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October 28, 2013

Mending Hammer

Hey!

First off, apologies go out to Robert Frost for my cheap thievery of his title of 'Mending Wall'... Hopefully, the tone of this post will be similar...

In keeping with the backyard theme (not to mention woodworking.), how about fixing that old wooden-handled hammer? The odds are pretty good that if you own an older home, or if you're in possession of older tools, you have one of these loose-headed rascals... (Note: While this may be obvious, we often dwell in the state of denial, and you really need to accept the fact that a faulty hammer is a dangerous thing indeed. Either make it right, or throw it away.)

Alrighty then... I'm not going to reinvent the wheel -- there are a number of Web sites that explain the mechanics of attaching a hammer head onto a handle. (Google on: "hammer head wedge"...) But I do have a couple of tricks up my sleeve -- aridity and epoxy. Take a gander at the tool below.

420 hammer side IMG_6549.JPG

Now it's okie dokie... And here is the business end all happy...

hammer end 420 IMG_6550.JPG

Let's start with aridity... The dryness of the separated handle is critical... If it comes from a humid setting, you're in trouble from the git go -- wood absorbs moisture and swells. If you put the handle on at that point, sooner or later the wood will dry out and the head will come loose. Bottom line? Find a dry location to store the handle for a couple of months... There's no sense in putting the head on when the shaft is just going to shrink later... Dehydrate that sucker!

Next... Pretty much follow the directions from the wedge manufacturer, with one exception -- prep for epoxy application. (Oh, you're going to love this... Here is an excellent site for a free book that discusses the usage of epoxy.) Epoxy is one of the miracle adhesives of the 20th century and this is the coup de grace in this repair process... To make it happen, you need to:

  1. Scrub the contact pieces -- that is, rough the handle top and take a wire brush to the head's socket. Clean 'em up good!
  2. Next, slather everything with un-thickened epoxy
  3. Once all joining parts (including the slot for the wedge) are saturated, give them a good dose of thickened epoxy and then slam them all together once and for all...
  4. Set the hammer aside for a week and you're done...

And that's it... you have a perfectly functional hammer... You might even use it to mend a wall...

Thrifty by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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September 21, 2013

Throwing Your Hat Over the Fence... Building a Boat or Whatever...

Teal three pics 420.jpg

Before I even get started, I want to say one thing -- just because this post (and others to follow) will be about boat construction, that doesn't mean that it's all about boat building. Far from it... In the past I've built bird houses, a trellis, a feeding tray etc. (you can Google on those...) But the focus never was specifically about just one construction project. Nope... As I document the creation of different 'things' (like this boat), I'm really just guilting you to get off your duff and build something for yourself. If I can build a boat, you can built a birdhouse. You get the idea.

Alrighty then... What have we got above? It's a Teal I built years ago. It's not a big deal really. I plan on spending 40 hours and about $100 - $200 dollars on her. As boats go, IMHO the Teal is the ideal first craft... The plans are available from the link above as is a book "Instant Boats" with a chapter that describes the build. The Teal is a superb calm-water boat, great for rowing and relaxed sailing... I'm using two sheets of 1/4" AC ply along with the usual lumberyard stock. More about the materials as construction continues.

Next time I post on this, I probably will have ripped one of the sheets of AC into three equal-sized strips of 16" (minus saw kerf) for the sides. I'll occasionally keep you updated from there...

But for now, I've ordered my plywood and in doing so have tossed my hat over the fence. Now I have to climb the fence. So what's your fence?

Busy as always,

CapeCodAlan


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September 16, 2013

Gutters and the Rainhandler...

UPDATE

420 rainhandler in action IMG_6020.JPGThought I'd try something a tad different today. I'll do a completely subjective thumbnail review of various gutter systems including the Rainhandler..

First, about conventional gutters... Having a ton of experience with these suckers, I have a few observations on the four breeds...

  • Firstly, there is vinyl... Hate the stuff. The sun breaks it down, the cold cracks it, and errant yard guys smash it to smithereens.
  • Next, galvanized steel is okay, but still no great shakes... Sooner or later it rusts, it's more expensive than aluminum, and can be tough to work...
  • Speaking of alumium... That's my fave... Rust-proof, can be undented, cheap, light...
  • Finally, enter copper, etc... If you've got deep pockets, have a blast...
And then there's the Rainhandler... I guess it's alright -- it does disperse water away from the foundation as advertised and thus avoids basement flooding. However, I do have one concern -- how will the RH work in the Winter? The company's FAQ says that the RH takes snow and ice in stride, but color me skeptical.Time will tell... As for the doors and walkway, I think I'll stick with the old fashioned...

One thing is for sure -- it's cheap, and easy to install and easy to take down, so all is not lost no matter what.

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 11, 2013

New Gutters and Tips for Home Improvement

First off, many apologies for being tardy with this post. Normally I like to post every two or three days, but this one has taken six. Hope that the pics below will explain a bit...

front 420 IMG_5980.JPG

back with rain handler 420 IMG_5977.JPG

Yup, I've been tearing off our old gutters, repairing and re-painting the fascia board, and then replacing the gutters. The top shot shows the front freshly spackled and half painted (arrow). The second photo is of the back sporting a new 'Rainhandler' gutter. (The 'Rainhandler' is a sort of a Venetian blind type of gutter system that disperses roof runoff and changes it back into droplets. Obviously, it isn't intended for walkways or entry points, but otherwise, it presents a quick, easy to install, cheap,and leaf-free gutter system.)

