Friday night in the workshop

It is much quieter around the house with Susanna and Isabella out of town. My evenings are pretty open without having to juggle getting Isabella to go to bed. Tonight I decided that I would be happier if I did something other than watch a show after dinner, so I headed out to the workshop. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of TV time over the next few weeks until Susanna and Isabella return. Yes my life is that exciting.

I decided that my next workshop project was to replace the rack I built to hold my chisels. Chisels stick in the current rack and can be difficult to get out. Plus it doesn’t look very nice.

My existing chisel rack made from a spare piece of white oak.

I headed up to my loft and pulled out a piece of cherry lumber. I was in no mood to dig out a piece of exotic lumber after the pain of working with Yellowheart. Cherry is very nice to work with. Not too hard and not too soft and darkens to a nice color with exposure to the sun.

I decided to do as much by hand as I could. I cut a 25″ piece off of the board, and ripped (by hand) a 2″ wide piece off that cutoff. I flattened one face by hand, but there was no way I was interested in milling to thickness by hand, so into the planer it went. I used a handplane and scraper to finish the surface

Cutting the openings to the holes.

I edge jointed the board by hand. It felt nice to get the handplanes out again. I marked out and then drilled the holes using the drill press; I had already setup the drill press for a test piece and don’t think digging out the bit and brace was really worth it tonight.. The slots were cut by hand and then shaped with a rasp.

Shaping the holes using a rasp.

Finally I lightly sanded the entire piece and softened the edges, wiped it down with mineral spirits and put a few chisels in it for a test fit.

Test fitting the new chisel rack.

The next step is to mill a backing board with rabbet to allow me to mount the rack to the wall and apply some sort of finish to the project. I’ll probably also put some sort of ledge below the chisels to keep hands from bumping into the sharp edge of the chisels. I also don’t think my mortise chisel (far left on top picture) will fit in the holes I made, so I may have to modify or add another spot for that chisel. The final step will be to acquire more chisels. Maybe make the set match better, because matching tools are always important.

Now I just need to think of a project to build for the house.

Saturday Morning Photo Walk

This morning, Will, Izzy and I drove to the Connecticut College Arboretum for a short photo walk. It was warm and humid early which elicited complaints about the walk early on from Izzy. However, for the most part, she was good company and a somewhat willing model for pictures. Will focused on the wildlife, and I tried to get Izzy to at least not look too grumpy for pictures. She did take some pictures of me, but I had a manual focus lens on, so they didn’t turn out great.

Workshop Project – Saw Till

Saw Till – completed and hung

This morning I put the final finish coat on the Saw Till and hung it in the workshop. I made it from yellowheart lumber with some spare flooring milled for the back. I learned a few lessons from this project.

Yellowheart (Euxylophora paraensis) is hard to work with. It has a Janka Hardness of nearly 1800, so it is harder than Hard Maple and White Oak (1600 and 1350 lb Janka hardness respectively). It was certainly tough on the chisels, and the interlocking grain pattern made it difficult to plane. Next time I’ll stick to oak or cherry.

I also didn’t make the till tall enough for all my saws. The saw to the right of the till is about 1″ too long to properly fit on the till. I could probably still put it on the till; it wouldn’t fall out but would stick out the top.

Now to sharpen a few more saws and add them to my collection and figure out my next shop project (maybe improve my chisel storage).

Sailboat Project Day

I had the day (mostly) to myself today. Susanna and Izzy departed early this morning to go to New York for Swedish School and Will, for most of today, was busy doing his own things. I had carved out today to be a day to get back into restoring the sailboat. I’ve been working off and on (mostly off) ripping out wiring and patching some holes. Today I got back into restoring the deck. The old non-skid is shot, so I’m slowly sanding it off and my plan is to re-gelcoat the topside. I am using brushable gelcoat. It goes on thick and doesn’t level as well as paint does, but hopefully it will last another 40 years. The trick to getting it to look good is to sand a lot and then buff out the top after it cures.

Today’s project included removing the port side handrail and sanding that section of the cabin top. It was warm enough to apply the gelcoat, so I went through a bit more than half a quart on the bow. It is slow going. The gelcoat starts curing very quickly, so I don’t get a lot of time to work it and have to do a small section at a time. Hopefully it will all look good once I’m done sanding it out. Maybe it would be more efficient to prep the entire topside before gelcoating, but that isn’t really how my brain works (got to love ADHD).

