Category Archives: Family History blogging

Orange and Blue Solution to a Bigheaded Problem

College football got off to a slow start this year, thanks to hurricane season showing out at the same time. But a few of the games Florida has played so far, we managed to win! Amazing, considering…considering…well, you know about the things everyone is saying about the Gators.

Curiously, one armchair quarterback we know (who shall remain nameless) sustained an injury in the armchair region that we noticed about the time of the Tennessee game.  Not sure if it was before or after the fracas* during that legendary Hail Mary play in the last few seconds of the game.

chair headrest injury
ouch!

But the large cranium (which is full of knowledge, I admit) that usually resides on the breach of leather seen above, sure seemed to expand with happiness at the outcome of the next game!

We had to do something because a bad case of the bighead was making a hole in the furniture around here.  For a craft project, I could have made a doily to drape over the chair…but that would make us look like old people who sit in the house all the time watching TV with their cats….Hey, wait a minute…

Sheenah jennyskip
Get down Sheenah! You don’t want to root for those wild cats!

But also, crocheting a doily takes time. I wanted something quick, that would be ready by game time next week. Which is…today!

gator head rest covers jennyskip
gator-themed head rest covers

I used cotton batting, one thin layer, sandwiched between two layers of blue cotton fabric, and quilted together with Superior Threads’ New Brytes in a day-glo orange color. This thread is thicker than the average thread, #30 3-ply, it says on the label, which I thought might be a good thing. But when I ran a bobbin, it started rolling rough-shod onto the spool, which I know from experience, is not a good start.

bad bobbin jennyskip
unevenly-wound bobbin

I decided to do free-motion machine quilting, since they were little projects. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done machine quilting, I had to live through a learning curve.

ugly stitching jennyskip
kill me now, because of this ugly stitching on the underside

 

When this happens, I go through all the possible reasons for it: rethread the top thread, check the bobbin tension, wind a new bobbin, install a new needle, but  ultimately, I just have to turn off the machine, then turn it back on.

Ironically, I had recently read an article by Superior Threads about tension. The graphic included in the article was very informative, but ultimately, turning the machine off, then back on, worked.

After many rippings and re-doing of the quilting, I squared up the corners and added shiny orange blanket binding. The iron-on decals were purchased. Yes, I did break a few needles while quilting through the thick decal patches. The teensy quilts  are attached to the backs of the La-Z-Boy chair head rests with Velcro tape from the hardware store.

game time jennyskip
woo hoo! keep that winning streak going!

 

 

 

 

* Fracas is a funny word. I can only picture it being uttered by a big, burly hard-boiled detective in a crime novel. The American pronunciation rhymes with “rake us.” But, I was watching something British on TV, when I heard them say “fracas” in British, which is pronounced “frah-cah.” Which rhymes with ha, ha!

Pausing to Reflect After Irma and Maria

These major hurricanes were different than others I’ve survived in the past, because of the ubiquitous presence of social media.

After Irma: We only lost power for about 16 hours, on and off.  Many friends, neighbors, and relatives lost power for much longer.

After Maria: Just today, 5 days after Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico, we finally got word from our relatives that they are okay.  They are expecting to be without power for months, maybe.

lumber stash jennyskip
our back yard urban lumber stash
side yard jennyskip
side yard post-Irma

Our side yard temporarily became a lake. I’ve never seen our yard take on water like this.

clouds jennyskip
bright clouds Friday Sep 15

The input from social media sites has made a huge impact on us. Rather than having to rely on what the network news wants to show us, we can go all over the place to find news. Friends are passing on what they’ve found, consoling, offering hope, strengthening faith.  We’re feeling grateful for any means of communication.

 

“Whad J’eet?”*

Even with mounting stress going on in your life, like the aftermath of hurricanes, with loved ones out of the range of communication for days on end, and some loved ones visiting the ER, and painful betadine burns in your eyes, you gotta eat.

It’s something that you can take control of.

A while back, when all the courses on Craftsy’s web site were on sale for about $15, I bought this course Cooking For Two.  

