Monday, March 24, 2008

An Ad Hoc Hock Addition

A while back, I picked up an older Stanley #6C fore plane off of eBay for a good price ($25 or so). I got it cheap because it wasn't complete - the chip breaker went missing at some point in its life. The chip breaker is a necessary piece in the "whole plane pie", providing for the functions of keeping shavings clear of the mouth (to some extent) and reducing blade chatter. But its absence doesn't mark the end of the world for this plane.

Once I received the plane in the mail, I gave it a thorough check-up to make sure everything else was in order. The knob and tote were tight, rosewood, and chip- and crack-free; the sole was flat (enough); the frog adjustment in good working order; the body casting was solid. It does have some minor issues with the japanning, but I wasn't looking to restore the plane to its former glory; I just wanted something I could use in the shop.

I began searching for a replacement chip breaker. I found a few people on-line who dealt in replacement Stanley plane parts, but in every case, the price of the replacement chip breaker was as much as or more than what I'd actually paid for the plane! That caused some hesitation, if you can imagine; enough hesitation, in fact, that I put the plane aside, incomplete, and forgot about it for a while.

A few weeks ago, on my way home from work, I found myself thinking about my workshop and the steps I needed to take to move forward with its renovation. That got me to thinking about my current space and what a mess it is. In my mind's eye, the "table" the previous owner called a workbench came into clear view and I scanned its contents.

Guess what jumped out as I took a mental inventory of the bottom shelf on that bench - that's right, the old #6 I'd picked up a year ago and never got around to fixing up. Right then and there, I made a decision (that's the "ad hoc" part of the story, in case you're wondering). I added a 30-minute commute to my drive home and pointed the front of my truck towards Woodcraft to pick up a Ron Hock replacement chip breaker.

"What the heck," I says to myself, "I'll get a Hock blade for it, as well."

The Hock blade is going to add some nice performance points to the plane and, as I already stated, I'm not looking to restore it - I just want to make it useful.

As is the case when one thinks about a tool purchase for the 15-minute drive to the store, I was pretty excited by the time I pulled into the Woodcraft parking lot. Alas, instant gratification was denied; they were out of the size I needed for my #6, so I had to make due with ordering it, instead. The good news is the manager said he would give me the 15% sale price discount from the previous weekend if I paid for it that day. Of course I did.

And then I headed home and waited. And waited. And sure enough, after a week or so, I forgot about it. But really, that isn't the worst thing in the world - because when it showed up in the mail last week, it was a complete surprise - like a present!

Now I have a plane with all its parts, but it will still take a bit of work before I have it in good working order. At least with this purchase I can see the light!

With two or three other planes waiting for a bit of TLC, I’ve decided to set up a play date with my friend, Alex (that’s what his wife calls it when we get together for anything related to woodworking), to do some hand plane fettling. He has a few that need some work, as well, so we'll get together in my garage some warm spring weekend and make a day of cleaning them up.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Different Kind of Payday...

Payday is such a wonderful day, isn't it? It is the day you see the fruits of your labors, the day you get your just reward for a job well done. My paydays today don't have quite the same feel as they did ten years ago. They definitely don't have the same ring they had twenty-five years ago!

It could have something to do with HOW I get my paycheck.

When I was a kid, earning an allowance, I got paid in cold hard cash! It had volume and weight and a wonderful texture to it. I could put it in a piggy bank or hide it in a safe place from my brothers or go into town with my mom on a Saturday and deposit it into my Passbook Savings Account (remember when they used to write the balance in by hand?).

(I grew up on a farm, so I definitely earned that allowance. We had a whole list of chores that had to be done every day, from feeding animals to chopping holes in the ice in the winter so the horses had water, usually before we caught the bus for school.)

College was a good transition period. One of my employers (furniture delivery) paid me with an actual stubbed paycheck. My second employer (liquor store) paid me with a regular check from his business account. My third employer (restaurant) paid me in cash. I got a good blend of all payment methods in preparation for the really real world (where hopefully I wouldn't have to work three jobs!).

With my first job after college, I got an actual check with a stub attached to it. It was a bit of a pain because I had to take the check to the bank and deposit it before it was of any use to me, but it was a tangible object that I could hold in my hands and fold up nicely and stick in my wallet! Nothing quite beat the anticipation of waiting for the payroll staff to walk around the office, handing out envelopes with paychecks in them!

