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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Installing a Microwave Oven in 210 Days: Part 4

Measure twice, then cut once.
Repeat as necessary.
(Or: Try and try again until you finally succeed).

After watching the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix with breakfast, we began our day by relocating one of the brackets we had installed yesterday, as my wife realized that we had set it in the exhaust fan area.  So, we couldn’t use that stud in the wall for support.  Hopefully, all our little brackets, set into the drywall and the half-inch sides of the Oak cabinets, would support our new over-the-stove microwave.  After all, it only weighed half as much as the one we had taken out.

Then we set up shop outside.  We dragged over a duck-board garden bench we made many years ago, and used it for our workbench.  We got our drills and our jigsaw, and I finally found my father’s old crosscut saw in the garage.  We measured where we would need to cut the melamine for the shelf.  As the screw heads protruded from the brackets, we had to account for that.  I tried my best to remember the visual reference for where the blade would cut.  Then I switched on the old saw and made my first crosscut. 

When we tried the board for width, it was too long.  As it turned out, I had allowed too much for the width of the blade.  So I trimmed off a thin slice.  Still, it wouldn’t quite fit.  So we made a third cut.  Hooray: the board slid onto the brackets nicely.  We checked our initial measurements for width, and decided we needed to reduce the shelf’s width by an additional 1/8” due to the protruding screw heads.  So we took the board back out outside, measured, and I ripped the ¾” excess off the board.  Then we took it inside to check how it fit.  I might have cut off a 1/16th too much, but no one would notice when we pressed the 1”x2” Oak trim back in front.  

I have no idea how old my father's Skil saw is.
Newer models tantalize with more features, and
I've often thought of replacing it, but I never have.
Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever
even changed the blade.

Using our template, we marked the drill holes for the upper support screws and the power cord.  Then we drew out the rectangle in back for where the metal frame above the microwave’s exhaust fan would protrude into the shelf.  We used the jigsaw to cut the opening, took the shelf inside to rest on the brackets, marked our screw-holes, then went back outside and drilled those.  Then we set it back inside on the brackets, and installed a screw at each corner to hold the shelf in place.  

We lifted the microwave, slipped it between the cabinets, and set it onto its lower support tabs.  The microwave refused to sit back against the frame.  Although we had followed the template, it seemed we needed to increase the width of the exhaust-fan rectangle by ¼”. 

By now it was noon.  We broke for lunch, warming up leftover pizza in our old countertop microwave oven.  We watched a first season episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man” while we ate.  In the story, written by D. C. Fontana (who had served as Gene Roddenberry's assistant and also wrote episodes of "Star Trek"), Steve Austin helps train Kelly, a female astronaut (played by Lee Major’s then wife Farrah Fawcett Majors) for her first space flight.  When the capsule develops a fault and must dock at Skylab, the hatch refuses to open, trapping Kelly and her injured copilot inside the capsule.  So Steve heads a rescue effort, and uses his bionic strength to open the hatch.  Then he goes outside to effect repairs so the doctor he brought up can perform surgery on the injured astronaut.  Unfortunately, it seems as though Steve's bionic limbs and eye don’t have sufficient radiation shielding: his vision goes fuzzy several times, and he suffers episodes of shaking and reduced strength.  Thus, when all four return to Earth in Steve’s capsule, Kelly must pilot the unbalanced and overweight craft manually, something she’s unprepared for. 

After pizza and a Brownie-Fudge Klondike for dessert, we felt more stiff and tired than before.  I mused that, working outside, the sun’s UV radiation must be sapping our strength, just as it had Steve’s.  My wife shook her head.  It wasn’t ultraviolet that was to blame, but microwaves.  Oh well.  Time to go back outside, and resume our work.

Hoping we can finish in the afternoon,
Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entry

Monday, July 30, 2012

Installing a Microwave Oven in 210 Days: Part 3

"C'mon little shelf, now don't be shy,
Momma's gonna make you go bye-bye."

