Sunday, May 1st, 2022

Check this out:

I froze my ass off to get that photo. I hope you appreciate that.

It seems a little funny that you can put on a sweatshirt and long pants and go out in fifty degree weather and think, “Oh, this isn’t so bad,” and you get so into doing whatever it is you’re doing that you don’t notice until an hour and a half goes by that you don’t have any sensation in your fingertips. I had to go inside at one-hour intervals after that just so I could continue to do manual labor. And no, I couldn’t wear gloves because I need to be bare-handed to do the delicate work of stripping wires and such like.

The arch isn’t done. I have to hang a curtain from it, just for example, but I’m so happy with the way the lights turned out that I had to snap a photo of the progress.

I also got the lights installed on the overhead storage compartments:

They are not lit in this photo because obviously they were not installed in the van which means the wires weren’t connected to a live circuit. They’re installed now, but I didn’t take a photo of them with the lights switched on because I forgot, and I’m not going back out now. Each light is at the end of a foot-long gooseneck and is dimmable, which will be very nice for reading a chapter or two before lights out. And there’s a USB port in the base of each light for recharging phones or whatever. I can’t wait to try them out.

All of this (and more!) runs off a house battery in the back of the van that I installed last week. Ran into a little glitch with the charger that I have yet to rectify, but progress! It’s being made!

wired | 8:35 pm CST
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Friday, April 15th, 2022

I spent my lunch break yesterday brushing polyurethane on these pieces, even though I shouldn’t have. The instructions on the can tell me I should wait until the temperature is at least sixty degrees but it was only fifty-two. I absolutely could not wait for it to warm up, though, because the forecast tells me it won’t get warmer than forty-five until next week. I’m so eager to make some progress on this project that I’m sure I’ll burst a vessel if I wait that long, so I cheated, cracked open the can of poly and brushed it on anyway. Checked it several times yesterday afternoon and evening and it looked fine, so I think I got away with it.

finished | 6:09 am CST
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Monday, March 14th, 2022

After what seemed like an eternity of sub-freezing weather, we finally had a day of sunny skies and temps in the forties. The forecast says we’re supposed to get at least one more week of this, but I’m taking it one day at a time because I know this is false spring and we’re going to get at least one more fall of snow deep enough to shovel off the driveway before winter is REALLY over, and I don’t want it to break my heart.

I took two really long walks around the neighborhood today, one this morning and another this afternoon, and wow am I out of shape. I don’t mind walking in the snow but I really can’t abide going for a walk when it’s cold enough to make my nose and teeth hurt just because I’m breathing in and out (it actually seems to hurt more when I’m breathing out – how the hell does that make sense?), and as I mentioned already temps have been hovering around zero for weeks and weeks now, so I’ve been lazy. I’ll have to make myself get out there every day. Lucky for me that budding trees draw me like a moth to a flame.

In between my morning and afternoon walkies I worked on the camping thing some more. It felt so good to get outside and work on it for more than five minute without losing sensation in my hands. It’s not quite warm enough to brush some poly on the finished pieces, so instead I figured out how to set up the arch across the front of the van between the driver’s cabin and the rear compartment. The goal is not to wall off the back from the front, just to give me something to hang a curtain from. In the original design it’s a combination curtain rod and coat rack, festooned all over with coat hooks, and it even has overhead lights. I’ll definitely do the coat hooks. We’ll see about the lights.

I cut out the uprights from half-inch plywood about a week ago on a day of warmish temps (maybe in the low forties?) but didn’t get a chance to finish them until today when I screwed a piece of 3/4″ poplar to the back of each of the pieces that look like half a spade. The arch doesn’t have to support a lot of weight, unless you hang a lot of coats and backpacks from the hooks. The poplar’s there mostly to stiffen the back of the plywood and to make each upright a little prettier.

It took me a while to work out how to build a piece that would clamp the uprights to the grab handles on the B-pillar. I thought I had it figured out about a week ago, but after re-watching some video shot by the person who originated the design I tried a different, simpler way to do it. That got way better results.

With the uprights firmly anchored to the B-pillars I could lay a batten across the tops, attach a piece of cardboard roughly cut to fit the contour of the ceiling, and joggle-stick a template for the cross-piece. I’m pretty new to the idea of using a joggle stick to make a template for unusual shapes so I’m still getting the hang of it, but it so far it’s been working well for me. I joggled the shape of the uprights so they would follow the profile of the window and clear the door handle, and joggled the face of the overhead bin so it would fit against the sloping ceiling in the rear.

