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Countdown & Log
Or, How I Built My Home Office/Shop

Last updated:  3/11/2001

Pictures will be added later....

8/8/00 10 Days and counting... In our About Dux article written on  7/22/99 I said "So, now, hopefully, with your help, I'll create my second 'playpen,' the Dux Computer Digest."  Well, you have helped and I 'm going to do it this month.

Yes, after being in the retail computer sales and service business for over 13 years,  we are going close our store and go to work "full-time" on the Dux Computer Digest.  Plans are to move our office home and cut-over the phones, cable, etc. on the 18th of this month.

I've been thinking about doing this since the time we bought our current house eight years ago.  The thing that really caught my fancy about the house were the two garages that went with it.   The house was previously owned by a racing car enthusiast.  There is a huge three-car garage in the front of the house where one would expect to see one and a large two-car garage attached to it and hidden behind it.  The two-car garage is going to converted to be the new home for Dux.  It is quite large at about 750 square feet, insulated, finished with pine on the inside, and has a chimney.  Before the Winter sets-in, we are going to replace one garage door with a sliding glass door, the other garage door with a large window,  connect our old woodstove to the chimney, order four cords of wood, and start dealing with the computer junk that has accumulated in it.  However, I don't expect to miss a heart beat as far as the Digest is concerned.  The phones will be cutover on a Friday afternoon and I will be back on line that day or Saturday.  Saturday night we will celebrate the event and Claudia's Birthday.

Why are we doing this?  As implied in the About Dux article, the retail computer business has continued to decline.  And, frankly, after 13 years, I am just plain tired of it... plain tired of working for next to nothing helping the big guys get rich, by selling their products at ridiculously low margins, while loosing sleep, weekends, and holidays handling their product and end-user problems.   Meanwhile, over the last two years since its creation, the Digest has grown at a fast pace (see Advertising).  It now occupies more than half of my day and is making more money than the store (not a whole lot, yet, but enough, and revenue is growing).  The choice is obvious...  Furthermore, I like working on the Digest much more than putting up with the schedule and problems of running a store.

In good time I will set-up a facility with some workbenches and all kinds of equipment and computers to test new products, research How to articles, help Forum readers troubleshoot problems, and  to work on computers owned by my existing customers.  A real "playpen," thanks to you, the readers of the Dux Computer Digest.  Freedom is 10 days away!

8/17/00  It is a sad day, the last one that the Open sign will be in the window of our store...  Dux Computer Works (not the Dux Computer Digest--read below) is closing after 13 years.  Well, sort of closing...  

Now, all of a sudden people are beginning to realize that old Larry is closing-up shop.   I am actually detecting a little panic out there.  But, as I said before, I'm not closing-up shop.  I'm just moving it home and getting out of the business of competing against the big guys for retail sales.  I will continue to support our existing customers; I'll fix their computers, etc.  However, I'm not going to continue paying for the overhead to run a store and wasting my time quoting prices on things such as printers, scanners, software, and low-end computers with profit margins equal to or less than zilch.

Oh, but it feels good to be wanted.  One customer was in yesterday after discussing alternatives for a new computer.  He doesn't want a Dell or Gateway, and certainly doesn't want something like an E-Machine.  He wants a Dux and Larry.  So, I guess I'm going to build him an Athlon in my new shop at home (after I straighten-up the terrible mess I have there from the move).

Now, hopefully, Verizon (Bell Atlantic) will show-up tomorrow and switch-over the phone lines.  You might know they would go on strike after I started executing this move, which I have been planning for years...  Larry

8/22/00  Minus Four Days and Waiting!  The Verizon strike in New England might be over, but, as far as I am concerned, it goes on...  Here I sit in a half-empty store waiting for them to call and tell me when they will switch the phone lines to my new office/shop.  No, one cannot simply call them and ask when they can/will do it.  One must sit and wait for them to call.  Yes, indeed, one must sit for up to 48 hours and wait for them to call, according a phone call with Verizon yesterday afternoon.  I guess that is what one can expect from a monopoly when one has no clout.  I wish NYNEX was still in charge...  Larry

8/25/00  After threatening to call both Senators from the State of Maine and running a big blast on my web site, Verizon arrived today and installed the phone lines.  I spent all weekend running a CAT 5 cable to the new office and getting the phones on-line.

9/1/00  The cable company came and ran the cable all the way through the house, attics, etc. to the new office.  The cable MODEM is up and running.  Wonderful!

