Decorating for the holidays: I’m all for simplifying!
Last year, the kittens were less than a year old at Christmas, and we knew that if we brought an 8- or 10-foot tree into the house, it would get crazy in here. This year, Ponyboy has beefed up to about 16 lbs and when the three cats go racing around the living, dining room, and kitchen, he can be a formidable projectile. So we don’t think we’re ready to go back to a real tree, and got the plywood cat-loving tree we made previously, down from the attic.
The coffee table needed some bright color…lucky for me, I had a cache of remnants that would fit the bill.
I started out with a whiteish piece of fabric, which I thought might work for a center square to machine embroider something on. I ended up giving this Urban Threads design a go: it’s a dirigible-driven sleigh for a steam-punk Santa. Then I squared up the fabric to the design, trimming the block to about 9 inches.
Of all the suitable remnants I had lying around in the hoard, I chose a bright red glitter cotton one, a polyester plaid shot through with gold metallic threads, and a polyester shiny metallic green fabric with diamond-patterned raised stitching.
For the lining or backing…I thought something gold would be good–preferably something I had in the stash that was already wide enough so I wouldn’t have to piece it. I brought out several…
Jackpot, of course I picked the one that was wide enough. I pinned it, right sides together, to the pieced and stitched top, sewed around the perimeter, leaving a fist-size opening, then turned the inside out and pressed the edges. Then I stitched around the edge of the finished square.
On the wall above the mantel in back, is what Skip calls…the Family “Palm” Tree.
Inspired by David Picciuto’sRockler-sponsored video on making puzzles using a laser, we decided to download his puzzle template, fire up the Full Spectrum laser and make a puzzle. In the past couple of years, we have produced holiday-themed puzzles using the laser (2016 Ghoul, 2015 Christmas Tree, Thanksgiving 2016,Halloween 2015 ). So with Halloween approaching, it was time to put out another puzzle.
I searched the internet and found a Halloween image with some bats, and sized it to fit in a 10 inch by 7 inch space. Then, using the laser in raster mode I burned a light image of the subject on a piece of 1/8 inch thick Baltic plywood. I then loaded up the puzzle template, sized it to fill the 7 inch by 10 inch space, and in vector mode with 100% power and 60% speed, cut out the puzzle. Oh, before laser cutting, I covered the raster image with painters’ tape to reduce burn residue from collecting directly on the wood surface. I peeled the tape off after the puzzle was cut.
So why did I pick bats this year? I like bats. They are high tech, insect-eating machines. If you get up close and personal, they are really kind of cute. We have several bat houses on our UF campus and it is really fun to watch them come out at dusk to do their thing…. eat insects!
In a September 2016 blog post by Christina Wang, Spooky Symbolism: The History and Meaning Behind Iconic Halloween Images, Christina writes
“Bats have long been associated with mystery, evil, death, and the supernatural. They’re only active at night, plus they live in caves (which evokes the underworld). Vampires are also often said to transform into bats, a connection popularized by Stoker’s novel and the many Dracula films. One theory for the link between bats and Halloween has to do with the festival of Samhain. When the Celts celebrated the end of the harvest on October 31, they would light bonfires to keep evil spirits at bay. This practice would attract insects and, in turn, bats.”
Back to the puzzle: after removing all the tape and cleaning up the parts, I turned the puzzle pieces over to my wife for PLPPP (POST LASER PUZZLE PIECE PROCESSING). I thought the image I laser-printed on the puzzle would make it easy to put the puzzle back together before painting…NO! It took my wife a couple of hours [days, actually…J] to reconstruct the puzzle. The image was too light and the puzzle pieces are so uniform that it made it really difficult to put the puzzle together.
Once it was together, I sandwiched it between two boards and flipped it over. I covered the back side with painters’ tape to hold it together while my wife painted it, using acrylic paints and glitter. I followed this up with a couple clear coats of acrylic spray. My wife decided to extend the challenge she had undergone, and painted the puzzle in a fashion to keep the difficulty at a high level. Nobody is going to quickly solve this puzzle like a bat out of you know where!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve each been sucked in to pursuits other than Crafting in the 21st Century recently: Skip has been moving wood into a new woodshed and pondering a new series of lectures he wants to do involving some of the many antique tools languishing about the place. Check out the trailer:
I’ve been consumed by my OTHER hobby, family history.
