Category Archives: Off Topic

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 2)

I left off last week with the first part of the project of where I could go one way with one chair and another with the other: extracting the screws pre- or post-sanding.

The first chair was pre-sanding.

I used a scratch awl from a $20 driver set to clear out the slots of many of the screws. This was my realization of just how much paint had been used on the chairs. And it wasn’t just paint. Whoever had done this work had used primer under the paint.

In concept, this is a smart approach.

Whatever was underneath likely was not ready for paint, and the primer helps create a good surface for paint to adhere to. Also the white primer makes it easier to have uniform color by covering the old surface with solid white.

Unfortunately for me, the sheer amount of primer and paint was… a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. That meant that it was possible that the screws were actually stuck in place by the primer and paint. It would be hard enough to try to get a good channel for a flathead driver bit, but even if I did, what were the chances I wouldn’t strip the heads?

It was a good thing that I had my extractor bit set, even though the cheap bits were showing considerable wear after heavy usage.

I used a flathead driver bit with my DeWalt impact driver set on low and with a very light squeeze of the trigger. I needed to encourage the screws to come out while trying to avoid stripping the heads and without slipping off and taking a bite out of the wood.

The slip-out and bite is a huge issue with flathead screws. I had experienced that decades ago and had to patch over that in the last series I wrote about.

My DeWalt impact driver has more than 100x human torque. It was a slow and steady process to get the screws I could out of the chair.

I couldn’t get all of them, though, and that meant trying to drill them out so I could use my extractor set.

To make my work faster and easier, I decided to pick up some DeWalt bits that boasted longer life for use with metal. Almost immediately, one 1/16″ bit snapped. The other didn’t last too much longer.

More on adventures in bit breaking next week!

Remember how the world looked yesterday at about 3:40pm?

As usual for a Saturday post, I’ve written this Friday afternoon. If a ton has happened since time of writing that makes yesterday a distant memory, here’s what the world looked like then:

Tommy Lasorda passed away.

Betsy DeVos has resigned.
Elaine Chao has resigned.
Mick Mulvaney has resigned.
Hope Hicks will be leaving next week.

Ben Carson was trending because people are making fun of him.

Trump remains divisive.

Tucker Carlson has been abusing this audience with

Biden says he’s been saying that Trump is not fit to lead for more than a year. “That’s why I ran,” he said today.

Reported domestic single-day COVID-related deaths topped 4000 for the first time.

Kim and Kanye are splitsville.

No one knows where Melania is.

Ted Lieu announced that he’s bringing articles of impeachment on Monday.

This came after Nancy Pelosi has asked Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and later demanded Trump resign. Doesn’t look like either will happen.

But the impeachment articles on Monday and Ben Sasse saying that he is willing to consider convicting in the senate. We can’t forget that Mark Kelly has replaced Martha McSally in John McCain’s old seat.

Ossoff and Warnock may be sworn in next week.

They need only 66 votes because David Perdue of Georgia bounced a few days ago when his term expired. Kelly Loeffler is still the appointee until they certify the votes in GA.

I have all kinds of news feeds set up to inform me of developments throughout Shabbat.

Local:
KTLA

Domestic:
Los Angeles Times Left-Center
Washington Post Left-Center
New York Times Left-Center
Wall Street Journal Right-Center
CNN Left
Fox News Right

International:
Deutsche Welle Left-Center
BBC Left-Center
NHK Right-Center

Opinion:
Donald Trump twitter whoops! Just got suspended permanently! Not using this!
Newsmax

Commentary/Trump bashing:
Lincoln Project twitter

I wish you all a weekend of safety and health and that this weekend is pleasant and without any terrible news.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 1)

Toward the end of last year but well before the indefinite stay-at-home orders, I drove across the city to pick up some chairs that were listed in the free stuff section of craigslist. I drive a coupe, and I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get the chairs into my car. I had thought I might be able to disassemble them before taking them home, but wasn’t happening.

The chairs looked to have a lot of potential, and that’s the main draw for me for a project.

Since this is the first time I’m taking on a chairs project, I knew when I set out that there was a real chance I would not be successful. As this is an ongoing project that is not yet complete, this series will have many updates, and there have been numerous challenges along the way. I’ve also learned a lot along the way so far, and there’s more to go.

