Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lessons from Furniture Making

So I have been really into working with wood for a couple months now. I mean, I've been watching numerous podcasts regarding how to make furniture from scratch and it has helped me immensely in my day job as a maintenance guru and also to understand wood and working with it a whole lot better.

As I've mentioned elsewhere and here I think, I am working towards a hand tool only shop. I say that, but the reality of what works comfortably for me, I think, is a blended shop, which is a mixture of power and unplugged hand tools.

I don't think I could give up the convenience of a Power Miter Saw, for example, or a circle saw. My saws are sacred to me. Cutting 2x4s to length, spindles, trim, or whatever, in easy, accurate, and repeatble fashion on my Hitachi Miter Saw at work is the cat's pajamas. Ripping stock on the table saw opens up doors that previously didn't exist. Throw a router, jig saw, some clamps, a compressor and nail gun in there, and you are set up to conquer foreign lands.

In fact, this is my exact set-up at work. I have a large rolling workbench (which I will soon outfit with massive rubber-tired casters) that supports all my goodies. I call it "rolling thunder" and I put it into action for the first time yesterday. I am going to add custom storage onto it, but it is essentially up and running. It is designed so that I can show up basically anywhere at work and be ready to dominate at a moment's notice. When it is not being transported to a distant location, it is in or outside the garage as a functioning workbench, doing all the same tasks it would do elsewhere.

But the more hand tools you incorporate in your work, the better you become, I think. It makes you become more innovative when you learn how things are/were done without the help of power tools. At least it does for me. For example, with the use of quick clamps and 2x scrap, I quickly created an as-need planing stop on my bench for measuring boards to length with a template instead of tape. This is a faster and more accurate way to go. As I was clamping, I realized I had leveled-up in work. This is not something I would have done instictively a year ago. I'd still be scratching my ahead.

Anyhow, I hope you are well, alive, and kicking.

Over and Out,


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

It's that time again

Time to fire up the woodstove, that is.

We recently cut down 2 black locusts, which were perilously above our house. Thankfully, they came down without a hitch, and now I have a ton of future firewood to cut, split, and stack outside. Black Locust actually burns well green, meaning it will hold a flame and produce heat, but not as much heat as if it were seasoned, of course.

Still, it will suffice for the early part of the season. I called my first order in on Friday and it should be here about this weekend. It's a mix of hardwoods: ash, walnut, locust mostly, with possibly a little bit of oak. I may decide to call in a cord of fully seasoned oak at some point to get us through the coldest months, but it will just depend.

I meant to have wood brought to me at the end of the last heating season, to dryout and be ready for the winter, but alas, my funds didn't allow it. Next year, perhaps.

Heating with wood is a mixed bag in some ways. There's nothing like a fire to sit around, but the romance wear's off somewhat when you have to go outside with a chainsaw in the snow to make a piece fit in your stove, or when you are ass-tired or sick and have to start a fire from scratch. It can be a royal pain, but in the end, it's still pretty awesome.

Back when we lived in our D.C. apartment, the heat was controlled by an old steam system and a boiler. This heat was easily ideal. We never froze, but if the power went or gas out we would have been shafted mega. It never happened while we were there but it could have. Still, snuggling up next to those radiators was pretty damn wonderful.

My own opinion on the best system is that self-same steam heat--through radiators--combined with a woodstove. It also depends on the design of the house. Stoves do better when the heat can rise upwards, but radiators are more effective with a sprawling or awkwardly laid out home. We have a propane furnace as well to fight off the sub-zero weather, but I would gladly trade it for those radiators, especially when it comes to the bill.

So, yes, it's heating season. I'll be spending my weekend stacking wood and kindling to get us ready for the cold. I've learned my lesson well last season that you want your wood ready and your house sealed against the cold.

Until next time, peace out!