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 food....it'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)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rankine 911

Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.
Oscar Wilde
The Soul of Man Under Socialism

There’s no better snack than nibbling on the hand of one’s feeder.
Jeff Skiver

Last week I emailed Popular Woodworking’s Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick a couple more Out of the Woodwork Features for calendar year 2009. She responded by saying she would pull one of them ahead to December 2008.

That confused me because just over a year ago I wrote a very special Christmas story specifically for Popular Woodworking, and it has been my assumption that they were saving it for the December 2008 issue.

So I asked Megan why she needed to run one of the new ones in December when we had the special Christmas story. Hesitantly, Megan confessed that the magazine's editing staff had decided to not publish my Christmas story in Popular Woodworking.

Therefore, I want all of my faithful blog readers to realize that the legacy of Jeff Skiver has now grown to include a Christmas story that is apparently too controversial for Popular Woodworking. In reality, as a professional (and a Capitalist) I am not too concerned because they paid me for it a long time ago. (Actually they purchased the First Rights to Publish, but I was paid whether they ever run it or not.) However, the strange thing is that I didn’t even think of this story as edgy when I wrote it.

This one page feature is just the normal Skiver attitude applied to a Woodworking Christmas theme.

So even though it doesn’t bother me that they are running a different Skiver piece in the December issue, I am still going to try to milk this out for all it’s worth and try to make the “Missing” Back Page Feature the stuff of legend.

If I have my way, the Canceled Skiver Christmas Feature will someday be as highly regarded by collectors of literary antiquities as the Dead Sea Scrolls. (I have a pretty high opinion of my work, don’t I?)

Despite my chosen title for this blog post, I am not going to do a Censorship Soap Box Rant. Popular Woodworking choosing to not run that feature isn't nearly as bad as when I was still writing for Highlights and suffered the ongoing torment of having Management cancel my best ideas for the monthly Goofus and Gallant cartoons.

In fact, as a way of finally achieving some healing for the Censorship I faced from Highlights, I now provide you (my faithful blog readers) with my top 5 Rejected Goofus and Gallant ideas:

1) Gallant always treats his dates with respect.

Goofus understands that “NO!!!!” means she is just being playful.

2) Goofus shoots up with anything he can find.

Gallant would rather forego a hit than use a dirty spike.

3) Gallant maintains a career so he can finance his own addition.

Goofus knows that his mom wouldn’t leave her purse out if she didn’t want him to borrow from her.

4) Gallant adorns his car with a bumper sticker that says, “COEXIST.”

Goofus’ car sports the old classic, “Ass, Gas, or Grass…nobody rides for free.”

5) Gallant includes Broadband Internet access in his monthly budget.

Goofus just downloads tons of illegal porn and copyrighted material over his neighbor’s unsecured WiFi. (As Goofus always says, “Do the models have to be 18 if you are downloading through someone else’s IP Address?”)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Through the Pixelation I see Tina Turner...

Damn You, Hurricane IKE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don’t ever let it be said I am not a highly compassionate person.

I feel the pain of all of those in The Gulf who just suffered tragic losses from Hurricane Ike.

You see, Ike has stirred up a weather system that is now causing very heavy rain here in the Midwest, and as a result I am dealing with my own minor tragedy.

I don’t have any High Definition Satellite signals for my local stations, and the Indianapolis Colts game is less than 2 hours away.

Sure, I have High Def on all of the “premium” and normal channels one would associate with cable/satellite. However, Directv broadcasts their market-specific local channels through a Spot Beam Signal (for me its satellite 99s) and at the moment the rain is strong enough to be choking that signal out. Yes, I still have the standard definition signal that I will be able to watch the game on, but do you know how grainy standard definition football looks on a 47 inch 1080P LCD television???? It’s almost unbearable. Woe is me.

To a techno-junkie like me there are few things worse than being separated from technology. It's been that way for a long time. Nine or ten years ago, while others were showing off the early Palm Pilots, I was showing off a first generation Pocket PC that allowed me to accomplish REAL work in Excel and Word without having to drag a laptop around.

