Free Books!

Instructional books are some of my favorites.  I have always been one of those people who enjoys a well written textbook over the most recent Harry Potter.  I am also a very slow reader (slow in general I suppose), so I like to get the most out of my time spent buried in a book.  My home library of woodworking and machine shop practice books has been growing at an alarming rate over the last four or five years and finding space to put all of those informational goldmines has become...interesting.  Additionally, paying for these books (or anything else) sometimes makes me cringe.  That is why I put in some research time trying to find free resources for woodworking and machine shop knowledge (aside from your local library, of course).
Relaxing Light Reading
"Minimum Design Loads For Buildings And Other Structures"



Last night I made a useless thingamabob.  The object itself has no real value or use (aside from it's weight in aluminum), however, the process that required making it was priceless.  I am still brand new to the world of machining, and as such I require a seemingly insurmountable amount of practice.  Fortunately, it turns out that machine work is awesome.
Well... It's A Thing.
Making this little doohickey didn't take long, but it gave me some practice in turning a diameter to a very tight tolerance, turning a curve, using a cutoff tool, and adjusting the lathe speed to get a decent finish on the material being turned (in this case some scrap aluminum).  This also gave me the mental warm-up I needed to turn a valuable part for a super top secret mystery project I am making (from brass bar stock).  I liken this practice to cutting warm-up dovetails (the 5 minute or 3.5 minute variety) before a day in the wood shop.  I find that on days I don't warm up with a simple task, I make more mistakes, simple projects take me longer and it takes me longer to get into the groove.  Just like playing sports, warming up is an important part of performance, as it gets the mind and muscles ready to perform the task at hand.  Additionally, little successes (the kind you get when making something very simple) have the habit of giving one the confidence to try something a little harder.

For me, cutting dovetails is a great warm-up for working with many different types of material.  The precision required for making tight dovetails gets me in the mindset for machine work or even working with masonry, but working with the wood itself sets me up for other woodworking projects.  Turning stuff on the lathe, metal or otherwise, is something of another mindset.  That is why when I'm turning I find it better to turn a practice piece before I get into the real work at hand.  It would probably have been beneficial to turn something useful as my practice piece, but hindsight is 20/20 and I kind of like having this useless trinket in my pocket...maybe I'll use it to crush Aspirin or squash peas?

As for the secret project, here is a glimpse at the first piece.  There are only 9 pieces to this tool, but what it will allow woodworkers to do should be awesome!  I'll have more info coming shortly.

Top Secret Project Part #1


Short And Curlies...Shavings That Is...

I don't own a set of M.S. Bickford molding planes...yet.  Fortunately, for those of us molding-less neanderthals out there, other options for simple molding profiles exist.  Scratch stock is a perfectly cost effective way to produce beautiful, well defined profiles in all manners of hand made trim.  This method for applying decorative treatments to moldings has been around for a long, long time and making a scratch stock tool is incredibly simple.


Pillow Talk

Proud wooden plugs with pillowed ends are a decorative hallmark of Greene & Greene style furniture.  Usually these plugs appear in ebony, but they serve the same purpose in any contrasting hardwood.  The wood for the plug should be good and hard so that the end polishes up nicely, and so that it appears to actually hold the joint together.  I have had mixed success introducing these stylized plugs into other furniture designs (other than G&G and arts and crafts).  I like them in incorporated into some Japanese styled furniture, likely because the G&G style mimics so much of the Japanese styles, and they are dynamite in certain exposed joint/rustic timber frame styles and even some ultra modern pieces if they are used appropriately.

Tapered and Pillowed Jatoba Plug


Working Vacation?

There is a stereotype about Americans that shines a light on our addiction to work.  The stereotype was explained to me by a friend from Honduras and it went something like this, "you (Americans) work too much and don't take vacations, and when you do they are either lame (think "Wow!  The worlds largest ball of string!") or they are plagued by a fat guy in an American Flag tee-shirt searching for a McDonalds in the Caribbean."  When I personally think of a vacation my mind wanders to Europe in the winter, the American North East in the fall, or the American North West just about any time of the year.  When my wife thinks of a vacation she thinks of the beach in the summer, or the Sahara in July, or Death Valley in August (sense the trend?).  The last couple of years we have compromised (read: I caved) and we have gone to the beach in the summer.  Being the amazingly wonderful mediocre husband I am, I typically oblige by kicking and screaming.  It's not that I hate the beach, or fun for that matter, it's just that the beach is hot and humid in the summer and I get bored and uncomfortably hot very easily.  That's why this year, I planned ahead.

Packing For Vacation!