Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Of Those Days

I fully intended to post yesterday and show in detail how the sink counter is attached to the wall and all that blah, blah but work just got the best of me. I have been having to weld up these big goal posts (barricades) in the new freezer area and it's a real pain. It's freezing, literally, in there and I had to use a lift to get up to the steel to weld, so that means wearing all this crap to keep warm and then having to wear a safety harness on top of that because I'm over 6 feet off the ground, so I have like, 10 extra pounds of stuff on me. So, I'm up in this lift welding and I smell something burning and I look down and realize I've set my hardhat on fire. I can't wear it while I'm welding as I have to wear a hood, so I had set it down on the floor of the lift. Well, it was the liner inside the hardhat but, at any rate, flames are coming out of my hardhat. I got that put out but it messed my hat up and my boss had to order me new insides for it. Anytime I set myself or some other thing on fire they always just sigh really hard and slowly shake their heads. I can't help it though! Stuff happens. So, then I get one of my bad migraines towards the end of the day, so when I got home I just had to take some meds and go to bed. I feel better today though.

That whole incident reminded me of some of the stuff that has happened on jobs over the years. I'm always kinda amused when some women I meet say. "oh, I wish I could do the work you do" and I think, weeeelll, maybe you don't. Not that I wouldn't encourage women to give any of the crafts a go, but there is a lot of stuff that happens that I don't think many people would want to go through. Like setting yourself on fire. And it seems that food distribution centers are good for that sort of thing as there is a lot of miscellaneous welding for us in those places. I remember one I was working on several years ago; it was in the summer thankfully. I had to climb up the steel structure about 30 feet and cut some braces out with a torch. I was standing on a 8" beam, 30 feet in the air while cutting steel overhead. Now, I was tied off. We have to wear these elaborate safety harnesses. They strap on sorta like a parachute with one strap across your chest, a padded belt around your waist and a strap around both legs at the crotch. A lanyard attaches to the straps across your back and then to the safety lines or steel. Sometimes when steel is very dirty or rusted it will pop when it is being cut and splatter molten slag all over you and everything and this is what happened. It seemed everything happened in slow motion. I saw the flame pop and the slag spray and then I saw this one very large blob of steel fly up into the air and arch over towards me. It was like a little meteor of glowing, yellow metal plummeting right towards me. Now, when you are tied off like that, at that height, you really can't go anywhere. That lanyard is only 6 feet long and my hands are full. So, I stood frozen as this molten blob descended on me and fell perfectly straight down my shirt. As you can imagine, slag at that temperature is not slowed much by a cotton shirt. It did hang up for just a second when it rung my, um, cleavage but it burnt through my bra and continued down to my waist where it got caught by the tight belt of my harness. Now, when something like this happens you have an automatic response to grab at what is causing you pain, to try to remove it from your body. But I still had that lit torch in one hand, nowhere to put it and was just trying to get the slag away from my skin. With all that twisting though, the slag did move and dropped down into my pants. There it was caught by one of the straps around my legs. Mercifully, it had cooled enough at this point it was no longer burning through my clothing and going further down. However, the strap managed to hold it tightly against my leg as the belt had done. Somehow I did not sling the torch to the ground or step off the beam during the whole thing. After I felt the pain subside (it had burnt the nerves I guess) I turned the torch off, got everything secured and slowly climbed down. The pain came back as I walked to the office trailer though and the guys noticed that I was walking kinda funny. Now, the boss is supposed to look at any semi-serious injury to determine if you need further medial attention but nobody was looking at anything. I just got some antibiotic ointment and sterilizing swabs from the first aid and went to the bathroom. I had to use my pocket knife to dig the last bit of steel out of my thigh where it had settled. It didn't seem something that size could cause that much pain. But, that is just part of the job and after I bandaged up I went back to work. The scars are not very noticeable nowadays although I have had an occasional question from, um, a friend or two about how I got them. They make for an interesting story at least.

I hope no one out there sets themselves on fire and has a great new year celebration if you are planning anything. I have the day off so will try to post again! Happy New Year everybody!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Carved In Stone Part 2

OK, here is the countertop after the form was dropped out and the styrofoam block out for the sink pulled out. I let the concrete cure for 4 days before removing anything and it's not a bad idea to wait 7 days. I also kept a wet towel over the slab for mot of that time to help the concrete cure. As you can guess, I made the blockout from rigid styrofoam just so it is easy to get out once it is encased in the concrete. You can cut it up if you have to but being rigid it does not give against the weight of the concrete. I traced the outermost diameter of the sink shape and then came in about 3/4" all the way around to get the size for the blockout. That leaves the sink edge resting on about 3/4" of concrete all around. The sink sits off to one side of the countertop but is centered over the plumbing stub outs. Now, I made another mistake doing this. I did not notice until later that this makes the sink slightly off-center the two light fixtures, thus any mirror hung between the fixtures will not center up over the sink. This is what happens when you let it take so long to complete a project: you forget what your original thoughts and plans were on the project and you get in such a hurry to finish eventually that you don't think about stuff like that. So, I'm going to have to move one light fixture out slightly to correct this. No big deal but still aggravating.
I also poured a two-part backsplash for this countertop but did not get photos of that process.