My reasons for shelling out money for an every-day-type-of-cooking class: 1) we seem to be wasting a lot of food due to lack of planning.  2) I wanted us to eat more vegetables and fruits.  3)  I envisioned it as  an activity we could do together, instead of watching reruns on TV in the evening. The instructor, Carla Snyder, really knows how to make tasty food! I’ll add a 4th reason: If I can only scarf a small amount of calories a day without piling on weight, then let me spend it on food that tastes really good.

So far we’ve made pesto sauce, sautéed  gruyère-stuffed pork chops with mango salsa, chicken breast with lemon caper sauce and kale, and rib eye steaks with roasted root vegetables.  All dishes were super delicious, and so much fun to do!

pork and mango jennyskip
pork and mango
chicken, kale, jennyskip
sautéed chicken with lacinato kale
raised-bed herbs jennyskip
herbs harvested from our raised-bed garden
Oh, by the way, don’t think that we’re such great natural artisans and crafts-people that we breeze through food projects. No, we (I) make bone-head mistakes in this arena as monumental as any we’ve (I’ve) made in the shop or sewing room. I screwed up the garbage disposal by shoving a bunch of woody plant stems down it, so there were a few hidden costs to these dinners…what with the plumber having to make a house call…and while attempting to grind some pepper into the fry-pan on the stove, the grinding doo-hickey broke off the bottle and sent a bazillion bouncing peppercorns into every nook and cranny in the kitchen, as well as flood the pan. I like the taste of pepper, but wow, man.

pepper grinder jennyskip
dang defective pepper grinder doo-hickey
steak and potatoes jennyskip
steak and roast carrots, potatoes and red onion

Sorry that these photos show the dinners just after we started digging in, rather than the stylized views of the meat glistening on the plate in its caramelized crust, next to a neat bed of side items either marinated, sautéed, or oven-roasted. The photos of the three dinners bring to my mind R. Crumb’s comic “Let’s Eat!”  Google it and see if you agree.

I hope I’ve conveyed in this post, that cooking together has been fun! Too bad you can’t taste for yourself how good the flavors are!

 

  • American Southern for “What did you eat?”

Ready, set, grieve…then move on

We’ve been sidelined lately; our individual creative wellsprings have been diverted into other busy obsessive thought-patterns, as we…

  1. try to understand and cope with the limitations of the macular degeneration diagnosis and hold out hope for the treatments
  2. shift our schedules to accommodate the items that we believe have higher priority now
  3. get back to work after an eventful summer, applying our new, more restricted itineraries
  4. try to keep up with the local and national news, which is heart-stoppingly scary most days
  5. madly inventory and prepare for Irma-geddon, which is set to move into our living space in the next 48 hours!

Good news: I think we’ve gotten through the “anger” and “denial” stages (if we want to put a Kübler-Ross slant on what we’ve been going through).

Good news: Skip is very positive, proactive, and realistic about our limitations and strengths. We don’t always do what other people want us to do, but we have good reasons not to.  Trust me .  🙂

Creative projects get sidelined, when the focus shifts to survival. Nancy Zieman, one of my favorite “sewing personalities,” who has inspired me, and administered some virtual hand-holding on many a project through her easy-to-understand books, patterns, and video content, announced her retirement last week, in her blog post.  For this, I want to weep and wail, and gnash my teeth, but we have to  move on.  Maybe Hilary Clinton is an exception to that last sentence: she makes lots of dollars and grabs a significant share of the national news for dwelling on her storied past.  [Am I the only one who, now that she says she’s not going to run for office again, doesn’t want to hear about her big campaign loss?  I want to hear about the heroes who went out and helped people and animals rebuild after a hurricane!]  But for my own peace of mind, and to find a new creative project to embark on, it’s time to move on!

Maybe your next creative project, and mine, will feature helping someone else who is recovering from a serious loss…

Stay safe…

 

 

Restoring Raggy

Poor doll! He got involved in a fracas and sustained a few injuries:

Shaggy jennyskip
Seen-better-days Shaggy

His hands, neck and arm were shredded (dog bite?) and one arm was limp from lack of stuffing. And one shoe was beginning to separate from its ankle.

