Sunday, 30 September 2012

Occupational Therapy.

I have discovered a way of making my casual working life easier to cope with:
Occupational Therapy
Depth perception tends to be a bit compromised and this method does seem to emphasise the enormity of my hands.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Fixings In Walls And Ceilings.

The chief factors here are the kind of wall in which the fixing is to be made, and the weight of the object being fixed.  In timber walls and partitions there is usually little difficulty.  Ordinary wood screws do the job perfectly well, unless the wood is thin, in which case bolts may have to be used - if it is possible to reach the other side.

WOOD PLUGS.  Brick walls require a different treatment, and plugging is necessary.  When there is no surface plaster wood plugs can be used, these being driven into cavities made in the mortar seams.  A strong form of plug is shown at A, Fig. 1.  It is about 0.75 in. thick and is thinned down to 0.375 in. at the end, the waste being taken off at an angle.  In this way the plug has a slight twist which give it a firm fixing.  A smaller plug, B, is made similarly, and is suitable when a fixing has to be made in the middle of a brick.  The carpenter generally cuts the taper with his axe.  Men not so used to the work will find a wide chisel easier to manage.  The recess to receive the plug is chopped with a cold chisel.
Both kinds of plugs are left projecting and are sawn off flush afterwards.  This can be hard on the saw, and it is a good plan to put a piece of card against the wall to prevent the teeth from being damaged.  One important point is that the end of the plug should not touch the bottom of the hole as this would prevent a tight fit.  Its tightness at the sides of the hole should prevent it from being driven in any farther.

Altogether, however, a more satisfactory fixing is made with one of the proprietary plugs such as Rawlplugs.  Their advantage is that they make much smaller holes, and give a stronger fixing for screws because in a wood plug the screw has to be driven into end grain.  For brick walls which have a plaster facing they are much neater.  Apart form the hole being smaller less knocking is necessary with less risk of plaster being cracked.  There are several forms of plugs, and for indoor work the fibre type is generally used.  An alternative for outdoor plugging is the lead type which is a sort of hollow lead cylinder with cup at one end to prevent it from entering too far.  The lead is better able to resist the weather.

When a fixing is needed in a crumbling mortar of plaster wall an irregular hole often results, and a plastic plug is sometimes preferred.  There is also a plastic compound which is pliable and can be squeezed into an irregular hole, and which will take up the shape of the hole, however crumbled and irregular it may be.

This is also useful for other types of walls because it saves having to stock several sizes of plugs.  Having made the hole (considerably deeper than the screw length), wet the plastic compound, roll into elongated form and press into the hole, forcing in with the special tool supplied for the purpose.  Make a hole in this with the pointed tool, again deeper that the screw length, and drive in the screw.

MAKING THE HOLE.  Large holes in the seams of brickwork are best cut with a narrow cold chisel of the type A, Fig. 2.  Smaller holes for the type of plug at B, Fig. 1, need the chisel at B, Fig. 2.  For Rawlplugs and similar types of proprietary plugs a special tool of the kind shown at C is preferable.  Various sizes of bits can be placed in the handle, and in use the tool is given a twist between the strokes of the hammer.
HandyMan004 - Version 2
In indoor work there is always an element of risk that knocking with the hammer may cause plaster to crack, and when this is feared it is better to use a drill.  Special tungsten-tipped drills are available.  They are expensive, but they eliminate risk of cracking, and stand up to the work well.  A normal morse drill loses its edge quickly.

When it is desired to make a hole in the mortar seam of a brick wall it is sometimes difficult to locate the position when it is plaster faced.  One way is shown in Fig. 3.  The positions of the seams at the brickwork outside the window are noted and a mark level with one of them is made inside.  The height of this from the floor is measured so enabling corresponding marks to be made inside the room.

LATH AND PLASTER WALLS.  A lath and plaster wall requires different methods.  Heavy objects should be suspended only on the timber studding, though light items can sometimes be supported opposite the laths.  The problem is generally that of locating the timbers.  Tapping with the knuckles will often reveal a more solid feeling opposite a stud, and a fixing can generally be made anywhere vertically above or below.  When two have been located it is generally simple to find the rest since they are usually evenly spaced.

If there is a skirting in the room this will generally give a clue.  It is nailed in position and the nails naturally pass into the studding.  By examining the skirting and noting the nail positions it is only necessary to plumb a line above as shown in Fig. 4.  It is unlikely that a nail will be driven into every stud, but once two have been found it is generally easy to locate the rest.  As a rule they are not at greater distances apart than 13 in.

Sometimes a fixing is necessary in the space between the timbers.  The laths themselves are too thin to afford a reliable grip, and the most satisfactory way is to use a Rawlplug spring toggle as at (A) Fig. 5.  To use this the bolt is unscrewed from the wings, passed through the fitting to be fixed, and the wings rethreaded a few turns.  A hole is made in the wall big enough to take the wings when folded back, and the toggle passed through, the wings in the vertical position so that when they fly open they pass across two adjacent laths.  By pulling the fitting backwards the wings will remain in this position whilst the bolt is tightened.  Once driven right home the wings automatically remain in position (B).  It will be realized that if the fitting has to be removed at any time a new spring toggle will be required because, when the bolt is unscrewed, the wings necessarily fall down inside.
In the case of thin material such as insulation board, hardboard, plywood, etc. it is often more convenient to use gravity toggles (C) and (D).  In this case the single wing drops down by its own weight after being inserted in the hole.  It has a small spike projecting inwards so that it grips the back of the material when the bolt is tightened.  Sometimes it is more convenient to use Rawlanchors, especially when the material is soft or uneven at the back.  The Rawlanchor is passed through the hole (E), and when the bolt is tightened the flexible metal arms slay out as at (F).  Yet another fixing useful in some circumstances is the Rawlbolt which has a hard rubber portion which expands at the back when the bolt is tightened (G) and (H).
HandyMan005 - Version 2
HandyMan005 - Version 3
CEILING FIXING.  When a heavy object has to be fixed it is advisable to screw into the joists if practicable.  It this cannot be done a block will have to be fixed about the laths.  It is often possible to ascertain the joist positions by going into the room and noting where the nails occur which hold down the boards.  If the distance is measured from the wall (allowing for the skirting) is is an indication of where the joists are (see A, Fig, 6).  If, however, you have to go into a loft to find the joists, remember that there will be no plaster facing on the walls there.  It is also necessary in a tall building to see whether there is any diminution in the thickness of the walls.  This would, of course, throw out calculations.

If it is not possible to obtain a direct fixing to the joists a block can be laid on the laths as in Fig. 6, B.  This will support a light weight, but a better plan is that in Fig. 6, C, which the fixing block is screwed to the two side blocks, these in turn being screwed to the joists.  By this method the weight is taken by the joists, whereas at B the laths have to support the entire weight.  One other minor advantage is that the work can be done single handed, whereas at B it is necessary to have someone in the room above to press down on the block whilst the screws are being driven in. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Peg, Stick & Rock.

All the equipment you will ever need for an thrilling game of "Peg, Stick & Rock".

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Cleaning An Oilstone.

It is a good plan to wash an oilstone occasionally with paraffin to get rid of any old dried-up oil.  If the surface has worn out of truth it can be corrected by rubbing down on a flat paving stone or piece of marble.  It should be fed with an abrasive of sharp sand and water - unless the stone is of the synthetic type, in which case corundum powder should be used.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Teak Splinters.

Teak splinters often turn septic.  They should be withdrawn at once and an antiseptic applied.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Carpet Shampoo.

