Homework

imageI haven’t blogged much lately because I find the current politics too boring to pay attention to, and I’ve been busy working on yard and house. Weeds have been winning the yard battle the last few years, so I’ve put some very intensive work into it, with much more to come. But today I want to talk about my kitchen. I’ll have a full post with before and after pics when we’re all done (with the project we started last summer). This one is about making the back splashes behind the sink and stove.

The picture above is of roofing slate, laid out in my yard. It used to be on Adrian, Muchigan’s historic Croswell Opera House, and we received it when my wife worked there and they were going to throw it away. We got a stack about 2 feet high that was going to be thrown out because it just getting in the way in the set construction room. We had no idea what we would do with it: we just thought that it was too cool to pass up, especially since the Opera House and our home are contemporaries, the one having been built in 1866, the other in 1870.

When we began work on our kitchen last year–not a full renovation or even remodeling, just new paint and flooring–we realized the slate would look great in it.* So now I’m cutting it into workable pieces, as seen here.image

It looks like a lot if slate (and what you see there is about half of what we have), but there’s much less usable stuff tan meets the eye. First you have the nail holes. They don’t look so big, but, like a bullet hole, the exit side is a much larger area of damage, as seen here. Add in lots of chipped edges, and your usable area shrinks dramatically. image
I am not cutting standard size pieces, but just cutting out whatever pieces of varying dimensions I can get out of each slab. This is a slow process requiring several orders of magnitude more cuts than usual when tiling, but despite the sore back and legs from hunching over the tile saw, I enjoy the process of figuring out how to maximize my gains from each piece.

Once cut, Johanna is roughly working out a pattern with these ramndomly-sized pieces, as seen below, and to finish I’ll cut some of them to the dimensions needed to make it all fit. image

This was how I spent my time yesterday evening, and I expect it will take me all day today to finish. It’s going to look great, though, and the pleasure I get out of looking at the end result of projects like this and saying (sorry, Mr. Obama), “I built that,” is worth every ache and pain.

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*Some sanding and plaster repair was necessary. Behind the stove, the plaster wall has a place where wood lath buts up against the brick of the old fireplace. At this discontinuity the plaster had broken up badly. Behind the sink there are problem areas of lumpy plaster, not all of which I can sand smooth without pulling the countertop off, which I don’t want to do. I hope we can make the slate work there.

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About James Hanley

James Hanley is Associate Professor of Political Science at Adrian College and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. The views expressed here do not reflect the views of either organization.
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5 Responses to Homework

  1. James Hanley says:

    I almost specified that “American” politics was boring, but things testing stuff was happening internationally. Thanks for the link. It’s a curious matter. One can only wonder what will be the arc of the young generation coming two or three generations from now. Nothing may be as we would predict.

  2. James Hanley says:

    Yes. Surprisingly handsome, eh?

  3. Michael Drew says:

    Indeed. I like the blue. My mental picture of you was a guy with buzzed hair wearing shorts in a canoe – a Gravatar from ~2 years ago that I never actually knew for sure was a picture of you. If it was, the hair situation has changed.

    Hope you had/are having a great time in Chi-town. I should have gone but I didn’t.

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