Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Greatest Men Always Strive For Excellence

Well with the season Notre Dame had, New Year’s certainly doesn’t have any Bowl Game significance to me. So, I am just going to focus on self improvement.

For 2008, I am committing to the following resolutions:

1) This is the year I get off H
2) Stop slapping Gail for little stuff. Just emotionally abuse her for day to day issues. Save the whoopings for big stuff.
3) Finally do the right thing and register so my neighbors can be watching out for me.
4) Take up competitive knitting
5) Become more dedicated to my gambling. This is the year I'm due to finally win big
6) If I can’t stop cheating on Gail…at least stop hitting on the young stuff.
7) Learn some Arabic profanity
8) Do aerobics every day
9) Completely eliminate all vegetables from my diet
10) Stop being a slave to political correctness

Friday, December 28, 2007

When Animals Attack.... or just Count Coup

I wanted to take a moment to address the horrible tragedy of the man killed by the wild animals this week. Given a man lost his life, even PETA would be hard pressed to take the side of the animals. However, looking at the severity of the taunting that went on, I cannot assign full blame to the animals.

I am not referring to the escaped tiger at the San Francisco Zoo. Instead I refer to the man killed in my kitchen this week by my two dogs. I don’t know if it was a Napoleon Complex that caused that little 6 inch tall man to continually terrorize my yellow labs, but all I know is he would not allow any peace to reign in our home. A couple of times a week a little Chuck Wagon would appear out of the wall in our hallway and with that tiny teamster screaming “HEEYAA!!!! HEEYAA!!!!!!!!” the chuck wagon would blaze through our house. He would target the dogs, and after he had worked them up into a frenzy, he would lead them to the kitchen where he disappeared into the cabinets under the sink.



The dogs would be left panting, barking, and clawing at the cabinet doors. Gail and I would be forced to spend the next two hours trying to calm the dogs. I often thought about getting a Red Ryder and putting an end to this crap. Earlier this year I went as far as to contact several Indian Tribes to see if there were any 6 inch Braves out there stuck in the 1880’s who would be willing to camp out in my kitchen for a few days and turn that little cowboy punk into a pin cushion. (I even told them they could keep his scalp, his little rifle, and any shiny beads or whiskey they found in the wagon). No Luck.

Well, it just so happens that earlier this week when the wagon came unexpectedly busting through the hall, that we heard the sound of splintering wooden spokes and looked up to see the little wagon lurching with a broken wheel. Abby, the older dog, saw the handicap and immediately recognized this opportunity to end the years of abuse.

I wish I could say that Abby just scooped the cowboy off of the wagon and gave him a couple of hard shakes. But the truth is she went completely medieval on him. There was blood all over the kitchen. Between the two dogs they completely devoured the little guy. However, their coats have never looked shinier.

If anyone sees a tiny little red and white checkered Conestoga Wagon with no driver and a busted wheel zipping along somewhere, please let me know. Abby says she is entitled to any shiny beads or whiskey inside.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cannibal Timbers and Those of Us Who Enable Them



I am having the time of my life. I am knee deep into building the Schwarz/Holtzapffel Workbench. Truthfully, I have better things to be doing, but Webkinz is having all kinds of Web server issues (like it never occurred to you guys that we kids would be getting a butt load of new Webkinz for Christmas and needing to set them up online. HELLO????) Anyway, I have a Webkinz that is in desperate need of lunch followed by a nap, but since I can’t log in to do that I figured, "Hey…why not spend my holiday/vacation day in the woodshop."

So, all of that 8/4 Hard Maple from the previous post, is getting milled into parts of my bench. The stretchers for the base are 1 ½ inches thick, and the legs are laminated from two 1 ½ inch thick boards to become 3 inches thick. Creating 1 ½ inch pieces out of 8/4 stock means that I am basically jointing/planing 25% off each board. I know somebody is going to tell me I should spend 40 hours at my bandsaw, resawing ½ inch off the thickness of each board, but you know what…my time and my bandsaw blades are worth more to me than the thrill of having 140 lineal feet of 8 inch wide x ½ inch thick hard maple planks. (Just shoot me for not being the Cheapest guy in the world.) Besides, the boards are kinda cupped, so if I want to use square stock (a recent discovery of mine), I can really only get 1 ½ inch thick boards out of it. (Actually, I can get 1 ¾ thick square stock out of it, so on some level I am guilty of wasting wood. Please don’t send me hate mail. And yes, I do cross cut to relative length, rip to relative width, and THEN go over and joint and plane to thickness. I know how to work with cupped wood. GEEZ!!!!!!!! Get off my back.) So…back to the story.



Two nights ago, when I finished milling all four legs I started cutting the stretchers, and as I looked over at the cyclone I saw chips whirling around in the clear tube that goes from the cyclone to the dust hopper. (That’s not good; it means the hopper is full.) So I went over, unhooked the hopper, and took it outside to do what I always do…I used it for mulch. As I am outside in the snow pouring sawdust around the trees in my front yard, I began to wonder if this was somewhat cannibalistic to use sawdust at the base of my trees. I got the mental picture of the conversation after I went back in side:


Red Twig Dogwood: Oh my God, is this Sugar Maple chips? I’ve got cousins up in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula…it’s a Michigan thing) who are Sugar Maples. Oh boy… this just reminds you how short life is.


