Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Hmm. I just realized that last week I shared an "America" themed song by Bob Seger I hadn't heard in years, and this week I'm sharing "For America" by Jackson Browne, another song I hadn't heard or thought of for many, many years. Both seem apropos for our current times, maybe moreso now than when they were first written.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bob Seger.

Now Playing: Prince Sign 'O' the Times
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Back in 1986 I got on a big Bob Seger kick. I remember when his "Like A Rock" album came out, many folks I knew were disappointed because it had taken four years for him to record it, and it didn't seem to live up to that anticipation. Looking back, I'm impressed by the solid lineup of songs on the album, foremost among them the furious lead single, "American Storm." Watching the video before posting, I saw James Woods, Randy Quaid, Lesley Ann Warren and Scott Glenn, and thought it was a tie-in video to a movie soundtrack, but no, apparently it's an original video for the song. Weird. The song itself is about cocaine addiction, written after Seger read Wired,, the biography of John Belushi. I've never seen Seger live, although I almost did in 1987 in Houston, but plans fell through at the last minute when person I was going to ride with couldn't make it. Maybe someday.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Brothers NYC.

Now Playing: The Cure Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tiki build-along, pt. 24

Rattan-clad aquariums are a modern mainstay in home tiki bars. From what I understand (and this could be wholly off-base), when the tropical fish craze hit big in the 1970s, the metal-framed aquariums and stands corroded due to the salt in the marine tanks. Entrepreneurs in the Philippines, already skilled at working with rattan due to the intricate peacock chairs made there, hit upon the idea of building the aquarium stand entirely out of rattan, designing it in such a way to look like a bamboo hut. The idea caught on, then faded just as quickly when the tropical fish fad subsided. Or something like that.

I've never seen one available new, but used ones turn up on Craig's List around here once every 8-10 months or so. For almost six months someone was trying to sell one in Austin, asking $400 for it. That was far more than I was willing to spend. The thing is, while I kinda wanted one, my tiki bar is outside, so I couldn't keep fish in it. Without climate control, it'd get too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. So there was no particular urgency for me. Until the other week when a Craig's List ad caught my eye. There were two rattan aquariums for sale, from the same person. Both had elaborate pagoda-style tops, which I'd never seen before. One was a stand-up floor model, the other a table top model. The price was far less than I'd ever seen one listed for before. I couldn't afford it, but this was one of those times where I knew I'd regret it forever if I didn't jump on the deal. So the next day I drove to the west side of San Antonio and picked up the floor model (that's it, to the right). It's in perfect shape. Mint, with the exception of a little dust in crevices. The seller was retired military, who'd gotten them in the 70s when stationed (where else?) in the Philippines. It has never held water, but instead was used to display model cars. Amazing. For now, once I apply a protective coat of spar urethane, the aquarium will display tiki mugs and maybe some fake jellyfish. It's got a nice built-in light, so I plan to rig it up to illuminate nicely. Eventually, we may convert a room in the house to use as an indoor, winter-refuge tiki bar. If that happens, then maybe it will come inside and finally host fish. But for now it's nice where it is.

And where it is, at the moment, is next to my booth. You remember the booth, which I unexpectedly acquired from a closed Fuddrucker's in Houston last September. It was in serious need of tikification. The booth had never been designed to be free-standing, and the boards supporting the back corners were too frail for my plans. One had even broken during the move from Houston to New Braunfels.

The solution, of course, was liberal use of 2x4s. I drilled a pocket hole to screw the 2x4 into the deck, shoring up the existing board on each corner of the three sections.

Then I peeled up the laminate and drilled another screw in to anchor the top end.

Next, I needed to enclose the sides. I measured and cut thin plywood (I forget the exact thickness--less than 1/4 inch) to fit the openings.

Here's the thing--I've learned that storage is at a premium in my tiki bar. Probably all tiki bars, but since mine's outside, there's just not anywhere to keep anything. Since the booth had all that empty space in the back, I decided that rather than simply close it in, I'd make it into cabinets for storage. Those thin doors I'd cut from plywood, I framed them with scrap lumber and furring strips to improve stability and stiffness.

I used shims to position the door properly to mark the hinge locations.

Voila! A door that opens! And closes!

To ensure they stay closed, I installed magnetic latches.