After breakfast, my wife prepared the area by banging out the nails that had held the shelf’s 1”x2” support blocks into the cabinets.  Thankfully, they all came out nicely.  Unfortunately, she also discovered that the shelf dug into each cabinet via a dado.  We couldn’t tell how deep each dado was, so I used a hammer and a piece of wood to try to bang the shelf out.  But all my careful banging accomplished was to create fracture lines in the shelf.  So I wouldn’t be able to reuse the shelf.  Using my jigsaw, I cut the board in two places, and my wife removed the pieces.  We’d need to buy another board and cut it to size, but hey, the people at Home Depot need to keep their jobs, right?

After removing the shelf, we set the microwave on its rear support tabs and pressed it back against the wall.  Then we drew a line along the cabinets and wall to give us a sense of where the top of the microwave would be.  As it turned out, we only needed an additional quarter inch of height, but because the dado had been routed into the outside of each cabinet, we would need to set the shelf above the dado, or 5/8” higher. 

After setting the microwave back atop the stove, we debated on the best way to support the new shelf.  The best solution might have been to widen the dado the needed ¼”, but that would necessitate taking down the cabinets.  So we cleaned up and headed off to lunch, run more errands, and consult the experts at Home Depot.  There, we found a piece of melamine that just needed ¾” ripped off, but the man working in the lumber area explained that his saw couldn’t rip it to size for us unless I bought a board twice as wide.  We would need to make the cuts ourselves.  We also studied various options for supporting the new shelf in the hardware aisles, and picked out three different types of metal brackets. 

When we returned, we studied the various brackets, and determined the best location for each.  We made our measurements, drilled our pilot holes, and installed the brackets.  I know this doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but it was time consuming, as we had to guess at the best weight distribution areas, and where the bottom of the shelf would sit, as the bottom of each bracket would sit below the bottom of the board.  As each bracket was different, this proved a challenge.  (Of course, we hadn’t bought enough of the right kind of screws, so we scrounged from past supplies).  

David does his best Vanna White impression.
(Note our wide selection of brackets!)

After all this, it was time for dinner.  We were exhausted, and we had plenty more work ahead before we could install our over-the-stove microwave.  So we warmed up yesterday’s pizza in our old countertop microwave, and enjoyed dinner and a movie. 

Tonight’s selection: “Dr. No,” the first James Bond film.  While the villain’s island compound gets destroyed in the end, it had boasted numerous architectural features.  If he could build such a place, the least we could do was install a microwave oven.  As for building the facilities to house our own nuclear reactor, that project would have to wait for another day. 

Tired, but with the end in sight,
Dragon Dave

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Installing a Microwave Oven in 210 Days: Part 2

Our new microwave awaits.

In April, we discussed how to approach our problem.  When we had purchased the house, the previous owners had paid contractors to remodel their kitchen.  They had installed tile all along the bottom of the cupboards and the microwave.  As our new microwave was taller, this meant we either had to chip away tiles and set it lower, or find room up above.  Well, we had worked with wood before, but never with tile.  The way the old tile had been cut, we knew we would have to chip away a lot, then lay matching tile along the profile of the new microwave.  We weren’t sure that we wanted to spend our first tiling project attempting to replicate someone else’s work.  What if we couldn’t find an exact replacement tile?  What if we ended up needing to remove the cabinets anyway to remove or install tiles beneath them?  Soon May was upon us, and our upcoming trip to England beckoned.  We would get to the project when we returned, we vowed.

Earlier this year, a family member had died.  (See “Awake with Connie Willis and Amaryllis”).  As the service was a full day’s drive each way, we hadn’t been able to travel to her funeral.  A “Life Celebration” was scheduled for early July.  So yes, you guessed it: after we returned home from England…more traveling. 

A few weeks after that, we pulled out the oven and unhooked the gas line.  We studied the wall template, as well as the holes in the wall where the contractors had hung the previous frame.  We decided we would need to remove the oak trim from the shelf above, as after we hooked the microwave onto the frame's lower support tabs, the trim would get in the way of swinging the microwave up.  This involved using a square head drill bit, which we had previously bought at Home Depot, enlarging the pocket-hole area around the screw head with our Dremel rotary tool, and patience.  Then, to our delight, a little tapping with a hammer was all it took.  The finishing nails that had held on the trim also emerged nice and straight, so we could tap the trim back on later. 

