Jul 18, 2016

Brass is back!

A five week vacation. Way too many projects. Deadline for a photo shoot in August. One would think the mere lack of time would prevent derailment, but in Pekka's case, quite the contrary. The surge of ideas seems endless. 

And this is one of them.  

It started from the idea of covering the indirect light above the teak wall downstairs with brass lamellas. And just like that, Pekka was in the middle of designing and building a brass lamella plate to be placed under the stairs. 

Focus? Momentarily lost. But should he fight the inspiration? Of course not!

Raw materials

So after a bit of sourcing, he was all set to start. First, he cut about 100 pieces of aluminium tube, 48 mm in length.

Cutting aluminium tube

Then he started assembling the structure. Twenty laser cut lamellas were supported by threaded rod and separated by the aluminium tubes.

Tubes and rods

First three lamellas

With ready materials, it really did not take a very long time to finish.

Fully assembled brass lamella structure

But what did take a bit more time, was preparing the supporting structure for the brass lamellas. First, he built the parts of the supporting structure. 

Meanwhile under the stairs

Then he attached them to the ceiling by using angle irons.

Frame in the making

Perhaps the most time consuming part was to make the connection invisible. Quite a few rounds of application of filler / sanding was in order next. 

Filler layer X drying

When the supporting structure was ready and painted, it was finally time to install the brass lamellas, which were attached to a sheet of opaque acrylic to function as a diffuser.

Ready to be installed

Pekka used thin iron wire to get the brass lamellas exactly to the position he wanted. Little by little he kept shortening and balancing each of the iron wires until the position was just correct. 

Going up

And what started as a side kick was now ready. It was easy for Minna to agree that this particular astray was absolutely worth it.

Brass definitely is not only back, and but also here to stay. 

Light with brass lamellas

Up and close

Jul 15, 2016

Slate stairs

Just very briefly - a shot of Urho on the newly finished slate stairs. The rocks on the side are those dug out of the underground when emptying it nearly three years ago. Very practical hiding rain water tubing. And not so bad visually either.

A middle aged dog on the new stairs

Jul 13, 2016

Finetuning staircase

Remember how we replaced the old wooden staircase with a pretty rough looking staircase Pekka found, had sand blown, painted and installed? For nearly two years it has been waiting for the finishing touches, including such minor details such as wall attachments in both ends and in the middle to make it less shaky, and a decorative leather wrap around the hand rail. 

Insufficiently supported staircase

A few weeks ago when summer vacation started, it was back to the work place for Pekka, when he kicked off making of those missing parts. First, some metal work with a lathe...

Lathe at work

...then continuing by plasma cutting, welding, grinding, sanding and yes, finally painting.

Welded pieces

The first attempt to attach the end pieces to the hand rail was a catastrophe. Instead of 20 minutes, the process which included a huge chunk of a wall falling off, nothing attaching anywhere and numerous censored curses for bad luck took several hours. Finally, with a chemical anchor he succeeded in creating a reliable attachment.

Not the expected outcome

To prepare for welding the pieces together Pekka really took the time to secure a correct alignment.

Ready for welding

Then, with the borrowed welding equipment (Thank you Stenkka!) he was good to go...

Master welder at work

...and voilà, lower part of the staircase was finally done!

Permanently connected

After experiencing all the trouble in the lower end of the staircase, the upper end was a school book example. Indeed, 20 minutes later, Pekka was done. In addition to the ends, he added four more attachments in different parts of the staircase. No more shaking, no more funny noises. Perfect. 

Upper end completed

For the decoration of the hand rail we considered several options. Finally, the decision was done to use a string of cognac coloured leather inspired by the stand of the Senaattori light designed by Lisa Johansson-Pape for Orno.

Senaattori light by Lisa Johansson-Pape

So this time Pekka's work place served as a leather cutting studio for pieces of 25 mm in width.

Piece of leather on a cutting table

And seriously. Who wants to travel or relax on one's summer vacation, when the option is to do fun things at the office?

Master cutter at work

Pile of leather strings ready for staining

At the same time, Pekka has been conducting some color testing aiming for cognag color.  The colored leather will be also protected by beeswax.

Choise to be made

Before staining, we also needed to test whether there was enough material available to cover the entire hand rail. In the picture below the leather string around the rail still looks pretty awful, the actual coloured leather will be stretched around the rail when still wet to give it a nice, tight fit.

So, as soon as we have decided which staining to choose and how to connect the pieces of leather strings together, the story will continue...

Testing consumption

Jul 5, 2016

Slate terrace - grand finale

Last weekend was a remarkable milestone - finishing one of the longest projects we ever launched, the slate terrace. Had we known when removing the old concrete slates and starting preparing the foundation how long the road will be, we might have considered wood instead of natural slate. Fortunately we had no idea.

The first thing to do was to sand the entire area to smooth the surface. For that, we rented a big sanding machine.

Heavy duty sanding machine

Once all sharpness was gone Pekka continued to remove all smudges of concrete and other dirt. For that, a smaller sanding machines were perfect. However, it quite quickly become evident that a very humble attitude and hours of manual labor down one's knees was required to clean the stones completely, irrespective of the machinery he was using.

