Notes from Windward: #67


Adding Yet Another Sink

another step towards licensing

  February 5:

     I expect that you might be thinking, "What do they need with another sink in the kitchen?" especially since last year's addition of the long stainless-steel, four-compartment super sink. Well, most everything we build is intended to serve multiple functions, and the kitchen is no exception.

Laying out tile for the hand-washing sink

     This project, on the surface, is even more odd in that it's part of some work aimed at getting our kitchen licensed as a commercial kitchen by the State of Oregon. Since we're located in Washington state, that's worthy of a bit of explaining. Washington state charges sales tax but Oregon doesn't which creates a situation where the north side of the river is essentially a "bedroom" community with almost all of the commercial activity taking place on the south side of the river in either The Dalles or Hood River--so, if you want to sell something, it's more likely to happen south of the river.

     If one of our folks wanted to generate income by baking (for example, Gina's very good at making cheesecakes) and then selling their work at, for example, the Farmer's Market in Hood River, they would have to go through the process of obtaining a temporary permit from the Oregon Health Department, a permit which is only good for that one weekend. By having our kitchen inspected and approved annually, they wouldn't have to go through that hassle again and again.

     In order to pass inspection, we have to incorporate certain features into the kitchen, things like a separate handwashing sink so that people coming into the kitchen to work can readily wash their hands without a risk of contaminating whatever's going on in the main sink area.

     The first step was to cover the wood with backerboard, and then starts the challenge of figuring out how to best lay out the tile. It quickly becomes apparent that we'll need a few more of the edge tiles, so this project will have to wait until the next run into town.

  February 7:

     One of the problems with our gradual way of working is that sometimes the vendors change supplies, and we can't get more of some color or design. We're finding that the case with the chamois colored tiles that we used on the long sink in the mud room, a color scheme that we'd like to continue on to the new handwashing sink. Since we're not able to get more of the light brown tiles, we're looking to use black tiles to make up for what we lack since some degree of black trim will tie this counter in with the counter that we just finished. At least that's the plan.

experimenting with some black tiles to finish out the counter

  February 9:

     First thing that needed doing was to add some extensions to the sink's water connections, which turned out to be another example of the "surprises" that come with re-use. Instead of using standard 1/2" elbows, whoever last installed this sink used what are called reducing elbows which are 1/2" pipe thread on one end but 3/8" on the other. Okay, fair enough, we can deal with that; just means that the project waits until the next trip into the hardware store.

adding extensions to the back of the sink

     With the extensions in place, it was time to secure the sink to the stand, and start the process of setting the tiles. Pretty much the same as before except that the smaller tiles made this feel sort of like doing a mosaic rather than a sink. Not exactly a work of art :-), but it should be functional. The black trim ties in with the counter next to the stove, and the chamois tiles tie it in with the long, tile counter in the mud room.

tile set and awaiting grouting

  February 10:

     With the sink secured in place, the next task was to cut and fit the drain piping. There's not as much distance between the bottom of the sink and the point where the drain enters the wall, so we may not be able to do an open drain. An open drain is a set up in which a sink drains into an open pipe, the purpose of which is to insure that if the sewer backs up, the waste water will just run out onto the floor instead of backing up into the sink. Since this is just a hand washing sink which won't be used for food prep, it's not exactly necessary, but we like to build in as many features as we can as we go along.

adding in the drain pipes

     With the drain in place, the next step was to hook up the hot and cold water lines. That went easy enough, but when we watered-up the sink, the hot water faucet turned out to be not working--which is one of the challenges that comes with re-use. A quick disassembly of the faucet showed that the set washer was shot and needed to be replaced. As these things go, if the rubber in one side is shot, it's usually time to go through and replace the washers and seats on both sides.

removing the faucet seat

     To control the water flow, the rubber washer presses against a brass seat. In order to remove the seat, you need a special wrench with a tapered, square end. It's one of those jobs that's a snap when you have the right tool, but just isn't going to happen otherwise.

a view of the bottom of the faucet with the seat shown to the right

r clear=all>   February 14:

     Since we were waiting on the next run into town for parts, it seemed like a good time to mix up the grout and fill in the gaps on the handsink. It's actually a fun sort of work as you get to run the muddy mixture into the gaps between the tiles. Once it's all in, and that a fairly tricky thing to accomplish on the vertical portions of the tile, it's a matter of letting it dry some, and then coming back over it to clean up excess grout, letting it dry some more, cleaning it up again, and so on until the surplus grout is gone, and the channels are well packed.

in the process of forcing grout into the spaces between the tiles

  February 15:

     Drains come in two sizes: 1 1/4" and 1 1/2", so since the threads on the bottom of the sink were small, we picked up 1 1/4&Quot; hardware to connect the sink to the drain. At which point, one of the recurring joys of working with re-use is often a real headache to the commercial builder who's running a crew on the clock. Turned out that the threads coming out of the bottom of the sink were even smaller than expected--a 1" in diameter, they were smaller than anything any of us had ever seen on a sink, and Eric--the owner of Red's Trading Post--has seen a lot of sinks.

usuing a 1 1/2" to 1" reducer to connect the sink to the drain

     Once the adapter was secured in place, it was easy enough to finish screwing and gluing the fittings into their respective places.

the finished supply and drain fittings under the handwashing sink

     With the drain line secured and the service lines attached, it was time to finish installing the rebuilt faucets, but there was a small surprise there too. Normally the knobs on sinks turn clock-wise to increase flow, and counter-clockwise to turn the flow off--but not this sink. It appears that the round handles on the sink were add-ons and that the sink was originally designed for the paddle handles that you see on doctor shows where the surgeon has just washed her hands and uses her elbow to shut off the water. The result is that while the cold water is turned on by rotatig the right hand knob clockwise, the hot water is turned on by rotation the left hand know counter-clockwise. If we can track down some paddles for this sink, we'll return it to its original design, but in the meantime, at least it will serve its intended function.

