Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
For the first time since 1888, the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving Day, November 28 this year, and it won’t happen again for some 7000 years to come! For many of our non-Jewish friends, Christmas arrives less than a month later. With all the festivities planned, and guests coming to our homes, what could look nicer than a newly refinished deck…other than a dinner table filled with latkes, turkey and all the trimmings for Thanksgivikuh?
Roxy and I just refinished our deck, and with wonderful results.
About six years ago contractors removed our ailing Douglass Fir deck and replaced it with a brand new, redwood deck replete with Craftsman style spindles and posts, then refinished with a semi-transparent stain that, quite frankly only lasted a couple of seasons before it began to show signs of wear and tear from the elements. In the old days – pre 1978 - paints and stains contained an array of chemicals that The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) soon forced paint manufacturers to eliminate from their products ….. all the lead and VOCs ….those nasty chemicals that contributed to creating incredibly durable paint that dried like iron and could last for years, even decades. With all the talk and concern about the effect of VOC’s on our health and the environment, I never actually knew what those ominous letters stood for. Here’s Wikipedia’s opening explanation of Volatile Organic Compounds:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air. An example is formaldehyde, with a boiling point of –19 °C (–2 °F), slowly exiting paint and getting into the air.
VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Most scents or odours are of VOCs. VOCs play an important role in communication between plants. Some VOCs are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment. Anthropogenic VOCs are regulated by law, especially indoors, where concentrations are the highest. Harmful VOCs are typically not acutely toxic, but instead have compounding long-term health effects. Because the concentrations are usually low and the symptoms slow to develop, research into VOCs and their effects is difficult. See the link below to read more about VOCs.
Read further: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatile_organic_compound
That’s why when entering some of these older, antique houses you still see the original (lead) paint on the walls and ceilings…totally legal to have as long as you don’t disturb it. In most parts of The United States, if you DO want to sand, repair, demolish any of these surfaces, it’s important to hire specially licensed contractors to do the work. Of course you can take the required courses and do it yourself. Whatever your choice, it’s important to take this work seriously. Two big concerns are the existence of lead and asbestos in homes built before 1978. The lead occurs mostly in the paint; asbestos occurs in many of the other building products.
The same applies to refinishing areas on the exterior of your home, including older decks. Fortunately, since our deck was built in 2007 and stained with a water- based, “green” product, all we needed to do was sand and clean the deck of the old stain before applying the new. Since the passage of the more stringent laws regarding air pollution to include “unsafe” paints and solvents; companies like Behr, Dunn - Edwards, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Pittsburgh, Olympic and so many others have been developing low or zero VOC “green” products, water and oil-based, that are environmentally safe. Here’s a great article from Old House Journal entitled “The Changing Landscape for Household Paints.”
In choosing a stain, I wanted a water-based – hard to find good, oil-based paint anymore that performs like yesteryear, so why bother? - semi-transparent product that would apply easily, promise durability, and allow the grain of the redwood to show through. I chose Behr Semi-Transparent Wood Stain, guaranteed for three years on the deck and five years on fencing. I’ve used Behr products inside the house as well, including their excellent bathroom paint with mold inhibitor that still looks great in the downstairs bath after five years.
Here’s how we did it. (Be sure to view our video. It always provides a useful complement to my blog descriptions.)
Here are the tools, equipment and materials you’ll need to do the job:
TOOLS, EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS:
Goggles, dust mask, knee pads, heavy work gloves, latex paint gloves, optional painters hat, optional old socks, broom, garden hose, garden sprayer, sweeper nozzle or power washer; vibrator sander, belt or random orbital sander; sandpaper 60-100 grit (will vary depending upon condition of wood), deck cleaner; clean, empty 5 gallon bucket, small paint tray, painter’s roller screen, short/long mixing stick, stain – choose either transparent or semi-transparent to see all or some of the grain….or opaque deck paint for complete coverage, paint roller, paint roller cover (semi-smooth – ¼” or 3/8”), and extension pole – OR, you may wish to apply with paint or garden sprayer; paint brushes, and rags.
The good thing about using a sprayer is that you can get better coverage in the cracks between the boards. However, you have to cover non-designated areas (adjacent to the deck) to protect from overspray. I like rollers for a smoother finish. If you are a stickler for detail, find a way to integrate both.
Begin by sweeping your deck. Since there is fencing around ours, we sanded that first and we did it by hand to get even results. After sweeping and sanding the fencing, power wash your deck for a deep cleaning and to remove any loose, old stain or paint. For stubborn stain areas that won’t lift with the power washing, we applied a deck cleaner with our garden sprayer, let it set about ten minutes, then power washed again. Be sure to clean the cracks between the boards. We used a sweeper nozzle, which attaches right to any garden hose. If you get the right one and you have sufficient water pressure, you probably don’t need to buy a power washer, which can cost well over $200.
Put on dust mask and goggles. Although I didn’t use a random orbital sander because of the uneven nature of our deck, it’s recommended if your deck is relatively even and boards are not warped. Check your local tool rental stores. Here in Hollywood, California, Anawalt Lumber on Highland Avenue is a good source. I chose a vibrator sander. It’s more work intensive, but I was better able to get the results I wanted. Put on those kneepads if using any kind of hand sander. After sanding, I swept again and did a quick power wash. CAUTION: Too much water on bare wood could lift the grain a bit. Sweep off any puddling areas immediately. A few sanding touch-ups by hand, and we were ready to apply the stain.
STAINING: (I took off my shoes and painted in old socks.) Prepare your paint roller, cover and extension pole ahead of time. Once your deck is clean, be prepared to stain ASAP before leaves, dust dirt, etc. begin to compromise the surface. Open your container of stain on a surface next to the deck, if possible to avoid the possibility of getting a round mark on the unfinished wood. After stirring sufficiently, fill a small paint container - watch video - and with your paintbrush – 2” China bristle is fine – “cut-in” around the edges and other areas where the roller might not reach. Cutting in is simply painting the edges and any other area where the roller won’t reach. Once you’ve finished cutting in, pour a liberal amount into the large, clean, empty bucket. I did bring that bucket up on the deck, although many will say try to avoid it. It was no problem. You are now ready to roll the deck. The video shows you all you need to know. Be sure to apply two coats unless directions – ALWAYS READ DIRECTIONS – indicate otherwise. ..and begin painting the areas furthest from the entrance to the deck first. You don’t want to paint yourself into a corner!