Nowadays, I am secretly bugged that I cannot access a free wireless signal in church. (Pastor, that’s the King James version of the Bible I am looking at on my PocketPC during your sermon. What do you think I am doing? Checking my blog hits?)

My cell phone obsession is worse than the WiFi one. I not only cannot live without my mobile phone…I now have to have a quad band phone so that I am ensured of coverage on the most remote outward parts of Papua New Guinea.

If you want me to have a full blown breakdown…just keep me away from my email account for more than 16 hours.

If you want me to do my impersonation of David Foster Wallace, just take away my cell phone and all internet access for only one hour.

Let me clarify one thing…I do go hours at a time without being either on the phone or on the internet. However, the mere thought of not having available access to those forms of communication causes me severe emotional distress.

I don’t constantly use high tech communications…I just need to know it’s available.

At the moment, I am starting to feel a little bit of that same TSA (techno-separation-anxiety) each time I switch from the grainy standard version of CBS to the high def version of that channel where I find a black screen with an update from Directv that says, “Looking for Signal In on Satellite 2… (771).”

Thanks to you, Ike, I have to watch Peyton, Joseph, Marvin, Reggie, Dwight, and Bob on a grainy big screen.

Ike, it wasn’t enough for you to just batter the coast, but you had to reach up here into the Midwest and put the smack down on me, too.

Apparently Tina Turner wasn’t exaggerating about your evil ways.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Trip to the Spa

I don’t want to start a big Hand Tool/Power Tool debate. I believe each has its place in the shop. However, this blog post isn’t even about woodworking…it’s about a trip to the Spa.

See, I slept in Sunday morning and I forgot to watch the Belgian Grand Prix. Then, because I missed it, my friend Terry told me to not even read anything about the race until I was able to watch the replay (that I finally recorded this afternoon on Speed Channel).

So tonight I watched the Belgian Grand Prix that was run this past Sunday at Spa (a mere 35 miles from Genk, where I used to work on occasions). The race was the normal excitement, but with 3 laps to go it went CRAZY when the rain began to fall.

With almost none of the cars on wet tires, the finish of that race came down to which driver could feather the throttle and get around the track while only using about 25% of the car’s available horsepower.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of how much power you have…it comes down to the skills of the one wielding that power. None of the guys on the podium at Spa finished that race with his engine pushed anywhere close to 19,000 rpms.

Hmmmm….I started out writing this thinking the Belgian Grand Prix might be a great metaphor for the using hand tools, but now that I think about it, the race at Spa wasn’t about the tools. It makes a better argument for the importance of always monitoring the moisture content.

FYI…we’re not going to get into the whole thing about McLaren/Mercedes getting
cheated out of the win by the corrupt Ferrari team.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bait and Switch

Blog reader Jason was asking about the door frame construction on the Shaker clock I showed a few days ago. In the comments of yesterday's blog entry, Jason asked:

I just noticed the door on your shaker clock. Are you using the plans from Woodcraft to build it? I'm just asking because I thought one of the most difficult joints to make on that project was the through tennons on the doors. I spent a lot of time getting those right and was pretty proud of them when I did. When I was at Woodcraft, buying the mechanism and face for the fourth clock I made, I decided to check out their sample clock to see how theirs looked. Guess what... the doors were half-lapped together. I felt cheated. And now, I look at your door, and I don't see the through tennons. Did I do all that extra work for nothing!!!???"

I responded to Jason explaining this clock is one that I started in my class with Chris Gochnour back in April/May. With the exception of planing the rough lumber and squaring the stock it is built entirely with hand tools. Also the door frame utilizes hand cut mortise and tenon joints. However, my door frame uses "normal" M&T's as opposed to through tenons. (I just built the clock that Mr. Gochnour showed us.)

Below are some photos showing the details of the construction. Please note I have not tweaked the joints yet, so there are still some minor gaps that have to be closed up.

Wow... a blog post ENTIRELY about woodworking. You just never know what you are going to get here.

I also hope this blog entry effectively counters a fan of the blog who informed me that I was guilty of doing a "bait and switch" when they found out I was not a woodworker who did actual work. (This person suggested I limited myself to only buying tools and lumber, without putting the tools to use.)