Over the years, I've worked as a carpenter, plumber, cabinetmaker, etc., and along the way I've adopted some basic philosophies... For what it's worth, here are my $1/50...

  • Don't be afraid to reverse engineer... Some time back I addressed rot in the garage frame. I ended up replacing some of the old pine 4 X 6 with new pressure-treated stock, and swapping out antique trim with modern, rot-proof PVC boards. There is a place for aluminum and stainless hardware, epoxy (like WoodEpox), new paints, etc...
  • Face the music... Denying the nature or severity of the problem leads to half-baked 'solutions'. Find out what is intrinsically wrong and fix it.
  • If you don't know what you're doing, find a good contractor... Ask neighbors, friends, family... Check with Angie's List, ask for references...
  • Recycle... Some of the gutters out back will probably end up seeing a new life out front; there's nothing wrong with that...
  • You don't always need to buy new materials... Look around for recycled construction material suppliers. The backsplash behind our kitchen sink used to have another home. Last I checked, tile doesn't go bad...
  • Act! This is the toughest of all -- getting off your duff and having at it. Don't be sidelined by the one-eyed brain bandit (TV), or your fears.

I'll get off my soapbox now...

By the feeders (and the paint, and the ladders, and the saws, and the hammers, and the...)

CapeCodAlan


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July 22, 2013

Uh Oh... Serious Rot in the Garage Door Frame...

Alrighty then,

Welcome to a homeowner's nightmare. The pic below is that of the partially removed rotted framework of a garage door.

Where to begin? Well... Note the arrow -- it points to the hole in the concrete created by the builder when he set the vertical structural carrying timber into the muck some 40 years ago... (I've already hacked away the rot there...)

420 beginning_IMG_5799.JPG

Next, the hole is completely cleaned out, and the last of the rotted trim (right) has been cut away. (One of the greatest tools ever invented is the multi-tool! Love that sucker for fine plunge cuts!)

420_ cleaned out and rotten trim cut away IMG_5801.JPG

And this is where it stands now...

420 Quikrete with arrows IMG_5802.JPG

Here's a rundown by the arrow letters:

  1. the aforementioned hole has been filled with Quikrete®...
  2. the area below the red dotted line will be cut away, and new, pressure-treated timber will be installed using the latest structural wonder glue/goo...
  3. the missing long trim will be replaced with goo and PVC boards... (Take that ants!)
  4. finally, the short face trim will get the same PVC/goo treatment...

It's all pretty simple really -- just rip out all the rot and rebuild from there. Remember the cardinal rule for owning a home... No matter what, there's nothing that ridiculous amouts of time, money, sweat, blood, and profanity can't fix.

By the repair...

CapeCodAlan


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June 23, 2013

Lamps and Gazebo

420 lamps done_IMG_5624.JPG

Well, as you can see, those lobster pot lamps are done... It wasn't that big a deal, and the only real challenges were boring the longitudinal hole and finding the right shade..... (Mrs. CCA spliced the rope, but has quite a bit of marlinspike experience.) They came out well, but we may sell them and start using real buoys... Now, about the new deck ornament...

gazebo 420 done IMG_5623.JPG

Remember that gazebo skeleton? Well there it is all done... Not a bad project, but care and time was required. The only real problem was stretching the canvas onto the frame, but we worked around/through that. We especially like the light at the top, the bars for a possible series of privacy bars, and the mosquito netting. All told... pretty cool!

I don't know... Some people shy away from simple projects like these (or setting up feeders or building a boat...). And that's too bad.... It's fun, you learn stuff, you make stuff on the cheap... You get what you want...

Anywho... There you go... Easy breezy...

By those feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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May 8, 2013

2 AM Post Hole and Post Holes How To...

new squirrel feeder_420_IMG_5475.JPG

Howdy,

Thought I'd take a look at two related concepts relative to the title about post holes: one in the philosophical (oh God!) and one the mechanical (Whew!) Here we go...

So anyways, sometime around 2 AM last night, I decided that our broken squirrel feeder post had to be replaced... This should come as no surprise to those who know me -- I'm a night owl/insomniac who appreciates the stillness of the night. So with the proper prep work done (more on that in a bit), I turned on the spotlight and ventured back into my old haunts. There's an amazing peace and beauty to the night -- a calm and a fine mist (indistinguishable except through a porch light.) There's a time to reflect (I'm reminded of Hoffer's ' Working and Thinking on the Waterfront', and Frost's 'Mending Wall'... Perhaps the ideal background music would be the wafting of the Warwick/Bacharach/David master stroke, 'What's it all About Alfie?') But that's my thing. The night was as unspeakably beautiful as quahogging on a waning, raining, winter afternoon. (Which stirs the Platter's, Twilight Time'...)

