Sunday, March 10, 2019

Bottle Logs: A Tutorial (of sorts)

SO! (I love that for an opener, it always seems to fit)

SO! - The February/March phase of this project is nowhere near as dull or stagnant as I feared.  In fact, it's downright stressful!  (Good to flex those muscles now, we've got that going for us.)

The "house" is still just where it's been for the past few months:

It remains un-raided as far as we can tell. I think we're past the worst of the heating season. (We don't want to go down there and really inspect, because our primary source of believing that we still have all our logs is untouched snow.)(Although, we've had so damn much snow this year, they could have tunneled in and we'd never know.)(MAN, I hope our first winter in the house is just like this!)

We've spent the last few weekends down at the property plowing, so we don't get so buried we can't get in, and pulling snow off the bunkhouse roof. It's been glorious! And when you bring margaritas (in short, clear, beer diameter bottles!) and forget the ice, you can just pluck icicles off the eaves and pop them in your drink!). It's just been so beautiful with the snow...

Anyway - we've been stressed because there's really more to do right now than we thought. We're still working on the building permit because we need to have the HVAC and Electric lined up before he'll issue the permit, so we've been scrambling to finish getting quotes and lining those guys up. (And have now supplied all needed info to Inspector Rob.)(Keep your fingers crossed).

(Oh yeah, and we now have Rob the draftsman, Rob the inspector and Rob the electrician. Really?!)

On top of all that, we're attempting to get a construction loan, because we DON'T have any proceeds from a building sale yet, and are not likely to any time soon. Conversely, apparently 82% of the money spent on this build needs to happen in the next 3-4 months. OUR portion, is practically nil compared to the trades.

We are also realizing things like: We should have most, if not all, of our windows and exterior doors purchased before we put up the timber frame, so we know damn well where the timbers should be, and know that we're going to have windows to fit the openings we've created and now can't be changed.



During all of this, I've been cranking away on bottle log production, and I've got this down to a pretty good science. We're actually at the point where we need to sit down with floor plans and get a sense of how many bottle logs we think we'll really need - so I know when to stop.

During one of our trips to the property recently, we went into the pole building and unearthed all the bottles we'd collected the last time we thought we were going to do this nine years ago. THAT was an adventure. A) We had WAY more bottles that I remembered (and better ones), and B) Mice had crawled into a few and died there, which was a horrifying and sad discovery. (And we're not using those bottles)

BUT - look at the haul we got!!!

And mostly liquor bottles, which meant lots of clear, which we need desperately, and lots of interesting bottles, like the Tanqueray 10 and Bombay Gin

So! (*snerk*) Here's what I've been doing:

My first piece of advice is COLLECT MORE JARS. We tend to think in terms of bottles, because that's the big deal right?  And we all know that means jars and vases and anything else that's glass, but we end up focusing on bottles because they are romantic and spaghetti sauce jars aren't.  BUT - Jars make the whole process SO MUCH EASIER, Y'ALL. All those fancy-ass wine and liquor bottles you've been saving with their awesome shapes and delicate colors?  STILL NEED A CLEAR END, AND IT'S WAY EASIER TO SHOVE THE NECK INTO A PICKLE JAR THAN TO CUT DOWN A VODKA BOTTLE.

We have had to cut down a fair few bottles, and there's really no great way to do it.  We had a bottle/glass cutter rig that we tried, but it didn't work that well, and is really a lot of work to get a good score on the glass, and still was a crap shoot when it came to getting the glass to actually break the way we wanted it to.  Then we tried buying a diamond blade for our side grinder (called an angle grinder in other circles, I'm told), and that has worked pretty well.  It takes a little bit of finesse to cut through without causing cracks or breaks, and it doesn't make the cleanest edge - but we don't need a clean edge, just a stable one.

The girl child has even helped with that bit. The only real downside is that the blade seems to have dulled pretty quickly. We've cut maybe 25-30 bottles and it's already getting pretty dull, to the point that we think it's causing cracks just because it IS dull.  (Spaghetti sauce and pickle jars are way cheaper than a $45 diamond blade that can do a limited amount of bottles, I'm just sayin'.)

Once the bottles are prepped, though, the process is pretty easy and quick. (Plus it's fun!)

After some initial trial and error, I devised this jig that I use for two purposes - one is to make sure the bottle logs are the right length, and the other is to provide the equivalent of a second pair of hands. The jig holds the bottles, and helps with the wrapping of the flashing, so that I don't need a second person to help, and it's still easy and smooth.

Here's what most of my completed bottle logs look like:

And here's how I do it.

I use the jig to help me pair bottles together (and figure out where to cut them if needed).

Then I get prepped by cutting several lengths of metallic (foil) flashing tape - some the width of the flashing and some the length to go around the bottles - which is often pretty close to the same length. Then I also cut several squares of the tape for tacking things into place as I work. I also cut a piece of metal flashing the right length to fit around the bottles.

(Our bottle logs are 17" long (our walls will be 16" and we want the bottles to stand proud), so we've mostly been using rolls of 12" x 50 ft flashing.  I'm on my third roll now, and will probably need another before I'm done, maybe more...we'll see).

My jig has a groove in the center that holds the bottles steady, but also helps me roll the flashing around the bottles, because I can hold the bottle against it and then push down as I roll, so the wood helps to shape the flashing around the bottle.)

I put the flashing in place under the bottles, and then tack the right corner in place with a square of tape, to help hold it as I roll. (In some cases, I set the second bottle to the side and slip it in later, and sometimes, I hold both bottles in place as I roll.)

Once I get it started, I roll the bottle (or bottles) around until the flashing meets on the other side:

Once it does, I fix the right side in place with another square of tape:

If I haven't rolled both bottles at the same time, this is where I will slip the other bottle in the end of the rolled flashing.  Then I tape a square on the left side so the flashing is held, while I get a piece of tape ready for the seam.

I seal the seam with flashing tape:

Then I seal up each end of the flashing against the bottles.

The idea is to make sure everything is securely taped together, but also to get it as air tight as possible, so I generally press everything together really well, and often do a second round of flashing tape on either end to be sure.

After both ends are taped, I just make sure it's all pressed down as good as I can, and voila! A bottle log!

In some cases, the bottles are not nearly as perfectly matched - they may be slightly different diameters, or one may be a little bit of an odd shape, or wider near the middle than at the end where we care about the bottle - and so the flashing and the tape need to be mashed less beautifully around the bottles, and a few more rounds of flashing tape used to be fairly sure of getting it air tight, but ultimately, they all end up looking more or less the same.

Now we just need to figure out how we want to use them, and how many we think we will need.  Plus I need to set aside the really cool and unusual ones (I have a special box of them already), so we can plan where we'd like to feature those to really show them off.)

It's been a blast, and things are actually taking off faster than we expected.  I mean, it's already MARCH, and we might be able to start dunking our logs in Borax in another month or so! (Maybe two, tops).  Plus the guy who's going to pour our slab, wants to get down there NOW and start pushing snow out of the way so the ground will thaw sooner.

(This part is going to be hard for me - seeing the property getting torn up by machines after how fucking stunning it was last year).

But it will be worth it!!  WE ARE ON OUR WAY, Y'ALL!!