Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quote from my dad

A quote from my dad:

''Prudence trumps high adventure.''

Pretty sure he made it up himself.


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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wisdom of kids

This isn't the wisdom of my kids.  It's from a cartoon.


"Ph.D. Comics" is a good online comic strip series, by the way.  Amusing if you've gone to graduate school, or are close to someone who has.



Friday, January 17, 2014

Some woodworking shop tours

Last night I took a hankering to take a look at other people's small woodworking shops.was inspired to do a bit of a web search. Below are the ones that caught my interest.

For comparison: my workshop is about 3m x 8m (10ft x 20ft).  I have two shelving units for various parts (rope; hinges; many jars of bolts and screws; S-hooks; etc.).  I have a big long lumber rack.  My most-frequently-used tools are on a rack and/or shelves above my workbench.  My infrequently-used tools are on a surplussed wooden mail cubbyhole unit that's about shoulder height (used to be from the Marine Biology department, I believe).

This guy is in a 10ft x 16ft outbuilding.  I thought it was interesting that he puts his frequently-used tools in the old-timey woodworking chest next to his workbench, whereas I have mine above my workbench.  Different approaches.

This guy has a 10ft x 10ft "garden shed" that he converted into a woodshop.  His tool storage system is a bit more similar to mine, in that he puts his hand tools on the wall above and behind his workbench.  His shop is much more similar to mine -- although I wouldn't have most of the power tools that he has:  probably just a drill press and a lathe.

This guy's workbench is the least like mine -- partly because it's "medium-sized" (IMO), not really small.  But I do like his large workbench, and also his "hewing bench" (clever!).  He has waaaay less stored lumber than me.  :)

Here's a woodshop in the bathroom of a studio apartment.  Although, it's a power-tool shop.  Seems like he'd be better off going the hand-tool route.

Here's a guy who has his workshop in a storage room, down an access hatch behind his parking space in a Tokyo apartment building.  A secret lair!!!  Way more power tools than I would use -- but neat-o none the less.

 This guy converted an 8ft x 30ft camping trailer into a workshop.  Pretty sweet (although, again -- I'd have fewer power tools).

Here's another one-car garage workshop -- 9ft x 18ft.  Nice set-up -- although I'd personally ditch the table saw and use that space for lumber storage, put a lathe where the jointer is, and put a grinding wheel, and maybe a shop sink, in place of the chop saw.  But, different working styles.

 This one is -- I'm inferring -- 6ft x 6ft.  It's in a guy's Japanese apartment.  I'd actually be setting it up in more of a "Western" way:  maybe a four-foot workbench, with tools on a free-standing tool rack behind the workbench.  But, that's my style.

This guy's shop is in a spare bedroom.  His tool set-up looks similar to what I would do.  His blog had a lot of good entries (many of which I've linked to below), so I ended up subscribing to his blog.

And, this lady does her work out on her deck (the photo is the storage bin where she keeps her tools). This overlaps with my own approach:  I do a moderate amount of work outside.  This is partly because my workshop is a little cluttered, but also because the weather is pretty mild.  I tend to cut my large boards, and do a lot of assembly, out on the grass near my shop.  If it's rainy I'll do it under the carport, which is connected to the back of my shop.


Here's a guy's tool storage in his workshop.  He explains the French cleat tool storage system that he developed above his workbench.  He includes a substantial "How To" component.  Not the direction that I've headed, with my own tool rack -- but I still thought it was worth sharing.  Plus, I appreciated his observation that there's a few tools that you use a whole bunch (so, keep 'em handy!), and then others that you rarely use.

Here's a good article -- and another good article -- about setting up a small, mostly hand-tool shop.

This article discusses the sawdust issue of having a workshop inside the house.  The author has a handtool-based shop, in the "spare" bedroom, and he says sawdust isn't a problem because handtool woodworking tends to generate coarser sawdust (and wood shavings, and chips) -- compared to power tool.

And here's an article on which tools to start with, when you're just starting out in woodworking.  Basically, don't feel like you need to go out with a shopping list and buy a whole list of tools before you're "allowed" to start woodworking.  Instead, choose a project, and buy tools on an as-needed basis.  Makes sense.

A downside, of course, to a small shop is wrangling large boards.

An article on one advantage of doing mostly hand-tool work.

He also discusses how thin handplane shavings are over-rated.

And how you shouldn't work tired.

And how to saw long stock using a pair of sawbenches.