This sink, along with 2 more, were salvaged from one of the hospital remodels we did a couple of years ago. They are practically brand new Kohler sinks and came with the fixtures and all. Now, I hate those fixtures and will replace this one shortly but for now, this is what I got. Now, when I wrecked the form off it left a sharp edge on the top of the slab but there is an easy way to remedy that. The bottom edge was very slick and rounded due to the silicone caulk I ran in that crack.

A 4" side grinder is one of the best tool investments you can make. They make an endless variety of discs for these things for use on everything from wood to concrete. They are not just for metal anymore! I simply used an 80 grit sanding disc but, if you want to spend the money, they make a bunch of diamond-coated discs and blades sized for these tools.

So, WETTING the edge of the concrete, I simply rounded that top edge off until I had the contour I wanted. Now, even these sanding discs will take off quite a bit if you are not careful so you have to pay attention to what you are doing. You don't have to wet the concrete but if you are working inside it's a good idea. So is wearing a dust mask. I just kept the faucet running slightly and would periodically scoop a little water over on the edge as I passed by. Now, this does make a mess in your floor and on the walls so cover stuff that you can't just mop clean.

I then used a hair dryer and heater to dry the concrete thoroughly before applying the sealer. There are many types of sealer for concrete but I simply used a 50/50 mixture of beeswax and naturally derived linseed oil because ya'll know I try to only use natural products. For kitchen countertops, you can get a food-grade beeswax to seal those with. We have used that to seal limestone countertops and it works fine on concrete. The mixture I used darkened the slab considerably but it will lighten up some as the product cures. Either way it is fine with me. I then used silicone caulk to glue the two pieces of backsplash into place. In a couple of days I will caulk the cracks between the countertop and backsplash and against the wall. The beeswax/linseed oil is very sticky and thick at first, so you have to heat it to apply it smoothly, but it soaks in quickly and after about 30-60 minutes I wipe off the excess and buff the surface. It will not make it shiny but has a nice satin finish. If you want to use concrete for a finished product you need to be able to accept a certain amount of surface variation. It will not look like Corian or limestone. It has veins and mottling and even some tiny surface cracks so you have to accept that. Now, I don't say that to make excuses for poor workmanship; it is just the material that you are working with.
I was kinda surprised at how many of you are wanting to do concrete countertops so I will do another post on tools and more specifics on how to finish the concrete. I will tell you this, concrete is a wonderful material but it is very unforgiving. You need to practice on some things before you start your real project if you don't have much experience. It takes a real touch and lots of experience to be able to get that hard, slick finish and once the concrete starts 'going' there is not much you can do to stop it. There are some tricks and such and I will try to give ya'll some more info on that. If you have any specific questions or something I didn't even show, please ask.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Carved In Stone Part 1

I'm so happy that I finally just bit the bullet and poured my concrete countertop in the bathroom. It was no big deal but I just kept putting it off. Well, I did (and still do) have more pressing exterior issues to deal with but it is nice to have this done. I was actually able to beg a day off from work last week and knock it out. Sunday, Allen set the sink and hooked everything up for me so it was functional for Christmas, which was nice.
Excuse the poor quality of the photos. I almost forgot to even take any and then I was in a hurry so they didn't come out too well.
First, I determined that I wanted the top of countertop to be at 32". Standard height is 30" but that seems low to me. The countertop itself is 2" thick and I used 3/4" material to form the bottom, so I dropped down 2 3/4" to the top of the 2x4's that I attached to the walls to support the "floor" of the form. I ran 3 1/2" screws through the 2x4's into the studs so that makes for strong support and can be easily wrecked. Well, should be. As I mentioned before though, I was in a hurry and not paying attention so I ran a few screws in that could not be gotten to after the concrete was poured and so some of the form just had to be busted to be removed. Even us "pros" make mistakes if we are not thinking.

