Monday, November 1, 2010

Tintin Movie - First Look

I trust that it's not news to you that there is a Tintin movie in the works. A trilogy actually - with the first 'The Adventures of Tintin : The Secret of the Unicorn" set for release in October of 2011.

Directors Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson chose Empire magazine to give us a glimpse of their work and they do not disappoint. The movie is being made in motion capture CGI (think Gollum in LOTR) as Spielberg felt that it would be the only way to do justice to Herge's drawing style.

Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) plays Tintin
Andy Serkis (Gollum from LOTR) plays Capt. Haddock
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz) play Thompson and Thomson
Daniel Craig (Bond, James Bond) plays Red Rackham

Those who know me well, know that I have somewhat of a Tintin fetish. I have all of the albums, 5 of the black and white facsimiles, 6 of the color facsimiles, more books on Tintin, figurines, cars, commemorative stamps and coins and more. So I would be lying if I said that I wasn't eagerly awaiting this movie. First Day First Show for me.....

The cover of EMPIRE is a take on the iconic image of Tintin & Snowy in spotlight

 Tintin, Snowy & Haddock adrift

Haddock pissed - did Tintin mess with his Whisky????

All images courtesy Empire magazine. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fireplace Demolition - Or - How I spent my Saturday

This Saturday I decided to finally remove the obsolete fireplace in the basement. Before anyone decides to go postal on me for removing what seems to be a perfect woodburning fireplace - let me assure you that it was not.
The fireplace was an open style wood burner that I used all of once in the winter of 2007/2008. After that I decided that it just was not worth the effort to have the entire house smell like a smoker!!!!

Besides, the chimney stack was plumbed through the basement ceiling, right through Aaliyah's floor and out through her ceiling. I addressed this in 2008 when I removed the chimney, and repaired Aaliyah's floor prior to refinishing it. Lynda and the girls stood outside the window and took care of the bricks and the rubble.

Posts are here, here, here, and here.

I decided to get rid of the fireplace as the basement plan calls for wall to wall bookcases (my comic collection growed!!!) I also had to make place for Lynda to relocate her stuff while I redid her (our) studio.

I made a time lapse movie using over 400 images spanning three hours using a YongNuo MC-36R  timer that  I purchased from Ebay. Images were taken at 20 second intervals. I was quite please at the timer as I paid just CAD 36.00. A similar offering from Canon would've set me back hundreds.

Starring....... Me.

A bigger video uploaded to YouTube here

Monday, October 11, 2010

On Popcorn Ceilings.........

A month or so ago, I started work on the Main Floor Living area as Lynda wishes to have it double up as a gallery of sorts for her 'Art Open Houses'. The Living Room had a pelmet or valance on three walls that hid fluorescent lighting that were fairly old and for the best part, did not work.

I pulled those out with minimal damage to the ceiling and discovered that the popcorn (or acoustic) treatment had been installed after the valances had gone up and was not present on the ceiling part behind them. That meant that I would have to build up the treatment to match or remove the popcorn from the entire ceiling.

Since I seem to have a penchant for doing things the hard way, I opted for the latter. Plus I HATE HATE HATE popcorn!!! Popcorn is mainly used by builders because it is so much easier to do than paint. Plus it hides any defects in the mudding and taping of the joints as well as poor workmanship. Did I mention that I hate popcorn??? or for that matter any ceiling treatment?? They seem to be the one thing that instantly date a house. They trap dirt and are generally FUGLY!!!!

So I Googled popcorn removal and the videos and instructions made it look so darned easy. Just spray the ceiling with water and scrape off with a wide trowel. The popcorn drops off and leaving you with a nice smooth ceiling. NOT. My popcorn was mutant!!! I used my floor scraper with a new blade and all that I managed to get off the ceiling was the first few millimeters.

I had to then wait for the ceiling to dry, sand it down with a pole sander with vacuum attachment, skim coat with joint compound, allow to dry, sand, skim coat again and hope that it looks good.

This is a Vacuum Pole Sander that saved my sanity and probably my marriage. The dust gets sucked right into the attached vacuum.

.......and this is the HEPA filter that saved my Shop Vac. Without this, the filter would allow the drywall dust to blow right through and eventually clog. Pricey, but washable and reusable. This is well worth the price.

After all of that work, I've got (half of the surface area at least) a ceiling that is smooth, looks modern and will look amazing painted in Benjamin Moore's 'Decorators White'

However if asked in the future how to deal with Popcorn ceilings, my simple answer would be - Move!! This is not a job for the faint hearted, the lazy or the ones daunted by a Living Room in a mess for the better part of 2 months. Moving just might be less work.

