Friday, January 30, 2009

More Snow

Terry and I shoveled snow for two hours Thursday morning. We had a total of 3-4 inches (far less than they forecast) with a dense layer hear the top indicating that there was a period of freezing rain somewhere int he storm.

It wasn't deep enough to use the thrower except right in front of the garage so the shovel was the way to go. We've built a nice rim of snow/ice around the driveway. The highest pile of the white stuff is just in front of the front door at the base of a roof valley. That pile is nearly four feet high. Certainly less than the piles of snow we have around the Bolt Hole or Mark's cabin (there he has to throw the snow UP when he shovels off his roof) but still respectable. Since it's in the shade (at least it would be when/if the sun comes out), that snow will be around awhile.

Actually, the sun did make an appearance yesterday. It came up over the mountain while we were shoveling and stayed around for several hours before giving way to some thin cloud cover late in the afternoon. The temperatures even got up into the 20s which caused some of the ice/snow on the Tundra to melt.

Alas, the sun did not reappear this morning but the snow did. There's been a slow but steady snow fall since well before 7 AM. It's not supposed to amount to anything--just a half inch or so--but the psychological effect is most disturbing. THe areas of the driveway that were starting to show stone and earth after the shovel work and sunshine of yesterday are all white again. THe deck, which was not only cleared of ice and snow but actually dried by the sun, is white--again. The view from the Aerie which extended for ten miles or so as the crow flies all the way to the gap where Route 15 and the Tioga River pass through the mountain heading toward New York State has been reduced to the immediate 1/4 mile with the rest being nothing but a wall of white--again.

I am getting sick of white. And gray and black. Even the pine trees in the area--so green when the sun is out--appear black when the world is cloaked in clouds and snow.

And it is only January 30th. We won't even hear from Phil until Monday. If that over grown mole sees his shadow....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On PA winter weather

This arrived via email and I find it remarkably accurate:

It's winter in Pennsylvania
And the gentle breezes blow

Seventy miles an hour

At twenty-five below.

Oh, how I love Pennsylvania

When the snow's up to your butt

You take a breath of winter

And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful

So I guess I'll hang around

I could never leave the lovely State of Pennsylvania

I'm frozen to the friggin' ground!

Yeah, we got some snow and some ice and a little bit of everything but nowhere near what the folks at AccuHunch were initially forecasting. Perhaps there will be more snow this afternoon and evening but it seems to have stopped for now with only about 3-4 inches of accumulation. (Last night the forecast was 6-10 inches.) There seems to have been a little turn over to freezing rain or sleet during the night as I find a layer of packed snow when I shovel the deck to feed the birds.

I'm not sure yet if there's enough to use the snow thrower or if clearing the drive will be shovel work. There's a considerable drift of snow in front of the garage doors where it has blown off the roof, but whether there is enough to use the thrower on the rest of the driveway...TBD.

The maps indicate that we are in a calm area sandwiched between ice, snow and rain. Heavy bands of all three are situated to our southwest and are heading this way. The ice band is the thinnest of the three and the rain lies a wee bit further south. The snow, however is still stretched out through the Ohio valley back to the Mississippi River. Any attempt to remove the current crap precipitation will wait until tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Yeah, that'll work.

I see in today's news that President Obama is going to push to have the automakers produce more cars that American's will not buy. (Obama orders push to cleaner, more efficient cars)

Starting his second week in office, Obama took a major step toward allowing California and other states to target greenhouse gases through more stringent auto emission standards, and he ordered new federal rules directing automakers to start making more fuel-efficient cars as required by law.

The auto industry responded warily. Reducing planet-warming emissions is a great idea, carmakers and dealers said, but they expressed deep concern about costly regulations and conflicting state and federal rules at a time when people already are not buying cars. U.S. auto sales plunged 18 percent in 2008.

And industry analysts said the changes could cost consumers thousands of dollars — for smaller, "greener" cars.

Here's a better idea. Why doesn't the federal government step away from the drawing board and let the automakers produce vehicles that people want to purchase at a price the people can afford.

Or is this a deep rooted plan to keep people off the road? Might work in cities but rural American will cling stubbornly (and correctly) to their workhorses--the larger, four wheel drive SUVs and pickups.

Hey, I'm all for reducing the emissions and raising the MPG, but not at the hands of a government mandate. If I can get a vehicle that will haul and tote the materials I need to haul and tote, one that will have four wheel drive so I can safely and successfully maneuver over and up snow covered roads and hills, one that will have an MPG rating that will make a difference in my wallet, one that is not going to cost me an arm and a leg above the current level, then I'll consider buying it and the automakers may have found a winning formula.

Until then, it seems to me that the government is forcing the manufacturers to produce something that will cost more than I can afford and will, at best be marginally better in the MPG and emissions area while sacrificing the hauling, toting and safety issues. If they continue along this course, I'll be looking for a reliable used vehicle instead of one with all the mandated bells and whistles and they (government and manufacturers) can suck eggs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Deck birding at the Aerie.

The thermometer dropped as low as 1.9 degrees at 6:15 AM and crept "up" to just 14 degrees this afternoon. While the day started appropriately sunny, it has clouded up considerably which probably means the overnight temperature will not fall as far as it did last night.

With the low temperatures, we had a slew of birds at the feeders today and a few tree rats as well. It was easy to count the squirrels (a maximum of 7 at one time) but not so easy to tally the birds! At times the ground and the feeders loked like they were covered in a swarming mass of feathered critters. Dozens and dozens of Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, Purple Finches and Dark-eyed Juncos depleted the thistle feeder and the many sunflower feeders while simultaneously covering the ground in search of any spillage.

I managed to grab the camera and get some pretty nice shots out the front window at the deck feeding tray.

A Pine Siskin and a Purple Finch share access to the sunflower seeds while an American Goldfinch helps himself in the background.

Another view of a Purple Finch with his very spikey hair style.

A colorful male Northern Cardinal stops by to pick up some sunflower seeds.

The Blue Jays barged in and helped themselves.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker dominates the seed tray and goes off to hide his booty before returning for more. Again and again and again.... It was the dominant bird chasing even the Blue Jays away while it selected from the tray.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"February 14:... pitchers and catchers may report to Spring Training."

Sitting in the depths of winter with the thermometer threatening to dip to zero or even below…again, faced with the specter of just one more football game—Super Bowl XLIII (which will be over-hyped and promoted) and the fact that my alma mater’s men’s basketball team sucks and the women are mildly disappointing (therefore, March Madness will seem only a little silly to me), it is comforting to come across this piece of information:

FEB 14, 2009
• First date injured players, pitchers and catchers may report to Spring Training.

All other players may report on February 17 and must report by February 22.

Just get me through the next four weeks!

(Why four weeks? The first week is just to get loosened up and see who's in shape and who is not. Then, about a week after all the players report, they start playing baseball! So figure the first spring training game will be around the 24th of February. The Mets' first game is on the 25th. )

Another beautiful day at the Aerie

We are enjoying another sunny day here at the Aerie. The only drawback is that the temperatures are around 30 degrees colder than they were yesterday. The high for the day was 33 degrees just after midnight but the mercury went into free fall after that plummeting to 13 degrees at 8 AM. It's since crept up to 16 degrees but the slight breeze makes it feel frigid even in the sunlight.