My mom passed away a few years ago, and although I’ve looked through the several boxes of her family history files here and there, it was just a few weeks ago that I felt that I should really get into it and do something with all the data that she collected during her lifetime.
In the boxes, I found letters to and from people who gave her pedigree information, notes from Historical Society meetings, receipts from Vital Records bureaux, from back to the days when first-class postage was 2 cents. She would go to a county courthouse or a library, and copy passages from books in long-hand, because there wasn’t a photocopy machine back then. [And her handwriting wasn’t the easiest to decipher, but who, besides me, can decipher it?]
She compiled a book about one of the ancestors, born in 1740, and now I have her notes and correspondence from that. Sometimes I’ve looked up things on websites, and been ecstatic at the new data I found about one of the ancestors, only to go to her files and discover that she already had that piece of information, for which she actually paid money to a record researcher, but somehow the information never got recorded on a chart or got lost.
She wrote out reams of family group sheets and pedigree charts. At the bottom of each one is a list of her sources. I can now look up some of the books she found, in Google, and many have been digitized and are available online for free. Awesome; if I can’t read her writing, I can sometimes look up the source and the page number, and voilá, it comes up online, like magic. I just copy and paste the URL of the source document on my online pedigree chart, and it is there for another cousin to search up and collaborate with.
Probably the site I love to work in most, is Familysearch.org. I love the Sourcelinker, the Search Records functions, the Wiki. And the site is free. How in the world can so much information be available to the public for free? I know, because I served as a volunteer support person for the site for 3 years. And, in that role, I became aware of the fact that the site carries a global tree, seeing as how we are all part of one big huge family, and anyone can supplant your data with their data, and you can’t cry foul about the outcome. So I’ve been transferring lots of the information I have into some of the other sites that have individual trees, which can’t be changed by anyone but the owner. Those sites are excellent, too. Family history has become such a popular hobby, and more records are being added all the time to help with the ongoing research.
It’s been great to find that some of my female progenitors also sewed, quilted, and crafted during their time in mortality.
This female progenitor grew up in New Brunswick, the daughter of a Canadian and a Scottish immigrant. She crossed the border to work at a textile mill in Maine, where she met her future husband.
These sisters came to the US with their family in 1912. They came equipped with phenomenal knitting skills!
I have the remnants of a crazy quilt made by this great-grandmother, in beautiful mauves and beiges and indigo fabrics.
Family history: another “craft” using 21st Century Technology to document and delve into the past! Amazing, isn’t it, how clear and beautiful are these photographs that have survived many decades!
Recently my wife “suggested” that it might be time to upgrade our countertops from 25 year old grey Formica to granite.
old Formica countertops
So off to the big box store to look at granite samples. Way too many choices!! But we found a sample we liked so we pulled out the check book and started what turned out to be a very efficient process, unlike any I have ever experienced. Soon after selecting the sample, someone showed up to develop a template for cutting the granite. A week or so later we got an email inviting us to go to Tallahassee to inspect our granite slabs. In lieu of making the trip we asked for photos and got a gallery of shots showing us what our slabs looked like. Once we approved the slabs, we soon got a call to schedule the installation. Two very experienced installers showed up, removed the old countertops in a manner so as to not damage them, so they could be recycled to a friend’s home needing new countertops, and installed our new countertops and cleaned up before leaving for home. The next day a plumber showed up to reinstall the kitchen sink.
This is when I got the bright idea to “upgrade” the kitchen cabinets by adding some wood trim to the cabinet doors. The cabinets, despite their age, are in great shape.
I picked out some red oak from the shop and milled out a piece about 3/16 inches thick, 1 ½ inches wide and long enough to fit on a cabinet door. I then picked out a couple stains which I thought might match some colors in the new countertops and passed this by my wife.
She picked the golden oak stain as applied to the red oak, two applications followed by a clear coat. After the selection of the stain, I showed my wife a selection of cabinet handles in the Lee Valley catalog. A copper and bronze handle seemed to be the best selection for working with the wood, countertops and existing cabinet finish. The wood strips would be applied to the opening edge of each cabinet door as an accent to the cabinets linking them to the colors in the granite.
