Catching Up

As I’m sitting here, sipping a cup of hot chocolate, I realized I hadn’t written in about 7 months. For this I apologize to whatever readers I have out there and to myself. You see writing this blog is something I enjoy. It gives me an outlet to share a bit of my world with yours. A lot has happened in the last seven months. So, I guess, I’ll try to get you all caught up.

The last weekend in June and the first weekend in July, I taught another class on building a Holtzapffel workbench. I only had two students this time, but all seem to have a good time and were happy with the results. To be truthful, only one of the benches has been finished. The other is waiting to be finished after a family emergency took that student away from the class before completion. But I’m still helping him out, when time allows.

Also, in July, was a week of vacation for the wife and me. I used the excuse of a traditional lobster bake, in Maine, to make it to Lie-Nielson Toolworks’ Annual Open House. Of course, we also spent the better part of a week in Boston, as her part of the trip. This Missouri boy learned all about how to make it around a large Metropolis on a subway. It was definitely a new experience for us. We took Amtrak’s Downeaster, on Saturday morning to Portland, Maine. There we rented a car and made the drive to Warren, Maine, home of Lie-Nielson Toolworks.

Unfortunately, we were a little late making it to Warren and we missed out on the demonstrations offered during the Open House. But I was able to catch up and renew some acquaintances, as well as make some new. I was recruited by Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild Director of Training, Norm Carpenter, to hand out some brochures to prospective teachers. A virtual who’s who of woodworking talent, Phil Lowe, Matt Bickford, Peter Follansbee, and Megan Fitzpatrick. There were more, but that’s all I was able to speak to before the dinner started. After a wonderful lobster dinner, we were treated to a great presentation by Peter Follansbee. The keynote speaker was supposed to be Thomas Moser but he took ill the night before, so Peter stepped up and did an outstanding job, with no preparation. All in all, it was a great trip.

Once we got back to good ole Kansas City, it was back to the salt mine. My niece, Stephanie, was getting married in October and she asked me for help making centerpieces, for her reception. You see, she was the Flower Girl for my wife and my wedding, 23 years ago, at the age of not quite, 5 years old. So of course, I was going to help her.

All she needed was 30-something log cookies, 12 inches in diameter and finished with polyurethane. I figured, “No Problem, Right”. Guess what? Problem! It all started innocent enough. My brother-in-law dropped off the logs that they wanted to use. They were picked out by Stephanie and her mother, from a tree that was taken down on church property where my brother-in-law worked. Perfect, I thought, “Holy logs. What could go wrong?” Of course, that was the start of, let’s call it an adventure.

It all started with both of my chainsaws shooting craps. I ended up renting one from that big orange box store to get the logs cut into manageable sections for the bandsaw. Then came the realization that my bandsaw was about an inch and a half too small to cut perfectly round log cookies. So, I consulted with the Bride and her father. It was determined that she would be okay with one flat spot on each cookie. This gave me enough room to slice them from the log on my bandsaw. One crisis averted. Next, I coated each cookie with Pentacryl wood stabilizer. That worked good at keeping the bark attached to each cookie, a required preference. Then after a couple of days of drying time, the cracks started.

Thank God only about a third of them cracked, but I was left with figuring how to repair the cracked cookies. My first solution was to do an epoxy pour, just like on the internet. After the mess associated with about 5 pours, I decided to find another way. That other way was a good, old fashioned butterfly inlay. As stated on a T-shirt I purchased over the summer, “Stops Cracks in their Tracks.” Next came the usual sanding and sanding some more. That was followed by the numerous coats of polyurethane. Then it was wrap them up, box them up, and deliver to the Bride a couple of weeks before the wedding. I snuck a special cookie, with a heart shaped inlay in with the rest of them. I figured it would be for the Bridal parties table. Let me state emphatically, this was a learning experience and I love my niece dearly. But, if I’m ever asked by anyone else, ever, to do this again, I will politely decline.

With the wedding behind us, life moved on in its usual organized chaotic way. I took a couple of classes. I learned making Shaker Oval Boxes from John Wilson and made a knife in a class with Mike Jones, of the KCWG. I also taught a class, for the first time, on making a traditional six board chest. All students seemed to be happy with their chest when all were done. So I’ll call it a success. One other thing, in the middle of all the chaos, I turned 60 years old. A milestone birthday at which, I used to think my life would be over by then. Guess what? I’m not about to stop, now. I may move a bit slower and creak when I move, but I’m still moving.

Tonight, was the annual Christmas dinner at the Guild. Awards were handed out, warm wishes exchanged, and a great meal was had by all. So, I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. And with that, I think we’re all caught up. See you next year.


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