Thursday, June 13, 2024

Blue Like Glass

A couple of years ago when I was in my first "let's learn to glaze windows" phase, I dry-fit* six glass panes into a sash and abruptly realized that one of them was blue.  I can't find that photo, so here is a new (less interesting) photo showing a "blue" pane (left) next to a "clear" pane (right).

Given my previously blogged mix and match glass storage strategy, glazing windows now requires an extra analysis step of "are all 6 panes the same color?"

And then on Tuesday, while glazing a sash, Dad and I cracked a clear pane.  I was able to replace it from the glass pile, but it means some future sash will be missing a pane.

In anticipation of this day, I have been collecting old windows from other people's houses (when I can get them for free), specifically for the antique glass.  Of course, it's unlikely that the glass panes from those windows will exactly match the size of glass panes that I need, and they will need to be cut down.

My previous attempts at glass cutting ended badly.  I watched all the YouTube videos and bought tools and tried the various techniques and couldn't get anything that resembled a straight line, so I went to Home Depot and bought new glass.  

But in the choice between learning to cut or spending money, (for once) Dad and I decided we would try again to learn.  We cleared a table in the shop and laid out some practice glass and got started breaking them.  

It only took a few curved breaks and some adjustment of the glass cutter, before Dad got some good clean lines.  I eventually did too, but not as consistently as Dad.  (Not pictured is the jar of shards and cast offs.)

Here is the video evidence that Dad figured it out.

So now when the inevitable breakage occurs, we have more replacement options!


*I laid 6 panes of glass out in the sash without any glazing putty, just to make sure the glass would fit the openings.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

A Place For Everything

No one who knows me has every accused me of being tidy.  I live in what could politely be called "controlled chaos".  Clean dishes do get put away a couple of times a week, but for everything else my method of organization is to "put it over there until I get around to it later".  "Leave no flat surface uncovered" is my motto!  

I may also have a tendency to hoard.

I recognize these as areas for personal growth.

But when it comes to big house projects - and especially big house projects that other people (my dad) are volunteering to help with - it really benefits everyone for there to be space to work and the ability to find the things you need.

Here's what I'm up against in the window shop.

Today is Shop Organizing Day during which I will mostly be grouping objects by function.  Things that cut go in one place.  Everything paint related goes somewhere else.  Small smooth and pointy things go in one jar.  Small spirally and pointy things go in a different jar.  Tools like the vinyl floor tile cutter which I will probably never use again may go into the basement.  

I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do with the shopping cart (not pictured).

In my defense, I started a larger organizing effort several days ago with the library, where there are many shelves (flat surfaces!!) and therefore many opportunities for things to be forgotten.  My library clean up goals were two-fold.  

First, the shortest path between the guest room and the kitchen is through the library and it's generally good manners to reduce the trip hazards for your guests (especially when they are helping you out with house projects). 

Second, the library is the home of my glass collection - not just the large collection of assorted alcohol bottles, but also the collection of antique glass that has previously been removed from windows around the house.

Any experienced window restorer will tell you that labeling things - every window sash, every pane of glass in every sash - is really foundational for getting the pieces to fit back together again.  Which is why none of these panes are labeled and it's a complete crap shoot whether they go back into the same sashes they came out of or not.  (In my defense, I got bad advice about this and didn't realize until it was too late.)

But here, dear Reader, I offer you a sign that I am growing personally.  Here are three panes of glass which I removed from storm windows which I hope to restore over the coming weeks and which I have labeled!  And put into the library with their fellows of unknown origin.

So now, spurred on by these new heights of organization... I venture once again into the shop.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

We(lding) Solved a Problem!

If you ever have a difficult problem to solve (like, let's say, a lot of deteriorated wood windows), and you just *need* some motivation to get started solving it, the only reasonable thing to do is shop. 

Usually I start my motivational shopping with books, but I've already got half a dozen window restoration books - the Scott Sidler, the John Leeke, the Steve Jordan, the Scott Hansen. (If you know who they are, you have old windows, too!  Hi, Friend!) 

I needed something else.

And that's why I now own a pair of beautiful bright blue leather welding gloves. 

No. You don't weld wood windows. (Silly Rabbit!) 

You put wood windows in the Steam Stripper. 

And after the steam has done some stripping, you have to get the windows out again. 

Without stripping anything else - like your skin. 

And that's why I have these welding gloves. They solve a (hypothetical) sub-problem of the larger problem!

How motivational!

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Sleeping Dogs

The dogs are sleeping.  

It's 7:30 and I accept that I'm not going to accomplish anything else today.  Which has left me time to read back through blog posts of yore.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Because of hip dysplasia, Little Man no longer always feels like tackling the stairs to the backyard, and so I am taking him out on the leash.  This week it has been a good excuse to walk around the house to check in with the roofers who are lining my new wooden gutter with copper.

The gutter seem to be doing its job.  I can tell, because it's currently raining.

I would like to say that in the five years since my last post I have discovered that I have an aptitude for DIY and home management and the house has been transformed into a thing of wonderous historic beauty.  But I respect you too much to lie to you, Reader.  I am the least qualified old house owner on the planet.

In fact, my current "project" is to perform a full inventory of all the care and investments that the house needs so I can rank each item by urgency and cost and see what I can reasonably afford to pay other more qualified people to do over the next five to ten years.  This is a disheartening project.  The scope of my ignorance and the sheer quantity of peeling paint and water stains overwhelms me.  