My plan was to get all the paint off the chair and give them a natural finish. I’d have to figure out how to redo the cushions or just buy new ones that fit.

On first glance, the chairs looked fine structurally. But it’s hard to really get the old finish off and repair damage without taking the item apart. Doable, sure, but this is my first foray into chairs.

Since I had two chairs, I knew I had the flexibility to take different approaches.

When I looked closely at the chairs, I saw that they had been painted thick with the orange paint. It looked like it was a fun project to do. As is appropriate for a final project before discard, there was no mind paid to removing screws or making any adjustment.

Screws were barely visible under the paint. Screws I’d have to remove.

And the screws that kept the chair together are the flat-head screws.

So I had to make a decision: Do I sand the the areas with the screws first and then try to remove the screws, or do I clear out the channel of the flat-head and try to remove them before sanding?

That’s the first bifurcation.

I got to try both ways because I have two chairs.

More next week.

Reflections on blogging in 2020

We all know how hard 2020 was. About midway through the year I decided to start blogging as a way to feel like I was getting out of the confines of my home. While I had done crosswords over time, I decided that it doing them and broadcasting my successes and my failures would mean I’d have something to write about every day.

I then took on the NYT Spelling Bee to complement the NYT and WSJ crosswords.

I’d like to say that my blog has kept me sane from when I started in the summer, but that’s not accurate. For a stretch of weeks from late August to partway through October, I fell to a low point in through and couldn’t really get myself to write about the crosswords, even when I’d done them. I was listless.

I saw the world collapsing with political divisiveness that led to varying approaches to COVID-19 safety. With every event that caused a spike in cases, I saw my wedding date being pushed more into the future. Even when I was asked yesterday if I have a date for the wedding, I said the thing I’ve gotten used to: “Yes, I do. My date is Calah.”

I’m lucky to be surrounded by friends, even if not physically. Weekly board game night has long shifted to being Zoom-based, and that’s certainly done a lot for me. But it was Calah who told me that blogging had been a good thing early, so I should just go back to writing on the regular, even if I didn’t feel like I could.

And as you’ve seen, it’s certainly gotten back to fully chugging along.

I like that I get to write daily.

I like being part of the NYT Spelling Bee community.

I like woodworking projects I do and writing my weekly Tuesday blog about it.

I’m looking forward to a much better 2021.

Thanks for reading what I write. Thank you for your support. I hope you find it to be entertaining. I try to find something interesting to write about with the puzzles I solve.

Coming upon the woodworking blogs are a couple chairs and some more end tables! Should be good.

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 3)

NOTE: This is the final installment of this project. A new woodworking project series starts next week.

I left off last week with the plans in place to attempt to fix the split, install the new screws, cover gaps with wood filler, sand, and then use take oil.

I had the clamps from the old end table refinishing project, so I hoped that the split would be able to be fixed with glue and pressure. After a solid attempt, there wasn’t much movement, and I’d have to fill the crack with the wood filler.

The effort did leave some marks, but all part of the game. The first sanding step was next and then countersinking the new screws.

I knew I would have to sand after the wood filler, but sanding beforehand gave me a clean surface, a view of what I had to do, and a lot less to fix when the filler dried hard and could be sanded.

I drilled out enough to let the new screws grab hold and be deep enough for the filler to survive.

And the Robertson screws are great. I learned that I do not have a preference between Torx and Robertson. Both are easy to drive and stable. I felt no chance of slippage.

Filling the holes and then sanding was pretty fun. While I don’t seem to have pictures of the wood filler process, it was simple to apply and then smooth out with an old plastic card. A giftcard to a place Covid put out of business or a gym membership card work nicely.

There are many colors of wood filler available, and some people recommend using sanding dust from the piece of wood you want to fill to make a perfect color match. I have no problem even calling attention to it.

When I stripped the screw head decades ago, the driver bit slipped and dug into the wood. That gouge is now covered by the wood filler, as you can see in the lower of the two on the right side.

Next step: teak oil!

What a change from this:

I really like how this looks. I’m very proud of it, and I think that I would have been just as stoked with it if I’d finished it this way decades ago.

What I find even cooler is that the wood filler is darker on the left side and lighter on the right side.

