Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Count your blessings! If you think about it, you've got more to count than you think!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tales from Cuboria...

Some people in this world are just destined to have a job where you get to say, "Do you want fries with that?" Some of those people work for one of our vendors, a national office supply company that shall be nameless....

We're working on a long-standing project that is a departure for us in terms of manufacturing methods and packaging. It's both a cool and very complex device, which after long hours of hard work, has nearly come together. Sadly for us, one of the last bits of detail, labels for the outside of the device and a switch panel just couldn't come together in the required amount of time. I was assigned the task of creating substitutes for these labels and the switch panel. The vendor who will be making these items sent me the artwork they are using for the panels. I took the artwork and went to my local vendor on Thursday afternoon to see what they could do to help.

What they had was an amazing color printer that prints with solid inks on fairly heavy card-stock. I got a sample and found out what I needed to supply for file types, sizes and that I could submit my documents online to save myself a trip. I went back to my office to figure out how I could make this work. After some looking around, I discovered that we have some adhesive films and plastic sheets for the outer layer and I resolved to laminate some labels and cut them out by hand. No big deal, I thought - maybe about a 4 hour job for all that this entailed.


On Friday morning, I tried to email the files that I had received to their print center only to be told by their web page, that this was not possible.

Okay. Nothing is insurmountable.

I drove down with a thumb-drive loaded with the images that I needed to have printed. I figured on about 5 copies of each to give me a chance to try things out and make mistakes. This was a total of 25 pages of printing. I brought black-and-white full size copies of the images with me to the store along with a specific set of instructions:

5 copies of each file
Color print onto heavy, matte finish card stock
Print all images full size

Simple, right?

"I'll have those ready for you by 5:00 PM tonight, sir - 8:00 PM at the latest."

"Well, we're under some pressure here - can you expedite the order?"

"I'll see what I can do. We'll call you at 5:00 or sooner to let you know how things are going and we'll call if we have any questions."


5:00 PM came and went. No phone call. 5:15 came. I called them to enquire how the print job was going.

"We're just about to start it - why don't you stop by about 6:30?"

( #$(%*$!!! ) "Sure. See you then."

I killed some time running some errands and arrived at the store to find the print job done. Still, it wasn't quite right. Two of the labels were much too small. I pointed the fact out to the woman working at the counter and she re-printed them in the correct size while I waited. On the surface, the others appeared to be correct. I finally left the vendor's store at about 7:10 PM on a Friday evening when I'd really rather be at home with my family.

This morning (Monday), I arrived at work and started to assemble the labels.

*Uh oh...* Yup. They're a little small...

I return to the vendor's store with the files and tell the woman at the counter (A different person than the one I dealt with on Friday) that the files weren't properly printed and pointed out the clear instructions on the envelope the labels were given to me in. She told me that she'd fix that - no charge. (Darn tootin'!) After a few minutes, she prints two pages. They're exactly the same as the one I have. She spends another few minutes looking through options for the printer, looking confused. She finally calls me over behind the counter and tells me that she can't figure out what the problem is. She selects her way through print options including "FIT TO PRINTER MARGINS" and hits "PRINT". A warning screen comes up that reads, "OUTPUT WILL NOT BE FULL SCALE" and she clicks "OK"!!!


She passes me the mouse and I manage to turn the scale to "NONE" and print, getting full scale prints of my labels. (I hope) It's not every day that the customer has to come in and show the employees how to operate their equipment!

Some days, you just can't win.

Oh, and one parting shot - just remember that Murphy was an optimist!

Images from Go look at their demotivators. You'll laugh yourself silly.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

With a resounding *THUD!*

Fall has fallen around here. The change has been both sudden and cruel. Temperatures have dropped nearly 30 degrees.

It had been fairly warm around here until about a week ago. Nice mild temperatures and all. I spent the past few weekends around the house preparing for fall by bringing in the deck furniture, cleaning the windows and pulling in the screens, shutting off the outside water faucets, the sprinkler system and cleaning up the garden beds and leaves. Unfortunately, this cleanup has prevented me from getting in some of my favorite paddling which is fall paddling.

Paddling in the fall has some risks with the cooler water and air temperatures that you have to keep in mind and be prepared for, but if you are, it's really wonderful. I've been paddling when it was cold enough to have a skim of ice on the water under the shade of the pine trees where we put in.

Fall paddling is above all things, quiet. There are very few people out on the water - you usually have the place to yourself. The foliage is out and if you are in the sun on a still day, it is warm. The mosquitoes have vanished for the season and most of the pond weed has died back. Migrating birds and ducks will be your companions.

One of my favorite places is actually a small meandering stream that is there as a result of the beavers building a dam at the bottom of what once was essentially a marsh. The marsh is in a valley that is sheltered from the winds. While not a long paddle - you can maybe go in about 3/4 of a mile or so, it is a pleasant trip with abundant wildlife. The paddling is on a narrow twisting waterway with water that is full of tannins. The dark tannin stained waters provide from some great reflections of the foliage in the water.

Do you have a favorite place and time of year to paddle?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Seeing as how we're on a motivational kick.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Every so often when you are building a boat, you have a problem. It may be a little mistake, it may be a big mistake. At this point, you need to use your judgement to decide what you want to do.

Do you:
  • Ignore the problem?
  • Try to camoflage (HIDE!) the problem?
  • Repair the problem?
  • Start again?
The truly minor problems - generally cosmetic - you could choose to ignore.

The problems that aren't critical, but as the builder, tend to irritate you, you can try to camoflage. In strip construction, this tends to be minor holes or cracks that you'll fill with "Boat Spackle" - AKA "Dookie Shmutz" - a mixture of epoxy, wood flour and fumed silica...

