Monday, March 31, 2008

And yet another name.

One of my students that was in my first year class was an avid paddler who decided that he wanted to build a boat with his own hands. He's a very nice guy who travels quite a bit for his job and was already a talented woodworker. Still, very little stuck out about either him or his canoe to really give a name to the canoe. I really wracked my brains trying to find a name. Months and months went by with no name for his canoe.

Let's see here. What could I use for a name?

He was our class "enabler". Because of the time of day that we have class, (in the morning) students tend to come in with muffins, donuts or pastries for our morning break. (We can't hold a candle to the spread the weavers upstairs put on every week, tho'.) This guy brought things in with stunning regularity. Usually donuts or even better - sticky buns from a shi-shi local coffee shop. Just like mom used to make. Krispy Kreme for a boat name? I think not.

For his feature strip, he decided on two wide strips of Port Orford Cedar. It's a lovely softwood that's really a cypress and when cut, it smells sweet, fruity and spicy all at the same time. It's a fragrance vaguely similar to sassafrass leaves. Good name material? Nope.

When he finally began to sand his boat after fairing the hull, he decided he would use a random-orbital sander rather than a longboard for his final sanding. He put the canoe outside on the edge of the parking lot, (it was a beautiful day) pulled on a pair of safety glasses and a dust mask and went to town with the sander. After about a half hour, we looked over to see how he was doing. The random-orbital sander had put so much sanding dust in the air that he was covered from head to toe. He looked like someone had turned down his contrast - like a spectre. The name came to us immediately:

The Cedar Ghost.

(See the ghost in the grain?)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Smite me again, O Barkeep?

Well, actually, I think that someone should smite the barkeep -or perhaps the brewers.

I had a bottle of their Beer of the Gods. They describe it as follows:

Beer of the Gods is an unusual blend of styles from Old Germany. We’ve taken the pale Pilsner malt used for Cologne’s famed Kölsch style and loads of spicy noble hops used in the best Altbier from nearby Dusseldorf. And we’ve topped it off with a liberal dose of extra aroma hops during a lengthy lagering stage. The result? An American beer that blends the best of two old world classics: a beer as drinkable as the very best Kölsch that satisfies like a supreme Altbier. Think of it as a German-style Farmhouse Ale. Beer of the Gods is, of course, unpasteurized and unfiltered. Alcohol content is 4.9%.

Unusual? It was really very terrible stuff. If you've got the, um, stones, to call anything the (insert noun here) of the Gods, it had better be great. If it isn't, you'd better start looking out for lightning bolts.

Would you like some tart, cold lemonade?

I suppose the "Shady Lady" posting deserves a bit more explaining. The student building the class was "mouthwatered" into doing the extra work to create the shaded hull.

Confused yet?

Let me explain.

There is a great book written by James Davidson and John Rugge called The Complete Wilderness Paddler. It's about a trip taken by the authors and two friends on the Moise River in Canada. It starts with the planning of the trip and goes into detail about the gear and techniques they used on the river. One of the things that sets this book apart from others is how they talk about the elements of human nature on the trip.

One chapter in particular refers to "mouthwatering". If I recall correctly, "mouthwatering" is even the chapter title. The chapter basically tells the story of a lunch stop on the trip. They found a large rock on the side of the river and decided to climb up onto the rock to have their lunch. Once they had reached the top of the rock with their lunch, two of them discovered that they had left the lemonade that they were going to have with lunch in the canoes at the bottom of the rock. However, rather than go get the lemonade themselves, they started bantering back and forth about the "tart, cold" and "refreshing" lemonade. Eventually, they "mouthwatered" one of the others to climb down the rock to get the lemonade, saving themselves the trip.

So it goes in the class sometimes.

It's all about human nature.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday...

Ok, not wordless - oooooohhh, aaahhhhhhh... (and only about $35,000!!!)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obsession! (For Canoe Builders)

One of my students in my canoe-building class last year had taken the class before. He learned quite a bit in the first class and was applying what he learned in the second class. One of the things he learned was how to goad other students into stretching the limits of their talents. He was interested in the idea of a boat in which the strips are very carefully arranged by color in such a way as to result in gradient shading.

He picked his victim carefully.

