Making Tools

December 30th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

I make things for a living. Once I had mastered the basics of my craft, I came to realize that that there was much to learn beyond just knowing how to make something. In order to gain a deeper appreciation for my craft, I realized how important it was to learn how to maintain and repair my tools. Later, I also learned how to modify them to fit my specific needs. All this gave me a sense of freedom and control over my craft, and a lot of satisfaction. Eventually, I also realized that I wanted to learn how to make tools, or, specifically, to design and make a tool which would help to solve a problem and which might make my job easier.

So, in my quest to learn more and more, I took a workshop last summer which turned out to be a most satisfying experience. I learned to make and sharpen my own knives from scratch.

Actually they were not knives as you imagine, but the kind of knives used in bookbinding to pare leather and do other tasks. And not only did I make the bookbinding knives, but I also designed and made a jewelry making tool, which I had been thinking about for years. I needed a tool to use to pull along a straight edge to incise a tiny ‘v’ shaped groove in the metal. This would make it much easier to bend the metal up into a right angle, say, for example, if you needed to make a box.

We started from scratch using hack saw blades, first removing all the paint and grinding off the teeth on a belt sander and or a grinding wheel. Then after roughing out the basic shape we wanted, we ground the bevel on the edge to a 22 degree angle. After that we took it down on varying grits of paper until it was shiny and sharp and you could shave the hair off your arm with the knife.

I made a small knife first, then I designed and made my long imagined tool. I also made a larger leather paring knife from an industrial hack saw blade.

After the knives were complete and sharpened we used horsebutt (a kind of leather) to make the handles and cases for our knives. And, because we were all 12, we said horsebutt every chance we got.

I loved learning this new skill, and I had an epiphany regarding knife sharpening. It’s all in the burr, go for the burr, and you will have the sharpest knife in the drawer!

And best of all all my knives worked great, including the one I designed and made. I learned that there is no satisfaction like making your own tools from scratch. And if I were younger and had my life to do over again, I’d go straight back to the beginning, the tool making. For the ultimate control of your environment, knowing how to make the tools is where the power lies.

So here are some pictures of the knives I made in my workshop, from the raw blades to the finished tools.

Some knife parts I’ve prepped to have on hand in case I want to make more. Also a hack saw blade prior to modification.

The little curved tool below is my fantasy tool. The others are the bookbinding knives.

Knives with cases closed.

The Spoils

December 29th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

After the week I’ve had dealing with the hellish job resulting from my insane desire to rearrange the studio, I’d like to think that I might be entitled to some reward offered up from the universe.

I am happy to say that that reward was forthcoming.

Yesterday, while browsing the thrift store, I found a pair of probably never used, or only used once, Uggs in exactly my size for the exhorbitant price of $4.00. Going for $160 at Macy’s, I noticed tonight.

I believe there may be a Santa after all.
Thrifty Uggs

The Job is Done!

December 28th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Finally finished cleaning up the mess today. Everything is in place on this side and it looks like it will be functional. This nice clean look should last about 20 minutes tomorrow, if that.
Studio Clean

The only trouble with cleaning up one side of the studio is that you end up needing to clean up the other side because everything you found that migrated to the wrong place gets dropped anywhere on any surface on the side where it actually belongs to be dealt with later. Guess I have the next job cut out for me.
Next Job

Sadly, sometimes I think I spend more time organizing and curating my stuff than I ever do making anything.


December 27th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

All is not lost, there is an end in sight. Today I made some progress in getting my studio back together and it doesn’t feel nearly as hopeless as it did yesterday.

Behold, today’s photo.



December 26th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

All the uncharacteristic relaxing over the past couple of days must have gone straight to my head. For when I returned to the studio today, I got a bug up my ass to rearrange my space.

I wanted to figure out a way to do some woodworking where I could use a flexible shaft to power sand and carve some boards, without getting wood dust all over my jewelry bench and tools. So I figured by simply switching a cabinet and an extra jeweler’s bench I had, I’d be able to easily set up a separate area for the woodworking and other messy tasks.

