Old Houses!

So having started putting information on here there has been something of a gap in progress to to various other projects getting in the way, a problem I’m sure others will sympathise with!

On thing that’s been keeping us all busy of late is our house (which is a very old ex pub) appeared to have something of a woodworm, nothing too serious but a problem we wanted to rectify while we still had as little stuff as possible to do any harm to! Anyway the outcome of this was we needed to treat the entire attic and first floor meaning we had to remove all of the floorboards on the first floor and clear all the attic space, in total something like 200m², so let the chaos begin!

So the story begins with dust, not just any dust but the sort of residue you get after a building has been left for upwards of 200 years, this stuff is awful, if you have have to deal with it you’ll understand what I mean! It WILL get everywhere, I’ve previously used those cheapo disposable masks and have found that while they more or less work as soon as you start moving about a bit they either fall off or lift away from your face enough to leak and not do anything. My feeling on this is if you ever have to do anything like this it’s worth splashing the cash a bit on a half decent one. Personally I bought 3 of these : http://www.screwfix.com/p/site-reliance-28-day-half-mask-respirator-ffp2/1232j
hey seemed to fit well as they are flexible rubber and have replaceable filter elements. There are plenty of other options that should also be fine, out of preference I would just avoid the cheapo ones. This was around the time we realised the better masks were a good idea.


Adding to the above, safety goggles! When you start ripping apart a building things will start flying, be they intentional or not! In our case we had to add a new loft hatch to one end of the building to allow access. the building being rather old and actually still has old style plaster and lath. This is where lots of small sticks are nailed onto the beams and the plaster would be pressed through between the sticks where it will curl round the back of them and set holding the plaster in place. This works very well if left untouched but sadly it’s rather fragile if it is ever disturbed the back half separates from the front and the plaster peels off the ceiling! The problem here being if you start cutting through it you will get covered in an torrent of plaster, horrible black dust, splinters, nails and anything else that’s previously been left all over the attic. We had big lumps plaster, concrete and even daub (as in wattle and daub)! Goggles are not just a good idea in this case, I rank them as essential! This is a chunk of daub we found in the attic, it’s about a foot wide…Admittedly if this fell on you goggles would only help to a limited degree!


So now next up we had two old galvanised steel water tanks up there that were long since taken out of use. Somehow, I’m not sure how, the tanks were about double the size of the hatch we had to get them through. The obvious answer to this was to make the tanks half the size! So knowing this I got tooled up and got to it. First off I tried a 4.5″ angle grinder, while it kind of worked sparks flew everywhere as expected and after cutting 6 inches or so the first cutting disk was gone. If you ever try this I recommend having a second person to hand with a fire extinguisher. you will also need plenty of cutting disks, or ideally a larger diameter grinder may work better! After my first disk I abandoned the grinder and went for a reciprocating saw, specifically this one. These are a very aggressive tool but highly effective. To be honest on these it was like a (very noisy!) hot knife through butter. In total for the two tanks I wore out one already part used blade, bent a second one that it turned out I had previously ruined and had to do the last couple inches with a new one – In hindsight I should’ve just started with the new blade!

So back to ripping up the floor, just as a quick example of what chaos we’re talking about here, so this is the master bedroom as :

Is it still the first floor if it doesn't actually have a floor?
Floor-less bedroom

And here’s another bedroom, after insulation was installed in the floor. In most houses this really isn’t necessary but in this case it has quite a few benefits. Firstly being an old building it has a lot of drafts from pretty well everywhere, there are large gaps around sections of the floor allowing all the warm air from the ground floor to escape upstairs, plus any noise passes right through.

Bedroom 1 Floor
Bedroom 1 Floor

Hopefully that will solve a lot of these problems, we also packed felt sleeving (I bought some of this, it comes as a tube which isn’t ideal but it can be cut open or if the pipes are really close just wedged between them pressed flat as a double layer between to stop them clanking as they change temperature.

Anyone looking at this and thinking  there’s a lot of pipes and cables in there, you’re right! Being an ex-pub everything is wired separately so we have quite a lot of individual sockets which have their own circuit breakers and other related things which would be excessive in a house but in a business where you don’t want one faulty appliance to trip out all the power it becomes worth the additional cost and effort!

The other thing we’re working on is adding a networking cupboard to tidy up all of our wiring and to add a number of wireless access points to have internet all over the building. Being old and stone construction wifi doesn’t exactly travel far so we need to do something a little more serious than the average wifi router! I suspect that’ll be another blog another day!

Refurbishing Vises

Another of the things I was given by my granddad was some well used Record branded vises, specifically a type 23 engineers vice, a type 91 pipe vise and a type 52 woodworking vise. All of these had clearly had quite a lot of use in their lives but were still functional. Unfortunately they clearly hadn’t had any attention for a number of years and just needed a bit of tlc before they started their new life.

