Early Year Projects

For the start of the year, I've been working on some little projects that I've enjoyed. I guess one of the projects was big. I finished three bookshelves for my cousins for xmas.

I made a midori style notebook, which I still can't decide if I like or not.

And to put inside I made some personalized notebooks, which I do like quite a bit.

Also note in the picture above is a homemade awl I made to poke holes in the notebooks for sewing. It was a good idea, but the needle is sticking out too far. So if I really push, the needle bends. So I could maybe cut the end of that needle off and put it in a shorter handle.

I used epoxy to get the needle in the handle and I had some left over. So I used that to fix some cracks in my shoes. The weather has gotten much nicer now, so I haven't worn them yet in any snow. But I think this will work nice and save me from having to buy a new pair of shoes.

Lastly, I think that the last chance of frost has passed, so I'm moving into gardening mode. I went out to look at my cold frame. And once it got a little warmer, the spinach started growing again. It's pretty indestructible apparently. The lettuce seems to have died, so I put some more seed out there. But I'm happy with how this looks now.

Sewing Machines

I took the sewing machine that was given to me in to get tuned up. The repairman called and said it needed a lot of work and that it would cost around $250-$300. For an old sewing machine that I didn't like all that much, it was too much money. So I let them keep it for whatever parts they could salvage from it. I don't sew a lot, but it is a tool that I'd like to have. So I've been researching sewing machines.

One thing that I did was look at the type of sewing that I do. I have never used any stitch except a straight stitch. When I was looking at a bunch of home machines, they all bragged about having 50 or 100 different stitches. This is not a selling point for me. I've also never made an article of clothing in my life. I'm trying to remember if I ever repaired one and I'm not sure that I have. What have I made? Quilts and curtains. What would I like to make? More quilts and curtains. But also, bags and tablecloths. I'd also like to be able to work with leather. It would be nice to be able to make a leather bag or a leather book cover. And in the far future, I could see me trying upholstery. So I want to get a sewing machine that can handle thicker fabric.

After googling around a bit, I think I want an industrial machine. You can get those that run on regular power in your house, which is what I'd like. A lot of them come with a large table, which would be fine. I don't need a portable machine. I'm leaning toward a Juki machine because they seem to be really good and there are a bunch of very old ones still in use. I was looking on Craigslist and found a couple of used ones. And then I also looked up new ones, which don't seem to cost that much more. Plus, there's a distributor in town who will give you a free hour tutorial on any machine that you buy from them. I think that would be a great idea, since I'm pretty much self-taught on sewing machines. I'm sure there are some basics that I just don't know.

For now, I've set up an alert on Craigslist to let me know anytime someone posts a Juki. If I find a really good deal, perhaps I'll get a used one. Otherwise, I'll save up my money and look into a new one.

Frustration!

I thought that I would take today and try to finish the curtains that I'm making for my bedroom doors. My mom gave me a new iron, which works fantastically well. I also got an ironing board, which also makes ironing so much easier. So I was making great progress with ironing and sewing the side seams. Then, I ran out of thread on my bobbin. No problem, I thought. I learned how to thread the bobbin a while back and even made a youtube video of it. So I thread the bobbin and get back to work. But I don't get back to work. For reasons I cannot determine, the machine is not moving the material forward. If I press the reverse button, it goes back with no problem. But it won't go forward. So I screw around with it for a while. What did I do? No idea, but the material starts to move forward slowly. (Reverse goes backwards much quicker than the material is going forward.) So I try again, but things still aren't right, as the thread is bunching on the bottom. I remember the rule that thread problems on the top of the seam are usually due to the bobbin and problems on the bottom are usually due to the needle. So I rethread the needle and it's just not working correctly. By and large, I have a decent amount of patience, but this drained ALL of it. I can guarantee by neighbors heard the slew of obscenties I spewed. I then decided to buy a new sewing machine and started researching them online. This gave me some time for my blood pressure to drop and to calm down.