Shred 2 oz. of white soap into a pint of boiling water and leave to dissolve.  Add 1 oz. methylated spirits, 1 tablespoonful of ammonia (.880) (P), and a piece of washing soda about the size of a walnut.  Bottle, and shake before use.  Apply with a soft scrubbing brush and sponge off with clear warm water.  Leave windows open to help dry out quickly.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Screws On Polished Work.

If you use countersunk screws in work to be french polished it is advisable to have the slot in line with the grain as it is then not so liable to catch the polishing rubber.  For the same reason it is desirable to avoid making a burr at the slot.  To ensure this press the screwdriver heavily down.

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Laying A Stair Carpet.

If you examine a stair carpet you will find that the pile leans in a definite direction.  You can detect this by drawing the hand along it: in one direction it is smooth; in the other, rough.  It should be laid with the pile pointing downward as shown in Fig. 1, A.  Unless this is done the feet tend to push against the pile and roughen it.

FELT.  Felt beneath the carpet is always worth its cost as it reduces wear considerably.  There is no need for it to run continuously form top to bottom - in fact it is better to avoid it on the risers as it makes too much thickness at the bends where it would have to be folded.  All that is needed is a strip to each tread, wide enough to reach from the back and to run over at the nose at the front as in Fig. 1, B.  At the edges it should stand in about 0.5 in. at each side.
CARPET.  Begin at the top, fixing it down temporarily with three tacks.  There should be enough spare on the landing at the top so that the carpet can be moved down later when wear becomes apparent at the nose.  In its lifetime the carpet may be moved perhaps three times so that the wear is equalised.

In the average staircase there may be eight or nine steps at the bottom, followed by three winders, with three or four straight steps above.  The chief problem occurs at the winders, and the proper way is to work these from the bottom one upwards.  However, for a start work down the three or four straight steps at the top, putting in the rods as you go, and taking care to keep the carpet straight and centra.  You have now to see the total length of carpet needed for the winders and you do this by counting downwards.

Take the carpet straight across the top winder so that when it reaches the nose it is central.  This will cause a fold to appear at the narrow side.  Ignore this for the time being, fixing a rod at the back, and allowing the fold to hang loosely.  Carry on to the next winder in the same way, and so on until the straight flight is reached.  You can then carry on right to the bottom.  This puts the carpet in the right position, leaving the winders to be dealt with, and it is now that you begin to work from the bottom winder upwards.

WINDERS.  Owing to the fold at the narrow side there is bound to be a crease in the carpet, but if this crease is made to line up with the rod it will be almost unnoticeable.  Fig. 2 shows how to arrange the winders.  Begin at the bottom one, pulling the carpet taut across the tread.  Pass it up the riser to immediately beneath the nose, and form a fold which lines up with the stair rod as at A, Fig. 2.  At the wide side, of course, the fold will run out to nothing.  Knock in three long tacks at the bottom of the fold.

Pass to the next winder and repeat the operation as at B.  When the top winder is reached there will most likely be a small surplus at the narrow side, and this can be folded in the same way (C).  Secure with a couple of tacks before putting in the rods.

Once again, remember that the preliminary work, which is chiefly that of getting the carpet into the right position, if from top downwards, but the final fixing at the winders is from the bottom one upwards.

EQUALIZING WEAR.  A carpet should never be turned top to bottom for the reason already given.  The better plan is to shift it about 1 in. or 1.5 in. downwards every year.  In this way a fresh piece of carpet is at the nose with every move.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Brave Soldier Goes To St. Richard's Hospital In Chichester All By Himself.

Okay, okay, I hear you!
I'll go to the clinic.

Here I am at Bognor Regis railway station waiting for a train:
There's a happy sunshine smile.
I arrive in Chichester:
If only I had the Latin.
The second sign I see annoys me:
Bollocks on stilts!
The third sign I see amuses me no end:
Here's a clue, they don't use cheese.
I enter the big white building (handy description) at St. Richard's Hospital:
The Big White Building
Most of the people I've met that have lived in this area all their lives call St. Richard's "Dirty Dick's".
To be fair the hospital has had it's hygiene problems, but I'm sure that's all in the past now.

Welcome to the waiting area:
Hmmm, purple chairs.
I am not the youngest patient in the waiting area.
That guy sat in front of me is, but he's soon gone and I become the youngest person in the place.
The majority of the other patients are men who obviously have their clothes bought for them.
The overall colour is beige.

My eyesight is tested again and then I'm called into an examination room by the friendly young Doctor N. who has a smile about two feet wide.
I am asked lots of questions about my condition which I answer carefully as English is not friendly young Doctor N's first language and I'm anxious that he doesn't misunderstand anything I say.

My head is introduced to a frame and the bright lights are applied.
This takes a long time and begins to hurt a bit.
Another doctor enters the room and begins questioning friendly young Doctor N.
This is Doctor F. and his is the boss an' no mistake.
Doctor F. interrogates the young doctor in a sharp and matter-of-fact manner as to what's he's discovered about my condition.
Then Doctor F. asks Doctor N a question, Doctor N asks me the question, I answer Doctor N. who then tells Doctor F. what I have said.

Which annoys me.

Drops are put in my eyes and I'm sent back to the waiting area until my pupils dilate:
I escape to the toilet for a bit of piece and quiet:
I can see for miles and miles
Some time later I'm called back to the examination room.
The whole head-in-a-frame-bright-light business is repeated, first by friendly young Doctor N then by Doctor F.

Then Doctor F. speaks directly to me.
"Well, I think a course of steroids and a scan perhaps".
Then I speak to Doctor F.
"I was told at Worthing on Tuesday that I had an inflamed optic nerve which I now understand is Optic Neuritis".
Doctor F. "Yes, that's what you have."
Me "You'll understand then why my blood runs a little cold when I read that Optic Neuritis is linked to MS."
Doctor F. "Oh, you're a bit old to be presenting MS."
Me: "This is the third nerve related episode I've had in the last 18 months".
Doctor F.: Hmmmm....
Doctor F. turns to Doctor N. and says "Never mention MS to patients as it may have implications for their insurance".
He then writes URGENT on the bottom of the MRI scan request document and tells me to take it to the  X-ray dept.

My pupils are still dilated to the size of saucers, fortunately I have my shades with me and stumble along several corridors squinting at the signs until I find the X-ray dept reception desk.
The cherrie young receptionist takes my form and tells me they'll write to me very soon.
I leave the hospital.

On the train, my mind somewhat more focused than my eyes I decide I'm glad I listened to all the advice I've been given in the comments on this blog and the barrage of emails I received and Linda's incessant nagging and actually attended the appointment:
Stage one completed
Sadly I'm unable to take my shades off as I appear to be wearing orange eye-shadow.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Rustic Work.

There is no way of preventing bark from stripping.  The best way is to give a coat of size then finish with copal varnish.  Apply the varnish before the size completely dries out as it then mixes with it.  Best rustic work is coated with linseed oil first.  Larch is not so liable to strip its bark as other trees.  To finish peeled rustic work go over with concentrated size coloured (if required) with brown umber.  Follow with a good outdoor quality oak varnish.  Ash or chestnut tend to split and should be varnished as soon as possible.  Larch should be left with the bark on.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Basket Willow.

Basket willow should be used within 2-3 years of being cut.  Otherwise it loses its toughness and is liable to snap.  When being bundled it should be dry, because the inner willows may otherwise sweat whilst the outside dries and so cause rot.  Willows which are faulty cannot be corrected.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Storing White French Polish.

