(The 53rd Edition)


Victor Edward Swanson,



    The reports and stories contained on this Web page have been put together with information taken from "The Victor Swanson Fabulous Files of Places to See in Michigan and Wisconsin" and with information obtained from operators and staffers of tourist attractions and from press releases, Web sites, and other sources.  The reports and stories are provided as a public service by Victor Swanson and The Hologlobe Press.  Almost all persons and entities, such as staffers of radio stations, may freely use the materials; neither AAA Michigan nor any employee of AAA Michigan may use, distribute, download, transmit, copy, or duplicate any of the material presented on this page in any way or through any means.

- - - Travel Thoughts for Everyone - - -

    It seems to me some people would like the United States of America to be more like the countries in Europe and even somewhat like China, and it seems to me people who visit the United States of America and particularly Michigan for my discussion now are not really clear what the United States of America is or what Michigan is, the latter of which is the focus of all editions of Michigan Travel Tips and especially this edition of Michigan Travel Tips. First, the people who live in Michigan--because of how the federal government structure is set up through the U.S. Constitution--are part owners of the federal government (most of the other owners are the people of the other forty-nine states).  Second, all politicians work for the people (the citizens) or are employees of the people (the citizens).  Three, the state is made up of two main peninsulas, which are connected by the world-famous Mackinac Bridge, and Michigan is big--for instance, it can take about four hours to drive from one side to the other of the lower portion of the lower peninsula of the state, and it can take more than ten hours to drive from Detroit (which is in the southeastern portion of the lower peninsula) to Copper Harbor (which is in the far northwestern portion of the upper peninsula).  Four, unlike cities in Europe, city areas or city conglomerates in Michigan can be far apart, and it takes a lot of work by, for example, truckers to move materials (such as grown goods and manufactured goods), and it takes and always will take much energy to move the required materials to--ultimately in most cases--homes (such as houses, apartments, condominiums, and mobile homes).

    People who travel within cities by vehicle or travel between cities will see all types of houses, and a particular house can be considered elegant, average, or decrepid, such as something that might be nothing more than stone walls, and most of the houses will never be visited inside by travelers, or people will only see at most the outside walls.  Outside walls can be made of stucco, concrete block, stones, bricks, wood, wood covered with siding, et cetera.  The insides of walls are very likely to be two main types--(1) drywall walls and (2) plaster walls.

    Plaster walls is the main topic of this edition of Michigan Travel Tips, each of which is a document that talks about places to see in Michigan, and like all the others of the past, this edition will also talk about places to see, and, beyond that, it will give you a better appreciation of places--especially the walls--that you might see, and you should come to understand what work must have gone into the making of plaster walls (and, in essence, Michigan and the United States of America).

    For about six weeks this summer, I was able to observe and takes notes on how plaster walls are very likely to be made in houses in this day and age, and my teachers of sorts were Bob McDonald and Rob McDonald, the latter of whom is the son of Bob and runs a business started years ago and now named McDonald & Sons Plastering Co., which does work in the Detroit-Metropolitan area.  What work was done by Bob and Rob was to make plaster walls in two bedrooms, a bathroom, a hallway, a basement-access hallway, a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room of a two-story house.  The six weeks of work was work in the true sense, since the two men had to move and put in place hundreds of pounds of plaster material, and because plaster gets hot when it cures, the workplace--inside the house--was often warm or hot and humid even on the cool days (by, the way, outside temperatures in the eighties were commonplace).

    Some people do not know or understand the difference between "drywall walls" and "plaster walls" so I must give you a simple explanation of the two types of walls (which, certainly, should be good information for a person who has moved to this country legally, wants to live in the country, and become a citizen of  the country, knowing the country to be a better country than where the person was), and I explain the drywall wall before the plaster wall, even though, in history, the drywall wall came after the plaster wall.  In essence, a drywall wall is made up of a "two-by-four" structure (the two-by-fours are normally placed "sixteen on centers") on which "drywall" board is attached (drywall boards are big sheets, such as four-feet-wide-by-eight-feet-long sheet material, which is made up of plaster sandwiched between paper, which might be like cardboard), and to cover up joints between drywall sheets, joint tape and joint compound are put to the joints, and, in the end, the walls may be painted, covered with tile, covered with wallpaper, or covered with something else.  In essence, a plaster wall is made up of a "two-by-four" structure (the two-by-fours are normally placed "sixteen on centers"), and attached to the two-by-fours can be strips of wood (known as lath or wood lath) or some other type of lath (such as metal lath, which is like a mesh), or the lath material can be a drywall-like material called "rock lath," the heyday of which was from the 1930s to the early 1990s, or drywall board, and the whatever gets used as the lath material gets covered by what can be called a mortar-like material or cement-like material (which can be called the "mud coat" or the "brown coat") and then covered by white plaster (which is often called the "putty coat").

