Friday, November 28, 2014

Darkness


Tis the season of darkness and I could just as soon do without it. Due to going off of Daylight Savings Time, it seems like all my meetings start and thus end in the dark. For some reason during warm summer months, that never bothers me but when it is cold out, it is just downright depressing.

Most of it is my fault since I could very well be home sitting in front of a cheery fire reading a good book, of which I have many to choose from. Instead, I feel like I have to give back to the community so I am a member of a fraternal organization and more recently, a member of the local school board. Between those two things and an assortment of other odd social engagements, it seems like I'm out on cold winter nights more than I would like to be. On the plus side, it makes me cherish those warm evenings in front of the fire with a good book even more.

I should note that the picture is of one of the Catholic Churches in our town. It is version three according to the history books. The first one was a log cabin replaced by a large stone structure where this one sits. Version two burnt down in the 1880's and this one was built to replace it. As far as buildings go in this country, we have precious few buildings that old still standing and in use. I guess that is why I am always slack jawed when I go to places in England and such with buildings approaching 500 to 1000 years old.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Next Project Please


If you may recall, we started this whole thing this summer by pulling up some half dead shrubbery that was planted way too close to our house. This led to us moving the sidewalk away from the house by three feet to give us so more room and because the sidewalk was in poor condition anyway, which led to pouring the driveway and garage floor while we were doing it. That led to me jacking up the garage and putting a new garage door in to match the now level concrete which got us to evaluating the state of our siding which is in poor condition. We had a friend of mine over one evening to quote helping me put up the siding thinking it would be prohibitively expensive after spending a sum of money on landscaping and concrete. He turned out to be quite reasonable and so since we had the money in our savings account, we said why not get it done all in one go. So we shook hands, paid for the material up front and three weeks later, this pile of siding, soffit, house wrap and other material ended up on our front lawn. Yes a new project has begun.


This is the picture I took of the front of the house hours before we put an offer on it and was excepted. Due to the distance, you can't really tell but all those vertical beams in the front are merely decoration and mostly rotted away. Removing those would leave large gaps in our siding which was masonite and only marginal at best in condition. Masonite siding, unless painted frequently and thoroughly, doesn't hold up to moisture well and the previous occupants rarely painted the house from the looks of things. So our options were to replace all the beams with more beams, which we hate anyway and try to get a few more years out of the masonite by repainting it or residing the house. We decided on the latter. After some research, we decided to go with pre-finished fiber cement boards because they hold up to moisture well even if the paint isn't kept up. It doesn't warp and buckle in the extreme temperatures like vinyl siding. It doesn't blow off like vinyl siding does when we get straight line winds. It also accepts paint very well so when the time comes and color styles change, we can repaint it easily.


Because my wife works long hours and I am just one man with two kids to take care of, we ended up hiring my friend and his friend to do the bulk of the work why I tackle the multitude of odd jobs like outdoor spigots, dryer vents, electrical and gas connections, painting, gutters, etc., while they do the actual siding work. It keeps me busy and them busy. Here we have stripped off those hideous fake wooden beams and siding. As you can see, being a house of the mid 70's, they used a combination of plywood and blackboard to sheath the house. Blackboard doesn't hold up well to moisture which is why they have gone away from it. So we are patching the blackboard where it needs it, adding house wrap to prevent moisture penetration to and just sealing up the house better anyway, and then siding over that. Right now we are working on the soffit and next we will be putting on the wrap, trim and then siding. After that, there are three more sides to go, two of which are the most difficult of all of them. On a side note, we got a little dusting of snow and a very cold snap the night we tore off the siding. The cold snap is forecasted to stay around for the next seven days so it won't be the most pleasant conditions to work in but at least no rain is in the forecast with the blackboard exposed, something I was worried about if I ended up doing everything by myself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Watching the Michael Brown Train Wreck

It was like watching a slow motion train wreck. I just happened to turn on the television as they were getting ready to announce the grand jury's findings in Ferguson, Missouri. As the cameras were panning the crowd waiting for the verdict, I could see multitudes of black youths with bandannas covering their faces and gas masks on top of their heads. I knew right then that there was going to be a riot.

The fellow reading back the grand jury verdict did a pretty good job of laying everything out. Unlike the commentators in the media, he mentioned the robbery which brought all this to the head. He laid all the forensic evidence showing that Michael Brown attached the police officer in the car and where he was shot first up until he came back towards the officer and met his ultimate face. But as he was reading all this, pan shots of the crowd who were listening only showed people shaking their heads no. Finally the announcement that there would be no indictment.

Michael Brown's family has stressed time and again that they want only peaceful protests but when the hammer came down Michael Brown's stepfather immediately jumped up on a platform and said, "Burn this bitch down" about twenty times at the top of his lungs. The slow motion train wreck started as I watched black youths go down the street breaking out windows in buildings and cars, pouring lighter fluid on them and set them afire. There were bricks, bottles and all sorts of things thrown at the police. Then the crowd started complaining that the police was being heavy handed by using tear gas. Despite that, Michael Brown's stepfather got his wish. I found it ironic that the Rev. Al Sharpton hinted that the Ferguson police allowed the rioters to burn the black part of town down while protecting the white areas.

I just have to shake my head at all this. The black community as they refer to themselves, say this was a racial murder despite all the black witnesses that testified to the grand jury otherwise. The black pundits said that the grand jury didn't have expert witnesses, cross examination, intense pressure put on them like they would get in a trial and thus the grand jury didn't find the truth. They could care less that a grand jury just looks to see if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial and that had they found enough evidence, a trial with all the expert witnesses, cross examinations and intense pressure would have been had.

Yes, there are police officers that get carried away and do criminal acts against innocent blacks. But not every incident is that way and in fact, a slim minority are that way. Yet when the black community decided to riot whenever one is found without merit, it is hard to take their cause seriously. They are doing a grave disservice to themselves. Right now, I'm not sure what the answer is but I would say that the black community is setting themselves back in their fight for racial equality. It seems as if in their eyes, everything isn't equal until it is and then their solution is to riot.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chazen Museum of Art


Although I do occasionally do artistic things such as painting or drawing and I do consider myself decent at it, I don't consider myself an artist. My wife is much better than I at such things and loves to visit art museums. I have a hard time getting enthused about looking at paintings. The older ones all look similar to me and the modern ones have me thinking I could do something like that. So I was a little hesitant when my wife wanted to visit the Chazen Museum of Art at the end of one day after we had already done lots of miles of walking. But they had lots of sculptures and works of art that weren't two dimensional paintings and that attracts me a lot, probably because I stink at doing sculpture. I could spend days walking through an art gallery full of sculptures and admiring them.


So as my wife wandered off looking at paintings, I wandered off looking at sculptures.


I think these were actually real jellyfish preserved in a solid translucent medium. They were quite stunning.


Due to the limits of kids too young to appreciate such things, we only got about halfway through the museum on the first day but as luck would have it, we had some free time the next day so we went back and finished it. I was pleasantly surprised by an entire area dedicated to 18th century furniture. As close to sculpture as I come it making furniture and I love working with wood. It is my hope that someday when I get caught up on all the projects in life that I can set my sights on building really nice furniture like what is seen in these pictures. "They just don't make them like that anymore" is the understatement of the year.


I love to write in my journals every evening but have never had a dedicated desk where I could store my journals, pens and have a place to write. Any flat surface that I currently have in our house collects artifacts from our daily lives and is not really conducive to writing. So someday, I may build something similar to this.


There was a dresser build with book matched pieces of burl maple that was just exquisite. It has only been recently with my pen making hobby that I have discovered the world of burl and spalted woods. Since then, every tree I see with a large burl on it has me making a mental note of cutting that burl off when it dies in hopes of seeing wood grain like what can be seen above.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Olbrich Botanical Gardens


One of the places we like to visit whenever we go to a new area is the botanical center. Every major urban area seems to have one and our family enjoys them. The kids have plenty of space to run around and burn off energy without risk of damaging something (unlike a museum or art gallery) and I can relax to enjoy the sites around me enough to take some photographs.


Unlike most botanical centers we have been too, this one had quite a bit of natural water features in it and thus quite a few walk bridges over them. All were very picturesque and I found myself drawn to them through my lens.


Classic fall photo in my opinion.


Yet another bridge.


To me, this bench seems more like a work of art than a resting spot. I just loved how the lichen had attached itself all over it.


Because it was in the middle of November when I took these, there wasn't a lot in the vegetation to take pictures of but I did end up with a couple good photos. The sinister garden up above which certainly lives up to its name and the one below of a tree whose name now escapes me but whose bark was beautiful.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Madison


Generally my vacation of choice involve a road trip to somewhere scenic with some hiking, camping or outdoor activity involved. When my wife and I first got married, we did a lot of just that. However with two young kids, the youngest still in diapers, it really isn't a very attractive option until they get bigger. Instead we have found that going to urban centers is an attractive option. I have spent most of my life avoiding them so they are still new and interesting to me. They have lots of things kids find interesting and yet convenience is always near if necessary. They also are full of cultural things that attract me like museums, art galleries, botanical centers, historical places, etc. Finally, we love to try new foods that just aren't found in rural southeast Iowa but can be found elsewhere.

So with that said, I have been reading the blog of someone on here who lives in Chicago but has spent lots of time in Madison, Wisconsin over the years. We've done Chicago numerous times along St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Omaha and of course our capital city of Des Moines but in all that time, we've never been to Madison. So we decided to recitify that glaring absence in our travels and head there. So I contacted the blogger, asked for recommendations on where to eat since that is often hard to discern good from bad via the internet and we took off. Our itinerary was to visit their Children's Museum, botanical garden, zoo, farmer's market, capital building, art gallery and to eat at some of the recommended food places. Pretty easy as far as planning goes and it was a pretty relaxing trip.

It turned out to be fairly cold during the trip but nothing we couldn't easily dress for. Due to having young kids and our desire to eat at some restaurants that might not be all that kid friendly, we minimize risk by generally pumping them full of snacks and eating at odd hours to avoid having a kidtastrophe in a crowded restaurant. This generally meant eating lunch or supper, earlier than normal or later than normal to avoid the crowds. When it was earlier, we had to time our visits since we were getting there soon after they opened for the meal. That is why on a cold and overcast last afternoon, we found ourselves in this park overlooking the isthmus where downtown Madison is located between two large lakes waiting for a nearby restaurant to open up for an early supper. I snapped a few pictures to stay warm while the kids played on the playground and then we went in for an early supper that was kidtastrophe free.


Monday, November 17, 2014

House On the Rock


I've been to Wisconsin a few times in my life. A couple times to whitewater kayak and once on a trip to visit my parents who were midway on their third bicycle ride across the continent. All those times had been quite awhile ago so when our daughter's school had two days off before a weekend, we decided to make a long weekend of it and travel up there to see what we could see. Largely we were just heading to the Madison, Wisconsin area but along the way, I saw the signs for House on the Rock.

Now I had thought House on the Rock was a Frank Lloyd Wright house built over rocks and a waterfall but it wasn't. That was nearby. House on the Rock was a house built by one man over the years to specifically be a tourist attraction. Now it is nothing but a tourist trap as I call them, designed to separate money from your wallet while on vacation. But since we were there, we had the place pretty much to ourselves due to it being the middle of the week and cold, we decided to separate some money from my wallet and see it.


It was okay. I found the history of the place, the whys and hows it was built to be dull, but as an eccentric art collection, it was really neat. The man who built the house, also collected stuff and built rooms out of various things that were really quite beautiful. The man, whose name escapes me but really isn't important enough to look up, had enough money coming in from tourism that he was able to employ a large staff dedicated to building artistic things such as the statue seen above.


The only two pictures I have of the actual house that the fellow built that are showable are the one above and below and these are of a room added by more recent owners of the house. They are of a room cantilevered above the valley floor and built so that it kind of resembles that it goes to infinity and thus the name.


Once you got out to the end where it was gates off, you came to a window in the steel girders with a glass window in it so you could see just how high you were in the sky. Being steel and it was a windy day, there was quite a bit of flex in the floor which when combined with the view through the window, was kind of unnerving.


