An Introduction

By trade, I'm a mid-level manager in the IT industry, but by inclination, I'm an avid amateur woodworker. This site began as a place for me to share my woodworking projects, my ideas about design, and my commentary on the world of woodworking. I've expanded it recently to talk more about other things, such as politics, religion, pop culture, science, the space industry, and literature. Basically anything that catches my interest.

My thought processes, and my projects, are very Ent-like. They take a long time to develop. I take forever to finish large things. But I occasionally erupt in a furious period of intense actiivity. Like a volcano. I'm quiescent today, but the ground has been warmer than normal lately, and villagers have reported rumblings in the jungle.


 

Review: 'Careless' by Richard Shindell

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"Careless" (2016) by Richard ShindellReview of “Careless” by Richard Shindell. Originally reviewed on September 26th, 2016.

I'm continually appalled that Richard Shindell doesn't have a bigger following than he does, even though he resides in a genre that is perhaps not at the forefront of popularity these days, the folk singer/songwriter. Even given his street address on the margins of the musical industry, his music should be a Mecca to which true lovers of the well-crafted and poignant folk song should trek. I've been fans of other less popular artists before, and often they disappoint as their lack of monetary success wears on them artistically. Richard Shindell has had ups and downs in his output, but Careless is among the best music he has ever created. He continues to create amazing music. I bought the album after hearing a Folkways recording of one of its tracks, The Deer on the Parkway. It took a couple of listenings, but it's now firmly among my top 2 or 3 of his albums.

Workbench Undercarriage Glued and Pinned

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Webcam shot of the glued and pinned undercarriage of the bench, perched atop the benchtopI'm continuing to make progress on the Roubo workbench. After carving the message on the front board, I then glued it to the front edge of the benchtop. Then I set the top aside so I can drill holes for pegs on the bench legs and aprons. Just last night I finished pegging and glueing the legs together. Then I heft the top back up on my outfeed table, upside down. Then I got the undercarriage on top of it, so I can lay out the leg tenon locations on the bottom of the benchtop. I've got it roughly positioned now. I didn't take the time last night to grab a photo, so I'll just show how it looks right now on the webcam.

After I get the position of the mortises figured out, I'm also going to work on installing the Benchcrafted wagon vise. Progress is being made. I'm hoping to have this thing finished this month.

Carving the Credo

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Finished up tails on the endcapThe last update was getting too long, so I'll finish the rest of that here. After I finished fitting the dovetails of the front piece of the front to the endcap, I then worked on carving the credo I had long planned to grace the front edge of my bench. The main reason I left the front board off of the benchtop lamination was so that I'd have a separate piece to carve. It's also a lot easier to carve on a  piece resting on a benchtop than sitting on the floor attached to a 250 pound hard maple benchtop.

The entire message pattern attached to the front board. A pair of long lines along the length of the board allow me to slide the words back and forth slightly, maintaining a  continuous baseline.  The word kerning here can have a strong impact to a view on whether it's easy to read or not.Here, you can see how I've used a spray adhesive to attach the paper pattern to the front board. I'm actually showing some confidence here by making this mixed case. There's a reason why much of the gross carving of the ancient Roman monuments used all capital letters. Capital Roman letters have fewer curves, and curves are alway harder to cut so that they look consistenct. (Think of the letter E and T.) Still, I've carved several signs in the last couple of years, so I decided I liked the more classically elegant look of lower case serif lettering .  .  . and I had just enough confidence to try.

The letters are about an inch and a half tall. One thing that's important about laying out your message is to size your lettering to fit your carving gouges and chisels. At this size, I could use my 6 and 10mm wide chisels, but 12 and 20 were way too wide. This somewhat limited my choices in gouges since I mostly have only one width in each curve size. In carving chisels, a number 1 is a flat chisel. Each higher number indicates a tigher curve, all the way up to a number 12 which creates a very tight curve of diameter of approximately a quarter inch. This curve numbering is known as "sweep".  Actually, No. 11 and No. 12 are usually not circular, but rather more U shapped, with the sharpest curve at the bottom of the arc. 

Carving my credo on the front board of the benchtop, to be attached next

Project Ideas in the New Home

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We've been in our new house for about eight months now. Frankly, after moving four times in five years, I was just too worn out to consider new woodworking projects. But I've caught my breath.

I'm heading toward the finish line on the Roubo workbench, and I owe a completed jewelry cabinet to my wife. But along with those, I'm starting to think. Things to tackle. New wood challenges to try. 

