Saturday, March 30, 2013

How to make wood window screens 7: What shall we call that bug preventer thing-a-ma-jig

Today, we'll look at steps 6 through 9 of our project to make wood window screens, as follows:

  6. Cut and add the "projection" to the back, on the top
  7. Put the frame in the window and mark and drill holes for fasteners (if using)
  8. Fill, sand, prime and paint the frames
  9. Cut and prime and paint the trim pieces to cover the screening on the front

The full list of steps can be found in the series post number 5 here. The first in this series is here.  The most recent in the series is here.

But first, we have to name this "projection" because we're going to talk about it a lot today, and the word "projection" just isn't descriptive enough. So I am going to call it the "bug stop," both because it stops bugs, flies and other critters from flying over the top of the screen, down between the screen and window, and thus into the house. And also because it fits between the two blind stops, and so that will help us remember where it goes and what it does.

To see a demonstration of the "bug stop", see #10 in the series, here.

6. Cut and add the "projection" or Bug Stop to the back, on the top:

So, to cut the Bug Stop, you have to measure the distance across the window between the blind stops. Preferably, you are measuring at the meeting rails, because that is where the top of the window screen sits, like so, from the outside:

Or, like so, from the inside (I am measuring today, with the storm window in). The measuring tape is up against the inner face of the blind stop:

Here, you can see a cut Bug Stop, for demonstration purposes. This is how it will sit, when the screen is installed, though it will be up higher, at the meeting rails:

After your bug stop is cut, glue and nail it to the top edge of the back of the screen frame with finish nails, like so:

So here's the one I just nailed on:

Here's a side view of the original model we're working from, as a comparison:

And now, the new frame and the model, side by side. A top view and a side view:

7. Put the frame in the window and mark and drill holes for fasteners (if using):

This step will have to wait for spring for a full demonstration, and then I will write a separate post about fasteners (which is now written and can be found here).

I think most original wood screens were installed with turnbuttons. The turnbuttons are screwed into the outer frame or casing of the window (not the screen). But because my windows are around 175 years old, I don't want to put any new holes into them that might allow moisture penetration, so after a lot of research online, I went with these fasteners, which I found at House of Antique Hardware, here:

Here is a side shot of one of those fasteners installed in a screen:

These fasteners were really designed, I think, to fasten hanging storms just at the bottoms, but I am using four in each screen to fasten the whole screen in, since my screens only cover the bottom half of my sash windows and so can't hang from the top.

Suffice it to say, I found that it is critical to measure the spot for each fastener with the screen in the window, because everything is slightly out of true. And it's better to drill the holes before the screen is painted and primed, so that's been done here, where you can see a hole in the new frame, for a fastener, and behind it an original model with the fastener installed.

Here, a back view:

And, the back again, from the side:

And now, a front view:

8. Fill, sand, prime and paint the frames:

This step is self-explanatory. Fill, sand, prime and paint everything. At this stage, it is also helpful to do step number 9 at the same time, cutting the trim that holds in the screen and prime and paint that too, while you've got the paint and paint brushes out, so see below for step 9 instructions.

Here is an empty painted frame, front and back, with the original model behind, as a reference. Note, still no screen in the new frame:

9. Cut and prime and paint the trim pieces to cover the screening on the front:

So now, you want to measure the rabbeted front edge of the frame, and miter cut the trim to fit:

And then, prime and paint each piece of trim. Since these are best if the fit is tight, we marked each individual piece with tape flags, attached with pins (sewing pins), marking the four Left, Right, Top and Bottom pieces for each screen, as you can see.

So that's that. The next and last step will be installing the screening. We are nearly done and so ready for spring! 

I'm happy to answer questions or take specific photos, if something is unclear, if you post your question as a comment.

For the entire series on making wooden window screens, click on the category "How to Make Wood Window Screens Series", in the Topics list along the right-hand side of the home page. There is also now an index tab at the top of the home page, listing all the posts in sequential order, with a link to each one.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Number and mark your wood windows, storms and screens for easy rotation each season

This is just a suggestion, but if you're either making wood storms and/or wood screens for your windows in your old house, I would suggest you think about how you're marking which storms and screens go to which window, so that your seasonal work to rotate the storms and screens is simpler.

