Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sing. Sing a Song.

I know...I was supposed to describe additional tools I recently purchased. But I am a little loopy at the moment from milling up stock for my class next week. My planer is soooooooooo loud (even with earplugs) that it messes with my head more than a visit to the dentist. So it seems I am in one those Deep Thought moods again brought on by the hideous, unending scream of the planer.

Music is important to me, but, apparently, the planer is not music to my ears.

Music sets the tone for life. It’s not so important as to be the glue that holds life together, but music is the backdrop and the lighting that enrich the 8 by 10 snapshots of our existence.

With that thought I provide you my list of recommendations for which artists to listen to for specific situations. Lets go…

While dieting The Carpenters are a good choice

While snacking on cold cuts at home, I prefer to listen to The Mamas and The Papas

When I need to discuss anything with my dad, I like to put on some Marvin Gay.

When talking to your girlfriend anything produced by Phil Spector is a good choice

During an interview with Barbara Walters, Whitney Houston sets a very nice mood

While getting a hair cut, shave, or bikini wax... go for a little Britney Spears

For binge drinking and recreational drug use: Joplin, Morrison, and Hendrix are obvious choices.

If the weather turns nasty and you wonder if it is safe to travel, think it over while listening to Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, or Richie Valens.

Whenever a visit to any US Naval vessel is in order, it should be accompanied by a musical dose of Cher

For those acting out the story of the TV Series and feature film THE FUGITIVE where an amputee shows up to wreak havoc on the life of Dr. Richard Kimball…Paul McCartney would fit right in. (Alternately Def Leppard works in this situation).

If you find yourself struggling at the controls while flying that plane you built in your backyard, you could listen to John Denver

When you are busy working on your Income Tax Return, Willie Nelson provides the ideal soundtrack.

And, finally, for those times when you want to just hang out and do nothing, choose INXS.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Heinz 57...the Perfect Workbench Finish

When I first started this blog, I had an entry dedicated to a cute little Lie-Nielsen Special Edition #1 Bench Plane that I had scored on Ebay.

Then a couple of weeks later I posted an entry telling about the ongoing sense of loss I feel for having not purchased the 25th Anniversary 4 1/2 when it was offered in 2006. I mentioned that I was sure to get offers to sell me one of the 25th Anniversary 4 1/2's for waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayy too much money, but I summarized that I was happy with the regular Lie-Nielsen 4 1/2 I purchased prior to the 25th Anniversary offering.

A couple weeks after the blog post, a 25th anniversary 4 1/2 showed up on Ebay. Do you remember that one? Here is a screen shot of the finished auction.

No, that's not me who paid $1125 USD. I have discipline. I said in early December I wouldn't buy one if it cost more than my first car. (We got that rusty orange 1972 Pontiac GTO for $900.)

However, a few weeks later when the Christmas hype was over, and the credit card bills were coming due for most of America, there were fewer bidders when another 4 1/2 came up. I purchase it for $650 and brought him home, and when I saw that it was number 57 of 500, I naturally nicknamed him Heinz. Yes, it is more than the original $450 price, but it was a deal I can gladly live with. (And just like my famous puppy's namesake who finally got his Super Bowl ring in February of 2007....I no longer have that monkey on my back.)

Finally, for those who think I sold out since I previously stated I didn't need another 4 1/2 in my arsenal, here is the justification for this purchase. The 25th Anniversary 4 1/2 has the high angle frog.

See that... it's a completely different tool. I clearly need a bronze 4 1/2 with a high angle frog. It's not my fault it's beautiful...I only got it because of the essential need. You know what else I need? I need to finish my dang workbench.

Big Game Hunting

It comes down to children or, more correctly, the lack of children.

Each time I have a tool target in the cross-hairs and I squeeze off a Visa round to bag another trophy, I always pause and think, “Well, it’s not like I’m having to save for a kid’s college fund.” Don’t get me wrong, tools probably won’t call me or surprise me with a 9 day cruise through the Mediterranean when I turn 75, but I also won’t ever fight with tools about whether or not I am able to take care of myself. I just cannot see a Router Plane conspiring with a Plow Plane to get my Power of Attorney and put me in a home. However, I can picture a sneaky little miter plane telling me I should sign the Do Not Resuscitate order.

So the barren Skiver household has seen multiple visits from the tool stork in the last few weeks. I wanted to wait until my workbench was completed before I bragged about the new little ones, but I’ve got to get this information out there before the lack of updates dooms this blog to fleeting, flash in the pan greatness. So, for the sake of Blog sustainability, I will use the 80% done bench as a stage. 80% done means all I have to do is mortise the bottom of the benchtop, drop it onto the tenons on the top of the legs, assemble the vices, drill the dog holes, and then finish it with a coat of Sears Weatherbeater to hide the beautiful Maple. Within a year or so, we’ll have ourselves a bench.