Good luck. Now’s a good time to do this project, especially out here in the Western States. Back East and in other parts of the world, check the weather forecast before beginning the process. Let me know how it turns out. And remember…Tikkun Olam (“Repair of the World”) starts at home. You CAN fix it! HH
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December 16, 2011 | 6:54 pm
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
… Oh Dreydl, Dreydl, Dreydl…I Make it Out of Clay…
Most of you know the Dreidel Song …. “Oh Dreydl, Dreydl Dreydl…. I made it out of clay. And when it’s dry and ready, then dreydl I shall play…” Who does that anymore? Go to any Judaica store and
you will find them made of plastic, wood, glass, even crystal. Some crafts say to make them out of egg cartons and milk cartons. When’s the last time you played with a dreydl made out of CLAY? Better yet…. When is the last time you played with a dreydl that YOU made out of clay? What I really ought to be teaching right now is how to add a hole to your belt so you can fully enjoy those delicious, AWLsome potato latkes that we can already smell drowning in oil on top of the stove… for Hanukkah. But, Roxy has been dreying my cup – Yiddish for literally “spinning my head” - to make our annual batch of dreydls, and that’s exactly what we are doing today. See our accompanying (two) videos. The first video is “Making and Baking,” with musical cutaways of The Handy Hazzan on guitar singing “I Have A Little Dreydl.”. The second video is “Painting and Spinning,” with the Handy Hazzan improvising some silly verses of his own. So let’s get started in learning how to make your very own dreydl out of clay.
Tools and supplies: You’ll need “Oven Baking Clay,” – we got ours at Blix Art Supplies in Los Angeles on Beverly Blvd. - pen knife or paring knife, serrated knife, a few chop sticks, 100 - 120 grit sandpaper, wood glue, glossy acrylic paints and a few different paint brushes, all of which should be capable of detail work; a bowl of water, any additional sculpting tools if you wish to carve decorative elements, and clamps for holding the dreydl while painting.
Making: Take a smallish piece of clay - you don’t need much…maybe a quarter-dollar size sphere - and knead it back and forth in your hands until it is very malleable. When it is of good consistency, roll it around between your palms to form a ball. I start to shape the ball into a cube, alternating between shaping it with my fingers and banging it on a flat surface. The top of the cube becomes the top of the dreydl, with four sides on which we will later paint the letters Nun, Gimel, Hay and Shin. Do you know what Hebrew words these letters represent? The answer is: Nes gadol haya sham, which translates “A great miracle happened there.” I choose one end of the cube to be the bottom of the dreydl, and start pulling the clay with thumb and forefinger gently down and inward to create the lower half. Occasionally wet your fingers to assist in smoothing the surface of the clay.
Sometimes, if I don’t like my results, I simply roll the whole thing back into a ball and start all over. Keep turning the dreydl as you mold it. This will help in maintaining symmetry. Each side of the dreydl will have a “perfect” square on the sides of the top half, and then a triangular part on each side of the bottom, angled inwards and down to come to a point at the bottom. I slightly round the bottom. It spins better than if it were a sharp point.
Once I have shaped the entire dreydl, I take a plain, wooden chopstick and cut about two inches off one end. (You can prep these before you start molding the clay.) I shave and sand this little piece of wood until it, too is symmetrical. I then carefully insert one end of the 1 1/2 - 2 inch piece of chopstick into the top of the dreydl, making sure that the stick is centered and perpendicular to the top. If it seems loose, I pull it out, put a couple drops of white glue in the hole, then reinsert the stick.
Baking: As you will see in our video, Roxy and I made three dreydls. We baked them in the oven at 325 degrees – the instructions on the box of “Oven Baking Clay” say 350 degrees, but our Wedgwood Stove runs a bit hot. You’ll see in the second video how the dreydls came out. I painted one of them and Roxy painted the featured, “star dreydl,” which was our unpainted one from last year. Have fun with this. There are so many ways to carve and/or paint your dreydls. Once the paint is dry, “sofer” in the letters. Once dry again, glaze your beautiful, new dreydl with a couple coats of clear coat.
TRUTH BE TOLD: I may have accidentally used a different clay for the ones I baked in our oven. I later used the “right” Oven Baking Clay and they came out looking nice and pink, like the one Roxy painted.
I am keeping this entry especially short so that you will have additional time to watch the two videos. Please write to me if you have any questions or comments. If you have a moment, do a little research on the origins of the dreydl/dreidel. You may be in for a surprise. Happy Hanukkah! Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can do it yourself! - HH
October 27, 2011 | 6:44 pm
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
Yes, The Handy Hazzan has been away for a while. By the end of July I was already focused on developing the choir for The New Shul of the Conejo, where I was most fortunate to serve as Hazzan for the High Holy Days alongside Rabbi Gershon Weissman and my friend and colleague, Rabbi Michael Barclay. Gathering music suitable for a quartet of congregational members who were most talented, dedicated and eager to do the great job that they did in fact do…. was challenging, educational and rewarding. Special thanks to Shannon, Diane, Barry and Darrell…. and our wonderful accompanist, Yafei Lin.
Shortly before beginning preparations for the holidays, I decided it was about time Roxy got her own mirror in her room. (Already I was reflecting on the year that was about to come to an end and I didn’t realize it.) I uncovered an old, truly antique beveled glass mirror I’d pulled out of my first house in Los Angeles up on Kirkwood Drive; it was sitting around reflecting and collecting dust. The frame was a mess… painted some drab taupe color, the paint long since dirty and cracked. I decided this would be our next Handy Hazzan project, and we honestly finished the video below in late July. Why, I have asked myself … why have I waited so long to write about restoring and hanging a mirror? In addition to my busy schedule, something else was going on. I couldn’t decide whether to have the mirror re-silvered – not something I wish to do myself … or keep it the way it was. You know when a mirror needs to be re-silvered. Little black dots start to show up in the reflection, and/or other cracks or imperfections begin to form.
I picked up the mirror and looked into it for a long moment. My image was dirtied, even distorted by the imperfections of the mirror. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were coming. I knew I had to deal with my many imperfections and I just wasn’t ready to do it. And my daughter Roxy so young and innocent…no way would I talk myself into thinking that it was okay for her to see her reflection in any but a pure way just because of the “cool antique look.” NO! This wasn’t good enough for my Roxy, who had just restored/repainted the frame all by herself! (That’s the main subject of our video.) So as the High Holy Days loomed closer and closer and I went over the liturgy again and again… I simply let the mirror lie on the living room chair… distorted mirror reflection and beautiful hand-painted frame… separated from one another. I was floating then climbing in Elul, preparing myself to lead the congregants of The New Shul in musical prayer including all the Avinu Malkenus and Al Chets.
This may seem a tad stale by now…. and please follow me….The joy of the High Holy days is that we are finally cleansed as the gates of N’eila come to a close and we are not only written but sealed in the Book of Life, we pray, for another year. All this cleansing and praying may have its uplifting payoff, and it is also exhausting. Less than a week later we thanked G-d for Sukkot, Z’man Simchatenu, the only holiday where we are commanded to be happy. This is but one example of the balance and order God gives us in our calendar. I see the entire, eight-day holiday of Sukkot as a symbolic, extended Shabbat for all of the work we have done on ourselves during the Yamin Noraim.