Every time that tired old argument comes up, I have to console the inhabitants of my tool cabinet by reminding them I have had life insurance policies for YEARS that I still haven't put to use.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Who Needs the Dakotas???

Here is an image showing the Earthly location of this past week's blog readers.

(You can click the photo for a larger picture.)

As I've said before, I realize we have something of an international following. Although our penetration into the Middle East is still lagging behind, that is to be expected given most entries are written in English. (Wir koennten auch auf Deutsch schreiben, aber meine deutsche Freunde sprechen Englisch besser als ich Deutsch spreche.)

For me, the shocking thing about the map is the lack of blog visits from the Dakotas. I am left wondering if there is a vast Dakotian conspiracy in place to suppress my efforts, or at the very least to ignore me. Is it not understood that I am a black hole of emotional need who requires an endless spate of encouragement and edifying comments?

If you have family, friends, or loved ones currently residing in (or incarcerated in) North Dakota or South Dakota, I encourage you to write them, call them, or use the phone thing to talk through the glass to them and ask them to hit the blog during the next week. We need red dots on the Dakotas.

Let's face it, people...how can I start pressuring the Skiving Off Regional Market Managers in Europe and Asia to improve their market penetration numbers for next quarter when we haven't even secured the Dakotas that sit a mere three states away from me?

I realize that Alaska is lagging behind also, but most of my mates from Dutch Harbor are busy fishing right now. So soon enough they'll be back home drinking and surfing the net and "Representing" with their own red dot.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ladies and Gentlemen….Children of All Ages….Football is back. The real NFL season started last night, and that makes me happy. I am claiming the start of the NFL season as a birthday present to my big brother that he is letting me share. (Thanks, Edward...and have a Happy Birthday.)

Years ago I was like a lot of American men, wasting away the pre-work morning watching SportsCenter. It didn’t matter if ESPN’s only highlights were from a Kiwana’s Donkey Basketball Game in Muscle Shoals, sports was the glue that held together the X and Y chromosomes that made me a man.

However, with the passage of time I just started caring less and less. Millionaires on strike…. one brawl after another… corrupt officiating… the firing and retirement of my true heroes…. somehow I eventually gave up on all spectator sports except the Indianapolis Colts and Notre Dame Football. Believe it or not, I haven’t missed any of it.

My life went from one where Coach Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers were a significant priority to one where I haven’t watched a college basketball game in several years. Even the dogs have enjoyed the mellower atmosphere associated with the reprioritization of my life. (Abby did not always like dressing up for games.)

Still, all of the energy that in the past was divided among the Cubs, Pacers, Hoosiers, and Maple Leafs was added to the love I have had for the Colts for the last 20+ years.

And last night officially started another season of the only professional sport I care about. Still, I am a very snobbish fan. I won’t watch the NFL just for the sake of watching football. I am a Colts fan. I watched part of last night’s game only because it featured Eli Manning, and most of us Colts fans have adopted Peyton’s little brother and his Giants as our NFC team of choice.

It has been a long wait since February, but “next year” is finally here. Part of me hates the off season. I hate having to wait for September to watch the team that means so much to me. Yet, sometimes it helps to have a pause or separation. Seven months away from the Colts is enough to make me eager for the start of the season. I cannot imagine what it would be like if I felt this way about the America’s Cup or Olympic Bobsledding. It would be hell to wait years for the return of my favorite sport.

On a personal note, I am glad school breaks are only for the summer. If my scholastic breaks had been 4 years instead of 3 months I don’t think I would have ever gone back for my sophomore year…let alone graduate. Perhaps that summarizes the difference between how we humans sometimes incorrectly view sports versus education. FIFA World Cup can get by with a tournament every four years, and the passion will always be fever pitched. However, it is a very rare student who could take 4+ years off and return to complete what they had started. Also, students typically get paid a lot less (with very few product endorsement deals), but that is a different rant.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I Wasn't Just Showing Off The Tools...

I think the followers of this blog know me too well.

Yesterday, Matt said the blog update was just a chance to show off a bunch of Lie-Nielsen prizes. Please note this is not the Matthew I went to Ireland with…that Matt has far too much going on making the world safe by producing Humulin, Prozac, and Cialis than to follow my blog.