After the handles arrived it was time to get to the wood working. Pieces of red oak were cut and milled to size, sanded and finished with stain. The plan was to fasten the handles to the wood strips and then fasten the wood strips to the doors. Of course the screws which came with the handles were too long, made for ¾ inch thick doors and not 3/16 inch thick trim. Off to Ace Hardware, where I found 8x32x1/2 inch machine screws to fasten the handles. Since the wood strips were to be fastened to the cabinet doors, the screw heads had to be recessed in the wood trim. I used a Kreg cabinet jig to drill the mounting holes in the wood trim for the handles. Using a Forstner bit set to drill to a depth approximately equal to the screw head thickness, I lined up the mounting holes with the Forstner bit and drilled a countersink for the screw heads.
After mounting all the handles, it was time to start applying these to the doors. I marked and drilled two holes on each door to allow screws to be inserted from the back of the door into the wood trim. I then applied thick CA glue to the back of the trim, sprayed the door with accelerator and applied the wood with clamps. When the glue had set, I drove screws from the back side of the door to further secure the wood trim.
We were both happy with the outcome. Now, on to the kitchen drawers, wood trim on the top edge of the drawer fronts with a matching bronze/copper knob.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Our garden is about 3 months old now, so we wanted to post a little something to show the progress.
It’s exciting to roll with the possibilities, puzzling to respond to the problems!
Fresh, wonderful, veggies and fruits
Interesting new recipes, tried-and-true old recipes
Reading about gardening, talking about it with friends
Combining rows of plants that are compatible
Something has been nibbling on the cabbage leaves
The Savoy Cabbage died off for some unknown reason
What to do when it gets cold enough to freeze
Here’s a tiny documentary of our progress:
Meanwhile, we’ve been enjoying the fruits of our labors.
The quinoa burgers recipe came from the cookbook Eating the Alkaline Way. It has some unusual ingredients, but we found it to be very tasty! (Even Skip! Normally he can’t even pronounce the word “quinoa” without a smirk, haha!)
It’s the day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve) and we decided to make a crafty Christmas present we’ve been wanting to make ever since Thanksgiving, when some of our grown children showed us how to do it and asked for dad’s help.
Natural-edge log tea-light candle holders were easy, earthy, and a breeze to make. We have a big pile of firewood out back, which probably won’t get burned any time soon since it’s been in the 70’s and 80’s this and the past few Decembers. And we have a pile of Yankee tea-light candles with delicious-sounding names like Christmas Thyme, Gingerbread Maple, and Christmas Cookie. I bought a bunch of them online for a friend’s son’s school band fundraiser, but you can also get a bag of tea-lights from the dollar rack at CVS pharmacy (although they may not smell as good!)
Skip explains all the steps we took to make a couple of these things, in the You-tube video:
They look good as single candle holders, completely natural with no embellishments, or grouped together and tied with a ribbon or raffia.
Thanks for all the interest and love this past year. We wish you a very happy holiday the next few weeks, and hope for the best for each of you in the coming new year.
For the first time in many, many years, we decided to forgo getting a regular Christmas tree and make our own…out of wood.The reason became very clear as we watched our six month old kittens repeatedly try to climb an artificial plant in our TV room only to have it come crashing to the floor.Now, we have had cats forever and we have witnessed them denuding the Christmas tree one or two feet above the floor, drinking all the water out of the tree stand and pulling the tree skirt out from under the tree to make a nest.But this year we decided to surrender to the cats and make a cat proof tree, or as one of our sons calls it, a cat accommodating tree!
I acquired three 2’ x 4’ sheets of ½ inch Baltic plywood, and using scraps of wood and green deck screws, fastened the sheets together to form a 6’ x 4’ pallet for my wife to draw a Christmas tree. The plan was to construct a tree that could easily be disassembled once Christmas was over and to store the tree in the attic. I asked Jennifer to outline the tree and locate two large openings for shelves and two smaller openings to use for hanging cat play toys.When this was completed I took a jig saw and cut out the tree and large openings. I used an electric drill with a 4” diameter hole saw to cut out the smaller openings.