Port side cabin top with the handrail removed.
Gelcoat applied to the bow and very front part of the cabin. I was able to get a second section done after this picture was taken (starboard bow to the front of the cabin.

I was also able to lay the final layers of fiberglass on a hole in the cockpit/cabin that I’m repairing. That will need a layer of fairing compound and a bunch more sanding before it is ready to gelcoat.

I was able to get a little time with Will to work on his boat. We worked on gelcoating his boat (we had done it a few years ago, but he decided he wants it white and not blue (the blue is way too hot on the sun). It was fun to get some time with him in the afternoon before he had friends over for the evening. Kevin Farrar (Farrar Sails, New London) is planning on coming by on Thursday evening to measure for rigging and possibly new sails.

The start of summer

Memorial Day weekend is the start of the crazy rush of a summer. In the past it has always felt sort of like getting on a water slide over Memorial Day weekend and everything is a rushed blur until you get dumped out the other side at Labor Day. This summer is setting up to be the same. Ben graduates High school in a few weeks. On the same day, Izzy has her last day of school and Susanna’s preschool class has graduation. Susanna’s parents are also scheduled to arrive in Preston that morning for a week visit.

Izzy marching in the Ledyard Memorial Day Parade
Isabela marching in the Ledyard Memorial Day Parade

A few days after Susanna’s parents depart, Izzy and I are starting our 10-ish day road trip to Missouri. It is a long road trip, but I’m letting her have an old phone for the trip. Part of the agreement is that she journal her trip, which she will do on her blog. After Missouri she has a two weeks of summer camp and then she and Susanna head to Sweden for 4 weeks. I’ll hang out here and hopefully get some sailing and camping in with the boys.

This weekend was a good start. Will and I did some work on his loft and picked up some much needed storage for his stuff. Our big house plans was to clean up the back yard and put the pool up; just in time for the 80+ degree sunny day today. Will has been collecting more animals, and caught a marbled salamander in our basement this morning; he is working on a habitat for it. I think eventually he will need to add small critter storage in the basement, but he’s not quite there yet.

Play house and sandbox – ready for the summer.

We finished off the weekend with a nice lunch at a friends house.

Isabella working on a puzzle before breakfast, Memorial Day 2022

Of course, every finished project leads to a new one. The swimming pool is galvanized steel and is showing some rust spots. Probably due to our acidic well water. I’ll have to find some way to protect the pool later this summer. Maybe vinylester gelcoat will stick to the steel.

And of course there is the long list of unfinished projects. the next project this afternoon is to get some more work on Will’s sailboat – assuming I have the energy to get working in the later afternoon heat.

Isabella testing out the swimming pool as it is slowly filled from the garden hose.

Getting on (and in) the water

I do realize that I’m a lot better at starting projects than finishing them. I have a 26′ sailboat that I am refurbishing, and it may wind up being just a project to work on and never a boat in the water. With that in mind, and the summer coming quickly, I decided that I needed something to get on the water. So, two weeks ago, I picked up a 7′ dinghy. It was small enough to fit in the back of the mini-van.

The new boat. It is ugly, but floats.

The boat was pretty ugly, but looked like it would float. I washed it and sanded and smoothed the bottom. I had a third of a can of gelcoat left from last summer that I used to paint the bottom (or most of the bottom). The big sailboat came with a larger dinghy that I’m just waiting to throw in the trash next time we get a dumpster, but it did have two sets of oars. I sanded the wooden oars and reinforced the blades with some fiberglass and epoxy. I topped it with a few coats of marine varnish. Not the nicest oars, but functional. They might be a touch too long for the boat, but the price was right.

This weekend Will and I decided to take Izzy and his dog, Hoagie, down to the Thames river and test out the boat. Izzy decided that she preferred swimming, and Hoagie preferred the shore, though he started having fun chasing splashes from Izzy swimming. We will make a swimmer of him one of these days. The only problem is he liked to drink the water, and I’m pretty sure it is brackish where we put in (not that I was going to taste it).

Izzy and me exploring the inlet on the Thames river.

The boat is really small, but it floats. Rowing was a pain, there isn’t much room to stretch your legs out when you are rowing and you have the tendency to hit your knees with the oars. Maybe shorter oars would help. Or maybe a trolling motor would make it more fun to explore (though I’d probably have to register it if I put a trolling motor on it). Maybe I’ll paint the sides later this summer if we have any gelcoat left from Will’s boat.