After cutting out the basic shape of the cross-piece, I had to use a belt sander with a loop of extra-gritty sandpaper to smooth out the irregularities of the jigsaw cut, which was a little easier to do than I was afraid it might be. I still have more sanding to do, but that comes after I figure out how to join the two halves in the middle. The bit of scrap wood holding them together in the photo is temporary. That part will get cut out anyway to make a little headroom in case I want to climb into the back from the driver’s seat. An overlapping piece up front and a shelf in the back where the lights go ought to do the trick.

summon arch | 10:05 am CST
Category: camping, carpentry, play, travel | Tags:
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Saturday, March 5th, 2022

The dry fit of the overhead storage bins is complete. I had to take the right-hand bin apart four or five times, trimming off bits here and there each time, reassembling it to check the fit, marking places where it needed further trimming, then taking it to pieces again. It has to sit snugly in the window so it doesn’t get in the way of the lid for the rear storage space. Took me about an hour and a half, but I finally got there. The left-hand bin was easier because I already had a pretty good idea where to trim and how much. Only had to take it apart twice.

Now that the dry fit is done, I have to take both of them apart again, sand all the pieces smooth, reassemble them (this time with glue), and finally brush a couple coats of clear polyurethane sealer on them. I never thought about painting them because I like the look of wood grain, even when it’s plywood.

They don’t look like much from this angle, but each one of the bins is large enough to hold as much as those rolly bags you can carry on a commercial airliner. I could pack a week’s worth of shirts, socks, and undershorts in just one of them and still have plenty of room left for toiletries, a book or two, something to write with, and I don’t even know what else. That leaves all the room under the bed for food, utensils, and other essential camping gear.

dry fit | 2:22 pm CST
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Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

Little by little, bit by bit …

overhead | 7:53 pm CST
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Sunday, February 27th, 2022

It’s slowly coming together …

My woodworking “skills” boil down to tinkering. I cut a piece of wood. I cut another piece of wood. I discover one piece of wood is too long so I cut it again. I fit them together. I repeat this process until I have something which resembles the thing I had in mind in the first place. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s close enough as to make no difference. At least not to me.

The piece above is a perfect example. I started by cutting the piece at the bottom of the photo, standing edge-on to the camera. Its length was a total guess, but it had to be a certain width. Then I cut the piece that’s laying against the workbench. It used to be the same length as the first piece. I should have cut it to be three-quarters of an inch shorter, because there are two end caps made of three-eighth-inch plywood. I didn’t realize that until I tried to fit the pieces together, even though the end pieces were part of the build from the start.

To anyone who would say, “If you drew a plan ahead of time, you’d catch these rookie mistakes,” I would say, “Yeah, no.” I’ve drawn plans before. Trouble is, I think in two dimensions. If I drew all the pieces fitting together, my brain would think of them as having length and width but no depth, even while it knew that one piece is half-inch ply and the rest are three-eighths-inch ply. It’s this cognitive dissonance that lets me cut each and every piece to the wrong length, so that I have to make multiple trips to the table saw to shorten pieces up as I tinker them together.

woodwork, sorta | 11:46 am CST
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Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Re-hung a door in the basement. This didn’t end well when I tried it once before. It didn’t end entirely well this time, either.

I know, in theory, how to hang a door. I don’t have much in the way of practical experience, though. If I’d kept track of the number of doors I’ve hung, I could probably count them on both hands.

And, as it turns out, the hinge at the top of door I was trying to hang is not attached the way it should be, so the door hangs just cockeyed enough that it grinds against the jamb opposite the hinges when I close it. I’ll have to take the door down again, remove the top hinge, rev up the router and grind down the spot where the hinge goes, so it won’t stick the way it does now.

But not today. Today, I hung the door. I’m done.

hanging offense | 2:16 pm CST
Category: carpentry, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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Sunday, January 24th, 2010

table saw tableThe first thing you have to make with your new table saw is a table for your saw. Sounds like one of those No shit, Sherlock, answers, doesn’t it?

“So what’s the first thing you made with your new table saw?”

“A table, duh.”

It doesn’t have to be pretty, as you can plainly see, but it does have to be stable. I wonder if the word “table” is a truncation of “stable?” I think I’ll make that my weekly e-mail to Grant & Martha at A Way With Words. Anyway, a wobbly table would defeat the whole purpose of spending all that money on a table saw in the first place, to say nothing of how quickly you’d lose the end of at least one finger as your table saw table started walking across the work shop floor.

