Monday, July 18, 2011

the park bench refinishing adventure

On Wednesday or Thursday of last week, Taylor asked if I wanted a park bench. They had a couple sitting out front of the hotel that were old and ragged, so they decided to ditch them. Rather than throwing them away, I provided a home for them.

Coincidentally enough, I snagged myself an achievement award at work on Friday, which earned me a $25 Home Depot gift card. Perfect!

On Saturday, I went to Home Depot and got myself the following supplies:
  • A can of weatherproof (we'll see) cedar-colored wood stain
  • A can of rustproof primer (for the metal legs)
  • A can of rustproof black spray paint
  • A jug of wood-cleaning acid for mildew/mold/etc
  • A sandpaper variety pack
  • Sanding block
  • A couple paint brushes
  • Replacement wood screws
  • Plastic tarp-style stuff to lay on the ground
I started off my trying to sand some of the wood while the bench was still together. I immediately knew that the sanding part was going to suck. Before I went any further, I tried the acid wash to see how much that does to prep the wood.

After the wash, it was clear that it did clean off a lot of the mildewy mess on the top layer of the wood, but it didn't do as much restoring as I was hoping. I also tested the wood stain to see what it would look like if I didn't do any sanding. It didn't turn out too bad.

Despite the fact that the stain worked well without any prep sanding, I had to do it anyways. As you can tell from the picture, there was still chunks of finish that hadn't completely worn off along the edges. Also, not pictured is the backside where most of the finish is still intact. So I had to sand it all anyways, to get the old finish off both sides and even out everything. I took the bench apart at this point.

Sanding was pretty much the worst part. It took me a long time to sand everything. I started with a 60 grit to really work off the old finish. After that, I sanded again more quickly with 150 grit to smooth it all out a bit more.

Once done, I applied the stain with Taylor's help. We had the wood panels laying on a plastic tarp and applied the stain on the top side. What we didn't account for (lesson learned!) was that the stain was dripping down the sides and onto the bottom of the panels. By the time the top layer dried, we had some clumps on the bottom side that were also dried and stained. When we flipped the panels, we had discovered them too late. That caused our panels to be stained unevenly on the backs and sides. Oh well, it didn't look all that bad.

That was all on Saturday. On Sunday, I started with the legs. I did a preliminary sanding to get some of the crap off the legs like pieces of stuck bird crap and other various things. This also evened out the layer a bit, but not that much because I didn't try hard enough. After sanding, I soaped and washed the legs to make sure they were as clean as possible for the primer coat. Lesson learned #2: don't get rust colored primer. I don't know why they thought this was a good idea, but the only primer spray paint that was available at Home Depot was rust-colored (well, it's close but not exactly). That means that when the top coat chips off, it looks like it's just rusting but that's the primer undercoat. Oh well. So I applied some of the primer coat on the legs and let it dry. That process took about an hour.

Once done, I began the black spray paint topcoat. I wanted two coats here, and it took much longer to dry than the primer. This process took about 3 hours. I also took this opportunity to spray paint the old wood panel screws (so they would be black instead of goldeny-metal) and the new wood screws for the support beam that runs across the middle. It's the little things, right?

Once everything was dry, the hard part came: putting it all back together. It was more difficult than it should have been because the wood panels fit "inside" the legs, not on top. You have to attach all the panels onto one leg first, then prop them into position somehow and slide the other leg into place. I had Taylor to help me with this step, which was good because I would have had no chance otherwise. Once together, I tightened all the nuts, then drilled the support beam into place (goes down the back/middle to help distribute the weight in the middle).

All done, and it only took me the better part of an entire weekend!

And the obligatory comparison shot:

Did I mention that there are two park benches, and this was only the first? I can't imagine doing this all over again anytime soon. Maybe Justin or Andy will feel like a project...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

busy this week

There probably won't be much happening on the blog this week. I'm working overtime this week in order to take care of some extra stuff at work.

Not much happened for me last weekend, though. Taylor was busy Saturday and Sunday because of a bachelorette party. Travis flew in Thursday, but almost immediately left for a wedding. He came back Sunday and hung out for a couple hours before I had to take him to the airport.

The rest of my weekend was filled with wasting time around the house (piano, games, dog-washing) and tasting the failure of my second batch of pickles. WAY too much cayenne. Next batch will be simple:

-Half/half vinegar/water mixture
-2 tbsp dill

Let's start basic, shall we?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

july 4th weekend, 2011

This weekend has been pretty tumultuous, but mostly due to recent events. Let's start at the beginning though, and work our way through.

My long weekend started on Saturday, which more or less started out by going to our local municipal pool. Taylor has been swimming laps on a daily basis, so I joined her to hang out and cool off in the pool. By the way, leaving your iPhone out in the sun for 40 mins will apparently cause it to go into emergency temperature control mode, so don't do that.

After swimming, we went to Amber's birthday BBQ at her place. Amber is one of my used-to-be coworkers (sadly, laid off), and she was having a weekend-long "Amberganza". They did a whole bunch of stuff, but we opted only for the BBQ portion. Later that night, I have no idea what we did. My memory is awesome. I think we jammed (we alternated between drummer/singer) for a good portion of the night.

The following day was the third weekly "Sunday Fun-day" that Justin and Ellen co-founded. It involves relaxing, drinking beverages, and watching movies. I joined them for part of it, where we attempted to watch Haggards, one of the worst movies I've been told to watch in recent memories. We watched about 15 minutes of it before we switched to Hackers, a classic. While watching, I attempted round two of my pickling adventure.

