Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Little Bit Over the Top...

I've been teaching a canoe building class for the past few years. Several of my students fit into the "over-achiever" slot in a big way. This particular student, who was in the first class I taught fits this mold.

The accent strip on the side of his canoe was built twice.

He started out with Poplar and Redwood to make this beautifully patterned strip. It was stunning with little alternating checkerboards and strips that ran the length of the boat. His attention to detail was superb - all the pieces were even face-grain so they would be the same color. After untold hours building the strips, he passed them through the planer to "clean off some glue." This ruined the strips - shredded them, really. He got angry (REALLY angry) and stormed out of class. After he left the room, a blue haze still hung in the room from his choice of words.

The next week, he arrived with a brand new strip. When I asked how he did this at home, I found out that he and his wife had gone out to Home Depot on the day after he destroyed his first set of strips to get more wood, a table saw and a thickness planer and had remade the strips over the following week. Don't get me wrong - I think the work is stunning, but they must have cost $500/each after figuring in the tools - this for two strips that are 1/4" thick, 1-1/2" wide and 12' long.

He even took his boat home to work on - in his living room. I don't know what his wife thought, but the dog seems to be enjoying it. After seeing this, I don't think I ever want to hear someone say that they don't have the space to build a canoe!

I do think the contrasting design on the side is cool. The design has been incorporated into the side of the paddle and the stems. Pretty wild. Here's a picture of the finished product which was dubbed The Blue Streak for his language the day he destroyed the first strips!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Does This Make Me a Hypocrite?


I enjoy woodworking. (canoes in particular, if you haven’t guessed…)

I like to cook.

I’ve got All-Clad cookware for the kitchen.

I’ve got a Stanley low-angle block plane for the shop.

I like the best kitchen equipment that I can get my hands on. The All-Clad cookware in our kitchen has, in my opinion, made me a better cook than I was before. I will not be so arrogant as to think of myself as a chef (I’m not…) but I would say that those people who eat what I cook really enjoy what I cook.

Does that mean I’m neglecting the shop because I haven’t gone out and bought a nice Lie-Nielsen ( , or Veritas ( block plane? Or even a Hotley plane? ( Let’s put things in car perspective. The Stanley would be a bit like the Chevrolet. The Vertias and the Lie-Neilsen would be the Audi or the BMW, but the Hotley planes by Karl Hotley are a bit like a Ferrari. It’s gorgeous, highly functional, very expensive and more than likely sits in the garage instead of being driven. One of the Hotley planes was selling for about $7,500.00.

I’d have to say I don’t think I’m neglecting the shop. I’d like a nice plane like the ones above. I really would. Do I think the plane like his will make me a better woodworker?


I think you learn more from working with tools that you have to learn what makes them tick and how to set them up. I have a student in the class that I teach who has a nice Lie-Neilsen.

• It’s a great tool.
• It was ready to go right out of the box.
• It feels good in your hand.
• It doesn’t chatter much, if at all.
• It holds a good edge.

With the Stanley, I learned:

• How to sharpen the plane iron
• How to true the plane’s sole
• How to square the sides of the plane to the sole.
• How to protect the plane from corrosion
• How to adjust the cap, iron and throat.

My Stanley did the same job that his Lie-Neilsen did. No better or worse. Knowing that, what would you do?

The Hotley is still a pretty tool, ‘tho!

Mystic Seaport Museum

Anyone with any interest at all in boats should take the time to go and visit Mystic Seaport. I say this because the place has so much to offer. There are programs for kids and families, people interested in the construction boats, arts and crafts related to the sea and all different kinds of history regarding the sea. You can even:

- tour the houses of the seaport and learn about 18th and 19th century life there.

- rent a boat and go sailing or rowing.

-take a ride on one of the shuttles, the coal fired Sabino (a coal fired ferry), or ride on their sailing catboat

-tour the last whaling ship, the Charles Morgan. and the dory fishing schooner LA Dutton.

- see the building or re-construction of some really large wooden boats.

What is always amazing to me, personally, is that I've never really gotten to see the whole place. Maybe someday I will!

There are also special events there during the year to interest a whole variety of people. For example, in June, there will be the John Gardener Small Craft Weekend, In early July, the WoodenBoat show will be coming back to Mystic. Even if (God Forbid!) you don't care for boats, there are historical exhibits, programs on food and perennial gardening, and holiday events for the whole family!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who, me?

I am not a pirate.

I am a marine acquisitions agent and salvage specialist.

The men accompanying me are union assistants.

The ship was burning when we found it.

The rum was already gone.

That's our story and we're sticking to it.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Next-Dog Neighbors

I have to explain that I tend to be more of a cat person. I enjoy the company of dogs, but they're an awful lot more work than I would like in a pet. That being said, I do enjoy spending time with other people's dogs

My DW has been complaining of late about our next-dog neighbors. Our next-door neighbor lets them out in the morning when she gets up so that they can go do their business. However, dogs will be dogs and they tend to bark. Unfortunately, this tends to be at around 5:00 AM. This tends to wake DW up, but not me, so I generally don’t have any complaints.

They’re pretty good dogs, overall, and their owner is very responsible. They’ve got a fenced in play yard and she cleans it up after them. There is a chocolate lab, a golden retriever and a mixed hound with some beagle in him… The last one is aptly named “Barkley”.

Since they moved in here, both dogs and owners have come to know us and like us. If I’m outside doing something, the dogs will come over to the fence and bark for attention. This can be if I’m out playing with the kids, doing gardening work, emptying the compost from the kitchen, snow-blowing, even just coming home from work. They do appreciate the attention.

Across the street, there is a schnauzer/dachshund mix named Graham. He's got the whiskers of the schnauzer, but is a low-rider due t0 the dachshund part. Being the low-rider that he is, I'm always amazed that Graham seems to love being out in the snow. The deeper the snow, the better he seems to like it. He's sort of a "dog-marine" in the snow sometimes with his nose and tail almost the only part of him showing like a snorkel. Graham is very friendly and when he's out on a walk, he likes to come over for belly rubs. He's pretty enthusiastic when he comes over - not only does the tail wag, but the whole darn dog seems to wag. He is also a lazy dog and seems to want to stop for a break every 30 yards or so...

We had another next-dog neighbor move away last year. Her name was Lola and she was a black lab. Lola was very friendly and after we moved in and got to know her, she would make a bee-line over to me if I was outside for ear and belly rubs. One day I was working in the back yard and the rest of the family was in the front yard talking to one of Lola’s owners. My daughter opened the door and Lola followed her in looking for me. When she sussed out that I wasn’t in the house, she looked around the garage. When I finally came around the back of the house, she just zipped over to me and sad down in front of me, waiting for attention.

At our last house, the dog behind us was a hound. I mean hound in the true sense of the word. It would howl. I mean HOWL. Incessantly. At all hours of the day and night. In my opinion, the poor dog wasn’t really taken care of very well and while not abused physically, was abandoned outside for long stretches of time all year round. It made us very sad to see, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. If you're going to have a pet, you should take care of it!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

I've got three sets of plans (Boats, of course!) staring me in the face at the moment and can't make up my mind which one to start.

I've got plans for Tom Hill's Charlotte, a Rushton Sairy Gamp, and a Bruce Kunz Merlin.

While I'd really like to build the Merlin, I don't have the money to buy the quality of cedar that I'd need for the stripping of the hull. I do have the materials for not only one, but two of the Charlotte hulls. I also have all the materials and forms for the Sairy Gamp.

This is, of course, in addition to the bookcases I'm building and the sideboard that I need to finish scraping, sanding and finishing.

I guess I'd better get my butt in gear! (Should I be starting a doghouse as well?)

Doghouse Boatworks

If I'm ever rich enough or stupid enough to build boats full time, I'm going to need a name for the business. I've always figured that the title above would be a great name.


My DW loves small boats, (I'm being sarcastic here, people..) If I build boats, she's gonna have me in the doghouse!

Soo... That being said, I'd better build myself a nice comfortable doghouse like the one in the book below before I start building boats!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

There comes a time...

When it's time to replace your old car. The replacement is the picture above, a new Honda Civic. I must say, after about three weeks with the car, I'm enjoying it immensely. When filling the tank, I can usually manage to squeeze just under 7 gallons of fuel a week - just about $16 a week less than a fill up on the old Passat. Also, the insurance is less AND I don't have to worry about major repairs for at least 3 more years. Something about peace of mind, I guess.

It really was finally time for my old Passat to go. It’s been causing this sucking sound near my wallet every time I head over to the garage recently. Last fall it had the timing belt replaced. It needed a new electrical card for the ABS, it had leaking journal bearing seals replaced, It had a new timing belt tension control arm, and about 3 weeks ago, a new ignition control module. OUCH! I figured I should sell the car while it was in good running order.

Nobody (and I mean nobody) at the car dealers was going to offer me anything close to a fair trade-in. They were offering numbers that were way below what they should have based on condition. (Kelly Blue Book Fair/Good condition) Methinks they were writing themselves a quick $$$$ profit.

I must say, I don't care for selling used cars privately. It's a hassle and I hate to haggle. I put the Passat up on Craigslist and within 3 days I had 12 interested buyers. Everybody wanted to be first, but I took them in the order they replied. The day that I was going to show the car, I opened the hood to check that there weren’t acorns or something under there. I opened the hood, looked around and then closed the hood. Snap. The plastic lever that released the catch broke. I was able to put it back in place and repair it. The first guys who saw the car were some Master’s students from a local university. They test drove the car and gave me a deposit on the spot. Good. I felt that I got a fair price for the Passat – what would be a fair dealer trade-in value less the cost to get the ABS fixed. In the long run, I think they got a very, very good deal on the car and certainly hope that they enjoy it as much as I have.

Last night was the night for us to deliver the Passat to the new buyer. I went to get the plates off the car (I’d put WD-40 on the screws the night before.) and while the front plate came off easily, the heads of the two screws holding the rear plate snapped off.


So I get out my drill and an easy-out to try to get the screws out. I get the holes drilled in the screws and put the easy out in one. The insert spins in the trunk’s sheet metal.


I pull it out and put it in the second one.


I broke off my easy-out in the screw.


Nothing I could do about it. I guess the car just didn't want to leave. So I delivered the car anyway and told the guy who bought the car about the problem. I gave him some money back so that he could get the plate mounts fixed. He was very happy with the situation, just the same. Am I just too nice to be selling used cars?


It's not often that I feel the need to comment on anything in the current political arena - others seem to do a far better job of it than I do.


Today I had to go out to get some parts for a protoype that I'm working on and was coming out of a store as a gentleman in his late 50's was coming in. He had on a button that read :

"I never thought that I would miss Richard Nixon"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Older Than Dirt

I am beginning to be very happy that 50 is the new 40. I have begun to realize in many small ways that I am getting older. I've started to think more seriously about saving more towards both the kid's college education and my own retirement. I also have those days when I hear people talk about reunions and other people I knew who have moved up in the world, or passed out of it.

The final straw was yesterday.

A news article on Yahoo : "'80s tunes become the new oldies"

From the article :

By ARIAN SMEDLEY, Associated Press Writer Tue Feb 19, 2:43 PM ET

NEW YORK - The music blaring from the speakers of a small pub on a recent Friday night seemed like typical oldies fare: Aretha Franklin's "Respect," the 1970s tune "Disco Lady" and the 1950s surf instrumental "Tequila." Then, "Karma Chameleon" — the 1983 hit by Culture Club — came on. The music was from WCBS-FM, a New York-based station that used to rely on songs from the '60s and '70s, and occasionally, the '50s. Now, like similar stations around the country, WCBS has deemed music from the '80s as the new oldies.


This isn't to say that some things should be buried back in the '80's. Here are a few of them:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Fresh Start?

Well, with the impending changes over at Yahoo!360, I finally decided that I'd better consider a new blog site, so here I am.

So, why the title?

Some days it just seems you spend your whole day paddling upstream. Some days you get pretty far, and other days the current just keeps pushing you back.

Like the rest of my life, this blog is definitely going to be "ecclectic". As my profile notes, I like a little bit of everything. My material could come from just about anywhere. Don't be surprised at what you see!

I am:
  • Married with two small children
  • A mechanical engineer
  • An instructor who teaches others to build cedar strip canoes
I like:
  • to cook
  • to paddle
  • to camp
  • to travel
  • to eat and drink well
  • gadgets
Let's see where this goes!