I don’t remember when, but Mike and my mom did some stuff to the bathroom. I don’t know why they didn’t mention it, but now we have a cabinet under the sink. Now there’s actually space for stuff in the bathroom!!!!!!!
It will be spring soon and with spring comes the annual AVAM Kinetic Sculpture Race.
Waayyyyyy back in 2011 the DC Couchsurfing group got together to raise money, design and build an entry for AVAM’s Kinetic Sculpture Race (KSR). Friends used their skills to help with different aspects from fundraising, cad drawing to fabrication. We even had team members donating bikes for parts.
While pretty simple looking on the outside, the couch was pretty complex and took us a few months to build. This was a KSR race entry after all and it needed to be able to tackle the city by land and sea. It had to float. On top of the tubular steel frame (made from an old trampoline), we fitted a 12″ thick 3’x 6′ block of styrofoam.
Steering is pretty neat as we were trying to hide the front wheel under the coffee table the best we could.
Three people can ride at once. Power goes from the three cranks to an idler with freewheeling gears. This makes it so riders can rest and take turns. Power is then transferred via a beefier farm chain to a lawnmower differential so we can get this thing to turn.
While we were off to a great start, our day ended early. We bent an axle, likely during the enthusiastic Le Man’s start, and that eventually led to a broken axle at the bearing. We packed up about a mile in and drank away our sorrows in the very neighborhood Siri and I would move to a year later.
It wasn’t all a waste though. Our breakdown was spectacular enough that we won the coveted Golden Dinosaur Award that evening. Those of us who were still upright had gone to the ceremony for the free beer and were pretty well sloshed when we went up to receive our statue.
After a few years sitting in the bushes I finally have the space and tools in Baltimore to resurrect this machine. We can fix it.. we can make it better. I’ve brought it down and am announcing our 2016 entry. We’re hoping to find support from the local bike and couchsurfing communities.
Things we’d like to accomplish:
- Move bearings outboard to be closer to the wheels.
- Repair broken axle.
- User stronger wheels with better brakes (moped wheels?)
- Re-grease cranks as they’ve sat in the elements for 5 years.
- Possibly add derailleurs so we can have multiple gears.
- Testing, testing, testing.
150 year old housing stock has its drawbacks. Sometimes the roof goes and that leads to brick problems, sometimes the foundation goes first and the rest has to come down, but sometimes its just the soil it is built on slowly giving way. One of our favorite houses to take friends to see was what we called The Leaning Tower of Upper Fells Point. This 3 story row house had, over the years, sunken in and would have fallen onto its downhill neighbor had some brick buttresses not been built to support it. This seems to have occured decades earlier because even the Formstone has been applied level relative to the tilt.
Sadly, whoever owns that lot has better plans than preserving this oddity. The demolition notice has been posted since June. One day biking home I decided to see if it was still standing only to find the demolition in progress.
That’s not the end though. We had an eye on this since the demolition notice was posted for one reason. This house was 12′ wide and would therefore have longer joists than most other houses in the neighborhood. Just the length we needed for our last shelf. I hauled one out just after this photo was taken and after a little work we had our shelf. A small reminder of our 2nd favorite house in Upper Fells Point.
Siri and I met through Couchsurfing (happy hours) in DC. Hosting guests has been an important part of our lives before and since. When we bought a house, we knew we needed a guest room to host CSers as well as friends and family. We were its first guests moving into the 3rd floor outside of Iris’s room as we finished the 2nd and 1st floors below.
With so little square footage, we needed it to be a flexible space as well. The idea was and old style study / library. The shelves will store our books about travelling, oddities collected while travelling, and Baltimore history books for guests to learn about our city. There will also be a huge map of the world which will fold down, revealing a full size mattress for guests. Everything you need for your adventures.
We’ve been storing 4×8 sheets of furniture grade plywood in the shack for months. Part of spring cleaning was to put it to use and get this room built. It’s not cheap though. About $50 per sheet and I didn’t want to ruin any making up my mind. As usual, its time for Sketchup:
It looks like everything should be about 12″ deep in order to fit the mattress in between with a few inches to spare. This should also save on materials as well as a 4×8′ sheet cuts in to 12″ sheets very efficiently.
Next step is to cut some wood.
Finally I’m done bricks. I finished Sunday morning. I started repointing these bricks September 2013. Its been nearly 600 days…. not continuous, but it has been the dusty cloud looming over us for a long time. 19.5 months. Time for something else for a change. Luckily spring is here, the weather is great and we can do things outside. Last weekend I did these 2 small projects.
Now that we’re finished with the repointing, what are we going to do with all the leftover brick and sand? Last year it was pretty fun to have beers with friends around our fire pit. Why not make it better? We remembered killing a patch of grass under and around the fire that didn’t really grow back. That led to a muddy area around the fire and muddy feet going into the house. Also, our old fire pit had rusted through completely leaving only the outer ring. New fire pit was a lucky but easy find from Adam: a massive old wok set in our old rusted out fire pit and surrounded by bricks. Now how about the rest?