Simple Bedside Shelves - Done!!!

So here are the shelves finally done and mounted on the walls in the girls rooms. I was lucky that the placement of the girls' beds allowed the shelves to be mounted directly to studs.

I painted the shelves using my small touch up sprayer with some leftover paint that I had sitting in the crawlspace. I should get myself one of those HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) as they tend to be more controlled regarding the overspray issues.

 This is Aaliyah's shelf with her 'Baby Beanie' her DSi and her book.

and this is Layla's with 'Steggy' and the rest of her stuff.

So that's it. No more of their stuff on the floor and me screaming for them to clean up their rooms. Well.... I still scream........... but that's probably never going to stop......

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hidden Treasure - Sort of......

We all dream of unearthing some sort of hidden treasure in an older house. Who knows if previous owners buried gold below their basement floors or maybe even used their unaccounted wads of cash to insulate their exterior walls... Anyways - I've dug enough in my basement and ripped out more walls in my house to know that  I'm not going to find anything here!

However - the other day while scouting between the basement ceiling joists (Yes - I do these things for no apparent reason) I saw what looked like a box. On closer inspection and reaching out, I found a total of 5 vintage Leviton boxes all with their products contained within.

Not sure about you..... but I'm calling it Treasure!!!!!

Simple Bedside Shelves

We finally got Aaliyah & Layla to clean out their rooms and purge a lot of their older toys and books. The rooms look more streamlined now, but I did note that they tended to drop their books and DSi's in the floor near their beds when it was 'lights-out'. We thought about getting them bedside tables, but decided against that as it would make their already small rooms look more cluttered.

So it was off to the drawing board and this is what I came up with. I envisioned a curved shelf on which they could rest their gaming consoles for the night while being charged, and a shelf below in which could be kept their books that are currently being read.

I did not plan on spending anything on this with the exception of my time. Thankfully I had some ¾" MDF in the crawl space and some ¼" MDF from the barricades that we had made to keep Coach confined to the Kitchen when he was younger.

I cut the pieces on the circular saw, used the jigsaw to shape the tops and bottoms and then glued and nailed them together using a Pneumatic brad nailer. I finally had a chance to use the Ryobi OSS500 that I scored on Craigslist for only CAD 40.00. This unit is no longer in production and the closest alternatives are from Rockwell and Ridgid. The tool did an amazing job of profiling the sides to match the contour of the half ellipse that forms the top and bottom. - Shout-out here to my cousin JB who was kind enough to drive over to the Danforth area and collect and hold on to the tool for me.

I finally coated the cut edges of the MDF with joint compound and will let it dry till tomorrow when I will sand and paint. The joint compound stops the MDF from soaking in the paint and appearing rough.

Here they are, prior to filling in with the joint compound. The girls are quite eager to have these put up in their rooms and I will have to paint prior to their return from school tomorrow. I'll do another post when they're painted and on the walls.

These wound up looking like Horn Tweeters

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Introducing Sugru!!

Sugru - derived from the Irish language "sugradh" for "play" is a multi purpose non-slumping version of Silicone that resembles modeling clay or Plasticene.

Sugru was developed by Irish sculptor Jane Ni Dhulchaointig resulting from her need to hack stuff to make them function better. Sugru can be modeled just like clay, applied to the surface, shaped and then left to cure for 24 hours. On curing it forms a permanent bond with the host material and is waterproof, dishwater proof and flexible and can handle a temperature range from -60 to +180 degrees Celcius.

I can already think of a few places where I could use this product.

Here's Jane describing Sugru.

Quick Update

Forgive me readers for I have not blogged!!!
It's been 2 months since my last post.

Wow Summer really took us by storm this year. And yet I feel that we managed to accomplish a fair amount. The girls did an entire season of soccer just missing a game apiece, upped two levels in swimming and maintained their piano schedule without missing a heartbeat.

Thanks to Karl and Elva, we went from camping virgins to veterans in one season. And boy did we enjoy that!!! We were to go for yet another trip before the start of school, but pulled out - and what luck. It was cold and rainy the entire weekend. The best part - sitting by the campfire after Lynda and the girls had retired to the tent. Just me under the stars reading!! Bliss!!

On the home front, the laundry alcove was completed, the machines installed, plumbed, vented and were being used for the past month. No complains, leaks or electrocutions were experienced. Pictures will follow.

