Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Don't Sign Anything Without Reviewing It With Your Attorney

I am sure this is some kind of crime, and I know I shouldn’t admit to it. However, it is such a classic Skiver moment, that it seems like a good way to close out the year, here on the blog.

Last Saturday, we looked at 13 different houses in our attempt to finally move out of my parents’ house here in Indianapolis. (Luckily we have an empty house in Michigan, so we are not missing out on the thrill of sending in a mortgage check each month… we just long to send in two mortgage checks per month.)

Anyway, one of the first houses we visited on Saturday appeared to be owned by someone with similar interests to me. I first noticed the artwork in the entryway that highlighted famous spots in Dublin. When I went to the garage, I found he was a Formula 1 fan, but it looks like he is a Ferrari fan as compared to my McLaren/Mercedes loyalty. Also, in the garage I saw a radial arm saw and a table saw.

From there the story gets Skiver’ish. On the way to visit this house, Gail and I were talking dogs with our realtor. We told her about seeing Marley and Me on Christmas and then I quickly told her about Peyton and Simon, before arriving at this Ireland/Ferrari/Woodworking home.

Minutes later, in the closet of one of the upstairs bedrooms, I looked down and saw a scattered pile of woodworking magazines. I wasn’t too shocked, since my trip to the garage had shown me he was a woodworker. What I found intriguing was a particular issue of Popular Woodworking that I immediately recognized.

I called for my realtor who came in from the other room, and I flipped the April 2008 issue of PopWood open to the back page. Then, I showed off the photos of the two dogs I had been talking about in the car just 10 minutes earlier.

To fully Skiver-ize this event, there was one last thing I did. When Gail and the realtor left me and the magazines to continue looking at the rest of the house, I whipped out my official Mobil 1 Carbon Fiber Formula 1 pen, and decided to autograph the story of My New Apprentice.

In the words of Al Parrish, "This shot is a little soft..."

(That's how he describes EVERY photo I shoot.)

Then, I stuck the magazine back in the stack and continued searching for houses.

Although it would make a great story to say that house was the home of our dreams, the reality is that a different house was the one that struck a chord.

Did I mention that the home we have ultimately put an offer on has 1800 square feet of basement to serve as my new wood shop? It has 1800 square feet of unfinished basement with a 9 foot high ceiling. That is a little bit larger than the 325 square foot space I had in the basement in Michigan.

Hopefully it isn’t a crime to have autographed my article without permission. If you currently have a home for sale in Carmel, Indiana and you find that a stranger has “defaced” one of your issues of Popular Woodworking, perhaps you could sue me. The odds are you could win in court and be awarded a cute little house in Holland, Michigan with a 13’ x 25’ woodshop in the basement.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Running Puppies

I didn't really mean for yesterday's entry to be such a downer.

Then again, for about 50% of the folks who celebrate Christmas, the holiday tends to stir up more sadness over those missing than happiness over Santa's visit.

So, as a way to help get the blog back onto the Pollyanna way... let me tell with 100% certainty, that yesterday I saw the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

Drumroll, please......... it was a scene from Marley and Me. Yes, kids, the same movie that made me cry also contained a vision of cuteness unlike anything I can recall ever seeing. It showed a puppy (around 10 weeks old) running down the beach.

It was a truly brilliant piece of movie making. It was filmed at puppy level, which gave us the ability to see the the puppy's spirit. The look on the puppy's face seems to indicate that he thinks he is the fastest creature who has ever lived. One can just see his thoughts as he says to himself, "Gee.... I'm like a frickin' Greyhound here. Oh yeah, look at me go. Holy crap, I bet my ears are straight back. If I didn't know better I would think I was actually flying. In fact I am sure that I am getting air. I don't even feel the sand under my right rear paw anymore. I am the fastest dog in the world....."

I was so impressed with the running puppy that yesterday afternoon I went looking for the video (on YouTube, of course) to share with my mother. However, all of the bootleg video clips appear to have been taken down. Then, I suddenly found a copy of the sprinting pup in a very obvious spot. There is a trailer for the movie on the official website that shows the little yellow fuzzball haulin' ass down the beach.

If you go to the website, and click on HOME MOVIES, it is the second trailer. Just click on the thumbnail of the little running puppy, and prepare yourself for an overdose of adorable cuteness. (Sorry, folks, there is no direct link to the video, but if you take the time to visit the website and find the movie trailer that plays "Chariots of Fire", you will be rewarded. Also, the vision of Jennifer Aniston in a tank top chasing the running puppy is not completely horrible either....)

So, I have a thing for puppies running on the beach. Then again, it could be that it just reminds me of when Peyton was a puppy and we would take him to the beaches of Lake Michigan so he could run and swim.

Of course, Peyton was cute, even when he was just swimming in his little pool in the backyard.

and notice the running technique when he finished his swim...

But when it was all said and done, 18 months later he has grown up to be a good runner/diver/swimmer.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Simon and Me

Dogs are a big part of my life. Unless this is your first time reading this blog, you would have to know that. Also, there are at least four (or four hundred) regular readers who are dog people too, based upon how the hits increased after my dog story was published in the April 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking.

Well, this morning at 10:20 am, Gail and I were at the opening of the movie Marley and Me here in Indianapolis. It was a little weird to realize that on Christmas Day while little kids in California were still in bed, I was at a theater watching a movie. Somehow…good or bad… that is a testament to our country.

I read Marley and Me years ago. I think I was at looking for the biography of Marco Pantani when the scary, scary computer deep within Amazon said, “Here is a new book (Marley and Me) that we think is right up your alley, Jeff Skiver…” The next thing you know I was reading the first edition and relating to life as the owner of yellow Labrador Retrievers.

Both of the dogs we owned when I first read Marley have since gone. Abby and Simon have been replaced by Peyton, and he is a beautiful, wonderful, and very loving dog.

When we lost Abby earlier this year, I recorded it here in the blog. And I know my words affected some of you. There was one new reader who later told me, “You had me at Three Carries.”

The loss of Simon almost two years ago was a great tragedy in my life. He was what I describe as, “The Dog of a Lifetime.” As I mentioned in the blog back in September, the PopWood article was the tribute to Simon that I had struggled with for a long time. It still serves as one of my great personal trophies that I found a fitting way to pay tribute to my lost buddy. Let’s face it, I could only have dreamed of buying the back page of a national magazine as a memorial, but instead, I got paid to do it. Somehow… good or bad… that is a testament to our country.

Today is Christmas. It’s the day chosen to represent God sending His Son from Heaven to Earth. So I am going to give you all the text I used to send my boy from Earth to Heaven. Below is the mass email I sent to all of my family and friends back on Monday, January 15, 2007. I was sitting at my desk at work and I had just made the decision to let Simon go. Before I drove to the vet, I opened my heart and shared the pain of my situation with everyone in my life who either loved Simon or knew how much I loved him.

I believe that when it is time for us to let our dogs go, we owe it to them to be with them. You can choose to disagree with me, but if you do… then you are wrong. Below is the unedited text of the email you received two years ago if you were a friend of Simon. I now think of all of you as Friends of Simon. So in honor of Marley, Simon, and Abby… here is the rawest thing I have ever written.

DATE: January 15, 2007 11:25 am
SUBJECT: Simon Skiver

Simon has been at the Animal Hospital since Friday. Gail took him in Friday morning. She and I visited him Friday afternoon, Saturday, and yesterday (Sunday).

Gail and I ran by the Animal Hospital this morning when they opened at 7:30 to visit Simon. He made it through the night, and I decided that rather than waiting around for 45 minutes for the vet to arrive at 8:30, we would just go onto work and decide tonight what we should do with Simon's treatment. Well, after I got to work I called the vet and talked to her about the boy.

His liver is starting to shut down, so there is almost no way he is going to make it.

They are giving him a cortisone injection today, which is the only chance he has (1 in a million). And I am going to go by there after work and be with him as we put him down. He is about two weeks short of being 6 1/2 years old, so it is completely baffling that something so horrible can so quickly take down a dog that is the picture of health and vitality. 7 days ago he was perfect. However, my limited research shows that Acute Pancreatitis is one of the most mysterious, yet deadly things that can befall an otherwise healthy dog. There are two kinds of Pancreatitis…one is a bad little nagging ailment…the other is more of a rapid and sure death sentence, he has the latter.

