November 24-
    Hard to believe that this will be the final entry for November 2013. Usually this month just drags by, especially the final 15 days. Not this time around. I guess it's true, time flies when you are having fun! Or two busy to know the difference!
     So after last weeks running out of steam state of mind, I decided to switch gears and thinking a bit and rather than worrying about trying to get the major stuff done by Thanksgiving, I would just remove all deadlines, slow things down and enjoy the process. Starting the work on Monday, I realized that I am now into the part of the job that I probably enjoy the most (other than sweeping up one last time!) and that is the finish trim and the fine woodworking for the kitchen cabinets. I realized that putting all that pressure on me to meet a deadline would really take just about all the fun out of things and probably even lead me to cut corners that would need to be fixed later on. So not only would the final stages of the building process not be much fun, but I would not be happy with the final product.
    I can remember when I first started woodworking. My first real project was a huge shaker style hutch. It had four drawers on the bottom and a set of shelves behind two doors on the top. A pretty big project for a budding woodworker and greenhorn. Well, I tore into the project with loads of ambition. As I worked, I kept envisioning the final product, this majestic tall piece of furniture sitting in my bedroom. I was so excited to see the final product and be done with the building process that I cut many a corner and settled for "good enough" many times. I finished the piece in good time, but when it was all done, rather than love it, I hated it. The doors and drawers were not properly fitted. The reveal was off in many places. Some of the drawers were out of square and thus did not slide smoothly (I did not use runners). Even the finish was flawed in spots. 
    The funniest thing about the whole thing is that it was so big the final assembly had to be done inside the bedroom! So I could not even move it back to the shop to fix things. I had to look at and deal with that piece of work as is. It was not long before changes in life lead me to move out of the house I was in and I just left it there for the next poor soul that bought the place. I am sure they probably took a sledge hammer to it and made firewood out of it. The home did have a nice wood burning fireplace on the first floor!
    Anyway, the moral to the story was that I wanted to do woodworking not just to end up with a final product, but because I enjoyed the building process. It was not long after that when I read an article written by a master craftsman. He told a similar story about his first few projects being rushed through and being very poor in quality. He then went on to talk about a similar discovery to mine and uses the phrase "enjoy the process more than the product". That phrase really hit home and has always stuck with me. I have even had to dig it up and use it when I feel myself rushing through a project.
    So on Monday, I went out to the shop and started making pieces for the window and door trim. I moved at a relaxed, but steady clip and enjoyed the process very much. It felt really good to not have the heavy weight of the deadline on my shoulders and I was having a good time in the shop. I started by mocking up one of the windows in the great room. There are 7 more with the same exact dimensions, so I figured I would get things set with the first one and then just replicate the other six. The replication process is not something that I enjoy much in woodworking, but made the most of it and got the pieces for the 7 windows made by mid-afternoon and then went into put them into place. 
    I did not want cookie-cutter type trim work and did do some research on the internet to see if I could get some ideas of what I wanted. Nora and I really are trying to have the home have an Arts and Crafts feel to it. Both the doors and windows we got were of that style and once I am done with the construction and have recharged my batteries, I will head out to the wood shop to start building pieces of furniture to fill the house with. I have grown very fond of the style from Greene/Greene and am looking forward to building pieces with their elements of style in them.
    So getting back to the trim work, I did find some ideas of what I wanted and made a few tweaks here and there and ended up with this for the windows. Here is the trim work for the doors. By the end of the day on Monday, I was able to do all of the windows in the Great Room, dining room and kitchen (the 7 that were all the same), as well as two doorways in the Great Room. 
    The process was fun, it involved first taking a standard piece of 1x material (which is actually 3/4" thick and not 1") and slicing it in half down the middle, using the bandsaw. A process called re-sawing. The saw blade is very thin and does not chew up much wood, so I end up with two pieces that are almost 3/8" thick. Those are for the stiles, or vertical pieces. The top rail then has two grooves, or dadoes, cut into them to allow it to sit over the stiles, so I end up with a nice, clean overlap at the corners. I also made all the pieces long enough to give me a 3/4" extension beyond the intersection and was sure to ease the edges to give them a softer look, so that the corners ended up looking like this.
