  Then you wrap sandpaper around the block and clamp it down by screwing a retainer piece between the strips.  I made mine flat, but you could make it curved to fit your hand.  Flat stacks better for storage.
Another note on rubber sanding blocks: I originally got a black one at Home Depot.  It sucks.  The rubber is too stiff to bend the flaps back for loading.  I got a couple of red natural rubber ones at Rockler that are far better.
Sandpaper sheets are a standard size.  Plan for that when you make a block.  Also, here's a little jig I made to quickly cut sandpaper.  Just lay it abrasive side down an cut it with a razor blade, following the edge of the jig to make a nice straight line.
Standard sandpaper sheets are 9x11 My block is 5 x 2.75

Soft rubber commercial block on the left, my homemade wooden block on the right