The "Victim" was a fairly talented and creative student and was taking the class for the first time. He is a quiet, but "driven" individual. Once the first student had planted the seed of the idea with his victim, the creative juices started flowing and the obsession kicked in.

When you make a cedar strip canoe, the first thing you need to do is to take and cut the cedar boards into 1/4" thick strips that are 3/4" wide (The 3/4" thickness is that of a "nominal" 1" thick board that has been planed. I've got a bone to pick, however. That's really a lie by the lumber mills or yards or both. They actually give you an 11/16" thick board, not 3/4"! - I feel cheated!)

At any rate, the "victim" cut his 8" wide planks into 1/4" strips. As he cut each strip, he packaged the strips exactly as they came off the board. When the cutting of a board was finished, the strips were taped together in a bundle. He did this for each board. Once the boards were cut, he arranged the bundles of strips on a table and juggled them in such a way as to get a subtle transition of both color and grain across the whole boat. Once satisfied with this, the victim then proceeded to unpackage the strips and lay them across the table, numbering them, drawing a center line across them and dividing them into two packages for the two sides of the boat. This is important so that when the cove and bead are cut on the edges of the strips that they will be "cove up" to hold glue. (works for some of the boat, but not all of it...)

So, finally, the boat will be dark in color near the gunnels, and gradually fade to light color on the bottom and then back to dark color near the gunnels on the opposite side. It should be a stunning effect. I can't wait to see how it looks.

Oh, yeah - as you can tell from the title, the students named the canoe "The Shady Lady"

In recognition of St. Patrick's Day:

One of my favorite Irish products. If beer is food, Guinness is the three-bread sandwich.

The Instruction Manual:
Why drink it?:
'Nuff said:

Friday, March 14, 2008

What's in a Name?

As you may have noted in one of my previous posts, one of the traditions that we have in the canoe building class that I teach is that each boat "earns" a name.

I picked the idea up at a lecture I once heard at a local college. A man (I think it was Keith Nyitray - if it was, the information that f0llows is about him. See the April 1993 issue of "National Geographic") had made the decision to traverse the Brooks Range in Alaska. The Brooks Range itself is above the Arctic Circle and is 700 miles long and the man's trek was about 1500 miles total. When I say "across", I mean "across" - he made the first continuous traverse of the range from Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, Canda, to Kotzebue between 1989-1990. He travelled by dog sled, snowshoes, foot, raft, and canoe. One of his more interesting pictures (other then the ones with bears and caribou) was the one of him hauling a canoe laden with gear over a snow-covered mountain.

At any rate, the dog that he made the trip with was on the stage with him. It was one of the biggest and best behaved dogs I have ever seen: a husky/wolf blend. He got the dog as a puppy at the begining of the trek from an Inuit man (Inuk). When asked what the dog's name was, the Inuk looked at him rather strangely and told him that the dog hadn't earned a name. Apparently it is tradition among the Inuit for babies and animals to go without a name until some momentous event in their life causes the name to "stick".

After a particularly difficult day early on in the trip, he and his dog were sitting around the campfire after dinner. The dog was exhausted and had fallen asleep very close to the fire. Pretty soon it got too hot near the fire for the dog and he sat up. The fur on the top of the dog's head was singed and smoking. The name? Smoke.

During one class a students announced that he had come up with a name for his own boat. I hated to shoot him down, but all of my student's boats have to earn a name (like Smoke) during the class. Over the next few posts I'm going to talk about some of the boats and how they earned their names.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Ok, not wordless - Saaaweeeeet!

Monday, March 10, 2008

A little update...

I found this AFTER the post I made on Saturday.


I am Burger of Home... er, Homer of Borg.

Freedom is irreverent, death is irrevelant... whatever.

Resistance is floor tile. D'Oh !

I am Homer of Borg. Prepare to be assimmmm... Donuts !

Can't assimilate now. Eating.

D'Oh! Stupid biomechanical nanoprobe implants !

We will assimilate your pork chops... your culture. I meant your culture.

Bart ! Have you been playing with my vertical hold again ?

No, I don’t think that’s what I said...

A repost, but a good one brought up again by the recent lunar eclipse.

The other night, we were riding in the car and my wife and I were talking about the lunar eclipse in the car. My son, in the back seat, had partially heard what we were talking about and wanted to get in on the conversation about the “egg-lips” on the moon.

