Sunday, May 31, 2009


Almost there...

As you could gather from the last post, my first attempt at remounting the numbers resulted in a less-than-perfect result. Many times, just spending 10 minutes to think about how to do something before starting can make a big difference in the result. I was sharing this with my neighbor who opined, "that's much easier said than done." I agree, but I thought it might be good to show an example -- so I documented what I did this time around:

STEP 1: Position the numbers exactly how you'd like them (use math) and trace them out.
STEP 2: I added short screws to the back of the numbers and then dipped them in red paint.
STEP 3: By lowering them down precisely I know have a great drilling template.
STEP 4: Do a test fit before you go nailing the plaque.
I was also able to complete a second coat of paint this weekend and get the numbers formally mounted outside. I think it looks. This is about as far as I can go without getting the block wall (separating my yard from the neighboring one on the left) completed. Fortunately, construction on that starts this week and should be done within a week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Pain by Numbers

Before I start, here's a better picture of where things are now. Just remember there will be plants in front.
I'm also trying to relocate the house numbers:
This is turning out to be a lot tougher than I thought. Originally, they came with a paper template for drilling the holes. Now I want them horizontal and since the place I'm putting them is a very specific width I want a very particular spacing.

I thought I'd be super smart here. I positioned the numbers and traced them. Then I put in the rods in back, dipped them in red paint, and tried to position them (lining up with the traced outlined) to mark the drill holes. Unfortunately the rods are a bit long and I wasn't as lined up as a thought.

This is one of those times I remember what a car upholsterer told me. He said just about anyone can recover car seats. The key is having patience and being willing to redo things a bunch of times until you get it right. This is definitely one of those things where that applies. I want the numbers aligned just right and I've got some ideas to improve my method.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Coming Along

Carpentry isn't hard work, but it can be tedious. A lot of this stems from the fact that in order to do order to do something well you need to often jump down a rabbit hole of additional steps. This takes a lot of patience since you end up getting pretty far from your original project before you can start heading back. I realize that may not make a lot of sense to you right now, but trust me, once you start building anything it will.
So here's just a few photos showing progress:
At this stage my neighbors were still giving me quizzical glances (I'm used to it by now). However, by the time I got the primer on I think it had become fairly clear what the game plan was:
Now it's finally starting to really look like a fence:
I've actually gotten a bit more done than is shown. I've finished the first coat of super-dark brown (horsetail will be planted in front to keep it from being too much), chopped off the post tops, and started to reinstall the house numbers on the corner of the new fence (it's trickier than I thought...but I'll save that for another post).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Work Continues

Well, I can now cross "rent Home Depot flatbed truck" off my bucket list. Earlier this week I was able to pickup the bulk of the lumber needed for the fence. It was actually pretty painless, 5 minutes of showing insurance / driver's license and $20 to rent for 75 minutes.

I know this isn't exactly the right tool for the job, but I really wanted a chance to play with my pocket hole jig to see how it works. Also, in my fence design the horizontal stringers between the posts won't carry much downward weight; they are mainly there to keep the 23/32nds plywood from warping. I'm also trying to avoid big, ugly, metal bracketing if at all possible. Anyhow, I'm pretty happy with how they turned out and while 4 screws per side might be a little overboard, they can hold my weight.

I'm finding it's kind of nice to put in on an hour or so on the fence each night after I've (mostly) finished up with work for the day. I know a lot of people are a bit daunted by doing a fence from scratch and not doing the typical post / rail / dog-ear design. To those people: don't settle for mediocrity. Even if this project ends up a failure (though I think we've already passed over that hump), it will have only cost me some wood. I've been learning a lot. Here's what it looks like right now; it's starting to take shape.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


No Turning Back Now

I think I've passed the point of no return. On Thursday I had 7 holes in the ground but now I've got posts set in concrete. BTW, would you believe my Subaru will hold 4x4x8 posts?

For the rest of the wood I think I'm just going to rent the Home Depot flatbed truck. It's only $20 for the first 75 minutes. My house is only 5 minutes from the store so I won't use much gas either (the real "trick" on that rental is that the truck only get 8MPG and you pay $6.50/gallon if you don't refuel it).

I have a friend who is a carpenter in New Hampshire. He told me to really take it slow on the placement, leveling, and adjustments. I'm glad I did. My holes weren't perfectly aligned (it's near impossible with the mechanized auger) but by really adjusting I was able to get it so overall ever post was less than 1.5" out from the theoretical center and line and there was no more than 1" difference between any adjacent posts. I know those specs aren't great but I think they're pretty good for my first complete fence and given the board-batten look and dark color planned, I don't think it will be visually noticeable.

Friday, May 08, 2009



I've had some plans for a new left fence for a while now. The design choice has been solidified for over a month (without me changing my mind), I've done the engineering work and laid out stakes and strings to visualize. But, up until now, I haven't done any of the hard labor. I've come up with so many excuses: It's too rainy -- Is this really what I want? -- The block wall hasn't gotten done.

In the meantime, the existing fence has gotten worse. I'm lucky in that I'm moving the fence. This means I can construct the new fence while leaving the old one up -- this minimizes that awkward time (especially when you live in a 50% glass house without window coverings) of leaving things insecure and exposed.

Today I got my buddy HeyChris (not his real name) to help me out. I had no idea the wonderful world of tool rental. You fork over a nominal sum, they give you something which greatly reduces manual labor. I have no idea why anyone would dig post holes by hand. For $50 including tax I got a 5.5HP auger and was able to complete 7 24" holes through clay soil in about an hour. How can you beat that?

This Saturday I'm hoping to get the posts in the ground, aligned, and in concrete. On Sunday I'm hoping to start building the actual fence panels. Next weekend I'd like to finish up loose ends, start work on the door, and painting.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Odds and Ends

So I was recently able to get a bunch of things done. Mainly a lot of small projects that make big messes. I'm by no means a perfect neatnik, but the thought of getting dust everywhere just to fill in a couple of holes on the sealing is a bit frustrating. I also finally took down a terrible fluorescent light over the sink that I never used. I found this:

Two coats of primer + 3 coats of white paint and you can still see the faintest outline of it. BTW, I know how horrible the cabinet doors are; I look at them every morning during breakfast.

New Fence
I also started the first work on the new fence. And, I even got to use a fun new tool, the plum-bob:
I'm finding more and more often it's important to set things up on the ground. Tools like Google SketchUp are great for exploring ideas but the tweaking is still best done with real-world representations. I'm finding many times I'm on the write track, but things need to be adjust a few inches here and there to make them just right.

I was also on the roof and decided to take some cool photos:

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