Category Archives: Off Topic

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 9)

I decided to go with torx deck screws to replace the flathead ones I’d removed earlier.

While it seems unnecessary screws to hold the legs on if the dowels are glued properly, my expectation is that the manufacturer decided that it’s easier to mass produce chairs if you use glue and screws instead of glue and clamps.

I decided to mostly take that approach, too. I needed to use clamps to make sure things sat properly, but I used screws to hold everything in place and under pressure.

I didn’t expect to be able to rely fully on the screws to exert the same pressure as the Irwin clamps I got that exert over 300 lbs of pressure. The dowels would certainly sit properly as a result of the clamps, and the screws could take over holding them in place.

So I could switch focus to the cross pieces that have no screws to hold them in place. They’d have to dry with the clamps like normal.

With flathead/slotted screws, there’s major concern about slip-outs and head stripping. There’s nothing to keep the driver in place at high speed. With the torx deck screws, there’s no such concern.

Also it’s a good way to get rid of some dust.

With everything screwed in place, I reached for the wood filler.

And with every necessary thing patched, the next step would be light sanding and then teak oil.

More next week.

Spring Break

I’ve seen the videos of spring breakers on the beach in Florida and elsewhere. It’s not the pandemic that’s making me question what they’re doing. Well, OK, yeah, it is. But it’s not JUST the pandemic that’s confusing me about what they’re doing.

See, when I was in college, spring break was a break from the classes and the homework and everything. You got relief from the heavy learning you were doing.

Except I went to UCSB. The school gave you access to really whatever you wanted to do at the fullest. You want to learn from extremely accomplished professors? Go for it! You want to study all the time? You got it! You wanna get drunk and party? Tons of opportunity there, too. It was pretty great.

With remote learning in college now, what do people have to spring break from? If they don’t care about pandemic, what’s been stopping them? Sure, Halloween was more partying in Santa Barbara back then, but that was mostly out of towners who converged on UCSB to go crazy.

If I were in college now and didn’t care about distancing requirements, I don’t know that I would have the motivation to go to a crazy spring break.

But that’s just me.

Stay safe, everyone! We’re getting close to emerging from this pandemic if we can just hold out a little longer.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 8)

The downside of using the chisel to strip the paint is that it wasn’t always perfect.

I ran into issues where I went in at the wrong angle and gouged out wood where I wish I hadn’t and where the wood just kinda gave up on me. Since I’d have to patch the wood, I decided I’d use the same Minwax filler from a prior project. I knew that it’s not the same color as the wood of the chair, but I wanted it not to match because I expected to like the contrast.

As for the holes in my hands and splinters buried in them, filler wouldn’t have the effect I’d desire. (Gloves? Why?)

Oh! I upgraded from my old Makita corded sander, too. I now have a DeWalt battery-operated sander. Wow is it easier to use. It’s less cumbersome because there’s no cable. It has variable speeds. It’s way easier to change sheets of sandpaper. It doesn’t make my hands numb for days and days after sanding a lot.

I used the new DeWalt sander to get rid of the non-gouge roughness.

But before patching everything up, reassembly!

Everything had dry-fit together. It ought to work with glue, too.

New dowels looking clean.

Still fits!

Wood glue cleans up easily with a wet rag. As long as the glue hasn’t dried yet.

With each piece that fit together properly, it was excitement anew for me.

More next week on further reassembly, patching, and other challenges.

Remember travel?

It’s Friday afternoon, and thoughts have gone to fantasy honeymoon plans.

This week Calah and I started watching The Amazing Race together. We began with the first episode of Season 2. I had traveled the world alone for Season 1.

The world looks so weird in that show.

I know that part of it is that it’s filmed for broadcast in standard definition, and another part is how low-tech everything was compared to today.

But mainly it’s the who thing about going to airports and to places that are, you know, not within walking distance.

People are packed in close to one another. What are masks?

Season 2 also was filmed shortly after 9/11, and one non-New Yorker wears an FDNY beanie.

And then we got to an episode where they are in Thailand and have to go into a cave with bats. They’re provided masks and boots so they can keep safe.

Calah and I recognized the N95 masks immediately, and Calah lamented, “There was endless supply of N95 masks then!”

We’re hoping to be able to go to Islay together. I went there right after our first date, and when I talked about her to the bartender at the Laphroaig distillery, the dude looked at me and asked me what I was doing there? Like why wasn’t I already back in LA?

