Saturday, July 12, 2008

Compass Rose Medallion (part 1 of 2)

We're at least 24 months behind our original schedule for completing this house, but at this point we've found a certain liberation in knowing that the schedule has been completely blown. As if we needed something else to slow us down, my wife and I decided to try inlaying a compass rose medallion in our third floor tower room. The conversation went something like this "You know a few days after we start this, we're going to wonder why we didn't just do it the simple way... I mean, this is going to add at least a week to our move in date." "Yeah, so what." So goes many of our conversations these days, and it matters not who says which piece.

The pictures speak better than any description I could write, so I've included several in this posting. I think typically, one buys or makes a medallion and then cuts a hole in the floor and inlays the medallion. We did this one piecemeal from scratch, using pieces of walnut, cherry, white oak, and maple that we had left over from the other floors in the house. (Actually, I never bought any maple for the house, but we found at least 30 board feet of it randomly mixed in with the hickory and set it aside.) The whole medallion process was improvised as we went, but the general strategy was to nail down flooring, draw the shape, and then cut the shape using the skil-saw set to a depth of 3/4". It was at times necessary to pre-cut the individual pieces on the miter saw and insert them into the pattern. Look up tedium in the dictionary and you might find a picture of me test fitting and re-cutting these little pieces of maple to fit within the rose. My knees and back are sore as I post this, but we are happy with the results so far. We can't wait to sand and polyurethane this floor. I'll have to save that for part 2.


Blogger Bigshow said...


your nuts.

Awesome though!!!

July 13, 2008 at 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh come on now Thomas, you really just wanted another picture with all your tools in it. Didn't you ?

It's looking awesome as usual.
I hope my project looks 1/2 as good as yours (and takes 1/2 the time too) ;)

Never give up. Never surrender.

July 14, 2008 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

You know, it's kind of refreshing to hear someone say, "I'm building a house and I don't have a deadline." Now the people who built my house, they had a deadline, and you can tell. Great job, so far. Keep it up.

July 15, 2008 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...

thanks for the kind comments guys.


I am nuts. A few cans short of a six pack some might say.


Good one. Several of the tools are mine, but the miter-box saw, the 16 gauge finish nailer, the table saw (not pictured, but indispensable to this project) and the yellow air hose are borrowed tools. I've learned you don't need to buy it if you can find someone crazy enough to loan it to you! lots of other-peoples-tools out there collecting dust, and my budget keeps getting leaner, so I'm going to use them if they aren't! The stonemason felt sorry for us and loaned us a bunch of his woodworking tools.

every so often we would move the tools out of the way to "behold" and photograph. A few times, I just left the tools there because I thought it was more informative. Moving the miter saw within arms reach of the section of the floor I was working on was key to speeding things up. That pneumatic floor nailer was worth its weight in gold (we did buy it). Last week, I had to replace several o-rings in it. I think we have driven about 20,000 nails with it so far. 2.25" flooring really takes a lot of nails.


usually what we say is "this is the house we're going to die in." Morbid, sobering, and amusing, but probably true. In any case, this is the one and only house we'll ever build*, so we are trying everything on it. We would just like to move in _before_ we die. :)

* If my wife ever kicks me out, I'll have to build another house. My only consolation might be that I can leave out all of the mistakes I made on this house. :)

July 15, 2008 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Shellmo said...

I think this is a beautiful element for your floor - love it!

July 15, 2008 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger brad_bb said...

I think if your wife kicks you out, about all you'll have energy for is an 8X8 Unibomber cabin!
You never cease you amaze me on your creativity and adaptability Thomas. Keep it up and try to enjoy what you do! Stay cool.

July 18, 2008 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...

You called my bluff Brad! Of course I don't have the energy, time, or money to do something like this again. But I would probably go for an upscale unibomber cabin - maybe 12x16 with a partial loft.

Actaually, wife worked on the house today while I fixed fence and moved cattle. (until I asked her for help with the cattle!) 38+ head moved one mile, approximately 5 at a time in a trailer... to greener pastures of course. I'm beat!

July 18, 2008 at 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anita & Jack said...

Love the house Thomas and reading your blog about the adventures of building it. You make me tire just reading what you guys do!!! I bet you will read and heed all warning labels from now on. : )

July 19, 2008 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger goprairie said...

two years!?! ack, gag! we had our foundation done last thanksgiving and swan timberframe started the frame this april 16. we have contractors and subs but are doing a few things to make it more affordable. we just finished sanding the frame and are about to start varnishing the frame and ceilings. then drywallers will come, after which we will paint and put down ourselves the tile flors, tile shower and bath areas, bamboo prefinished floor and cherry prefinished floor. we are hoping to be done by halloween but would settle for christmas. see it at - click the 'house' label over on the right to pull out just those entries. good luck and i hope we beat you to doneness!!

August 6, 2008 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...


I love your use of tags in your blog. I need to learn how to do the same with my blog. Good luck finishing by Christmas. I doubt you will completely finish by then, but I wouldn't bet against your moving in by then! We used polyurethane on the frame and ceilings. Be careful with the dust and oily rags if you go with an oil based varnish/polyurethane. Dangerous stuff.

A and J,
Please come visit some time. We will cook you a 4 minute pizza if we have at least 2 hours notice. :)

August 7, 2008 at 6:50 AM  

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