I painted the tree with forest green paint and took it inside for Jennifer to decorate the tree.We covered the dining room table with brown paper and it became our inside work bench for constructing the tree. Jennifer will tell you that our dining room table is my favorite work bench!!
While Jennifer added snow, popcorn, holly and beads, I began construction on the boxes that were to provide the support for the tree. The plan was to mount a 5” wide by 10” deep by 10” high box to the back of the tree at the center. Five inches of the box was left exposed from the front and would be decorated as the tree trunk.Two boxes 12”x 12” x 10” deep would be constructed and decorated as Christmas presents, these would be attached to the front of the tree on the left and right side of the trunk. This provided a very stable tripod arrangement to support the tree. These were fastened from the back of the tree using the same deck screws used throughout the build. The boxes were constructed using ½ inch Baltic plywood. I used a skill saw to cut out all the parts since my table saw was still occupied by the Boy Scout Eagle project we are working on (Adirondack chairs for a homeless shelter in town. Maybe a topic for another blog… how to build chairs with 10 boys 13 to 14 years old trying to use electric drills and sanders!)
Two 12” inch deep shelves were cut from the same ½ “ Baltic plywood. These had their front corners rounded off with the jig saw and painted red. Later these had a wooden strip attached to the bottom which provided a bracket for attaching the shelves to the tree.
The tree was moved to the TV room and placed in front of the fireplace. The backup plan for supporting the tree was to run a board between the tree and underside of the fireplace mantel.We then loaded the tops of the boxes and shelves with treats and hung two catnip toys in front of the small openings and sat back to see what happened. Our 16-year-old cat and the two kittens immediately put the tree to use. They climbed the front, the back and in between. The tree did not even shudder! Success!
Of course, after 30 minutes the newness wore off and they haven’t been near the tree again. However, my wife and I have felt stress-free! No broken glass Christmas decorations!No throw-up from the cats reacting to the chemicals added to the Christmas stand water to extend the life of the dying tree (only kidding about the chemicals). No urine stains on the Christmas tree skirt! No 50,000 pine needles all over the floor to clog up the vacuum! And I figure that if I get one of those tree shaped things you hang up in your car that are pine scented, we can even enjoy the smell of a real tree! Next, we might even add LED lights, battery-powered so we don’t duplicate the cat-atrophy I saw on the movie Christmas Lampoon!
As you may have seen from our previous post, we’ve gone all out for planting a raised-bed winter garden. In the prior blog entry, we go through the process of building the planters out of wood harvested from our own back yard and bolstered with our daughter-in-law’s no-longer-needed bed slats, and filling them with nutrient-building amended potting soil. We have great hopes that the planters will make it easier and better on us oldsters, to be able to maintain a home-grown garden. The planters are about waist-high, so we’re saying “no” to back-breaking shoveling, hoeing, and bending over to weed.
Today I picked out some winter veggies from our local Garden Center that are supposed to work for our growing season, although technically, I’m told the optimal time for planting the winter crop was last month. We will see if we can keep our little project going.
We have a couple of strawberry plants, various herbs, lettuce, arugula, broccoli, and a couple of different types of cabbage. We like greens, which would be an acceptable winter crop, but for me, lots of collards, turnip greens and kale are a dietary no-no (kidney stones).
Some sustainability experts say that it’s best that your garden is situated somewhere you’ll naturally see it and come in contact with it every day, like say, a spot you walk by on your way to go to work. These guys are out on the back patio, sort of hidden. If we open the blinds in the hall bathroom, we may be likely catch a glimpse of the planters if we happen to wander into that bathroom. Otherwise, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” for the garden. Maybe if we set the alarms on our cell phones each day to “go check out the garden” then our recent efforts won’t slide by the wayside. Sheesh! The ancestors had some valid motivations to tend to their gardens, such as “you want to eat some real food, don’t you?”
The weather report says we’re not supposed to have a freeze any time soon. About a week from today, it says, the temperature is supposed to go down to 35 F at night. The hay that we’re using for mulch will keep the moisture in the soil, and if it rains very hard, will prevent the dirt from splashing up onto the plants. Hopefully our shade cloth that is on order will get there by then so we can be ready to protect these little babies!
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts