. . . temporarily at least. The fact is, my blogging days may be numbered. Real life – or at least its grad-school facsimile – intrudes: school starts in less than two weeks, and I believe I will find it impossible to juggle school, family, and home-ownership and still find time to write non-thesis oriented material.
I’ve been on no-kidding vacation for almost a week; unfortunately, my in-laws, who have a log cabin in the woods with a 40m x 25m pond for a front yard—an idyllic place for a summer vacation, actually, and I needed an opportunity to catch up on my swimming – they do NOT have high-speed internet. It’s been difficult at best to find the opportunity to tie up their one phone line (dialup: so very 20th century) with my new laptop (a Dell D620 core duo, $750 on ebay), and that’s not even taking into account that I just needed REST after a month of home-maintenance packing, moving, unpacking, and more home maintenance.
But the rest of the family is off at VBS, and I have so many stories to tell about moving from Out West (low taxes, low regulation, dry, thin air) to the Great Lakes (confiscatory taxes, overbearing regulation, humidity, surly clerks, cheap insurance and HSI). But let’s start with:
There are, basically, three types of floor sanders: vibrating plate sanders (where the sandpaper is Velcro-ed to a vibrating plate), orbital sanders (where the sandpaper is Velcro-ed to one or more spinning disks), and belt sanders (where the sandpaper is a loop through the machine and only sands in one direction. The first two are fairly easy to use and also fairly gentle on the floors. The last is very difficult to use competently, but is much faster at taking up huge amounts of wood – which can be good or bad depending on your perspective.
I attacked the floor with an orbital sander, and in a few hours sanded down almost our entire ground floor (our “new” house, built in 1927, has the original wood floors throughout, with the exception of the kitchen and bathrooms, which have ceramic tile). I had hoped to not use that word “almost”, seeing as how I rented the sander from Home Depot by the hour, but I finally came to the last room. As I started sanding, I first realized that the old finish wasn't coming up with anything close to the ease of the other rooms. I then noticed that the sander was spitting globs of something as it spun ineffectually over the floor. I looked at the bottom of the sander and saw that the sandpaper (24 grain) was CLOGGED with hardened packs of that same something.
So I took the paper and sander back to Home Depot: your sander DOESN’T WORK! Well, no, our sander works fine, you just have a lot of some kind of finish that’s tougher to get up. Try chemicals.
So I returned to the floor with a bottle of finish remover. “Apply to floor with a sponge, let sit, and then wipe the finish off with paper towels,” the bottle said. Pardon me, but . . . BULLSHIT! I poured on the finish, let sit, and then SCRAPED up the finish with a floor scraper. Great glops of floor finish! I quickly exhausted the bottle and went back for more.
Eventually, I said, I’m tired of chemicals, but surely now the sander will work. I got a vibrating plate sander this time. And the sandpaper still clogged! Plus, I didn’t seem to be making much headway against the black stains in the floor itself.
More chemicals. Back to Home Depot for the daughter of all floor sanders: a hand-held belt sander. The advantage of the hand-held is that it can get right up against the wall, whereas the giant belt sander cannot.
I went to work with the hand-held. And STILL THE SANDPAPER CLOGGED! Plus, the belt sander sands very unevenly in inexperienced hands. But I did make some headway against the black stains, enough that I finally said, well, my floor looks like crap – but it is good enough for a room that few people will see. So I vacuumed it up, and opened the door to my wife, who put down two coats of oil-based, semi-gloss polyurethane. I was several hundred dollars into the project in tool rental and chemicals by now, but I do have the satisfaction of having saved $2k by doing it myself.