Friday, 29 July 2016

Bathroom panelling finished!

We moved in just over 17 months ago, and every day, I've looked at the paneling I made in the bathroom, and thought, "I must finish that".

The problem was not the material, as I've had that at least that long, but the fact one board was too short, so I hd to lengthen it. Without a table saw, I could not cut precise enough to butt-join two pieces without a gap showing, so it was only recently that I got help from a friend to get a suitable cut.

Once cut, the two pieces were joined with a biscuit joiner, and a strip was glued underneath, to give the impression of a thicker board, much like I did with the window sills, so long ago.

The front was then planed and sanded, to make that join as seamless as possible.

The wall behind the sink is pretty uneven, so some careful marking, then cutting with a jigsaw got as near a perfect fit as I could manage.

To take the hard edge off it, i used a hand router to put a 3mm radius curve on the top edge, so it matches the window sills, and to take the weighty look off it a bit, I used a more decorative cutter on the bottom edge, which mirrors that of the bottom skirting. Then the whole thing was given 4 coats of varnish and glued in place.

Job done!

Next for the bathroom will be to rig some system to hang a mirror and extra storage from.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Vaulted cellar 2, part 3: plastering done

A quick video-only update this time. After all the fun with the barrels (which are still holding water, you'll be pleased to know), I got back to the cellar and finished the plastering off. Now to sort out the floor.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Barrels stands and first fill.

These barrels have become something of a fixation over the past week, as I wanted to get them into a state fit for long term storage, it several senses of the word. First, I needed to build stands to store them on, and preferably be able to move them around once filled, as I don't have a fixed home for them just yet. Luckily, materials are usually not a problem, as I don't like throwing our old timber, as long as they are not worm-eaten at least.

For the first one, i used some old 10x12cm roof beams to make a very simple construction, but perhaps unnecessarily complicated when it came to carving our the curve of the barrel.

The whole thing waseasily put together with 12 large screws, so it ain't going to fall apart any time soon.

But chopping out the curve across a 10cm wide block was not as precise as I would have liked. It took several rounds of adjustment, and going a bit deeper, till I got a nice, even fit and support all round.

And the barrel fits well. The only possible issue is that as the barrels are oval, the centre of gravity is quite high, so there is a tipping point, if it tilts too far in one direction. I figured then when filled, it will weigh the guts of 180kg, so should be resistant to moving too much, but some day, I'll line the curves with rubber, to give extra resistance.

For the second one, i went with a slightly simpler design in terms of work, at least, though the construction was a little more complicated. In this case, I used 3cm thick oak boards that came from the old cow stalls, and the 10x12 roof beams.

I carefully measured the curve of the barrel, using a spirit level, a try square and a ruler, and marked this on the board. I then set the angle of the barrel base on a jigsaw and simply cut it out. There were some minor adjustments to be made, again with the jigsaw, but this was much quicker than hacking stuff out with a semi-blunt chisel. With a bit of rudimentary joint work, the pieces were ready to assemble, but they just needed a bit of cleaning.

Cue one of my favourite tools, the Makita brush sander, without which, the old beams in the house would not be so pretty. It's a great tool for cleaning wood, without removing too much material, as can be seen in the before and after shots below.

And it was done. A little help with a mallet, and the pieces are tight and stable, and it feels like the deeper curves hold the barrel better.

All that was missing were the wheels, which were duly purchased and fitted the next day. Each can support 60kg, so I thought that should be ok.

The next step, which I couldn't wait for, was to seal the doors and fill the barrels with a solution of Potassium Metabisulphite and Citric Acid. Sounds dangerous...

When I got the barrels, there was a greasy substance all over the doors that I later figured was a paraffin-based sealant called, appropriately enough, Fasstürdichte, or barrel door sealant. I bought a new block of this online, along with the campden and citric acid, which are both used in wine-making, so it was a one-stop shop. The doors themselves were in fairly good condition, with the exception o little cover blocks, that served to act as a lid for the brass T-piece that goes through the door, allowing a nut to pull the door into the hole, thus giving a tight seal. The blocks were a but tired-looking, and the brass pieces dull, with a little green in places, so I gae them all a good going over. Although i was tempted to make new blocks from pieced of oak I have in store, i was unsure if this would be introducing something "foreign" to the barrels, so stayed with what they came with.

First, a light sanding spruced the blocks up.

The insides of the doors also got a light sanding, to remove the old sealant too, and ensure an even surface before screwing the cover blocks on again.

The brass T-pieces also got a bit of a polishing with fine sandpaper, so they looked almost new...


 The next morning, after getting the wheels and attaching them, it was time to close the doors. I hadn't google about how to do this, so based the process completely on what I had seen when taking the things apart.