Tonight when I get home from work, I will roll out the first of my trophy tools that arrived a month or so ago. I won’t be able to make it a long entry because I have to prepare my cut list for a class I am taking next week. Next week, the Marc Adams School of Woodworking kicks off its 15th year of existence, and I will be there taking a class with Chris Gochnour. It’s a hand tool class building a shaker clock, and I am supposed to bring my pre-cut lumber. So I have to resaw, joint, plane, and cut a bunch of cherry tonight. However, I should be able to get out a description of at least one of the new little Skivers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fatigue or Just The Early Stages of Dimentia????

Gail and I visited the greater Detroit area this weekend to visit with Chris Schwarz and John Hoffman who were teaching classes at the Sterling Heights Woodcraft Store. Gail and I didn’t make it to the store, but we did spend some quality time visiting with Chris and John over dinner at the Royal Oak Brewery along with several members of the Southeast Michigan Woodworkers’ Group. They were nice guys, and I once again made new woodworking friends whose talents are far superior to mine. I sat next to a guy named Jason who showed me pictures of original furniture and art pieces he has recently made. I showed him pictures of my latest tool acquisition. I wish I was a better furniture maker, but so far my real strength is spending money on tools.

Comparison: I used my God-given talents to create this…… Oh yeah, well I used real US currency to buy this….

Whining excuse: I have been sooooooo busy lately…..

About three weeks ago I managed to get a great tool I have been wanting. I have been holding off talking about it until I finish the workbench, because I want to show it off on top of the bench. Well, wouldn’t you know it…I acquire this tool that is clearly a “Lifer” for my collection, and before I can even brag about it on my blog I managed to get a better one. Yes, boys and girls, last week I acquired an even rarer tool I have been wanting ever since I first laid eyes on a sample. It’s a “Double Lifer”; that’s one that makes you take up Eastern religions so that you can hold out hope of reincarnating with your stuff. Obviously, I have to finish this workbench so I have a suitable palette for displaying my freshly adopted children.

Sunday, when we returned from Detroit I set to work on the bench. Within minutes it turned into a classic example of why one shouldn’t work when he is really tired. It was SNAFU city. Luckily, there were no injuries.

Sunday night I started my draw boring process. My ebony pegs are 3/8”, so I am going to drill my holes 23/64ths (as I discussed with Chris Schwarz Saturday night). I decided I would pre-drill the holes with a 5/16ths brad point before going back with the 23/64ths metal twist bit. I thought this would allow me to use the 5/16ths brad point as a center punch to better mark the tenons before offsetting and drilling. So I drilled holes into the sides of the first two mortises of the legs.

As I take that leg from the drill press over to my bench, I think, “Hmmm, those 5/16ths holes look almost as big as my pegs.” My 3/8th pegs dropped right into my holes that were pilot drilled with a 3/8th brad point. Apparently I was tired enough to grab the wrong drill bit. So screw it…I will just make 4 pegs a hair bigger than 3/8ths to fix these.

Then I went on to try to end the evening’s work on a high note. So I started on a new leg and predrilled the holes this time with the correct 5/16ths brad point. I used that same bit as a center punch and I marked the tenons. Given the scale of the mating parts, I used a full 1/8th inch offset on the drawbore and I marked the tenons and drilled them with the 5/16ths brad point. I thought I would check the alignment before going back to drill all of the holes on this leg and stretcher joint with the 23/64ths. I dry fit the joint and saw a perfect 1/8th inch overlap. WAIT…. Oh Dear God…NO!!!!!!!!!!!!. Yeah, baby, when I insert a drawbore pin or a peg, it will ensure there is a full 1/8th inch GAP between the face of the leg and the shoulder of the stretcher, because in my fatigued state, I somehow offset the hole in the tenon on the wrong friggin’ side. I offset it 1/8th inch AWAY from the shoulder.

Trying desperately to end the night on a victory, I did quickly make a 5/16ths peg that I used to plug the wrongly offset hole in the tenon, and I am going to re-drill it with the offset the correct direction sometime this week.

Years from now when I finally reach the point where normal drawboring no longer presents such a monumental challenge I am going to raise the bar by having Gail subject me to a good dose of Waterboarding before I lay out where I want to drill the holes. But for now, I am failing without any extra distractions…. other than the internal voices screaming at me to stop sniffing the hide glue before I kill all of the remaining brain cells.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Black and White and Red All Over

I have been very busy lately. My father called me Sunday, and wanted to make sure I was alive. When I asked why, he said, “Well, you haven’t called in at least a week, and you haven’t updated your blog either.”

It was good to learn that I have a dedicated reader, even if it’s “just family.”

So tonight I thought I would try to get something done on my workbench. I am almost ready to assemble the four legs and four stretchers of the base, and I need 16 pieces of 3/8” diameter pegs to use for drawboring the Mortise and Tenon stretcher/leg joints.