After drilling holes in the wall for the new frame, we discovered that our stud-finder’s readings had been slightly off, and the left hand side of the frame would not sit in front of a stud after all.  This meant that we needed four toggle bolts.  The installation kit included three.  We had a few smaller ones at home, but wondered if they were strong enough.  As it was approaching noon, we decided to add Home Depot to our list of the day’s errands, and headed out.  Our first stop: lunch at our favorite burger joint.

It’s been several years since we attempted serious Do-It-Yourself (DIY).  Or, if you prefer, Doing-Yourself-In (DYI).  In that time we had forgotten some basic skills.  So that afternoon we made the mistake of letting the toggle portion go all the way through the wall before we tightened the bolts.  Thankfully, my wife figured out a slow way to rectify the problem.  We also used the template for the shelf to drill holes for the upper support bolts and the power cord.  Then we headed into the living room for our new microwave.

We carried it into the kitchen, squeezed it between the two cabinets, set it on the bottom support tabs, and swung it up.   The new microwave cried foul: its top rear corner jammed into the shelf above before it could reach the wall.  So, as we had feared, we would need to remove the shelf and position it higher.  Hopefully, this wouldn’t involve relocating the cabinet doors. 

By now, our energies were ebbing.  We removed the vertical supports between the ceiling and the shelf, but opted to remove the shelf tomorrow. 

Pushing the oven back in place and hooking it back up seemed like too much work.  So we went out and got a double-pepperoni pizza for dinner.  Life is hard.

Still to be continued,
Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Installing a Microwave Oven in 210 Days: Part 1

Our old microwave proved reluctant to leave home.
(I guess it liked us or something).

A few years ago, our over-the-stove microwave packed up.  As we had never gotten around to selling our old countertop model from our previous house, we carried it in from the garage.  The countertop microwave took up a lot of space.  Soon, we vowed, we would replace our old over-the-stove model.

Last November, we headed out to Home Depot on Black Friday.  We were going there to purchase a new dishwasher, as our old one had given up the ghost a few years before the microwave.  Assured by the sales staff that all microwaves were all the same size, we also purchased another over-the-counter model, along with a three-year extended warranty.  We would be leaving the following weekend on travel, and had lots to do before we left.  We set the box containing the microwave on our living room floor, and vowed to install it when we got back.

The following week, we got our dishwasher, but they couldn’t install it, as the company or service responsible for delivering it hadn’t realized they had to hardwire it.  So it was back to Home Depot, when, after several consultations, we were able to arrange for its installation, but only after we returned home in December.  Finally, in the middle of December, the service man hardwired our dishwasher, and we no longer had to wash our dishes by hand anymore.  As Christmas was just around the corner, we were running around like dinosaurs who have just witnessed a massive meteorite impact.  Installing the microwave was consigned to the following year.

In January or February, we tried to remove the old model.  We unscrewed the bolts supporting it from above, but couldn’t get the machine to budge.  Whatever we did, it remained stuck fast, as if Superglued to the wall.  We decided to do some research, and decide how best to tackle this problem later.

In April, I decided to pull the oven out from the wall.  Then I used a wood chisel to chip away the caulking on the wall between the tiles and the microwave.  I also took off the bottom of the old microwave to see if anything else was holding it up, but saw nothing.  So I removed the top bolts again and pulled down on it.  I banged the top of the microwave lightly with a hammer.  I tried to be careful, as I didn’t want the machine to fall down, but I also tried to be forceful, as I really wanted it out of there.  No luck.

Cleaning out the old beast's nest.

I had decided to give up when I changed my mind and gave the machine one last go.  I decided I didn’t care if it fell down and injured me, or damaged the gas line protruding from the wall.  I just wanted it gone.  So I grabbed hold of the microwave and lifted myself completely off the ground.  I bounced up and down, each time with greater force.  Finally, the microwave came loose.  It was a heavy beast, and I needed my wife’s help to lift it off its support frame and carry it out of the kitchen.  Then I measured the new microwave, and the wall space between the cabinets and the tiles. 

All the microwaves that Home Depot sold may have been the same size, but our new one was over an inch taller than its predecessor.  I removed the old metal support frame, and two pieces of plywood that had been used as spacers between the old microwave and the shelf above.  I wasn’t sure if that would leave enough room, but at least it was a start.  Hey, I had only had the new microwave for three-and-a-half months.  What did it matter if it took a little longer?

To be continued,
Dragon Dave