Focus on the details

After cleaning the slates one by one Pekka proceeded in the washing phase. Still some pretty extensive rubbing was needed to get the area completely clean.

Manual junk removal

But when cleaned and washed, it was evident that Pekka's careful work was certainly worth every minute and effort invested in this project. It would look great.

Sanded and washed

Dry and ready for the final coat

Pekka used the same protective coating (Lantania Avo) than for the floor inside. It turns the tone of a slate slightly darker vs. the original, but does not result in a "wet-look". Also, Avo seems to have a bonus effect: it hides away tiny little grains of dirt from the stone surface (something which seems to be characteristic to this type of slate) resulting in visually more homogenous look.

Applying protective coating

A few more hours of kneeling and rubbing, and the final slates had received a protective coating. And the end result - almost too good to be true. And almost unrealistic, that it is finally ready. Patience and persistence truly do pay off.

Smooth and shiny terrace surface

Patience and persistence. Yes, I know all about that, says Urho. Two fundamental elements of begging. Just look at this face - how could you resist?

Dachshund approved

Jun 21, 2016

Rosy lights and spirea

One of the reasons we decided to not to start from the scratch on the backyard was that it would have been such a shame to rip off the existing plants. Not that we knew what they were. It was almost we had not paid any attention at all to what was growing there before this spring. For our pleasant surprise, a beautiful pink bush started blooming in May. After a bit of research, we identified it to be Rhododendron Rosy Lights. If someone can confirm or advice otherwise, that would be just great!

Rosy Lights

Rosy Lights

A bit later in June, another bush suddenly bloomed in white. This one was identified as spirea (Spiraea betulifolia) (suom. koivuangervo) - we think. It is quite of a modest plant, but yet seems to be complementing its surroundings very well. 



It is like someone, some 20-30 years ago did some thinking how the little garden should be set up. Gardening is not our strongest suit, but we try the best we can. Hopefully we will bring it back to its prime once again. 

Jun 19, 2016

Fixing and cleaning

After seaming, a few more details need to be taken care of before we can rent a sanding machine and finish the surface. There were a few nooks which would collect water so Pekka spent an evening correcting those. Eino, who is quite keen on tools, cables and cars, followed with great curiosity.

Like father like son

Tonight, we also took the first step to start cleaning up the terrace. Most of the junk has been carried away, as we need clear the area for sanding and protecting. To start with the easiest one, however, Minna washed a white structure between up- and downstairs. The brick walls will follow soon, as they are covered with spots of cement dust and other dirt.  

Before and after

Much whiter (and better)!

Let's see if all the details are ready before reaching the first year celebration of the terrace project. Only two more stairs, sanding, protecting and cleaning. And then, we can hang up the hammock!

Jun 15, 2016

Visions - revisited

It was Friday night after a crazy week. The kids were finally asleep and I had just finished working on a blog post.

Time to call it a day.

But the scraping noise outside reminded me that Pekka was still, at 11 pm, finishing the terries seaming, and the sound made me think of an old blog post written back in 2014. 

This post was not about a concrete step in our never-ending renovation saga. Nor did it describe an interesting restoration project. And it was not teamwork, but written by Minna alone.

Instead, it was about respect for those who are truly visionary. For those who are passionate and determined to chase their vision without (too many) compromises. It was about the holy triage of Vision, Strategy and Implementation, and what I had learned during Project Olive Green.

After two years, I still stand behind my words. 

First, it is true what is said about realism: it is the worst enemy of creating an appealing vision. It is not easy to let one’s mind wonder unrestricted. With any project, one should imagine having pockets as deeps as a millionaire’s and a mind as powerful as Neo’s, who could modify the matrix at will. Anything less will result in settling with a suboptimal outcome. So, get obsessed with your dream first, and after you are too committed to give up, just find a way to make it happen.

Second, it is not a single strategy that can lead to a successful end result. Strategies should be adaptable. It is fine NOT to have all the answers when reluctantly crouched at the starting line. And NOT every single corner needs to be polished and fine-tuned before the kick off. A general outline is often more than sufficient. Thus, no need to be perfect. No need to have all the answers. They will come.

Finally, successful implementation is really about three basic things: confidence, patience and extremely hard work. Very few of us do have the pockets of a millionaire. Expectations in terms of time are nearly always unrealistic. And even fewer are ready to commit to the countless hours of work. So always, always add at least 25% to your budget and time needed, and you might get close to what is really required. 

But most of all, one should have no fear. Fear for aiming too high, fear for facing problems or fustration, or most of all, fear of failure. Fear, that sneaks in so well disguised that a mind lacks a fair chance fight back. Forget the fear. Crazy and unrealistic is the way to go. That is, if you want to make extraordinary things happen.

And perhaps, most importantly: know yourself. I am not one of those fearless, visionary people. Quite the contrary. But I am extremely lucky to share my life with someone who is. So each day, I'm learning something new about chasing a vision. Sometimes I get instantly inspired. Sometimes I think he's simply gone mad. But one way or another, it is always a step forward. A step closer to our shared vision.

And by the way, the terrace seaming is completed.

All photos by Nani Härkönen (http://naniannette.fi)