Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shop Cleaning

My brothers and I are gathering in Barneveld this weekend to deal with my father's estate and try to make my mother's life a little simpler. This task could end up with four of us attempting murder of her or each other, but could possibly work itself out and thing could end up settled and my mothers life become easier. Probably not, but it could.

Not having a piece of property to dispose of, a lawyer or accountant to fetch things for or some other noble task, I have set myself to work cleaning the shop. The Hinge Corporation moved into the shop sometime in the early 1970's and was there until we closed the corporation in 1993 or 1994. In it's earlier life it served as a Duofold underwear factory, an ice cream plant and a car dealership and auto repair shop. The last was operated as Haskell's Garage, run by my Uncle Glen's father.

When Glen died in the early 90's I swore I would see him there late at night, when I was cutting flooring for the house I was building. For the last 10 or more years the shop had been my dad's escape. I don't know that he did anything, but he hid there and cut things and had his tools there. When I walked in Friday I hoped I would be able to do a little work there over the weekend but it quickly became apparent that it needed cleaning first. Today I have a much better idea of what tools are there and what works. Most of the coffee cups are gone and a lot of the coffee cans. The first load of empty boxes went to the recycling center and the second is stacked by the door. On the next trip home, hopefully we can load up my Uncle Bill's truck and get some of the full garbage cans out.

A few treasures were found, but more things that were just memories. I found his secret vodka stash and fittingly there were four bottles left. I don't thing a lot of things are important to any one but me. I did work there for 10 or 20 years depending how you count it. I don't know what will happen to the building, I have thought about taking it over, but I don't live there and don't need it. My brother Joe also considers it. At least it will be a little cleaner soon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dovetails Continued and Tomatoes

Today brought a major change in the weather. While it cooled yesterday following the thunderstorms, today stayed cloudy and cool for most of the day. It was only later in the afternoon when it got quite warm and that wasn't oppressive like the previous weeks. This spring and summer's heat have had one positive effect, the tomatoes are coming early. Okay I bought my plants and they were decent sized when they were planted, but I also planted them in May. Last night we had our first Cherry Tomatoes and they were excellent. I refrained from picking the couple more that were ripening today so there would be more to enjoy tomorrow. It makes losing so much to the deer and rabbits tolerable since they tend to leave the tomatoes alone. They look like they will be coming in waves, so stop by for a salad.

The dovetails improved some yesterday. I took today off to shop for a new chisel and saw. My Ryoba was about dead, but I have been using it to cut small trees. My Home Depot "dovetail saw" never really cut it on hardwood. So bolstered by the success of yesterday I went tool shopping today. I am not one to blame equipment most of the time. New skis and bikes don't help if you can't ski or ride. Or lets say that they will not take you from novice to expert. But, my smallest chisel would not fit in my dovetails. I think I also bought the chisel set for under $10. Not exactly fine woodworking tools. But they for the most part work. My last dovetails failed on sawing the wrong side of one line, not from the saw.

Tools require tuning to keep them working properly. I am getting my head and my tools tuned. I am not sure the head can be saved but most of the tools can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Following my speech evaluation it was recommended that I organize mock tasks such as parties and events to work on various parts of my brain. After designing countless "mock timber frames", generating the joinery and timber lists (I did stop short of engineering the frames, but tried to draw them with in accepted standards), I grew tired of the futility of it. But, in another effort to stimulate my brain I have decided to teach myself to cut dovetail joinery by hand.

Dovetails are the key joints in fine drawer making, and there are any number of jigs for various machine to recreate them. In my Dad's shop we had a dedicated dovetail machine. Nothing is quite as pretty as the hand cut dovetails you see on Shaker furniture and or in other styles from days gone by. The dovetail locks the joint together when pulled in one direction in addition to being beautiful.

While this exercise doesn't really help my speech (unless you count swearing), it is forcing my executive functions to be stimulated in a big way. First the tablesaw needed some tuning, the chisels needed sharpening, and so on with all of the tools needing to be found and evaluated. I have brought them into usable shape, but they need work.

Yesterday I did try to cut my first joint and it was a disaster, not even coming close to fitting. But it was close enough that I'm challenged. I recently subscribe to a free trial of Fine Woodworking Online, and have since devoured every article and a few video's on dovetails. We will see how today's effort goes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Maine and an Adirondack Visit

I admit, I put this PC away in a briefcase a week ago, never got it out and did not missed it. I did delete a hundred or so unnecessary emails yesterday on Maria's parents machine but only read two of them. (My brother and the speech therapist). But we arrived home today in sweltering weather, missing both the shore and the mountains. The animals survived with their respective sitters and checkers, presumably Maddy is enjoying her final year of being a counselor in training at camp.

If you don't know someone with a family place right on the ocean, I would highly recommend meeting someone who does. I don't know about the family dynamic where we stayed but I greatly appreciate their generosity. The house was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous and the beach was sandy and the water warm enough to swim in. I managed to devour two books by Garth Stein and have time to get a nice sunburn. We have some new favorite shops for our next trip. But most of all I think we all recharged.

The trip back was a little hairy, running into 4th of July traffic in a big way. Meandering up Grand Isle in Lake Champlain took some of the edge off the day. We finally got to Elle and Wayne's in nearly 10 hours, instead of the six or seven it was supposed to take. The following morning, my bride broke every speed limit getting us from Canton to Mountain View in record time. We had a nice visit with Maria's parents after Maddy was dropped off and headed back to Canton. The Stripp's were putting up hay, 1200 bales and I did join in to carry and hoist a few, causing the soreness in my shoulders today.

I have pictures to go through, books to tell about and many memories to share on this trip. But I will just say it was wonderful.