716 sq. ft. Cuyamaca Cottage

Started by flyingvan, January 29, 2012, 04:11:35 PM

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   My inspector came up today for a progress inspection.  Only 'changes' were my stair railing is too high (it's not----once the treads are in, which are 1 1/2" deeper than the rough in, it will be right) and my range hood vent has to be ridgid  (not the corrugated dryer vent I have there now....) My wife worked with him through the inspection since I'm at work....Yestrday, though, I decided to figure out why my gas piping wouldn't hold pressure.  I knew where the leak was---way, way under the house where a 4" nipple went into the elbow to go up the wall.
   I really didn't want to take all my piping apart, past two branches, all the way to the outside union (you can't have unions under the house) so I sent away for a left/right nipple that came with a coupling, one end a right hand thread the other a left.  I just cut out the old nipple, threaded out the two halves, cranked the new coupling on, and twisted the new nipple in place.  Iwas careful to make sure both ends started threading at the same time.  I used both gas pipe tape and the really good grayish green thread goop.  The original fitting leaked because I failed to put anything whatsoever on the threads the first time.  How in the world did I miss that??? I must have dry fit it to get it up through the wall and never re-did it with goop.  The piping held 10 psi overnight though so it's good now
Find what you love and let it kill you.


That was some accurate pipe cutting!  Or was there some slack?   Difficult to swing the die handle?  Glad to hear it now holds. I've done the trial fit and then miss something later trip. Always a nuisance, sometimes more than others.  I like the Rector's teflon brush on goop; never had a leak when I used it. A tad messy with the excess but it works well.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


The pipe ran horizontal for 16' then up between the TJI's before turning, so once the pipe was cut it could swing out of the way easily.  Don---what's your take on mixing black pipe with galvanized pipe?  When I look it up on line the discussion forums are more contentious than a religious or political topic.  I couldn't find anything in the code forbidding it here in California, and I brought samples to HazMat when I worked overtime there----seems like the same material except the black has something black on it.  Absolutely zero electrical potential between the two so not worried about corrosion
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Black vs galvanized regarding propane or natural gas.... My understanding has been that the code varies from place to place and has varied over the years in the same place.  Galvy has been prohibited for gas use and then sometimes allowed later. ???  I have read that some jurisdictions have banned galvy pipe for gas use because it might flake galvy particles which might cause problems with gas orifices. I have never seen the reasoning listed in a code, but then I've never searched it out. Seems a little far fetched to me.

Once the threads are cut the galvy is gone so no electrical issues there.

I've even heard that black is for gas and galvy for water so you can tell one from the other. Again, I've never seen it written in a credible document. Probably old wives tales or urban legends....  It's on the internet; must be true.

I believe that black is traditional for gas because it is generally less costly and gas does not cause it to rust, whereas if water runs through black pipe the water coming out of the faucet looks ugly and the pipes will corrode early.

In short, I don't know of any real world issues id galvy pipe is used for propane or natural gas. And I could be all wrong. I did use black iron for my gas installation, but will admit to having a galvy fitting included as I was short one and had a galvy in the odds 'n' ends box at the time.  But I've never done the reverse.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


I was always taught black pipe for natural gas, and the reason being, like Don mentioned, galvy flakes and will cause problems. Also the pipe dope I always use is Rector Seal and it should be the yellowish one, we call it baby poop. All of my information comes from my father a third generation plumber and second generation building inspector, I'm sure everyone has their own way and reasons...


From what I've read (and tested chemically)  Black pipe IS galvanized, then painted black.  (I looked at covalent bonds, then put them both in an acid bath to see if there was potential between the two.  Zero.  What I proved beyond a doubt is I'm a nerd)
Find what you love and let it kill you.


   My neighbor keeps backing up further and further for his target practice...He's about 150 yards away here still hits the straw bale every time..

