My Shop ~ Part 7 ~ Electrical, Repello (Stucco) & Pizza

With the completion of the repello (stucco) on the interior shop walls, Armando and Sammy moved operations to the bathroom walls. Because the bathroom is so small, there was no room for me to to help.

I’ve found over the years that working in small rooms and closets doing tasks such as putting up drywall or painting can be more difficult than working in a larger space. There are still the same number of walls, angles, and corners but there is little room to turn around after you get tools and a ladder inside the space. So Armando was on his own in the “phone booth” bathroom and Sammy kept him supplied with mezcla (mortar mix).

While they were doing the repello, I took a day and cleaned up the repello-ed walls in my shop. There were some trowel marks, rough spots, and small pimples that I wanted to get rid of so the walls would take a nice finish. I have a wet angle grinder and a set of diamond polishing pads. I put the 50-grit pad on the machine and passed it over every square inch of the walls. Here’s the grinder, Hellcat brand; you hook a garden hose up to it, plug it into the wall, and try not to shock the hell out of yourself:

The grinder did a great job, leaving the walls quite smooth and ready to finish.

I’d been having a back and forth debate with myself on whether to paint the walls white or to coat them with a clear acrylic polymer. The white would be nice for light reflection, but it would get dirty very quickly with all the welding and grinding going on in the shop. Also, a good quality paint would cost a hundred bucks or more, and the paint would hide the nice look of the repello-ed walls. Ultimately, the polymer won out and I applied two coats (about $25) with a sponge that same day and the next morning. Here’s the polymer:

The guys were still doing well on their own so I decided to start the interior wiring. Before we laid the concrete block walls, I had decided that I would surface mount the electrical boxes on the walls rather than build the boxes into the walls. I’ve pulled covers off of built-into-the-wall boxes and they are all nasty with rust and corrosion from the concrete.

So after I applied the two coats of polymer sealer, I struck a level line around the shop walls for the receptacle and switch boxes. Even though they are a lot more expensive, I decided to use weatherproof exterior boxes because they won’t rust and there are no holes for spiders to enter and make cozy little nests. In this next photo I have drilled two 1/4-inch holes in the wall and am tapping in screw anchors, called tacos here.

I drilled two holes in each of the boxes and screwed them to the walls. The boxes have little lugs on the back that stand the box off the wall, so I ran a bead of gray urethane caulk around the boxes to seal yet more spider hideouts. I hate to reach for a plug and put my hand in a spider web. You can get some nasty spider bites here in the tropics.

Then I measured and cut PVC conduit and clamped it to the walls and ran it across the floor as needed. I chose PVC conduit because metal conduit would rust fairly quickly, especially under the concrete floor slab. 

I also mounted boxes for lights on the ceiling. Even though I like 4-foot strip fluorescent fixtures, I decided to use individual fluorescent bulbs because the electronics in strip fixtures get blown by the uneven electrical current here. Cynthia helped me pull wires through the conduit. You can also see how nice the concrete walls look; they have a slight shine that you can see on the wall at the left of the window blocks in the photo above.

By the time the electrical was to the point that the concrete floor could be poured, the guys were done with the bathroom walls and some other small details. But before the floor, it was time to repello the exterior walls. The exterior walls are larger than one man can repello in a day and I didn’t want any “cold” stop/start joints so I had to pitch in and sling mud with Armando. Now I can get another dollar a day in my pay envelope because Armando taught me how to apply the repello. Repello-ing is hard work!

Years ago when I was carpentering for a living, someone asked me if it was hard to install a window. I said, “No, not as long as you know what you are doing!” It’s not the same with repello. Even if you know what you are doing, it is still damn hard work.

As of today we have the back side, the east side, and the front side all repello-ed, leaving only the west side that we will tackle tomorrow if I can get out of bed. For the east side, we didn’t start our work day until 11:00 a.m. so that the sun would have time to pass overhead and we could work on the wall in shadow. We finished about 6:00, at which time I flopped into my hammock for the rest of the night. I think Cynthia hooked me up to an IV frijole dip drip so I could get some nutrition while I slept. Here is a photo of the front and east walls just after I hosed them down to help them cure:

There is a tradition here in Panama that when a roof goes on, you have a roof party. So last Friday was the day. I knocked the guys off at 12:30 for a pizza lunch and the rest of the day off. Cynthia and Cedelinda had been making the dough and preparing the toppings:

It’s my job to cook the pizzas. Our fancy Bompani oven isn’t up to the task of cooking pizzas, so some time ago I went down the hill and bought some locally-made firebricks. I cut them in half with my tile saw. Then I lined our BBQ grill with the half-bricks. Like this:

A half-hour preheat turns the BBQ into a Jim Dandy 500-600 degree pizza oven. By the way, I don’t know who Jim Dandy was, and I didn’t know whether to capitalize it or not, so I Googled it. It’s capitalized. And while looking, I found a Jim Dandy BBQ restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio. Who’d a known. I wonder if they do pizza. Anyway, a big shout out to Jim Dandy’s even though I am a 30+year vegetarian. I love Google!

At this point I put the camera down and started cooking. Cynthia’s pizzas are works of art. I got busy cooking and then planted my face in my pizza and completely forgot to take photos of the finished pizzas. Trust me, they were beauties.

We bought about a dozen pizza pans, the kind that have hundreds of 3/8-inch holes on the bottom. The crusts get nice and brown and the pizzas don’t stick to the pans. We like to have build-your-own pizza parties every year on my birthday. That and homemade chocolate cake makes me happy to be a year older. Or at least I don’t notice.

Anyway, the roof party was a delicious success. The guys were stuffed to their shirt collars and got to take home leftovers. The first time we made pizza for a work crew here each man took a slice. They clearly liked it but were too shy to take more. We had to order them to eat more, at which point they loosened up. It was great fun to see them egging each other on to eat yet another slice. There were lots of jokes about not having to eat for a week and not being able to work because they were too full.

That’s all for now. Maybe next week we can think about pouring the floor in my shop. Stay tuned.