    On Tuesday, the person that I contracted out to help me with the stone for the fireplace arrived. So the first thing was to load up all the materials and bring it onto site. We then spent a good hour to hour and a half unloading it from my truck into the great room to let it warm up to room temperature. We then had a bit of further building to do with the hearth, so we framed that up and then he had to leave early on Tuesday, so we called it a day. Wednesday morning was spent putting the wire mesh onto the chase and then the afternoon was spent putting the scratch coat of mortar onto the mesh. By the end of the day on Wednesday, we had the entire area all covered in the scratch coat
    Just doing that really helped to give us an idea of how things would look, as the mortar did have a bit more of a stone look to it than the OSB did. Thursday we go busy putting in the stone. Both of us had done tile work, but neither of us had ever done anything like this before, with the stone sizes being all random heights between 2" and 4". I actually thought when we ordered it the pieces would either be 2" or 4" and that we would just have to mix things up to make a nice look, but it turns out that a lot of trial and error and fitting was needed to make everything fit. The going was kind of slow at first and also involved a lot of cutting and fitting to the profile of the hearth, so all we were able to accomplish by midday Thursday was to get the hearth done. By the end of the day on Thursday, we were able to reach up a little further and this was the sight.
    Although the going was slow, the work was not that bad and at least we were out of the elements for most of the time. We did do all of the cutting outside because of the dust, but all the rest of the work was done in the comforts of the Great Room. Plus, we both thought that once we hit the main field, things would go faster as there would not be as much cutting and fitting as there was down around the fireplace insert and hearth. On Friday we had some additional help for a few hours and also hit the main field and were able to make better progress. I figured we would want to use the fireplace over the weekend with all the cold air coming in, so I cleaned up things around the fireplace and then I was able to take the temporary header off above the fireplace that was holding the stone in place while the mortar dried. With all of that done, I was able to get it going and snapped this shot of it yesterday evening. From that shot, it looks like we are almost done, except the stone will go all the way to the top of a vaulted ceiling, so this shot shows how much work we have left to do. There is talk of having a helper join Ty and myself this week, so if that happens, we should be able to move along pretty quickly. The only fly in the ointment is that for some reason the order was 25 square feet short in material. I do not have my notes from when I did the figuring of the square footage, but I did re-calculate and 120 square feet was ordered and we needed 145. So hopefully more material can be obtained early this week and we can finish things up. If not, early next week!
    I did get back to the trim work yesterday and today and was able to finish all of the exterior doors, as well as the trim around the opening between the existing home and the addition and also the foyer closet. This afternoon I was able to hang the closet doors and other than dropping the top piece of trim over the closet doors down a bit, as well as some corner trim and some threshold work between the stone and laminate floors, the foyer is done.
    So it was a pretty productive week and much more enjoyable as far as stress goes. I am ready to hit it hard tomorrow and keep putting up stone as well as doing trim work when the others are not around. I figure 2-3 days left of masonry work and another 2 days left of trim work and then a week or so to finish up with the kitchen drawers and doors and then a day or so with the thresholds and we can stick a fork in this one. So not too far away from being done and more importantly, I will do my best to enjoy every last step of the way!
    In other news, winter has been easing it's way into things up here, at least as far as snow goes. We did pick up around an inch of new snow during the day on Monday. Here is a front of the house shot from Monday morning and here is a shot of the pups and I on our morning walk. It hung around until Thursday or Friday and then arctic air hit and gave us around an inch Friday night and early Saturday. We picked up another inch or two last night and when I went out to load up the boiler with wood this morning, these beautiful flakes were gently falling from the sky with no wind whipping them around. While we are still a month an a day away from the big day, it seemed like the perfect Christmas morning snow.