We had two interesting birds outside today. Several Common Redpolls have finally made their way to the feeders. They were common, indeed, all of last winter and the winter before but this winter had proven quite elusive. While Terry and I were checking the Redpolls out, I noticed a reddish-brown patch in the pine tree to the northwest of the house. It turned out to be the breast of a Cooper's Hawk. Undoubtedly, he too was checking out the smaller birds at the feeder while enjoying the bright sunlight. I attempted to get out on the porch to photograph the hawk as the light was nearly perfect, but he didn't like me stepping outside. As soon as I closed the sliding glass door, he launched himself into the air, spread his wings and tail (and a nicely rounded, banded tail it was!) and circled up and away from the house. As I hadn't turned on the camera before opening the door, there was no chance for even a wing shot. That makes two new birds at the Aerie this week--the Red-bellied Woodpecker and the Cooper's Hawk.

All the regular customers are still eating the black-oil sunflower seeds and Niger thistle as fast as I can fill the feeders. Over 5 pounds of sunflower seeds have gone outside each and every day. There are lots and lots of Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Black-capped Chickadees. Then, in no particular order, we have Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-Breasted Nuthatch, and Purple Finches.

I have to say that the male Cardinals and Purple Finches are looking very bright in their red plummage but on the cold, gray days of winter, even the Blue Jay's color (if not his sloppy feeding habits and bullying) can be appreciated.

Woodworking 101 Wrap-up

I've gotten some nice comments from regulars about the workbench and I just want to say thanks for the kind comments guys.

I guess as the one who put it all together I've got a particularly jaundiced eye and can see all the flaws. Isn't it always true that when a project is completed (and sometimes right in the middle of doing the thing) you always think of how it could have been done better? It's true for building a birdhouse or a barn.

As I've said, though, this was a relearning experience and, while the workbench is not as pretty as the one in the ShopNotes magazine from which I got the plans, it'll do for now.

There's a 32" x 70" work surface and that's a big problem right now, as I'm sure some of you may understand. That surface sits as a large, flat, horizontal planethat has nothing on it! Next to a vacuum, Nature abhors nothing more than an empty horizontal surface. It'll be a real challenge NOT to simply put things on top and defeat the purpose of having a workbench. Already the area beneath the bench is filled with power tools that have their own storage cases: an electric drill, a jig saw, a biscuit saw, a Dremel tool box, air powered brad nailer, etc.

With no football this weekend, I'll probably be back in the shop trying to rearrange things and clean up the current mess. All the while I'll be planning my attack on the walls and, perhaps the next work station that needs to be constructed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Here we go some more!
Back into the fridge

It was another lovely day here at the Aerie. The sun was shinning and the temperature rose to 44 degrees on the deck. But Mother Nature will make us pay for the two consecutive days of above freezing weather. You see, we've had our January Thaw and from now until well after the Super Bowl we may never see the temperature above 25 degrees. Even as I write the wind has started howling and the mercury has begun its descent. The low tonight--according to be 20 degrees while tomorrows HIGH will be only 19. (Hey, I didn't make the prediction, I'm just reporting it At least AccuHunch makes more sense calling for a low of 18 and a Saturday high of 20.)

There may also be some snow flurries--or maybe not. They can't seem to agree as to whether the system moving through will move to the north, south or even right down I80 to the Atlantic. I think they are now saying it will slide to our south impacting the Mid-Atlantic States. Or maybe it will head north up along the St. Lawrence. In any event, the snow that was in the forecast here for tonight (1-2 inches) seems to have been downgraded to only a few flurries.

Oh, and tomorrow night it may reach 0 degrees again.

Dammit! Anybody find those missing sun spots yet?

I swear, if ole Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on February 2 it may well be the last thing he ever sees! Ya know what I mean? Two more months of this sh*t is about six weeks too much.


I believe the next project in the basement workshop will be to install some walls. There are three areas where the stud walls of the adjoining rooms/stairways are exposed.

One of those areas is the basement bathroom. With the fiberglass shower right on the other side. No need to go poking a piece of lumber into the shower, mmm?

The other two are on the opposite end of the workshop. the stairway coming down is sheetrocked on the "good" side but exposed on the workshop side. The other small area is the wall to the utility room. The utility room is covered in plywood since it has a large baffle array with all the plumbing turnoffs attached to it.

I'm thinking of using some of the remaining 8" wide tongue and groove put up horizontally to sheath the walls. It seems a little fancy for a workshop. But it's available, free (well sorta--I paid for it when we bought the kit for the log home) and will do the job.

The long back wall (the end of the basement) and the shorter side wall near the utility room wall can be sheathed in plywood. The sturdy backing will make putting up cabinets to store tools a little easier.

Yeah, that will be the next project. Just as soon as I clean up the tools that are just laying around so I can reach the damn walls.

Woodworking 101 Day 10


Not real happy with the results but the workbench is done. I'm sure that if I had used better caliper lumber things would have turned out better. Standard 2x pine is just too twisty, turny and generally out of square to be used in anything but rough construction and stud walls that will be covered over. And it's awfully soft.

That said, I do now have a workbench with two working vises. A bench that is at a reasonable height for working on projects from bird houses to furniture. And it is made of wood that was inexpensive enough that if it gets beat up too badly, I can go out and buy some more to build a new one.

The finished workbench.

The face vise.

Despite carefully laying out the template and taking measurements at least twice, the damn thing is still 1/4 inch below the surface of the bench top. Go figure. Hey, at least now I know how to make the vise face.

The screw vise to be used with bench dogs for larger pieces.

And no matter how badly the bench gets beaten up, these vises will endure! Heavy duty construction. Veritas is the name. And they are good!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now for something a little ...
well, different.

Classical music knows no boundaries.

I give you Hornman:

Amazing stuff.

A Fantastic Day!

That's what it was here at the Aerie. The sun was shinning and the temperature soard up to 38 degrees. Wahoo!

Of course, I didn't get to see much of it as I was in the workshop but the few times I stepped out on the deck to look at the birds I couldn't help but notice the beautiful weather.

Speaking of birds, we had a Red-Bellied Woodpecker come to the tray feeder on the deck around noon today. He took a couple of seeds and then disappeared again. That's the first one we've had at the Aerie. I've spotted them on bird walks and even had a couple at Ives Run during the Christmas Bird Count last month. Funny that he passed on the suet feeder off in the side yard. Unfortunately, today's guest didn't stay long enough for me to unlimber the camera.

Woodworking 101 Day 9

I lied.

The workbench will not be finished today as I had hoped. The mounting of the large face vise is proving slightly more difficult than anticipated. I've had to glue up not only the face plate, but a second plate to be attached to the bench. When the glue cures (24 hours is best but I may rush things and go back to work after 6 PM tonight) I'll be able to drill out the holes for the vise screw and guide rods.

Glued up block which will be mounted on the vise face plate.

Second glued up block which will be mounted on the underside of the bench.

Countersinking two support collets may be a challenge. They call for a hole 2-5/16 in diameter sung 5/16 of an inch in the plate to be attached to the bench. The largest Fostner bit I've got is only 1 inch in diameter and the largest hole saw is 2-1/4 inch.

Even then, mounting the plate on the underside of the bench is going to block one of the dog holes. Piss poor planning on my part.

The underside of the bench showing where the vise plate will be mounted. In the background is the screw and guide rod assembly. One of the glued up blocks will be in front of the plate and that will have the countersunk support collets.

Everything else is done. one vise is in. All the rails are screwed on. The front and back got glued on while the side rails just get screws so as to allow the planks to expand and contract with moisture.

One vise is successfully installed.

It's getting close....

As with any project that you do for the first time there have been some learning moments. I certainly know how to go about building the next one. Of course, I may never need to build the next one, but some of the steps used here can and will be used on other projects.

