Christmas Pageantry

Here’s a short little post to describe a tiny piece of a Christmas project we’re taking part in: helping to make costumes for a local production of the play Savior of the World.

The costumes for the play are modeled after the paintings of Carl Bloch, a 19th century Danish artist. The patterns are simple, the colors are muted, and the overall effect of the costumes is deeply symbolic. You can read more about the costume design in this article: Costuming for Savior of the World Production.

robe costume
robe costume for Savior of the World Christmas play

As a Christian, I like to go to at least one event during the holiday season that portrays the Christmas story. And by that I mean focusing on the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; although other productions featuring toys, dreams, visions of sugarplums, St Nick, Macy’s, animated cartoon animals, and little girls freezing to death while out trying to sell matches, etc. can be impressive.

Christmas music can elevate me to spiritual thoughts, and can bring back intense memories. Like Mrs. Horak, our third-and-fourth-grade choir teacher, banging the lid on the piano to get us to shut up and pay attention during the endless rehearsals. And fear, when she would stand next to us while we were singing, and shriek out loud “You’re FLAT!” which would cause us to sing softly, then she’d yell “LOUDER! OPEN YOUR MOUTH!” Then she would run to the piano and play the notes, and make us sing them over and over again until we were singing right. She hated it when someone would pronounce it “Christmiss.” She would yell, “CHRISTMUSS! Say it!” I must admit, sometimes when I’m singing Christmas carols, I don’t even sound like my normal self, I can actually hit those high notes. It brings me back to those frosty, dark nights in the lunchroom turned auditorium at our elementary school, taking off my coat and putting it on a pile of coats, wearing black patent-leather shoes and a choir robe, filing in a single-file line to stand on bleachers. Then, we sang for what seemed like (and probably was) hours. We sang Christmas songs, but we also sang “Oh come, Oh Come Emmanuel” and “Kumbaya,” among others, as part of the Christmas program. It was something we all looked forward to.

Thanks to everyone who carries on these traditional performances: singing, instrumental shows, dancing, displays of decorations and crafts. You bring all of us in the community together!

Christmas Tree Puzzle

By now you bloggers and YouTubers are probably growing weary of the Christmas ornament challenge. We did our share by turning a snowperson on the lathe. After looking at all the YouTube entries up to now, I am totally impressed by the creativity and talent that has gone into these. From Sam the Wyoming Wood Turner’s beautiful inlaid globe with magnetic attachments to Mitch Peacock’s Incense smoking snowman to Mike Waldt’s snowman or Christmas man, as he called it for a while, with a red proboscis!

By the way, some woodturners across the pond are cranking up a wood turning symposium! This is fantastic! I know how much trouble it is for my wife and me to host our 10 kids, spouses and 17 grandchildren for Christmas…. But a symposium for the British Isles and Irish ……..

promot 2016
UK-Irish Woodturning Symposium 2016

I regress…. Anyway we wanted to make another project for the holiday season, so I proceeded to draw (my 1 year grandson could have probably done better) a Christmas tree flanked by candles, with a star topper and a banner at the bottom to date the drawing, using Microsoft Word. You can see from the photos below that this was crude at best, but after all, Grandma Moses got away with primitive art work! I saved the “artwork” with Word in an XPS document format, loaded it into the Retina Full Spectrum software and cut out what was to be a tray puzzle featuring the tree. I used 1/8 inch Baltic birch plywood with a laser power setting of 100% and a speed of 100. My laser is a 40 watt laser.

laser cut tray puzzle
tree puzzle cutting lines

As a side note, someone on the laser forum asked if this laser could cut paper. Ummmmm…I could see an experiment formulating! I took a stack of 8 sheets of standard weight copy machine paper and placed it in the laser. I grabbed my fire extinguisher, and with the laser still set at 100%, “fired” off the laser. I let it cut out the flame over one of the puzzle candles (an interesting choice for the graphic) before turning the laser off. The top sheet of paper was cut neatly with a little brown around the edges, but by the time I got to sheet eight there was nothing but ash. So I set the power at 20% and left the speed at 100. This time I let it cut out more of the puzzle image. When I stopped the laser, I wasn’t even sure it had cut the paper. There was a faint black line outlining the image. On close inspection, I found that the laser had cut through the top sheet of paper as if it had been cut with a razor! The second sheet was partly cut, and the third sheet only had what appeared to be a printed image. None of the other pages were affected.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once the puzzle was cut and sanded, my wife applied her artistic skills and turned a disaster into a beautiful Christmas tree scene with presents and all!

Christmas tree puzzle
Finished puzzle

The tree that my wife depicted on the tray puzzle represents a modern-day American Christmas tree. The history of the tree as a symbol goes back to the time of the Egyptians, but the evergreen tree really only became a Christmas symbol in the 15th or 16th century. It was introduced into American culture in the 18th century. Google history of the Christmas tree for some very interesting history of this tradition. What does the use of a tree symbolize? Why an evergreen tree? What does the triangular shape of the tree symbolize? What does the star tree topper symbolize? Why put presents under the tree? What are the symbols of other winter holidays, such as the menorah of Hanukkah and the kinara of Kwanzaa?

Christmas Projects: Wooden Tic-tac-toe Game

Looking for CNC projects to do for Christmas, I came across the Vectric Labs Blog where several ideas for Christmas projects were posted. One of the projects that caught my attention was a Tic-tac-toe game by Beki Jeremy in a 2014 blog post. This looked like something I could handle. I could use some ½ inch Baltic birch plywood and a couple of bit changes on the CNC machine and produce one, maybe even two or three.
Tic-tac-toe has always been a fun and often spontaneous game for children and adults alike. Children want to challenge adults to a game; that is, adults who can figure out how to lose, to make the children look good!

According to Wikipedia, a form of Tic-tac-toe may have been played during the time of the Roman Empire, first century BC. The game played at this time went by the name of Terni Lapilli. It is reported that the grid for this game were found chalked all over Rome.
In Claudia Zaslavsky’s book Tic Tac Toe: And Other Three-In-A Row Games from Ancient Egypt to the Modern Computer it is indicated that Tic-tac-toe may have had its origins in ancient Egypt. More recently, the game has taken on several different names including Noughts and Crosses, of British fame (1864) and Tick-tack-toe (1884). The American name of Tic-tac-toe didn’t come about until the 20th century. Wikipedia also reports that “In 1952, OXO (or Noughts and Crosses) for the EDSAC computer became one of the first known video games. The computer player could play perfect games of Tic-tac-toe against a human opponent.” By 1975, MIT students used Tic-tac-toe to demonstrate how a computer made almost entirely out of Tinkertoys could play the game.