    We did end up with about 2 inches on the ground by this afternoon and while temps over the past 2 days never got above 15 degrees, we still headed out with Gracie to play in the snow. She wanted to have a snowball fight and even though the snow was not such good packing, some snowballs were made and tossed none the less.
    In the background of that last shot, you could see the pups playing as well. They sure love the snow. I love to watch them play in it. The deeper it gets (to a point), the more fun they have. Still pretty thin right now, but they still find ways to have fun. By the looks of the forecast, they may not have to wait too much longer for it to get a bit deeper around here. Not a big storm, but two clipper type systems with LES behind them early this week could give us 3-8" of snow between tonight and Wednesday morning. Other good news is that no melting looks to occur for the next 7-10 days. So perhaps we will be playing in the snow early this year!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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November 17-
    If the theme to last week was getting closer, the theme to this week is running out of steam! I guess that theme actually started a month or two ago, but I am really digging deep to find the strength to finish things off. It was another week of some pretty solid progress and I now only have 2 1/2 bigger projects to do and a handful of tiny ones to do. The 2 bigger ones are to finish the interior trim work as well as the kitchen cabinets and the 1/2 is to do the backsplash. I really could count the backsplash as a full bigger job, but I am keeping it as a 1/2, just to keep me from stressing out any more than I need to!
    Some of the handful of smaller jobs are to finish one outlet and one switch for the screened in porch, put down the thresholds in the doorways and put down the permanent stair treads once the drywall is done in that area. The drywaller is coming early this week and I think the guy that is going to put the stone facade on the fireplace is also coming early this week. The folks from the counter top company are coming on Tuesday to look at things and hopefully it can all be fixed on site and I can even get the back splashes in before they do what they need to.
    So the goal for the past month or so has been to get things finished by Thanksgiving. It's going to be close! As long as there are no major problems, then I think it is doable. But it's going to be close and I will need to keep at it with all of my spare time for the next 10 days.
    It's really getting hard to believe that we are so close to being done. I think once we finally get all moved over and into place, it is going to seem like we are living in someone else's home for the first day or so. 
    The accomplishments from this week were to grout the slate in the foyer. It turned out pretty well, but did take a lot longer than I thought! Both Nora and I worked on it. I laid the grout in and then once it dried a bit, Nora cleaned up the joints and also as much as she could off the face of the slate. The time consuming part was the fact that the slate had lots of natural cracks and other features that wanted to hang onto the grout. Even though we had put two coats of sealer on the slate before we put the grout in, it was still a major job to get to the point where we were satisfied with how it looked and could go to bed. I think all told, it was about 3 1/2 hours. Tuesday night was a short one for me, but the end result was worth it. 
    The other major project this week was to get the master bath finished. It was in pretty raw shape just a week ago, with only the tub drain plumbed out. I even had the electrical to do and had forgotten to mark my wires, so a little detective work was needed to figure out which wire was for what. Plus, I have determined that out of all the jobs to be done in building a home, to me, plumbing is the least favorite. I do not mind the supply side of things, especially since I mostly work with pex. However, the drain side of things and even parts of the supply side of things is just no fun for me. I think the biggest problem for me is that I do not have a van full of plumbing supplies. So that means if I need a part, I need to go and get it. I must have traveled to and from our house and the hardware store 10 times this week! Thankfully all I need to do is go to Calumet, but that is about a 25 minute round trip, then toss in an average of 10 minutes in the store to get what I want and we are talking about 5 hours or work time this week spent just in the truck to get things. Small piddely things like the correct supply lines for the bathroom sink, or an extra flange bolt for the toilet because the one we bought only came with one!
    At any rate, the electrical was done first, then I did the supply side for the tub/shower and build the surround for it. Then came the flooring, the toilet, the vanity, sink and faucet. Then the trim work for the bath and a little step to help get into the bath. Then things like a hanging cabinet and mirror and things like the toilet paper holder and some towel racks. By yesterday afternoon, the master bathroom was done and the nice big tub was ready to soak in! Actually the supply lines for it were in by around Wednesday, so technically I could have taken a soak then, but I just did not think I would enjoy the tub as much sitting in a bathroom that still needed to be finished. So last night I finally was able to get in and give it a try. I really did give it a real tryout and it lived up to all of my expectations. I can see it getting a huge workout- especially in the winter and especially after a fun, but exhausting time on the sled. The heat generated to run the jets on the tub also keep the water warm. I was in it for around 20 minutes last night and did not notice the water cool off at all.