If I can remember the lessons.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Woodworking 101 Day 8
Oh, my aching back!

I did spend lots of time in the workshop today getting everything set to mount the vises. All the wood is done and some has been glued and screwed together while the rest is dry fitted.

I had to remill one side rail when it split on me at the last minute--twice! It was, of course, the one piece that had the most router work. And, the second time I realized I needed to remill the damn thing, I discovered I didn't have one straight piece of 2x4 in the shop! I didn't even have a section of 2x4 that was straight enough long enough to be used and I was not going to rib a 2x6 down to do the job. So off to Arnot Building Supply for a 2x4. That and the remilling steps involved ate up an hour's worth of time.

Tomorrow I'll drill the holes and bolt on the fittings. Then the top gets bolted to the base and I'll have a workbench! I'll also be sure to post a few pictures of the finished product. (But don't be too disappointed if they are not real close-ups or detailed. There's plenty of room for improvement. Starting with better wood. Construction grade 2x pine is definitely not the best--although it is the cheapest--for tight fitting joints.

Oh, about my back. I turned to pick up a tool off the side bench and twisted my back in a peculiar way. Hopefully it's just a muscle thing and it will work itself out with some Tylenol PM and a good night's sleep. The pain is still confined to the back in the left kidney area and hasn't moved down into my leg so that's a good sign.

Oh, his aching head!

My buddy Mark had a bad fall on some slippery ice a couple of weeks ago and suffered a concussion. He was off his feet for a couple of days and then, when the hive of bees in his head disappeared, was supposed to be taking it easy for three or four weeks. (This is his second major concussion in the past year. Damn guy is always knocking himself out!) Being told to take it easy is akin to a prison sentence to Mark. He really, really hates to be idle.

Well apparently he over did it the last two days and he has had a bit of a woozy spell.

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more puppies

Here's hoping the room stops spinning sometime soon.

Aw, Jeez! Again?

It's 2 degrees on the porch at 8 AM (minus 2 down in the valley). One more quick bite of frigid air before the warming that the weather quacks are promising for Thursday and Friday. That "warming" will bring the high temperatures into the 30s while keeping even the lows from sinking much below 15 degrees. In short, we'll be about average for this time of year.

Of course some precipitation--in the form of snow showers--will be with us during the entire time. It's getting monotonous, doncha know. Am I ready to see sports items about pitchers and catchers reporting? You betcha!

I had other things to do yesterday and didn't get into the workshop. That will change today. FedEx delivered the bench vise screw in the afternoon so, after I cut the final front rail to length and rout out the groove to act as a guide for the vise slide, I'll be ready to glue the top up and lay out the holes for the vise mounts.

But first, I believe it's time for another cup of joe and then I have to drive down the hill for the mail.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Now here's an idea...

As I put together the base of the workbench I was struck by how much it reminded me of some furniture we bought for the Bolt Hole back in the late '80s. That furniture came from a store called This End Up which I believe to have gone ...well, that end up. Suffice to say the stores are no longer in the malls where I used to see them.

Basically, the furniture was constructed of 3/4 inch thick southern yellow pine. All of the furniture, chairs, sofas, love seats, beds, etc. was solid as a rock yet easily made by gluing and pinning 4 and 6 inch wide boards together. We still have al the furniture,. Some of it is at the Bolt Hole but two pieces (a love seat and a recliner) are here at the Aerie. The only problem I've ever had with it has to do with the springs of the recliner. The metal mounts snapped some time back. (Probably when I was up there in the neighborhood of 255 pounds.)

The end of the love seat gives an idea of how
the furniture was made using 3/4 thick boards.

Compare that construction to the appearance of the workbench base.

Workbench base.

The two look a lot alike. The workbench uses posts for the legs while the entire side of the love seat (or chair or head/foot of the bed) formed the support with only the addition of gliders on the corners to prevent problems with uneven floors. That and the seat support of the chair and love seat is angled slightly downward toward the rear.

This could easily be done in Douglas Fir or any other dense wood. It could even be done using pressure treated lumber for outdoor use. (Most pressure treated is southern yellow pine.)

I'm getting some serious ideas here....

Woodworking 101 Day 7

It's been a few days since I posted on the workbench project going on in the workshop. I've been making some headway but am still waiting for the vise screw to arrive from Lee Valley. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets here tomorrow. Last week they shipped the face vise on Monday and I received it on Tuesday. Last Friday I got a post card saying they expected to ship the screw during the third week in January. Saturday I had an email saying it was being shipped that day. The last shipment came via FedEx. I expect the next to arrive tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon once the holiday is out of the way.

Meanwhile, I've finished work on the base and have routed out the holes for the bench dogs.

Base has the plywood shelf and the tongue and groove sides and back in place.

The holes for the bench dogs (each angled at 2 degrees from plumb) have been routed out.

The directions for creating the holes for the bench dogs written in the ShopNotes magazine had me thinking for several days. The author called for the hole to be in the shape of the dog, i.e. being 15/16 inch wide on one end for just 1 inch deep with the balance being only 11/16 wide. I didn't have the bits or router plate he used and couldn't find any for my old Black and Decker anywhere. Luckily, when I went down to the shop today resigned to using a back saw and chisel, I happened to turn over the package the dogs came in. And there on the other side was a simple method of routing out the square holes needed. Do the entire hole the same width (15/16 inches) it said. And then glue in what is basically a 1/4 inch shim to keep the dog from falling through the hole when recessed. Easy, peasy!

I laid everything out. Made a template to confine the router's bit to the area I wanted removed and in less than an hour had all 10 of the holes routed out and myself covered in wood chips.

While I was at it, I also routed out the dog hole for the sliding piece that will be attached to the screw. Then I went and created sliding block by cutting it to length and gluing on the side guides.

Now I've only got to rout out the groove on the front rail and install the vises. Then I can attach the top to the base and I'm done. I estimate about 6 more hours with the most difficult part being the installation of the face vise up under the bench top.

Ice on the Great Lakes

I was watching the football games yesterday and switching channels during the commercials. I happened to land on the Weather Channel (or maybe it was the local news) between games and heard someone say that Lake Erie was essentially frozen over.

Well, I wanted to see what they meant by essentially frozen over so I did a quick Google search of ”Great Lakes ice cover” and found this NOAA site.

By clicking on either Lakes Erie, Ontario or Huron you get access to recent maps of the eastern Great Lakes. Lakes Superior or Michigan will get you to the western Lakes. There are even maps of Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. (Although the Bays haven’t much ice and Delaware hasn’t had any, apparently, since February of 2007.)

The maps are huge in size but load quickly. You’ll have to scroll around to see the different parts of the lakes.

Lake Erie on January 16, 2009:

The red areas are 9/10 ice. Blue areas are 1/10 ice.
Grey areas are fast ice (100% rock hard).

Lake Ontario on January 16, 2009:

Blue is only 1/10 ice. White is open water.

A couple of thoughts come to mind after looking at the ice coverage on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario:

1- Folks on the shores of Lake Erie are undoubtedly hoping the ice remains in place so as to stop the lake effect snows that have plagued them in the recent past.

2- Folks living on the eastern end of Lake Ontario (Helloooo, Watertown, Mannsville, Polaski, Oswego, etc.) are probably praying that the damn lake will freeze! Steady winds out of the west will be settling in for this week and that means snow, snow, snow!

One more item...

Does anyone else find it ironic that, up on the northern edge of Lake Huron, this place is frozen solid?

Gore Bay is "fast ice" = 100% solid.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Above 10 degrees all day!
No kidding!

