Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

February 24, 2013

Hollows and Rounds

Filed under: Stairs,Stone house restoration — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:39 pm

One of my Christmas gifts was a recently-published book on making mouldings using hand tools, specifically hollows and rounds (H&R). These are wooden planes used until the early 20th century to create moldings.  A half set of H&Rs is 18 planes in matched pairs with increasing radius from 1/8″ to 1-1/8″. Below is a photo of the set I bought recently (but missing the No. 4 pair) and the soles of a matched pair.

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I have 1 pair tuned up and ready to use but need to buy some sharpening tools to get the rest in shape (even though they are in quite good condition overall). Plenty to keep me busy!

Below is a photo of the plane irons. You can see one has a concave profile and the other is convex.  The convex is not too difficult to sharpen but the concave is going to require some conical sharpening slips for sharpening and a flexi-shaft grinder to shape the profile.  The set of H&Rs that I bought were made in London probably in the late 19th century so they need some work to recover from neglect.

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To make mouldings you also need a rabbet plane to cut rabbets to minimize the amount of wood to be removed by the H&R planes.  I bought an old rabbet plane on ebay that was made by the Sandusky Tool Co. in Ohio that had a 1″ wide sole. Unfortunately, the plane was warped and the sides were worn.  Using the jointer I narrowed the width to about 7/8″, flattened the sole, and ground the iron to fit the new dimensions of the plane body.  It will no longer be a collector’s piece (not that it was at all rare) but it is now a useful woodworking tool. I may eventually have to box the corners with a harder species of wood, but for now it works quite well.

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My first attempt with these planes was to make cove mouldings to go against the risers just underneath the stair treads. I started by cutting a dado with the rabbet plane. I used a marking tool to scribe a line indicating the width of the dado, then held the rabbet plane at an angle to track the scribe line as I gradually cut the dado. After a few strokes at an angle you can hold the rabbet plane vertical and cut the dado.

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That left a satisfying pile of shavings on the floor.

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After the rabbet plane I used a No. 8 round plane to cut the cove.  The sides of the dado guide the round and you keep track of the disappearing rabbet to make sure you are cutting evenly along the moulding. In the photo below you can see the dado has almost disappeared.

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And then you’re done. The nice thing with cutting the moulding with a plane is that you don’t have to sand like you do after using a router. Although by hand it took me 10 times longer! I hope to get faster over time…

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Below are the results of my first attempt at making mouldings by hand. Not perfect but given that each of these will be underneath the lip of a stair tread I don’t think anyone is ever going to notice.

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Now only 8 more stairs to go!

One final note for this week, I found some money (besides pennies from the 1950s)… a Mercury dime that fell out from underneath the rubber mat nailed to the original top step of the stairs. Not that all our investment in the house has now paid off… the dime is worth about $2-$3 mostly because of the price of silver.

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February 17, 2013

Firewood 2014 Time

Filed under: firewood,kitchen — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:04 pm

We have had 2 weekends recently with below-freezing temperatures and little snow – perfect for cutting wood.  Left over from last year were still 2 trunks of dead standing white oak (each about 20″ dbh) on the hillside. They had to be dropped downhill because of their lean, but with the frozen ground and slope they were easy to haul down with the tractor and truck.

Here’s what we dragged out and had cut and piled in the yard by lunchtime. Two pickup truck loads from 2 logs!

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This year Ethan got some experience with the chainsaw, which led him to comment that now he knows why I like to cut my own firewood (because it’s fun!). That was only after about 15 minutes of cutting (before he even got warm enough to take his coat off) – but if he’s happy I’m happy (and grateful for the help).

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Today we dropped some cherry trees overhanging the fenceline.  Two more truckloads and I think we’re done for next year.  Between the 4 loads we just cut and what we won’t burn this year (see this post from March 11, 2012), we should be all set for 2014.  Now we just need to split and stack it all.  Also, after lunch we cut a truckload of box elder to use as firewood for the workshop – box elder is pitiful heating fuel but contains enough BTUs to take the chill off my workspace.