I can honestly say there is no dog I have ever heard of who is as loved as my boy, Simon. We have given him a wonderful home and a wonderful life. Still, he is a very special dog. At times he can be brilliant. At times he can be crazy. However, he is always loving and lovable….100% of the time. We originally went to the West Michigan Chocolate Lab Rescue (they handle black and yellow labs, too) to look into being foster parents to another dog for a few weeks. The first moment I saw Simon, he strolled right up to me, sat his butt down on my feet (with his back up against my shins), and he looked straight up at me and basically said, "If you take me home, I will love you completely and unconditionally until the day I die."

For four and a half years, that has been the case. Everything that I have worked on around the house since the day he arrived in the late summer of 2002 has been under the sleepy supervision of my boy.

In February 2003, when he and I had only been together for 6 months, I left Donnelly and started staying home with him and Abby all day long. Abby didn't really care. Simon let me know that he thought this was how it should always be; I should spend every minute of every day with him. Digging sprinklers in the back yard... he would be right there with me. For the front yard sprinklers I had to leave the door open so he could watch me out the screen door.

Whenever Gail and I go somewhere, as we back out of the driveway we can look up at the front window and see his face pressed against the glass verifying that we really had decided to go somewhere without him. Then, when we come home he is at the front window looking out to see our return. Sometimes it was scary how he would do that. I have seen him stir out of a sleep and run to the front window and sit looking out, only to see Gail pull into the driveway about 45 seconds later. I don't know how he manages that little piece of magic, but I have seen it so many times, I cannot call it a coincidence.

Whenever one of us gets into the shower, "Safety Dog Simon" parks himself right outside the shower curtain, and even occasionally pops his head in…just to make sure we are ok. There have been only a few times, where he was too lazy to get out of bed to do his Safety Dog job for me while I was showering. And on at least one of those occasions, I grabbed tight to the shower rail and intentionally made slip-sliding noises, and he came FLYING into the bathroom, stuck his head through the curtain, and gave me a look like, "HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!! One time I try to sleep in and you can't even take a shower without me?!?!?!?!?" Likewise, every night when Gail and I get into the sauna, Simon sits there watching us through the glass to make sure we are ok.

Three weeks ago when I was home for 15 days over the holiday shutdown, he and I got to again share our "full time" buddy relationship…just like after I left Donnelly. Well, during that time I was staying up into the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I didn't even go to bed until about 6 or 7 am. Even then, I would only sleep for a couple of hours before I would get up and get back to work on all of my projects. One of the great things about officially "going to bed" at weird times, is that Simon will spoon with you. So on one of those days between Christmas and New Year's Day when I was home and Gail had to work, I stayed up all night and then went to bed at about 7:30 am. From 7:30am to 10:00am I lay there in bed with my 105 pound buddy Simon snuggled up against me. His head was on my bicep and his whiskers were right in my face. And he would grunt and snore and without saying a word, he would make his thoughts 0bvious…. "You know, Dad….it doesn't get any better than this." And you know what…given Simon never slobbered one time in his life…his dry mouth did make face to face snuggling one of life's greatest pleasures.

My mistake is that I assigned one role to Simon that he isn't going to be able to follow through on. Simon was supposed to be the key to my getting through Abby's eventual death. Abby turned 10 last September, and I realize with her lessening mobility that she probably only has 3 more years with us, at best. Thinking of that crushes me heart. However, I have always known that Abby's death will also destroy Simon. So, my plan for grief with Abby is to snuggle up with Simon and talk to him about all of the great things we used to do with Abby. I was planning to hold him close and tell him how fun it was to take him and Abby to the beach and watch them race each other as they swam out to fetch the retrieval duck that I would throw out into the waves. I planned to get over the loss of Abby by letting him know that even though I was going to miss her, at least I still have him…my black hole of emotional need that requires constant attention: MY Dog…Simon.

I would still have the dog that would lay at my feet in my woodshop while the noisy dust collector and table saw blared eardrum shattering decibels. It is neat that the same noise that would send Abby running upstairs for cover would signal Simon to come strolling into the woodshop….plop down at my feet with his HUGE, exhaling sigh….and look up at me and use his beautiful brown eyes to ask, "What ya gonna work on today? If you need anything, just let me know…otherwise, I am just going to lay here on the floor at your feet because it is a tough job lying around the house 20 hours a day, and I am tired. However, I will do my best to be in your way as often as possible."

Everybody who loves animals may be blessed during their life to get one pet that takes on a role that transcends the normal human/animal relationship. Timmy had Lassie. Grizzly Adams had Ben. Roy Rogers had Trigger. I have Simon. He knows me, and he loves me with every fiber of his being. He can never get enough of me. If we are in the same building, he wants to be next to me. If I have a free hand, he wants it to be stroking his soft ears. And whenever my day is over and I finally decide to go to bed, he wants to root himself in between Gail and me so that he can get snuggled from both sides and be reassured that we love him too.

So today, I am going to watch Simon go to sleep for the last time. And since he tried his best to make sure I was never alone whenever I fell asleep…I owe it to him to make sure he isn't alone either.

I am going to rub his soft ears, and tell him how blessed I was to have him in my life for four and half years. I am going to softly tell him how much I love him and how thankful I am that he loved me so truly and so strongly. I will stay with him until the end, and I will forever know that I suffered a little bit (watching him go) in order be assured that the last thing he sees and the last thing he feels will be his buddy, his "Dad", his snuggle buddy. I will be there for him, because I know that he would have done ANYTHING for me.

Jeff Skiver

Monday, December 22, 2008

Removing the Scales From My Eyes

Growth is a funny thing…outside of time-lapse photography and the rare biological process (Pupil dilation, of course…), there are few things in our world where we humans can “see” growth.

Most of the time we recognize growth after it has happened.

SHAZAMMMMMMMM!!!!!!! When did our River Birch get to be taller than the Power Lines?

HEY!!!!!!!!!! Who the hell has been shrinking the waistband on my pants?????

I think something similar has happened in my woodworking education. I base this upon the 2009 classes I signed up for at Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

As many of you know, I first discovered and attended Marc’s school back in 2006 because I wanted to spend a week studying with my “TV Mentor” David Marks. Everything about that initial class was based upon personality: David’s personality. I wanted to study with David Marks, and I found that David is a great communicator and an amazing artist.

2007 was the Joinery year. I spent two weeks at MASW learning Joinery and Advanced Joinery, and I came away with a rock solid foundation of furniture construction.

2008 was the year I studied Hand Tool Techniques with Chris Gochnour. I knew how to make joints, but I wanted to meet Chris and have an opportunity to make a project using just hand tools.

2009 is another leap for me. I just realized I have signed up for a series of classes that will focus on “the little things.” I am moving past construction and looking at embellishment. During the 2009 season at MASW, I am scheduled to learn Marquetry. In addition to that week-long class, I am signed up for weekend classes on Inlaying with Steve Latta and “Finishes that Pop”with Glen Huey.

I have spent years trying to learn design through osmosis as I leveraged the talents of coworkers who were graduates of places like Art Center in Pasadena, College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Kendall College of Art and Design, University of Cincinnati’s Industrial Design program, etc. However, I finally decided I should take a weekend to ease into my own study of design. So I am also taking a Design class with Garrett Hack.

I am happy with my joinery. I like my dovetails, and I especially like how well I can fix (hide) my mistakes. I suppose once we master the pins and tails, the next step is to try to be like Rob Cosman or Frank Klausz and see how fast we can cut them. But I don’t have the time to dedicate to creating the muscle memory necessary to dovetail an entire drawer in less than 20 minutes. Also, I don’t have a need for that kind of production speed.

A year from now my furniture projects will probably look exactly the same as they do now… if we compare them in the bottom of a cave where the blind fish swim. However, the classes I am taking in 2009 will hopefully take me from furniture of solid construction to well made furniture that also catches the eye.

I am not the same woodworker I was in 2006. I am still on the heavily sloped section of the learning curve, where the new techniques are presented often and learned fairly quickly. (Note I said LEARNED… not MASTERED). In 2009, I plan to continue with my woodworking education, and I am looking forward to this valuable growth opportunity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Stress Can Be Hell

It's the most wonderful time of the year….

It is????

I mean, it is SUPPOSED to be the most wonderful time of the year, but in reality, that area of the calendar immediately following the Northern Hemishpere's Winter Solstice can be a tense, high pressure time. It can be hell.

However, rest assured Christmas is a lot worse in hell. If you don't believe me, then just take a moment to look at the some of the stressful situations currently faced by our former life neighbors who have since relocated to hell.

Whose Christmas Party to go to this Saturday...Idi Amin's or Josef Stalin's?

