Sunday, July 12, 2009

Disco Camping with the Greens

As always, first the background.

My wife, Kathy and I really enjoy our camping time to the fullest. We have been campers since before we got married in 1986 and have graduated from tent camping, pop-up trailer camping to a twenty foot travel trailer. It is nothing real fancy, but it does have a shower, toilet, a/c and a queen sized bed. It is, in my opinion, what camping should be, at least at this point in my life.

One of our favorite spots is a state campground at Cowan Lake. We like it because it is in the woods and is quiet, pretty and shady most of the day. Cowan Lake is just a short ways from Wilmington, Ohio. You may have heard of the lake or Wilmington. Years ago it was the scene of national attention when the Wilmington police were involved in a shootout with the Keough brothers, who were wanted for killing a family of three near there. Several magazines were emptied during the close range exchange of gunfire, and no one was hit. Not even the Suburban.
They had been staying at Cowan Lake campgrounds for several weeks, hiding from police.

On this particular three day weekend, I got off of work around noon or so, Kathy had the camper mostly packed, and I helped finish it off, packed my few clothes and needs, hooked it to the Tahoe and off we went. Since I had worked twelve hours or so the night before, when we got set up at the campgrounds, I would usually go in the trailer and take a power nap for a couple of hours or so. This is the way we always did it, and still do.

Now for the story.

I have been asleep for only about forty five minutes or so, when I am awakened by the sound of a very loud exhaust system, or lack of exhaust system, I should say. I roll over and try for some more sleep, but the noise persists, so I get up and go outside. Our camping neighbors have arrived for the weekend. Their camper is one of those trailers grafted onto the back of a Chevy van. You know, the kind with a bunk over the cab, and lots of camper behind. It was about 1986 vintage or so, and would not hold an idle without hitting the throttle every two and a half seconds or so. Oh, and did I mention that it didn't have an exhaust system?

Mrs. Green, we'll call her, who is the star of our show, is directing the placement of the camper, once it is separated from a flat bed trailer, carrying a very nice golf cart with a surrey type roof on it. I don't mean to be mean, but I will attempt to describe her as best I can, build her character so to speak, since she is our star. She is a rather short woman, five feet or so, and what I'd call "stocky". Not really overweight, just stocky. She is, I'd guess, about thirty five or so, has bleach blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail, is wearing a white tank top and tan cargo shorts, sandals and oh yes, has very large breasts. No, I mean very large breasts. They hurt MY back. I cannot begin to describe how large they are. Mr Green is rather tall, thin, with short red hair, going away on top. He is quiet so far and seems rather reserved. They have two children, a boy about nine, who we'll call Billy. He is best described as being (without being mean again) the boy who is last chosen for the dodge ball team. Who wants to pick a target for their team? The daughter is probably about thirteen, has an iPod on, and is, for good reason, trying to be invisible. Oh. and did I mention the size of those breasts? I turn to Kathy and say "This is not going to end well."

We take our reclining lounge chairs down by the fire ring, in the shade and settle in to watch the show. I also take my mp3 player and speakers. I am a music nut case. My taste is very eclectic. I enjoy rock, blues, jazz, country, old standards, oldies and even some heavy metal. My mp3 player is a 30 gig and has some 5500 different pieces on it. I love my music. I don't care for rap and oh yeah, disco.

The Greens start to unload their camper and set up. Out come, well wait a minute, let me describe this color. You know the lime green that preppy girls wear that goes so well with navy blue? It's like that only a little brighter, and almost fluorescent. Well, anyway, out come lime green table cloths, glasses, dishes. a champagne bucket, cooler, grill with lime green lid, folding chairs, lounge chairs, parsons tables, trash can, and oh yes, not one, but two eight foot tall, inflatable palm trees, with lime green fronds and in wooden colored planters. Mrs. Green blows them up with her incredible lungs. It is at once a sea of lime green. From one end of the camp to the other. Then comes the one quirk in the story I don't really understand. She brings out a six foot or so bright RED and brown inflatable lobster, which she also inflates. She leans it up against the camper by the door. The daughter is trying harder to be invisible. I turn to Kathy and say "This is not going to end well." A bottle comes out of the camper and goes into the lime green champagne bucket. We will learn later what this magical elixir is. Next out is the boom box. Sorry, it is not lime green. The first song out of the box is that song that Dudley Moore danced to, on the bed, in that movie with Goldie Hawn, I think by the Bee Gees? But the sound score does not go with the play so far. Did I mention I hate disco?

Well, the afternoon has progressed into early evening, hamburgers have been grilled, the bottle has been opened and enjoyed by Mrs. Green. Mr. Green has pulled his lounge chair down by the woods, he is reading a book, relaxing, Billy has found a younger friend from another campsite, and the daughter has become completely invisible. Out of the blue. (pardon the pun) Billy's new friend has done something to piss Mrs. Green off. Something involving a squirt gun, but I don't remember exactly what. She sends the youngster back to his home campsite with a verbal lashing containing some words I'm sure he didn't quite understand. Now Billy wants to try the invisibility thing. A half hour or so later, here comes Billy's friend with his mother, or vi ca versa. Some rather heated words are exchanged, Mrs. Green tries to explain herself, the other lady calms down some, Mrs. Green smooths things over some and invites the other lady to have a drink with her. We find out the magical elixir is not magical after all, it's Goldschlagger. I turn to Kathy and say "This is not going to end well."

The evening progresses into darkness, we have a nice campfire going, we have had our supper and some elixir of our own, things have quieted down in the disco department (although I still don't believe someone could own that much disco music), the Goldschlagger is totally gone, and I am trying to figure out what part that damn red lobster is going to play in this production. It is the red herring, so to speak. Things are quiet, it's about 10:30 or so and out the blue again, Mr. Green does something to piss Mrs. Green off. And I mean piss her off BAD! She has a burr in in her four buckle brassiere. She is some kind of mad. She proceeds to describe Mr. Green with the F word and every shortcoming he's ever had in his life. Over and over. Character flaws, physical flaws, career flaws and even some sexual flaws. Mr. Green sees fit to remind her of some of her flaws too. The flaw inventory continues until some other campers complain that it's way to late for this flaw listing and won't they please shut the F up and go to bed. Mr. Green realizes that he has made a very large mistake and goes out to his golf cart and tries to be invisible too. I turn to Kathy and well, you know.

Now it gets even better. Mrs. Green has decided she is going home and starts packing the camper. She is still describing Mr. Green's F word flaws while she is packing the camper. Only I have never seen anyone pack a camper quite like this before. She is standing about eight feet in front of the open door and throwing everything into the camper. And I mean throwing. There is lime green going in the door till hell won't have it. Some things come back out the door and they are thrown back in even harder. The palm trees won't fit, no matter how hard they are thrown. The decision is made to deflate them.

Oddly enough though, Mr. Park Ranger has become interested in this production and stopped by for a visit with Mr. Green. They are standing out by the golf cart having a discussion of some sort, while Mrs. Green is trying to deflate the palm trees. She has decided that sitting on them is the best solution. It's working rather well, and she has one in the camper and the second one is almost flat. About the time it's hurled into the camper door, up pulls a Clinton County Sheriff's deputy. He talks with Mr. Green for a few moments while Mrs. Green tackles the task of the air in the lobster. Oh yeah, you knew I'd get back to the lobster. Here' the part it played in the cast. Mrs. Green has decided it's best to deflate it with her breasts. She is on her knees with the poor lobster under her ample bosoms, bouncing on it with gusto, hind end in the air. Only thing is the poor lobster does not want to be deflated just yet. It's claws are flailing in the air up over her shoulders, as if waving for help, and about every third boob bounce it's tail is coming up between Mrs. Green's legs, smacking her on the ass. It's muttering a strange wheezing sound like a fart in a girdle with every bounce. I turn to Kathy and don't say anything. She has tears in her eyes and is laughing uncontrollably. She knew it would not end well. About this time her comes Mr. Sheriff's Deputy around the rear corner of the camper, lit flashlight in hand, about thigh high. It is shining like a stage spotlight through the dark. And with an accuracy that was not evident in the Keough Brothers gunfight, Mr. Deputy's beacon lands where else but on Mrs. Green's hind end. Dead on. You could tell he was startled at this scene by the way he put on the brakes and backed up about three steps. I don't think he's seen anything like this in his deputy career. Mrs. Green stumbles to her feet, leaves the poor lobster laying and walks back to the cruiser with the deputy, and I decide to take the dog for a walk and try to get a little closer, so I can hear the discussion. It doesn't work and after awhile I come back. Mrs. Green has gone to bed, Mr. Green is gone too, and when I get back Mr. Deputy is talking to Kathy. He asks her if there was any physical battery or anything like that, she says no, I said not that I saw either, except for that thing with the lobster. And I asked him very seriously what exactly went through his mind when he came around the corner with his flashlight on and saw what he saw. He just shook his head, laughed and took his flashlight and left, after thanking us for our help. We went to bed and when we got up in the morning, they were leaving.

