Sunday, November 20, 2011

Serious Putty

When Lydia heard about my difficulty finding the fallen screws in among the pine needles, she remarked, "You could have used a magnet to find them." That reminded me that I have a magnet specifically designed for such a task that I had forgotten about. I hate to sound clich├ęd, but: d'oh!

Since the closing of Furnace Gap, I've been puttying my way along the rest of the belt course. It's slow work, which is why I haven't posted for a few days; puttying in progress seems like rather a boring subject, so I usually leave it out of the narrative, showing only the end product if anything.

Then it occurred to me that this whole blog could be considered rather boring unless one is specifically interested in its subject matter. One of my reasons for writing this blog is to illustrate procedures that are not generally covered in the instructional literature readily available in the usual places, and what I call "putty sculpting" certainly qualifies for that distinction. And so, all aboard the Boredom Express!

Because I must work along the long, narrow strip of the belt course at the top of an extension ladder, the work naturally breaks itself up into sections, the width of which is my safe reach to each side of the ladder: about four feet for close work, and up to six for simple tasks. Some of the patching I can do in one pass, but the more complex patches can take up to three passes. Thus, at any given time during this work I will have areas in different degrees of completeness which decrease as one moves to the left.

Here is the area I pictured in the last post, after two passes with the putty (sanded down after each pass):

It looks a lot better now, but it's not quite done; areas like this take several passes because there are many areas that need patching from several different angles that tend to interfere with each other. If I try to do too much at once, I end up dislodging putty I've already placed.

My main patching tools are flexible putty knives in one-inch and two-inch widths, but they are of limited usefulness on contoured surfaces. In the search for tools more applicable to detailed work, I've had great success looking in artists' catalogues. In the task at hand, one tool in particular is very useful, which I believe is intended for sculpting clay. Here, I'm using it to make a difficult concave patch:

Otherwise, I'd have to slide a putty knife down the divot, trying to stay close to the proper curvature: a much trickier proposition, and one that invariably leaves a big blob of putty to sand off. In contoured areas, the less putty there is to sand off, the smaller the chance of distorting the profile of the trim.

Here is this area after I completed the final patching:

This will be very easy to sand back to profile once it hardens. I'm really on my game now, such as it is. It always takes me several days to get my putty-sculpting chops back up after a layoff; it's just one of those skill sets that does not stay resident in my active mind. I really need more RAM.

From here, I moved on down to the next station, where lies the area I discussed in great detail back in April. 

Here it is before any puttying. This was the area that bore the brunt of the foundation's settling below and to the left of this picture.  This forced the left lower trim piece down; butted tightly against the right lower trim piece, the friction splintered the piece severely at its right end. In fact, the stress was so great upon this piece that cracks like the ones you see above opened up along its entire length.

At the same time, the top left trim piece was forced inwards, and the top right one outwards; this displacement is not apparent in the photo, although the resulting damage clearly is. 

Here is a close-up of the area after the second patching pass:

Now you can see clearly the significant front-back displacement of the two top pieces, but what you can't see is that the bottom half of the bottom left piece is sticking out a bit as well. I didn't see it myself until this point. Because of these displacements, the patching at this spot is going to take several more passes.

The difficulty here lies in the fact that I obviously can't completely eradicate the discrepancies here, as I was able to do for the most part with the gap in the middle trim pieces further up the belt course. I thus have to contrive to handle the discrepancies as gracefully as possible, and just how much gracefulness I can get away with will take some trial and error. More to the point, I know I can eliminate the front-back discrepancy in the lower trim pieces, but I'm not at all sure what I can get away with concerning the top trim pieces.

Tune in again for the next exciting installment of "The Trim-Jog Incident!"

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  1. Your 'Tortitude' will get you through this rough patch!

  2. Great Kitty, look's positively regal. She must like her Victorian domain.

  3. She is a great cat, but her Tortitude's going to get her sent POW! to the Moon someday.


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