I found some kind of plastic trim (I think it was for screen doors or something) that made a perfect flexible edge. It bent lengthwise but not widthwise. After I had my 2x4's attached to the wall I scabbed two 1x12's together to make the floor and temporarily attached it in the corner so I could draw out the shape I wanted. I made this base a little oversize and square so I would have plenty of room to draw. I also made a template for my sink shape and placed that on there to help determine the shape of the countertop. I just free handed the shape I wanted for the outer edge with a pencil and then took the base down and cut it with a jigsaw. I glued together 4 small sheets of Dowboard and cut the sink template out of that. the red line you see on the back wall is my grade line. I doweled four #4 bars into the studs in the wall which protrude about 12 " into the slab. I tied a grid within the form out of #3 bars. I had to use slightly thin rebar to get it all within the 2" of mud and the #3 bars are easily bent too. I used lots of construction adhesive on the dowels where they went into the studs. I put 2 dowels in each wall and so that makes a nice perpendicular grid to support the slab once the forms are dropped out.

Here you can see the shoring underneath: the 2x4's on the wall and I cut three 2x's to shore up the outer edge of the form. Even this tiny bit of concrete will be heavy. The countertop has a slight drop to the outer edge. I think about an 1/8" from back to front. I just didn't want any water to run towards the wall and you will never see that slight of a fall. I used 100% silicone to caulk all the cracks where any concrete would be. This prevents a mess from running down the walls when the mud begins to weep and gives you a nice slick finish on the front, bottom edge. The top, front edge I'll have to grind smooth.

Now, I used a mix of one bag of Sackrete to a 1/2 bag of non-shrink grout. Non-shrink grout is mostly portland cement and will help strengthen the mix and I think it helped give it a nicer finish. This is what mud looks like right after it is floated off. I tapped the underside of the form with a hammer to "vibrate" the mud and remove as many air bubbles as possible. You always need to vibrate your concrete in some way. This helps in surround the rebar fully and become as dense as possible. Vibrating also helped the concrete flow down to grade pretty much on its own. Of course, this is such a small amount of concrete it's almost on grade as soon as you get it in the form!

When it is vibrated correctly, this is what it looks like. It gets really wet looking on top and you start seeing these little volcano-looking air pockets pop up. Now, you can vibrate too much but unless you are using the big, mechanical vibrators like we use at work, that is not going to be a problem. I then floated it off one more time to make sure it was on grade and get a little smoother finish. You then just have to let the mud sit and start curing. The more you mess with it, the longer it will take to start setting up because you need to let that water rise up to the surface and start evaporating. And remember, concrete cures, it does not dry. I will show the rest of the process in the next post and the finished product. I think it came out well. If anybody has any questions so far please ask. I know I don't always explain things well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Baby

I truly want to wish everyone of you that read my goofy, little blog a very happy and peaceful holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or it just being the end of the year. I hope all of you are able to be with your friends and loved ones and see your heart's desires made real.

Grendal says don't forget your furry friends either! I was shocked to see that she actually posed for a number of photos, even wearing that bow. She was feeling quite festive I guess! Trying to get Lika to sit still for any kind of photo was more than my patience could endure right now; maybe later.

The weather here has turned very unChristmas-like; it's very warm and they say it will stay warm for the next few days. Monday it was very cold though. I think when we were getting tools out that morning it was like 19 or 20 degrees. I got to work in a warm building though so I was really gloating to myself over that. I should have known better. You remember I'm working in a food distribution center over on the section that is nearing completion. One of the last things we (I) have to do is weld up heavy duty guard rails around the doorways etc. I noticed after lunch the building seemed much colder than that morning but thought it was just my imagination, but I put my jacket on anyway. A little while later I was even colder and then I realized what was happening. They had turned on the chillers to ready that section of building for use. See, we are adding on to their freezer and dry storage so by the end of the day, it was colder inside the building than outside! I have had to work inside the sections that are kept at about -30 degrees but, fortunately, this section will only be around 35 degrees. LOL!
So, we had to work today but got to go home at 11:00 a.m. instead of 12 noon, I think in part to an ammonia leak. They use that stuff to get it so cold in those buildings and when they energize a new system there is usually a few bugs in it. It was so bad you couldn't even go in the door (the odor can be deadly) so I couldn't do my welding. I think this aggravated our superintendent and he decided we would just call it a little early. Nobody was complaining! So, I got home in time to clean up and had some nice food fixed for my brother and sister and their families and my Mom. My neice and nephew decorated my tree for me; I hadn't even had time to do that. Maybe tomorrow I can make some of those cookies or something. I'm off until Monday so I am really going to enjoy the next few days and get a few things done around here. I have a couple of projects completed that I want to show you people. I'll try to make up for not posting much lately.

*many versions by various artists but I like Elvis' the best.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This Old Heart Of Mine

Hey Karen, look at this! I think it's kinda the same shape and everything. Well, not the same size but you know what I mean.
I'm astounded that I keep finding these heart-shaped rocks because I've told ya'll about my complete inability to normally pick out anything like 4-leafed clovers and such. I found this one several weeks ago when we were grading little piles of gravel in some forms we had built in order to pour door stoops at the warehouse I am on now. Some gravel had fallen outside the form and I looked down and there it was.

