House, building, construction

Kitty corner

Recently our family size has grown by two. We took two lovely cats under our roof. The first, Didi, was found by my parents from a nearby field. The second, Unikko, we picked from an animal shelter in Raahe. Didi is quite a rascal and it’s actually sometimes exhausting to satisfy a little kitten’s need of play. Now that we have Unikko, it’s his problem. :)

But anyway, to the title of the story. I searched for cat climbing trees from internet and many of the regular examples didn’t satisfy my sense of aesthetics. But I did find some nice ones also, so I built a nice looking climbing corner for the cats using my internet finds as a basis for the plan.

General view of the kitty corner. The cat on the sofa is Didi. Here you can also see a preview of the half-panels in the corner room. I’m not posting any more pictures of the room so far because the room is not quite finished yet (floors need sanding and varnishing; there’s battens missing, etc.).

Unikko is spectating at Didi’s talented climbing.

I’m clicker training the cats. Here I am guiding Didi to the top hanging cat basket using a guide stick, clicker and cat yummies. Didi is taking a shortcut.

The queen of the castle!

Some points about the construction:

The baskets were made by sawing a spiral with band saw to edge glued boards. The table was tilted about 10 degrees. The tilting of the table prohibits the spiral’s inner part falling too much. The beginning of the spiral was glued back together.

There’s a scratching post on the wall (which the cats haven’t used much yet, unfortunately –  the stuffing between the logs is much more interesting!). It was made by sawing many closely separated grooves to a board with a table saw.

The stairs cat be adjusted to a variable angle.


Laziness – the mother of inventions

After buying a laptop I thought I’d make a stand for it so that I could work while lying on the bed or sitting comfortably in an arm chair. I’d seen pictures of something like this so that was the basis from which I set out to do mine.

First I was just going to build “something” the quick and dirty way, and basic wooden parts were indeed ready in about 1.5 hours. But then I got carried away and tweaked, spackled, sanded, painted and made fancy height adjustment knobs for maybe another 3-4 hours.

The height and angle of the laptop support and the height of the mouse pad can be adjusted separately. If I’m lying on the bed they must be higher and laptop angle has to be steeper than when sitting in an arm chair.

In the autumn of the year before last I scavenged old theater benches with my wife from a burned down workers’ association building. They were kinda long, maybe 6 seats in one bench, but cutting away every second chair I made a bunch of single chairs. From those extra pieces (back rests) I made the laptop support and mouse pad. Looks good!

(BTW, a while ago we were cleaning places with my wife and she asked if I still wanted to save those extra bench pieces. I wanted and argued that “you never know when you need those.” To this my wife said: “You sure don’t.” Now I could needle her back and say: “You sure don’t!”)

Of course the seat numbers are almost covered when the laptop and mouse are in place. Bummer, because they are neat.

So now I’ve boosted my productivity to the max and can work even while lying down!


EDIT (25.8. 2010): I have since added wheels for the laptop stand so that it’s easier to push aside, but I’m too lazy to add any pictures.


Third glass to old windows (quick and cheap)

If you’re planning to upgrade from triple glass windows to modern argon filled selective glass window modules, your investment may never pay itself back. However moving from double glass windows to triple glass windows or better saves more energy and payback time is shorter.

In our case destroying the historically valuable windows by moving to modern window modules was out of the question. I could have added window modules between the outer and inner glass but that would have been expensive, since every window has multiple screens: three or six. Every screen would have required its’ own module. The modules would not have been invisible either and could have spoiled the historical looks of the windows.

Still, double glazed windows do condensate a lot of water during fall and early winter when the temperature is going down and the relative humidity inside is still high. It’s a drag to wipe them every morning.

So I ran a little test: I added a third glass on the outside of the inner window frame last winter. That reduced the condensation a lot. There was only a little condensation at the lower edge on the most extreme low temperature days (I think we had something like -35 C degrees here). It evaporated by itself during the day.

Recently I added a third glass to every window we have. I cut the glass myself from the windows we had gathered from various sources, so the glass itself was free. I attached the glass with small strips of thin sheet metal that could be bent with fingers. I punched holes to the other end of the strips and screwed them to the window frames. I sealed the gap between the frame and glass with P-profile window seal (P-profile allows a bigger gap). Note that you may have to leave gaps in the seal if you see condensation between the inner and middle glass (only the inner seal must not have gaps). The attaching points of the metal strips leave naturally small air channels, so I haven’t left any gaps, but haven’t seen condensation either.