Job #1  was to repair the gaping wounds.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. This project has been on the docket for a pretty long time, but it occasionally got covered up by a pile of fabric or a stack of mail, so it was out of sight, out of mind. Finally I picked up a hand sewing needle and found some thread that was close to this skin tone, and went to work.

After I fixed up his body, a thought occurred to me. “Dude, what happened to your clothes?”  He had no comment. I figured, why not make him something to cover up with?

First set of pants bombed. The clodhopper feet were too big to squeeze through the skinny pant legs.  The revised pair had velcro closures on the inseams. These pants are made from the actual several inches of pants legs that I cut off a pair of Skip’s pants [see prior blog post from 2015: Modern Hemming].

all ready jennyskip
With some makeshift clothing…

I confess, I’ve never been a whiz at making doll clothes. This quick-and-dirty “minimal effort” little project had me grinding my teeth as the tiny seam allowances sent fabric down the throat plate hole into birds’ nests that had to be cut from underneath to extricate them. I had a feeling that the previous clothes on this toy had something to do with the gaping slash on his neck; that the simple task of playing dress-up resulted in the doll’s near-decapitation. But although I don’t have a workable intuition about making clothes for this guy, I admire the workmanship that must have gone into making him. The meticulously fringed, pieced hair style, his embroidered facial features and chin-scruff, and his slouchy posture all give true representation of the “real” character [You know he’s not real, right? He’s a cartoon]. And then again, he was mass-produced.

Somebody somewhere came up with a plan for toys like this to be created and then mass-produced. I imagine somewhere, a factory is probably humming with machines 24 hours a day, sewing goofy smiles and eyebrows lifted in surprise on cloth faces, adding darts on ankles and outlining fingers in little plush hands. The line supervisor gets an order from the shipping department saying: “Ten thousand more Shaggies” and proceeds to upload the manufacturing process specs.

I did find this enlightening video on You Tube about toy designer Longia Miller, who I now hold in highest esteem! From watching the video, I see that her sewing machine is making use of a throat plate that has a tiny hole, down which it would be fairly impossible for a fabric to slip.

According to Wikipedia, one of the first mass-produced plush toys in the US was the Ithaca Kitty, in 1892. And apparently it was a 3-piece printed pattern that the buyer had to cut out, sew, and stuff, herself. From reading the narrative on the patent, I see that inventor Celia Smith listed a few reasons why her stuffed animal design was “well-adapted to displace” the designs of some other toys that are made from  “a number of pieces of cloth (eight or more)” and could be “dragged about by a limb until they lose their original scanty ICO resemblance to an animal and fail entirely to appeal…”

You gotta love the visionary minds of the toy designers and makers,  demanding realism, durability, safety, and worthiness of entertainment value to be built into our children’s playthings.

 

Historic Overview of Stanley Planes: Stanley No. 1

 

Stanley plane jenny skip
Stanley plane

I became interested in antique tools in about 1983.  My interest narrowed to Stanley tools in approximately 1985.  At this time I was fortunate to become acquainted with Roger K. Smith and purchased his book entitled Patented Transitional  and Metallic Planes in America 1827-1927 published by the North Village Publishing Company in 1981.  This began a long period of communications and Stanley tool purchases with Roger. I vaguely remember him telling me that my plane purchases were going toward supporting his children’s college expenses.  Roger was extremely helpful in my passion of learning more about antique planes, their use and history.

The history of the Stanley Tools companies is well documented and I would encourage you to explore the details of the evolution of this company.

What I am presenting in this video is background information on the Stanley No.1 smoothing plane.  In future videos I will discuss the other planes in my collection.  I started out trying to collect one example of each Stanley plane type. This proved to be very difficult and extremely expensive, so I randomly added to my collection over a period of ten years.

