Thursday, November 27, 2008

The latest from the woodworking world

I always count on November to bring new things into my life and it always happens. Sometimes good, sometimes bad but always change. This year it was a conversion from the rolls of the unemployed to the employed... times two. On 11 November I was in the local Woodcraft store "turning pens for troops" in their annual support the troops effort. I hate turning pens so it was a sacrifice. While there I was pulled from the classroom/shop and the boring pen turning thing and asked to assist customers in choosing tools for carving, wood turning and selecting the right lathe. Well I like to do all those things and the carving expert from the staff was on vacation and the turning expert (a really good turner) was just off for the day so there I went. The owner was there and saw me assisting customers and there you have it a Job offer. So I started the next day as a retail sales guy and instructor for classes there.

After leaving Woodcraft and heading to get some new T-shirts I get a call from a furniture maker/cabinet maker/wood retailer asking me to come to work there. After explaining that I had taken a job already I was still offered the job around my Woodcraft schedule. OK being somewhat greedy and wanting to make furniture I said yes to that job too. Downside. I work 6 days a week between 6 and 14.5 hours each day and there is no time to turn. Upside. Massive tool discount, Massive wood discount and access to a big ass shop!

As part of my duties at Woodcraft I am tasked with writing a weekly article for the Arizona Republic. No fixed subject, no formulas just 500 words every week to get some cheap publicity for the store. I have spoken with Jim about writing a book on woodworking over the past year so there are many outlines and chapters rattling around in my head already so type type type and as I have creative license on this I figured I would assemble the articles as I would write the book. So here goes. First samples of the articles assembled as the first section of chapter 1. Setting up shop, furniture making tools and additional furniture making tools are the articles and the first three sections of chapter one. Turning tools essentials, Carving tools essentials and cabinet making essentials are the next three sections. Drop some feedback if you get a chance. We shall see if there is any hope of getting this written before Christmas and my next potential day off.

Setting Up Shop

You want to start woodworking but don’t know where to begin. You make a trip to the local woodworking specialty store or a big box store and start looking at all the tools and then it hits you. “This stuff costs a lot of money!” “All this is too big for my little work area in the garage.” “What the heck does that thing do and when will I ever use it?” Don’t panic. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you haven’t been in a wood shop since Junior High. But there is an easy way to get through all the confusion and past the shiny new tools to get you going in the direction you want to go.

Specialty woodworking stores often offer classes or have demonstrations that can assist you in taking your first steps. Take a trip to you local store and do a little watching first. If you do not live near a woodworking store then stop by the local community college and shop the adult learning classes for woodworking classes. In either case the cost is usually pretty reasonable and you get to tour the shop, learn a little about woodworking safety and by all means use some tools. Take some time during the class to ask questions about the tools and their uses, alternative means of getting the job done and recommendations on brands of tools from your instructor.

So you took your class, you made your Heirloom box, wooden pen, wooden bowl or picture frame and you feel confident and ready to go. Make a list of those tools you have used and make notes on those you really liked to use and get yourself a few quotes before you leave the store. But, mind your wallet just yet. There may be a few more classes you want to take before you rack up the big ticket on tools.

Now that you have chosen your favorite woodworking discipline, take out your lists and your tape measure and some graph paper and get to work designing your shop. Make the determination if you ever want to park your car in the garage again or if your spouse insists on having the parking space for theirs and block out the space for that. Look at what you have in that highly organized space attached to your house and see if new storage requirements have arisen once you take into account that you are gonna be generating a lot of dust.

That done, start looking at the floor models, bench top models, midi and mini tools and see how they fit into your plan. Yep it’s true! Tools come in all sorts of sizes and shapes and functions and some with multiple functions but you will pay more for those and sometimes they are great for one thing but not for another. Again visit your woodworking store and ask questions about their tools and volunteer the alternatives you have found. The staff there may have gone through all the same decision making woes which you have. Remember to inquire about safety precautions and features, dust control, mobility and versatility.


You have decided that you want to make your own furniture. Great pieces have come from the garage or barn shop over the years and you may have some pretty unique ideas that you want to put into your home. There are some essentials that you will need to take those boards and build your sofa table, blanket chest or computer desk.

