Friday, May 20, 2011

Epilogue on 'the wall'

Climbed down last Monday to finalize this chapter of restoring the view of the wall
"as the composer intended."
There is more dirt there, I know, but no more mortared rocks placed by human hand below those now revealed.
Rootlets and dirt form a matrix that glues itself into the nooks and crannies of every course of rock and mortar. They say gravity is the attraction of matter for all other matter and that it is one of the fundamental forces in the universe. This stuff is sticky!
Before I climbed down with my rope and harness I lowered two hoses: one of compressed air and one of water.
The plan was to use an old tuck pointer tool to dig out the grout joints packed with dirt and roots, then blow out the loosened dirt with air, followed by a washing with water. Once the water started flowing the difficulty and messy factor was sure to rise, so I was saving that for last.
Hey, there's somebody down there!
Look out below!
I started at the top and worked my way down with each phase of the cleaning, letting the rope and harness have my weight as I swung back and forth across the wall face. Once I'd finished scraping with the tuck pointing tool I climbed back up and adjusted the rope, gradually playing it out as I worked my way back down with the air hose, then the water hose. Before washing with water I took the shovel and shoved off all the accumulated tailings from the ledge at the base of the wall. There's a five foot high pile of dirt on the beach below now, so I'm hoping for a really high tide before I schedule a day for restoring the beach to the view "the composer intended."

uncta oleo ligni

"Smearing oil on wood"

Revitalizing the woodwork on the old manor is an ongoing project. Teak is a virtuous wood, prized for natural beauty, resistance to termites and weathering elements. All the door and window sash of the manor is of teak. While it holds up well to the elements, it weathers to an ashy grey. But it springs back to life when sanded and re-oiled. I'm using a product called "teak oil", but it is basically tung oil with additives that improve its performance.
A pair of doors hinged on opposite sides and meeting in the middle with an astragal: I've always called these "French doors". A door that parts horizontally so that either the top section or both sections can be opened: I've always called these "Dutch doors".
The doors I'm halfway through re-oiling are both French and Dutch:
I'll call them double-dutch.
So there are four sections to do. Then sand and re-oil the exterior jamb. To sand without filling the interior of the room with teak dust I've blocked the opening with 1/4" birch plywood, as was previously done with another door.

The oil is readily absorbed by the thirsty wood,

and turns it to a deep rich amber hue...

The title for this blog post is in Latin, so I've likewise labelled the finished product:

Ostium Christum


Monday, May 16, 2011

Fixing a hole where the rain gets in...

and stops my mind from wandering...
May rain took watering tasks off my mind for a day or two. Then we found a wastebasket in the greenhouse kitchenette was so fortuitously placed, along with a small bonzaied treelet, to catch the rainwater leaking in from a skylight that had slipped down from it's nest. With more rain in the forecast, I can't really let my mind wander too far, so I took the time for "things that weren't important yesterday".

The source of the leak is the far right corner of the sloped glass roof, a fixed unit of glass on the far side of the bank of operable vents.
Rain water running off the copper roof above drops down onto the glass panel, which has slipped down from its original position over the years, exposing a gap that allows water to enter into the interior:

The gap is almost a 1/2" at the right corner.

Repairing this could be accomplished by applying a waterproof adhesive tape over the gap, but that is "tacky" and doesn't really address the problem. This phenomenon of skylight panels slipping down and leaving gaps at their top edge has been an historic problem here, and we have a developed technology for resolving this problem. I have had to fix a great number of these units. They are quite heavy, being triple-glazed laminated glass, and the method of their original installation was to lay them on top of the rafters on a strip of glazing tape (a sticky dual-sided adhesive bead of rubbery goo). Between the glass panels, screwed into the top edge of the rafters, are aluminum channels, into which additional rubber-rimmed aluminum batten strips are screwed, using stainless steel hex head machine screws (visible in the photo above). The glass panels are theoretically held in place by the glazing tape and the downward pressure of the rubber-rimmed aluminum batten strips screwed into the aluminum channels. However...,
time, cycles of heat & cooling, moisture, gravity, insufficiently torqued batten screws,etc. resulted in the "subsidence" of the panels. This subsidence leaves a gap along the top edge of the glass panel. When it rains, it pours.
Getting these panels back into place means removing the batten strips and either pulling the glass panel up and repositioning it, or applying sufficient pressure upwards, in line with their plane of repose, to "slide" them back into place, against the friction of the sticky glazing tape, and then refastening the batten strips, hopefully with enough torque to prevent or retard their re-migration downwards.
The "pull-up" method has been used where the panels are smaller, such as in the operable vent sections.
The "pressure" method has been employed where the panels are larger, or access for removal was limited, or a finer level of control is desired.
The panel just below the current one in question was repositioned several years ago using the pressure method:

For this panel either method would have worked, but I elected to use the pressure method. A heavy wooden block & steel bar assembly is prepared to attach to the aluminum channels, spanning over the glass panel, after the batten strips are removed:

The slots in the wooden block allow for different widths of glass panel. The steel bars are screwd into the aluminum channels, providing a stationary point against which two bar clamps will be positioned that will also be placed over a block at the bottom of the panel. As the clamps are tightened, the panel is forced upwards into its original position: 
Progress is monitored carefully until the unit snugs up into place:
The rubber gasket along the top batten is eased over the encroaching panel, allowing it to seat properly.
Finally, the panel is back in place, the gap is gone, and reassembly proceeds with cleaned and refreshed glass, battens, flashing and torqued batten screws.

And it's starting to rain! Things that weren't important yesterday (actually, the day before yesterday) are done just in the nick of time. Let's see if I can get back to a wandering mind!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fireplace repair

About 90 years ago, this fireplace was crafted under the guidance of Charles Sumner Greene.
With each new fire, more brick exfoliated and crumbled from the back wall and the floor.

A local mason was selected who happens to know the original family who owned this home, and repairs were undertaken.
First, a shroud is placed to contain the dust from demolition:

All of the badly deteriorated brick was removed up to a level line, revealing the granite wall structure behind:

Then, fire brick is laid up using high temperature mortar, 
....course upon course....

...until they're all in...
Then the floor is flooded with a fresh bath of hi-temp mortar.

After a week or two of curing, the fireplace will be ready for another century.