We dodged a bullet overnight. The forecasts were for 2-3 inches of snow and another 1-2 inches today. Didn't happen. Apparently, either the winds picked up early (we could hear them during the night) and carried the snow to our north or the low pressure system coming from the west weakened quicker than expected and the energy transferred to the coastal low in the Atlantic.

Which ever occurred, we only had wind-blown drifts and about an inch of new snow to deal with this morning. That took me about forty-five minutes. There have been snow flurries all day but they have amounted to nothing.

The temperatures have also skyrocketed. This morning was 18 degrees warmer than yesterday. That means the thermometer registered 12 degrees F at 8 AM compared to the minus 6 degrees we had on Saturday. It even got up to 20 degrees this afternoon.

Even with the "warm up" I've been keeping a fire going in the fireplace. The fire's been going for almost a week now and the added warmth has been a blessing. I'm sure it will have reduced our use of propane considerably during this frigid spell of weather. The boiler still is heating water for the master bedroom and the basement, but that's a small amount compared to what's used to heat the fist floor and the loft with the cathedral ceiling. I filled the rack in the garage from the outdoor woodpile when I finished shoveling snow this morning but will be doing some more splitting with the maul in a day or two. There's about two weeks of split wood stacked outside but perhaps a month's worth is still in the round. Oh well, if the temperatures are int he 20s all week, I could use the warmth and exercise of swinging a maul.

Forecasts for this week are very monotonous. Highs in the 20s and snow flurries through Thursday. Then, they say, things will get both slightly warmer and a little snowier. How much of each is undetermined.

Tag Meme

I got tagged! Cassie of In Amazing Graceland hit me with these crazy rules:
The rules are: open a document or file folder, click on the fifth folder and then the fifth photo. Post the photo and describe it, then tag 5 more bloggers to keep it going.

Jeez, there's no way that I can play by these rules! They require ... organization!.

Fifth this and fifth that and fifth picture....HA! There's only one fifth I'm interested in... single malt, 18-years old (at least) Glenlivet.

Maybe in some alternate universe I'm that organized. I must be, I fooled the folks at school for over 32 years into thinking I knew exactly what I was doing and could put my fingers on any little detail they wanted be it classroom lesson plans, yearbook, recognition certificates (which I created and printed) or whatever. At the end, they thought I was a god!!! Bwaaahhhaaa!

Ahem. excuse me. Got carried away there a little. But that was nearly 5 years ago and it's all in my past. Now my files are based upon the Pile Principle.(Terry says they always were at home...but I've seen her office and she should not comment.) It's not too neat but I know where most things are. Until the piles fall over or get "straightened up" by some interfering kitteh!

Anywho....If you want a collection of links to the construction of the Aerie I've put them here, in the blog dedicated to the construction and finishing of the Aerie.

There are no pictures at that blog, but the links take you to the week-by-week posts that I put up during the purchasing/excavating/construction phases.

The bear says we're ready to entertain...

I like this picture of the Welcome Bear I made standing to greet visitors at out front door. (A Beaver would have been more appropriate as we used Beaver Mountain Log Homes as our supplier. But there's no real water nearby and there are bears in the neighborhood.)

The Aerie

A great view of the porch, deck and walk-in basement.

The Aerie

Viewed from the driveway from north northwest. The main entrance.

I shall not pass this meme along to the requisite 5 bloggers. But should any one care to participate...feel free.

Ack! I just realized I haven't updated the construction links since November of '07! That means I've got to add links to the finished basement and the raised beds that I constructed outdoors. I guess I know what I'll be doing while rooting for the PA teams in the NFL playoffs this afternoon. (Hey...Jets and Giants are done! I might as well root for my "adopted" home state.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Extreme Cold

If you'll excuse me, I've got to go tend to the huskies. They need their ration of seal meat if I expect them to pull the sled tomorrow.


Extremely cold weather will persist across the Northeast through Saturday. From the Virginias to New England, another very harsh night lies ahead with widespread below-zero temperatures. The northern tier of Pennsylvania will experience 20-below-zero readings overnight, and central and northern New England will have pockets close to 40 below.

The Aerie is in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania. They say it is currently (9:30 PM) minus 2 degrees outside--which is what I have on the thermometer, too.

Perhaps the most incredible temperature during the past 24 hours was the 14 below zero recorded at Westhampton Beach, Long Island early Friday morning. That just shows you what clear skies and fresh snow cover can do when there is frigid arctic air in place.

I always thought the shore was warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer because the water acted as a heat reservoir and heat sink. Fourteen below at Westhampton Beach is unheard of. At least I have never heard of it before.

Oh, and they're saying we should get another 3-6 inch snowfall Saturday night.

Hey, Sisyphus! Grab the shovel. We got work to do.

Speaking of Jean Shepherd...

By now everyone has probably heard about the 10-year old in Hammond, Indiana who stuck his tongue to a metal lamp post. It's the sort of story that will make you smile. (If you're not the kid with the bleeding tongue!)

In an obvious--and admitted--attempt to emulate duplicate the playground scene from the movie, a young boy sticks his tongue out and touches a metal lamp post when the temperatures are slightly further south than Al Gore's science knowledge--which, it should be apparent by now, is nil or less. The boy's tongue gets stuck and the ambulance has to be called.

Anyway, the punchline of the story is the final line in the short article. It's a line that would have made Jean Shepherd laugh out loud.

"The 1983 movie is set in a fictional city that is based upon Hammond, the hometown of Jean Shepherd."

Next thing you know the kid will want a Red Rider BB gun.

Hey kid, you'll shoot yer eye out.

Happy Birthday!

To Robert W. Service. Born this day in 1874.

Jean Shepherd reads Poems of Robert W. Service.

(Yeah, it's the guy who wrote "Christmas Story" but he did a heck of a lot more than that during his years on the radio.)

Cold, so cold....

It's been a couple of days since I've posted and I've really very little to say.

The snow we were supposed to get Wednesday night pretty much proved to be a dud. Instead of 3-5 inches we got only one. Still, added to the one to one-and-a-half we had Tuesday night, there was enough to shovel. (Though not enough to use the thrower, dang it!) Terry and I got it all cleared in just about 2 hours. Luckily the winds never materialized either because the temperature Thursday morning at 8 AM was a mere 1 degree F. At least it was sunny most of the day with only the occasional flurry. The temperature soared to 10 degrees!

Little did I realize how welcoming those temperatures would seem. The mercury took a nosedive around here on Thursday night. Under the clear skies and moonlit snowscape, the morning low on Friday was minus 5 degrees. Friday's high temperature (still beneath a cloudless sky) was 8 degrees at 2:30 PM. Friday night it will get colder. Accu-Hunch says minus 10 degrees is possible.

Still, it could be worse. A short distance as the crow flies from the Bolt Hole in the southwest corner of the Adirondack Park, the temperature dropped to minus 22 degrees. Residents of Maine may have experienced an all-time low in the minus 50 degree range. (They are awaiting confirmation.) And let us not talk about the Windy City where it was both cold and...well...windy today. Ole Blasphemous Bill would have felt right at home. (Sam McGee, however, would have been slamming that boiler's door for sure.) You can hear Jean Shepherd read The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill.

(More on R.W. Service in the next post.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's going to be a long month and a half

Rutgers R.smallutgers' men's basketball just dropped its fifth consecutive Big East game and sixth game in a row. What especially hurts is they lead this one by 16 points (29-13) in the first half and still lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats by a score of 71-59.

Worse still, Cincinnati had not won a Big East game in their last 9 attempts. The Bearcats went on a 21-4 scoring spurt to open the second half.

