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Monday, March 5

Fun With Bevels

I headed out of the office with a mission on Friday. I was going to get started on my skirting boards. The idea of installing skirting boards has been rattling around my brain ever since I discovered that my damp-proofing works would be at the expense of the existing skirting boards. Though I can pay people to do things like put skirting boards back, I thought I should challenge myself to have a go.

At B&Q, I bought a compound slide-action mitre saw with laser guide and 7 lengths of Victorian style skirting board. The plan was to get started right away. I drove home expectantly and unpacked this new electrical dangerous device.

There are two important cuts on the skirting board. There's the cross-cut, which is the line that runs vertically when the board is against the wall. On skirting boards, this is usually perfectly vertical, though if you had a strange fit to make, you could make it slightly off the vertical. With the mitre-saw, this setting is the mitre. Then there's the angle that you turn the saw through to make two ends of skirting board meet up at both front and rear faces. This is called the bevel. If your wall has a 90 degree angle, you bevel at 45 degrees and the two bevels touch and make a perfect join around the corner.

That's the theory.

I was very excited about this saw which was reduced from £60 to £40 (I later discovered that I'd been charged full price for it anyway). It seemed pretty basic, but I only needed to do a few skirting boards. I should point out that the skirting boards themselves cost nearly £20 a length. So, making mistakes with this wood was not a cheap game.

I'll be honest. Friday night stank. I struggled with the infernal machine and I struggled with my limited abilities to measure the angles of my corners - I had the technique of drawing on the floor (the right way to do things) and then measuring with a really small protractor (the wrong thing to do). I soon discovered that the mitre saw I'd bought was simply not cutting straight lines, nor was it cutting the bevels I wanted. After wasting most of a piece of skirting board. I stopped. It wasn't worth the effort.

Depressed by this turn of events, I got out the house and went round to my ex-girlfriend's house, primarily to get a shower and use the toilet, I think. I hung around being miserable, watched a movie, then eventually got myself home to bed.

Take Two
I woke up Saturday lunchtime and started plotting. I checked out how much I would have to pay to hire a proper mitre saw. It was not cheap. I reckoned I could buy a mitre-saw for the price of two-weeks' hire and be happy that I'd done a reasonable thing. So, I returned to B&Q, threw them the saw I hated, which they refunded no-questions (thank you B&Q), and went to speak to the tools man. He recommended a particular saw and suggested that I'd have more luck with a blade more suited to wood than the one which comes with the machine. He even suggested that the blade might have been responsible for my previous problems. I reckoned that the blade could have been to blame, but the overall crappiness of the machine was probably more to blame. Cheap tools!

So, I bought an altogether more expensive tool. Then I asked about an angle measuring device. There are some which you place on the wall and either wrap around or bend into the corner, and it just reads the angle that you need to cut. The man at B&Q recommended I go to a local shop, called Wokingham Tools. Having returned to my car and looked up the address of this shop, I headed over there. I didn't know the way, so I set up my Sat Nav. Given that I didn't know where I was headed, I even let the Sat Nav navigate me through the horrendous traffic that I usually avoid by taking a back route home. But I wasn't going home, so I just followed the machine.

I followed the machine to a shop that is round the corner from my house. D'oh!. I should have driven home and started from there. I should have recognised the description of where the shop was from the man in B&Q's vague directions. But I didn't. I know where the shop is now and B&Q may get less tool business. This is an emporium of fun tools. They had the sort of thing I wanted and it is a beauty. It is made of two pieces of metal (with integrated spirit level). The two pieces are hinged. You open the hinge until the two pieces of metal either seat neatly in an angle, or wrap around a section of wall. Then you turn a screw to lock the hinge. Then you go and look at a dial which has turned itself to read the angle the hinge is at. Genius.

