Archive: » 2019 » December

Perfect Sky

Recently when I left the barn to head down the hill for lunch I was struck by the brilliance of the noonday sky, and the apparently perfect conditions for contrail formation.  It is unusual to even see more than one jet airliner every couple of hours, so the sight of a couple dozen contrails was noteworthy.

One Of These Days…

Like many (most?) of you I have a long list of things to do around the shop, usually memorialized by the phrase, “One of these days I’m going to (fill in the blank).”  Given my lengthy hiatus from getting into the workshop over the past few months I have been reveling in a week-plus in the shop.  On my return I was struck by the fact that the place looked like a tool bomb had gone off, the result of me swooping in for a minute or two to get something or other that I needed elsewhere on the homestead, and then failing to reestablish order in the aftermath of that particular moment.  I greatly admire my friends MikeM and MartinO and SharonQ for whom order and tidiness simply flows out of their pores, but that is not the way I am wired, unfortunately.

The impetus for the latest/current tidying of the shop is based on a number of things, the first being the general state of disorder as previously described.  Add to that my desire to get the leg vise for my FORP bench installed and ready to work.  Add to that the currently-in-gestation woodworking/musical instrument making club that will soon begin to convene on a weekly basis in my shop since I’m the one with the necessary space, workbenches, and heat.  So, I need to clear out a bunch of stuff that is just taking up space in order to accommodate three other fellows with their projects.  Then there is the always evolving strategy for tool storage.  And lumber storage.

And, and and…

My first step in this ongoing adventure was to consolidate some boxes of wood scraps and removing a shelving unit of just plain stuff in order to move in my drill press and water wheel grinder.  It’s funny how even by replacing one shelving unit with two machines the place seems more spacious already.  It gives me instant gratification to keep moving forward.

Stay tuned.

Last Full Measure… (not woodworking)

Saturday was a chilly, wet morning but Mrs. Barn, Dr. Barndottir and I joined a group of our oldest friends, and several thousand others, laying Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.  It was both a sobering time of reflection on the last full measure of devotion by those who wrote a check and signed it with their blood, and a joyous time of fellowship with friends.

Envelope Efficacy

Now that we are a good month into wintry weather here in the hinterlands we have at least a few data points for evaluating the work on the cabin over that past year.

Last January I hired a local electrician/chimneysweep/handyman/spelunker to work with me to insulate the walls of the crawlspace underneath the cabin (actually he did the overwhelming proportion of the work, mostly because he loved squirming around in the spaces where I would not even fit).  We also installed a heavyweight vapor barrier and a sump pump to lower the moisture encroachment and empty the pond that had been constructed underneath the kitchen.

Then, over the summer we had the log cabin  portion of the home re-chinked, which involved chipping out the thousand linear feet of c.1965 chinking that had been done skillfully but improperly.  The new chinking both enhanced the aesthetics of the cabin but also, as we hoped even more, would provide a much “tighter” envelope for the domicile.  Given that we live in a windy region and in previous winters we could literally observe tissues in the living room waving in the breeze on a stiff winter night, anything to slow down the wind through the house was a good thing.

The effects on the home are notable, one curious and the other remarkably beneficial.  As to the first, the subsequent “dry out” of the crawl space resulted in shrinkage of the sub flooring and thus buckling the underlayment beneath the vinyl flooring.  As a result I will almost certainly have to re-floor the new part of the house (c.1985), probably with some selection from the tongue-and-groove bamboo menu.

As to the issue of tightening the log cabin front half of the house, it is nothing short of astoundingly good.  There is no observable flow of air through the space.  Admittedly, we have plastic taped over all of the c.1985 triple-track windows (which provide excellent ventilation open or closed) we hope to replace with high efficiency units this coming summer.