Among the many collections, two of the largest were scrimshaw and guns. This scrimshaw work just blows me away with the intricacy of it.


At one point in the tour, you came to a large room and if you looked up at the ceiling, you saw hundreds of these. It was neat and spooky and downright disturbing all at the same time. I'm not sure what called this man to turn manikins into angels and I'm not sure I want to meet him to find out.


This wasn't art intentionally nor was it displayed but along one of the paths I spied this tree which had grown around a board that had been presumably nailed to it at one point. I view trees largely as inanimate objects but when given a time frame such as this tree growing around a board, it illustrates that they are very much alive and growing.


With the price of admission, we were given some tokens for "music boxes" scattered throughout the place. The first couple of music boxes were simply animatronic type displays but eventually we came to a series of large animatronic displays that pretty much take your breath away. While few parts still functioned in the displays, enough did to give you a sense of how grand they must have been back in the day. Each one played a different song and had anywhere from a couple dozen instruments all played by machine to a few hundred instruments.


Part of the self guided tour referred to a carousel at the end of section 2 and start of section 3. I thought it would be a good place to let the kids blow off some energy before we tackled the last third of the tour. However it turned out to be a display of the largest carousel in the world and we weren't allowed to ride it. So you can see my eight year old standing there lost in amazement and disappointment. It had just shy of 300 animals to choose from and not one of them was a horse.

I took lots of pictures during the tour but few turned out. I think being a tourist trap, they intentionally kept all the rooms barely lit so that without a flash, you couldn't grab a decent picture and with a flash, most things were too far away for the flash to light up. So in order to see the place, you actually have to pay money to see the place, a well thought up plan for a tourist trap.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hubbard Squash


The first day I spent hauling in corn for my parents was a cold day and the first hard freeze of the fall was scheduled to arrive that evening so during my few spare seconds between loads if my dad hadn't yet got the wagons I was to haul back to the field emptied yet, I picked all the squash from their garden. There was a lot of squash to pick this year and I ended up with a car load of hubbard and butternut squash that I hauled back to my house. Due to our schedule with an impending vacation coming up, I didn't want to start a new project so instead, I processed a dozen squash for canning.

Hubbard squash are very large, the one above was probably close to 40 pounds, and have a thick rind so they aren't the easiest thing to cut down into manageable pieces to bake. (Note the regulation sized fork stuck into it for scale.) The first year I used a hammer and a large chef's knife but destroyed the knife in the process. I've used other things but eventually I found the tool of choice. I use my vibrational mutli-tool that is a must have in the shop these days because it slices through the thick rind like butter. I just clean it up real well before using it on our edible produce. I cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and bitter stringy material in the middle as seen above and then cut them into quarters and bake until soft. I then scoop the flesh from the skin and pack into quart jars which I then can in a pressure canner. Then we use it throughout the year to make pumpkin pies, rolls, cakes, cookies, bread and one of my personal favorites, ice cream. It is so good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hauling In the Grain


The day I finished up my garage project, I got the call from my parents asking if I could help them for a couple days hauling in the corn from their farthest fields. With so much corn to harvest and the fields being about six miles from the grain bins, it takes a lot of people to keep the operation going so that the combine never has to stop and wait for anyone. So the following morning I was up and on the road before dawn heading towards the farm. I don't often get to see sunrises since they are blocked by trees where I live so it was a treat to watch the sun come up as I drove along.


A lot has changed since my days on the farm. Gone are the days of tiny wagons with regular hitches that required two or three trips out of the cab of the tractor before you got the holes to line up and the hitch pin in place. Back then, extendable tongue were the 'new' technology but you still had to get the hitch holes in a straight line to get the pin in. These days my dad has invested in quick hitch technology which means I can hook and unhook wagons without ever leaving the tractor cab. This frees up time when I reach the fields but with much larger wagons that weight a lot more, it takes a lot more focus to haul the loads down the roads safely.


The first order of business is to 'open up' a field. Farmers plant rows of crops around the perimeter of the field called end rows. It allows the combine to harvest corn there without getting into the fences, trees, or roads around the perimeter and also gives them an area to turn in when harvesting the inside rows of the field. Once the end rows are all harvested, the field is considered open and it makes harvesting it a lot easier and faster. The picture above is of a field that has been opened.