    Remember: Lath material is support structure for plaster material, and, by the way, a drywall board can be three-eights of an inch thick, a half inch thick, or five-eighths of an inch thick.

    The paragraph that follows this paragraph is a long and complex piece, and I have made it the way it is for several reasons.  I made it long so that you can test your stamina, and if you do not have enough stamina to read the paragraph, you will probably not have the stamina that it takes to do plaster work (if you regularly do "texting," which involves making non-sentences and using shortcuts for words and which can be a bad habit to learn, you learn less about and get less training in standard English and your mind can become weak and unable to get through long throught presented in text form).  I also make the next paragraph long in hopes of giving you a feel of the work that has to be done to do plastering or make plaster walls.  (By the way, I will talk about products that Bob and Rob used, and the products that are mentioned are mentioned not to promote products but to simply note products, and I will mention Bob and Rob from time to time and pass along advice that they gave).

    The making of a plaster wall or plaster ceiling begins with only the wall structure of studs ("two-by-fours") in place for walls or the ceiling structure of joists in place (though, for instance, there will be the exposed wastewater pipe (such as soil stacks and wet stacks), potable water pipe (such as copper pipe or galvanize pipe, the latter of which is passe), and electricity wire), and, at this point, it can be said informally that the wall or ceiling is "down to the studs."  In the end, the total thickness of a wall for this discussion will be--in theory--three-quarters-of-an-inch thick, but I learned through Rob and Bob that the thickness from one point to another point on the wall can vary because no wall is straight or true or plumb, and, for example, in the case of an old house, the ceiling can be sloped or not level or the joists can be warped.  The first job that has to be done is "plaster grounds" have to be set in place.  A "plaster ground" is wood, and it can very in length depending on where it will be used, but it will be three-quarters of an inch thick and about an inch and a quarter wide (a piece of plaster ground will probably be pine), and it could be eight-feet long when bought at a lumber yard.  In essence, plaster grounds are used to outline doorways and windows and used to run along a floor where a wall meets with the floor.  Think of a picture frame.  Put the picture frame around a doorway opening, but do not have a board running across the bottom (along the floor).  You have put plaster grounds around a doorway.  Plaster gounds are like guides for thickness; when plaster material gets put on a wall near a roughed-in doorway, the plaster grounds around the doorway set the maximum thickness of the plaster--the plaster material will not be higher than the plaster grounds or come away from the wall any more than the thickness of the paster grounds.  Think of concrete forms--the top of such forms determine the maximum height of the concrete when the concrete is put down and floated.  Plaster grounds do not get set where walls meet (corners, such as inside corners) or where a wall and the ceiling meet.  The plaster grounds get nailed in, such as with finishing nails, and the plaster grounds used with a wall will later be covered by window-trim or door-trim material and will never show when the wall is finished.  The lath material that is to be used is three-eighths-inch-thick drywall board, or, simply, "drywall" (and it is fire-resistant drywall board), and the drywall board has a white side (or a smooth side), which ready for, for instance, priming and painting ,and a brown side.  When plaster walls are being made with drywall for the lath material, the brown side is set out (the white side gets put to the studs or joists).  Generally speaking, Rob and Bob have had to use drywall board for the lath material since the early 1990s when "rock lath" disappeared (or could not be bought).  Drywall for the work that Rob and Bob do comes in sheets--such as a sheet that is eight-feet long by four-feet wide, a sheet that is ten-feet long by four-feet wide, or a sheet that is twelve-feet long by four-feet wide.  The sheets are cut as needed, and, generally speaking, to cover a wall, uncut sheets are put up with the long edge put parallel with the floor (for instance, if a wall is about eight feet high, a sheet is put up with a long side touching the ceiling, and that results in four more feet of wall having to be covered between the first sheet and the floor).  Bob and Rob have an eight-inch rule--dry wall for plaster walls is put in place with drywall screws that are set at eight inches apart.  Besides that, Rob and Bob make sure to have construction adhesive (designed for and used with drywall) placed on the studs of an area or joists of an area to be covered with drywall board before the piece of drywall board is set in place.  All the drywall gets put up (actually, Rob and Bob did not put on the drywall for the job that I saw done--they had a team of guys put the drywall up), and, in a particular room, the drywall board for the ceiling goes up first and then the drywall board for the walls.  Incidentally, the plaster grounds are also borders for drywall, as are walls.  Next, metal corner-bead material (which is mostly made up of metal lath or mesh) and strips of metal lath are put up; for instance, the outside corner beads define the outside corners, and metal lath is used to cover over many of the places where drywall boards meet (not all the places where sheets of drywall board meet get covered by metal lath or metal mesh--it is only the places where Bob and Rob know cracks could later develop that get covered, such as the places where sheets of drywall meet near doorway areas (they put metal lath down over an open joint area at least from the plaster ground at a doorway to one foot away so that, later, the shutting of the door that will be put up will not create a crack in the joint) or where sheets of drywall do not meet along the length of studs or joists, where screws hold the drywall sheets in place).  When all the drywall is in place, it might be possible to see or it will be very likely to be possible to see defects in the straightness of walls and ceilings.  The first coat of plaster material--called the "brown coat"--will be the material that gets used to hide the main problems and to get the walls and ceilings look mostly straight, or it is the material that accomplishes most of the defect-hiding work.  Rob and Bob use a product called "Structo-lite" as the brown-coat material.  It is sold in brownish bags, like cement or premixed concrete bags.  The Structo-lite is mixed with water in a big tub to make what looks like wet cement, and sometimes a small batch of Structo-lite will be mixed with water and Imperial Veneer Basecoat to make a stronger material, which, for instance, can be used for areas that have to be built up, such as to an inch thick (which might be done to get a sloped ceiling look straight when it is finished).  