Nov 19

We’re averaging 300 words per topic here

How was your Thanksgiving? As great as mine, I hope. The in-laws are in town, and we are having a lovely visit. The Yankee and her mother made a delicious meal (and I got in the way of things a little bit) and we were able to enjoy it last night and tonight. There’s still some good stuff in the refrigerator, so if you’re out of Thanksgiving provisions feel free to stop by.

Thanksgiving seemed to sneak up this year. It wasn’t until near the end of last week that it seemed an eventuality. I’ll blame the timeless nuance of the work structure. You’re bound into the regiment of the week, each week, this week, next week the one after, all just like the last in their own way. And it’s hectic in its own way. And then, suddenly, people are thinking and talking about their travel plans. And then the travel and you begin to focus on the good stuff: the family, the visiting, the food.

And then, almost as quickly as it arrives, it is gone. Swallowed by like leftovers, like a running back in so many bad Thanksgiving football games, or even worse Friday night games. It’s almost as if you’re reminded, just in time, to spend this moment as a moment for which you should be thankful, and remember all of the many blessings you have. That we have to reminded is a human failing. That we now follow a day of such humility with a day of crass commercialism – what once was shopping in stores became camping out and then shopping over night and shopping online and, now, “Dear Lord, how did all of these companies get my good email address?” — is probably the second problem.

Now it is the season of lights and cold and shopping and traveling and feasts and generically labeled office parties and more sugar cookies than you need and exploitive commercials.

Seven more emails from stores I once shopped at in 2011 rolled in just as I wrote that paragraph.

I put handles on the stove cover this evening. We started using it earlier this week, without them, to see if it was necessary. We quickly decided it was necessary.

So, fortunately, I’d purchased two drawer pulls earlier this week that are vaguely reminiscent of what is featured in the kitchen cabinets. And then I picked up four screws that were too long. So I sawed them down to an appropriate size earlier in the week. And then tonight, after everyone had retired, I agonized over how to do this.

It involved tape, a fair amount of muttering and wondering at how many ways I could get the measuring wrong. A lot, it turns out. But when you add hardware last, you are obliged to get the actual process correct the first time. This isn’t the finest piece of craftsmanship in the world, mind you, but when you put a drill bit into finished wood you are definitely stepping over the point of no return.

And I had to have that conversation with myself twice.

Sure, if you were making dressers or cabinets or anything in mass, you’d work up a template or a jig to speed things along. This was four screws on an artisanal piece of folk art from extra lumber and a few free moments grabbed from here and there. I’m an amateur, is what I’m saying.

For us amateurs, it isn’t the first screw that’s the problem. You have to have the second one in precisely the right spot, so the handle can actually attach.

That made for a few tense moment. Drill on wood, drill in wood, drill through wood. And now the screw, pushed from one side through the last. And where is the handle? There it is. They always escape, like they know something. Do they know something? Is this going to fit? Should I just start trying to soften up the handle now so I can warp it if it doesn’t fit? It isn’t going to fi — elbow grease it into place. It fit. But only just barely.

That was the second side when, presumably, I was more prepared for the task. When I’d figured out my process. After the first time, when I had to do a little hand shimming of the second drill bit whole.

Anyway, they both fit. The stove cover is done and in place and if it works for at least three weeks then we’ll have gotten the effort out of it, I guess. Also, the next time I make something like this, I’m using knobs. Just the one screw, after all.

So, next week, then, it is back to my tie rack. Only nine more pieces to sand!

But today, you have the books!

Today we’re wrapping up our examination of the April 1969 Reader’s Digest from my grandfather’s mound of books. It is the last of the Digest, so we’ll have to start something else in the next few days. Perhaps the stash of Modern Science. Perhaps some other thing that catches my eye. We’ll get them all eventually, but you can get this right now.

Click the book cover to see the latest. If you are catching up, you can see the entire 50-year-old April issue here. If you’d like to see some other things from the my grandfather’s collection — there are textbooks and notebooks and more — just follow this link.

Nov 19

I made this

I’ve been talking about this too much and showing very brief, inconsistent photographs of my latest project, but here it is:

It’s nothing more than seven pieces of wood, from three larger pieces I bought late this summer. This wood was supposed to be the test pieces as I tried to answer the question: What should a stove cover look like?

The real question is: How do you keep cats off countertops? but philosophers, scientists and theologians have all failed to answer that one. So we’re left with the stove cover thing.

I did a plywood top version for a few weeks. It was really a study of heat. What was safely tall enough to not cause problems as the stove eyes cooled after use? We did some product testing and decided we would like to lower it a bit, to make it flush with the bar in the background. Happily, we decided we could safely do so. I considered different methods for the top portion, ultimately deciding to keep it simple and use wood I already had in the garage. Most of it was straight and true. One piece had a nice twist in it, and I had to use it. So I did. And that’s what makes it artisanal folk art made by a total amateur. Or whatever.

A few weekends ago I got all the cutting and sizing done. And then I trudged through the sanding. It turns out these things take time when you have competing interests. Last weekend we did stain tests and The Yankee applied the chosen blend. Now that has finally dried. Yesterday, and today, I have applied four coats of the top coat, which is a General Finishes product I’m almost ready to swear by. It is a little pricey, but it goes on easy. It cleans up easy. It dries fast and it doesn’t bubble. It seems durable and, the Internet tells me, it doesn’t yellow with time. I applied it to my desk last year and that still looks nice.

Here, I think, is the key: I got four coats of that stuff on last night and today, and finished the project. (Just in time for Thanksgiving, but hey.) Amazing what you can do when you have some free time on your hands.

Nov 19

It’s Friday somewhere. Here. Holiday weeks, amirite?

We are now in the slow weeks. The time simultaneously before and after time. It has been busy, but now it is Thanksgiving week. And next week we will have one last week before dead week and then finals week and then the slow times again.

The office is open this week, for reasons that surpass understanding. There were eight people in the building at one point today.

Dear Mr. Hamlet, the answer is “To be.”

This is the sunset from the parking deck.

This is the black and white version.

This is the same photo, but with some random phone filter applied to it.

Those sunsets are from yesterday. Today it was not appreciable, which may or may not be a meteorology term, in this part of the world, but it should be.

I visited the hardware store this evening, where no one, not once, asked if I needed any help. I didn’t need help, because I’ve learned that, while they mean well when they ask at the local hardware shop, and they are nice and pleasant people about the undertaking, my needs are apparently too exotic or I am, in fact, beyond help.

This is what I needed: Two pieces of hardware. Four screws. Because my latest contraption needs handles, and it is built in such a way that the screws that come with handles are a default length, but my build needs longer screws. I need screws that are one-and-three-quarters of an inch. But the standards are one, one-and-a-half and two inch screws. So I’m going to have to saw screws down to size.

That’ll show ’em.

Also, I needed a countersink screw bit. And I found myself totally guessing on that purchase. (Later edit: I guessed correctly.)

And then I went to the house, and we ran. Or shuffled. Or jogged. Or whatever I’m doing these days. It’s moving faster than a walk, that much is sure.

And then I started putting the finish on this particular wood working project. Tomorrow it will be completed.

After that, the in-laws arrived. This was totally expected, almost down to the minute, thanks to the proliferation of GPS and constant contact via text message. They’re visiting for Thanksgiving, of course, which will be lovely, of course.

So let the holidays begin.

Nov 19

Typing with wood stain on my fingers

Here’s the progress on the recent project. This weekend we glued all the pieces together. So it is assembled:

Gluing doesn’t take a long time, thankfully. But you have to come to terms with the parts that work and don’t work. A good craftsman, I said, does not blame his tools. Fortunately, I continued, I am not a good craftsman. And there’s enough blame to go around.

We’re on to staining. That’s taking a bit longer than necessary because things aren’t drying in the garage quickly enough. Too cool in there just now. So we’ve moved it from the garage to a better, warmer (funny how that works) climate. When the stain dries I will put a coat or two of finish on it. And then I’ll attach some hardware and our work will be done. Hopefully it will make sense and be useful.

Otherwise, I’m going to blame my tools again.

Seriously, I’m working out of my garage. I have to pull the table saw out from under a shelf to use it. I have to pull the miter saw off the same shelf and put it on the table saw to use that. I have a sophisticated cardboard box setup for my belt sander. I sanded individual parts on an old printer hutch. And we’re staining it on a hand-me-down kitchen island because the height it about right.

It’s a delightful shade tree operation, is what I’m saying. This is what I was coming to terms with this weekend.

Not really. It’s fine. The project looks pretty nice. It is the right height, so it will be functional. The color compliments the room — if you’re standing in the right light in one of three previously marked positions — so it will look appealing. You’ll see. The next time it shows up here, it will be in place.

I woke up yesterday to a forecast of “abundant” sunshine. In the sense of it existing or being available in large quantities, that was true yesterday. Here’s a quick shot from my afternoon run:

If we’re discussing abundance in the sense of having plenty, we did not have an abundance. Also, I seemed to be running west the entire way yesterday afternoon:

And it was a fine day. Bright and crisp. A rarity here this time of year, so going for a quick slow four-mile run was the right call.

Here’s the thing. I was just reading about Project Sunroof where you can “discover your solar savings potential.” Like all curious people, I put in several neighbors’ addresses, because Google doesn’t need to know where I live, they can just get close and guess and that’s close enough, man.

The data is really about how much sun your roof gets — because this is about solar panels — the data was disheartening. The calculations on the site suggest that we get about three hours of usable sunlight a day over the course of a year. Solar calculations and energy savings (which appear to be minimal given how our house and its roof are oriented) notwithstanding, that’s not abundant sun.

Also, you can tell this estimate is in the proper vicinity, and know there’s something to that forecast, because the meteorologists at the weather service made the point of saying we’d have abundant sun yesterday. You’d never see such language if it were the norm.

It should be the normal condition, but alas. So far the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies … next Monday. Something to look forward to you.

Nov 19

This was right, until it was wrong

I was going to start with this …

… but that’s not exactly accurate. I did get to play with power tools today. I mentioned on Monday that I was close to wrapping up this one project with a whole series of jokes about how I’m not good at working with wood. Measure twice, cut once, sand away your shortcomings. That sort of thing.

Only the belt sander probably caused as many problems as it created.

Fortunately, I realized, a quick bit of sawing would solve all of my troubles — and boy don’t we always say that. I did that.

So there was fun to be seen.

Tonight, you see, I had the choice of breaking out the miter saw or running a quick shopping errand. It was my job to pick up two frames for some fancy certificates my television gang has received. Only there wasn’t enough time tonight.

We had just the one car between us today, because The Yankee’s car is in the shop. It isn’t a terrible inconvenience. We work at the same place, of course, and our schedules matched up nicely today. It’s really an issue of what you’re accustomed to. You’re used to being independent, but now you must depend on someone in the simple matter of getting from A to B. And, in this case, you must depend on me. And you must depend on people leaving my office at quitting time, so that we may all, you know, quit for the day.

We left late, which changed up the evening. If I stopped off at C, that would throw off dinner plans, and that would keep me from making sawdust, which I wanted to do. And I did! Now I just have to glue it all up, later this week, and then stain and finish the thing this weekend.

So I’ll try to take care of that shopping errand in the morning. Of course, first-thing shopping is a wholly different experience than late-in-the-day shopping.

There will be more fun tomorrow, then.