Nowadays, I don't even get a simple e-mail notification of a deposit. It just magically shows up in my checking account. Eh, another payday came and went; no big deal. You might think I'd get some sort of a rush digitally diverting a portion of it to my Roth IRA account, but that isn't the case. On the other hand, I've found it is easier to keep to a budget if I don't see the money because then I don't spend it!

It might not totally be related to how I get paid, though. Maybe it has more to do with how I use the money I make. Maybe it is because most of today's paycheck goes towards things like paying the mortgage, fixing the leaking roof, replacing the garage door opener and buying a new water heater. There isn't as much "fun" money as there used to be. Or maybe my fun money just doesn't go as far as it used to?

Speaking of "fun" money. Some of the best memories I have as a kid were when I had to forego instant gratification and actually save my money for something big (usually related to Star Wars)! I remember taking half of my weekly allowance and setting it aside but keeping the other half handy (just in case). It was difficult, I'll be the first to say, but man that was such a great feeling when I knew I had enough saved up! Think about it; you're taking the emotions involved with accomplishment and dedication and wrapping them up with the feeling of spending your hard-earned money! Can't get much better than that!

Yesterday, I got to feel those emotions all over again! After almost two years of saving (all non-budgeted money from things like selling projects to listing things on eBay to doing some part-time editing work), I finally had enough money set aside to purchase something I've been wanting for a while now.

At age eight, it was Star Wars figures.

At age 34, it is Festool.

That's right. I've jumped into the Festool Pool. Well, I didn't really "jump in"; I just bought a Rotex sander (RO125) and the CT22 Dust Extractor. So it was more like walking down the pool steps rather quickly. Jumping in would have involved a Domino, at the very least, and possibly a pre-order on the new MFK 700 modular router.

(By the way, I've got to give great props to Timmy C. from Festool Junkies. He got my order shipped out the same day and his customer service skills are top notch!)

With some trepidation, I sent an e-mail to my wife, letting her know I'd placed my order. Her response?

"WOW!!! That is exciting. I hope they are everything you wanted/need. I love you for following your dreams of woodworking."

Talk about a payday! Isn't she the best? I don't imagine every guy has a wife like that.

But... doesn't she realize she's encouraging me to buy more Festool?

Monday, March 17, 2008

A find of not-so-epic proportions...

This past weekend, my wife and I visited my great Aunt Edy over in Illinois. She it truly an amazing woman; she doesn't know the meaning of the word "rest". She normally walks about five miles a day; pretty remarkable for someone in her late 70's. And if she knows she won't be able to walk her required five miles on a particular day, she'll make up for it on the day before!

She was concerned our visit would interfere with her routine, so before we showed up (at an early 8:30 a.m. on the dot, thank you very much), she'd already walked three miles, figuring she could get the other two in after we left.

At some point in time, I'll have to devote a whole entry (or two or three) to Great Aunt Edy...

The purpose of our trip, in addition to the visit, was to make our first (hopefully of many) sojourn to the Belleville Flea Market at the Belle Claire Expo Center. We'd heard a lot of good things about it, and from the way Aunt Edy talked to some of the dealers, she's been there many times before.

It wasn't really how I expected it to be - I guess my expectations of flea markets are disproportionately high... in any case, we had a lot of fun. My wife recently started getting into collecting cut glass and she had a great teacher in Aunt Edy (who has a china cabinet full of it!). She taught us what to look for and the easiest way to check for cracks and when a few minor chips doesn't reduce the value very much at all (when the piece is signed).

I enjoyed the discourse, but was slightly more interested in other wares - hand tools! To be honest with you, I thought the pickings were quite slim, as far as flea markets go. I did find a fairly nice Stanley #5 in good user condition. I chuckled as I disassembled the plane, checking the various parts out for defects - the blade was set bevel-side up!

When I assembled it again, I put it together properly; my OCD would not have it any other way. The handles were crisp and tight and the Victory blade had a lot of life left in it. It wasn't priced terribly high, at $27, and I was sure I could talk him down some, but I thought back to the pre-WWI #5 I have sitting at home, waiting for me to restore it, and I decided to pass. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have. I could have fixed it up and given it to my best friend or one of my woodworking friends... I probably won't pass up the next one I find like that.

