Coping: May Day and Shop Talk

First, let me wish you well with your celebrations today in honor of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, after which the modern May Day was fashioned.

Like Christmas and Easter, there’s a heaping tablespoon of subjectivity to the date.  You see, originally it was April 27th, or close-enough.

The Celtic Beltane (spring festival, not to be confused with Samhane, a/k/a Halloween) was about April 30th.  So, like Christmas and more, the Church started pushing around dates and “rebranding” the population.

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The Church, of course, has lost most of its franchise, as the key media is no longer the pulpit or the one-in-twenty, usually less, who could read.  That role has been taken over my MMM (modern mass media) which has been pushing holidays, such as MLK Day.

At the same time, the corporate budgets and media have axed the traditional February 22 date for Washington’s birthday and tossed it in with Lincoln’s (February 12) and split the difference.  The result?  One less holiday in the “new and improved” corporatized America.

Speaking of socialist agendas, we call your attention to this also being International Worker’s Day.  To get a clearer take on what socialism is, you might take the time to read the monetarist Mises Institute‘s Socialism An Economic and Sociological Analysis.pdf.

In Europe, this is a fine day for Morris dancing, which is you must know, click and be schooled.  We’re more moon dancing types, but that’s probably because of Van Morrison’s music.

May Day has never been as big a deal here in the colonies as in jolly kneeler land.  In fact, Wikipedia reports “May Day was abolished and its celebration banned by Puritan parliaments during the Interregnum, but reinstated with the restoration of Charles II in 1660.

The result is that in about 80 countries, today is Labour (brit spelt) Day.  Here in the US it comes later early September as Labor Day (Amerispelt).

It’s important to differentiate today’s date (May Day – two words) from the distress call “Mayday” )one word).  As Wikipedia reveals:

The “mayday” procedure word was originated in 1923, by a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London.[2] The officer, Frederick Stanley Mockford[3], was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the expression “mayday” from the French m’aidez (‘help me’), a shortened form of venez m’aidez (‘come and help me’).[4] It is unrelated to the holiday May Day.

Before the voice call “mayday”, SOS was the Morse code equivalent of the mayday call. In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington adopted the voice call mayday as the radiotelephone distress call in place of the SOS radiotelegraph (Morse code) call.”

It’s a bit of a slower day globally because of the holiday. Although we are not particular fans of the New York Times over Trump-bashing, there are some useful reporters there putting together a fine calendar of market holidays here, which you might consider bookmarking.

By doing so, we can skip the 2,400-word essay on Constitution Day in Japan we had planned for Thursday’s column.

I, Cabinetmaker

In the greater scheme of things, living in a double-wide modular home as we do, it’s often difficult to decide what level of design/build to put into our dwelling.  After all, modular homes are quite disposable.

On the other hand, this gives a couple of creative crazies an opportunity to really have some fun with tools and remodeling.  The home is very much like us: eclectic, quirky, fun, and whatever feels “right.”

Which brings us to the bathroom makeover project.

You’ll remember, this was occasioned by a water leak and that was followed by a major re-engineering of the bathroom floor.  Which, I have to say, looks peachy.

We will get around to setting the plumbing today and then I’ll be building cabinets for the bathroom.

Elaine’s given me a sketch and a few photos with a note “Build this for us…

Although I have all the tools now, there are still some “holes” in the project.

Don’t know how much cabinetmaking you’ve done, but there are a couple of approaches.  One is well-described in Danny Proulx’s Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets.  This approach involves simply making melamine covered MDF “boxes” and then finishing.

The pluses here are it’s easy to get everything square, especially if you don’t mess with the table saw fence between opposing pieces.  Plus, if you have the melamine side facing the innards, you end up with a pre-lined cabinet.  Toss a Forstner bit in the drill press, punch in neatly aligned holes and now you have adjustable shelves using pins.  Slap some 1/4″ birch plywood on the outside, finish, and looks great.

It’s called a Eurostyle because it doesn’t have the frontal framing used in the other approach…

The other approach is seen in Constructing Kitchen Cabinets (Back to Basics): Straight Talk for Today’s Woodworker.  In this approach, you build a simple frame and cover with solid material (sheet goods and finish).  It’s what I made for my office.

There are lots of trade-offs.  The Eurostyle gives you a completely hidden hinge.  Gives as nice flush look when done.  On the other hand, the box and frame approach is fast, tolerant of lower skills, but you will see the hinges.