Well, there is a bit of truth to what blog-reader Matt said. However, there was also a bunch of Bridge City stuff (and a 100+ year old Maydole hammer in those photos that did not get publically recognized.)

The photos were included there for resume purposes, though. You see I have received more than a few notes asking me if I ever actually make anything, or if I do really just buy tools and lumber. So I decided to throw in some pictures of the Shaker Clock that is in the works. However, my selection of this piece for inclusion in the blog may also have something to do with one of the most brilliantly insightful things I have read recently. In the Out On A Limb (Editors Page) of the October 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking, Chris Schwarz speaking of the lack of fair artistic criticism among woodworkers says, “Stuff that looks like it should be hauled away in a dumpster usually gets kudos along the lines of: ‘That’s some nice red oak!’”

By the way, my blog buddy Ethan had a great entry in his blog on this very subject back in May. I encourage you to check it out. Reaching Critical Masses…

However, it seems that I am a feedback wuss. Because on the off chance anyone would have negative thoughts about the joinery and construction of my photographed project, I chose the Shaker Clock so that I would have the “beautiful curly cherry” line to fall back on.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Kill the Fatted Calf

It’s times like this you find out who your real friends are.

There have been many kind words and comments that have come in regarding the missing skew chisel. (There have also been many harsh emails come in telling me to stop being such a whiny ass wanker….). I have focused on the more encouraging correspondence.

Well, this morning I faced the fear of the arachnids that inhabit the dark corners of the shop and went digging around in the corners to find the missing chisel.

As this photo shows…I did locate the chisel.

See that….I use the cocobolo handles to differentiate the two skew chisels from the other socket chisels in the tool roll. (And it is a beautiful wood for a handle that won’t see striking blows.)

The missing chisel wasn’t in the dark corner. It had not fallen off of the bench and rolled under the lumber rack. Instead, it was in the first (and last) place I looked. She was over at my sharpening station. Somehow she had snuggled up to a plastic tube of Herb’s “Yellow Stone”, and just rested there for a few days. (By the way…given that there are millions of recipes for honing compounds, mustards, and barbeque sauces…has anyone tried Herb’s Yellow Stone on Bratwurst??? Sorry, I digress.)

Again I appreciate everyone’s concern. I agree with all of those who said that one missing skew chisel is too many. But relax everybody….it just got lost in the shuffle as I became distracted from my sharpening duties last week.

Now if I could just find my Indianapolis Racers Hockey Puck that went missing in 1977….a black hole is still the only possible reason for that rubber cylinder to have disappeared from the top of my dresser… I think the hockey puck is truly gone for good.

Monday, September 1, 2008

That's the Name of the Game

“Honestly, we just need to find a little spot to unload The Mayflower, and then we won’t bother you kind folks again.…”

I’ve always had divided thoughts about Paul Newman’s character Cool Hand Luke. At what point does continuing to get up from knockdown blows go from being the resilient reaction of a guy refusing to quit to the pure stupidity of a guy who just cannot learn what the heck is going on around him?

Yesterday I encountered an example of a group of folks who took a punch, stayed on the ground, and developed a game plan to achieve victory many years down the road. I refer, of course, to the Potawatomi Indians.

Last year, the Potawatomi opened the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, and it has been a lucrative venture for them.

I am personally in favor of Indian Casinos. To me it seems like a very fair payback for that Manifest Destiny idea we white guys put out there a couple of hundred years ago. The other thing I like is it simply provides the tribes with the opportunity to make money. The government doesn’t “repay” the tribe for past sins and transgressions…it simply says, “Y’all can do whatever y'all want…and if folks is dumb enuff to drive all the way over thar and then stand in line to give you's thar money…so be it.”

The thing that touches my heart is how well the Potawatomi learned the lesson of the white man. I refer to their gaming brochure shown below. It’s a simple little pamphlet that explains how the casino games are played.

The cover says, “The game has changed. But the rules are still the same.”

When one flips the pamphlet over, however, he encounters a different statement on the back, “Rules Subject to Change.”

Now where would they have learned that move?

“Guys thanks for your help unloading our ship. Ya know, I probably should have asked…have your people all been immunized?”