But that's all warmth, fuzziness, and distance. How the Hell do you plant the freaking post in the ground? Step by step:

  1. Gather your weapons of backyard carnage:
    • Open can of beer... (If you choose to sink the post late PM/early AM, you'll need to have that to convince the cops (who may well show up) that that you're simply inebriated and not trying to vertically bury the corpse of an anorexic wee person...)
    • Shovel...
    • Post hole digger...
    • Tape measure...
    • Four foot level and torpedo level...
    • Flashlight if working at night...
  2. Figure out where you want the post... Remember the "Five Five Rule"... At least 5' off the ground and within 5' of shrubs or other protection...
  3. Dig the hole using the post digger... The excavation should be about 2' deep at least... And be sure not to hit a gas line, electrical line, water line etc. When in doubt, call someone like DigSafe.
  4. The diameter of the hole should be at least the thickness of the post plus another 2" on each side. So a 4x4 requires a minimum of an eight inch diameter pit...
  5. Scrape the rich top soil off the target area and set that aside -- you'll want that later so that you can replant grass...
  6. Carefully plop the post in place and begin the back filling. Don't get too persnickety about whether it's plumb -- just use the torpedo level to keep it in the ball park.
  7. When the hole is about one quarter full, use the end of the handle to firmly pack down the soil. Repeat this process using the longer level as you go... Don't be afraid the push the post around and then re-tamp mercilessly Note! Do note hit yourself in the face with the shovel blade or shovel foot rests!!!
  8. Finally, replace the top soil, grass seed and water...
  9. Mount the feeder appropriately
And that's it... The zen of backyard maintenance...

By the well thought-out and plunked feeders...


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October 13, 2012

TV Mount Update... Color it Done...

Hi,

Here it is in all its glory...

420_done_IMG_4694.JPG

Hints from the 'wood butchery trenches' when it comes to mounting a TV...

  • First, if you're mechanically challenged, call a pro. (We sold our old set to a fellow who tried to mount his 40" and gravity took charge. Ouch...)
  • Studs matter... They really do. If you're putting up a really heavy television, you'll have to cut away the the drywall to expose the required 'two by' studs and sister the puppies and put in a spreader. You cannot over-build the support for a heavy unit.
  • In our case, we had good news and bad. The good news was that the screen weighed only 10 pounds. The bad news was that I had to secure to a bookcase panel with no studs behind it. Fortunately, I had studs on the side and could 'toenail' screws a 3/4" ply panel into the studs using a simple Kreg system combined with lots of construction adhesive and reinforcement screws...
All told, the process wasn't that bad... But care and over-engineering are clearly called for...

Knee deep in sawdust by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 20, 2012

Sconce Almost Done, and Contest Hint...

Let's see...

420 almost done IMG_4628.JPG

Obviously, the sconces are almost done. (At this point, all that's left is to hide and secure wire.) It wasn't a bad project. Here's my advice for anyone who decides to take on such an endeavor:

  1. First, think safety. Unless you know your stuff concerning wire gauges, ground planes, code, etc., get a licensed electrician. Also, turn off the power to the circuit breaker that controls your work area and use masking tape to ensure that someone won't inadvertently re-activate the circuit while you're elbows deep in it. Tell everybody what you are doing. If nothing else, warn them that electrocution doesn't smell pretty.
  2. Alright, safety out of the way, hit the Web and decide what fixture you want. This is where it gets tricky... The secret to lighting is light, and with the options of incandescents, CFLs, and LEDs, the choices are endless. Good luck to you.
  3. Next tip... Hook up your fixture to the planned existing circuit before you start drilling holes and running wires. Once again... If you don't know what you're doing, call in a pro.
  4. Ah those pesky studs and bricks... Know your turf...
  5. Onward... Dry run your installation. Example: Wire 'A' has to run along through floor/wall 'B' and then go through junction box 'C' which has to be installed blah blah blah...
  6. After all that, there's nothing but the sweat and cussing to make it happen...
About that contest... Here's a hint... The mystery couple first signed with 'Magic Lamp' records before signing with A&M... And yes, I still want the link to the actual video of the performer's working their wizardry with the piece...

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 17, 2012

Sconces and Multi-Media Center...

Hi,

In keeping with the 'domicile and yard' feel of this blog, I thought I'd clue you in to my latest agony... project... of installing a couple of sconces above the old fireplace. In the pic below, you can see where they'll be located. (A painting will hang between.)

location in red_420_IMG_4620.JPG

The only real problem is that I'll have to work in this spider-infested network, and I suffer from the world's worst case of arachnophobia... (I wonder if the board of selectmen would mind if I introduced a flame thrower into my basement? I mean, what could go wrong?)

web 400 IMG_4624.JPG

But the bigger picture is this... While I'm making merry with those eight-legged bustards, I might as well turn the entire corner of the living room into a multi-media center...

Entire corner for media center_420_MG_4625.JPG

Here's the plan Stan... The clock will go, the big TV/rolling stand will be sold to cover the cost of a newer, smaller unit. (Anyone want a two year old 40" LCD TCL setup??? We'll make you an offer you can't refuse...) The new one-eyed brain bandit will be mounted to the wall roughly where the clock is now, but will be able to swivel in and out and sided to side as well as tilt for improved viewing. That puppy will be attached to a computer/DVD/cable system stored in the existing bookshelves for total sensory participation. (Yeah, I'm getting carried away, but I've got to convince Mrs. CCA...) Toss in some 5.1 speakers, and football and the 'knife channel' never sounded or looked so good... Yeah, yeah... That's the ticket...

