It’s nearly harvest time

Hey Folks,

I’m lucky enough to have my shop in an older neighborhood with a number of really old and interesting trees.  Earlier this year, I showed off a dogwood tree from the neighborhood, this time it’s a venerable American chestnut ready to pop.


Every year this tree is heavily laden with chestnuts that all seem to wait until the first really cold night.   Then they seemingly all drop at once, causing all the neighborhood squirrels to literally “go nuts”


The tree is quite large, over six feet in diameter.  While this is not unusual for older chestnuts in rural areas, it is unusual to find one this big in an urban residential neighborhood.  I’m pretty sure that it’s over 100 years old.  The American chestnut was nearly wiped out by a chestnut blight around the beginning of the last century.  Prior to that, it was a major lumber species in the eastern United States.  Cultivation as a garden landscape species has preserved it for future generations.




I may have a problem

They say that the first step in recovery is to admit that you have a problem.

Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.  Hoarding disorder – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

I’m afraid that I might be a wood hoarder.  I used to think that I merely had a wood storage problem, but now I think that it may have progressed to something larger.  My shop is becoming choked with offcuts, surplus, and bits of scrap that I’m sure to find a need for, …someday.


The aggravating thing about this problem is that I often do find a need for a piece, and a piece for a need, thus justifying the existence of my growing collection.

It’s getting to the point where I’m hoping for a long cold winter that will tempt me to stoke the wood stove with some of it.

Maybe I can find a support group of similarly afflicted folks that I can share my pain with.


Dock Chairs, last of the season

Hey Folks,

Last summer, I finished four dock chairs too late in the season to sell them.  So they were stored away until summer rolled around this year, then they sold right away.  We’ve been traveling a lot this summer and once again, I’m only now getting around to finishing up another set.  These will likely be the last of the season as I have other projects waiting to get started that will take me into the autumn.

So, here we have Peggy Tzu and her friend, Pugsley modeling our latest dock chairs in Acapulco Blue, Fearless Red, and Sunshine Yellow.  In addition, I have one yellow and one red nearing completion.  After that, you’ll probably have to wait again until next year.  I say probably, because I have enough seat slats to make another chair, but no legs.  It turned out that I over estimated the yield I would get from the stock that I bought for the legs.  I was hoping to make six chairs and got five.  So if I end up with extra time later on, I might be induced to make a set of legs, but don’t count on it.fullsizeoutput_3e0


Get a Grip!

Who amongst us hasn’t heard that before?  Well, after posting about my recently finished  knob end walking stick, my friend Mitch commented that he prefers a crooked handled stick.

For everyday use, I have to agree that the crooked handle is very practical and convenient, if not very ergonomic to my hand, …enter the ergonomic “derby style” handle.


Like the previous knob end, this handle is also made of holly.  The characteristic features of the derby shape are the horn and the hook.  What makes it an ergonomic derby is the shaping of the handle to optimize the grip for specifically either the left or the right hand.  As I have a bum left knee, I chose to shape it for a right hand grip.


As with the knob end stick, the parts are bubinga, water buffalo horn, holly and silver hardware.


The catalogs claim that the ergonomic derby handle is as comfortable as a handshake.  Personally, I find that a rather dubious analogy as I have had some very awkward and painful handshakes in my time.  Although I am pleased with the appearance of the handle, I’m not sure that it’s exactly what I want yet.  The more I use it, the more critical of it I have become.  It curves up a bit too much, and it lacks heft toward the hook end so that it fails to fill my hand in a way that satisfies my arthritic fingers.

Fortunately, I had the rare foresight to install the handle using 5/16″ threaded steel “ready rod”, without glue.  So when I get fed up with it, I can unscrew it from the stick, sculpt a replacement, and start the process all over again.


I should have listened to my Ol’ Man…*

Pop once told me that the surest way to make an ass of yourself was to use “seat of the pants” engineering.  All puns aside he was usually right, and as a mechanical engineer he  generally considered all the angles (sorry) before proceeding.  Unfortunately, I decided to  wing it when building a steady rest for my lathe.


When turning the walking stick, I had some problems with whip stocking.  Whip stocking is when the work piece starts translating (orbiting) instead of simply rotating.  It usually causes tool chattering and can easily ruin the work.  Using a steady rest keeps the piece in line and cutting smoothly.

So I decided to build a steady rest.  I grabbed up some leftovers I had laying around the shop and went to work.  Well, I had it more than half built before the wheels showed up in the post.  When assembled, the wheels are so large that the size range of adjustment is only about 2″. Duh


For walking sticks, that’s fine, but I was hoping to build a more useful tool.  For now, I’ll leave it be, but I think that I might also build a larger ring to accommodate the other parts. I probably won’t make a drawing first though, … sorry Pop.


*Apologies to Sir Elton (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road).

A Rare Beauty in Bloom

It’s Spring in Seattle and the dogwoods are in bloom.  The Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nutallii) is endemic to the west coast and is sadly threatened, in part, due to a fungal epidemic of Athracnose  (Discula sp.) .  Pacific Dogwood is an old growth understory plant* and like others of its type is also threatened by over harvest of old growth forests and modern logging practices.  The good news is that fungal resistant cultivars are being bred which will help reduce the spread of the disease.


*Yes, this tree is over sixty feet tall but compared to a mature douglas fir or western red cedar that is an understory plant.