Once opened, I can see the rows going through the middle of the field which makes me want to hop down and take a few pictures. For the most part though, I didn't have time to get out of the tractor much. When I brought the empty wagons to the field, I would place them close to where they were harvesting but not in the way when they were turning around. The combine runs non-stop and a person running a large catch wagon follows the combine around so when it gets full, he pulls underneath the unload auger and they unload the grain from the combine while it is still harvesting. This is called unloading on the go. Once the combine has been emptied, it continues on and the catch wagon will go unload the grain into the wagons that I bring to the field. I then hook onto a full wagon and haul it down the roads to the grain bins where my father unloads them into the proper bins to be dried and stored. I pick up the empty wagons he has ready and haul them back to the field and the process starts all over again.


I did this all day long from sunup to sundown for two days to get the farthest field harvested and brought in. It was a lot of work and I slept well both evenings but it is one of my favorite things to do. For us, it is almost equivalent to watching the balance of your bank account increase like the debt clock in one constant circling of dials. After a year of preparation, the fruits of our labor are finally coming to fruition.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Garage Project Finished


As you can see, I finally finished my garage project. I'm sure I will still do some tweaking as time goes along but for now, I'm pulling the plug to move onto other things. Although I didn't plan it, I was able to use a full sheet of plywood for the drawer fronts and only ended up with less than a square foot of scrap. I would have been very happy had I planned it but since I had to load up the second sheet of plywood I bought to return it, I wasn't as happy.

Installing the drawer slides went okay. Had I been planning all this ahead of time, I would have installed the half of the slides that went inside the cabinet as I built it. It was pretty claustrophobic trying to get my torso deep enough in there so that I could apply enough pressure to drive in the Phillips head screws that they supplies. I've gone almost entirely to torques head fasteners for my projects so I don't end up with stripped head screws when I'm done. I've used the same screws over and over on many projects without ever stripping the heads.

When I installed the first drawer, I almost had a disaster. When fussing to get the drawer lined up with the slides, I somehow knocked the end of the slide off sending what felt like a thousand metal ball bearings rolling around the garage. In actuality it was only about a dozen and I was able to find each and every one and put them back in the slide and snap in the cap again. All was well after that and I never repeated the accident.

The picture below shows one of the drawers loaded full of sanding supplies. The slides are rated to hold 200 pounds and this drawer probably only weighed about 50 pounds loaded so I have a large margin of error. My drawer full of screws and nails probably has the most weight. They are also full extension so I can see everything in the drawer easily. The only other problem I had was because I left the drawer sides so small compared to the opening, the drawer fronts extended much higher than the drawer. Because they are made from 1/2" plywood which is not the flattest thing to work with, there are gaps where sawdust can fall into the drawer. I shimmed the drawer fronts to make them as tight as possible and will just live with the gaps for now. If it becomes a huge deal, I'll put a filler piece on the workbench top to extend out away and cover up the gaps.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Comfortable Drivers

This spring I received a recall notice on one of our vehicles stating that there was a recall on a particular part but they didn't have a fix yet. They would send me another notice when they had a fix to bring my vehicle in and get it repaired. Later this summer, I received a second recall about some programming bug in the Vehicle Stability Assist module which could cause inadvertent braking in certain situations. Because I knew there was another recall in the works, I opted to wait until I could get both done at the same time since the nearest dealer is about 90 miles away. That day came up a couple weeks ago and I made the trip to get the recalls fixed.

While I was waiting, I decided that I would slowly mosey through the acres of new cars checking them out. I was doing just that when ten minutes later on the far side of the lot, a sales person finally cornered me and asked if he could address any questions I might have. I told him that I was just killing time while my vehicle was getting recall work done on it. He proceeded to ask about my vehicles that I owned and their ages. I have an 07 minivan, an 01 vehicle that is my wife's daily driver and my 98 which was my daily driver and is what I drive when I'm by myself. The man seemed to think that it was time to upgrade a few of them because they were getting old. I told him I really wasn't interested just yet.