Some furniture makers say there are three essential tools to get you started, especially if you plan on saving some money on lumber by buying it rough cut. There are also alternative tools for each of these featured big foot print tools but they do require a bit more skill and your results may not be consistent.

The Planer: Rough cut lumber will have an irregular surface and edges. It is also sold in quarter inch increment sizes (2/4, 4/4, 8/4) and is normally slightly larger than you may need. You will want plane the boards to a uniform size and the thickness planer is the way to go. Sure you could save the expense on the tool and have the boards planed for you before leaving the lumber yard/store but the results may not be to your liking and remember the $15 - $30 you pay the store for milling services could be put toward tools. There are a variety of thickness planers available at your woodworking or big box stores to choose from and you may just find your results reflect your care and investment in the project. Take multiple passes, removing a small amount from each board before changing thickness settings and be ready for the mountain of dust and chips. Alternative tools: Large hand planes (6 – 8), belt sander, powered hand planes, routers with a shopmade jig and flat bottom bit.

The Jointer: “What’s the purpose of that tool?” Is a common question. Jointers ensure a smooth and square edge to your lumber which is essential if you plan to “joint” or glue up a number of boards to create that ultra-smooth table top or sides for the heirloom blanket chest. Though the base has a small foot print the table is fairly long which is a necessary feature to support the board as you feed it over the cutting head and support it as it comes out the other end. Make sure the jointer fits your floor plan and think about a mobile base to push it out of the way when you finish using it. Jointers are challenging to maintain and tune correctly so do not throw away the manual when you take that heave monster out of the box. Alternative tools: Hand planes, powered hand planes each with a fence or jig to keep square.

The Table Saw: It’s a big investment but your Grandfathers circular saw is just not gonna measure up to this power house standard tool. The table saw and a variety of add-ons or shopmade jigs is going to save you time, money and aggravation by providing a large level platform, square fence and a fairly powerful motor to drive that blade through a variety of thicknesses of lumber and sheet goods (plywood, MDF, Melamine etc.) The table saw is a great tool for ripping, cross cutting, joinery cuts and more advanced techniques using store bought or shopmade jigs. Alternative tools: Plunge cutting circular saws, standard circular saws, framing saws with a guide rail system and clamps.

Yep it’s a big investment so do your homework, shop around and ask lots of questions. Do not forget there are safety features on every one of these major tools and dust management is something else to consider when you get ready to purchase one or all of these tools. A dust collection system may also be a good item to work into your floor plan and budget.

Additional Furniture Making Tools:

After you get some experience with basic construction, joinery and consistent results you may want to expand your tool collection to include some more specialized tools to make your pieces a little fancier or your life a little easier. Consider these additional tools:

The Bandsaw: If you want to add a curve to you table legs, book match your boards to have a consistent appearance to the table surface or add a little flair to your furniture the band saw is a great tool to get the job done. Yep it takes up some more room in the garage but if your floor plan allows for the necessary space, you will find yourself at the band saw doing more advanced features for your pride and joy. It’s a very useful tool for cleaning up joint components, cutting long curves into boards, and just making your piece a little more unique. Alternative tools: The crosscut hand saw, dovetail or backsaw, coping saw, hand held jig saw or scrolling jig saw.

The Router: What a versatile machine. Used as a hand held tool, mounted on a table, with store bought or shopmade jigs, the router can add some real flare to your furniture designs. The routers come in a variety of sizes of motor, with fixed or plunge bases, with soft start motors and variable speeds these little beauties will get you hooked but they do take some getting used to. I know people who have 3 to 6 routers with a variety of features or set ups that they dedicate to specific jobs. The router can be used to clean up pattern made edges, cut channels, soften table or leg edges, create unique joints and many other applications. The router uses a removable bit and there are hundreds of profiles to choose from to accomplish as many or more combinations of applications. Alternative tools: Specialty hand planes, hand saws, scrapers, spoke shaves, chisels or carving tools.

