A Big Disston

Doing work in the evenings (after the J-O-B) outside in a neighborhood often requires a certain concern for one's neighbors, especially when saws, hammers and other noisy tools are involved.  This is another reason I love handtools, they are quiet.  I recently had 6 - 6x6s to cut to size along with some other minor cuts to make for a small outdoor area I am constructing. I made every single one without plugging in a single tool and while still listening to the spring birds singing in the background.  I did sweat a little, but that's not really a concern (except for my wife who has to smell me).

Disston Champion-Toothed Buck Saw


Waiting for Godot...errr An Electrician...

Cleaning the shop is not in my top ten list of fun things to do with my weekend.  In fact it is in a separate list right after touching old band-aids on the sidewalk.  But, I will admit that when the job is finished I feel much more organized and productive (cleaning the shop, not touching band-aids).  This weekend, I had the perfect reason to clean up and clear out some old shop junk, I had my electrician (father-in-law/master electrician) coming to help me put in some new outlets, additional lights and wire up some 220v machinery that has been collecting dust.  While I have a deep rooted love for meat powered tools, the efficiency, capability and cool factor of many electron powered tools assures them a spot in my shop.

I have been using lots (and lots) of extension cords to run most of my powered equipment, and some small task lights...until now.  We had been trying to schedule time to get the wiring done for a very long time, however, with busy conflicting schedules it seemed like it may never happen.  Now I can finally (and properly) use the dust collector, bandsaw and a couple other cast iron paperweights to their full potential (well, as far as my limited ability can take them).  I must admit, I was a bit like a kid at Christmas after we finished the wiring, it was....energizing (HA, see what I did there?)!!  Fortunately, I planned for a rather large electrical service to the garage (ahem..shop), which I'd recommend to anyone planning shop space.  More power means more room for electrical expansion and versatility, even in the smallest shop (and more tools!).

My Electrician Hard At Work?
All that cleaning got me thinking about my shop layout.  I have made efforts to put everything I can on wheels or castors so I can shift equipment around within the limited footprint of the shop, but upon cleaning the shop I found that I still had a lot of things stored under shelving on the floor.  The next movement in the shop will be to get as much stuff up off the floor and organized onto shelving as possible.  Having the floor clear makes for easy cleaning, a much neater appearance, more legroom at the bench and more space to move around.  I'd recommend this small step to anyone feeling cramped in their workshop, use your walls and ceiling space (if available) for storage and keep the floor open for...well, everything else!


Cosmoline....Keeps My Rifle Clean

Cosmoline has a long history of helping to prevent rust from sneakily encrusting itself on pricey tools and equipment while also keeping people busy cleaning it up.  There are a bunch of methods to clean this gunk off of metal parts, one of the best (in my humble opinion) for small intricate parts, being a little dish soap or simple green and hot (emphasis on hot) water followed by an immediate light coat of oil or paste wax.  If you don't want to use water, which I often prefer not to, I have found that a quick soak in an orange oil cleaner like goo gone works quickly and efficiently.

To clean the bandsaw table shown below, I simply soaked a couple of lint free cotton cloths in goo gone and then directly applied more to the heavily-Cosmolined areas and it cleaned up with minimal effort.  One very important thing to note, however, do not apply goo gone (or its counterpart Goof-Off) to rubber, plastics or an automotive style paint job.  These products have a tendency to turn rubber into tar, plastic into a warped cloudy mess and it will cloud up clear coat on an automotive paint job resulting in a rapid urge to hurdle the bottle at something breakable.

Needless to say, I might need to buy this stuff by the gallon as it cleans just about anything and doesn't smell like kerosene.

Goo Gone Applied Directly To The Table
A Little Goes A Long Way

Clean And Ready For Use!
This Worked Great On Heavy Grease
On The Milling Machine


Death, Taxes, and Mosquitoes

When attempting a new technique or learning to use a new machine or tool I have found (the hard way) that, for me, the best way to learn something is to go directly to the source.  If, which often happens, a grizzled old technician, a salty carpenter, or a cranky machinist cannot be found, an old weathered book is often the second best source (plus you don't have to pay it in whiskey).  Antique technical manuals are rather easy to find on sites like eBay, or out of the way antique stores.  Some of the best tidbits come from books before WWII, and especially pre-1914.  There was, in fact, a rather large contingent of 'do-it-yourselfers' before the widespread automation of large manufacturing facilities.  The large community of DIY patrons led to many well written and illustrated how-to books.  Books for John Q. Hobbyist, coupled with many excellent textbooks in print for trade schools and shop classes makes for a veritable cornucopia of antique instructional books available today (if you look in the right places).

Another nicety of older texts is that many were printed prior to labels on hair dryers warning one to keep them out of the bathtub, meaning that they were printed prior to a sue crazy mass public.  By putting (much of) the onus of safety on the reader, there are sometimes important details about a procedure or technique that might be otherwise be omitted or adapted to a less effective method nowadays.  As yet another bonus, old books often come with little gems of the past stuck between their pages, as was the case with my 1885 copy of "The Complete Practical Machinist."  I was reading through some pages on machining when I came across an unrelated newspaper clipping tucked between the pages.

I'm not sure of the date of the clipping but its contents were rather timely.  It was unusually warm on the East Coast this winter and Spring started very early, so the local bug (specifically ugly, blood sucking, annoying, disease mongrel, mosquitoes) population is exploding.  Mosquitoes around here are as certain as...you guessed it...death and taxes.  I hate these incessant little beasts and they are thick as pea soup in the evening when I do  lot of work outside (to escape some of the summer heat). That all being said, this old-timey tincture might be worth a try, assuming I can find all the ingredients and nothing in it leads to immediate cancer or causes my leg to fall off or something.

Colonel Fox's Fly Dope Recipe


I Have A Serious Problem

I have openly admitted to my friends and family that I have a problem... I am addicted to tools.  Part of the allure tools hold over me is the investigation behind their existence, history and operation.  I especially enjoy the search for antique tools, because learning how they work coupled with finding all the inevitably missing bits and pieces is (to me) akin to solving a murder (without all the messy paperwork at the end).  My most recent search has led me on a journey into the dark, greasy underworld of metalworking.