You could just mark them on the side with pencil or marker, though in my experience those marks fade and get to be hard to find over time. Or you could find some other way of marking them. I was very happy to find that the House of Antique Hardware and have teamed up here to sell numbered tacks that can be tacked onto each sill, storm and screen, making the seasonal rotation of storms and screens easier. The other nice thing about these is that they can be painted over and the number will still be visible--at least for a few coats anyway.

(One minor word of warning, these are made with barbs to keep the tack in. Once in place, they can't be removed without the head detaching from the tack, so double-check you've got the right numbered tack before you hammer in each one. I've made a few mistakes and then had to glue the head onto the window, which is not totally ideal.)

In any case, the basic idea is pretty obvious, but I'll show it to you in action:

Here are the numbered tacks in their box. You can see that the #6 here has not been used, because the #6 screen has not been made yet:

Here is the 6th window on the downstairs front of the house, both sill and storm have been marked (because I am writing this in March, the storm is still in the window).

As I mentioned, screen #6 for that window has not been marked, because it is in the process of being built. As we make it, each component is numbered #6, which allows us to keep track of the various pieces when we're making more than one screen at once:

I'm running concurrent series on making wood window screens, and repairing and restoring storms and windows, so see those series, on screens beginning here and on storms here for more details.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What is Your Favorite Tree?

The Hudson was beautiful this morning when I drove down the hill to the train, the Palisades tinged pink with dawn light and white with snow. But I can't help thinking about that poem of Robert Frost's, which I quoted in a post the other day here. My mind always turns to that poem of Frost's this time of year, or has for a long time.

When I was a little girl (bear with me on this), my favorite tree was the maple. My grandpa Brennan had two massive maple trees in his front yard, and I think we must have had one in ours, too, because one of my favorite things to do in the spring, after the seeds had dried and fallen, was to throw handfuls of them up in the air and watch them spin, lazily down.

And my mother, who must have been hard pressed some days to keep my busy little mind occupied, showed me how to peel the seeds, tearing away the brown fin, and the harder film underneath that held the two halves of the seed together, pale green with its tiny tail of a sprout tucked in. And she gave me glue and paper and showed me how to make designs with the halves of the seeds glued into patterns.

That must have kept me busy for a half hour anyway. We had a grey house in those days, probably built in the early 20th century, with a porch and classic grey porch stairs. Or so I remember it, anyway. And I'd sit on one step and use the next one up as my desk. Pasting away. Then after awhile, mom would bring out a little tray with a tea party on it, and I'd drag out my dolls and serve them all weak tea watered down with tons of milk and sugar, and bits of toast cut into toast points spread with honey. And I'd go around the circle of dolls offering each a sip and a bite, and end the party by eating and drinking it all.

And that was how the maple became my favorite tree. Although the pine was a close second. That was because of Heidi.

I don't think I've ever seen the movie, but in the book, one of the things Heidi loves the most is the roaring of the wind in the pines behind her grandpa's hut. And in our side yard, that same yard with the porch stairs, was a short line of young pines. I would creep in under the pines, where the branches hung low, and study them. Ours didn't roar. But they had a strange white pitch that seeped out from places where branches had been sawn away that, when touched, would make my fingers stick together in a curiously uncomfortable fashion.

Later on, in my 20's in Chicago and then my 30's, in Pennsylvania, the pine became my favorite tree. The early skyscrapers, which Chicago was so famous for, being the city of big shoulders and all, were said to be modeled on the pine, with its long, deep taproot. The pine can flex with the wind, and bend and not snap, because of this taproot. And I liked thinking of the herd of tall Chicago buildings as a stand of pines, and even later, of life as a pine--the deeper one's taproot, the more one can flex and not break in the bitter winds. And when I moved to the Pennsylvania hills and learned to hike in them, I would think of all this, as I hiked among the forests of hemlock.

But now, in my late 40's (I'll be 50 in June, yikes!), the oak has become my favorite tree. The oak is very slow to grow. It takes an entire one of our lifetimes for an oak to grow into its true maturity, and then, with luck, it is just getting started. And I like the idea of a tree that persists like that. There is a stand of oaks across the street from Pugsley, in what is known as the Campwoods Methodist Summer Camp. These oaks are neither young nor old. They're sturdy and strong and striking. I'll snap a shot or two for you.