Once Simchat Torah was finished, I was renewed though exhausted, and anxious to get back to our mirror project. I stayed with my choice to have Roxy’s mirror re-silvered. After much searching, I finally found a craftsman named Bernd, owner of Designer Glass at 3223 South La Cienega Avenue (not Boulevard) in Los Angeles 90232. I took the antique mirror with all of its imperfections and thought as I walked in, “Finally I’ve found someone to make this mirror look good.” “Bernd,” I called out. “Are you here?” “Yah, I’ll be right der,” came the voice from the other room. In a moment we shook hands and I said, “I’m lucky to have found you. Here’s the mirror I’d like to have re-silvered.” He looked at the mirror, looked at me and said, “Why?” “Well. Um… I started to mutter….” He continued,” It’s worth more the way it is. All the designers come in here looking for mirrored glass like this.” Then he showed me a mirror he’d made where he on purpose did a flawed job with the re-silvering to make the mirror look antique.
Well, that was that. It was perfect the way it was. (Duh!) It was simple to install our (suddenly “designer”) mirror into the frame that Roxy had so beautifully repainted. Bernd tapped in several glazing points to secure the mirror. (I’ve glazed many a double-hung window in old houses, and these glazing points are nothing new to me. Maybe we’ll glaze a window together for a future Handy Hazzan episode.) I told Bernd I was the Handy Hazzan and he said, “Well, since you’re handy, just run a bead of clear silicone around the edge of the back of the mirror [thus covering the glazing points and securing the mirror in Roxy’s frame]) when you get home. “ Happily, I had some clear silicone left in a tube at home and ialready in my caulking gun. I did so later that evening.
As I left the shop my mind started racing. I had some knowledge of antiques, much of it picked up years ago when I lived about ten miles north of the GW Bridge in a little bedroom community called Pearl River. When I was furnishing my house up there, I met a woman who brought me in to run estate sales with her. I learned a lot. Surely I must have known that the antique mirrors with the old, “imperfect” reflections were worth more just the way they were. Why had I been so eager to re-silver this mirror?
Maybe I simply wanted it to look the best it could for Roxy, so that when she looked into it every day, she would see the best reflection of herself. That seems reasonable, I thought. Then it hit me. In my desire for Roxy to have the most perfect reflection of herself, I was denying her the individuality of this mirror, with all its imperfections, and in some way her own individuality. And I realized that just like this mirror - this one-of-a-kind mirror with all of its flaws - our greatest value as individuals is that there is no one else like us. Our uniqueness is what gives us our intrinsic and inestimable value. And if we are all created in G-d’s image, B’tzelim Elohim, doesn’t that make us perfect anyway, given all of our “imperfections?” I know that sounds too simple. Perhaps my rabbinic pals will give me the Up’shat of this story. We love comments…. and Remez is emes.
Roxy blew my whole thesis of individuality out the window when she said, “Y’know, Daddy, everyone has a twin in the world.” That’s a bit of a myth, and how could everyone on the planet have an identical twin? For those of you interested, this is called the Doppleganger Theory. Like…whatever! I hung Roxy’s mirror the next day. It looks great. (See photo.)
HANGING A MIRROR: When the silicone bead dried, the glass was firmly set in the frame and it was time to hang Roxy’s mirror. Here’s how I did it:
(THESE FIRST FIVE STEPS ARE IMPORTANT ONLY IF THERE ARE NO D-RINGS OR WIRE ON THE BACK OF YOUR MIRROR.)
1. Get a mirror hanging kit. Be sure the weight it will hold EXCEEDS the weight of your mirror by at least twenty percent.
2. Mark a spot about one-fifth of the way down on both sides of the back of the mirror frame.
3. Drill a pilot hole on each of the marks you made and screw in a D ring. (IT’S GOT A SHORT, THREADED SHAFT AND A LOOP AT THE TOP. Make sure the rings are secured tightly to the frame. JUST TURN THE LOOP WITH THUMB AND FOREFINGER. Don’t over tighten the rings or the frame may crack.
4. Insert a mirror wire through the D rings.
5. Knot the wire around the D of the D ring. Twist around the extra wire ends so they won’t unravel. There should enough wire to allow for a little play in the wire.
6. I chose the best (and in this case only ) space available for Roxy’s mirror.
7. Then I used a stud finder – not to be confused with a matchmaker or J-Date Junkie – to find a spot on the wall that coincided with some of the underlying wood framing. The mirror is hung more securely when the nail in the hook reaches some wood under the plaster, than in plaster only. (See video.)
8. Our oval mirror hangs best vertically. I put it up against the wall and held it there while Roxy stood in front of it. When her face was at the right level I put one mark on the wall at the top of the mirror. I figured out how many inches down from that mark I had to measure taking into consideration the distance between the top of the wire (which when taut could be about five inches from the top of the mirror in the back) and the top of the mirror.
9. That’s where I made my mark.
10. One trick I learned long ago is to take Scotch tape and tape an “X” over the spot where the nail for the mirror hook is going to go. Remember that even though we are on a stud underneath, the wall surface is either going to be plaster or all drywall. The tape keeps the plaster from chipping out when you drive the nail. If you plan on nailing right into wooden walls, PLEASE DON’T if it’s vintage knotty pine or some other beautiful paneling. Instead, I recommend suspending your mirror with museum wire from molding at the top of the wall or from the ceiling.
11. Slip the nail into the mirror hook and drive the nail into the center of the scotch tape “X” which coincides with the mark you made five inches below the top of the mirror mark. IMPORTANT: Larger mirrors may require two hooks. In that case, measure in from the left and right sides of the mirror and make TWO marks five inches below the top and approximately five inches apart on center.
Happy mirror hanging. You can do it yourself! … and you’ll be hearing from me next week when I show you how to put a door sweep on the bottom of your door to keep dirt out of and warmth in your home.
July 29, 2011 | 12:17 am
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
My daughter, Roxy and I boarded a plane to New York June 24th, returning to Los Angeles a little over a week ago … and it’s nice to be back on blog. This was our fifth, summer Daddy/Daughter Back East Excursion, visiting some favorite places in my hometown area of Phoenixville, Pa. and also the Mennonite country in and around Allentown, Pa. where we attended the Kutztown Folk Festival and splashed around at the famous Dorney Waterpark. (I went to college at Franklin and Marshall, which is in Lancaster County, the heart of the Amish country.) Compared to the incredible handy men and women who bring their unique crafts to the Kutztown Folk Festival every year, I am but a mere amateur. We met a couple of men who have been recycling large tin cans for over thirty years, shaping and cutting out areas of the tin using an acetylene torch and other very individualized tools; then coloring the metal with various shades of polyurethane. The lanterns, planters and other handsome items they create are remarkable. At another booth, we met a woman who has spent the better part of her life hand-building high quality dolls which are truly made in America and much superior to the more ubiquitous American girl dolls which, by the way are made in China.
