Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012


Yes, that is what you think it is - a puddle in the parking lot at work.  You may question my sanity at taking pictures of wet tarmac, but I'm pretty much overjoyed.  We got about 2" of rain locally and that bodes well for some good paddling coming up. 

Sure, we'll need more rain, and with the rain, I'll spend a bit more time mowing and weeding, but we really needed the rain!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

All things must pass...

It's been kind of a tough week here at the Chateau D'Zaster this past week.  I've been having a difficult time absorbing it all.  A good friend of mine had been sick for a while with a somewhat manageable, but untreatable form of cancer.  If you're a regular reader, you probably have heard me mention him before.  I've known him for about 18 years.  We met when we were working for the same company and became fast friends.  Even after I left the company we often did things together including paddling, building boats and just spending time together.  It was his kind gift of an old wood stove that kept my family warm in a house we'd bought that had electric heat.  As an individual, he was kind, funny, creative and irreverent who enjoyed his friends and a good time.  His girlfriend, at the time, now his wife, was the sister of a high school classmate - a fact I didn't figure out until I'd known them for almost a year.

For the past three years, friends and neighbors have brought in the firewood to keep he and his wife warm for the winter.  It was one of the few things that we could actively do to help other than spending time with them.  Reflecting on the wood cutting parties, I can honestly say that I was humbled to be able to be a part of such a great group of people.

He was very fortunate in that his wife is a nurse.  She was able to help him and communicate with his doctors and nurses about his condition and needs.  She's a wonderful lady and an incredibly strong person.

Last Friday, we got a call to let us know that his situation had taken a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse.  He had been fighting an infection that was probably a result of his immune system being compromised by the treatment that he was receiving, but his system couldn't hold out.  Although we would have all wished him to stay with us, that was not meant to be. Ultimately, his body began to shut down and his wife was left with the decision to remove life support.  She was able to be with him when he finally passed on last Saturday.

A memorial service will take place this Saturday and friends and neighbors will gather again.  This time to remember him in our own way.  I think it will be filled with fond memories and hope to be able to both give and receive some small measure of comfort in being amongst this good company.  I think that my friend would be disappointed in us if we didn't gather together and have a good time.

For DS and DD this week, it hasn't been easy, either.  In addition to my friend, who was like a favorite uncle to them, they're probably going to lose their pet.   We had two gerbils that we took in from a neighbor - a father and his son - and lost the father last fall at a ripe, old age.  The remaining gerbil, who has also had a long life, is slowly slipping away.  He's been sleeping more and eating and drinking less, even when offered some of his favorite things.  It seems that it's just  his time.  He will probably join his father tonight - slipping away peacefully in his sleep.

It just seems to have been a series of hard lessons in loss this week.  And we can't change that.

I think the best words that I can think of are those from the poet and writer Kahlil Gibran:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your
laughter rises was oftentime filled with your tears...
When you are joyous, look deep into
your heart and you shall find it is only
that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in
your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Paddles are progressing...

Oh, yeah - and oars, too!  My two oar-makers had cut a tenon on the end of the Western Red Cedar and Spanish Cedar oar blades at our last class.  In addition, they also cut a mating dado into a piece of Walnut for the tip and bonded it on the tenon.  This week they continued to shape the tips and the looms.  They even look like oars now.

The double-bladed paddle that has progressed the furthest is nearly ready to be split to accommodate the stainless-steel ferrule that will turn this into a two-piece paddle.  When you have a paddle that is as long as a kayak paddle, it is truly handy to have a ferrule for transporting it.  The other advantage of the ferrule is that they allow for setting the paddle blades to a left- or right-handed feathering or un-feathered position.  The feathered blade position is nice for paddling into the wind.  People with wrist, elbow or shoulder problems sometimes prefer the blades to be un-feathered  to reduce the stress of twisting required when using feathered blades.