9/5/00  Moved the last of the stuff remaining in the store front and took down the sign.  It's over...

9/23/00  Installed a partition wall with six-foot sliding glass door in front of one of the garage doors (north one).

10/2/00  Friday and today.  Received the first two of three chords of wood.

10/6/00  ...Why don't you come to Florida and warm up?  What kind of heat are you installing?...

Wood stove. I have two chords of seasoned wood (mostly red oak and maple) and a third on the way (all for $360, which is cheaper than oil up here). I looked at (researched and got estimates, etc.) putting an additional loop on my oil furnace (requires a trench between buildings and anti-freeze, etc.), installing a monitor heater, propane gas stoves, and moving everything into the house for the winter. I couldn't afford any of first three this year. Claudia strongly does not like the last one, I really want to set-up everything out here once and for all (still a big mess), and I need some separation between work and home. I have a chimney on the ex-garage that is to be my office/shop. I have a big old wood stove. The problem is that the wood stove is designed for an eight-inch stove pipe, the chimney has an insert for a six-inch stove pipe, the inside of the chimney flue is 6 3/4 x 7 inches and, therefore, will not support a new eight-inch insert, and I have read (after I bought/ordered the wood and then discovered the stove mismatch--dumb) in many sources that one is not supposed use a reducer to put an eight-inch stove on a six-inch chimney. Well, after checking several real-world sources (Mainers and a stove expert in New Hampshire), we are going to do it anyway: use a reducer to put the stove on the chimney and hope it produces enough draft. That will happen tomorrow. We will be going to New Hampshire to buy the stove pipe, etc. And hope everything works ok until the chimney guy comes on 11 Oct. to clean the chimney and put a spark screen on it. We have hundreds of acres of woods immediately behind the garage with many old pine trees and I don not have enough money to remove some of them. The other problems are the two garage doors which leek air like a sieve. We fixed one of them by installing a partition in front of it with a six foot sliding glass door--more work is needed to finish it. As soon as I get my next advertising check (in a few days, I hope) we will fix the other one with a partition wall and a window. I also have to run a network cable to Claudia's new office in one bedrooms so the books can be closed out for August and September and bills can be mailed for both months. There are many more problems. The last two months have been very trying... It is 50 deg. outside... and inside where I am presently sitting. Larry

10/7/00  Bought stove pipe sections for the wood stove: one oval to 8" round, one 8" to 7 " reducer, two adjustable elbows, and two 24" sections, all "black metal."  They had 7" pipe which is better than 6" pipe for an 8" stove.  The chimney flue measures 6 3/4 x 7" or 47.25 sq in.  Oval cut-out on the stove is 9 3/16 x 5 1/4" or about 38.58 sq inches.  Seven inch pipe is about 38.55 sq. inches (not ideal, but I think close enough. Ideal would be 8" pipe and a flue 25% greater than 8" pipe).  Got a good deal on a "mismeasured" MVP 25 1/2" x 53" vinyl, double-hung window a LaValley's for $100.  Will use in wall to replace second garage door.  Inside temp in the 40's, burrrrrr!

10/9/00  Last chord of three chords of wood arrived and were stacked.

10/10/00  Inside temp in the low 40's.  Worked seven hours and froze.

10/11/00  Absolute Chimney of Kennebunk, ME replaced 6" thimble (the metal ring that gets cemented--ordinary ready mix--into the chimney to which the stove pipe is connected) with a 7" thimble (galvanized), which I bought from Genest Concrete this AM and cleaned chimney.  As it turned-out, the old thimble was badly rusted and ready to fall apart anyway.  Crimped one end on one elbow to fit in the thimble, which made both ends crimped.  Crimped ends are supposed to go towards the stove so creosote will flow into the stove and burn; however, the thimble is apparently, not supposed to be crimped.  It will deform into an oval as concrete cures (it didn't).  One is supposed to use a rubber mallet to make the stove pipe match the deformity.    Inside temp in the 50's.  Have to wait 48 hours for concrete to cure before starting a fire.  Plan first burn Saturday AM.  Watch it get into the 70's that day.  Weather is warming-up.  Temp inside 58 deg. F. this afternoon.

10/14/00  Finished attaching barn board sheathing to outside of office around sliding glass door.   Finished installing stove.  Outside temp in the mid seventies.