RU is now 9-9 and 0-5 in the Big East. Full details here.

Woodworking 101 Day 6

No progress on the bench to report. But I did think about it. That's got to be worth something.

Today was spent in the workshop moving and stacking the tongue and groove lumber left over from constructing the Aerie. (It was used as ceiling material and also as wall interiors for the gable end walls. Real logs only go up to the top of the first floor.) There was a lot of lumber left over because we opted for sheetrock on most of the interior walls (gives us some break from the wood) and, I would guess, either we didn't communicate this to our kit supplier (Beaver Mountain) or they just didn't make the adjustment. Which ever, we have a lot of 6' and 8' wide tongue and groove left over. I already made use of some in the basement by panelling the bottom of the walls to chair rail height. I will use more on the still exposed walls in the workshop, but even then I will still have scads of material left. Some could be used in the attic where the ceiling is still exposed insulation. Although I'd rather use less expensive sheetrock or even plywood to enclose the attic areas.

Working amongst the lumber that had been collecting dust--both from the woodworking activities and from cats wandering in and out when the door was open--presented a serious problem for my allergy inflicted body. I spent several hours thinking I was going to sneeze my brains out. I believe I've developed whiplash from the sudden, rapid snapping of my head back and forth during sneezing bouts. I was sneezing so hard that the insides of my eyeglasses were covered with dropplets of what I can only hope was water from my eyes' tear ducts. The alternative was that some of the schmaltz that was dripping from my nostrils into my mustache while I was sneezing was also getting blown out those tear ducts and onto my lenses. There was so much mucus flowing from my membranes that I went through a half a boxof tissues and threatened the cats with Chinese diner night.

Why was I moving wood and vaccuuming instead of working on the workbench? I was at an impass without the vises in hand. I hesitate to start laying out holes and such with out having on hand the actual items for which those holes are required. Sure, Lee Valley may have instructions for the stuff on their web site, but what happens if the vise I get isn't exactly the one pictured? Maybe the manufacturer has changed design or something. Then what? So I figured I had a couple of days to get everything cleaned up and maybe finish a workshop wall or something to bide the time. After all, Lee Valley had sent an email just yesterday that they had just shipped my order (minus the backordered screw for the one vise). Should take a couple of days to get here. I mean, I didn't order any special handling or delivery or anything.

Wrong! The Fed Ex truck pulled up at 3 PM and delivered my Lee Valley order. Wow! Ordered via internet on Monday late and in my hands by Wednesday afternoon! THAT is service! The bastards! Now I'll have to get to it....

Wait! There's still the one vise screw missing.... I can milk that for a couple of days. They say it won't be available until the 20th. Yeah. That's the ticket! Procrastination!

I may have to spend some time tomorrow moving snow around the driveway. We got 1+ inches last night which we could ignore but the forecast is for anywhere from 2 to 5 inches tonight. That will require either the snow thrower or the shovel tomorrow morning. I can use the exercise but it's also supposed to be in the single digits temperaturewise and that I could do without.


Beautifully clear morning at the Aerie. A bit chilly at 1 degree F but the sun will warm things up nicely to...oh...around 15 degrees today before the clouds roll in and we get another 2-4 inches of snow overnight. (That's on top of the 1-2 we got yesterday afternoon.) This new clipper coming through is a very narrow band and a slip to the north or south and/or a slow down in its progress could mean the difference between absolutely nothing and as much as 4 or 6 inches. The temps will be dropping for the next two days and the "high" tomorrow may be in the single digits. (It will be positive, but not above 10 degrees.) Let's not talk about the overnight lows.

Meanwhile, up at the Bolt Hole there's a weatherunderground station a few miles to the west and about 300 feet lower in elevation. It typically records temperatures that are three to five degrees warmer than at the Bolt Hole. Today it is registering a temperature of minus 8.4 degrees at 8 AM as the mercury has been falling since midnight.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Woodworking 101 Day 6

I fit the end rails onto the top today and made a few passes to mill the area where the inner front rail will be mounted and where the slide for the shoulder vise will be mounted. Until I get the screw for the shoulder vise or the bench vise in hand, I won't be able to really put the darn thing together as there are holes to be drilled and patterns to be traced that are justa whole lot easier to do when you can take one little stick over to the drill press instead of trying to drill a plumb hole in the side of a table with precious little back support. The same can be said about the bench dog holes. Much easier to do that once the dogs are actually in hand.

Of course, I should have ordered all those parts back when. But I didn't and now I have to wait. Especially for the shoulder vise which is out of stock but which should be available for shipping in less than week according to Lee Valley.

In response to a comment from GuyK in the last post:

The router table is handy but has limitations. It's a bench top model that I can put away and take out when needed but that means the top is small...very small. Guy, just make sure it's a good sized table. Mine is only a dinky little thing and when I want to do a long piece it can difficult with no support on the far end. One of the things I'm loking forward to when I finish this workbench is the ability to clamp a piece and be able to use the router on it. I might consider building a router table as my next project.

Another problem is that I only have the one router. To use it on the table and then have to take it off to freehand something is a real pain. The router is also an inexpensive, non-plunging type. Okay for the table but much less versatile for freehand work.

Oh, and don't let my writing fool you, I'm just guessing my way through this. The lumber is not the dimensions the plan called for. They used Douglas fir whil I'm using standard pine/hemlock from the lumber yard. Their 2x materials are 1-3/4" and not 1-1/2". The result is I've got to make adjustments as I go along. Sure hope the vises fit!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Woodworking 101 Day 5

Back to the workbench build this morning. I unclamped the top and moved it back into the workshop where it fit nicely atop the sawhorses. I scraped off the globs of glue that had oozed out of the joints and then squared off the ends and sanded the joints until they were pretty close to even.

Along the way I also removed one quarter of the finger nail from my right middle finger. That's one quarter as in draw a cross using two lines, one that goes across the nail half way back from the end and another that runs the length of the finger. Now remove one of the two pieces out toward the end of the finger. I thought for sure it would hurt a hell of a lot more than it has so far. And it should have bled a whole lot more too.

Anyway, that happened early and I was able to work through the inconvenience.

I got out the router and a mortising bit to produce a tenon on each end of the top. The tenon measures 1/2 inch in thickness and protrudes 3/4 of an inch. It took a little thought to set it up and I erred on my math as to where I should put the guide but luckily the error produced a tenon that protruded only 1/2 inch so after I realized the mistake, I just moved the guide back and proceeded right along. The Tenon is also down the side 1/2 inch from the top so I made several passes to remove the waste wood. trying to do it all in one go (1/2 inch x 3/4 inch) would have been a bear of a job.

Tenon on one end of the bench top.

Once the tenon was formed, it was time to make the mortise in each of the side rails. To do that I used a small tabletop router table and a 1/2 inch mortising bit. This groove is 1/2 inch from the top, 1/2 inch wide and 3/4 of an inch deep. Again, I made several passes to remove all the wood.

Mortise in one of the end rails.

The small router table made the mortise a snap.