NEW YORK: The highlight of our journey was visiting the Eldridge Street Synagogue and Museum in what is now Chinatown, New York City. Until tourists learn about the history of this “breathtaking, historic National Landmark, “ the big question is usually, “Why did they build such a beautiful synagogue in the middle of Chinatown?” Of course, when the synagogue was built in 1887, there were few Chinese immigrants living in the area. You’ll read on the home page of the website:
The Eldridge Street Synagogue opened its doors at 12 Eldridge Street on September 4 1887, just in time for the Jewish High Holidays. Hundreds of newly arrived immigrants from Russia and Poland gathered here to pray, socialize and build a community. It was the first time in America the Jews of Eastern Europe had built a synagogue from the ground up.” Copy and paste to learn all about the history of the synagogue and about the multi-million dollar restoration that began in 1983: http://www.eldridgestreet.org/
My own personal experience could not possibly be reflected in their website. I was acutely aware of the craftsmanship that went into the original building. The architecture is predominantly Moorish in style, complemented by Gothic and Romanesque elements especially on the exterior. Inside, I noticed how bits of the old knob and tube electrical system still remained as part of the “museum.” Our tour guide pointed out that the magnificent chandeliers in the sanctuary that originally contained countless individual oil lamps were now turned upside down to house chandelier bulbs. The floors in the main sanctuary are original. What were those deep, convex bevels in areas behind the pews? Turns out, it was from decades of shuckling as the men davened three times a day, Shabbat and Yom Tov.
How I wanted to sing in this sanctuary. The hazzan’s amud is right in front of and facing the Aron Kodesh. This from elsewhere on the website: “In the late 19th century, a Cantor Craze spread like wildfire through the tenements of the Lower East Side. In an effort to pack the house, the congregation hired Cantor Pinhas Minkowsky, the “Sweet Singer of Israel,” stealing him away from his perch in Odessa, Ukraine.” I stood where the great Minkowsky must have stood, and slowly began Zilbert’s Birkat Hachodesh. The acoustics were amazing. I then sang the Shema. It was enough. It made my day… my week! A small Orthodox congregation, descended from the original kahal, still davens at the Eldridge Synagogue, downstairs in what was originally the Beit Midrash..
I loved this synagogue so much, I inquired if they had interest in hiring a hazzan (me) for the High Holy Days. I left a message for someone who never returned my call. It’s not my fault my last name isn’t Minkowsky! Shortly after Roxy and I returned from our trip, I received the good news that I will be the Hazzan for the High Holy Days at The New Shul for the Conejo in Agoura Hills. Here’s a link to their High Holy Days information: http://www.tnsconejo.org/content/tns-high-holiday-schedule. We’ll be adding some Handy Hazzan vocal clips. Give a listen early August and come join us at The New Shul! I’ll be sharing the bimah with Rabbi Gershon Weissman, as well as my friend and colleague, Rabbi Michael Barclay. The evening of August 19th I’ll be guest hazzan for Shabbat services. Check the website for details!
AND NOW FOR OUR DO-IT-YOURSELF LESSON…
There’s one tool that hasn’t changed much since the creation of the Eldridge Street Synagogue … the block plane. This is a very handy tool that can connect a person to the art of woodworking in a way that no power tool can. Even if you’re not a custom “woodworker,” you may find situations around the house where a plane can be quite useful in performing simple repairs yourself. A couple of years ago, a custom carpenter and friend named Augusto put together a large cabinet for the back wall of our carport. I wanted something rustic to reflect the Craftsman period, and decided to use reclaimed (salvaged) wood. I found some old boards from a 1906 late, Victorian house that had (unfortunately) been demolished. It felt good to reclaim the wood, and it felt perfect for our needs. Augusto created three individual cabinets, using dovetail joinery and gluing the boards together wherever necessary. I found some suitable black, country hinges and matching handles, which I installed. To bolt the doors to the boxes on the inside, I installed some old slide bolts I found in a salvation …oops … I mean salvage yard. Finally, wherever there were holes or imperfections in the wood, I plugged them with wood filler.
With the warmer weather upon us, it’s no wonder that the wooden doors to the cabinets have expanded to the point where it is sometimes difficult to close them. The easy solution is to use a block plane to shave off a small amount of wood on the vertical edges of the doors where they close. Take a look at the accompanying Youtube video for a demonstration on how I used a block plane in this instance, thus allowing the doors to close more easily. It might come in handy. Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can fix it! - HH
June 23, 2011 | 12:32 pm
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
It was last Tuesday and I was in a hurry. First mistake. I had promised to replace an exterior light bulb above the entrance to my friend, Vivian’s house. It gets pretty dark at night in that general area, not only because of that bulb, but also because the one on the porch ceiling below has been 20 watts for apparently a very long time – probably a refrigerator bulb. Vivian has difficulty walking and seeing, so I was anxious to take care of the bulb at the top in front. I raced over to discover that it was higher up than I had anticipated, and it was an unusually shaped fluorescent. I decided to remove the old one so that I could take it to the store and match it. It was getting later and later. I only had about fifteen minutes before I had to leave to pick up Roxy at school. After knocking on the door and giving Vivian a quick “hello,” I scooted to the backyard and grabbed an aluminum extension ladder – same one I had used to go up on the roof a few months back to figure out where the leak was before calling my roofer. At that time, I used the ladder properly. At that time…. I WASN’T IN A HURRY.
It is essential to hook the top of an extension ladder to the top of the roof or any other structure we’re using the ladder to access. The rubber feet on the bottom of the ladder are not sufficient to keep the ladder from sliding out from under the climber. When I got to the front of the house with the ladder, I realized that I couldn’t hook the top of the ladder to the front (Apex) of the house….. and now it’s only ten minutes before I have to leave. At this moment, The Handy Hazzan could have had the sense to put the ladder away and leave. Vivian had done without this light for weeks if not months. What would be so terrible if she went another day or two? And so, in a senseless moment, not thinking of my own safety, not thinking of the daughter that I love and am mandated to care for… I leaned the top of the extension ladder against the stucco wall, made sure the feet of the ladder were flat on the ground, and proceeded to ascend. About five rungs up, I thought I felt the ladder slip … just a little. I stopped. It stopped… and then I cannot believe I did this… I began climbing again, albeit slowly, up the ladder. I was now about eight or nine feet off of the ground when suddenly, slip gave way to slide – a new twist on the old Simon and Garfunkle tune. The legs gave way and the top of the ladder zipped down the stucco wall, with me holding on all the way, face down. Crash! Thank G-d I had enough koach (koiyich Yiddish) – strength - to cushion my fall by bracing myself in a plank position, although nose and forehead did their parts as well. My face looked like Gregory Hines had tap danced the Twelfth Street Rag on it. My nose was bleeding and my left hand felt numb (ultimately just fine). I couldn’t be sure of my condition, although I knew that was my blood on the ground next to my face. Vivian heard the crash and when she saw me lying there she thought (kinna hera ) I was dead. “Vivian, call 911,” I yelped. She did. By the time the two fireman arrived fifteen minutes later, I was up and at the gate greeting them. Dueling for first place from among my emotions were stupidity, stupidity and stupidity. (Yes, you therapists out there… with me, stupidity is a real emotion.) Guess which one won. Poor Vivian was nearly in hysterics. I assured her I was going to be fine. This was a week ago and what lingers is a damaged left shoulder, the joint exceptionally grumpy for serving me as shock absorber. I convinced the medics that I could do without an emergency room. Finally, I drove away and directly to my union’s (Screen Actors Guild) clinic on LaBrea Avenue, where a great doc was able to put almost Humpty Dumpty Hazzan together again. Good thing Mom was available to get Roxy at school.
