Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Magnificence That Was Bog

Excavations have been resumed at the Bog site, and have resulted in some exciting finds which I shall have more to say about in a moment. First the pedestrian technical bits.

As all of you who have been eagerly reading the saga of the wax-ring and no-doubt agonising over how to solve this vexing enigma1 know, the matter of cleaning up the unexpectedly unremovable flange has become urgent. Well, I was discussing it with a friend of mine and I opined that I would be forced to used Mr Blowtorch to melt the bugger off. Said friend ventured to suggest that a heat gun would be a safer bet, and thus was the problem reduced to mere details. By placing aluminum foil under the flange and using Mr Milwaukee Heat Gun on "Low" with the tiny concentrator nozzle fitted, I was able to melt the nasty wax and scrape it off with a paint scraper. Not only that, I was able to melt it off the paintscraper when I was done too. In a matter of about 20 minutes the flange looked almost as good as new, and I was able to resume excavations at the North Wall site without so much as a burned finger or impromptu leg-hair fire2.

I pried off the second, outer layer of sheetrock to reveal the underlying structure, to which I am assigning the name Bog II. The lower half of this wall had once been tiled, but the tiles had been prised off leaving only the old tile cement. The upper sections looked as good as when they were put up, but I still wanted them gone because I was toying with the idea of installing a pocket door. This would entail replacing the studs with special metal ones constructed with a gap in them to accommodate the door.

I attempted to deploy Mr Dremel with the spiral saw attachment to cut away some sheetrock but within a few seconds the bit began to bind and burn. I repositioned, assuming I was hitting a stud and had the same problem. A third relocation was equally pointless. Reluctantly I gave up and using Messrs Hammer and Wrecking Bar dug out a couple of small inspection gaps. It looked like the wall was wood-lined wherever I selected. Odd.

I relocated my efforts to the damaged lower sections which proved much more amenable to being torn off, and that's where I made the exciting discovery I mentioned at the start of the posting. There, inside the cavity wall, was a collection of what initially appeared to be plastic chess pieces. Here was the proof that The Builders had indeed built Bog II on an even older structure! Someone had obviously incorporated the artifacts into the construction of Bog II, possibly for religious reasons that we may never be able to fully explain.

With trembling hands I carefully removed each artifact from it's antediluvian resting place, fully cognizant that I was probably the first person in hundreds of years to see them! I arrayed them and took stock (and photographs, of course). The initial impression of these artifacts being modern plastic chessmen was immediately shown to be naive, since although there were what looked to be "Knights", Bishops", "Rooks", "Pawns" and so forth, there were far too many of each. Not only that, some otherwise identical pieces (I shall term them that, although the identification of the artifacts as game pieces is extremely speculative and only tentative at this point) were of different sizes! In addition to this, there were different numbers of white pieces than black ones. Chess sets come in many guises of course, but they have this in common: The same kinds of chessmen have a uniform size and there are equal numbers of white and black pieces. Mrs Stevie was, it has to be said, contemptuous of my find and was of the opinion that someone had just put the parts to two different chess sets into the wall. This "theory" doesn't hold much weight, since it would hardly be worth the time of the builders of Bog II to dump garbage inside the walls of their edifice, and I have entirely discounted it.

Besides, it doesn't account for the other artifacts2. Specifically, two square tiles bearing inscriptions remarkably similar to modern letters and numbers, each tile having a large central "letter" and a smaller, offset "number". These have no place in a chess set. Nor does chess require two cubes inscribed with decorative dots, evocative of modern "dice". Nor does chess require a small item resembling a small-block hemi from a matchbox car, or even one of the three curious cylindrical items recovered from the North Wall Site. These latter superficially resemble AA batteries, even down to having deceptive "writing" on the side. When work continues, highest priority will be the seach for some sort of stellae or clay tablet so that I may confirm the nature of the markings as genuine writing rather than simple decoration for religious or decorative purpose. One can, of course, always hope for a "Rosetta Stone" that will result in eventual translation of some part of any writing I uncover, but the chances are probably very small of such an item being uncovered. That the builders of Bog II used writing, I am fairly sure because one of the artifacts recovered was a primitive writing stylus made of some sort of dyed wax. Orange dyed wax, to be precise.

Overcome with emotion at these wonderful discoveries I attacked the upper portion of the wall with renewed vigour and soon had removed enough of the cladding to reveal that the pocket door plan had been well and truly scuppered. The wall seemed to consist of a solid rank of half a dozen studs, followed by two odd sections of plywood (which connect the studs but leave a hole for wiring to pass through). I had a think. I reckon the over-studding was used to support the roof where it changes its line to accommodate Bog's outer walls (which poke through the roofline in a sort of half-arsed tower). Were I to pull them out to fit pocket door studs, the roof would likely end up in the downstairs bathroom. I heartily approve of over-design and use it myself in all my projects. My fear now is that the poxy plywood, intended to transfer stress between studs and stop them "walking", isn't near strong enough. I may be adding more jack studs to taste.

After all, I would be building on a great tradition in both senses of the word. Bog -1, or New Bog being built atop Bog, which is atop Bog II, which is (arguably according to that harridan Mrs Stevie) atop Bog III.

Photos here.

1: Which may be succinctly summarised as "how in the hell can I get all this nasty, mould-infected wax off the flange so I can put a nice new one in?"
2: Such as the fiaso that marred the attempt to strip and repaint the staircase, itself echoing the earlier debacle with the living room window frame.
3: I won't waste your time with her ridiculous "bored child and hole in the wall" theory that she came up with on the strength of a repair to the outer side of the wall4.
4: The repair was indeed made, probably using dried guano and quicklime as a binder judging by the colour and consistency of the repair material. Mrs Stevie claims it was just drywall compound of course.

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