Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shoe Rack

One more bit of handywork, which I can now divulge since it's after Christmas...

This one was actually a request / Christmas present for my folks: a shoe rack in the style of one that I made for us some years ago. They had recently had a lot of work done on the first floor of their house, and wanted a place in the entryway for storing their shoes.

It has two shelves on a slight incline (for dirt and melted snow to flow down, ya see?). There's a crossbar at the back and a dowel across the front. These are used as cross-bracing to keep the rack square. But the rear cross brace can also be used to prop up the heel or toe of the shoes. The dowel in front is there to provide a sort of scupper for dirt and water to drip down.

The cross braces are oak; the rest of the construction is 1/2" finish plywood. The vertical sides had slots cut in them for all the horizontals to fit in. There was a great deal of router-work involved in this one: the slots, the round-overs, etc. The plywood, which is almost white when you look at it, got some stain to bring it closer to the color of the oak. After glue-up, everything got a few coats of varnish. The top face of the shelves, which will see the most abuse, got a few more.

Looks right at home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let's Go To The Hop!

Alex's office puts on a big themed party each year for the holidays, and this year, it was a sock hop!

I borrowed a poodle skirt...

And Alex bought a tighter pair of jeans...

And off we went!

The music was fun, and it was lovely to spend some grownup time together and practice our swing dancing.

Here we are in the cupola:

And there were root beer floats for dessert!

The iPhone self-portrait on the landing (Alex quite accomplished at this genre):

Sunday, December 18, 2011


How times have changed. When this house was built about 100 years ago, a way of showing how monied and high class you were was to use brick in the construction. Nowadays granite and other natural stone is the big deal. So when I look at the foundation of the house and see large, local granite blocks right up to grade, then courses of bricks from grade up to the sill plate, I just shake my head and wonder.

One result of this is that the bricks of the foundation are exposed to the elements, and over time the mortar wears out and needs repair. When we were looking to buy this house, the home inspector noted this and mentioned that the bricks would need "repointing"pretty soon. Two years later and I've finally gotten around to it.

Repointing involves grinding or chiseling out the old mortar to get down to intact mortar, then scraping in new mortar. It's something that theoretically a DIYer can do, but I'd been meaning to have a professional take care of. The cost probably wouldn't be that much more, and certainly the frustration factor is a lot lower. A carpenter we've used for things in the past mentioned a mason he's worked with in times past, and being a slow time of year for masonry, he was able to come out and do it that same day. I was impressed that he was able to do anything at this time of year; I would have thought it was too cold for mortar to set up properly. But apparently, as long as it is not completely freezing, the mortar can be mixed in such a way that it works just fine. Being on the foundation, instead of a standalone structure out in the open, ensures that it'll stay reasonably warm, too.

So, apparently, this is what repointing looks like. From strolling around, it looks like about 2/3 of the mortar on each of the three exposed walls was touched up (the fourth wall is covered with the porch). Tick off another home maintenance item. This ought to take care of things for the next few decades.


We still marvel that our house, here in snowy New Hampshire, does not have anything in the way of a mudroom. Granted that folks 100 years ago, when the house was built, didn't have as much outdoorsy gear as today - where did they put it all when they came in through the front door? We do have a small entryway at the front door, where we have placed a hooks, a shoe rack and, until recently, some plastic bins for hats and gloves. I say "until recently" because the bins ran into a rather destructive accident a few months back. With winter coming we realized that we would need some more substantial place for our warm things.

Some woodworking was in order! And it would need to be done quickly, for while I use the basement and garage for storing my tools, I actually do most of my woodworking out in the driveway. Operating a table saw in freezing temperatures is no fun time, and doing so with numb fingers is downright dangerous. It's also tough to do such work in the dark, and I'm at home for precious few daylit hours these days. Thankfully, we had a fairly mild November, and Hilary's weekend schedule permitted some extended work during the day. After the carpentry itself was finished, I was able to move the work down to the basement for applying finish in the warmth next to the furnace and during the very early or very late hours.

A couple of weeks later, here's what we've got:

It stands about five feet high, and squeezes between the front door and a door to the living room. Each of the ten cubbies is sized to accept a small fabric bin that can be gotten cheap from Target.

The construction is mostly 1/2" finish plywood. To strengthen the construction, there are abundant dado and rabbet joints. These were made largely with my router, and getting the cuts for the shelves to line up on the left, right, and center uprights was tricky. Because plywood endgrain looks terrible, I applied some stained maple trim in a tongue-and-groove construction.

The outside corners are chamfered to mitigate the inevitable running-child-bonks-head accidents.

The lowest bins are at a convenient height for B's things, so that she can get into the habit of putting away and retrieving herself. I am working on putting together a set of pegs to hang off the left side, so that B can hang up her coat herself. Unfortunately, while cutting an angled hole in a piece of scrap oak for a dowel, my 3/4" auger bit snapped! I'll get to that later, after the Christmas craziness has passed.

At least for the moment, we should be able to lighten the load on our overworked horse coat rack:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Quite...

Every year, I do the Christmas cards at the last minute and then have to pay rush shipping. This year I was determined to get it done early (ish). Despite Art and Kate's valiant efforts as paparazzi in Rochester last weekend, Brynna did not cooperate, opting for fake-smile or sticking-out-of-tongue in virtually every photo.

We finally lucked out with a couple of nice shots at home this evening, but the B-roll is much funnier.

These are the photos that will NOT be making it onto the Christmas card this year.