Monday, April 25, 2011

Did You Write? April 25, 2011

Did You Write? April 25, 2011

Boy did this week go by fast. It did not seem to have much time for writing. I know a lot of us have that problem. Others have the time but find other things they need to do with that time, and then there are those of us who write regularly, keeping up with goals, producing SOMETHING.
The purpose of this note is to eventually get all of us into the regular writing camp, flooding the publishers with quality work everybody wants to read. In this note, quality is not addressed. It is simply to help us all write and regularly.
How much to write is not as important as making the attempt. Word counts can be a good guide, but there are times where it is a bad measure of one's work. I have had editing sessions where I ended up within a few dozen words of what I started. I have also had writing sessions where I fought tooth and nail with a scene and had little to show for it. The act of opening the work is the most important thing.

I give a long list of things that can be writing. Time constraints today limits my post tonight. If you have to ask if is writing, the answer is yes.

On the writing front, I only got 1400 words in my Waxy story. I have had some long days, working extra hours (will look good on the paycheck) and extra hours on my weekend projects so I have not had the time to write I really wanted to. I also fought with a scene a bit and had to get my mind off original mind set and get into the swing of the new emphasis on the story. It is now looks like it is falling together.

On the story idea front, I have 48 ideas in my compost pile. I had a couple days where the ideas flowed fast. Several of the new ideas are exciting and deserve more effort to develop them than I am placing in them. Time constraints have priority.

This weekend I did a project I am really proud of. I have a small machining lathe. I can make cuts across a piece, or along the piece, but angles are not possible for anything that is long. Over the past week, I designed a new tool that would give me the ability to cut on angles. I tried different designs and finally came up with something that might work well.
This weekend, I spent an eight hour day making a mock-up of the part in wood to prove the design. With some modifications, my design will work fine. I now need to get some metal of the right size and then machine the metal into the actual part. It was a learning experience I am proud of. I had a lot of planning, figuring and adjustments to do before I ever made my first cut. I am excited about giving something like this another try. I have found another hobby and I might even be good at it!!!

Using the above for a story idea, He is an old style machinist. His machines are belt driven and he has to make his own tools. His planet has to be abandoned so he ends up on a space station. He is given a job at a tool making company. He is shown the machines he has to work with. Because the metals are so hard and impervious, they use a constant beam of a laser to do the work. There is no turning the beams off, one simply has to make the cuts the vest one can.
He is left to figure out how to do his work. he tests a tiny piece of the metal and sees it takes some time to cut. He then takes a cheap piece of metal, part of a packing case and finds it cuts easily. He looks over some of the tools and cannot find a way to hold the parts he wants to work with.
He picks a block of cheap metal and works out how he wants it designed. He then carefully works the part in the beam until he gets the part shaped. Since he cannot drill, he cuts in a thin slot and then cuts around until he has his hole. He cuts slots in other places, rocking the piece carefully to sweep away metal that needs to be removed.
He then shows off his part to see what others think. They are impressed with his imagination and skills. He is instantly placed as a permanent worker rather than a temporary worker.

As to the question of the week,

I can honestly say,




As one of the initial founders of this website, I have been severely chastised by Nancy time and time again about not posting here as much as I used to.
I have absolutely no idea as to how long it has actually been since my last post here, but obviously it's been a lot longer than I first thought, for I could find no record of my own pass code to this website!
Nancy had to let me use hers just to log in!

With that in mind...
First off, let me sincerely apologize to anyone who has been missing my words of wit and wisdom here.
And if you know the difference between the two, please tell me and then we'll both know.

Anyway, I have been pretty busy as a writer/editor in my own right.
I am not only Editor-In-Chief of The Free Choice E-zine at , but am also the creator/writer of Hugh Monn, Private Detective and Wylde World for Pro Se Productions (at ) where I also work as an editor too.
Pro Se is currently in the middle of switching from magazines to books, so I am also in the midst of writing my own novel(s) when I'm not editing the work of others, and yes Nancy, I will get back to work on proofreading yours soon!

So it's not like I have been intentionally ignoring any responsibilities I have here.
Another problem I have is that most of the time I am too bashful for my own good. I have always preferred to let my actions speak for themselves and am uncomfortable "tooting my own horn", so to speak.
But in this age of self-promotion, those that don't speak get left in the dust, so I am learning how and when to open my mouth, although some things (like the details about those aforementioned books) I honestly can't talk about right now.

