Been a while, hasn't it? E and I have been busy trying to get the two unfinished rooms finished. To that end, we spent the better part of a couple of weeks hanging sheetrock, slapping on tape and mud, sanding and painting. In this work I've discovered at least two other career paths that I never wish to pursue.

With that done and E out of town, I've been patching the floorboards in the front room. This floor was most likely put in sometime in the 1920's. The day we did this we saved a whole bunch of floorboards to be used for patches and repairs since it was unlikely that we'd find their equivalent.

I picked up the trusty Time/Life book on home repair and read up on how to replace sections of damaged tongue-and-groove floor boards. They totally soft pedal the work that goes into it. It looks like an afternoon project. I know better (actually, I knew this going in). They suggest that you chisel straight line across the ends a board and then chisel out a wedge at each end then chisel a few long lines parallel to the board to split in into pieces. Here's the thing: those straight lines are the worst bit of chiseling to do since you're going across the grain. Think of it this way. If you had a handful of pencils, all aligned and poked at them with a putty knife with the edge of the blade parallel with the pencils, the putty knife will going right in. If you hold the putty knife perpendicular to the pencils there's a lot more work. When you're working on floorbaords, each of those pencils is a fiber in the board. I tried one board end this way and timed myself. It took a half hour, not counting time to resharpen the chisel. Since I had 32 boards, or 64 board ends that's 32 hours of chiseling alone. Not acceptable.

SO here's how I do it:

This is what I stared with.

First draw out some layout lines for your new board ends. Then enlist the aid of power tools. You can't use a circular saw effectively in such a small space, so instead I used a biscuit cutter. This is like a very small circular saw that can cut a slot about 3 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch deep at the deepest, and it is made to be carfully aligned so getting the cuts square is not hard.

This eliminates more than half the time with the chisel. Eventually, I got it down to about 8 minutes per board end.

Hours of chiseling leaves you with this:

I used a somewhat staggered pattern to try to get the best look possible with only a moderate amount of work and to minimize usage of replacement boards. Since we only have a small amount of that lumber, that was clearly a high priority.

The next step is to cut boards and lay them in place, blind nailing where you can and face nailing otherwise. A floor that sags in the middle leaves some gaps to be sanded out of board ends. Crap.

Now, problems arise when you are chiseling out floorboards (of course they do!). In the best case, I had to sharpen the chisel lightly every two or three board ends. I can do that in about a minute, no big deal. What's bad is when you hit a nail. You can't see the nails because they've been blind nailed in, get it? So you don't know until you hit one, and boy do you ever know. This is what happens to an iron nail when you hit it with a sharp steel chisel:

That bright, shiny spot is where I chiseled off the metal. Oops.

This is what the chisel looked like afterwards:

That means a trip down to the grinder and then a lot of time spent with the sharpening stones cleaning up the mess I make with the grinder.

Hey! The chimney used to be here! Check out the asbestos liner left in place. I needed it for support since I put in some scrap wood to keep the boards from sagging in the middle when you step there, so it's sealed back up. Just to give you an idea of what we had before, this had been patched with a piece of plywood and a lot of wood putty. A lot of it.





Still to do-there is a section of floor by the windows that needs some trimming. That means ripping some strips of board on the table saw. I'll probably get to that in the next week. Then comes the dreaded floor sander.