How we came to purchase our home.

WPA Photo

A Works Progress Administration photo offers a glimpse of our home's past.

Reproduction Windsor Chair

Finally, a dining room set.

No Power, No Heat.

Our first snow storm and it's aftermath, October, 2011.

Lead Poisoning

Updates to our son's lead levels.

Bit By Bit

My wife's blog on being pregnant, giving birth and raising our first child with all the complications, hardships and joys that life throws our way.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Woodworking, Part I

I wouldn't say I have a fear of loud noises, but when I hear the power come on a table saw or even the vacuum, I become paranoid.  In fact, my wife spooks me while I am vacuuming.  Putting psychology aside, I've come to appreciate the hand made creation of our home and the furnishings from it's time period; so much so that I would like to get my hands dirty, so to speak.

In a prior post, I mentioned a company called D.R. Dimes (A Lack of Furniture).  As if it weren't already apparently obvious, given a new child (our first) and a "money pit" of a home, purchasing reproduction furniture of such a high price tag will not be possible.  Instead, and I am going out on a limb here, my future plans are now to make the furniture pieces myself.  After talking with my fellow co-workers, I received that look.  We've all seen it (or given it).  The look only a sympathetic parent can give to their struggling child, "...oh isn't that nice" with an underlying meaning of "yeah, good luck with that, ha!"

My lovely wife has gone along with my new ambition.  For my birthday this past October 19, she purchased a woodworking class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.  The class was called Practical Handtool Joinery with Will Neptune.
The basis for all joinery is the ability to work to layout lines with saws, chisels and planes.  To do this, your tools must be properly prepared and sharpened.  If you are frustrated with the results you get with hand tools or doubt that you can improve the fit of machine cut joints then this is the class to improve your skills and take your woodworking to the next level.
In this class you will learn a controlled and repeatable method for sharpening edge tools that will cut end grain cleanly and accurately.  We will tune up and adjust rabbet and router planes so they can be used for accurate joinery.  Then in a series of bench work exercises, beginning with accurate layout techniques, you will learn how to work from reference surfaces to hand cut accurate joinery, usually more quickly and accurately than you could by machine.  These exercises include half laps, bridle joints on curved rails and housed tapered (sliding) dovetails.  This is a chance to practice working with chisels and planes and hand saws with one of this country's master furniture makers.  You will need certain tools - including a rabbet (shoulder) plane and a standard size router plane.  The full tool list can be seen on the school's website.  Don't let handtools continue to frustrate you - sign up today.
-From the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Section 102712A description.
Prior to the class, I purchased a set of four Stanley Sweetheart Chisels, a Wood Is Good 18 oz. Mallet and thanks to my enrollment at CVSW, 10% off a Lie-Nielsen Router Plane.  As it turns out, the Lie-Nielsen company is your Mercedes of wood working tools, not very cheap, but a quality tool.

 The class was truly enjoyable.  I learned how to make the joints mentioned above.  The instructor, Will Neptune, is a fascinating teacher.  I highly recommend this class should the reader wish to travel down my path.  However, due to time restraints, not all components of the joints mentioned were completed with hand tools.  But I was really excited and convinced my wife to allow me to buy more tools while I dove into reading and watching articles/videos on making other joints.

A fully fledged dovetail joint was not apart of the class, but it was the one joint that all woodworkers aspire to master.  A dovetail is the joint most often seen on the sides drawers from 18th century furniture and the corners of boxes that often distinguishes quality from everything else.  Here's an example from Boston's Museaum of Fine Arts (from Newtonwoodworking.com).  

After the class, I purchased a dovetail kit from Woodcraft (which also gave a 10% discount due to the class) and found numerous how-to videos on youtube.  Combining them with the techniques I learned from the class, I made my first attempt at hand made dovetails:

Not perfect, but doable.  Next step is to simply make a box.  Then progress from there to eventually make a dinning room table and then reproduction windows in our home... but patience is key, stepping stones are important.

$ 99.00 Stanley 78 Rabbet Plane (new vintage from eBay, info on plane)
$791.29 Ouch!

I'd better stop buying tools for the time being and make something for my wife.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


It has been a little over a year since we've moved into our home.  Has it been a great year?  No, not really.  Are we ready to call it quits?  No.  I will not let our 260 year old home get the better of us.  I am, however, just now beginning to feel overwhelmed.  

It's simply impossible to blog of all the events that have transpired in this year, so in a quick synopsis:  Windows, insulation, grass, leaves, money, wood, spiders, egg sacks, trim, molding, mold, heating, drafts, cracks, lighting, floorboards, furniture, decorations, the mid-life crisis motorcycle "gang", tools, money, contractors, crying baby, my lovely yet nagging wife, wind, a hole in the wall, money, a meowing cat in the middle of the night, vehicle maintenance, my know-it-all father, groundhogs, a pulled back (times 2), work, cobwebs, time, vent fan, trees, electrical, kitchen, washer timer, dryer timer, fireplaces, grubs, visiting family, plaster, foundation, the punk with the annoyingly loud low octave muffler, cooking stove, mice, beams, water leakages, neighborhood vandals, mega snow, heating oil, ghosts, oh, and money.  

There are so many things to do and so little time to do it in.  With our child and our jobs... now the clocks are set back, days are shorter.  The weekends are filled with other errands and our home sits patiently waiting for this and that.  

I look at our home with sadness.  It deserves better.  I say that because I lack the experience and knowledge to do the job right.  I dream in fear of repairing one aspect of this home only to have it worse off than before I touched it.  And the list of things to do increases each time I look around.  I am so hesitant to do anything except the little things that a weekend warrior does... realistically, that's cutting the grass and raking leaves... yey...

But honestly, I can read dozens of books on this and that and still be hesitant on completing any task.  Sometimes I feel as though the weight of this house is on my shoulders, like a growing elephant in the room.  Forgive the juvenile irony and insensitive humor of the photo, throwing political correctness out the window, I couldn't resist. While being gloomy all weekend, it made me smile.

So here I sit, counting the cracks, making wish lists and watching our checking accounts.  I know full well that what ever I think I want to complete, may not be.  It's not motivation, it's fear.  So, I'm putting it out there, right in the open.  I NEED HELP.  I feel as though I've been driving with my wife; thinking I know where I am going, gloating at that fact even.  Until, that is, I realize that I have no idea where I am, and am forced to ask for directions.

I need a mentor, a guide.  Someone who doesn't expect financial gain by helping a fellow lover of antique homes.  Someone experienced and wanting to share in the "love" as it were.  I don't know where to start... what tools are needed... materials to use... resources to collect.... contractor to hire... stores to visit.  Like many, I would hate to waste money on doing things wrong or paying the price for a "specialist" contractor.  I don't mind doing the work myself, but I just don't know what to do.

So I ask of my readers, if your honestly an experienced expert willing to mentor, use the comment form below or email me at confessionsofanantiquehome@gmail.com.  What is ironic about this is that most of you reading this are just like me... so I am preaching to the choir.  My fellow readers, I am not giving up!  I am venting at the frustration that has been this year.