So what DO I talk about?
With a lot of my hobbies, there isn't really much to show in public.
I collect baseball cards, and the Topps Card company is celebrating its 60th anniversary of producing baseball cards this year. Series 1 of the 2011 season looks quite good, but all the images are copyrighted between Topps and Major League Baseball, so I can't really cut and paste any of them here; which is a dang shame since design wise, this is one of the better sets Topps has produced in years.

I do read. A LOT!
If you folks would like me to start discussing comic books or regular novels/paperbacks here, I will be happy to do so.
One novel that I have just about finished reading in what I laughingly call my "spare" time, and hence the title for this website, is The Unscratchables by Cornelius Kane (aka Anthony O'Neil).

It is a great romp of an adventure between a streetwise Bulldog Cop and a Siamese Cat from the Feline Bureau of Investigation where in the end, the only ones they can trust are each other.
The novel reads like a cross between the Law and Order franchises, Dragnet, and a good (pulp) mystery.
The ONLY quibble I have about the book is that while there are distinct chapter divisions, for some odd reason they are not numbered.
Maybe that's a mystery to be solved if Kane/O'Neil writes a sequel.

Whatever the story turns out to be I hope he does write more Unscratchables novels.

WOW! I managed to take a few minutes out of my busy schedule to blog without some dreaded deadline crashing down upon me.
I am definitely going to have to make more of an effort to post here more often.
If there is anything you would like to ask or have me discuss/comment upon, just leave a message here and I will get to it.
Eventual-Lee yours,
Lee Houston, Junior
April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 589 woodworking

year 11, Week 15, Day One (week 589) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 04-23-11 Saturday

78 degrees early morning, 90 in afternoon, some hazy blue sky, some patchy clouds, a brisk breeze to make it all nice and comfortable and to blow fine sawdust everywhere. This weather report is brought to you by the City of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism, Florida's Warm Welcome.


Went to the turning club meeting. I had my little cannon and my Tababulia bark bowl. The members were pushing the limit on quality. My stuff was, by the best description, Rustic, compared to theirs. I also had pictures of my table displays.
One piece I really liked was really two pieces. The guy turned a piece that was open at both ends. He had two tall ribs around the outside. When done, he cut it in half length ways so he had two pieces. He then ground down the ribs so that there was feet on the bottom of the piece. He removed the ribs entirely on the first one he worked and realized he liked some ribs showing so he corrected it in the second piece. It was an excellent effect. It will be something I will have to try sometime.
They are going to have a club challenge in making tops. They demonstrated making tops, and had some very expensive tops also on display. One top was pierced, and the upper part opened up. Another was hollow and the upper part opened. One was wood burned with feathers all over it. A couple had a bunch of really tiny tops inside.
The demonstration was simple and easy and effectively showed the process of making tops. I should be able to make something.
With the challenge, they simply give people a ticket and they draw a ticket to find the winner. It is not a competition, but mainly a way to get people to make something they normally won't make.

Me holding my Tababulia bark bowl

Me holding the toy cannon


I had one main project in mind. I figured I would gain a lot out of doing this project.
My metal working lathe is designed to cut metal long ways, or across the bed, but to do angles, the head itself has to be turned. The problem with that is if you are working with a really long piece, one cannot reach the tail stock end. One also cannot hold the piece with the tail stock when one is working angles either.
My brother and I talked about making a tool rest that will move the cutting bit in and out, at whatever angle it might be. I started drawing up concepts of what the part would look like and after about eight attempts, I came up with a basic design.
Over the week, I worked out the process for doing the job, figuring out the steps to do each thing that needed to be done. I was excited.
Today, I got out the machine lathe and got it set up. I had to remove the motor from the base and put it on the milling stand so it works like a drill press.
A few weeks ago, I had cut some Orange tree wood into fairly square blocks. They were not exactly square.
The clamps used to hold the work are a bit of a challenge to use. It uses friction to keep the work in place. It is really designed for pieces less than an inch high and the wood I am working on was about two inches tall. I was using high bolts and had to make sure the chuck was not going to hit them. it was close. I have two chucks, one is like a drill would have and another is like used in wood turning. the drill style was too small to hold the router bit I was working with. I found out that it took some extra care to hold the bit in place. After about six times the bit started slipping out, I figured out how to make it hold.

