Patent Prints

This is one of those stories I’ve kept saying “oh, I’ll share that one next,” but kept putting it off in favor of other stories here on the blog for the last several months. So – now I’m making sure to share it.

A little over a year ago, I came across a website that advertised selling large-scale prints of cool and interesting patents. The concept isn’t very sophisticated – the patents themselves are available free of charge from Google Patents, where you can find high resolution scans of most (maybe all) patents ever issued – but the fun part is someone got the idea that they could use these drawings, printed nicely on large-format paper, and make a business on a place like Etsy. You choose details such as the size, and type of paper stock and color you want to see them printed on. They have their large-format printers do the work and ship you the finished product. I’m a sucker – I thought it was cool, so I ordered a set of ones that I liked.

Ultimately though, I wanted more than just a paper poster to hang on the wall. This house isn’t a college dorm room, after all. So I thought about the best way to take those posters and make them into something more sophisticated. The simplest path would be to stick them into a frame, but I felt they wouldn’t look quite as interesting if that was all I did. So I looked into a more complex process in which I would plaque mount the posters on wood.

With a little bit of Internet research I came up with a plan: pick up some 3/8 inch MDF (medium density fiberboard), cut them to the site of the posters, bevel the edges of the board with a router and paint the edges black to prep the plaque itself. Then glue the poster to the board using spray adhesive and as a final step, coat the finished product with a matte finish spray to protect the paper.

I wanted these posters to go on the walls in the Family Room downstairs, which overall has a blue tone (bluestone fireplace, bluish-gray carpet, and bluish-gray shades), so I picked the posters to be printed in an off-white ink on a blue paper background, and on a relatively large size (20×30.) I chose four patents: a Polaroid close-up lens add-on (for my camera work), a Lego brick (for the large Lego collection I possess), the original Macintosh case design (I am a Mac guy), and the Hollerith tabulating patent (what, essentially, started it all for IBM in 1888.) It took about a week to do all four of them start to finish, but I am very happy with the results, and they really fit into the room well, completing the look on the walls. I also feel they follow my motto of being Mid-Century Compatible.

Here are the progress and finish shots:

Matt Pond, In Concert at My House


Mary and I have the pleasure of doing something really cool on October 5th: hosting an actual concert at our house. Matt Pond is an indie rock artist (his band is called Matt Pond PA), who has released 8 albums in the last 17 years, with a few hits on the Alt Rock charts along the way. We’ve enjoyed his music for many years. September into October, Matt Pond and Matt Pond PA guitarist Chris Hansen will be doing a “Living Room Tour” playing a stripped down set in people’s homes across the eastern half of the US – and we are the last stop before heading home (they live downstate.) We’ve seen him several times in Ithaca – he’s a great performer!

If you happen by chance to read our blog, live nearby, and think going to a concert in the living room of a sweet mid-century house might be your bag, the tickets went on sale today (promotion by Matt Pond begins Friday) and there are only 50 available, $20 each. (Note: All money goes to the artists.) They can be purchased here:

If you want to know what some of Matt Pond PA’s music sounds like, check these out:

There Are Still Surprises (Kitchen Task Lighting)

This spring I decided I wanted to tackle a project I had my eye on from when we moved in, but hadn’t quite gotten to yet: adding under cabinet lighting in the kitchen. I was having the kitchen table legs chromed around the same time, and figured this was a great time to finally finish all of the projects in the kitchen so it can be considered “complete.”

While there were many lighting options, ultimately Mary and I decided that doing LED “puck” lights would give the look we preferred. I purchased a few sets of line voltage lights from Home Depot and set about planning how to install them. I wanted all the wiring to be reasonably hidden, and wanted all of the lights to be controlled by the same switch that controls the light above the kitchen sink. To do this it required drilling into the cabinets and, more importantly, poking into the soffits above and clamoring around the attic to tie everything together. After a few days of looking over how to arrange lights, etc, I began mounting the lights under the cabinets, tacking the wires up nicely, and drilling appropriate holes to run wiring discreetly inside of them to the ceiling.

