the broken carpenter #3: Big Progress

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Blog entry by SquintyPolock posted 03-01-2015 03:41 AM 1588 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Little Red Wagon Part 3 of the broken carpenter series Part 4: 3 »

The Broken Carpenter. Funny to think, I felt quite broken when I came up with that blog title. It’s been a year since; and I feel very much changed.

Last year, my family and I moved to a new house, mostly we moved due to family issues, and mostly we wanted to move. But, a little bit, neither my wife nor I really wanted to move. When we finally left, it hurt. There is still bad family blood to this day. And I say to everyone out there that love is grand!! Anyways…

We landed in this new spot – another 100+ year old building that just needed a little love and a good care taker. We painted it – the brightest color on the block. We had some parties; some laughs, and made new friends… Then, low-and-behold! We didn’t even miss our old spot anymore and we got a good thing goin. Oh yeah, baby, we are quite happy, here.

I have been working on the shop on/off for the past year, but really in earnest, just on the weekends, since this past Thanksgiving. I sneak down there any time I get chance, many times to my wife’s displeasure as she thinks I am hiding from her, which I’m not, at least I don’t think so. Hmmmm?

Last spring, I built a partition wall between the laundry room and the shop. I finished it up about 2 weeks after the tenants moved in. I was worried about kids getting into mischief in my shop, in my absence. It looks pretty cool, I built this custom door to blend into the wall, the passage into Squinty’s Lair….

In the late 1800’s, they didn’t pour concrete slabs in basements. A lot of basements had a gravel floor topped by a thin layer of cement/ mortar. It’s called rat proofing and works well enough to keep rats out. But the cement is only about an inch thick and it’s ridiculously weak. Here’s a picture of my floor in the old coal bin. I cleaned this room up and now use it for a storage closet. See that weak-ass cement?!? It’s not even concrete, just the water-rich-cream. Very flimsy.

When I was in college, I worked for my uncle one summer. We were remodeling a basement just west of down town Chicago. I remember this family was really rich and lived so close to down town. They lived in the same kind of two-flat that we are in, but they had the money to do it up right.

My uncle built them an astonishing game room/ movie theatre in that basement; it was beautiful. But, we started with a nasty, 100 year old basement. The first thing we came across was this thin little slab. I remember my uncle cussing, “I can’t build on this s—t.” Boy he was right; it’s so thin that it heaves when you walk on it. Just good for keeping rats out. So, my uncle gave me a sledge hammer and a shovel and told me that since I was busting out the cement, I should dig down a foot while I was at it, to add more head room to the basement. Then I’d have to haul all that dirt and cement out in 5 gallon buckets. That was one tough summer, but a good job for a kid. I still remember that hard summer as being really fun!

Back to my basement. It has half rat proofing and half concrete slab. Old boy poured a slab in 1946 over half this basement. He stamped the date with a horseshoe imprint in the concrete, right in front of the door. Its’ very cute. I love finding these clues from the past.

No help from the horseshoe, though. I wanted a partition wall in my shop and it worked out best on the skinny. So I needed to dig it up and put in a footing. Might as well, make it a load bearing wall.

Since we were busting up concrete, best to dig a ditch and build a strip footing. My uncle was a good teacher.

Although, he’s a little boy, my son helped. He was really, surprisingly eager for the concrete work. He would wake up early and rouse me to work! I gotta tell you guys that every year older, I am less eager for concrete work, it’s starting to hurt a little. I am glad my boy will be there to help me one day.

With footing done, I framed the wall, drywall, paint…

And put in a bunch of lights, then built some shelves

I am SO HAPPY to have my screws, nails, nuts, and bolts, pipes, hardware and fittings all out in the open so that I can see them. I haven’t had to go to the hardware store in a month because of all the stuff I have finally unpacked and organized.

All this furniture, I’ve had stored under the back porch or in the garage, at the old house. Some stuff I found here, left by old tenants. All the plywood is scrap. All stuff I had at the old place and moved to the new place. It’s way better here! I have so much more space; I am actually giddy about it!

I fit a little office in my storeroom. Just more furniture that my wife discarded over the years, and I have kept, knowing that one day I would have my very own space. TaDahhhhhh…..

I hung that cabinet on the wall. I believe it’s from an original built-in bookcase upstairs. Someone took it out, a long time ago, and left it down here. I hung it up to showcase my precious monkey head and other bits of nostalgia. But, the cabinet needs a lot of work.

It’s not the man cave, it’s the bill-paying center.

The great thing here, is that all this old furniture is out of my shop. Now I am de-cluttered

I know it still looks cluttered. But check out my previous post and you can see how much I have gotten out of there. All this clutter is shop related; I’m not being defensive; I’ m just sayin; it’s stuff I need; for the shop…

Prior to our arrival, the tenants ruled the roost around here. So, every time “they” came up with a new wiring system for the internet, it got installed in this building. There are phone lines and cable lines of every kind running in every direction of this basement. Furthermore, there is electrical armored cable running all over the place. On top of that, there is stereo wire run all over the place. It’s insane! I spend just about every Saturday morning chasing wires, testing circuits, running new conduit, re-wiring, etc. As I work out electrical issues, new lighting and power get installed. I am working off a lot of extension cords, but they are getting fewer with time.

You may have noticed that everything in the Store Room is up on blocks. We do get a little water down here, but it’s just on the rat proof side where I have the Office and the Hardware Store. Last summer, water depth was less than ½” and that was a pretty wet summer; so the blocks are adequate.

When we were digging that footing, I dug a sump and made a drywell from a piece of perforated pipe and some gravel. My hope is that sump is adequate to hold whatever water seeps in, through that old limestone foundation. The sump is a good monitoring well for me keep on eye water levels and then decide what my next drainage move should be, if any.

The floor in the shop is on the proper slab, which is solid, super hard to drill into, and relatively flat and level. It’s a great shop floor.

  • Still on my To-Do List:*

    Need better access in/ out of the basement. Tough one.

    Heating/ Cooling. Another tough one. Very cold in the winter and a bit humid in the summer. I’m hanging visquene along all the brick walls, as a vapor barrier.

    I have to wall off hot water tank & make storage closet. Got to keep the dust away from that gas flame.

    Have to complete a dust barrier between the Store Room and the Shop. Dust can still make it up between the joists. I need to fill them all with something so the dust doesn’t migrating over the wall.

    Dust collection is high on my priority list. My wife bought me a dust collector for my birthday. As I sort out the electrical madness, I will get a circuit over to the shop, dedicated to dust collection.

    Also, I want to get two of the windows to open/ close. These 100 year old windows have been painted shut for at least 20 years. Most of them are nailed shut to keep bad guys out. When I moved in, I put bars up right away. But now I want two of them to open, so I can put in a fan and create a cross breeze. Bar removal in sight – not fun.

    And the big thing, the thing that I have been dreaming about is to build a work bench! I type, slack-jawed and salivating, with visions of vices & big table tops in my eyes…. Oooooooooooh

    I can’t wait to make a bench, some benches, some cabinets, places to store my tools. I got plans, ladies and gentlemen, big plans! I got all the garbage out of my shop and now it truly is a blank space. My mind is lit on fire with the possibilities. A painting station, a chop-saw bench, a table saw & router station, an assembly table, stuff hung on the wall, some cool posters…

    The creative space I have been longing for, for a very long time. I finally have it and it’s GREAT. The broken carpenter is whole again!

Thanks for reading and take care.


-- It's all in a day's work...

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