By the spiders and the sawdust and a deliriously happy Mrs. CCA...

CapeCodAlan


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September 11, 2012

As Imperceptibly as Grief... Fall Projects...

Hi,

As the title implies, I refer to a poem by Emily Dickinson... Here it is:

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away --
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy --
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon --
The Dusk drew earlier in --
The Morning foreign shone --
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone --
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

And that's about it... The temp right now is 56, and the projects are piling up... I have to put the shutters back on the windows. (I had to remove them when we installed the new windows.) And with the windows comes tile work... First, I had to re-create a 40 year old tile in wood... Ta da! A little tinting and you'll never know the difference

fake tile_420_IMG_4586.JPG

And then there is the kitchen back splash... At least I can use real tile there. (Note that one section has already been cut to fit and glued in place using a barbell as a wedge.)

backsplash _420_IMG_4615.JPG

But there's other stuff... Rip off the gutters and paint the house and then replace the gutters, replace a toilet, replace a sink, fit two more shades, start a few more batches of beer, replace a door, build a landing, start building another boat...

By the busy feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 6, 2012

Random Photos... Random Thoughts...

Hi,

The other day, I had reason to try to undelete some files off an SD card. (And that's a tricky process...) In no particular order, I found the following and thought it might be interesting to 'Rorschach' the shots...

I like the one below... The blurred wings kind of remind me of DuChamp's 'Nude Descending a Staircase'... And for some reason, that leads me to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' 'Next'...

wings in motion 420_MG_4449.JPG

Onward...

Here are a few items I (or Mrs. CCA) picked up off Craig's List or at yard sales... We've got two (of four) perfect Cherry timbers for a total of $12. There's also a $25 12" bandsaw, and nine high quality clamps that sold for a total of $10... Those should have cost $275, $150, and $100 respectively. What are people thinking?

420 clamps and cherry_MG_4509.JPG

Ah... Good old Don the squirrel... Always posing and try to steal seed... What a rapscallion...

420 squirrel__MG_4436.JPG

The photograph below shows our old picture window... Notice how much light was blocked by the mullions and transoms...

old picture window 420_MG_4466.JPG

And finally, this is the replacement puppy... Kind of reminds me of working with my dad (he was a home builder and master electrician...) I was just a kid then, but I loved seeing a job come together...

420 picture window_MG_4484.JPG

By those ink blot feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Don't forget my 'Hate my Guts' contest...


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August 12, 2012

Twilight Sky, Replacing Tile...

Hi,

420 pretty_IMG_4543.JPG

Thought I'd throw in this twilight shot... Sad reminder of the diminishing of summer and time in general... Sigh... In no time many of us will be freezing and blowing out our backs shoveling snow so long as we're lucky...

Onward...

The bathroom tile still has to be replaced, and here's the start of a replacement...

420 wood IMG_4547.JPG

The plan is to sand the hardwood blank to shape, and then prime with something like Bin. (I really don't think I need to seal the pores of the wood -- it's is just too dense to fuss over with sealing putty.) Once the primer is secure, we'll color match the tile and fiddle a semi-gloss poly into a not-too-embarrassing replacement.

Here's an earlier tile fix...

fixing tile_420 IMG_4563.JPG

A smidgen of 'White Out' and that puppy disappears...

Resigned by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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August 2, 2012

Broken Tile... It Never Ends...

broken tile 420 IMG_4526.JPG

This is how it begins...

Well, above be the challenge fellow homebodies and wood butchers... Replace a tile damaged in the recent home renovation/window replacement. "No problem!" you say? "Quick fix!" you say? Yeah, well, not so fast Skippy. These tiles haven't be in production for 40 years, and for good reason -- they're ugly. And even if I could find them, just buying one probably would be cost prohibitive. So what's the plan Stan? (Funny, I thought you were Skippy... Anyway...)

My plan is to reproduce the tile in hardwood, and then paint it to the appropriate ghastly color. It will take careful milling, then priming, painting, and finally, some sort of varnish/polyurethane/lacquer/shellac, etc. After that I'll stick the sucker on the wall and woe be to he who questions it.

Of course, the other option is to tear the entire bathroom apart and remodel it, but that will involve not just tile work, but also plumbing, and I prefer my disasters one at a time. Let me fix the busted tile, then move on to the curtains, then re-shingle one side of the house, then remove the old wheelchair ramp installed by the original owner, then replace the deck, then replace the back door, then rip out the main bath, then re-paint all the ceilings, then publish my first sci fi book, then finish my Emily Dickinson book, then build my bucket boat (the 'Surf'), then build an airplane, then start my book on Karen Carpenter's tragic life, then...

You see... This is why little things like replacing a tile are such humongous deals -- everything is so intertwined with everything else. Whether it's the shingles which have to be replaced, or the books that must be completed, it's sort of an all or nothing package.

Make it all happen or die an abject failure... It really never ends...

By the bathroom and the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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July 18, 2012

New Windows, Rain, Heat, Food and Seed Prices, etc...

Hey!

First up... I apologize for the lag since the last post -- new windows, renovations, and heat take their toll. That being said, the new windows are in and the interior treatments have begun...

420 picture window with shade_IMG_4494.JPG

Here's a screen shot from the eBirdseed.com streaming cam as seen from the new kitchen window...

