Franklin – Steampunking My Bathroom 6

tiles_completeAlmIt may not seem like much, but it was a huge undertaking for me. I finally finished painting the lines for the tiles on the upper vanity wall of the bathroom. There are five accent tiles. I painted the background color on these. It is taking me so long because my health has been not so good. I had a severe TIA a few weeks ago. We thought it was another stroke. I am still suffering some deficits from it. At any rate, it landed me in the hospital. They did all sorts of poking around and found that I have some major heart valve issues. This explains why I am exhausted all the time and fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

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Franklin considers his grandfather to be the wisest man he knows.

The latest cartoon character to join the collection is the Peanuts character Franklin. He is Charlie Brown’s African-American friend. He is Charlie’s most loyal friend. He admires his grandfather and considers him the wisest man he knows. He is located to the right of the clock.

Of the four remaining accent tiles, only two will be cartoon characters. The other two will be dedicated to Bethann’s and my passions: sewing for her; art for me. They will be a challenge.

Custom Tiles / Steampunking My Bathroom 4

tile_rubberduckyToday’s little update is that I started to paint some custom tiles. Originally, I was planning on painting graffitti rubber ducks of various colors on top of the tiles, once the walls were painted. However, I was inspired by the custom, reproduction subway tiles I saw when I was researching for this project. With all the work I’m putting into this, spoiling it with graffitti just didn’t appeal to me anymore. I still wanted to include my rubber ducks, etc., so this is a more civilized presentation.

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If you like what you see and you want to continue seeing progress reports, please help us keep our home.

Our house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Accessorizing / Steampunking My Bathroom 3

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Shampoo & soap dish for shower.

Today I added soap and shampoo holders for the shower and little trays above the sink to hold cups, toothpaste, etc. These are made of 4″ galvanized vent caps bolted together, then bolted to the wall. I was inspired to use these in this maner by the use of the PVC end caps that are bolted to the scaffolding at Home Depot and used to dispense advertising flyers and such. I failed to share a picture of my toilet paper holder until now. It is angled out for two reasons. Our toilet angles from the corner, so this places the paper in actual parallel. More importantly, this allows the holder to receive larger than standard rolls. We sometimes are given “remnant” rolls of TP by a cleaning service. This spindle will accommodate them just fine.DSC02914

If you like what you see and you want to continue seeing progress reports, please help us keep our home.

Our house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Subway Tiles / Steampunking My Bathroom 2

I have watched a lot of those home improvement, DIY and various home makeover shows over the last 10 or 12 years. Already, some of the things they were promoting in the beginning, people are starting to turn up their noses at and feel look dated. I remember watching shows  where they painted beautiful, natural maple cabinets to “update” a kitchen. I cringed. What could be more timeless than natural wood? Then they started putting in glass tile backsplashes in almost every kitchen. The same tiles started showing up in the bathrooms, as well. Then the buzzword became “subway tiles”. This puzzled me. They were tiny compared to the tiles I’ve seen in the subways I have ridden. The only thing that made them “subway” was that they were shaped and arranged in staggered fashion, like bricks.

I am steampunking my bathroom and I wanted to paint the walls in a faux finish mimicking original subway tiles. When I began to research, the first site that came up had someone lamenting the ubiquity of subway tiles in home decor right now, and how that is going to date every home that uses them. Oh the irony of being trendy! A few sites down was a company that has just started reproducing old style subway tiles in the last couple of years. They give the history and have them available in a variety of sizes and colors. They confirmed my hunch. The tile size I was seeing on the far side of the tracks in Philadelphia was 6″x12″. That is what I wanted to go with. I also wanted to intersperse with a couple of rows of 3″x12″ tiles to accommodate two color bands. I can’t afford tiles. Time I have. Painting is like Zen. I painted our living room, hallway, steps, etc., all with a 2-1/2″ brush.

I thought I could use a white paint Sharpie to draw the lines on the walls, using a straight edge. That didn’t work on the high gloss paint. So I found my tiny paint brush and my bright white paint. Trouble is, I can’t paint a straight line to save my soul. I never could and it has gotten worse now that I have a slight tremor. Well, the colors I had chosen are on the cartoonish side of reality, so my painting will just add to the whimsy.

DSC02908Let me say something about the colors. The first time I painted this bathroom, I took my rubber ducky to the paint store. We computer matched the yellow for the walls and the beek for the trim and the tub. My wife came home from Ladies’ Night Out and hollered at me, “Can I not leave you home alone anymore?”

