Hidey Holes and Hooch Hounds

A few years ago I had the great privilege of teaching bread classes in the Greystone mansion for the Institute of Domestic Technology. The mansion, located in Beverly Hills, was the most expensive home built in the 1920s. It was a gift from oil bazillionaire Edward Doheny to his son Ned Doheny. To put it mildly, things life did not go well for the family. The Doheny family almost brought down president Harding through their involvement in the Teapot Dome bribery scandal and Ned’s life ended in a mysterious murder/suicide in the house.

The grounds of the Doheny mansion are open to the public and well worth visiting. The interior is, mostly, off limits but a friendly guard gave me a tour after a bread class. The feature of the mansion that most struck me was the elaborate prohibition era hidden liquor accommodations. Ned was a notorious alcoholic and fitted out almost every room with small cabinets tucked into the walls. He even had his own bowling alley in the basement adjacent to a speakeasy cleverly hidden behind a roll up wall. Both were restored for the film There Will Be Blood.

Prohibition sparked a lot of creativity in the 1920s even among those with fewer resources than Ned Doheny. I sometimes wonder if the trend for built in ironing boards and breakfast nook benches in 1920s era homes had a dual purpose? I also wonder if we’ll see another hidden cabinet trend if marijuana prohibition returns.

In case that happens, here’s just a few clever hacks from the 1920s:

“I’m just carrying a load of bricks officer.”

Too bad everyone listens to mp3s these days.

Then there’s the flask, small and . . .

party sized.

Should you wish to make your own secret hiding places there’s a book by Charles Robinson The Construction of Secret Hiding Places that you can download for free. There’s also an Instructable showing how to turn a spray paint can into a hidden safe.

Alas, none of these ideas will foil the “hooch hound:”



Team Human

There will be no podcast this week due to the fact that I’ve spent too much time glazing windows and too little time booking guests. Rest assured that you can look forward to future Root Simple Podcast episodes involving topics as varied as climate science, lard and rum.

If you are glazing windows today and want a podcast to listen to, let me suggest Douglas Rushkoff’s Team Human. While you struggle with the putty, Rushkoff struggles with our troubled relationship with technology through interviews with an eclectic set of guests.  I’ve been binge listening during my long week of fenestration-centric chores.

Do you have a favorite podcast? Leave a comment . . .

Glazed and Confused

A request came in to see the progress in my window glazing putty application efforts. So, at the risk of both glazing narcissism and the dullest imaginable blog post in the history of the interwebs, please note the first window I attempted on the left and the last window on the right. I attribute the progress entirely to Eric of Garden Fork‘s useful how-to videos on glazing putty application (video 1 and video 2).

I’m left with two glazing putty inspired philosophical questions:

  • YouTube can be simultaneously useful and dangerously distracting. How can you use the internet productively without losing hours to cat videos?
  • How do you retain a skill like window glazing putty application when you don’t do it often?

Alas, there is likely no definitive answer to these questions. But, as one things leads to another, please know that I will continue to explain the mysteries of old window repair and replacement. Stay tuned.


Saturday Tweets: OMG This is Everything

How to Apply Window Glazing Putty

I spent yesterday afternoon applying glazing putty to a window while simultaneously speculating about hosting the world’s first Olympics of window glazing. Who needs gymnastics? At the glazing Olympics, the judges will score the smoothness of the putty line, evenness of the corners, economic use of materials and cleanliness of the glass.  One can also easily imagine the constant and exciting play by play banter in the broadcast booth.

For those of you lucky enough to have escaped this task, window glazing putty is a soft and slightly greasy material that seals the glass and keeps it secure. Fumble the application and, every time you glance out the window, you have wavy gobs of putty to provide an ongoing reminder of your lack of glazing skills.

I’ve always found applying glazing putty to be a challenging job, one of those tasks you only do every few years and never get the chance to get good at. Yesterday I was applying glazing putty to a new and expensive window that I had milled and I wanted it to look good. So, naturally, I took to YouTube for some tutorials and quickly landed on two excellent glazing tutorials by none other than Root Simple pal Eric of Garden Fork (video two is here).

After viewing the videos several times and getting plenty of practice on my new window (nine panes on the top and one on the bottom), I managed to achieve acceptable (though not gold medal) results by the end of the job. Some tips that I gleaned from Eric’s video:

  • Use a stiff, bent putty knife like this the one above. It makes the job a lot easier.
  • Pack the putty in firmly. You can see this first step in the video. If you don’t do this it will pull out when you make the final pass with the putty knife.
  • As to that final pass, use a lot of pressure and don’t hesitate.
  • Clean the glass immediately with mineral spirits.

Now I’m kinda serious about the Olympics of window glazing. Perhaps we will see some gold medal glaziers when we host the event in 2028. Get practicing as the winners will make millions from Dap sponsorships!