Colgate EALL (19)

This is the final post depicting the construction of an interior for the East Asian Language department at Colgate University in upstate New York. While this concludes my scope of work, additional plastering and painting are yet to come, and once these are done I’ll share ‘final’ pics here on the Carpentry Way.


The final push took place over a day and a half, with the first day being rather a long one. I work without breaks pretty much, barely stopping to even eat, so by the end of the day I am a bit strung out. I work like that more or less at the shop too, though I will occasionally take a lunch break.

Things went well. The tasks I looked after included:

  • complete rough framing and install sheetrock
  • align the Japanese room entry post and transom to plumb and anchor the upper portion to the wall
  • install a magnetically secured access cover to cusped window in Chinese room
  • complete wainscot
  • install 3 pieces of baseboard
  • install frieze rail (nageshi)
  • install plugs in the few countersunk (and screwed) holes
  • install hook for hanging scroll in tokonoma
  • hang kake-shōji on walls
  • adjust feet of small table to floor

There were a few minor tasks as well not worth enumerating (or which I have forgotten about already). It was a full slate of work for the time I had.

I didn’t take any ‘in-process’ pics, however Dr. Hirata, the department chair, took loads of video and photos, and at some future point there will be a video produced I’m sure. All I’ve got for now are some pictures of the space as I left it.

The first two are a panorama of the Japanese room:


On the left wall of the picture you can see the kake-shōji. It was supposed to be easy to hang, as I had purchased special fasteners from Lee Valley:


The installation instructions were simple enough: drill a 1/4″ hole in the wall, through the steel stud, and then use a #3 Phillips bit to drive the 1-Shot anchor right in. After that a wood screw can be driven in to the end of the fastener to hang whatever it is you want to hang. I followed the instructions, and when I tried to drive the anchor in, it got partway in and then the thread stripped out. I tried a second brand new fastener in the same hole, and the same result was obtained. I drilled the hole bigger. Same result. Drilled bigger yet. Same result. It simply would not work.

I suspect that the steel studs behind the wall at Colgate are significantly heavier duty than the ones pictured in the Lee Valley product page, but I have no way of knowing.

I had to go to a plan ‘B’, and it was 8:00 at night so there was no opportunity to run to the hardware store. I drilled pilot holes with some self-drilling drywall screws intended for metal studs, and then threaded in a couple of Tapcon anchor screws to those holes, fasteners which are otherwise designed for masonry walls. Those worked perfectly.

On the other wall, you can see the kake-shōji also hung, and that wall is concrete blocks behind the plaster board. Fortunately I had brought 4 of the Tapcon Screws with me, all of which had been slightly modified at my shop to fit in the concealed brass hanger cups epoxied into the backs of the kake-shōji frames:


It’s funny how seemingly minor things can suddenly become big time-consuming dramas sometimes.

An overview of the space through a professor’s office door:


Looking back the other way, showing the wainscot, door casings, and run of nageshi above that:


I suggested that at some point they may wish to consider replacing the doors with something (which I build) that goes better with the new woodwork.

Another view:


Another view:


Obviously the ceiling needs to be tidied up, and some painting work remains. However, some electrical work remains too, so that will be done in the near future and then the paint and plaster can be finished.

I’m pleased with the appearance of the new room, and especially like the shimmer of the figured avodire in view everywhere. There were loads of frustrations in terms of getting the new woodwork to fit against walls which were anything but flat or plumb, or which had square corners. While anything can be solved given enough time and scribing, etc., the constraints of the budget did not allow for this (it would have added at least a week to the job I’m sure) so in the end I simply did the best I could. The other alternative would have been to gut the rooms completely and fix the framing before applying new sheetrock, etc., however, again, budget constraint kept that out of the range of possibility. You have to cut your coat according to your cloth, as they used to say.

One bright spot to be sure was that the adhesive I brought this time actually lived up to its billing: Titebond’s Titegrab. There is none of it in New England for some unknown reason, so I had to obtain it from a Lowes down in Pennsylvania, and have it expedited up to me. An excellent product, though not without a certain learning curve.

All for this round, and all for this project. I hope you enjoyed the account of the build and installation. A round of pictures will follow once the plastering, paint, etc., has been completed.