Next time I’ll try freshwater if we are bringing Hoagie. At least then he can drink the water. I canoe might be an even better bet for getting on the water, but enough boats (for now).

Printing boat parts

A few weeks ago, Will pulled out his sailboat to try to get it ready for the summer. We had pulled off all the deck fittings last summer to paint the top of the boat, but never got back to putting the fittings back on. His boat is a 16′ lifting keel O’Day Wildfire from the late 1960s. A lot of the hardware isn’t original, and the parts that are show their age.

One of the pieces that were in rough shape were the thru-deck bushings. New ones cost $10-$15 each, so why not play around with the 3d printer and try printing them. Commercial bushings have metal linings, so the printed ones may not last as long. But I had spare resin, so there was no real cost to making the parts. Anyway, we could always replace them with commercial bushings in the future if needed. I spent a few nights designing the part on Fusion 360 and made some test pieces. It would probably have been easier if I had a set of calipers to measure the original, but trial and error works as well. The final design seems to fit the boat and I am in the process of printing four – though I think I could probably fit a few more on the print space. The parts take about an hour to print on our cheap printer.

Progression of my design for the thru hull bushings. The final design is on the left and the original piece is on the right.

NYC (Spring Break 2022)

For the final weekend of spring break, Susanna and I decided to take Izzy to New York City. Izzy and Susanna had Swedish school on that Sunday in New Rochelle, so would have to make the drive no matter what. We made reservations at a Residence Inn in Secaucus, NJ. The hotel is an easy detour from I-95, though the trip down 95 (at least through Connecticut) is pretty terrible. There is free parking and it is a short bus ride into the city.

Ready to head into NYC!
Izzy waiting for the bus in Secaucus, NJ. Six years old going on thirteen.

We left home right after breakfast and made it to our hotel by 11AM. It was too early to check in, but they let us park there and pointed us to the bus terminal. Susanna had picked Ellen’s Stardust Diner for lunch and we walked the few blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the restaurant and Susanna waited in line while Izzy and I explored around the block. We enjoyed lunch (the food wasn’t great, but the singing was lots of fun).

After lunch we walked to Central Park and found a playground for Izzy which was only a little fun since playgrounds are more fund with friends to play with.

Izzy exploring the rocks in Central Park, NYC

After Central Park we headed back towards the bus terminal with a coffee stop in the Swedish Church on 48th Street (Svenska kyrkan i New York) and then back to the hotel. I think Izzy was more excited about swimming at the hotel than almost anything else on the trip.

Izzy braving the cold water at the hotel pool on Sunday morning.

Sunday morning started with breakfast than a swim until it was time to check out. I picked a few places to visit before Susanna and Izzy had to be in New Rochelle. The first stop was the Weehawken Dueling Grounds; that is the site where the Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel took place. We were there long enough for a few photographs with the NYC skyline as a backdrop and a little history that Izzy is a bit young to care about.

Weehawken Dueling Grounds with NYC in the background
Izzy and Susanna at the Weehawken Dueling Grounds

After the dueling grounds we drove to Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan. I dove in circles a few times, but eventually found a place to park. We wandered through the park and up the hill to a playground (another playground). There Izzy met two girls that were also carrying around dolls to play with. Susanna walked a bit past the park and found sushi to bring back for lunch. After lunch we wandered back through the park and then headed to New Rochelle where I dropped them off at Swedish School which left me three hours to kill in New Rochelle.

Susanna and Izzy at Fort Tryon Park. Izzy is more interested in her L.O.L. doll catalog than the park
Izzy with her now typical “I don’t want you to take the picture” look on her face.

In New Rochelle, I found a nearby park, Five Islands Park, to walk around for a while. After the park, I headed to the New Rochelle library to upload and edit pictures until it was time to pick up Susanna and Izzy and start the drive back home. Overall a successful weekend vacation!

Five Islands Park, New Rochelle, NY

Riding Lessons for Izzy (new farm)

I had been a little unhappy for a while with Izzy’s previous riding instructor. She was nice, but tended to not pay close attention to Izzy as she was riding, and Izzy was getting frustrated with the basics. The last time she went for lessons, she was in tears for the last half of the lesson. The instructor would have her ride the horse around the arena on her own, and Izzy would do okay for a little bit, but then would get frustrated and eventually the instructor would put the horse on the lunge line and work with Izzy. But, by that time she was in tears and it was too late.