starting setup for machining the block of wood

I flushed one face, which was end grain. I then worked down one side. I found a little problem. the wood was splitting out as I worked. I also got to a point and it would stop as if the wood got hard. After several attempts, It dawned on me that the chuck was hitting a tall bolt.
I machined the top, then flipped it over and machined the bottom, then used the disk sander to fix the ragged side.
I then took an existing tool holder to get a measurement for the slot I needed. I milled that in to the right depth and width. I then set the piece down upside down and started machining the inside. I miscalculated on part of it and changed my design as I worked. I was supposed to have a flange stick up on one end, but because the piece was too narrow, I left that off. Later, I glued a piece on as a replacement for the piece that would have been on there. I did not have enough material for that.
I dovetailed a slot on the bottom, and then decided to make my job easier and make the project stronger by machining one side straight, since it was up against a piece that stuck up high.
That piece done, I turned to the bottom. My choice on the dovetail made the bottom easier to make. I had less to fiddle with to get the angles right.
I did have some problems of the material rotating as I worked so my dovetail was not straight. When I tried to fit the two pieces together, I found I needed to do some filing and sanding to get them to slide across each other.

The two finished machined parts separated

Two machined parts mounted together.

After eight hours of work, I had pretty good results and it is a nice mock-up for the part I want to make. I need to drill some holes for screws. That might show that I will have to make the piece wider to give all the room I need. It is better to work this all out in wood than in metal which is more expensive and harder to work with.

The beast of the backyard was annoyed with me. He wanted me to sit there quietly and pet him, but instead I was using the machine and he always left when I turned that on.

Last week, I got home and found a wing had come off one of my fairies. I glued it back on today. It needs some touch up paint, but otherwise looks good.

Tomorrow, I will add dowels to the toy canon so it will be child proof and I can fix a couple things that bug me about it. I have a couple other pieces I need to work on, and if my brother comes up, I want him to look at my dremmels and see if he can figure out why they stopped working.
I have my FORDUM so I will be able to do some grinding and cutting and such. If the dremmels are toast, I might move all their bits and stuff to the Fordum box. I do have to fix the switch on it, I just remembered.

I will see what actually happens tomorrow.

year 11, Week 15, Day Two (week 589) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 04-24-11 Sunday

78 degrees when I arrived in the morning, 89 at the last time I looked. blue sky with patchy clouds. I never saw the sun dim so either they never crossed in front of the sun or they were too thin to make a difference. A good brisk breeze made the temps comfortable.
The difference between now and summer, is that in the summer, it is 85 at night, and second, the humidity is high in the summer, making it feel so much more hot. Right now, the earth has a chance to cool down some and takes time to heat up so while the air is hot it does not feel quite like it is hot (Those who live in air conditioning will feel it and suffer).
This weather report is brought to you by the City of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism, Florida's Warm welcome.

I took today as sort of a lazy day. I had a folding TV table that was missing a screw. I first had to search for a screw that was long enough to go through the necessary parts. I then had to search for one that would fit the imbedded screw. I could not find any, but had a screw with a nut. I tried to drill out the thread and the imbedded nut came out. I put in the screw and tightened the nut. I tried closing the thing and found the long bolt was in the way. I saw that the nut was not in the way. I took a hacksaw, and stood there cutting the piece off. My Dremmels were not working and a little motor tool I had, had no guts. to cut it. That is now fixed.

I tried to drill some holes in the pieces I made yesterday. the drill broke one piece of wood rather than drill it. I glued the piece on twice. What I had was good enough to show how it was designed even though I never added the screw like I planned on adding.

I figured I would remove the wheels from my cannon, add decorative and strengthening dowels into the cannon, and fix the wheels. I found I could not get them off. My brother later told me that the end caps are of a type that does not come off. I found I bent the wheels and marred one wheel. I may touch it up during the week with a grinder.