    So with the master bath all done, there were some aspirations to get the bedroom moved over, but both Nora and I were too busy with other things today to get that done. I think that will have to wait until next weekend. It will actually be a fairly big job as the stand for the bed that I built around 15 months ago will need to be fully disassembled to be moved and we have one of those sleep number beds that will need to be disassembled some to be moved too.
    The main goals for this week for me are to finish the interior trim work. I have already done some and gotten past the learning curve for the style of window and door trim that I am going to be doing. It's a little different and involves some unique woodworking techniques to do, but looks good. I will save pictures of that until next week. With a little luck, by Wednesday or early Thursday I will be done with the trim work and then can move onto finishing up the kitchen doors and drawers by Thanksgiving and then finally be able to add a little more dimension to these journals! I feel bad spending each week lamenting about all the building that has been going on, but it really is what is consuming around 99% of my free time right now.
    I have started to get more and more excited for the snow to pile up. I am not yet aching for it to pile up, but think I will be to that point in about a week. Most of the snow that falls prior to the final week of November melts anyway, so I have learned to not get too excited for that stuff. Plus, this year, any moving of snow would take up precious construction time! I have enjoyed watching the snow pile up on the western NCN cams. Looks like some areas out there are already set to ride.
    I did have an event happen yesterday that got the snow loving blood to flow a little harder in my body. The new ride for 2013/14 arrived! The crew at Rt 12 were even kind enough to put the narrow front end kit from last years sled on for me. So it is all ready to go! I also noticed some Rt 12 Arctic Cat "bling" on the sled this year. In the past the advertisement on the sled itself for all of their generosity in letting me ride it for the season has been fairly timid. Not that it is obnoxious now, far from it, but I do feel better having a more noticeable sticker on it so that it will show up better in all the pics taken of it this winter. Once again, I am very grateful to the folks at Rt 12 Arctic Cat for the use of a brand new sled for the season!
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. Right now Gracie is hanging out with me and her mouth is going a mile a minute (as is often the case). I just had a though...man, it will be nice when she can fill in for me every once in a while!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
November 10-
    Getting closer. That is probably the best theme to this weeks entry. Getting closer to winter. Getting closer to snowmobile season. Getting closer to being done with the addition! It was another week of pretty solid progress and we are certainly getting close now. That is good, because I am really starting to run out of steam and the only thing keeping me at it is knowing that one final strong push here the next few weeks will finish things off.
    Not only am I running out of steam, but things with the website are also getting busy. That is the reason why I had hoped to be done with all the major things by now and just have some "finishing touches" left to do. Not quite at the finishing touches part, but perhaps in another week.
     This past week also found the house busy with sub-contractors, which has been kind of a rarity for most of the building process. On Tuesday, the countertop installers arrived in the afternoon and got the countertops installed. Here is a shot of the outside wall countertops and here is a shot of the island. The part with the OSB still in place will be butcher block. 
    There are some issues with the finish on the tops and we were told that they will be coming to fix them. I believe all of the fixes can be done on site, but just in case, I am going to wait to do the backsplash until things are fixed with the tops.
     The other major thing that got done this week was the fireplace got installed. We are going to be hooking it up to a large propane take, but need to have the gas company come to put a new tank in and run a line to the stub-out for the fireplace. That will be happening on the 18th of November, but the temptation to have a fire going in the fireplace was too strong, so I filled up a spare 20 pounder and we hooked that up to the fireplace and while Nora was at the school Thursday evening, Gracie and I sat by the fire and played a few games of "Old Maid". 