So we picked a new farm to go to and try a different teacher. These lessons are shorter (45 minutes vice an hour), and the new instructor is much more involved. She started last weekend, and has been on a lunge line the entire time. She is starting with just being comfortable in the saddle and slowly working on controlling the horse. It makes a big difference for Izzy, but will probably take a few lessons to get over the anxiety and stress from the previous lessons.

I’m sure it is a balance between letting her figure things out and holding her hand the whole way, but I think she is responding better with a more gentle approach. And this is supposed to be fun for her, not a chore.

Izzy with her training horse, Radio, after her lesson today.
Izzy working on getting comfortable in the saddle today at her riding lesson.

Christmas Vacation – Road Trip

Testing the fit of Izzy’s table in the minivan

This year we decided to head back to Missouri to visit family in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This time it was just Susanna, Izzy and me driving across the country. The boys stayed home. It is a long drive to Missouri, and we decided to split it into two days. Our initial plans were to make the return trip in three days, but eventually we decided we just wanted to get home and made it a two day return trip as well. Isabella did surprising well for such a long drive.

Our first day, 25 December 2022

To make the ride as easy for Isabella as possible, I made her a table that fits in the last row of the minivan. It was big enough to fit a laptop computer, mouse and a drink in the drink holder. I constructed in from scrap plywood and lumber and painted it with left over paint from an earlier project. The table made a huge difference on the trip. She could eat lunch on it, do crafts and play on the computer.

Our trip on the 26th of December

Our journey started on Christmas morning. Not as early as we had initially planned, but late enough for the weather to warm up and melt the ice on the road. The first day took us to Columbus Ohio.

The best part about driving on Christmas is that there was no traffic. Anywhere. The worst part wast trying to find food. We made it to the hotel with time for Izzy to swim and the pool opened early enough for another swim before driving on the 26th.

The first night in Missouri we stayed with my brother. On Monday morning we took my nephew, Chase, with us for a morning exploring the St. Louis Zoo. It was a good chance to get lots of pictures of everyone.

My dad’s bicycle battery testing setup. Not bad for a mechanical engineer!

After a morning at the zoo, we had lunch joined by Bill and his kids. Then Susanna, Izzy and I headed to Columbia to visit my dad. We got there in time to get settled and head out to dinner at HuHut Mongolian grill. The next two days we spent in Columbia, taking walks each day with their dog, Lily. I helped dad finish a few small projects around the house and in the workshop. I was impressed with his setup for testing electric bike battery testing setup, though we didn’t get a chance to test it out.

Both days we took a short (2-mile) hike along the Grindstone Creek, in the Grindstone Nature Area a short drive from their house. It was a park large enough to let Lily off the leash and give her a chance to run around.

Izzy making friends with Lily

In the evenings, after Izzy had gone to bed, I hooked up my microphone to my laptop computer and interviewed dad. Susanna did the same for her grandparents a while ago, and it has been on my list of things to do. It was interesting to hear about his childhood growing up in Pennsylvania, and the career path that brought him to St. Louis twice, Cape Canaveral Florida, and finally to Columbia Missouri. The next step in the project is to finish getting the audio files transcribed and put them into a book.

On Thursday morning we started our journey back home. Izzy powered up the laptop for some Minecraft time and we headed east from Columbia. We headed out with no firm destination for the day, but after lunch decided to drive to Akron, OH for the night.

On the way out of Illinois we passed a sign for the worlds largest mailbox. So, we stopped in Casey Illinois for a walk break and lunch at Subway.

Unfortunately the hotel pool was closing for the night when we checked in, and didn’t open the next morning until after we departed. Much to Izzy’s disappointment. At least they had a hot breakfast for us (and Fruit Loop cereal for Izzy).

Heading Home – 30 December
Our final day on the road – 31 December

We made it home in time to make dinner on New Year’s Eve and crash the party Will was hosting at our house.

Izzy swimming at the Residence Inn swimming pool before driving to St. Louis on the 26th of December.
Susanna and Izzy at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy at the St. Louis Zoo looking at her reflection as a red panda.
Susanna and Izzy watching one of the elephants enjoy his Christmas tree snack at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy looking at a polar bear through the glass at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy and Chase on a zebra bench at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy at her finest in Casey, IL
World’s largest mouse trap.