I have a cart where my spare turning tools are piled. I emptied it out and separated the spare metal from the tools and sorted things. I found several items I had thought I lost. It had not been too long ago that I had sorted it.
What I had was rod stock I thought would go good for making tools, and some pipes and fittings that would be good for ferrules around tool handles. With the little lathe and milling machine, I am looking at that metal with a slightly different eye. It dawned on me that absolutely nothing is barred from me in designing and making tools as long as I can fit it into my machines.
I looked at the metal pieces my brother gave me and compared it to the wood tool holder pattern I made and saw that I would have to learn welding to make use of that stuff for that project.

My brother fixed my FORDUM. It only went backwards. It took some doing and searching for tools, but we found out that it was mis-wired in the factory. The wires are supposed to cross, left to right, right to left. What they did was twist the wires around each other so they ended up not actually crossing. Now I have forward and backwards. Dremmel tools that screw on will no longer unscrew themselves.

My battery powered dremmel and my electric dremmel are dead. I guess I killed the battery and my plug-in has had a long life. We decided not to deal with either one for now. My brother said that we have a lot of Dremmels laying around so building one from the parts would not be too big a problem. Since the Fordum is working, I am not in a big hurry. I will swap out the tool boxes so I have all my favorite bits in one place.
I stopped at a box store looking for battery powered Dremmels and batteries but that one did not have it. I know each store has different selections. Maybe in a few weeks I will go to a store that I know has them.

I showed my brother the machining project I did yesterday. He was impressed and said that the design would work. I would have to make certain places thicker, but it would work. We discussed design differences we could do. He showed his design. Mine is flat while his is upright. He had me figure out how big the stock metal would have to be if I were to make mine. Mine would be two pieces of two inch by two inch by one inch stock. I probably should make something in metal from my stock just so I can see how it would be really like to work metal. I am already giving it some thought.

One rule of working with a lathe is that you check for wrenches and tightening bars before you turn a machine on. One of those flying can do damage, to the machine, to things around you or to yourself, and it is a royal bother to have to search for the or make new ones.
I forgot about one of the tightening bars for the chuck. It was still in the hole in the chuck. I flicked it on and heard the metal hit near one of the potted plants. I never found it. I then made a new bar since I had some rod the right diameter on hand. I was then working on a project and one of the rods disappeared. I made two more.
Without a dremmel and a cut-off disk, cutting metal is a bit time consuming. I used a hack saw and then broke one off half way. I did dig out a small motor tool, but it had no guts. It nibbled at the metal and I decided the hacksaw was likely faster.
I did not bother making a few extra bars. I later found the second one. I think it rolled through a hole inside the lathe box where I was working at the time, and then onto the table. I moved the box and found the rod.
One project I had yesterday was to figure out what thread that lathe used for the tools and parts. I figured out that it is metric. It is M-12, but has machine thread. The Ace Hardware I went to did not have machine thread that big. My brother wants to make a part for the lathe and wants it to screw on.

Of future projects I want to work on, I want to make the tool holder like the wood one I made. I want to make a taper that will fit into the shaft of the lathe. There are some tools and parts that can be made to slip on to work. I cannot do threads yet.
I have to make a replacement box for the lathe. I figured out that I will make the box closed up, top, bottom and sides, then saw the lid off. The box I have now has a metal plate to hold the lip in place and piano hinges on the back. otherwise the top and bottom just meet.
I want to make a steady rest for my big lathe. when working with long projects, it is nice to have something to hold a piece steady. I have a number of designs I can do.
I need to start working on Christmas ornaments. I have ones I made over the past few years that I am short on, and need to come up with some new ones for this year. Now is the best time to start.
I want to make a tiny toy cannon to match the trucks and cars that my brother is making for his grandson.
we have a club challenge next month so I want to make a few tops for the challenge.
that is a good start for now.

I will be returning a bunch of my work off at the antique shop I have my stuff on display at. Beyond that, I will have to see what comes to mind between now and then, and see what is the most exciting project to work on. I do have a family get-together.

I will see what I will do next weekend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Day At The Farm...

We decided to take a drive out there last Saturday. I took a few pictures here and there, and then mostly sat and chatted with the owners. Had a great time too. Spring is slow this year, and so is the process of getting a closing date. But then, I'm not noted for my patience...

