Catching Up: Spring, Blanket Chest and Stuff

It’s actually starting to look like spring out there now. Sort of. I’ve been seeing robins and finches of late, one late afternoon I even heard frogs singing. And most important of all, the days are getting longer now. I don’t mind winter, but it does get a bit tedious. It still isn’t all that pleasant out, but things are stirring out in the flower beds and signs of spring are beginning to pop up.

This is an amazing time of year. The weather is still chilly and they’re even talking snow by the end of the week, but that will pass and soon we’ll be about to get outside without bundling up. I even spotted a little flower trying to peek out of the mulch the other day!

I mentioned a while back that we had to take down the pear tree after a large part of the canopy collapsed. That was sort of a blessing in disguise because that’s opened up a large area where we can now put in plants that require full sun. We now have a lot of options open to us for that area. MrsGF wants to put in two raised beds there now, so this week I need to get some lumber to build those.

I even had the bicycle out the last few days. A bit cold for me, but pleasant enough out that I could put a few miles on without freezing my bits off. Well, I had to get the dopy thing fixed first. I pulled it out of the garage, checked it over, checked the tire pressures, gears, oiled the chain, and everything seemed fine and dandy, and I got maybe a half mile before spokes started to pop on the back wheel. Again. This is the third time that’s happened now. I keep telling them at the shop that they need to just replace the darned wheel, but no, they said, it’s just the spokes. Well, after the third time, now they’re starting to believe me and if it happens again they’ll replace the wheel. So we’ll see.

Anyway the bike is back on the road again and I’ve finally been able to get out after a long winter hiatus. And wow, am I out of shape!

And then there’s this, the chest:

This was one of those projects that took me way too long. I started this chest ages ago and for whatever reason got distracted or lost interest and it got set aside and forgotten about until MrsGF got on my case about it. This was a gift for some friends of ours on their wedding anniversary and it went out to its new owners, finally, about a week ago. It turned out pretty good. It’s white oak trimmed with walnut edging and the vertical inlaid stripes on the front are purpleheart, with hand made wrought iron handles attached with brass bolts that I picked up somewhere. I’m rather pleased by how it turned out.

I’ve done several of these now with varying types of trim and inlay and they’ve all turned out well, but to be honest I’m not all that fond of making chests. They are, oh, fiddly, I suppose you could call it. I can’t get boards wide enough to make the panels so those have to be glued up from smaller boards. I don’t have a power planer big enough to take the panels so after glueing them up they have to be smoothed down by hand with a hand plane. Then there’s the inlay, the trim pieces… Looking at one I’ve completed is very satisfying, but the process of making one is tedious.

Other stuff…

MrsGF and I both have had our 2nd vaccination now. I’ve already warned the kids that as soon as the waiting period is over we’re going to hunt them down and hug them.

MrsGF had a mild reaction to the 2nd shot. The next day she felt generally out of sorts and achy, but that passed pretty quickly.

My reaction to the 2nd shot? Well, I had more important things on my mind the next day because I was sedated and curled up on a table in a hospital with somebody sticking a scope up my butt getting a colonoscopy. I’d had a Cologuard test come back positive so they were up there rummaging around. Fortunately the biopsies came back negative. But they did the colonoscopy on Thursday and they didn’t get the results back until Tuesday. Nothing ruins a weekend like waiting around to find out if you have cancer or not.

Anesthesia was – interesting. They couldn’t believe at the hospital when they found out I’d never had any kind of anesthesia before. They wheeled me into the room, put an IV in me and the anesthesiologist said “I’m going to start giving you the…” And the next thing I knew I was sitting in a sunny room, fully awake, fully alert. It was like someone threw a switch off and then on again. It was one of the weirdest things I’d ever experienced.

Things are going to get real busy real fast over the next few weeks I suspect. We have new windows going in next week, I need to guild the new raised beds for the yard, it’s almost time to get seeds started.

Oh, and I got a new chainsaw, a DeWalt battery operated one to supplement the ancient Poulan gas model I have. I wanted something that was going to be quiet, easy to operate, and it didn’t have to be big because what it’s mostly going to be used for is cutting wood up into more manageable sizes to fit on the lathe. If I need to do any serious tree cutting or any of that I still have the Poulan to fall back on. Once I’ve had a chance to use the DeWalt I’ll let you know if it’s worth looking into or not.

