Friday, May 22, 2015


Late last year, I attempted to build a cribbage board using inlaid materials and I blogged about my failures early this year. I kept at it when the garage temperatures were warm enough to work comfortably and then later, when I wasn't doing some outside project that needed to be done before temperatures got so hot. Finally a week before we left for Boston, I finally called the project complete and the pictures above and below are the result.

I used kamagong wood from the Philippines that had an interesting pattern to it. Kamagong trees start out the light tan color that you see and as they age, they slowly turn to a dark ebony color. It is a hard wood to work with because of it's hardness and the fine powder like quality of the wood when sanded. The residual "soot" gets everywhere and stains everything it touches. I made the box first and then cut the lid off from the rest of it. I inlaid the lid with a chunk of lighter colored mahogany that I had leftover so that I could burn some basic scoring information onto the bottom of the lid. I also made a compartment for the pegs and a larger one for a couple decks of cards. I also lined it with green felt to quiet down the rattling pegs and to also allow me to not have to finish sand the inside corners and edges of a small box which would have taken forever.

The woodworking parts of the project went well and I am reasonably happy with how it turned out. The finish however, I could have done better. I used some leftover polyurethane from a previous project and applied several coats to the box, inside and out but wasn't happy with how things turned out. I was using disposable foam brushes to apply the finish and I think they were leaving particulates behind. I would sand them out but by then had sanded through the finish so that the next coat was essentially starting over every time. The polyurethane would take days to dry out between coats and in places never seemed to fully dry and remain a bit gummy. Finally I bought a new can of polyurethane which solved the latter problem and I went from several days of curing down to only a few hours. I experimented with various brushes and clothes to apply the finish but had a hard time getting it to look even. I would sand it down to get that even look but lose the luster of the sheen. Finally I just called it good, never getting that satisfactory look. I think I may try to shine it up with some beeswax or something to see if that helps.

The template that I bought to drill all the holes came with metal cribbage pegs for scoring so at long last, I have a board that should stand the test of time. All the cheap boards I have owned with plastic pegs over the years have all ended up with stubs of broken pegs permanently blocking various holes. I need to start up family games of cribbage again and perhaps someday, one of my daughters can use this board to teach their kids how to play cribbage.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spring of Past

I took these photos earlier this spring but never found a place for them in any of the posts that I had so I just stuck them in a post for later. That later is now. The above photo is of my serviceberry tree that I planted last fall and then after nearly loosing three of the other trees later that night to marauding deer, caged them and the serviceberry up with wire mesh fence for their protection. I don't know if the deer got full eating the other three fruit trees, simply missed this tree, or don't like serviceberry trees for their midnight snack. I don't think I will find out and will just leave it caged for a few more years until it is big enough to defend itself.

About the same time, the other trees were just starting to leaf out and spring storms were passing through. Because my house is surrounded by trees, it is about impossible to photograph these storms until they are right overhead or have passed us by and are heading east. Below is a storm as it passed overhead and headed east one evening.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Killing Time Between Errands

While running an errand, I swung up a road I had traveled part way up some time ago to travel further down it to a park that I had heard about. I had no plans other than to see what kind of park it was and I discovered that it was merely a small parking lot off the side of the road overlooking the river and this railroad bridge used by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. While taking a picture, I noticed the river was full of what looked like chunks of ice floating downstream. It was way too late in the season for it to be ice so I zoomed out my camera and grabbed the picture below. It appears to just be foam but I have no idea from what.

On my way back to the head of the road so I could continue on with my errands, I was stopped by a coal train crossing the road. Though I missed the head of the train, there were at least a hundred fully loaded coal cars that passed by before these two engines appeared in the middle of the train. After they went by, there was another hundred plus full loaded coal cars behind them and another two engines. All told, I suspect there were six engines on this train and maybe around 250 cars full of coal, all moving at a slow walking pace. Seeing as I wasn't in too big of a hurry, I just rolled down the window and listened to them roll by for the next fifteen minutes or so.  This was most certainly the longest train I have ever seen.

Finally somewhere between the train bridge and the train track crossing, I passed by this cabin in the woods. I don't know the story of it but it caught my eye so I took a picture. It is definitely one of the older structures I know about in this area. Behind it were the bookends of a building long gone made from stone. I suspect it was a barn of some sort.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Forty Days After Four Months

Earlier this year after the untimely death of reporter Bob Simon, I lamented on learning that he had written a book that sounded very interesting about his 40 days of captivity in Iran. The reason for my sadness was that people who had the out of print book were taking advantage of his death by trying to sell their copies on the internet for up to $2500 a copy. I never saw any sell at that price but I did see several that sold up near the $100 mark. So over the last three months, I have kept tabs on the book on various online places as they slowly dropped back to normal pricing and finally at long last, was able to purchase a used copy for $10. It will go onto my "to read" pile bookshelf for consumption as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

You Can't Have Enough Bookshelves

Long time readers will know that I NEED space to store all my books that I own. They are my entertainment hedge if the world should go to pot and I need to seclude myself inside for years while a nuclear holocaust clears or a zombie apocalypse kills itself off. In my first house I built a large built-in bookcase on either side of our fireplace. In this house, I built an even larger version taking up an entire wall in our downstairs family room and immediately filled it with all my books as you can see in the linked post. Most of those books are ones that I have read and have deemed excellent enough to hang onto for future use but I do keep a couple shelves for unread books. This way when I return a finished book, I have a selection at hand to choose from.

Time went by and I grew lazy enough to start a "to read" pile next to my bed so that if I finished a book in the minutes before I drifted off to sleep, I could grab another one without having to make a journey downstairs. As can be expected with my addiction to books, that stash kept getting bigger until the pile turned into several. Along the way, I had memories of a bookshelf built by a blogger who no longer blogs floating around in my brain and I thought this might be a great use of that idea. Plus I had a dovetail jig that I haven't used since I bought it with some Christmas money given to me by my parents that would create strong enough joints to hold all those books with just a little bit of glue. Thus my idea for building a bookshelf for my bedroom wall was born.

I had some leftover pine board ends from a basement shelving project so I ripped those down to size and decided on using half-blind dovetails for the corners and sliding dovetails for the intersection since both those could be done on the same template for my jig. It took awhile to set up the depth stops on the jig with scrap materials but once set up, it took me about five minutes to do all the dovetail work. After that, it was just a lot of clamps and glue. The boards weren't as straight at I would have liked so several of them have slight bows in them. If I had a continuous surface on which to attach the shelf instead of only 3 studs spaced 16 inches apart, I could have removed the bows somewhat to where they weren't so noticeable. Since I couldn't do that here, I just attached it to the wall the best I could and called it good enough.

After doing all the dovetailing, I hated to cover it up with white paint, but pine boards just didn't go with the rest of the bedroom decor. I struggled a bit with how I should hang this book shelf on the wall. At first I was thinking small metal brackets but I thought those would be too visible and ruin the look. Then I thought about using actual white brackets that were made from the same material but aesthetically is just didn't look right in my mind. Then it hit me that perhaps I could use my Kreg pockethole jig that I had bought years ago with more Christmas money. I drilled five pocketholes in areas over studs and screwed it to the wall. Because the fasteners are below and above eye level, they are invisible for now. I can plug them and paint over so you would never see any of the fasteners ever again but we are going to repaint the wall later this year and I don't want to paint around the shelf. Also, if for some reason we get our dream house built and need to sell this place, I may want to take this with me.

Warning: Only about half my bedside stash of books are shown in this picture!