For this next part, you may want to avert your eyes. I made a mistake. A big mistake. Remember how nasty the booth sections were back when I got it? There was grease and grime and food particles all over that I spent a day hosing off and scrubbing down. The bottom most section of the booth had old, black vinyl covering it, and at the time I decided to leave that intact, thinking the vinyl offered some degree of protection to the wood. Wrong! What I failed to take into account was how ripped and damaged that vinyl was, and in fact, it had been catching grease, dirt and--worst of all--moisture and holding it there against the wood. When I finally peeled away that old vinyl months later, I found a disgusting, moldy mess. I'm telling you folks, it was bad. The photos below are the after shots, once I'd hit the fuzzy stuff with multiple waves of Mold Armor and bleach, and exposed it to the cleansing UV rays of the sun. And attacked it with a wire brush. I wasn't playing around, working on this problem off and on for a week. A lot of bleach went into this. A lot of Mold Armor.

The reason I peeled the vinyl away in the first place was to replace it with tiki baseboards. I routed, burned, stained and varnished boards to match the baseboards I'd used along the wall. The booth would match in that aspect, making the Lagoon of Mystery look more like a unified whole as opposed to a random hodge-podge.

The inside sections had two 45 degree turns, so to make the baseboards fit properly, I made 22 degree cuts to the ends (22 and 22 don't equal 45, but it's close enough).

The fit was, again, close to perfect. The baseboards are attached with countersunk outdoor-rated screws. The grey screw heads are disguised with a dab of brown paint, applied with a Q-tip. This is a high-tech operation here, after all.

Next, it was time to tackle the exterior (ie, back) of the booth. The door and lower area had to be addressed separately, otherwise the door couldn't open, could it?

I had a lot of tortoise shell bamboo tambour paneling left over from the wall of the tiki bar, so I selected appropriately-sized strips of scrap, cut to size, then attached to the side of the booth using a combination of paneling nails and Titebond II glue. I've stressed this many times, but it bears repeating--always drill pilot holes first when nailing bamboo. If you don't, it will split. Heck, it might split even if you do. But the nails held it solidly in place until the glue dried.

The door, being larger and more unwieldy, proved a bigger challenge. I had to cobble together several pieces of tambour paneling, then measured out the proper length.

The best way to cut the tambour (that I know of) is to roll it tightly then used a fine-toothed trim saw. I use my band saw when I can, but these pieces were too big to fit. Old-fashioned elbow grease was necessary to get the job done.

Again with the glue. The plywood of the door is too thin for nails, so the glue's going to do a lot of work here.

I drilled pilot holes for nails into the plywood backed by the furring strips and scrap wood. The paneling nails are mostly to hold the tambour in place until the glue dries.

Here's something I don't see mentioned online about bamboo tambour--it bows outward. I had to go through my wall covering and add a bunch of nails because the tambour started sagging badly. It looked like a pot belly sticking out. To prevent that from happening on the cabinet doors, I rigged up this scaffolding of boards and clamps to press the center strip of tambour tight against the door until the glue set. If you think it looks inelegant, trust me, it's far more clumsy in reality. It did not get easier with each subsequent door.

Finally, I added a smaller routed trim piece to the top and bottom of the door to act as both a door stop (keeping it from going in too far) and providing a de facto handle to grab onto when opening the cabinet. This proved challenging to position correctly. Again, the trim pieces are attached to the door via countersunk outdoor screws drilled into the scrap frame on the opposite side of the door. I also ended up painting the plywood edges of the booth black so they'd blend better with the black laminate and dark trim. You'd be amazed at just how much a tan strip of exposed plywood stands out and draws the eye.

By repeating that routed triangular motif, I've managed to match the booth to both the walls and the pedestal cocktail tables I built last year. This particular table is larger than the others, as I made it to spec once I obtained the booth.

I think it looks pretty snazzy. Someday, I may do something with that white stripe running through the middle of the seats. And someday we may just re-upholster the seating entirely with a tapa pattern or some such design that's appropriately tiki. But for now, I'm happy with what I've accomplished. Even so, there's plenty more work to be done!

