Weekend Projects (Sunday)

Ben, Tyler, and Will at Holmberg Orchard in Gales Ferry

Okay, I have to admit.  I didn’t get everything done that I had planned.  No real surprise to anyone that knows me. But I had a productive weekend even if I didn’t finish all my projects.

In the morning I helped Ben in the workshop. I hadn’t planned on doing any woodworking, but I would never turn down an opportunity to work with either of the boys. The two boys are working on building a gift, and there isn’t much time before it needs to be done.  I cut the big boards up to size and helped Ben on the bandsaw (he is still a little timid with the bandsaw – rightfully so).  Next, all three boys took turns using the hand saws to cut out notches needed in the project.  Will and Ben even sanded for a bit (something no one likes doing -so good luck getting an 8 year old to do a good job sanding).

I didn’t skip apple picking. Will had a friend sleep over on Saturday night. He lives pretty close to the apple orchard, so when we all went apple picking on the way to dropping him off. After a quick stop by home to drop Ben off, Will and I headed up to Home Depot and Target. Will had to get a present for his brother’s birthday, and I needed to rent a jackhammer to smash up some ledge that was in the way of running power to the garage.

I didn’t get power to the garage. I did get the ledge out of the way. The next step is to run the wiring and cover the trench. I also got  the big trench filled in. I will probably need another 1/2 yard of topsoil to level out the area, but otherwise it is done. I almost finished tying in the gutter downspout to the drain – but I needed another trip to Home Depot to get the right parts, and I wasn’t about to do a third trip today.

Ben checking his saw cut depth. The boys both use Japanese pull saws for hand work - they find them easier than western style saws.

And to finish off the busy day, Ben and I went for a short bike ride. Will decided to stay home and read.

Susanna split the day between doing homework and painting the house. The house is starting to look nice – our neighbors have been stopping by to tell us how much they like the new color scheme.

My house goals for the week are to finish the gutter downspout (tomorrow) and run power to the garage (maybe tomorrow and Tuesday). Tomorrow should also be the next step in the first batch of drunken cutting boards. Maybe I’ll be able to get the sailboat out of the garage this weekend – nothing like wishful thinking.

Weekend Projects (Saturday)

New drain system, almost completed...

I’m taking a weekend away from the major renovations to work on some “quick” projects.  Thankfully Susanna isn’t taking a break from the major house projects.

The morning was taken by the boys’ soccer games (they had fun, but were pretty well run over by the other teams).

This afternoon I continued troubleshooting the invisible fence. I had worked on it for a while yesterday and the day before, but couldn’t find the break. And the beagle refuses to stay in the yard without the fence. On a side note, don’t ever bring your young kids to the humane society to pick out a dog with you – but that is a story for another day.

I did get the fence working after a bit of work. Then it was off to the box store to get parts for a rainwater drain system.  I had to connect into an existing system that (I am assuming) was installed when the house was built 120 years ago. I got all the parts back home, and then promptly back to the store to get the connector that I almost got, but then figured I didn’t need.  After laying the pipe, the boys and I started filling the dirt back in the trench. A tractor would be nice right now. But I could use the exercise.

Tomorrow’s goal is to get power run to the garage, move more dirt back into the trench, and do a little painting. I’d also like to take the boys apple picking, and go for a walk. I’m pretty sure I can’t do all that in one day, so I’ll have to see what I can get done.

Drunken Cutting Boards (part 1)

The first batch of glue-ups

This seems like a day to start projects. Though honestly I started this one a couple of weeks ago when I ordered the lumber. I am planning on building four sets of “drunken cutting boards” with three other people I work with. Today, Jim Russell came by after work and we cut up the maple and glued up the boards. We should be able to complete four boards per person (two pairs).

We also cut up thin (1/8″) strips of cherry for the spacers.

Next week I’ll document the progress on the cutting boards.  The next step is to make matched pairs of boards (one of purpleheart and one of maple). Then we will cut the first wavy strips and do the first glue up.

Trenches, Trenches everywhere

Trench for electricalconnection to the garage

Today was a day to start projects. I know, I am ADHD.  I like to start projects. Finishing is the trick.

I had two trenches dug today.  The first was a trench to bring power to the garage. I need electrical on the garage for next summer – and cleaning up the garage this winter will be a lot easier with lights. The only problem with the trench is that there is ledge at the end of the trench, and I won’t be able to get the buried cable down 12″. I’m still trying to figure out what I will do, but will probably put a concrete pad in the opening to the last bay of the garage to cover the buried cable.

