What to do with a Fallen Maple and a Disaster Reminder…

November 3, 2011

Hi,

Cisco the blogging cat here…

Well, if you’re like us you’ve had tree-down problems here on the Cape (and elsewhere…) For us, most of this is manageable, but still there ‘The Beast”… That’s 4′ long by 2’ in dia. maple, and we want to convert it into a couple of 24″ wide planks… (No way we’re burning that piece!) It’s too big for any of the local sawmills, so the only way to attack this thing is with wedges, a splitting maul, and sledges… Here the crack is just starting to show…

After two hours, a broken ax, a broken maul, and a fractured wedge, this is what we have…

The plan is to flatten the faces of the soon-to-be planks, air dry them for a few years, and then mill to the final dimensions… 1″ x 24″ x 48″. After that, they’ll probably become the top or face panel for: a large blanket chest, a small Shaker sewing center, or perhaps an elongated Shaker work table. Oh goody… Thank heavens they don’t weigh much.

Sore by the racks…

Three cats blogging…

P.S. Don’t forget that roughly 140,000 of your fellow Massachusites are still without power… The American Red Cross is a good thing.


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.

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How to Buy a Knife

October 9, 2011

Hey Cats and Kittens,


A little bit of free-flow thought concerning knives… Take a look at the little feller (and littler flashlight beside it.)




Well now… No secret that Da Gizz is a serious woodworker — just look at the Harwich Spirits Shoppe wood floors. And woodworking invariably leads to talk of knives… Here we go into randomness and 1/50th of $1.00…


  • Knives come in just a couple flavors — fixed and folders. Each serves its own purpose, though for the average person, a folder is probably more likely.

  • Fixed are cool, though they almost always require an external sheath.

  • Choice of blade material is important. There are four types to consider:

    • Good old fashioned carbon steel — I prefer 56 — 58 on the Rockwell hardness test. Just be aware that as the steel gets harder, it gets harder to sharpen and can become more brittle. (Can you say “diamond stones” for sharpening?)

    • Stainless… 440C works for me, though there are all kinds of new grade. Do your homework.

    • Ceramic… The knife above is a Boker ceramic made in Germany. That and that tiny (but powerful) flashlight are my constant companions. Be aware that Ceramic is quite brittle. I use mine for opening letters, cutting string, opening cardboard packages etc. A knife like the Boker is the consummate ‘Gent’s Knife’ — at home in the pocket of a doctor or engineer. Note: Ceramics are as sharp as broken glass. While they can chip when hitting bone, they have no problem gliding through flesh… Trust me.

    • Damascus… This is actually a type of carbon steel, but in the forging process, it has been hammered flat and then folded over on itself and hammered flat again ad nauseum. Damascus is strikingly beautiful, and can be quite strong.


  • Whether folding or fixed, immediately give up on the idea of self defense with a knife. If you want to defend yourself, take the classes, get your license, and carry a handgun concealed. Take it from a cat who faced a point-blank .22 in a 1 AM Combat Zone in Boston, a knife is utterly worthless. Does it work sometimes? Yes. Would I bet my life on a blade? No.
  • A good fixed will have a handle-long tang — that is, the steel of the blade will be as long as the knife itself.

  • A folder should silently ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk’. That is there should be no scraping sounds or ‘herky jerky’ feel as you open and close the knife. It should lock closed and have no play between blade and handle.


  • Expect to pay between $50 and $200 for a decent knife. Here are some exceptional manufacturers:

    • Barlow

    • Case

    • Kershaw

    • Buck (the 110 is one of the best-selling knives in the world.)

    • Boker

    • Leatherman

    • Swiss Army

    • Gerber

    • Schrade

    • Ka-Bar (The Ka-Bar USMC knife is one of the best in the world. If you need something bigger than that, move on to a hand ax.)

    • KutMaster (Utica Manufacturing — an oldie but a goodie.)

    • H&K
  • That’s not to be said that there aren’t deals to be had… I’m watching Cutlery Corner TV right now, and they just offered a fixed blade skinner, with full length tang in 440C stainless for $10 including leather sheath… Tough to beat that with a stick.

You get the idea… Don’t be cheap, know what you’re doing… A knife is like a friend… Choose wisely.


