Early Lesson

I’ve now completed two boards out of old lathe. The picture below shows part of both of them.

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The board on the top was made with longer pieces glued together. The one on the bottom was made with shorter pieces. On the bottom one, I’d put two shorter pieces together to make a longer piece. I don’t know what I was thinking because look at all the holes in the bottom board. I didn’t make clean cuts of all the edges, so there are holes where things didn’t match up well. I guess I’ll try to fix those spots by filling it in with some glue and sawdust. For the board I made tonight, I cut all the pieces so they’ll have a nice square edge. And I didn’t use any boards that have a big hole in it. I’m hoping that board will look as nice as the one on top. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

Recycling Begins

I saved a ton of wood (mainly lathe) when remodeling my house and finally decided to get started on doing something with it. My first issue came last week when I tried to run both my planer and wet/dry vac on the same circuit. I kept blowing it. So on Friday, I ran a new 20 amp circuit to right above the planer. After that, things ran smoothly.

Today, I went beneath my back porch and pulled out some lathe. There’s basically a pile about 10’x6′ in area and almost as tall as me of wood out there. So I hardly made a dent in it.

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The plan was to plane both sides of each board and then glue a bunch together to make bigger boards.

This is after about 1 1/2 hours of planing. I also separated the wood by length because I thought it would make it easier to glue together.

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Next I used a paint brush to paint glue along each board and then stick boards together. The painting took a while and I should probably find a faster way to glue them up. But this did work fine. I clamped the boards together for a couple of hours to let them dry.

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Lastly, I unclamped the boards and ran them through the planer again to smooth out the edges. It took a few passes, but it turned out ok. This is about a 4′ long board by about 5″ or so.

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I only made this one board because I don’t own enough clamps to make all the other boards. So I have enough wood planed to make a few more boards. Without counting the drying time, everything today took me around two hours. I’ll definitely go faster in the future because I got more comfortable with the planer as I went along.

My only other concern is that I don’t think the blades on the planer will last that long. I know that I can change the blades, but I have a lot of wood to plane and I don’t want to be spending $80 just to make four boards. So I’ve been looking into a Shelix planer head to replace the blades. They’re crazy expensive, like $500. But they supposedly last much, much longer than the blades. I’d have ordered it already, but I watched a couple youtube videos of people installing this cutter and it looks really complicated. I’d be willing to pay someone to install it for me, but I don’t know that I could find someone to do it. Guess for now I’ll just keep planing with what I have and then look into the new head when the blades get dull.

The Magic of Thinking Big

The title of this blog post is the name of a book that I just finished reading. It was recommended by a blog I read, though I no longer remember which one. It’s a basic self-help book by David Schwartz about believing in yourself. However, it’s clearly written for people in business and especially for salespeople. Note how I said salespeople there. One of the first things I noticed in the book was how it was pretty much geared toward men. In reading the first few chapters, I noticed that women were only talked about as wives for business men. This made me look at the publication date and unsurprisingly, it was 1959. I decided to continue to read and just made a mental note remember that date when I found little things that bugged me.

The good news is that I already do many of the things that the book recommends. I’m a big planner and I do think I look at myself critically and try to improve. I know I only have one life, so I try to make it the best I can. One of the points the author makes though is about luck. He doesn’t think luck has anything to do with success and I think it has a lot to do with it. Granted, I have to remind myself he wrote it in 1959. At that time I guess that heads of businesses were more concerned with regular employees and their progression than people are now. And how hard-working employees would be suitably rewarded and promoted. I almost laughed out loud when I read his line about how companies all have 10-year plans. I’m thinking that a lot of business people now are more concerned about the share price in the next quarter, much less the next year.

Would this be a book that I recommend to people now? Probably not. There are definitely better books to read about living a good life, which think is more important than thinking big. I’d probably recommend “A Guide to the Good Life” by William Irvine and “Turn the Ship Around!” by L. David Marquet. These cover the same information as “The Magic of Thinking Big”, but in a way more relevant to life today.

Making Xmas Gifts Fun

This year I wanted to do something different for Xmas gifts. I hate just buying gifts to buy someone a gift. I want my gifts to be unique and hopefully liked. I decided that I was going to make my own gifts this year. And after watching this video, I decided that I was going to make stationery for people.

The first thing that caught my eye in that video is that the press the guy built is pretty simple. My goal was to build something using only materials I already had in my house. I didn’t succeed with this part. I ended up buying a 3′ piece of black pipe and some cork. But everything else in the press was found in my basement.

All the pictures that I took throughout the process are here.

The first thing that I knew I needed to do was to buy a plate with everyone’s names on it. Since I wasn’t sure how long this would take, I submit the order before I built the press. I ordered from Boxcar Press. They have a lot of helpful information on their website for how to submit your design and I didn’t have any problems with them. However, my design was pretty much a crapshoot as I didn’t know how big the text should be or what fonts might work well. I decided to get two different fonts for everyone, hoping that one of them would work. Then I got started on building the press. The type of plate I got was KF152. This was suggested somewhere on their website, so I went with it.