I did not, however, pass on a nice little piece I thought I'd share with you. It was in the $1 box, so I didn't feel right trying to talk them down any. It is a hand tool, but not the usual kind one keeps an eye out for, I suppose. Here's a picture of it in the untouched state...

Not much to look at, is it? Give me a few minutes with some mineral spirits and a green scotchbrite pad, though, and see what you think after that.

Take a closer look at the handle. That isn't plastic, my dear big-box-shopping-friends! Looks like rosewood to me. And now check out the metal in this close-up.

The blade, the ferrule and the tang are all one piece of metal, riveted to the rosewood handle with brass pins. In this picture, you can also see a small band of sapwood on the end of the handle. It actually has a maker's mark on it, too! It says, " G. L. & CO. CHICAGO" on one side of the blade. Google didn't come up with anything on it, yet, but I'll keep an eye out.

The blade is really thick and hefty; I wonder if I might be able to file a nice clean flat edge on it and sharpen it up like a scraper. I could use it to clean up the insides of boxes or tight corners, maybe? It feels like it could really hold a hook, though.

I'll have to post something about it if and when I give it a try!

Aunt Edy kept apologizing to me; she felt badly that I didn't find anything other than an ordinary paint scraper! I don't know... a rosewood handled paint scraper with an integral tang? It might not be the find of the Century, but in our world of plastic and poor quality, I'd call that anything but ordinary...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Famous Last Words

What do the following things have in common?
- Hanging curtains in the living room and bedroom
- Caulking the baseboard and trim
- Cleaning out the garage
- Replacing the handrail on the stairway
- Assembling my contractor-style tablesaw
- Putting away the Christmas decorations
- Installing the bedroom ceiling fan

In each and every case, just as soon as I finished up the project, I turned to my wife and said, "Huh... that didn't take as long as I thought it would!"

And every time I say it, her response is something like, "You say that every time!"

I know I do! I can't stop myself! I've even realized I'm thinking it as I'm finishing up and I'll make a conscious effort to NOT say that line.

But it never fails. The last few times I've even made the dramatic gesture of slapping my hand over my mouth right as I finished the last word.

(I wouldn't recommend doing that, by the way. It just makes you look even more foolish.)

Unfortunately, that statement also opens me up for the "Why didn't you do it sooner, then?" conversation. I HATE that one - mostly because it highlights my amazing ability of procrastination. I can hit a deadline for someone else with no problem, but when it's a personal project, I can put it off like none other!

Well, that is excepting my mom and her taxes. From January through April, my mom is notoriously unavailable for any extraneous activities because she is busy "doing bookkeeping," whatever that means. I've come to the conclusion it mostly just means getting prepared to file her extension.

I'm happy to say that is one thing I am ALWAYS on top of every year. I like to have it completely done by the first of March. We're a little behind this year; we didn't get our Federal refund until just this past Monday. (Yeah, that's a gloat...)

I will relish these next five weeks. Every time I talk to my mom on the phone, I'll be sure to toss in an off-handed comment about how much easier life is when you aren't worrying about deadlines or what we're going to update in the house now that we have a little bit of expendable (spendable?) money.

I still hate walking down the stairs. It is a constant reminder I haven't replaced the cap board yet.

What really bugs me, though, is once I finally do get it done I know I'll say, "Huh... that didn't take as long as I thought it would!"

Monday, March 10, 2008

Deadlines (or lack thereof)

When I agree to a commissioned work, I give the customer hard date deadlines - it's the only way to keep myself on track and not let the project get pushed off.

I use a similar technique for my seasonal part-time proofreading/editing job with American City Business Journals. I tell my boss to give me definite, hard deadlines for editing jobs; otherwise, something more compelling will always come up.

Unfortunately, when I'm dealing with personal projects I don't do that same thing. So every time I walk down the stairs, I get a pang of guilt as I rest my hand on the 58" x 7 7/8" x 3/4" pine board (oh, I know it well...) capping a half wall that I need to replace with a mahogany board to match the hand rail I replaced last year. (Seriously, Ethan, it's just a board! It's not like painting trim! Fix it already!) I'd be less ashamed of myself if I didn't already have the replacement board in the basement.

Whenever I walk into our hearth room, the wimpy (again, pine) mantle on my prominent fireplace reminds me I promised my wife I'd replace it with something more fitting to the house and the room. And then I think about the mantle clock I said I'd make so she wouldn't have to continue her fruitless search for one in the nearby antique stores.

