The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Genius at Work

First of all, we have the lovely hole in the masterbed room floor. The end of this board was completely eaten up with dry rot. Oddly enough, the boards to either side of it are fine. I can't figure out what about this board doomed it.

Since all our power tools were stollen a couple weeks ago, I gathered up all the tools I had left: a nail set, a set of three chisels, a file (for sharpening the chisels), a wood rasp, a hammer, a rubber mallet, a small square, two "C" clamps, a hand saw, and a lot of sandpaper.

I cut the rotten end of the board off using the chisels.

First, I went under the Queen and measured out from the main beam under the bedroom wall to the first floor joist. I went back the bedroom, measured out from the wall (adjusting to take the base board & wallboards into account), and marked the board. I squared the line up (with the square of course) and scored it with the chisel. Once I'd done that, I used the chisel cut out along the line. Cut towards the scored line, it'll give you a nice straight cut & it'll keep the chisel from cutting up past the line. Once you cut out to the bottom of the score mark, rescore and repeat the process. If I had power tools, I would have drilled a 1/2" hole with my drill and then used my jigsaw to cut it off.

I don't know if I was just nervous or the use of hand tools made me work slower, but I swear to God this was the straightest line I've ever cut in my entire life. It was magnificent.

Sorry for all the pictures of me. I know you just can't enough pictures of that goofy, Kraut-looking sonofabitch, but it seems a little excessive even to me. After I got the damn rot out, I sanded the cutline and used the sand paper & chisel to clean all the filth, gunk, and splinters of wood out of the neighboring boards' tongue and groove.

Now that the board was out, the new challenge was finding something to patch the hole with. First, I found a scrap of 2x4 and nailed it to the floor joist shown above. This gave me something to nail the new board into. As you might remember from some recent posts, we're starting to run out of wood. Kenny used the few floor boards we'd saved to patch the dinning room and living room floors. The only thing that I found was a scrap of wall board.

Wall board might seem like and odd choice, but it actually fits well. Aside from the framing, most of the Devil Queen is finished with 3/4 thick, five inch wide, tongue-in-groove boards. Floor boards were sanded smooth on their tops, the bead board was finished out with beads, and the wall boards were left semi rough. Also, the color of the wood is identical too.

The photo below is me cleaning my scrap board off. Unfortunately, it was full of wallpaper tacs and a few drywall nails. The nail holes are small and can be patched with wood putty. I'm hoping the blackish stains around some of the holes will sand out. If not, it's not too bad. They shouldn't be too noticable.

My wife caught me with the "genius look." I do my best thinking when my mind flat-lines. We use to have a fat Persian cat that always had an expression like that, it was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen on four legs. And, he was terribly neurotic. For example, he was terrified of his own poo.
I measured the board, marked off the section I wanted, and I clamped it down to Kenny's work bench with the C-clamps. I cut along the line with the handsaw and sanded the cut smooth.

The trick was getting the new board into the hole. First, I cut off the bottom part of the groove. I tried wiggling the board in, but, since it had to slide under the baseboard and wallboards to fit, it wouldn't go. I could have used another 2x4 as a nailing block on that end, but I thought I would get a better fit if I could slide it all the way under the wall & baseboard. So, I cut off about 4 to 5 inches of the tongue on that end of the board. It worked better, but not enough to slide in. Then, I shaved the next 4 inches of the tongue down so it tapered as it got closer to the cut off portion of tongue. This worked. With help of the rubber mallet, I manage lock it into place.

Here you can see the patch as I face nail it into the nailing bock.


Anonymous Brenda from Brooklyn said...

Don't think we didn't notice you flipping a bird to the ex-hole in that last shot. Nice job! BTW, all Persian hats have that look...I call it the Cretinous Fuzzy Gaze.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Brenda said...

I meant...Persian cats. It's late...late enough to mistake felines for Iranian headgear.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Nice fix...and with only hand tools! That’s cool that it was the best cut you’ve ever made. I’ve butchered some wood with the reciprocating saw that got away from me.

I wonder if the board had some sap wood in it. I've seen boards on my house that are mostly heart redwood with a sliver of sap wood along one edge. Sap wood is, of course, the living part of the tree. It’s just the outer inch or two of the log. On redwood logs the sap wood is a white as snow. The powder post beetles will devour the sap wood and not touch the heart redwood. It's an amazing thing to see.

8:52 PM  
Blogger VS said...

This is the greatest blog ever. Makes me:
a. Miss Arkansas (lived there 1997-2001)
b. Realize my home repair trials are nothing (except I got kids in the way).

7:49 AM  
Blogger John said...


I've had the same problem too. Power tools have a mind of their own. Getting the to agree with you is the hard part.

That is an interesting idea about the sap wood. I hadn't thought of that.

I'd been theorizing that the patch somehow trapped moisture between it and the wood, and this caused the rot. However, it still doesn't account for why the boards to either side didn't rot too since they were partially covered by the patch. That could bring us back to the sap wood theory.

Another odd thing about that board: a small area of the main joist immedately around the nail (driven through the tongue into the main joist) was rotten too. It is a very small area of the joist directly in contact with the nail. I makes me think that moisture was the prime cause of this, but I just don't know.



Thanks for the complement. I'm flattered, but are you sure I'm greatest? The competition out there is pretty stiff.

I appreciate it none the less. Thanks.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Two things to ponder on. Is there evidence of a roof leak above that hole. You would be looking for a crack in the ceiling with some staining or an obvious water mark.
The second thought isn't so obvious but viable just the same. Is the location of the hole suitable for a large potted plant sitting in an unglazed pot stand?
Moisture would have had to been constant for that hole to happen. The only other thing I could come up with is a leaky radiator if those 1" holes were for radiator pipes. We have some interesting holes in our floors. What I can tell you is that if you have three small ones in a row near a baseboard they were for a pulley system of opening and closing dampers in the basement ducts.

Oh and a yonk is an undefined period of time as in "ages ago" but I must have picked that up during my 12 year stint in England.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Terrified of its own poo? I couldn't concentrate on the rest of the post after that. Do tell ...

10:00 AM  

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