I now must insist to myself and you, my readers, that we cannot ever be in a hurry when it comes to safety. Our first obligation to ourselves and others is to maintain safety at all times. Unlike Vivian’s ultimate, plaintive cry, “Never go on a ladder again,” my promise to myself is “Never be stupid again and always take the time to make certain that I am working safely.A few days later it occurred to me that I would have to get back on a ladder, as getting back on the proverbial horse, and I chose to do so in a much safer kind of way on a step ladder (which I call an “A Ladder” in the companion Youtube video) for this week’s Do-It-Yourself” project: washing (exterior) windows. Here goes:
Before washing windows, or cleaning anything else for that matter, it’s a good idea to understand the Ph scale, and how cleaning products range from Acidic – not to be confused with Hassidic (0-2 Ph), to alkaline (13-14 Ph). I refer to a pretty nifty book entitled “Clean it Fast Clean it Right, edited by Jeff Bredenberg for Rodale Press, 1998. Jeff explains that there are five basic kinds of cleaning chemicals: 1. Surfactants … lower the surface tension of water on an item, making it flow more smoothly over surfaces and into tiny cracks, crevices and pores. Then the chemicals can get in there and break down the soils.
2. Alkalies – Most cleaners contain alkalies, not acids, because most soils – from hamburger grease to plain old mud – are acidic. We will be using an alkaline-based cleaning solution to clean the outside of the windows. The dirt is mostly environmental and, in fact, the grill is on the deck not far from that window. Who knows? We might have a bit of hamburger grease on the window as well.
3. Acids – for alkaline soils like lime scale, soap deposits, rust, tannin (from coffee and tea stains), alcoholic beverages, and mustard. These need an acid based cleaner that could range in strength form the mildness of a solution of white vinegar in water, to the harshness of sulfuric acid.
4. Solvents – dissolve soils instead of neutralizing them like alkalies and acids. Examples include paint and lacquer thinner, acetone, alcohol and glycerin. These chemicals are very harsh and toxic, not to mention hard on the environment. Solvents are highly regulated and for good reason.
5. Disinfectants – are for killing germs/bacteria. You may be familiar with such common disinfectants as Lysol, Pinesol, and liquid household bleach (Clorox).
For our window cleaning, I created a solution of a gallon of warm water, baking soda (about three tablespoons), a cup of rubbing alcohol, and two big squirts of dishwashing liquid. Alcohol speeds up drying. You may wish to add a little sudsy ammonia to prevent streaking.
For the longest time I thought that a bottle of blue glass cleaner and paper towels was all I needed to clean windows. (I still might do that on the interior panes.) Then someone gave me the tip that they used newspaper to wipe off the glass cleaner. That’s not a good idea. The newsprint will come off on your hands and you’ll smear the glass. Believe it or not, sudsy water is all you need. Water doesn’t streak and it costs next to nothing. On the other hand, additives like the baking soda will help cut through some of the more ornery dirt.
The secret to gleaming windows isn’t so much the cleaning solution as it is the drying of the windows. You’ve all seen squeegees and probably used them on your windshield at the gas station while pumping gas. Windows dried with a squeegee stay cleaner longer than windows cleaned with paper towels. According to Jeff, scrubbing and rubbing “with a paper towel builds a static charge on the window that attracts dust.” I’ve experienced this. Minute paper particles wind up on the glass as well. A pliable, good quality rubber squeegee adheres to the glass surface for smooth window cleaning.
To see our window cleaning technique, take a look at the video below. Let’s God’s beautiful, summer light into your home with sparkling, clean windows! … and remember, Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can fix it! - HH
June 12, 2011 | 12:25 am
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
This morning (Thursday, June 9) many of us were in synagogue in observance of the second day of Shavuot, which is also one of our four Yizkor (memorial) days in the Jewish calendar. We recite Yizkor on all three festivals - Sh’losh Regalim in Hebrew. Specifically, Yizkor is said following the Torah and Haftarah readings on Yom Kippur, on the last day of Passover, on the second day of Shavout, and on the eighth day of Sukkot (Shemini Atzeret). Some say we recite Yizkor on Festivals because of the vicious progroms that the Jews of Europe suffered during the Middle Ages. And there is always a special prayer reserved in memory of the six million of our faith who perished in the Shoah during World War II. This morning, memories of my beloved parents flooded my being. I will share one of them regarding my mother, not at all because I favored her over Dad, but rather because something happened when I was very young that, believe it or not, has to do with “Do-it-Yourself.” Or, maybe this lesson is DON’T do it yourself. Anyway, this is a secret that I, the Handy Hazzan am about to share with you.
When I was a little boy growing up in our little town of Phoenixville – you read about it in my very first episode – my dear mother, Martha (z’l) used to let me watch while she took her long, thick black hair down at night. Each time she let loose a bobby pin, she’d let it drop to the floor as another cascade of flowing ebony came tumbling softly upon her shoulders and down to her waist. I was such a young boychick – no, that is not a Jewish child with gender confusion - that this recollection remains a vague, almost ethereal daydream. Yet this nightly event must have been mesmerizing, for it has sparked a recurring memory throughout my life.
Decades after and until this day, whenever I see a paper clip on the ground, I pick it up. I am compelled to pick it up. Now, thank G-d I don’t need to collect paperclips in order to trim my office supplies budget, although it does recycle something useful and that’s a good thing. I am still stumped as to why this particular dream – and the one when I was twelve where I rescued an incredibly beautiful dark-haired woman from a fire – IN MY DREAMS! – I wonder why these images stick in my psyche to this day. When Mom was finished taking her hair down, she’d let me collect the bobby pins off the nubby carpet with a magnet she gave me. (Hence, the paperclips all these years later? I don’t know. ) What fun that must have been – and how vital was that evening bond with Mom.
One day … and keep in mind I was four or five years old – one day I saw one of the clips - I mean bobby pins - that must have escaped me the night before. Did I call “Mommy!?” I don’t know. Why was I alone? Was there a babysitter busy on a bathroom break? It must have been late morning or early afternoon. That solitary, glistening bobby pin was just lying there, almost directly beneath an electrical wall socket, staring at me. I looked at the openings in the socket, looked at the two prongs of the bobby pin, and decided that this bobby pin – the one that got away – this bobby pin and that socket would be a perfect match. My dad, Ralph (z’l) told me that the electrical charge from the pin when I jammed it in the socket threw me across the room. Thankfully, I was able to let go before I became a roasted, little Hebrew national. As we say in the kiddie vernacular ….. I gotta majuh owie. My little hand and part of my arm was scorched…. and I learned the hard way … which is sometimes a good way, despite the pain. Was this my first attempt at being an amateur electrician? Oi!