Should your gift for Satan be politically motivated (try to score a cooler homesite) or based purely on the spirit of the holidays?

Will you get caught if you try to re-gift that lava lamp you got from Pol Pot?

If you give Mohammad Atta a Prayer Rug, will he get the joke?

Should you let people know that it creeps you out that Gacey is still dressing up as Santa at the party?

What do you do with that fruitcake you received from Jeff Dahmer?

How do get out of going caroling with John Gotti and Vlad the Impaler?

Where in the hell do you get a Christmas Tree around here….literally?

What do you do if Mary Ann Cotton offers you a Christmas cookie?

Should you say a big "Screw You!!!!" to your neighborhood's Home Owners Association and their stupid "White Lights Only Rule" and just put up the multi-color strands anyway. I mean...what are they gonna do? Throw you out of hell?????

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Rights Must Be Stopped

Will we ever escape prejudice?

A couple of days ago I happened to notice that a friend of mine had signed The Universal Declaration for Human Rights. I was floored. I honestly felt like someone punched me in the stomach. You think you know some people. This woman had always appeared to be a peace-lovin’, left wing votin’, rainbow flag wavin’, gun hatin’ soul. Then, I find out she’s one of them. So, I wrote her a note. I have copied it below in the hopes that the readers of this blog will see that hate mongers are among us. They may disguise themselves, but eventually the hate comes out.

Wanda, I saw where you signed the Universal Declaration for Human Rights on Facebook. What are you thinking? This isn’t you. I wish I could just look the other way, but I have to let you know this makes me sick. How can you jump up on a soapbox and start waving a flag of superiority just because you are predisposed to do things with your right hand?

This is ponderous, and it is wrong. Don’t give me any of your crap or spout any of your dogma about it either. I’ve heard all of the tired old lines. “It’s not about hatin’ on the Lefties…this is just celebrating those of us who are right handed.” That’s BUNK, and you know it. Why should it matter whether a person is right handed or left handed? What is so sick and twisted in your world that you can judge people like that? Do you hate the little Left Handed kids, too? Where do the ambidextrous fall on your hate list?

Despite what you right handed Nazis think, all human beings are equal and deserve the same access and opportunity to achieve love, success, and happiness….regardless of which hand they use.

So as you take the pen in your hand to sign this Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I want you to understand that I am taking my pen in hand to fight you and the people like you. I will not stand by and watch as you try to suppress left handed people.

Finally, let me say one thing. If anyone questions my motives or feels I am fighting this particular hatred with too much zeal, let me confirm one fact… I (Jeff Skiver) am Right Handed. However, I will NEVER be like you and your kind.

Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ebony...With a Cream Colored Accent

Well, this has only happened at most once or twice before.

I started responding to someone’s comments from a previous post and instead decided to turn it into a standalone blog post of its own. So here goes…

The discussion of the Rocky Top post has jumped to a subject I didn't ever really plan to address in this blog.

See, I have made the mistake in the past of showing off too many of my prize tools and creating a spirit of jealousy (among a small minority of readers) that was not good for the overall "friendliness" of the blog.

So I didn't want to come right out and let everyone know that my obsession with hand tools really started just about the time that I bought Gail that new stainless French Door refrigerator back in 2005. I had to get her a new fridge because I took the old one down to the basement, cut a couple of holes in the side of it and became the only boy I know with his own Guinness keg system at home.

Yes, I have the huge Nitrogen tank. Yes, I have the special "u" tap that fits Irish kegs. Do I bypass the chance to buy a 15 gallon barrel of Bud for $45 in order to spend $150+ for a mere 13.5 gallons of keg-wrapped Guinness???? You bet.

And just so you know, more than once I have ruled out using a photo on the blog because I didn't want to offend anyone. I worried someone could be offended at the sight of a workbench that looked like mine...where right next to the shavings on the bench was a previously room temperature, beer clean Imperial Pint tulip glass full of a two part pour of the black stuff with a perfectly domed creamy top showing off a custom Skiver shamrock.

My favorite picture from the Ireland vacation...Matthew (my best friend in the world) and me posing with "our van" near Galway.

And all of this helps answer the question, "Jeff, why is it Wood Magazine says Americans LOVE their routers and you hate them with every fiber of your soul?" Well, mainly I hate the noise. But it's also because I prefer the full sensory experience of hand tools...the feel of the plane in your hands, the smell of the wood shavings, the sound of the "SWOOOOOK" as the perfectly honed blade slices through the fibers, and the lingering taste of the bitterness of the Guinness hops that you get from combining a pint of Guinness with hand tool woodworking.

Coincidently, it is interesting how much those beloved ebony boards of mine look just like Guinness (see the "Et Tu, Brute" article in PopWood's October 2008 Out of the Woodwork or just look in the background of my profile photo over at the right side of this webpage). The heartwood is as black as can be, and the sapwood is the perfect shade of creamy tan. It’s no wonder those ebony planks speak to me on a primal level.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tossin' the Tannenbaum

We humans do not have a great track record of "Thinking Green."

I am as guilty as anyone. In the years I have spent as an engineer designing stuff, the eventual retirement and disposal of the product was at most an afterthought. I just wanted the widget to look fabulous and perform flawlessly. I seldom cared how my brainchild spent the eventual eternity of its days in the landfill.

Well, folks, let's stop the insanity Since this is the time when so many of our readers start to think about giving the tree the trim, I want to talk about Christmas trees. However, as you go out to pick out that blue spruce or Fraser, Douglas, or Balsam fir this year think ahead to what you will do with it after baby new year has spent the night in your bathroom puking up that last round of vodka shots that seemed at the time to be just the right nightcap.

Let me offer my suggestion for Christmas tree disposal. I have been using this technique for years, and it has never let me down. It takes just a tiny bit of extra work, but I think we can all agree that proper recycling is worth the effort.

To begin, simply tie the dead tree to the top of the your car or truck. That's it. That is the full extent of the physical labor involved in the tree recycling process. However, there are several little steps you'll need to get right. In this recycling system, the failure of any minor step will likely result in the failure of the overall mission.

Selection of the string is key. The tree should be tied to the top of the vehicle with the lightest string one can find. I have some particularly light kite string that has a tensile test rating of about eight ounces (just over two Newtons). Sewing thread can also be used, but I caution against using Nylon or Polyester.... they're just too strong.

With the proper thread/string selected you loosely tie the tree to the top of the car and head out for the open road. At this stage of the recycling process, the efforts switch from physical to more of a mental exercise. It helps to become a "method actor" and fixate on the belief that you are just out for a nice highway drive. Ignore the sounds coming from the top of the car. Ignore the pointing from other motorists who pull alongside you. Get into "The Zone." Set the cruise control for about 60mph and think about how good that coffee is going to taste when you arrive at the targeted Starbucks 12 miles from home.

The next step of the Christmas tree recycling is without a doubt the most important one of the entire process. This is the time when you really have to sell it. Your look of surprise will make or break the success of your recycling activity. When you hear the "WHOOOOOOOSH!!!!!!!!!!!" you have to resist the urge to giggle and, instead, try to look just as shocked and surprised as all of the people around you.

I have been doing this for years, and I have gotten to a point where I can make it through the launch sequence without showing any emotion at all. It took years of training to attain the ability to not crack a smile while watching cars in the rear view mirror swerve and scatter...but I am there. However, you should not expect this type of stoic, fixed focus to duty during your first few attempts. Remember, I am an experienced recycler.

Enjoy the Christmas season and throw yourself into making this year's Christmas tree the best ever. However, plan ahead so that you aren't left with a rotting tree carcass at the foot of the driveway. With a proper recycling plan you can see to it that your Christmas tree is properly returned to nature.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm Cute Too, Frank

During the entire course of the Woodworking in America conference I never engaged steel to wood. I never pushed a plane, stroked a saw, or picked up a chisel.

The only tools I wielded were cameras. On Saturday morning, before I became Roy Underhill's personal photographer and cleaning assistant, I had wanted to get my photo taken with Frank Klausz. So after his class was over, I approached him and asked if he would mind posing with me.

I assumed I needed to get Frank's permission before I went snapping pictures. Ya know... what if he was in the Witness Protection Program, or something? I mean he does live in the same state as The Soprano's.

So I requested a photo, but I was a little shocked at the response I got. Frank said, "Sure, I'll be a nice guy and pose for a picture with you. But why is it that I am always getting my picture taken with guys like you, and I hardly ever to pose with girls like the lady in green over there?"