I’m going to come clean on this to the whole world (in advance). I don’t really know if I know what I am doing… I may be a victim of the right side of my brain. You see, I’m a little bit artsy. It’s okay. In the modern world a guy can be the proud owner of a bag full of smelly stuff bearing the names Bauer, Easton, CCM, and Sherwood and still recognize the beauty of good design…

I have decided to accent my massive hard maple Holtzapffel bench with Ebony. I am using Gabon Ebony pegs for the drawboring, and I am looking forward to the contrast of the black circles on the white maple. However, I don’t know if ebony pegs will work. I think it will be okay because as I drive the pegs through my Lie-Nielsen Doweling Plate…(another shameless plug, Tom…come on…let me be a hand model in next year’s Lie-Nielsen Calendar) Sorry, I was saying, as I drive the pegs through the steel doweling plate they seem to have adequate toughness. They tear/shred as opposed to split. So I think they will be great for drawboring, but I won’t know for sure until I start driving them in.

Let me tell you the other ebony ledge I am venturing out onto…(this one might get bad): I am making Ebony Handles to go in the massive maple screws that Stephen Fee made me for the front vise. Wow, turning Gabon ebony into round cylinders for vise handles…what’s so crazy about that? Well, nothing. However, I am planning to tap the ends of the handles with male threads and then thread them into Ebony knobs. For those knobs, I am going to turn them, then I plan to tap blind holes that I have drilled almost all the way through. I honestly don’t know if you can tap ebony, but here I am letting the world know ahead of time what my plan is. At this moment I feel like Oral Roberts telling the world that God wants to take me home on a specific date. I wasn’t supposed to tell the plan until after it was successful…

Tonight I spent some time making more pegs for drawboring, and look what happened. How did I cut that finger, you ask? I picked up my drawknife. That’s it. I just picked it up. I didn’t juggle it. I didn’t swing it like a cleaver and try to catch it with my left hand. I just reached down with both hands and picked it up off the bench and apparently my left hand was a little too high on the handle and managed to get hold of some of the blade. That is almost as dumb as the fact that I cut my pegs into ½ x ½ x 3 inch rectangular blocks BEFORE I started any rounding. I now realize it would have been better to keep them as long as possible and spindle turn them down closer to 3/8” before driving them through the doweling plate. But no; I created way oversized rectangles that are too short to grab hold of, and I have to shave them down to a cross-sectional area just under 50% of their 0.25 square inches. Look at all of those shavings. I have little Ebony curls EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Right now in Holland, Michigan there is a moron standing in a mountain of Ebony curls who cannot lift a tiny little drawknife off of his bench without cutting his finger, thinks he can flawlessly tap Gabon Ebony, and believes he is the next great Lie-Nielsen Hand Model. Stay tuned to see how this turns out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Toyboxes and the Free Market Economy

Let me take a moment to preach to the choir.

Some friends that my wife and I know through our local Cycling Club are expecting their first child in a month or so. Today I received an email from him asking if I had time to make them a toybox. Immediately I came up with a beautiful idea....

It requires a point of information, though. Here goes… Some time between when God chose rainbows as a symbol of the promise to never again flood the entire earth and the Homosexual community adopted the rainbow colors as their symbol, the international cycling community chose the rainbow jersey as the prize given to the World Champion. Whoever wins the World Championship gets the high and mighty honor of wearing the rainbow jersey during competition for the next year. Also, all former world champions get to sport the rainbow stripes as accents on their clothing and bikes for the rest of their lives. If you ever see a photo of a former World Champion (Mario Cipollini, Lance Armstrong, Paolo Bettini, etc) in their regular jersey, you may see the rainbow stripes as accents at the end of the sleeve. The blue, red, black, yellow, and green horizontal stripes on a pristine white jersey is cycling’s highest prize.

So, when asked about the opportunity to build a toybox for the first born child of a bike-loving friend, I provided the following response.


Toybox….My first thought was a lovely white toybox with World Champion rainbow stripes going around it and a raised silhouette of a road bike….start planting the seed early.

However, I am really far behind in my projects.

I would love to do a project like this, but timing is a really bad thing with me. I worry that we would work out a design and deal, and I would deliver it just in time for your first child to take it off to college as a footlocker.

Also, the cold harsh reality is that one can get “furniture” from Asia cheaper than we can even buy the raw wood for. This is why I travelled to Viet Nam and China in 2005 when I was working with Company A (a Fortune 500 consumer products company) on the design of a wooden deck box. That was when I was still working with Eric (another cycling friend of ours) up at Company B (a design firm) in Grand Haven. Eric and the Industrial Designers that work for him came up with a beautiful design that combined aluminum and wood, then I went to Viet Nam and China to find a company that could make the whole thing for $99. It is truly insane how inexpensive the stuff coming in from overseas is. It is great for us as consumers, but it makes any type of custom, hand made furniture here in the States have to be marketed as “artwork” in order for the craftsman to make a profit.