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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dreamed I had not graduated

Hm!  Every few months I dream that I haven't finished college. 

Last night was a variation on that theme:  I was working at my current job (crunching data for the state government), but also was going back to college to finish my B.A.  My first question was:  what to major in.  After some deliberation, I decided on Sociology and Psychology -- which is what I had actually done in real life.

The second decision (which was actually premature, given that I had a few years until graduating!) was what would I do for a job?  In the dream, I suddenly realized that I could just keep my current job (crunching data), and either work part-time or take a leave of absence.

Yeah -- not very exciting.  Mostly I'm just logging that, yeah, I had yet another "actually haven't finished college" dream.

I'm in my mid 40s.  Maybe someday I'll stop having these sorts of dreams.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shaping my world

One of the things I enjoy about middle age is having a stronger sense of what I like, and what I don't like.  This means that I can shape my environment to be more enjoyable, based on my own aesthetics.

And one of the things -- apparently! -- that I like doing is hand-tool woodworking.  And although I don't log as much shop time as I'd like, I've been doing it enough over the last two or three years that I'm getting a sense of my workflow -- and can optimize my shop to better suit my approach.

I used to have a free-standing shelving unit perched on the back of my workbench, and I laid out my often-used tools on that.  But because it was **on** my workbench, if I did anything that jiggled the workbench (pounding, sawing), things would sometimes fall off.

So, in June or July of last year (i.e. about six months ago), I built a free-standing tool rack:  it has L-shaped feet and it rests on the floor behind my workbench.  In other words, it is physically de-coupled from my workbench -- so when the workbench jiggles, the tool rack does not.

So last night, after several months of stalled progress, I **finally** hung up my most often-used hammers, right next to where I typically stand. (The delay was caused by trying to finish the doweling jig, so that I could produce dowels that I could use to hang up the hammers.  I finished the doweling jig on Sunday, and Tuesday [yesterday] I made me some dowels.)  A fairly heavy hammer (heavier than a typical claw hammer), a lighter hammer (but heftier than a typical tack hammer), and a mallet (made by my late paternal grandfather).

I already had a few chisels lined up (vertical, to the right, in a re-purposed dish-drying rack), and two of my often-used handplanes underneath.  Notice also the blue brush, which I use every few minutes to whisk away the sawdust and shavings.

I have room for one more hammer (a tack hammer), but I won't put it there unless I find myself using it fairly often.  I also need to re-assemble my other "go-to" handplane and put it next to the others (a block plane, and a wooden scrub plane).  

Also:  less-impressively, I've added a cup next to the faucet nearest my workshop (there's no running water to my shop).  When I'm thirsty but can't be bothered to inside to get a drink, I drink from the faucet.  Except that I end up getting water all over my cheek and beard.

Over the weekend I salvaged a plastic cup with a handle from my neighbors, who were just going to throw it away.  So yesterday I put a look of twine through the handle, and drove a nail into the side of the free-standing hose reel that's near the faucet.  Seems to work:  I think I used it five times that day!

As an aside, you'll see the white plastic container on the ground. That has a bar of soap.  The plastic container was a disposable, microwaveable soup container, with vent holes on the top:   the holes allow the damp soap to dry out.  I used to just have the soap sitting on the lid of a plastic bucket -- but little critters (mice? possums?) kept stealing the soap and gnawing on it:  I'd find it next to the car with teeth marks in it.  Hence, the closed container -- but still near the faucet!

And the rustic, rusty sheet of corrugated roofing metal under the faucet is there to prevent splatter from staining the light-colored bricks.

Anyhow:  I'm really enjoying re-shaping my world to suit my ways.  :)


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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Doweling jig number two

This is a follow-up to the blog entry on doweling jig number one.

Today is Tuesday.  The Girl was too ill to go in to work with The Lady, and it was my turn to stay home with sick children.

But because The Girl was sick enough to stay home, but not so sick that she needed constant monitoring, I was able to make some more progress on the second doweling jig.

Because this dowel plate is a completely different shape than the previous dowel plate, the jig or holder is also of a different design.

The previous dowel plate was from angle iron; this one is from a slab of steel about as thick as my thumb.  So, I decided to make a trough with legs.

In the above photo, I've already laid the metal bar on the piece of wood, traced the outline, and rough-chiseled the depth.  So now I'm using a router plane to bring the depth to a uniform thickness.