I knocked this together in about an hour, after an hour spent cleaning enough crap from the center of the work shop so I had room to go at it. That’s what sucks about starting a new project: Preparation always takes at least as long as doing the actual job.

table saw outfeed tableIt took me all friggin day to cut that board in half, but it finally happened. And about time, too. I was getting pretty tired of cutting up all that wood just to build tables and jigs so that I could build something.

It’s going to be a book case soon; probably not today, maybe not until sometime next weekend, but now that I can see it’s going to happen I feel a little better about blowing all that money on a table saw.
And it worked perfectly the first time! I made a clean cut exactly down the center of the board, accounting for the width of the saw blade, and both pieces came out the other end exactly the same width, just as if I knew what I was doing! Weird.

table saw table | 10:16 am CST
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Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

table sawI finally caved in and got one.

I lost track a long time ago of the number of home-improvement projects I wanted to try but was putting off till the day I stuck a crowbar in my wallet and sprung loose a few bucks for a table saw. After looking at dozens of table saws I came to the conclusion that I knew nothing about them, other than they were the most dangerous power tool invented, picked the highest-rated one on Amazon that I could afford and click on “Buy me!”

Well, as of today I no longer have an excuse to put any more projects on the back burner. Indeed, now that I’ve spent all that dough on a table saw I’m on a time table. “I expect to see some bookcases by Saturday,” My Darling B warned me as I toted my new toy through the kitchen to the basement stairs. “No pressure.”
Keep you posted.

caved | 3:25 pm CST
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lamp baseDemolition is complete. Now begins reconstruction.

Locked in the grip of this jerry-rigged vise is the base of a lamp we bought at auction some weeks ago. It’s actually carved from two pieces of wood somebody, a long time ago, tried to glue together with a tar-like, probably asbestos-based adhesive and, when that didn’t work, shot three of the most jagged junk-drawer wood screws up through the bottom, which held the whole mess together passably well, for a while.

There were another three rusty wood screws that fixed the spindle to the base. They were all so old and crooked that getting them out took most of the evening and all the cuss words in my vocabulary. But I got them out. Dammit.

Then I used a hand rasp to clean off most of the tar-like glue and sanded the rest off, probably throwing enough asbestos into the air to kill us all in our sleep. I spread a thin layer of wood glue over the face of the bottom piece, laid the upper piece over it, then built this thumb-crushing vise … yet somehow managed to avoid crushing either of my thumbs — and there was much rejoicing.

The two pieces will be forever bonded together when I take the vise apart tomorrow morning, but I’ll probably shoot three or four construction screws through it just to make sure it won’t come apart. Then I have to figure out how to sand the paint-splattered varnish off it without ruining the delicate curve that I won’t be able to duplicate because I don’t have a lathe. Yet.

fiat lux | 3:24 pm CST
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Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I’ll be using many sharp-edged power tools all afternoon. I started out with all ten fingers. I’m always amazed when I finish with all ten after repeated use of power saws, power drills, routers, and all kinds of whirling dervishes that could snatch away a digit so fast I wouldn’t even see it happen.

I once disdained power tools. Anything made with power tools you couldn’t honestly call hand-crafted, was my thought. The problem with that kind of snobbery is, you’ve got to have the talent that enables you to cut a straight line, and although I can reasonably fake a straight line, I have to admit a power saw cuts a line much straighter and cleaner than I ever could.

You would also need a set of muscles like steel cable and a bottomless supply of stamina to saw and saw and saw all day long, to say nothing of how much driving a half-dozen screws takes out of you. I used to be able to do that but I’ve got the limp, creaky wrists of an old lady now. With a circular saw and a power drill I can keep at the job all day long.

And that’s why I’ve been collecting power tools lately, most of them at estate sales. I broke down several years ago and bought a brand-new router off the shelf, but the power miter saw that’s turned out to be more massively awesome than atomic-powered rocket ships was something I managed to score at an auction for just forty bucks.

I used it to turn a whole bunch of perfect good select lumber into rails for a pull-out set of drawers so My Darling B could not only store her canning jars in the kitchen cupboards, but so she could get to them without having to worry about the flimsy cardboard boxes they were stored in breaking apart and getting bonked on the head by a bunch of jars. The cupboards she stores them in are way over her head and she has to stand on tippy-toe, even on her step-stool, to get the boxes out. I whacked together some durable pine drawers and mounted them on rails. Now she can pull them out and there’ll be no bonking going on in the kitchen.

Or maybe that didn’t come out right.

power tools | 6:14 am CST
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