By the racks,


Three cats blogging…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Buying a Used Tool (Part 2 of 2)

August 9, 2011

Hey!

Cisco the HSS blogging cat here…

Last time we posted, we were looking at used tools… Let’s finish that up. (Before we really get started, as always, be safe. Read and understand all safety instructions for any tool, and always wear eye protection.)

  • When you consider a used (or new) tool, be sure to check for structural anomalies.  Is the work surface flat? Are relevant components plumb and square? Do the mechanisms work through their full range of functionality?
  • Do you need variable speed or fixed. I have a variable speed scroll saw, and after using that, I will never use a fixed speed model. (On the other hand, someone who simply needs a bit of fancy wood butchery for a plate rack would probably be better suited with a cheaper, single speed saw.)
  • Speaking of speed, be sure that you match the blade to the RPM of the tool.
  • With the machine unplugged, see how much slop is in the motor shaft and moving parts… Beware the loosey goosey.
  • Can you buy/make sharpening equipment?
  • Years ago, I learned to cut dovetails quite quickly and accurately by hand. When the price of  so called ‘dovetail machines’ dropped to apx. $100, I jumped — huge mistake. By the time I set up the machine, got it dialed in, got the router chucked, ran a couple of test cuts, I could have been done just doing the job by hand.If you only need to replace a dovetailed drawer, I’d say study the online dovetail lessons, buy some second-hand chisels, and practice. Here’s a series of dovetails I cut in short order with nothing more than a mallet, a sharpened old chisel, and a coping saw:

Moral of the story? Sometimes, it simply doesn’t make sense to blow $150 -$250 on a used tool system when $5 and some practice will do. (Now, if you have a production shop, that’s a horse of a different wheelbase.)

  • Don’t shy away from industrial-grade stuff… Usually it’s longer lasting, and more readily maintainable.
  • Dust control: If nothing else, pick up a used 5 HP Sears for $50. Buy a replacement filter, and at least then you have a start.
  • Worry about tolerances. How accurate is the machine. For example, if you’re buying a used table saw, how accurate is the blade to the base? Take a quality square, make a test cut and test it.
  • (Scratch the tip above. Take a Wixey and really put the machine to the test.)
  • Every so often, you’ll see a 1950s drill or saber saw. It will be a beauty — all shiny… Worry. If you’re holding a metal case and there’s an electrical short… Look out. Only buy safe, double-insulated tools. And if a seller has cut off the third prong on a three-prong plug, run.
  • Ah, so you’ve finally found that perfect 220V machine. Can your shop handle it? Is it a single phase or three phases? Phase converters aren’t cheap.
  • What’s the history of the tool? It doesn’t take long to see a battered tool.
  • Never lose sight of safety. Do you really want a used safety harness, air compressor, or a chain fall?
  • If you buy a heavy machine and don’t take into consideration the thought of moving it around the shop, you’ll be sorry…
  • Consider a used back-up tool. Your job may demand that you spend $150 plus on a quality circular saw. Fine. But do yourself a favor — pick up a decent $25 used temporary replacement. Sooner or later…
  • Know your steels. I like high-speed steel for drill bits, RC-rated planer blades, and a softer steel for chisels. Do your homework.
  • Used chisels are almost a dime a dozen. If the edge hasn’t turned purple (overheating during sharpening), you recognize the name, and it only costs a buck, go for it.
  • Don’t dismiss homemade stuff. I make all my own mobile bases for the heavier equipment — not bad.
  • Does the tool use direct drive or belt drive. I tend to like direct drive because it offers a ‘cushion’ when the going gets tough. Direct drive tends to kick more. (IMHO anyway…)

Finally, be honest with yourself. What do you really need? Ask around. Use the comments on Amazon as a source of tool info.Think and re-think…

In the sawdust by the racks…

Two cats blogging…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Buying a Used Tool (Part 1 of 2)

August 8, 2011

Hey! Cisco the HSS blogging cat here…

As the economy constricts, more and more people are going to want to follow Da Gizz’s lead, and start doing their own handiwork and home maintenance. And in order to that, you’ve got to have tools… In a sec, I’ll share a few tips on buying used tools  gleaned from 30 years of woodworking… But first, consider the $100 radial arm saw below…

Very nice, and to replace it, it would cost over $600. But, (once again) in this economy, $600 is a ton of money… So how to buy a quality, used tool on something like ‘Craig’s List’ or ‘eBay’? Well, here are those tips… Before we really get started, as always, be safe. Read and understand all safety instructions for any tool, and always wear eye protection.