He finally left me alone but it got me to thinking. I'm pretty sure he though they needed traded in because they are 8, 14 and 17 years old respectively. Many people I know don't drive vehicles 8 years old much less 17 years old. Sure there are a lot of nice features on newer cars but when I or my wife are in our cars for less than five minutes at a time most days, that doesn't leave a lot of time to use them. The minivan is our trip car and gets a lot longer time driving road miles but with two kids and a mother-in-law, there really isn't a need for other distractions.

So the more I thought about it, the more comfortable I am with keeping our currently lineup of vehicles and resisting the 'Keeping Up With the Joneses' mentality. Here are a few reasons why:

1. They are all paid for in full. I don't owe a dime on them. In fact, I paid cash for all of them so I never paid anyone else interest for the privilege of owning them. Because I'm not making payments, I have saved up a sum of money in our rainy day emergency fund that will more than cover the cost of two or three brand new cars if for some reason they were all destroyed at one go.

2. Because they are old, I only carry liability insurance on the 14 and 17 year old vehicles because it they are totaled, it really won't be a financial burden. It will be inconvenient but with only two drivers and three vehicles, minus the one that hypothetically just got totaled, we should still survive. By law it is mandatory to carry liability insurance but it is dirt cheap compared to comprehensive collision insurance. I do have comprehensive insurance on the newest vehicle although it is quickly getting to the point where I'm debating the merits of that. Because it gets a lot of road miles, the odds of it getting into an accident are much greater and it is worth more money should it get into an accident. But because it is older than most, the comprehensive insurance for it is pretty cheap because it if is totaled, it isn't worth a whole lot of money.

3. I hate to give up any of our cars to make room and I would feel really guilty owning four vehicles for only two drivers. My oldest car is 17 years old but only has 130,000 miles on it and it is known for reliability with many drivers getting well over 250,000 miles on them. I've never lived far from work and once married with kids, it being a two door coupe just doesn't get used as much. If I were to sell it though, it is probably only worth a $1000 which wouldn't get me much of anything for a replacement. In fact, I could sell both the two oldest cars and probably be lucky to pocket a few thousand dollars. So to me, they are worth more to just own as backup vehicles should I need them. The oldest car is also the first car I bought on my own and not from my parents so it also has a sentimental value to it. I still love to drive it.

4. I am comfortable in them. For me, it is like putting on a favorite pair of jeans when hopping into them. I know where all the buttons are (and they don't have many compared to modern vehicles) and how to work them. Not only that, but I am comfortable where ever I park them. The are dented, scratched and chipped and though from a distance still look nice when washed, up close they look well used. If you have ever bought a new vehicle, the first scratch hurts the worst and even the next few are tough. Once you get by those, new scratches barely even cause me to blink. I don't worry about door dings, stray shopping carts or even minor bumps into immovable objects. I've got an old car with lots of character, what's a little more.

5. I really don't like many of the new cars I have seen these days. I like the electronics and new features but the styling sucks. It seems like the cars keep shrinking, gaining more plastic and all for more money. Generally when you use less and cheaper materials things get less expensive. Nobody makes a small truck these days except Toyota and they are the same price as full size trucks. Small SUV's not look like station wagons and sedans look like you should save the box they came in just in case you need to return it for a refund. I guess I just don't get new vehicle designs unless you get to the really expensive ones which appear to have though put into aesthetics. I just can't justify the price when I am in it for less than fifteen minutes a week.

So I made my rounds through the show lot of the dealership untempted to trade in any of my well used comfortable vehicles. I picked up my 'still new to me' eight year old mini-van with new parts and drove home. It only has 90,000 miles after eight years of use so I'm still hoping it will see us through one kid moving out and possibly both. Perhaps if I hold out long enough, car designers will realize that their market could be a whole lot bigger if they put some style back into their cars.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Making Drawers


As you can see, I'm closer to getting drawers for my custom built workbench. I am making drawers for the two upper left cavities and the four right cavities. I found some full extension drawer slides at a reasonably price online that are supposed to hold up to 200 pounds which should be more than enough for my needs. I made the drawers out of pine 1 x 6 material for the sides and front and 3/4" plywood for the bottom. I haven't decided it I'm going to make drawer fronts to cover the opening and prevent dust from getting everything dirty or if I'm going to go with hinged doors. I'm leaning toward hinged doors right now since there will be several cavities that will require a hinged door anyway. But it means I have to buy hinges. I think I'll make the call once I get the drawers in place.