Often the best outcome for two good players is a draw. If you really want your head to spin on your shoulders, delve into the combinatorial of Tic-tac-toe, the possible board layouts and game combinations. Look at the strategy of winning or obtaining a draw by choosing the first available move from a list in Newell and Simon’s 1972 Tic-tac-toe program. See more Newell and Simon here. But if advanced calculus is not your thing, get Newell and Simon’s list and challenge some unsuspecting five year old to a game of Tic-tac-toe. Or if you want to engage in an experiment to use Tic-tac-toe as a pedagogical tool to teach this five year old good sportsmanship, you could just cheat and beat the five year old.

For this project, I mounted a 2 foot by 2 foot piece of ½ inch Baltic birch plywood on the CNC machine’s sacrificial board. I pulled up the Tic-tac-toe file and checked the various tool paths to make sure it would work with my plywood. I did have to change the cutting depths to 0.51 inches to insure that I could cut all the way through the plywood. As it turned out, it would have been better to set this at 0.53 inches for my set up since the 0.51 inch setting was a hair short of cutting completely through my plywood sample. Other than this change, I used the original settings.

I loaded up the g-code for the profile cuts first and used a 1/4 inch shank 90 degree engraving router bit to make these cuts. Following all the profile cuts, I changed the bit to a ¼ inch shank 0.25 inch spiral up cut end mill to make the pocket cuts. Following the pocket cuts, I loaded up the various g-codes for cutting out the game board and X’s and O’s. These cuts provided tabs to keep the parts together until the parts could be separated with a sharp chisel.

All that remained then was to sand, seal and paint. Oh, and then to challenge my wife to a Tic-tac-toe game. Of course I would go first. 


Snowman Ornaments of Wood, for Christmas

Christmas tree ornaments are favorites for lathe turning projects. Carl Jacobson and Alan Stratton are sponsoring their fourth annual Christmas ornament contest for wood turners. See their You Tube channels for details. Over the 15 years I have been turning wood projects, I have only turned Christmas ornaments once. That was after watching a video on how to turn a “fly house” from a branch out of the yard. This mini-birdhouse was a favorite with the grandchildren. Carl’s challenge reminds me that making Christmas ornaments for the grandchildren would be a good project this year. With 18 grandchildren, it may be a monumental project! To keep it simple and do-able in the time I have, I’ve decided to turn snowmen. This won’t win any competitions but hopefully it will be a winner with the grandchildren, especially if I put their names on the ornaments.
In preparation for this project, I referred to the “no-fooling-around” resource on the web, the Wikipedia site, to learn more about snowpeople.

“A snowman (or snowperson) is an anthropomorphic snow sculpture often built by children in regions with sufficient snowfall. In North America, typical snowmen consist of three large snowballs of different sizes with some additional accoutrements for facial and other features. Common accessories include branches for arms and a rudimentary smiley face, with a carrot standing in for a nose. Human clothing, such as a hat or scarf, may be included. Low-cost and availability are the common issues, since snowmen are usually abandoned to the elements once completed.”
One of the first photographic records of a snowman was taken in about 1853 and is shown below.

snowman Wikipedia
Snowman 2

“The Snowman No. 2 (4095825226)” by Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales from Wales/Cymru – The Snowman No. 2. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –

Evidently there is no clear record of when the first snowman was made. Maybe it happened when a Neanderthal decided to make one to attract and trap a wooly mammoth. Bob Eckstein, author of a book entitled The History of the Snowman, documented snowmen constructed during medieval times by studying artistic work found in European museums, art galleries and libraries. One of the earliest illustrations he found was dated 1380.

Snowmen have been thrust into the competitive genre of “who is the biggest?” A record was established in 2008 in Bethel, Maine with a 122 foot, 1 inch snow-woman. Prior to this in 1999, Bechtel, Maine produced a snowman named Angus, 113 feet, 7 inches tall weighing 9,000,000 tons!

Okay, way too much information on snowmen. Because making a snowman is a fun winter activity, and decorating for Christmas is also a fun winter activity, it seems logical that our next project will be a snowman ornament.

The Hallmark Information web site offered some historical insight into Christmas decorating. Christmas trees have evidently been a holiday practice as far back as the 15th century in Germany, appearing in the Americas in the 1700’s. Evergreen trees showed up in religious plays adorned with apples and were referred to as Paradise trees. Later they were used in homes, and ornaments of small pastries in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts and flowers were hung on the trees. The custom of having Christmas trees spread through Europe and eventually was brought to America by German mercenaries fighting in the Revolutionary War. By the 1800’s Christmas trees were very popular in the United States. Many of the commercially available ornaments came from Germany. F. W. Woolworth brought the ornaments from Germany into the Five and Dime Era, selling $25 million worth of Christmas ornaments by 1890. At this time the German-made ornaments were cast lead and hand-blown glass. Over time, ornaments became more elaborate and more expensive. By 1925 Japan had entered the market and was shipping large quantities of ornaments to the US. Czechoslovakia entered the market and by 1935 over 250 million ornaments were finding their way onto US Christmas trees. By the beginning of World War II, American companies entered the ornament market. In 1973 Hallmark introduced ornamental glass balls.

I couldn’t find many historical notes on when hand-made wooden ornaments originated but they must have been used on early Christmas trees. Christ-Kindl Markt mentions “shaved wood” ornaments created by farmers, in their essay on German Christmas ornaments history.

A wooden snowman seems to be an appropriate historical object to adorn a Christmas tree or a holiday table. But one last concern, since these are going to my grandchildren, who range in age from about one year to 17 years: safety. I don’t mean safety at the lathe, that’s a topic for another discussion, but safety associated with the ornament.
The ANSI/ASTM approved ornament would probably have to be made of surgical grade stainless steel, one foot in diameter and equipped with seat belts! It would have to comply with mechanical/physical testing (choking hazard), flammability testing (oops maybe I’ll need to soak the wooden snowmen in a flame retardant such as boric acid), chemical testing (oops again, the boric acid may be toxic and I guess lead based paint is out of question), electrical testing (check, we got this covered) and labeling (guess it will have to be 12 inches in diameter to accommodate all the labels or I could use the trick like they use on TV: ultra fine print to list all the side effects that can result from use of this ornament).

I think I’ll play it safe and make some wooden table snowmen ornaments and paint them with child-proof paint in case the grandchildren gnaw on them. I’ll provide a lengthy Christmas letter with the ornament gift, that enumerates in great detail everything our family has done over the past year and sum it up with a three page, ultra fine print disclaimer associated with the use of the ornament.