The Structo-lite has to be mixed fully.  Generally speaking, wet Structo-lite can be worked for up to about several hours.  Rob and Bob do know Structo-lite has a shelf life, and the older it is, the quicker it hardens, and to retard hardening time, they put a retarder in Structo-lite.  They do not like to work with Structo-lite that is older than about six months.  Each bag of Structo-lite is dated.  (I am unable to give information about how much retarder (such as GSC Gypsum Plaster retarder) to use with a given amount Structo-lite--that you will have to learn for yourself.)  Structo-lite will be put on the drywall board of a wall like putting on frosting on a cake.  Before the real work of covering the walls with Structo-lite, Rob and Bob do preliminary work, which involves pressing in or pushing in and skimming over the open joints where drywall sheets meet and around the windows where the drywall nearly meets the windows framing, et cetera.  The guys use rectangular trowels.   They let the material dry before they take on the job of covering walls completely.  They trowel the wet brown-coat material on the drywall boards in long strokes, such as in four-foot-long stokes.  However, there are places where they have to use not-so-long strokes, such as when they are working in closets.  To do a room, Rob and Bob are very likely to brown the ceiling and the top four feet of the walls, and then take a break.  It can take several hours to do that work.  The work involves mixing a batch of Structo-lite, shoveling Structo-lite out on to a board (such as a piece of three-foot by three-foot piece of plywood), which might rest on a "board stand," and spreading the Structo-lite where they want it.  In the process of putting on Structo-lite on drywall lath, they use "darbys," which are wedged-shaped boards, an example of which is a four-foot-long by five-inch-wide board.  When a fairly large area of wall is covered with Structo-lite, they use darbys to smooth is out or level it out, and the work is like doing rough floating work on concrete when putting in a concrete driveway.  Incidentally, they work quickly or as quickly as they can to get a wall area covered.  It is easier to do walls in a room than it is to do walls in a closet, where you have to watch out for, for instance, hitting areas already finished with the behind or another part of the body.  At some point, the browning work gets done, and they clean their tools well.  Remember: A room is very likely to take at least two days to brown or one very long day.  While the brown coat is drying over the next day or so, Rob and Bob will go on to other work.  They may or may not use a big dehumidifier to help dry the brown-coat material, but they are very likely to avoid using a dehumidifier, which they need not do in the process of drying out putty-coat material.  When the brown coat is drying--it starts out grayish (the wet look) and turns brown--and when it is dry enough, they can begin the next step in the plastering process.  They use a strong trowel (of course, a steel trowel) of some type to scrape the brown coat, and they scrape the brown coat to remove loose material.  To put on putty-coat material, Rob and Bob have trowels and other tools that do not rust, and examples of the tools are stainless-steel angle floats and stainless-steel corner floats.  "Finish lime" is the basic product of the putty-coat material.  It can be mixed in five-gallons buckets covered with tops and remain in the buckets for many days without drying out.  It is "gauging plaster" when added to finish lime that starts the curing process.  As with the brown-coat material, the putty-coat material will be mixed with water in a five-gallon plastic pale, and Rob and Bob will use a direct-drive propeller mixer (a main part of which is a big drill) to mix up the putty-coat material.  Putty-coat material must be mixed throughly and to the right consistence--all the dry pockets have to be removed, and the gauging plaster must be evenly mixed throughout the finish lime.  When the two materials are mixed together, they start troweling the wet putty-coat material over the dried or mostly dry brown-coat material that they plan to cover.  They may use a spray bottle to lightly mist the brown-coat material so that the brown-coat material will not suck water out of the putty-coat material and cause the putty-coat material to dry improperly.  They use long strokes to put a very thin coat of putty-coat material (or white plaster material) where they want it (brown-coat material may show through in spots).  It is good to have two people working on the job, because one person can mix the next batch of putty-coat material and keep tools clean while the other person is putting on putty-coat material; however, one person can do all the work, but that results in the one person taking longer to finish, for example, a room than if two persons were doing the job.  Long-strokes are used as much as possible.  By the way, darbys are not used to put on putty-coat material.  After putting on one thin coat of putty-coat material, they put on another thin coat--the first coat is still wet.  When they have the second coat of putty-coat material on the area that they are working on, they will probably clean tools and take a break.  They probably have been working for at least three hours.  Maybe, they will go to lunch.  Soon, they will have to be back to do the floating work--the work that gives the walls or the ceiling a smooth finish.  The floating work can be likened to doing finish floating work on concrete (you have to let concrete set a bit before it can be finished floated).  Some of the tools used to make a smooth finish are a rectangular trowel, a "spud," and a "felt brush."  A felt brush has pads, and it is kept wet.  Of course, they have a bucket of water nearby to dip the felt brushes in.  When working on corners (where walls meet or a wall and the ceiling meet), Rob or Bob will wipe an area with a felt brush and then wipe it with a spud, and when working in open areas, Rob or Bob will wipe an area with a felt brush and then wipe it with a trowel.  When you really think about it, a particular spot of a wall can be wiped over more than a dozen times during the entire plastering process.  Rob and Bob work to make imperfections and trowel marks disappear.  As an aside, Bob passed along a thought about what a good drywall installer will do in covering drywall tape with joint compound; drywaller will first use a six-inch-bladed knife for a rough coat, later use an eight-inch-bladed knife to run another layer of rough coat, and then later finish with a sixteen-inch-bladed knife.  Of course, to do a plaster-wall job, no joint tape or joint compound is used.  Time comes when the floating work is finished, and time comes, ultimately, when the entire job, such as the job to redo the first floor walls and ceilings of a house, is finished, and the final curing is allowed to take place, and the curing process might be helped along with a big dehumidifier.  Generally speaking, a plaster wall should dry for about two weeks before carpenters may install doors, trim for doors and windows, tile, and floors, and no paint should be put to the walls for at least two weeks.