It is so important in life to face and conquer our fears. Just as I Iearned to swim after almost nearly drowning and went on to swim down the coast of Zuma and Malibu on countless occasions … and become a lifeguard and certified Water Safety Instructor much later in life, so I in some smaller way overcame my fear of all things electrical. … with great respect in tact. It reminds me of one of the Hebrew words for fear: Yira. יָרֵא (yârê’). More precisely, Yirah is not just “fear.” It is an awesome fear or trembling respect that we must have for G-d. And in this case, the force of electricity you bet comes from The Almighty, although humans “discovered” and utilized what G-d already created.
And so….. finally … The Handy Hazzan brings you an electrical “Do-it-Yourself” tip for the week, although a lesson in child-proofing the home would also be appropriate and maybe something we’ll cover at another time. (I know my parents were anything but neglectful, and I haven’t researched just how prevalent child-proofing was in the 1950s.) Instead…. I am going to show you how I install an (electrical) wall timer. In designing our carport/garage during our big outdoor makeover a few years ago, I purchased a pair of antique lanterns to put on the stone pilasters that flank the entry gate to our property. I then ordered three hanging lantern replicas, each of which suspends at the front of each carport bay. The automatic timer had been broken for longer than I care to admit, and this week I replaced it with a new one manufactured by Intermatic. The very first thing I did was TURN OFF THE POWER AT THE BREAKER BOX. On top of that, I took the extra precaution of using an electrical tester to prove that there was no power. The tester has two short wires with a little pin at the end of each. You touch each of them to each of the two wires at the wall. A light will go in the tester if there is power. The light did not go on, so we were safe. However, what if the tester wasn’t working? I had my assistant, Roxy, stay away from the area and I threw the power on. I used the tester again, and the light went on in the tester. I turned the power off again, and I was good to go to work.
View the YouTube link below to view the companion video for learning this “Do-it-Yourself” project.
When I visited my friends at West Side Wholesale Electric down on Beverly Blvd just East of LaBrea here in Hollywood, I learned that I had to have a very specific timer whose wiring was compatible for the two wires that I have coming out of the wall where I would be connecting the timer. This is 120- voltage, and the timer had three wires…black, red, and blue. I FOLLOWED DIRECTIONS, connecting the black wire from the timer to either of the two wires in the wall. I wrapped the wire end from that black wire around the heavier gauge source wire and secured the union by twisting a wire nut on the two of them. I then took the blue wire from the timer and connected it similarly to the other wire at the wall. I capped the remaining red wire. It is of no use in this application. There was a remaining, copper colored wire attached o the timer, which is the ground wire. I connected that to the same screw inside the electrical box that already had a thicker, copper colored ground from the source wiring. I tightened the screw holding the thin and thicker copper wire. This is all you need to know to connect your timer. The rest has to do with carefully stuffing the connected wires into the electrical box in such a way that there is room to house the body of the timer. Once you have pushed the timer in as far as it will go, secure it to the electrical box with the two silver machine screws that are supplied with the timer. If you are outdoors, be sure to cover the entire electrical box with an exterior metal housing with flip-top cover. There is usually a place to put on a padlock. Always follow the instructions when installing your timer ….or anything else. It will save you time and more important it will insure your safety. Test the timer by pushing the manual on/off to see that the electrical connection is good. Then follow the directions to program your timer for when you want it to go on and shut off. I set ours to go on at Sunset and off at Sunrise. (Hmmm … Sunset, Sunrise…. Catchy, no? Okay…needs a minor rewrite) Save electricity and money! Use timers throughout your property. Indoors, timers can be important when you are away. Set them to go on and off at different times to give the appearance that someone is home. Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can fix it! - HH
June 2, 2011 | 12:09 am
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
There’s a particular kind of tape we use to mask or protect certain areas that border those parts of a wall or ceiling that we intend to paint. This is usually BLUE tape. We use it because it comes up easily when no longer needed, not taking with it any existing paint from the areas it is covering. I like blue tape. However, the Handy Hazzan is not a big fan of RED tape. RED tape often shows up when “X” number of people have to approve a certain proposal, payment, idea for any kind of changes, etc. RED tape is a lot harder to pull off than blue tape. It takes time, patience, personality, politics and more. However, without RED tape, organizations might not be able to function as well…. and some could function better with less RED tape. That requires good efficiency, a product of top management skills. My bout with a certain company in Los Angeles that provides water and power to our homes ended today after six months of GLARING RED tape. I have been all but mummified in their RED tape, all because I erroneously made an overpayment back in October of last year and wanted my credit returned to me by check as the account was closed. But that organization is “six months behind” (said the supervisor) in processing anything that they have to PAY OUT. They still want US to PAY on time, however. Have you ever tried to wait six months to pay your utility bill? Well, today was a victory. I am happy for that. So, RED tape finally became my friend, today….as timing intersected with an understanding supervisor…. and I could have avoided it in the first place if I had been more attentive with my finances.
RED tape can work in quicker and friendlier ways, as I gladly waited an extra week while the execs at the Mid Valley YMCA needed a bit of RED tape in order to decide what color vinyl, cove base molding they wanted to use in completing the work around the new carpet DW Interiors installed for our Big Sunday project. They also needed to take a look at their budget, just in case mine wouldn’t cover it. Duh duh duh dut du dah!!! In walks our final heroic donor in the personage of Fred Stifter, son of Bill Stifter who established Linoleum City in 1948. Still owned by Bill’s wife, the store has grown to a 15,000 square foot warehouse/showroom. This is the number one place in Hollywood for all your flooring needs. The company searches the world for new and interesting designs and products, staying ahead of trends in order to meet the needs of professional and residential buyers, even creating exclusive designs for its customers. Materials are available for the do-it-yourself customers – THAT’S YOU - or arrangements can be made for independent contractor installation. Red carpet for the Academy Awards, old fashioned linoleum for a retro look, home or commercial high tech resilient flooring, hardwood, laminates, sisal or sea grass—Linoleum City, Inc. has what you need. . Linoleum City is located at 4849 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90029; telephone (323) 469-0063.
While Fred was willing to give me a wholesale price on some black cove base, he had an abundance of a special order that he was willing to donate to the project. The folks at the YMCA approved the seagreen freebie – a beautiful color, actually - and I personally installed it last Thursday. Sopha Pok of the YMCA assisted.
Here’s a list of the materials and tools I used for installation; then I’ll tell you how I did it.
1. 60 feet of 6” (high) seagreen vinyl base (BTW….the 6” is usually used only in industrial settings. The 4” can look quite nice in a residential basement or child’s playroom, where the base of the wall might take a bit of trauma.