I hate it when my tools don't work properly. The bad thing about this sewing machine is that it was given to me and I have no manuals. But the good thing about this sewing machine is that it was given to me, so I paid nothing for it. I had thought when I spent all that time making the movie about how to thread it and practicing using it, that I had the operation down. However, now it seems like that isn't the case. I've also googled all about this model and can't really find any information on it. So I'm very much leaning toward getting a new one that I can learn how to use properly and get repaired if needed. But since I don't really have the money right now, I'll probably struggle along with this one for now.

My First Attempt

I've wanted to volunteer somewhere for a while and decided to give Working Bikes a try. One of their volunteer nights is Tuesday night, and I'm trying to go there every Tuesday. Tonight was my third time. It starts at 5 and I got there at maybe 5:15 or so and was basically the only volunteer for a while. This was great because Andrew (the guy in charge) asked me if I could try working on a bike solo. I think he had some things he wanted to do, so working with me was low on his list. Thus, after giving me a quick refresher on how to put the bike in the stand, I got to work by myself.

They ask everyone volunteering now to work on kids bikes because there's a big giveaway coming up where they need to have a few hundred bikes fixed up to give away. This is good because I don't really have the skills to work on adult bikes with gears and fancy brakes yet. When you work on a bike, you grab a checklist and just work through all the items. You have to check and grease the headset, front bracket, rear bracket, front hub, rear hub, brakes, trueness of wheels and chain.

Today, I took apart the rear hub and got to see all the parts of a coaster brake. On my first attempt to reassemble it, I put a couple parts in backwards. Fortunately, Andrew stopped by to show me the correct orientation. My biggest issue was with the headset, which kept slipping. After showing it to Andrew, he told me I needed to get a new quill, which is the big, long screw that holds the handlebars to the fork. After switching it, things seemed to work better.

So here is a picture I took of the bike that I spent a little over two hours working on. I hope that the real mechanics who check it think that I did a good job. And I hope that someday a little kid enjoys riding it.

IMG_4680

It’s Funny

I'm a huge fan of YouTube for learning how to do different things. I've been watching tons of YouTube videos for woodworking while I try to build stuff with my reclaimed wood. Last weekend, I decided got a beanbag chair that had no cover. So I decided to make a new cover for it and in the process broke something on my sewing machine. So I was looking around YouTube for some help on fixing it. In the process, I watched a bunch of videos on sewing. It was so funny to me how the genders of the people hosting the videos just changed. For woodworking, I can think of one female who made videos. Everyone else was guys. For sewing, it's all women. This just struck me as very funny.

Car Repair

My last car repair class at the park was a couple of weeks ago. While I sometimes dreaded getting in the car to drive over when it was already dark out, I enjoyed every single class. And I learned something in every single class. It was easily the best $60 I've spent in a long time.

The most important lesson that I learned though, is that I'm really not that interested in working on cars. When I started the class, I was thinking it would be fun to buy an old pickup truck and fix it up. But after learning a little more about cars, I'm not so interested in doing that anymore. I don't see me doing much with cars. I have one and I could see me changing the oil. Learning how to do that using an evacuator through the dipstick hole will save me enough on oil changes to easily cover the cost of the class. I think I could also change a spark plug. And I know where to look if I need to fix something more complicated.

I'm thrilled that I learned a bit about cars, but even happier that I learned that this is not something that I'm going to look into more. Since I tend to be interested in just about everything, that is a wonderful change.

Alternative DNS

My internet connection went down today for a few hours. Technically, I guess it didn't go down, but DNS wasn't working. So I could ping 216.58.216.68, but I couldn't ping www.google.com. I had been using the DNS servers from comcast that I got from DNS. I believe they're 75.75.75.75 and 75.75.76.76. But since these weren't working for me, I changed to the following:

208.67.222.222 (opendns)
208.67.220.220 (opendns)

and now things are working again.

I could also use:

8.8.8.8 (google)
8.8.4.4 (google)

Update:
Found out that in Chicago, the comcast DNS servers are:

68.87.72.134
68.87.77.134

I know these were not the servers that I was assigned. I'll hang on to them in case needed.

