You can't make this stuff up

With a spare piece of window trim serving as a makeshift saw guy and a pair of clamps squeezed to within an inch of their lives, Mr. Much More Patient wielded the whirring circular saw. I stood by doing what every good carpentry assistant does: repeatedly hit the home button on my iPhone to light up the saw's path.

I have several observations to make about that:

  1. Hand-me-down el cheapo Black & Decker circular saws may not be up to every job.
  2. Circular saws that have been launched 20 feet in frustration may no longer have a blade that is 90 degrees to the guide. You may want to check that after throwing and before cutting again. Subsequent launches are not recommended.
  3. Mobile phone home screens don't really provide that much light. Everyone should download a Flashlight application for their phone in case of an emergency. Like cutting countertops in a unlit parking lot.
  4. Headlights provide very little useable light for carpentry purposes.
  5. Mr. Much More Patient and I will probably not be getting a commendation from the Woodworkers' Safety Association anytime soon.


I hadn't intended to write about the counters for the office again so soon but as they say, you can't make this stuff up.

Here's where we left off on the counters on Friday (this post).

On Saturday, we picked up the counters to move them down to the office and as soon as I picked it up I saw the underside. The virgin underside. The underside that I could have sanded and stained and started from scratch on when everything went south on the finishing (regular reader Linda was way ahead of me on this one and asked about this after my last post). The prudent thing to do would have to been to cancel the plan for the day and start over on the other side. You can probably guess that's not at all what we did.

So then we set to installing them. I should preface this by saying that I cannot get my head around the concept of things being square. I mean I know you want them square, but when they aren't square through no fault of your own, I just cannot grasp how you make them that way. And you know what? I don't think I want to know.

I'm going to gloss over this next part because it's really too painful to relive in detail. We needed to joint two sections of countertop together. The walls in the office are WAY out of square. The cabinetry below the counters is way out of square. And Ikea's counters aren't really all that square either. We spent five hours fitting the counters together with a butt joint. The only good thing that came out of this is that I got to use the biscuit maker. It's not called that, but it's what I call the thing that makes the holes for the little biscuit things that you glue in joints and I get to call it that because I had a crappy weekend and calling it a biscuit maker makes me happy.




This was the process of gluing the joint together (the first time). The dictionary was weight to help level the top, but it might have been better served looking up words like "frustration" and "debacle."

The butt joint was ugly. The countertops, when in place, were even uglier. Well I thought they were anyway. Here's what it looked like and actually looking at the pictures it didn't look that bad.

I threw on one more coat of Waterlox, cracked the window, turned on the high powered fan and left.

Mr. Much More Patient wasn't happy with the joint. He was kicking himself that he hadn't thought of a scarf joint (cutting both pieces at an extreme angle that gives you a lot more area to glue and makes for a much more seamless  joint). I wasn't happy with the finishing. But we slept on it, and decided to go down today to see if it was really so bad. The joint wasn't horrible. It could have been better, but it wasn't awful.

The finish was another story. My little fan trick served the purpose of blowing the finish across the counter. So one area had ripples of finish that was sticky, weird and, oh yeah, white. In other words. I screwed up. Bad.



Here's how the counters looked after Attempt No. 1. Half the cabinet doors are up as well. We didn't get around to putting up the other doors because we spent so much time monkeying around with the counter. Looking at it now, it really wasn't all that bad.

Onto the next plan (I lost count of what number/letter we were on by this point). We decided to gently pull it out (we hadn't screwed it in yet, thank goodness) and attempt to flip it over to start the finish over again. But of course our glued joint broke.

The good news is that we had a large piece of spare countertop left over (and we obviously cursed ourselves by bringing it with "just in case"). And Mr. Much More Patient was happy to have a shot at doing his scarf joint.

The circular saw had different ideas. By the way, that's not really the right tool to be making that kind of cut. I have about a foot of countertop, cut in a quarter-inch increments, to prove it. (Somewhere in there is when Mr. Much More Patient did something very out of character and tossed the saw halfway across the lawn behind the office.)


Window trim as a guide and a cell phone as a flashlight, the saw, having survived a 20-foot launch, makes the final cut. Hopefully for a very long time.

Right around the time the sun set is when we scrapped the scarf joint and went back to the butt joint.

And in record time we cracked off three cuts (carefully measured and squared about 10 times over before saw went to wood), sanded the tops and used the biscuit maker on each end. In the parking lot. In the pitch black. With the headlights of the car and my phone providing the light. Bob Vila my butt. Let's see him do that in the dark.

So we're back to square one again. But it's a good square one. It's probably the square one we should have started with from the beginning. The butt joint isn't great. In fact, it's worse than the first one because the blade wasn't at a perfect 90 degrees for the cut so the bottom of the joint is tight but there's a healthy gap on the top (i.e. the important side). But since the counters are unfinished I will be able to use wood filler to mask the seam. And I get another crack at finishing. And having learned two serious lessons about the Waterlox finish, I stand a better chance at getting it right this time.

We can only hope.

I didn't have an ounce of energy or brain power left to take a photo of what the counters look like now, so I'll post another picture from work today. Check back later for an update.



  1. This is definitely a case when the camera is not conveying the full situation. I think everything looks nice in the photos, but I understand that it can look very different in person.

    From both of your posts, it's sounding like the Waterlox finish is posing the biggest problems. Are you attached to sticking with it? We have used oils on our wood kitchen counter and dining table, and both have held up extremely well to water and all manner of other substance, and there's no hard surface curing (i.e. no possibility of bubbles, ripples, white areas, stuck bits of wool, etc.).

    Good luck!

  2. Oh my what an ordeal! I hope you have it all figured out now after all of that work and re-work. I have to laugh at that first picture's priceless!

  3. At our old house you could roll a marble from one end to the other because the floors were so uneven. When Mark just had the teahouse framing up and the roof, he wrapped it all in plastic for the winter. It acted like a giant balloon and actually moved on the foundation during a big storm — which he did not realize til the next spring. Had to use a winch attached to a tree with the help of a friend to figure out how to move it back into place. All the secret stories of how stuff actually gets done!

  4. Erin, I love you. I wanted to tell you that, because first of all, I think you need to hear it after all you've been through. Secondly, I want you to know that your remodeling accounts have been better than any book I've read in recent weeks. Thanks for the entertainment. And thirdly, MAN I HOPE THINGS GO BETTER FOR YOU FROM HERE ON OUT! You deserve a break today. Go have a Big Mac.


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