Mike and I redid the entire plumbing stack at the rear, pushing it close to the wall and making provisions for the relocated water heater. We moved the water heater, reconfigured the flue and restarted the unit. Pictures and a separate post to follow.

On the main level, we had removed the carpet in July. The thin strip oak hardwood beneath the underlay was thankfully in fantastic condition. Next I pulled out the walls that the PO had covered in popcorn (acoustic texture). With the walls out, I had the chance to rewire the hallway lighting, effectively separating the outside lights and running one on an automated timed. I also wired in sconces on the interior wall, installed a provision for a future dated central vacuum, installed provisions for cable, phone and data near the existing power sockets. Unfortunately nowhere in Canada can I get Decora inserts for Keystone jacks. That will have to be ordered in from Parts ExpressThe actual inserts will be ordered from Monoprice.

I've also removed the popcorn from the ceiling and am in the process of smoothening out the surface. Finally, the cutout between the kitchen and the living room it slated to become a proper opening. More on that in another post.

And finally....

Coach is one year old today.

Happy Birthday Coach!!!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Doing a Number on the House

I've wanted to change our house numbers ever since we purchased our place, but the offerings in the local hardware stores did not meet my approval and size requirements. I knew what I wanted and that was numbers that were over 10" high digits in a sans serif font. Ordering the fonts were an option, but with estimates of USD 260 ++ for the set, the house numbers did not seem that important.

Last month, I decided to do the 'D'Souza Thing' and cut my own numbers based on a font that I downloaded from ''. I cut them on the scroll saw from 3/4" Baltic Birch Ply. I then painted the numbers, electric outlet covers and mailbox in Rustoleum's "Heirloom White"

The numbers stand 1" proud of the wall. Clear silicone caulk and threaded inserts hold them in place.

I got what I wanted, at a fantastic price, and I think that it looks great!!!

Before and After

Close up showing the stand-offs

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Washroom & Laundry Room Build - Part 8 - Plumb Crazy

I just finished getting the laundry plumbed in courtesy of my plumber of choice and Brampton historian Mike Billings. I had Mike over initially and detailed to him exactly what I wanted. To which he replied - there's an easy way and there's a difficult way, and what you want does not fall into either of those categories. But I got what I wanted anyways. Since I was closing off access to the main shut off valve in the house, I decided to relocate the valve to somewhere more accessible, and since the laundry pair would be in an alcove, I wanted the shutoff valves to the hot and cold to be just as easily accessible. I installed full bore valves so as to not compromise flow. So here's where I am with my laundry installation.

Mike wanted a picture as he's never done something like this in his entire career.

The laundry outlets. I chose screw on nipples as they provide me with options. Plus IMO it's the better way to go.

The alcove framed. Now that the plumbing is done, I will do some cross bracing and the electrical work before drywalling and painting.

So. There's a reason why I referred to Mike as Brampton's historian. He always regales me with tales of work that he's done in both old and new Brampton. But this one was probably the best I've heard. While driving him after work, I noticed that T&A's on Queen street was closed and the premises up for sale. Mike informed me that the owner had passed away last summer and a takeover plan had fallen through. Then he asked me what T&A's stood for. The obvious - I replied. But according to Mike that's not what's registered at the Brampton Board of Trade. So here's the logo. You tell me what you think it stands for and then scroll below for the official registered name.....

T&A's Logo

T&A stands for Teamwork and Attitude!!!! But you guessed that already didn't you ?????

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Washroom & Laundry Room Build - Part 7 - Tin Knockers

11 months ago I did my last post on the build diary for the washroom and took a hiatus while I worked on outdoor projects in the summer. During that time I looked around for a Sheet Metal Worker (AKA Tin Knockers) to modify the HVAC ducting under the stairs to allow for more headroom. Most of the companies that I found in the yellow pages only worked on new projects and most did not want to go next to a retrofit. I had decided that I would undertake the job by myself even if it meant buying a few sheet metal tools. All I needed to get were the 90 degree elbows for the supply and return sections.

I located the supplier in Alberta and saw that Lowe's were their local distributor. A trip to Lowe's however confirmed the worst. Those pieces were only sold to the trade.... Then Andrew (from the plumbing department at Lowe's) put me in touch with Chris who was apprenticing as a Tin Knocker with a local builder and I finally got the work done...

Chris spent close to 3 hours yesterday and gave me exactly what I wanted.

Next step will be to frame in the alcove for the washer and dryer, complete the plumbing and finish the electrics.