As I cast my eyes downward in shame, they rest upon the transition between floor and wall and I'm reminded of the yards and yards of trim I still need to paint...

Usually about that time, I feel compelled to run outside and stare at something a little less overwhelming, like the mess in the garage. But even then, my thoughts eventually turn to cedar siding and brown caulking and carpenter bee holes and unsealed driveways.

My wife has found me curled up in a ball on the floor more than once. I think I have her convinced it is a modified child's pose...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Random Word: eight

I've decided when I don't have anything to write about that I'll pull up a random word generator and use that for the topic.

What do you know - it works!

When is eight not eight? When it's eight P.M. on the eve of Daylight Savings Time, that's when. At 8:00 P.M. on Saturday, March 8th, 2008, it might as well be 9:00 P.M. because I know I have to go to bed an hour earlier because I have to get up an hour earlier to get to church on time.

Come to think of it, I believe I might have actually lost two hours today. Well, two if you count the number of minutes I've wasted today worrying about making sure I get up earlier tomorrow morning, that is.

I hate the whole concept of Daylight Savings Time. I understand the reason behind it, and I can even see when it was necessary... fifty years ago. But what's the point of it today? Like I don't have enough going on in my life - I need to worry about getting up an hour earlier on some seemingly random Sunday in the spring. (I know there is a method of determining what Sunday it will be - it still seems random, though... might as well be.)

Do they have Daylight Savings Time in Australia? If so, is it the opposite of ours? Are there Australians right now blogging about how they love gaining an extra hour? If so, I hate them.

Focus, Daniel-san!

(Please pardon these first few entries as I get my feet wet...)

I dreaded writing as a kid. Our sixth grade teacher made us keep journals for most of that year. I remember being graded on it, even! How can you grade someone on personal writings? She would give us a half hour or so every day. She would say, "Ok, class, time for some journal writing. Pull out your notebooks and write for the next 20 minutes."

I would sit there for 15 minutes, unable to think of something to write about, and finally end up with a few short paragraphs, usually about how much I hated writing in my journal.

I don't think I hated writing. I just hated writing without direction.

I certainly love it, now. I wonder if I would have picked up on writing earlier than college if she'd simply given us a topic to write about for each journal entry. It didn't have to be anything fancy - just a word; a starting point, really.

I'm still that way. If I were to sit here, in front of a blank screen, and try to write something funny or witty or intellectual, it just wouldn't happen. Not because I'm boring, dull, or stupid, but just because you can't force those things. So in order for this blog to work out, I'm going to need to figure out my shtick; I need to find my focus.

Eh... I guess I'll have to ponder that a little.

Aside from the focus, I do need to have a few guidelines. My first one is to keep my entries short. I have an unbelievable way of writing five page e-mails, full of useless, but completely accurate, crap.

If all this blog does is help me to write more focused and precisely, then I suppose it will have served a good purpose... at least my co-workers would think so.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What's in a name?

It's odd, really. Having been a professional writer for seven years you would think I'd have started a blog long before now.

Ah, well. Better late than never, right?

I'm sure you're wondering where "Grey Stone Green" comes from, right? That term first came up quite some time ago... probably my junior year in high school. A friend of mine, Chris, and I were talking one time, about life and such, and how sometimes it can be so hectic you feel like you're missing things.

We stumbled upon the phrase during that conversation; it was almost like a question and an answer all in one. What does the constantly moving stone look like? Grey. What happens when the constantly moving stone stops moving? It starts getting moss growing on it. Green.

After we came up with the phrase, we spent some time wondering how we'd be able to use it in the future. I think the best we came up with at the time was a great name for a band, but nothing really ever happened. After high school, we went our own ways, as many friends do, and though I've had that phrase pop up in my head several times since then, I've never really talked about it since.

This evening, I found myself creating a blog and I had to come up with a name for it. The very first thing that came to my mind was Grey Stone Green... it seems quite appropriate for a blog title, doesn't it?

It will be interesting to see what comes of this. I'm hoping I can write a bit about some of the key focuses of my life, like my marriage and woodworking and wearing kilts.

At the very least, you shouldn't have to worry about trying to read difficult ramblings. I tend to write clear, concise thoughts and I tend to use proper grammar and punctuation.

Ok, maybe I'll ramble a little every now and again. But it will still be clear. ;)