Well, that’s how it worked out in my head, but reality is never that simple. It required removing all sorts of stuff from drawers and shelves to make things light enough to move around. And then I realized I’d have to reorder just about everything for efficiency. The final straw was that my perception of size failed me completely, and the pieces that needed to be moved turned out to be larger than they actually appeared based on my eyeballing the situation. Measure first, you say? Me? Uh, uh.

We carried on anyhow and finally had to face the fact that I needed to get rid of a desk entirely in order to fit everything into place. Of course, that desk was filled with stuff I needed, and I had to find a way of redistributing all that stuff to fit it in somewhere else within the designated space.

I wandered from one area to another, and from one piece of furniture to another, trying to figure out where to start to make some headway so I could proceed with the rearranging. But, by then the task had become so complex and overwhelming that I had a complete meltdown, right down to the point of collapsing in a chair and sobbing that it was all just too much and I couldn’t deal with all this crap anymore and that I’d just have to just throw it all out. That may sound stupid and childish but I was truly devastated and totally at a loss as to how I could possibly ever get things back in order.

To his credit, C. came to my rescue and instead of getting mad at me, he helped me look at the space in a different way and helped me see where to begin, and started moving things around for me. Once he got started, I could see that a solution might be possible, if not immediately attainable. So I calmed down and started to move stuff. We actually got the desk free and moved it out into the alley, and by the time we left things started to look better, but the job is still overwhelming.

This shows just one view, from one angle. In this small picture it doesn’t look nearly as daunting as it does large as life. I am so not looking forward to going in tomorrow to face what awaits me.

Studio Mess

What I Did for Christmas

December 25th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Even I don’t believe what I did for Christmas this year. Let me recap.

Cleaned the kitchen and the back sun room.

Dry cleaned three loads of wool sweaters using Dryel.

Cleaned out the closet in the smaller bedroom.

Put away all my clothes which were piling up in the bedroom.

Oh, OK, I admit that only took up the first part of the day.

Later, for the good part of the day we went to dinner and then to a movie with friends.

We saw The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert DeNiro, with an all star cast including Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, and William Hurt among others. As imdb says it’s about “the tumultuous early history of the Central Intelligence Agency is viewed through the prism of one man’s life.”

It held me captive for three hours. It was a great movie, perhaps one of the best I have ever seen. DeNiro did a fantastic job directing, and the acting was first rate.

A good end to one of the most boring Christmas Days I have ever spent.

Just Another Day, But Restful

December 24th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Today is the first day in a long time that we actually didn’t do anything at all related to work. We started the day having coffee with the same friends we have coffee with every Sunday. After that, we planned to go to the gym and exercise, but when we got there we realized that we had left our gym clothes in the van. ( The power steering gave out in our van again on Friday and we are borrowing a car until Tuesday.) Yeah, we could’ve gone and picked them up but we basically decided we’d just be lazy. So, instead, we went to pet and feed my daughter’s cat since they are gone.

Then, on to the grocery store to pick up a couple more things so we could make chicken stock. Not as if we don’t already have a truckload of soup, since I made beef mushroom barley soup yesterday. And was that ever tasty. I hope I can remember what I did to it, so I can make it again. I think it was the leeks that made the difference.

The rest of the day, besides making the chicken soup, and in between snacking on the chocolate stash, we did a few things around here, nothing too strenuous. We continued our movie marathon by watching the Woody Allen movie, Scoop, which was not particularly good. Match Point was far better.

Since we had/have nothing planned for Christmas Eve, we didn’t want to get into feeling too sorry for ourselves so we made a nice, if basic, dinner of salmon with a wasabi sauce, sugar snap peas, and wild rice. Then we watched the new Superman movie. Or, rather, C. watched it. I was not that excited about it, so I only listened to it.