In the photo below you can see the trademark on the iron of one of my Stanley No. 1 planes.  The video will show you more photos of this particular plane.  This V shaped logo on the iron is identified in Roger’s book as a Type 11-1910-1920.  There appears to be a ‘B’ on the frog and lever cap, a forging mark for an unknown foundry which showed up on Stanley planes from 1899-1902.  This would indicate that the plane may be older than the iron’s trademark would indicate.

The spring under lever cap became rectangular in 1869 and was banjo shaped prior to that.

The other trademark  showing on my other number 1 plane’s iron dates that iron from  1907-1910.  There are no other marks on this plane.

The Stanley no. 1 smoothing plane was manufactured from 1867 until 1943.  It is 5 ½ inches long with a 1 ¼ inch wide blade.  It is constructed of cast iron with a rosewood handle and knob.  The finish is generally Japanned.  These planes can sell for anything from $1000 to $2000.  There are counterfeit versions of this plane so the buyer must beware!!

According to the Hans Brunner website:

“Without doubt the most famous of all Stanley planes never had a lateral adjuster, never had any number markings. Some models have B or S cast into the bed, others have no markings whatsoever. Early types have a beaded rosewood front knob and a short handle spur. Later types have a slightly longer handle spur and a lever cap embossed with the Stanley name.

Problem areas: fork and (depth) adjuster nut damaged or not working. More obvious damages include: overhang under handle broken off; chipped or enlarged mouth, cracks and chips to sides, damage to top of frog. That one sounds obvious but I’m just as dumb as the next guy when it comes to checking a plane. No matter how good it looks: Always take the lever cap off and check the frog, always turn the plane over and check the overhang under the handle and the mouth.”

In Wood Magazine issue No. 1 Sept/Oct 1984, we find some additional information concerning the history of the number 1 Stanley plane:

“Stanley tools represent a major category of collectible tools, and can form the basis for a rewarding and stimulating hobby. One of the most desirable of Stanley tools for the collector is the diminutive Stanley No. 1 bench plane. This tiny, 5-1/2” long plane poses some interesting mysteries for the collector. First, what was it used for? It’s so small-that even a craftsman with a small hand finds it uncomfortable to use. And second, for a tool that was manufactured in abundance over a 73 year period (1870-1943), why should it be so scarce?
As to the first mystery-its size-the explanation is relatively straightforward. These planes were designed for use by elementary school woodworking classes, and were used in the introduction to the proper care and use of woodworking planes.
The second mystery requires a more hypothetical explanation. With the advent of U.S. involvement in W.W. II came the need for scarce raw materials by factories involved in the rapidly increasing war production industries. Those with memories reaching back that far remember that not only were civilians in general involved in paper and fat saving drives, among others, but schools and other institutions also were called on to collect and donate large amounts of scrap material.
The widespread draft also was a factor. Shop teachers, especially at the elementary school level, came into short supply overnight, thus freeing up the tools and materials formerly used in their courses as vital scrap. Since the majority of No. 1 planes produced were to be found in schools, a large number of these planes were absorbed by the wartime scrap drives.
In case you’re thinking of purchasing a Stanley No. 1, be prepared to pay between $400 and $650 for an example in good or better condition. Also be sure to buy from a reputable dealer who will guarantee the plane is genuine.”

See more images in the video:

In my next video, I will discuss the Stanley No. 2 plane.  I will also discuss the January 3, 1985 letter I received from Roger K. Smith detailing his approach to restoring and caring for transitional and metallic planes.

Early Morning Walking in Central Florida

Sometimes known as Paradise on Earth…

We spent the night at Loew’s Portofino Bay hotel in Orlando, and these are pictures I took on my daily 30-minute walk after sunrise, except for the first one, which was the night before. The lighting is distinctly different! Also, we’ve been having a few days of seriously needed rain.

