plaster disaster

on monday night i walked through my front door around 9:30, pleased with the hands-on knowledge i’d acquired at a good egg knife skills class in the hours post-work — including, but not limited to, the ability to turn an apple into a swan. at this time in the evening, after a long day of tweeting about kids books and knife honing, most people might decide to put the kettle on (especially if it was a brand new, bright yellow le creuset kettle from the aforementioned good egg) and put their feet up, but pierre was away for two nights and i had every intention of moving forward on some languishing around-the-house projects.

i decided 9:30 on a monday night was as good a time as any to hang the lights in our dining room.

we recently got our 1961 rca victor victrola record player back from butler’s appliance (with a too-dull needle, headache headache headache) and this piece of furniture had been what we were waiting on to hang our lights.

the angel wing pendant lights we bought from eclectic revival back in july were originally intended to illuminate our kitchen island. no longer planning for a kitchen island, the pendants went back to the shop in december, and owner peter breese modified the lights for our dining room. he rewired both pendants with 16 feet of cord and added plugs because we don’t have overhead lighting roughed in in our dining room.

click here for toronto standard’s awesome video tour of peter’s workshop; eclectic revival is also where our exit light fixture is from (you can see it on the wall in the video!) and his shop is worth the trek to the junction.

since the pendants could plug into the wall socket tucked behind the victrola, “all i had to do” in the dining room was figure out where the hooks needed to go into the ceiling so that the lights would hang centred over the record player, then twist the hooks into the plaster. i figured if all went according to plan, pierre would be happy to come home to a softly lit dining room. and if it all went wrong i would be faced with a pile of crumbled plaster, an angry husband, and the knowledge that an unidentified portuguese ceiling skimmer had turned over in his grave.

has anyone ever tried to work with lath and plaster? i think people don’t anymore. for good reasons. i must have wished for drywall — smooth, yielding drywall — at least a dozen times through my whole pendant-hanging ordeal. the ceiling did not want me to hang hooks in it, and the wall certainly did not want to accept the 3/4″ staples i wanted to hammer in to it. i wonder if plaster is also known as cement?

the e-z anchors pierre had bought for the job of hugging the hooks in the ceiling had a big, bold warning on the package that read not for ceilings. i thought i’d tentatively try them out, but nope, they weren’t for ceilings, plaster or otherwise. no real damage done, just a bit of plaster in my hair and a few mangled anchors in the garbage.

my dad gave us these super powerful mini makita drills for christmas and they were up to the challenge of the ceiling. i drilled holes for regular plastic anchors for the left light,  and stumbled upon a ceiling joist for the right light. i touched the yellow anchors up with a little ceiling paint, and the lights aren’t too heavy (plus they’re stapled into the wall) so i don’t think they are going anywhere.

the looping design of the cords on the wall was inspired by a brunch we ate at l’ouvrier a few months back. the food wasn’t great, and all (all?) their french presses were broken, but some of the decor was so neat we brought it home.

just like us, they had lighting cords they needed to snake along their wall, and they turned this faux pas into art. when pete modified our pendants in december we already had this look in mind, so we asked for a generous amount of cord considering our low 8′ ceilings. their rendition is a little more a-plus than ours, so i’m guessing they were working with drywall. (or a certified contractor.)

in order for the wall to accept all of those staples i had to pre-drill all the double-pronged holes with the tiniest drill bit in our kit. i didn’t count the number of staples and i don’t want to. once the holes were drilled i hammered the staples in place, and they required more than a light tap. more like every swing of the hammer was so violent it shook the staples above out of their holes, and i could also hear what sounded like marbles kerplunking behind the wall. but i’ve chosen to assume nothing important was dislodged by my efforts.

all that aside, i had a husband who walked through the door just now who was very pleased to come home to a softly lit dining room. i really love the amount of light it adds to the room — enough to see your dinner, but not enough to see a stain on the table runner. of course, it’s also just enough light to cast unflattering shadows on the plaster that has sagged and cracked with time (previously hidden — probably caused by — the wall of bookshelves we had on this wall when our dining room was our living room).

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah M. says:

    Hooray for DIY! Glad you were able to make good use of your Pierre-less time. (Also glad to hear the victrola just needs a sharper needle. Will they deliver?)

    1. kendalgerard says:

      I think if I stay on top of them they will do a house call to replace the needle! We’ve got the mood lighting, now we just need the music.

  2. Lorna and Gord MacFarlane says:

    Kendal…if you’re still waiting on the new needle, your Uncle Gord says just give him the number on the cartridge and he’ll check his stock. He might have one but if not he can get one easily for you. Take a picture and send it to him if you can’t make out the number. The make and model of the turntable can also most likely tell him what tone arm was use. In the meantime, you can flip the needle over. It is probably marked tor 78 rpm records but it will work…somewhat poorly but it will get you through until he gets you a new one.
    That’s a neat way to deal with cords!

    1. kendalgerard says:

      Oh my god, this would be most helpful!

      The “new” needle they put in skips, so we think it’s not sharp enough. Our old needle didn’t skip, but then Pierre accidentally snagged it on his shirt and then, of course, it didn’t skip because we no longer had a needle.

      The number on the cartridge is Ronette ST SA-250 and there’s a number along the side that is 1.3 Ronette.

      The model on the turntable is UA14, volted 195 amps. 1961 Victor Stereo-Orthophonic combination. We have all the original instructions and I can email pictures.

      Is there no end to how helpful my family can be in this home ownership business? Thank you!

  3. Laurie says:

    i might have found a source for needles…. http://www.stereoneedleslady.com/servlet/StoreFront. hope we can get out to see all your efforst soon. xo

  4. Lorna and Gord MacFarlane says:

    Gord loves this kind of thing. He has ‘recapped’ his tube amp lately too. He’ll look into it today Kendal but he would still love a picture of it. Like I said, he really enjoys this type of project.

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