Now that I have the two ends ready to be installed, I'll be working on the back and inner rails. These four rails will attach directly to the bench top. After they go on, it will be time to start working on the holes for the dogs for the vice, and the one vice that will run the length of the table. The second vice will be mounted on the front of the table. As I do not yet have the vice parts in hand (I placed an order with Lee Valley today), I'll probably just mount the bench top to the legs and make room for it somewhere amidst this pile:

The wood that is stacked here is left over from the construction of our log home. Most of it is tongue and grove pine boards from 8 to 12 feet in length and between 6 and 8 inches in width. Cut a V-notch in the center and this material could be used as the car panel surround for the shelf area beneath the bench. I'm also toying with the idea of using this for some of the walls of the workshop. There are three sections where the framing is still exposed (the back of the bathroom, the wall shared with the utility room, and the stairs) where this would close things in pretty nicely. There are also a few tongue and groove planks that were used in the second story floor (1 1/2 inch thick and 6 inches wide) and I would have considered them for the bench top except the best boards have already gone to make the doors to the utility room and the workshop.

I've no idea what to do with the bike frame--or the three mis-matched tire rims--that Rick was so kind as to leave behind. At least I can make use of the fully functional bike that is out in the garage--when the snow melts and the mud dries up.

No, I won't be out of things to do while I wait for the vise components to arrive.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Aerie snow report

We finished the night with about 8" of light, powdery snow on the ground. Starting at 8 AM I had the snow thrower out there clearing the driveway. Terry cleared the deck and then came out to clear off the vehicles and the 1" of snow the thrower doesn't get. (I've got the thrower set up so the bottom lip is riding high so it won't scoop up too many chunks for gravel. Still gets some because the runners gouge it up.) I used the thrower for two hours and then joined Terry with the shovel to get the rest of the snow up. By then the plow and cinder truck had been up and down the hill and the end of the drive could be cleared of the debris.

It was important to get as much of the snow up as possible because the sun will come out this afternoon (it's been out since about 2 PM and the sky is mostly blue) and, hopefully, melt some of the ice even though the temperatures will remain in the 20s. If it doesn't do anything today, it won't have an opportunity for the rest of the week. Not only will the sun be behind the clouds, but the temperatures will be falling to the point where even the sun won't be able to melt any ice. We will also be getting snow flurries every day this week.

We were finished by noon. Just in time to have dinner and then sit down to watch the Giants vs the Eagles. (It's not looking good for the Jints right now. It's 20-11 Eagles with 9:30 to go in the game.)

I'll get back to my woodworking on Monday. And, while the snow wasn't as deep as I would have liked, maybe I'll take a walk out back on my snowshoes tomorrow.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Woodworking 101 Day 4

I got the planks glued up for the top of the workbench. I made use of my biscuit joiner to provide additional stability to the long joints. This is the first time I used this tool but, after seeing it in use by others, I can tell it will not be the last. I'm still learning the proper use of this power tool and there will be mistakes. For example: when I put the pieces together (with Terry's help in handling the 9" x 70" inch planks) I noticed one of the planks was an 1/8 of an inch offset from its neighbor. They were exactly the same thickness and aligned perfectly when I had them laying side by side. Therefore, the only difference must have been the placement of the biscuit slots. I had made no adjustments to the tool so that should not have happened. I went back to the tool and found there was a tiny shift from where I had set it. Either the settings had come loose or I had not tightened them sufficiently. That will not happen a second time!

Planks for the bench top are glued up and cleated.

Anyway, the top is set out to dry and will be ready for the next step of putting an straight edge on both ends followed by a bit of a tenon. I've got more pieces to mill to act as the end band and also rear band. The front will get milled to accept clamp dogs and a slide for a wood clamp. (I still have to get the screw for that clamp. I haven't come across one in the catalogs I like.)

I've got an hour and a half before the football games start so I'd better get back into the shop.

Later, dudes

Snow, snow and more snow...

Well we woke up this morning to a gently falling fine powder of a snow that looks to be continuing until to morrow morning. The weather quacks are currently saying the worst will arrive sometime late this afternoon and that when it is all said and done tomorrow AM we should be under a 10 inch blanket. The silver lining is that there is absolutely no wind blowing.

The snow currently falling is a very, very fine powder that would make downhill skiers orgasm. Me? I'm not a downhill skier but if it will be 10 inches deep, I may get to use my new snowshoes...finally. (A quick thaw and then rain washed away the base we had.) Of course, first I'll have to perform the Sisyphusian task of clearing the driveway.

Anyway, no trip down the hill today for mail. (The post office is only open between 9 and 11 AM on Saturdays.) I don't expect to see a plow & cinder truck on the hill until late this afternoon. It's Saturday which means no school or work for most folks. And even if it were a weekday, there's no school buses that run up this hill. Oh, a few cars go up and down to carry kids to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill, but the 30 degree slope would make taking a big yellow school bus up and down an adventure.

Julie and Chester are taking turns stretched out on the carpet in front of the fireplace. (Who needs a bear rug?) Julie is sleek and slender when she stretches out. Chester looks like an anaconda that has recently devoured a pig. They are content to sit around and watch the birds on the deck while waiting for their dinner. But then again, that's their normal routine.

I guess I'll be going back to the workshop to put the bench top together today. Certainly not going outside anytime soon. But first another cup of coffee.

Later, dudes.

Weigh in Saturday

The proper way to weigh yourself:

You gotta admit the results would be more pleasurable.

Nope. Not gonna get on the scale yet. After the 15th of January...maybe.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Sun came out!...Eventually.
Wherein we battle the Ice Giants for domination of our driveway.

We woke up this morning to the sight of large fluffy snowflakes gently falling from the sky and accumulating quite quickly over the deck and driveway. The same driveway I had spread all that salt on yesterday in an attempt to melt a half inch of ice.

Knowing that there were items that had to go out in the mail and that there were probably several items in our PO Box, I saddled up the Tundra, put it in 4-wheel hi and headed on down the hill. Once off the dirt road at the bottom of the hill conditions were pretty good so after picking up the mail, I headed to the grocery store for some milk.

That last must be a left over New Jersey reflex. You see, we are forecast to have anywhere between 5 and 10 inches of snow between Saturday morning and Sunday morning. In New Jersey, that would have called for a flat out assault on the local super market to get in all those absolutely vital supplies. The stuff you couldn't possibly do without for the 12 hours--maximum--it would take to get your road plowed so you could get to the store again.

When I got back, I got Terry to come out to shovel/scrape the snow and ice off the driveway as best we could. Getting the 1 to 2 inches of light, fluffy snow off was not a problem, it could easily be pushed over the layer of ice beneath. The areas where the salt had done it's job allowed us to remove most of the ice and quite a bit of the gravel beneath it. That loose gravel will be a bit of a challenge for the snow thrower if we get more than 4 inches of snow tomorrow.

I resalted the slickest portions of the slope in front of the garage and the little bit leading from the road but left the long, flat stretch of the driveway alone. That section is still as slick as a speed skating oval but I didn't want to use up all my salt just yet.

We got done with the shoveling in about an hour and said a prayer to old Sol--who had made a strong appearance and was, at the time, shining brightly down upon the expanse of salted ice--to do its thing by warming the gravel and melting the remaining ice. That prayer seems to have worked a bit, which is good because I was not yet prepared to offer any sacrifices. Perhaps, after this next storm and the following frigid weather.... As we went to the church's Friday Nite Dinner the Tundra was able to break a goodly portion of that salted ice into small chunks.

I'm currently sitting in front of the fire (I need the ashes to spread on the driveway) drinking a bottle of Rick's Rainbow Porter with Shadow curled up at my ankles. You won't find that Porter in any store, by the way. My son, Rick, brewed it up in his apartment in Eugene, OR and then shipped six bottles here as a Christmas present.

I won't be heading to the workshop tonight. There will be plenty of time all day Saturday. I'm not planning on doing much more than a quick run down to get the mail at 9 AM and, if the snow arrives earlier than forecast, may not even do that. Meanwhile, I'm doing the most important part of any project, whether it be building a workbench or clearing a driveway...I'm thinking about how I'm going to do it.

