Friday, September 19, 2014

With the help of some friends.....

Once again, I am so fortunate to have people in my life willing to help me when it's time for heavy lifting! The school is expanding, and I've spread out into the bay next-door. 

Humble beginnings; there is a TON of work to be done!

 Eric, Lupe and Denny volunteered to help move the heavy stuff - and wow, they knocked everything out in half the time I thought it would take.

Meanwhile, Denny and I have started making workbenches - the new side of the shop will have some individual benches, set up in a classroom-like lay-out. Here's the first one I built, to test it out. 

Dennis, the instructor in the current router class, thinks it's a sweet bench, and he's pretty much a woodworking genius, so - once it passed his approval - we started making the rest. 

 These benches will get a lot of use (and abuse!) so we wedged all of the mortise and tenon joints...

 a lot of work, but it's worth it!

These benches will last a lifetime!

The tops go on the benches today, and although it feels like it took forever to build these, we really only spent about 35 hours building 8 benches. I'm all about the effeciency  of building things - we knocked these out with the help of jigs and tool set-ups that allowed us to cut mortise and tenons very quickly.

Here's how I felt at the end of the day, when all eight benches were assembled:

Speaking of friends - check out this video of some very helpful friends, helping with a barn raising in Ohio.

Now THAT is team work!

A big thank-you to Eric, Lupe and Denny for helping me move - I can't tell you how much I appreciate your hard work!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Shots from the Desert

The weather is finally cooling off here, although some would argue that 100˚ isn't really all that cool. But you'd be surprised how tolerable that is, compared to our 110˚ days of a month ago. With the cooler temps, I've had a little more motivation to head out on the trails near my house. 

This park is close, and never fails to give me a good workout. 

I'm not sure what they mean when they say "Future Site" because it's already fenced in and full of trails.

And - it's mostly virgin desert land - full of weird and interesting things to see. 

Since it's near a golf course, it gives me a lifetime supply of golfballs - you'd be surprised how many balls I've found out in the middle of nowhere. 

Right before I head out, Stella gives me a guilty stare - as if to ask why she can't tag along. But it's dusty and full of thorns and other pointy things - and there is no way I'd bring her with me.

Whenever I'm out on the trails, my favorite gangster movie comes to mind. Casino has to be one of best films for showing the desert in Las Vegas. 

Who can forget Joe Pesci being dragged out to the middle of the desert, and being forced to watch his brother beaten and killed. 

When I'm out on the trails - I swear some day, I'm going to find a body out there. 

So I thought I'd share a few of the interesting things I've seen - 

like this section of vertebrae rising up out of the soil. 

Or this giant - I'm not sure what to call it. When I first saw it - I thought it was a giant pupae from some primordial caterpillar. 

Now that I've ridden past it a few times, I think it's just an abandon Sonotube, that someone left in the middle of nowhere. Time has morphed it into something else.

This tire has been there a while, as proven by the sprouted plant within. 

And - maybe this area was used as a test landing spot for helicopters. 

There are a million stories out here. Someone has marked this area during geological surveys - otherwise, why would this be out MILES from anywhere that matters.

Once in a while, I'll be riding and all of sudden - something catches my eye - the only thing I can do is slam on the brakes and check it out. 

This old can appeared to be shot so many times, an automatic weapon must have done it. 

I know where the burrowing owls live, sometimes they fly away when I ride past, but 

but mostly - they just peek their heads out and look at the crazy girl on a bike in the middle of nowhere. 

There are jackrabbits, who like to play hide-and-seek, but luckily - I haven't run into any snakes yet. 

The best part of it all is just the wide open land - no buildings, no people, just a little wind howling, and storms that brew in a distance.  This sure isn't what people picture in their heads when they think of Las Vegas, but anyone who lives here knows that there are special places to get away from the neon and the traffic. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back in the day....

Back in my last life - I helped my family run their Italian restaurant. 

It was a team effort - my whole family worked there, and our employees were like extensions of the family - for better or worse! 

Even better - we knew our customers well -  they seemed like family, too. Over the years, we celebrated their birthdays, graduations, weddings, births, deaths - all of those functions celebrated in our banquet room.

It kind of broke my parent's hearts when my sister and I didn't want to take over the reins and continue running it - but it just wasn't our passion. Somehow - working 14-hour days, seven days a week didn't seem all that enticing. 

