Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Shopping for hardwoods and finding Birdeye Maple

A couple of days ago I went shopping for some hardwoods to use in my woodworking shop. There’s not a pressing need for it immediately, but I do have a couple of projects in mind and thought I’d get the hardwoods in need well in advance of the projects starting so the wood has time to acclimate to our home’s environment.

My shopping list included two species of hardwoods: birdseye maple and cherry. I got motivated to go on a run for wood after learning that Allen from Milwaukee Woodworks had a new supply of birdseye maple in stock. While it’s not exactly around the corner for me, it’s worth the trip because Allen offers a great selection of popular hardwoods and great prices.

So what is “birdseye” maple? As the photo to the right shows, its maple wood with tiny “figure” that resembles small eyes... birds’ eyes. As you can see, it’s quite striking, although I’ll be the first to admit that a little bit of birdseye maple can go a long way. No worries for me, as I’m planning on using it in a relatively small project (keeping this project secrete from my wife keeps me from sharing too many specifics about this project right now).

It’s nice to kill the winter doldrums and offset my home improvement projects by bringing a stack of new hardwood into the basement. I’ve walked by the stack several times since getting it home, and each time I peer down and get excited about converting those simple boards into a thing of beauty.

You can see one of my recent woodworking projects in my post Woodworking beats home improvement - my new cherry nightstands.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can a halogen light start a fire? Yes.

A few months back, I finished our upstairs bathroom remodel (see all bathroom remodel posts) by added a new light soffit with halogen lights above the sink. You can read all the custom light soffit posts as well.

Those tiny halogen lights sure do put out enough heat, but are they capable of starting a fire? Simply put, yes. Please read on as I explain how.

I built the housing of that soffit out of pine wood and plywood, but the threat of fire in my particular situation did not come from the housing of the light soffit itself. It came from the bathroom door that was swung open far enough to be directly under the light. It only took a few minutes for the top of the door to get hot enough for my wife to ask me if I smelled something burning. Before I go on, let me give you some background information...

My wife asks me about once a month if I smell something burning, and typically it’s a false alarm. So, please forgive me if I initially wrote this off as the little boy crying wolf. However, after running trudging up the stairs to explore the latest purported fire, I realized there was indeed the smell of smoke. Initially, I thought it was my wife’s hair dryer overheating. Then I noticed the door directly under one of the four halogen lights.

Since the clearance between the top of the door and the halogen lamp is only two or three inches, the heat from the halogen bulb was significant enough to cause the wood on the top of the door to smolder. This had never been an issue before, because a small trash can that typically sits on the floor directly behind the door usually stops the door from swinging that far open. On this particular day, however, the trash can had slide under the adjacent sink, allowing the door to swing as far as the perpendicular wall.

The photos above show the halogen light assembly with smoke stains, the smolder mark on the outside of the door, and the smoke mark and cracked paint on the inside of the door.

In hindsight, I guess it wasn’t a good idea to rely on the trash can to stop the door from swinging too far, but I never imagined this type of halogen light fire scenario.

To keep this from happening again in the future, I’ve added the trusty door stop that mounts neatly to the door’s hinge pin from Ace Hardware. Who knew a three dollar door door stop hinge pin could also be a fire preventer. Live and learn.

And just to clear the air (no pun intended), I’ll never take my wife’s concern over the possible smell of smoke lightly ever again. I promise.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Splinters and cuts no more - all purpose work gloves and the justification to buy a pair

Enough is enough. I’ve finally put my macho man status on the shelf and purchase a pair of all purpose work gloves. (Note: macho man status never really existed.) What made me finally break down? Read on...

When I returned to work after several days off around the holidays (days I spent working on our Cape Cod, naturally), one of my co-workers commented, “I can tell what you did over the holidays” as she pointed to my right hand. I retuned to my office and counted the number of cuts on my right hand alone: six. They weren’t big, just large enough to be noticeable to others (apparently). But that one comment wasn’t enough to push me into the all-purpose work glove camp.

The thing that really made me buckle was working with some bead-board plywood. You may recall that I used beadboard plywood for our upstairs bathroom ceiling last winter. That batch of beadboard plywood was good quality, free and surface splinters. However, the two sheets I bought recently were of lesser quality and had multiple surface splinters. In the course of 24 hours I planted at least eight splinters into my hands. It didn’t matter what I did, that plywood was out to break me. Transferring the material from the van to the garage for cutting... ouch!... one to the palm. Hanging the beadboard plywood... yikes!... another to the palm. Sanding the plywood prior to priming (this one was the worst)... inadvertently, yet forcefully, jamming a splinter into the side of my pinky as I try to sand the surface of the rough bead board plywood. Not just once, but at least four times.

Despite all these splinters, I still hadn’t reached my breaking point. Since I managed to remove all those splinters, I was willing to live and learn.

Then came the final straw... a splinter that could not be removed and will live with me for the next few weeks...

Have you ever had a splinter on the inside tip of one of your index fingers? For me, it was my left finger. Not a big deal, you say? Well, try typing sometime with a splinter in your index finger. Each time I’ve hit the letter F, T, G, Y, V, or B throughout this Old Home Blog post, I’ve felt that little splinter. Seriously, scan this post for the number of times those letters have been used. Each time I hit those letters I get a little reminder of my perceived toughness. (By the way, I type the right way... no hunting and pecking here, so putting pressure on this little nuisance is unavoidable.)

With this tinny little shard of wood buried within my index finger, I put my tail between my legs and set off for the Home Depot. At first I felt a little embarrassed to be browsing the end cap with the glove selection. Granted, I own leather gloves for heavy-duty projects, and clothe gloves for light duty jobs around the yard. However, the all-purpose glove is different. They look as much like gloves for playing baseball or football than working around the homestead. But I was resigned to my fait and had to be any pre-conceived notion about the silliness of these gloves behind me. I scurried to the self checkout lane, quickly made my purchase without witness, and headed home.

Seriously, am I buying work gloves or some “lady product” for my wife at Target? What’s my problem?

Then it hit me on the drive home: Me getting a pair of gloves like these is really no different than a wide receiver on an NFL football team wearing a pair of gloves throughout the season. I can understand wearing gloves in temperatures below freezing, but they wear them throughout their entire season. If they can wear gloves to do their job when it’s 80-degrees, yet somehow still appear to be though, then why can’t I?

Stand up with me, fellow home improvement not-so-tough guys and embrace the all-purpose work glove.