    I have since finished the rest of the framing, sheeting work and insulation around the fireplace and even installed the decorative front for it. Hooking it up to the small tank temporally has proved to be a popular thing as Nora, Grace, the pups and I hung out by it yesterday evening and my unbeaten streak in Old Maid remains in tact. I think that fireplace is going to get a huge workout in it's lifetime!
    The final task that was taken on this week was to put the slate down in the foyer. We really wanted to hold off until most of the construction was done. We could have covered it up to protect it, but the best way to make sure it would not get damaged was to just not put it in until most of the chances for damage were gone. So on Tuesday I started by putting down the membrane that is used these days to provide a disconnect between the surface the flooring is going on and the flooring itself. I had quite a bit of thinset mortar left over, so I decided to use it up by laying some of the slate, but that turned into a three ring circus, with the countertop guys needing me quite a bit and the fireplace install also needing some attention. Add to that the fact that Nora was out of town Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and that only added to my duties Tuesday afternoon. But I give Grace all the credit due. She came home, saw how busy I was and went straight up into her room to stay out of the way and played with her dolls. She was absolutely perfect.
    Anyway, I think I just got so frazzled Tuesday with the beginning stages of the slate install, that I just kept finding other things to do and did not return to it until yesterday morning. At which point I was pretty bound and determined to get it all laid down. Things did go a lot smoother and I was able to get past the learning curve with the membrane and found my groove and was able to get everything laid by the afternoon. I have since put the first coat of sealer on it this morning and plan to put the second coat of sealer on it tomorrow and then grout it on Tuesday and finish by sealing the grout on Wednesday.
    So that leaves me with getting the master bathroom finished out. The drain for the tub was hooked up this week and we set it in a bed of mortar, so if I could get Nora to fill it by carrying 5 gallon buckets of hot water from the one bathroom to the other, I, or we could take a bath. I am not holding my breath on that one and getting the bathroom done is the next thing on the list. Then I plan to work on the trim and hope to get most of it finished this week, which will leave just the doors and drawers for the kitchen cabinets. The goal is to be done by Thanksgiving and I think that is doable, as long as I can work on things each day between now and then.
    Other than that, not much going on up here. We have had some spits of snow just about all week, but also mixed with rain and no meaningful accumulations. There is some real cold coming early this week that could very well set the stage for some meaningful LES in spots across the UP and other LES belts of the Midwest. I have not looked at things close enough to see who will be favored and it is also a bit far out to have a lot of faith in the exact details to LES, but I would not be surprised to see white in many of the NCN cams this week. 
    I also hope to get the registration done for the Ride-In this week and a quick reminder that at the end of this month, the ThinkSnow Store will be closing it's doors. So the time to order from them is now!
    One final note. Last March I talked about how a documentary film crew contacted me about wanting to shoot a segment about snow plow operators. So I worked with them on getting hooked up with a local plow operator and also helped them to come when there would be some fresh snow to plow. As luck would have it, we got hit with a good storm while they were here. Anyway, here is the link to the segment they shot while up here
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
November 3-
    Welcome to November! Getting close to the snow season now! I'm not really sure where October went, but I think that is a month that always seems to go by pretty fast, with our trip to southern WI as well as the trail work session taking up two of the weekends and of Halloween also keeping us busy the final day or two of the month.
    Speaking of Halloween, I guess that is where I can start. For a while, it was looking like we might not have any pumpkins to carve this year. We all were so busy with things on the addition, that we made it all the way to Wednesday without getting one or two. Grace really wanted to carve pumpkins for Halloween, so we took a trip through the Traprock Valley in hopes there were some for sale down that way. If there were before Wednesday, there weren't any on Wednesday! So we ended up having to hit the local grocery store, but most of the bigger ones were getting a little punky, so Nora opted for some small ones that were actually for baking. Pretty pricey pumpkins for their size, but they did the trick and put a smile on Gracies face and Wednesday evening after dinner, we set out carving them both up.