The whole job, dismantling the gathered windows, cutting glass, making the metal strips, cleaning the windows (and scraping of spilled paint drops: I hadn’t done this earlier) and attaching the glasses took six days. That’s for 46 screens. But I believe most of the time was used in cleaning the windows. The whole thing cost only 83 euros for the 200 meters of window seal. I think the payback time will be short.

The third glass is also almost invisible from inside. Only if you look from a steep angle, you can see the metal strips. From outside you rarely pay attention on the inside frame, plus often you have reflections to block the view anyway, or it’s too dark.

Here’s some pictures:


Outer hall (almost) finished

Our outer hallway is almost finished. I’ve been doing it last two and a half weeks, 10-14 hour days.

We tried to bring some Indian feeling to it. Since we loved the colonial English architecture (especially hotel Prince) in Mussoorie on our last visit to India, we took the popular colors green and white from there.

The big panel doors were in the house already when we bought it but I had to restore them first. Two of them were so badly burned that I had to put plywood on the backside. That’s alright since  it only shows when you open them. I made the upper cabinet doors myself.

The folding seats were inspired by some pictures from internet but I had to design the exact mechanism. I wanted them as flat as possible since the room is not that wide.

The hat shelf and shoe rack are made by me. There are “trays” under the shoe racks so that if dirt falls from the shoes, it doesn’t fall on the shoes below. The trays can be pulled out and cleaned. I bought a shoe dryer which I put on the wall inside the cabinet.

The key cabinet was found from the junkyard and was made by someone called “Teuvo” at school. I modified it a bit.

Floor tiles and seals are brown simply because it doesn’t show dirt so well and we bring it in all the time in our shoes.

The elephant head handles were bought from Rishikesh. They also bring Indian atmosphere.

I still need to make the door between outer and inner hallway (that’s why the title says “almost” finished). Then we need a bronze Shiva statue on the key cabinet, a red carpet and an old Indian man in white uniform, red turban and an old Enfield rifle on his shoulder standing by the door…

Here are some pictures:


Outdoor sauna

I’ve been working on the new sauna for the whole summer now. We had to demolish the previous one – we couldn’t save it. I found a timber frame about 10 km away from here, dismantled it and brought it here. The foundations are made of big stones (there’s a concrete slab under them). I’m still going to panel the house, so when finished, you can’t see the timber frame anymore. There’s one picture of the house at it’s present form. Not much has happened to that in a few years now… I haven’t even started the porch.


Kitchen cabinets

Last winter I finished the kitchen cabinets. We wanted pretty clean lines so I made doors that are at the same level with the frame (doors don’t cover the frame). It also means that the frame is one block! In modern cabinets the frames are modules which have to be covered with the doors (doors go in front of the frame). We also wanted to stay away from fancy panel doors so I made these pretty simple ones.  The top cabinet doors have windows with sandblasted pattern on them.

The sink cabinet doors have fancy ventilation holes in them. They are carved straight to the veneer. There’s a similar style ventilation thing above the refrigerator, too.

All drawers are dovetailed (lohenpyrstöliitos in Finnish).

There’s big drawers with grills on the bottom for kettles and stuff. There’s a water liner behind and under the whole cabinet and a floor drain so if you put wet kettles in those drawers the water drops on the liner and down the drain. Of course we always have drying cabinets for other dishes on top of the sinks here in Finland, too, and this cabinet is no exception.

Here in Finland we also have always chopping boards built into the cabinets. There are two of them: the one above is for wet stuff (vegetables) and lower is for dry stuff (bread). There’s a detachable grill on the lower chopping board (a place to hide bread crumbs!).

See that dishwasher: it’s 40 years old! My parents bought it in 1970 and it still works like a dream! They used to make things last…


Some advancement

Here some new pictures of things I’ve done lately.

First there’s the indoor sauna and bathroom. Sauna is almost finished (still some battens missing around the door). It’s pretty basic but there are some innovations: the seats are hinged to the wall and you can haul them up with winches for easy cleaning – you can almost stand straight under them. Before hauling you have to detach those grills under the seats. Sauna stool (stairs) have wheels under them for easy moving. If you tilt the stool a bit the wheels touch the floor and there you go.

Shower is very DIY-style. It’s made of standard copper and brass plumbing parts (took some heavy polishing!). Shower head is made by forcing copper sheet around a mold (well there were other stages as well…). Shower handles are polished brass and teak. The shower walls are custom made – frame with the same principle as the shower. Glass sheets inside the frame were made by a glazing company. I sandblasted those patterns to them myself (this job only took a week, together with the sandblasting of sauna’s door – my compressor is weak).