River Birch: Yeah, Red, this is Hard Maple alright. Holy Geez, if that carbide cutter on his jointer did this to hard maple I hate to think how fast it would blow through my peely-barked butt.


Red Twig Dogwood: Ya know, Skiver is one sick and twisted *&^$&%$!!! What kind of animal brings freshly milled sawdust out and spreads it around the base of living trees. I pray to God they reserve the hottest part of Hell for sickos like him.


So there I was standing in the snow thinking of talking trees. I held the dust hopper in my hands, my head was cocked about 15 degrees, my eyes stared off into the starry sky, and the drool started to drip from the side of my mouth as I vegged out in the middle of my front yard.


Something about the staring at the starry sky made me realize it was Christmas Eve night, and I looked down at my watch and saw it was exactly midnight. (Folks, when there aren’t any kids around and you are someone who can get by on four hours sleep a night…the wee small hours of the morning are prime time for woodwork.) So, since it was exactly midnight, Santa should be on the roof. I looked up to the snow covered shingles, he wasn’t there. Then, it hit me…he was probably headed in for the landing and he looked down and saw me spreading wood carnage around the base of the trees, and he instantly pulled back the stick, put the balls to the wall, and made it a fly-by at full AB’s…all the while saying, "Trying to turn your trees into cannibals, Skiver? If that aint naughty, I don’t know what naughty is."


So, Gail and I did not get a visit from Santa this year. It didn’t matter to me, though. We had Gail’s family Christmas gathering earlier on Christmas Eve, and since we had to travel to her brother’s house near Grand Rapids for that party, it seemed like the perfect reason to pop in and make sure Gary and Marlene were holding true to their promise to have the Woodcraft of West Michigan open on Christmas Eve.* And even though Gail was with me, I decided to ignore the surprise factor, as I dropped hundreds of bucks on Festool stuff (for her). I figured I would pay cash for her tools, and that 7 stone/4 carat Journey diamond necklace (for me) would have to come from Santa.


Well, maybe next year I’ll be good enough to get MY necklace. Until then I’ll help Gail use all of HER tools. And when my necklace comes, I’ll let her borrow it. A lot of husbands might balk at having to buy their wives such expensive tools that she'll never even lay a finger on, but Gail and I have a wonderful relationship built on our commitment to common goals. Why it’s almost as sugary sweet as that naked little "Love Is…" cartoon couple.


*(A shameless plug bound to be worth another 10% off my next Woodcraft purchase...Power Tools, FESTOOL, LEIGH Jigs, SawStop, Steel City & Gift Cards excluded).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What would people feel when they held the Son of God?


1998 was the "Baby Year" for my wife and me. In 1998 we went from having one niece and one nephew to one niece and four nephews. Also, in1998 we were pregnant twice and neither one of those worked out the way they were supposed to. So when Christmas rolled around, there were lots of babies on the brain and questions for God. With those thoughts playing Pong between my temples, I busted out the following blurb, that I now offer as a Christmas card to anyone who stumbles onto my blog. (Special thanks to Jackson…or is that Harrison…for being the poster child. To you Jack (or Harry), and all of my three nieces and eleven nephews I say that I am thrilled to be a professional uncle.)

Immanu’el, God With Us

by Jeff Skiver

God sent His only son to die for mere humans like us. That’s pretty intimidating isn’t it? When we think of the young messiah, we most often think of the infant Christ in the manger. However, I wonder how many people have taken time to think of the Christ-child as a child. Perhaps the wise men should have also brought some toys.

The New Testament records The Immaculate Conception, The Birth, The Flight to Egypt, and The Visit of the Magi. Then it jumps to a twelve year old Jesus in the Temple. Although the New Testament does not record it, rest assured Jesus had a childhood. The Son of God came to Earth, and He grew up in Nazareth.

For just a moment allow yourself to look past Christ as deity and see Him as Jesus the Baby.

Did Jesus sleep through the night? Did He have any trouble while teething? Did the young Jesus have a healthy appetite? Was He ever stubborn, demanding to feed Himself? Did God ever look down to see His only begotten son with food in His hair?

With your imagination pushing the envelope of what structured religion would classify as blasphemy, take a moment to think about Christ the Toddler.

Did Jesus like to play during bath time? Did He ever walk on water in His tub? At what age did Jesus learn to walk? When He fell, did He cry? If He scraped a knee, did He ever heal Himself?

Did Jesus have any trouble potty training? Did Mary ever say, “The Messiah needs His diaper changed!”

Was Jesus a Mama’s Boy? Was Jesus a Daddy’s Boy? Did the people at His church like Him? I wonder if the older ladies would fight over who got to hold Him. Did the older men bring Him candy? What would people feel when they held the Son of God?

Although the water to wine transformation was the first recorded miracle, was it the first miracle? Is it possible that He healed His grandmother’s arthritis when He was three?