First, I cheated a little and used a section of silicone hose to  act as a seal between the brass threaded rod and the door itself. One was a little loose in the hole, so this worked well, and I felt it was better than using insulation tape, which was previously wrapped around the rod.

Then is was out with the Fasstürdichte, like a lump of bog butter.

I was pretty generous, using a scraper to fill the recess for the T-piece, then tightening the bolt to pull it tight, so that the sealant was well bedded, and squeezed out around the piece.

And then filled the remaining space. I forgot to take a photo of the stage after, but basically, the wooden caps were screwed over this, to prevent the T-piece being pushed back into the barrel. I used stainless steel screws, which i felt were better than the corroded brass screws previously used.

So far, so good, I felt. The door openings then got a smear of sealant around the inside edge, as I reasoned that as the door pushes into the opening from the inside, it would push the sealant out, and give a good seal.

And then it was time to fill. I hammered home wooden bungs that came with the barrels, using a little sealant as an insurance measure. I then half filled each barrel, then mixed a solution of 2g potassium metabisulpite and 1g citric acid per litre, as per instructions, poured that into each barrel and finally filled the barrels to the brim. The seals held perfectly.

There was only a couple of seepage sites, one at a hairline crack above the door, but 24 hours later, this had closed itself off, as the wood expanded, and I was a very happy bunny. Two water tight, clean barrels, one self-built stands, ready for whatever I want to put in them later this year.

So far, so fantastic, and the rest of the day was spent enjoying the Maibaumaufstellen, right at the end of our street.

But it doesn't end there...

I have zero experience with wooden barrels, and today I learned a small lesson when, at lunchtime, I spotted a puddle outside the barn. The wooden bung on one of the barrels had popped out, probably early in the morning. I think using the sealant on the bungs was a mistake, as it probably acted more like a lubricant when the angle of the bung isn't making it wedge into the hole with pressure from the inside, like the door does. With 135 litres pushing against it, it clearly just slid out. Lesson learned. I've cleaned the hole and bung, and hammered it in tight, but for the longer term, I'm considering fitting a stainless steel tap permanently to the barrel, with a nut on the inside to make sure this won't ever happen when it is filled with booze!

Today, I refilled it, and the bung is quite secure, with no sealant!

It might seem I've put a lot of effort into these two barrels, but I feel that they're worth it. They're probably older than me, and probably in better condition, and I think it'd be a shame to see them turned into some sort of decorative feature, when they can still fulfill the purpose for which they were built. I hope I can do them that honour at least.

But now, they need to wait, and I'll probably return to plastering the second vaulted cellar. Who knows, maybe these two beauties will find a permanent home in there,

Monday, 25 April 2016

Barrels of fun

A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned that his grandmother was getting rid of two old oak barrels previously used for making Most, the local version of apple wine or cider. Rather than seeing them dumped, I made an offer, and finally collected them last Friday evening. They were still filled with Most right up to a few hours before I picked them up, Most that was, I was told, nine years old, and very, very dark.
I'm not sure how old they are, but I was pleasantly surprised at the condition they were in, and they smelled like an old, tannic wine, rather than vinegar, so a great start. My friend Jonas had thoughtfully rinsed them out, but had kept a jar of the yeasty sludge from the bottom, but I'm not sure I'll be using it.

Capacity-wise, one is marked as 150 litres, and the other as 135. The design is interesting, being oval, or rather elliptical, in section, and each has a large opening on the bottom front. The opening is closed by a piece of wood clearly simply cut from the lid, with a camber, such that when it is tightened, using the brass bolt passing through this "lid", is makes a tight seal. But it was also smeared in a waxy-feeling substance, that I first thought was silicone, but turned out to be a paraffin-based sealant, specifically designed for this kind of use. The lid also has a hole for a spigot, but I think I'll be buying new ones.

The next day I got a loan of an industrial-sized steam generator/pressure cleaner. Having the pressure set low, and the temp at 110 degrees, I went over the interior a few times, and am satisfied they are well clean. This also cleared off the waxy layer around the opening, though I had to do a bit of scraping on the lids themselves, to get back down to the wood.

One thing that did give me pause, though, was the speckles of greenish stuff that I first feared was mold on the bottom of both barrels. They didn't come off, and in fact were kind of glassy. I finally realised it was probably residue from burning sulphur strips, of which I inherited a few wrapped in a 1992 newspaper page. They're the same colour as the speckles.