I have been using work as an excuse not to post much lately, and that is true, but I have also just not felt a lot like writing lately. I have a terrible confession. Christmas is just not a lot of fun for me most of the time. I try very hard every year to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and just enjoy the season. I don't put a lot of pressure on myself to buy much. Most of my family and friends prefer stuff I make anyway and I do really enjoy making things for people. I love to give gifts. But it is often a sad season to me and seems like for the past 6 or 7 years something has always happened to make it even worse. Last year a cousin that we had all grown up with passed away very sudden and unexpectedly. She was only 46 and my mother's twin sister's only child. She died on Dec.23 so it was very sad. The previous 3 years I was very sick every year on Christmas, even spending part of one Christmas in the emergency room. I think one of those years was also when Allen got me a toilet flange for Christmas. Anything having to do with a toilet is never a good Christmas gift. Ever. Even if it is stainless steel and made in the USA. And especially if you are trying to decide if you will continue to live together.
So, this year I decided I was going to pick up an old family tradition that my wonderful aunt Corinne used to do. She had no family of her own, like me, but would fix breakfast for all the rest of us on Christmas Eve. I was going to have some friends over who I know don't have family that they get together with and all that. Now, we have to work overtime up to Christmas Eve and then until noon on that day, so that puts the kibosh on that.
I don't think I ask for a lot. I don't want diamonds and pearls (although I wouldn't throw them out in the yard in I got them!) lol! I would just like one Christmas that I wasn't sick, nobody dies and I don't have to work like hell right up until that night. You know, just to relax and do some baking, make some nice gifts, that sort of thing. Even I don't have the nerve to go up to one of these superintendents I work for, with their big, gruff selves, and say, "hey, I want 2 days off so I can stay home and make cookies!" That doesn't go over well. Especially when they have 200 feet of footings they need poured and it's been raining for the last week.
But, I got to move into my house last Christmas so you never know, maybe next Christmas I'll be able to take the whole week off and maybe even wake up on Christmas Day next to some handsome man that has bought me some nice, shiny thing that does not have anything to do with a toilet. You know, like a new 20 oz., straight claw, leather handle Estwing!

* The Isley Brothers

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Don't Get Around Much Anymore

Hey People! I have not forgotten about ya'll! They are working the crap out of us and I just can't seem to get any free time. What little I had I spent doing this. Anybody need any nice Christmas gifts?

I have several vacation days built up but cannot get even one day off to do a few things around the house. I'm attempting to get the sink etc. installed in the bath before Christmas but it seems everything is working against me. I'm grateful to still be working but it always seems to be feast or famine.

I should have this weekend off but they are talking about us having to work Christmas Eve. And no Christmas gifts this year at work. Our company is having some trouble I think. Work maybe scarce after the first of the year so I guess it's best I save all my vacation days. I'll try to be back soon. Serious about the pottery though. I ship anywhere in the U.S. If you are local just email me and I'll let you know when I'm home. You'll have like a 10 minute window! Ha! Just kidding.

*Recorded by Duke Ellington with lyrics in 1942. Originally written as an instrumental piece in 1940. Recorded by numerous artist but I like Willy Nelson's version.

Friday, December 05, 2008

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Edit: I was informed today that I will report back Monday to the last job (food distribution center) that I was on. The boss there apparently called this one and needs me and one other guy back. Also, the railroad job has not started as fully as we previously had thought.

They are making a huge push this weekend to finish this building and turn it over to the owners on Monday. So, I get to make some overtime. This is the job I've been on for about the last 6 weeks I guess. It's a very nice building. The one in the front is the new offices and the big building in back is the warehouse. That one is a tilt-up. I wanted to show it so that ya'll could see one of those finished after me talking so much about the other one I was on.

This is a closer view of the tilt-up. I thought it came out well too.
Well, things are not looking so good as far as work goes. What few jobs we have are loaded up from what we hear and with this one finishing up, well, finding a new home might be hard. From what I hear, the small railroad job has started and will probably be filled shortly. I might could possibly go back to the job I was on previously or I could be laid off. Since I am single, with no family or children to support, I would be one of the candidates for that. But that is as it should be. The guys with kids need the jobs. I can get by. So, I guess once again, I'm just waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear.

*The Animals

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

There's Gold In Them Hills

One last picture of fall foliage. Not sure what type of tree these are but they were the last to drop their leaves. It was actually snowing lightly here early Monday morning as I left for work but it didn't last long.
Not much going on around here lately. Probably just show a photo or two here and there for a while.