I chose Southern Magnolia, AKA poplar, to make these snowmen, primarily because I had tons of it and secondly, I was going to paint them. Maple would have probably been a better choice but all of my maple is 4/4. I cut 2 1/2 inch square blanks 6 inches long and mounted them on a midi Jet lathe between centers. I mounted a Stebcenter drive in my scroll chuck and used this to turn the blank into a cylinder with a tenon. The blank was then mounted in the scroll chuck with the tenon and I let the chips fly. I used a combination of carbide tipped tools, a bedan and thin parting tool.
I did do some planning before I started turning. I tried to adhere to the 1/3 – 2/3 proportions. I do have plans to make a Fibonacci gauge but in this case I relied on the good ol’ 1/3 – 2/3 rule.

Once the snowman was parted off the lathe, my wife took over and turned this lifeless chunk of wood into a lively snowman.

I also wanted to provide my grandchildren with another memorable gift for the Christmas holidays, so in spite of my wife’s advice, I decided to add my Annual Christmas Satire to this blog. I must add a disclaimer that all figures in this essay are fictitious and any resemblance to anyone alive or dead is coincidental. It does answer the question….

Does Snowman 2 have a sibling and if so, what does he or she do?

By Solaroller (my pen name to protect me from the CIA, NSA, IRS, SPCA etc.)

Yes, Snowman 2 has a brother by the name of Shaved Ice, who is a gangsta’ rapper. They are actually step brothers, having been adopted by the same parents, Elmer and Madge Goldberg, both activists in the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The boys’ parents owned a large produce distribution company which gave them access to several large walk-in freezers, necessary to provide a comfortable environment for Snowman 2 during the spring and summer seasons. Their produce business also gave them a constant supply of carrots necessary to maintain Snowman 2’s proboscis (not to be confused with a worm’s proboscis, a long tubular sucking organ.)
Snowman 2’s birth parents had long disappeared sometime during the 1950’s while extensive above ground testing of the hydrogen bomb was taking place in New Mexico, Snowman 2’s birthplace. All that remains of Snowman 2’s parents is the Hot Mud Spa at the New Mexico Talladega Spa and Resort.
Snowman 2’s brother Shaved Ice was adopted by Elmer and Madge while they were on a trip to Havana, Cuba for their annual attempt to smuggle Cuban cigars into Miami, Florida. The cigars were painted yellow and shipped out of Cuba in crates of bananas in keeping with their produce business. Shaved Ice was found living in a dumpster behind a Cuban tattoo parlor, where, as a 10 year-old child, he would perform customized raps for tattoo parlor patrons. When they heard him sing “Elmer and Madge done outfoxed the Badge” to the tune of the Tiny Tim favorite “Tiptoe through the Tulips”, they knew that they had to have this little boy as part of their family.
Shaved Ice grew up to become a famous rapper at night while running the cigar smuggling business for Elmer and Madge during the day. All this went on year after year without Snowman 2’s knowledge. Snowman 2 did follow Shaved Ice’s climb to success as a rapper but was not aware of his nefarious cigar smuggling activities. It was only many years later that a series of events drove a wedge between these two loving brothers.
While on a gig at a Walmart parking lot in Carson City, Nevada, Snowman 2 encountered a young undisciplined boy by the name of Sheldon Wanarski, who grabbed three of Snowman 2’s buttons, typically made of lumps of coal, and ran off to a waiting car. Later it was learned that this little fellow was actually from a very disadvantaged home where the family barely had enough money to eat, much less pay to heat their home in the bitter Nevada winters. The little boy had taken the buttons to burn in their stove for space heating and to warm their porridge for dinner. Regardless, Snowman 2 was left buttonless, standing in the Walmart parking lot surrounded by hundreds of laughing, unsympathetic children.
Elmer and Madge were infuriated and spirited Snowman 2 off to their walk-in freezer while they figured out what to do. They contacted Santa to see if he could supply new buttons of coal, but were disappointed to hear that Santa had moved over to penguin poo as a substitute for coal. Elmer and Madge could not bring themselves to a decision to make this substitution for Snowman 2’s buttons. Upon hearing of this tragedy, Shaved Ice had a suggestion. He knew that Cuba still had connections with Russia. After the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 60’s Russia had begun to smuggle pin ball machines into Cuba. The Castros did not support any activity that brought joy to the Cuban people, so pin ball machines were outlawed. Over time, the unlawful entertainment machines advanced from pinball machines to Play Stations. As energy supplies in Cuba were strictly controlled by the government, the Cuban people had to pay exorbitant prices for energy. A black market developed, with the Russians smuggling lumps of coal into the country disguised as power supplies for Play Station games. Shaved Ice contacted his Russian customers for Cuban cigars and struck a deal. Russia would skim off some of the coal disguised as power supplies and divert these to Shaved Ice where he would paint them yellow and ship them into the US as bananas. All of this worked very efficiently until Snowman 2 happened to look more closely at one of his buttons and saw it was marked “made in Russia at forced labor camps”. He immediately went to Elmer and Madge and demanded to know what this meant. Elmer was never one to keep a secret and spilled the beans, telling Snowman 2 the whole history of his step brother and their smuggling business. Snowman 2 and Shaved Ice have since made peace with one another and now Snowman 2 uses penguin poo for buttons.

Breast of Times, Worst of Times

October, the month of Breast Cancer Awareness, is almost over…

We’ve pondered and celebrated to some extent, but there’s that vague feeling of not having done enough.

Despite all the claims of “pink washing” it’s still been popular to wear pink in remembrance of, or to show support toward Breast Cancer Awareness. I first became aware that not everyone is enthralled over the emphasis on pink when it comes to breast cancer, when I read Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich. I respect the viewpoint from breast cancer survivors that the rest of us don’t really know what they’re going through.

But that hasn’t stopped the proliferation of t-shirts, colorful hats and wigs, items with slogans, and all manner of pink merchandise from being bought and sold by the droves here. I wanted to chip in, considering that I’ve had relatives and friends with breast cancer, and I wanted to do my bit to help and recognize them in their fight.

So I participated in the local Making Strides for Breast Cancer 5K walk/run, along with thousands of folks in our community.

pink tutus
ready for Making Strides walk

And I didn’t even take pix of the many men participating in their pink tutus, clown wigs, super-sized sequined demi-cup brassieres, pink team t-shirts with near-risqué slogans and drawings of hands cupping pecs. [Tying this in with 19th Century equivalents—forget it, there are none. Can you imagine Ben, Hoss, Adam and Little Joe Cartwright parading through town wearing pink t-shirts that said “Save the Boobies” all over the front and back? American women didn’t even have the right to vote in elections until 1920. People didn’t even want to say C-word.]