Remember: The 6 Ps:

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Of course the 7th P assures there will be work to do tomorrow and the day after:


I believe this may well be the most important tenet for economic recovery nationwide. I mean, if we all rush out to complete a job, then there will be no work to do tomorrow. If, however, we sit down and plan very carefully how we are going to go about doing the job at hand but NEVER ACTUALLY COMPLETE THE WORK, then there will be the potential for employment for days and weeks to come.

I believe this is how Congress has operated the last two years.

The trick, of course, is to get someone to pay you to do all that planning. That and giving yourself a really impressive title like, say, Community Organizer.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wakeee, wakeee!

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

This cat even looks a lot like Chester...our morning wake-up call. And the clock is pretty accurate...during Daylight Savings Time. Thankfully, Chester's stomach is still on DST which means we get to sleep until quarter to seven. Let's hope he never gets set on EST 'cause then we'll have a quarter to five wake up come April.

I wonder what he does when we're gone over night?

Welcome tothe Aerie's Bobsled Run!

Thursday is garbage pick-up day at the Aerie and after having two holidays fall on Thursday the last two weeks--and missing the announcement as to which day our pick-up was moved--we had a couple of bags that had to go out to the street this morning.

I opened the garage door and took a step outside and nearly ended up on my a$$ heading down the hill. The entire driveway from garage door to street was a sheet of ice that would have made Hans Brinker green with envy. I made my way out to and back from the street in a very, very careful manner that required stomping my heels in to the ice caked 1/2 inch of snow and looking for any protruding lump of gravel that would stop any downward slide--maybe. Then I got out my spade to act as an ice chopper (very futile act) and scattered 50-75 pounds of rock salt on the drive. You could hear the ice start to break up from the salt but at 27 degrees under a very cloudy sky the use of salt was also a futile action. (Although, it did loosen the ice enough that driving the Tundra--apt name, that--back and forth a bit broken it up, exposed the gravel underneath and produced ridges across the slope that just may provide some stopping power during the next luge event.)

The sun threatened to come out and even peeked from behind the clouds for a few minutes around 1 PM but that didn't last long. Forget about sun spots or the lack thereof, I'd be happy to spot the sun for a couple of days running.

As I write this at 4:30 PM it is snowing like crazy and all the salt I spread on the driveway will be for naught if we get a couple of inches of snow. And that's what the revised forecast from Accu-Hunch is calling for tonight. And tomorrow. And the day after that. (Actually, they are just calling for a "chance" of 1-2 inches each day through Sunday with the high temperatures remaining in the upper 20s. But I'm an optimist(?) and believe they just may be correct--once in a while.

UPDATE: By 5 PM the snow had stopped. The sky directly overhead was clear. The sun (which had already set) was back lighting the clouds to the west. Still, the temperatures were dropping swiftly as to be expected with clear skies and snow/ice ground cover and the sun setting.

Woodworking 101 Day 3

Very little to report today.

Terry and I had some errand to attend to this morning and had lunch at the Cast and Crew in Mansfield. (The University is still on break so any spending at the local eateries is greatly appreciated!)

We picked up 10 bags of rock salt and two bags of industrial grade Calcium blend ice melter to combat the hockey rink that is our sloped driveway.

Then it was back to Arnot Building Supply for some lag bolts and another 2" x 10" board to replace the one that cracked when I dropped it yesterday. I am very uneasy about trying to use it on the workbench top knowing it is likely to be subjected to some serious pounding and would then probably split completely.

I'll be taking the new piece of lumber to the workshop to get chopped to length and then ripped to width as soon as I get the energy (maybe tomorrow). I'll let the table saw produce the straight edges I need for gluing rather than try to wrestle it through the joiner. I may even run the other two boards through the table saw for the same reason.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Woodworking 101 Day 2

Yesterday I go the wood to build a workbench for the shop and, in a rare burst of activity for me, I actually started to do something with it!

I had already planed down a couple of timbers that had been used as stickers int he logs when we got our kit. These were to become the legs of the workbench. The plans called for the legs to be glued up from 2x lumber and then milled to 2-1/2 x 3 inches. The stickers were already over those measurements, so I planed two sides and then ripped the others to proper size. Hey, it saved the cost of a couple of 2x6s and the time needed to allow the glue to set. Oh, they each needed to have a notch cut in the top to hold a top rails.

10" Table Saw: "The Work Horse" of any shop

After ripping them to dimension and cutting them to length, I went to work on the pieces that would connect them. Two side rails for the bottom were also supposed to be glued up 2x but I used two more stickers. These needed tenons on the ends ans a ledge cut in tone corner to support a shelf. The front and rear spacers were cut from 2x6 lumber and also needed tenons on each end.

12" Chop Saw: Great tool to make long boards short.

The cutting of the tenons is a task I need to practice more. I've a dado blade for the table saw that is a wobble variety. They do not cut as cleanly as the stacked dado blades but their cost is much, much less.

End view of a side rail showing tenon and ledge.

That's where I left off last night.

Today, I dug out my mortising machine and set it up to produce the two mortises each leg needed to take the tenons on the spacers and risers. This was the first time in a very long time that I had need to mortise out a timber but, following Norm Abrhams' advice about measure twice, cut once, everything went very smoothly--even if I did end up drilling the holes 3/16ths of an inch too deeply. Once done, It was a matter of cleaning up the tenons (especially their cheek faces) to fit the holes.


I glued an screwed the side pieces together and set them aside. The front spacers can wait until the top is done for the top is the top spacer and without it things could get a bit wobbly.

Time to get to work on the top which is made from three 2x10s.

Have you ever dropped a 2x10 on your foot edgewise? Let me tell you, it hurts like the dickens! It doesn't help that 1-My steel toed boots are up at the Bolt Hole and 2-I have/had triphammer toes--that is toes which are constantly curled as if to grasp the floor; toes whose "knuckles" stick up like wickets in a croquet game just waiting for a heavy 2x10 to crash down upon them. Luckily--and I use the term loosely--the board "only" fell from the height of my knee or I surely would have broken something--besides the board. Damn fragile thing. Split nearly in two lengthwise right down the middle. I should be able to salvage it since a pair of brackets will span the width of the three (almost four now) boards and will be screwed into them to hold them together.

Anyway, I got the three boards cut to length and then planed their edges to produce a smooth, flat edge on each for joining purposes. Than was a difficult task because of the size and weight of the boards. Very difficult to keep the boards perpendicular to the planer table even with the rear fence. Then the length of the boards meant having one end extend well beyond the table at the beginning and end of a run. I've only got one roller support and don't have room for a second in my current setup.

Planer with a 2x10x70" board

I got the job done but am still not satisfied with the edges I've got to work with. I'm hoping some biscuits and clamp pressure will be able to bring things together tomorrow.

Biscuit Joiner

So. that's where I am right now. The legs are ready, the top boards are cut and await gluing up. I've a few errands to run tomorrow and don't know how much I'll get done. I'll be happy if I can get the top glued up.

Aerie Birding

Before I went out to pick up the lumber for my workbench project yesterday, I clicked some photos of the birds visiting our deck.

Early on i was alerted to something on the deck by both Chester and Shadow getting all agitated at the sliding glass door. Sure enough, there was a tiny Black-capped Chickadee sitting on the deck in an obviously stunned state. It must have flown into the glass next to the door trying to make a shortcut to the front feeder. (The door still has it's screen in place.)