At least I had not painted anything Rubber Ducky Lipstick Pink! For real, the lips on the rubber ducky are pink! Anyway, I painted over the orange and took the towels back to the paint store to match the blue for the trim and tub color. Bethann was pleased. Well, at least, she tolerated it. This is the second generation: Rubber Ducky Steampunk, if you will. The egg cream paint color is chosen based on a rubber ducky fabric. The custom blue paint was optically matched from the same curtain fabric. It is an interesting, light, robin’s egg blue. It has the subtlest touch of green to it. It changes its look between sunlight and artificial light.

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Self Portrait in the mirror of the new medicine cabinet
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The first thing I did was GFCI upgrade to the electrical before I began using power tools in the bathroom.

The light fixtures I made from 3/4″ galvanized pipe with a black pipe transitions to a 1″. I used lampsocket plug-in adapters. I wired them with lamp cord, then inserted them in the pipes with black tool insulating coat, normally used for cushioning tool handles. The shower curtain rod is made from 3/4″ and 1/2″ galvanized pipe. It allows more room in the shower than the aluminum, off-the-rack one, plus is more sturdy and won’t fall down mid-shower.

I’m not done yet. I have custom tiles to paint and the soap holders to install; not to mention what I may do to the sink and toilet.DSC02878DSC02872

Left end of shower curtain rod
Left end of shower curtain rod

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If you like what you see and you want to continue seeing progress reports, please help us keep our home.

Our house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Steampunking my Bathroom I

grab bar
grab bar

This all started because the towel bars kept falling off the wall. Those silly micro-screwdriver pegs to tighten the bar ends onto the cleats never quite properly grip into the drywall. It was alway a gamble whether or not the towel was going to hang or fall. Things came to a head when Bethann used my bahroom for a month while I was renovating hers. She said I needed a “grab” bar for the tub. I have a clawfoot tub. We are now 60 and washing our feet standing up in the shower can be a dangerous thing. She found it precarious just climbing out of the wet tub onto the floor with the added height of the claw feet, with nothing solid to hold onto.

towel rack with wrench still tightening
towel rack with wrench still tightening

If you know me, you know I generally jump in all fours. It will not just be a grab bar and towel rack. I want the whole theme! I loved Warehouse 13. I want that computer keyboard! I am typing on a keyboard with six keys missing because I melted them off attempting to dry them off, after spilling my water on them when falling asleep one night. This is one the $100 replacement computer after I fried a better computer the same way. That steampunk mechanical keyboard would so solve my problem! So, I started with the grab bar and the towel bar that was falling off. Then I moved on to the lights and the medicine chest/mirror. Next, I will take on the toilet paper holder and the shower curtain rod. Ther bigger challenges will be the sink, the toilet and the shower control. I have ideas for those.

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Medicine chest made from an old 99 cent suitcase, LED Edison lamps & towel bar. Medicine cabinet is lit inside, as well.

A more extensive article or articles will follow explaining the process. I’m just posting this to share some photos for now. I need to clean up the bathroom and steam this punk, now! I stink.

If you like what you see and you want to continue seeing progress reports, please help us keep our home.

Our house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Living Room Makeover

Our 50 cent couch against the newly painted wall
Our 50 cent couch against a newly painted wall

We were told by our realtor to just let the house rot. We are in the process of foreclosure. The odds are we are going to lose the house. We are trying to negotiate a refinance, but PHH, the mortgage handling company, has never been honest, even to the point of lying to me about who owns our mortgage while I was looking at a letter I had just received from them which told me that it was HSBC, the Scottish drug dealing bank that the US Senate bailed out with no strings attached. It makes sense that PHH represents HSBC. One criminal organization represents another. I digress.

Entertainment Stand painted with Behr Ancient Pottery (N250-5) Premium Plus satin
Entertainment Stand painted with Behr Ancient Pottery (N250-5) Premium Plus satin
50 cent couch covered in beautiful throw I sewed with pillows I covered with excess fabric from the recliners.
50 cent couch covered in beautiful throw I sewed with pillows I covered with excess fabric from the recliners.

We still live in the house. I am on disability due to my six strokes caused by migraines, more than 40 TIAs, and innumerable prolonged (at times, 20 days long) debilitating migraines that mimic strokes. I asked the ALJ, “Would you hire me?” He granted my Social Security disability immediately. We are losing the house because the lawyer I used screwed things up and I still haven’t received the two years’ back pay. (Somehow, he got his full fee based on it, though. A lawsuit may be pending. I digress again.) Back on track. Bethann and I decided that we wanted to paint the living room as a gift to each other for Christmas. This was a first for us in our over 40 years of marriage; to have that sort of idea at the same time, with neither of us having to persuade the other.