2. Tub of Taylor 2040 adhesive made specifically for this application
3. Grooved hand trowel no wider than 4”
4. Utility knife
5. Metal triangle
6. Piece of cardboard (to put under vinyl before cutting)
7. Clean, damp rag
8. Clean roller to apply pressure to vinyl when affixing to wall
9. Tape measure and pen or pencil
10. Painter’s plastic to protect the new carpet from adhesive
First, make your surface is clean. That didn’t come out quite right. Make sure the WALL surface is clean. A simple wipe down with a damp cloth should be sufficient. Wash out the rag when finished so it is ready to clean up any adhesive spots later. Next, measure the distance on one wall and then measure the same length of vinyl base. The short wall was only about seven feet, so we did it in one piece. When it comes to inside or outside corners, be prepared to cut the vinyl as it is not advisable to try and wrap it around the outside or leave it uncut on the inside corner. Cutting the molding is easy. Using the metal triangle – or a good plastic one is fine – flush the base of the triangle with the bottom of the 6” vinyl and draw a vertical line on the vinyl at the premeasured spot. Be sure to put that piece of cardboard underneath the vinyl before using the utility knife. Better to measure the length an inch or so long and have too long a piece (which you can trim) than to come up short after applying the entire piece to the wall.
Spread the painter’s plastic, covering the entire carpet area within at least three feet from the wall. Open the tub of adhesive. It has a little plastic tab. Just pull it and the whole seal should come off. The vinyl has a rough side and a smooth side. Place the measured vinyl on top of the painter’s plastic and near the wall to be covered. Take the hand trowel and dip it into the tub to get a generous amount on the trowel. (Fred gave me a trowel that was too wide and recommended that I cut it with a hacksaw. I couldn’t find mine, so I stopped by a neighborhood auto shop and asked if they could please grind about a third of it off, so it wouldn’t be too wide for the application. They were great and now I have a little one and a medium sized one. If you do that, make sure they smooth the ground edge, or it could cut you like butter.) Apply the adhesive lengthwise to the CORREGATED side of the vinyl, which is the side that must be facing up. Keep the adhesive clear of the top two inches of the vinyl and about an inch from the bottom.
That way it won’t seep out onto wall or floor when it is time to put the molding on the wall. Be sure that the top edge of the vinyl – not the bullnose or beveled edge – is on your side, the other edge next to the wall. That way you won’t have to move the vinyl once it has adhesive on it. Wait for the adhesive to thicken for about fifteen minutes after application. Then carefully pick up the vinyl holding it underneath with two hands palms up and start at an inside corner. Here’s where a helper can be important. Otherwise, you have to be the one to keep your eye all the way down the line to make sure that the adhesive side does not flip over and get all over the painter’s plastic or worse, all over the new floor covering in spots where the plastic may not be covering. The adhesive is water based and cleans up well with water if you get to it right away. Work slowly, pressing the adhesive side on to the wall and making sure that the bottom of the vinyl is evenly running along the floor. As you work, take your roller and roll firmly over the vinyl to assure strong adhesion. (The roller I found was an old artwork roller form the days when we used to do paste-ups in advertising. Those days are long gone.) Invariably, you will get some adhesive on the finish side of the cove base. Wipe it off immediately with that clean, damp rag. Remember to wash out the rag clean between vinyl strips. For the long wall, we cut two vinyl strips of about fifteen feet each. A vinyl strip thirty feet long could be a bit unwieldy. Take a look at the photos. This was fun to do, and much easier than having to miter cut and prime and or paint wood molding … and much more durable. It comes in lots of special order colors. For special order, expect to pay about $1.70 per linear foot at Linoleum City. They carry black in stock. They also have several colors in stock in the 4” cove base. If you use 4”, be sure to use a narrower adhesive applicator.
This is something you can absolutely do. Next week we’ll touch on Shavuot, fix a couple of things around the house and talk about the authentic history of handy hazzanim in American and Europe. At one time, some of our greatest hazzanim worked at a trade while still remaining Shaliach Tzibur of the congregation. Until next time…. Remember….Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can fix it! - HH
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May 23, 2011 | 12:44 am
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
Early one spring morning, a widow and her small son sit playing together on a quiet beach. The serenity of the moment is accompanied only by the soft snapping of little waves and the intermittent caws of soaring seagulls as they cast racing shadows across the water. Suddenly from out of nowhere – BANG! - a huge breaker crashes on the beach, lifting the little boy high in the air, and sweeping him out to sea. After momentary shock, the woman cries out to God. “Adonai, please I beg you… return my son to me. I promise I’ll send him to synagogue three times a day. I’ll raise him to be a Tzadik. I’ll even stop the Lashon Hara. I promise, Lord Almighty. Just PLEASE….PLEASE save my son and bring him back to me!” A moment later the woman hears, “Mommy, Mommy!” She rushes to the little boy who has miraculously been returned to her, looks at him, then looks up to the heavens and says, “He was wearing a sweater.”
Some people are never satisfied … not truly thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon them. Not so with my experience last Sunday as Project Captain for a “Big Sunday” clean-up, fix-up and paint at the Mid Valley Family YMCA in Van Nuys. There was so much giving, love, gratitude and just plain fun abounding. Our project was a perfect example of all kinds of people working together to do a mitzvah (Hebrew word often translated as “good deed” although really means “commandment,” as in doing God’s commandment in this case to help one another… for the YMCA). We reflect upon “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18).
This YMCA is much deserving. They don’t turn anyone away and their funding has been reduced. Besides, it was a great opportunity for me to give back to an institution that meant so much to me when I was a kid growing up back in the 60s. I was one of the few boychicks - affectionate Yiddish term for young, Jewish boy - who belonged to the Y in my hometown of Phoenixville – you remember, the iron and steel town where the women would iron and the men steal?? - and one of my greatest childhood mentors was an African American man named Don Coppedge. Don was dark…. and yet we didn’t see color when we looked at him. (Remember, this is the 1960s.) Instead, we only saw a great human being who loved kids and got up in the morning with the purpose of helping us grow. Don was all athletics. He taught me so much about how to play sports, and more importantly about sportsmanship. I remember one moment when he came to our house. I forget what it was for. Don had never met my mom before. All he could say the next day was….. “Gee, your mom has good biceps.” We laughed at the house plenty about that one.
So…. I jumped into this project less than three weeks out, and it called for some quick assessing and organizing. Before I get to the great work and wonderful volunteers who made it all happen, I first want to thank a few donors without whose generosity we could not have had such beautiful results. We were refurbishing the Block Room, which is a small building apart from the main YMCA. This room will be used as a teen center. The carpeted area on the north side of the room was badly in need of replacing. Regional Group Wellbeing Director Patricia Cuffie-Jones and her associate Sopha Pok wondered if we could just shampoo it. I told them “No way. We have to get a new one.” It reminded me of a saying the Wild West sheriffs had for the most extreme outlaws: “He needs killing.” This carpet needed killing. But where was I going to get a new one? It couldn’t possibly be covered in the budget granted me by my pals at Big Sunday. The Handy Hazzan got on the phone and fortunately found a generous donor right in the neighborhood. DW INTERIORS at 6205 Van Nuys Blvd (818-786-0681) is owned by a great guy named Dan Warshauer. Dan agreed to supply the low pile carpet plus installation, and invited Patricia and Sopha to choose the color. It looks wonderful and we are still deciding on what base molding we want to complete that part of the room.