My first pickling experiment used the following recipe:
-1 tbsp fresh dill
-1 tbsp peppercorns
-1 tbsp sugar
-2 jalapeno peppers
-Half water, half vinegar brine
-Stuff the jar with cucumbers and okra

The pickling process itself went off without much of a hitch, but the pickles ended up a bit too sweet and not really spicy at all. I changed things around a bit for round two:
-3 tbsp fresh dill
-2 tbsp peppercorns
-1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
-Half/half vinegar/water

I think I may have put way too much cayenne pepper. It didn't look like a lot in the scoop, but once I added it to the brine the whole thing turned red. Uh oh. It's all settled down at the bottom of the jar now. I'll let you know how those taste next weekend.

That night, Taylor and I went to HEB and got some supplies to grill. We grilled up two half pound burgers and topped them off with cheddar cheese, sauteed onions, mushrooms, and BBQ sauce. The burgers were pretty good. Since the patties themselves were fairly thick and I'm not an experienced burger-griller (I do chicken tenders and steaks mostly on the grill), I decided to play it safe with the meat thermometer. Well, I don't think that thermometer was working well enough. It was registering between 120 and 180 throughout the burger, even after I took it off. I was worried that portions would be undercooked (since a burger isn't "brown" unless it's 160ish), but it was brown all-throughout. I wanted to get a nice pink in the middle, but maybe next time. We used an 80/20 ground chuck, and it was still juicy despite being well done. That night, we watched a couple episodes of Game of Thrones, a new show on HBO. It's pretty good.

July 4th was relatively mild for us. We hung out for most of the day, and then went to Erin's (our kickball friend) party that evening, where we had even more grilled food (hotdogs). We did some chatting, but only ended up staying a couple hours.

However, we found out about an unfortunate event that happened Sunday night. Kelcey's brother, Kevin, was seriously hurt at their lake house. He was swinging on some trapeze thing at the top part of their dock when the cable snapped and sent him flying back into the dock, hitting his head hard on the concrete (knocking him unconscious) and sliding into the water where he sank immediately. The lake water is only about 10-15' at their dock, but it is very murky and the visibility is terrible. His friends found him after about 4 minutes and luckily one of the friends knew CPR and administered it. A helicopter aired him to the hospital where they induced hypothermia and a medical coma to force his body to pump most of the oxygen to his brain. They started bringing his temperature back up slowly a couple nights ago, and last night they took him off the paralytic (to induce a coma). Happily, he awoke an hour later, was responsive, and recognized himself and his family. That's the latest word I've heard, and I hope to hear more good news in the future.

Keep Kevin and the Fraser family in your thoughts and prayers. You can find more information at the medical journal his family is keeping at

Monday, July 4, 2011

the double-weekend update

For some reason I posted this last week and it went back into draft status. So this is from last week.

I wouldn't say much happened during the last business week. However, I have had some notable events this past weekend and the weekend before that.

Sir Mix-a-lot
Justin had a show the weekend before last, and he asked Andy if he would help with the sound. I arrived a little later, and ended up helping out Andy with the house PA levels while Andy worked the recording output levels. It was cool to be involved with the show and have an impact on how it sounded. Most of the night was fine-tuning, but there were some instances when the sound was just too loud or soft and the adjustments definitely helped.

Kickball Canceled
We had a nice downpour on Tuesday night, but by Wednesday morning most of it was dried up. Strangely, our kickball game that night was postponed anyways. I doubt there was any moisture on the fields, but whatever. Molly scheduled a game night and a few kickballers met up at Molly's. We played Scattergories and Outburst.

wtf iPad?
At work, they are piloting a new program to determine the impact on an engineer's productivity if given an iPad. I was one of the lucky few engineers chosen, and so now I have a brand new iPad 2. I don't think my work fully thought through some of the implications of the device, but we'll see how it goes. For now, I won't be complaining about a free new tech toy.

Last Saturday, we had a company picnic hosted at Seaworld. A $10 ticket included parking, park admission, and a lunch. Overall, a pretty good deal since admission alone is at least $40 or so. It was terribly hot, but we managed to last a few hours out there. We saw a handful of shows, enjoyed mediocre lunch, and saw some penguins. Too bad the drive was nearly 2 hours each way.

It's like I'm a real engineer
At some point last weekend, I decided to tackle this broken monitor Taylor brought me several months back. Some Dell 17" monitor at her work stopped turning on, so she brought it over to see if I could figure out what was wrong. I ended up taking it apart and examining the board. With Andy's help, I was able to spot some faulty capacitors. We went to Fry's and Radioshack, neither of which had the exact replacement parts. I instead went with a higher capacitor value since I didn't have too much vested in this monitor and didn't care if it didn't work. I took out the old capacitors, soldered the new ones in, put it all back together, and voilà — it worked! I felt pretty proud. For $3 I fixed a monitor that probably would have cost $100 in shipping and labor to get fixed by Dell.

I decided to try pickling, for no real reason. Andy has an okra plant, so I bought some cucumbers and pickling supplies (cans, dill, peppercorn, etc). Pickling wasn't as straight-forward as I was hoping, but it didn't prove to be terribly challenging. The hard part is boiling the jars and getting them in and out of the boiling water without a jar grabber. First, you have to boil the jars in the water to sterilize them. Next, you make your brine with water, vinegar, dill, and whatever other ingredients you want (I chose to add a couple jalapeño peppers and peppercorns). You bring the brine to a boil, stuff the jar with your items, and pour the brine in. Next, you place the mason jar lid on and finger-tighten the ring around the lid (not too tight, because you need the air to be able to escape). The pot I had was not tall enough to place the jars upright in the boiling water, so I had to carefully place the jar upright, then tip it over so it was sideways in the pot. After boiling for 5 mins, we grabbed it out of the water and set it aside to cool. Within an hour, it was vacuum-sealed because of the escaping air. Now I'm going to wait about a week and see what kind of crazy concoction I made.