I saw this video and it reminded me of the millions of pizza boxes that we used over the years. (Paper cuts from folding boxes are worse that splinters, BTW!)  Had this product been available - I'm sure we would have used this pizza box! 

This is genius!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Chainsaw skills

Just the other day, I was telling the story of the time that a friend and I tried to cut down  a huge poplar tree that was leaning dangerously close toward my old woodshop. (It didn't quite work out as planned.) 

Ahh - the old days - where I actually had hardwood trees in the yard! Here's a picture of my old woodshop - nestled in a forest of cherry trees. 

When I saw this video, I was particularly impressed with the skills of the sawyers. It not only takes some chainsaw skills, but a ton of courage to do what these fellows did! 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

10 Things Not to Say to a Woodworker... good luck with that!

Some people actually get into woodworking thinking they will save money, by building their own furniture. Damn, have I got news for you....

So when I saw a post  on the ACT blog, entitled "10 things not to say to an Artist or Craftsman" - I thought it was quite relevant to woodworkers.  

Here's their list, with a few of my comments in red added in. Feel free to add your own comments. 

(If you're a woodworker, I'm sure you'll have an opinion to share about a few of these!)

10 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO A Woodworker

10. “I’ll just get my friend to make me one of those.”  (Good luck with that!)
9. “You know what you should make . . . ”   (Yes, I do. Thank you very much for NOT telling me.)
8. “Do I get a price break if I buy two?”  (Maybe two dozen.....)
7. “I can make that myself.”   (Good luck with that!)
6. “Why does it cost so much?”    (My Furniture Design degree cost roughly $10,000 a year for four years, plus the cost of my tools - roughly $80,000-$100,000 in tools, accessories, clamps, supplies, inventory. That's not including rent, insurance, overhead, and wasting time answering questions like this... THAT is why my pricing is in that range.)
5. “How do you make this?”    (If I shared that with you, then I would have to terminate you!)
4. “Will you donate your artwork to our event? We can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure.”   (No, but since you like my work so much, feel free to share my name with all of your friends and business contacts.)
3. “My nine-year-old makes this kind of stuff too.”   (That's how I started - don't stifle their creativity, but don't encourage them too much, either. This is a tough way to make a living.) 
2. “Kids, this is what happens if you don’t go to college.”   (I honestly don't have a good response for that one.... does anyone out there have a good answer for this?)
1. “I can buy that at Walmart for $3.99.”     (Good luck with that!)

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Hemingway of Hardwood

Grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up.

Here's a terrific video on Sam Maloof - one of the founders of the studio craft movement. He passed away in 2009, but his designs live on. I meet so many people who want to build his iconic rocking chair -  I might just build one myself!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

George Jetson - Furniture of the Future

What the hell?!

The Chair-less chair is coming - and although it makes a lot of sense, it seems rather Soylent Green-ish to me.   

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Do you own a CNC router?

This is kind of a fun project - someone put a ton of effort into this project and the video, too. Almost makes me want to buy a small CNC machine! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What a pitch!

What a (pitchy) mess!

Wow, my blades are a wreck. We've sawn through miles of wood during the last few weeks, and you can feel the drag on the blade with every cut. 

I pulled the blades from every saw, and decided to test a couple of cleaners. Someone gave me a can of the Sprayway cleaner, and I picked up a can of Easy-Off Oven Cleaner.

There is conflicting information about the best way to clean pitch off a saw blade - some say that using oven cleaner will attack the binder used on carbide blades, thus deteriorating the brazing on the carbide tips. The theory is that if the brazing fails, the carbide tips can separate from the blade. 

Not cool.

But - other studies say that using oven cleaners are fine.

One thing is sure - both substances I tried dissolved the pitch almost immediately. It didn't take 30 seconds of soaking to dissolve everything. 

A green scrubby removes everything caked around the tips.  (I'm using gloves, by the way.)

So the question remains - is it safe to use oven cleaner to clean my blades? 

The price of the official blade cleaning product is about $5.50 a can, and oven cleaner is just a little less than that, so price isn't a huge consideration. 

Some people complain about the toxicity of oven cleaner, but after getting a snout full of the pitch cleaner - I think that's a moot point. Both really suck!

Considering that my blades only "soak" in the oven cleaner for 30 seconds, and are rinsed clean -  they can't sustain much deterioration. 

Bottom line? I'll just use what I have available. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

The most amazing garden in years!