The Drill press: Whether drilling holes for shelf pins, making holes into compound joints, starting a through cut for your jig saw or making repetitive holes, the drill press is a versatile tool with numerous features that can suit furniture making applications. A good drill press features a tilting table, depth scale and locking stop. These will assist you in repeating wood boring functions at the same angles and to the same depth. Alternative tools: Hand drills or augers, power drills.

The mortising machine: The mortising machine is a specialty tool with one function, cutting mortises. If you want to repeat the same cut though it is easy to configure, assists you in cutting the same mortise in the same location of different pieces of wood. The table features sliding locking components for controlling your stock and can be configured with store bought or shopmade jigs to add your own flare to this joinery standard. Alternative tools: Mortising add-on for a drill press, hand chisels.

Tenoning jig (table saw add-on) or loose tenon joinery system: What goes better with a mortise than a tenon. That’s what the mortise was made for. Tenoning jigs are a table saw add-on that assist you in making consistent square cuts into your stock for sinking into or passing through mortises for joining legs to table skirts, arms to uprights on chairs, stretchers to table or chair legs or other joints of one component to another. A loose tenon joinery system uses a separate component (the loose tenon) to join components of your furniture in a similar fashion. It is designed to cut the mortise into the joining components giving a little more flexibility and allowing for movement of the wood in changing environments. Alternative tools: Router with shopmade jig, back saw, hand drill and chisels.

Sliding or Compound Miter or Radial arm saw: Table saws can be used for making cross cuts and miter cuts but they require space for your longer board as they are fed through the table say and you will want to use a miter gauge. This can be cumbersome and difficult to control the stock in small shops or with small table saws. The miter or radial arm saws let you control the stock and bring the blade to the surface. It is easier to control longer material, easy to set up stops for repeating lengths and these smaller saws can be mounted on a bench or cabinet and rolled out for use and returned to the storage area when the job is done. Some Radial arm saws can also be configured for ripping boards or changing the depth of cut which makes them that much more versatile than compound miter saws. Alternative tools: Plunge cut circular saws, circular saws, hand cross cut saws.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Driiiiivvvvve, My Baby drove up in a brand new Cadilac

With the Clash blaring from the CD player I drove out of Stonekettle Station heading up the Glenn Highway, hoping to avoid snow on the Tok cut-off, and finally East South East along the ALCAN. I stopped quite a bit along the road this trip and still made most of my goals if not just short. I am amazed at the landscape along the way and cannot resist stopping to shoot, turning back when an image catches my eye through the side view mirror, or just slowing down long enough to give it one long look before moving on. The first shot is from the end of Day One. The moon was rising over the mountains near Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory. When you see something like this, sleep can wait another hour.

The world is exploding with color these days. New snow on the mountains, all the leaves in the northern reaches are turning bright yellow, the grass and weeds are browning and turning shades of red and orange, and the skies are pretty dramatic these days. The days are growing shorter and the nights colder and this little RV has covered over 1500 miles in these three days. The outside is covered with a million dead bugs and pounds of dirt and the inside is getting a little messy with more dirty laundry filling the bag and stuff not being put away exactly where it started the trip.

I'm sharing the road with herds of Buffalo, a few wild horses, Elk, Caribou and Mule deer but the Bears, Moose and Dall Sheep have not shown themselves this trip. Mostly there are no problems but the Buffalo are unpredictable and tend to turn into the road when you don't expect it. And they stink really badly too.

It's all boring plains and farmland from here until the border and a little more remote. More pictures will be posted in my Picassa album so stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What's going? What's staying?

I have been struggling over the past few days as to what will actually fit in the RV and still make it comfortable to live in. Yep for the next few months I will be living in the box in the desert. I thought about trading it in for a big old Frigidaire box and finding a nice sewer grate but that is a plan for later in life. You will know me, beard down to my ankles, ragged old Carhardt jacket, clutching a paper bag with a magnum of beer inside. There are a few openings in our larger cities but the best locations are still occupied so I will keep the RV and wait it out.

