Most Bizarre Use of a Shop Award

Posted by Steve on Fri, 07/24/2009 - 12:02pm

There's no way I don't get nominated this year. As prologue, let's step into the WayBack Machine and bump the dial back to early June, when I casually mentioned to Doc Karen that I had seen several feral cats on my evening dog walks. In addition to being an MD, Karen is also a NYS licensed wildlife rescuer so I should have known that I was shaking a hornets' nest. A week later, over my fourth or fifth margarita, I found that I had agreed to allow my shop to be used as a holding facility for the Great Owls Head Cat Roundup.

Karen hooked me with the Mayor's Alliance and the ASPCA for a trap-neuter-release campaign (called a TNR -- I learned some new lingo hanging with these people). The TNR would encompass at least two known colonies and four caretakers (again, lingo) over a geographic area of about five blocks. I was surprised to learn that feral cats aren't usually loners but are part of a loose colony of ferals. A cat that isn't part of a colony is called a rogue. Do I need a glossary here?

I can't say I didn't have misgivings about X number of wild cats in my pristine shop, especially when I know what a drop of water can do to my steel decked tools.

In fact, I had a lot of reservations about it after I was told that X could be as high as 28, which is the maximum number of cats the ASPCA bus can spay/neuter in a day.

I also learned that I would be expected to help with the feeding and cage cleanings twice a day. At even five minutes per cat, that's a lot of hours over the course of the five to seven days they would be guests of BrooklynRowHouse. I can't say that Meredith from Mayor's Alliance didn't give me multiple chances to back out.

On Thursday night they started loading in the cages and I could see that it was going to be a larger operation than I'd anticipated. It wasn't just 26 cages but food, bowls, bed linens, plastic sheets and cage dressing for the occupants. And lots and lots of garbage bags. The old newspaper pile alone was three feet high.

It's 2009. Time for Secession!

Posted by Steve on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 7:42pm
Every presidential inauguration year seems to kick off another round of local secessionist talk. In 2001, it was about New York City seceding from New York and becoming its own state. I admit to a certain degree of sympathy for that given the fact that NYC is the revenue cash cow for the state. But few people took the talk seriously. Short of NYC becoming a hostile nuclear power, there's no way Albany would agree to let us go.

No brag intended.

Posted by Steve on Fri, 05/15/2009 - 12:40am

A couple of weeks ago one of my stained glass designs was picked for the Dragonfly Design of the Month, May 2009.

I don't consider myself an artist in the visual sense so I was kind of embarrassed by the attention and decided to keep it to myself. But I wanted to publicly thank Michael Wilk, president of Dragonfly, for the honor. So here it is. I know I probably wasn't the most cooperative candidate he's dealt with.

Tainted Drywall

Posted by Steve on Thu, 05/07/2009 - 12:19am

I ran across a story today about a new health threat from a strange source: drywall.

My first thought was, "you've got to be kidding!" My understanding from watching the How They Make Stuff TV shows was that drywall was about as inert a product as you can find: gypsum slurry, a fiber binder and recycled paper. How can that possibly be a health threat?

The Tormek Blade Sharpening System

Posted by Steve on Sat, 04/11/2009 - 1:12pm

Shop owners love to brag about the incredible tool buys they've made on eBay, at flea markets and at estate auctions. Like my $50 Hitachi framing nailer and $125 radial arm saw.

But most of us have also made purchases we're less proud of, like the $100 "miracle corner clamping system" I bought at a tool show which turned out to be utterly useless for anything besides building the tiny box the salesman demonstrated at the show. Naturally, we don't talk much about those overpriced white elephants, which is probably why these hucksters are still in business.

Then there are those purchases that fall somewhere in the middle: useful tools with staggering price tags that don't really justify the tool's performance. When I purchased the Tormek T7 wet grinder at the International Woodworking Show in New Jersey, I was afraid I'd made just such a buy. After purchasing the optional jigs and accesories I needed for my planer and jointer blades, knives and scissors I walked out of the convention center almost $700 lighter.

Indeed, there's not much to this tool. It's basically just a slow-turning motor with a couple of wheels, a plastic bath tub and a steel frame. But it does an excellent job. Over the past four years I've taken for granted how much it's meant to always have sharp blades, chisels and knives in the shop.

Sure, experienced old timers can accomplish this manually with a sharening stone but it's a skill I don't have nor am I particularly eager to learn it with my expensive blades. There's more to it than just rubbing a blade against a block, like maintaining the precise bevel. Get this wrong on a 12" planer blade and you might as well toss the set and buy new ones.

That's how I balance -- or possibly rationalize -- the cost of the Tormek. I was spending a hundred bucks a year on new planer and jointer blades before the Tormek but I haven't bought a single set since. As an added bonus, I have scary sharp chisels, scissors and kitchen knives too.

In fact, if you've never had a knife professionally sharpened before you don't know how sharp they can be. Perhaps for liability reasons, brand new, store bought knives are usually pretty dull by comparison.


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