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The right toolsThursday, June 14, 2007
Without Katherine around I'll admit that I don't take much time to prepare anything fancy to eat. So this morning I decided to try out the Green Line Cafe, which is just around the corner at 43rd and Baltimore Ave. It's a nice little place with some great homemade bagels. Then it was back to the house to start on another day of projects.

Yesterday at Lowe's I got a painting bucket called the Pelican that I'd highly recommend to anyone needing to do a lot of brush painting. And why, you may ask, was I planning to use a brush to paint the joists? To be honest, I have absolutely no idea. In truth, we didn't own a sprayer (yet), and I didn't think a roller would work so well in all the narrow gaps, so I thought I'd get a fat brush and do it by hand. When I'd gone through an entire Steve Miller Band CD (about 45 minutes) and had finished only one joist, I was seriously re-evaluating this decision. I also saw that I'm going to need at least one more can of primer as this wood seems quite thirsty. And wow, Michelanglo must have had some of the strongest arms in the world! Anyhow, so much for not needing to go to the hardware store today :-)

Now fully equipped with a Wagner Power Painter (insert grunt sound from 'Home Improvement' here) and a third can of primer, I took to the painting task with renewed energy. Within two hours I had the a single coat on the entire ceiling - I don't know how people did things like this before such wonderful power tools were invented!

After a quick lunch break, I took a few minutes to wrap up the installation of the new hardware in the third-floor bath. The patch where the light fixture had been is barely noticeable, and now there's a good place to hang towels above the toilet.

Then is was back to the basement to use masonry crack filler to patch the holes in the two yellow walls to get them ready for painting (as we're hopefully going to be relocating the laundry sometime soon, I decided to hold off on the orange wall until after that project). While that dried, I started working to replace the light switch at the top of the basement stairs. I was prompted to tackle this extra project when I took the light down from the basement ceiling yesterday and noticed that the wiring wasn't in the best of shape...

As the removal of the basement ceiling gave me good access, I planned to replace the switch and run new cable down from the switch. Interestingly, this was one of the knob-and-tube wirings that doesn't have a box behind it, so I first needed to hollow out a section of the wall for a new box.

Once the hole was big enough, I figured that I'd have more access to run the new wire down to the basement. After a bit of electrical detective work I was able to figure out which of the two wires poking out of the wall was the one that ran down to the basement (as I've been learning more about knob-and-tube wiring, I've seen that they often run the hot and neutral wires about a foot apart (along adjacent studs or joists) with ceramic inserts used when the wires need to pass through things (the 'tube' part). Down in the basement I figured out which one ran up to the switch, and thought that I could tie on the new cable and pull it through from above. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten about the 'knob' part. When I tried to pull on the upper end of the old wire, it wouldn't move at all. To support wires during travel along a stud or joist, they placed a ceramic knob every few feet. Unfortunately, there was no way to disconnect the wire from the knob, so it was time for plan B. Taking out the fish tape that I bought a few days ago, I was able to send it up through the hole in the basement and somehow managed to get it to the switch hole (these are the things that are much easier when Katherine's around!).

As plenty of time had passed for the crack sealer to set, I put a coat of primer on the basement walls, then spent some time re-hanging the mechanicals in preparation for a second coat tomorrow. As I've decided to paint the pipes, I was surprised to notice that the copper pipes were turning green! Then I realized that the water in the paint must oxidize the copper. Right now the parts of the pipes that got painted look like they're going the way of the statue of liberty. To complete that part of the project will require an oil-based primer, so it looks like yet another trip to the hardware store is in the near future!

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