Bah, humbug

It looks like slow going at BrooklynRowHouse but you’ll have to take my word for it: trim like this takes a lotta time. I probably have 60 hours of woodworking just into this tiny ante room and it’s still far from done. So what’s the hold up?

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about my “real world” obligations, but my two oldest clients, Children’s Health Fund and, both hit me with a pile of work to complete before the end of the fiscal year, which is 12/31 in both cases. It’s SNAFU for consultants like me this time of year. I’m used to squeezing in Christmas during a cigarette break.

By the way, these are technically some of the worst pics I’ve ever taken but I liked the dogs in this shot.

First, I’m making most of the mouldings on my router table in the basement, which is also where my table saw, jointer and planer are, not to mention my lumber supply. I haven’t actually counted the number of round trips I make from the second floor to the basement every day but it’s got to be at least forty. That’s like climbing the stairs of an 80 story building and back every day. For perspective, the Empire State Building has 86 floors. And I wonder why my legs hurt the most at the end of the day.

Second, nothing in this room is square, plumb, level or straight. No surprises there; after all, it’s a hundred year-old house. But paneling isn’t like plaster. It’s got to be joined, ideally seamlessly. That means a lot of scoring, compass work, shims and 88-1/2 degree cuts.

Everyone’s heard the old carpenter’s rule: “measure twice, cut once”. But because I tossed the original drawings and decided to jam this job I’ve had to prefix that rule with: think three times. It’s sooooo easy to dig a hole for yourself with layered woodworking like this, like cutting the window seat without planning how the adjoining stile will integrate with it and whether that stile will blow the reveal with the cap moulding. Ask me how I know.

Third, because of all the crevices and corners in this paneling, I pre-sand each piece down to 220 grit before installing it.

Lastly, everything is glued. I’ve used very few nails on the finish trim and most of them were brads to hold a piece in place till the glue cures. So far, there’s a half-gallon of Titebond holding this room together.

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it (so to speak).

As you can see, the dresser cabinet carcass was completed and installed. This weekend’s project will be constructing the upper cupboard, which has to be installed before I can finish the right side window trim. I’ve got some leftover oak detail pieces I can throw into that. I’ll do the drawers and doors last, and I just got a PC dovetail jig for an early Christmas present from the pooches. The credit card companies are marketing to anything with a pulse these days, I guess.

Because I’ve fallen so far behind schedule, I decided to ditch the idea of building the closet doors myself and ordered a prehung, oak double door from That should be here in about four or five weeks. I’ve bought several doors from them over the past three years. Nice people, good prices and excellent quality.

Digressing: while I respect the ethic… and believe me, I’m as relentless a dumpster diver as the next cheapskate… I’ve never much understood the compulsion of some homeowner/restorers to spend a weekend pawing through a stack of funky old doors at an architectural salvage yard only to pay $900 for a rather plain door which needs to be stripped and, often, repaired.

If you’re looking for a real special door, like for an entryway, I can understand the desire to find something unique. But for a closet? No. Way. is delivering me a pair of prehung, mortise-and-tenoned solid oak doors for $500, complete with antique hardware and ball catches, sized to order. I can’t argue with that.


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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.