As we discussed in a prior post, traveling makes you also notice and appreciate more about your own home and surroundings. As I took my 30-minute walk this morning back at home in North Central Florida, I passed by this beautiful etched glass door on a professional office building I walk by every day, but I never really noticed it before!

doors jenny skip
etched glass doors

Reflections on “The Ultimate Sacrifice” at Memorial Day

As a historian for the family, I was racking my brain to think of any relative I actually knew, who got killed while serving. And I apologize in advance for that: if anyone in the family reads this and brings to mind a fallen hero cousin–please comment or message me and I will update this post. Sadly, many fallen soldiers were young and unmarried when they served and died, and so their ancestral line ended with them. 
Here’s a story of my 3rd cousin twice removed, who was shot down in 1943 (the war ended in 1945). This came from an old newspaper clipping, which didn’t include the date or the publication name, but from some clues, I think it was in the Belvidere (IL) Daily Republican  7 Nov  2007.  The code number after his name is a Personal Identifier Number for him on the Familysearch.org web site.  If you already have a free familysearch.org account with a pedigree chart in place, you may be able to see some pictures of your ancestors’ tombstones using this link , which  represents a collaboration between Familysearch and the BillionGraves sites. 

Europe’s Air War Kills 3 BHS Pals; Another Is POW

by Dave Grimm

As the nation’s “Greatest Generation” breaks ground on the long overdue World War Two memorial in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, Nov. 10, in time for a Veteran’s Day 55 years after the end of that crucial conflict, it is time to reflect on one of its most poignant chapters. It is the tale of three young men, two from the Belvidere High School class of 1937, and another a few years behind. Another from the class of 1937 was a friend who was to serve as courier of news about the others. All were members of various units of what was, in that era, the United States Army Air Corps, now the United States Air Force. Three of the four never returned to Belvidere, another was imprisoned for more than a year, until September, 1944, in Rumania, which was until early 1945 under the occupation of Nazi Germany before liberation by the Russians moving their Red Army juggernaut westward to finally crush the Third Reich and its 12-year reign of terror in Europe. Three of the classmates were crewmen on B-24 Consolidated “Liberator” bombers, huge, four-engined, twin-tailed aerial behemoths capable of carrying a minimum crew of eight, more than half a dozen Browning .50 caliber machine guns and over a ton of bombs long distances at high altitudes. These cigar-shaped monsters with their 70 feet of tapered wingspan were chosen to fly into Rumania to a place called Ploesti (pronounced approximately plo-yest-ee) north of the the nation’s capitol, Bucharest.

Few people in America outside the petroleum and international transportation industries had ever heard of the place but it was indeed famous, not only in Europe but worldwide as the center of the world’s oil production, indeed the birthplace of the oil industry, since it had contained the first producing petroleum well in the world a decade before the same feat was accomplished in 1859 in Titusville, PA, in the United States. In the intervening years, the area became the center for oil production for not-only Europe but also various other markets abroad. For this reason, one of the first items on Adolph Hitler’s timetable of aggression was the seizure, occupation and, most important, defense of the mammoth oil-producing and refining area. At the height of its usage by the Nazis, Ploesti was to become the supplier of the gasoline, diesel and heating fuel, lubricants and aviation gas for one-half of the German war machine, ground, sea and air. Many multinational oil companies had refineries there, including a French firm with the highest production capacity in the world. Standard Oil of Indiana also had a refinery which American engineers had built several years before the war. Following several months of planning as well as one ill-fated and rather ill-advised air raid into Ploesti as well as several raids by Russian aircraft prior to America’s entry into the European fray, it was decided that a lowlevel raid by heavy bombers would have the advantage of surprise as well as accuracy in an attempt to deprive Hitler of his most valuable non-human resource. This raid would take place Aug. 1, 1943.

The major problem with the strategists’ theory was that the Allied forces were still in North Africa, having just defeated the Afrika Korps and had yet to invade Sicily and Italy to provide bases 500 miles closer to Rumania. This raid was to take off from Benghazi in eastern Libya, fly across the Mediterranean to Greece, then Albania, then Yugoslavia, then Bulgaria and finally into Rumania. Once inside that country’s borders, the bombers would take a course indicating a raid on Bucharest, then take a heading to the oil center, do their grisly work and return the way they had come. Planes in trouble would continue east- ward to land in Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus. There would be no fighter protection, since no fighters or fighter bombers were available with the range capable of accompanying the bomber stream. The 178 planes and crews would be on their own and once arriving at the target, they would fly in at smokestack level, deliver their deadly loads on preselected targets which had been drummed into the heads of both pilots and bombardiers and hopefully, fly out with minimum casualties.

