Plaster Obsessive

In about 5 short hours this weekend, we have applied the final layer of plaster to about half the total wall area in the Kitchen Annex. While the rapidity of application is amazing, the most astounding (and most pleasant) result of the work was the high quality of the finish. Carole described the feel of the dried finish to “porcelain”. It is very hard and polished smooth. In the unpainted finish, there are “veins” and burnish marks not unlike marble. Little wonder that the MOP is mixed with color and applied unpainted in some applications.

We waited all week for some new leaf trowels and a blister brush to come via internet mail order, but, so far, they are a no-show. While we wait, here is a picture of the tools currently in plaster use at 118 Henry Street:

Plaster tools

  1. 14″ trowel for applying base coat�to large uninterrupted wall areas
  2. 11″ trowel for most general purpose application and smoothing
  3. 6″ detail trowel for small areas such as above a window
  4. 6″ drywall knife for carrying plaster, scraping the trowel, and detail work
  5. 3/4″ plastic drywall knife cut down in width to function like a leaf trowel for narrow wall areas such as between a door frame and a wall
  6. 2″ margin trowel for narrow areas

By far the majority of my time was spent with the 11″ trowel in my right hand and the 6″ drywall knife in my left hand. Not shown is the ever present 5 gallon bucket of water, wet towel and water spray bottle. The bucket of water and towel are used to keep the tools clean. The water spray bottle is used to wet the plaster as it sets up to facilitate smoothing and burnishing.

Switching gears and rooms…

An old repair to a plaster crack in our bedroom (originally a study) broke loose this morning. I peeled away the loose paper and was rewarded with a complete paint color history of the room.

Paint history of the front study

In order from youngest to oldest:

  • A. Current off white
  • B. Pale pinkish rose
  • C. Dark salmon rose
  • D. Dark grey sage green
  • E. Original unfinished plaster

Switching gears and rooms again…

A picture of my stepson, Carole’s son, Howard in the dining room. The “green room” as DeShawn has taught us to call it.

Howard in the Green Room

Thankful for What You Have to be Thankful For

We were supposed to go to Middendorf SC today to celebrate the holiday with Carole’s maternal side of the family. The first time I met Carole, she told me that her people sprung from the dirt at Middendorf. Turn off SC 1 at the remnants of an old store to reach the farmland that the Catoe’s have occupied and worked since well before the Civil War. Most of the living Catoes of Jean’s, Carole’s mom, generation were born within 200 yards of the little brick church at the front of the acreage. The cemetery between the railroad tracks and the church is populated by Catoe’s from several past generations. There was a time when Carole’s father said he wouldn’t be put to rest in that cemetary with all them Catoes, but I think he’s mellowed and relented that position the last few years.

A gray, windy November day like today set the stage for my first trip to Middendorf. Carole and I had been dating just over a year. She was anxious in all senses of the word to show me off to the extended family. We spent most of the time, except eating, outside, in the side yard of Aunt Delores’ and Uncle Stanley’s (past on) house, directly adjacent to the cemetery. Many of the old men related by marriage, not blood, to the Catoes, loitered out there with us, away from the heat and activity inside the house. Including Duecey, Carole’s dad. My father died on a cold, cloudy November day like that first trip to Middendorf. I guess that why my memory of that visit is dominated by the thoughts of Duecey silently crying as he and Jean walked thru the graves in the cemetery.

DeShawn is sick. That’s why we didn’t go today. For the second time in as many weeks, I had to pick him from school early and take him to the doctor. As of right now, we don’t even have 24 hours of antibiotic in him, so he’s still feeling clammy feverish. Carole’s making Thanksgiving for us here. We’re still functionally stove-less, she’s using the grill I refurb’ed for our Hillarity get-together. Stuffed chicken breast, raw broccoli and carrots, rice and dressing will be followed up with “worms and dirt”, gummy worms in crushed oreos. We’re to use the white-washed table I rescued and some antique high back chairs Carole bought for dining room furnishings in, what DeShawn calls, the “green room”.

Our little Thanksgiving, 2003

Speaking of, the soiree we held in conjuction with Chester’s Hillarity Festival was quite satisfactory. With minimal preparation, Carole, DeShawn, and I entertained a dozen or so invitees. Mostly from our pool of friends and family in Columbia, and my son, Ben, from Charlotte, everybody got a chance or two to visit the festival going on a couple of blocks from the house. The weather was prefect autumn with clear sunny skies, about 68 degrees mid afternoon. We setup a table by putting together a 100 year old door from Carole’s house and a couple of metal saw horses next to the refurb’d grill. I spent every bit of the daylight outside except for the nickel tours of 118 Henry Street. Since most of our contact with friends and family occurs in Charlotte and Columbia, DeShawn was particularly impressed that folks were coming to visit us in Chester.

Ben and Liz, my twins, visiting during the Hillarity Festival

This past weekend, contact with friends and family was in Columbia. Last week was DeShawn’s 4th birthday, so we went to Chuckee Cheese with him on Saturday. Of course, he had a big time, though, my suspicion is that his current illness may have originated there. The little party in Columbia closed a week of small celebrations for him. Prior Saturday, his mommy gave him some presents. Tuesday, his class at school celebrated. Tuesday evening, we had supper with his Uncle Ben, who gave him several presents. Wednesday, his actual birthday, he and I went to the movies.