And that’s about it…

And Now For Something Completely Different

Taking Procrastination To A Whole New Level?

I’m interested in a lot of different things, as you already know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. I’ve dabbled with amateur radio, electronics, farming, gardening, photography, astronomy, wood working, etc. I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am. I’m enormously curious about just about everything, especially if it’s something I can play with personally. And once upon a time I did needlework like crewel, needlepoint, etc.

Stuff like this:

This dopey cat and kittens needlework project took 41 years to complete. Seriously. Let me explain.

It was 1980. MrsGF and I were just married, had moved into a tiny one bedroom apartment, and we were looking for things to do to wind down once we got home from work. Something that didn’t take up any space because we basically didn’t have any space in the cramped apartment we were living in. Oh, and something that didn’t cost any money because we had even less money than space.

So for some strange reason I started to fiddle around with needlework. That’s when this project started, 1980. And I rather enjoyed doing it. I got the cats more than half done and then stopped. Why? It got lost when we moved. We moved a lot the first couple of years we were married. The cats, all the yarn and thread, the hoops, needles, everything, got stuffed into a box and it was forgotten about.

Until late in 2020 when MrsGF found the thing in the attic when she was looking for something else. It was badly stained but MrsGF said why don’t you finish it anyway, and I said I just don’t have the time and told her she should just do it if she wants to. So she went to work trying to get the stains out, and did a darn good job of it. The thing was really dirty. And she finished up the needlework and we stuck it in a frame. I did maybe 60% of it or so before we lost it back in 1980, and she did all the rest, and now it’s hanging on the wall, our 41 year long project.

Sometimes Things Just Go Wrong

I’ve made a lot of mistakes learning how to do this, but sometimes the wood itself is just – just weird and things go wrong no matter what I do, and that’s what happened here. There was no sign of cracking or anything at all odd about this block of wood when I started turning it, but for some reason it ended up with cracks all over. It was reasonably dry, well under 15% moisture. The wood itself seemed reasonably stable, with nice grain. But by the time I got it turned into a rough shape it started cracking. I took it off the lathe and let it sit for a few days and this is what it looks like now.

I seem to collect wood like some people collect baseball cards.

I suppose I could try to salvage something from this piece. I could seal up the cracks with CA or cast it in resin but, well, why? It would still look like a badly cracked bit of wood. This one will get chucked into the burn pile, I think. Won’t be the first time I’ve had to do that. And it isn’t like I have a wood shortage around here. I have dozens of blanks of various sizes and species sitting on the shelf in varying stages of drying, quite a few probably ready to turn.

I don’t just do wood turning, of course. I do everything from rough framing to furniture.

This a blanket chest and it is on the agenda for tomorrow. It was kicking around the shop for ages and finally MrsGF put her foot down and told me to just finish the dopy thing, so I got the lid done and a few other things finished up and now it needs finish sanding and some of the glue joints to be cleaned up and I need to get some handles for it and this will be ready to go out the door. It looks rather pale now but once the finish is on the inlay will really pop and the black walnut edges will really show.

Moon Rant

Every once in a while something irritates me so badly I have to vent. So here goes. A week or so ago VP Pence and NASA announced the names of astronauts who will be part of the team which will land on the moon in 2024.

Oh, dear…

NASA and the White House are still claiming they’re going to return people to the moon in 2024, even though everyone, including most of the people at NASA, know that the chances of that actually happening in 2024 are pretty close to zero.

The breathtakingly, mind numbingly expensive SLS launch system (the last cost estimate I heard was that an SLS launch will cost $2 billion. Billion. Per launch.)that’s supposed to be used for this hasn’t even been fully tested yet. They might, might have a test launch of the SLS “sometime” in 2021, perhaps November. I should point out that it is already more than 3 years behind schedule. It was supposed to fly in 2017. And now it looks like it quite possibly won’t fly until well into 2022. And perhaps not even then.

