I’m writing this on a cold, wet Dordogne afternoon so the weather isn’t much to be cheery about. But a few other things that have been happening have put a smile on my face, though. First, my ‘sejour’ floor tiles. At the end of last week, I happened to drop into my local Point P builders merchants in Montignac in the hope of seeing some tiles that they show on their group internet site that they say are held in stock. The lovely lady there said that actually they didn’t stock them and that they’d have to be ordered in especially, which is hardly surprising considering the state of the economy, but was able to show me a sample from the same range but in a colour (‘Rose’) that I didn’t want. Somehow I just knew from the look of it that the ones I’d hoped to see, in ‘Rouge Flamme’ and ‘Languedoc’, also wouldn’t be close enough to match my floor and as there were no other customers in the showroom, we got talking about the problems I was having in finding the right tiles. I mentioned that I had some photographs in my car and when I showed them to her she immediately said that mine are old tiles called ‘parefeuilles’, which are characterised by their very variable colours and which are no longer available. However, she said that she might be able to help and got onto the phone. She asked me how many I needed and when she’d finished speaking said that if I left her my contact details, she’d have 20 for me the following week. I could hardly believe it! After driving around much of southern France without success, here was someone in the builders merchants just down the road saying that she could get me what I wanted 😐
And sure enough, after receiving a call from her on Wednesday, I went in to see her yesterday. She said that unfortunately, she could only get 13 tiles, but I could tell immediately that they would do the job. The reds are very close in colour to my existing tiles – you have to flood the surface with water first to imitate the treatment that you apply to make them shine – and the lighter ones, which are a little too light (but I’m not complaining) do indeed have traces of red in them that make them look very similar to the ones I currently have. But I’ve got another little trick up my sleeve 😉 The new tiles are unglazed and are therefore quite absorbent. They are also not perfectly smooth – their surface is a bit like comparing matt paint to gloss. But a few days ago I ordered a diamond concrete polishing tool from Ebay USA which I was originally intending to try out on a sample tile that I recently received from a supplier in Millau to see if I could make a rough, hand-made tile perfectly smooth. Now I’ll be able to use it on these new ones and because they’re very absorbent (water is just sucked into them) I’ll also be able to experiment with adding dashes of say, red and yellow concrete colouring to them to see if I can make them look even more like my existing tiles, especially the lighter ones. I can afford to give it a go because 13 isn’t enough to do the whole area in question but more than enough for the patch in front of my fireplace and also, amazingly, the lovely lady at Point P only charged me 20€ for the whole lot because they were an ‘end of stock’ disposal! So good news at last on my tiles!
I’ve also had an excellent result for my wood-burner! I’ve been relying during the recent cold weather on the electric heaters that I bought a few weeks ago and I must admit that they haven’t really been up to the job. Sure, the house isn’t cold, but it isn’t warm either and everyone has been telling me that I must get a wood-burner installed ASAP. The choice of wood-burner was also going to be influenced to a great extent by the availability of floor tiles to fill the ‘pit’ that currently exists in the fireplace and now I pretty much know how many tiles I have to play with, I have been able to work out a suitable design for a platform to stand the stove on in the hearth itself and the floor in front of it. My fireplace is quite wide and high so even with the platform design I have in mind, it will need quite a large wood-burner to look right. I’ve been searching the local small ads (petites annonces) for wood-burners (poeles a bois) for some time but without success. I love the French, but as I’ve said before, they seem to have some silly ideas about what second-hand items are worth. If you buy something like a stove for 700€ and use it for two or three years, in my mind you can’t then expect someone to come and pick it up from you and hand over 500-600€ for the privilege. But they do! The classic that I came across yesterday was an advertiser asking 450€ for a poele a bois that is currently being sold for 429€ in Brico Depot outlets all over France 😀
But I digress. Lots of the stoves that are being sold are also quite old, so as well as being a bit tatty, they are not as efficient as newer models. Most of the used stoves on offer are also of quite low power, and that’s if the seller knows the figure anyway, and I reckon I need at least a 10kW model for my house. And the latest ‘green’ models also have dual-burn designs to increase their efficiency and allow them to burn for 10 hours or even more so you can keep the house warm overnight. So taking it all round, stumping up 300-400€ for an older-design used poele a bois and also having to pay to pick it up seemed to me to be a bit of a false economy, but what to do? Search the internet, as usual, that’s what. So I did, diligently, and I came up trumps. Some time ago, I’d found a web site selling wood-burners called www.habitatshop.fr and to cut a long story short, when I returned to it this time, I realised that your first order is delivered FREE! Most similar web sites charge anything from 60-100€ to deliver a wood-burner, so this was immediately quite a saving. And in my search for what I was looking for, I eventually found this.
This is the Invicta Altea, a cast iron 10kW model of dual-burn, ‘clean glass’ design, that fitted my requirements down to the ground. I found it on various web sites for anything from around a heavily discounted 650€ on the web up to around 800€ in the shops, but I was very satisfied with the deal I got at www.habitatshop.fr of only 570€ including delivery 😀
So now I can get on with doing my floor and fireplace while I’m waiting for it to be delivered. What else? Yep, I’ve also moved forward a bit more with my X-Air panel design. I was rather disappointed to find that the current panel layout only has a water temperature gauge as I would also like to have an EGT (exhaust gas temperature) gauge to show the health of the engine in flight. It would need tappings in the exhaust manifold to take the sensors, just as MYRO had, but I thought it would be uneconomic to fit a replacement if the existing one didn’t have them, which I assumed would be the case. In fact, when I checked the other day, the tappings are there with blanking plugs, so I can go ahead and fit the EGT gauge as I would like. This, of course, means slightly modifying my panel design, and here’s what I’ve now come up with.
I’ve also ordered some hole cutters (80mm for the large gauges and 57mm for the small) from Ebay in the UK as well as a couple of very nice waterproof ‘cigarette lighter’ sockets from Vehicle Wiring Products, my usual supplier in the UK. So pretty soon I’ll be able to get cracking on my new panel. All in all, a very satisfying week 🙂