Welcome-mat Voodoo

It once had a lovely motif of birds, branches and blooms. Really it did.

It once had a lovely motif of birds, branches and blooms. Really it did.

Curb appeal: That’s what my mother thinks caused my house to not sell last year. Well, not curb appeal, but the lack thereof. It all boiled down, she said, to the un-welcoming welcome mat. Never mind that the house has been recently painted and the garden actually has in it living and flowering plants.

I think that’s ridiculous. A 24″ x 36″ bit of coir simply can’t mean the difference between “I MUST buy this house!” and “RUN AWAY!” Can it?

But yeah, the mat was a bit ratty.

So, now that a) my house is off the market, b) I found a mat I like on sale and c) my mom can’t prove herself right,  I bought a new door mat.

Basically, it’s a $20 cat-scratching pad. But colorful! Not (yet) shredded! And welcoming! (The pineapple is, after all, the symbol for hospitality.)

And if someone comes knocking at my door with an offer, well, mom beats St. Joseph, and I will eat crow.


And oh dear. In looking at the above photo, I’m pretty sure her next directive will be to paint the black planters.

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Not Yet Ready For Prime Time

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.39.53 PMAfter the many, many dovetails I cut for the kitchen drawers (including those for the several boxes I made the wrong size…oops), added to those I cut at the Lie-Nielsen open house* two weeks back, I’m not yet ready to again pick up my DT saw (OK, one of my DT saws).

I’m now working on a project for PWM. A very rough model of the back is shown above; the front will be revealed in the mag. I’ve not yet worked out all (any, really) of the interior details. What I do know is that there isn’t one dovetail in it. Time to get reacquainted with my tenon saw (of which I have but one).

* For those of you who were in Maine, I was cutting less-than-stellar joints on purpose, dammit! The point was to show how to fix mistakes. Tactical error on my part; next time, I’ll pack some perfect corners. Or, ya know, demonstrate hand-cut mortise-and-tenon joints instead.

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The Look of Lazy

My stunt cats, JJ and Possum. I bribed 'em with Greenies treats. (Viola is too cool for such obvious tricks.)

My stunt cats, JJ and Possum. I bribed ‘em with Greenies treats. (Viola is too cool for such obvious tricks.)

Nope. Not a lick of progress.

I needed a place at which to eat, so I moved the ill-fitting antique table back into the kitchen, where it offends me daily by violating the plane of the window trim and window. And on which I bark my knees every time I sit down to eat.

The last piece of base moulding? Still not attached. I’ve not even contemplated buying the shoe moulding, lumber for the cabinets’ faux feet or beams for the mini-Roubo island thingy. The beech backsplashes that I need to install on the non-sink counters? Still sitting on my bench at work, in unprocessed board form.

Most of the tools, the air compressor and empty hardware and appliances boxes? Still in the dining room.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Lots of travel, a conference to plan, a dissertation to write, freelance manuscripts and a magazine to edit…I’m simply swamped.

But it’s all driving me a little nutty. I want to be finished…if only I could find the time.

There is, after all, a third-floor bathroom that is in need of a total gut job. Fun!



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A Vintage Cottage Kitchen


Deciding to not sell my house right away has resulted in extreme laziness regarding the finishing touches to my kitchen. Everything is now functional; who needs toe-kicks, thresholds or shoe moulding, really? Plus, I’ve been busy with more pressing concerns: my dissertation, editing Roy Underhill’s delightful, funny and thought-provoking “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker! (A Novel with Measured Drawings)” and copy-editing Peter Galbert’s book on Windsor chairmaking (which is wicked good).

Also, I’ve been out of town a bit, and the cats don’t give two paw swipes about how the kitchen looks; to them, it is merely the room in which food is always available…and treats are in the offing therein if they meow at me in a pitiful enough manner (read: in any manner).

While in North Carolina two weeks ago, I stayed in the the cottage above. It’s on Roy and Jane Underhill’s mill property, so it will be no surprise to learn that being there feels much like stepping back 80 years in time (despite the Internet service, air-conditioning and plenty of hot water).

Roy has been renovating the cottage (which I believe is where the keeper lived when the mill was in operation) for several years now, and the kitchen is almost done. Last year, I recall there being a late 70s refrigerator and stove; now, it’s decked out with period-appropriate appliances. When I do get around to selling my house and tackling a new rehab (preferably before my knees give out completely), I’d like to match the look of the appliances to the house’s period. But I like Victorians; it’s hell getting blocks of ice delivered these days.


Adorable – but it doesn’t fit a boxed 12-pack of Diet Coke.

The “new” cottage refrigerator is adorable – but it hearkens back to a time when there weren’t as many readily available items that require cold storage…or maybe I need to cut down on the number of wine, Diet Coke and malt-liquor beverages I keep on hand.

The stove, however, is awesome – despite gas rings that are either fully on or off, and must be lit with a match. It did a fine job of heating water for morning coffee and evening tea – though past experience leads me to suspect the oven temps are a bit inconsistent (we had a similar stove when I was a kid).


The rest of the cottage is decorated in a similar vintage nature, with period furniture, overflowing bookshelves, a wood stove for heating (I’ve never been there during cold months…are there cold months?) and an old typewriter at a window overlooking the woods and stream behind the trees.



Plus, there is a bust of Shakespeare beneath a picture of a cat. I felt right at home.


But now that I am home, I suppose I should attach that last piece of base moulding and get started on the toe kicks, backsplash, etc. Or not. Another few months of ignoring the missing/unimportant bits, and I’ll forget about them. How do I know? I finally completed the bathroom trim two days before putting the house on the market last summer. That renovation was otherwise finished six years ago.