In three separate planes in three separate bomb groups, two members of Belvidere High School’s class of 1937 and one from the class of 1942 took their places in the predawn dark of Aug. 1. They were First Lieutenant Jack Lanning and technical sergeants Kenneth Holroyd and Arthur White. Lanning was a co-pilot and the enlisted men were flight engineers who also served as tail turret gunners. Lanning, back in bucolic Belvidere, had been president of his senior class and Holroyd had served as vice-president. Lon Byram, another member of the class was to provide news back to Belvidere of the fate of both men. He was later killed in an air crash in England. Both Lanning and Byram were members of th Bucs’ varsity football team. The two Ploesti raid participants weren’t to return to Boone County. Lanning went down in his plane, ”Wingo-Wango,” in the Ionian Sea. Witnesses said the plane crashed on the way to target for no apparent reason, just beginning to spin out of control and crash without communication with his fellows. Holroyd survived the raid but died several weeks later in an air training crash. White, however, lived a saga which is almost beyond belief in its content of luck and courage.

The raid, contrary to plan, produced no surprise as it had been tracked by both German spotters and radar nearly from its point of takeoff. Ploesti, in addition, had the most heavily defended anti-aircraft system in the world, thanks to a commander whose genius at defending against air attack earned him a twelve-year imprisonment in Russia after WWII ended. Also, contrary to plan, the lead bomber group made a wrong turn and headed for Bucharest rather than Ploesti to its north. Following groups changed the flow of the bomber stream, although it was a breach of orders, and made the proper approach to the target and made their bomb runs according to their navigators’ flight plans, leavmg the miscreant group to correct its error and arrive at Ploesti to find its targets in a high state of smoking ruin. But, in the process, many of the raiders themselves were in smoking ruins from the murderous crossfire thrown up by the German defenses which ranged from flak towers atop the tallest of the distillation plants to machine gun and cannon emplacements camoflaged as haystacks in the fields surrounding the ring of refineries and supporting pipelines and storage tanks which ringed the city of Ploesti proper.

Medals of Honor were given posthumously to pilots who flew their bombers into flaming storage tanks while gasoline streamed from their long-range fuel tanks which had been ruptured by the flak. Miraculously, other aircraft returned to Benghazi unscathed despite an almost constant attack by fighters of German, Rumanian and Bulgarian air defense squadrons. 55 aircraft returned out of the original 178 which mounted the raid. One of those which didn’t return was “Boilermaker 2” which was shot down and landed in a field north of Ploesti near the village of Timisul which was a prison camp although much different than what most Allied prisoners of war were used to. It was a castle belonging to a noble Rumanian family named Kantecazine and a princess of the royal family took the survivors under her wing, protecting them as well as survivors from several other aircraft and interceding with both the German and Rumanian military administrations for good treatment. Art White was one of these prisoners. As a member of the BHS class of 1942 he entered military service in that year, shortly after graduation from high school. Life, according to White in a statement to his wife, could have been worse. “There are a lot worse prison camps to be in,” was his assessment, she recalled. – This imprisonment, from which he was released when the Russians overran the area in September, 1944, included visits to the neighboring village, marching outside the barbed wire enclosure to chapel services for both Catholic and Protestant prisoners, and access to not only locally produced foodstuffs and spirits, was a far cry from the morning of departure when, his widow recalled, when the assembled crews nearly all felt that the mission was suicide and that none of them would be coming back. White had the honor of being interned with a wartime celebrity, British airman Douglas Collins, whose escape exploits from various POW cams took him from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea and became the backdrop for several British and American movies about wartime prisoner of war camps. With Collins, he managed to escape by tunneling from Timisul beneath the wire but was recaptured, beaten and returned to incarceration. According to his daughter, Barbara Feltz, he always remained quiet about his exploits and experiences during WWII until 1980 when a grandson approached him about an interview regarding his wartime experiences for an emergency assignment. White related his story on tape and caused quite a stir among local historians in area schools and the tale was finally told to the Chicago Historical Society. Needless to say, the story earned the grandson five A’s for the effort. Arthur White died in 1981 at the age of 56, shortly after his story was told. He-was a carpentry contractor until his death.

