Monday, December 04, 2006

Progress (Of Sorts) On The Reconstruction Of Bog

Technical Advisery Adversity Aarvarkery Stuff

I am experimenting in this entry with the idea of having hyperlinks under the superscripts linking them to their respective footnotes, and an uppy () at the end of each footnote with a link under it back to the superscripted reference that the footnote refers to. If this feature proves useful to you, let me know. If it doesn't work, let me know. It may or may not be a feature of new postings, depending on whether or not I can devise an editor to make the links automagically for me as the "ideas" they link to spring from Mr Brain's fevered lobes. I also uploaded the pictures I took of the fantastic sights that greet anyone making pilgrmage to Bog (though they cannot as yet avail themselves of the promised facilities once they get there, and must make a rapid pilgramage to the downstairs bathroom instead).

Mrs Stevie made several pointed remarks on Friday evening about how near Christmas was and the desirability of having two bathrooms when it loomed over the horizon. I took this to be a subtle hint on the lack of progress on rebuilding Bog. Not being one for subtlety, I settled down in the recliner and snoozed for a bit while I thought about working on the floor some more.

Fortunately, over the years I have developed, well, I don't know what to call it; a sort of second sense that warns of impending cookware so I was actually rolling under the coffee table before I was awake enough to physically register Mrs Stevie's cowardly assault with her large skillet.

My having foiled the vile harridan's main assault by the old "duck and cover" method taught in the sixties to schoolchildren1, she was reduced to "putting the boot in" while screaming her trademark warcry2. I intuitively knew she was disturbed about something. Perhaps her new job was proving more stressful than expected, perhaps it was simply one or three too many Hi-Test Espressos. In any event, I thought it might be best to calm her with an olive branch and so I decided to offer to install the bathroom floor over the weekend.

And so it came to pass:

I had previously varnished both sides of two of the three 4x8 sheets of plywood, but had run out of varnish after finishing only the underside of the third sheet. This wouldn't be such a problem as might be expected, since I actually had more varnish. I simply didn't have the same sort of varnish as I had applied to the one side. In any event, I would end up not needing to varnish more than a 1x4 strip of wood as things turned out.

The Plan

Recall that The Floor of Bog is 5x4 in size, with an area in one corner about 8 inches on a side completely unsupported by the hardwood timbers that form the floor you can see in the previously published photographs. By using 4x4 foot sheets of plywood, I would end up having a strip 1x4 to cover when two of the sheets had been deployed. I would make that strip from pieces of the third 4x4 sheet. Recall also that this is already "Plan B", "Plan A" having been consigned to the scrap heap by Mrs Stevie's DIY center nagging. "Plan C" doesn't at this point exist.

Installing the plywood was challenging, especially the bit that overhung the large square gap the plumbers had to cut in the hardwood sub-sub floor to reach the pipes of water delivery and waste water removal. The two 4x4 panels I had varnished on both sides were designated to do most of the work, and I would deal with the bit with the hole in it as part of the problem of the foot-wide strip the too-small plywood boards would leave once fitted.

The first challenge that was undercome was to map the contour of the bath, complicated by a sort of double-ogee at each end, to the plywood. This I chose to solve as a two-stage process. I would transfer the contour to a cardboard template, then use the template to cut the wood. I would use the nice new contour guide to transfer the curve at each end of the bath to the paper. Simple.

A contour guide looks like a ruler with a bunch of pins laid across it and held by a backing plate. You push the pins against the curve and they retract to form a copy of it, then you trace the line using a pencil on paper and the contour guide as a stencil. Magic. I had wanted to try one of these for yonks3.

It was a foolproof plan and would have worked if the manufacturer of said guide hadn't cheaped out by not setting the pins in grooves restricting their movement to up and down.

As it was, the pins began to walk sideways and distort the curve as soon as I was stupid enough to actually try using the piece of junk. This is a non-tool. It will not perform the single job it was presumably designed to do4. I have accordingly made plans for it. Watch this space. What is even more galling is that  Home Despot  has the manufacturers label some of their stuff as "good", "better" and "best". I would have bought their "best" contour guide but for the fact they didn't have one on their shelves. They only had the "better" one. Azathoth help the poor sods who ever bought the "good" one.

I decided to use this sudden and unexpected tool failure as an opportunity to allow Mr Brain some room for innovation. A trip to the basement of crap provided a scrap of pine, my Japanese saw, my table-mounted router and a pencil. In a trice I had cut a length of pine, sawed two V-shaped notches in it and milled a rounded trough along its length for the pencil to sit in. By utilising two of the rubber bands from ammo stash5 wound around the pine block, one in each of the V-notches-of-keeping-the-bands-back-from-the-bearing-surface, I could lash an ordinary pencil into the groove-of-not-letting-the-pencil-slip-around-and-thereby-screw-up-the-tracing. Then it was a simple matter of puting down a cardboard sheet and running the Improvised Contour Tracing Machine Of Spiffy Excellence over the length of the bath to trace it's shape. Job done.

Then I took a short break to run Mrs Stevie to the doctor (she had somehow badly twisted her ankles and bruised both her big toes sometime the previous evening). That translated into three hours of wait-for-the-quack-to-appear and taking Mrs Stevie to lunch afterwards.

The cut-out-the-template-and-transfer-the-contour-to-the-wood phase of operations went surprisingly well, leaving only the actual cutting of the wood to be done. This was accomplished using Mr Scrollsaw for the bath contour and Mr Dremel (appearing as Mr Spiral Saw) for the hole for the flange. Then the wood panels were simply dropped into place ready for nailing.