  February 16:

     Milled up more of our stock of fir to create the paneling for the front of the sink, got it installed and a first coat of polyurethane.

paneling the front of the hand washing sink

     Spent most of this afternoon's work time cutting and prepping the wood for the computer desk that will be attached to the hand washing sink. Currently the kitchen computer is set up on a small table along the back wall, but the plan is to build in furniture for the computer and printer along the wall that the hand sink is connected to.

     One of the principles of sustainable building involves building features into the walls so that less floor space is needed, which means that there's less floor space to heat and cool. The current mania for ever larger homes and facilities carries with it an energy cost which is going to keep rising as the relative cost of energy continues to go up. The more efficiently we structure our work space, the easier it is to use and heat, and besides, built in utility is something that most anyone can relate to.

the computer counter--cut, planed and ready for glue-up

  February 17:

     This afternoon's work session was spent in the shop milling and gluing up the computer table that will be installed on the north side of the new handsink.

the new computer counter glued and clamped up to set overnight

     We would have had this done a couple of days back, but the glue wouldn't set. If you read the label on most wood glues you'll find something along the lines of "DO NOT ALLOW TO FREEZE!" The reason is that when these types of glues freeze, they form what's called a thixotropic gel with the result that once frozen, they don't thaw. In this case I'd forgotten and left the glue in the workshop during the last cold spell. It had frozen enough to gel somewhat--so even though it was fluid enough to be spread on the joint, it's ability to bond had been compromised to the point where I had to trim the joints and redo using fresh glue that Todd picked up in town yesterday.

     The floor of the workshop is a six inch thick concrete slab with hydronic tubing running through it, so once we get the non-potable water line installed (all 4,000 feet of it), we'll be able to run ground water through the workshop floor to keep it from freezing--we're just not there yet :-)

  February 18:


     Today's task was to move the new computer work station up to the dining hall, assemble and paint.


     After the paint dries for a couple of days, we'll move the computer from the coffee table it's on and get it mounted here. That will allow us to remove that coffee table, a step forward which will add another 16 sqare feet of free space. That may or may not sound like much, but one of the key principles of sustainable construction that we're looking to manifest here is that the better arranged a space is, the more efficient it is. The more we can relocate functions to the edges, the better we can utilize the central space.

  February 21:

     While the carrier solvent evaporates fairly readily, it takes longer in cold weather for the chemical reaction involved in paint drying to happen, and so it's important to not rush things if you don't want to find later that your computer monitor has stuck to the the table :-). So while we're giving the table top time enough to dry throughly, we went ahead and mounted the retractable tray that will hold the computer keyboard.


     We also took time today to put together a stand for the huge HP lazer printer. It can handle up to 11x17 sheets of paper, so it takes up a bit more room than usual. Having a serious printer available will enhance a number of projects that we've been wanting to work on, and make a nice addition to the kitchen workstation.

  February 23:

     The latest plan is to mount a flat LCD monitor on the wall so that the entire desk can be used as a work area, so that called for the addition of some trim around the back and right edge of the workspace. The trim was made, mortised and the fit checked.


  February 25:

     The last piece of work to be done on the new hand sink involves making a set of doors. Yesterday the two door panels were glued together, and today strengthening cross pieces were added to insure that the doors remain flat and true. The kitchen can be a humid environment, and if the doors were made from one solid piece of wood, there would be a strong likelihood that moisture fluctuations would cause them to warp. By making each door from two separate pieces of wood, and then cross-bracing them, that problem is prevented.


     While we're in the process of trimming the counter, it makes sense to trim up some of the dining hall's other exposed corners such as this one in Bay 4. One of the non-intuitive aspects of this type of work is that generally speaking you spend more time doing finishing trim than you do building something.


  February 26:

     Well, I took the cabinet doors up to the kitchen for a check before painting, and I was chagrined to note that they were exaclty one inch too short. Dropping an inch is a fairly common mistake--transposing two numbers is the other--but none-the-less frustrating. This was the sort of situation which gave rise to the woodworking saying that there's really no such thing as a mistake, rather it's an opportunity to re-evaluate the design. With that in mind, I left the doors as they were and made another header board, an inch wider, to fit over the door opening. An so, dear blog reader, if you don't tell, I won't :-)


     Spent the rest of the afternoon work session installing more trim in Bay 4, while Todd made the run in to pick up some paint. We carefully record information about what kind of paint we use on our various projects so when we do repairs, we can match colors. At least, that's how it works in theory; in this case our local K-Mart no longer mixes colors so we had to get a chip chart and call an aesthetic conference to decide what shade of white would best match the color the kitchen is now.


     For what it's worth, one of the keys to making consensus work is to focus the group's talent and concern on the questions that need resolution, and for those who either don't care one way or the other, or who know that they're not especially talented in a given area, to leave certain decisions to those who are better suited to make them. Picking color schemes is an area that I know is best left to others.

  February 27:

     As you can see, the new paint blends in with the old rather well. One of the interesting aspects of trim work is that the more you do, the less it looks like you've done much at all since things look...right.


     The handwashing sink got its doors today, and that about wraps up work on this project.


     Heading down the hill from the dining hall, I was struck by the beauty of the view south across the Klickitat valley. Sunset here often creates fascinating lighting effects; just sorry that the pic doesn't do it justice.


Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67