How Jarek Got His Groove Back

After last week’s severance of my confidence from my person by my plumbing,  I couldn’t bring myself to look at another kitchen related project.  Instead I cleansed my palate of Hell Corner and did this instead:

Bench Before

Before taking out my aggression via sandpaper.

Bench After

After reattaching some boards, painting, and stenciling.

I feel much better now.  So much better, in fact, that I decided to dip my toes back into The Project.

I’ve been sneaking out to the garage to play with my tools all week.  I do love them all, but I reserve a special place in my geeky, diy heart for my table saw.  She is strong.  She is capable.  She can do anything.  I’m sure of it.

This unfettered admiration is almost matched by my infatuation with the band saw that was one of the tools that Terrie the other Tool Fairy provided the other week for the promise of a couple hundred dollars and my lawn mower.

What?  Have you seen my yard?  It measures approximately 6 1/2 x 4 inches.  I have been mowing it with a weed whacker for a year and a half.

Anyway, I’ve been bonding with my first love (the table saw) by figuring out how to build out our pantry.  And who figured out how to make cabinet joinery for the slide-out drawer cabinet thing without so much as ONE shop class in high-school?

That’s right -ME.  But before I get too self congratulatory, let’s just review the training I’ve had in all things home improvement.



Exactly.  While other boys (who, incidentally, were born into actual [ahem] boy bodies) were busy building soap box derby cars and plaques in shop class I was planning my wedding in a high school class called “Marriage and Family” [a mandatory class exercise I managed to squeak a C out of after planning a K-Mart Wedding with Kentucky Fried Chicken catering – which, incidentally, isn’t too different from what my actual wedding was like later on, except we went to McDonald’s after hitting the Justice of the Peace].  Also on my class schedule was Home Economics, and Foods.

I’m convinced that the Unit 40 school district contributed to the melt down I had years later while shopping at the Boy Scout store for my step-son, Ben.

I would have been a kick-ass boy scout.  Instead, I was in the friggin’ Brownies making up cheers and dances in South Side Elementary School’s lunch room.

Anyway, imagine my GLEE when I actually succeeded in putting up a level built-in cabinet wall, complete with hidden screws I drilled with my pocket hole jig, then actually installed drawer slides for the slide out drawer cabinet thing (at midnight last night)!

Behold the Beauty!

Ok, so it’s not beautiful YET, but once I patch and paint the walls and install the drawers it’s going to be great.

But THIS –  this is the thing that swept away the anxiety of Hell Corner in a thunderstorm of AWESOME.

With my trusty table saw, I mastered (sort of) the technique of building the drawers this morning before realizing that Bruno ate a light bulb.  That put an end to my fun.  That and the fact that I have to actually work today.

See the perfect grooves?  The beautiful cuts?!  The straight lines?!!!

Recognize that wood, Terrie? That’s the stuff you were going to BURN! Blasphemy!

Anyway, I think we can all agree that I.  AM. AWESOME.

Today anyway.  There is that phone call I have to return to my therapist, but that can wait until tomorrow.

Today I rock.


Oh, Ok Fine.

Hear that giant sucking sound?  Listen harder.  There it is.  The sound of my bank account being sucked dry.  “Oh, Jay,” you’ll say  “You should have known better than to start such a giant, impossible task in the middle of a recession.  I mean, come on, you are an independent bookseller. How much money did you think you’d have?!  Well??  Answer me!” [Side note: I always imagine my friends and family are judging me more harshly than they probably are.]

“Hey, wait!” I’ll say.  “Don’t be such a jerk.  I’m handy.  I can do most of it.  Plus, how was I supposed to know that our trees would have to be trimmed RIGHT NOW to appease our neighbors? (Not Lori, the most Awesome Neighbor Ever.  The other ones.  With the dog.  And the roaches.  And mice.)  And, ok fine, yes.  I did know that expense was coming.  But what about this?!:

Ok, fine.  Yes.  I realized gas was creeping up to $4 per gallon, but that’s not supposed to apply to me.


Anyway, since my last dispatch, we got a second (more expensive) opinion on the electricity, and conflicting advice about the plumbing.  One plumber said we’d have to build a new wall and drill through my closet floor and through our roof to vent the sink.

Hear the crickets chirping?