Laying out fabric on the kitchen table, to cut and sew for the couch throw and cushion covers.
Laying out fabric on the kitchen table, to cut and sew for the couch throw and cushion covers.

Normally, I would just pick the colors and paint. Bethann would learn to like it. I know that is unusual. I have always been the color person in our house. Only once did I have to retreat on a color. That was the Rubber Ducky’s Bill Orange for the trim of the upstairs bathroom that I painted while she was at a Ladies’ Night Out several years ago.  She let me leave the walls Rubber Ducky Yellow, but shook her head and said, “What? Can’t I leave you home alone anymore?” I said, “It’s only paint! These colors were big in the ’60s.” Just brings back images of a young, perky Judy Carne saying “SockItToMe!”

My recliner in rust fabric, with my cat, Skittles in the foreground.
My recliner in rust fabric, with my cat, Skittles in the foreground.
Bethann's recliner in chocolate brocade. We bought this for $10/yd.
Bethann’s recliner in chocolate brocade. We bought this for $10/yd. The walls are painted with Behr’s Brazilian Tan (N250-2) Flat finish

At any rate, for this project, I actually went to Home Depot and got paint chips and little samples to try; an absolute first for me! We agreed on the colors, adjusting one, with no argument with each other. We wanted to respect the age of the house (new part: 1845, kitchen & bedroom above: 1700s) without leaving it moldering in its antebellum past. Bethann and I went to Joann Fabric with a great 50% off upholstery fabric coupon and selected fabrics for throw covers for the couch and our recliners, for about $80. It was like an ultra low budget Trading Spaces room makeover, only done right.

Bathroom to the left, Den/Office ahead, Basement to the right. I rehung that door with new hinges and reset the surface mount lock.
Bathroom to the left, Den/Office ahead, Basement to the right. I rehung that door with new hinges and reset the surface mount lock. This is all in Behr’s Clay Dust (N250-1) Premium Plus Eggshell finish

The job included the tiny entryway, tiny back hall, stairway and upstairs hall. The job included 9 doors, 15 doorframes, and 3 windows. We have reconsidered what we hang on our walls and have opted for less. I eliminated the shelves over the windows that the former owner had incorporated into the frames. They weren’t level, and we wanted a cleaner look. I had to replace the top piece of the frame on two of the windows, because the way the shelves were installed destroyed the antique parts of the frames.

I am still repairing sagging  accoustic tiles in the ceiling in preparation for painting it with high gloss, ultra bright white paint. The tiles are faux stamped tin style. I am using high powered glue in a dispenser with a long, narrow spout. I insert the spout between the tiles, at the corner where they are sagging to deliver glue on top of the tiles. Then I tighten the tiles to the frame above with a screw through a piece of stiff cardboard and leave it there long enough for the glue to dry. Then I move on to the next spot that needs to be repaired.

We would like to keep our house. If we lose it, we still don’t want to leave it a wreck. We don’t want someone to come in and say, “How could they live this way?”

I am working on our house against hope and professional advice. It is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



My 11 Step Program

Measuring pad to mark for center
Measuring pad to mark for center

It started with my wife and I deciding to change the color of the living room as our Christmas gift to each other. It is the gift that keeps on giving. The living room color determined the stairway color and upstairs hall, that is, since we changed the color of the woodwork. I had painted the steps before. I wanted them to hold up better this time. Bethann thought it would be nice to soften the noise a bit and make them easier on stocking feet.

Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.
Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.

Our house is old. Of course, this staircase is in the “new part” which was built in 1845 to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through Souderton.
It is narrow at 30″ at the bottom and less than 29″ at the top, in just 11 steps. We have 7′ ceilings. I had painted the first coat on the floor, before I decided the ceiling needed repainting. That white paint really drips! At any rate, I found a simple and economical solution in carpet pads at Home Depot. A pack of 13 sold for under $11. They came with no installation instructions. They were being sold near the large area rugs and window treatments, not near the stair runners. I found a pack. I wasn’t sure if they were dark olive or gray. The Home Depot is only a mile and a half away, so no big deal, if they ended up not looking right in the stairway. (It turns out, in context, they appeared to be dark olive.) Almost all of the tape at Home Depot or Lowe’s is in their paint departments, with certain exceptions. How consumers are supposed to keep track of all the ins and outs of capitalist, retailer, marketing manipulation, I don’t know. Half of the employees don’t know. They learn as they go, as training is minimal. So I went to the paint counter to ask where I could find a fairly agressive, double-sided tape. The man showed me to that expensive, thick 3M stuff, that never comes off, leaving a foam residue, or removing part of the substrate if ever removed. I told him that was too aggressive. I was taping down carpet pads. Gravity and regular foot pressure were on our side. He begrudgingly told me they sold carpet tape two aisles over, with the flooring, but that it was thin and not very aggressive. You could easily remove and reposition the carpet pads with that. He was disgusted as he said it. I said that sounds like just what I need!