Some of the students are starting to work on fine details - like grip shaping.  The Microplane shaping tool has been a very handy item for this shaping.  It cuts the wood and leaves a very nice surface - unlike a rasp which tears the wood fibers.  It even does a great job on end-grain.

There's still some work going on that requires making lots of shavings...

Some of the more ambitious design work is continuing and should be ready soon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tech Tip Tuesday

Sometimes the best thing you can do in the shop is - nothing.


I can see some of you aren't taking me seriously here.

You should.

Let me explain.

Over the last few weeks, I've been working to get the skin-on-frame kayak ready for skinning.  It's not that difficult or time-consuming, but I've got to carve out bits of time to do some small tasks.  Things like finishing up the coaming, hatch and rim.  This involves getting them sanded and varnished and putting lacing holes in the coaming and the rim.  Then, I've got to put the last coat of urethane on the frame.  I've also collected all the necessary skinning materials and tools.  Great.  Just the way any good project goes - in small, manageable bits.

Tonight, I have four small tasks to do.  One is to coat a small piece of fabric with some yellow oil-based enamel.  Part has been pre-coated with polyurethane to seal it and the other is bare.  I want to see how the fabric penetrates.  Then I read the can.  It's not the oil-based paint I asked for, but a can of water-based acrylic.  Not the right stuff.  Dang.  Can't do it.

The next task is to install the foot brace in the boat now that I've done the finished coating.  It involves installing four bolts, washers and lock-washers in pre-drilled holes.  The task goes something like this:
  • Collect hardware and foot braces.  
  • Get power driver and install bolts through foot brace and frame.  
  • Remove bolts. 
  • Take power driver and install bolts through foot brace and frame with foot braces right-side up.
  • Look for wrench.
  • Got get wrench from toolbox. (On far side of basement.)
  • Go get proper sized wrench from toolbox.
  • Get screwdriver that I've forgotten from toolbox
  • Install washer.
  • Grab lock nut.
  • Pick up washer from floor and re-install.
  • Start threading on nut.
  • Pick up nut from floor and install.
  • Repeat for other three washers and lock nuts.
I finally got the foot braces installed and put the tools away.

After the last two tasks, I should have thrown in the towel.  I didn't, however - much to my chagrin.

I'm worried that the coating I'm planning to use on the fabric will penetrate the cloth and stick to the frame.  To prevent that, I figured that I'd wax the frame members where they contact the fabric.  I was originally thinking of using some beeswax that I have around for the task, but instead decided to go find some paste car wax as it would be easier to apply.  I'm out of paste wax.  I do, however, have a bottle of Mother's Carnuba wax liquid that's probably about 20% full.  I figure that this will do and it is a good excuse to finish up the last bit of the wax which has been hanging around for longer than I'd care to admit.

I open the nozzle and invert the bottle squeezing liquid into the cloth and applying it to the frame.  As I'm working, the nozzle clogs slightly and I give the bottle what I figure is a gentle squeeze.  The bottle shatters in my hand covering me from head to toe in liquid wax.  The stuff is everywhere.  It's like the contents of the bottle have atomized across the basement. 

Murphy.  You SOB.

I get the rag and some alcohol and do the best I can to clean the floor and everything else that is covered in wax.

Again, I should have stopped here.  But I didn't.

Last task - sew some small loops of webbing to the frame with D-Rings for the back-rest.  I cut the webbing to length and slip it and the D-Ring in place.  I thread the needle (after sending it flying out of the package and searching for it) and start sewing.  On my third stitch, I send the needle into my thumb.  At this point, I recognize that the evening is doomed in the shop and head upstairs.

While I hope you have a chuckle or two at my expense, I do want you to take away an important message here.  If you're working in the shop and you're tired, angry, frustrated, or distracted, you're much more likely to have problems, or worse - and accident that causes injury.  I've spoken about this before and I can't emphasize it enough.  For now, I'm heading to the Thotful Spot with a restorative beverage.