10/16/00  About 05:15 AM started the first fire in my newly connected stove.  51 deg. F. inside.  07:00 AM 59 deg. (out of practice--making fires, that is).  Chimney and seven inch stove pipe with a reducer seem to be drawing as well as when I had the stove hooked to an eight inch stove pipe and a new chimney at our previous house.  09:50 AM nice; 40 deg outside, 68 deg inside.

10/19/00  Bought materials to build a form and pour concrete for a 5" high X 5 1/2" wide X 10', 6" long footing across the other garage door bay, the south one.

10/21/00  Built the form and poured ready-mix concrete.  Remembering some of the things I watched/helped my Father do, I used some old bricks and stones that were dumped in the woods out back to conserve concrete.  Poured one bag mixed in a wheelbarrow all along the bottom of the form and  placed bricks and stones on top of it and centered in the form so the remaining concrete would completely cover the bricks and stones on all sides.  The footing is non load-bearing and was poured to get the wood up a few inches so it wouldn't get wet and rot (I don't entirely trust pressure-treated wood).  Tex, a friend and contractor, said I was wasting my money, but I feel better doing it my way.  Used almost exactly three 80 LB bags or ready mix.  Each bag makes 2/3 cubic feet.  I calculated 3.6 cubic feet.  Inserted four J-bolts (anchor bolts) between where I had measured that  the studs would be installed.  LaValley Lumber said I only needed one bolt per eight feet, but this did not seem sufficient for this application.  I could have probably gotten away three: one roughly in the middle and one towards each end.  This old body is hurting!

10/22/00  Covered the new concrete with a packing blanket and plastic so it wouldn't freeze and crack.  Temperature forecast calling for lower to mid twenties F.

10/23/00  Removed the garage door in the bay with the sliding glass door, front (north) bay.  I did this one wrong:  removed the doors with them up. It was difficult and dangerous.  Next time remove the springs (with the door all the way up), lower the doors, and remove the sections with the door down.  I am still getting computer repairs and requests for quotes for new computers, etc.   Customers don't seem to mind driving down here.  The new location seems to be working.  The old body is hurting again, but the gut is getting smaller.

10/24/00  Removed the boards comprising the concrete form for the footing across the South garage bay.  Looks real good except I think I should have jiggled the concrete a little more along the sides right after it was poured --minor imperfections which will be dressed-up--and smoothed the top a little more than I did.  My Father used to do that with raw cement and a regular trowel, but I used ready mix and didn't have any.  Looks good.  bought the rest of the materials needed to frame the south garage bay.

10/26/00 Started to frame the south garage bay.  Installed the sills (PT 2X6 attached to the anchor bolts in the footing and a PT 2X4 nailed to the 2X6.  Used a punch to squash the threads on the anchor bolts so they would not work loose--another old trick I learned from my Father.  Framed the window.

10/27/00 Completed framing, installed sheathing, and installed the window.  It now gets nice and warm in here, but there are still cracks and an old window with holes in it on the south wall.  Very sore.

10/30/00 Started removing the south garage bay door.

10/31/00  Got one section of the south garage bay door out of the 2-car garage.  Raining outside... There is a vertical 4X4 between the two garage bays.  It is supported by three 2X6s, a layer of plywood, and a 2X4 all stacked upon one another.  The bottom 2X6 is resting on the concrete apron which extends all the way across both garage bays and inbetween them.  The bottom 2X6 is about half rotted out from water splashing from the roof and melting snow. The garage is now structurally supported by the framing in the two garage bays, I hope...  Drilled holes all along the partially rotted 2X6 and pried it with a pry bar and whacked it out with small sledge.  Pried and whacked the the other 2X6's and plywood out.  The building did not fall or sag!  Made a 5.5 H x  6.5 W x 12.25 L inch form and poured about a half bag of ready mix concrete in it and under the remaining 2x4.  I don't like putting wood on concrete, but that is the best I can do, it will be protected by the sheathing, and it is well above the ground level and water.

11/2/00  Removed forms on concrete poured on 10/31/00.  It would have probably been better to wait one more day, but everything came out ok.