"Nevertheless, she persisted."

The first inventory task is windows.  A full review of each window, its current condition and the relative urgency of repairs.

At this point, anyone who knows me in real life will be saying..... "Wait, what?  Still?  With the windows?"

Yes, dear Reader.  Still, with the windows.  There are, after all, about 65 of them, in various states of disrepair.  And several of them have been disassembled and then abandoned by repair men and the sashes are now just laying uselessly about the house (like the dogs).   

So I have resolved to tackle the windows myself.

For the next 6 weeks, except for hours spent working, eating, sleeping, walking the dogs and generally procrastinating, the next 6 weeks of my life are dedicated to window restoration and general planning.

What can I accomplish, now that I have set my mind to it?

Oh look.  It's time for bed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Little Man, the most recent addition to the Highlands Bangor household does NOT like the rain, does NOT like the waterfall descending from the gutterless roof, does NOT like to step in the puddles where the bricks are missing from the back path.  But since he is pacing around the house, picking up household objects and double-dog-daring me to do something about it, I put a leash on him and drag him outside, through the waterfall and onto the path, and then I stand there in the rain cackling and blocking his flight back to the house until he has done what his misbehavior told me he needed to do.

At least I am laughing.

The house is quieter since Zaphod, Trillian and the little people have moved south.  Not only are there fewer footsteps and voices, but there is less banging.  Not so much whirring of power tools.

Maybe the silence is what made me think a greyhound puppy was a good idea.  Unlike Butterface, he's a howler, and he's taught her to sing with him.  He's also a barker: often at inconvenient times in the morning; always when he wants to go out and IT'S RAINING.

The rain has been something of a theme of my last year.  A wet fall.  A wet winter.  A wet spring.  A wet summer.  My general outlook may have made it seem like there was more rain than there really was, but there was enough that it found its way between and around and through and into the house.  What I had hoped were old stains have found new life.

And every time I called my father - "Have you found anyone to fix the roof yet?"

Unlike painting or tiling or refinishing floors, roofing is one of those jobs that does not lend itself to evening and weekend DIY.  Neither does gutter repair when the gutters in question are integral to the roofline of the house and lined with metal which must be bent to the correct shape and then welded.

"Have you found anyone to fix the roof?"

One roofer passed away.  The next was too busy and had health problems.  The third came recommended by a friend, but he clearly didn't want the work and inflated his price.  I think he was disappointed when I didn't hang up on him.

I called a real estate agent.  She came and looked around, at the wires hanging out of walls and ceilings, at the water stains, at the missing dining room ceiling.  She asked for my minimum selling price and then shook her head.  "Stop the water.  Cover the old damage.  Call me again next year, if you want to."

I spent more time in the dark yard with Little Man on his leash as the summer rain came down.

"The house has been here for almost 200 years.  It's not going to fall down this winter." I told my father.  He threatened to climb onto the roof with a tarp.  I went to Facebook for advice.

The man who eventually responded to calls and came to see me is surprisingly young and seems in good health.  He claims he is excited to take the job and that he can do it this fall.  If it doesn't rain.

I debate whether the cost is worth it; whether I can make it another season; whether copper snowguards and gutter lining are investments or vanity.  But I remember lining a window sill with mugs.  And I remember the ceiling that came down on Trillian's Christmas tree.  And I remember the snow crashing off the roof to melt and re-freeze on the driveway.

And I remember when I loved the sound of rain and when I thought this house was beautiful.  Is it possible to buy those back?

Little Man doesn't care about any of these things.  He knows he does not like the rain.  It was too wet today for a walk or a trip to the dog park.  But the house is dry and I am home and so he works off his extra energy, zooming with enthusiasm through the kitchen and family room - back and forth - while I curl up on a couch with Butterface to keep both of us out of his way.

At least I am laughing.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Two Year Anniversary of Highlands Bangor, a Segue

Dear Reader,

The last year has seen substantial changes at Highlands Bangor, and because I (Fenchurch) am reluctant to abandon this blog, I think something needs to be said as a segue between previous posts and future posts.

Two years ago, when I took possession of the keys for this old house, there were 6 people and a dog who had a mutually beneficial plan to live here, restore the house's beauty and prepare it for modern living.  We achieved some of that, but it also became clear that not everyone was mutually benefiting from the arrangement.  And so at the end of July, the family of Zaphod, Trillian, Frogstar, Frankie and Benji moved out for a new town and their own space.

This leaves your's truly as the sole resident and therefore primary caregiver of Highlands Bangor.  It is not a situation I would have willingly chosen two years ago, and it is not a situation I have much more enthusiasm for today.  The house is too big.  There is too much yard, too many floors and windows and not enough money.  And the Maine winter has arrived and clearly has no intention of leaving until April or May.

I frequently remind myself that I could be walking north through Mexico right now, but instead I have a good job, two cuddly dogs and a house that has survived 180 previous winters.  Also, the modern world has invented meal delivery services - so I can now have vegetables Fed-Ex-ed to my door while I ignore the weather, try to keep a greyhound puppy from chewing on the window trim, and adjust to the idea of living long term in Bangor.

At the end of a difficult season, the best plan I can formulate is to hibernate for the winter and hope for something better to grow in the spring.