I've taken to listening to the WoodTalk PodCast. (I was also briefly listening to The Woodworking Podcast, but their verbal tics finally just got on my nerves enought that I had to give them a break. "I made it to where . . . ", ) The WoodTalk podcast is nice. It's funny. It inspires me to try things that are new and challenging. Shannon is a naturally entertaining presenter, and the new Matt is nicely "aw-shucksy" authentic and enthusiastic. Mark is there. If he can be a little less cynical and snarky, I'd like it more, but I'm still impressed by anyone who can take this hobby and make a business out of it.

Multi-level play fort idea for our backyard. The shed already exists in our yard. I'm using it for scale.So . . . two project ideas. One is a playset I've promised my boys. If you look back in history on this site, you'll see that I built a really big playset for my first son at our home in Florida. But then we lost that place, and I've told my younger son ever since that I would work to replace it. They're really getting too old now for a 'playset', but they both would love a backyard fort. So that's what I'm going for. I have two types of projects . . . the kind I conceive of and take forever to build (see Roubo, jewelry cabinet), and the kind I think of in a weekend and build in a month (see the aviary, and the hanging tool cabinet). I have to make this backyard fort into the latter. Still, I want it to be something special. I've been thinking more and more about post and beam construction, so I'm going to use home center materials, and the tools I've mostly got already, to build a multi-story fort. 

Steady Progress on the Silver Maple Roubo

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Benchtop endcap with the mortise to be cut laid out in pencilIt's not that I'm not doing anything. I haven't been posting to the site due to too much work at my day job. I've been slowly and steadily making progress on a couple of projects. Mostly I've been working on the Roubo workbench. Six years and counting on this project.

So where were we when last I left the narrative? I did the mortises for the leg stretchers. I've been working on getting the top ready to  attach to the base. So this meant:

  • Attaching the end cap
  • Fitting the front leg vice to the leg
  • Cutting the front part of the benchtop to dimension, and then dovetailing it into the endcap
  • Carving my credo into the bench front

I still need to do two more things before I can attach the legs to the top. I need to cut the mortises for the leg tenons into the top itself. And I need to install the Benchcrafted wagon vice onto the bottom of the benchtop.

 

Cutting the pins on the endcap and the tails on the bench frontispiece

Moral Questions in God-Awful Times

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The ball turret on a World War II bomberRecent events have me thinking on many unpleasant things. But the forefront among these is that I have two young boys and we're heading into a decade that will likely define the coming century, much like the teens did to the 20th.  We like to have the illusion that we are in control of our destiny, but when the world changes direction and moves in its inexorable way, we are dragged along with it, like a man chained to the back bumper of a fucking Dixie pickup truck. They're too young now, but in only six years for our older boy and in only twelve years for his brother, they will be old enough to be drafted, if that old tradition should ever be revived.  And who knows what we'll be asked to do for our country in the strange days ahead?

Thinking about authoritarianism and intolerance, and the way we become mere pawns in the hands of the idiots running things when the times go pear-shaped like they have now, my mind keeps drifting back to the famous poem by Randall Jarrell:

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

When the State is inhabited by men who've seen the horror of war, or at least who have a concept of it; men who have a moral code built on compassion, even compassion for the enemy, then . . then the State can be benign, even potentially a benefit to humanity. But when the State is inhabited by men and women of short attention spans and petty gripes and puerile motivations, then it has the potential to becomes a true horror to all.   

Fundamentally though, I know one thing, and it's starkly illustrated in Mr. Jarrell's poem. The State doesn't care about my boys.

Endcap work on the Roubo

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Cutting the workbench endcap tenonGetting the shop up and running again has been a bit of a slog. Even getting the table-saw outfeed table into my shop turned out to be a major undertaking. Still, I've gotten the basic shop together, and started work on the workbench again. I didn't take many pictures beyond what I'm showing here, but I am making progress again. I managed to get about 3 hours of shop time this weekend. The first in a very long time.

I cut the tenon for the endcap, so I can start working on the wagon vise. Doing this cut with the circular saw turned out to present some challenges. The straight edge I clamped on the end on which to run the saw to cut the cheeks, slipped . . . on both faces. So Instead of a rectangular tenon, it turned out to be more of a parallelogram. I had to fix that with hand planes and hand saws, and ended up with a tenon that is a bit thinner than expected. Still, the fine work was satisfying, and I got back in touch with my hand tool mojo. Still need to drill out the end cap mortise and figure out the layout of the wagon vise. 

Cutting the tenon on my newly liberated outfeed table

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