And my pride and joy, sink cabinet, is also completely made by me. The boards are birch, thin strips glued together and veneered with oak. All drawers and other joints too are dovetailed (kalanpyrstöliitokset in Finnish). The table top is covered with copper sheet. I found the sink from a junkyard and painted it. We ordered the faucet from a foreign web store. The cabinet has a motorcycle theme, with the motorcycle headlight on top and other vehicle lights around the mirror (mirror was also custom cut, drilled and beveled). There are motorcycle badges on the drawers, made by me (it took a month to figure out how to make them – if you’re interested in the procedure, ask me). And of course, because this is a motorcycle cabinet and motorcycle lights have low and high beam, so do these (see the image)!


Pictures of the house and other things

Here’s some pictures of the house. Hover over a picture to get title, click to get description.


Finally at home

Hello, it’s Liisa, the wife, blogging for the first time.

It’s been two months now living in our home. We even got a number for the house as it was just addressed as “previously the School”. And our own mailbox often storing a postcard or two thanks to my postcrossing hobby which I warmly recommend to anyone who likes sending and receiving postcards all over the wold! And the compost box I’m so proud of even though it’s uncertain whether it really works.

Feels like home although the renovation is ongoing. In any rented place you wouldn’t take it, but in your own place it’s okay to have pieces of plastic as doors, floor boards in place but not attached or going to the toilet or the camping-like shower almost by your front door. And everything is covered with the almighty renovation dust. But in our room we have everything we need: the turtles, or terrapins in their tank (and the upgraded filtering system!), our computers, the bed, the microwave oven and the heating stove which is working well.

Naturally it’s not all rainbow’s end. Waking up too early, hoping your clothes look civilized enough for work, biking in the dark (and I mean dark without streetlights half the way) on those sandy, snowy or icy roads fit for tractors rather than bikes, hoping the train is on time so you don’t have to freeze at the station. It’s now obvious to me that it’s not only the lack of public transportation which makes us country dwellers grab the wheel. But I’m still fighting not to grab it!

The kitchen stoves just don’t work properly sometimes and show a smokey temper completely unclear for us – luckily the one in our room works fine. Taking terrapins out for their daily walk means watching them closely as Leevi in particular sometimes finds her way through the plastic door and the pile of shoes covering the doorway and out of the room where it’s just too dangerous. Leevi is of course certain that Eldorado awaits behind the door.

Liisa with Tanttu and Ralph

Liisa is wrestling with Tanttu. Ralph wants to join in. On the backround there is an ultra-sound mouse repeller. We had to do something since there was a mouse running every morning, day and night on the ceiling paper making a lot of noise for such a small creature. You could see the paper move sometimes (we don’t have ceiling boards yet either)…


Tools for the tractor

I’ve owned a tractor for about nine months now. It’s the little old grey Ferguson -54, whose exciting story of acquiring I’ve written about earlier. First I made a snowplow for it. It’s good for pushing and pulling snow since the plate can be turned around and to a few angles. Although when the snow is wet, tyres lose traction easily. I’ve been planning to get snow chains for the tyres.

back plate  Snowplow

Snowplow can also be used to move around dirt, but it’s not really good for it, because usually dirt is so tight packet and it’s hard to get it where you want it in tight spot. I made a ground “scraper”/scoop which I’ve been using to scrape hard packet ground to piles:

 scraper Scraper/scoop

This is a funny looking thing. Basically I just attached a scoop to an old potato planting tool. There are still three plows for making grooves and seats for the people who were throwing seed potatos – I didn’t bother to remove those. Besides if I ever get into potato business I can turn this tool back to potato planting tool by just unscrewing the scoop!

When you’ve got the piles of dirt, you need a scoop to lift it, move it where you want it and to drop it. This one I finished just yesterday – took three days and about 100€ to make:

back scoop Back scoop

You can see the arm to release the load. It’s still a little bit too long – I keep hitting my head in it.

a closer view A closer view

The scoop is hinged to a three point attachment thing (again a part of an old potato planting instrument – removed the plows from this one though :) ) at the bottom and at the top there is a release mechanism.

release mechanism Release mechanism – light to use

I tested the scoop yesterday and yes, it’s better than snowplow for moving the dirt around. If you fill the whole scoop with dirt, the front wheels get up quite scaringly when driving forward. It’s got other tricks to use too but with a little practise and persuation the good will come.