Our team didn’t get in on the tutu aspect of this year’s race/performance; maybe next year…

It felt good to belong to a team, to take part in something that was deemed a good thing, but still bordering on outrageous.

And for a project, I knitted a pink turban from Leisure Arts Slouchy Beanies and Head wraps.

head wrap
knitted head wrap

The pink yarn, from Bernat Handcrafter, in 100% US-grown cotton, asserted on the label that

“In 2012 Bernat contributed $30,000 USD to Susan G. Komen For the Cure and a minimum of $5,625 CDN to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in connection with this product.”

(Yes, it’s most likely been in my stash since 2012).

I’ve always leaned toward participating in causes, such as “Buy American” and boycotting certain things because of trade violations. I like being part of a group, and if I am by default included in a group, as in having risk factors for breast cancer, or being a UAW worker, or believing in Christ, I feel that I should participate in group things. What is your opinion on that? Do you think the October pink-a-thon is overdone, or fun?


Halloween Woodworking

An inspiration from one of the You Tube woodworkers: Mitch Peacock’s Hallowood 15 challenge. We haven’t risen to the level where we are confident to take on You Tube challenges yet; maybe next year. But perhaps we can participate through a blog post.
We are still learning how to use some of this new technology, so we set out to see if we could make another tray puzzle, this time with a Halloween theme.

My wife drew a jack-o-lantern outline for me to vectorize and input to the laser software, so I could try cutting out a puzzle with a Full Spectrum laser. My ineptitude in dealing with all the software left me high and dry. I could get the drawing scanned and saved in an XPS format, but when I pulled it into the software all I could do was get a raster file, which I could use to burn an image on the wood but not cut the wood. Evidently you need to use drawing software that lets you save your file in a vector format. So I used the drawing software that came with the laser, albeit pretty simple, and I was able to hammer out what looks like a jack-o-lantern outline with lines added for the puzzle cutouts. My wife can then add embellishments to make it look like a real jack-o-lantern.

A little history to equate this project to the past:
According to the website

“The practice of decorating jack-o’-lanterns [the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack] originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.”

The website has the story of “Stingy Jack” and many other great current and historical content related to Halloween including a video by a master pumpkin carver. The carving of these jack-o-lanterns thus finds its beginnings in Ireland and Britain in the early 19th century. Lighted gourds may date back over 700 years, but not as a Halloween practice.

So here was the procedure for making the Hallowood puzzle:

• Produce a drawing using a vector format. I used the drawing software that came with the laser engraver. It didn’t give us a lot of avenues for creativity, so the pumpkin is pretty simple. My wife embellished it, which made up for the simplicity.

pumpkin drawing

• Laser cut the pattern. I used 7 passes for a laser setting which was perfect for cutting through the 1/8 inch hobby plywood piece. The pattern was about 8 inches by 8 inches. If I had a better grasp of drawing this pattern I would not have cut out each tooth separately. The teeth were too small to be effective puzzle pieces. We left out the teeth and my wife ultimately painted a yellow background on the tray surface. The laser produces such a fine cut that the puzzle pieces fit very tightly in the tray. I had to do some sanding to loosen them up a little.

• Remove the puzzle pieces from the frame and lightly sand the pieces. Cut the frame to size and cut another piece of 1/8 inch plywood to form the back of the tray. Glue the tray back on the frame. Round over the corners, sand and apply a sanding sealer, in this case spray lacquer. Apply a sanding sealer to the puzzle pieces.

• Put the puzzle together and paint. This was the tricky part. The triangles for the eyes and nose were not exactly the same; another result of not knowing what I was doing when I drew the puzzle in the vector format. So once the pieces were arranged properly, my wife came up with a way to paint the pieces so their orientation would be obvious.

• Sign, date and apply a clear coat and give it to some deserving child of appropriate age.

tray puzzle Hallowood 15
tray puzzle ready to put together
wooden puzzle Hallowood 15 Challenge
painted puzzle

Lathe Safety

Some Thoughts on Wood Lathe Safety
After watching Sam’s video at Wyoming Wood Turner on lathe safety and watching Martin’s Turner’s Journey sharing of his recent accident, I decided to put out a copy of a report my undergraduate students produced on face shields. My interest developed after reading of a horrible accident in the AAW journal that a woodturner experienced even though she was wearing a face shield. The students came to my house, took a few lessons on wood turning and tried out some of the face shields I use. They then set out to study this further. What follows is their report. I edited out the equations because of the problems in translating the original PDF file into the blog. If anyone wants a copy of the complete PDF, please send me your email address.

I would welcome your comments on this study and will pass your comments on to the students. Of course there is a lot more to lathe safety besides the size and speed of the turning but maybe this will inspire turners to look for other means of protection or encourage manufacturers of face shields for wood turners to come up with new designs. Regardless of the type face shield we wear, there is no substitution for common sense. Stay out of the line of fire when possible. Turn under those cages that are sometimes provided with lathes in lieu of using them for tool racks. Use the best practice in mounting your blank to the lathe. Inspect your blank carefully for defects. Use your ears. If it doesn’t sound right, it may be wrong. Stop your lathe often and check for potential failures. Don’t wear rings or long sleeve shirts. I guess the list could go on and on.



The process of shaping wood on a lathe, “turning”, involves applying significant forces by hand to material often of irregular surface profile and cross-section rotating at high velocity, and as such, precautions against accidents must be taken to avoid serious injury. In addition to wood shavings and debris common to all wood turning projects, imperfections throughout the wood can cause hand tools to shift unexpectedly and cause failure within the workpiece, presenting a risk for injury to the operator.

Faults within the wood including grooves, burrs, and rotted sections can cause a hand tool to break off significant segments from the material, and improper mounting of the workpiece on the machine can cause the workpiece to release from the chuck and collide with the operator. Even with the use of a guard or shield which can be fixed to the base of the lathe, there is a danger of large wood fragments being thrown from the lathe toward the lathe operator, and it is at the discretion of the operator what the degree of protection is required for a project.

Lathe operators typically wear eye or face protection while working on a piece to protect from reduced visibility and injury from airborne detritus. The aim of this report is to detail the results of a study of the ability of a commercially available face shield to absorb the impact energy from wood of various species and sizes at different spindle rotational velocities in the scenario of turning a bowl blank. This study was conducted in response to videos on the internet in which experienced woodworkers were wearing the recommended safety equipment but were still injured when struck by a sizeable fragment. Fragments from a workpiece can be propelled with sufficient energy to cause bruising, concussion, and even fatal damage to the head, even when the operator is wearing head protection which meets nationally-accepted safety standards.