Hinge shopping will drive you unhinged:  Euro type hinges are much more spending than “slap up a panel” hinge.  Either style can be fitted with full-extension drawers…which is another one of those l’il details “suggested” by management…

A couple of tools in the shop are worth mentioning.  I finally picked up a planer (WEN 6552 3-Blade 15 Amp Benchtop Thickness Planer, 13″) so I can dimension my own wood.  I don’t know if you’ve priced 1-by-4’s lately, but you can rip 2-by-4’s  and toss them through a planer and come up with a couple of 5/8th’s thick pieces…a convenient size.

Some years back, Harbor Fright (sic) sold a 1-horsepower benchtop shaper suitable for 1/2″ router bits and 1/4″ with a collet.  It’s far from an ideal machine – so I’m planning to add table extensions to it.

But the old machine still works and offers a super-cheap way to cut your own molding designs.  Process is still:  Take one of those 5/8th’s cut downs and run it through the shaper with whatever design makes sense.  Then, depending on the piece, whack if off on the table saw.

This way, the wood going through the shaper is of a decent (*safe) size for handling and using an 80 tooth or finer blade on the table saw gives an acceptable edge for most projects where the cutoff edge is hidden.

I love woodworking, but there is always some personal risk to it.  In general make it a practice to always work with the largest pieces you can for any machine process in order to lessen risk of injury.  Kickback on the table saw, or a wildly spinning small part on a drill press can be painful.  Keeping your hands behind the blade is the #1 safety rule at all times.

Do I need cut-listing software?  Oh boy! Suggestions welcome on this front.  Seems to me I’d have to build a house or two in order to get any kind of payback on the $200 programs to layout cuts.

I could go on…but time to get to work….

Peoplenomics tomorrow deals with how to prepare for lower incomes.  To be clear, this is an article about real income.  In other words, your income on-paper will likely go up in the future.  But you will be able to buy a lot less.

Go back in your economic history and you will see how we have gone from “so many loaves per dollar” to “so many dollars per loaf.

At the old Langendorf bakery in Seattle, I remember times when you could buy day-old bread at three loaves for a dollar.  Not only have American values deteriorated, but so has our money.

Hate it when that happens…

Write when you get rich,

Coping: Prepping Adventure in the Bathroom

Prepping lessons from a bath remodel?  Yessir.  There’s a gaping 24-square foot hole in the Ure master bath this morning.  Elaine had a sleepless night thinking about it.  “Gives me the heebie jee-geebie’s” is her description of things.  Something about fear of insects coming into the house…

As reported Thursday, a hidden water leak is the cause of this misery, but having all the tools in the world and a Lowes half an hour away makes it really a matter of attitude and project management.

This morning, around 9, we will frame out and deck-over.  Which will be followed by a liberal application of Bondo all-purpose putty. This weekend Elaine and I will refinish all the walls and the flooring man will be here Wednesday to lay the sheet goods.  I always build in a couple of days of “slip time” — even for a simple 1-hour task — because that’s how life works…

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For example, I have a number of 3×21″ belts for the belt sander that haven’t been used in 10-years, or so.  Brand new, I pulled a 60-grit open-coat and put it on the sander ready to take off some residual glue from the top of the floor joists.

As it was sitting on the bench, there was a “tick” noise. The belt failed sitting still.  A real first!

I ran out of 60-grit. Got to looking at the grades others on-hand.. Turns out the belt is joined by a thin strip of heavy paper, glued to both halves of the belt…like so:

This failed because after 10-years in a hot Texas shop, the adhesive loses its grippy and flexy….

This gets me to a point of prepping for Armageddon I doubt anyone has ever gone through: When one moves out of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapon release areas, there is still no getting around the impact of time.

I never figured that sanding belts would be in short supply in the End of Days.  But we were stocked-up, just in case.

Another one that’s highly perishable is PVC glue.  Oatey makes really good glue, but there’s no getting around solvent penetration over long, long periods…up around 10-years.

Fresh PVC glue is clear, but then it begins to take on a milky look…and that’s when we pick up fresh glue.  No use taking chances.

Don’t know if you’ve checked on paint storage.  But, we recently got rid of about a dozen, or so, one gallon paint cans because the contents had “skinned over” and were no good.

Super glues have the same problem.  Hard tubes are  junk.