Yet again I’ve decided to do it properly. The first step was to remove all the grime, there was old grease, loose paint and quite a lot of surface rust so I went to it with a powerdrill fitted with a rotary wire brush.


This removed the majority of the grime but I needed to use a solvent to degrease the surface prior to painting.

Degreased Vise

It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that due to me wanting to try out the new paint I didn’t clean the entire vise, that’ll have to wait for another day.

The key bit for me of restoring these vises was making them look the part, so while I could have painted them any colour I did quite a bit of research and found the correct factory original colour for them is BS381C-110 Roundel-Blue. I managed to find one place who could supply a this as a very high quality enamel paint – Paragon Enamel Paints it can be bought via Ebay or direct from their website. I’m not going to lie, it’s not exactly cheap but even the smallest 0.5l can goes a surprisingly long way so you can always retouch it if you need to. It’s also worth pointing out at this point that they specify PT8 synthetic thinner as there doesn’t appear to be much that works. I recommend buying this with the paint as it’s probably the best option for cleaning brushes/spills – sadly me being me it hadn’t noticed this and just cleaned the brushes with petrol.

Painting in progress

Now having painted half the first vise I realised that while I was waiting for it to dry I couldn’t clean the other side. I admit that was obvious but I wanted to see what the paint looked like! So I started looking at the next vise:


This is a type 91 pipe vise is generally used for holding a pipe or tube usually to cut a thread onto the end without crushing it. Such fittings used to be used for water pipes in houses many years ago but that is no longer the case but threaded pipes and rods are still widely used in engineering.


This time I disassembled the threaded bar to avoid potentially getting paint on it as well as some other moving parts and all three jaws. I then cleaned it in the same way as the other vise – although with the addition of of a toothbrush to get into some of the corners.


Next up was painting it, this one was a little more fiddly as it wasn’t attached to anything – in retrospect I probably should have just screwed to to a bit of wood but hindsight is a wonderful thing! Also It has a few moving parts which will get stuck if paint gets in them.

Painted Pipe Vise

So I need to finish it off and paint the areas where I was holding it and things but we’re heading in the right direction. The pair if vises now look like this:

23 and 91

Still more work to do to get it all looking spot on but that can wait until part 2 – where I’ll also have a go at the woodworking vise:

Woodworking vise

This gives a better idea of how they all looked before I started cleaning them – not terrible but in need of a clean.

To be continued in part 2…

Cobblers Last (Cobblers Anvil) Refurbishment

So my granddad recently gave me all of his tools as he decided he no longer had a need for them and I decided I would refurbish all of the tools I could and continue using them as long as possible – at the end of the day most hand tools are pretty simple and quite easily serviced given basic equipment and enough time and effort. The last two sadly being things which are in rather short supply at the moment so some of these will take rather longer than they probably should!

Selection of tools

The first item I found in my granddads workshop which I really wanted to clean up and give a new lease of life was a cobblers last, these were quite common in antiques/vintage shops and auctions in recent years but I’m told are starting to get a little hard to find and while it is unlikely to ever be used to repair shoes again they can be used as a good doorstop.

Cobblers last before cleaning

It had been stored in an outbuilding for some considerable number of years and so had suffered as a result. It was covered in lots of rusty scale which would all need removing before I could do much else. Thankfully I recently got an offer I couldn’t refuse on a pillar drill so with the aid of a wire brush that job became much easier!

Last with the scale removed


So following heavy use of the wire brush I was left with an altogether cleaner looking last with no loose rust at all.

So the next phase is to mask of any areas you don’t want painted – in this case I wanted to keep the original working faces clean so I masked them out prior to painting. In terms of paint in theory any metal paint could be used but I have found the best thing to use where a tough finish is required is an enamel type paint. In this case I used Hammerite smooth in a spray can. I’ve had some bad experiences using hammerite with it not curing properly but the key is thin layers, lots of thin layers. Turns out reading the instructions is actually a good idea! It does still take a long time to fully dry though…

Painted cobblers last

Leave the whole thing in a dry place for a couple of days to dry fully and it’s ready for the finishing touches. Unfortunately because cobblers lasts are made of cast iron this finishing touch is definitely easier with power tools – I used an angle grinder  with a flap disk but I’m sure there are other options and this was quick and easy! I carefully cleaned the working surfaces until they shined, I didn’t want the last to look completely new – that would detract from the point of the whole project – but I wanted it to look like it was still in use.

The end result

So here’s the end result ready to go back into use as a door stop or house ornament.

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog, this is where I plan to record all the projects I do primarily for my own benefit but also with the home that someone else might find some aspect of it useful.

Projects will cover a huge range things, from quite simple to very involved and technical and will cover electrical. mechnical, DIY and anything else that comes along.

I don’t try to claim the way I do everything is necessarily the right way to do things but where there’s failure I plan to record that as well – failure is just another way to learn!