Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Item For Hall Collection

Noted local historian Keith Lockhart found this neat little item recently and offered it to me to add to my collection of Hall items for the house. It's a bar spinner, which I'd never seen one before. On the top side is advertising for the L. Norris Hall Steel company. On the back is an arrow and the words "YOU PAY". The object was to spin the coin which rotates on the little punch in the center and whoever the arrow lands on has to buy the round of drinks. A unique advertising item, especially from someone that the closest thing he came to drinking alcohol was Hires ROOT beer!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


The one word that definitely describes restoring a staircase. I've been at it a few weeks now and just finally can I see some light at the end of the tunnel. As you can see in the picture the first section is completely finished (excluding the steps). The second section handrail, newel posts, and side trim are finished and I'm working on stripping and reinstalling the ballusters. The salvaged caps I found on EBAY worked out well to replace the ones missing on the middle and top newel posts. I did have to trim them down about 3/4 inch on each side since they were made for a larger post - after that they worked perfect. Working around the new floor certainly can be a little scary, especially with stripper! I'm still used to not caring much about what ended up on the floor. I managed to rig up some tarping to catch any debris/stripper while working that worked out pretty well - no oopses to report yet. It looks like I will need to make two pieces still. I need a pyramid cap for the bottom of the upper newel post that protrudes through the ceiling. Also there is a piece of trim missing that covered the plaster/trim seam along the rising ceiling. That one will be easy, but I need to find an oak block to make the pyramid.

I may end up going on and finish the stairs completely - steps and all. HD sells some cheap oriental style runner that I could install to protect them while the restoration continues upstairs - and then eventually I could have a nice runner installed when all the work is done. It be nice to see the stairs finished soon, since this is the first thing people see coming in the house, and it will be several years away before the upstiars in finished.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

If Only I Had A Picture...

A nickel for every time I've said that and I'd have this resto paid for. A major detail of the main stairs was ripped out when the wall was built through the foyer to make apartments. The basic clues were on the bead board of the closet, a recently discovered marking on the newel post, and markings that I noted on the floor before they were sanded. Also talking to the grandchildren I verified that there was a built in bench here and that it did have a lid (where the toy stash was!). So now to come up with a design to make something close to original based on some vague clues. Checking the web for similiar arts & crafts influenced staircases with built in benches, I got some ideas for the end that I would need to build. Initially I was going to go with a full side, than a friend suggested that maybe it was more like a lower case "h" design - and that's what I went with. Kinda like a pew design.

First problem was to be able to copy the beadboard that was still there. Markings on the floor showed that more was used to form the bench. Well I found oak casing that was close, and all I did was run each side through the router to get the bead design.

To build an end for the bench that had the design showing on each side I glued these pieces back to back, ending up with about an 1 1/2inch thick board. The original board is tongue and groove, but my copy was just casing molding, so to build a panel I needed to use a biscuit joiner and connect all the pieces with biscuits and wood glue - then clamped for 24 hrs. What I ended up with was a nice end panel that was pretty close to the old bead board.

To finish off the vertical edges I ripped down a 1x piece of oak and attached to the bead board panel. Then using a small piece of stock trim, I added along the horizontal edges where a "handrail" piece will be added on top of each level.

With the side panel permanently attached, I then built a frame for the front of the bench out of 1x2 oak and mounted the same bead board trim to this frame. This completed the side and front sections.... now for the top. I used a 1x4 to fill in the back out even with the edge of the newel post. I used the same 1x4 for each end of the top as well. This left the bench with a nice opening to add a lid that would hinge open. I mounted support pieces inside to support this side trim. The lid will be supported by the hinges in the back and the front will rest on the front wall of the bench.

Now for a lid. I built the bench to fit a 15 inch deep lid - which would be built from two 1x8 oak boards biscuit joined together (7 1/2 inches wide each actually). This was a small scale practice run for when I have to reproduce the dining room window seat. Actually it's quite easy and after clamping for a day I had a pretty tight board which required just a little sanding to hide the joint. I then cut the lid to fit the opening and finally routered an edge bead to the entire front lip of the lid and ends to copy a detail from the window seat which is original to the house.

For the arm rests I tried a few designs, ending up with using a simple 1x3 oak and routering an ogee along the edges.

And here is the final result....

It's just mocked up for now. I need to run some cabling into the closet from under the stairs. Then I can add supports and line the inside of the bench to make a storage compartment. Finally I'll do the permanent install and add hinges to the lid. The design "feels" right so I think I got it close to what was originally there.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stair Strippin

I decided to start working on the staircase next. I'll finish everything but the treads until I get much of the heavy upstairs work done because of the heavy traffic they will still get. First order of business was finishing the baseboards in the closet which I used new quarter round for the toe piece and the same cap I bought for the rest of the downstairs minus the piece I made to back it. The originals had the same problem of white paint that had soaked in pretty good and would have distorted the design by the time I sanded it all off. Next was stripping all the beadboard that when installed forms the closet - talk about tedious stripping. I made a new bottom nailer trim piece for these that was pretty beat up. Then came the install and stain. Even the old timers made mistakes as I discovered, because they started nailing the pieces from the corner of the steps out and when they got to the last two pieces before the corner post for the closet door - they were going to have a 1/2 inch gap. So they used filler on the tongue of the second board in instead of it fitting into the next board. Well I decided to fix this a little better and used a small piece of trim to hide this gap and it works fine.

Next I added the toe piece for the bottom riser which bends a full 90 degrees into what will be the bench seat. I wish I could have bought some of the flexible trim that's available, but mine are custom so I could never get a match. I ended up installing the flat and then over two weeks keeping a damp cloth on the trim to soften it and slowly worked it around the corner. It didn't come out perfectly tight all around the riser but it looks ok.

I started working on the closet door which is also a real bear to get stripped. I think it was sanded down before the white paint was applied and has soaked in the wood a bit. It taked a heat gun for the top layers, then two coats of stripper for the bottom coat, and then a good going over with my sander. The biggest problem is the detail between the panels and the rails. Nothing but tedious stripping and hand sanding will fix that and I haven't got that far yet on it. I would replace the door since the bottom has been chopped shorter for carpeting... but finding a thinner style oak 5 panel door that hasn't been drilled for a lockset will be tough at best.

Now it's time to start stripping the side panels. These aren't to0 bad and at this point I have sections left. I also did one face of the main newel post. At this point the idea is to strip everything that surrounds the built in bench so that I can start replicating that. When I stripped the post I discovered a sillouete about 1 inch wide and about 40 inches tall. When working on a bench design in my head and what clues I have to go by I initially thought it would be open on the newel post end. The more I thought I just couldn't come up with a design that made sense to fit the cavity I had and how the stair was chopped.Then I started looking at pictures online and closer at my situation - and discovered that most had another full side to them. Then I noticed a slight line in my newel and after initial stripping it was even more evident because of how the white paint stubbornly attached to raw oak (this time was a plus). And some filled nail holes as well.

Stay tuned as I work on a design and replicate the missing bench (if only I had a picture to go by.....)