It is posited that the majority of face shields available commercially are not adequately designed to absorb the energy of impact of a larger projectile. The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards which must be met by commercially available polycarbonate face shields state that the shield must be able to absorb 0.84 J of impact energy, while a “high-impact” shield must absorb 4.41 J [2]. The ANSI standard is documented in ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010 [10]. An experiment was devised to simulate the impact of a projectile from a wood lathe failure and determine the adequacy of the shield to absorb the impact, and further theoretical study was conducted to estimate the effectiveness of commercially-available face protection against wood lathe failures which could not be replicated in the previous experiment.


When researching the different types of face shields available for woodworking it was determined that there is two basic styles. The first involves just a headband that holds a plastic shield that covers the wearer’s face. The second, more common, shield combines a helmet and face shield, or provides some rigid structure or protection for the wearer’s forehead or around the sides of the plastic . This second style also comes with the option for a pressurized respirator to keep the wearer cool while working [5]. Examples of both types of face shields are shown in Figure 1.

face shields
face shields

Fig. 1: Examples of both basic types of face shields used in woodworking [11] [12].

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides a rating scale for each face shield. Under ANSI ratings, there are two protection levels; the lower level or basic impact, which must be achieved by all face shields sold commercially, tests the strength of the shield by dropping a 1 in diameter steel ball weighing 68 g from 50 inches onto the shield at the point which corresponds approximately to either of the wearer’s eyes [10]. These hold an ANSI rating of Z87, which means the shield can withstand 0.87 Joules of energy during an impact.

The upper level or high impact rating utilizes a high velocity test where a ¼ inch-diameter steel ball bearing weighing 1.06 g is shot at 300 ft/s towards the face shield. An example of the recommended apparatus for consistently reproducing the high velocity test is shown in Figure 2. The Z87.1-2010 standard specifies that the 300 ft/s speed must be achieved no further than 25 cm from the point of impact. A high mass test is also used for rating for Z87+, in which a 500 g pointed projectile, the geometry of which is shown in Figure 3, is dropped from a height of 50 inches. If the face shield does not dent, crack, or displace from the frame, it earns the Z87+ rating [10]. recommended apparatus
recommended apparatus

Fig 2: The recommended apparatus for the high velocity impact test.

geometry of the high-mass impact missile

Fig. 3: The geometry of the high-mass test impact missile [10].

Corroborating the kinetic energy calculations for both the high mass and high velocity tests with other sources, it is known that shields that can withstand an impact of at least 4.41 Joules of energy hold an ANSI rating of Z87+, and must pass both the high velocity and high impact tests. However, it should be noted that the powered respirators may carry the Z87+ rating but can have a thinner piece of plastic than most face shields [1].

Further investigation into the background of the Z87.1 standard revealed that the parameters set by ANSI/ISEA to establish the safety ratings are largely arbitrary and that the organization itself is self-regulating, so examination is needed to ascertain whether a safety rating for “high impact” has any practical meaning for wood turners.


The initial approach to this experiment was to build a pendulum that would generate the same angular momentum as a that of the rotating pieces of wood that could possibly break off while woodworking on a lathe. Three different wood types were chosen with four different diameter/length combinations to create cylinders, or dowels, which would form the impact head of the pendulum. The maximum angular momentums (tables seen below) were then calculated for those twelve combinations. The results of the calculations for each wood species/diameter/length/spindle speed combination are shown in Tables 1-3.

table 1 craftsbyjennyskip,.com
table 1
table 2
table 2
table 3
table 3

Upon further research, it was determined that using a pendulum would not sufficiently translate the energy generated from the pieces of wood into the face shield. The pendulum could not store enough energy to deliver the impact force at the desired magnitude, so an alternate experimental setup was devised. Rather than creating separate pendulums with different impact heads, an air cannon could be constructed using an air compressor, a butterfly valve, and a length of Schedule 40 steel pipe. Pressure from the compressed air is released when the valve is opened, pushing the projectile, a wooden dowel, down and out the length of the barrel.

Initially, a similar approach to the pendulum-based experiment was taken for dowel geometry relating to mass: each dowel would be the same length, and the radius of each dowel would be scaled from 0.5” to 2” in steps of 0.5”. The airflow would be restricted for the smaller sized dowels using an O-ring or rubber stopper. Initial mass and calculations were conducted with these parameters in mind . However, it was determined to be more efficient to have dowels of the same diameter to minimize pressure loss down the length of the barrel, so the dowels would be scaled by length to achieve the same mass as their diameter-based counterparts with a 2” diameter.

table 4
table 4

The revised experiment utilized a compressed air cannon launching wooden dowels at a target, measuring the exit velocity of the dowel from the cannon and calculating the force of impact. The equation to calculate the cannon exit velocity was derived by researchers from Wabash College assuming adiabatic expansion to obtain the following, where m is the mass, Po is the initial pressure at the valve, Vo is the volume of the cannon reservoir, A is the cross-sectional area of the barrel cavity, L is the length of the barrel, Patm is atmospheric pressure, gamma = 1.4 for air, f and is the friction factor [9]:

Exit velocity =

exit velocity equation
exit velocity

Because each dowel had the same diameter, only one cannon needed to be constructed to accommodate all of the different dowel lengths, so all of the parameters listed above are the same for the exit velocity calculation except for the mass of the dowel. Equation (4) was used to determine the size of a piece of wood needed to generate 4 Joules of energy at the instant of exit from the barrel. Only wooden dowels were considered for these calculations and ultimately tested.

The final set up for the air cannon used an air compressor with a 100 psig capacity connected to a 2 ft length of pipe with a 1 ¼” diameter. Several adapters were applied in series to allow the ¼” fitting of the air compressor hose to connect to the 1 ¼” pipe. To measure the velocity of the projectile, the cannon was set at a 45 degree angle from the ground on a ramp approximately three feet from the ground and secured as shown in the picture below. At this angle, an equation can be used to approximate the velocity of the projectile, where Vo is the exit velocity, d is the horizontal distance traveled by the dowel while airborne, and g is acceleration due to gravity.


Fig. 4: The unweighted 1 oz dowel (left) and the same dowel with the 2 oz weight added (right).

testing config
testing set up

Fig. 5: The testing setup configuration for the air cannon during data collection.

The same dowel was fired from the cannon several times for data collection. The first tests utilized an oak dowel weighing one ounce, but due to the lightness of the dowel and the clearance between the dowel and the walls of the cannon, too much pressure was lost along the length of the cannon, and the exit velocity was considerably less than predicted as a result. The next series of tests used a 1 oz dowel with a 2 oz metal bolt inserted along the length of the dowel. The same 3 oz projectile was fired from the cannon five times, and each distance was recorded.