New window streaming cam screen shot_420_2012 first hummingbird.jpg

Excuse me while I notice that it's raining!!! Yay!!!

Onward...

This country is facing a serious drought emergency, and you should be aware... Expect veggies etc. to spike in cost towards the forth quarter of 2012... Canned goods are good things... Also vacuum packed and frozen meats go a long way... And don't forget your feathered friends -- buying in bulk now and vacuum packing seed will save money later... word to the wise. (We just started discussing buying an old freezer for storage, and purchasing bulk seed by the hundreds of pounds... Hmmm...)

By the busy feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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July 11, 2012

Out with the Old and In with the New

Despite the heat of the past few days, we've been working with our friend/contractor, Bill, to get our new windows installed. This entails ripping out the old windows (original to our nearly 40-year-old house) and replacing them with high-end double glazed energy-efficient swing-and-clean new ones. And the new ones are beautiful!

420 out with the old and in with the new_IMG_4442.jpg

As you can see above, the new window on the left (still with stickers and protective plastic) provides a beautiful contrast to the old window on the right. The new one is guaranteed for life! On the other hand, the old one is quite frankly rotting... Bye bye!

The install process itself is grueling but not particularly difficult--if you're an engineer, mechanic, woodworker, or such. Being unskilled labor, I've been standing around and doing what I'm told; everything from plugging in extension cords to pounding out the old windowsills. The actually work is being done by Bill and CapeCodAlan, and I'm ever so glad to stay in the background on this; my fingernails are in shreds already, and we're just over halfway done. And the hard part is yet to come...

Replacing the big front picture window is going to be the task of the day tomorrow. And it's going to be a doozy!

Chewing my nails by the feeder,
Mrs.CapeCodAlan


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July 8, 2012

Streaming Cam Will be Down for a Few Days... Renovating!!!

Hi,

Just a heads up... Our Live eBirdseed.com streaming cam will be down for a few days... Seems that we have to replace this puppy,

resized_IMG_4410.JPG

and this one...

rotten_IMG_4413.JPG

And eight more...

Expect two or three days down-time max...

By the sawdust, the Ben Gay, and the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 17, 2012

Not so Stupid World, Crows, Fraternities, etc...

420 use this_IMG_4307.JPG

Hi,

Sorry I was so snippy in my last post -- it's just that bad days are... well... bad... Anyway, the world isn't completely stupid... (There... That's as contrite as I get...)

The pic right is of the top of the shooting tripod that I thought I had glued (epoxied) into a useless monolithic abomination. Note the red arrow at the bottom -- that's the gearing into which the epoxy crept and in doing so locked the entire sucker up tighter than Dick's hat band... Nothing sweat and a gift for obscenities couldn't fix. Now about those crows and frats...

Below is a crow partaking in some pretty simple leftovers... Not a huge deal right? Well, yes an no... It has become ritual for the corvids to haunt us at certain times of the day, or whenever we have food. O.K., I admit that I'm partially to blame for that -- I don't like to stuff my face knowing that just yards away there's a hungry wild animal that I've happened to know for the last year or so...But now there seems to be some sort of involuntary joining process -- I am a member of the murder, and my dues are due on a bi-daily basis (at best) whether I like it or not.

420 IMG_4278.JPG

I'm not sure what the bennies are beside the crows' guarded trust and an ongoing songbird predator alarm system...

Years ago (back when I was an engineering student), I was asked to join a special fraternity, and after giving it considerable thought, I turned the offer down -- I knew too many who were just as deserving as I, but faced different circumstances. Besides, as the saying so famously goes, "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member..." But this time, with these birds, it seems that I don't have a choice...

As always, but sometimes reluctantly, by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 15, 2012

Stupid World, Poults, etc...

Hi,

First... Here they are... A new generation of gravy and stuffing accomplices...

420 SEVEN poults with circles IMG_4280.JPG

As best I can tell, there are seven of the little buggers in there... Here's a better look...

420 seven poults withOUT circles IMG_4280.JPG

So the turkey population thrives on Cape Cod... No doubt that all turkeys (and fox and coyotes and wombats and Big Foots) in the greater New England area will flock to our backyard in pursuit of the worlds finest litter box...

Does it seem like I'm having one of those days? Do I come across as a tad 'snippy'? "Why, how could that be?" you ask incredulously... "How could the forever Pollyanna CapeCodAlan have a bug up his backside???"

I'll tell you how Bucko... In my eternal search to find/make just the right equipment to photograph birds, I created the tripod abomination below...

420 stupid tripod_100_4297.JPG

I was going to cut the turned wood adjunct off at the middle saw mark and in doing so have an almost perfect work of art ready for a camera mount -- we're talking hours of planning and effort -- we're talking Mona Lisa here... But nooo!!! Our old buddy/nemesis Captain Epoxy crept into the mechanics of the thing and poof! What should have been a master stroke is now just a... Umm... Deep breath... Suffice it to say that if I go back down into the shop, and find the thing an animated, prancing three-legged taunting demon, I won't be surprised...

Stupid tripod, stupid turkeys (they really should wear diapers), stupid world...

Fussy by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 7, 2012

Bird Update, Home, Epoxy, Marlinspike, Blah, Blah, Blah...

