Renovation Update: Rail & Baluster Installation

It was really cool watching the staircase come together, since it was my job to sand and finish all of the stair parts. Even though Andy built all the parts and put the staircase together, this is definitely the project in the house where I feel like I helped the most. It made it so satisfying to watch come together.

In part 1 of this post, I explained how Andy installed the newel posts on our staircase.

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Part 2 – Rail, Baluster & Newel Post Cap Installation

Seeing the rails and balusters go up was very cool, not only because I had a part in it, but because it was the first time I really saw how things happened. I was too enthralled in the process, and admittedly busy taking care of other things around the house, that I sort of forgot to take photos of the baluster installation. I’ll explain as best I can with finished pictures. When it came to the rails, which are made of walnut, I was curious to see how the exact level and angle was determined. Turns out, you need a few levels and a few clamps.

DSC_8583-01 DSC_8586-01 DSC_8590-01This method was awesome because it really gave me a chance to visualize where the rail would fall, but also to figure out if it was at a comfortable height. Andy nailed it the first try, so he marked it off with painters tape, and measured and cut the rail.

DSC_8594-01To install the rails to the newel posts Andy attached them a couple ways. Most of them were attached through a groove in the bottom of the rail, but a few needed to be attached through the top. Either way, Andy drilled two angled holes on each end of each rail at the same angle as the rail and screwed them into each newel post.

DSC_8596-01For the rails screwed through the top, Andy made plugs and glued them into place.

DSC_8939DSC_8935Each rail attached through the bottom groove didn’t need to be plugged, since they were patched after the balusters were installed.

To install the rail to the wall where we had no newel post, Andy did a simple block. We debated on doing a half newel but though a block would look better.

DSC_8940For the balusters (painted poplar, also known as aspen) Andy and I decided on a spacing we liked (two balusters per tread). Andy then cut each baluster to the correct angle and nailed it into the bottom groove of the rail. Once all balusters were installed, he then cut and placed a piece between each baluster to fill in the groove. Each piece was secured with a finish nail.

DSC_8933Once the rails and balusters were installed, it was time for the crowning glory, and the final parts, of the staircase—newel post caps. When it came to what wood to use we debated on a nice maple, walnut, or beech. We finally decided on a chunky but simple walnut cap to tie in the rail. I loved the idea of bringing in some darker wood somewhere else. Even better, Andy had a piece of crotch walnut which he could make one of the caps out of.

DSC_8938 The other two caps were made of regular walnut and are also very beautiful. To keep the balance we put the other two on each end, and the crotch walnut in the middle. We also did this because the stairwell light is directly above the middle newel post, which highlights the beautiful cap even more.

DSC_8931 DSC_8934DSC_8961Overall we really love how the stairwell turned out, so here are a few more pictures of the final stairwell.

DSC_8929 DSC_8946 DSC_8952 DSC_8957 DSC_8959This spring we’re going to start building out the upstairs bathroom, and I can’t wait to share that process with you guys. It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done and should hopefully be an inspiration for all of those with a tiny 3/4 bathroom. Once the bathroom is finished, and funds permit, we’ll be able to start the big renovation on the original house which can only mean one thing—kitchen time!

For now we’re staying busy fixing our cars that keep breaking (oy vey, don’t ask – a new car is on the near horizon), working out in the woods with our neighbor, starting seeds for the garden should the snow decide to fully melt at any point this spring, and over all just doing the day to day working & typical house cleaning and errands!

xo,

Heather

Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful—But The Logs Are So Delightful

I have to be entirely honest with you guys. If I told you I always knew what a sawmill was I would be lying. I’m into homsteading now, but at 18 I thought for sure I was going to be in finance in New York City. Ten years later I have made almond milk from scratch, and I have more pairs of boots than high heels.

Nope, that’s a lie. It might be a tie. (Update October 2013: It’s true. Most heels have made their way to The Salvation Army or Goodwill. I officially have a couple pairs of high-heels and significantly more pairs of boots of all sorts).

I still had no idea what a sawmill was until Andy came around, even then it was still a few years before I ever saw one in person.

Long story short we sawed lumber at Andy’s mom’s house years ago. By “we” I mean I stood and watched and liked it—more than I expected I would. We’ve stopped and watched the sawmill demonstration at the Fryeburg Fair every year too. Watching men at a sawmill demonstration is like watching a national geographic documentary on culture. It’s entirely fascinating and perplexing. I realize this is a generalization. My own husband has mentioned multiple times about getting a sawmill for our property. Normally this happens almost immediately after the sawmill demonstration. I have so far kept this from happening since we don’t really need one. (Update October 2013 – I must have been delusional while I was writing this, or I’ve drank the water, because I think I want a sawmill *more* than Andy at this point. For real. I’m even egging him on for a grapple and hydaulic cable logging winch for the tractor. I’m also voting for trading in our tractor for the next size up.)