But I digress, the real reason for this post was left in the first sentence. I have a 21 foot RV that was "built for two" (yeah midgets that weigh in at like 90 lbs each) and has seen two major modifications to make it more a single guy ride. First it was a nice little family rig with a galley kitchen and a dinette that just took up too much room and limited my tool hauling ability. So out it came and a long ass tool bin took it's place. I jammed in FESTOOL systainers, hundreds of pound of wood, a Shopsmith, two long FESTOOL rails to make a massive multifunction table, lathe tools, random hand tools and did I mention, a massive load of wood. Well the wood is gone, the Shopsmith has a new home here at Stonekettle Station and I can live without some of the other stuff because of where I will be working. They got nice tools there. So Mod II was undertaken.

I built a small floor to ceiling cabinet to hold systainers, food and small power tools, but in a small bench to give me a place to relax and boxed in the furnace with more logical locations for the vents and cold air returns. Hey now it's a box but it will someday be a place to plant my ass. Ok the modification is made of pine, unfinished, a little rough around the edges but hey that's a two day mod and it holds my stuff.

OK there is still stuff on the floor, the passenger seat and jammed into every nook and cranny but it's life on the move. I will be arriving in Arizona some time in late September and start work as soon as I find a place to park. Funny how the RV parks in the Phoenix area have a 55+ age restriction. Desert Blue Hair RV park, OOO my joints hurt Vista RV Park, Casa Raisin RV Park. The choices are just so huge. Well if all else fails I can park at the Ranch where the job used to be and commute to the new location (probably hauling tools and wood in a trailer behind the RV) until I find a less wrinkley RV Park. Why doesn't some one open a LOOK AT ALL THE BABES RV Park?

So for those coming back to Beast Across America, the Beastly Blog, welcome back, sorry I was gone for so long and hey check out the new slide show feature and yes I will be populating it with more Bowl shots in the next couple days.

The anchor will be weighed Thursday or Friday or Monday if Jim wants me to help him out with stuff. Well it is part of pulling your weight when you come to Stonekettle Station.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter I am forced (because I am a "Big Baby" according to a very good friend) to prepare to leave Stonekettle Station. I have enjoyed myself hugely. Made lots of sawdust out of perfectly good wood. Met some nice people and hung out with my favorite folks. Even if one of them (Jim, no question it's Jim) is everyone's favorite Asshole.

As I look around the woodshop I have to pick and choose what goes and what stays. I am amazed that I got all this crap in there for the trip up here. But alas as I see that I will be spending the next few months living in the RV, I will be forced to leave somethings behind. The best little multifunction table in AK, my Shopsmith, a nearly new TS-75, a Biscuit Joiner, tons of exotic woods, a few turning tools, a grinder with a Wolverine sharpening system, a full sized router table, and all the other bits and pieces that make woodworking easier. But I leave them in good hands and will one day return to use them all again.

In the months to come, I will be working in a furniture shop in AZ if all goes well. I have called ahead and got the nod to bring nuthin but my skills and desire to have some fun and start as soon as I get there. YAY!

Well we shall see how it all goes from here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Preemptive Strike

Ok it's been a while since I posted anything but today I just had to get this out there before Jim takes the opportunity. Today I turned 48. Yeah big deal, just another Birthday. No spectre of black balloons, no hill to be over, no mid life crisis gnawing at me. Overall just another day. I usually don't think about them until dinner time when it's off to my local favorite place for a big fat steak, a pint or two of my current favorite beer and a big piece of carrot cake with coffee.

This year I am at my friend's home. Jim and Becky and young Jim are friends that I have walked on fire and ice with OK it was a Kilueau and a couple of glaciers but we have been friends for a while. So this year as I was working in Jim's shop drinking my last Diet Pepsi I decided to head to the supermarket and get a case of refills. I hoped in the RV and off I went. And then it hit me, "I want carrot cake!" So there I am with my case of Diet Pepsi and Carrot Cake and a big stupid grin on my face.

Then it happened. As I put the cake and soda in the fridge Jim came out to the garage and asked the very innocent "What's in the bag?" Proud of my achievement I announced "We are having cake!" A huge gahfaw follows with comments about being a pitiful so and so, jokes about sitting in my crappy little apartment in my underwear with one slice of cake and a birthday candle softly sobbing happy (sniff) birthday to (sniff) me until there is nothing left but crumbs and a cream cheese mustache. Well it's not true I was wearing clothes, I was not in my crappy apartment and I was hitting on a cute bartender girl. So there!