My first design was basically all wood with one 1/4″ steel rod. This didn’t work at all as the wood handle was too heavy. Design #1 was quickly dropped. My next design used some black pipe that I had laying around with the steel rod. This didn’t work either as the steel rod was too skinny and flexed. Design #3 used two pieces of 3/4″ black pipe connected with the pipe clamp. This rotated really well. Now I just needed to figure out how to hang a board on the handle so that I could push down with it to make the print.

My first attempts used bolts to sort of clamp two pieces of plywood to the handle. Here I was trying to duplicate the youtube video where his top piece rotated. I tried to use some plain steel hooks and loops to get the same effect. This sort of worked, but the prints didn’t seem to be offset much. After talking to a coworker, I increased the length of the handle by screwing another 2′ piece of black pipe to the one I already had. This should allow me to press down a lot harder, which I tried to do. Now I ended up breaking one of the pieces of black pipe and bending my hooks that were holding the top plate in place.

This is where I ended up buying a 3′ piece of black pipe to use as the handle. Then I also found some conduit clamps that I used to attach a top board to this new handle. As long as the two pieces of wood were parallel to each other when the handle came down, I was good. I ended up not needing to worry about it always pointing down. I then drilled two holes through both boards and put dowels in the top board. This would make sure that the top plate always came down in the same location.

The last step was to get some thin cork that I stapled to the top board. Once I had that installed, I set up some guides to hold the paper in place and made some prints. The press seemed to be working ok. Now it was just a matter of me putting the right amount of ink on the name and pulling down hard, but not too hard, on the handle. After about an hour or so, I was making some decent prints and knew that things would work. It was just going to take a little time for me to get good at it.

Here are some things I learned. You have to roll out the ink to have a very thin about on the brayer. Too much ink makes a mess and the only way to fix it is to take everything out and wash it. I bought water-based ink for block printing, which was a good choice as it cleaned up easily. The one drawback though is that it dried really quickly. I could get, at most, 10 prints at a time before the ink on my glass dried up. Fortunately, since everything cleaned up with water, it wasn’t too much of a chore to just clean it all off and start again. This gave me the advantage that I could change colors a lot. I also learned that I have no idea how to mix colors. Pretty much anything I tried turned into brown. So I just stuck with the red, green and purple that I bought. I also bought yellow, but you couldn’t see it on the paper. Lastly, the plates can be reused. After I was done printing with them, I’d just wash them and put the paper backing back on. I reused a few names about four times and could probably do some more with them.

I have to say that I was pretty pleased with how everything turned out. I did end up having to buy a second plate because the fonts I picked for a few of the names (Ted, Annie and Shadla) on the first plate just didn’t work. This wasn’t so bad. I missed a few people on the first plate because I thought I ran out of space. So I got to get them on the second plate. I’d also like to improve on the design so I could do some more printing. I’m not yet sure what I’d do, but I might come up with another good idea.

Is it selfish?

For Christmas this year, I’m making gifts for some people. Yes, handmade gifts are all the thing. However, normally I think people mean that when they get something really nice as a gift. If I, as an adult, were to color them a picture, I don’t think it would be received as well as if I child did it. However, I like to try to learn new things. So I’m using Christmas as an excuse to build a contraption (can’t go into any more detail in case anyone who I might give a gift to might be reading) to make gifts. Here’s the thing, so far, my results are about the equivalent of a crayon drawing done by a five year old. Personally speaking though, working on my contraption has made me as happy as a five year old. So can I give my horrible drawings to people? Making them has made me really happy, giddy in fact. I’m grinning and giggling to myself as I write this. And in looking at my results so far, I’m laughing out loud because they’re so bad. I want to give them out because they’ve just made me so happy. But seriously, they’re crap and no one is going to want them. Is it selfish of me to give people a gift that makes me way happier than the person I’m trying to make happy with my gift? I have to think about this. Ok, yes it is selfish. But I’m ok with being selfish. 🙂

Latest Events

Even though my cousin Annie’s birthday is in July, we celebrated in September with a hike at Starved Rock. It was a lovely day and I got some great pictures here.

Starved Rock Hike

October is my birthday month, so I usually try to do something that I haven’t done before. This year, I took a few days off of work and drove down to Indianapolis with my Mom. I then rode a really nice trail, the Monon Rail Trail and drove to Dayton to see the Wright Brothers National Park. The bike ride turned out to be very wet, as it started pouring rain about halfway in. But it was still a great ride and I’d like to do it again, when it’s a little drier. The Wright Bros site was pretty cool, though the bike shop was a bit disappointing. And aside from that, I didn’t really see much else to do in Dayton. We did find the university, but didn’t see much else. Here are the pictures from the trip.

Indianapolis/Dayton Trip

When I got home, I had signed up for a glassblowing class, which turned out to be a lot of fun. I don’t know that glassblowing is something that I’d get into, but it was definitely cool to give it a try. Here are some pictures from the class.

