Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: May 2019

Little Shop of Horrors

To the old adage, “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made”, go ahead and add my bathroom vanity. Sparta is filled with bizarre work-arounds and shortcuts, mostly owing to my lack of proper shop tools and expertise. But this bathroom cabinet takes the cake.

I had been struggling with the question of the slider panels on its face. The old pegboard and slider tracks were rotted-out and long-since disposed of. I managed to find a nice new sheet of pegboard at Restore for cheap, but I didn’t know how to make the slider track. It’s not like they sell them in stores. And I still don’t own a router.

So I bought three 1/8″ wood dowels and a length of 3/4″ X 3/4″ birch and cut it into 3 (more or less equal) strips, with a jigsaw, guided only by the naked eye and nerves of steel. Geesh. Have a look.

Nails and glue to hold these hand-carved rails in place.
These 3/4″ deep channels should work for the top.
Shallower on the bottom just to guide the slide.
Cut two overlapping panels.
Bingo!!
Happy with the result if I don’t look too closely.

Milt Duncan, my high school woodshop teacher, would have been mortified. But I still have all ten fingers.

The hands of a hapless carpenter

Slam dunk

Alrighty…getting ‘er done. Bathroom sink was a breeze. Nothing like a counter-top install to keep things simple. Plus, I am 6’ 1″ so I like an elevated sink. The ceramic fixture I ordered from Walmart ($120) and the hardware from Wayfair ($93). The straight lines and polished chrome kinda matches the look of the shower valves. My apologies to purists for the departure from authenticity.

Two simple holes.
Taped it off first to ensure proper positioning. Caulk on the outside and Powergrab in the inside.
…and Boom! Simple as pie
Plumbing for idiots thanks to Pex.
Where old meets new. Everything is so much easier than it was back in ’57
…and it’s time to hang the pocket door.

I still need a commode, but that can wait. On to the kitchen.

Hot Fun

Look up the word “civilization” in the dictionary and you are likely to find references to culture, society, language, law and order, etc.. Well, to my simple mind I’d say hot running water meets the test and, by that standard, Sparta now qualifies as a civilized abode. Yesterday I hooked up my Excel, on-demand LPG water heater (ODWH). I could bore you with the details of the decision-making going into this particular purchase, the location/method of installation and the multiple trials encountered along the way – but I won’t. Let’s just say the moment that I turned on the hot water valve in the shower and the 12v Shurflo pump shuddered and shook and the ODWH roared and began to glow red with ignited fuel and the shower head sputtered, spit and finally released a torrent – soon filling the bathroom with steam – was pure bliss. You could call this was my “ahah” moment when it struck me that – with a car battery, pump, 3 twenty-one gallon tanks, an ODWH and propane tank – one could carve out a piece of paradise anywhere. Even in a tin box surround by weeds, fields and detritus. Yeah, the whole Rube Goldberg contraption sounded a bit like Chitty-chitty Bang-bang, but it was music to my ears nonetheless.

All these tubes and stuff
I’m not a slave to code, but it does say to use copper the first 18″ out of the gate
Almost looks professional
Now. You are probably asking what I’m going to do with all that heat generating under my kitchen counter. Don’t rain on my parade. I’ll tell you later.

Come on in, Cristina. The water’s great!

Singing in the shower

I was not happy with either the looks or the functioning of my shower valve. No, it wasn’t the twisting and turning of Pex tubing I showed you last post (that was the result of having elbows but no straight connectors). I left that alone. It was how I had the valve secured to the 3/4″ ply from behind that needed changing. I wasn’t confident it wouldn’t work its way loose over time. So I took it apart and did this:

First I drilled out larger openings in the ply. This allowed the piping to sit deeper in the wall, giving me more pipe stem to work with on the other side.
You might notice the galvanized retaining rings put in the hole in front of the elbow. It’s more secure and gives me just enough thread on the reverse side.
Not a lot of flow at 3 GPM, but enough. When I use conditioner it will be lather, rinse, repeat, rinse, rinse, rinse…

So with the shower plumbing finally figured out, I can now install the exterior wall shielding my crazy tubing from sight and creating a pocket for the door.

I am relieved that my planning left enough clearance for the door to pass the valve unscathed.

Better living through chemistry

I am about to head out to a catering event. Got my shower plumbing worked out this morning – though from the looks of things you might conclude otherwise.

These are drugs…
This is your plumber on drugs. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Sometimes I’m so lame.

Laminatomy

I am happy to report that, despite yesterday’s unseasonable chill, the contact cement did its job and the bathroom countertop is affixed and secure. I am awaiting arrival of the surface-mount ceramic sink next week and that will get installed.

In the meantime my shower apparatus arrived and I love its basic, slightly industrial look. There is no use admiring it in the box, however, so this morning I decided to bite the bullet and install it. I am still a bit traumatized from the rescue effort in which I had to needlessly tear up some of my Formica installation to locate a misplaced bathroom fan switch. So I proceed with trepidation even when just performing minor surgery on laminate. I do take the precaution of masking the area to be cut to minimize chipping.

Two triangles mark the spot
whew! One down.
I like it! Looks pretty professional from this side. Note plastic veneer still on laminate. I am keeping it on until all work is done.
Ha! Looks awfully amateurish from here, though. I have just 1/8″ clearance for my pocket door. Thank you, Jesus.

Double Header

OK, this is a first. Call me bored but two blog posts in a single day – a feast of riches for inquiring trailerheads. This morning I made my 1,000,000th run to Home Depot and bought contact cement with which to lay down countertop laminate – a different process than in the shower enclosure. Let me preface this by saying my approach today was totally off script and I do not recommend you proceed as I did. Normally, when you lay down counter laminate you glue it first to the not-yet-installed countertop and then rout the edges smooth where, by design, you had overlap. This ensures a spot-on fit of laminate to countertop. I did not do this. My bathroom countertop was already screwed in place and I don’t yet own a router anyway. So I dared go where only fools go. I cut the laminate to the exact dimensions of the vanity, slathered it and the counter with cement, waited the requisite 20 minutes and then – very carefully – dropped it into place. One chance. I could only do this because of the small dimensions of the piece (16″ X 39″). The kitchen will require a more conventional approach and proper tools. Lookie.

Note the temporary “L” brackets screwed into place to hold the edge as I dropped in the sticky laminate.
Let it dry and pray. No second chances.
The glue directions said surface must be maintained at 65 degrees or higher for 24 hours preceeding application…seriously? Well, that wasn’t an option on this chilly May day, so the adhesive did not set up real well. Hence the extra pressing.

That’s all.

Vanity project

I continue to work all over the place – a little water system, a dose of trim and a touch of vanity.

For lack of a better description, my “gray water” system needs to be completely independent of my fresh, drinking water supply. Of course, that will require a separate inlet. But I don’t want fill spouts all over Sparta’s exterior – mustn’t disrupt those clean, aerodynamic lines. So I decided to put that fill-cap in a wheel well, out of sight.

Hmmm – what do you suppose my clearance requirements will be on a really bumpy road?
Crude but effective – like much of my work.

Wherever Sparta ends up it will be more-or-less permanent so I don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of hooking up my shower line more than once to this oddly-positioned fill.

From water to water closet (whoever came up with that innocuous term for bathroom anyway? I know…Europeans). The latter needs a vanity and it was a very easy build. With two solid 3/4″ plywood walls and one kinda flimsy 1/4″ birch wall flanking it on three sides, it was a snap to just finish out the front and brace it and top it.

A little peg here…
…and a little glue there…
…and voila. Today the laminate, followed by a surface-mount sink.