It just so happened I knew the chick he referred to. So I yelled, "HEY, GAIL!!!!!!!!!!! COME GET YOUR PICTURE TAKEN WITH FRANK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Gail, when you're done mucking it up with your buddy Frank would you mind snapping a picture of Frank and ME?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Wish I Could Hang Out With Roy...

Having missed the entire first day of the Woodworking in America conference as I flew home from France, I arrived in Indianapolis late Friday, picked up Gail, and zoomed down to Berea, Kentucky where we arrived in the wee small hours of the morning on November 15th.

Dripping in the effects of sleep deprivation, I didn't expect to get a lot out of Saturday's classes, but I ended up with a distinctive Skiver experience. Following a standing room only lecture by Frank Klausz, Michael Dunbar, and Roy Underhill on techniques of making mortise and tenon joints, I was supposed to go to a class on Old School Chisel use taught by Adam Cherubini and Roy Underhill. I was, however, a little tired, and I was not in a great hurry to immediately go running across the campus to that class. So I stayed in the lecture hall and watched as Roy Underhill scampered about cleaning up his stuff.

Then it hit me…Roy was supposed to teach that next class of mine. No one would care that I was choosing to arrive late. Roy's tardiness would garner more attention. So I strolled up to the stage and politely asked Roy if he needed some help cleaning up. The first task I was given was to take a photo of Roy and Frank together. (Roy wanted the photo for a souvenir.)

(I snapped this picture with my camera as Roy was attempting to get his fired up.)

With the photography task completed I engaged in a more strenuous line of work, helping Roy move his tools and work benches over against a wall. Then, I helped Roy carry some of his tools for the next class down to his van, and the next thing I know, I am sitting in the passenger seat of Roy Underhill's van as the two of us cruise across campus toward his next class.

There is a chance I dreamed the whole thing given how sleepy I was, but in reality I managed to grab a little one on one time with St. Roy. I would like to tell you that I engaged in all manner of hip/"cool cat" conversation, but the reality is that I jabbered incoherently while helping to point directions to our destination.

A few hours later I again took the opportunity to chat with Roy as I happened to be sitting next to him at dinner.

(Last minute speech editing)

The neatest part of this experience is that on the floor between Roy and me sat his case full of props. Roy was scheduled to deliver the talk during dinner, and he had brought along several items from past episodes of The Woodwright's Shop to use as visual aids. As I looked into the case I saw Barley Twists, impossible dovetails, wooden threads, and bookstands.

As I stared into that case I began to recognize the role that PBS has played in my life. Somewhere in the jumble of my brain I thought of Mr. Fred Rogers, Ernie and Bert, the Keno Twins, and Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet). Yet for me, the clear king among my PBS educators is Roy Underhill. And on a November day in 2008, with the cold Kentucky rain falling in Berea, I had the pleasure of finding out that St. Roy is a normal guy (who is as nice as can be) but is anything but ordinary.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Gales of November on Rocky Top

The Woodworking in America Conference gave me the opportunity to finally meet several of my email/phone friends and acquaintances face to face. I met Glen Huey who had refused to clear his schedule to meet with me when I visited the offices of Popular Woodworking two months ago. (Glen how dare you do real work when I am boondoggling to Cincinnati to score a free lunch????)

I finally met Dave Jeske from Blue Spruce. I reminded him that I gave him a shout out in the April 2008 Out of the Woodwork article in PopWood (hoping he would say that entitled me to a free set of chisels...NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!).

I met fellow Rose-Hulman alumnus Dave McDonnel, whom I had spoken to and exchanged email with but never met.

Kelly from Chattanooga told me how much he likes the blog and specifically mentioned the heart-wrenching saga of the missing chisel. (I am always shocked to see which blog entries register with different folks).

I met Mike Holden who had previously recognized my tribute to Eddy Merckx in my article on Tillers International in the June 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking.

Still the most interesting connection Gail and I made that weekend was with the town of Richmond, Kentucky. On Saturday night I told Gail I wanted to go out and celebrate a day where I had met my idol, Roy Underhill. So after making some calls, Gail determined that Hooters had Guinness on tap. (I practice beer monogamy. If there isn't Guinness…I stick with iced tea or Diet Coke). Arriving at Hooters we had to park 100 yards away, and as we approached the door we saw we couldn't even get inside. We found out that it was a pay per view Ultimate Fight Night, and it seems the locals are heavily into watching a couple of muscly guys in tight little shorts grab onto each other, roll around in the ring, and pummel each other senseless. We punted and went back to the car.

I began driving around Richmond, Kentucky hoping my highly trained nose would pick up on a hint of the scent of Guinness. Suddenly we saw something thoroughly out of place….an Irish pub in downtown Richmond. We parked and went inside. They first collected $4 from each of us to cover the cost of the band. I was hoping for something like these fellas we had been with at the Boxty House in Dublin….no such luck.

The actual band was far closer to:

As Gail and I sat down at the bar, my Guinness and her Strongbow appeared to be the only Irish/British liquids that had flowed in years. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying a Silver Bullet or something with "Drinkability."

However, thoughts about beverages were forgotten when we caught sight of him…a local man whose fashion sense was extremely special. I am not sure why he needed to wear a camouflage trucker cap along with an (HONEST TO GOD) Realtree Camo Button-Down Oxford Dress Shirt….but all of the stealth factor of that fabric was canceled out by the gleam of his silver belt buckle that appeared to be larger than the smallest three New England States. He should have been wearing a weight lifting belt to support his lower back as he carried that Sterling Behemoth around.

Our admiration of Richmond fashion was interrupted, however, when the non-Irish band broke into playing ROCKY TOP, and everyone in the place (with the exception of Gail and me) went into spasms of hooting and yee haw'ing. My jaw dropped, and I sat on my stool dumbfounded. Gail asked why I was reacting so noticeably. I explained that Rocky Top is the college song of the Tennessee Volunteers and that given our location in Kentucky, I would not have expected a favorable reaction. I told Gail that I would have thought playing Rocky Top in Kentucky would be the equivalent of a band firing up the Ohio Buckeye fight song in the middle of a bar in Michigan. However, in Richmond, Kentucky...folks just completely love Rocky Top.

Don't get me wrong, though. People in Michigan do go crazy for at least one song I know of, but it is pretty rare. The only time one sees a Michigan bar react this positively to a song is when a band strikes the opening chords of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


So I am over in France this week. Previously I had been to Normandy, but this is my first trip to Brittany. I have known a few girls named Brittany, and I have known a few dogs who were Brittanies. I have even known of a Brittany named Brittany, but this is my first trip to the region that inspired all of those creatures.

On my flight to Paris I sat two rows behind Jesus Christ. However, now that I think about it I am pretty sure it wasn’t Him. This would-be Messiah was wearing John Lennon glasses, and I am 99% sure that given Jesus’ experience with healing the blind, He would have taken care of His own myopia.

Somewhere over Greenland, my mind wandered off to one of those places, and I happened upon my latest deep thought question: Why is it that Kool and the Gang never made it beyond the Tier 2? It seems they just never could quite make it to the Big Leagues with the likes of the Crips, the Blood, the Latin Kings, etc.

As far as my trying to fit in over here, I have hearkened back to the days in my high school German class. There we each adopted a German name that we used as we spoke in class. So for the entire week over here I am telling everyone my name is Charles Darnay. I cannot help but think I would get more responses if I were working with folks who weren’t engineers. (Most Engineers just don’t ever get around to reading the classics.)

So far, though, I have learned a lot about the French language. I now realize that to say “Thank you” one says merci with a very gentle lilt of the voice. God as my witness I always thought the word was pronounced exactly the same way (with the same tone, inflection, and volume) that Roy Orbison says, MERCY!!!!!!!!!! in the song Pretty Woman.

Well, I suppose this trip is going to drive a further wedge between my yellow Retriever dog (Peyton) and me. This means that since June I have visited the lands of the Irish Setters, the Butler Bulldogs, the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds, the Washington Huskies, and the Brittany Spaniel and still have not made it to his native land of Labrador.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Paris...Ain't That Right Outside Lexington???

When I went searching for the new career position, there was only one thing on the next sixteen months of my calendar…the Woodworking In America Conference in Berea, Kentucky that begins next Friday.

Living in Michigan I knew if I landed a position up there it would be no problem to get off work on Friday the 14th of November because the entire state will be shutting down that weekend for the beginning of firearm deer season.