Before: The ducts were almost 8 inches away from the bottom of the stairs 

After: A new 90 degree elbow and the existing 45's take the ducting close to the stairs.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boxing Plain Air

Lynda plans to do some art workshops this summer and to do so, she would either have to carry her large easel into the field along with paints and sundry or she could get herself a 'Pochade Box'. A Pochade box (Pochade being French for 'quick sketch') is a small box that mounts directly onto a tripod and acts as an easel as well as storage for a wet palette and paints. En Plein Air or Plein Air is the act of painting outdoors or in the open.

Good quality Pochade boxes cost anywhere from 100 to upwards of 500 dollars. Really!! Someone must think that artists make money!!!!

I got a table top art kit from XSCargo for 19.99, which would normally be used on a smooth surface. The lid doubles as an easel with the paint storage on the opposite side of the painter. I completely dismantled the box and installed heavy duty brass hinges on the adjacent side. I reoriented the the lid stays so that the box would open to it's maximum at approximately 110 degrees. The base was reinforced with 1/4" MDF and I installed a 1/4"-20 T nut into the base. The tripod would then be affixed to this.

As a final touch I heat transferred Lynda's 70Popes logo on the lid such that it would be right side up in the open position.

Now all Lynda has to carry with her will be the Pochade box and a tripod.

Not exactly what I bought, but similar in structure.

The box on the tripod

The lid will serve to hold the canvas or art board

I've had to relinquish ownership of my tripod..... and my lovely Manfrotto head!!!

From the rear

Shot Full of Holes

Strictly a North American topic this, as we're plagued by the the inevitable 'qualified' cable and phone man who drills holes all around the house seeking the easiest means of ingress for their cable and phone services. My home was not spared and I had no less than 5 holes drilled around the house. More that the holes, was the amount of cable that snaked itself around the perimeter of the house. Most of these were redundant and I set about simplifying the method of ingress for current and future services to the house.

I decided to run a length of conduit from the outside of the house to the location of the distribution panel inside the house and then run cables along with a few spares for any future services.

Here are the tools and materials that I used for the job.

1" Conduit - 2 lengths - Courtesy of my cousin Karl
1" 90 & 45 degree bends - as required - Home Depot
1" junction box for the outside - Home Depot
PVC Adhesive - Home Depot
1 1/2" Bi-Metal Hole Saw - I have this
1 1/2" Carbide Grit Hole Saw - Lowe's

From the inside, I approximated the point of ingress and used the carbide hole saw to make the starter hole through the brick. I followed this up with the bi-metal hole saw to drill through the wood. An extender is required as the hole saw has to pass through one course of bricks and then through 3 inches of wood.

I then ran the conduit, cementing the necessary adapters in place to get the cables to where I wanted them to go. Sealed off the inside and outside holes with expanding foam and silicone respectively and anchored the conduit to the floor joists.

I ran three RG-6 cables, two to the Rogers box, one to the HDTV antenna and one Cat6 cable to the Bell box. The conduit itself has enough space for another three cables.  As it stands, the Cat6 and one RG-6 cable have no immediate function as a single RG-6 carries both the phone and the internet and could also carry cable if so desired at a later date.

Not my house, but my neighbors. It illustrates the kind of situation that I had as well. That's the Bell box on the main Hydro pole

The Rogers box mounted in another location

After - The Rogers box moved closer to the Hydro pole and the Bell box
The smaller box is the cable ingress.

From the inside. I got carried away with the expanding foam. This will all be covered when the headers have been insulated

The cables exiting before reentering the wall cavity. This part will be covered with a removable service panel

The conduit in the wall cavity. Will be sealed with drywall

Finally entering the service panel

DIY Selective Focus Lens

If you've ever seen photos from Selective Focus Lenses, you'd know what I'm talking about. Pictures where parts of the image even though in the same plane are completely blown out of focus. Sure you could go out and buy yourself a production lens. Lensbaby makes a range that start at USD 100+ for plastic optics and USD 300+ for glass optics. Canon and Nikon make Perspective control or Tilt-Shift that cost in the thousands. That's money better spent on other stuff. Besides..... where's the fun?????

I started off, as I always do, by trolling the Interwebs for information. There are a couple of ways of approaching a solution. The better of them involves getting your hands on a Medium Format Lens which even on the second hand market cost more than I was willing to spend. The other way to go is to use enlarger lenses and a quick search on Craigslist garnered me a complete enlarger replete with a 50mm and a 75 mm lens for CAD 40.00

I collected the unit yesterday and was really eager to kludge together the contraption. I say kludge, because this is exactly what I did. I harvested the lens mount with the bellows and pressed it against the SLR body to see what sort of images I would get. I threw the aperture wide open and set the shutter to 1/60 of a second and wished myself luck.