   We get these weather patterns in SUmmer called 'Chubascos'.  Cuyamaca is on the ridge of the Peninsular Range that forms Baja California and terminates at Cabo San Lucas.  The ocean's to the west and the desert't to the east--in the Summer the cool wet air meets the dry warm air and these massive clouds form.  This one dumped about 5" of rain in the afternoon.  Desert gets some good flash floods but we're pretty safe here

  Here's another picture of that 40 year old floor we scored...It finished beautifully.  The first coat dried for a few days, got sanded down, then a second coat.  There was enough for the entire ground floor and everything upstairs except the bedroom and bathroom.  The few planks left over were too damaged to use but AnnaMarie decided to save them anyway since we'll never find floor like this to match again

  Tomorrow--start kitchen cabinets.  Have to finish the railing, bedroom floor, stair treads, and walk to the front, then some cleanup and it's done!
Find what you love and let it kill you.


I don't know if you ever found out what your mystery mantel wood was, but to me it looks a lot like Honduran Mahoghany.  The grain pattern and both interior and exterior colors are very similar to those on my old sailboat, which was Honduran Mahoghany, which is a much lighter color than other varieties.  It varnishes out to a beautiful honey color that is comparable to a varnished teak.  Some of the old guys on the wooden boat forum might be able to tell you straight away, they know their wood varieties better than some woodsmen [cool]

      I think this is my first post, but I hope I was helpful for it!  Also, awesome job on your cottage, I hope I can construst something half as beautiful when I build my house!


  I think it is some sort of mahogany, but I've been told the beams came from Belize and there are lots of mahoganies out there....

   We couldn't find any pendant lights AnnaMarie liked for over the bar.  I did find some kits at Dixieline in the bargain bin for $6 (you buy the globe separate).  She had a pair of hand blown olive oil bottles she really liked......
   As luck would have it I've got a 2" diamond hole saw.  You have to keep it wet so I just held it underwater.

   The neck was too long but the tile saw cut through it quick

   The wiring went in pretty easy, except for cranking down that ring nut.  I sanded all the cut edges underwater too so they were all smooth

   All done...We tried a variety of bulbs and the crackly glass ones looked best.  The 40 watt bulbs are too bright----I'll pick up some 25's.

   You can see the balusters are all in.  A.M.  really likes the weathered side of that reclaimed lumber so that's facing the living area.  The cut sides are varnished and contrast well.
    Same balusters around the reading nook.  A.M.  did the varnishing and painting.  I splurged and bought oak for the top of the rail---I thought using a hardwood, even though it's painted, will wear better.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Very cool idea and it looks great.


OK.  Cabinet building.  You don't need a shop, just a flat surface, skilsaw, router, and a Kreg jig.  (You can get by without the Kreg jig; there are these little dowel kits where you drill the hole in one board and put this little metal thingy in that has a point, and press the other board against it to mark for that hole.  They don't always line up though)

  I'm writing this as a tutorial although most of the people that will read this are probably more experienced at building cabinets than I am, so please jump in with pointers.  Someone asked awhile back if I was building my own cabinets so I decided to document the whole process
   Figure out the dimensions for the finished cabinet.  This one is an upper cabinet that will hold the range hood, so the metal chase for the vent has to run through the shelves.  Cut a piece of plywood (3/4", I'm using the cheapest formaldehyde free stuff I could find since I want a rustic look anyway) to the height, and twice the depth + 1/4", of the finished cabinet.  Route lines for the top and bottom and anywhere you want a shelf.  (I prefer these fixed shelves over the adjustable rack type)

    The reason you made this TWICE the depth is, now you cut it apart into the left and right sides, and your routed lines will match up perfectly.  Cut it in half.  Trim the other piece (you added 1/4" so you could trim them to the exact depth you needed)

     You'll need a backing on it.   You could just cut it to the outside dimensions but it looks better if you cut a rabbet to the depth of your backing material so it can inset.  I'm using 3/16 luann that was in the bargain bin for $6 a sheet.   

    You don't have to use the table saw for this, the router works well too.
     Next drill pilot holes every 6" through the router lines.  Flip it over and hit those holes again with a countersink bit so you can hide the screws later.   Assemble the carcass; cut shelves, top, and bottom the finished width you need, minus the thickness of the sides where the router lines are (SO...you want 36" wide.  After your router did its damage you have 5/8" left on the sides, times two, 1 1/4".  Make shelves 34 3/4" wide, and the same depth as the sides minus the rabbet cut)  It helps if you loosely clamp the carcass together and tap the shelves into place.  If the shelves won't be trimmed by the face frame, iron on some veneer because the cu edge plywood won't take paint well.  Backset your shelves the thickness of the veneer, about 1/32".  Screw it together.  I like coarse thread drywall screws for this.