One of their babies, I think, has rooted under my yews, by the front porch, in its own little protective nursery. And when it gets just a little bigger, I want to transplant it into the front yard and give it space and time to grow.

Another day, I'll write about the trees that have inhabited the Pugsley yard. For now, suffice it to say that it feels to me that the yard and house wants an oak this time. Hopefully if we're lucky that oak will be here with the house long after all of us are gone.

So then, I've managed to talk about everything but Frost this morning. I'll save that for another day. We've got a wait for spring, it seems. And so there will be time enough for that.

In the meanwhile, I'd be curious to know what other people's favorite trees are, and why.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Forced forsythia: Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Today the forsythia inside have bloomed.

There's something compelling about forsythia, one of the earliest spring blooms. And only just this year, I learned that the branches can be brought in and forced, and so I tried it, and today I have flowers (and cats who cannot resist them, alas, so they--the flowers, that is--which have gone over twice already, have to be penned up in a room with a door). A good description of how to force forsythia can be found here, on About. com. Mine took about a week to bloom.

Here they are, still frosty, outdoors this morning:

A week ago, when I brought them in:

Yesterday morning:

And today:

It puts me in mind of a poem I once puzzled over by a poet whose work I came to love many, many years ago, when I was a young poet, Rachel Blau DuPlessis. This is a selection from the opening of a much longer poem, from her book Tabula Rosa (1987).


Snow on o-
yellow for-

open force

No one
yell ow--you
yellow mortal thing
ringed in
dull earth's icy garland.


Even the lever is a gleaning.
"Thou" art the fulcrum.

She's writing about flowers and women. It's not all pretty, perhaps, but then it never has been. Today, I wonder if Rachel knew that forsythia can be forced. It's interesting, the uses that a flower can make, of words. I've thought about that syllable "force" buried in forsythia, ever since I read this poem. They're a powerful flower. And still, they blow me away, both, the words yes, and the flowers, too, every spring.

Friday, March 22, 2013

How to make wood window screens 6: Securing the Miter Joints with Dowel Rods

This is a continuation of my series on making wood window screens. The original post was here, and the just previous post in the series was here.

We've resumed our own screen making for the summer that will someday, hopefully, be here. And in this series, we are up to Step 5. So here goes ...

5. Fasten the corners with Dowel Rods

The next step, after the frames have been glued and dried at least overnight, is to secure the glued miter joints with a dowel rod at each corner. We used one dowel rod per corner. One of the old models we're not following that doesn't have miter joints uses two dowel rod fasteners, side by side about an inch apart:

This is a classic way to make joints, so don't hesitate to consult other books or online sources aside from this post, if you have questions. The best post I've found on this is on YouTube here. As you can see from this video, a strong miter joint secured with dowel rods usually uses more than one pin, but in fact, I feel like a strong frame is not a terribly important issue with window screens. They go in the window six months a year (in the northeast, anyway) and are completely secured by the window frame around them. If you are in a different situation, you may want to investigate other sources on making strong miter joints, to get the right screens for your own home.

Before you start, drill a test hole in a piece of scrap wood and check to see the the fit with the dowel rod is not too tight or too loose. Ideally, the fit is tight but with a tiny bit of give, to allow room for glue. Here is a photo of a test hole:

Place the glued up frame into a vise:

Line up the drill, and drill a hole deep enough to go through both pieces of wood:

Put some glue into the hole and some onto the end of the dowel rod. Insert the dowel and saw it off even with the frame. In some cases, the dowel rod does not go all the way into the hole, and in that case, you can saw it off a little above the frame and hammer it the rest of the way in. 

Here is a photo of the dowel rod, after it has been sawed even with the frame. When all four are done, the frame should dry overnight again, before proceeding to the next step. I will sand this after it dries, when I prep for painting.

Since we have a couple frames left to make, after putting in the dowel rods, I glued up another frame with the freed-up corner clamps, and we'll dowel rod that one tomorrow evening.

Here is our growing rack of screens in the basement. As you can see we have several that have been glued, but not yet painted. Time to break out the paint brush.

 But for tonight, that is all. Time to rest.

For the entire series on making wooden window screens, click on the category "How to Make Wood Window Screens Series", in the Topics list along the right-hand side of the home page. There is also now an index tab at the top of the home page, listing all the posts in sequential order, with a link to each one.