Sunday, December 30, 2012

Grout and About

When I was nobbut a bairn, I thought one of the lines in the Monkees I'm A Believer was "There's not a trace of grout in my tiles". I'm not sure what childhood trauma led me to believe that was the most likely interpretation, but I've recently come to accept that this was a true description of the well-used areas of my current kitchen counter. So, for Crimbo, I bought STB a grout removal tool.

It was a bit late, in a way, since the main reason to have good grout on the kitchen counter is to have a germ-free countertop on which to roll christmas cake marzipan and icing, make the christmas pies and so on, which were already done. In fact, once we got round to applying it, the grout removal tool removed a great deal more confectioners' sugar and flour paste from between the tiles than it did remaining grout.

We watched about five hours of how-to video on regrouting before we tackled it. Despite areas of the 'grout' being only flour paste, the grout removal took approximately four eons, and the actual grouting about 20 minutes. (The removal tool performed wonderfully - it just takes that long. If we'd followed the advice of YouTube and used a screwdriver or a nail file or whatever else their terrible recommendations were, we'd still be at it.)

The flat bits grouted easily, with a float, and the curved bits were done, as YouTube assured us was quite kosher, with index fingers. In this case, we believed YouTube.

One of the issues with this particular 1971 house is this thing, seen here set in the nice new grouty countertop.

It's a wooden chopping board, which cannot be lifted up - it's set in a metal surround that is accessed from underneath, and when you remove the whole arrangement, there's a gaping hole in the counter that's about three inches deep and goes straight down into the pan cupboard. It's also not flush with the countertop - the ring is flush but the wood rises up about four millimeters above it, almost as though it was there to keep something from touching the countertop itself.  Ours is about  30 by 45 centimeters.

STB removed the board, but, in replacing it after the regrouting, we lost one of the three metal doohickeys that jack it into place in its ring and hold it tight. This sent us on a Web Adventure!

It turns out that a lot of 70's houses have these metal holes in the counter. For a long time they were believed by kitcheyologists to be "Hootie Rings" but eventually an ancient sage was found who remembered that they were in fact Hudee frames, originally made by the Hudee Manfacturing Co.

If this triggers any subliminal Goatse flashbacks, sorry in advance.

There is of course a remanufacturer of Hudee rings, Vance Industries, and so we were able to order replacement doohickeys (they are actually lug bolts, and they come in sets of six, not three).  But on reading through Vance's site, and following up with the incredibly useful Retrorenovation site, we saw that apart from sinks, Hudee made trivets, not wooden cutting boards.

A trivet is a thingumajig that holds hot pans above a surface. Hudee's were made of tempered glass in nice flowery 1970s patterns.  Interestingly enough, when we first moved in, the wooden cutting board had a big circular burn mark on it, exactly like one that would be produced if someone used to using a trivet had placed a hot pan on it to cool down rather than risking the pan contacting the counter below!

Our kitchy sense tingled. We've decided that our house must have come with a nice tempered glass trivet which at some point someone broke, or attempted to remove from its Hudee frame with a knife or similar no-no and dropped it, and it's been replaced by a modern little-pieces-of-wood-glued-together chopping block, which was cut to size and held on with the remaining few doohickeys. (We believe a lug is lost to a parallel dimension every time a Hudee frame is replaced.)

Although I'm not one of the paranoids who think germs thrive on wooden cutting boards - wood takes care of bacteria by itself, assuming you clean properly after use and regularly use vinegar to disinfect - I can see why a nice glass trivet-cum-cutting board was the original idea.

STB ground the board down to remove the burn and I fed the raw wood 6 ounces of mineral oil to reseal it. Sitting there in its nice new grout surround it looks great. Happy new year Lyle's kitchen!


KaliDurga said...

That is a beautiful cutting board! But, dammit, you reminded me that my tub's beginning to need re-grouting, and that the re-caulking I did a handful of months ago is already gone wonky. Blargh. Homeownership is not what it's cracked up to be.

Pam Kueber said...

What a delightful saga! I especially appreciate your courageous creation of all-new words for mysterious doohickey thingamabobs. I may have to add a few of your terms to my own retrolingua. xoxo pam

Peromyscus said...

Thanks, Pam - and thanks for the tips on your site.

Kali, when it comes to re-caulking I'm sure the answer is, like regrouting, to use your index finger rather than any fancy tools.

KaliDurga said...

My index finger is what I use! But then I end up with caulk all over myself.


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