  Also think about how it'll attach to the wall.  Typically you put a 1x4 along the upper back up against the backing and pre-drill where you know studs are going to be.  When you install them you screw a strip to rest the bottom on, tip it into place, then scre in the top part.  I like to screw it into the ceiling joists as well.

    Here's where you square the whole thing up.  Get accurate measurements for the height and the width between rabbets, and cut your backing accurate and square.  Nail one edge in, then force the carcass into square by matching a perpendicular edge and nail that, too.  Mark the back where there are shelves and nail that.  WAIT---if your cabinet will need cutouts for plumbing or electrical, just bring the back in and mark/cut it now.  MUCH easier than moving around a whole cabinet.

   OK I know advertisements are not allowed so use any brand pocket drill guide you can find.  Kreg jig.  Cut your face frame pieces to size and dry-fit them over the carcass.  Then take the pieces one at a time to your Kreg jig (or equiv) and drill your holes.  It comes with a special clamp to hold things in place while you scre them together.  This is a great tool with many applications.  Get a spare drill bit because they break.
  I took some cedar fence and cut it into 1 3/4" strips then ripped them in two the thin way, and veneered all the exposed sides to give them a crate look.  They'll get painted gloss white later.  I'll get to work on the doors later.

  Just reviewed this post----I want product placement $$$$ from the Kreg jig people.  And Ryobi.  And Sam Adams.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


P.S.  AnnaMarie just called me at work.... "Do you have any idea where my iron went?  I can't find it anywhere"...Look--it said 'Black and Decker' on it...
Find what you love and let it kill you.


   I wrote Richard Petty, the President of Greener Lumber LLC.  He reclaims logs that sank in Belize rivers 200 years ago.  He wrote back immediately and with complete confidence identified my mystery lumber as 'Santa Maria'.

What you have here my friend is commonly known in
Belize as "Santa Maria".
The taxonomic name for it is "Calophyllum brasiliense" and
is common from Cental America all the way to Brazil
where it is known as "Jacareuba".

Historically it was commonly used for boat building and ship building but
now is used as a substitute for Mahogany. It is a little heavier that Mahogany
and doesn't patina like Mahogany but still is a beautiful wood in it's own right.
Archeology wise it was used by the Mayans as vertical supports in the form
of pilings mounted underneath the steps of their pyramids.

   He wrote more but that's the gist.  Check out his website---    www.greenerlumber.com ---awesome stuff

  Also-- http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/personal/woodpics/jacareuba.htm  this is exactly what I have.  I'm fairly sure this will be the only cottage in Cuyamaca with a jacarueba staircase
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So a little more about my 'mystery wood'.  I knew it came from cutoffs of beams when the schooner 'The Californian' was built 30 years ago.  Looking through old manifests, I found out the hardwood came from Belize.  I wrote to a guy who has a company that logs river bottoms in Belize--he immediately identified it as 'Jacareuba', also known as 'Santa Maria'.
My wife really wanted the stair treads made out of the stuff so I scrounged up some more of the beams and lugged them to a fire captain's house---and his new band saw.

  We cut a beam to stair width, used tape as a marker, and began to cut.  We wrecked the blade bearings after 8 cuts and concluded is was too much for his saw...I'll get him new bearings.  We WERE able to plane enough planks for the landing.  I bought oak treads and will pickle them to match the floor.
   Here is some of what we got leaning up against an uncut beam.

   In the process of researching 'The Californian' I came across a website for a company that makes high dollar model ships.  'The Californian' is one of their big sellers.  They pride themselves on details.  I wrote to the owner and asked if he wanted some of the cutoffs to build the models---I thought it would be cool if they used wood from 'The Californian' for models of 'The Californian'....I got a quick 'hell yes' type reply and how much did I want for it?  (I told him just pay for shipping and maybe send pictures of a finished product.  I got the wood free and it would be bad karma...)