This polish should always be kept in earthenware or glass containers.  If metal is used, oxidation is liable to take place, and this will discolour the polish.  Polish in a metal container should not be left in for more than two weeks.  In any case the container must be clean.  Even an earthenware jar may cause discolouration if dirty.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Little Learning Is A Dangerous Thing. (Updated)

So,  let's start with a basic search on the term "inflamed optic nerve".
From this basic search I find that the appropriate term for my condition is "Optic Neuritis".

What caused it?
It's generally agreed that the cause is unknown.

What's actually happening then?  
My immune system is attacking the myelin sheath on my optic nerve.

Now what?
I have an appointment, well, not so much an appointment as an invitation to attend a clinic at St. Richard's Hospital in Chichester tomorrow (Thursday).

What do you expect should you chose to attend the "appointment"?
More examination, and the recommendation of a course of intravenous steroids.
(Further reading suggests that the condition will clear, but the estimated periods vary considerably,
within anything from 2 weeks to 8 months).

So, what's the problem?
Every link I've followed concerning "Optic Neuritis" mentions, usually within the first paragraph, Multiple Sclerosis.

So, what have you decided to do about this "situation"?
I'm not keen on any kind of steroid treatment if, with time, the condition will clear itself unaided.
The aspect of this condition that now concerns me is the link with MS.

I'm going to sleep on it.


Despite the fact I'm visually impaired I've just driven down to the local inconvenience store to get some rice for our evening meal (I forgot to tell Linda we'd run out) and I remembered something that may, or may not, be significant.

Last year my left buttock went 'numb' from my hip down to about half way down my leg.
I went to the doctors and the diagnosis was that I had a "trapped nerve".
I was told to come back in two weeks if it showed no improvement.
It, sort of, improved so I saw no reason to return to the doctors.

Early this year both my legs went numb.
I decided not to go the the doctors because I was sure it would result in the diagnosis of a "trapped nerve".
After about 8-10 weeks it cleared up.

So,  2+2=5 ?

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Laying Linoleum.

Apart from the wear a floor gets, the life of lino depends largely upon the floor on which it is laid.  It is essential that this is reasonably level, and that any old tacks or nails are removed and any holes of any size made good.  It the boards have warped so that they present a series of hollows they should be planed down flat.  Otherwise the lino will wear on the high parts in a series of ridges.  A smoothing plane can be used for the bulk of the surface, but the portion around the walls requires a rebate plane.

Incidentally, lino should not be laid directly over concrete because it is liable to rot.  An underlay of bitumen paper should be laid first.  As a matter of fact a paper underlay is a good investment under any lino as it reduces wear and gives a softer tread.
ESTIMATING QUANTITIES.  Estimating the quantity of lino required needs a little consideration.  It is often possible to effect considerable economy, especially when a border is being planned.  Take for instance the plan in Fig. 1.  The whole thing could be completed with 6 yards of lino of 2-yard width, making 12 square yards.  it should be realised, however, that this would not work out correctly in the case of a patterned lino because of the waste involved in matching.  In any case all experienced lino firms are pleased to advise you if a plan of the room drawn to scale is taken.  Remember that the standard width of lino is 6 ft. (though odd widths are sometimes available) and calculations should be based on this.  Border and staircase widths are 18 in., 22.5 in., and 36 in.  Sometimes it is an advantage to use this for a room boarder.

If possible lino should be brought into the room where it is to be laid and left there for several hours so that it can acclimatise itself.  Lino tends to swell somewhat when it is opened out in a warm room.  The arrangement of the joins varies with the shape of the room and its sizes.  Endeavour to avoid a number of small pieces, especially at doorways and other places liable to a lot of wear.  Often it is an advantage to make a clean joint level with a recess rather than to make an awkward fitting in a large piece.  A and B, Fig. 2, show alternative arrangements for an all-over lino in an average small room.  In A the second piece would not be wide enough to reach right up to the window in the bay.  This means that a join is necessary in any case, and it would therefore be advisable to cut off the width across the bay as shown by the dotted line and use a single piece for the bay laid separately.  A similar idea is followed at B in which both recesses are filled separately.

Do not make too close a fit up to walls because lino always stretches when walked upon.  For this reason it should never be tacked down straightway, but should be left for about a week.  Fixing it immediately would probably result in its lifting up in waves.  In the best way a quarter-round moulding is fixed around the room as shown in Fig. 3.  No fixing tacks need then be used, and the lino can be left with a slight gap between it and the wall - say 0.25 in.  When nailing the moulding drive the nails so that they clear the lino.  The latter is then free to expand.  At joins nails are eventually necessary of course, and they can be put in at intervals of about 6 in. or so.  A special headless lino sprig (Fig. 4, A) is made which is neater than ordinary cut nails and holds perfectly well.
HandyMan001 - Version 2
CUTTING TO SHAPE.  Straightforward rectangular spaces can generally be marked purely by measurement, though it is a mistake to assume that a corner which is supposed to be square is so in reality.  The simple device in Fig. 5 is handy.  It is simply two arms of wood about 3 ft. long, each 3.375 in. or thereabouts, pivoted together by a screw.  A wood stay is screwed to one arm and fixed to the other with a nail driven half-way in.  It is thus free to be set to any angle.  In use the two arms are set so that they fit against the walls, and the nail at the loose end of the stay driven half-way in.  It can then be placed on the lino, enabling the latter to be marked at the same angle.  It is especially useful for cutting round odd angles (the bay in Fig. 2, for example).

PAPER PATTERNS.  Tricky shapes are best dealt with by cutting out a paper pattern.  As an example, take the pedestal for a hand basin in a bathroom.  It would be practically impossible to get at the shape to be cut purely be measurement.  Take a piece of brown paper and, holding its edge flat against the wall, fold the paper around the pedestal.  Quite a lot of paper can be cut away straightway.  It is the possible to run a pencil around as in Fig. 6.  This enables a cut to be made right on the lino.  The simplest plan is to cut one-half up to a centre line as in Fig. 6.  The same template can then be used for the other side by reversing it.  In this way the hole in the lino can be marked exactly.
SPILING.  Another method specially handy when shapes have to be fitted round is known as spiling.  A sheet of card or stiff paper is cut to fit easily around the pedestal as at A, Fig. 7.  A rectangular cut is all that is needed.  Now place a set-square or any other slip of thin wood cut to triangular shape on the paper with its point touching the pedestal and run a pencil line around the edges.  Only the part on the paper is drawn.  For any part of the pedestal which is straight (the front for instance) the flat side of the square can be used as in Fig. 7.  The greater the number of marks made the greater the accuracy.

Put the paper on the lino in the correct corresponding position (obtained by measuring from the wall), place the square on the pencilled lines, and run the pencil around the sides at the point only.  All the marks will necessarily be on the lino only.  By sketching in a line to join all the points the correct shape to be cut away is marked out as in Fig 7, B.

CUTTING.  Cutting is best done with a proper lino knife which has a curved blade (Fig. 4, B).  Sometimes it is more convenient to cut downwards; sometimes it is easier to hold the knife upwards.  Remember that the greatest resistance to cutting is in the lino closing on the knife after cutting.  It is therefore a great help if the waste piece is pulled sideways so that the cut is opened.  Another plan sometimes handy it to leave the lino on the floor and cut downwards, using a straight-edge for straight lines.  If the lino is then raised and bent back it will crack at the cut, and the knife can then be passed beneath and a cut made at the crack.