Sulphur residue? Pre-clean.
The big brass bolt that passes though the lid means there is a hole though it, and it seems the way this was closed was to cake the recess for the bolt on the inner side with the sealing wax, and to cap this with a piece of oak. Sadly, whatever was used to secure this piece of wood is gone, so I'll need to sort that out, maybe using stainless steel screws. The pieces of wood are also a little manky, but I'll see how they clean up with a bit of sanding and steaming,

Wax seal over the brass bolt.
Right now, the barrels are sitting in the barn, empty, which I'm sure is not the best for them. I put out a call for advice on Twitter, and got lots of great advice, including from a cooper, who suggested filling with water at more than 80°C and a pint of salt 24 to 48 hours before using again, but given my situation, this is impractical. I would find it very difficult to heat 285 litres of water, and as I won't be using them for some time, I need a way to keep them acetobacter-free and moist for some months. Several people pointed me to articles, and indeed, I also bought Michael Tonsmeire's book on making American Sour Beers, which also advocates using a potassium metabisulphite and Citric Acid solution for long-term storage, which is what I will probably do. I treat my cider with potassium metabisulphite anyway, so I'd be happy with that. The only worry I might have is whether this might leach character from the barrels, so I am open to advice still.

But what will I do with them? I could of course fill them with cider come autumn, or maybe use that as a wash to get distilled for apple brandy, and it might add some character. But as a brewer, the idea of aging beer in them of course appeals. I'd love a whisky cask, but beggars can't be choosers. Some people have said you can never use a cider barrel for anything other than cider, but I guess they haven't tried sour beers or lambics. I can imagine a tartness from cider might match that well, or maybe a Saison. But with my current brew kit, that means seven brews for the bigger barrel! Might be time for an upgrade so!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Vaulted cellar 2, part 2: repointing

A short and sweet post to give a quick progress check. I'm pleased with how the walls are turning out, considering how grimy they really were, and the fact that I've been cleaning them down by hand, compared to using a sandblaster as I did in the other cellars.

When it's done, I'll write a proper retrospective post, with before and after, to highlight the transformation, but here's the current status, with before and after of the walls. Although the wall on the right looked quite ok, in reality, it was covered ina slick of... I dont know what, and the old mortar was quite crumbly. By scrubbing it all down, it feels much cleaner,and there's more definition on the stones, not to mention fresh, breathable mortar to secure everything. On the back wall, the effect is even clearer, in this frequently wet spot.

And just repointing the bottom half of the wall on the left, as the top half will be plastered over, but even that makes a big difference, as can be seen better in the video.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Vaulted cellar 2, part 1: getting started

It was over a month ago that I finally started doing something with our second vaulted cellar, and to be honest, not a whole lot hat has happened since I uploaded the video below. Sure, the orignal floor is now out, and I've started cleaning down the walls, but I'll post about that  in a couple more weeks, when there's more to show. The plan, of course, is to bring it to a similar standard as the Bierkeller.

For now, here's an intro video.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The entry hall, part 2

It's nice when things go smoothly, and the past three weeks have been fairly plain sailing for getting the entry hall as far as possible without having our new front door, despite a week away on business.

I'll keepthis quick, and there'sa short vid at the end in case you don't like reading.

So here's how it was at the last update:

After the walls were patched a bit, I stuck on the wall heating panels with foam.

Then installed the piping, leading the ends up to the distribution manifold upstairs through ducts I had laid months before.

At the same time, the opposite wall, which I had already repointed, needed some plastering to hide the ugly top part.

And done.

The bottom steps were tight against the wall at this stage, as I'd added 3cm to the thickness. So, to plaster over the heating pipes, I needed to get the steps out of the way. These were somehow glued on, so i used a car jack to pop them up, and carefully manhandled them out of the way.

And then plastered the whole lot, except the areas directly beside the entry door, as that would have to be blended in once the door is installed.

After letting it cure acouple of days, i turned the heating on to help dry it out. This would have been the ideal time to put some screwsin the wall for pictures, as you could see where the pipes are!

The opening between the entry hall and adjoining cellar area (where the beer cellar is) needed to be closed off, so we bought a cheap door in the local DIY store, and I built a frame to hang it on.

A quick assembly and a few coats of varnish to keep the door and frame clean, and it was ready to install.

And already quite the transformation! The ceiling was primed with a plaster primer, containing quartz sand, and although I bought a plaster to apply with a trowel and finish with a roller, I think we'll just paint it as it is, as the texture is quite ok! Less work too. Once the front door is in, and the remaining bits of plastering done, then the final paint job will be done. In the meantime, I'll start on the vaulted cellar, to try and get into the same standard as the beer cellar (not to mention making a door for it).

We also finally got a new TV, and to replace the kitchen sideboard that we'd used for the ancient thing we've had till now, I tarted up a lovely board I found in the barn, giving it a run over with the Makita brush sander, and oiling it with worktop oil. The lice edge and grain are really nice, so all I need now it to find proper legs for it, as it currently rests on a pair of old speakers.

And that's it! today i started prepping things to set up a satellite dish, and a couple of small projects, but more of those anon. For now, a live view of the entry hall as it is now: