Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday

Sometimes, there's no tool like an old tool.

As I posted last week, a co-worker gave me some old tools that belonged to his father-in-law. They're all very well-constructed and well finished tools that have suffered a bit of neglect, but are otherwise very solid tools. Last night, I stripped down the Sargent smooth plane to it's components and did my best to remove the majority of rust, paint splatters, oily dirt and debris off the plane. It was a nasty, messy job, but well worth it as you can see from the picture above.

The last parts that I worked on were the chip-breaker and the plane iron. For those who aren't familiar with planes like this, the plane iron is the blade that actually does the cutting. Sitting on top of the plane iron is a chip-breaker that is screwed to the iron with the front edge of the chip-breaker about 3/16" behind the leading edge of the blade. I pulled out a piece of float glass and a nice wet/dry 400 grit paper to clean up the nicked edges. The chip breaker was easy to true up in about a minute or so.

The plane iron, however, was another story. There were some large nicks in the edge, so I needed to remove a bit of material. I started on the same paper I'd just used. After about a minute, I stopped and looked at the blade. There was little effect. Whatever steel alloy was used for the plane iron, it was very, very hard. I added a bit of pressure and some more lubricant. Better, but I still wasn't moving much metal. I kept at it for about 15 minutes and didn't finish removing the nicks. I'll take it to work and have it ground with a cooled diamond wheel to avoid ruining the temper of the steel.

On the bright side, I shouldn't need to sharpen the plane iron very much at all.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Any port in a storm...

As a male, there is one mystery of life for all of us. When is our significant other going to be having "that time of the month". The typical way that most males seem to be able to tell is to look for excess consumption of :
  • Chocolate
  • Wine
  • Potato Chips
  • Chocolate
Missing the signs of PMS can be dangerous to any relationship, usually resulting in any of the following:
  • Crying.
  • "I will KILL you."
  • "Don't touch me."
  • Utter silence.
About three weeks ago, my DW did me a kindness. She sent me a an email from a website called PMSBuddy.com. From their website came the following:

Welcome to PMSBuddy.com!

PMSBuddy.com is a free service created with a single goal in mind: to keep you aware of when your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, daughter, or any other women in your life are closing in on "that time of the month" - when things can get intense for what may seem to be no reason at all.

For women, this is a great way to give people in your life a heads-up of when you might be feeling a bit irritable without having an awkward conversation.

What's more, we will not only keep you informed, but will give you some free advice on what to do about it. With PMSBuddy.com, there is no reason to ever be blindsided by PMS again.

PMSBuddy.com - Saving relationships, one month at a time!

So at any rate, I got a warning yesterday evening. It let me know that I should be expecting signs of PMS from my DW in about 5 days. Attached to the email were several suggestions for assuaging the symptoms. Included were some adverts for companies offering services to help the male of the species survive the next few days.

(Flowers)- "When all else fails, flowers will always do the trick. They are kryptonite to PMS."

(Matchmaking) - "If it's really that bad, maybe something's amiss. As they say, it never hurts to look." (OMG. Ed.)

(Travel) -
"Give her the ultimate gift. Suprise her with a special vacation, romantic cruise or weekend getaway!" (A CRUISE fer Gawd's sake?)

(Wine) -
"Do something special for her and show her you care. A bottle of her favorite wine should help calm things down."

(Lingerie) -
"During PMS women can feel bloated and unattractive. Show her how you really feel with some sexy lingerie." (This seems like a good way to die...Ed.)

I suppose that people in marketing will make a buck on just about anything.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Perhaps my luck is changing...

Well, at least I hope so. I don't know exactly what it was, but I seem to have been followed last week by either a black cloud or Murphy (yeah, that Murphy) himself. Everything I came in contact with seemed to have turned to uh... yeah, that.

Late in the week, my luck seemed to have turned. I was looking at a forum that I follow and one of the members who is a boat-builder (among other things) who had some lofting and patterns for a traditional lapstrake canoe designed by R.D. "Pete" Culler, a well known designer and builder of classic wooden boats, that he was looking to give away. As this kind gentleman and I both had Monday off, I drove down to his shop on Long Island to pick up these items. We had a nice visit that was all too short, really. He'd worked doing repair work at various yards in the area and at the Apprenticeshop up on Rockland, Maine. He was even kind enough to have gone to the local library and made copies about the boat from John Burke's book about Culler's boats. That's above and beyond, if you ask me.

Detail From the Lofting

Lofting and Patterns

Exerpt from Book
(Shows 13' version of canoe)

I've been looking forward to finding a boat that would be good for teaching another boat-building class. Perhaps this will be a good choice. Time will tell.

Today, I was in my office when one of my co-workers came in and told me to follow him. We went through the building to the shipping dock. He then grabbed his coat and we headed outside. (???) We went to his pickup truck and he dropped the gate. "I've got a few things for ya." (??? - again) In the truck were three planes - a Sergant smothing plane, a Stanley Bailey pattern #5 bench plane and a wood-soled plane of unknown origin. Also were two LARGE wooden clamps - those things are about 18-20" - a very large clamp. The planes need a bit of cleaning, sharpening and lubrication and but for the repair of one handle, they're in very good shape. Quite a treat!

Here's to hoping that my luck has actually changed!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Another Blog of Interest

At first, I was primarily attracted to this blog because I was interested in seeing how the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan was going at Mystic Seaport. The Charles W. Morgan is the last surviving wooden whaling ship in the world, and as such is a national historic landmark. She was built in 1841 in New Bedford, MA and retired from service in 1921. She was acquired by the Seaport and has been one of the focal points of the museum, but has become "hogged" because of structural issues.

But I digress...

Matthew Housekeeper has posted an interesting blog about Long Island Sound, the surrounding area and the history and life on the Sound. As you can tell from the picture above, it's entitled "Soundbounder". Matthew has posted some really great information and pictures to tell the story of Long Island sound both now and in the past - well worth a look. He is also concerned about the overall ecological health of the Sound and access to this body of water - an increasing problem for all of us, everywhere.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pay it forward

With yesterday's post, I'm kinda working on a personal theme of late. I've been trying my best to do something every day to help someone else out. Not necessarily big things, but those day-to-day kindnesses and things that help make other people's life a bit easier. It's really not hard to get motivated - just think of all those little things that someone else has done for you or given to you when you least expected it, but needed it most.

Sometimes, my boat building students benefit with a little extra time or some spare stock that I have lying around for clamp blocks.

Lately, I've been helping out my neighbors. On one side of me is a fellow who is recovering from some surgery and I've been helping to keep his driveway and sidewalk clear. For the last two weekends, I've cleared ice. (Last weekend, DW, DS and DD also helped - a good lesson for the little ones.) Our neighbor on the other side is caring for her FIL and I worry about him - he's had a trip or two to the hospital and I always like to know that the driveway over there is clear just in case it is necessary.

It's not hard, and it doesn't take money. Believe me - you'll feel better for doing it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Not-so Wordless Wednesday

Australia is in the midst of a national disaster. While we have been complaining about the snow and cold around here, the Australians have just spent the past few weeks enduring temperatures in the 110-120°F range. Then, last weekend came the horror of the wildfires that erupted causing such a terrible loss of both life and property.

I was going to post another picture, but I decided on the one above was the best. It is an Associated Press picture taken by Mark Pardew of CFA firefighter David Tree giving water to a koala who was injured by the fire. (burned paws, apparently) Fortunately, this one story has had a happy ending, but many others have not. That is the reason I am posting the links below - they are for the Australian Red Cross and the Salvation Army of Australia.

Australian Red Cross

Salvation Army

Please consider giving.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday : The "P" Rule

When building a canoe, there is a lot of time involved and a lot of different steps. That's not to say that they are particularly difficult, but that they just require some preparation and patience. This is where the "P" Rule comes in. I'm going to post the entire 12 "P" Rule, but if you're doing this for yourself, you can go with the 6 "P" Rule. (i.e. the first 6 only)


Or, as my father likes to say, "Plan your work and work your plan."

OK, here's the thing : you are going to spend at least 80 hours building a small strip canoe and more than likely, somewhere near double that if you are detail oriented and want to build a special boat. If you're going to build a boat, you want the results to be great. Not good, great. Some of the the things that you want to look great require planning.
  • What will your feature strip look like?
  • How will the feature strip blend/contrast with the rest of the canoe?
  • Will you sort your strips for color and/or grain pattern?
  • What other woods do I want to use for deck, stems, seats, thwarts and gunnels?
  • Will I use unique hardware? (Canoe Jewelry)
  • What shapes will I use for decks and thwarts?
  • What type of seat will I have?
This really extends to a myriad of detail - you can be as detail oriented as you wish, or keep things simple.

Sometimes you're working with instructions in a book, a video or an article. Be prepared by thoroughly reading (or watching) and understanding all of what you have seen. If you don't, you're liable to make a mistake. It's not a big deal if you don't get what you've read the first time - go back, read it again and if you still don't get it, get some knowledgeable help.

The other big planning is logistics - do you have all the material that you need to begin the job you've set out for yourself on any given day? If you don't plan well, you'll find you fritter away all of your building building time running down to the hardware store or the lumber yard. This is one of the reasons you can turn an 80 hour job into a 160 hour job, too...

Planning ahead is particularly important for safety, too. Before you rush over to a power tool and try to just "trim a bit", think about how you are going to do the work. Use a piece of scrap to test your set-up before cutting your expensive mahogany that you were just looking for.

It's all part of the plan, man.

Last but not least, you should have a chair in your shop - hopefully a comfortable one where you can sit, think, read and plan. I've often heard them referred to as "moaning chairs" where you sit and think through the problem you've just created for yourself, rather than continuing to try to work and making the problem worse.

Somehow, this concept doesn't appeal to me even though my chair sometimes gets used in this way. I prefer to think of it in another way - as a sanctuary to relax and prepare or as Greg Rössel says, "a place to think and to take restorative beverages."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A small (very small) update...

So I finally had confirmation of what created the grooves in the snow the other day. As I stepped out the front door to go to work in the morning, there were small tracks in the snow that lead to a small hole in the snow (Maybe about the size of a nickel) that went under some bushes in the front yard. As you can see from the small tracks and the line in between them, it appears to be a field mouse. Strangely, this appears to be the only one in our neighborhood that has chosen to live outside. As my DW and I sit having dinner with DS and DD, or in our bedroom in the evening, we hear all of the rest of our local mice making scrabbling sounds over our head. I really need to get a cat. At least a cat that likes mice.

Here's a better picture of some tracks. Mid-stream, our mouse appears to have changed his/her mind and stopped for a bit of a break - a little scratch behind the ears, perhaps?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tug of War Anyone?

As I've noted, it has been cold and snowy around here for a while. This leads to some complications at my house. My DW and I have a queen size bed which we make up with a fitted sheet and a down comforter in a duvet cover. She has a tendency as she sleeps to pull the comforter up over the top of her head. While I don't wind up like the poor guy in the cartoon above, I tend to be left with my feet out from under the bottom of the comforter.

Occasionally (ok, maybe more than occasionally) DW sits downstairs working at her computer after I've already come up to bed. Not to rant, but I seem to be the footwarmer even though I found her a very nice hot-water bottle with a fuzzy cover for those icy toes!

Suggestions for the slightly chilled?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

You can never be:
too rich,
too good-looking,
or have
too many clamps.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

With the loss of one link...

I'm adding another new one. The link is to Qajaq USA which is the American chapter of Qaannat Kattuufiat. Qaannat Kattuufiat is the Greenland Kayak Association and supports and promotes the building, paddling and racing of Greenland style kayak - a traditional style of skin-on-frame kayak that represents a highly developed watercraft. These watercraft are unique in that they are really tailored to fit the user by anatomical dimensions such as the paddler's reach, grip, arm-span and the like.

This website is a treasure trove of information ranging from their forum, their newsletter, and video images teaching paddling and rolling techniques. One thing that I find particularly interesting is the instructions for making a Greenland style paddle by Chuck Holst that is available as a PDF file. In addition, there is a video by Matt Johnson that uses Chuck's method and shows to build a paddle. Really great information that shouldn't be missed.

If you have an interest in the information provided, consider becoming a member of Qajac USA and supporting their efforts.

I find these to be beautiful and fast boats. As you may know from my previous post, "One of each, please!" I have an interest in building one of these boats - mostly because I enjoy lightweight craft. I am convinced that these smaller, lighter boats get used much more often than cumbersome heavy boats.

With No Forwarding Address

I was very disappointed the other day. One of my favorite blogs has disappeared with no forwarding address. It was the Compass Rose Review by Peter Spectre. Peter has been the editor of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine since 1999. Before that Peter was the editor of WoodenBoat magazine and International Marine Publishing Company of Camden Maine. Peter also is the author of The Mariner's Book of Days a day planner with loads of nautical tid-bits sprinkled throught - a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys boats and the water.

At any rate, Peter's blog was about present day life and the maritime history in his part of Maine. While he published infrequently, the topics were always well-researched and well thought out. While I don't know the reason that he pulled the blog, I certainly hope to see more of his work in future from other sources. Still, the online community will be poorer for the disappearance of his blog.