In the coming days, I will attach the bellows to a spare body cap and try to figure out a way to hold the lens in the desired position without requiring more that two hands for the entire process. I'm also looking for 105mm and 135mm lenses with M39 thread. Know of anyone who has these lying around?????

So here are the test shots, very Holga-esque complete with light leakage and everything. The images were shot around 5 in the evening of what was a very dull day. No post processing was attempted or done on any of the images.

First shot. Near the kitchen window. Tried to keep the nose in focus.

Our outdoor Chandelier. I tried to focus on the center spar

Christmas lights on the tree. The lights are all in the same plane, yet only the center light is in focus.

The hinge on my Garden Shed

This is with the 50mm lens. I had to go in really close, but I like the way it's filled the frame.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Transfer Patterns to Wood

This evening my Aunt asked me to prepare a '25' sign for a cake that she is decorating for a weekend celebration. The last time I made a '50' for her from cardboard. Since I wanted this one to be more durable, I decided to cut the '25' from MDF.

You could say that I decided to up the ante for my aunty!!!!

Probably the most difficult part of the entire process lay in the transferring of the image onto the MDF sheet. I could've printed out the image onto self adhesive paper and stuck it onto the sheet. Unfortunately the scroll saw would rip up the paper as I made the cut. I could've used carbon paper to transfer the image onto the sheet, but my skills with tools far exceed those with a pen. In short - my handwriting is crap.

I decided to employ a little bit of science instead. Modern laser printers and copiers use powdered toner and heat to fuse the toner onto the paper. I assumed that if heat would then be applied to the toner it would remelt and transfer to the sheet.... Armed with this exhaustive research, I set about the task of applying pattern to MDF  .

I prepared a vector image of 2 & 5 overlapping as desired

Flipped the image.....

Soldering iron with a flat iron tip. In the background, Lynda and myself in Dubai, circa 1993 looking far cooler that the legally allowable limit at the time!!!!

The paper taped in place and ironed slowly over the pattern

The '25' transferred onto the MDF

Tomorrow I cut out the shape and paint it. The above process would not work with an Ink Jet printer as it uses a liquid which then dries. Besides why would you want to use a medium which uses the most expensive liquid in the world????

Think I'm kidding??? Check this out!!!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Life Après Ski

This month Lynda and her team decided to run a campaign to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. As with all of her campaigns, she needed the right decor to set the mood for the Call Centre. The initial decision was to reprint some of the Vancouver 2010 posters, but this posed a challenge as the beams in the Call Centre are fairly narrow. I threw an idea into the mix of having skis done up in "Team DHL" colors and they seemed to like the idea a lot and how soon could I do??? Well I had not really planned on doing this myself, but the challenge was inviting and I set about the task of converting a bunch of old skis into wall art.

First task. Run around like a headless chicken to a total of 5 Goodwill stores to get 10 pairs of skis. Get them home, open up all the bindings and  sand it down with progressive grades of sandpaper. The skis were fairly dinged but what can you expect for CAD 10.00 a pair......

The skis were then painted in Rustoleum's Marigold which I had painted the CS First shield that I had made for Lynda in June of 2009. The paint gave me the most problems with some of the skis blistering and some not adhering at all. But I got through it and in the end they came out pretty well.

I had got DHL logos done on kiss cut stickers and they were laid on as soon as the paint had dried.

Next it was time to put the bindings back on and a small hook on the rear for hanging.

Here are skis all lined up and ready to be transported to DHL

We went over to DHL this evening and hung them up on the beams.

So you see.... there is Life Après Ski!!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Whole Lotta Love

It's become tradition in our house for the girls to give Valentine Day cards to all of their classmates. Last year and the year before that, the girls made the card of foam sheets and cutouts from the dollar store. 

This year we decided to up the ante by printing custom cards for the girls. I involved them in the process and they were willing participants even if it meant just moving the cards from the printing table to other surfaces for drying.

I based the design on the famous I  ♥ N Y rebus created by William Glasser in the late Seventies for the New York state marketing campaigns. The font for the heart is a free font from

This was my first experience with mixing process (CMYK) colors and we achieved a fair enough mix for the heart. The front and the rear were printed a few hours apart as Acrylic inks dry very fast.

As an afterthought I decided to print the heart on the envelope as well carrying the theme through both the card and the envelope.

The cards laid out to dry

The rear of the cards. I tried to do this 'Postcard' style 

The envelopes. I'm glad I did this
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