As for the one-foot gap, that required some extra thought. Not only was there the huge hole of plumber convenience complicating matters, part of the bath contour was in that section too. The 1/4 inch plywood was simply too thin to support the floor over the hole, which was most of the width of the board and more worryingly, left no support for the corner. The 1/4 inch laminations would slide over one another and flex as if they were half their combined thickness unless they were somehow fixed together . Which was what I did in the end. I took two sections of wood and cut them to shape, then glued them together to make one 1/2 inch piece. The gluing would take all night to set up, giving me a great excuse to stop work (remember, it was Mrs Stevie's idea to use these pieces of wood; She had no defense against this logic and was forced to grimace and bear it).

On Sunday morning, with the women gone to do whatever they do do on a Sunday, I was free to apply a quick-drying varnish to the board, carve out the back of it to accommodate a pipe fitting that protruded about 1/32 of an inch above the floor datum, aply some varnish to the carved-out bit and grab a cuppa while it dried. The strip it was supposed to fit in was very slightly tapered, ending up 1/8th of an inch narrower at one end. I dealt with that by cutting the board down by 1/8th of an inch in Mr Tablesaw, which for wonder didn't add its own undesigned-for taper to the wood as it did when I made the jewelry display case of never being finished. It fit very nicely, and I nailed everything down.

The corner was still quite springy though. This was a problem because although I don't plan on putting anything heavy on that part of the floor (like my own manly weight) the floor must be rigid to support the backer-board layer that goes on top of the wood. Fortunately, my heritage as a former inhabitant of Coventry, a town with a long history of mining, came to the fore and I was able to fabricate a pit-prop from underneath to support the floor against the wall of the downstairs bathroom6. Job done.

Then came the attempt to cow the backerboard into submission. In this I was less than successful.

Backerboard is made from cement, with a significant silica component that is highly dangerous to aspirate in powdered form7. Cutting the board is perforce a tedious business, since it must be done outside while wearing breathing apparatus. I deployed my workmate on the back patio and wrestled one of the boards onto it. These boards are quite heavy, with a 3x5 sheet weighing in at between "cor blimey" and "****ing hell!". My plan called for the sheet to have the hole for the toilet flange cut in it. Since it was exactly the right width, I would simply drop it into place when I had the hole cut. No Problem.

I traced out the hole using dividers and a pencil and attempted to plunge Mr Spiralsaw through the sheet the saw penetrated about half the depth, then came to a halt. Puzzled I pulled it out of the hole, only to see the end of the bit glowing bright red. This was a first. I have misused tools to the point they lost temper before, but this represented the first time I can remember actually melting a tool. The end of the spiral saw actually melted. The board was undamaged, other than a half-drilled hole. I looked at the backerboard with new appreciation. Why the manufacturers forgot to mention its use in heat shields and bank safes is beyond me. I decided to utilise another method, and drilled round the circumference of the circle with Mr Drill. Then I tried to "join the dots" with Mr Spiralsaw.

To no avail.

The middle of the blade now had the tell-tale scorch marks that indicate a loss of temper on the part of the bit8. I decided on another new plan, the ill-fated and short-lived "Plan C", and deployed Mr Scrollsaw which did the job. Unfortunately, the hole proved to be slightly misaligned and the sheet proved too big to drop into place anyway. Not only that, the taps on the old pipes were in the ****ing way. Thus was born "Plan D".

I cut the board into a much narrower 5 foot long segment using the "score and break" method suggested by the manufacturer, and tried that. After deploying a reserve cache of swear words the damn thing finally dropped into place, leaving me to contemplate the new requirements for the remaining backerboard layer. The score and break method works, but tends to undercut the scoreline. This cannot be tolerated on the next pieces to be cut, so we may be looking at the ultra-dangerous-dust producing saw. Which means doing it all outside again. Heydeho.

By then it was about 4:30pm, so I decided to break for the day and connect up the Christmas Lights that had been hung9 but not wired. This was done, and such was the ease of it that I went ahead and deployed two "light-pipes" on the deck banisters. That was when I discovered that the long-thought-to-be-indestructible light pipes were subject to failure. As I bent one to the contour of the bannister (as I straightened it actually) a secton went out. Then came back on. And went out. Then came back on again. Closer examination revealed a devastating truth: I had arcing in my light-pipe. I was able to arrange things so that the arcing stopped and the lights stayed on, but now I am terrified that this Fizzing Light-Pipe of Death will burn down the deck.

Not terrified enough to open up the light-pipe and resolder the broken joint, mind.

  1. Presumably in those less-complex days the Soviet menace was armed primarily with Le Cruset enamelware and was envisaged as deploying it in hand-to-hand techniques rather than the intercontinental ballistic missile delivery and MIRV fusion warheads they threatened us with in the seventies.
  2. A five minute exposition on the accuracy of the UK Registrar's office vis-à-vis my parentage along with a catalogue of my perceived shortcomings beginning with my drawing breath
  3. Defined in this case as about eighteen years for the precisionists out there
  4. I've never before had a tool fail so spectacularly that it couldn't be used for something. This thing literally has no place in the universe. I would take it back but then someone else might end up with it
  5. For my Guzi 100-shot rubber band gattling gun if you must know
  6. Since I was the only one in the house and since the bathroom was at this time not in use, I judged the danger of firedamp to be minimal. I possess neither a canary nor a Davy Safety Lamp and so couldn't be sure that I wasn't operating in a cloud of methane at any time. One spark from Mr Drill would ignite any pockets of the deadly gas and blow me arse over tip. It's a manly life in the drop ceiling, I can tell you
  7. Though there are no explicit warnings about it, I can't imagine that aspirating solid chunks of board would do you much good either
  8. Followed in short order by the loss of temper of the bit's owner
  9. Last Christmas, if you want to be technically accurate

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