Combined, all these elements result in a cozy home for the first time since we bought it two decades ago.  It has always been charming, but now it is cozy, too.  Mrs. Barn is now comfortable walking around the house in normal attire and footwear rather than bundled with multiple layers of wintry clothing.  One important outcome for me is that we will probably only need about half as much firewood as before.   A full morning charge in the wood stove’s large firebox suffices pretty much for the full day, adding only the occasional piece of firewood from time to time, and a second full charge at bedtime will keep the house warm though the night.  In previous winters I needed to load up the stove again late in the after noon then get up around 3AM to re-load the wood stove in order to be comfortable in the morning.  Now the house stays about 68 degrees through the night with a nice bed of glowing coals ready to start up again first thing in the morning.

I call that a good development. Store Inventory Re-filled

For the past several months just as I have been working feverishly on re-siding my daughter’s house my polissoirs maker has been concentrating on wrapping up his several years’ project building their dream house.  They have been moving in recent days, but the broom-making studio is not yet fully installed in the new house,  As a result the stream of new polissoirs dried up, and for the past couple of months at least I have been out of some inventory.  I am happy to report that as of yesterday I am now fully stocked with all the varieties of polissoirs, with the routine of making new ones back on track.  For the next several months we will be building the inventory for next year’s Handworks.

In addition I got the guy who makes the blocks of specialty waxes (that would be me) to get on the stick and re-stock them and Mel’s Wax as well.

I will be spending the next couple of days filling and shipping all the orders I have outstanding, and should be caught up by Thursday.  I’ve got a couple trips over the mountains in the meantime or I would get them done tomorrow.

The Three-Legged Pig

One of my favorite jokes of all time is the old one about the heroic three-legged pig, with the punch line being, “A pig that good, you just don’t eat him all at once.”

This past week I was able to spend the evening visiting with my long time woodworking pal Tom in his shop.  If you recall, Tom and spent Wednesday evenings for many years working in his shop and it was such a delight to reprise those evenings.  Anyhow, to tie the joke to this post I tell you that Tom was clearing some space in his shop.  Translation: he was making me take a bunch of my stuff with me so he could get some more space.

One of the treats he threw into the mix as I was loading up the car was this exquisite slab of birds-eye(!) walnut, measuring 36″ x 16″ x 4-1/2″.  Now that is a spectacular pig and I do not want to eat it all at once.

I have some ideas about what to do with this treasure and the current front runner is this lovely accessory for the bench top.

Before It do that, however, I want to make a prototype from my stash of old growth, premium cypress staves from a c. 1840 water tank I bought during the mezozoic era.   Once I get that done I can turn my attention to the walnut one. 

In fact, the walnut slab is so thick I can re-saw it and make two of them.

No sense in wasting a pig that good.

Cockroach’s Cousins, Part 3

With the repairs completed on the south side of our daughter’s house it was time to start the re-siding.  It was the beginning of a process that included singing the praises of the Hughes Flying Boat.  It was on that project where the first pneumatic nail gun was invented, which in turn was the grandfather of the shingle stapler I used for attaching several hundred cedar shingles to the house.  (A project that will continue through the winter no doubt, making it about six months’ of work intermittently.  The crazy thing is I can still work as hard and as long as I used to, but I just don’t get as much done.  Huh.)

I finished the new shingles up to the top of the first floor, dealing with the area I had excavated to repair and replace the window framing before re-inserting the window.

Compared to the stating point I was not displeased.  I will be even less displeased once the entire wall is completed.

Once that milestone was reached I wrapped around to the east side of the house, peeling off the cedar shingle panels that had served us for the past thirty-plus years, and nailing on the new shingles over new tarpaper.  NB – the shingling “mistake” on the right side of the door is simply a “cover up” for a box to the defunct lighting that will be replace.  Some day.

Another week of work done with many more to go.

In The Neighborhood

When I blogged ten days ago about the sensation of being thunderstruck at the fellow who brought in a Studelyesque petite Prentiss vise to a recent PATINA gathering I mentioned that I had something sorta similar.

This is it, a charming little piece.   It’s a smidge bigger than the prized Prentiss but definitely in the neighborhood.  I do not know if any original japanning remains but perhaps one day this winter I will take a swab and solvent to it to find out.

You cannot really see in this picture but the base has been broken through-and-through and remounted to a new metal sub-plate, which is the only reason I could afford it.

I guess those differences really do delineate a $15 vise from a $1500 one.