July 1, 2015 Leave a comment

A former coworker put a post on Facebook about a dog locked in a car during warm weather that made me think about an incident like this I encountered while working in facilities at Vancouver Island University.

I was working on a sunny day when I heard a call on the radio from one of our landscapers, who was in a parking lot near me, asking for help to do with a dog locked in a parked car.  I got on the radio and offered to bring up a hammer from my tool kit to smash the window but the dog wasn’t in distress yet so they took the time to track down the owner through their parking pass number.  They were pulled out of class to let their dog out.

I was looking forward to busting that window….I could have been a vandal and hero with a single swing of the hammer!  I wouldn’t have cared about it coming back on me either.  Do you know what redress you have when someone breaks your car window to rescue your dog from death by heat stroke?  NONE.  You hang your head in shame, apologize for troubling the folks that intervened, and hope that you’re contrite enough to be allowed to keep your dog.

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A shop trick for making do and/or saving money.

June 20, 2015 Leave a comment

I’ve been tapping threads most of my life and only today, at the age of 39, did I buy my first bottoming tap.  Depending on what you want to do, hand taps for a given thread come in a few shapes.  Most weekend warriors are familiar with taper taps, but when you need to get threads to the bottom of a blind hole they won’t do:



Now today may be the first time I’ve actually bought a bottoming tap but I do own a few.  Here’s the tip:  Whenever I’ve needed one I would take the taper tap for the thread I want, grind the tip off, finish the job, and then replace the taper tap at my leisure; possibly days later.  It’s cheaper than buying a bunch of bottoming taps that you may never use.

FYI:  I bought the bottoming tap today because:

1)  I knew I’d be needing it to finish the job on my bench.

2)  It was right where I was shopping for something else I needed.

3)  It was inexpensive!

Finally:  If you don’t know how to grind tools, please don’t use this advice as inspiration to go out to the shed and wreck your taps.

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A telling stink!

June 14, 2015 Leave a comment

I was savouring the smell of my late morning coffee and thought about odours.

On a recent shopping trip in Coquitlam I went into a KMS Tools and a Princess Auto store within an hour of each other.  They both sell some similar products from offshore suppliers but they smell rather different and that shows the differences in their focus:

While the air in Princess Auto smells mainly of rubber, plastics and has “mercaptan-ish” feel to the whole place, KMS Tools mainly smells like oil and Cosmoline to me.

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Island Tuxedo

I was reading a post from a blogger in Finland who is promoting his favourite brand of wool thermal underwear and thought about the wool underwear in my part of the world.

Where I live, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, many men who work or spend time outdoors tend to wear the same brand grey wool thermal underwear.  It doesn’t get incredibly cold out here but it’s cold enough…and the damp is incredible…it’s called a rain forest for a reason.  These wool shirts keep you warm in spite of the damp and with the top worn on the outside it’s easy to remove a layer if you overheat while working.

It’s part of a uniform for island men:  Work boots, blue jeans, and that plain grey wool pullover.  If you go into a beer parlour many of the men, millionaires and bums alike, will be wearing the same blue pants and grey top.  I had a laugh when I went to the Stanfield’s web page for the product and saw it referred to as the “Island Tuxedo.”

By the way:  I’m told that if you go to work on large construction projects in other parts of the country, you can spot your fellow islanders on the job site by their grey wool shirts.

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Funny associations.

I have a few “cuts” of oats in the kitchen that range from whole grain to dust. I wanted neither mucilage nor grits today so I blended two grades together.

I was thinking about getting the ideal ratio of coarse:fine oats and my thoughts drifted to mortar….

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Thoughts about someone I used to know and capital punishment.

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m home sick today so I have time to share a thought…..

A fellow I used to know is in court today and has been accused of doing some despicable things. When the subject of him has come up in conversation with other people that knew him it sometimes degenerates into chest thumping and oath making by someone about what they would if they were dolling out the punishment.

When I think about the anger my friends express I wonder about the root of it. Is it because of the nature of the charges against him or is it something else? We were all shocked when he was arrested. I thought I was a good judge of character and would be able to identify a creep at a 1/4 mile but I didn’t spot him and that really shook me.

I just can’t feel angry about it like some people I know. I feel sad. In his case I don’t think there’s any question whether or not he did what he’s accused of but more about how he should be dealt with. I’m sad for his(until a judge says otherwise) alleged victims and for the turmoil his family must surely be experiencing.

When somebody says a certain criminal should be strung up I share this thought:

When a dog attacks somebody and he’s put down it’s not about punishment because the dog won’t learn from this. It’s not about making things right because his death won’t help the bites heal. If it’s done simply to punish or with anger or a spirit of vengeance then it degrades the whole community(because it’s done with our consent). You should only put down a dog because it’s a 100% sure way that he won’t bite again.

This comparison is not meant to dehumanize anybody. In Canada we don’t have a death sentence but do put down vicious animals so it’s a familiar analogy that I think could apply to a debate about executing people.

Perpetrators of serious crimes are often characterized as monsters and I think this is wrong. They’re people…despicable but still people. It would be easy to protect our communities if they had horns but they don’t. If you’re on guard for monsters then you might not notice a bad person in your midst.

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A new material.

January 31, 2015 Leave a comment
I took a little time on my day off last week to work with some antler that was given to me by a coworker who hunts.  I have never worked with it before and all I had to go by was the hunter’s comment that it stank when it was sawed and a warning from The Mad Luthier™ that I should wear a respirator when working with it.
The hunter was right.  What a smell.  It definitely has a grain to it and it will split.  It saws OK and turns nicely though it will jam in the flutes of drill bit no matter what you do.  You definitely need to keep your tools sharp for this stuff.
I used a nail buffing block to polish it and finished it was paste wax.  It’s beautiful and feels like ivory.  The cores are porous and that constrains you in terms of sizing your pieces but I sawed some wide, flat pieces from the forks of the rack and might experiment with relief carving next week.
I incorporated some of the antler into a pen barrel and it’s gorgeous.  The big question is do I keep the pen, try to sell it, or try and trade it to the hunter (who is saving antler for a chandelier) for more from his stash?
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