Except it isn’t. It’s like the optical illusion we’ve all seen in some corporate training seminar:

Trippy, right? https://www.creativethinkinghub.com/optical-illusion-are-the-grey-blocks-really-the-same-colour/

While this project is now complete, I’ll have a new woodworking project next week. I’ve been working on a couple of chairs for a while, and they’re not done yet. I also don’t know if they will end up turning out. This may be my first complete failure project, but these are new territory for me, and I’m learning a lot. Join me in the new year, won’t you?

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 2)

I left off last week with the thought that the stripped screw extractor bits I had purchased for the end table would work with this one. Well, I ran into some issues.

The end table had wood screws that were soft. Not a lot of convincing had to be done in order to remove those. It was fun to remove those screws. This had three main things working against my effort:

  1. The screw is made of hard steel. It’s amazing that the screwhead was stripped at all, but because it was, there it stayed for decades.
  2. The screw was there at all to keep pressure for glue that was drying. It was like using loctite.
  3. The screw was a slotted round head. This is massively different from a Phillips flat-head.
Phillips flat head.
Slotted round head.

The Phillips flat head is easier to extract. All you have to do is clear out the drive (i.e. where the screwdriver meets the screw) with a drill bit and use the extractor bit to grab the sides of the cone you’ve drilled out.

But a round head screw needs to be drilled out way more in order to turn the drive into a usable cone.

After significant time trying to drill out the screw with my old Craftsman bits, I started to wonder if it was a better idea just to drill away the head and leave the headless screw where it was. But I kept going because that wasn’t what I’d set out to do. I was going to remove this screw!

That upper screw on the right side was causing me so much pain.

And I kept on going.

Feeling defeated, I decided I’d give it one last go. Out it came. My initial thought of how happy I was to be rid of the screw right before giving up was replaced by the thought that it wasn’t the first last chance I had pledged. That gave way to a feeling of relief that had built up over 20 years.

There was so much work ahead of me. I had intended to countersink the screw heads and fill with wood putty. I also had the split at the top to try to glue back together without tearing apart the entire table. I didn’t see exactly how it was going to happen, but it certainly was worth a try.

I researched wood putty and wood filler. Based on reviews, I ended up buying Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. It comes in a squeeze tube, so application isn’t so cumbersome.

The screws that needed to be countersunk were already in my possession! I had researched screws for the other end table refinish project, and this was my chance to use the Robertson wood screws. It’d be the first time I’d use a square drive screw head.

https://www.fastenere.com/12-x-2-12-square-drive-bugle-head-deck-screws-stainless-steel-18-8-qty-50

After all that, I’d have to sand everything down to smooth it out and get rid of the stains that had accumulated over time. Then the teak oil.

More next week.

What’s happened today?

This post is set to publish at noon on Saturday. There is a fire weather watch in Los Angeles. It’s been so dry here that the backs of my hands have gotten rough and require me to use lotion. I’m guessing the extensive handwashing is exacerbating the issue, but I’m fine making that trade. Using lotion is annoying and is messing me up because I have yet to figure out the proper balance between making sure I use enough to prevent my mitts from splitting open and the Chanukah miracle of the oil not going away nearly as fast as it should.

I hope this Saturday has been and will continue to be uneventful.

The Spelling Bee will post tonight as usual.

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 1)

I took woodshop in the summers after sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I made a chessboard the first summer and a small table the second summer. I tried to turn chess pieces the third summer, but that went poorly.

This series is about the small table project from the summer after seventh grade.

The year was 2001. At age 12, I was woodshop veteran heading back to Horace Mann School in Beverly Hills as I had been awaiting eagerly to do. But unlike the prior summer, I was going to be able to figure out what I wanted to build rather than choose from a list.

After a conversation with my folks about it, I think I came up with a stepstool or footstool or the like. My mom came across a picture of a stepstool in like Architectural Digest and asked what I thought. I remember it as being painted green, but that was coming up on 20 years ago, and I’m doing the best I can here. Whatever I made was not going to be painted green.

Equipped with the picture of what was probably only 7″ tall and with a 8″ x 14″ top, I went to the first day of summer school.