One thing I hadn’t counted on was how tough it would be to pull up the old carpet, which was probably installed back when Robin Roberts was pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies and Ritchie Ashburn was hitting inside the park homers. (Remember those two you baseball buffs?) On Big Sunday I was fortunate to have one mighty strong volunteer worker named Ventura Hernandez…. and he was a speedy, professional painter, too. Between his pulling and my grunting – okay, I pulled a little too; plus the additional assistance of Juan in maintenance and my amazing cousin Ben Gaffin, piano tuner and handyman extraordinaire – we were able to get some of the carpet up. We even tried heating up the carpet with a torch to loosen the glue. However, I chose to stop that because the fumes can be very toxic and using fire was dangerous. I soon realized we simply didn’t have the right tools, and we had so much to accomplish in six hours that I decided to have the carpet installer remove the old carpet. If you have old carpet that is glued down onto cement or hardwood, here are some methods I discovered for removing it:
1. Use a chipper. A chipper is an electric device fitted with a removable/replaceable blade (razor sharp) that can prove quite helpful clearing concrete from glued down carpet, hardwood, vinyl, etc. You might make a round of calls to your local rental yards to see if they have such a device on rental. It might well damage hardwood or vinyl that is under carpet, and could be ideal for “chipping up” carpet from concrete as in this situation.
a. One source I read suggested first spreading DRY ICE on top of the carpet. You have to be very careful handling dry ice—it’s extremely cold. Wear gloves or other protective covering. DO NOT LET IT TOUCH YOUR BARE SKIN. IT WILL FREEZE BURN BARE SKIN TO THE TOUCH. The nice thing about dry ice is that when it melts it’s gone. It leaves no residue. Unlike normal ice that leaves water in its path, dry ice evaporates into thin air (well, foggy air anyway). Meanwhile dry ice will freeze the old glue, vinyl, etc. almost instantly allowing you to chip up pieces much more easily than not.
b. Use a medium-sized chunk (1/4 to 1/2 pound at a time) keeping the remainder in the freezer or in a special insulated box (styrofoam 2 - 4 inches thick). Be forewarned: It will continue to melt in the freezer and it will freezer burn items it lays against unless insulated by a packaging material (e.g. styrofoam—it’s cheap, easy to find and works very well).
c. Place the 1/4 to 1/2 pound piece in an old metal tray. One with handles at both ends. Set the tray and ice on top of the area you want to chip away next. After a few minutes time, the area directly underneath and around the tray becomes VERY BRITTLE and much easier to remove. Meanwhile, move the tray and ice to ready another area while chipping away at the first spot. Depending on the size of the floor you need to clean, figure you’ll go through 5 to10 pounds of dry ice per day. You don’t need it everywhere. Anything helps to make a hard just a little easier.
2. Try a product called “Panda Stripper. Fumes are nominal and I have used it in commercial applications in enclosed office buildings. They do have a website to get all the info or safety issues you require.
3. I also read about another product called 747 by Sentinel. It’s low odor and eco-friendly. Although it’s a bit work intensive, I understand it works very well. Be prepared to apply the solution twice to remove the old mastic, the second time wiping clean with paper towels. Use a product like this when you are removing carpet laid over hardwood floors, otherwise the chipper might be your best bet to remove carpet from concrete. (Why would anyone glue carpet to beautiful hardwood floors?)
That’s a lot of info on removing carpet from concrete. Let’s get back to THE PROJECT AT THE YMCA. A built-in storage unit was on the wish list, and I was fortunate to find a generous, professional licensed contractor named Smithie Chi Lu. I sketched the storage unit and Chi and I shopped for the materials at Home Depot. (Home Depot donated over $10,000 worth of materials to Big Sunday.) Chi built the unit all by himself, donating his time and talents to the project. The name of his company is SLC Construction. They’re located in Van Nuys and the telephone number is 818-926-9042. Next time you need a bid, call Chi. Say you read about him in the Handy Hazzan.
Furniture including desks, bookshelves, file cabinet and more filled out the rest of the wish list. Who else would I call but Jerry Goldman, owner of Advanced Furniture Liquidators in North Hollywood at 10631 Magnolia Boulevard, telephone (818) 763-3470? I met Jerry when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1989. I was living up in his neighborhood and got all my first office furniture from him. Jerry has one of the largest selections in the city, and rents a lot to the studios. He made a sizable furniture donation to the teen room. Thank you, Jerry, for your kindness and generosity.
Earlier in the week while waiting for Erik’s Guitar Repair to set up my new guitar, I wandered into Galpin Restaurant, which is part of the huge Galpin Ford dealership at 15505 Roscoe Blvd in North Hills. Manager Geovanni Euceda happily donated two trays of cookies and breakfast muffins and cakes to get everyone on our way first thing in the morning. One of my B’nai Mitzvah student’s moms, Suzanne, donated some coffee. We also brought juice and fruit, and everyone was happy. After a brief prayer to thank God for giving us the health and strength to gather together that day, twenty-one volunteers dived into an amazing morning of cleaning, patching, priming and then painting the first coat for the teen room walls.
Lunchtime! One phone call to Dominoes Pizza at 6262 Van Nuys Blvd. had introduced me to an enthusiastic young man who was anxious to help. Manager George Parra donated five pizzas to some twenty volunteers who worked up some hefty appetites after a busy morning.
With all this organizing, yes, I did get a chance to do some work besides yanking at a dirty, old carpet…. especially in the painting department. Two other huge donors to Big Sunday are Glidden Paints and Purdy brushes. Our thanks to Manager Edward Eskelin and Brian Wilson at the Glidden Professional Paint Center at 7554 Van Nuys Blvd. (818-997-7072) for mixing our colors. We were able to paint the walls to represent the logo colors of the YMCA, and I found a can of bright yellow paint in my personal storage that we used for the bathrooms.
This week I wanted to express my gratitude to all of our volunteers and donors: Thank you Sopha, Patricia, Robert, Rae, Irene, Alejandra, Caroline, Alyssa, Ben, Christine, Andrea, Allan, Peri, Nora, Suzanne, Carmell, Alicia, Crystabel, Ventura, Sylvia, Nick and Claire….and especially to David Levinson and his incredible staff at Big Sunday for providing me this opportunity to assist the YMCA.
I’ll reserve some time in the next few weeks to give a lesson on just how to prep before painting, and then how to “cut in” with your brush (e.g. at the top of the wall to meet the ceiling), before rolling the walls. If you would like to volunteer at Big Sunday headquarters – Big Sunday is now ongoing year round – just go to their website at www.bigsunday.org - and find out how you can make Los Angeles a better place. Let’s just say….”Tikkun Olam starts at home…. and continues at Big Sunday! You can do it! - HH