Now Playing: Arthur Lyman Leis of Jazz
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, April 05, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts over the past two years, and one of those, The Speakeasy, has a host (Damon Boelte) who is in a band. That band, Brothers NYC, performs the podcast's theme song, "Whiskey and Loose Women." It's kind of an amazing southern rock/bluegrass/Americana mashup that reminds me of Dan Baird and the Georgia Satellites (listen to "Second Chance" to get the connection with those harmonies) even though none of the Brothers NYC band members are actually from the south as far as I know. Brothers NYC play it totally straight, but somewhere their tongues are in search of a cheek or two.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Talking Heads.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Get a Grip
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Tiki build-along, pt. 23

Back when we moved in to the new house, before the Lagoon of Mystery was even the inkling of an idea, The Wife purchased an outdoor table and chair set to go by the pool. It was one of those tables with a top made of tempered glass, with a hole in the middle for a large umbrella. For five years, it served us well. Then last fall, a sudden thunderstorm swept in with gusty wind. Before we had a chance to react, the wind had caught the umbrella, lifted the table off the ground and slammed it back onto the patio with enough force to reduce that tempered glass to a million little pieces.

This is why we have a strict "no glass" rule in the Lagoon. All these shards took forever to clean up. Some found their way into the pool (yikes!). And this was tempered glass. Imagine how bad it would've been with regular glass.

Once cleanup was complete, we were still lacking a table. We weren't thrilled with the idea of shelling out a lot of cash for a replacement, so I did what I always do--figure out a slightly-less-expensive-but-way-more-time-consuming alternative. The table's metal frame remained intact, so all I needed was a new top. My primary concern was that the replacement table be shatterproof, with "filling into the tiki vibe" a close second. After some thought and price shopping, I settled on tongue-and-groove western red cedar planking. The tongue-and-groove would offer stability and the western red cedar is fairly light and resistant to decay.

The frame was a little less than 4' across, and the cedar planks came in 8' lengths, so I split each in two before assembling them atop the frame. It started looking like a table right away.

Next, I flipped the whole assembly over...

...and used a jig to trace a 2" (give or take) lip around the frame. The glass set within the circumference of the frame, but making the wood fit inside would be nightmarish. My solution would be to set the wood on top of the frame. I'd have to come up with a new way to anchor it, however. That lip would come in handy for that.

The planks, though slotted together, still moved freely. To trim them to shape, I had to clamp them down. I soon discovered that even clamped, they were prone to movement. Hilarity ensued.

Some of the above-mentioned hilarity. Jig saws don't make the prettiest, or most controlled of cuts. But sometimes they're the only tool for the job.

Once all the planks had been cut to form, I used my large router to bevel the edges. I learned with my porthole build that something as simple as a bevel gives the end result a finished, professional look. I wanted the table top to look like a table top, as opposed to a bunch of planks pressed into service.

Next was staining the planks with Minwax special walnut, to match the other woodworking on display in the Lagoon.

Once the stain dried, I applied several coats of Flood weather sealant, because even cedar takes water and UV damage when left outside all year. Those cedar planks are starting to look quote nice! Also, I should point out that the planks came with one rough side and one smooth, sanded side. I used the smooth side for the table surface, for obvious reasons.

I used Titebond III--one of the most durable wood glues out there--to secure the tongue in the groove.

And this is what the table top looks like when it's fully assembled. I let it dry for 24 hours, then let it dry for an additional 48 or so because I was busy and couldn't get to it.

But now the $64 question: How to anchor the wooden top to the steel frame? I hit upon using brackets--conduit straps--to attach the top to the frame. The brackets didn't come in the proper shape, but they were easy enough to hammer flat, then use pliers to work them into the proper angles.

As I didn't want shiny silver metal (or even dull silver metal) attracting attention, I put the brackets into a box and spray painted them matte black.

The moment of truth.

Much to my surprise, my bracket scheme worked pretty well. Using a power drill, I quickly went around the table and had it solidly secured in no time. In fact, I moved a little too quickly--you can see some rust spots on the frame. I'd intended to sand those spots down and apply a new coat of paint. That would've been the responsible thing to do. But I just wanted to get the darn table fixed, so I skipped that part. Maybe I'll get back to it someday.

Flipping the table over, I found very little play in the wooden top. It stayed in place, and didn't shift when moved. The planks didn't pop free. It acted like a table, much to my relief.

Once I got it back out by the pool, it only took a few moments to position the umbrella base and slot the tiki umbrella through the center hole. It looks for all the world like it belongs there, doesn't it? Miracles never cease!

This installment of the build-along might not have been as cool as some of the others, but it certainly was necessary. I have some more coming up that will be more interesting, so stay tuned.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
Chicken Ranch Central