As He grew older, what was He like? Did He get along with His brothers? Did He and His cousin John have deep discussions? How much time did He spend in prayer each day?

There are countless experiences that must have occurred as Jesus grew up. These experiences are all locked away in His memory. These memories help Him relate to people. Although we must recognize Jesus Christ as God the Son, we should keep in mind that for over thirty years, Jesus lived as God the Human. Respect Jesus for who He is, but rest assured He can relate to your situation.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Eenie Meenie Mynie Moe…

I have 60 years of woodworking in front of me. 66 years if I buy into all that crap Jiminy Cricket was always sellin’. So each time I look down at my fingers I cannot help but think (and even occasionally say out loud), “Boys, the odds are at least one of you is not going to get to make the entire long journey to the crematorium.”

Within the first few months of my brief 3 ½ years of woodworking, I managed to touch a spinning saw blade twice. That’s it…I’ve used up all the luck I had going into this thing. Somehow I once touched the inside of the blade (sort of close to the arbor nut) on a spinning blade that was raised pretty high. I felt cold steel, and I soiled myself, but there was no harm. Where I touched the blade, it was just a flat, smooth piece of rotating steel. It’s as if I was using my finger to check the run-out on the blade. I truly do not remember how it happened, and there is a slight chance this is just a cloudy memory of a dream.

However, the other “touch” was certainly real, because I still have pictures of the results. (see below) Somehow I managed to jam my thumb into the side of a spinning saw blade…right in the gullet area behind the carbide teeth. The spinning gullets ground off the end of my thumb, just as if I had stuck it into a spinning disk sander. A half inch closer to the front of the saw and I would now have only one sample of the opposable thumb necessary to separate me from lesser beings.

When the Great Gullet Grind occurred, I didn’t know right away that I wasn’t too badly hurt. All I knew is I had touched steel and I was bleeding. I grabbed my thumb with the “good” hand and screamed out my wife’s name as I zoomed up the stairs, from my basement shop. (When injuries occur I use the adrenaline to garner just enough strength to scream like a school girl and make it to my wife’s location, and then I lose all ability to function from there.) I actually made it to the kitchen sink, and I was looking at the ground tip of my thumb as Gail (my lovely wife) moved in to take care of me. No stitches required…just gauze, tape, and telling the story to everyone who asked.



The tip grew back, and there is no visible sign of the injury other than a nice Excalibur Saw Guard and Merlin Splitter that are attached to my Unisaw. This injury happened early enough in my woodworking that I now believe it was serendipitous, because it made me a bona-fide Safety Freak. I personally try to approach every single power tool action with the thought, “If I suffered a seizure and completely blacked out during this operation, would I be safe?” (Just so my insurance agent doesn’t read that and use it as an excuse to charge us more for auto insurance, I want to go on record as stating it’s hypothetical. I’ve never suffered seizures with the exception of one time when I was flipping channels and caught sight of a particularly special pair of pants Earl Anthony was wearing as he bowled in the 1975 Milwaukee Open on ESPN Classic).

Here’s where I’m headed with this. On Thursday, Gail came home from work telling me about stitches she had to remove from a guy’s pinky. When she asked how the injury occurred, the gentleman replied, “Cut it on a Table Saw.” Gail then asked, “Have you put a SawStop on your Christmas list?” Gail says the guy paused, trying to figure out how his friendly nurse would know what a SawStop is, then said this classic line. “Oh no, those SawStops are too expensive. Besides this pinky aint as bad as this one.” And he held up the opposite hand which was missing one half of a finger.

Gail then told the nine and a half fingered fellow about my near miss and the subsequent purchase of my “fancy overarm saw guard” which led to the second great statement of the Doctor’s Office Visit, “Oh I took my guards off a long time ago.”

When Gail relayed this story to me last night, I told her, “Honey, that part about Stumpy Wheeler in my first Popular Woodworking Feature is not all that uncommon in the woodworking community.” I’m doing all I can to stay safe, and I still don’t think all my piggies will resist getting separated from the pack.

So, if anyone close to West Michigan wants to make a really great offer on a 5 hp Unisaw with only about two hours of motor time on it (I don’t actually cut a lot of lumber)… my piggies and I may be ready to move up to a Sawstop.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Stadium Anthem for Judaism

Well, boys and girls, with Chanukah a week behind us and Christmas looming one week in front of us, now is time when we should be knee deep in Egg Nog, Dreidels, Christmas Carols, and Chanukah Songs. However, there just aren’t that many Menorah rocking songs out there. It is kind of weird when Jewish singers record Christmas albums because they don’t have enough marketable songs about Chanukah to fill an album.

This led to a revelation a couple of years ago as I discussed this situation with my friend Mitch, the only Jewish guy in my entire company. (For some reason the Midwest just isn’t like the Sitcoms based in New York; we are mainly ham and bacon eaters in these parts.) So, as one of those Evangelical Christians who still looks upon the Jews as “God’s Chosen People,” I decided to give Israelite men everywhere a holiday gift…I wrote them a song.