1/27/01 Update... Almost got my "million dollar" wall finished. It is the wall that replaced the two garage doors on my new office/shop (my house has two insulated garages with chimneys; this was the smaller one—750 square feet—and is behind the larger, three-car garage). I have spent months on that 9 X 24-foot wall. The outside has been sheathed with half-inch plywood and sided with 12” wide, vertical shiplap pine, and a new floodlight has been installed. The stove is installed. The electrical is almost done. The cable and phone lines are in. The dry wall is up and painted. Today we (Claudia is helping) finished the trim on the new six-foot sliding glass door. The trim on the window that replaced the other garage door, rejuvenating (sanding and staining) a 4X6 foot pine book shelf (from the old store) that will be hung on the wall between the door and window, baseboards, and a hanging a neat light fixture, that we bought years ago in Germany, from the ceiling over the sliding door remain to be done. Then I can clean up and organize this terrible mess (from the old store) and enjoy my new playpen. Its warm in here now, except in the mornings when I first start-up the old wood stove. Beats the heck out of store hours.

2/5/01 An aside… My Son (http://fat2sday.com/) and I ran the LAN and phone cables (using CAT 5 cable from a small punch-down block for three phone lines) for my Son's office and my Wife's office yesterday (yes, we have three people and three home offices in our home). I am out in a converted garage (office and shop) with the Barricade, cable connection, and NT server. My son is about 100 cable feet away in the basement, and my Wife's office is in one of the bedrooms on the first floor at the same end of the house as my Son. We had to run the LAN cables through the basement, through an adjoining crawl space, up through a closet to the attic above the house, through the attic above the breezeway between the house and our 3-car garage, into and through the attic above the 3-car garage, down from the attic and through the wall of the 3-car garage to my converted 2-car garage, which is behind it.  At my end the cable plugs directly into the Barricade. At the other end we have a surface-mounted box (Cannel Master Surface Housing Model 7305) with a faceplate with four RJ11/RJ45 cutouts for the LAN jack and three RJ11 jacks for the phone lines. Connected the cables to the jacks, put an RJ45 plug on my end of the LAN cable, plugged-in the LAN cable, spent a few minutes installing a D-Link 530TX+ NIC and network software, checking the LEDs on the NIC and Barricade, and setting-up shortcuts to the Barricade and Surfboard SB2100D cable MODEM.  Everything went well except I had redo the phone jacks because I had polarity backwards (thanks, Rob). The LAN worked right away without a glitch. Guess I had better finish my Wife's hookup today if I want supper.

2/13/01 More wiring notes... 

Here's how I did it (and much more reading than you bargained for)… I have two PCs (or more, counting customer computers) in my office/shop (actually in a converted 2-car garage) and two more in other rooms/offices at the other end of my house about 100 wire feet away (we have three people living here and each of us has a home office). I have a Surfboard SD2100 cable MODEM, an SMC Barricade broadband router, and a D-LINK DSS-5+ 5-port Ethernet switch  in my office. The phone lines and cable enter the house in a closet in the basement at the other end of the house from my office and near one of the two remote PCs. Since I am the only one who is normally here all day, nearly every day, I had the cable company run the cable through the house, etc. to my office.

We have three phone lines: home, office voice, and MODEM/FAX. I connected a new CAT5 cable to the telco (telephone company) termination boxes outside of the house, using three of the pairs (connected in parallel with the existing phone wiring), and punched them and three CAT 5 cables going to my office and the two remote PCs into small 66 punchdown block (66B4-3; click this link to see what a larger and more common 66 block looks like this). A 66B4-3 block will join six cables with three pairs each. A CAT 5 cable has four pairs. I left the brown pair in all of the cables folded-up and unconnected. I did no homework to select the kind of cable and type and model of punchdown block to use. I already had a 1,000-foot reel (in a box) of CAT5 cable and the punchdown block was already mounted on a piece of plywood near the main power box. I just removed all of the wires that were punched onto it, which were not being used, and cleaned it up. I punched-down the cables with an old 66 punchdown tool, which I already owned. To punch-down the pairs, strip an ample amount of the outer insulation off the cable, bring the cable though slots in the block and in between rows clips, untwist the pair to the appropriate pair of clips, pass each wire into slit in each clip (left and right, or up and down, depending on the orientation of the block), position the punchdown tool so the blade cuts off the end(!) of the cable, and smartly whack it with the palm of your hand (see LAN Wiring, an illustrated guide to network cabling by James Trulove) for more info, techniques, and lots of pictures). If you are starting from scratch, you may want to consider getting a 110 punchdown block and tool (many punchdown tools now on the market have blades 66 and 110 blocks). The 66 blocks are rated for CAT3 wiring which is sufficient for telephone/56K MODEM/FAX wires and 110 punchdown blocks are rated for CAT5/5E (100BASE-TX network) wiring. I did not spend a lot of time deciding on the color code for the telephone wiring (I didn't want to spend another three months researching and writing another cable article), except I was consistent, used care not to reverse polarities (which can slow down MODEMs), labeled the cables with ZipTape wire markers, and documented the wiring.