So once again we have another pile of something in the yard.

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Update on the house

This past week I finished the paneling above the range hood in the kitchen. These panels had to be removeable so that one can gain access to the vent and power for the range hood. I used 4 pieces of poplar as framing to attach the panels.  The side panels will be attached from the inside and the front panel will be attached with brass screws from the exterior. In the photo below you can see the framing – and the sad fact is this area has been exposed so long we were used to it… But I did get lucky attaching the piece on the ceiling as it fell exactly on a joist (that runs parallel, not perpendicular, to the outside wall!

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Here’s the finished product!

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Next I finally made the “double” door needed to access the space under the prep sink. I used 2 pieces of solid cherry… and have it sanded and fitted and now just need to finish them.

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So you may ask, “Is the kitchen is finished?” Not really – need to add cove molding to the baseboard, cover the framing that forms the toekick under the cabinets, and probably make one last upper cabinet to go above the prep sink. And we have been doing some thinking about a pattern/mosaic to tile the wall between the range and hood.

 

February 7, 2013

New Stairs in an Old House

Filed under: Dining Room,Stone house restoration — Duane Diefenbach @ 11:07 pm

For the past 8-10 days Lee Cowan Design+Build has been rebuilding the original stairs. Based on the pitch and amount of space, the only way we could design the stairs was to have angled steps at the bottom that made a left-hand turn up to the second story.  You’ll see what I mean in the series of photos.

This photo is a little confusing, but you just have to ignore the temporary support posts and header.  You can see one stringer installed and some of the framing for the wall.

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Once the wall was constructed the temporary header could be removed. Now you can see 2 stringers installed along with the header installed (right side of photo) so that about half the staircase can be exposed

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The next photos is taken from the stairs going to the basement, and they show how the stairs will make a 90° turn at the bottom. Again, keep reading and more photos will make some sense of this.

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Below you can see some of the framing for the angled treads. After getting this installed we were afraid there was not enough headroom to clear the ceiling of the second floor, but decided to wait until the treads were installed to make any decisions about how to deal with it (with the header installed we could potentially shorten a joist and make more headroom).

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With the stringers and framing installed some treads and risers could be installed. Starting from the top down. Lee did a great job of making the stairs match the slope of the second floor (seriously!).

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Because the original house was finished in white pine I used some pine that I cut, dried, and milled from the property. I had 5/4 pine available so all the treads, skirts, and trim can be 1″ like the original house.

When the treads and risers for the angled steps were installed it really started to look like a set of stairs! And fortunately there is sufficient headroom for most people to climb the stairs without bumping their head.

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Deciding how to trim the exposed stairs and the header, as well as the trim that joined the header to the stairs took some discussion with Lee.  Unfortunately, at this point I was beginning to run out of pine and had to use some red pine for some of the risers and other parts (note the darker colored risers in the photo above).

The final major task was to make a newel post and the handrail and balusters. I made the newel post from some red maple milled to a final dimension of 3-1/2″ square.  The handrail and balusters are pine. I made everything very simple to match the simple construction of the house.

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Here is a final photo of the new staircase along. With the sheetrock installed it almost looks like it was original.

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The door on the left was removed from the closet that is now the top of the stairs – I am going to use it for the door to the basement (and it may be original to that space? Who knows?).  But there is still a lot left to do.

1. Make the cove molding to go under each tread and to wrap around the expose portion of the staircase. I am planning to do this with an antique set of hollow and round wooden planes I recently purchased. More on that later.

2. Make a couple pieces of trim to finish covering the header.

3. Sand everything! Prime it. And at least one coat of paint (no color decisions have even been discussed at this point).

4. Frame in the doorway to the basement. Hang the door.

5. And that’s probably not half of it! Stay tuned.

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