This part went smoothly. To tie the wires together in the attic, I needed to extend the leads from the puck lights, and did this using romex cable. I fed the various wires up to the attic, then went and crawled around in the blown cellulouse insulation (wearing a mask.) Above the kitchen is a hip roof – that is, the roof slopes downward on all sides, meaning the space at the edges is very small. It turns out I can’t easily wedge myself in far enough to find the leads for the wires. So, after some debate, I decided my only real option is to take a hole saw and drill into the face of the soffit so that I can pull wires into bundles and ensure they are far enough into the attic to be reachable. And that’s where things went off the rails.

Drilling into the first soffit, this is what I find:

Surprise! There is another piece of sheetrock back there. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but then it dawned on me what I was seeing: In 1986, when the kitchen was redone with the fancy Wood-Mode cabinetry, the new cabinets were both taller and deeper than the existing cabinets. The fix? They built the soffits above the cabinets out by 2 inches or so by adding onto the existing soffit and blending it together. Upon closer inspection, you can tell that the soffits in the rest of the kitchen (with no cabinets below them) are 2 inches thinner than the cabinet soffits. Never even noticed. It’s been that way for 30 years.

I had to drill a few holes in the soffit in order to reach where wires were in different places. Ultimately, though, two of the holes I drilled (in the angled portions) – were backed by 2×8 boards. Surprise! So there was no way to easily drill through them, either. Ultimately I ended up knocking a total of six different holes in the soffit, three of which were unneeded, to get the wiring run correctly.

With the surprises out of the way, I set about finishing the lighting. In the attic I brought the wiring together and created a junction box tying it back to the switched light fixture, and on each light I purchased a special wire splice kit and tucked it into the top of each cabinet – the splice box meets code and allows the light to be disconnected without cutting the wires in the future.

When all was said and done, the results were awesome. Here are some shots:


With this project done, now I can finally produce the “Before and After” for the kitchen.


Nice Legs

I like chrome. Shiny, silverly chrome. My motorcycle has a lot of chrome on it, for one. When we moved into the house, the house was generally accented (door knobs, hinges, fixtures) with brass or brushed bronze finish on most things. Early on we replaced the door knobs, hinges, and had light fixtures chromed or (if needed) replaced with chrome versions – as such, the house now has a chrome silver accent color on the interior, instead of brass and bronze.

A lot of projects have been done in the kitchen, such as a new kitchen floor, painting, etc. In the kitchen we have a large, built-in banquette (in place since 1962ish), with a kitchen table. The legs of the table are original – heavy duty steel legs, they were originally powder coated enamel, but after 50 years that enamel was pretty worn and needed to be addressed. After giving it some thought, I came to one conclusion: chrome them.

The nearest place that does this type of work is up in Syracuse (a little over an hour away), called Sandy’s Bumper Mart. They had done a few smaller projects previously for us, cleaning and chroming some light fixtures in the living room. For about $400 and a few hours of my time to haul them back and forth, off they went to be refinished. I built some temporary legs from extra wood I had around to tide us over so we could still use the table in the meantime. A few weeks later we got them back, and the results were spectacular. Here are some pictures showing the change (I will point out it is difficult to get a good picture of table legs):

Two Years, Blog!

A few weeks ago (on April 3rd), this blog turned two. A lot happens right around that time – Stephen (our son) has a birthday, as does Mary, and this year Easter also happened around that time, so I didn’t put up a post right then about the blog’s birthday.

With another here, I find it interesting to compare the statistics from year to year:

April 2013 – April 2014 page views: 14,615

April 2014 – April 2015 page views: 13,160

Most popular post (besides the homepage), is once again is Adventures in Mid-Century Modern Kitchen Flooring: 1,351

Second most popular is It’s All About The Sputniks with 975 views.

It’s fun finding out the people who read and keep up with our blog. Thanks for following along with us on our adventures! There’s lots more stories to tell: I just did some more work in the kitchen with chroming items and adding lighting, have done some other vintage-style projects I am eager to share, and we’re already started on this year’s exterior house work.

Stay tuned!