The Ploesti raid did little immediate damage to Hitler’s oil supply lthough it is believed to have caused a shortage enough to induce the German war machine to begin turning its attention to much greater dependence on synthetic oil research, many products are still sold today when their formulae were taken from German scientists following the Axis surrender. By the time White was released, the Allies were bombing Ploesti night and day, much as they did Germany. By the time of the Russian liberation of Rumania, there had been 23 heavy bombing raids with 9,173 individual fighter and bomber sorties logged and 13,709 tons of explosives had been dropped. To the credit of the Rumanians, the Ploesti plants were still able to produce 20 percent of their full capacity.

TELEGRAM FROM WAR DEPARTMENT SAYS BOMBARDIER WAS IN ACTION IN MIDDLE EASTERN AREA –BELIEVED CERTAIN TO HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN RAID ON OIL FIELDS IN RUMANIA IN WHICH 20 BOMBERS WERE LOST. Lieutenant Jack B. Lanning, son of .Mr, and Mrs, A .J. Lanning, 921 East Lincoln avenue, Belvidere, is reported “missing in action” by the war department. The forenoon the following telegram was received: Washington, D. C. Aug. 7, 1943. Mrs. Abe J Lanning, 921 East Lincoln Avenue, Belvidere, Illinois, Regret to Inform you report received your Son, First Lieutenant Jack B .Lanning, mlssing in action in middle eastern area since Aug. 1. If further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified. ULIO, The Adjutant General.

Sorry that it makes for such a long read, but there’s some pretty fascinating history there.

Our son was thinking of staying home today, rather than getting up at sunrise and putting on his dress blues to march in a parade. But in all good conscience, he did. Happy Memorial Day, and if you feel like entering a comment about your relative who made the ultimate sacrifice, we do appreciate it!

Mission BBQ jenny skip
[photo taken last November; son is the one in the dress blues 3rd from left] and grandson at the front

Prototype Walking Stick

 

We have planned our annual family reunion [aka get away] for this year to be Rumbling Bald at Lake Lure.  From what I understand this is where parts of the original Dirty Dancing movie were shot. Anyway since there are several hiking trails and lots of scenic spots to walk, I thought it would be a good project to make everyone a walking or hiking stick.  This meant mass producing 38 walking sticks!!  These would break down into two sections and fit into a carry bag which my wife would sew together from canvas.  Well the reunion is fast approaching and I just finished the prototype.  So maybe next year!! They might still work if we have a beach get away!

After some investigation, I found that the ideal length of a stick suitable for hiking and walking should be a length determined by holding your arm at your side at a right angle and measure the distance from your out-stretched hand to the floor. I made a cartoon illustrating this measurement and sent it out to all the families. Fortunately for this year, very few people responded.  I picked one of the kids that did respond who also loves hiking and camping, and used his measurement for the prototype…. 41 inches.