Financial Independence

The past couple of weeks, I have been obsessing about becoming financially independent. When I was a kid, I would have thought of this as being rich. But now, all I want to do is be able to do what I want, without having to think about money. I'd like to have the option to do things for people or not, based on whether I think it's interesting or not, taking money out of the equation entirely.

By and large, since I've been working, I think that I've been pretty responsible with money. Aside from my mortgage, I don't owe anyone any money. I've refinanced my mortgage a few times, but have never taken money out. I've also always reduced the term of the mortgage when I've done this to make sure I get it paid off more quickly. Unfortunately, I just always assumed that I'd have to work until I was 65 or whatever the traditional retirement age would be. What I never told myself is "there is no speed limit". I could have saved so much more to become financially independent so much quicker.

The question I'm asking myself now, is this what I want to do for the next 20 years? Because I'm around 20 years away from traditional retirement. I actually love my job, but there's this voice in my head that pops up every so often asking if there's something else I'd like to do. For most of my working career, I'd often ask myself if I could be learning something that would help me make more money and have a better career. And I have taught myself many things that have helped. But now, what about the things that I enjoy but that won't necessarily make me money? If I didn't have to worry about having money to pay the mortgage or other bills, would I do more things that I enjoy?

Why am I obsessing about this now? The primary reason is that my house desperately needs a new roof. This is going to cost me about $17k, which is a little more money than I have saved up. So I'm going to have to take out a loan to cover it. This bugs me for a couple of reasons. One, I hate owing people money. Two, I can't do the job myself. My roof is very pitched and I work very slowly. So there's really no way that I could do this. I had been feeling pretty good about myself because I had a bit of money saved and that's going to be all gone. I've also been thinking about the house, which was built in 1888 and it also still needs to be tuckpointed. This is another very large expense looming. My question then is, should I fix this house up as best I can and then move? I always though that I'd die in this house, but I'm no longer sure I want to. If I did move, where should I go? This house is great because I can bike to work. But if I didn't have to go to work, that's something that I wouldn't need to worry about. Anyway, it'll take me a couple of years to pay off the roof and get the place into sellable condition. So I'm not desperate to do anything right now, but I'm starting to make a plan and these are the things I'm thinking about.

Stuck

The good news is that my kitchen is almost done. The bad news is that my kitchen is almost done. What's left to do? I have to caulk around the windows, finish painting the trim around the big window and finish installing floor trim. Nope, not a lot to do. Why haven't I done it? I don't know. I did go to the store to try to buy the trim for the floor and I can't find the same stuff that the contractor put in. That's annoying. I was also thinking of installing another cabinet for storage. And I just found out that Ikea is discontinuing my kitchen cabinets. So if I want to buy it, I need to do it now. Already the first cabinet that I had picked out is no longer available. You'd think that would make me jump up and drive out to Ikea, but no, I haven't done that.

I've been thinking about things that I'd like to do next. I have a bunch of ideas for new projects. However, I'm also being rather strict with myself in that I will not start another project until the kitchen is completely done. So these days I basically come home from work and read blogs online. A very bad habit, I know. But I'm just tired of working on the kitchen, so I'm stuck. I need something to knock me out of this, but I don't know what right now.

Wrapping It Up

I need to get my kitchen finished because I want to move on to some other things. Over the past couple of days I've been:

looking into volunteer opportunities
thinking of how to design a letterpress system
investigating woodworking classes so I can build a dining room table
buying a collection of sample paper to learn about different weights, colors, types
pricing table saws
looking into joining TechShop in Detroit, even though it's five hours away
thinking of some new quilt designs
looking into vacation ideas
thinking of moving this blog from wordpress to octopress

If I'm lucky, the countertop comes tomorrow. If not, it won't be until next week. I'm fine with either one, but am definitely starting to plan my next project. Once it's installed, I have to finish the plumbing, which will take some time. And then finish the trim around the windows and parts of the floor. Not complicated work, but finishing work is usually not my strong suit. This is probably going to take all the patience that I have, so I'm apologizing in advance to anyone I snap at in the next few days.