Yep life as a single guy is sure a lot of fun. BTW Becky had bought me a carrot cake yesterday so it just fueled the laughter and never ending jokes. Well I asked for it I guess.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stuck inside of Tempe with the Palmer blues again

OK this is a long delay but it has been a very lack luster trip. Best that way but hey it's always nice to have something interesting to write about. So the trip has been slow, loaded with bad weather avoidance and in doing so I have missed out on some pretty scenery for less rain, no tornados and now I am in a low pressure system that has brought, wait for it, SNOW to northern AZ in May. Yep it's snowing in Flagstaff and I have to rearrange my trip again to avoid the crap on the road. So instead of going north through AZ to UT, MT and Canada I have to detour to Vegas then shoot back east and north.

So far my travels have taken me to VA where I visited with a friend from the Navy, to Knoxville TN to visit with a friend from my childhood, to Baton Rouge, LA for the night and into San Antonio TX for a short visit with other friends from the Navy. It was nice to see everyone and visit place I have never been before but it added time and miles to the trip and now at my oldest brother's house in Tempe AZ (tool retrieval stop) I have to either wait or reroute to do weather avoidance again. Weather avoidance is the option I am exercising so I can get back to it.

Don't get me wrong I love spending time with my brothers but my tools are all packed in the RV, gas prices keep rising and there's not a lot to do in Tempe. I have visited friends here, seen my oldest nephew did some project with my brother but it's still painful to see the stuff packed and not fire up a lathe for this long. So tomorrow I brave the weather, head north west and northeast then straight north if the weather holds long enough. But for tonight it's beer and a free Nova G3 w/35MM stepped jaws then road tomorrow. BTW there is still no better pie in the US than the Julian Pie Co, deep dish Apple but a Country Peddler in Buffalo makes it's way into second place.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The New Adventure Begins

For the past few weeks I have been attempting to tie up loose ends, finish jobs I started, get my affairs in order, all the stuff you do before embarking on a new adventure. Well I suck at all that stuff so I am just going anyway. My 25 lbs of crap is stuffed into a ten lb bag and it is warming up in the driveway now. What started out as a way to beat the heat of AZ last summer has turned into a year of living in a town where I grew up and seeing why it is that I cannot stop here for very long. I did some nice work on the lathe, made a few sales via the internet, gave away a lot of stuff to family and friends but found out that this is not the place for me to work, live or get too comfortable.

My family, my brother Randy was entirely too generous and patient with me filling his basement with sawdust and tools. He actually built me a shop down there out of an old coal cellar room, ran power, cleared stuff out and let me come and go as I liked. His home was always open for me to stay and come and go as I liked. Thanks Bro! you rock. My sister in law Laura and her family. What a bunch. The biggest hearts of anyone I have known here and a lot of fun to boot. Her boys Michael and Brian are awesome and will do great things in their lives. Thanks Sis and the boys. And congratulations to my niece Kelsey for earning her Masters in Education, Spanish Language. Kelsey is the hardest working woman whom I have ever met and does not take life too seriously nor responsibilities lightly. Great things are in her future as she takes on the hardest job in America now, teaching!

My other Brother Jim and his bunch. Thanks to you too for making this stay fun. My nephew Cory and I enjoyed two Marvel Movies and just a bunch of goofing off. I do recommend IRONMAN for all you Marvel nuts out there. Good flick and pretty true to the original except the villians were Arabic and not Chinese. Guess you have to make it more believable for the times. Chris and Ashley, sorry I did not spend as much time with you as you would have liked. It was winter and the tires on the Jeep sucked.

So all of you I am leaving behind but not forever. We will see each other again. Just not for so long and not in winter. Ugh. Snow. Blah.

