Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tales from the Renovation Track: One Woman’s Experiences of Being a Renovator: Part 1

Collage: construction, blueprints, women, STABILO All Pencils
Credits: MS Office ClipArt - j0291984.wmf + Opus Online Store - STABILO All Pencils

"We would like to take this opportunity to introduce Janice Bell who has kindly agreed to share with us some of her anecdotes of life as a renovator. We met with Janice recently and were impressed by her depth of experience in the trades. Not only is her experience in the building trades, but she also has a wide variety of related talents. She grew up knowing that her future would in the trades. She started off as a printer, and then made the trek to B.C. to become a sign maker. Her path then led her to employment on a huge construction company. When that ended, she came back to Ontario to start her own renovation company located near Peterborough.

What impressed us immensely was her commitment to helping women succeed in the trades and her determination to see them right. We also applaud her resolve to stay in the trades even though she experienced a number of hurdles and set-backs. We admire her grit to persevere despite personal hardship. Maybe at some stage she will enlighten us about her experience.

Meanwhile sit back, relax and enjoy her tales of her personal experiences as a renovator told with humor but always with an educational slant to them. We hope you will enjoy the stories as much as we did!"
Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc

Part 1 - All in All
All of a sudden, I took the pencil I had in my hand and made a big mark across the beautiful wood desk that belonged to my client, a business woman.

She froze in astonishment, and just as she was opening her lips to scold me, I took out a damp rag and effortlessly cleaned off the mark that left no trace of its presence.

She went wide-eyed again and then her shoulders sunk with relief.

I laughed at my inner mischievous self, having played a successful trick.

This particular pencil I have is no ordinary pencil. In fact, it is one of my most coveted tools of the trade, and I just have to tell you about it.

The pencil is manufactured by STABILO, and I discovered it when I was in the business of sign-painting in the last millennium, before computers took over the business of signs and rendered hand painting almost obsolete.

The full name of this pencil is STABILO All. As the name implies, it writes on ALL surfaces which includes wood, plastic, glass, metal, vinyl, leather, granite etc… You name it, it writes on it.

These pencils come in a variety of colors: white, yellow, orange, red, green and blue. I use them predominately for marking on walls where the locations of studs are - usually for installing kitchen cabinets and baseboards among other uses.

I use a stud finder to find the locations. Stud finders are essentially hand held meters that come in two types. The first type uses density to locate studs, as a stud location is denser than just a piece of drywall. The second type is a metal detector of sorts, and finds the locations of screws and nails which are of course, driven into studs. I like to use the density one as it has two settings, one for shallow and one for deeper applications. The deeper setting is used for thicker walls like lathe and plaster ones.

Stud locations are useful for baseboard applications because there are many times that a wall is longer than one piece of baseboard. When joining two pieces of baseboard, it is advisable to use a scarf (scarph) or angled joint instead of a straight butt joint. When a straight butt joint comes apart, it leaves a deeper and darker shadow which is much more noticeable than an angled joint. This is becoming more and more of an issue, especially in this day and age where cloud white is all the rage as a trim color.

I don't really know if there is a common angle one should use on a scarf joint, but I don't usually use a 45 degree one myself. This is because MDF baseboard usage is becoming so common and the resulting thin tip from a 45 degree angle is very weak and breaks off quite easily. I use something common, for instance, a 22 1/2 degree joint (one half of 45), so that the next renovator that comes along and has to replace a piece of the baseboard, does not have to do much guesswork to match the angle up.

I also prefer scarf joints, because there are times when I will glue the two angled edges together and the scarf joint provides more surface area to work with. It goes without saying though, that a 45 degree angle has more glue surface area than a 22 1/2 degree one. It is important to install the joint of baseboards on a stud, so the two ends can be tacked in securely.

Once the baseboard is installed, I merely take a damp rag and wipe the drywall clean of my marks. I use only the blue, green and white colored STABILO All’s as I found that the orange and red ones will leave a stain behind, a very undesirable trait.

There are some important considerations when using these pencils. Their "lead" is very soft, so one cannot press down hard on them without breaking them. It is also not a good idea to leave them in your vehicle during the summer months as the lead will heat up and droop like a limp piece of celery. And finally of course, they will not do well in wet environments ... remember the lead is water soluble.

The best use of these pencils is of course for teasing clients. Next time you need a humor break on the job, try writing on something in front of your customer. Just make sure they don't have a heart condition and for heaven's sake have the damp rag ready!

Happy Renovating!

Janice Bell
Bell Renovating

P.S. If you are located near Toronto, Canada, you can purchase these pencils at Curry's Art Store. Conversely, you should be able to find them at most any art supply stores.

2009 © Janice Bell

Tales from the Renovation Track: One Woman’s Experiences of Being a Renovator
Part 1: All in All
Part 2: Weld on Fire
Part 3: They Were Nailed
Part 4: It Pays to Be Honest
Part 5: Rural Renos
Part 6: Messy Is Costly
Part 7: Door Hell
Part 8: Just Where Do I Stop?
Part 9: Dressing for the Trades

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