Monday, May 30, 2011

Breezin' Along with The Breeze

I often joke about there being an Unseen Hand throwing constant barriers in the way of my restoration work, or that "someone up there hates me," but it is a fact that I have caught very few breaks in the course of my painting of the Farm House. Take today, for example: I planned to sand the last of the patches I made yesterday, then mask the siding off in preparation for application of the first primer coat.

So I wake up, go outside, and find myself in the middle of a wind storm. Nothing epic, mind you, but more than merely a stiff breeze; many of our potted plants were knocked over, and the yard and street were littered with palm fronds from our useless street trees. I'd say the winds were going at least 30 MPH: not enough to do any real damage, but more than enough to foil any attempt to deploy masking paper. I guess that's what I get for trying to work on a Sunday. In any event, here's a brief update on what I have managed to get done since inserting the backing in the Milky Way knothole.

First, I re-set all the nails that had managed to work themselves out beyond the surface of the siding. As I went along, I marked all the places that needed mending. As I mentioned earlier, I'm only patching where it's needed for the health of the house at this point, because of the difficulty of making patches blend in with the heavily weathered wood. This included any place where the siding had cracked all the way through and either left a gap or caused looseness in the siding, and of course all the large knots and knotholes. It seems apparent that the Farm House's builders, for some reason, put all the knotty boards on the south side, because there are none to speak of on the other sides, and there weren't on the back either. I'd love to know just why they did this, but I suspect that this will forever remain just another Farm House mystery.

After marking all the areas that needed further attention, I then drove screws through the siding into studs as necessary to stabilize loose areas along cracks or at the joints where two boards butted together along a course. As I did with the backing for the Milky Way knothole, I took care to avoid splitting the wood by preparing the screw holes first.

After this, I glued everywhere it was needed. This step presented a great problem for me, because many of the cracks required some measure of clampage, but were in areas that made use of a clamp practically impossible, even with the swell block-and-wedge technique I showed you all a while back. For that reason, I overrode my previous resolution to ban cyanoacrylate glue from this project; my thought was it would work so quickly that I could just provide the 30 seconds of needed clamping manually. So I bought two fresh bottles of 30-second Super Glue, one thick and the other thin to cover all the situations I was facing.

This time, the glue utterly failed, even though it came right out of freshly-opened bottles. It worked no better than water would have. After giving said bottles of Super Glue a fitting sendoff, I pondered my options for a while, and decided to take a flyer on an iffy idea: using blue masking tape as a makeshift clamp.

You see, I decided my only option remaining was to use a five-minute epoxy I knew of that came in a dual syringe with a long spout that mixed the two parts as it was driven through. This would make application quick, neat and simple, but I'd have to work very quickly lest the epoxy set up in the spout before I was through, and in the process I had to move all over the side of the house, going up and down ladders and moving them as I worked.

I figured blue masking tape would hold the joints together tightly enough to do the job, and I could apply it very quickly as I went along. I was very aware of the possibility that the tape would end up firmly glued by the squeezed-out epoxy at each joint, but I had to chance it, having no good alternative at hand. As it turned out, the tape worked perfectly, and came off with no problem. Another example of better living through doing it yourself!

With the screwing and gluing all done, I then puttied all the cracks, knotholes, and sunk screws. This turned out to be a shockingly big job, considering the small surface area involved; all told, this step took fully ten ounces of WoodEpox, nearly depleting my supply. Putting this in perspective, I've never before used an entire tub of it before it went stale, even the little six-ounce tubs. The Milky Way took two ounces all by itself, even after partially filling it with a wood block. The several long, wide cracks just ate up putty, even though I only used what was necessary to bridge the gaps.

The work took longer than usual, because I took great pains to apply only what was needed right where it was needed in order to make the patches blend in with the weathered wood. The method of wire-brushing that I proposed earlier worked well to remove the excess putty from places where it was not needed, but it largely failed to provide a grooved appearance in the patch areas themselves. I had limited success to this end using very coarse sandpaper sparingly after the putty hardened.

Here are a few pictures of the results.

Up there in about the middle of the picture you can see one of the big, long cracks, and the places at each stud where I screwed the sides of the crack down. At the right end of that crack you can see that there was a lot of damage at the butt joint between the two boards. This whole mess is likely due to the house-settling I talked about a few months ago, because it's right below the messed-up joint in the belt course that took so much work to fix. There are also a few filled knotholes in view, as well as a few places that could use patching but didn't get it, because they are not essential and I just don't have the time.

Here's what the Milky Way looks like filled. Kinda looks like malt nougat, doesn't it? Even though I took great care to ensure that every void was filled completely, looking at the picture I can see where I missed a few spots. This illustrates what I mean when I say that at a certain point in patching, you are looking at so many different colors that you just need to put down a coat of primer to make everything the same color so you can see what still needs patching. These small remaining gaps I will probably fill with a kind of exterior spackle that finishes level and dries quickly; they're simply too small to bother with any more mixing and sanding of epoxy putty.

It's a bit difficult to discern here, but where the sides of the crack below the knothole are not level, I simply filled the crack level with the lower side. It's better to leave the jump revealed than it is to try to hide it; never throw good putty at bad cracks, I always say.

"Brief update." Heh.

* * *

"Nobody here but us dogs."


  1. I don't like caramel, but nougats are a horse of a different color. Yum!

  2. No more holes? Where can I keep warm:-) Sqirrel

  3. Dear Squirrel,

    Follow the rats. They always seem to find a nice warm place.

  4. Nicer day today, gathering all my Nuts and looking forward to June:-) Squirrel

  5. Squirrel, how many Nuts do you have? And who's June?

  6. June is here and I've lost my marbles, but have chock o'plenty of nuts to keep me satisfied. Squirrel

  7. June gloom is here, but as long there's a fresh supply of peanuts, I'm good:-)
    (A gentle reminder, kind sir- Squirrel)


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