My summer ended with big woodworking plans for the coming year. (Most people’s year begins on January first, but being a professor, I think as much in school years as in calendar years, so my year effectively begins in mid-August.) I was going to replace the crummy plywood doors in my house with handmade wooden doors. I was going to build my wife a big shelving unit with drawers and cubbyholes for the kids’ school supplies. I was going to practice and improve on my pipe making. And I was going to get that lathe put together and learn to turn.
None of that has happened because, as they say, “life happens.” But for me, life has happened in a very surprising, very concrete way: In September, we began the process of adopting a child.
You probably have an image of adoption in your head already: young, caring parents holding a baby or maybe a toddler, probably of a different race or nationality. You’ve got that image now, right?
Okay, forget it. That’s not at all what our adoption has looked like.
Our newest daughter (Yes, a fourth girl! My poor son…), whom I will call N, is a college student, and she actually looks a little like my now-next-oldest daughter K. Yes, they are wearing wood-shaving-crowns in the picture below.
I first met N when she enrolled in one of my classes at the university. It’s a long story–too long to tell here–but over the last two years, as we came to know more of N’s story, and as she spent time in our home, she became a real part of our family. She needed a dad, and if anybody was going to be her dad, it was going to be me. Eventually we all–N, my wife, and I–decided that a formal adoption was in order. She would move in with us while she continued her schooling, and we would make her a real and permanent member of our family.
Which brings me back to my woodworking plans for this year. A new daughter needs a new bed, and a college-age daughter needs a room with a door on it. (And a big sister with little siblings needs a door that locks.) So my wife began cleaning out the back entryway that she had been using for her home office. We got rid of excess furniture, downsized our file cabinet capacity, and threw a LOT of stuff away.
Then we began work turning it into a bedroom.
The Floor Scrapers
The pine floor was in desperate need of refinishing, so the first job was to scrape and sand the floor. We all took turns with the card scrapers, which worked really well taking off the high spots and the spots with especially damaged/degraded finish. It was still slow going, and we used a lot of sandpaper, too. (May I HIGHLY recommend getting a Klingspor bargain box of sandpaper?) By the end of it, N (below left) was adept at using and sharpening a card scraper.
But while the ladies were scraping and sanding the floor, I was working on the next step: a door.
The Second Half of the Half-Door
Two years ago, when the room was an office, I had installed a half-door that allowed my wife to keep an eye on the kids while also keeping the kids out of her papers and sewing supplies. (Not that it actually kept the kids out for long, but it was a nice idea anyway.) So instead of pulling that door out and starting over again, I decided to built the other half of the door and attach them with a sliding bolt.
The challenge here was to match the original door as closely as possible so that, once the wood on the new half ages, it will look like it and the old half were built at the same time.
I built it out of planed-down 2X6s from the home center. (I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality of lumber I can get out of the 2X6s at one of the local home centers here–if I’m willing to be picky and dig for the good stuff.) They’re joined with drawbored mortises and tenons.
I’m getting a lot better at making mortise and tenon joints. I chopped all the mortises straight, and all but one of these six joints went right together without having to trim any of the tenons.
The panels are plywood, which I thoroughly dislike using. I wouldn’t have used it at all, except that I needed to match the panels on the bottom half of the door.
The original half-door had a piece of walnut inlaid on the top with our last name and the year the door was built. I decided to do something similar on the second half as well.
Once the door was hung, we put down several coats of polyurethane on the floor. Then we kept the door shut for the better part of a week, occasionally adding another coat, until the fumes mostly dissipated.
This was the most challenging part of turning the room into a bedroom. Because of the position of the doors, there is only one corner of the room suitable for a bed. But a regular bed wouldn’t fit there because of the placement of the A/C vent in the floor. So we decided that a half-lofted bed would do nicely.
My other daughters are very proud of their triple-decker bunk bed, so I decided that my now-oldest daughter N should have a bed that looked a little like that one.
N got to watch her bed frame being made, and she even helped out here and there by holding parts and sweeping up chips and shavings. (That’s how all apprentices start!)
Like the other bunk bed, N’s bed is made of 2X6s. The headboard is shiplapped 2X stock, and the rails are dovetailed into the posts and “pegged” with a carriage bolt, which will allow the bed to be easily disassembled when it finally comes time to move it. The mattress is supported by more 2Xs set on battens screwed into the insides of the rails.
It’s not my best mortise-and-tenon job, but the joints will hold. N asked me to leave a few tool marks and layout lines visible, so I did. For example, I slightly over-cut the sides of the dovetail mortise here. I also carved her name, my name, and the date on the back of the headboard.
I got everything finished just in time. The semester was drawing to a close, and N and I had just applied some wax to the bed frame, when it came time for her to move into her new home.
Welcome home, my newest eldest daughter!