A few of the drawers have clamps applied diagonally to square up the drawers while they dry. I leave a little bit of wiggle room in the bottom panel to allow me to do that because making a square drawer always makes using drawer slides a lot easier.


I've shown this jig before on here but I'll show it again. It is my box joint cutting jig and is a simple way to make incredibly strong box joints for drawers. Once you build the jig out of a few pennies worth of scrap wood and bolt it to your crosscut slide on your tablesaw, it takes a few minutes to set up and adjust and you are in business. It even works well with a cheap 20 year old tablesaw like mine.


It took me about two hours of cutting to get all the drawer sides cut out and box joints put into the ends. I spent another half hour cutting a dado in to accept the plywood and another half hour cutting the plywood pieces for the drawer bottom. Below is everything dry fitted together to make sure I won't have any problems when I went to glue it up. I did have a problem because I could find my glue brushes since the garage reorganization so I ended up just using my finger and a few paper towels. You may notice that there are some holes showing on the drawer fronts towards the bottom of each drawer. This is where the dado for the bottom panel runs out. One can carefully mark and top cutting shy of the end to prevent that from showing or as I have done in the past, make square plugs to fill the hole in of similar material so that it turns invisible. But since these are in the garage and will be covered up by a drawer front or hinged door, I'm leaving them as is.


My next step it to mount the drawer slides and put the drawers in place. One of the drawers will be my storage drawer for all my dozens of boxes of various screws and nails. I am trying to design up some sort of system that will allow them to easily be found and accessed yet keep them neatly arranged. Right now I'm leaning towards some sort of plastic storage bins that I can see the screws and take the bin to where ever I'm working at the time. I just hate dealing with the thin cardboard boxes that the screws come in and are forever falling apart and spilling them every which way.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wall of Clamps


While I was redoing my garage, I kept moving my pile of clamps from one place to another. I kept delaying hanging them up because I just didn't know what I was going to do with them. In my previous garage setup, I had made a rack for them but they took up a lot of wall space that I would rather use for other things. Plus, I wanted to move them to the other side of the garage where I build my projects so that I don't always have to climb over cars and duck under bicycled to retrieve them. The problem with that is that I didn't have a lot of wall space. There was 20 inches of wall space between a storage shelf and a wooden cupboard if I didn't count the space required to open the cupboard door. The problem was that only one stud was available to hang any structure off of to hold my clamps and my old rack needed at least two studs and was designed for three. So I just leaned my clamps in the corner and went about other things.

The problem with that is that even though they were tucked in a corner, I was still bumping into them all the time and sending the pile spilling in every direction. I picked them up and leaned them against the wall for the umpteenth time and suddenly a moment of divine inspiration struck me. Instead of having a wide single layer rack, why not build a narrow multi-layer rack for all my clamps. So I got busy and fifteen minutes later I had what you see at the top of the post. I took a six inch wide four-quarter deck board that I had leftover from a previous project and screwed it to the one stud in that section of wall. I then screwed a rung to it to hang my first layer of clamps. I then used a two by four to build out from the wall a bit and screwed another rung to it higher up for another row of clamps. I used another chunk of two by four to build further out yet and put another rung for a third row of clamps. Now all my clamps are organized and won't be falling over anytime soon.

The obvious drawback is that if I need to get to the orange pipe clamps, I'm going to have to remove a lot of other clamps to get to them. However, I probably only build a big project that would need clamps that size once every three or four years so I can live with that. I use the quick action hand clamps on the outermost layer the most followed by the blue bar clamps on the middle layer. The long ruler like clamp on the left side is one that I use for breaking up sheets of plywood into smaller pieces though I prefer the unfinished wood one tucked behind the clamp rack because it doesn't need any measuring or calculating. I just clamp it to a line and use my skilsaw to cut a straight line every time.