The other plumber was more reasonable, but it was still going to cost more than our budget, which is zero.   SO, Lori’s awesome idea to move the sink is on the chopping block.  Instead we’ll focus on not burning the house down and installing cabinets.

And it is sooo time to work on cabinets.

The good news is that I got to spend part of the weekend with my family in Effingham, and pick up a band saw, a floor sander, a bunch of wood she was going to BURN (!) and other miscellaneous items of great use from my sister Terrie (the other tool fairy), so the tank of gas was worth it.

For now, though.  We’ll be waiting for the mighty bookstore to give us our monthly bread.

More later.

Ladieees aannnd gentlemen…

For our next trick (our first being last year’s painting of our entire house), Kris and I will attempt a gut rehab of our kitchen.

The goal?  To transform our kitchen into a workable area that doubles as Kris’ happy place.

The Plan: We figure we’ll do most of the work ourselves (until we flood or burn down the house), reuse many of our old cabinets, buy a few more and build some other stuff.

The Timeline: Finish before Thanksgiving

Those of you not familiar with our beloved kitchen, we sent in a video begging HGTV to help us.   Unfortunately for us (perhaps fortunately for HGTV viewers) they did not deem us worthy, so I will now subject you to our attempts at finishing the job.

First The Pictures:

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Day 1 (3/25/2012 – Kris’ Birthday)

Kris thinks we’re going to do this gradually.  Obviously she has underestimated my obsessive compulsive streak.

On our first weekend, we cleaned out the garage and arranged my fancy schmancy new workshop with tools I borrowed from Kim The Tool Fairy.   I took out all of our floor cabinets, tore down the painted aluminum tile on the walls and ripped up the butt ugly, dog stained and scratched linoleum.  Kris cleaned, organized and cursed the basement, then cleaned, cursed and organized our dining room, which is now our kitchen/dining room.

I tried to take the mountain of adhesive off the plaster walls with a chisel attachment to the reciprocating saw like the guy at the True Value on Hampton said to do.  He showed me both a manual chisel and asked me if I had a “Saws All.”  I refused to admit I didn’t know what the hell that was, and when I saw a picture, I realized I had already borrowed one from Kim the Tool Fairy.  I know it as a reciprocating saw.  Silly me.

[Side Note: I have learned over the past nine years as a dude that guys don’t admit when they don’t know something.  Therefore, I told a white lie – sorry mom – and said I had a friend who had one even though I had already borrowed it and had it sitting in my fancy dancy workshop.  Ten years ago, I would have just said, “Oohhh that thing, yeah I have one of those.”]

The wall would have none of that nonsense, though, and even though I assured Kris I could knock down the plaster and drywall over it, she assured me that we would be covering it up with bead board or wainscoting.

Our floor is an odyssey of its own.  Kris wants to take up the floor and refinish the hard wood floor that is hopefully underneath.  Under the linoleum, we found more linoleum.  This layer was glued to the sub floor with zeal, so I tore up part of the sub floor to find – you guessed it, another floor.  This layer was asbestos tile affixed with even more zeal to the floor beneath it with what looks like a tar pit.

Plan B – We’ll leave the sub floor and tile over it.  Sunday I went to one of the inner most circles of hell (gigantic box hardware store) and bought cheap tiles and new sub floor to patch up my hole.

Total cost of the floor: $190.00

Day 3

Kris is still under the impression that we are going to do this gradually.  We went to work as usual and I might have looked at Craig’s list for cabinets while waiting for QuickBooks to load, saw an ad for free cabinets, and rushed out only to find that someone beat me to it.

[Side note: I got to the place and two guys who looked like they worked there and probably knew more about cabinets than me were loitering around the cabinets they had left.  They looked Republican and semi-intimidating, so I didn’t ask if they had anymore.  I just got into my truck (which has National Rifle Association bumper stickers on it for irony) and left.  Another lesson I’ve learned over the past nine years is not to open my mouth around guys like that unless I’m barking something like, “How’s it going?” in my deepest voice while frowning menacingly because otherwise I betray myself as the flaming queer transman I am.]

Day 4

Our events coordinator, Danielle’s, dad sells and installs cabinets for a living.  Bonus!  Kris and I drove to his store and drooled over his selection.  We left with a full pricing list and a catalog that will keep Kris busy into her 70’s.  Then we went home so I could knock down the weeds in our abandoned front yard.

More later as we continue down this uncertain road.