The design was comprised of a decorative topper with a lanyard and compass, a wood upper section 1 1/8 inches in diameter with a standardized length of 24 inches, a wood bottom section with a length customized to the user, a brass coupling to connect and unconnect the two sections, and a brass fitting on the bottom section to accommodate an interchangeable tip, a stainless steel point and a rubber point.

hiking stick jenny skip
Finished hiking stick

The topper was padauk cut to a 6 inch length, a hole drilled for the lanyard and then turned on the lathe to a pleasing shape.  This topper tapered down to 1 1/8 inch diameter to mate with the upper section of the walking stick.  The topper was sanded up to 320grit and then friction polish applied. For a finishing touch, I laser engraved the user’s name on the topper.

cane topper jenny skip
laser engraved topper with leather lanyard

A 2 foot length of 6/4 mahogany was ripped to a square cross section and then turned on the lathe to 1 1/8 inch diameter using a spindle roughing gouge.  The spindle was then off set from center slightly and grooves cut at the upper end to enhance the grip on the stick.  The spindle was sanded up to 320 grit, given two coats of dark walnut stain followed up by friction polish. This resulted in a beautiful finish. However for a walking stick with a lot of outdoor use, maybe a wiping polyurethane finish may have been better.  We will see as my son is going to give this prototype a good working out as a test.

hand grooves jenny skip
Grooves cut into the walking stick where the hand grips it

The topper was attached to the upper section of the walking stick with a dowel. The bottom of the stick was drilled with a 3/8-inch bit to a depth of 1 inch so that one end of the brass coupling could be inserted with epoxy.

The bottom section of the walking stick was produced much like the top section, only cut to length to provide the overall 41 inch length.  Two distinct differences, however, in its construction. On one end of the spindle a 1 inch long 12.8 degree taper was turned using a bedan.  The other end of the spindle was countersunk with a 7/8 inch Forstner bit and then a 3/8 inch hole drilled in the center. This allowed me to insert the other part of the brass coupling in the recess so when the two parts were screwed together, you would not see the brass coupling and the joint would be difficult to discern.  I could have done this drilling on the lathe but the bottom section of the walking stick was too long for me to mount a drill chuck on the lathe with a bit with the lathe bed I was using.

Here’s the You tube video that shows some of the process details.

I installed the coupling, the brass fitting for the walking stick tip, the leather lanyard with a nice silver bead on the end [compliments of my wife’s bead stash] and glued a small compass on the top of the topper.  DONE!!  And maybe done for a year.  It will be mailed off to one of my sons for testing.  I am also concerned that the coupling between the two sections of the walking stick may be a weak link. We’ll see if it holds up or if my son ends up careening down an abyss later this summer.

compass on top jenny skip
compass on top

Post-trip Sketching and Planning

There’s something about travel that changes your perspective so much. When you get back from a trip, you can see more clearly things you’ve done that are unproductive. You may have seen a new way to deal with a problem during your travels.

American Way mag
photo of a Karass advert page from the in-flight magazine on the airplane

Especially when it comes to every day surroundings and routines, you can see what doesn’t work and what didn’t have a desired outcome.  You can see why you need to get away and look at a problem with that fresh perspective.

A few cases in point:

When I go on a trip, I usually carry cosmetics and stuff in a blue plastic Caboodles box (it looks like a tackle box or a tool box). Finally, that thing split down the back and once it was clamped shut, it was so hard to un-shut that I ripped all the skin off a knuckle trying to pry it open. Now that I don’t have the plastic box, I came up with a couple of alternative carrying cases to take on trips, and realized what a clunky liability that plastic case had been.

We have more that just a washer and dryer in our laundry room, we also have a rug shampooer, a big bulky canister vacuum cleaner, several mops, brooms, etc., and a collection of seasonal wreaths to hang on the front door. This room is not big enough to hold all that stuff plus ourselves when we need to wash clothes.  Skip realized (while I was gone) that we have a hall closet near the front door that we never consider using, because it is so crammed full of – I don’t even know what’s in there. Possibly old camping equipment from the seventies, hats that no one wears, who knows?  If we get rid of that stuff we haven’t seen in a decade or more, we would have more room for the useful stuff!

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to do more sketching, and more art work in general. I want to get into Inkscape, a free vector drawing program, so we can use it to make projects in other media, like wood, plastic, laser engraving, and 3D printing. Does anyone have any experience in Inkscape,  who can offer some insight?

Meanwhile, I’m acclimating back to the local humidity and heat. Summertime all year round!

yoga sketching jennyskip
yoga sketching