When testing the 1 oz. dowel, the average distance when shot at 45 degrees was 37 feet. Plugging those variables into the energy equation, we determined the 1 oz. dowel generated 1 Joule of energy. The 3 oz. dowel was then loaded into the air cannon and again shot at 45 degrees, the average distance was 47 feet and generated roughly 4 joules of energy.

To get a better understanding of what that 4 J of energy translates to, the air cannon was laid flat on the table and the 3 oz. dowel was shot at a sheet of cardboard that was held roughly 18 inches away. The picture below shows the results of that test. It should be noted that the hole in the center of the impact was due to the metal weight that was inserted into the center of the dowel to increase its mass, however the indented ring around that center hole was caused by the impact of the dowel.


Fig. 6: A photograph of the damage dealt to the cardboard sheet by the dowel. The dented, unpunctured section highlighted by the arrow is the impact of the dowel itself.

After reviewing the results of the experiment, it became known that there were scenarios within the scope of the study for which even faceshields rated for Z87+ impact would not adequately absorb the energy from an impact. Rather than replicate these impacts with further tests from the air cannon, a theoretical study was conducted to determine maximum safe conditions for turning operations in a variety of circumstances. Because the high velocity impact test described earlier is conducted with a horizontally-moving projectile, the impact energy is equated to the kinetic energy of the projectile. The impact energy is calculated at five rotational velocities for three species of wood and three blank diameters from which failures can eject. The volume of the projectiles being evaluated are rough approximations of the volumes of the two-inch diameter dowels used in the air cannon experiment which are detailed in Table 4.

The table cells colored blue in Tables 5-13 are those containing impact energy values for which a basic-level rated shield is sufficiently safe, those colored green are safe for Z87+ rated shields, and the red cells denote scenarios for which there is a risk for injury even when wearing a “high impact” face shield. The bottom row of each table contains the calculated RPM value for which it is safe to turn a workpiece on a lathe to be completely protected from the force of impact by a projectile of the specified volume. To provide some illustration of the volumetric dimensions, a cube of volume 2.5 in3 would have an edge length of approximately 1.35 inches, a 10 in3 cube has edge length of about 2.15 in (about 1.5x the size of the 2.5 in3 cube), a 20 in3 cube has edge length 2.71 in (2x the size of the 2.5 in3 cube), and a 40 in3 cube has edge length 3.42 in (2.5x the size of the 2.5 in3 cube).

table 5
table 5
table 6
table 6
table 7
table 8
table 8
table 9
table 9
table 10
table 11
table 12
table 13

The results of this study show that shields rated to only basic Z87 impact standards protect against wood lathe failures of small size and should be used only when turning at low spindle speeds. Shields rated to Z87+ will protect against impact from some larger failures at higher spindle speeds, but the range of safety coverage is still greater at low speeds for all woods. It is uncommon for wood turning operations occurring at spindle speeds like 2500 RPM to be much more than surface finishing, so the likelihood of encountering dangerous failures at such speeds is low as long as good woodworking discipline and general common sense are employed when working at the lathe. It can be seen from the tables that even a Z87+ shield will not protect the wearer from injury against especially large failure impacts.

With this information in hand, it is desirable to develop a face shield which will guarantee the safety of the wearer. Improvements can be made to current designs to increase the suitability of commercial face shields to withstand impact forces such as those delivered by the previously described wood lathe failures. For example, adding thickness to the polycarbonate shield itself will increase the rigidity of the shield, preventing it from deforming under the pressure of the impact. A riot helmet containing a face shield is subject to a separate safety standard set by the National Institute of Justice. In their standard NIJ-0104.02, the criteria for face shield impact testing is similar in process to that of ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010, but the impactor used to verify that the shield meets the standard is a 45-mm diameter cylinder with a weight of 1 kg being dropped from a height of 80 cm [13]. This would suggest that the shield on a riot helmet must be able to absorb approximately 7.85 J of energy. Using this value in accordance with Tables 5-13 shows a significant increase in the range of the conditions deemed safe or minimally hazardous for lathe failure impacts. The thickness of riot helmet face shields is on average about 3/16”, while the polycarbonate on the face shields tested in the experiment ranged from 0.1-0.15 inches [14].

An alternative solution to increasing the ability of the face shield to protect the wearer is to incorporate existing methods of head and face protection used in other types of helmets, particularly those used in contact sports. Football and hockey helmets contain a lattice of thick wire bars which are used to distribute the force from impacts from objects such as hockey pucks, which are of approximately the same dimensions as some of the lathe failures analyzed in this report, which would be equally effective, if properly arranged, in protecting against impacts encountered in wood turning. These can be secured to the polycarbonate face shield to prevent the full contact area of the projectile from impacting the shield itself, and the remaining energy can be absorbed by the shield without significantly reducing the wearer’s field of vision. This would also reduce the risk of large wood projectiles denting or cracking the shield.

Sports helmets also include padding in the helmet itself so that when impact forces are encountered, the rigid plastic does not transfer the full force of the impact to the wearer’s head. Similar cushioning can be implemented into wood turning-appropriate face shields, particularly the forehead and potentially the chin, to mitigate the effects of a collision with a lathe failure projectile.


In this study, the ability of a face shield which was deemed able to protect its wearer from injury when impacted was tested against actual workpiece failure scenarios for wood turning operations on a lathe. Tests were conducted using an air cannon to determine the impact force of a wood projectile delivered to a shield and to set a basis for further theoretical analysis to better define the boundaries of safe operation for real-world wood lathe use. It was discovered that the application of the “Z87+” label to rated shields does not necessarily protect the wearer from highmass and/or high-velocity impacts, and data was tabulated to provide a clearer picture to wood turners to what degree they are protected by their headgear. Face shields rated for basic impact were found to be almost entirely inadequate for protection against all but the lowest-intensity evaluated conditions, and even those rated for higher impact did not cover the majority of scenarios. Further expansion of this study should include an analysis of how the energy calculations translate to degree of danger posed by the impacts to the health of the wearer at each condition, particularly which scenarios can prove excessively harmful or fatal, even when proper head protection is in use.