I did luck out that she didn’t forget about me by the time I got back weeks later. It might have had something to do with asking her before my trip if she wanted to go to the Magic Castle for our second date. Hard to believe that that’s coming up on two years ago.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 7)

To this point, I had been concerned that the chairs project was doomed. As of the writing of this post, the chairs still are not completely done, and as I’ve established before, I prefer for my projects to work out fully, but I don’t know at the start if they will. And I don’t wait till I know to start writing about them. This looked… bad.

So when the chair fit together, I was stunned. And invigorated.

And that got me to start thinking in new ways.

At the outset of this project, I had spent a lot of time sanding the orange paint and white primer off the chairs instead of using a liquid or gel paint stripper. It was tedious work and difficult to get into the corners.

Quick background:

My college roommate, Darren, and I still exchange birthday presents. This summer we’ll be a full decade removed from living together at UCSB, and while he now lives in San Diego and I live in LA, we’re still great friends. The stuff we get each other range from gag gift to extremely useful and suddenly necessary.

For my most recent birthday, Darren got me a set of chisels. I didn’t know how I’d place them into service, but I was thankful that I had tools I wouldn’t have thought to purchase on my own.

Without the chisels, I’d probably still be sanding.

I realized that I could use the chisels to shave off what I needed to, get into the tight areas that are hard to reach with a sander, and possibly do this without affecting the wood underneath.

So I began to do that. And the results were crazy.

Of course, there would still have to be some sanding to get everything smooth.

More on that and additional challenges I faced next week.

A day to sleep in

Hello from Friday afternoon, everyone! I’m tired from this week and don’t have the wherewithal to write much. I do have some exciting news:

I have made more significant progress on the chairs project. I hadn’t really expected to learn so much about upholstery. But there’s that component.

When the chairs project is complete, I’ll begin a series on another end table project. This is a set of two end tables. It’s a matching set, but each table has its own set of challenges.

They had to travel far just to get to me. Here’s what they looked like in Albuquerque, NM:

Stay safe, everyone!

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 6)

There’s no perfect replacement for having a proper workbench. A thick tabletop that can take all kinds of abuse, a vise permanently attached to one end, space that can accommodate that setup. It’s a dream environment. Unfortunately for me, that’s as accurate a description as any.

I have to use what I’ve got in the space I’ve got.

Now, the last post ended with me sawing off some legs and needing to replace the dowels that held the chair together.

For the dowels that had separated cleanly, it was more a matter of taking off the old glue to expose gluable surfaces.

However, the dowels I had cut right through required a different approach: drilling out the old ones and replacing them in the exact same locations so the chair would line up again.

The key to this process was to go slow and to stay on target. A misaligned pair of holes is absolute death for the chair. The old dowels were a good guide. The screw holes were a hazard I had to avoid.

While I could hold a leg down and go slowly, I couldn’t do the same with the end of the front panel.

This is where a workbench would have served me well. But I don’t have a workbench. After some thought, I realized that I could use a clamp I have. It’s heavy enough, I figured.

It was a painstaking process, but it worked.

I wanted to make sure that the chair fit back together before continuing to strip the chair of the orange paint and white primer. It was exciting to see everything align in a dry fit.

More next week!

Chili for dinner and chili for lunch

Hello from Friday afternoon. Dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow is chili. Calah refers to it as my famous chili, but since I don’t think I’ve written a blog post about it before, how famous could it possibly be?

Over the years I’ve changed how I make chili. I’ve added some ingredients and swapped almost all fresh for canned. I do have dried kidney beans in the pantry, but I still haven’t broken away from canned. I think that is mainly caused by a fear of breaking my teeth on rocks in dried beans. I’ve heard warnings from my mom whenever she’d soak beans for cholent. I have to learn to make cholent.

I used to cut up all the ingredients and throw them in at the same time and let them sit. Cooking time was about two hours. Now I stagger when I add things to the pot and cook it for longer.

Oh! On the topic of cutting up ingredients! I sharpened a knife with my whetstone. I do that from time to time. I use my knife steel to keep the edge straight, but sometimes knives need sharpening. Using a whetstone freehand is a real bother, but check out the results:

I cut up the celery–an ingredient that I hadn’t originally included–so I can add it to the pot first. Stubborn celery can add a bitter crunch to an otherwise pleasant chili. For those who like that, add it later, I guess.

Adding it to a big pot with a little bit of oil.

I heat the pot at a little below medium heat on the stove to start the celery. I stir every about every 10 minutes. I turn the heat down to 3 about half an hour in.

The second-most stubborn ingredient I use is bell pepper. I use green bell peppers. Green bell peppers aren’t as sweet as the other colors of bell peppers. While the other colors make for prettier chili, green bell peppers ultimately do not make it monochromatic.

Two bowls of green bell peppers is a good quantity, too.

The addition of the bell peppers about an hour after the celery I think is about right.

Dicing onions is a problem for many. The crying, the slowness. None of that is for me. I like the Gordon Ramsay approach better.

But I cut into the onion sideways first. I find it’s easier to do that part before the head-on vertical slices. I use a whole onion.

Then comes the tomato. I used to use canned tomatoes. Those are fine. Fresh is better. I dice those up. Two bowls works.

About an hour of the celery and bell peppers being in there together, they’re much softer.

And it’s time to add onions.

And then the tomatoes.

Stirring shows how the colorful bell peppers weren’t needed.

I used to use garlic powder for this dish. Garlic powder is easy. But it’s not fresh garlic.

And while I used to use exclusively random chile powder, I’ve started to use jalapeños, too.

What’s nice about the jalapeños is that they look just like the green bell peppers, so who knows what’s on that spoon?

Chile powder varies in heat. I use about 3/4 tsp in my chili.

After these go for a bit, I add the canned kidney beans.

This goes awhile, too.

The last thing I add is the meat.

I use two pounds of ground beef. I used to just kinda throw it in and let it cook with the rest, but I’ve long stopped doing that.

My college roommate Darren gave me an Instant Pot for a birthday a while ago. The Instant Pot instructions for chili said first to cook the meat on a crazy-hot setting of the Instant Pot. The meat initially cooked that way and the saved juices make for a better chili, per those instructions.

I now do that but for a regular chili pot.

When browned, it’s ready to add.

I then let the chili go till it’s ready to eat. I like it with basmati rice.

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 5)

The goo was not the only significant problem with this project. I uncovered that a leg had been broken and repaired. The kind of repair that made more rather than less work for me.

I had dealt with a bad glue job when I did my first end table project. The pieces were poorly aligned, so I had to sand things back into shape.

But this is a leg. And the glue had no interest in giving up.

I looked up how to break wood glue, and the recommendation was vinegar.

So I tried it.

With the vinegar and some elbow grease, I was able to separate the leg from the rest of the chair. But as you see from the picture, I found that there were pegs that held the leg to the chair. The pegs were complemented by screws.

The new situation then was gross pegs and bad gluing surfaces and even a broken peg.

I saw (was forced to see?) a learning opportunity! What do I even do with pegs?

I researched how important they are. It turns out that they are very important. I looked to see how to get new ones and how to replace them.

If found that it certainly helps to have a drill press. However, I do not have a drill press.

I found which size pegs I needed and bought a bag of 100 on amazon.

At a dime apiece, it’s worth it.

Equipped with these dowels, and only slightly increased sanding access, I decided to try to remove the other leg. The thick paint made getting to the glue with the vinegar almost impossible, so I went with an approach that took me by surprise: saws!

I cut right through the dowels on the other leg. The screw holes are still there, but a source of guaranteed failure of the project had become proper installation of the new dowels.

More on this next week!

What’s gone on today?

As I do, I’ve written this post on Friday afternoon. I’ve set the computers up to let me know what’s going on in the world subsequent to today’s impeachment-related events. One of them is prepared for the 10am ET start of the continuation of activities with this live stream that starts at 9am ET. The problem is that I’m in LA, so that’s a 6am start.

The evidence is overwhelming, and the defense attorneys are so, so bad.

The expectation is that there will be no conviction. I hope that they’re wrong.

Jamie Raskin, Ted Lieu, Joaquin Castro, Joe Neguse, and Stacey Plaskett, were phenomenal, and Madelene Dean and Eric Swalell put on fine performances.

I just now learned that Joaquin Castro is Julian Castro’s identical twin. I thought he looked like that guy! I was right.

I won’t be able to live tweet today, but I may be yelling as things happen.