Not exactly a banner day, weather-wise. It was cold, blustery, and threatening rain, and it did rain buckets late in the evening and overnight. But the grass is greening up and spirits are high around here.  BTW, we did talk about the office, which is that old mobile home near the garage, and it is definitely staying. A deal between friends with mutual benefits to all. 

I am so eager to get out in that garden and work. I told the current tenant (elderly father of the owner) he was welcome to plant potatoes there again this year. I will have at least some veggies, so it will be shared space and produce, as well as a joint effort. Win/win all around

There was a cheerful clump of yellow daffodils in bloom over by the milk room. The floral version of a hello wave.

Ongoing work to clean out the barn was the order of the day.

Looking across the lower part of the side yard, between maple and crabapple branches. Yep, that's the nearest neighbor's house.

Looking toward the road in the side yard. Yeah, there's a balloon in the magnolia. Must have blown there from another yard.

The forsythia bush was in bloom. Mine are here too, where they line the roadway, offering summer privacy and in winter an airy veil between traffic and house. I grew up with a forsythia bush in the front yard, one of the first heralds of spring in the shrub world. Nice to have one everywhere I live, a connection with my childhood. I recall my mother moving the one in our yard from across the driveway to where she could see and tend it. She was always the independent type, and at 77, still loves to putter around the yard.

A closeup of what I am now sure is a magnolia tree/bush. Look at the size and amount of buds! It will be stunning in bloom. I'm hoping this is one of the purple flowered ones, the buds showing petal tips look rather dark to me.
Whatever it is, we will love it.

This is a pretty cabin in the neighborhood. Some nice homes here in what used to be a cornfield on the north side.

Another home seen through the brush. I'm told we have very good neighbors. Always nice to hear that. I have a very good neighborhood here too.

A male robin sang his heart out in the red maple tree between house and barn. The blossoms are just amazing this close!

Just a quick shot of the wild border to the property.

A male English sparrow on the upper left shares a tree with three cowbirds to the lower right. There was another robin in there somewhere too, which I could hear but not pinpoint. So nice to see some familiar birds. My mother has several bird feeders that will be making the trip with her. Feeding the birds year round is another one of her hobbies.

Another shot of that overgrown little garden. I do want to reclaim that for Ma.

One of the fruit trees on the north side along the border. They all need some pruning TLC.

I'm told this little tree is a pear and it bears fruit.

A third fruit tree I spotted in the border hedgerow. I will trim around these and see what I can do to salvage them. I intend to plant more.

Out behind the barn, the cleanup goes on. That's the property's well in the foreground.

A nice shot of the house from below. I've been picking out exterior paint colors, as that's one of our goals this year. I'm leaning heavily toward a deep, rich brown. Found a shade the other day called 'Chocolate Chip'. How perfect is that for me? LOL

The stacked stone wall by the barn. I love the layered colors and textures.

An opportunistic woodchuck made a secure entrance beneath granite slabs behind the barn. That guy (or gal) is going bye-bye because woodchucks are a walking mouth and stomach. I want to find a use for those big slabs anyway.

A robin hunting the lawn area between the driveway and garden. There's just something I find reassuring about having bird life around.

I had to get another shot of those daffodils, they are just so darn pretty! That's a clump of iris to the right, and as I recall they are the old fashioned type with smaller flowers, tall white standards (upright petals) and purple-blue falls (drooping petals). We'll see how good my memory serves me when they actually bloom! I will be bringing some of my own iris with me. I have some small yellow shaded off-white ones here that came from the house I grew up in.

The milk room (AKA my potting shed) was open. Right now I am told it does not have electricity, but it does not look hard to wire, and there is a service panel inside.

On the far end of the barn, they at least stood the door back up, and you can walk inside now. I did. The cleaning is an ongoing process.

The door isn't hung yet but it at least gives you an idea of how it will be positioned. That wall does look kicked out, but it could just be an optical illusion. It doesn't look that bad from either side or from the inside. I can just picture cattle or horses walking down that bermed ramp.

A shot of the edge of the pond taken from the driveway near the end of the barn. There are buds on the brush, a lot of which is Japanese bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose, both very invasive species of plants here in Connecticut. We want to do some clearing of that this year, and I plan on planting more environmentally friendly plants to replace some of what we remove.