The song below is set to the tune of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and it sings a lot better than it reads. So either go fire up Back In Black at 80+ dB on your stereo, or else jump over to a website where you can download it for a dime and use the lyric sheet below to sing along (scream along, actually) with Brian Johnson as I proudly give you Chanukah’s first stadium anthem…

“HE CUT MY FORESKIN OFF” by Jeff Skiver

(as inspired by AC/DC and the Talmud)


I was just 8 days old
I wasn’t missing a thing
My gear was intact; it had that little skin ring

I thought I was cool
I thought my life was complete
But Abraham thought that I should change my Pee Pee

My parents called it a Bris
But it was more of a Mess
The Moil treated me like he was Rudolf Hess

Cause the walls started shaking,
The earth was quaking,
My tool was achin’,
It was worse than a spankin’ cause He….

Cut my foreskin off!!!!!!
Yeah He…. Chopped my foreskin off!!!!!!!

There was no Epiderl, There was no novacane
He had a sharp knife, but
There was still intense pain.

I left there bloodied
My guy was starting to swell
But I was now part of God’s Israel

I didn’t ask for this
I didn’t want a Bris
But for God’s chosen people this is just how it is

Cause the walls started shaking,
The earth was quaking,
My tool was achin’,
It was worse than a spankin’ cause He….

Cut my foreskin off!!!!!!
Yeah He…. Chopped my foreskin off!!!!!!!
took a knife and cut it!!!! He………
Cut my foreskin off!!!!!!
I was crying cause He
Cut my foreskin off!!!!!!
Well he cut me,
Well he cut me…

He really cut me and HE!
trimmed my foreskin off,
Aaaaahaaaahaaaah He...
chopped my skin ring off,
Yeah yeah he,
cut my foreskin off,
He really cut me and he,
cut my foreskin off,
Yeah he cut me,
Yeah he cut my,
foreskin off.




There...now that wasn't all that painful, was it? Besides if I didn't write a hard rock Chanukah song, then we were going to have to suffer with another one of those Adam Sandler diddies that all sound the same anyway.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Self Haters and the People who Love Them

A couple of weeks ago I bought a plane on Ebay. You may remember; I even wrote a poem about it.

Well, here is the story behind it. I found the auction about 12 hours after it was listed, and it was a best offer auction that also had a $365 BUY IT NOW price. I looked at the price and went, “Wow!! Is it really $365? That’s what they cost when they were new.” I knew a few people had already seen the Ebay auction because there was already at least one question posted to the seller along with an answer.

I quick Googled around and confirmed that they were $350 back in 2002, and I jumped all over the $365 Buy It Now.

It arrived; I wrote the poem; I felt good.

Then, another one showed up on Ebay last week and the buyer’s remorse began.

The bidding started at $99 on 06DEC07 and the auction was to end a week later.

By December 9th, it was around $300, and the price just hovered there. I began to think I had paid too much. The problem with things that don’t show up on Ebay very often is it can be hard to exactly determine the fair market value.

CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!! I paid $365 for a $300 plane. RATS!!!!!!!!!!! They probably didn’t even sell all 500 of these special editions back in 2002. I just paid $365 for a special edition plane that Thomas Lie-Nielsen still has 450 of in his hall closet. I bet he used one of them to tip the Paperboy last Christmas. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lie-Nielsen! Merry Christmas to you, Tommy. Here take a crappy little Special Edition plane that nobody wanted."

But it’s ok. I bought this for me. I don’t care that nobody else knows what they’re worth. I liked it.

Then, on December 12th, the price started climbing, and it plateau’ed at $365. Well, how about that, the fair market value is exactly what I paid using my lightning fast BUY IT NOW. I stopped kicking myself and calling myself profane names. I cancelled my appointment with my therapist and decided to skip that week’s SHA group session (Self Hatred Anonymous).


SHA is a big bunch of self-hating losers where each person tells the group what a miserable failure he is, and the group responds by reminding him of little things he is good at like parallel parking, tying bow ties, or rewinding VHS tapes. During one particularly bad point in my life the only thing that kept me going was my SHA group reminding me that I am diligent about removing that hardened chunk from the nozzle of Kraft Easy Cheese before I put it out for guests. (Thanks, guys. You saved my life that day.) Speaking of that…does anyone know the exact story of how Sugar Bear (the spokesbear for Super Sugar Crisp Cereal) saved Elton John’s life? I’ve always wondered about that. (Sorry. You know how easily I get distracted.)


Well, with the bidding on that Lie-Nielsen 2002 Special Edition #1 at $365, I knew I would avoid a major self-hatred breakdown.

Then, it happened….

A little after midnight, eighteen hours before the auction ended the next evening at 6:00 pm, the bids started to climb. And when I checked it from work late in the day, the price was over $400. And when the gillie suit wearing Auction Snipers showed up at the auction’s end, they drove the final price to $605.

Hot Dog, Baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BOOOOOOOOOOO YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

$365 for BUY IT NOW….That’s what I’m talkin’ about.


Next thing you know, I’m out on the front porch waving my $365 2002 Lie-Nielsen Special Edition Number One and screaming “WHO’S YOUR DADDY?!?!??!?” at the top of my lungs. (It’s ok…my neighbors began systematically ignoring (they say shunning) me years ago).

One last thought…since the guy who caught a $4 baseball with a market value of over one million dollars was going to be taxed on the larger amount if he kept it…does this mean the government is going to want to tax me on the $240 difference between the one I bought and the one that sold two weeks later?


AHHH CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOW COULD I BE SO STUPID?!?!?!?!?!?!

I HATE MYSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHY AM I ALWAYS MAKING SUCH GOOD DEALS?!?!?!?!??!

WHY CAN’T I JUST LOSE MONEY ONE TIME??????

DOES EVERYTHING I TOUCH HAVE TO TURN TO GOLD?????

I HATE MYSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Workbench to Die For



Everyone who has had an email account at anytime within the last 47 years has seen the photo of the Volkswagen Jetta in a Lowe’s parking lot with 24.65 metric tons of construction lumber piled on the roof. Well, tonight I figured out how that whole situation went terribly wrong. (They put the wood on top of the car instead of putting it inside, and they used a 4th Generation Jetta instead of the MK5.)

Tonight I picked up 150 board feet of 8/4 hard maple and of the four vehicles that my wife and I own (I work in the auto industry… I have to do my part to support my own team)… I decided we would take our diesel Jetta to get it.

Sure I have a trailer…but there was slushy snow and freezing rain… who wants to pull a trailer in that. Yes, we could have taken a Jeep Grand Cherokee with Full Time 4WD and anti-lock brakes, but who wants to get 14 miles per gallon on a 60 mile round trip.

Yes, we have a Jeep Wrangler with a full roll cage, air-locking differentials with 4.56 gears, winches, and skid plates… but we weren’t getting this lumber from the top of School Bus (somewhere there is an old school off-roader reading this who has been to Tellico and knows what that means).

Obviously, our Mercedes Convertible only has two seats, so it isn’t really a good vehicle for hauling lumber…unless (in a voice like Thurston Howell the 3rd) unless it is beautiful burl wood trim on the Benz’s instrument panel (Besides the roadster’s put up for winter.)

So, naturally, the 40+ mpg Diesel Jetta was the vehicle of choice.

QUICK ASIDE: If you are in the market for winter tires… I cannot say enough good things about the Bridgestone Blizzak WS60’s. Honest to God… they turn snow and ice into sandpaper. Bridgestone is messin’ with the laws of Physics with these things. They are Crazy Good.

So here are a couple quick pictures of 150 board feet of Hard Maple loaded into our Jetta. You can see that Gail just tucked into the seat behind the driver and we drove home through the crappy weather contemplating what kind of carnage would occur if we got T-boned by another lumber-laden vehicle. (I started my engineering career doing occupant restraints. I know there is no way to secure lumber against a 30g collision inside a vehicle, but hey… sometimes you gotta put your life on the line if you want to build a great work bench.) Yes, Mr. Schwarz, you talked me into it. I am going to cancel my bench order with Lie-Nielsen and build one myself.... but I'm going to put a tool tray on it just to spite you. HAH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, but don't do it near the bench... all the shavings in the tool tray will go up like Richard Pryor, Joan of Arc, Michael Jackson's hair, or Ricky Nelson's plane. (Feel free to pick your own simile depending upon your personal tolerance for inappropriate humor.)


So here are the pics. By the way, in case you are wondering about the background in one of those pictures… ”Why yes. That is a life size cardboard cut-out of Mario Cipollini during the time he was the Italian Champion and had Peter Frampton hair.”



Friday, December 7, 2007

Air Supply, Crackers, Fish Nets, and Cat Fights

Sometimes you learn something about somebody and you say, “Huh…I never would have guessed that.” (Hopefully, you say that internally as opposed to flaunting it in their face that you had them pegged as a different type of person.)

This happened to me recently when I learned that the two Russells from Air Supply (Graham Russell & Russell Hitchcock) were each married and each has two children. Something in me just went, “Huh…I never would have guessed that.”

Quick Aside: I was telling this bit of info to a guy at work when I referred to the great song writer of the pair of Air Supply Russells as “the Graham Cracker.” My friend was offended at my choice of language which led to my long explanation that I (as a white guy) can refer to other white guys as “Crackers.” Also, there are a very small number of black guys who understand the white guy culture and have been accepted into the fraternity who can get away with saying “Cracker.” I finalized my explanation by saying that when we white guys use it as a term of endearment (like I did with Graham Russell) it is pronounced with a very soft ending, like “Crack-ah,” but when it is used with the harsh “-er” ending it becomes quite derogatory. I apologize for this aside. It is not my intention to turn my blog into an online guide to white guy culture. I just tend to get easily distracted.

So where was I…right...sometimes you just go “Wow. I never would have guessed.”

That’s exactly what happened to me today. I popped into my local Woodcraft Store (the West Michigan Woodcraft store on 28th St in Grand Rapids, Michigan) and while I was busy talking about moisture meters with store owner Gary Foote, Dr. Sam Lacina (a fellow member of the West Michigan Woodworking Guild) came into the store carrying a tennis racquet badly in need of re-stringing. Gary called Sam over and then asked me if I was aware of how Sam kept busy when he wasn’t doing his day job of being a pediatric cardiologist. That is when I was given the low-down on the fishing nets that Dr. Sam produces. What appeared from 20 feet away to be an old school tennis racquet with slacking catgut was actually a beautiful fly fishing net. Apparently Sam makes the finest fishing nets in the history of mankind. www.flyfishingnets.net

Sam was incredibly modest, but Gary let me know all about how Sam’s nets are so prized they are sold as Limited Editions through Orvis. So I just thought, “Huh, so Sam here not only can answer Barry Gibb’s question of how one mends a broken heart, but he makes the best fish scoopers on the planet….who knew?”

One last thought about Air Supply…how do I convince my lovely wife Gail that she is “Every Woman in the World to Me” when I just spent 13 minutes in the DVD department of Sam’s Club last night holding a box with all three seasons of Wonder Woman going into great detail as I explained that when Julie Newmar dropped the mantle Lynda Carter came along and picked it up and made me the man I am today…complete with unrealistic expectations of curvaceous comic book hotties in human form. Then again look how well Wonder Woman aged. In season one she was fighting Nazis and the next season she is in post Bicentennial America looking exactly the same as she did 35 years before.

In closing, let’s all join our cosmic energy together in visualizing a nice cat fight between Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. Have you got the image? Focus. Visualize. Make it happen. I can honestly say I don’t care who comes out on top. In this catfight match up, we’re all winners.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ham, Shem, and Japheth are Hungry for McMuffins

Since today is the last day of November, I went ahead and flipped the calendar on the wall in my office to December. Now before you get the wrong idea that I am some kind of super efficient, anal retentive guy who has to have everything in its proper place and correctly labeled I will tell you the true reason behind the early calendar adjustment. Now, with December showing on the calendar, if I show up to work 4 hours late on Monday and my boss comes looking for me, he’ll think, “Well obviously Skiver is here somewhere, because he’s already flipped his calendar. He must be out in the plant or in the lab or something.” So I am already planning a leisurely Monday. I’ll sleep in and maybe go out for breakfast. Then, I’ll go hang out at Barnes and Nobles for a while and see if anybody wants to pay me to autograph copies of Popular Woodworking. Eventually, I’ll stumble into work with some story about there being problems out in the lab. However, my plans for Monday’s laziness is not what this blog entry is about.

Instead, it’s about my reaction to the December page of my calendar. I have the Lie-Nielsen calendar at work, and today when I flipped it to December I was struck by a beautiful sight. If you have the calendar, you may think I was drawn to Chris Schwarz’s farmer tan flahsing out as he rabbets with a shoulder plane, but actually my slack jawed stare was focused on the main photo.

The December photo on the Lie-Nielsen calendar is the 25th Anniversary 4 ½ Bronze Smoother. Bronze body… Cocobolo handles… dated “1981 – 2006”… truly magnificent. And I beamed with pride knowing I have the same special edition plane at home. Then, I remembered the truth. I didn’t buy the special edition.

Somewhere in the world there is a guy who suffers from a nasty disorder that causes him to relentlessly pummel himself in the face with a ball peen hammer. (I haven’t seen the guy…I’m just going with the odds.) This puffy-cheeked, black & blue fella feels nothing compared to my pain knowing I let the Lie-Nielsen 25th Anniversary plane get away from me.

Every day, I wake up and spend a couple of hours obsessing about my past and the “ones that got away.” The 25th Anniversary 4 ½ tops the list. Why did I not order a 25th Anniversary 4 ½ Bronze Smoother last year?



Look at this photo. That is Tom Lie-Nielsen and me sitting around in 2006 talking about my 4 ½. I believe as this photo was taken Thomas was saying, “That’s the plane we are making as a special edition right now to celebrate our 25th Anniversary.” He told me it was coming. I knew it was coming. I contemplated and then chose not to buy it. Why did I not order a 25th Anniversary 4 ½ Bronze Smoother last year?

I always ask that question, but I remember why I didn’t buy one…because I already have a 4 ½. In fact, I love my 4 ½. I chose not to buy the Special Edition because of my love for my 4 ½. It’s my baby. It’s my hombre. It’s my…. (Wait!!!!! Don’t say that out loud, Jeffery. There may be kids reading this.) How’s this description of my 4 1/2 : If I was going to label my 4 ½ I would inscribe it with the same phrase that appears on Jules’ wallet in Pulp Fiction. (There…that was an acceptable way to say it.)

So with that love in my heart for my 4 ½ last year I chose to not buy the special edition. However, that decision still haunts me.

I’m sure with this posting I will now get 37 emails offering me the opportunity to buy one of the Special Edition 4 ½’s for more than I paid for my first car, but that won’t happen. Because if I am going to drop that kind of money on a plane, it’s going to be a Sauer & Steiner or possibly something with religious relic value like the molding plane used to stylize the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. That would be nice because it would add to my existing collection of Religious Relic Planes.

Last year some guy named Chuck sold me an old Stanley 45 that he said was used in making the cabinets on Noah’s ark. That bad boy is worth millions and Chuck sold it to me for only $2000. I can still remember every moment of that transaction. As Chuck was busy scribbling out the Certificate of Authenticity on the back of a McDonald’s sack covered in Egg McMuffin grease stains, all I could think was, “Chuck, you na├»ve fool. You’re making me feel guilty. It’s almost like I am stealing from you.” (But all’s fair in the world of tool bartering.)

So during December as I look up at my calendar and see the one that got away, I can at least revel in the knowledge that I have something even John Sindelar doesn’t have: I have a Stanley 45 used in the construction of the vessel that saved every living species on the earth. And I have the greasy Certificate of Authenticity to prove it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mr Popeil, I think the nozzle is clogged.

I had something of a Sally Field moment this afternoon.


Just to add to the excitement…I’ll let you guess which of the following it was:

1) I was standing on the side of the road doing a little cross-dressing in a wedding dress when Burt Reynolds came by and picked me up in a Black Firebird with T-tops.

2) I put on a nun’s habit and started flying. Then, I took an aerial tour of the lovely sand dunes on the shore of Lake Michigan where I live.

3) I stood up in the middle of my office and screamed like a school girl, “He likes me. He really likes me.”

4) I spent a good long time talking to my wife about how difficult it is to take a “bone loss” prevention medication once a day, once a week, or even once every two weeks. And “Once a month Boniva” is the only one with a dosage schedule that an educated, capable woman can likely remember to take.”

Yeah, it was #3. During a company approved personal break, I surfed over to Chris Schwarz’s Woodworking Magazine blog to see if he had linked to me yet. (Note: I cannot go on record as saying I looked during an actual work moment, because I don’t know whether or not “the man” might actually be reading this right now.)

Last week Chris said he would throw a link to my blog on his blog. I kind of thought there would be an obscure little link there in 4 point Wingding font, hidden under the link to Konrad Sauer’s blog. Perhaps there would be a little comparative description like: Here is a Canadian guy who makes the most amazing infill planes you have ever seen (Konrad). Then…for me…here is a lazy American guy who doesn’t actually make anything, but he’s got some dirt on me that he is using to blackmail me.

So, when I saw that Chris not only posted a link but actually wrote it up like I was a legitimately funny guy, I immediately grabbed my 15 minute hour glass and kicked started my brief taste of fame. Then, I emailed all 12 of the people I consider to be family, friends, or acquaintances and managed to momentarily crash Chris’ blog’s web server as the influx of Skiver-driven traffic shut him down. (My mom is an amazing double-clicker).

All I can say is I am so glad I still have my hair. Because with the contributor’s photo in December’s Popular Woodworking along with the photos in Chris’ note and on my own blog, I now can rest assured when old girlfriends Google my name to see which Federal Penitentiary I ended up in, they will not only be shocked to see I am still a free man (THANK YOU, JOHNNIE COCHRAN, r.i.p.), but they will get the double shock of seeing I still have my hair. (or at least a decent toupee…or plugs transplanted from Robin Williams’ back…or Ron Popeil’s flocking in a can…)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bent Spoons and rubber tubing

Okie…..Dokie………..

I’ve been blogging for two days, and I am already getting ripped in emails from friends. A couple of friends (who are too timid to post their comments here) have asked two questions that are worthy of a response:

Why would you even buy a #1?

What can you do with a #1 if you are so intent on using it?

I bought the little guy (#464) because he called to me from the screen of my computer as I was surfing Ebay. Just as Imelda Marcos could hear the cries of homeless ballerina flats, slingbacks, or wedges I often hear the low frequency call of woodworking tools reaching out to me. In summary, he was cute, dang it. And I wanted him. After years of therapy I can almost refrain from breaking down as I say, “I deserve to be happy.”

As for tuning him up and using him, I offer two possibilities.

1) What if I someday develop a horrible disease that causes my hands to shrink? Although it would require a total revamping of my extensive glove collection, it would not require my complete abandonment of using hand planes. Because even though I could never take a firm hold of my #8 with tiny silver dollar sized paws, I would still be able to bust out mass volumes of shavings with my perfectly fitting #1.

2) Attached is a picture of my niece Maddy who just happens to turn 7 today. (Happy Birthday, Maddy!!! Remember, of all the people on this planet who lack Y chromosomes…. you are still my favorite under the age of 10.) I remember the story of King Saul’s attempt to have our ruddy, young hero David take his kingly sword and armor into battle with Goliath. But David chose not to use them because they didn't fit his style. Well, from now on when kids visit my shop and want to lend a hand I will be able to pull out a bench plane perfectly sized to their diminutive hands, rather than suggesting they tackle the behemoth task of planing with a tool sized and tuned for a king sized guy like me. Honestly, how do you teach a 10 year old boy to balance the downward and forward forces while using a #4 ½ when it’s all he can do to even carry it to the bench?

In anticipation of follow up questions, I will attempt to answer them ahead of time:

1) Won’t these kids complain about the lack of a lateral adjuster on the #1?

Yes, there will be a lot of whining about that.

2) Are you really going to put a $350 plane in the hands of children?

Having no children of my own it is real easy for me to take the misguided approach of treating children as equals. It’s kind of like back when I was still a Cub Scout Den Leader and shooting a lot of H. By the time a kid became a Webelo, I figured if he was mature enough to ask me for a hit, he was mature enough to handle it. Besides I think there was a real benefit to helping kids get over their fear of needles. I mean with the increasing rates of Type 2 Diabetes in obesity-plagued America, eventually everyone over 30 will be shooting Insulin anyway. (Note to self: Buy Lilly stock). (Additional note to self: see if the Boy Scouts of America have changed their policy on Heroin addicted leaders. If so, apply for reinstatement.)

So there you have it. Yeah….I bought a #1, and to celebrate I turned the most famous poem of Indiana’s most famous poet into a Weird Al Yankovic ditty. That’s how I roll.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Little Orphan Annie

In the 1970's in my elementary school outside Indianapolis, we were pressed to embrace, memorize, and recite verses of Little Orphan Annie by Hoosier Poet James Whitcomb Riley. It was a rite of passage in Indiana...like learning to stall with a four corners offense (in the pre-shot clock world). I think it's interesting that the meter of those rhyming stanzas still comes back to me during milestone moments like the arrival yesterday of my Lie-Nielsen 2002 Special Edition #1 Bench Plane (#464 of 500).






The Little Number One Plane

By Jeff Skiver







A Little Number 1 Plane's come to my house to stay.
A Lie-Nielsen Special Edition that I got on Ebay
It's got the rosewood handles and the white bronze body, too
It cost a lot of money but what's a tool junkie to do?
The Cap Screw was too tight, the chipbreaker was back too far
It's blade has never cut a wisp; it's pristine without a scar
It's spent it's life as a trophy. It has sat upon a shelf.
But I buy tools to use. I buy them only for myself.



So I'll adjust the lever; position the chipbreaker right.
But first I'll address the blade; it's an unfinished fright
The grinding marks still show. There's no polish to be seen.
Where's my pond full of waterstones? They'll quick apply a sheen.
1000 on the back, soon 4000, then on to Eight.
No need to do the whole thing just an inch or so is great.
There's now some polish on the back I can see my face in there
If I use it for a mirror I can easily comb my hair.


The bevel's time has come. Time to fulfill its destiny.
Use a honing jig. Do it Right. Don't let pride defeat me.
Through the grits on the bevel side 'til I've got it good and sharp.
Two intersecting flat planes, I've heard David Charlesworth harp.
Put on a little camber; add a micro bevel, too.
Ruler trick on the back like David taught at Marc Adams' school.
Resell value's falling, but utility's on the rise.
I'm sure if I asked Thomas I'd see pleasure in his eyes.

A Little Number 1 Plane's come to my house to stay.
Special Edition Number 464...home from Ebay.
It's trophy life is over, a cutter it's now become
I'll get the improved chip breaker. Lot's of work to be done
Some day when time has got me... to my nephews it will go
I hope it will be used and not put upon the shelf for show
But there's still 60 years to use it. A bond we'll form in Time
Number 464 was an orphan. But now he is fully mine.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You're a Slacker, McFly!!!!!!!!!


I remember standing in the hallway in the offices at the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Genk, Belgium in the summer of 1999. I was the supplier of the exterior mirrors on the new Ford Transit Van that was being launched there in Genk. I was due up next to go in to report to the launch manager on the status of my parts. When it was my turn, I entered the room, made proper eye contact, gave a firm handshake and said, "Good Afternoon. I'm Jeff Skiver of Donnelly Corporation."

He replied, "Is that really your name?"

I happened to be extending my hand with my business card as I stuttering replied, "Yeah, that's my name."

He took the card and looked at it and said, "Oh my God, that really is your name."

I was noticeably confused. He said, "Well, of course you know what it means don't you?"

"Skiver???," I asked.

"Yes. Skiver. Skiving."

"It is a phrase from the leathercraft field. It means to trim off the top grain of a hide. However, to the best of my knowledge my ancestors weren't tanners."

"Well, I suppose it does mean that, but I mean the more common usage."

Again my face showed confusion. "I suppose I don't follow you, Sir."

"It means to slack off. To be a lazy buggard. You know...where's Jeff? If he's not at his desk then he's out somewhere skiving off."

"You mean, in the UK my name basically means 'Slacker', Sir?"

"EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Well, we don't use that term in The States."

"That's a shame. It's a good phrase. Do you have any more of these business cards? I've got some friends who will just love to see these."

To this day, I don't remember anything about that meeting with the Ford manager that I had spent days preparing for. I do remember when we left his office I turned to my friend (the Ford Engineer) and said. "Did you know what my name meant?"

"Of course," she replied.

"Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"I assumed you had been teased with it your whole life."

My college roommate (Ron) married a very sweet girl from England (The Isle of Wight, specifically). At some point I realized if I had done the same, my bride would not have taken my name. She wouldn't have even been a hyphenater. I quite likely would have been pressured to take her name.