   Side note---the figurehead was modeled after Christine Bach of Dukes of Hazard fame.  She had an ancestor that crewed the schooner The Californian is a replica of.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Time to get the kitchen finished.  We were down the hill for date night anyway so figured I'd get some needed lumber home in the Subaru

   It's been great having AnnaMarie there painting while I'm working on other stuff.  She finally chose the color for the kitchen wall.  She wants the microwave hidden from view so it's going in the space she's painting here.

   Time to build doors.   I wanted to biscuit join the edges, but once I cut the kerf for the panel, the biscuit fit too loose in there.  If I stopped the kerf early, it rounded up so the panel wouldn't fit, and I didn't want to do crazy curved cuts for every panel (19 doors total)  That's when I noticed the panels were exactly the same thickness as the biscuits.  So, I flipped the bisuit joiner over and cut a piece of wood that holds the shoe back, and used it as a wood shaper to cut the panel slot and biscuit slot all at the same time.  It worked great.

   here's an assembly pic

   I really got a whole assembly line going.  Identical size doors would sit in the clamps while I built the next set.  That set would go into the clamps, and the ones that came out went for edge sanding, then set aside.  Cutting for the next set would commence...Here are four identical doors sharing the clamps
  All the plumbing is finished.  Garbage disposal's in.  Counter's down.  The sections of counter were in the culled lumber bin---they had chips and cuts, and I chose ones that I could cut the parts out where they weren't needed.  AnnaMarie preferres formica for her counters.  I cut off the backsplashes and formed trim out of more of that jacareuba.  (This is the beta version.  I made it really thick where the barstools go so it would look more like a bar----I could tell by her face it was wrong so I re-cut it to as thin as it could be)

   The cabinets are inset where your legs go for the barstools, but right up under the counter the three drawers slide all the way back.  They're boxed in so no one will bang their knees on stuff...The big open box is the firewood crib and the slot next to that is for the fireplace tools.  The color she chose for the kitchen wall is 'fresh guacamole'
Find what you love and let it kill you.


The cabinets look great.  If you can, give us more info on the counter tops. 


The countertops are just the preformed HomeDepot variety.  I just bought the formica cutting blade, turned them over, and cut off the backsplashes.  I didn't want the preformed 45 degree joint right under where the dishes will dry, so I cut the formed edge off and butt-joined those two.  I had to copy the funny little shapes on the underside where the hardware goes that joins them---a 3/8" router bit cut the little cross shapes well, then glue, then pull them together.  The counters sit on  a 3/4" CDX plywood base, not just right on top of the cabinets.  1 1/4" screws from underneath and construction adhesive hold them down.  The edges where I cut are trimmed with the same jacareuba I'm using all over the cottage for different things.  The edges by the range are just finished with the iron on laminate.  WHat else would you like to know?
Find what you love and let it kill you.


I get it now.  When I saw that you trimmed it with jacareuba, I was thinking that the whole countertop was hardwood.  I get what you did now and I like how you used stuff from the culled lumber bin.   Looks great.


I really wanted to build the stairs completely out of jacareuba.  I had enough material, but it's all locked up in 8x15 beams and after frying the bearings on the bandsaw realized I just wasn't going to end up with 14 1" thick slabs flat enough for steps.  So, back to oak, but all the edges are trimmed with the jacareuba.

Every step has at least 5 cutom made pieces of wood---the tread, riser, trim below the bull nose, tread trim, riser trim.  They have to fit around the balusters.  Each one involves multiple trips outside to the tool pile.  These are the toughest pieces---

They're made from jacareuba, which is like working with rock maple.  They have to fit around the balusters, come down over the stringer edge, and match the bull nose for the tread.  After each tread is stained I'll biscuit join these to the edge, varnish them together, then install them---I might have to loosen up the balusters a bit to get them in.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Everything is looking really lovely!  I really like those light fixtures, too  [cool]

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free


Thanks Sassy!  Right now the steps are apart in three different groups of parts---70 in all I think---the treads got stained and varnished, the trim just got varnished, and the risers only have primer----tomorrow they'll get their paint and all the varnished stuff will get sanded for the second coat.  I wish I could find someone that enjoys finish work as much as I enjoy framing, and I'd gladly trade swinging the hammer for pulling a brush.   I know it's important and needs to be done correctly and patiently...
Find what you love and let it kill you.