    I like plaster walls better than I like drywall walls. When you tap on a drywall wall and tap on a plaster wall, the plaster wall has a better sound.  If you nick the paint of a drywall wall, you end up at the outer paper layer of the wall (the paper is part of drywall board), and if you nick the paint of a plaster wall, you end up with plaster-coat material (white plaster) or brown-coat material showing, and the nic is easy to repair.

    I have to report my long explanation leaves out some topics or thoughts.  The most-important thought left out is the thought about what percentages things are mixed at, and I have not said anything about the quality and temperature of the water used in mixtures.  I have not talked about using molding plaster and putting up ornamental plaster pieces, which are made in molds and, for instance, get stuck to ceilings, such as around electrical boxes for chandeliers.  I could have talked about problems that can occur while doing a plaster job, such as the problem of "blistering" and the problem of having wet brown-coat material fall off drywall board attached to a ceiling if the brown-coat material is put on too thickly in one application.  I have not talked about using bonding agents and primers.  And I could have talked about other tools that get used.

    When a plaster job is done, either by Bob and Rob or by you, it might be possible to take a little vacation, which may or may not involve going to see walls.  There are walls to see at the Westland Historical Museum, which is at Westland (of Wayne County in the Lower Peninsula), and yet another place with walls is the Bernard Historical Museum, which is based in a building first used as a hospital in the 1930s and which is located at Delton (of Barry County in the Lower Peninsula), but the real reason to see both places is to see the items on display. The Fernwood Botanic Garden and Nature Center, which is at Niles (of Berrien County in the Lower Peninsula), and Matthaei Botanical Gardens, which is at Ann Arbor (of Washtenaw County in the Lower Peninsula) are not places that people go to see walls, but, for example, there are walls at the Visitor Center of the Fernwood Botanic Garden and Nature Center to see (if you really wish to).