A note here is that I looked forward to a repeat of Mr. Bartkoski’s first day explanations of safety measures and how you can know how good a shop teacher is by how many fingers he has. “But don’t worry–I’ve got all of mine!” he announced with a huge grin as he displayed his hands to the whole class. I remembered gasping in horror along with the rest of the newcomers the prior summer because Mr. Bartkoski had expertly shown us the backs of his hands but curled his fingers in so nothing past the first knuckle of each finger was exposed. I was eager to hear the setup and enjoy the reactions to the punchline. And when it happened, it was wonderful. There’s really nothing like scaring the shit out of a roomful of boys and girls who are 10-12 years old.

When I showed Mr. Bartkoski the picture of what I wanted to make, he said that something taller and bigger would be more versatile.

There was some wood available as part of the class, but anybody who wanted to make something out of better wood was required to provide it.

It was off to House of Hardwood to get some birch. Of course I didn’t go alone. My mom took me there. I was 12, remember?

I cut, glued, clamped, planed, sanded, and routed my way through assembly of the table over the course of that summer. Per the advice of Mr. Bartkoski, I used screws to keep the leg panels in place while the glue was drying. The idea was to remove the screws afterward and fill the holes with wood putty so I could finish it.

And that’s what happened. Except that I stripped the head of one of the eight screws. So it was seven screws out and one in.

That’s how it stayed for about two decades.

Over time I used it for things like holding speakers to listen to music while I was in bed.

Later I used it under the CRT TV/VCR combo my sister used in college so I could play PS2 in my bedroom.

After a long while of the PS4 blowing hot air on and surrounding where I’d glued the top together, a crack developed along that seam.

So I had an unfinished table with a stubborn screw and new split. Eventually I’d be able to take care of it, I’d hoped. Maybe I’d get to sand off he head of the screw and go from there. But I took no action.

It stayed as an unfinished bedside table for years. And it’s not very good for a bedside table. There are no drawers. There’s no lower shelf. But it does keep things off the ground and closer to bed level, so it qualified.

This year changed everything, as 2020 has tended to do.

I had to purchase stripped screw extractor bits for the redo of the end table. It worked well for that project, and I figured there was a good chance it would work on this one.

More next week.

I made latkes for the first time!

Happy Chanukah, everyone! Thursday night I made latkes for the first time.

For years I’ve enjoyed the latkes that Lauren has made for me, but stupid COVID has made certain that I won’t be seeing her this holiday. So I asked her for the recipe, and she linked me to the one on Epicurious as a good starting point.

The recipe says that it takes 45 minutes to make, but that was absolutely not the case for me. Holy smokes. I don’t know if it was just that it was because it was my first time and wasn’t yet practiced at what I was doing, but it took me more than two hours.

The recipe calls for use of a food processor rather than hand-grating. Some of you may be thinking that it took me so long for that reason. Nope! I used a food processor. I don’t think my food processor is small, but I did have to dump out the contents after each potato. I guess it’s possible that I didn’t have to do that, but the container seemed full, and I wasn’t prepared to risk the safety of my only food processor.

I realize now that it’s probably a good idea to register for a new food processor for when Calah and I can finally get married. STOP DELAYING MY LIFE, COVID!

Lauren said that draining the mixture is important. I didn’t do a comparison, but I agree with this assessment.

These aren’t the latkes that my bubbie would make. Those latkes really capture the Chanukah feeling of never-ending oil. They didn’t have the hash brown consistency of these latkes but seemed to be made from like a potato puree, though I’m sure that description is inaccurate.

The latkes were monstrous. Each was the size of a plate. It’s like she was running IHOPP–International House of Potato Pancakes. Massive latkes.

Each was cooked to a different level of crispiness. There were some that could stand up on end. I’m salivating at the memory of that crunch.

She knew that my dad and I loved the latkes, so she took advantage of the strength that she had to make them for us at every opportunity possible rather than limiting it to a Chanukah specialty because she knew it wouldn’t be long until the pancreatic cancer gained the upper hand.

I don’t know if I can replicate those. It’s been nearly a decade without her and therefore without them. If I had the recipe, I don’t know what I’d do. I might try to make them, but I don’t know if I even want to be certain what those are made of. I feel better about them because I don’t know exactly how much oil she used. She may also have grated the potatoes by hand, and I have no interest in doing that.

This all said, I wish she could make them for me again.