PATCHES.  Sometimes it is necessary to let in a patch where old lino has worn away.  Cut out the new piece to whatever shape is the most suitable (having regard to any pattern that may be on it), and lay it in position.  Fix down temporarily with a couple of tacks, and draw a knife around the edge.  Remove the new piece and raise the old lino, if necessary deepening the cut so that it is completely severed.  The new piece can then be laid in position and tacked.  Both sides of the join should be fairly closely tacked all round.

Lino should not be soaked with water; it tend to rot it.  When cleaning is necessary use soapy water and  rinse off straightway, finishing with a well wrung-out cloth.  Avoid using a soap which contains a strong alkali.  In the ordinary way lino is best kept polished with one of the many propriety wax polishes.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Brave Solider Goes To Worthing Hospital All By Himself.

At any other time, in any other circumstances I'd have ridden my bicycle to Worthing but instead I'm taking the train:
The first sign I read on arriving in Worthing is not encouraging:
I have about two hours to kill before my appointment at 17:30 so I wander round Worthing and find myself outside a shop I used to deliver to when it was a Help The Aged charity shop:
All gone as it the business that took the building over from HTA.

No matter how much I try to drag my feet I find myself outside the hospital an hour early:
I wander around the perimeter to waste a bit more time and notice that the hospital has a BigMetalTower:
Welcome to the waiting room which is to be my home for the next 3 hours:
Eventually I am seen by a tired looking young doctor who clamps my head in a frame and conducts an examination involving very bright lights.
He decides that my problem is an inflamed optic nerve.
He wants to administer a steroid treatment and  keep me in hospital over-night but he has to consult a consultant first and I am sent back to the waiting area.

To be honest I'm not sure I want to stay in hospital over-night and begin constructing reasons (lies) why I have to get back to Bognor.
In the end I needn't have worried.
Turns out the consultant's view is that my condition may clear itself so I can go home but they want to see me again in a couple of days.

I have decided to experiment with Linda's supply of Diclofenac anti-inflammatory tablets and hope they may do the trick as I have a feeling that steroids have to be injected directly into the eyeball and I really can't seem to work up any kind of enthusiasm for that procedure.

Disturbing Development: Updated.

I'm having difficulty with the sight in my left eye.
If I hold my hand over my right eye and scan the room with my left eye anything I can see past a huge grey blur seems to be coated in abalone.
The eyeball and the area around it feel swollen and painful.

Alarming as this development is the most annoying aspect of the situation is having to go to the doctors and try to explain what I'm (not) seeing.

Which is a bloody nuisance.


I rang the doctor's surgery and got an immediate appointment.
I had to more or less run the 2 miles to the surgery to get there on time.
I regained my composure whilst sitting in the waiting room:
Into the consulting room with the lovely Doctor W.
Blood pressure and pulse are measured and I am declared a 'very fit' man. (Hey!)
Lights are shone in my eyes, I read what I can from a chart across the room.
The good doctor is on the phone to the eye dept at the hospital in Chichester.
They can't see me (geddit?).
The good doctor is on the phone to the eye dept at the hospital in Worthing.
I am to go there straight away.
I have to return home first then get the train to Worthing.

I walk back home along the sea front, the heavens open their water tanks, throw the contents into the gale that's blowing, and aim it at me:
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain.
Which makes a good day even better.

I have developed a mild concern for my welfare.


Handyman's Pocket Book: Sharpening A Carving Knife.

A steel is generally used, and the correct method used by butchers is to move the knife towards the steel, not away from it.  It is rather more awkward until you acquire the knack, but it gives a better edge because the wire edge is removed.  After a time the steel will fail to turn up a good edge, and it becomes necessary to grind the knife.  When this is done it should be held to the grindstone at an angle about midway between that formed by the steel and the flat side of the blade.  If a grindstone is not available a file can be used, though it takes longer.  Hold the blade on a block of wood with the edge slightly overhanging, and work the file with a sliding movement towards the edge, again at an angle about half that used by the steel.  If you have a stone step to your house you can often use this for rubbing down a knife.  A piece of paving stone on which emery powder is sprinkled is useful.  Add a little water to the powder to form a paste.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Grinding Tools.

Tools made from carbon steel, such as chisels, plane cutters, screwdrivers, and so on should if possible be ground on a wet stone.  If the small dry bench grinder is used there is a risk of the temper of the steel being drawn by the heat generated.  This can to an extent be counteracted by dipping the tool frequently into water, but even so there is considerable risk, especially when the edge is reached.  The thin steel here heats up quickly.  The first sign of burning is a blue colour in the steel, and once this is visible it is too late; the damage is done.  If no other grinder is available dip the tool frequently into water and do not continue to grind too long at any one time.  It is also a help if grinding ceases before the extreme edge is reached.

A wet grindstone should not be left standing in water because water softens it.  If there is a trough empty it out after use; otherwise the submerged portion of the stone will wear rapidly in use causing the whole to become out of shape.  Dry stones such as those made from corundum should not be used wet.

Whatever the tool being ground move it from side to side on the stone so that the wear is equalised.  This is specially necessary with small tools which are liable to dig into the stone and leave uneven troughs.  In the case of knives, axes, and similar tools with long edges the tool should be moved back and forth in the same way.  This ensures that the edge is ground to the same extent throughout, and also prevents any one part from becoming too hot through friction.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Paperhanging.

British wallpapers are made in rolls of 11.5 yd. by 21 in. width, but foreign papers vary in size from these, usually being 18 in. wide.

ESTIMATING QUANTITIES.  The first point is to calculate the number of rolls required for the room, and this is done by first ascertaining the number of lengths that can be obtained from one roll.  As a rule it is safe to assume that for heights up to 8 ft. each roll will yield four lengths, this allowing for waste and matching patten.  Heights of 8 to 10 ft. cut only three lengths, and for over 10 ft. it is safe to reckon on two lengths only.  Small spaces above doors and windows, etc., are ignored as odd pieces can invariably be used for them, but it is usual to reckon in the space above the fireplace as running the full length.
As an example take the room of which a plan is given in Fig. 1.  Count up the total length around the walls in inches, taking out the window and door, but including the space above the mantlepiece and the projection of the breast.  It comes to 486.  Divide by 21 to get the number of lengths (say 24) and divide this by 4 (assuming the height to be 8 ft.  or less) giving 6, this being the number of rolls needed.

It must be realized, however, that papers with large pattern may involve considerable waste in matching or in centreing.  For instance, over a prominent feature such as a low mantlepiece it would be desirable to centre a large pattern, and this might easily involve waste.  If there is any doubt it is advisable to order an extra roll.

PREPARATION.  Although it is possible to lay paper over existing paper if the latter is in good condition, there is a risk that the whole thing will eventually peel away.  In any case it is difficult to get a really neat finish.  The better plan is to strip off the old paper and start afresh.  To do this damp the paper thoroughly and peel it away.  Obstinate parts need the use of the scraper.  Any defects should then be made good by raking out and filling with Keene's cement.  If possible undercut such parts as cracks so that the filling has a dovetail grip, and damp the work with a brush, otherwise the cement will not adhere properly.  Rub down when hard, and go over the whole surface with size to reduce the suction of the plaster.  Ceilings in particular should be sized to give the paste good adhesion.

TOOLS.  Fig. 2 shows the main tools required for paper-hanging.  In addition a trestle table on which papers can be cut and pasted is needed, and a pair of steps.  To trim the edges either the scissors will have to be used, or one of the small appliances fitted with cutting wheel and slot which engages the edge.  Alternatively, the paper can usually be trimmed at the shop at small cost.  The old method was for the paper-hanger to sit on a chair with the legs held well out.  The roll of paper rested on his feet, and he re-rolled the paper with his left hand as he cut with his right.

Cutting the paper into lengths is the next job, and here it is necessary to consider the pattern.  Some papers match horizontally; others are known as "drop" pattern, in which the pattern matches at a different level on one side compared with the other.  In some cases it pays to cut alternate rolls in different positions.  However, in plain papers there is no match, and in small patterns there is not much variation - not more than the few inches of waste will cover.  However, make sure of this first so that there is ample to cover adjustment in height.

PASTING.  Having cut the lengths place them face side downwards at the back of the table, piled one above the other, all facing in the same direction, and with the right-hand end slightly overhanging the top.  Start with the top papers about 2 in. away from the front of the board and paste the back edge.  Then draw it to the front so that it overlaps the edge as in Fig. 3.  Apply the paste evenly, working out towards the edges so that there is no tendency for the paste to work beneath.  The brush can be taken straight across the edge.  At the back it will go on to the remaining pile of papers, and at the right-hand end and front it goes over the edge without touching the table beneath so that there is no danger of soiling the front of the paper.  Incidentally, make sure that the table top is clean and dry before placing papers upon it.

Having pasted the area of the table top, fold the right-hand end over, keeping the edges level, and draw the paper to the right so that it hangs down, so drawing the unpasted portion over the top.  Let the left-hand end overlap the table top slightly, and continue the pasting.  Fold over the left-hand end as at A, Fig. 3, and the paper is then ready for hanging.  Note that the extreme ends of the paper stand up slightly.
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HANGING THE PAPER.  It is essential that the paper is hung vertically, and the only safe plan is to use a plumb-bob.  As a rule papers are hung at each side of the window and worked round from each side away from the light.  A meeting place is arranged in an inconspicuous place, a dark corner if possible, where a difference in matching is inevitable.  An exception to this is when a bold pattern has to be centred over a mantlepiece.  Then a centre line is drawn with the plumb-bob, and the paper worked each way from it.

Fig. 4 shows how the paper is lifted.  Start at the top, and, holding one corner against the plumb-line, press lightly to the wall, and bring the other corner to the wall, keeping the edge of the paper in line with the line.  Lower the paper so that a greater area touches the wall, and brush it so that there is sufficient on the wall to support the weight.  When satisfied that it is in line brush from the centre outwards and pull out the lower fold.  It is usual to smooth the top half and trim the top waste before dealing with the remainder.  If at the first attempt the paper is not in alignment with the line pull it away from the wall and replace before unfolding the bulk.  Brush the entire area from the centre outwards.  To trim the two ends to length, press the paper into the angle, and run the point of the scissors along the angle to make an indentation, as in Fig. 5.  Hold waste from frieze rail with left hand.  Pull the paper away from the wall, cut away the surplus, and brush back.

ANGLES.  Angles are something of a difficulty, and usually the best plan is to cut a strip about 0.5 in. wider than the space between the last piece hung and the corner.  This gives a slight overlap to turn the corner and allows for any inaccuracy in the wall.  The strip can be cut on the board after being pasted and folded as shown in Fig. 6.  The edges of the paper must be exactly in line, and the front brought level with the edge of the table.  This enables the required width to be indented with the scissors.  The cut is then taken carefully along the line.

It is not advisable to turn an outer angle with the paper in a single width, except for a 0.5 in. turn.  In every case this turn is lapped by the following piece.  Interior angles are much more difficult and it is seldom possible to give more than the 0.5. in. overlap already mentioned.

If it is necessary to roll the joints of flat papers do this soon after hanging.  If the paper inclines to become glossy put a strip of spare paper over the joint first and roll over this.  Embossed papers should never be rolled.
CEILINGS.  Ceilings are rather more difficult to tackle because of the awkward posture one has to adopt, and because the paper tends to fall away more easily.  Furthermore a plank on trestles is necessary.  The initial preparation is much the same as for walls, but the paper after being pasted is folded differently.  Fig. 7 shows the idea.

A straight line should be put in with chalk line, either coloured chalk or charcoal being used.  Work away from the light.  Have an inch or two allowance at the ends except where a patterned paper is used.  Sufficient allowance for matching will then have to be made.

To lift the paper put a spare roll of wallpaper beneath the folds, as in Fig. 8, and carry with the left hand.  Open out the paper slightly with the right hand and press to the ceiling in line with the chalked line and with the end overlapping the corner an inch or so.  The paper in the left hand should not touch the ceiling.  When satisfied that the edge is in line, smooth out with the brush, working from the centre outwards.  Work gradually across the ceiling, brushing out as you go.  Trim the ends as explained for wallpapering.  It will be realized that when a room is being prepared throughout the ceiling is dealt with first.

PASTE.  Nowadays paste is generally obtained in the form of a proprietary preparation.  Those who prefer to make their own can use the following.  Put about 2 lb. baking flour in a bucket and add cold water to give a thick batter.  Beat up thoroughly, getting rid of all lumps.  Allow to stand for about half an hour then pour on boiling water to form a thick paste.  Pour on a little cold water, and leave to become cool.  If necessary it can be then thinned out more with water.

An essential feature of paper-hanging is cleanliness.  Tools should be kept dry and clean; also the hands.  If any paste gets on to the surrounding  paintwork wipe clean straightway.  It is a good idea to keep a clean duster handy in the pocket.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Equinox. (Incoherent Babble of the Sleep Deprived)

I had a bad morning/afternoon/evening/morning in the cloak-room:
15.25 hours and another starry cycle ride home.
I hit bed with the force of a olympian long-distance sleeper.
Five hours later I'm in Mystic Rog's luxury motor-car on the way to a...
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.
BeHeld had been invited to provide the music for a Winnie the Pooh themed event in a garden here:

Now, I'm not entirely sure BeHeld are the right choice for this type of occasion, with it's fairy workshops and jolly bouncy tigers, but anytime anybody whats me to spend a sunny afternoon in a garden of this quality playing the ukulele and drinking coffee with my musical chums I'm up for it.
I'll even wear the W the P suit.

The gardens are so beautiful I began to suspect I'd been killed on the cycle ride home from work or died in my during my (short) sleep and this was heaven.

Here is a link to some pictures I took: Pooh House and Gardens Photos

It seemed like the perfect place to film ourselves so we hid behind a hedge and I gave my camera to Little Lynda:
I documented my writing of 'Come Here' somewhere in the past on this blog (but I think I deleted it)  and had always thought it would be one of the songs I sang with the band, but I let GOW have a go and decided it was more her song really.

I want to write some more about today but I can't even begin to describe just how tired I am.
So I'm going to bed.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Handyman's Pocket Book: Painting.

This may be divided under two headings; new work and the repainting of old work.

New Work

Careful preparation of the surface is essential for a good result.  Blemishes will show through eventually if not at once.  This means that nail holes, cracks, etc., must be made good, and all roughness smoothed out.  For work of first importance the surfaces should be cleaned up by hand because the machine planer or spindle invariably leaves ridges across the grain which show through later.

KNOTTING.  Most softwoods contain some knots which are resinous.  If untreated the resin is liable to work through.  To prevent this two coats of knotting should be given with a half-hour interval.  Knotting is usually obtained ready made, but can be made with shellac and methylated spirit.  It is really the same as french polish but with rather more shellac.  Paint it over the knots with a brush.  Really bad resinous knots, however, should be cut out and filled with sound wood.

PRIMING.  At least three coats of paint will be needed; priming, undercoat, and gloss coat.  All are different, and most manufactures put up the three classes of paint in colours to suit.  Thus the priming coat is generally grey, and the undercoat an approximation of the finished colour.  Exceptions are in the case of white and the lighter shades when the priming coat also is white.  It is always the safe plan to obtain the three paints from the same manufacturer.  White lead plus red lead makes a good priming, especially for outdoor work.

All paint must be thoroughly stirred up.  If on opening the tin a skin has formed on top, cut around the edge and remove in its entirety.  If there is any sign of lumpiness strain through muslin.  Choose a flat brush about 2 in. wide, dip about one-third the length of the bristles, and press each side against the side of the tin thus forcing the paint to centre.  Apply across the grain with a fair pressure so that the paint is pressed into the grain.  The idea is to distribute the paint evenly, and this is helped by working across the grain, then crossing at right angles.  In any case finish off with light strokes along the grain.

Allow to dry overnight, then rub down with waterproof glass-paper.  This will remove any roughness and give a key for the next coat.  Take care not to rub too vigorously at edges or corners or you may rub through to the bare wood.

STOPPING.  Putty is often used for filling holes, but a more reliable stopping is a mixture of two parts putty and one of white lead.  To make it more workable a little gold size can be added.  The same mixture can be used for cracks if quite small.  Large ones should be filled with a wood shiver glued in and levelled.  Note that a bruise, if shallow, should be levelled with glass-paper; if deep it should be cut in and roughened to afford a grip.

Stopping is used after the priming coat because it may loosen if applied to bare wood.  If repairs with wood.  If repairs with wood are needed, however, these should be completed before the priming is given.

UNDERCOAT.  Except for colours which have exceptional covering powder, the undercoat is of a similar shade to the final gloss coat it dries out flat.  Its application is similar to that of the priming coat, and it should stand for twenty-four hours before being rubbed down for the final coat.  Use waterproof glass-paper as before.  Regulations require that rubbing down should be wet when lead paint in used.

FINAL COAT.  In most gloss paints the brush marks flow out, and this means that less working is required.  In fact only enough working should be given to ensure an even distribution.  Remember that the paint takes on an initial set soon after application, and if working is continued too long the brush marks will fail to run out.  The art is in getting on sufficient paint to cover well and give a good body without beginning to run.  Do not overload the brush, and work towards the edges; otherwise there will be an accumulation at the corners which it will be difficult to deal with, especially it not noticed at once.
BRUSHES.  When required for use the next day these can be kept in water as in Fig. 1.  When finished with they should be cleaned out thoroughly with turps and finally washed with soap and water.  For fairly wide surfaces - panels, tops, etc. - a flat brush about 2 in. wide is used as A, Fig. 2.  Narrow surfaces, mouldings, etc., require the sash tool B.  If possible use a new brush for unimportant work for a start, because there are sure to be odd ends of hairs, dust, etc., on it.

Old Work

STRIPPING.  The treatment here depends largely upon the condition of the existing paint.  Badly cracked or blistered paint is useless as a foundation, and will have to be stripped off.  The tradesman invariably uses a blow lamp for this, passing the flame over the surface and immediately scraping off with the scraper as shown in Fig. 3.  The softening is very rapid, but care has to be taken not to allow the flame to remain in any one position, because it will otherwise burn.  Special care has also to be taken when working near glass.  Incidentally, all fittings such as handles, finger plates, etc., should be removed before repainting as it is impossible to get a clean result otherwise.

If a blow lamp is not available it is necessary to use a proprietary liquid stripper.  There are many kinds available, and generally it is better to avoid those of a caustic nature because they may affect the paint subsequently applied.  If such a stripper is used the surface should be well washed down afterwards, and finally wiped over with vinegar to neutralize any traces of the stripper.  Non-caustic strippers are quite safe in this respect, but should be washed off with turps.

Once the paint has been stripped off the repainting is the same as for bare wood.  Cracks, etc., should be filled in, and knotting used where necessary.  Incidentally, stripping from mouldings is always rather awkward, and a shave hook is generally used by the tradesman (see A, Fig. 3).  The pointed end and the rounded end are both used - sometimes it pays to make up a special shape tool to suit a moulding so that the paint is removed cleanly without damaging the wood.  In using the hook always well soften the paint with the blow lamp so that no excessive pressure is needed.  The latter might damage the wood.  After cleaning off, the surface should be rubbed down with coarse glass-paper.  For mouldings you can often make a wood block to use as a rubber.
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PAINTING OVER OLD PAINT.  If the old paint has still a reasonably good surface it can be rubbed down and the new paint applied over it.  Use one of the proprietary sugar soaps, such as  Manger's, dissolving this in water, the quantity as given in the instructions on the packet.  Apply with a brush and scrub over the whole surface.  Two buckets are required; one for the sugar soap preparation, and the other for clear water for washing down afterwards.  The sugar soap, apart from removing dirt, has a slight abrasive action on the surface which gives the new paint a better grip.

Rubbing down follows, and can be done whilst the surface is still wet, using waterproof glass-paper.  The idea is to make the surface perfectly level for the new paint.  Some prefer to use pumice stone or one of the special pumice blocks.  Waterproof glass-paper is quite satisfactory, however, and is specially useful for mouldings.  On plain surfaces it should be held over a cork rubber.

Any necessary stopping is carried out after the first coat of paint.  Putty is often used, but a better stopping is made from white lead, gold size, and whiting.  It is applied with a knife, and if the latter is drawn across the crack at an angle it will be found that a deposit is left in the crack.

For inside work two coats are generally enough, except when a light paint is to be used on a surface previously dark.  These are the undercoating followed by the gloss coat.  Any stopping applied after the first coat should be touched up before the final coat is applied.  The method of application is much the same as that already described for new wood.  In the case of panelling such as a door, do the work in the order shown in Fig. 4, and follow the direction of the grain of the wood.  The panels and mouldings are often taken in together.  Note specially the order in which the framing is done so that the final strokes of the brush give a clean finish.  Thus the short stile (3) is painted first.  The brush is bound to go over a little at the ends, but these places are made clean when the brush is drawn horizontally along the rails (4).  The ends of the last named are also cleaned up when the long stiles (6) are dealt with.  One point of note is that the door edge (5) is painted before the surfaces of the stiles (6).  In this way any overrunning at the edge is cleaned off on the surface which is the more important of the two.

WINDOWS.  The general preparation of wood frames is much the same as for other woodwork, but in the case of sliding sashes it is as well to remember that the surfaces at the side are liable to thicken with repeated coats of paint, and it will probably be necessary to rub these down, especially in old property.  When painting the exterior the simplest plan is to raise the lower sash and lower the upper one so that their positions are partly reversed.  As much of the work as can be reached is then painted, after which the sashes are reversed to their normal positions enabling the rest to be completed.

Metal casements suffer from liability to rust.  They should be kept well painted.  If rust has occurred it must be completely removed as otherwise discolouration is bound to appear.  A wire brush is generally the best tool to use.  Certain proprietary liquids are available for de-rusting iron, and these are a great help.  The difficulty is to keep the metal covered by the liquid, combined with awkwardness of reaching the rust when it is partly covered with a layer of discoloured paint.

To make a really good job it is necessary to use a stripper first.  Scrape and scrub with wire brush as soon as the paint is soft, then apply the de-rusting compound.  Allow time for it to work, then scrub with a brush.  Some compounds form a sort of protective skin on the surface which makes an excellent surface for paint.  The usual priming is red lead paste and boiled linseed oil.  Sometimes turpentine is added, the proportion being 2 of oil to 1 of turps.

Bituminous paint is often used on iron, but it is essential that the same class of paint if used in subsequent painting as otherwise there may be discolouration and failure to harden out.  Another objection is the limited number of shades in which it is available.  It is suitable for rain-water pipes, corrugated-iron roofs, and so on.  If for any reason it is later necessary to repaint with normal oil paints it is advisable first to give a coat of aluminium paint.

One last word on working in a confined space such as a narrow cupboard or w.c. is that is is generally a help to paint the far wall first.  It gives more freedom and saves the accidental touching of the new paint with the arms or clothing.

The Handyman's Pocket Book: House Decorations, Distempering.



Today there are so many excellent proprietary distempers on the market that it is not worth while making up your own.  Generally the ceiling and frieze are distempered, and sometimes the entire wall.  The first step is the preparation of the surface.  Here it should be noted that it is always an advantage to clear the room of furniture as far as possible.  Apart from general convenience, once distempering has been started it should be carried right through without interruption, and this is almost impossible if furniture has to be moved about.  Carpets should be removed, and if lino cannot be taken up it should be covered with sheets of paper.  Incidentally, although the distempering of the ceiling is the first part of decorating a room, all preparation for other processes should be completed first.  Thus, when old wallpaper has to be soaked for stripping off, and paint rubbed down, this should be done first.  The best way it to complete the entire preparation of the room before putting on any new material.

WASHING DOWN.  Washing off the old distemper is the first job.  An old brush is generally used, and generally it will be found that the distemper comes away easily as water is brushed on.  The brush is cleaned every time it is dipped into the pail.  Get rid of the distempered right to the plaster, and if necessary use a scraper, taking care, however, not to dig in with the corners.

If wallpaper or ceiling paper has to be removed go over the entire surface first with warm water applied with a brush.  This will generally enable it to be peeled away easily.  Parts that stick badly may need a second soaking.  Use the scraper where necessary, but avoid digging into the plaster surface.

Cracks in the ceiling or walls should be made good with Alabasine or Keene's cement.  Rake out all loose particles, and roughen the surface where necessary to give a key.  It is an advantage to undercut the edges of cracks so that the filling has a dovetail grip as in Fig. 1.  An old table knife ground to the shape shown at E, Fig. 2, makes a useful tool for such work.  Damp the crack before applying the cement.  Remove the surplus cement, leaving the surface slightly proud so that it can be finally levelled with coarse glass paper after it has dried out.

If distemper were applied directly to bare plaster it would soak in almost immediately, and it would be impossible to give an even finish.  It is necessary to give a first coat of size, generally known as claire-colle.  Size can be obtained in jelly form, or as a powder.  The latter is generally the more convenient.  Mix 1 lb. of the size powder with water form a paste, stirring to get rid of any lumps, and add 1 gallon of boiling water.  The quantity should be checked by the instructions is a proprietary concentrated size is used.  In a separate pail mix 1 lb. of whiting with water, and when thoroughly mixed add to the size.
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Once again stir thoroughly and add cold water to make about 2 gallons in all.  Brush this liquid over the entire surface to be distempered, taking care not to miss in any place.  The whiting in the size, apart from giving a preliminary whiteness is a help in detecting where the mixture has been used.  A quart of claire-colle will cover an average ceiling and frieze.

DISTEMPER.  Ready-prepared distemper can be obtained.  If you prefer to make your own, however, mix as follows:
  • Put 14 lb. whiting in a clean bucket.  Cover with water and leave for 3-4 hours.
  • Put 1 lb. concentrated size in another bucket, and pour on 4 pints boiling water.
  • Pour the water off the whiting, and stir up the whiting to a paste with a stick.  Many men add a little Reckitt's blue.
  • Keep blue in a rag and add little at a time, stirring well so that tone is even.  Remember that the distemper dries out considerably whiter than when liquid.
  • Pour the size mixture into the blued whiting, stirring well, and allow to stand.

In the case of proprietary distemper the instructions provided on the packet should be followed.

Close all doors and windows before beginning.  It gives more time to work before drying takes place.  Once the latter occurs it is difficult to avoid join marks.  Begin at the window end, starting at one corner, work right across the ceiling in a width of about 1 ft.  A plank resting on two ladders should be used as it saves to move a single pair of steps so often (see Fig. 3).  By looking towards the window you are much better able to see whether every part is covered.

Dip the bristles of the brush about halfway into the distemper and dab against the side of the bucket (Fig. 3).  There is quite an art in lifting the right amount of distemper; enough to give a reasonable deposit on the ceiling without shedding drops all over the floor.
Work the brush in all directions, spreading the distemper evenly, and, having reached one end, immediately draw the ladders with their plank about 3 ft. farther over, and work back.  Be sure that every part is coved, because there can be no re-touching later.  It would only disturb the distemper already put on.  If for any reason the work is unsatisfactory it will all have to be washed off and the work repeated from the start.

Sometimes a ceiling is discoloured in patches, and there is always a certain amount of risk in distempering over these owing to the possibility of the discolouration creeping through.  The trouble is generally due to chemical action.  The only safe plan is to use an oil-bound distemper.  If as you proceed you accidentally leave splashes of distemper on the woodwork, wipe them off at once with a rag.  It is much easier to remove than when it dries.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Handyman's Pocket Book; Brickwork.


For ordinary home use there are two kinds of bricks; the Fletton which is of good hard quality but of a not very pleasant new red colour, and the facing brick which looks much more attractive but is more expensive.  The choice depends upon the purpose for which the bricks are needed.  Frequently both are used in the same job, the cheaper Flettons being used for foundations and in other places where they are not seen.  The size of bricks can be taken as 9 in. by 4.5 in. by 3 in.  In fact they are smaller than this, but calculations can be based on them since the mortar seams have to be allowed for.  They are sold by the thousand, though small quantities can usually be obtained from builders' merchants.
Fig. 2 Stretcher Bond for 4.5-in wall.
QUANTITIES.  To estimate the quantity of bricks required for a job the simplest way is to reckon the number required for each course, and then multiply by the number of courses high.  Take a 44.5-in. wall 6 ft. long and 2 ft. high.  There are eight bricks in one course, and the 2-ft. wall needs eight courses.  Consequently 64 bricks are needed.  This is a very simple example.  Allowance has to be made for the footing which is generally wider, for any return walls, window and other openings.  The same principle of working to the number of bricks in each course and multiplying by the number of courses can be followed, however.  Remember to allow for the thickness of the wall.  For instance a 9-in. wall of the same length and height as the above example would take double the quantity of bricks. 

TERMS.  It is as well to know the terms applied to brickwork.
They are shown in Fig. 1.
  • Course.  This is any one horizontal row of bricks.
  • Header.  A brick the end of which shows at the wall face.
  • Stretcher.  A brick with its long side showing at the wall face.
  • Closer.  A brick or part of a brick which is less than the standard width.
  • Bed joint.  A horizontal mortar joint.
  • Perpend.  An upright mortar joint.
  • Quoin.  A corner brick.
  • Frog.  The recess generally cast in one side of the brick.
  • Bond.  The particular formation of the bricks in a wall.
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Fig. 3.  9-in. wall built in English Bond.
BOND.  The simplest bond is that used in a 4.5-in. wall, known as stretcher bond.  It could be used for any light work which does not reach to any great height-a low wall, coal bunker, base for small timber greenhouse, etc.  The vertical joints occur in the middle of the bricks of the adjoining courses.  At the corners they overlap each other.  Where a wall ends as to the left in Fig. 2 it is necessary to use half bricks in every other course, and the broken end is placed inwards.
Bricks are never used directly on earth, and a foundation of concrete laid in a trench is needed.  Apart from forming a firm base for the bricks it spreads the load over a wider area.  The foundation should be about twice the thickness of the wall in width.  This is shown at A,  Fig. 2.  If the bricks are to sustain much weight a footing can be formed of a row of headers, these resting upon a still wider concrete foundation as at B.

When a 9-in. wall is used English bond is a satisfactory method of laying.  It is shown in Fig. 3.  Note specially the corner where closers are needed.  The footing for a 9-in. wall is given at A, Fig. 3.

FOUNDATION.  The concrete foundation is the first necessity, and a trench to receive it should be dug out.  The depth of this depends on the job and upon the nature of the ground.  The concrete foundation is invariably below the general earth surface, and when there is a footing (see Figs. 2 and 3) this also and generally one course of ordinary brickwork is below ground.  The trench depth and width can be decided accordingly.
Fig. 4. Pegs to mark trench.   A. simple square.
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Fig. 5. Levelling Pegs.                                   Fig. 6. Lines Pegged 
Mark out the position of the trench, driving in corner position pegs as in Fig. 4.  When a rectangular shape is required as in a building, a large square can be made by the 3 . 4 . 5 method shown at A, Fig. 4.  If the three strips are nailed together to these sizes a right-angled triangle is bound to be formed.  Additional pegs are required to enable the lines which mark the sides of the trenches to be stretched.  The corner position pegs cannot be used because they would fall away when the trench is dug.  Dig the trench, making sure that the bottom is firm.  Loose earth is useless as a foundation.  A pick axe driven in will give a good idea of it firmness.

To enable the concrete to be brought to an even level a series of pegs should be driven into the middle of the trench at intervals of about 5 ft.  The tops of all the posts should line up with the surface of the concrete, and they should be tested with a straight edge and spirit level as in Fig. 5 to see that they are level.  If the sides show any tendency to fall in, pieces of wood shuttering should be fixed to them, side-to-side struts being used to hold them.  They are removed when the concrete has set.

A suitable concrete mix is: I cement, 2.5 sand, and 4 coarse aggregate, and 0.5 to 0.75 water.  This mixed separately (see under concrete) and is poured into the trench and rammed well in.  It is brought to the level of the top of the posts.

MORTAR.  Either a lime-cement or an all-cement mortar can be used.  For the former use 1 cement, 1 lime, and 4 sand.  The sand and lime are mixed thoroughly first and the cement added immediately before use.  If hydrated dry lime is used the entire mix may be done in one operation.  Cement mortar requires 1 cement and 3-4 sand.  These are mixed together dry, the whole being turned over to a fresh position three times.  The water is added from the rose of a watering can to form a workable mix.  Only make up enough for the number of bricks you can lay in one operation.  Setting begins within half an hour of mixing and the mortar is of little value if used once this happens.  Make a point of turning over the mix two or three times whilst working.  Incidentally, avoid brick laying in frosty weather as the mortar is spoilt.

Bricks must be damped before being laid as otherwise the moisture is absorbed from the mortar.  The best plan is to spray them with water half an hour or so before use, using a watering can.

LINE OF BRICKWORK.  Continuing the example already given, set lines on pegs to give the line of the brickwork on the concrete foundation.  Spread the mortar on the foundation and press the bottom course of bricks into ti to leave a joint about 0.5 in. thick.  Any squeezed-out mortar is picked up with the trowel and thrown on to the brickwork.  Assuming that a footing is being used the appearance will be that shown in Fig. 6.

CORNERS.  Now begins the brick laying proper.  As a 4.5-in. wall is being built, stretch lines afresh 2.25 in. from the centre line of the headers forming the footing, as a guide to keeping the first course of bricks in line.  Build up four courses of bricks at the corners as in Fig. 7, taking care to keep the outer surfaces upright.  If you have no plum line (A) you can use a large square as at B, placing a spirit level on the horizontal arm.  Pick up the mortar with trowel and place it in the position the brick is to occupy-you will soon learn to judge how much to pick up.  Also cover the end of the brick with a pat of mortar to form the upright joint.

The four corners being laid the intervening spaces are filled in course by course, lines being held in the joints as shown in Fig. 7 as a guide to keeping the courses level and plumb.  The simplest way of finishing off is to draw the trowel along the joint to cut off all surplus mortar.  As the trowel in drawn along with its edge level with the upper edge of the joint it will depress the mortar slightly at this point and make it flush with the bottom edge.  At the same time it will leave a smooth finish.  Beginners may find it easier to use a putty knife.  If there is any surplus mortar on the face of the brickwork it can be washed off with clean water and a brush after a couple of hours.  Do not use dirty water which has had cement in it.  It will discolour the brickwork.

CUTTING BRICKS.  When a brick has to be cut the professional strikes it all round with the trowel and then knocks off the surplus.  Beginners are advised to use a bricklayer's bolster as shown in Fig. 7 C.  A light blow is given on each side to mark it.  The brick is then placed on a firm surface and the bolster tapped smartly.
Fig. 7. Corners built up and lines stretched.
REPOINTING.  This is often needed in old brickwork.  The operation is fairly simple, but certain precautions must be taken if the result is to be successful.  The first job is to rake out the old joints to give the mortar a reasonable depth as in Fig. 8.  The professional uses a special form of pick pointed at one side and having a chisel edge at the other.  If this is not available a narrow cold chisel and hammer will have to be used.  The depth should be from 0.5 in. to 0.75 in., and when the edges of the bricks have crumbled and the old mortar is weak it is advisable to cut in to 1 in.  All loose particles, dust and so on are then brushed away.  A wire brush is handy for this.

Just before starting the pointing damp all the raked-out seams thoroughly.  Have a can of water and an old brush, and go over the whole.  In hot weather it will probably be necessary to go over the work a second time.  Unless this is done the dry brickwork will absorb the moisture from the mortar and cause the latter to drop out.  Whilst speaking of weather, never attempt re-pointing during frost.  The new mortar will only drop out.

The mortar can be equal quantities of cement and sand, though many prefer a mixture of 1 part cement, 2 parts non-hydraulic lime hydrate, and 9 parts sand.  The former makes a stronger mortar, but it may be too strong for the brickwork causing the latter to crumble at the edges.  The cement-lime mortar is more easily worked with the trowel.  It should be well pressed in and finished smooth in accordance with the rest of the brickwork.  A common finish is known as weathered pointing, and is shown in Fig. 9.   The trowel is drawn along the seam at an angle as at B so that the mortar is pressed slightly in at the top.  This will cause an uneven edge to appear at the bottom owing to the mortar being pressed out.  This is trimmed with a knife and straight-edge as at C.  
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An old table knife ground at an angle can be used.  Generally the unwanted mortar drops away; otherwise it is easily flicked off with the knife.  The mortar is best held on what is known as a hawk (see Fig. 11, B).  Do not make up more mortar at a time than you can deal with in half an hour of working, and turn it over frequently.

When the seam has to be hollow-recessed as in Fig. 10 it can be finished by drawing a piece of rounded hardwood along as in Fig. 11, A.  Here again any pressed out mortar should be removed before it hardens.  As a rule the straight-edge is not necessary, the knife alone being used.