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Me and a frog (August 30, 2004)

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Jeremy's journal

Only imbeciles are innocent.

Orhan Pamuk


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Sunday, June 8th, 2003

Who protects children and dumb carpenters

I want to tell a story about the work I did today on the shoe rack I had previously built -- and think I should make clear beforehand what I have in mind, so that I don't bog down in details. My basic points here are, that I succeeded in the task I took on largely through dumb luck; and that I ought, when I noticed that my initial design would not be an adequate solution, more thoroughly to have investigated the alternatives available.

The problem was, I wanted to bolt my shoe rack to the wall, since it is tippy and hard to avoid jostling against. However there is an obstacle at floor level which prevents the rack from backing up hard against the wall. Initially I thought this obstacle was the saddle in the door to the left of the rack, and my plan was to cut a square out of the back of the left leg so that it would go around the saddle. But when I took the rack away from the wall, I noticed that there was also a baseboard, which started about where the saddle left off, on the right side of the rack. My immediate thought was, I'll just cut a similar square out of the back of the right leg; I took the rack downstairs and got ready to do it.

But I noticed when I was laying out the cuts, the baseboard is too high; it will butt up against the bottom rail of the rack and keep it from going flush with the wall. More quick thinking; I decided to cut a mortise out of the back of the rail, to fit the baseboard. This is where I think I goofed; if I had been thinking more clearly, I would have just taken the baseboard off the wall. As it was, I made the mortise -- it took only about an hour -- and it is testament to the solidity of my joinery that the rack was able to take all that force without racking or breaking. But it is not an ideal solution -- the rack is now permanently wed to its current location, among other hassles.

posted evening of June 8th, 2003: Respond
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Saturday, May third, 2003

Finishing up

Well I let the moment slip last weekend and did not finish the shoe rack... So I was all set to do it this morning. Brought the rack out to the driveway, with brushes, thinner, alcohol, everything I needed, except varnish -- the varnish I was confident was in a box in the garage, where I had packed it away when we moved. But when I looked there I was sorely disappointed.

I started the search; combed the garage, the basement, nothing -- did some other yard work, then went over the search again -- still nothing. I was getting kind of upset; Ellen offered to look and she had a little better luck, discovering a bottle of Behlen's master-gel; this was not what I had planned to use but it should work. So I started trying to open it and discovered it was welded fast by old dried finish. After a lot of fretting, I hit on drilling it open; over to the drill press and I took a nice ½" circle out of the lid. Great! But alas, I went to use it and found the entire contents of the bottle had dried solid. Not actually too surprising as it's been open for a year and a half or more. But I was back to square one.

The day went by, and eventually I found an opening to drive over to the hardware store and get new varnish. I went to Main Street Hardware in West Orange, a place I've had my eye on for a couple of weeks, and was glad I did -- it is all I want a hardware store to be. Home Depot will play less of a role in my life now. Got some Minwax Spar Urethane and after dinner I put it on the rack! Tomorrow morning I will do a second coat and that will be the end of that project.

And meantime, this morning I started to draw up plans for my next project, a breakfast nook. More on that later...

posted evening of May third, 2003: Respond
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Monday, April 28th, 2003

House work

I put up a hook for the garden hose in our front yard today, and Sylvia helped out, assiduously. [? I wasn't sure what that meant but it somehow suggested itself as the appropriate adverb. Looked it up just now in the dictionary and whaddya know, it fits pretty well. I'll let it stand.] Her description of the activity was, "We're doing shoe rack!"

It is up and looks good, though I made a bit of a mistake in the positioning of it. It has two screw holes that are on a vertical axis, and two more that are on a horizontal axis collinear with the lower of the first two; when I was positioning it I was only looking at the lower three holes, didn't realize there was another one, and I put it in a place where that top hole is not near any wood. Oh well -- the three screws should do a fine job of holding it up.

posted evening of April 28th, 2003: Respond
➳ More posts about Carpentry

Sunday, April 27th, 2003

Success!

Well my last glue-up involving mortise and tenon joints (Coleman's desk) was an ignominious affair to say the best of it -- suffice to say it involved a lot of rage on my part, enough to frighten Ellen and Sylvia, and all to no avail (so to speak) -- the glue up was not successful and resulted in some yucky joinery. To contrast with today's endeavor, which came off mostly without a hitch -- and looks fine, better indeed than I had expected: this time I did repeated dry runs and corrected problems, last time not so much; and last time I was expecting my joinery to look "professional", this time my expectations were a good deal lower.

In short, I have gotten better at joinery, and have developed a more realistic assessment of my abilities. Nice combination!

At 7 this morning I asked Ellen for 2 hours to work on the shoe rack, she said ok, see you at 9; and I went downstairs. First thing I noticed was oh shoot, I haven't joined the back of the case like I had been meaning to -- this may take a bit more than 2 hours -- and I started in on that (pretty simple) joinery. This basically meant marking and drilling 8 holes, and smooth planing 2 boards.

While I was working on this, Ellen and Sylvia came down, Ellen to do some ironing and Sylvia to watch everything that was going on. "What you doing, da-da?" So I took a little time out to tell her about the project, and she watched me drilling holes for a little while. And watched me knock apart the dry fitted rack. It was during this knock-down that I made my last adjustment, filing a bit off the side of a too-tight tenon. During this process I arranged all the pieces in the correct orientation, so I would not have to turn them around too much while gluing. Then I set up my gluing area -- pot full of Elmer's white PVA glue, and a wet flux brush; and went to work!

And voila, everything flowed very smoothly. I was a bit nervous about the fact that I had not done a dry fit of the rear joinery -- but it was not a problem. Everything hammered together quite cleanly. I at first was not going to clamp it because the friction of the joints was enough to hold everything in place; but then I realized some strategically placed clamps would get rid of some gaps between tenon shoulder and stile. So I did that; I swept up the shop; and I came upstairs and looked at the clock. 9:00!

Well this project has taken me approximately 3 times as long as any previous one. I think in the end, the time was put to pretty good use -- I have learned a lot and I think gotten more patient as well. Next things on my list of stuff are a banquette for our kitchen; a sandbox for Sylvia; and some fixtures for my shop.

posted morning of April 27th, 2003: Respond

Friday, April 25th, 2003

On my way home pretty soon. I'm buying some glue and brushes on the way to the train, to be used this weekend in gluing together and finishing the shoe rack which has been my major preoccupation for about 6 months now!

posted evening of April 25th, 2003: Respond

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