But now I have all this dirt! I think I’ll make more garden space next to the shack. I can also use it to grade in a little fall so water flows away from the shack when it rains. Should be pretty easy for the grass to grow back in too, but I’ll throw down some seeds to help it along.
Since last year though, I had heard a bit of controversy has developed on the legality of fires in Baltimore.
Baltimore code (308.1.4) says “Charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices shall not be operated on combustible balconies or within 10 feet (3048 mm) of any combustible construction or property line.”
Luckily we’ve got this big yard and, as you can see in this Sketchup drawing, we can get away with it in one little spot. We also need to be cooking because the rules for decorative fires says 15 feet. So while we have it in a different spot now, to keep the fire and noise further from the houses, we could move it if need be if someone raises a stink.
Saying goodbye to the old stairs was hard / not hard. Like the set above them they had been repaired far too many times and way too poorly. Look at all these bandaids. There was even a dab of caulk holding this together.
There was certainly some craftsmanship involved with these tight double winder stairs though. Once most of the repairs were removed, you could see a bit of elegance in how they were built. Harder to see is the wear and tear on the risers. How many feet needed to climb this staircase in the last 150 years to wear down spots in them?
Yet, out they had to come, because, like before, there were bricks to be done. This section was where we would show guests the need for all the pointing by pulling bricks right out of the wall.
Once its cleaned up though, it looks pretty good. The steps in the bricks are no accident. They’re the size of our Ikea shelves. We’ll be adding 3 under the stairs to the 6 already have along the wall in the kitchen.
While the top stair had one turn with 3 steps / 90°, the bottom stair case has two turns: the bottom with 4 stairs / 90° and the top with 3 stairs / 66°. Naturally this makes the stairs smaller (22° vs 30°). To correct the bottom, we spread out the bottom 4 stairs from 90° to 120° overall and reduce the top stair which was integrated into the 2nd floor making all the curving stairs 30°. The 5 straight stairs in the center had their run increased from 8″ to 8 5/8″. Not a huge gain, but it will do.
Only a few days in at this point and we already done with the steel. This is quite different than the last set. Getting there. Less than a week to go and we can open this nice bottle of champagne that we set aside for when the bricks and stairs are all done.
Finally, the weekend is here. Time to relax. Yeah right. Its time to build these stairs. We had previously done a test lift of the 12′ channel but it was far from being in place. We needed to a good bit of cutting and fitting before we were happy with the results. We had gotten a plasma cutter last week with the goal of saving us serious time. Rather than taking the parts down every time to cut with a dirty smelly torch, we could just pull them off the wall a few inches, put down some wet towels and cut the metal there. For most cuts and welds Siri served as the fire safety supervisor.
We are aiming to change the geometry a little with the top stairs. Previously, the stairs were very steep, but with one long tread at the top. To fix this we tilted the stringer a little bit until finally we got an even 9″ of run to 8.5″ of rise all the way down to the turn with 1.5″ of overlap. That and a railing should make these stairs much less terrifying.
At the top we are attaching the stairs to a channel bulkhead bolted to the termite hole ridden joist. This help adds a little strength to the already reinforced joist, but mostly its just cosmetic. I cut the bolt holes with the plasma cutter which saved a bunch of time and probably a drill bit. The stringers attach to 3×3″ squares which will be used as pockets for newel posts.
The stair tread width should be 36″ for code, but being as we only have a 60″ wide area to fit the stairs, the hallway next to it, 3″ total stringers and a 3/4″ gap to the wall (aesthetic reasons), we’ve got to narrow them down to 28″. This is about the same as we had before. The treads will keep the stringers pretty solid, but just in case we’re welding in some 28″ angles to keep them from spreading. Also work great for bracing as we build.
At the bottom of the stairs there is a 90 degree turn consisting of 3 stairs. Think of this as a mini spiral staircase. The center of this quarter of a spiral is a 3×3″ post. This also serves to hold up the left stringer. I wanted it in solid so I cut out all but 3/4″ from the post, through bolted it to the joist and lag bolted it from the top with a little bracket I cut from a scrap of channel. This is when the plasma cutter really started to shine. I have no idea how I’d have made this cut using other tools.
For the left stringer, we could just copy the angle and placement of the right one. This let me pre cut the piece in the basement and lighten my load. We tacked it on up top and hinged it down until it’s angle lined up visually with the other. Made sure it was level and tacked it in to place. I wasn’t completely sure on the length though so I cut that in place once we figured out where the post needed to go.
This is how far we got all weekend. Doesn’t seem like much, but there was a whole lot of problem solving and learning that went into this first of two sets of stairs. I still need to cut 2 small pieces for the outside of the “spiral”. This section is a different angle than the straight section.
After that we’re at a standstill on the stairs. I will need to weld on angles to mount the treads to, but until I plane down the wood, I won’t know what that thickness will be. Can’t paint them until I have the brackets welded on.
I have been building a few things: A Barbie house, and a tower made out of blocks.