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.

More on Resin Casting

I got very impatient to see how the green blob over there on the left would turn out so I set aside the cake plate project for the time being to work on this new one. It didn’t look all that promising when I started out, and I had some issues with the thing as I started to work with it. But finally I ended up with something with a relatively pleasing shape and look to it, fitted the lamp into the thing, and the end result is below.

I still need to make a top for it. Rather than go for a high polish I left the translucent parts a mat finish. I think it looks better that way.

And it has some problems. If you look at the middle photo you’ll see some cracks in the top wooden ring. I don’t know if those were in the wood to begin with and I didn’t notice them, or if they developed as I worked on the piece.

All things considered, it’s not too bad for my third attempt at this. I’ve made quite a few mistakes but at least I’ve ended up with three projects that weren’t too bad for a beginning. And I’ve learned a lot.

I really need to do more experimenting with color mixing. I’m not at all satisfied with how some of the colors turn out.

Unpotting the – the ‘thing’

It’s been sitting in the pressure tank for about 48 hours now, so let’s open that sucker up and see what we got…

Eeewww… Well, that’s not too encouraging looking

Yeah, not sure about that color. Not at all

He’s going to make this into a lamp? Seriously? He must be nuts.

Demolding requires large rubber hammers. Did you know that? Well, I require them. Great fun beating on large hunks of plastic with hammers. And now that I got it in decent light, that color doesn’t look too bad. Let’s get it out of the mold

Ooo, I kinda like that. All shimmery and stuff. It still needs to sit another 24 hours before it can go on the lathe. It’s still tacky to the touch.

Meanwhile I got this going…

This is going to be the top plate for a pedestal cake stand. I hope. Maybe. This puppy is literally nearly touching the bed of the lathe. About 12″ across. Damn, this better work. I’m not even going to tell you how much that hunk of wood cost me. If all goes well, this is going to be a Christmas gift for MrsGF. Or it will fit nicely into the neighbor’s firepit if it goes bad.

Snow, Finishes and New Tool and Stuff

So we got winter now? So it seems. This is what it looks like outside this morning. Sheesh – it’s way too early for this, but, well, this is Wisconsin so we never know what we’re going to see out there when we get up in the morning.

Wood Finishes – I’ve become disillusioned with the finish I used to like, which was a mixture of beeswax, tung and cedar oil. It put a beautiful finish on the pieces, but unfortunately it didn’t stay nice. After several weeks the finish started to get dull looking, even rather nasty. I was really disappointed with that because I liked the satin finish it left.

So I’ve been using a different technique. I make my own shellac and I use that as a base coat on the wood, scuff it with 0000 steel wool to smooth things down, then put down a coat of hard carnauba wax and buff it out at high speed. It’s a bit more work because I have to sand down the wood to a higher grit than I normally would. I used to sand up to a 340 grit, but for this to work I have to go up to 600 grit because the high polish will show even tiny defects. But so far the results have been pretty nice.

This one was originally done with the beeswax blend. I had to sand it back to bare wood and refinish it because it was looking so bad.

Early results are encouraging. And there are no nasty chemicals in any of this. The shellac is just shellac flakes dissolved in alcohol, and the wax is pure carnauba. So far it seems to be working pretty well. But time will tell. The beeswax finish I used looked good at first too.

I finally broke down and bought a band saw. I’ve wanted one for a long time but always talked myself out of it, claiming I could get along with a table saw and miter saw. But I’m working with a lot of 3-4 inch thick wood now and I just can’t cut that stuff without one. The one I really wanted cost over $2,000 and wouldn’t fit into my workshop. And I’m sure MrsGF would give me that look if I showed up with a $2K bandsaw some afternoon. (You really don’t want her to give you that look. Seriously. It’s scary.)

It’s a Rikon and it doesn’t seem bad at all. It was easy to put together and get set up, it runs smooth and seems to be pretty well made and reasonably sturdy. It will cut up to 5″ thick stock. I’d have liked to have a larger capacity than that, but wow, do prices go up fast in the larger size saws. A saw with just one inch greater capacity, 6″ instead of 5″, would be twice or even three times the cost of this one, and I can’t justify that. This one was under $500 and it seems to be pretty good quality for that price. But time will tell.

Rikon has a fairly good reputation, so it will be interesting to see how this saw works out. The only other Rikon tool I have is my low speed grinder that I use for sharpening my lathe tools.