While others were sleeping, I started at the top and worked my way down. I centered a pad and marked both ends’ location on the step with pencil. Then I painted up to those marks and roughly just within where the pad would go. Next, the tape was applied to the step. Then the pad was pressed into place. I did five steps one night and the remaining six a few days later.

Completed Step
Completed Step

My 11 Step Program was completed for a total cost of just under $20 plus the paint.

I am working on our house against hope and professional advice. We are facing foreclosure. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Today’s Window Installation

DSC01788Today I finally installed the last replacement sash kit on the first floor. I still have to finish some of the exterior trim and install two screens. and paint. It’s kind of an involved process for each window. The sashes are painted on the exterior sides and varnished on the interior sides. I apply adhesive lead to the interior side of the glass in a craftsman pattern that I devised. On the lower sash, I add faux stained glass paint in the corner squares. Then I add the hardware. I remove the old sashes and combination storms and add wood to the sides to make the opening exactly 28″ wide. Then I attach four cleats to each side to attach the sash tracks. The tilt in sashes then snap into place.

Our house should be cooler next winter. You read right. The thermostat is in this room. It will be less drafty, so now the heat should not come on so often, and the rest of the house won’t be so hot.

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Skittles, job supervisor
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cleats on spacer wood
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The awesome tool was used to trim the bottoms of the sash strips to fit the sill.

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Rent Party at Charming House

charming gateWhen a realtor describes a house as charming, we have four words of advice: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Our house is charming. It is possibly the oldest house in town. The new part was built in 1845 to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through. The last owner was an Irish woodworker. He did some lovely work on the trim. He made a nice back door and beautiful window over the kitchen sink. Why he used single pane glass is beyond me. He restored the hardware to period. He did level the floor in one of the rooms. He made it into one house out of three tiny apartments. (sort of) It still had three electric meters with two wire, knob and tube and old romex to much of the house.

The oil burner was on its last. The old iron pipes to the upstairs bathroom were mostly occluded. The drains weren’t much better, but the switch plates had fairies and waterlilies on them. The wood trim in the kitchen has charming little crosses drilled in it. I have basically replaced the heat system, the plumbing and the electrical service. I am working on rewiring, bit by bit, sorting out the mess. I won’t even start on the shape of the barn. But they say the value of real estate is mainly location. It is a great location.

We were rebuilding the barn to make the ministry and the business more efficient. Then I got sick. That messed everything up. There have been a series of setbacks. Bishop Thomas really wants to see a team of college kids come here to help finish the barn. I don’t know how that is going to happen. Bethann lost her job last summer. We have to pay for Cobra health insurance out of pocket. That takes more than her Unemployment Compensation. We had the court case against the city to keep the ministry going. that put the business on hold and hurt the business. We were both sick around Christmas, so that hurt the business. I was very sick last month, so that hurt the business again. We are on the verge of being able to make some major progress in helping the homeless in Philadelphia, if we had a basic facility there and could be full time working at that, instead of being distracted by the icon business. At the same time, we are on the verge of possibly losing our house, losing our current base of operations, and joining the ranks of the homeless ourselves.

So we are making an appeal.

We are having a rent party this Saturday evening, March 16, starting at 6:30. Since it is Cheesefare Sunday next week, we will be serving vegetarian chili, “Tender Hearted Shepherd’s Pie” (vegan), some cheese and veggies, chips and dip, dessert, etc. The $10 cover charge includes the food and soft drinks. Beer and wine will be available for additional donations. If you want to play an instrument to add to the festivities, please make it unplugged. Kevin Paige is bringing his guitar and his keyboard and his great talents to make music. We are hoping that the Ackers will favor us with some music as well. We are clearing out the furniture, so if you want to dance, you may.

We live at:
27 North Front St.  (in the middle of beautiful downtown)
Souderton, PA 18964

Call or email to let us know if you plan to attend, so we know how much food and drink to prepare.
phone: 267:497-0267
cjoseph@shoutforjoy.us  (If you can’t attend, but want to help, you can Paypal gifts to this email. If it is designated as a gift from one Paypal account to another, neither one is charged fees. Thanks! God bless you!)