More later. I will be reviewing more dives and diners along the way. The best pie is still in Jullian, CA but a close second goes to the Country Peddler in West Seneca NY.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A premature posting

Today marks the T-Minus 17 days and counting for the launch of Beastly 1 from the little town of Salamanca NY. I have the route planned, all interested parties along the route have been warned and I am packing up like the Grizwalds on their way to Wallyworld. OK no kids or wife or dead Grandma or dog but a load of wood, a mini lathe and a bunch of FESTOOL. The camera is going too so watch for pictures. There will be many a review of towns, small dive type restaurants, roads and bridges too so this should be fun.

In preparation for this festive jaunt, I have closed up shop, sold off some inventory and will be carrying only the bare essentials. Clothing may have to be optional. I am getting antsy, have sufficiently procrastinated in hope of a good day before panic but everything is moving towards the fated day when I pull up the bumpers, free-up all lines and take her out.

Wish me luck all.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Walnut goes BOOM!

This week I have been painting myself out the door and making my way out of work early enough to get some turning in. Janiece you will be happy to know that your bowl is finished, in the box and will be making it's way to you tomorrow. Now back to the turning part. I got a bunch of walnut from a friend and decided to give it a whirl. It's green, filled with excellent grain of sapwood and heartwood. It shines nicely when sanded and burnished but man it explodes nicely. I had a nice hollow form going, thin walls, nice shape, nice surface and then just one more cut and BOOM! five distinct flying pieces of walnut flew through the shop and made a hell of a mess. So for now no new photos for now but as the 1st of May approaches there will be more sawdust, more bottle stoppers, bowls and boxes and more photos to come.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

REVISED: Bowls, boxes and other stuff from the lathe.

I posted a couple of photos earlier of some of my work but did not describe the pieces or place prices on them. This time I am at least going to describe the pieces. Jim Wright and I are partners in this woodworking gig. I learned how to turn about two years ago in Jim's barn/workshop and got hooked. So much so that I find myself tied to the lathe every chance I get. It's an expensive hobby for me as I do not have a place to harvest and store wood before I turn it so I look for deals on kiln dried exotics and turn them almost as fast as I find them... you see my lathe is in my brothers basement. It's a mini lathe with limitations on the size of the objects that I can turn so I am restricted to a 5" clearance, 10" swing and 14" spindle length. Ok this time size does matter.

My work is more stocking stuffer size with the exception of Maple and Myrtle objects because of weight and density of the wood as in the case of my friend Janiece (my pimpmomma) and her splated maple bowl.

Jim and I have different styles of turning and ornamentation is a fantastic feature he adds to his work. Where I rely on the character of the wood alone and have yet to master the green wood turning style of Jim's work. If it sounds like I am a fan of his art... Well yep I am.

So with all that said and a smattering of self pride and promotion... May I present, my stuff!

MYRTLEWOOD Hollow form. This here is the latest piece of work. A Myrtle wood bowl with a hollow form top rim. There are a number of knots running through it, holes where ants got to the blank before turning and unique grain that is typical of Myrtle wood. It is 7" across the widest part, 8" tall and finished with walnut oil and wax.
Price: $125, $10 SH (lower 48)

MYRTLEWOOD Lidded Box: Keeping with the Myrtlewood theme this is a lidded box that is very thin walled, thin walled on the lid too. It measures 2" wide at the base and rim and 6" high. finished in a tung oil and polyurethane blend.
Price: $35, $10 SH (lower 48)

MYRTLEWOOD Vase: From the same blank of Myrtle came this thin walled vase looking thingy. It is 1.5" at the base and the rim, 6.5" tall and very thin and light. Finished with the same tung oil and poly finish.
Price: $45, $10 SH (lower 48)

Now for the maple.

QM1 Hollow form small base:

Quilted Maple #2 Hollow form scored side Quilted Maple #3 Spalting along edge

Quilted Maple Bowls: Maple All three of these bowls came from the same spalted maple blank that Janiece's bowl came from. Each was cut furthest away from the spalting than was the first. Spalting is the dark stuff or a mold that grows along the grain. The darkest parts are the highest concentration of the mold but it made it throughout the blank. I chose different styles for these but they are all medium thickness walled, 7" across, 2.5 -3" high and all finished with tung oil/poly. Because of the spalting none are food safe nor can be finished for use with food.