One CAT5 cable from the 66B4-3 block goes to the attic above my office and connects to small telephone terminal strip with screw-down terminals, which I already had. From there another Cat 5 cable segment drops down through the wall, through a rectangular hole, to a four hole wall plate/faceplate screwed to the wooden wall behind my computer tables and high enough on the wall so I can get at it without climbing under a table. There are four Hiperlink 1C1078E51V RJ11 jacks mounted on the wall plate. The fourth RJ11 jack attached to the wall plate is wired into the office voice line (essentially a Y connector made at the terminal strip in the attic above my office) for the answering machine. The telephone pairs connect to pins 4 and 5 on the RJ11 jacks.

All of the network connections in my office are straight-thru cables, which are connected from the PCs directly to the Barricade/DSS-5+ (I use the DSS 5+ mainly for customer machines on my workbench). The two CAT 5 cables going to the remote computers are connected directly to the Barricade. They run to Channel Master surface housing (Model 7305), which I also had, located near each of the remote PCs. These surface housings or boxes are plastic and old. I don't know if they are still available. Go here to see similar ones. The ones I used are 1 1/8" deep, just about right. These boxes look good enough for my wife (I hid hers under her computer table) and simplify wiring. In one room I drilled a pair of holes in a closet along the back wall and down into the cellar and drilled another pair, one above the other, through the wall to the upstairs office. One then just pulls the cables (telephone and network) from the cellar, passes the wire through the holes in the wall to the office, and screws the surface-mount box over the holes. It sure beats cutting rectangular holes in walls, fishing wires through the walls, and contending with boxless mounts/outlet extenders (or whatever they are) and faceplates that come loose (I don't care how you fasten them on drywall walls, they will come loose over time). If you have to run wires down walls where they are visible in an office, you can (if your wife will let you) use wire mold. I buy it from a local electrical supply. It is bulky and easily bent, accidentally-get it locally. I do not personally like to see it in living spaces or do not want it in my office, but I was a "perfectionist" when I was younger (lesser so now).

The two remote PCs have four-hole wall plates on the surface-mount boxes. Three RJ11 jacks connect to the telephone line pairs. The CAT5 (or CAT5E) cable connects to an ICC Hiperlink 1C1078E51V CAT 5E RJ45 jack. I really like these jacks. They are nicely color coded for both the EIA/TIA 568A and 568B color-code standards and assembly instructions are right on the plastic bag the jacks come in. I wired them for 568A. The wires can be installed either with a 110 punch-down tool or a plastic cap that comes with the jack. When using the plastic cap, I run the wires through the slots at the back of the cap and pull them through the slots at the front of the cap to clinch them in place. I then snap the cap onto the jack and give it a good squeeze with a small pair of channel locks. This forces the wires into terminal strip on the jack. I then gently and carefully pry/pull the cap back off the jack with a tweaker (small screw driver), trim the wires as close to the terminal strip as I can, and then snap the cap back on. If the wires are not trimmed or if they are untwisted more than " behind the jack, noise in the line can caused by what is known as near-end crosstalk. all faceplates were neatly labeled with the phone numbers with one of those pens designed to write on CDs.  The remote PCs are connected to the RJ45 jacks with straight-thru cables.  Networking the computers and setting-up the Internet was straight forward, without a glitch, and worked on the first attempt (I don't know why everyone is having so many problems, ha ha).

I see no need to install a patch panel. A patch panel costs money, serves no useful purpose in a small network, and adds one more component to the network that can break. The Barricade and DSS-5+ are, in essence, patch panels. Likewise, I see no need or function for punchdown blocks in a small network. Unlike the telephone system, none of the network cables share a common set of wire connecting points. The KISS principle is one of the criteria for my wiring systems. If you really must have a patch panel, you can probably save some money by making one yourself with a large surface-mount box and plate, say a double box with an 8-hole surface plate.

I buy my jacks, plugs, faceplates, cable, etc. from Atlantic Cable.



2 CAT 5 with three phone lines to 2-car
3 network from 2-car to upstairs office
4 network from 2-car to basement
5 CAT 5 with three phone lines to basement
6 CAT 5 with three phone lines to upstairs office


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