Tomorrow, we plan to do Jewish Christmas with friends, which means yet another movie,The Good Shepherd and Chinese Food. Finding a restaurant open on a Christmas which falls on a Monday was not easy. But we are going to Sun Wah, which is totally lacking in ambiance. But it has good food, and that’s what counts, right?

Not a very exciting day, but also not a terrible day because, the relaxing, we really need that.

Good bye Grinch

December 23rd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

I hear the reprise beginning now…The von Trapp family is climbing the last mountain out of Austria. They made it! Whew!

I resist watching the same movies over and over again because I always think it’s going to be boring. Especially for the millionth time. But, even though I may grumble initially, I can’t help getting engaged. I get interested in looking more closely at the scenes to appreciate a particular bit I like, or pick up missed details or catch errors. Of course I have to join in with every one else as they repeat the dialogue and, best of all, sing along.

Tonight, however, I was told I was not allowed to sing because I was a grouch about watching. But I managed to sneak in a few bars.

I think I am finally coming out of the grinch mode this year. Movies are the best drugs. Bring on It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th St.

Mug for the Camera

December 22nd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

OK. I’m going totally Gramma on you.

Usually, when I see this sort of item in the thrift stores or at garage sales I go ewww…. how tacky, who would want that? You probably would, too.

Well, I’m telling you who. Me. That’s who.

Behold the Christmas mug from my granddaughter. Awww….

Not A Lot Like Christmas

December 20th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

For me, the word Holidailies conjures up images of celebration or happy family fun, etc, so I feel I should be writing about those special moments, but I just haven’t been able to work up much holiday enthusiasm so far this year.

In previous years I’ve mentioned that we have to divide up the holiday festivities each year so all families involved get some little part of it fairly apportioned. That means that in some years some people don’t get to celebrate on the exact date of the events. Usually, in the off years we just celebrate on some day before or just after Christmas. We just call it Festivus and it works out just fine.

But, this year, one family is going out of town, and won’t be back until close to New Year’s. And due to odd job scheduling issues in another family, we couldn’t arrange to have anything this past weekend, so our actual holiday celebration will not take place until the week after New Year. And that seems like a long time away.

Because of the timing, I just couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm at all for dragging out the Christmas tree and lights and ornaments this year. Besides, neither of us in this household is really into religion at all. And the only little person who visits regularly here or who might ever care about Santa is way too young to notice any lack of holiday decor. In fact, there is nothing at all in this house which indicates that there is a holiday happening anywhere in the immediate vicinity.

Oh, I take that back. Although I am a total slouch in the greeting card department, I do still receive maybe three to six cards, so they’re decorating our mantelpiece. And, I also just remembered there is the poinsettia plant given to us by the landlord. I don’t know if this counts, but my Christmas cactus is blooming. Since I have never had one bloom in the entire time I have ever owned one, I have no idea what I did right. But I don’t think I can do much to stretch that little Christmas miracle to into a Holidailies post.

I also haven’t done any serious shopping yet, so I’ve had little exposure to the commercial Christmas pimp-age. And, I’ve not watched any of the standard Christmas movies. The two biggies here being Miracle on 34th St. and It’s a Wonderful Life. Nor have I been to any Christmas parties. So there has been little outside stimulus to get my holiday juices flowing.

Without all the accouterments of Christmas, I have to think a little more about what it is that I am supposed to feel/celebrate. Coming from a religious background, I know all the stories and carols and can get caught up in the nostalgia; and I understand the holiday’s significance for believers, but Christmas has absolutely no religious significance to me.

I can get behind the idea of Santa and into the fun of it all, and into the gifting; although the commercialism makes that aspect somewhat distasteful. Charitable giving excepted, of course.

When all the tinsel and glitter is stripped away, what’s left for me is simply the importance of family togetherness; and gratitude that my family actually enjoys being together. We really don’t need Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, or any other holiday specifically designated for that. And I will look forward to celebrating with my family in some special way on whatever day we can.

Where am I?

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