Glassblowing Class

Samples

I’ve spent the weekend reading all about letterpress printing. I’m not sure why this is suddenly fascinating to me, but it is. I think I like that it has big machinery associated with it, but you can also do it yourself on a much smaller scale. In the course of my reading and watching videos, I discovered that I also don’t really know much about paper. It’s everywhere, so I pretty much just take it for granted. Going off on that tangent led me to reading all about different papers. I finally came to this company French Paper, which is a family-owned company in Michigan that makes paper. While it’s cool that it’s been family-owned for six generations, what I really like about them is what they sell. Specifically, they sell sample packages of paper and a little booklet describing all their papers. To me, this is brilliant. I wish more companies would do this, explain what they sell or at least offer an inexpensive sample so I could see if it would work on one of my projects. Anyway, I’m now waiting for my arrival of:

French Paper Utility Guide
Sample Pack Multi-Pack

These might be completely unsuitable for what I’m thinking, but for ~$50, I think I’m going to learn a lot about this stuff.

Blankets

In general, I’m not a great gift-giver. I’m probably not much of a gift-receiver either. I just think that if there’s something that I want, I’d go out and buy it. And if I don’t, then I probably don’t want it. If I’m giving someone a gift, I don’t want to give them more junk that they have to store. So my go-to gift of late has been flowers. They look pretty for a while and then you can just throw them away. Totally biodegradable. At times though, I might like to give a longer lasting gift. So I’ve been thinking about things that I have that I enjoy. The one thing that comes to mind for me is a blanket. I know it’s weird, but I really like a blanket. How would I describe the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket? I wouldn’t say it’s like getting a hug, because that’s sort of corny. However, I do think it’s just a feeling of being completely comfortable. Like how you feel when you’re hanging out with good friends or family members.

My brother John first brought me a blanket back from India. Yes, I know it only cost like $1 and that’s probably why it’s now falling apart. But whenever I wrap myself in it, I think of my bro, which is kind of cool. When I went to Guatemala for my niece’s adoption, I bought myself a very colorful blanket. I sometimes use it on my bed and sometimes when I’m watching tv. It’s great in that each time I see it, I think of my niece and the trip. A few years ago, I wanted to see if I could make myself a quilt. That quilt is always on my bed. It reminds me how I just jumped in to quilting despite having no real idea of how to do it. It’s not perfect, but it’s something I’m rather proud of.

The thing is though, now that I’ve made myself a quilt, I have no desire to make myself another one. However, I do recall finding quilting rather relaxing. So I think that now that I’m just about done with my kitchen, I’m going to start quilting again. But my new rule is that I have to give away each quilt that I make. I like this in that it will be a sort of challenge to come up with ideas for quilts that other people might like. Or just making a quilt and then thinking of who might like it. I’m also totally fine with giving someone a quilt and them regifting it because it’s not their thing. Just because something is interesting to me doesn’t mean it’s interesting to someone else.

I guess I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve recently watched some tv shows about craft and quilting was featured in one of the episodes. I have no desire to make a quilt as a piece of art that hangs on the wall. That just seems completely wrong to me. I think quilts are meant to be used. I know many people disagree with me on this and that’s fine. If I gave someone a quilt and they wanted to hang it, that’s fine, it’s their quilt. I should not have any say in what they do with it after I give it to them. However for me, I’d go for the comfort.

Getting Started

At this rate, I’ll read 365 books this year. 🙂 Anyway, had a lovely New Year’s Day, where I watched some hockey and just sat and read. I finished Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I don’t really understand why, but I liked this book a lot. I guess it’s because I liked the characters and the weird things that happened to them, but I can’t really say for sure. This is now the second book by Murakami that I’ve read. I read 1Q84 a couple of years ago and liked that one as well. So I guess I’m going to add Murakami to William Gibson and Isabel Allende as authors that I really like.

I haven’t spent an entire day reading in a long time. The first time I did this was a very long time ago, when I stayed up all night reading Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll. I’m glad I finished this book at a reasonable hour because I do have to go to work in the morning and would be very cranky if I had been reading all night. I’m quite happy that the book sucked me in, since I had been worried that I was no longer able to read an entire book. Now that I mostly read short magazine articles and blog posts, a novel seemed slightly insurmountable. But I’m glad that I can still do it. Happily, I just got email from the library that a book I requested there has arrived, so I can pick that up tomorrow. I shouldn’t spend another full day reading, since I have to go to work AND should be working on my kitchen. But I’ll see if I can grab a few hours here and there.

Days Off

I took the rest of this week off. Today, I decided to drive to Glacial Park Nature Preserve in Ringwood IL, which took me about two hours to get to. I read they had a nice hiking trail and while I hadn’t ever hiked before, I thought it was something that I might enjoy. My goal on the hike was to take one picture that I could print out and hang on the wall of my newly finished house. All of my pictures are here. Most aren’t very good, but there are two that I think I’d be happy with on my wall. So, when I move back home, one of the first things I’m going to do is have a print made of one or two of them.

The weather was a bit rainy, as you can tell from the photos. I had intended to hike about four miles, but as I thought it was going to start raining harder, I ended up on a smaller loop that was just over two miles. I was fine, though I think in the future I’d prefer to hike with other people. I had tried to get someone to come with me on this one, but I had no takers that could make it.