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.


 

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

Reclaiming a Woodworking Space

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Before getting it into the shop, the outfeed table prepped for leg surgerySince I posted about possibly getting back in the shop, a great deal has happened around our homestead. Getting the shop ready to cut wood again is about 8 deep in the to-do list layer. Just a couple of things we had to do around our house.

  • Cleared a fenceline around the back of our property. See the next two points. For this, I just HAD to buy a handy-dandy 40VMax DeWalt Chain saw. Nifty as hell. I'll see about posting a tool review soon.
  • Install a fence around the entire back yard (see the next point for the reason why this HAD to happen now)
  • Get a long-promised puppy for the boys
  • Get the major leak fixed on the first floor bathroom sink (leaking into the workshop below)
  • Get the major leak fixed on the second floor bathtub (leaking into the workshop below)
  • Get the dehumidifier installed (see the above two points, and note that my underground shop has cinderblock walls)
  • Figure out how to run a drain pipe from the dehumidifier so I don't have to empty 3 gallons of water from it three times a day
  • Install a new garage door opener in the garage

That's all stuff that isn't strictly woodworking related, although you can probably see that several of them had largely detrimental effects on woodworking if I hadn't gotten them taken care of.  Actually, to be brutally honest, if MY WIFE hadn't managed to take care of them by hiring people to handle it.

Still, I have managed a few things around the shop to get myself setup . . . at last.

Incredibly Busy Summer - Breathing Room and Actual Shop Time Starting

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Well, we moved.

I haven't updated this site since July, because frankly, I haven't done a lick of work in, or more appropriately ON, my shop. It needs a bunch of work. I'm just now starting to have the breathing room to do something in the shop, and also to update my website. So I'm back. Hi! How've ya been?

West end of the new basement shop spaceYeah, so we moved into our new house in early June. I have to admit that this isn't my ideal woodworking arrangement. But we didn't buy the house for that. There were lots of pros and cons to consider. This house is our new home because 1) It has a great yard for the kids to play in and for us to put in a garden and me to build a new giant playset for the boys. Because it has a great kitchen we love. Because it feels like a home and not just a nice house. The neighborhood is nice, quiet, and not one of those engineered micro-landscaped developments that seem to be everywhere around large cities these days, but instead feels like an old fashioned neighborhood. The schools have turned out to be great! And oh, by the way, it has an adequate space that I can use for my woodshop.

The shop itself is the north half of the basement; a long thin room about 35 feet long and about 12 feet wide. I get to share it with the furnace and a spare fridge we inherited from the previous owners. Plus a couple giant shelves along the West wall. I'm not complaining about the shelves. Mostly I just dumped all of my tools into the room and left it there until now. My wood collection largely went into the shed in the back yard, a 10' x 10' room now completely stuffed with my wood and two tables . . .one of which is my table saw outfeed table (another story.)

Review: 'Making Shoji' by Toshio Odate

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Cover of my copy of Making Shoji by Toshio OdateBook review -- 'Making Shoji' by Toshio Odate.  Reviewed on 4/29/2016.

Recently, I've been thinking of ways to make my woodworking more . . . oh, I don't know, soulful, I guess. I do this hobby not so much to complete projects (based on my pace, that much should be right obvious) but to enjoy a sort of zen mindfulness. But I also do want to accomplish something. It's a personality flaw of mine that I can concentrate on something so intently that I slow to a crawl and don't make any progress. Woodworking with no progress isn't woodworking, it's meditation. (Or more likely in my case, ennui and then sleep.) But one of the ways I've been hoping to increase the mindfulness of my woodworking was to take on something elegant, simple and beautiful. I've always wanted to try to build a Japanese screen. Not one of those Western, free standing ones you saw in 1930's movies where the movie star goes behind it to change suggestively into 'something a little more comfortable', but rather those structural elements from Japanese homes. Shoji, as they're called in Japan, form an ultra material-efficient way to form rooms in a private home. And I'd like to make some, hopefully in a way that is less cultural appropriation and more a way to honor the masters.
 
With that desire in mind, I went on Amazon and ordered a book. I'd heard the name of Toshio Odate in recent years. He's known in the U.S. as a teacher and ambassador of Japanese woodworking into North American culture. The Amazon showed me that he had written a book on just this subject. I almost squeee'd with glee. I ordered it in about 14 nanoseconds and with the Prime account, had it on my doorstep in 23 and one half hours.

Prepping to Move

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In my current shop, it took almost 18 months after we moved in before I could really be productive. Between unpacking, and those things that you need on a project but just can't find in among the packing boxes, it just took awhile for things to settle down. (I *still* haven't located my RAS. It's a really nice Bosch unit and I miss that thing. No idea where it went.) So, I've been getting real work done in my shop for the last 6 months or so, so of course it is now time to move again. Naturally. Our lease is up in late June, so one-way-or-another, we are outta here!
 
In the personal negotiations beteen my wife and I over what features we want in our new home, I finally settled on only two requirements. And even those proved to be contentious. I wanted a place where I could set up my shop, preferably with an area of around 500 ft² in an unfinished basement or garage, and I wanted at least a half acre of fairly flat property. The space for the shop wasn't the problem, the land was. Finding a fairly flat lot in this part of Georgia is always rather difficult, we live in a hilly region and one full of trees. Mostly that's nice. But finding a half acre or larger (flat) lot in our price range was a bit of a challenge. When looking for potential candidate homes to buy in our target area, it took the list down from several hundred to less than 6 or 7 properties at any given time, and those seem to pop on and off the market at light speed.
 
A nice, flat backyard for our potential new homeBut, I think we may have found what we were looking for. I see now that during the walk-through and inspection visits to the new house, I neglected to take any decent shots of the potential new workshop area. However I do have a good shot of the great back yard. Look, I'll even get a nice shed! 

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