Hi,

Bird-wise, there ain't much new to report here all feeders are clean, and baths are full, and the birds just seem to be delirious... Lots of crows, rubies, grackles, rabbits... the usual happy dancing creatures...

On the home front, we'll be getting new windows soon... Oh man, aside from working out, when was the last time I did manual labor??? Expect tales of woe and shattered vertebrae...

Started a new collection of fids and a marlinspike... These are the tools required for any kind of decent rope work around the house or yard. (See this example of a Turk's Head on our walking stick/monopod...) I'll wait to go deeper into the subject of making these tools,

In order to actually make the large marlinspike, I first sandwiched a piece of teak between two pieces of oak using thickened epoxy. (Thankfully, I remembered to pre-saturate all mating wood with unthickened epoxy beforehand to insure a good bond... Nothing like having hardwood come apart and fly at your face off a 500+ RPM lathe!) Here's the 2&1/4" by 16" blank complete with centering marks...

420_glued_100_4261.JPG

Next up is the turned piece, complete with a coat of epoxy for protection... 420_ tuened done 100_4271.JPG

And finally,.. Done... Ultimately, it measures 2" by a foot, and sealed in epoxy and bee's wax... Not bad...

420_fini_100_4275.JPG

Ultimately, skills like general construction, proficiency with glop like epoxy, and rope work can only ease the challenges of backyard life...

By the busy feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 3, 2012

Epoxy, Birding, Backyards, etc...

Hi,

You know... There are times when even the casual backyard birder has to call out the serious adhesives... Be it a trellis, or a walking stick/monopod, there are times when only the best adhesive will do -- enter epoxy. Consider below...

420_glued_101_4257.JPG

That's two pieces of oak sandwiching a piece of teak. Those are two wood types notorious for their dislike of sticky stuff... So why do it? The purpose of this senseless exercise is to glue up a blank to ultimately make a marlinspike. (The marlinspike's little brother, the fid, is the brown cone-shaped object resting on the hammer...) And it's the job of the marlinspike/fid to create the Turk's head knot that's on the aforementioned monopod that's used by the casual birder... Yeah, the feeders can get this involved!

Onward... The bottom line is that if you're serious about making outdoor stuff, nothing beats epoxy for its strength, waterproof nature, and gap-filling ability... And here's how you use it...

  1. First read this free book by System Three... If you read that simple text, understand and implement all the safety precautions, and practice just a little, you'll be close to being an expert right out of the blocks...
  2. Buy quality stuff from a company like West, U.S. Composites, Raka, System Three, etc... Expect to pay about $100/gallon including pumps. (Rugged quality ain't cheap...)
  3. When it comes time to actually glue wood, clean and sand/scuff the bare bonding surfaces thoroughly and then soak them with mixed but unthickened epoxy. (Expect a mess... See below...)

    420_pre_wet_IMG_4257.JPG

  4. Next, thicken up some of your mixed epoxy using the manufacturer's wood flour until you have a toothpaste-like slurry...
  5. Now comes the fun part... Slather that slurry on the work areas, and don't be cheap...
  6. Finally clamp with moderate pressure (epoxy doesn't like to be squeezed out of its joint if you know what I mean) and leave it alone for a few days...

If you've done everything right, you'll have an unbreakable joint and will have destroyed a t-shirt and perhaps a pair of jeans in the process...

Kidding aside, coalesce some epoxy, pressure-treated lumber, stainless bolts and screws, and a bit of time, and you'll have a picnic table that will last you until at least 2032... That's not shabby...

By the bullet-proof feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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May 23, 2012

Buying a Used Tool...

Hi,

Yup, it's that time of year -- time to fix up the deck, build a few bird houses, make some lawn furniture... You know the drill... As a moderator for a couple of boat building forums, and a renowned wood butcher, I often come across the question, "How do I buy a decent used power tool?" Well, here's my wildly over-priced $.02... But first, take a look at the band saw below...

420_10 inch_480_100_4198.JPG

Not bad aye? I picked that up off of Craig's List for the meager sum of $25... Sounds oh so cheap and easy doesn't it? You too could be churning out bird houses faster than a jack rabbit on Viagra churns out baby bunnies... Ummm... Not so fast... Step by step, here's the actual work involved in buying such a machine with no post-purchase remorse...

  1. First, you have to deal with reality... What do you really need? How much can you afford? How mechanical are you? What's your time frame look like?
  2. OK, so now that you're buying wisely, the next question becomes, "Buy what?" Using the band saw above as an example, I had two choices: buy it new or buy it used. As this is a backup for my heavy-duty saw, I chose cheap money and waited...
  3. Once you've found a possible treasure, do your homework! Are there spare parts available? What do commenters on the Net say? What does the thing weigh? (The Web is a wonderful thing...)Instant Boats' forum is fantastic as is the 'Old Wood Working Machines')
  4. When buying used, I go by several simple criteria:
    1. Does the beast work? If the answer is ,"No...", run away.
    2. Is anything broken, cracked, twisted, missing?
    3. Can you get the manual?
    4. In general, how does the tool look... Has it been abused? Maybe it was left out in the rain? Move all shafts and feel for slop. What does the cord look like? Use your noggin...
  5. If you have to buy new and are just a hobbyist, buy cheap. Go to your local Big Box and buy junk... It will get you by...
  6. The next step up on the tool scale is a moderately priced unit for $30o -- $500 ... Expect not so junky, but little more...
  7. Now here is the route I'm starting to go -- Back in the '40s and '50s, America turned out some superb stuff. Really, all you have to do is do your research, buy "old", and replace bearings, belts, motors, blades, etc... But for short money and some time, you can have a superb tool.
  8. Lastly, if used tools don't float your boat and you have deep pockets, you can buy "Large..." A decent stationary tool will go for about $1,500 to $2,000. To each his own...
With that, I'm signing off to go to work on my 'new' band saw...