[1] A. Chen, “Are You Wearing the Right Faceshield, American Woodturner”, vol. 25:2, pp.
14, April 2013.
[2] A. Jackson, D. Day and S. Jennings, The Complete Manual of Woodworking, 13th ed., NY, Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 2012.
[3] A. Rao, Dynamics of Particles and Rigid Bodies: A Systematic Approach, 2nd ed., Cambridge U.K., Cambridge University Press, April 2011.
[4] H. Carpenter, “Safety for Woodturners: On the Edge of Disaster, American Woodturner”, vol. 27:4, 2013, pp.16.
[5] J. English, “Wood Dust Solutions, American Woodturner”, vol. 25:2, pp. 20, April 2010.
[6] R.G. Chandavale and T. Dutta, “Correction of Charpy Impact Values for Kinetic Energy of Test Specimen” in Pendulum Impact Machines: Procedures and Specimens for Verification, T.A.
Siewert and A.K. Schmider Eds., Philadelphia PA, American Society for Testing and Materials, 1995, pp. 221-231.
[7] Time-Life Books, The Art of Woodworking: Woodturning, Alexandria VA, St. Remy Press, 1994.
[8] W.H. Wagner and C.E. Kicklighter, Modern Woodworking: Tools, Materials, and Processes, 6th ed., South Holland IL, The Goodheart-Wilcox Company Inc., 1986.
[9] Z.J. Rohrbach, T.R. Buresh, M.J. Madsen, ” Modeling the exit velocity of a compressed air cannon,” Am. J. Phys., vol. 80, no. 1, pp. 24-26, January 2012.
[10] International Safety Equipment Association, “American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection Devices ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010,” International Safety Equipment Association, Arlington, 2010.
[11] “Adjustable Face Shield,” Harbor Freight Tools, [Online]. Available:
[12] “Face-shield high temperature,” Direct Industry, [Online]. Available: [13] U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice, “NIJ Standard for Riot Helmets and
Face Shields,” October 1984. [Online]. Available: [14] “Riot Face Shield,” Gentex, [Online]. Available:

Do not use any information in these posts without permission.

Modern Hemming

I always thought that blind-hemming was the only hemming that was acceptable for clothes that would be worn out in public. Blind-hemming, to me, was done by hand. Imagine my surprise, and skepticism, when I found out blind-hemming can be done on a sewing machine! Some machines have a designated blind-hem stitch, some have attachments for blind-hemming.

Sewing machines became popular in the 19th Century, but lots of sewing was still done by hand. Hand-sewing is rather an art, wouldn’t you say? I love beautiful hand-embroidery, trapunto, appliqué, quilting. Those fancy stitches make plain old blind-hemming look like a country cousin. We are a couple that is also fascinated by what machines can do. So I decided to give blind-hemming on the sewing machine a try. As luck would have it, Skip had 4 or 5 new pairs of pants that mysteriously came in with no hems at all, and each pant leg was about 5 inches too long.

pants to hem

The first step was to get Skip to try them on and say where he wanted the length to be terminated. About a year and a half later, we were ready to go to Step 2: measuring the inseam.

pants inseam
measuring the inseam

Next, cut off the excess. You have to leave some length to make a cuff or turn under. I think a pants hem should be about 3/4 inch to 1 inch. My grandmother taught me that the 2nd joint of my index finger is about an inch long, so I can eyeball that distance as a rough measure.

cutting off excess
yikes, the cut-off. It’s a little scary.

What if I cut it off too short? Oops, I have done that before! To be safer, wash and dry the pants before hemming (if the label says you can do so; don’t wash them if it says: “dry clean only”), and make the inseam a little longer than you think it should be.

pants hem
fold up a hem, fold it up twice, and press

To sew the blind-hem by machine, you take the folded-over-twice hem and fold the outermost fold back in. My machine has a blind-hem foot and a blind-hem stitch that does about 4 straight stitches, then a side stitch, which is the blind-tack. If I were sewing the blind-hem stitch by hand, I would knot the thread, push the needle through the folded hem edge, then attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch that can be barely seen from the outside of the pants, then grab a big stitch from the folded edge of the hem, and again, attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch, grabbing only a thread’s breadth of the pants fabric with the needle.

blind hem foot
sewing machine’s blind-hem foot
Husqvarna Viking Diamond blind-hem setting
machine set up for blind-hemming
blind hemming by machine
Placement on throat plate for sewing the blind-hem

Sometimes people like to forget the pressing. But pressing is important; it makes the difference between shabby and sharp.

unpressed pants hem
These are the hemmed pants before pressing
pants hem
pressed pants hem

If you click on the last photo, and zoom up, you’ll be able to see the blind-tack stitches. They are more noticeable than if sewn by hand, but they look ok. They look good enough.

Birdhouse Build

The recent Summers Woodworking Birdhouse Challenge encouraged me to get into the shop and resurrect my birdhouse plans. Although I didn’t create a fancy birdhouse and I didn’t finish it in time to enter the contest, I enjoy making bird houses.

Some 10 years ago I had the honor to coach a scout for his Eagle project.  It was hard to contain my excitement when the scout asked if he could do a woodworking project. Another member of our scout group suggested that we build birdhouses and contact a local Audubon Society member to get guidance and to be the project sponsor.  The project developed from that point on, and soon a group of young men, young women and several adults began the construction of 150 kestrel nesting boxes. The kestrels were struggling in Florida at that time due to destruction of their habitat by fires. At the completion of the project, many of the youth were able to see the boxes they made mounted some 30 to 40 feet above the ground on power poles. The following year, the sponsor reported that many of the boxes had been used by nesting kestrels and that the project had been a major success.  A year or so later, we found ourselves working on another project for our sponsor: blue bird boxes.

Currently, we’ve decided to build a blue bird box for a blog project. I hope the information we share here will encourage woodworkers to seek out their area’s local needs for bird nesting boxes, and will participate when possible.

On the Cranmer Earth Design Information website you can find an interesting history of birdhouses.  The use of man-made birdhouses goes back as far as the 15th century. Materials used for birdhouses ranged from baskets to bark to pottery.  When English immigrants reached the eastern coast in the 18th century they found that Native Americans were making bird houses out of birch bark.  The Native Americans saw a need to bring birds to their area, and recognized that birdhouses could help accomplish this goal.  Europeans built birdhouses to collect eggs or trap birds. Early American settlers wanted to attract birds for insect control.

So why do we build birdhouses today? Birdhouses can help offset habitat destruction by either natural or man-made means. It’s interesting to note that we build birdhouses for birds who do not naturally build freely supported nests in trees or structures, but look for cavities to nest in.