When I moved from Indiana to Michigan in 1996 I thought I understood passion. I thought we Hoosiers had a passion for basketball. I thought Brazilians had a passion for soccer. I thought John Gacy had a passion for young boys. However, nothing prepared me for the way Michiganders love to sit at deer camp drinking beer and shooting at stuff. Still, that is not what today’s entry is about.

During my first week on the job here in Indianapolis, my Director came to me and told me I would be in Paris next week. It would have been nice if he had meant Paris, Kentucky given its proximity to I-75. A week in Paris, Kentucky would have worked out well to get me headed toward Berea. It can’t be that easy.

Gail and I were scheduled to be at the welcoming reception in Berea next Thursday night, so I called and switched us over to the Friday night reception. It doesn’t matter…when that reception starts on Friday, my jet will just be putting its wheels on the ground in Indianapolis. (And that is assuming no other delays catch me.)

Earlier in the day, when my Woodworking in America schedule says I should be in a class with Roy Underhill and Frank Klausz discussing whether dovetails should be cut pins first or tails first, I will be over the Atlantic, likely listening to some guy named Sal tell me about his son's high school baseball coach who won’t let Sal, Jr. be the future 20+ game winner he is destined to be. In the afternoon, when I am supposed to be listening to Roy Underhill and Adam Cherubini talk about Vintage tools, I will be boarding the flight from Newark to Indianapolis.

Then, when I get home to Indianapolis, Gail will get me at the airport and we’ll scoot down to Berea with my jet lag telling me it’s 5 or 6 hours later than it really is. Nevertheless, on Saturday morning, I will arise in Berea and jump into the Saturday session.

I don’t want to sound whiny, though. Given the offer we put on a new house on Saturday, I have to come back to the words I told my Director when I explained the conflict of this trip with my personal schedule…. “As long as the direct deposit keeps getting made, you’ll ALWAYS know where my loyalties lie.”

On the upside, after my week in France, perhaps the fine folks running the conference will let me do an impromptu lecture on Marquetry or French Polish?

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Got The Shaft

I’ve been called a lot of things, but “Boring” is not one of them.

You may not like my style, but rest assured…I have style. And I like to do things to spice up life. For example, no one on my team knows this yet, but today is going to be Shaft Monday.

What in the world is Shaft Monday, you ask???? (Don’t think about mines or projecting power between the transmission and the differential…instead, think of Isaac Hays singing about Richard Roundtree…)

This afternoon I have to meet with a couple of people to get updates for an upcoming prototype event.

Those brief meetings are going to go like this:

Jeff Skiver(in the role of Program Manager): Who’s the Asian Cat who’s finalizing the software updates?
Mike (the Project Leader): You mean Tom Kim?
Skiver: DAMN RIGHT!!!!!!!

Skiver: What’s our confidence that we will be logistically ready to pull the trigger on 10NOV08?
Jennifer (Operations Lead): At least 98%
Skiver: Can you dig it?!?!?!?

Skiver: And who’s the cat with his finger on the P&L to make sure Management is happy with this thing and let’s us keep our jobs?
The entire team (looking scared and confused): That would be you, Skiver….
Skiver: RIGHT ON!!!!!!!!!!

Meetings really can be fun, especially if you decide to Shaft ‘em Up. Another bonus is when you decide to implement Shaft Monday, your meetings become another talking point for your teammates to use in their discussions with HR. Can you dig it?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bugs, Harvey, and Me

Do most people have high opinions of bunnies?

Because I am starting my workday covered in bunny fur.

It all goes back to Ireland. During my vacation in Ireland in June, I bought at least four sweaters that my wife refers to as “old man sweaters.” There is a cardigan with a full zipper that is especially Fred Rogers’ish when I don it to fight off the nip. However, last week I tossed it into the tiny trunk of the Benz and managed to bust out two zipper teeth when the trunk latch came down on it. It is off at Lucy Tailor (that can’t be her real last name) having the zipper replaced this week.

During my transition from Michigan to Indianapolis I am living with my parents while diligently looking for a new home. (Do you have any idea how tough it is to find a house that provides at least 1000 square feet of woodshop area in addition to at least 3 stalls of garage space in a neighborhood that would be willing to accept ME?????) So during this time of living with my folks, most of my clothing is still in Michigan. All of my coats and jackets are in Michigan. I just brought two old man sweaters to Indianapolis. The cardigan is at the tailor for repair, so this morning I ran back into the house and pulled on my Bunny Hair (Angora) Commando Sweater. I pulled it on over my lovely oxford dress shirt. My cufflinks dug into the sleeves as I wrestled the sweater over the upper half of my body, but eventually I got it on. I drove to work with the outside temperature digitally indicated at 31 degrees. Even with the seat heaters in the VW I am glad I had the sweater on.

I arrived at work, walked to my office, and pulled the sweater off. My lovely dress shirt is COVERED in blue fuzz. It is angelically soft blue fuzz. It is the blue fuzz of the softest bunnies on the planet, but I am covered in blue fuzz.

Something else…since I am the owner of the most famous dog in Woodworking (the yellow lab Peyton), my world contains countless sticky lint rollers. And even though my entire career has seen one of these in my desk drawer, I have not yet brought one in for my new office. So I am sitting here... FUZZY... with no tape roller available.

I have to wonder about the style factor. When judging pieces of flair, can the bunny hair be considered an accessory since its navy color accents nicely with the various blues in the pattern of my shirt? Perhaps I am at the forefront of a new look. If Bunny Fuzz become THE look of the fall season, remember you saw it here first.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote...

Well, between my new employer wanting me to actually work, and the quest to find a new house to live in, last week saw no update to the blog.

However, during my my 3 ½ hour drive from Holland, Michigan to Indianapolis this morning I managed to let my brain achieve that higher stage of consciousness that so often leads to my random deep thoughts and/or arrest for creating an unlawful disturbance.

Obviously, most of these relate to music or driving, given I scribbled them out while cruising down the highway. Let's jump right in and see what new and insightful life lessons I have for you today:

Somewhere there is a Saab driver who knows what the hell they are doing, but I still haven't met her yet.

Despite what the group America says, Oz also gave the Tin Man directions to a very good seafood restaurant.

Why don't CHEATING and CREATING rhyme? I mean look at them…they're practically twins!!!!

Did Manfred Mann have bands on other planets in our solar system?

Am I the only one who thinks Paul Young's voice is about 400 times better than Neil Young's?

Ya know, John Waite's English really isn't all that "Bad" for someone born in the UK.

Given their name, I think MODERN ENGLISH should have been a BAD ENGLISH tribute band.

Pound for pound, Karen Carpenter had the prettiest voice of all time. Which reminds me:

It is worth noting that there are just two months left to vote for the best Skiving Off one-liner of 2008. At this time the polls indicate our leader is:

"Somewhere between Karen Carpenter and Mama Cass there is a happy middle ground."

followed closely by:

"I'd give my left arm to be ambidextrous."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Herefords, Holsteins, and Angus

Today was my first “Casual Friday” at my new gig. I think I erred on the side of comfort.

Looking back now I can see how silly it was to arrive wearing my version of “casual” without doing a proper reconnaissance. However, I thought I understood the concept.

There seems to be a lot of denim here; jeans are everywhere.

So, I am obviously not fitting in.

You see I wore shorts. It wasn’t that as a former velodrome sprint racer I wanted to show off my legs…. it just seemed like it would be ok.

Above the waist I am out of touch as well. Polo shirts are rampant, and I have even seen a couple of Tshirts. However, I am wearing a jacket and tie.

I don’t know how I missed the target so badly. Everyone is wearing jeans and polo shirts, and I am wearing an Official Angus Young Schoolboy Uniform.

I suppose I am like a meteor that is too big to burn up in the atmosphere. Even if it isn’t always the right impression… I ALWAYS manage to make an impact.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I didn't ask for EVAN

Lunchtime Wednesday… halfway through my first week at my new job.

I have a very lonely office. It’s the biggest office I have ever had, but it is lonely. Besides the Herman Miller chair I sit in at the moment, my office has 4 “visitor” chairs. I have not yet had a visitor. There are a lot of small holes in the wall where the previous occupant had items mounted. He either had a very extensive collection of ego photos, or perhaps he used his down time to conduct seminars on rock climbing techniques.

The facilities manager said they would patch the holes and paint the office during the night sometime next week. I was told they have to paint it eggshell color, but I am hoping to slip him ten bucks and see if they will go with a different color that will complement the black light and associated posters I am bringing in.

This place is huge. The footprint is about 12 feet by 16 feet, but the ceiling is 12 feet high. So as I sit here typing, I feel like I am alone in a racquetball court.