Here's a shot of the metal bar that is the doweling plate.  Note the weird bend at the end:  dunno why that's there, but it was already there when I got the metal.  (Note:  "Thank you" to Next-Door Uncle, who gave me the scrap piece of metal with the holes at each end, plus drilled an additional hole (different size!) in the middle.)

Here's the bar, in the nest.

A pretty nice fit -- if I do say so myself!  No discernible side-to-side or end-to-end movement.  In fact, it's a little difficult to get the metal bar out of the trough:  even when I turn the wood upside-down it doesn't come out:  I need to whack it.

Here's the underside of the holder.  As you can see, there's some funny angles going on.  That's because, as with most of my projects, I'm using scraps from a previous project.  All three pieces are leftovers from a free-standing chinup bar that I made.  These pieces are scraps from the diagonal braces of the frame for the chinup bar -- hence, the funny angles.

Note the holes:  I decided that since I now have a doweling jig (the one I completed a few days ago!), it would be fun to have some doweled joints.

I also had fun with some bastardized joinery.  The joint on the left is some sort of half-lap; the joint on the right is possibly an "open mortice"(???).

Here's the holder, dummied up.  The homemade dowels are in the trough.

The dowels, BTW, are also from scraps from the chinup bar!

And -- here's the holder, nearly completed.  The legs have been glued and doweled.

I made a short dowel as a plug, then put it into the hole in the bent end, as a "Do not use this hole" kind of indicator.  This plug is also a scrap from the chinup bar.

Notice that I made a little piece of wood to hold the metal bar into the trough, so that it doesn't "jump" while I'm pounding it.  The bar is currently swung out of the way, and the bar is not yet seated in the trough.

The only thing standing in the way of completion is a visit to Next-Door Uncle's:  I realized that I can't figure out the precise diameter of the holes (it would help if I knew whether it was in inches or millimeters).  So I need to visit Next-Door Uncle and track down the drill bits he used.  And then I need to drill some clearance holes in the trough, under the holes, to allow the completed dowels to pass thorough.

I'll probably post a "finished" photo as an update, at the bottom of this blog entry.


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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Doweling plate number one

This weekend I finished a doweling plate, and started on another.

A doweling plate -- or doweling jig? -- is just a piece of metal with holes the diameter of your intended dowel.  You whittle a piece of wood to slightly larger than your intended dowel, make the ends a little narrower than the hole, and pound the wood through the hole with a mallet.  What results is a small wooden cylinder:  a dowel!!!

The first photo (above) shows the basis of my doweling jig:  a piece of angle iron, left over from another project (it already had the two small holes on the ends, and the small hole in the middle).  I asked my brother-in-law, who does metalworking, to drill two additional holes.  This gave me a total of three holes in the middle for making dowels; the two on the ends are for mounting the doweling plate to the frame.

Here's a front view of the frame that I built.  I've marked the diameter on the front, so that I can remember the sizes for the different holes.  As with most of my projects, this is made from scraps -- and all the scraps for a project are from the same source.  In this case, these are all leftovers from pieces of wood that were left over from housing construction in the estates behind my kids' old daycare center.

The holes are guidance holes:  because the metal for this doweling plate is thinner than most doweling plates, there's a chance that the resulting dowels might pull to the side as they go through, resulting in curved dowels.  So I drilled holes through the wood to keep the dowels straight.  I also "relieved" the underside of the holes a little bit -- so only about half of the thickness of the wood is actually guiding the dowels.

This is another view of the frame.  Note the notch that I cut, to allow the angle iron to be out of the way of my future mallet-pounding.  If I left the back flap of the angle iron sticking up then I'd run the risk of nicking it with my mallet -- which would potentially ruin the face of the mallet.

And, here's the finished product, as well as (from L to R):

-the knife (a multi-tool, recently given to me by Old Roommate) that I used to whittle the ends down

-an example of a dowel blank

-the hammer I use to gently tap the "dowel extractor"

-the "dowel extractor", made of copper (explained below), and

-a completed dowel!

Usually each dowel is driven out of the doweling jig by the next, incoming dowel.  But how you do remove the very last dowel?  For this, I made a "dowel extractor".  It's length of scrap copper tubing (courtesy of my wife's late grandfather's pile o' metal things, next to our chicken coop!).  I'm using copper because it's softer than the steel doweling plate -- so if I accidentally bump the edge of the doweling hole with the dowel extractor I won't mess up the edge.  The stripey electrician's tape just makes it easier to find it among the debris -- and also indicates "NOT GARBAGE!  THIS IS AN ACTUAL TOOL.".