And that's the story of disco camping with the Greens. I hope you found it amusing, and it doesn't put a bad taste in your mouth for camping. If there's anything you can think of that I've left out, please email me or at least tell me in your comments.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Neighbor's Maple Tree

Sadly, I didn't get to the wood soon enough, and my neighbor and his son were only intent on removing an eyesore and not chainsawing bowl blanks for me. I wasn't home, I was at work, or I'd have helped and been able to reduce the eyesore into more usable chunks (blanks) and gotten them out of the sun sooner. But anyway, I was able to salvage some that is not checked and cracked beyond use. This is one of them.

This is the first "green" wood I have ever turned, and as everyone says, it was a pleasure to work. With disclaimers. First there is the problem of getting it dry without major shape changes or additional cracking and checking. Not having the luxury of a lot of spare time, I first turned the general outside shape of the bowl. I soaked it by brush with a solution called Pentacryl, which is, in my opinion cost prohibitive. At $20 or so a quart, and the amounts needed to effectively treat it, it just didn't seem to fill the bill. I followed the directions exactly though, let as much soak in as possible, wrapped it in a damp rag, put it in a cool, dry space and waited for my next day off to rough out the inside. What I found the next week was akin to the inside of a bachelor's refrigerator or a culture medium. What a mess.

As luck would have it though, I stumbled on a better, cheaper solution. It is referred to by my friends at Sawmill Creek as a DNA soak. No, no, not that kind of DNA, this is denatured alchohol. The blank is soaked for several hours to overnight after roughing out, then wrapped tightly, only on the outside with a paper bag and then left upside down on a rack to dry. In theory the alchohol replaces the water in the wood when it is soaked, and after about about a five or six day drying cycle, it is ready to finish turn. The theory behind wrapping only the outside with the paper sack and taping it tightly is that it allows the inside to dry faster than the outside, thus compressing the fibers on the outside making it impossible for them to crack. It works beautifully! At least on this first attempt. I think the worms that inhabitted the blank left too.

Needless to say, I am very, very happy with the otcome. Spalted wood, by my eye, is stunning in it's patterns and creates an eyecatching effect, without the need for any other embelishments or decorations.

I've always been a big fan of simplicity.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Old Book

Af alwayf, firft the background.
Before you read this, sit for just a moment and try to remember your earliest childhood memory. Can you remember things which happened to you when your were four years old? Three? Or even two?
I have memories of trips taken on steam locomotives to New York City when I was two and a half years old. Clear memories of Yankee Stadium, and staying at the Dixie Hotel. I remember certain events when I was three years old. One of these events was going on a car trip to Springfield, Ohio with my mother and father and grandparents. It was for a get together of my grandfather's family the night before the funeral of his uncle. I was told to be on my good behavior. Polite, in another words. I still vividly remember the house and all the relatives gathered around a huge dining room table. I can remember all the wood in the house too. There were massive mantles, huge wooden paneled doors, and one which slid into the wall. The house smelled like old people. You know the smell. After the "meeting" we all went down in the basement and Grandpa and mom carried things out to the trunk of grandpas Ford. One of the items was a small chest or trunk. Not a big trunk, more like what I thought was the size of a treasure chest. I distinctly remember asking my mother what was in it. She said memories.
The trunk was more or less forgotten about until I was about twenty five or so. My grandfather passed away and we cleaned out all his belongings and found space for them as we could. The trunk resurfaced and was stored in mom's attic. We went through it then, and I was reminded of the importance of it's contents. I was told then that it was to stay in the family.
In 1995 my mother fell ill and moved in with us here. Her house was sold, the house I grew up in, and all the contents of importance came north with me.No easy task. The trunk resurfaced again. It wasn't until about six years ago when I became computer literate, and interested in family history, that I began scanning and copying old photographs, documents, researching family history and wondering how in the hell I'd come into possession of that old book. I mean, I know how I got it, where it had come from, but just how did I come into possession of it? I researched it some, and found some information about, and even tried to read it. I never got very far. Shakespeare gave me headaches in high school and this simply, as far as I was concerned was just unreadable. What with the language and oh yes the religious subject matter. Never been big on religion.
Some of the other contents of the trunk were interesting, too.
There are handwritten manuscripts from great uncle Calvin about the family's roots in Pennsylvania and later around Wheeling, West Virginia, and Zanesville, Ohio, which were founded and settled by my ancestors. I am related to among others, Zane Grey, Tecumseh and Betty Zane.

But back to the book. That is, after all, what the post is about. I have learned over the years that Thomas Shepard was a pastor at the Church of Christ in Cambridge, was one of the "founders" of Harvard, but more importantly, He was the son in law of your man Thomas Hooker. That's why I was so taken aback when I started reading your blog and YOU started following mine.
Fate is really an odd thing, and oh yef, it really if a fmall world!
p.s. If you would like to contact me about the book with questions or dialogue, I would really enjoy hearing from you. I am at and look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The True Story of Wishbone

This post has nothing to do with woodworking, it is the follow up to a prior promise of an explanation for the wishbone reference in an earlier post.

First the background.

About six or seven years ago, pardon me, but I'm absolutely horrible with dates and time, my daughter remarried. I already had one granddaughter, Kaitlin, from her first marriage. She is almost thirteen now, for reference.

About five years ago, on Christmas day, Kaitlin and I partook in a family tradition. A tradition of several years, anyway. As per tradition the wishbone from the Thanksgiving turkey is saved to dry out for that quick snap after Christmas dinner. I made my wish and she made hers. Now in my own defense, let me say that I'm not at all superstitious, but I do believe in two opportunities for wishes. Wishbones and falling stars. And this wishbone snap was won by myself. When she asked 'what did you wish for', I told her that it was bad luck to tell your wishes, and that she would just have to wait to find out. One other thing which might be be noted now, is that I do believe that, in order for any of these wishes to come true, they must not be in the least bit selfish. You must always wish for the best for someone else, no winning lottery tickets or Porsches.

Late in January next year.

My wife and daughter, Wendi, work together for the same hospital, seperated by two floors. I can't remember now whether I'd picked her up from work, or whether it was after she'd gotten home, but my wife, Kathy, informed me rather nonchalantly, That Wendi was preggers. If you are asleep by now, wake up, because now it gets interesting. Without much pause, I picked up the cell phone and called Kaitlin and asked her if she remembered the Christmas last year wishbone. She said she did, and I gloated that wishbone wishes DID come true, and I had gotten mine. That I'd wished for a grandson. She asked why I'd wished for THAT, and I told her: "So I would have someone to go fishing with. She told me, "Papa, I'll go fishing with you anytime!"

Needless to say there was much disbelief on everone elses' part, but that was EXACTLY what I'd wished for. When Wendi poo-pooed it, all I could say was wait till a little later, and when it's a boy, maybe you'll have a little more faith in your old man. And remember too, it was me who told you Kaitlin was going to be a girl early on. (I dreamed it.) After the ultrasound, everyone changed their tune.

That's him, Richard Jonathon, RJ for short, Wishbone as I call him, at the top. He's named after his Dad and I.

Needless to say when Christmas wishbones are snapped now, there are a lot of requests and warnings. The other side note to this story is that when Wishbone is old enough to ask that 'where did I come from question', everyone was told just to have him call his papa. I'll explain it.


Now for the tease for the next post, for my one and only follower:

I have something I think you'll be VERY interested in. It involves a first edition (I think), of a seventeeth century piece of what I believe is English literature(?) If seventeeth century is 1649, I'll be alright.

I'll have to ask you to do some research and some splainin' because I can't make head nor tails of it, and I've not been able to find much information about it on the web. It is of a religious nature, and ought to be right up your PHD alley.

Does Thomas Shepard ring any bells?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back in the Old Rut

Let time slip away again.
I didn't realize it's been two months since the last post. Wish I had more to post, but I'm happy to just report that I'm back among the American workforce.
I'm still delivering fuel to the motoring public, but now it's gas instead of diesel, so I don't have the eternal stink to deal with. There are other benefits as well, and I am far happier than with the last situation, with the exception of the longer commute and the longer hours. I just wish I could say that the extra income will allow more shop time, projects and supplies, but that time thing never seems to work out. 
Seems you can have time or money, but never both.

On a sweeter note, I did manage to score what I think will be some beautiful turning stock. It is from an ornamental maple tree, which died a natural death several years ago. It has some spalting and a lot of crotch wood, which should make some great bowls, boxes and possibly hollow vessels. I'm really excited about the possibilities. All I have to do is get it stabilized and dried out without checking.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Too much time on my hands...