As you can see from the more effusive prose in this section of the story, I got up and running with my new tools and I was much happier with them. I really should learn my lesson. Spend a little more on tools and they do a better job. Also, don't guess so much. Anyway, before I allowed myself to do the business with the skirting boards, I first had to sort out some electrical things. I'd installed three new lights in my halls a couple of weeks previous and one wasn't working (it turned out to be the bulb) and the other had shoddy wiring. I set about replacing this wiring with something much more suited to the job. It took a while, but now I am happy that my electrician won't pour scorn on the installation. He's coming tomorrow and I want him to give the house a clean bill of health, rather than a rewiring order.

Then onto the skirting boards. I'm not going to describe the techniques any more. I'll say that I cut boards, screwed them to the wall, found that I wasn't incredibly good at it at first, got a bit better and made a lot of dust.

By the last piece I wasn't feeling well at all. I forced myself to finish the cut and call the job done. I had a raging headache and felt nauseous. I wanted to get out for some food or drink, but didn't trust myself to drive in that condition. I went upstairs to curl up and mewl on the bed for a bit. I decided the best thing to do was to get in it. It was 7.30. I slept until morning.

I don't know what it was. It might have been the dust from the saw, though I'd expect to feel more of a respiratory problem, and maybe some warnings from my nose and throat first. It might have been the exertions of the physical labouring. It may have been a bug, something I ate, or just a random migraine. I don't know.

Waking at 5am, I watched some stuff on You Tube, checked my email and then took a couple more hours' sleep. Then I went to meet a friend in town and we got coffee. We went to a music shop and discovered it wasn't open. We had to wait until 11am (nearly 30 minutes' wait) before it let us in. It was worth it. It's a good shop. We played with some instruments. My friend liked the one he played with. I liked the idea of the one I was looking at, but the playing of it sucked.

I also played an expensive electric piano. Not that expensive, but more than any I own.

Then we went back to my house to admire the skirting boards, the fiting of which had nearly killed me. I'd completed the living room. There was still the other downstairs room to do. Following some minor admiration, there was more playing of instruments, and then I dropped my friend in town before going to Tesco for some food.

I ate lunch sitting in Tesco's car park listening to the Elaine Paige program all about musicals. It's a good way to spend some of your Sunday. I didn't bother getting going straight away as I knew there'd be a load of traffic heading out of Tesco, which is at the end of a spur off the main road.

From Tesco I headed to B&Q, via a pit stop (or something which rhymes with that) at my old house. B&Q turned out to have 4 more lengths of skirting board and a replacement bulb for my hall light. In the car they went and I was back home, getting ready to do my second room.

The second room turned out to be easier than the first. Perhaps it was experience. Perhaps it was the better walls and angles. I don't know. I made one or two goofs, and there's one bit of board where I know it's wrong, but I can't think of a better way of doing it. It's in a part of the room you wouldn't normally look at, so I don't think it's worth caring about.

The limiting factor turned out to be the battery of my drill. I was wearing a mask this time, so I wasn't going to be attacked by sawdust. I was doing my skirting boards with more efficiency and confidence, having marked out and measured everything in advance (except lengths, which do need a bit of flexing once the boards are in place).

It generally went well. I made one mistake, where I cut a board 10cm too short, having misread my tape measure and disobeyed the "measure twice, cut once" rule. However, I forgave myself, even though I ended up using every last length of skirting board that I'd bought.

At the end of the day, at about 10.30pm, when the last re-charge of the drill gave me enough juice to fit the last pieces of skirting, I'd managed to skirting-board two rooms, using approximately 26 metres of skirting board, a lot of which was turned into 28cm lengths of offcut, or odd shaped wedges, or sawdust.

I end Sunday a lot more upbeat than I ended Friday. Though these new boards will need filling to make me not hate the way the joins don't quite join (or in some cases, miss by quite a noticeable distance), I've actually gotten these two rooms looking like rooms again. They feel like I could almost apply paint in them. I can't, but "almost" is quite a good progression from "building site".

I have pictures.

I may post them later.


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