Sometimes it's possible to repair the problem - either by replacing or patching the damaged area, or usually re-setting the strip while the glue is still wet. You can even remove epoxy (with a little heat) if you royally mess it up.

Occasionally, you have a problem where you need to start again. You're building a seat and you crack a rail while putting in a mortise and have concerns about the strength of the stock. You're making a strongback and it is warped beyond repair. You're cutting strips and they are too thin. You're molding stock with cove-and-bead and it just isn't right. These are the things where it's just not salvageable. The finished product will be ugly or will not work right. Sometimes it's not worth continuing to put more effort and money into the boat.

This week one of my student's box-beam for a strongback got wet by sitting on wet lumber. It was warped fairly badly. We have some potential methods to solve the issue, but we're waiting to see how bad the warp is after the beam dries. We're still early enough in the process to make another box-beam - it will take time and money to do so if necesary, but it is better than continuing to throw time and money at a boat that will have a tendency to turn to one side or the other.

The wisdom to know which path to take is called experience.

Just remember - good judgement is the result of experience and experience is the result of bad judgement.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Get Started!

You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.

- Irish Proverb

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Warning: Management assumes no responsibility for marital disharmony as a result of the following:

  • Boat-building, glassing, sanding, varnishing any other operations performed in the normal living areas of your home.
  • Epoxy, glue or varnish in favorite rugs, on floors or furniture.
  • Gouges in furniture or floors from dropped cutting tools
  • Damage to trimwork from getting your boat in and out of the house.

Symptoms of this disharmony may include:

  • Dirty looks
  • Angry glares
  • Cold shoulder
  • Failure to do laundry, dishes, etc.
  • Finding all of your possessions on the front lawn
  • Finding a pillow and blanket on the couch (or in the doghouse)
  • Finding your tools for sale on Ebay or Craigslist

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tech Tip Tuesday

One of my former students who took my class last year has decided that he'd like to build another canoe. He built a very nice staple-less Wee Lassie II that he's going to give to his wife for her use. I think that he did an excellent job with the canoe. I'm hoping to be able to post a picture of his boat here for a Wordless Wednesday post.

At any rate, this fellow really wants a slightly longer and wider canoe so that he can use it to fish from. Additionally he wants this longer and wider canoe to be very, very light-weight for carrying in to his chosen fishing haunts. He's chosen the Solo Portage by Rob Macks of Laughing Loon.

In order to reduce the weight of his finished canoe, he's going to try two things. First, he's gone looking for Atlantic White Cedar which is a bit less dense than Western Red Cedar. (22 lb/cubic foot versus 23 pounds/cubic foot) He's also going to be ripping the strips to 3/32" thickness - a 25% savings in the weight of the strips. To that end, I made up another spacer disk to go between a pair of Freud Diablo thin-kerf blades that would allow him to cut two strips at a time. This new gang-sawing set-up; similar to one I posted previously, is seen below:

He's pretty picky, 'tho. He wants a pretty canoe, too. He wants to build a staple-less boat again and he wants to build a canoe with continuous strips so no scarfs show. To do this, I think he needs 15 or 16 foot long stock.

This COULD be a problem, as he has a rather nice, but somewhat small workshop in a barn at his house. As a matter of fact, it's too small for him to rip the strips in a continuous length.

However, necessity is the mother of invention.

Check out the pictures that he sent to me of his solution....

Below is his table saw as seen from the outfeed side. Note that the workbench under the window is at exactly the same height as the table saw's work surface. Pay particular attention to the light colored area directly beneath the window.

Here's the outside of the same window. Again, note the light colored area below the window. Oh yeah, and the hinges...

And, voila, here we have the open infeed doors!

The only thing that I wonder now is if he has enough room or now has doors on the outfeed side, too!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just a bit of off-beat cubicle humor...

Never, never make your co-workers angry:

Don't get angry at your computer - it's just doing what it's told.

Sometimes it's necessary to defend your cubicle:

Hygiene in tight office quarters IS appreciated:

Sometimes work leaves you feeling a bit torn:

Despite all my rage...
I should note that a former co-worker of mine (who was much more of a "metal head" than I am) used to identify with this song fairly closely. Whenever it came on the radio, he would be singing along in his cubicle.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What its all about...

"Jim Gallagher of Danville, Pa., paddles his kayak across the calm surface of Lake Chillisquaque, White Hall, Pa., while heading back to shore following sundown Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008."
(AP Photo/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise, Jimmy May)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Wood-b-good, but... (Apologies to Todd Bradshaw :-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tech Tip Tuesday

Ok. That's a Nike (tm) "Swoosh" up there.

Tech Tip Tuesday is about my boat building philosophy. I believe in the Nike approach - "Just do it!" (Sorry, Nike...)

Most people look at the complexity of building a wooden boat and think that they can't do it. It's a slightly daunting project - don't get me wrong, it is, but it's a bit like the old joke about how to eat an elephant - one bite at a time. You can do it. Really. It just takes patience and determination. You will probably need to learn some new skills, too. Some skills you can learn from reading about them and doing them yourself. Some skills you will need help from an "expert". This may be a friend with the skills or even a teacher in a structured boat-building course.

Let me give a good example:

A friend of mine started a kayak with my help. He's very good with his hands and a clever guy to begin with, but had never built a boat. The building went in fits and starts and for long periods of time. Sometimes he was thinking or asking about his next step. Sometimes he couldn't work on his boat because it was too cold in his shop. Sometimes he simply had other things to do. It took him about 2 years of elapsed time to build the kayak.

The end result? It's a beautiful boat and he's very happy with it. Others find it to be a beautiful kayak when they see it. In the beginning of his project, he didn't know everything he was going to do or how he would do it, but he went ahead and took that leap of faith.

All you've got to do is to make a start. Just do it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

If you live in the United States...

And you are eligible...
On November 4th, please...