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Hmmm…That Looks Familiar


I’ve been wrestling with the design for the island/counter/microwave shelf I want to make to fit the 22-3/4″-wide area between the door and window. While I quite like my decrepit antique farmhouse table, it simply doesn’t fit the space – I find it aesthetically vexing to have things hang over door and window trim and I don’t want to have a plonk a microwave atop the table or kitchen counters. I use mine so rarely (now that my gas stove is once again functional) that it makes no sense to have it taking up valuable flat surface area. Plus, I’d find that, too, aesthetically vexing.

The parameters are tight: 22-1/2″ is as wide as I can go (I figure a 1/4″ of wiggle room is a good idea), and it can be no longer than 52″. There must be a shelf for a decent-sized microwave, and I’d like a lower shelf for cookbooks and whatnot. But I have to avoid having a leg land in the floor vent area, and I don’t want to impede airflow from said vent. The final product also has to serve as a table, in order to call the kitchen “eat-in,” and I want to be able to store two stools under it, and get my legs comfortably underneath. (So yes, as soon as I finish the island, I’ll be obsessing over counter-height stools – whee!)

Here’s where I started:


I like the idea of a drawer in the apron, but that lowers the microwave shelf by 5″ – not a big deal to me, but probably weird to look at. I also had concerns about the whole thing falling over if I leaned too hard on the end. Or if a cat jumped on it. (JJ really needs to be put on a diet.)

Then I moved to this, thinking maybe the easier solution – one that allowed more leg room – was to face the microwave out on the end:

Iteration 1

Just awful. I abandoned this idea quickly, deciding I couldn’t make the shelf sides play nice with the tapered legs in the back. Were there room, I’d have played around with frame-and-panel construction for the shelf area, thereby using legs there, too. But no…not enough room (unless I got a uselessly small microwave…which, when I do decide to sell, would no doubt be unattractive storage planning to potential buyers).

So  I then took the legs away, with the intent to secure the top to the wall, and added a hanging drawer, a la Greene & Greene or a Shaker sewing table:

Iteration 2

Nope. Still ugly. What my antipathy boils down to, I think, is that I don’t want to see the microwave facing out into the center of the room.


iteration 3

But no. This unit, with a drop-down door that hides the microwave, undermines the open feel I’ve been trying to create in this rehab project. Plus, there’s very little room for sitting.

But this one, I like. Looks familiar, eh?

Roubo iteration

It seems I’ll be building a “Roubo Microwave Island.”

If you wish to discover the dimensions, cutlist and joinery, c’mon over and see me at my other blog.

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Perhaps My Favorite Discovery


I’m sitting in a hotel room an hour outside Denver, and to kill a little time before leaving for the airport, I’ve been scrolling through my phone and wondering why I took some of the odd pictures thereupon (also, I’m a lot closer to being caught up on email than I’ve been in ages!).

But I know why I took the one above.

I don’t know exactly what it’s called, but that little neon greeny-yellow plastic shim thing for outlets? Brilliant! At least half the receptacle boxes in my house were inserted too deeply into the plaster, so I’ve had to live with recessed outlets for years (oh, the humanity).

Now, thanks to a three-cent piece of plastic, problem solved.

Would that the solutions to all my problems were so cheap and easy (though with a shorter discovery time).

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Fully Functional, if Not Quite Fully Finished

stveviewWhile I still have a few things to finish, my stove is once again hooked up, and the refrigerator is no longer in the living room.

I’d celebrate by using the appliances for the first time in almost three weeks by cooking a fancy meal…but that would require a trip to the grocery (the refrigerator is damn near empty; can I make anything out of hard cider, a bottle of wine, mayonnaise, milk and mustard? Oh – and a paintbrush wrapped in a damp cloth inside a plastic bag; I’m sure that would be tasty addition to any repast.)


Plus, it would require putting away all the crap that’s on the counters – and most of it is crap I still need.

Although I painted the baseboards last night and got most of them installed this morning (before my neighbor, Brian, helped me move the appliances back in place – thanks Brian!), the one on the back wall is going to need a few kerf cuts on the backside to more kerfeasily follow the serpentine plaster. While I might be able to force it in place with masonry nails, I’m worried the nails will eventually pop out of the soft brick…or pop out at one end as I drive the nails in at the other (as evidenced by that occurring on the sink wall behind the stove). So that piece will just have to wait until tomorrow. I’m not making a special trip out to the PWM shop for 5-10 kerfs (though I would were that run holding up real progress).

After that, there’s some paintable caulk to run at the top, a few small gaps to fill and sand at the corners and scarf joints, and plinth blocks to make and nail in place before a final touch-up with paint.

I also need to make transition strips for the three doorways, make and install the toe kick/feet under the cabinets, surface and install the beech I bought for the backsplash on the counters opposite the sink, make the island and come up with a plan for a narrow table with a top that follows the curve of the wall to the left of the stove (under which will be the cat-feeding station).

Ugh. Still a lot to do, actually. But at least I can boil the kettle for tea.

Oh, and I’ve decided to not sell just yet. I have too much else to do and don’t have time to deal with that on top of everything else. So I’ll get to enjoy my work for a while.

fridgep.s. I harbor longstanding enormous dislike of my refrigerator – it’s too big, plus the black sides and plastic handles are, to me, heinous (when I bought it 7 or 8 years ago, I thought the $450 I saved over the one I liked would render it acceptable. It has not.) Is it crazy to get a new, European counter-depth one (they’re narrower than the typical U.S. counter-depth models). I’m thinking the one at left (because the one I really want is three times as much…and that is indeed crazy). I’d get the somewhat reasonably priced one below, but apparently, I’d have to live in England to do so…which would be just dandy, actually.

Oh Ikea...why do you not sell this in the U.S.?

Oh Ikea…why do you not sell this in the U.S.?


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