Thursday, November 18, 2010


It's been a long time since I've written about mice, mostly because the mice have been absent. This isn't to say that we haven't had other animals to deal with. This spring and summer we had problems with squirrels and a bat. These days, we just take these visitors in stride.

One night in September, my wife woke me up at three o'clock in the morning to tell me that I'd best put out the traps. And sure enough, I heard the sounds of a rodent party in the attic above our head. What followed was a bit out of the ordinary. The first night we caught one mouse - fairly normal. The second night we caught two more. And then the fun started.

Over the next six hours, five baby mice found their way out of the attic and proceeded to wander around, presumably looking for mom and dad. It's one thing to set a trap and let "the machine" do the work. It's another to be the actual executioner. Isn't this one of the reasons why the French invented the guillotine? So we carefully caught each one, showed it to the girls and took it out to a timber pile and let it go. I hope they have a long happy life, far away from our house.

So that means since we took possession of our house on August 30, 2007, we have caught 63 mice. What always puzzles me though, is why we never catch them in the basement and why we never see them in the living quarters of the house. They only seem to live in the attic. That's a long way up for a little mouse.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I keep staring at the 3/4 inch long gash through the tip of my thumb for two reasons. One, it hurts. Two, I have no idea how I got it. Well, that second point is mostly true.

I've been slowly acquiring tools as I complete house projects. One basic set of tools I wanted was a set of new wood chisels. I have an old set of wood chisels that I inherited from my dad, but they are in pretty tough shape. As I child of about 9, I mistook them for stone chisels and carved out the year in a rock by our deck. Surprisingly, my dad never said anything about the rock or the chisels.

These days, I almost always turn to the Internet when buying anything. And did I get an education on chisels. The chisels at the store are not ready for use. They need to be sharpened. And sharpening a chisel can turn into another $150 purchase (or more). So after spending $40 on chisels and another $70 on sharpening stones and a honing guide, I spent several hours getting my chisels razor sharp.

Make no mistake, working with a razor sharp chisel is an absolute joy. Being able to slice off a piece of wood with just a gentle push is a bit of a power rush, especially when dealing with hard woods.

I've been working on winterizing the house and last night I was doing the last little bit on our back door. The latch on the door no longer fits into the strike plate (like many of our doors) thanks to 90 years of settling. I removed the strike plate and some very old spring bronze weatherstripping so that I could move the strike plate down about 3/16 of an inch.

As I said, a razor sharp chisel is a thing of joy. The only problem is that all of a sudden I found blood everywhere. I thought, "Where is that from? Is it mine? Nobody else is here, so it must be mine. Why doesn't it hurt? Oh crap! Blood on my new chisels!" At which point I forgot about finding the cut as I went to find a rag to clean up my new chisels. When I got back to working on the strike plate, my thumb started hurting because I'd succeeded in packing it with 90 years of dirt, coal dust and insect effluence.

I can't be exactly sure that the cut was from the chisels. The spring bronze is also extremely sharp and quite dangerous, so it could have been from that. Either way I can't stop looking at it. Every time I hit the space bar with that thumb, it hurts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Storm's a coming

Storm windows seem to be the topic du jour these days. I'm writing about them. Stucco House is writing about them. Even our friends in Amsterdam are writing about them. Our storm windows have been off and on my mind for the last three years, especially ever since we had one completely fall apart on us when we took it down in 2008. The corner had completely rotted through. The only thing keeping it together was a bit of paint.

I had hoped that buying replacement storm windows would be as easy as calling the local hardware store or lumber mill. I was wrong. I'm sure there is someone in the area that could make me new storm windows at a reasonable price, but I couldn't find them. The only person I found didn't really want to make them ("It's a waste of money. Just go to Menard's and get an Aluminum storm window."), and he quoted me $400, which did not include the glazing.

So being an independent, self-sufficient minded American, I opted to make my own. I spent the last three years acquiring a table saw, a router table and several router bits. And now I've finally finished the last four storms for the house.

I suspect that most wood workers would have found this a fairly simple project, but it turned out to be a challenge for me, especially figuring out how the mortise and tenons fit together with the routed ogee edge. I'm pleased with how they turned out, and I'm glad the hard part is done now. The windows are currently getting glazed and then they will need two more coats of paint to finish them off. If all goes as planned, I'll have them up by the end of November.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Platitude 1

The human race is fortunate that incompetence is so often paired with laziness.