   I've been on the national unemployment list for one month last Wednesday, and I guess my brother in law is right. I have too much time on my hands. I have been enjoying it too. 

   For the last 10 years or so, I have averaged working about 50 to 55 hours a week, and up until a year ago, worked just about every holiday and holiday eve. When I did get a day off it was usually spent doing family things and chores. The vacations went by fast also. They were always spent camping or doing "house" things like remodeling the kitchen. There was not always a lot of extra shop time to spend on those little tool projects just for yourself. 

   I've always admired wooden mallets in catalogues, but could never bring myself to buy one. I always figured 'hell, I could make one of those myself'. Well sure enough, I was right. I have had an extra piece of hickory laying around since the kitchen remodel, for which I built a roll around island for extra counter space for holiday hosting. I was bored this week and one of the library books I had, had a plan for a mallet. The hickory seemed perfect. I made one pretty much to the size called for, and didn't realize until the handle was installed, how really big it was. It was more like a mace than a mallet. So back to the drawing board and a little downsizing later, and I had a second mallet of a more reasonable size. 

   All I have to do now is find something that needs whacked. Maybe I'll build a timber frame dog house.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just like the book & magazine...almost.

As promised, she's right side up now, with vices and finish, just not finished yet. The other monstrosity is not gone yet, either, but it will be soon.

I spent the last two days installing the end vise and making and installing the leg vise. I was very pleasantly surprised by the holding power of the leg vise, especially with the addition of a leather
I was disappointed in my installation of the end vise. I had visualized the jaws being flush with the end of the bench, but it did not work out that way. All in all, I don't think it makes that much difference. I had the opportunity to use the bench some in making the leg vise, (is this workbench masturbation ?) and so far I love it.
The photo is a little "Woodworking Magazine", but what the hell, that WAS the inspiration.

And the leg vise...complete with turned handle of oak and cherry.
Today's work list is the shelf underneath and then its on to making the boxes for the center of the top, and finding a home for the old monstrosity...
(Oh yeah, I neglected to mention that so far the total cash
 outlay is about $96.00, not counting time, labor & aspirin.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Years Surprises, Revelations & Resolutions

The holidays are over, the tree is down, the family room and life in general are back to normal this morning. And what a great Christmas it was. Several of the high points were being able to surprise the Mrs with a gift, (that is rare), and being able to find a "wishbone" necklace to give my daughter. The wishbone reference is a long story involving my grandson and a Christmas wish from several years ago. It is better saved for a later post.

On the subject of surprises, I had an odd one this morning.

To give a little background, one of my best "tool" acquisitions was five years ago, November last. I decided I wanted to get into wood turning and after about six months or so of research, daydreaming and planning, I purchased a Oneway 12/36 lathe. I went all the way with accessories including a bed extension to enable me to turn longer pieces, with the plan being to build Shaker rockers and chairs. I also was very much interested in turning bowls, segmented pieces and parts for furniture. All has gone well and although I don't consider myself "accomplished" yet, the learning has been without incident. I have made several things that I am really proud of (pictured above) and have the wood stored to build a set of dining room chairs and a trestle table.

This is the surprise. One of the things I promised myself when I got the lathe was to keep a journal of the learning progress. I would keep a record of the things I had learned, the mistakes I had made and in general how to repeat things I had done "right".

This morning, I fetched that journal into the house to look it over and found I had not made an entry since March of 2004! Now, I knew I had been remiss, and not used it like I had planned, but I had no idea it had been THAT long. After thinking about it for a minute or so, I realized that I have not turned anything in six months or better also. I'm sort of ashamed.

So here are my New Years' resolutions: Not only am I going to be more diligent in keeping notes, I'm going to try to be more organized in other areas as well. I'm going to clean up the shop and reorganize things to have more sensible storage. I'm going to finally build a workbench more suited to hand tool work, and use more hand tools. I'm (by God) going to learn to use handplanes without shredding every piece of wood they come in contact with. I'm going to get on with the projects I have planned in the back of my head and do more planning on paper, than in the back of my head.  And finally, I' going to get rid of the things I tend to save for no earthly reason other than I can't bear to throw them out. (OCD rears it's ugly rear end.) This one resolution alone will get me enough space for the Laguna 16" band saw I plan to purchase in the spring. All noble promises, so wish me luck.