By the feeders and standing in sawdust...

CapeCodAlan


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April 28, 2012

Potpourri of photos Including the Great Flicker Hunt...

[Note from CCA... I just found this post unpublished... Oops!!!] Hi,

Alrighty then... For some time I've been piling up pics for you, and of course not publishing them... Rather than responsibly and dutifully issuing them one at a time along with its own post, I decided to empty the SD and dump them in your lap... Ain't I a stinker??? (If you 'Google' on any of the subjects below along with 'ebirdseed and blog', you'll be able to find more info...)

First up... The 'Great Bird Hunt...' I'd been trying to photograph this flicker for far longer than I should have, and finally in a fit of frustration, abandoned the Canon for the monopod and a cheap Kodak... We're talking foul language and flying pixels, but I won!

flicker_420_IMG_4104.JPG

I wasn't sure what the next bird was (told you I'm no ornithologist!) I recognized the female cardinal, but not the female red-wing... D'oh!

female red wing and cardinal_420_IMG_4120.JPG

There! Now take a look at the feast below!!! Home brew, 'snausage', and crackers... Somewhere there's a cardiologist smiling...

homebrew_420_IMG_4042.JPG

Ah... The new bird house in action...

new bird house_420_IMG_4076.JPG

For you woodworkers, you might want to pay special attention to the shot below... If you need to round stock (for stuff like spars, masts, or walking sticks), use Dynamite Payson's technique (I don't know where he got it from) and make your own rubber covered drum that will chuck in a power drill... Then just turn a belt sander belt inside out and use your common sense... Sweet!

rounding mast_420_IMG_4088.JPG

Have some Turk's Heads knots...

turks head handle_420_IMG_4083.JPG

Lastly is the wife's trail kit... And yes that is a real pistol, and yes, she has a license to carry that concealed, and yes, she knows how to and will use it if there's no other way.

wife trail kit_420_IMG_4110.JPG

Phew! My memory card feels so much lighter!

By the feeders...


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April 19, 2012

New Neighbors and Careful Economy...

new_ 420_IMG_4053 (1).JPG

Well, that didn't take long! You know, it's rewarding really... A few nights ago, that house was just some scrap sitting in a garbage bag. (Seriously, I was just going to throw it out.) But now it's a perfect home in an ideal location for a family of little chickadees. (Let me talk that back a bit... I think the final tenants are black-caps -- that dwelling has seen a ton of views.)

It's my fault really, but I look at stuff like bird houses (and boats and tools and cloths and cabins and...) as a sort of mild challenge to frugality and cleverness. I mean, what does it take to make a birdhouse? Call a lumberyard, a hardware store, or even a supermarket and ask if they have any scrap wood. Trust me, one of those places will have scrap galore. Beyond that, Lord knows the Web is choked with bird house plans. And old tools are everywhere... After that, it's all sawdust, pounding, and cussing. (I reign supreme in the latter.) Kidding aside, that's it -- get off your duff and go make something. But make something of quality and efficiency.It really isn't all that tough, and the rewards are remarkable...

By those stingy but well-crafted the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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April 10, 2012

New Bird House, Monopod in Action, etc...

New house_420_IMG_3950.JPG

I like to think of the construction techniques used to create the above abomination as 'Slam Dash' -- I had the scrap and a few minutes, and I went for it. I used a simple box I built while practicing making finger joints (and stuck together with a waterproof polyurethane glue...) then ripped a back support and bottom, drove some screws, drilled a few vent holes, bored an entrance, slapped on some linseed oil, and she was done. If only mounting was that easy...

The picture above was taken using our new homemade monopod. After working with the mono, I'll rarely resort to a tripod unless I need a granite-solid platform and have the time to set it up. Granted, the monopod takes a bit of dexterity (you may end up riding it like a stick horse, but that doesn't take long to learn... Besides, the 'pod makes for the perfect walking stick... (BTW and FWIW -- a 5' long staff with a 1/2" long pointy bolt stuffed in the end might also make for a formidable defensive weapon out on the trail.... Just a thought...)

Getting late, so I'll wrap this one up...

As always, by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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March 31, 2012

Epoxy for the Beginner...

Hi,

broken push stick 400 IMG_3931.JPG

"What in the name of Sam Hill is that a photo of?" you might ask... Well it's the remainder of my favorite table saw push stick that got trapped in a batch of epoxy. Let me back up...