I'll post pics of the other doweling plate when I've made more progress on it.


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Thursday, January 09, 2014


Someone on the woodworking list that I belong to posted this link to Mark Twain's acoustic guitar (really!).  It's valued at over fifteen **million** dollars.

Some people on the list queried this extreme value.  "Mike in Sacto" posted the response, "My first thought was, 'Well, it belonged to [Mark] Twain.' "

He also posted the following (I've altered the formatting):

My second thought was, "Because somebody wanted it badly enough to pay
that price.  

More years ago than I care to think about, a fellow was trying to sell a pre-Columbian artefact for $500.  A potential buyer asked, "Is it worth $500?"  The fellow answered, "It is if you will pay $500."  

There's a lot of truth in that answer.

Ayep.  :)


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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Very earnest

My older son, B2 ("Blondie Boy") is very earnest.

Last night the family was watching t.v., and there was a characater smoking.  I turned to my kids and said, "You guys aren't allowed to smoke". 

Blondie Boy replied, "Un-less you are ninety-nine years old.  And then you can." 

This is the same kid who, when I warn them of safety things -- like "Be sure to hold my hand when crossing the street" -- will say, in a matter-of-fact voice "Be-cause then a car will hit you.  And then you will die."



Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Isle of Man

I think I mentioned, perhaps half a year ago, that I got into a "Wouldn't it be cool to live in Norway for a year?" kick.  I did a fair amount of internet research, including getting a list of small-to-medium-sized villages and Google Maps-ing them.

That interest lasted a few weeks, until I realized that the daydream of moving to Norway was based on hanging around the house doing music and woodworking.  The finances were unclear in my daydream, but probably involved lottery winnings.  And I realized that if I won the lottery, I'd end up just staying home and doing music and woodworking without having to move to Norway to do it.  Ah.

Anyhow, a few days ago a data analysis at work -- in an indirect way -- made me encounter the Isle of Man.  I didn't know where it was, so I Wikipedia'd it.  And now I'm on a "wouldn't it be interesting to move to the Isle of Man" kick.

The island is pretty oval-shaped.  Not very big:  To drive from one end of the island to the other is 30-40 minutes (I don’t know the speed limit).

Also, the ferry ride from Liverpool(!!!) to the island is about 45 minutes, and I think the ferry ride from the island to Dublin is about an hour.

The internet says that the weather is pretty mild:  from memory, it stays just above freezing during the winter, but substantially cooler than Brisbane during the summer!

And most of it's fairly rural -- so, lots of room for a workshop and a recording studio in the back yard, if you buy right.  Maybe something like this.

Also, they have karate, tae kwon do, boxing, and mixed martial arts available.  They used to have wing chun; not sure if they still do.

But, once again:  if I had the money to do that, I may as well just stay here.


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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Movie review of Frozen

Yesterday we saw the movie Frozen.  As often happens with me and "kids' movies", I didn't want to go because I thought it wouldn't be any good.  So the fact that I ended up liking the movie -- starting about two minutes into it -- is testimony to its quality.

As with good animated films, it's interesting to grown-ups as well.

The basic premise is that it takes place in a made-up kingdom that reminded me of Finland (or how I imagine Finland would have been a few hundred years ago).  The heir to the throne (female) has ice and snow abilities, but she can't control them, so she ends up hding in her room and rarely seeing her parents or sister (with whom she was previously very close).  And then things happen.

It's well-written, good animation, and several subtle but refreshing twists on traditional "fairy tales":  both the main characters are females, and (as it turns out -- A MINOR **SPOILER**, SO STOP READING -- neither one ends up needing a man to "redeem" or rescue her.

Also, there were two places where I teared up:  sad or poignant bits.  And there was a place near the end where the animators (or writers?) had a nice touch:  a puff of steamed breath.  You'll know what I mean when you see it.

So, I liked it.  Not enough to buy a copy and watch it over and over -- but enough to recommend that people check it out.



Friday, January 03, 2014

Backlog of eggs

We have four chickens (hens).  They're mostly pets, in that they produce three or four eggs a day -- but we rarely eat the eggs.  We like eggs just fine, but we just don't around to using them.

So, once or twice a week, I bring them in to work and hand them off to various co-workers.

However, the state government shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Year's -- so I didn't go to work -- so we had a huge backlog of eggs.

So, one day I fried up five eggs, and had them for brunch.  And then that afternoon I fried up three more, for an afternoon snack.

Pepper; no salt.


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