It can be pretty funny when children think they’ve heard something correctly and try to repeat it. We used to keep a list of things my daughter said when she was growing up. They were simply referred to as “M****isms”. Two that come to mind are "stressed-out meat" - Sesame Street to the rest of us - and Christmas in a tree. (Also driving down the to road in December - "Look Mommy, Christmas in a tree!"). I hope that the list got backed up from my wife’s computer before the hard drive died. Otherwise, I might have to pay to get the drive restored just to get that list back.

After hearing about the egg-lips, one of my co-workers brought up a similar incident that happened at his house. His two young sons were upstairs when the youngest one came down the stairs in tears. His said that his older brother had been teasing him and told him that he had “Reptile Dysfunction”. Of course, my co-workers response to his son was, “What’s the matter, Al? Can’t get your lizard up?” At which point he broke up laughing while his very confused son just stared at him.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

If AA Milne & Fox Television wrote Star Trek scripts...

"Bother," said Pooh, "Eeyore, ready two photon torpedoes and lock phasers on the Heffalump. Piglet, meet me in transporter room three. Christopher Robin, you have the bridge."

"I am Homer of Borg. Prepare to be ...ooooh donuts!"

Making My Life Easy

Ok, what IS that thing?

Well, it is one of the things that makes my life easy in my cedar strip canoe building class. It's basically the first version of a router table that we use to cut the cove-and-bead features on the cedar strips used to build the canoes. Above the hole in the middle of the picture is a router with the cove cutter and below the table is another router with the bead cutter. Featherboards hold the strips down to the table and against the fence.

I hear the crowd going "Yeah, so?"

This thing saves a HUGE amount of time. It cuts the cove and bead at the same time and can be adjusted to fit narrow or wide strips. For each boat built, about 1/4 mile of linear strips get cut. You can do it in about an hour. That's pretty good.

We have found a few down-sides after using it for 3 years:
  • need better dust collection
  • chips have actually worn away the plywood
  • need a fool-proof (idiot-proof?) way to avoid the cutters coming together
  • dovetails on the coarse adjustment are set too wide and jam
  • both cutters need better fine adjustment
I'm thinking of a new and improved version. I've got a question for you all - should I be publishing an article about it?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Jonesing for BBQ...

I have a confession to make.

I'm a "foodie". I really do love to cook, eat and drink well. Good food, good beer, good wine.

You've never seen a guy so happy to get a set of All-Clad pots and pans. Really.

However much I love to cook in the kitchen, I really love to grill. It must be a guy thing. My DW just doesn't seem to get it. She enjoys most of what I cook on the grill - particularly the stuffed Portabella mushrooms marinated in balsamic vinaigrette - with the likely exception of baby-back ribs. (OH THE HORROR!) To be perfectly honest, that's really OK with me. :::Rubbing hands together::: More ribs for me!

I have seen people grill in all sorts of strange surroundings.

When I lived in a second and third floor apartment in an old Victorian house, I had one of those little portable propane gas grills. I made a mount for it so that it would sit on the roof just outside the living room window. Mounted to the window sill was a shelf. To grill, you just brought things over to the shelf, opened the window and started cooking. It used to drive the cat nuts.

On a canoe trip in Maine, we were floating down the river enjoying a perfectly beautiful day. We came across another group doing the same thing just around lunch time. The group had rafted up their canoes and in the center boat, they had a board mounted across the gunnels and a portable gas grill on the board. They were cooking burgers as they were going downstream. As the burgers were done, they were using a paddle like a pizza peel to pass burgers and a beer to others in the rafted canoes. Now this would have been a wonderful idea, but they placed the bottom of the grill in direct contact with the board that was across the gunnels and pretty soon it was in flames. I don't think I've seen people move so fast in quite a while!

When in high school, we used to have this strange tradition of New Years's day picnics at a local park. (We'd then go to somebody's WARM house later to play games and have hot drinks.) One year they were not able to get a fire going and were trying to cook hot dogs over the flame of a butane lighter. Interesting. Not truly successful, but interesting.