A look toward the back of the lot from about halfway across the property. That far line of trees is about where it ends. The trailers and equipment will be trickling out. It is a big task clearing out a property that has been home and business for so many years. The three trailers on the right are parked at the loading dock.

We talk about this fireplace often. The kids gave me a cast iron Dutch oven with a wire bail for my birthday so I can attempt to cook over it. You bet I will! That crane swings out so you can tend the pot.

We had just left for the day when the owner called and said he was on his way over. We turned around and drove back, and there was a deer in the field who did not really budge when I got out of the car. She was very photogenic...

...and totally unconcerned about us, even as I crept closer. The fresh green grass had all her attention.

How good that must seem after such a tough winter.

I didn't want to bother her, but she didn't seem to mind posing for me.

Only when I stepped off the edge of the driveway did she look up. The tail is still down, so she is just being wary.

She is still a good long ways off, near the edge of the pond. If you look closely, you will see she has company.

Yeah, that's another deer to the right. Amazing how easily they can be camouflaged in the brush. I couldn't see the second one until I viewed these pictures!

And then like ghosts, they both melted into the brush and disappeared from sight.

Up by the house, more daffodils were out. That area needs a good cleaning up, and we will have to be very careful around that meter. But those vines must go. There is a clump of asparagus planted in there, for some unfathomable reason—the dead frond stalks are laying down in front of the daffodils.

By the other entrance, which also faces the driveway, is a holly bush and behind it what I believe might be remnants of a white lilac. I know there used to be a big white lilac bush there, before the new clapboards went on. Those clapboards by the way, are all local pine that was cut and milled on a nearby lot. The window you see is in the attic stairwell room. Down on the right between step and daffodils are some day lilies. 

This is the front of the house, and you can see how close it is to the highway! I think I want a fence there, if we are allowed to put one in. It would be safer for mowing, weed-whacking and other outdoor chores. 

More daffodils and day lilies in the grass.

I'm thinking this might be an old door stone. That is right outside the middle room window, and inside, it does not look original. It is the only window with no sill. So I suspect this was once the front entrance to the house, changed now that the country highway is so busy. Those are day lilies peeking up around it.

A really nice shot up the highway. This is a lovely, scenic area of farms and country homes. There is a campground right across the street, and a much larger pond.

I found a clump of lily of the valley by the corner of the house, and I knew who planted that. My dear and sadly missed friend Bev, who originally bought this place back in 1966, told me she loved lily of the valley. There are day lilies to the left, and I am not sure if that other stuff with the yellowish buds is leafy spurge (a pesty, invasive weed) or creeping phlox. Time will tell.

I thought you might also enjoy some closeups...

Mr. Robin in the red maple tree. You can tell the males from the females at this time of year if you look closely and compare. He has a bright red chest and underparts, and his head is black. The female would be a lighter rust color, and her head is more dull brown than black. The males sing and display for courtship reasons and to advertise their virility and ability to find a good nesting site. Females are duller for recognition purposes and so that they can hide easier when laying and sitting eggs. See? You learned something today! LOL

Those irresistible bright yellow daffodils again. How can you look at them and not feel like smiling? This shot would make great desktop wallpaper.


Mr. Robin out hunting...

"Oh deer!"

"I'm afraid I couldn't help pigging out!"

"Do you think the color green makes my butt look too big?"

"Naw—life is too short to worry about things like that!"

As I wrote on the blog this morning, the sky is yet again overcast, and it's cool out. But the birds are all singing, and a woodpecker up back is providing percussion on a dead stub somewhere out in the woods. The breeze is fresh and moist and smells of woodsmoke, wet soil, and burgeoning life in buds and new shoots pushing out of the ground. Here and there is a light haze of yellow green where sap has risen and little leaves are unfurling on the underbrush. Life stirs again in the forest around me at my backwoods home of almost 29 years now, just as it does on the old farm we will soon move to. Spring is a happy time full of the promise of a new beginning. And it's a great reminder for the heavy heart and weary soul that no matter what our sorrows, how cold and dead the world seems, life comes in cycles, and every harsh and dreary season of death and freezes is followed by a new chance to start over.

Go on your way, with peace and joy,