QM#1 $45, $10 SH Sold

QM #2 $60, $10 SH Sold and shipping tomorrow.

QM #3 $60, $10 SH

That's it for now. I got more and plenty of bottle stoppers of various styles that range in size and are of various shapes from globes to chess pieces to wine bottle shaped. drop me a line on the blog and I will contact every one who may have questions or want to see more photos.

HINTS and out right STABS

OK I GET IT! I am falling into the trap that you have all set. I appreciate the interest and am including some of my favorites here. I have a paypal account to make life easy and will pass out the email address for direct contact. here are some of the photos I have done and there are more to come this evening when I get the finish on the latest two.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Collecting vs. Consuming

OK I will admit I do not get the whole collecting things thing. I know many people who passionately collect things and dust them and check their value and go out of their way to get more of these things they collect so passionately. There are train buffs with whom I work. They love the railroad. Collect railroad memorabilia including lanterns, dinnerware, uniforms or items from uniforms, menues, timetables, coffee cups, badges, you name it. There are web chat rooms dedicated to their passion where they virtually gather to talk about what they have, what they want, what they saw that someone else has, criticize the collections, values placed on items in the collections, brag about their collections and in some cases trade pieces of their collections with others who have collections. It's probably the same with just about any other collector and any other collections but I have first hand experience with these folks right now.

Now technically you could probably call me a collector as well as I have a passion for tools. Specifically woodworking tools but they are useable and not just collecting house dust. Sawdust is another matter all together. I see myself as more of a consumer. I buy things I want to use. I use them until they are no longer useable and then I get another one just or just about like the last one.

There are some things that may have been viewed as collection items. I have this thing for old hand tools. Planes, spokeshaves, drawknives and other such archaic items. I buy them from garage sales, restore them and then use them. Why buy old? Well they were just made better for the most part. A Stanley (Bailey) bench plane from 1943 is an excellent tool and you can get one for a couple of bucks. A comparable modern tool would cost you an arm and a leg and is based on the design of that 1943 model I spoke of.

Now there is a minor rub to all this tool gathering... I am going on the road again in my 21 foot RV this summer. Imagine packing a whole shop load of tools in with your socks and towels. This presents a problem. As a consumer I should be able to leave a trail of tools along the way but that has presented problems too. My brother in AZ was victim of the first deposit of tools. Yep I left my shopsmith in his garage along with a load of FESTOOL I bought for him. Not a good solution. First off I miss the shopsmith. Second he is stuck parking in the driveway vice garage.

As I leave NY I will have to find a way to stuff my mini-lathe, grinder, FESTOOL, construction tools, many turning blanks, finished products, and other stuff I will probably not be able to live without into the RV. HMMMMM maybe I will disassemble the router table.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What was I thinking II

I Feel Terrible! There are times when I feel my ambition is far greater than my good sense. Today is one of those days.
Weeks ago we at the Rail Museum decided it would be a good idea to make a lit of those things we needed to get done during the shutdown months. We wanted to work on the plumming (not me) work on the electrical panel and some lights (again not me) and touch up some of the wear marks in the floor (ooh ooh the floor is made of wood I can do that I can I can).

So we put together the proposal to get some grant money from the city and do a little comparative shopping for professionals to complete the tasks we determined most necessary. We put in for bids with an electrician, a plummer and the floor refinishing guy. The electrician came in within budget, the plummer was a little high but still within budget but the floor guy... Now that was way over budget ($7K). Well it is wood and I have installed and finished a section of the floor for a much needed repair soooooooo. Yep you guessed it. I had to phone around and get some prices on rental floor sanders. That plus poly and incidental equipment I came in some $5K below bid. Now that also included my estimated hours for completing the job which I figured would be around a week or so. UH no.

I have just spent the last week in prep, removal of artifacts and cases and started some 1,100 sq ft of the 3,300 total. OW! I hurt. Hauling stuff, working a 130lb sander and doing edge sanding with a 70lb monster can get to a guy's back, shoulders and legs and yep it really hurts. So as I stated at the beginning of all of this... WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Get your Geezer on!