  • First, objectively decide how much tool do you need? There’s no sense in buying a $1,500 Unisaw when a $75 Sears 10″ would do.
  • Be skeptical about the ‘NIB’ (New In Box…) Maybe it’s me, but I tend to worry about ‘refurbished’ or ‘hot’ product…
  • When you inspect the tool, consider the wear of things like bearings, seals, and brushes. (Does the machine leak oil or fluid?  Do parts rattle when they shouldn’t? Does the electric motor spark excessively? Do your homework and test a newish, quality machine and use that as a gauge for your potential purchase.)
  • Are rascals like those just mentioned easily accessed within the tool itself?
  • Do you get the essentials? Manuals? Guards? Blades? Motor?
  • Is the seller offering neat accessories? A stand may not be a requirement, but sure can make life easier…
  • I won’t buy a used battery-driven tool… It’s too easy to foul up the charging process and destroy the battery. And new batteries aren’t cheap.
  • Consider vintage tools, but carefully! Some of the 1950’s table saw are fantastic in quality, but…
  • Old or new, can you get replacement parts? Check this out before buying!
  • Carefully consider things like weight, and footprint. Moving the saw in the photo above was an adventure involving dollies, friends, and a block and tackle.
  • Should you buy name brand? I like to stick with Rockwell/Delta, Craftsman, Rigid, etc., but there are times when no-name is just fine. If I had to buy a small anvil, I’d definitely go to Harbor Freight, a Chinese tool distributor.
  • Consider where and when the tool was made. Japan makes good hand saws. Germany makes good steel. Americans make (or at least used to) good machines.
  • Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Beware the power tool that uses ‘white’ or ‘pot’ metal!!! Pot metal is a silver-ish mottle of a metal, and crumbles faster than a New Year’s resolution. It’s common in Chinese power tools, but is making its way into American brands as well.
  • Finally, (for today at least) Does the tool have any cracks, chips, missing parts, rust? And how does that cord look?

Continued next time by those thrifty racks…

Two cats blogging…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Farm-Style Dining Table Complete

July 31, 2011

Hey guys,

Cisco the blogging HSS cat here…

Look, we know that you’re DIY kind of folk… Who could not love Bruce’s funky wood floor or back room?

Well, here’s the update you’ve all been waiting for… The farm table is now complete. (You might remember parts one and two of the build adventure…)

Here are the legs, skirt, spreader, etc… Note the slots for the clips that will ultimately hold the top to the frame assembly…

Next is the underside top complete with sliding cleats and sliding breadboard ends. (Because of the width of the two boards (18″ each), the entire top can ‘breath’ without splitting the boards…)

Finally, the end result…

The build process itself was remarkably unremarkable:

  1. We pretty much designed what we wanted on the computer.
  2. Contacted Osborne Wood Products Inc. and gave them our design and measurements. They in turn manufactured the legs, skirt, etc. (Sadly, due to advances in technology and computer-controlled woodworking machines, I simply can’t compete with companies like Osborne — by the time I factor in material costs and sub-minimum-wage labor effort on my part, Osborne is simply cheaper. Sigh…)
  3. We picked up some exceptionally wide antique boards for the top and sanded and finished appropriately. (Huge word of caution here — do not sand the character out of old lumber! Be sure to keep saw marks and wear patterns. Anyone can pay to have new stock milled; but no one can replicate echos of age.)
  4. The top was then formed using the cleats and breadboards.
  5. We assembled the frame keeping a close eye on the “squareness” of the structure.
  6. Painted the frame.
  7. Plopped the top on the frame and gently secured the two using specially designed metal clips.

We like the table — it’s beautiful, unique, flat, square, level, rugged (but with an ease about it.) Perhaps most importantly, it handles light so well…

You really should try building something like this…

Two cats and a keyboard covered in sawdust by the racks…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Annoying Woodworking Math Problem Solved

July 20, 2011

Hey!