Sometimes it takes a few years to figure things out, to get it right. This year - I finally figured out how to manage a good garden here in the desert. Wait – I take it back.... A great garden! 

But don't get me wrong,  my past gardens have been pretty good. But this year - it seems like everything came together perfectly. 

I reserve my Sundays for gardening - it's the only day of the week I manage to get out into the yard and play in the dirt. Add a cup of coffee to the mix, or a beer if it's later in the day, and I'm pretty content. 

These tulips bloomed in February; we had a very mild winter and things started sprouting in January. Right around then, some friends and I got together and decided to start our gardens from seeds, rather than buying starter plants. We each chose the plants that we wanted to start - and agreed to meet in a couple of months, so that we could trade plants. 

It was a terrific idea - for just a few dollars, I started zucchini and cucumbers and beets.I saw a post somewhere online that mentioned using the cardboard cores from toilet paper rolls or paper towels for starting your seeds. It's a perfect way of getting your seedlings growing - put a little dirt in the tube, drop in a seed, and water it. 

 A few weeks later- you'll have these. They were reaching for the sunlight, and for just the cost of a pack of seeds, you can have about thirty or forty plants. That cardboard is biodegradable, so you can just dig a hole and drop it it. 

 We traded them in March - Mel and Nancy brought in a HUGE variety of tomatoes, Lupe brought in peppers and eggplant - as a matter of fact, we had so many plants were just giving them away to people in the shop.

 Mine were in the ground in no time.

Here's the humble beginning of the garden, in just a few plants in place.

 See that tall plant toward the back? Someone told me about cutting the ends off scallions - and throwing the roots in the soil. Those are the scallions growing - they're about 3 feet tall! 

They got a little tough, so I didn't eat them - but they sure do look cool in the garden.

This is the first time I actually mulched my soil - it makes everything look so clean and pretty. 

The artichokes are one of the first plants to take off,

 and I had a decent crop of them before the aphids took over. 

I had so many, but a few got past me -  like this Don King artichoke. In the end– the aphids won that battle and I had to cut back all of the artichoke plants to the ground. Luckily - they are perennials; they'll be back next year. And I learned a trick or two about dealing with bugs. More on that later...

Here are some beets just starting to sprout up.

 I had no idea beets were this easy to grow - here they are a few weeks later later.  

At first, the beets were tiny

 and then POW! 

... Mega beets! 

The greens are almost better than the beets themselves!

As the warmer weather kicked in, the tomatoes started wreaking havoc. 

The garden went from this 

to this 

and then to this.... in no time! 

Every other day, I was pulling out yields like this...

Homemade chipotle salsa, anyone?

This might be the most perfect tomato I've ever grown.

When one of the zucchini gets past me and grows a little too big,

 it's time to make this. 

And these "donuts."

We had a lovely storm, and BooM! 

Everything just exploded!

I wish I'd have dated these photos, to see how long it took to go from this to this - 

but if felt like it was almost overnight!

The eggplant are just maturing - I can't wait! I'm not sure there's anything better than grilled eggplant on pizza. 

Once in a while, I'll be cleaning out some dead leaves or harvesting some tomatoes and I'll find something like this. I didn't even know the cucumbers were still growing! 

Here is today's harvest - not bad. I'm going to try Scott Conant's fresh tomato sauce recipe with these, even though these aren't technically "cooking" tomatoes.  

Finally - one of the keys to the success this year has to be the "pesticide" tip that my friend Joann shared with me. Joann is a Master Gardener, here's an article about her in our local paper! 

For years, I've suffered the insult of growing a great garden, only to have it destroyed by mid summer by insects. 

hornworms (true bitches)

 squash bugs, which are pretty much zucchini terminators.


 You name it, they have "visited" me. But this year, Joann suggested sprinkling my plants with diatomaceous earth. I'd heard of it, but never knew anything about it. Turns out - it's a garden saver! 

I use the food grade version, which some people actually eat. (WTF?)  I sprinkle it on my plants, using a huge restaurant salt shaker. It bothers the hell out of them, effectively dehydrating and killing them. And it is perfectly safe. 

After a good sprinkling - it almost looks like it has snowed in my garden. But - I'd rather have white "snow" on the leaves, than bugs. Everything gets a good rinse before I bring it inside.

And there you have it - the best garden so far. 

Many thanks to my gardening buds - Mel, Nancy, Lupe and Joanne - hope that we can share plants again next spring!