I also am taking too much credit for it. If he really wanted one and found it for a good price he would buy it. I should mention I would totally be okay with it too.

Where was I going with this?

Oh right. For a few years now Andy and our neighbors have been thinning out the woods and piling logs behind our house in the corner of the hayfield. Most of the trees are Poplar and Pine (surprise, we live in Maine) but there were also a couple Fir and Hemlock too (I had to ask Andy what the other two were).

Our neighbor and his brother (the farmer) own the woods behind our house and told us if we got the logs sawed we could have the lumber for our addition. I can frame how Andy felt about it in this way: it would be like giving me butter and telling me if I make cookies with them I can eat them. Yes please.

So after we found out one of the Sawyers in town was busy all winter doing carpentry work, we got wind that one of the guys at our church (with an awesome old-timey mustache I someone managed not to get a photo of) had a sawmill. Andy talked to him on Sunday, he came out and looked at the lumber later that day and then a few days ago I woke up to Andy jumping out of bed like it was Christmas because somehow, in the distance, he heard Craig pull up with the sawmill and start it up.

He informed me this was a very big deal. I asked him if it needed a blog post well knowing the answer. He looked me in the eyes and said again that this was a very big deal and exciting. With that I put my boots on, rubbed my eyes at 7:30am, grabbed my camera and made my way out to where the sawmill was.

Despite what this photo looks like there’s actually something exciting about watching a log become a board you are going to build your home with. It feels like automatic progress.

You might wonder why we don’t just buy the lumber we need.

A.) Despite it being more work, it’s cheaper to pay the sawyer than to buy all of this lumber.

2.) It’s way more fun to do it this way.

18d.) It’s super interesting to watch a log that looks all meh on the outside and see how beautiful the grain is on the inside. It never really gets old. Except when I get cold. Then it gets old pretty fast when I can’t feel my nose anymore and I left my mittens in the house. (Update October 2013: No. It never gets old. It might get cold. You might have to go warm up. But the sawing itself never gets old. I want to smack myself for even saying it could get old.)

As for my boy—he’s in love.

It’s only the truth.

Happy Freezing Your Butt off To Take Photos For Your Husband Because You Love Him,

Heather

Poplar + Cherry Bookshelf With A Side of Martini

flickr *0ne*

With the acquisition of the new bandsaw and jointer, the very talented Mr. A has set out to make us a nice curly poplar (aspen) and cherry bookshelf. I am very excited about this as it is a win-win situation. I love when he makes furniture and we will be able to toss two other shoddy bookshelves. I also love cherry wood, it’s absolutely beautiful. My relationship with poplar is slightly different though. It’s not poplars fault, really.

Get in your Delorean, we’re going back in time.

Mr. A and I were living together in a rented house and decided to have dinner with our friends. Long story short, I made the mistake of trying a dirty martini. What possessed me to drink vodka tainted with olive juice I will never know remember.  It was a rough night.  I learned from my mistake and have not touched a martini since (and it took a good year before I could eat another olive).

A few months later we bought our house and realized we had a lot of poplar trees around us, thus constituting some of our firewood that first winter. We (Mr. A) chopped down and stacked the green (i.e. moist) wood on our deck to dry, poplar included. Did you know moist poplar smells like a roughed up dirty martini? I didn’t.  I clearly remember an Elaine – Seinfeld-esque dance and gagging when I first placed foot on that deck after the stacking had finished. Just. Too. Soon.

Delorean back to 2011.

Thus I forever associate the smell of wet poplar with a very long not so awesome night. Thankfully poplar has no smell when dried leading me to be very thankful the bookshelf poplar is bone dry. It is also absolutely gorgeous.

He took the wood from looking like the board on the left, to the board on the right.

Here’s a better photo of the “curly” grain.

In a rare, sasquatch like sighting, here is a photo of Mr. A himself putting the frame together.

I can’t wait to see what this looks like when finished. He gave me a sneak peak of the cherry moulding and I have to admit this thing is going to be incredible. Yes, bookshelves can be incredible (nerd shout out).  Since I do this blog in real time, I’ll post more on this later!

Happy Building,

Heather