While in Columbia, I spent some time with Duecey and Jean. Because of helping Carole with her plays, I’d been neglectful in regard to visiting them. We had some high quality time just sitting in their living room, talking. Duecey gave me some old window sashes he’d collected. These windows have become the latest side project at 118 Henry street. I’m going to do some basic repairs and replace the panes with mirror glass. With the sashes turned upside down, the sash lifts will act like coat hooks. Hopefully, the rebirthed windows will find appropriate homes in an entry hall or mudroom somewhere.

Junebug vs. Hurricane

(Hopefully) you’ve been checking for updates to 118 Henry Street, wondered what happened and (wishfully) wanted some more. The short answer to the “what happened?” is we lost our internet connection for 5 weeks or so. Well, that’s not exactly the true story. while it took only 1 day to terminate internet service with the local telephone company, it took the local cable company 3 weeks (no joking) to decide that the special mail offer didn’t apply in Chester. And, oh by the way, there is no cable modem service AT ALL in Chester. Subsequently, we lost our position with the phone company and got on the “approximately 2 weeks” reconnection list. Note to self: in a small town, don’t terminate your current internet service provider before you’re sure your new internet service provider can deliver the goods.

With a renewed and stable internet connection comes a new side project in the restoration of 118 Henry Street; by end of year, our online diary will take up residence in a new location complete with domain name and, gasp, photographs. No matter how slowly, the wheels of fate do indeed continue to grind.

For a bit after losing an internet connection, work continued at a largely normal pace. Progress continues on the upstairs west bedroom despite finding a section of wall plaster that had loosed from the lath. A few drywall screws reattached and stablized the surface and patching plaster make relatively quick work of the crack. This time of year, with the leaves coming off the trees, the room is bright with sunlight continuously after 10ish or so in the morning until sunset.

De-Construction continues on the upstairs bathroom. All the paint has been scraped from the walls. About 1/3rd of the woodwork (not counting the window sashes) remain to be heat-gunned and scraped of paint. This last week, we removed the carpeting from both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. God bless PO’s (previous owners) everywhere.

Just this weekend, we removed the carpeting from yet another room. Work in the dining room revealed more of the house’s heart pine floors in beautiful condition. DeShawn has always called this room “the Green Room” because of the lime/avocado green paint that the PO’s applied to the walls, woodwork, doors, built-in china cabinet (including brass drawer pulls), and windows. The green was somewhat tolerable with the grey/tan carpeting, but now, the reddish orange pine floors make the walls look like the color of glowing green pea soup.

The only carpet remaining in the original house is on the stairs and the hallway. Before we can take this up, I will need to have 5 door thresholds made to replace the ones discarded on carpet installation. Made of yellow pine, the thresholds are 4″ wide and almost 3/4″ thick. Strictly custom lumber yard. The floor in the rear addition is carpeted (of course) and, unfortunately, directly on the subfloor. We’re going to have to leave it be for a while longer.

Speaking of the addition, the latex sealer/coating the PO’s had put on the flat roof began de-laminating this summer. It lasted a whole 2 years. This is probably pretty good considering that latex sealer is not recommended for builtup bituminous roofs. Funny thing, it won’t stick. Like most projects at 118 Henry Street, at least half of the time is spent de-constructing past efforts at repair or improvement. A 6 hour Saturday to remove the old latex coating with a pressure washer, and a 4 hour Sunday to apply an appropriate fiber based coating will get us thru the winter. A return engagement with the fiber based sealer next summer will set us good for 4 or 5 years. Sooner or later, I’ve got to tackle the flat parts of the reverse dormers that are also coated with the white latex.

We completed one of the side projects this weekend in addition to the carpet removal. Last summer, I rescued a table from the side of the road. The table’s PO’s had apparently used it as a shop table. There are several saw cuts in the edges of the top. Looks like a very bored dog chewed at the feet too. Old house, new furniture? Not on your life. I’m not so sure we should own expensive antiques, just old stuff. Anyway, finally got all the old finish sanded off of what appears to be maple(?) wood. We refinished with white pickling stain applied like paint. Carole will put the finishing touches on it, most likely, stenciled morning glory vines and flowers.

I had to buy a new orbital sander to finish the table. A couple of weeks ago was some kind of sun flare or moon phase or planetary alignment that caused several of my most used tools to fail miserably. Scratch one shopvac. Scratch one orbital sander. On the injured reserve list, the string trimmer (again), and, sigh, the lawn mower. Did I mention the chainsaw? The final tally was: new shopvac, new orbital sander, parts for the trimmer, water in the gas for the lawnmower, and fouled spark plug for the chainsaw.

Last weekend, I finally trimmed up the magnolia tree in Carole’s side yard. Easily 60′ tall and definitely 3 1/2′ in diameter, big and old are appropriate adjectives. This task has been on the honey-do list for a good bit as several limbs at the 30′ level touched the roof of her house. Said limbs provided squirrels a quick trip to her attic. Twelve hours over 2 days, 6 of which in the tree, are only the first part of the squirrel solution. Next is to repair the holes the rats with furry tails chewed in the roof eaves to get into the attic.

Random notes for those interested: 1) Lucinda Williams, 2) The Power of Full Engagement.

Next weekend is the annual Hillarity Street Festival in Chester. We will be preparing all week for our big city guests. Preps include mowing the grass (last time this year!), fixing the grill (a must if hotdogs are really on the menu), and cleaning house (like normal people do…not like house restorer’s do).