Here is the link to RSVP on Facebook.

It’s a cheap date for a good cause. We are going to try to have green beer in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Hey, I was tickled that the first one to RSVP to say that he was coming was Philly rock legend Kenn Kweder! Please come join the fun.

New Front Door

Well, just three and a half years after I started it, the new front door has been installed. Hopefully, it won’t take me that long to finish the outdoor trim. There were some design changes made prior to, and during, manufacture, from the original design. We decided to abandon the idea of an operable window. There are enough windows that open, already. I also went with matching trim around the window, sanded flush. The three ash panels ended up being three different widths. I should claim some grand asthetic reason for this. The truth is that I goofed when I cut the first panel, so I had to figure out how to salvage the situation, using the remaining materials. I do like the new look, better, though.

Catch Plate
Catch Plate

We also decided to go with reproduction, hammered, black hardware. Bethann and I shopped at Knobs and Knockers at Peddler’s Village on one of my few good days the summer before last and each, independently, selected this lockset. It is a simple two handle, thumb lever latch with a separate deadbolt. They matched the lock to our current key. We ordered 3 heavy duty, 4-1/2″, black, ball-bearing hinges. (Even the store owner’s son was admiring them, when I picked them up.) We remembered to buy a matching black, hammered wreath hook.

Door handle
Door handle

During the course of building this door, I learned how to use many new tools. I have never had access to such an array of tools, or to such a patient teacher.  John Haggerty rescued me more times than I can count on this project. I not only learned how to properly put a door together, but why they are done this way. Don’t ask me to name most of these tools. I only know most of their names “in Elvish” as John says. He interprets pretty well, though.

For this door, I joined and planed the wood myself. John has a widebelt sander where you can feed boards through it to get them to get to a uniform thickness. That was exciting and dusty and loud. After I assembled the door, I routered the inset for the lite. I used a cool corner chisel to clip the corners. I needed to clean up a little smoother and deeper than the router bit would go into the corner, so I used a two handed knobber-do to get out the remaining scraps of wood. I think it’s a rabbet router plane. John will correct me. I will post a photo. I siliconed the insulated glass, laid it in the opening. I fastened purpleheart sticks to hold it in place. Then I sanded the whole door on a big table with a 15′ long sandpaper belt over it, known as a stroke sander. I then trimmed the stiles; those are the uprights on the door. Then I sanded it with ever finer grits with a palm sander.

Wreath Hook
Wreath Hook

I started to varnish the exterior side with water-based Varathane spar varnish and a terrible thing happened. It reacted with the purpleheart. It got gummy and bled gray onto the ash panels. I grabbed a paper towel and tried to get as much of it up as I could. Then I grabbed rags. John grabbed shellac and cut it by 50% with alcohol. I primed the exterior of the door with that. Then I varnished the purpleheart with four coats of Varathane. Then we scraped the ash panels with a rectangular piece of steel with sharpened edges, and varnished the ash panels. I flipped the door over and varnished the interior side with three coats of an interior, water based varnish.

The door is all beautiful. Now comes the scary part: surgery. I learned how to use the knobber-do, otherwise known as a line scribe. For that matter, I learned how to use a mallet and a chisel. At least, I learned how to use it a little bit better. I did end up splitting the front of my door at my lockset recess. You really need to have your wits about you when you are cutting your door for your hardware and understand how things go together. I walked back and forth several times between the shop and our house, measuring doorhandle heights and hinge placement.

New Door ExteriorBefore making any cuts on the opening side of the door, it needed to be beveled. If there is no bevel, it can’t open, or you would have to leave a huge gap. To make the bevel, I got to use the “Awsesome Tool 2″ otherwise known as the electric bevel plane. Set the tool for two degrees. Zip. Zip. And the bevel is done! Kwikset makes a tool for drilling holes for locksets. It is good for just about everyone they make and most of the ones any one else makes. You choose what your backset is for you door handle and your deadbolt are. Set the tool accordingly. tighten it to the door. It is self-centering. You use your 2-1/8″ hole saw from each side of the door and then your 15/16” hole saw through the edge of the door, before removing the jig. Easy as pie!

A door this beautiful needed a mailbox to go with it. From the scraps, I made a mailbox. It is not quite as finely crafted. I had to tell John to not watch at times. I just wanted to get it done. It does the job. I think it is quite beautiful.