I went out and carefully picked it up and put it on the rail of the deck. (Just in case one of the semi-feral cats around here happened to visit.) It sat there for five minutes or so and then disappeared.

We have, on average one bird a week try the same stunt. Usually it's the Chickadees or maybe a Dark-eyed Junco but last week it was a Tufted Titmouse and a month ago we had a White-breasted Nuthatch. The Mourning Doves are frequently hitting the window but they usually start from the deck and have attained very little velocity when they contact the glass. They'll usually hover in mid air and maybe even try again.

Last winter when we had a Sharp-shinned Hawk visit the yard for several weeks (he must have thought it was the local deli and always showed up for lunch), we had nearly as many birds strike glass as we lost to the hawk. These included some Common Redpolls as well as a Hoary Redpoll.

Okay, back to the bird pictures....

When the Dark-eyed Juncos come in to feed on the tray. It's usually one at a time. That's not because they come in, grab a seed and flit away to the trees like the Chckadees or Nuthatches. No, it's because they are bullies.

When one Junco takes over the takes over the feeder! It might share with other species but never with another Junco. This is mildly surprising because to watch them on the ground or along the field and forest edge, the Dark-eyed Junco seems the most social of birds as they travel in flocks that may number 30 or 40 individuals. Get them on the feeder (and it needs to be a tray because they don't do no stinkin' perches) and it's a regular King of the Hill situation. As the Highlander said: "There can be only one!"

About the only bigger bully in birdland is the Blue Jay. Not only will he chase away members of his own clan, he chases away everybody. Sometimes he does so with a raucous call and a physical display of intimidation. And sometimes he scares the bejesus out of everybody with an imitation hawk cry. While everyone heads for the woods, literally, he'll stroll in and have a leisurely feed.

American Goldfinches were abundant yesterday and again today in the sloppy weather. Perhaps they were looking for an easy meal and figured my feeders fit the bill.

The Goldfinches were joined by their good friends the Pine Siskin (called a Goldfinch in camo by some). The Siskin is new to the feeders this winter (or, at least, I didn't notice them the last two years). Their behavior is exactly like that of the Goldfinches with whom they flock and they have a bit of the yellow of the Goldfinch on their wings but that's all. The Siskin's got a fairly well striped pair of flanks (the camo) and more pointy beak.

A couple of Mourning Doves bided their time on the electric wires. The only bare path of soil is under the deck and I've flushed several dozen Mourning Doves from that cozy little dust bath on occasion when I step outside.

The side yard feeders had their share of visitors including Cardinals and Nuthatches but the only photo I have is of Purple Finches helping themselves to some seed

Just as I was stepping out the door to head to the lumber yard, a Pileated Woodpecker flapped off from the Sumac berries along the driveway. It didn't fly far and allowed me to take one photo before it departed down the hill.

Looks like Woody Woodpecker's gone punk.

Woodworking 101

So yesterday, after procrastinating more than enough, I decided to purchase the materials to construct a solid workbench for the wood shop. I had looked through the books and magazines for plans and, as luck would have it, an issue of Shopnotes that arrived in November or there abouts had plans that would be easy enough to construct,sturdy enough for my needs and, most importantly, wouldn't cost an arm and a leg in materials. (As with all benches, the vises are the most costly after the materials and I figure I can retrofit them on this particular baby.)

I headed to the local lumber/hardware store (Arnot Building Supply in Mansfield) to get the necessaries and then spent the afternoon and early evening breathing sawdust and relearning some basic skills involving the construction of a mortise and tenon joint, using a dado blade on a table saw and doing various and sundry things to wood that would be easier if I had a work bench. (It's a Catch 22 situation.)

I did learn a couple of things:
1- I must get myself a dust collector and air filter for the shop. I was wearing a face mask filter but tiny dust particles still get through and cleanup was a significant time investment. Luckily there is a Grizzly supply store down on the other side of Williamsport that might have just what I need in that department.)
2- Wobbling dado heads (as opposed to stacked) are inexpensive for a reason---they aren't going to produce work to very small tolerances. Get a stacked dado blade set for the next project.
3- The bench will be one sturdy son of a gun! Made from two-by lumber and some 4x4 posts for legs it's going to be heavy to move about. I just hope the joinery is tight enough (see #2) to keep it from wobbling when I'm working on it.
4- The plans called for making your own specialty hardware (cross dowels) to connect the legs to the spacers and risers. Market ready cross dowels are available but the article does NOT give a source and the builder's supply store is NOT a furniture maker's store. So I'll have to improvise (with lag screws) and hope that it won't compromise the ruggedness and sturdiness of the final product.
5- I'm going to have to shift some of the stuff in the workshop around to make room for the bench (and future dust collector and air filter).

So I'll be back in the workshop today trying out some new/old skills and seeing how far I can progress on this project. But first I'll have to make another run down to Arnot to get some long skinny lag screws.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I was reminded this afternoon that I hadn't posted anything new in several days--since January 2nd to be exact.

Can't think of a good reason for not doing so. Saturday and Sunday were spent watching football on the tube (I should have been outside--both days were lovely) and I had the computer in my lap the whole time reading everyone else' blogs and dropping comments left, right and sideways.

(Reminds me of an old football story wherein one of the Ivy League schools known for its engineering dept used the defensive battle cry of, "Not one soul shall pass! Neither vertically, horizontally, nor transversely!")

I did go for a nice long (200 mile) ride yesterday. I went west on Route 6 climbing out of the Susquehanna watershed and into that of the Allegheny River at Coudersport in Potter County. (The county welcome sign says "Welcome to God's Country." Neighboring counties joke that He's the only one who would have it!) I went as far a Smethport in McKean County before heading north toward Eldred and then the NY border at Ceres.

I discovered that Ethan Allen Furniture has a factory in Eldred where they turn out a little more than a thousand pieces of furniture a week. Everything is custom work for orders placed in the showrooms around the country. Hardwood for frames of sofas and chairs come from the local forests and from local loggers. (Some of the frames are made by an independent local company.) Business may be slowing down elsewhere, but on Monday the parking lot at the factory was full.

I circled back on Routes 44 and 49 past Cowanesque Lake. Three quarters of the lake is frozen (which is less than Hammond or Tioga Lakes(100%)) and where the water meets the ice, there are flocks of seagulls--probably ring billed gulls--and Canada Geese. I'm sure that if it were not for the recent thaw and the subsequent melting of the snow that reexposed a lot of grass, those geese would have headed south to the Delaware Bay or Chesapeake Bay. They may be dumb and obnoxious, but they ain't stupid.

This was a short voyage of discovery made on my own. I had been to the Coudersport area when we were looking at property three years ago but neither Terry nor I had been out that way or beyond since we started working on the construction of the Aerie. Galeton and Gaines are about as far west as we've been since then.

There's lots of good fishing waters out that way. (In fact, that's one of the reasons I drove out there. The Outdoor Channel had a program about flyfishing Pine Creek and some of the tributaries to both the Susquehanna and Allegheny Rivers.) And, if I go just a bit further west, there's the Allegheny National Forest. But that may be an overnighter. As it was, much of this excursion was done at 50-55 mph and that's just too damn fast to really see anything. Besides Coudersport, there were several other small villages and towns I would have like to stop and get out and look around. Perhaps when spring arrives and the weather is a bit warmer....


UPDATE: So I get the comment below about going to God's Country and check out Solomon's Words only to find an article posted about how Ethan Allen is closing their Eldred plant!

And if you want up-to-the-minute information of happenings in and around Potter County Solomon's Words would seem to be THE place to go.