The second trench is to try to eliminate part of the water problem in the basement. Originally the house had a drainage system for the rainwater. However, in one corner the drainage system was clogged.  I also think I am getting surface water draining down the hill and into the basement.  I had a trench dug out along the foundation and will connect into the existing functioning rainwater collection system. Hopefully I can get both projects done this weekend.  I may not get the power fully connected, but I want to get all the trenches filled back in by Monday.  And we still have to paint the house in time for the wedding next summer.

Will inspecting the trench along the north foundation wall.

Time Zones Suck (and other random thoughts)

We took a short break to observe the ArizonaMemorial on our short run on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

I would like to think the reason that I’m awake late on a Saturday night (ok, early on a Sunday morning) is that Susanna and I are out enjoying a rare weekend night where the boys are with their mom. That isn’t the case.  I’m sure if it were, I would have better things to do other than write on my blog.  Heck, even on a slow night like this, I have better things to do than write on my blog.  Like sleep. This is one of the joys of shifting one’s body 6 time-zones. My sleep schedule is all screwed up.

One would think that flying back to the east coast after a week in Hawaii would cause me to stay up late and sleep in late (i.e. stay on Hawaii time). A red-eye flight from Honolulu to Dulles last night allowed me to get a full nights sleep and wake up at a reasonable east coast time. But it is rough sleeping on a plane, so I’m never fully rested. Second, my week in Hawaii was spent underwater on a submarine, which never helps one get on a fixed time-zone. So here I am boring all three of my blog’s readers with my musings on my sleep patterns. Yes, I know, I found something more lame than woodworking to write about. Well done.

I have started running again. I’ll see how far that goes. I have slowly built myself up to 5k runs – and my knees feel it. Hopefully I can lose a couple of pounds which will make the runs easier on my legs.

I also ordered lumber online for the first time. I had ordered some small pieces from eBay in the past, but never the wood for a full project. I am planning on building several cutting boards (drunken cutting boards) with some of the guys I work with. The plan is to use purpleheart and maple squares, with cherry accents.  I’ll post pictures of the build here. I ordered the material from Bell Forest Products the week before I left for Hawaii.  The package arrived while I was gone, and I opened the boxes this evening. The lumber looks great. There wood is clear and straight.  The iPhone pictures don’t do the wood justice (thought the purpleheart isn’t quite purple yet – it will age to purple in the sunlight).

Purpleheart and maplefor cutting boards.

Now time to head back to bed. I’m sure I’ll have to reclaim my place and move Tucker to the foot of the bed.

Taking a step back in time

Okay. I’m not talking about that far back in time. Though, I’m sure my kids think that I witnessed the carving of the statue to the left in person (with a little encouragement from Susanna no doubt).

No, I do not lament for “the good old days.” I am a firm believer in the benefits of technology. Technology allows us to keep in touch with family and friends that are miles (kilometers for those in Sweden) away. I couldn’t imagine being able to do my job without using a computer. The Internet has made a trove of information (good and bad) available to us – I don’t think I could have so easily started my woodworking hobby without the resources available on the Internet.

However, I think nothing comes for free. With the Internet and computers we are given content. It becomes easy to become lost in the sea of content that streams into our houses through our computers and phones and TVs.

Susanna and I have been talking about that a lot recently. She has noticed that in her classes, the other students will get lost into their smart phones instead of talking to each other. All her class assignments are to be electronically turned in via the college’s online portal. I can feel the pull at work. It is easier to send an email off and forget about something, than actually call someone. I can see it in the boys- if we let them, their days would revolve around using their electronics.

But I don’t think work or even school is where the real problem exists. I think it is in our homes. The first think I used to do every morning was to check my iPhone. I would catch up on Facebook and email. Is my connection to the Internet so important that it is the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing I do at night? I have been starting to think that it should not be.

As a family we have been pushing to take a little step back in time – to when we weren’t so connected. We have started having “no electronic” days. Susanna has been leaving her phone downstairs at night. I have been (sometimes with more success than others) trying to avoid checking my email all the time.

Maybe our houses should be a refuge from the world that is overstimulated with media? Are we the only ones that feel this? What steps do other families do to limit the intrusion of electronics into their homes.

And yes, I do see the irony of spending my evening on the Internet typing on how I am trying to limit using the Internet and electronics at home.