In addition to the black light posters, I think I am going to put up a couple of FATHEADS. I was hoping to go with a woodworking theme. However, I just got off the phone with Highland Hardware and it seems that neither the Frank Klausz nor the Roy Underhill FATHEADS are available yet. How stupid is that? We can get three different poses of Warren Sapp, but we cannot get a single woodworking celebrity in FATHEAD form.

It doesn’t really matter anyway. At the moment, I am pretty ticked off at the FATHEAD company. They completely screwed up my last order. I thought I was getting a bigger than life wall image of my favorite Desperate Housewife hottie… well apparently there is a GUY named Evan Longoria. Who the hell knew that? If you are a DevilRays fan, I can make you a good deal.

Friday, October 10, 2008

We Will Bury You....

Roy Underhill came out with a new book…. Laaadie Frickin’ Daaa.

I am going to review Roy’s book in the blog today. However, I am not going to spew on about the latest Roy Underhill book the way everyone else is. I am going to give a quick review on the “forgotten” Roy Underhill book:

People who say Roy Underhill’s latest book is his first in 12 years seem to be glossing over “Shoe.”

For most of my life I have been watching Roy Underhill tell stories, and the fact is clear that he is one of the most talented communicators on the planet.

Each time I fire up an episode of The Woodwright’s Shop on Tivo, I am blown away by how quickly 22 minutes can pass. And to me it often seems as if he does the entire show in one take.

Friends, if you were to assign values to Roy Underhill’s abilities, his communication skill would rate higher than his knowledge of wood and tools. (And I think we know where he stands on those).

Most woodworkers know all about Roy’s knowledge of woodworking, but very few I have met realize that he wrote the Bible on public speaking and communicating with an audience. Back in 2000, Roy Underhill wrote Khrushchev’s Shoe, and it is effectively the most entertaining text book I have ever read.

Khrushchev’s Shoe is written in Roy’s inimitable style, and the examples, quotes, and illustrations are humorous yet perfectly on point. (It is probably a good thing that a book on communication does at least a fair job of communicating its message.)

Yet buried under the humor is a complete scientific analysis of the five phases of human communication: Getting Attention, Maintaining Interest, Making an Impression, Creating a Conviction, and Directing Action.

The great beauty of this book is that it addresses the science of communication in a way that holds the readers interest. (Roy, you managed to maintain my interest while making an impression.) An example of Roy’s use of scientific detail is a comparison of verbal spectrograms of speakers to visually accentuate the differences in the tonal qualities of their voices. Roy’s point is easily understood when the reader compares the spectrogram of Ben Stein as the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with that of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.’s Promised Land speech.

I believe that nearly everyone who can read and understand English should take the time to study and apply the principles outlined in Roy Underhill’s book Khrushchev’s Shoe. Certainly teachers and sales professionals can gain immediate benefit. However, I like to imagine the impact the book could have on the world of lab rat techies that I have so often worked with over the years. It is my belief that the GDP of the United States would quadruple over dinner if we could get our scientists and engineers to a place where they could explain to the person next to them, the things they so clearly see on the white board inside their brains. As an engineer who did equally well on the both the Math and Verbal part of the SAT, I can assure you that my ability to communicate has been a bigger key to a successful career than my ability to manipulate a calculator or slide rule.

In Khrushchev’s Shoe, Roy Underhill has provided us with an entertaining gem. However, this gem can be used to turn blank stares into what the author describes as a “’minds-on’ state of pleasurable cognition.” And when you can create that experience for your audience, your child, your boss, or the cop standing there with the ticket book… life is going to be as good as it can get.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance

She was short. It was 1996, and I still remember holding her in the Steak ‘n Shake parking lot and telling her that I wouldn’t be gone long. I was only moving to Michigan for 6 months at the most and I would come back to Indianapolis.

I just had to take the job up north to increase my salary and responsibilities before I could come back to Indianapolis as a “player.”

I believe our relationship was officially dead about two weeks later.

Then, I met Gail who had spent nearly her entire life in Holland, Michigan, and as the weather warmed and the frozen waves melted to reveal the beautiful white sand beaches of Lake Michigan, I fell in love not only with Gail but with this cute little town that cheers its Dutch Heritage.

Gail let me know from the moment I proposed to her that she would follow me anywhere in the world. (She apparently sees something in me that the vast majority of women never did…). Gail’s chance to follow through on that promise is just days away.

This weekend Gail and I are heading up to Traverse City for our annual color tour with the West Michigan section of the Mercedes Benz Club of America. We’ll scoot out of there on Sunday morning so we can make it back to Holland in time to watch the Colts play. Then, when the game is over, I’ll jump back in the car to complete the plan I started twelve and half years ago. To quote Tito, Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon, and Michael….”I’m going back to Indiana.”

On Monday morning, I officially exit the auto industry and jump into the most exciting challenge of my adult life. On Monday morning, I’ll wake up in Indianapolis and drive to my first day with what can likely be the last company I’ll ever work for.

There are lots of things to worry about. I don’t mean the part about finding a new house or debating with the movers just how big a jointer has to be before it becomes “excessive.” No, being me, my worries now shift to what to listen to while driving to that first day at my new office…

As Bernie Casey’s character John Slade said while takin’ it to The Man in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, “This is my theme music. Every good hero should have some.” So it’s important that I roll into my new place on Monday with just the right riff pulsating through the woofers and tweeters.

Right now I am leaning toward EWF. Even in the 21st Century, nothing backs up a hero like Earth, Wind, and Fire. However, I still cannot decide whether I want to set the tone for my career move with September, Let’s Groove Tonight, Got To Get You Into My Life, or Shining Star…. I have 3 days to decide.

FYI… just in case someone thinks I am kidding about this whole theme music thing…. feel free to verify with Gail what happened when I dropped her off for her class at church last night….

Imagine a silver Mercedes roadster with Earth, Wind, and Fire at 120 dB in a four wheel drift as it turns onto the church driveway at about 70 miles per hour…..

Baa Dee Yaa
Say do you remember
Baa Dee Yaa
Dancing in September...

That’s how I roll. And the scary part is… they want ME to be their latex salesman.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back....and to the Left!!!!!!

When I wrote my first published column for Popular Woodworking, “The Boys in the Guild,” the character Video Bob was autobiographical. It sometimes seems I own nearly every woodworking video ever made. Before I started attending classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking, my instruction came from David Marks on Woodworks and a massive stack of woodworking videos.

Today is one of those rare days around here when I offer you a posting that relates to woodworking. This entry is about SmartFlix dot com.

SmartFlix can most easily be described as the online video rental source for How-To videos. (Imagine if Netflix only carried instructional and how-to videos…. and then only charged you for the movies you wanted to rent as opposed to a monthly fee.)

The founder of SmartFlix (Travis Corcoran) is one of our regular Skiving Off readers, and his company has an amazing collection of videos available for rental. Their catalog has everything from Airbrushing to gunsmithing. SmartFlix has videos on rebuilding a Ford 9” to overhauling a C4 Tranny. Videos from all areas of woodworking are available. They have everything from Snowboard Instruction to Disaster Preparation. Their collection of approximately 6000 videos covers an amazing array of topics. (Please note, about the only obscure videos I was unable to find were the Zapruder home movies. Most of us have seen Abraham Zapruder’s Presidential snuff film, but very few people realize that he could shoot a kid’s birthday party like Fellini.)

So if you ever desire to spend a week learning the intricacies of intarsia or tie flying, but don’t want to drop a ton of coin to buy a video you’ll likely only watch one time… consider renting it from SmartFlix.

Finally, SmartFlix has a woodworking contest currently going on that is scheduled to end this week. If you have a few moments of web surfing time available, I encourage you to see what it is all about…you might still have time to win a prize.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bury My Bursa Sac at Broken Heart

I have been caught up in those moments of deep thinking again. I know, I know… the medication was supposed to squelch that. The truth is that the kids at the local middle school give me so much money for my prescriptions that the economics leave me little choice but to sell. So with my mind unaltered by the healing gift of the pharmaceutical industry, I again share with my faithful blog readers the random thoughts and questions that occupy my beautiful mind.

I often wake up at night with the same nagging question… If I could trade my voice with anyone else, would I choose Sam Elliot, Alec Baldwin, or the Allstate guy from The Unit?

Was the four bulb rotating cube the last big development in the flash bulb industry, or did I miss any? That is a technology that continues to move so fast it is sometimes difficult to stay up.

Friends, I cannot stress this enough. Remember to roll in a ball whenever you jump from a moving car. Don’t get so caught up in the moment you forget to “ball up.”

All my life I have heard some silly expression about a million dollar smile. “She’s got a million dollar smile.” So, yesterday it occurred to me that perhaps there is some truth to that. Specifically I am wondering if she can use that smile to get chips at a casino. How would the dealer/pit boss exchange go? “Smile changing a million….” “Change a million.” Does she have to give up the smile when she receives the chips? Does she have to get the full million dollars in chips, or can she just change a portion of the smile for a lesser amount? Perhaps she can just use the incisors for $10,000 at the baccarat table.

Did Debra Gibson go back to Debbie or not? Ricky Schroeder went full circle, passing through Rick, and is back to being Ricky… maybe Deb’ can do the same.

I was thinking about The Great Space Coaster. Did anybody ever get onboard? I never got onboard? Surely somebody had to pay attention to the song and follow the instructions to get onboard, but I just never met any of those folks.

I keep meaning to ask one of my Indian friends… what exactly was the injury at Wounded Knee? Was it an ACL or a meniscus problem, or what?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Doppelgängers Among Us

Yesterday Gail and I were out in public when I happened to look over at a giant tv that was showing the opening credits to the Disney Channel show, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Without hesitation I told Gail, “Ya know…Zack is ok, but that Cody is a little Jerk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

From there it spewed out of me…..

Friends, it is not commonly known that I differentiate between twins and find reasons for loving one while hating the other. It’s a personality quirk of mine.

For example, with the “group” NELSON, I clearly prefer Ricky Nelson’s one son over the other because Nelson #2 has a troubled credit history.

I cannot even stand to look at the Barbi Twins anymore since I found out that one of them had breast implants. Now each time I seem them, all I can think about is what a big phony the one girl is as she stands there with her hard working sister who didn’t jump on the surgical fast track to fame.

Even Ashley and Mary Kate are not above my scrutiny. Ashley is clearly superior because she is not only a better knitter than Mary Kate, but she also embodies that spirit that Aerosmith described as a “Missy who is ready to play.”

It is not just twins I do this with….I can give you 43 reasons why Richard Thomas’ middle triplet is superior to the other two.

And if people are honest with themselves, they will find that I am not the only person who discriminates between twins and other multiple birth siblings.

Who among us hasn’t mentally gone through the checklist of reasons why Jack B. Nimble is twice the man that Jack B. Quick will ever be?

I have always felt among the Bunker Twins, Eng was far superior to Cheng, especially at track and field events. Also, although I don’t have facts to prove it, my gut tells me Eng was a significantly better long distance runner than Cheng.

Romulus and Remus are quite easy to decide between. Remus was a great fellow. He is like your kind old uncle. And every year on Mothers Day, Remus would send a gift out to the Wolfpack. Romulus on the other hand was a selfish, evil man. It should have come as a surprise to no one when his jealousy overwhelmed him and he killed Uncle Remus.

Among the Pepper Twins, I have always preferred Sgt. Pepper to his pompous brother, Dr. Pepper. Sergeant Pepper dedicated his life to protecting the freedoms of the civilized world. Dr. Pepper only concerned himself with the bottom line profits and the ongoing struggle of his selfish plan to crush Mr. Pibb.

Finally, I arrive at my twin nephews Harrison and Jackson. Boys, so far it’s a dead heat. My love for you is still completely equal. However, since you turned 6 years old yesterday it is time that you start looking at the long term ramifications of your actions. I need to know which of you is more likely to visit me in “a home” 60 or 70 years from now. As soon as I know which of you is going to provide financial and emotional support for me in my declining years, I will be able to finally start discriminating between the two of you. Alright, Boys, let’s start competing for my love… GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And happy birthday to you both.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cooperstown Lost???

This week Marc Adams is teaching Joinery II at his School of Woodworking in Indiana, and that means I am on the bubble. It is possible that next week I may no longer be in the Joinery II Hall of Fame.

If you are wondering what the MASW Joinery II Hall of Fame is, I would direct you to the placard located in the Hall of Fame display. That sign on the Joinery II Hall of Fame provides the following description:

Each year in the Joinery II class, students are paired up and given a special daily challenge. These joints are the results of the BEST of those joints. From year to year each group of two students are given identical joints to those that were cut the year before. The staff of MASW then decides whose joints are better. The best cut joints are signed by each student and then displayed here at the JOINERY II HALL OF FAME.

A little over a year ago I reached for the brass ring, grabbed a firm hold, and then used that as means of swinging through the air and kicking in the gate of the MASW Joinery II Hall of Fame. I stopped short of buying Hall of Fame business cards or putting it on my résumé, but having my hand cut bridled miter joint in the MASW Joinery II Hall of Fame is something I am quite proud of.

(How cool that my Hall of Fame Joint resides just inches away from a hollow vessel turned, gilded, and finished by my "TV Mentor" David Marks with his signature Patina.)

It should also be noted that my being in the Hall of Fame became yet another way for my friend Marc Adams to mess with me. For example, back in April when I attended a class during the opening week of the school year, I saw that Marc had decided to direct special attention to my presence in the Hall of Fame. However, the photo below points out what Marc so sadly lamented to me at that time. “Oh wow, Jeff, look at that. There is that nice sign pointing out the fact that you are in the Hall of Fame, but not only does that sign block your name/signature on the joint you cut, but the bottom of the sign got cut off so that almost no one will recognize your name. No one will ever know you are in the Hall of Fame, Mr. Skiver. Gee, that has to be a real bummer to an attention-loving guy like you.”

(Marc seemed to not hear me when I reminded him that he had the keys to the Hall of Fame display and could just move the sign.)

A quick note to Susie, Don, Zane, Doug, Jeff, and anyone else that Marc asks to vote on this year's Joinery II Hall of Fame entries. If you make sure my joint survives this year's challenger, then I will personally provide you with Ice Cream during lunchtime of all of the classes I attend next year.

Monday, September 29, 2008

In the Den of The Bear

One of the best parts of visiting the home of Popular Woodworking last week is that I was able to assure Chris Schwarz and Megan Fitzpatrick that I was just messin' with them about their contest to write Out of the Woodwork features.

I have to admit that Megan knows how to take a joke, and just to show there were no hard feelings, she let me pose for a photo with the Leigh Jig that they are giving away to the person who submits the winning article.

Nice, Megan. I think you were saying that my being disqualified from the contest for submitting articles under Gail's name isn't so unpardonable a sin as to preclude my ever appearing in the magazine again. It's just that the photo below is the closest I will get to winning a prize.

Megan has been assessed a 15 yard Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty for "Taunting." The penalty will be assessed on the kickoff.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lunch With a Miracle Worker

Last week I finally got an opportunity to visit the Popular Woodworking shop over at F+W Publications in Cincinnati. On Wednesday, I popped in for a quick tour and Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick was the consummate host. (Megan, it will probably never be noticed but when I signed in upon arrival, I wrote down that I was with the Department of Corrections Work Release Program.)

During my visit, Megan took me to lunch along with Senior Editor Bob Lang and Art Director Linda Watts. (As a quick aside to the unknown scantily clad 19/20ish year old girl with the WiFi laptop who was singlehandedly taking up an entire 4+ person booth at Panera during the height of the lunchtime rush… it’s ok, Missy…. it’s all about you.)

Most folks who venture onto my blog know who Bob Lang is. Not only do his books make him the undisputed guru of measured drawings for seemingly everything related to Arts & Crafts…his own work is excellent (like the Sapele bookcase on the cover of the August 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking).

Today, however, I want everyone to learn about the work of a different master, so I am providing a bit of insight into the talent of Linda Watts. To be honest, I do not know everything Linda does. I only know that she did an amazing job on a project that meant the world to me.

Linda worked on the photo that was used on the back page feature I wrote for the April 2008 issue, but few people know the effort that went into creating that photo. We needed an image of Simon to use with the article, but in the years before he unexpectedly died, I had only taken one or two photos of Simon in the shop. And in each of these photos Simon was surrounded by mountains of junk. There were no stellar shots of Simon in the shop that screamed out for inclusion as the centerpiece of a feature for a national magazine.

I remember lamenting the situation with Megan over the phone last year when she told me that if that was the best photo we had, we would just throw it to Linda and see what she could come up with. I didn’t know what to expect, and a couple of days later when Megan emailed me the proof of the article and I saw what Linda had done I was overjoyed.

You see, when Simon died in January of 2007 I struggled to find a way to honor him properly. I sent a donation to Guide Dogs For The Blind. However, I wanted something bigger. He was that kind of dog. He deserved a statue like the "dog that saved Charlestown in the 1938 flood" in the movie Slapshot. Then, one day I came upstairs from the shop, sat down at my computer, and while looking through a stream of tears I wrote My New Apprentice as a testament to the dog that meant so much to me and died way too young.

Thinking of Simon and speaking of him still stirs up the strongest emotions in me. It would have been very easy to just include a photo of the beautiful little puppy Peyton in My New Apprentice, and at one point I suggested that. However, Megan said the column was about Simon, and she wanted it to have his photo.

Linda, I thank you so much for seeing to it that Simon’s photo was included. I am sure most of your work goes unnoticed by the vast majority of the readers, but I know firsthand that not all of the amazing craftsmanship that appears in the magazine comes from the sawdust clouded shop that sits just a few feet away from you.

The most important thing I have ever personally seen in Popular Woodworking was photographed in Holland, Michigan but tweaked and perfected on Linda Watts' computer screen.

Thank you, Linda.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sheddin' a Tear Here, Boss

I just found out Paul Newman died.

I have mentioned Cool Hand Luke more than once during the history of this blog, so regular readers probably know that I was one Paul Newman’s biggest fans.

I suppose Paul Newman was what I always wanted to be when I grew up. Somewhere between racing cars or shooting pool or getting away to South America against the backdrop of a Burt Bacharach score… Paul Newman embodied everything that was considered to be cool by a kid like me. Then, just when you thought he was great… he started selling his favorites recipes and giving the money away.

In the world of baby blue eyed hero types, some people lean more toward Steve McQueen, and I was a huge fan of his, too. However, what always pulled me over to Paul Newman was that smile. When I was a little younger I discovered for myself the power of a good smile, and I learned it from watching Paul Newman. He has helped me defuse many hostile situations in my career, when I strolled into a conference room where the table was surrounded with angry people filled with a “sense of urgency” and rather than launching into a defensive speech about why my company wasn’t at fault…I took a couple of moments to make eye contact and let the angry folks get to know me.

Paul Newman taught me that it is hard to hate someone when he shows you the gleam in his blue eyes and flashes you “’dat ol' Luke Smile.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Money for Nothin'....

I was hit with some pretty deep thinking tonight at dinner. As Gail and I sat down at the table, Chuck Berry was emanating from the speakers in the ceiling. This caused me to start pondering. So, as the questions began to hit me, I borrowed a pen from Gail, flipped over my paper place mat, and started scribbling out my deep thoughts. Mr. Berry was followed by The Beach Boys and the Beatles (it must have been the "B" Muzak tape), and by the time the Beatles finished, there was no more room on the place mat for note taking. (Between the paper place mat and the 50s/60s music, you should have a pretty good idea of my taste in fine dining).

Nevertheless, tonight's blog entry is not about the's about the questions I am pondering based upon the music from the restaurant....

His mother told him "Someday you will be a man,

And you will be the leader of a big old band."

What if Johnny B. Goode didn't really want to lead a "Big Ol' Band?" What if his real ambition was to just have a little Boy Band where the focus was more on the choreography and no one even played his own instrument? Was this a case of too much parental pressure? Was this a case of Mrs. Goode trying to live out her own failed dreams of stardom through Johnny?

If Johnny's mother had put the same attention on his education, would he have been able to read and write better?

If everybody had an ocean
Across the U.S.A.
Then everybody'd be surfin
Like Californi-a

In order for everyone in the United States to have an ocean, what would the geography of the country look like? I mean, Australia is surrounded by water, and it is still far from a place where "Everyone has an ocean." I believe the United States would have to be an extremely long, narrow island that wound around the planet a couple of times like an apple peeling for all of its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants to have the ocean access The Beach Boys are referring to.

Then, how might this alternate shape of the USA have impacted the history of the nation? Might the teams have been different in the American Civil War? Would our Manifest Destiny concept have applied to the 750,000 mile East/West dimension of the nation's helix length or to the 10 mile North/South dimension? (The answer of that question would have dramatically impacted our relationships with quite a few Indian tribes.) Why do you think the Beach Boys even brought up this idea without digging into the deeper questions it so obviously arouses?

Ya know, I also have to wonder if the Beach Boys know what the heck they are talking about with regard to Californi-a. Have they seen Death Valley? It's not exactly a surfer's paradise. Also, earlier this year it was reported that Mt. Shasta in Northern California is the one place on the planet where glaciers have been increasing in recent history. Again, I have to wonder how the growing glaciers of Mt. Shasta is a surf spot.

Help, I need Somebody
Help, Not just Anybody

Are the Fab Four really refusing to accept Help from just anyone? How can they do that? How does one randomly cry out for assistance, but then pass judgment upon the qualifications of strangers who go out of their way to provide aid?


Well, hang on...Let's take a look at you. Ooooops. Sorry, Mate, I don't think you are going to be exactly what we are looking for.

You see, we want someone with a really nice smile, and your teeth are somewhat spotty, at best.

Also, look at your clothes, man. See that... you're certainly not a very smart dresser, now are you? No.....surely you can see where you just aren't up to snuff with regard to being good enough to help us, right?

I mean, we are the Beatles, ya know.

Granted, we do need help, but we can't be so low as to accept Help from just anybody, can we? Thanks for understanding, old man.

(I am Jeff Skiver, and I approved this message.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Don’t Poke the Bear

It appears I brought a knife to a gun fight. I wanted to poke at the straight laced sensibilities of the editors of my favorite magazine, and they returned fire with a disproportionate response.

Many of us received the Popular Woodworking eNEWS email earlier today where Chris Schwarz put out an open call for Out of the Woodwork features.

----------- My desperate appeal to Chris ------------------

Chris, with regard to that whole thing about your not running the Christmas article...I didn’t mean anything by it. Hey, I kid you… I’m a kidder.

You're right; that Christmas thing I wrote was horrible. There is no way it was worthy of publication. Publishing it would have brought back Polio and most of mankind’s other plagues.

I'm sorry, man.

Don’t do this, Chris.

Give me another chance, Buddy.

Dude, are you breaking up with me?

Don’t make me go back to only writing for Railroad Model Craftsman. I can’t live like that.

---------- My attempt to reason with Megan -----------

Megan, that story I sent you last week that you are planning to run in December was actually written by Gail, and Gail wants to use that as her submission for the Leigh Jig Contest.

"I am Jeff Skiver, and I approve this message." (Jeff Skiver)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No Singlet Required

I am a Pack Rat. It's one of my 17,329 (non-criminal) vices.

However, what separates me from the vast legions of Pack Rats out there is the fact I still find a way to use all of the crap that I keep in piles down in the basement.

I realize most hoarders of collectibles (keepers of junk) are neither able to use their stuff nor find the strength to sell it on Ebay, so I want to help them. Today is our first installment of Pack Rat Self Help.

With this blog entry I imagine hundreds of guys going to the basement, digging through a pile of collectible stuff, and emerging with a revitalized part of a dapper wardrobe. Because today, I give you:

The Top 5 places to wear your
20 year old wrestling headgear:

During all stages of commercial air travel.

While playing slow pitch softball.

3) At very large gatherings (20,000+ people) like the Boat, Sport, and Travel Show held at the State Fairgrounds.

4) During Job Interviews.

Any funeral where you serve as a Pallbearer.

The other fun possibility is to choose one store that (at least in your mind) requires you to wear wresting headgear in order to visit. In my case it's Barnes and Noble's. Everything looks quite normal as I park the car, get out, and head toward the front door. However, there is nothing I like more than to have some guy standing at the front door, courteously delaying his entrance so he can hold the door for me, while I say, "Just a minute, Friend" and reach into my front pants pocket for the old headgear that I put on before setting foot into that store.

It stays there as I look at the books. The headgear is clearly in place as I peruse the music and movies at the back. I even ignore its presence on my head as I point out my published articles to uninterested strangers in the magazine area.

I keep it in place while paying for my purchase. I act as normal as can be as I ask the clerk what is my anniversary date for renewing the stupid B&N Membership.

However, the moment my foot touches the sidewalk outside the store, I scramble to remove that headgear like it is a giant cobweb I just unwittingly walked into.

That's what my life is all about, folks. I don't just come up with ways to use the stuff I have stored away....I find ways to do it with a grace and style that makes other people hold onto their children's hands just a little bit tighter when they see me out in public.

"I am Jeff Skiver, and I approve of this message." (Jeff Skiver)