The Orion space craft that’s supposed to carry people… It’s been under development for 15 years now. Fifteen years. And it has flown into space once and preliminary testing is still turning up significant problems, especially with the software and electronic systems. The latest on that is that an electronic component failed in the PDU, and it could take up to a full year just to replace that single component.

And then there is Gateway. This is a bare bones orbital platform in orbit around the Moon. Eventually astronauts will not go directly to the moon, but instead dock at Gateway, which is going to be a sort of mini space station. From Gateway they will use a lunar lander to make the actual descent to the surface of the moon. The first flight to the moon apparently won’t require Gateway, which is good because Gateway, like large parts of this entire system, doesn’t actually exist.

The first flight or two will be stand alone missions, not requiring Gateway. They’ll descend in a lunar lander they’ll bring with them…

Oh, wait a minute, and they don’t actually have a lunar lander, either, do they?. Three different companies are working to develop three entirely different landers. And none of them actually have built an actual lander. Well, okay, they have a mock up of one, which is something. I guess.

So here we are just a few days away from 2021. NASA and the White House claim that we’re going to land people on the Moon before the end of 2024. Using a launch system that is already years behind schedule, 60% over budget, and hasn’t even test flown yet, with human beings in a spacecraft that hasn’t been successfully tested yet, using a lunar lander that doesn’t exist yet. And the first test flight isn’t scheduled until late 2021 and, more probably mid 2022. And which will cost $2 billion per launch.

And they’re going to do all of this before the end of 2024.

Now if they pull this off, I will be thrilled. I skipped school several times to watch the original moon landings. I’m a SF fan. I’m an amateur astronomer. I love anything to do with space exploration. But please excuse me for being just a wee bit skeptical here.

Sunrise, Christmas Cactus, Cake Plate Project and WTF is he trying now?

The christmas cactus is now in full bloom and looking spectacular! I don’t know how MrsGF does it, but this cactus of hers puts on these amazing shows of color at least twice a year. But she also brings in an outdoor rose bush and somehow keeps it blossoming most of the winter as well, and I don’t know how she does that, either.

I haven’t had to get up early in the morning for a long time but I still have this silly habit of waking up ridiculously early in the morning, usually just before sunrise. It’s worth it, though. The sunrise this morning was absolutely beautiful. Seeing the silhouette of the trees against those pinks and oranges and reds was a gentle reminder of just how beautiful this world can be if you take the time to just sit back and see what’s around you.

I’ve been puttering along with the cake plate project and I finally finished the top platter the other day. The final shaping is done and I spent way, way too long sanding and smoothing it down, then sealing it and putting several coats of wax on it. Even the bottom of it looks pretty good.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, there are holes in that wood, worm/insect holes. This is “ambrosia” maple. These striking colors and patterns are caused by a fungus carried by the ambrosia beetle. It’s beautiful stuff but you have to deal with the holes left in the wood as well sometimes. I’ll be sealing those up with epoxy. It will eventually be perched on a short pedestal made of the same wood.

Even I question my mental stability sometimes.

So, I have lots and lots of wood shavings. I have a bunch of ‘free’ resin left. So, I thought, what happens if you shove a whole bunch of random wood shavings into a plastic tub and fill it with violet resin? That’s the question that absolutely, well, that absolutely no one has been asking. So, of course, I decided to try it because hey, why not?

So I stuffed a plastic tub full of random wood shavings from various turning projects, glued some wood discs on the top and bottom to hold everything in place, then got out the last of my ‘free’ resin and mixed it up, dumped in a bunch of “Shimmer Violet” iridescent coloring, and almost immediately regretted it because holy cow it’s weird looking.

It’s a good thing this Naked Fusion “Deep Pour” has a long pot life because took a long time to pour this, with lots of banging, tamping and poking around with sticks to try to get all the air out of that mess.

I suspect this is going to be a complete failure, but, what the heck. I don’t think I’ve ever written about the projects I’ve tried that have been utter failures. Fortunately I’ve had very few complete failures over the years. But this one looks like it’s going to be one where I’ll look back on it and say “what the hell was I even thinking?” Well, it’s in the pressure tank right now so I’ll see in about two days. If you don’t see anything here about it in the near future it’s because it was so ugly I couldn’t figure out what the heck to do with it.