    P.S.: One day, Bob told me how some farm houses made in the early 1900s had walls made with only brown-coat material, which was covered with wallpaper and maybe paint, since the farmers did not have enough money to have putty-coat material put on the walls.

    Your travel tips in Michigan in this edition of Michigan Travel Tips are:

    The Bernard Historical Museum, Delton, Barry County, the Lower Peninsula.

    The Fernwood Botanic Garden and Nature Center, Niles, Berrien County, the Lower Peninsula.

    Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, the Lower Peninsula.

    The Westland Historical Museum, Westland, Wayne County, the Lower Peninsula.

- - - Public Service Copy for Broadcasters (four pieces) - - -

Number One:

    When you travel by car or van or whatever in rural areas

of Michigan, you can see all types of old buildings and houses.

For example, you might see the four stone walls--and nothing

more--of an old house, which has been left to rot away, but

scattered all over the state are old houses that people have worked

on to keep in good shape or have restored.  Here is something you

may not know.  Many old houses have lath-and-plaster walls.

Years ago, though, when some farm houses were built, the owners

never had enough money to make complete lath-and-plaster

walls--the walls could only be made of lath boards and a brown

"mud" coat of plaster, on top of which might be wallpaper.  If you

are bored and find yourself staring at the walls, do something

different--plan to see the walls at the Trombley House Museum

at Bay City.  And when you drive on rural two-lane main roads,

have  those headlights on, and enjoy your safe traveling.


Number Two:

    Here is a message from The Hologlobe Press for people who

have young children and do not live right along one of the Great Lakes

or at least fairly close to one of the Great Lakes.  Some of the things

that can be seen on the Great Lakes and not seen on inland lakes

are freighters, which can be, for instance, about one-thousand-feet

long.  One job of these types of ships is to move raw material, such

as tons and tons of rock or coal.  These ships are fascinating to watch,

and good places to see them using the Great Lakes are in the Straits

of Mackinac area, such as at a beach near Fort Michilimackinac,

which is at Mackinaw City, or at St. Ignace, which is where the tourist

attraction called Deer Ranch is located.  Since the shipping season is

not done for this year, there is still time to take children to places

where they can see freighters.  So, gather up the children, buckle

them up, and enjoy the fun and your safe traveling to the Straits of



Number Three:

    When the fall comes, people think about taking color tours.  There

are various types of color touring that a person can take in Michigan.

One type is to go to a hardware store or paint store and look over

the color samples for paint.  Wow, that's fun!  That is not real color

touring.  Another type of color touring is to go to an apple orchard

or cider mill and look over the different colored apples--there are

green apples, yellow apples, red apples, and sort of multi-colored

apples.  Besides that, you can see various colored doughnuts at some

apple orchards and cider mills.  The more common type of color

touring involves driving through areas where the leaves of trees are

turning red or yellow or orange in the fall.  One place to take a color

tour in the upper peninsula of Michigan is the Carl Gerstacker Preserve,

which is near Cedarville of Mackinac County.  This year, when you

color tour, keep your speed down and enjoy your safe traveling.


Number Four:

    At this time of the year, people who have planted tomato plants

for the year should be seeing tomatoes on their plants.  Oh, they may

have already picked some red tomatoes.  Tomatoes are good plants,

but they are not the featured items of any botanical garden or arboretum

in Michigan, but that is no reason not to go to a botanical garden or

arboretum.  At Niles, which is in Berrien County of the Lower Peninsula,

you can visit the Fernwood Botanic Garden and Nature Center--it

has woodland trails and more to see.  At East Lansing is the Beal

Botanical Garden, which is associated with Michigan State University.

Not too far away from East Lansing is Ann Arbor, and at that place is

Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and it has a number of non-tomato-lined

trails to walk, such as the Woodmouse Trail and the Bobwhite Trail.

Tomatoes are can be red, but you don't go color touring for tomatoes.

Enjoy your safe traveling in Michigan!


- - - Contact Information - - -

The Hologlobe Press
Postal Box 20551
Ferndale, Michigan  48220-0551
The United States of America

copyright c. 2008
File date: 10 September 2008

To see the next edition of Michigan Travel Tips,
    click on: Travel #54.
To see the previous edition of Michigan Travel Tips,
    click on: Travel #52.
To see the catalog page for Michigan Travel Tips,
    click on: Travel.
To go to the main page of The Hologlobe Press,
    click on: www.hologlobepress.com.
For further reading, you should see the document
    AMERICA for the individual woman and
    the individual man, which can be reached
    by hitting this link: Thoughts.
For further reading, you should see the document
    LOGIC for the individual woman and the
    individual man, which can be reached by
    hitting this link: Logic.