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Tainted Drywall

Posted by Steve on Thu, 05/07/2009 - 12:19am


I ran across a story today about a new health threat from a strange source: drywall.

My first thought was, "you've got to be kidding!" My understanding from watching the How They Make Stuff TV shows was that drywall was about as inert a product as you can find: gypsum slurry, a fiber binder and recycled paper. How can that possibly be a health threat?


The Tormek Blade Sharpening System

Posted by Steve on Sat, 04/11/2009 - 1:12pm
House: 


Shop owners love to brag about the incredible tool buys they've made on eBay, at flea markets and at estate auctions. Like my $50 Hitachi framing nailer and $125 radial arm saw.

But most of us have also made purchases we're less proud of, like the $100 "miracle corner clamping system" I bought at a tool show which turned out to be utterly useless for anything besides building the tiny box the salesman demonstrated at the show. Naturally, we don't talk much about those overpriced white elephants, which is probably why these hucksters are still in business.

Then there are those purchases that fall somewhere in the middle: useful tools with staggering price tags that don't really justify the tool's performance. When I purchased the Tormek T7 wet grinder at the International Woodworking Show in New Jersey, I was afraid I'd made just such a buy. After purchasing the optional jigs and accesories I needed for my planer and jointer blades, knives and scissors I walked out of the convention center almost $700 lighter.

Indeed, there's not much to this tool. It's basically just a slow-turning motor with a couple of wheels, a plastic bath tub and a steel frame. But it does an excellent job. Over the past four years I've taken for granted how much it's meant to always have sharp blades, chisels and knives in the shop.

Sure, experienced old timers can accomplish this manually with a sharening stone but it's a skill I don't have nor am I particularly eager to learn it with my expensive blades. There's more to it than just rubbing a blade against a block, like maintaining the precise bevel. Get this wrong on a 12" planer blade and you might as well toss the set and buy new ones.

That's how I balance -- or possibly rationalize -- the cost of the Tormek. I was spending a hundred bucks a year on new planer and jointer blades before the Tormek but I haven't bought a single set since. As an added bonus, I have scary sharp chisels, scissors and kitchen knives too.

In fact, if you've never had a knife professionally sharpened before you don't know how sharp they can be. Perhaps for liability reasons, brand new, store bought knives are usually pretty dull by comparison.

Building stairs the EZ way

Posted by Steve on Sun, 03/15/2009 - 6:36pm


Shortly after I took possession of my house, I was cleaning up the cellar one afternoon when I noticed my cat, Chopper, engrossed with something halfway up the old cellar stairs. I checked to see if he might have a moth and instead saw a pile of paint chips and wood fibers below the stringer he was pawing at. With the paint removed, I saw hundreds of white wormy looking things. Termites!

How did this happen? I'd closed on the house nine months earlier. My inspector found some evidence of an old termite infestation and, to be safe, my lawyer made the closing contingent upon an exterminator's report. The report was so terse that the inspector could have Twittered it: "Found/killed two termite colonies. No evidence of internal infestation."

Evidently this bonehead's inspection was as thorough as his report because the termites had dug a tunnel from the far foundation wall, across the ceiling through a 3" floor joist, and down the stairs. It cost me $1500 to have a licensed, BBB-certified exterminator exterminate the house. There's more to that story, but I'll digress on that some other time. What matters is that I had to replace that staircase. I was very lucky it didn't collapse on me.


The Key Food Disconnect

Posted by Steve on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:26pm


In December, your wannabe Norm Abrams (me) tried a taste of old school investigative bloggerism and reported on the troubles with the construction of the new 69th Street Key Food supermarket. The local pols and press had been reporting that Key Food was on schedule for January opening. Problem is, I wasn't seeing any work being done on the place. Then the day after Christmas while walking the dogs by 244 Bay Ridge Avenue, I saw a stop work order from the Dept of Buildings plastered on the side of the building.

Everything must have worked itself out, or one would presume so, because on Feb 10, 2009, there was a post on City Councilman, Vincent Gentile's, blog announcing the long awaited completion date for the 69th Street Key Food Supermarket.
 

I want to update everyone with some good news: work on the site recently resumed, and the store is expected to open in the end of March. So in just a little over a month, Bay Ridge will have a new supermarket!

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