Today was the another day of work that made me break a sweat, strain a few muscles and I am paying for it already. I will probably regret it all tomorrow but I got the job done, and at the end of the day felt pretty damn good about myself. What was the driving force that caused me to put myself in potential traction or a truss? I had a point to make!

I am currently embarked on the project of refinishing 3300sqft of yellow pine flooring at the Rail Museum. It's been 20 plus years since it was done the first time and there are coat after coat of yellowed GYM SEAL that have been lovingly applied by an 70 some year old man who happens to be my boss. He is an excellent old guy who taught history in high school, is and has been involved in the local community as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, member of a number of politcal, social and religeous groups and has touched the lives of countless children in a very positive way. He is a pillar of our society and deserves a lot of respect but I digress. No I do not have to prove anything to him, he is convinced that I can do just about anything except for plumming and electrical (as I have voiced this lack of talent a number of times.)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What children do

Today the class of 2008 visited the Rail Museum. Now these are 17-18 year old children from the Process in Government class and though most of them were well behaved, respectful to the Director of the Museum and carried out the tour without incident, there is always one.

A very large lad probably 18 years old, slopily dressed, unkempt, needing a haircut and a bath decided it would be "cool" to pick up an axe and swing it around. Now there is no lock on the tool display, heck they mostly sit on the floor in the baggage check room but we normally don't have to worry about visitors picking up the tools because they understand that they are artifacts in a museum. Hmmmm what would pocess this 220 some pound dolt of a child to pick anything like that up and then be stoopid enough to swing it around in a room full of antiques that are probably worth more than his family makes in a couple of years. When asked what the hell he was thinking his response was a mumbled "I don't know". Now the last time I used that line I was say 6.

So there we have it. What is coming of the next generation and the world we want to leave behind for them to manage. I think the fact that there are fewer bees in the world is the least we have to worry about. These children are out there, they are aging rapidly and oh yeah they are bucking for your job. And if that doesn't scare you enough... they are reproducing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


At this time of year we reflect on the last year, pick it apart, twist it and turn it around, look at all sides, search for meanings, and formulate resolutions.

For years I was a gym rat and it used to crack me up that one of the four crowded times of years was 2 - 10 January. "I'm gonna work out and lose weight!" was carved on all the chunky faces of those portly buggers stepping on to a treadmill for the first time in 300 some days, stood poking at some machine or left some big sweat puddle on the floor mats. They would suit up in the sweats, the 1970's dancer gear and in some cases spill out in all directions from smaller than they oughta wear gym gear de ano. I used to avoid the gym for those periods and hit the road instead. Hey you can always run and reschedule the lifting. OK why the memory of the seasonal sweaters? I just thought the visual images might get some chuckles and it kinda kicks off the discussion, and I know there will be some, about resolutions no matter how short lived.

My resolution this year is to finish what I (wait, what was that? OOOOO Shiney!!) Oh as I was saying finish what I started! Yep I'm the guy with a hundred projects going all at once. As I type I am thinking of the flooring project at work, Started; the display project, Started; the databasing of the collection, Started and a long way from completion. Personal projects include staged bottle stoppers, started; a cabinet, started; a spice rack, started; organizing my mini-shop, started; clearing out my closets, started; paring down the collections of things that would just rattle around in the RV when I leave this god forsaken place.

I am looking at fitting a shop full of tools into a 21 ft RV (again) stopping at my brother's place in AZ and picking up more tools then filling the remaining storage spaces, nooks and cranies and cubbyholes with turning blanks, spindle blanks, planks, chunks and slabs of wood. Oh and then there are the finished projects that I have not sold yet. I gotta get a bigger RV. Gas mileage is gonna be in the single digits unless I can find a way to prioritize... HMMMMM maybe a trailer.

Well for the rest of you, Happy New Year. May yours be filled with starts and finishes, bundles of success, lives filled with satisfaction and harmony in your personal digs. BTW lighten up on yourself. If you don't like something about yourself, take small steps to change, ditch the magic pill, device, book of quaint phrases and just reflect on why it is you feel you need to resolve to do something and finish what you...