    I forget what my project that evening was, but I do know I was in the midst of finishing something up and entered into the carving event a bit late, but it worked out well. Nora and Grace had taken their time and used one of those stenciling kits to do up a fancy one and then Gracie and I did it the old fashioned way. Drawing the face on the pumpkin and then carving it out with a knife. The end results gave a clear indication of which pumpkin took lots of time to carve and which did not. None the less, I think Gracie had a fun time seeing how it was done back in the "old days".
    The costume decision also came in at a pretty late moment. At least late when there is some work involved in producing it. Every year Nora has done an awesome job with Gracie's costume and this year was no different. After going back and forth on some ideas, it was finally settled on that Grace would be a "50's Girl". Of course my opinion of things is highly biased, but she was so stinking cute going door to door and trick or treating. She has finally reached that age where the reward of getting some candy outweighs the fear of going up to the door to ring the doorbell. Plus, it seemed like there was always some other kids going up at the same time. The weather was not the best. Unlike last year when we had some snow on the ground, it was warm, with temps around 50. However, there was also some light rain and drizzle that fell through most of the evening. We have always gone down to Laurium where the houses are closer together and trick or treating works better and this year, the pups and I stayed in the truck while Nora and Grace walked the neighborhood. That worked out pretty well as when we hit a stretch with no lights on, they hopped into the truck and we found a spot to start up again. Grace got quite the haul of candy this year, probably around 5 lbs of it! 
    The rest of this week was spent on work done to get us closer to being done with the addition. Some decent progress was done and it is starting to look more and more like a livable space. On Monday, the tub was delivered and we got it put into place Tuesday morning. The plumber is coming tomorrow to hook up the drain and then I plan to get the supply lines and surround done, so I can use the puppy!
    The main work done this week was getting the floors in the great room and kitchen all done. That was done by Tuesday afternoon and then on Wednesday, I was able to take 16 boxes of left over flooring back to the place we got it from. We did save a box and a half, just in case. I really loved how the flooring looked in all of the other rooms and my main concern was how well it would go with the cherry kitchen cabinets. My worries were put aside when the flooring was put down in the kitchen, as I thought the two went pretty good together
    For much of this week, I was still feeling the effects of the cold I picked up a few weeks back and there were a few moments when I had to just go and lay down and rest. As much as I wanted to keep working on things, I just couldn't. It is so frustrating to want to work and to know that it has to be done, but not have the energy. In any case, I was able to get all of the interior doors hung this week as well.
    On Wednesday, I also picked up the fireplace and yesterday I picked up most of the material to do the interior trim work for the doors and windows. I had hoped to have one of the doors done to be able to show you what they will look like, but Nora and I decided to add some lighting to the fireplace area, so I spent most of today fishing wire through walls with spray foam insulation and hooking up the lights. It was well worth the effort though as I think the lights will really be a nice thing.
    The plans for this week are for the drain for the tub to be hooked up tomorrow and then the same guy will start in on installing the fireplace. Hopefully he will just keep at it until it is done and then once done will send his son by to help me with the stone work for the fireplace. I also would like to get the supply lines for the tub as well as the surround done for the tub. However, I have reserved a nice tile saw to help me with the install of the slate for the foyer, so Tuesday and Wednesday will be spent making sure I put it to good use. I also would like to get some of the trim work done and the counter tops are going to be installed on Tuesday, so I need to unhook the cook top and faucet in the kitchen sink so that the counter top guys can do their thing.
    So I guess the bottom line is, I think a lot will get done this week, it is just a matter of what will I be able to get to? There are many options! Oh, and did I mention that I will also be playing the part of Mr. Mom Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as Nora will be out of town? Gracie will actually be gone for most of the day, but my evenings will likely be spent spending time with Grace. It's crunch time, but we are getting very close now and the excitement level is sure rising. I wish I did not have to sleep, I could get just about everything done by next week!
    A few quick announcements. I am putting the finishing touches on my Seasonal Outlook and plan to roll it out tomorrow. I also plan to start up the snowfall forecasts tomorrow and it looks like there may be some snows to forecast for this week! So the website will start to come more alive tomorrow!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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