Cisco the Harwich Spirits Shoppe blogging cat here… Bet you didn’t know that we cats like to do a little woodworking from time to time. (Then again, look at your chair leg, and you’ll probably be reminded of some of our handiwork.) But it ain’t all scathing and fur balls for us… Nope! Occasionally we like to get behind a table saw and rip ourselves some wood proper. But therein lies the rub — when you need to rip a board into numerous equal widths, how do you calculate the distance from fence to inner side of blade with the least waste? (If you’ve done any woodworking, you’ve no doubt run up against this problem too.) Here we go…

Take a look at the quick drawing I did on a piece of scrap wood… That represents the essence of our hassle  — how do we rip a 1 X 6 (actually five and a half inches wide) into four equal pieces using a blade with a 1/8″ (.125″) kerf?

Alrighty then… The issue boils down to adding up four unknown widths (I call them each, “X”) and three .125″ kerfs. So, 4X + .375″ has to equal 5.5″… Put another way, taking into account the kerfs, we’ve got to split 5 & 1/8″ (5.125″) four way. And that equals 1.28125″/strip.

Greatttt… I can’t exactly set my fence to 1.28125″. So what is 1.28125″ in fractional lingo. The table below should probably help…

Yup, set your fence to 1 & 9/32″ and that will do it. (Actually, I’d set my fence for 1 & 9/32″ minus a hair — have to take into account blade wobble, edge cupping or bowing, gremlins, etc.)

And that’s it… It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to get four equal strips out of a 1 X 6, or seven sticks out of a 2 X 12… The math never changes — just know the number of strips, accurately take into account the kerf, draw out your board with cuts, do the math, figure in the gremlins, and away you go…

Two cats, covered in sawdust, by the racks blogging…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.
 


How to Resurrect a Fiberglass Skiff

May 10, 2011

Ok… So we’re a little off topic here, but we’re nudging summertime, and the following is probably going to be more valuable than some may care to admit…

You know that decade-old 18′ fiberglass skiff that you picked up up for a song? You know… The one that looks ok, but always seems to be dripping on the trailer… It’s the one that seems sluggish in the water, has the spongy (carpeted?) deck, and rides low in the stern… It probably shudders a little in even mild seas… Yeah, that one… Here’s how you fix it if you care and are willing to work your butt off

  1. Get a marine architect to confirm that indeed the boat is waterlogged and the transom core is rotted. Get him (or her) to tell you where the flotation belongs. $100 for one hour of  “hands on” with a marine architect or engineer is the best money you’ll ever spend.
  2. One your “bargain-basement beauty” is confirmed a sponge in polyester sheathing, start taking pictures and don’t stop throughout the entire process. Take lots of pictures including measurements. (Be sure to make measurements of the beam… You’re about to perform major surgery.)
  3. Be sure the boat is on solid footing stern down.
  4. Alrighty then… Rip out all seats, the motor, the electronics, the controls… Everything must go.
  5. Next, rip off the cap (the fiberglass “hood” of the boat that probably extends from the bow through the gunwales.) Be careful… This will need to go back on.
  6. But don’t stop there… No… Rip up the carpet and tear into the deck itself — experience the smell of rotted plywood, rotted stringers (the longitudinals that used to support the deck and stiffen the boat), and the stew of fetid flotation foam. All must go.
  7. Ahh… More fun… The transom core itself is probably rotted and will need to be drilled/scraped out from above… Lucky you…
  8. Okie dokie… Time to start putting things back together… There are epoxy products that can rebuild the stern… Query on “rot doctor” for just one example. iBoats is another fantastic source.
  9. Before a new deck can go on, new pressure-treated stringers have to be installed. (Aren’t you glad that you took pix for reference?)
  10. Load the flotation per your engineers suggestions. Don’t be stupid — do this.
  11. Put the whole thing back together again in reverse order using marine ply as a starter on the deck… And for heaven’s sake, skip the carpet!  Install quality water-tight deck plates on a sand floor and use those plates to ventilate the bilge.

There… that was so bad was it? Two or three hundred hours and a grand or two, and you have an almost respectable boat…

Just licking fur by the feeders…

Two cats blogging…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.