At any rate, I usually grill all year round. That can be a challenge in New England. Particularly this year. We've had so much snow that I've been unable to get to the grill (the one in the picture above) for months now. I'm now seriously jonesin' for some BBQ.

C'mon Spring!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Oh really?

The AP posted this little tidbit today:
Men who do housework may get more sex

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer Thu Mar 6, 7:46 AM ET

NEW YORK - American men still don't pull their weight when it comes to housework and child care, but collectively they're not the slackers they used to be. The average dad has gradually been getting better about picking himself up off the sofa and pitching in, according to a new report in which a psychologist suggests the payoff for doing more chores could be more sex.

Complete article here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Amateurs built the Ark...... Professionals built the Titanic

Entry for 5 March 2008








I must admit to that some people who take my class "have it" and others do not.

What am I talking about?

Vision. Not the kind you have by looking with your eyes, but the kind you have by being able to imagine things in your head. The shape of things. How they will look and fit together. How wood will look as far as color, figure and texture...

Working in a technical field, I look at lots of drawings and models and parts, so I guess I have a fairly highly developed sense of "vision". As a teacher, it's my job to explain the next steps in the boat-building process. (Usually with lots of pictures on a whiteboard.) I have to get my point across so that the students will be successful at what they are trying to create without having much to look at, really. Some people pick this up pretty quickly, and others probably never will.

I find this sad, really.

A good example of this is my DW. We were living in another house with a mostly functional, but tired and cosmetically awful kitchen. I had a picture in my head of what I wanted the kitchen to look like and drew projections looking at the two major walls of the kitchen showing the cabinets, appliances, windows, doors , switches and outlets. I also had a floor plan which showed the floor plan of the kitchen with these things in it. When I showed these drawings to my DW, I think she couldn't "picture" the kitchen well. Still, she let me go ahead. In hindsight, she really showed a lot of faith in letting me rip out the kitchen and bring it to reality!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Here's a shameless plug!

I just put up another link to a blog that's written by one of the forumites (inmates?) from the WoodenBoat Forum which is hosted by the folks at WoodenBoat Magazine. The gentleman's name is Russ Manheimer and he lives in New Jersey. Russ is the owner of a pretty little lapstrake double-ender named Sjogin, pictured above. Russ keeps a neat blog of interesting bits about his boat and his family at his website Hove to off Swan Point. It is mostly a neat collection of pictures from down at the the dock and around the house.

Recently, Russ was published in WoodenBoat #200 with an article about his beloved Sardine stove on board Sjogin. As you can tell from Russ' blog, the stove seems to get a great deal of use making tea (with rum, of course) and frying up bread. The beauty of the stove for him is that he can use his boat almost all year-round - if not for sailing, for a quiet place to read and have a cup of tea.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

You've GOT to be Kidding Me...

You will probably think that I'm rather strange for starting this post this way. I think that the Irish have a great pronunciation of the word "idiots". It comes out as "Eejits.." This post just makes me think "Eejits."

At the school where I teach my canoe building class, they have a pretty nice shop with a decent set of power tools and some hand tools. Maintenance is sort of hit-or-miss sometimes. Generally, the instructors keep the tools in good repair and replace things as necessary. I also take a class in fine furniture building as a student. When I arrived at class, my instructor recounted his arrival in the shop for his first class of the day.

Apparently, a student came into the shop to find this instructor in a state where the instructor wasn't sure if he should be laughing or crying.

Next to the bandsaw on the floor were several pieces of wood. (The picture a the top of the post is a bandsaw - not ours, but a similar tool.) They were off-cuts from the saw. The edges were black. Burnt, really. On the base of the saw there was a pile of blackened sawdust. Closer inspection showed that the blade that was in the saw was installed with the hook of the tooth pointing up. Anyone who knows anything - anything at all- about the tool, knows that the the hook points down towards the saw's table. Basically, the blade was installed upside down.

For those of you who think, "Yeah, so?", think on this - the last person to use the saw made multiple cuts. While they were using the saw, I'm sure they had to push much harder than normal. All the while they were "cutting" their stock, they had to have been generating a significant cloud of blue smoke, and perhaps making a nasty squealing noise. They were doing this in a room full of other students and an instructor. Nobody noticed?


Always know your tools. Know how to use them, and know how to maintain them. If you don't know - go learn!