Just a quick stair building update---the jacareuba trim is getting biscuit joined to the butt end of the treads so they'll stay nice and secure over time....The treads are getting glued down with construction adhesive and screwed down.  I'm adding a bead of glue where the tread touches the wall in hopes it'll keep squeeks to a minimum from movement

The treads and trim get a light sanding before installation.  I'll do the final varnish coat after they are in place.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


A Smart Foreperson
  AnnaMarie's cottage has to be completed by November 20th or the permit expires.  I made trades at work to have a bunch of days off in a row---only to get called back to work for a bit.  Two things left to finish for the final---the concrete bridge to the front porch and all the cleanup of the site.  No problem!
  Except----AnnaMarie said to get all the little finish stuff inside done first.  Base moulding, door handles, little trim pieces, etc.  Biggest was the bedroom floor.  I think she knew once I had the final inspection in hand work would slow WAAAAYY down.  Smart. 
  Choosing the bedroom floor was a struggle.  The rest of the house has that 40+ year old solid oak we found for next to nothing on Craigslist, so to drop Ikea Tundra floor in the bedroom would have looked cheap.  We had two trips down the hill to look at different floors.  The ones she liked were dark gray with some brown, and were about $7 a square foot, and she didn't really love them, they were just O.K.
  The bedroom isn't a main thoroughfare so walking traffic is light.  I thought we might get away with using a softwood so I bought three different widths of white spruce and let it acclimate for a week.  First it got cut to size then biscuit joined to the next board---this will prevent cupping over time.

Next, it got a good sanding since each board was a little different thickness.  The boards were glued down with heavy duty construction adhesive then screwed down tight.  AnnaMarie filled all the screw holes while I got the base moulding cut to size.

The slight gaps are unavoidable.  They get filled with flexible caulk after the varnish cures.  Since she wanted a gray floor with brown in it, I burnished the whole thing with a propane torch and simultaneously confirmed proper operation of the smoke detectors.

Then the stain.  I used Minwax ironically labelled "New Color! Classic Gray".  It was allowed overnight to dry...(Sidenote---I started at 05:30 am on Halloween and finished the staining at half past midnight, listening to 'Coast to Coast' Halloween ghost story special.  Her cottage is the exact opposite of a creepy mansion so it was impossible to get freaked out) then varnished with a semi-gloss, then sanded, and re-coated.  This pic is between coats so the finished product is a little smoother and shinier and the roller marks all blended in---I'll post a finished picture later.

AnnaMarie painted up the base mouldings too and I'll install that tomorrow when I get home from work.  So I finally got a day to just dig for the bridge and footpath.  AnnaMarie and Lauren gave the inside a much needed wipedown and cleanup, and when it got dark and chilly I didn't want them to go home because I appreciated the company so I got a fire going.
Find what you love and let it kill you.


The floors look beautiful. What a creative way to do the bedroom floor and the color is really nice. Torching the floor could be a good stress reducer too-lol. Sitting in front of the fireplace looks so cozy and the wood mantle is very unique! Your cottage looks like it will be a great place to relax.


More Finished Stuff
Here's a better pic of the bedroom floor, all finished except for the brown caulk that will go in all the seams---I'm saving that for an after dark project now that it seems to be night right after lunch

Same deal with the staircase.  All done except for caulk---I want a bead of caulk in all the corners so when I sweep the dirt can't jam under the little crack

The ends are all trimmed with jacareuba.  I really wanted to make the treads out of jacareuba but I couldn't cut boards big and flat enough---after ruining the bearings on a friend's band saw, I ended up with enough for the landing, I'll have to settle for that
AnnaMarie wanted a chalkboard for the kitchen.  She knew what she wanted and we couldn't find it anywhere, like the bedroom floor.  She wanted something framed with 'old white paint'.  I bought the chalkboard paint----if you ever use that stuff plan on three coats minimum sanding in between

I went down to the lake and crawled around under the 120 year old boat house and found this 4x4 lying on a stack of old wood.  AnnaMarie did the chalk paint, and decided she wanted a couple of the inside of the tallest cabinet door chalkboard too to keep a grocery list.  So I decided the inside of one of the doors for the liquor cabinet should be chalkboard too.
Find what you love and let it kill you.