Tuesday 22 November 2016

Skirting the issue

CONFESSION: I wrote this post bloody months ago but hadn't sorted out the photos... then my phone (on which reside said images) wouldn't connect to my laptop... then I forgot... then I had stuff to do... then my parents started badgering me about blogging more... then I got a new phone... then I had more stuff to do... etc.

< sad face >

As pretentious as it might sound, my mini-mantra when making decisions which affect the finish or overall result of a job is always "if we do ordinary stuff we'll get an ordinary house".
This is true, too. I actually use those words out loud in the direction of Dawn's rolling eyes sometimes.

Luckily she also (usually) agrees with my great wisdom, which is why rather than slapping a load of pine around the bottom of the Living Room walls, we decided to pay a little bit extra for European oak skirting and architrave to compliment the beams and window sills, which were yet to be made.
Other than our Kitchen of the Future the Living Room will be the main place in the house for relaxing or praying for our guests to leave, so we didn't want to cut any corners which would be obvious or make a difference to the end result.

Workshop porn

But because we don't like making things simple for ourselves we also decided to take a round-trip of almost 400 miles to our friend Will's sawmill near the south coast, which isn't a kick in the behind away from France, where he agreed to let us help make the 7-inch straight-edged oak boards and matching chamfered architrave for around the inside of the door frame.

Despite appearances, Will's fingers are
all of the requisite length
Will is a tremendously-talented and knowledgeable (and friendly) chap, by the way, and we're not just saying that because we kind of e-know him (long story - it's a web forum thing stretching back more than a decade) - if he wasn't much cop we wouldn't have bothered asking.

His website is here. You should take a look. And yes, that's a bare-faced plug because I want some wallnut and olive from him soon for my latest endeavour.

So, passports in hand, off we went to Billingshurst in West Sussex which is home to Woodlouse Industries and more wood than you can shake a... lots, anyway.
Will had already cut the rough and filthy boards to size and although we didn't get our hands as dirty as we did making the companion set (there weren't so many steps to follow where we could get stuck in) we helped to run them through the four-sided planer which churned out beautiful, smooth timber at the other end.
As the Clumsiest Woman in the World messed around on the bandsaw with sacrificial offcuts and flailing fingers, Will ran the architrave, which is narrower than the skirting boards, over a router table, trimming off the corner edges at 45-degrees.
He chucked in a little extra oak - just in case, a couple of boards and a sycamore chopping board that he just happened to have lying around and we strapped them carefully to the roof of the ManTruck, had a quick farewell pint, and made the journey home.

Poised and ready to transform in to a
gigantic mathematical headache
A couple of weeks later, after the decorating was done and the floor was given its penultimate finish, it was down to me and the ever-present and helpful Trevor to get them fitted.

It took a couple of days to do - cutting to length and mitering (with a 100-tooth chopsaw blade for a smoother cut) - but before long, yet still after much head-scratching and disagreement, we had glued and screwed everything in place, using a couple of 'plinth blocks' for the transition between the skirting and architrave around the door. These blocks were 2mm thicker than the skirting - and hence the architrave - so they stood a little proud without getting in the way of passing toes, and I cut them 20mm higher than the skirting and 20mm wider than the architrave.

Instant grab adhesive. Not so instant.
While fitting the architrave we had to deal with a couple of issues, both of which had the same solution.
The first was that the plaster on the walls rounds-off before it gets to the door frame, which would have left a gap of up to 12mm between the back of the architrave and the frame. To minimise this we left some of the original pine frame's edge exposed as a kind of feature (it was waxed and buffed as the final job) leaving a gap of around 5mm between the architrave and frame which would need to be filled later on.

The second consideration was that, whereas architrave is generally supposed to hide the frame edge and cover the door hinges, we wanted to keep the hinge screws exposed in case we ever needed to remove the door. This was also solved by keeping around 75% of the frame edge exposed.

It's not easy taking pictures of fitted skirting
so here's one of a radiator valve and
polishing piping
Once everything was in place I mixed some of the fine oak sawdust from the mitre saw's collection bag with a little five-minute epoxy glue to make a paste then filled the countersunk screw holes. I left it all for 24 hours to go off fully, then because epoxy sets harder than stone I ended up foregoing sandpaper and took the grinding wheel of a Dremel to the rough surfaces, finishing off with a once-over with 240-grit sandpaper to make it all flush.
I'm slightly disappointed that the finish is darker than the surrounding wood but it's not terrible so I'm pretty happy with it.

Finally, because a straight, smooth wall in an old house is a thing of myth and legend, I masked off the edges of all the woodwork and ran a bead of decorator's caulk around the tops of the skirting and edges of the architrave, just to join everything up to the plaster.

And that was it.
We're delighted with the final result and although the skirting has a contemporary feel to it with its straight lines and square edges, the 7" height of them still keeps that Victorian thingummyjig going on.

Things of note:

1. Plinth blocks for the skirting/architrave transition
2. Countersunk screw holes filled with epoxy and oak dust paste then sanded flush
3. About 75% of the door frame's edge is exposed to counter the problem wall edges
and leave the hinges exposed. 

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