Tools that I like (the saw bench)

Ben's Saw Bench

Some of the most useful tools in my workshop are the tools that I have built. The “saw bench” is one of the tools that I use almost every time that I am in the shop. I have three currently in the workshop. One is sized for me to use when using a hand saw to cut lumber. Two are a bit shorter so the boys can use them. They are simple to build and used lumber I had sitting around the shop.

The primary purpose of the saw bench is to hold a piece of wood at the proper height for cutting. They are also good for using as a step stool to reach the top of the shelves in the workshop as well as a seat to sit on when taking a break.

They aren’t too difficult to make. A quick search on the internet will turn up a bunch of easy plans. I would suggest that a matched pair of these would be useful in any shop. The first one I made was built as a project in the first semester of the Hand Tool School. The last two were inspired from Popular Woodworking’s traditional saw bench article. I didn’t add the ripping notch at the end of the boys’ benches – I suspect that they will use them more like a traditional workbench for a while.

Copied from a Disston publication: Disston Tool Manual for School Shops, ©1927

Labor Day Weekend

Painting the Front Porch with Ben

With the passing of Labor Day weekend the summer comes to an end. The sticky heat of the summer is pushed away with the brisk cool autumn breeze. We are adjusting to the school year routine. Soon the leaves will fall from the trees, and all my neighbors will spend their weekends clearing their yards of the leaves. I prefer to let nature take its course, and let the winter winds push the leaves around the yard until they settle either into the woods behind the house, a corner of the garage, or into my neighbor’s yard, where they will be collected and put in their proper place.

I like to think of it as being efficient. Some may call it lazy. But regardless of my future laziness, this weekend was anything but. Saturday we all made our final journey up to Six Flags amusement park. We even brought Will’s best friend, Tyler, with us (because it isn’t nearly exciting enough to keep track of just two boys running around a crowded park). The previous two trips made very long days – getting home well after the boys wanted to go to sleep. We learned this time. Once the boys started fighting on what ride to go to next – well fighting more than normal boys that age fight – we packed up and headed out to dinner. Instead of a 7:30pm departure (as in the past), we were at dinner by 5:30, and home by 7:30. Everyone was still exhausted, but it didn’t carry into the next day.

We decided on Sunday to not rest. The weather was pleasant. It seemed a perfect day to work on painting the porch. It would have been a perfect day to finish painting the porch, but there was too much left to easily finish, and we didn’t want to work that hard. The boys worked on painting their part of the project, with a little help from Susanna and me. They decided the paint rollers were much better than using the brushes. I decided that it was okay that we would have to use two coats on the porch floor to cover up all the white paint they dripped on it. Don’t worry, I’m not perfect. I only decided it was okay to use two coats on the porch floor after getting very frustrated with Will and Ben several times about how much paint they put on the rollers each time.

Will painting the front porch

I started painting the trim around Will’s window (Susanna argued that it would look better to have all three windows on that side of the house with trim painted vice just having the two bottom ones). On Sunday I painted the right half of the trim, then supervised the boys as they tried to see how brave they were climbing up the ladder.  Neither made it half way up.

Today I was going to finish painting the left half of the window trim (and no – I didn’t need Susanna to point out that having the entire window painted looked better than just half of a window – I figured that one out on my own). Of course, when I got up there, the scroll-work around the trim was falling apart and needed some epoxy repair. So, no painting the left half of the window today – and we will have to live with a goofy looking window until the weather allows us to paint again.

Today’s plans (in addition to the failed plans to finish painting the trim) were to get the boat out of the garage. The first step was to get the boat back on the trailer. It took nearly a whole day of work to get the trailer out from under the boat. I figured that now that I had experience getting the boat off the trailer, getting it back on would be simple. It wasn’t.  But it wasn’t as bad as getting the trailer out. The most difficult part of getting the trailer out was moving the trailer with a flat tire. But I had fixed the trailer, and a trailer with two inflated tires is much easier move than one with only one inflated tire.

With a lot of work we got the trailer back under the boat, and slowly lowered the boat onto the trailer. And the tire that I had repaired promptly went flat with the weight of the trailer on it. Needless to say, the boat is still in the garage.

After lunch the boys and I went out and got a new wheel for the trailer. This week, my goal is to replace the flat tire on the trailer with the new wheel. My goal is to get the trailer out of the garage sometime this month.