I am thrilled that you would even approach me on this, though. However, when I did a quick search and found something on the internet: (Link to a toybox website)

I realized their finished prices are just about what I would pay for materials.

If you had any other thoughts or questions about design or construction, feel free to ask.

Jeff Skiver


So, at the moment I am torn. I would love to make a custom toybox, but I don’t know how I can do it without charging hundreds of dollars. Given how slow and detailed I am, I don’t think I could produce it in less than 12 hours and I know the wood and hardware would cost from 100 to 150 bucks. If I had nothing else to do, I could come up with the 12 hours of time and do it for close to the cost of materials. However, I have a ton of things on my plate already. Also, that brings up the debate of whether or not it disturbs the Economics of the Free Market by offering a product that has an unrealistic labor figure attached. Ya know…how can a professional furniture maker ever compete with “Uncle Jeff” doing respectable furniture quality work at a labor rate of fifty cents an hour?

Yet, it means a lot to me that someone asked me to do this.

I suppose I need to focus on the fact that I am right now 6 months behind schedule on delivering two large picture frames for the nursery of a different cycling friend out in Durango, Colorado. Right now there is a little girl in Colorado who is supposed to have two beautiful Graham Watson posters above her crib housed in frames that are trimmed with wood that came from her great grandfather’s farm. Every time I walk into the shop I feel the dreaded self-hatred of knowing that I have to finish those frames and get them out to Colorado before they break down and decide to go with the Sponge Bob wall paper.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Someday I'll Wear a Crown

Pelton & Crane.

Pelton & Crane.

Pelton & Crane.

Those are the names that flash before my eyes when the demons come to get me.

What are they doing to me? I should really stop this. I cannot scream, because my mouth is filled with not only the fingers of these masked invaders but with a miniature shop vac as well. If I move my arms, I will disturb the funky paper towel they have roach clipped around my neck. Is that my teeth I smell burning? I think the roof of my mouth is being sandblasted by the grit of my own enamel they are grinding off. This is too much to bear. There is nothing to do but lie back on this chair and accept the violation.

Just stare into the light and try to find a happy place. What are those words in the light?

Pelton & Crane.

Pelton & Crane.

Pelton & Crane.

Earlier this week I visited the dentist. Things weren’t too bad from a cavity standpoint, but it would seem my lifelong grinding habit is causing problems again. (I am a POWER-WORRIER. I even spend my sleeping time with my jaws in a stress-filled clench. Then, I just steadily grind my teeth while dreaming of people hurting me under the guise of providing dental care.) So I have cracked off part of the molar farthest back on the top right side, and in April I am going back to get a crown.

As I left the dentist and drove to work, I snapped. Whether it was true PTSD or just my normal DTs, I don’t know. However, my heart rate was about 190 beats per minutes, and the population density of the thoughts in my normally crowded brain spiked to a record high. I happened to have a tablet with me in the car, and here are some of the random thoughts I scribbled so that I could later share them with you.

  1. When's the last time we got a new album from Pablo Cruise?
  2. Somewhere between Karen Carpenter and Mama Cass there is a happy middle ground.
  3. Most Police Officers do feel the call to "Protect and Serve", but at least a few become cops because they want to hit folks with batons.
  4. Although all of the Righteous Brothers' songs sound alike and all of ZZ TOPP's songs sound alike...the songs from these two groups don't necessarily sound like each other.
  5. When analyzing 100% of the population, we find that 49.99% of the people form 100% of the subset whose IQ is below the median.
  6. If I could go back to high school, I would forego all real sports and be a male cheerleader. (Hmmmm...let's around with a stick and/or ball, hit and/or grab other sweaty guys versus lifting hot chicks in mini-skirts over my head.... YEP!!!!!! I'd definitely be a male cheerleader.
  7. Helen Keller gets made out to be some amazing person, but the truth is she probably had no painting skills at all.
  8. You almost never see somebody driving a Ferrari for a Winter Beater.
  9. Surprisingly, we never hear about Mamaw New Guinea. Is Papua New Guinea all alone, or does he just keep her in the house buried in work?
  10. I wonder if Timothy B. Schmit from The Eagles and Rodney A. Grant from “Dances With Wolves” have the same barber?

It was just calculus scraping and x-rays that led to this week’s episode. What will it be like in April when I go for the first crown-fitting appointment? I may have to hire a stenographer to record the expected large number of random, scary thoughts following that two hour marathon of Pelton & Crane torture.

“Oh but it’s all right_____________ Once you get past the pain_____________”, Cory Lerios and David Jenkins (Pablo Cruise)