The birdhouse construction for our blog project follows the recommendation of the Audubon sponsor we used on earlier projects. It also follows fairly closely the recommendations outlined in the website .  This website provides the dimensions used in this project, specifically the size recommended for an Eastern blue bird.

blue bird house plan
Blue bird house plan from

The hole size and location accommodates the habit of the blue bird to fly directly into the birdhouse.  There is no perch, because one is not needed, and a perch would provide predators a platform for entering the birdhouse. The wood used is untreated cedar (treated lumber should never be used).  It was also our impression that, for at least these bird types, the house should not be painted. One side of the box is hinged, to open for periodic cleaning. 

hinged bird house
hinged side, to open for cleaning

In many cases other animals may use the box when the birds are not nesting and their nesting material needs to be removed.  A removable nail is used to lock this side in a closed position. This side is also designed to leave a gap just under the roof’s edge for ventilation.

bird house
sides have gap for ventilation

Another side is also cut to assist ventilation.  The floor of the box is notched for drainage, and slightly elevated from the sides of the box to help keep the interior dry.

birdhouse floor
Notches in the floor for drainage

It is also recommended that a ¼ inch groove be cut underneath the three exposed edges of the roof to prevent rainwater runoff from following the edge of the roof and curling back on the nesting box walls.  The diagrams do not show it here, but it is also a good idea to cut a series of grooves on the inside face of the front side of the box. This is better illustrated in the construction photographs.  The grooves provide a “toe hold” for the bird fledglings to climb out of the box.

birdhouse toe holds
grooves serve as “toe holds”

When the nesting box is completed, it can be mounted on a pole or fence post four feet above the ground, in an open area.  The website above gives specific positioning guidance for various types of bird houses.  Our Audubon consultant suggested mounting the blue bird boxes on a post in a location with bushes about 10 feet in front of the box. This provides an opportunity for the fledglings to practice flying back and forth from the bushes to the box.

blue bird house
blue bird box sketch from

It isn’t always easy to insure that the location you pick will be free from predators such as cats, snakes or raccoons.  The website above provides some guidelines for adding structures to the birdhouse or support to protect against predators.

For our project, we selected cedar as the construction material, specifically nominal 1×6 cedar planks.  A four foot length will provide enough wood to make all but the roof.  A 1×10 board is needed for the roof, but if you are only going to make one birdhouse, you can purchase some extra 1×6 and glue up a panel for the roof. This is what we did, since we had extra 1×6 boards and no 1×10’s. We used Titebond 3 glue since this joint would be exposed to the weather.

You’ll find that for some other box types, the back board for the box not only extends below the bottom of the box but also above the roof.  This expedites attaching the box to a pole or other structure.  This was the case for the kestrel boxes we built.  In the case of the kestrel boxes, the roof butts up against the back board, leaving a seam where water could leak in. To prevent this, a sealant was run along this seam.

The construction of the box calls for galvanized nails. We found during the assembly of the 100 plus birdhouses that it was quicker to apply Titebond 3 glue to the joints and then use a pneumatic crown stapler to hold the joints together while the glue dried. This method seemed to hold up as well as using galvanized nails. The main reason we chose the method we did, was because we had several young people doing the construction and driving galvanized nails into the cedar with a hammer proved to be a challenge, unless we predrilled the holes.  The cedar was very prone to splintering.

Here’s a little you-tube of the nesting blue bird box build:

The cedar boards from the big box stores could be easily cut to size with a chop saw.  It would be recommended to use some kind of jig to nip the corners off the floor piece, to keep your hands well away from the chop saw blade. The hole for the entrance was drilled with a Forstner bit. A jig was also used to cut the grooves on the back side of the front wall. The depth of cut was set on the chop saw to 1/8 inch, and the board was fed by hand as the chop saw was repeatedly lowered onto the board.

If you’d like to provide some housing for our feathered friends, get into your shop and chop some wood! And as always, focus on what you are doing, and be safe!

Fitness From One Century to Another

We’ve had some interesting discussions lately about how to avoid getting cancer. One way is to quit smoking if you’ve been a smoker, or to never start if you haven’t been. But, living in the 21st Century, we can benefit from LOTS of prior research that tells us things we can do to avoid getting cancer. The older we get, the more I realize that none of us is immune to it.

While surfing the list of online courses offered by University of Florida, I happened upon this one you can take for just $20: TAKE CONTROL TO REDUCE YOUR CANCER RISK. You don’t need a college degree to guess that some things you can do to head off cancer include proper diet, exercise, using sunblock, and staying away from chemical exposure, right?

Googling cancer’s history brings up a wealth of horrific lore about how the disease was looked upon in the 19th century. Apart from the various forms of gender-specific cancers, cancer overall was thought to afflict mostly women. Men were encouraged to ramp up diet and exercise so as not to be “subject to women’s diseases.” [from The Emergence of Cancer as a Public Health Concern by Ornella Moscucci, Phil, BSc ].

So diet and exercise were emphasized in the 19th century, but perhaps not to the extent they are now.  Our ancestors probably did lots more walking from place to place than we do, and had physically intense jobs to do, unless they were on the wealthy end of the scale. I’ve had ancestors from both the wealthy side and the poor side. The upscale ancestors may have entertained the notion of Physical Culture, in which exercise with light apparatus such as dumbbells, bar bells, ropes, and other props may have been employed.

Our affluence and  abundance of leisure time may have added to our risk of ill health, by allowing us to overeat and under-exert.  I just finished a 6-week class at the local gym called “Tighten Your Tummy” in which light apparatus, of the sort I’ve never encountered before, was employed. We used foam rollers, a BOSU, a Pilates ring, mushy balls, and exercise mats for two 30-minute intense workouts per week, in addition to a 30-minute minimal workout (like walking or yoga) per day.

BOSU crunches
crunches on the BOSU (note AAW 2013 t-shirt, now part of my workout clothes)
yoga mat and wedge
yoga mat and wedge apparatus






I go to a one-hour yoga class every morning, and I’ve been toting some light apparatus with me in the form of a yoga mat. More and more, my fellow yoginis (I go to the Women’s Gym) have added to their caches of apparatus: blocks, straps, wedges, towels, light dumbbells and gripper things. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it, since one of the 8 limbs of yoga is Pratyhara, the withdrawal of the mind from sense objects. But we don’t get far into the metaphysical aspects of yoga, it’s more of a fitness regime for us.

It was time to sew a new and upgraded light apparatus carrier, since the mat bag I made a while back is barely big enough for the mat and nothing additional. While the Gaiam online store had a nice selection of bags and totes at fairly decent prices, of course I decided to make my own. I found a piece of beige pleather in the remnant stash, some purse magnets I ordered a while back from Nancy Zieman, and a length of funky, fringe-y woven trim in the ribbon, ruffle and trim stash. That’s all it took! Easy-peasy.

pleather remnant
pleather remnant
purse magnets jenny skip
purse magnets
pleather gym bag
finished gym bag
gym bag jennyskip
carrier for light apparatus

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts