Sunday, July 19th, 2009
8:58 pm - Weekend Projects...  
Old Retainer
As I noted last time, the first order of business on Saturday was to install the air conditioners. Last year I finally solved the problem of providing fresh air to a room whose sole window was being used to house an air conditioner. To do this I fashioned a retainer to hold the a/c in place while allowing me to raise the window. Unfortunately, the lovely hardwood faced interior grade plywood I used to fashion the retainer didn't stand up well to four months exposure to the great outdoors. As you can see in the photo, the outer veneer is cracked and peeling, and the piece had bowed outward from the pressure exerted by the weight of the a/c. Clearly I needed something better suited to the task.

I replaced it with a new retainer made from 3/4" square aluminum channel, the remnant of which is sitting atop the old support. Took about ten minutes of work with a hack saw and a miter box. Aluminum is very easy to cut. I cleaned up the sharp edges with a file it was all set. Not only should it be much more structurally sound stronger than the original, but it's also an inch shorter, making it much easier to fit and adjust the screen that goes on top of it when the window is open.

And since today was much nicer and less muggy than yesterday, the a/c got turned off again first thing in the morning, and the window was opened.

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Staining Differences
I also spent some time down in the basement fiddling with wood stains for my nerd-hole bench project. As I mentioned last time, I decided to do a two tone stain job. I stained the large birch panels with a cherry stain, and they turned out really well. I plan to surround the large panels with simple ¼" thick maple strips stained a darker color. Ideally I want to a stain that is a dark reddish brown to contrast with the cherry.

I cut the moulding strips to length on Saturday, and then it was time to experiment. I had some red mahogany stain left over from the shelves I made over Christmas, but I was very disappointed with the results on that project. Despite the deep reddish paint chips on the can and at the Depot, in actual use the shelves came out looking more like walnut than mahogany, with no red tint to it at all. (This was actually okay, because it came very close to the fake walnut laminate on the particle board shelves on the opposite wall.) After staring at the assortment of chips at the Depot for about a half hour, I decided to give a red chestnut stain a shot.

I had lots of scrap pieces left over from cutting the strips, so I did a five-minute application of the new stain to two of the scraps. I wiped them down, let them dry for a couple of hours, then clamped them to one of the panels to see how they looked. The result is shown on the vertical piece in the photo. It is a little darker than the cherry panels, but not by much, and certainly not enough to provide the contrast I was looking for. Back to the drawing board.

The can says that for darker color, leave it on the wood longer and apply additional coats. So I tried that, letting a second application of stain sit on the already stained wood for fifteen minutes before wiping it off. Again, it got a little darker, but still not enough to make a difference, at least to my eyes. I also tried the mahogany stain, and although it was darker, it still had no red in it and looked ugly. I even tried a 2:1 mix of the mahogany with the red chestnut, but still no joy. I began thinking about painting the mouldings instead of staining them.

Then I took the photo up top, thinking to use it to illustrate the problem so far. The vertical piece had just the initial application of stain, while the horizontal piece had the second, as well. Even though to my eyes they don't look all that different, the camera shows them to be totally different. The horizontal piece looks about perfect for what I want to do. Weird. It may be an optical illusion, because the camera is looking along the grain of the horizontal piece, and across the grain of the vertical. Still, I did a second application of stain to the vertical piece, and will see how it looks to the camera when it dries out.