Sunday, 15 March 2015

Just a reminder

Of what we started with. These are scanned in from photos taken 11 years ago. These are taken on film, before digital cameras became mainstream.

The house as we first viewed it in 2004


Inside: damp, smelly rotting dump
So ripe for restoration then!


The roof exposed part way through the first stage of works circa 2005


Not a small job then.

The first floor, filled with rotting hay


The roof in the process for being replaced


The old roof, awaiting cutting up for fire wood


My little girls as they were



so cute!

Prologue:

My wife asked me the other day, if I knew what I know now would I do it again?

That's a really difficult question: On the one hand its been a much longer road than I anticipated. Sometimes that's a good thing. So long as your not a quitter then ignorance can work for you in your favor in that at least you get started! On the other hand is it worth 11 years of my life: 


The best I can say is: What else would I have done; watched the television?






I nearly forgot

I finished the staircase in the salon. Just looking back through my blog I realized i'd not taken a photo of the stairs with the banister rail fitted. The banister rail is modeled on staircases of the period. So here it is:


The rail is hand made with an old wooden molding plane Julia bought me from a brocante. The spindles are cut from some wood I got for friends about 3 years ago. They never used the wood and then gave it me back when they moved house. I then stored the wood in the roof of the barn for a further 2 years. I was scratching round the barn looking for something to make spindles out of.....then I looked up..et voila!


Mums sideboard in its new home.

It's later than you think

Both Mum and Uncle Jeff died this year. I miss them both.

Connected

The old sink is finally connected. I wanted a little something to do this week that would finish something off rather than start a-new and Julia proposed the kitchen sink. Not that we are without a sink, in that we use the sink in the laundry for all the washing up. That said having a sink next to the cooker is mighty handy as it turns out; filling the kettle and pans of water. Now connecting the kitchen sink would normally be simple right? Unfortunately not if the sink is around 2 hundred years old and stone with a none standard and irregular shaped drain hole. And to boot the drain hole is 10 cm long (circa 1800 - 1850 maybe). In this case there are no plumbing fittings to fit and you have to improvise. So improvise I have. A plastic drain pipe fitting nearest the drain hole size has been cut-and-shut with a bath waste to get a reasonably close fit. Judicious use of silicone and neoprene washers complete the job. After that came the challenge of a trap. Standard traps have a screw fitting and washer I have a 40 mm pipe!. Luckily I found a u-bend siphon fitting with 40 mm entry and exit...Job done. The taps are connected to the plastic pipe laid in the floor nearly 10 years ago so that was a simple matter of cutting to length and termination with a compression fitting.

So here it is complete with the beech drainer I made. The drainer somewhat obscures the fact that the sink is indeed big enough for ritual sacrifice.


Sans drainer, ready for the sacrifice. Note to self: Need to do something about the splash back.


Close up of the sink waste. Looks like any other sink waste doesn't it? That's the genius! 

Note the "patina" or "staining" in the stone (if only inanimate objects could talk?).



The general kitchen ambiance with a hint of 19th century chic


And the plumbing. While it looks simple it was a bugger to get right, i.e. It looked right, didn't leak and didn't use 3 gallons of silicone. 



The final bit was to paint under the sink so its looks a bite more finished off and brighter (no matter how you slice it bare concrete blocks as used for the supports look shite unless you do something to dress them up a bit.

TOP TIP....when you have a house in France its tempting to buy your plumbing fittings in the UK and ship them over. My advice would be DONT. While the French fitting may seem different and a little expensive compared to UK ones, in the long run its a false economy. Bite the bullet, learn about the way the French do things, there is method in the madness. Usually in the end its more logical than you might think and you will save time and money if you stick with it. Plus the fact that a mish-mash of French and English fittings is a complete swine for any that follow you!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

All stoves are not made equal

For a while now I've been struggling to get the stove in the salon running well. I've tried messing about with the grate and the Air flow and even rung the manufacturers, but I just couldn't seem to get it right. So eventually I've thrown in the towel and bought a replacement.


Enter the Invicta Mandor 12kw wood burning stove. So far I'm very impressed! It lights easily, and draws well. The stove is big enough to fit 60 cm logs which means that Julia doesn't have to cut the logs we have delivered. And it get real hot quickly. Perfect.

The best thing was that I set out to Bricomarche at three o'clock last Saturday to buy the stove. We chose to stove, picked it up with the trailer, transported it home, dismantled the old stove, fitted the new one and had it fired up all by 7pm. Mostly these jobs take a least twice as long as I think but for once the install went like a dream.....double perfect.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Almost like a real house!

The house project is making progress and starting to look like a real house. There is still plenty to do but for now it's worth taking a look at what we have achieved. So here is the almost finished salon:


The thing I'm most pleased about I think is how light it is. Amazing when I think back to how dark and dingy the room used to be. Even the white lime pointing makes a huge difference to the space.



Below is my new window seat finished in my spare time this weekend. The white pine cladding on the front is great stuff: pre-finished, dead easy to install with a air finish nailer and cheap.


The stairs I made still need a hand rail but this is in-progress. I think i'm going to make iron baluster rail to add to the contemporary neo-monastic look.



And in the kitchen (shown below) is the cupboard Julia saved from the fire.
To explain: we had a dresser we were going to paint. I / We did this only to find that Crown undercoat (water based) and crown top coat (oil based) do not mix. On the tin they say that they are compatible with "all undercoats" etc but they are not. Well, if you ring the help line, they say that technically they are, as long as you flat the undercoat down with 400 grit paper between coats and for that reason they legitimately claim total compatibility on the tin. Having painted the cupboard only to find the paint falling off in strips, I was ready to cut it up for firewood in a fit if peak! Julia, on the other hand, calm as ever, refused to admit defeat and made me scrape off all the paint I had just put on, sand it down, and then re-paint it with (none Crown) white wash. In the end I'm glad she did, as I think it now looks stunning. This somewhat round about technique has at least left the cupboard with a genuinely aged patina, although I wouldn't recommend trying to replicate this process.  



The other thing I did with the cupboard is to replace the drawer fronts. The original ones has a machine routed pattern all the way round the front (like some kitchen units have) and they looked wrong. For me it made an otherwise nice cupboard look too modern in a not very appealing 1980's kind of way. The replacements are plain and to my mind at least more in-keeping with the intended style. Its also very solid (being oak) and great for keeping the crockery in; but such a lot nicer now its not dark brown varnish

And just as a reminder, the big picture.


And the shed in bloom




Sunday, 8 June 2014

Bike Shed 2014

The new wave of custom motorcycles is one that interests me greatly. The BSMC III 2014 was a feast. My only apology is my my photography of the event might be construed as automotive porn. Close up, shots of the intricate detail!




If I ever win the lottery this would be the bike I would buy!


Oh yes!