The two-part epoxies that come in “dual mixing squirters” seem to fare better, but I don’t know if the bond is as good as fresh.  I’ll research this and get back to you in a column 10-years from now.

Those paper tubes of construction adhesives, also tend to dry out in 2-4 years, rendering them useless, as well.  Ditto the caulking that’s in the gun-ready foil/paper tubes.  2-5 years on those.

(Warm caulk and glue is easier to squeeze than cold tubes, if you’re a newbie to home rebuilding…)

An option is to get everything in hand squeeze tubes made of plastic, but remember even with these you may be looking at 6-10 years of life.  The effects of plastic degradation over time are painful.  Squeeze tubes are way faster to install.

PVC plastic pipe seems to be OK to the 10-15 year range, and may go 20-25.  But the trick here is to remember it depends on the material.  Brittles-up over time.

If you’re talking about raw 20-foot joints of pipe (a joint is 20-feet in liquid piping land), it begins to harden noticeably in 10-years, but it probably won’t crack while being worked for 20-25-years.

Once installed, it might go 30-40 years, but something I’ve never seen mentioned is that pipe doesn’t like to move when it gets old.  Sort of like people, that way.

Our local rural water purveyors have that problem in spades.  Down on the main county road, they have to replace a couple of joints-worth of pipe about once a year.

We’re on what passes for a “mountain” in this part of East Texas.  Elevation, base to top, is on the order or 300 feet.

Still, erosion and both a rock quarry and oil fields to the south of us (down hill side a 1/2 mile) may account for the hillside moving a bit.

It doesn’t take much…maybe a 1/16th to a quarter inch per year.  But on early PVC?  The stuff cracks and breaks…water spews everywhere…and the pipe fixers have jobs-for-life.

Which is why we have a back-up well, but there’s no more certainty to that, either.  Takes energy and…

I did mention that solar panels also degrade over time, too?

After 25-years,. it’s common for solar cells to lose anywhere from 10% (good cells) to 25% (or more on cheap cells) of their output?  The sun is brutally hot, ice is plenty cold, and the flexing…well you get the idea.

Again, like the human aging process.  Hot and cold are less appealing with age, lol…

Material Changes , Too

If it’s been a while since you’ve shopped a flooring job, things have changed.  As “value engineering” continues a lot of the sheet goods have become thinner.

The people who sell flooring will go out of their way to convince you that this is an “improvement” but not to my way of thinking.

For one, if you have screws in your decking, you need to fill all the screw heads.

You see, in the “old days” (10-years ago, or longer) the vinyl flooring was thick enough so that you could lay it right up to the walls, and then seal around it with long-life silicone caulking.

Today, the installers insist that all sheet goods should be “floating” – in other words, not edge-bound.  “This allows the floor to flex a bit, expand and contract a bit...”  so goes the professional pitch.  “We get a nice edge by putting in quarter-round.”

Sounds like a crooked sermon, to me.  Sounds like an excuse to sell thin sheet goods…lacking dimensional stability.

Frankly, I’m none-too-pleased with this version of “progress.” I like the glued down (*with caulk) edges because it is a very clean looking wall joint.  The baseboards and quarter-round are just another thing to get dirty, and if anything ever happened to Scooter, (our bug service fellow) that area behind quarter-round would be the first place any self-respecting bug would set up housekeeping.

There are some limitations to rebuilding modular homes.  Again, we’re into manufacturer’s ideas on “value engineering.”

These days, it’s common to be able to order the “northern insulation option” which calls for sidewall framing with 2-by-6’s.  But manufacturers  continue to go cheap on the floors with 2-by 6’s set on I-beams of steel.

If you build a stick-built home, you can use 2-by-8’s for the joists, and if you put these on 16-inch centers, a 12-foot span is a piece of cake.  You would have enough strength to lay ceramic tile, which would be our first choice.

On the other hand, 2-by-6’s on 24-inch centers?  Too much flex, too much weight, and it’s a bad engineering call.  Maybe the I-beams would work, but color me skeptical.

Things to think about…

Some day, we will sell this place and the 20-park-like acres to move to a city (and a conventional built house).  For now, we’re into the “art of the chop saw” which is really the fun of such a place.  There are no rules, no permits to pull, no inspectors, no bullshit.  Just good common sense and super-strong construction practice.

Which is where my weekend will go.

And update  should be forthcoming Monday, but that’s how life goes on the business-end of power tools…

Write when you get rich,