If you really, really need an adhesive for wood (and other materials too) that will face the rigors of the outdoors, there is no substitute. And there are other reasons for choosing epoxy as well:

  • Epoxy is easy on the fumes, so it probably won't make your house burst into flames. (Nonetheless, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions!)
  • When used in conjunction with the appropriate pump system, epoxy is easy to prep.
  • Applied appropriately, epoxy is strong -- gruesomely strong.
  • No other adhesive has the gap-filling properties of epoxy.
  • Epoxy can be used both as a glue (discussed here), and as a wet-out resin for fiberglass.
  • When used with the proper fillers, it can act as a glue, a fairing/smoothing compound, and a filleting goo.
Yup... Epoxy is the wonder glue, and it's often used in demanding jobs like bridge and aircraft construction. But how does the average backyard birder actually use it to glue something like wood? Here's how...
  1. First, you need get the right epoxy for the wood... Epoxy works with almost all woods -- the exceptions being exotic oily stuff like teak. Just ask the manufacturer beforehand.
  2. Buy quality epoxy like Mas, West, System Three, and U.S. Composites For example, I use U.S. Composites 635 resin with a medium-speed hardener. And don't event think about those $5 syringe jobbers at the CVS. Those are for hobby applications. You're looking for the standard two-part epoxy resin/hardener used in boatbuilding etc.
  3. Buy a gallon. With pumps, fillers, shipping, gloves, masks, eye protection, etc., expect to pay about $100 -- $150. That may sound like a lot, but it's some of the best stuff on earth. Just don't let it freeze and it may be the last glue you'll ever buy..
  4. And here we go, off like a herd of turtles! First make sure your bonding surfaces are dry, bare, scuffed, and clean. You want to be working at a minimum of 65 degrees F. See instructions.
  5. Practice by pumping the minimum amount of resin and hardener into a throw-away plastic tub and then mixing for several minutes.
  6. Next, slather the surfaces with the unthickened glop and leave it alone... Pour a bit of the stuff into a seperate container for a followup coat or two and then add your thickener into the original tub. (I use a wood flour, but each maker has his own adhesive thickener.) What you want is a 'peanut butter' consistency.
  7. O.K... Now look at the parts to be secured... Usually, the unthickened epoxy has soaked into the wood, and a second, or even a third coat is required. Epoxy is slippier than a greased eel, so you want to be sure that the wood is truly saturated.
  8. Once that's done, securely mate the two pieces, preferably with hardware like screws or bolts. Be careful not to crush the two members together -- you can squeeze out the epoxy and create a weak, 'starved' joint. Now, just let it sit. I like to give my work a good week to really set.
And that's about it... Here's an exceptionally good resource concerning the use of epoxy: http://www.systemthree.com/reslibrary/m_published-literature.asp...

I'll be down in the shop making a new push stick, and hopefully you'll be repairing that rickety old picnic table once and for all...

CapeCodAlan


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March 29, 2012

Homemade Monopod (Part 2 of 2)

Hi,

Well, here it is -- the monopod I mentioned last time, all spruced up and almost ready for action...

400 pod ready for epoxy IMG_3930.JPG

True, there is still suff to be done:

  • the top black swivel/tilt mechanism has to be epoxied and pinned cross-grain into place
  • the handhold in the staff itself has to be fitted for Mrs. CCA's grip
  • a dash of accoutrement (like woven leather or cord handle) should be installed
  • the pointy dirt jabber has to be installed at the earthy end of the stick
  • it's going to need a few coats of a varnish
  • the wife mentioned a lanyard... we'll see

And that's about it -- as easy as a project can get.... If you think any of the steps described here are 'uncharted water', no problem... Just post a comment and I can walk you through...

By those Shaker feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. FYI... Here's an epoxy link every backyard enthusiast should have: http://www.systemthree.com/reslibrary/m_published-literature.asp

P.P.S. We still ain't seen no stinking hummingbirds!


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March 26, 2012

New Cam Position, and Homemade Monopod (Part 1 of 2)

Hi,

First of all, take a look at our new hummingbird feeder relative to the eBirdseed.com streaming cam... Little better ay? (Will look better still when I get around to cleaning the window...)

Now... about making that monopod... In general, a monopod is really just a tripod with one leg. It also makes for a dandy walking stick... (See photo below...)

What project would be complete without one of my hideous, out of scale drawings...
420 monopod drawing_2012-03-26_172810.jpg

Monopods are very popular with birders for obvious reasons... What follows then, is a rough outline for making such a beast and then a few pics showing the build process so far...

  1. Rip a 2 X 4 square such that it's 1.5" X 1.5" and about 5' high... (This will be shortened to fit Mrs. CCA)
  2. Round the stick to a 1.5" in dia.
  3. Find a way to attach a standard tripod camera attitude mechanism (up/down, left/right,tilt) to the top of the stick cutting the height appropriately
  4. Bore a 3/16" hole in the bottom end of the 'pod and screw in a 1/4" X 1" bolt along with a dash of syringe epoxy... Be sure to leave about 1/4" of the bolt shaft sticking out
  5. After the epoxy dries, cut the bolt head off and grind the remaining stub to a point -- this will be the pointy end that sticks into the ground
  6. To mount the camera attitude mechanism, cut the top assembly off a cheap tripod keeping about 1.25" of the height adjustment shaft... (See photo below)
  7. Bore a hole into the top end of the stick just big enough to hold the shortened height adjustment shaft and and some epoxy
  8. Next-to last-step: Make a handle up by the non-pointy end out of appropriately placed old boot leathers secured with epoxy and a herringbone stitch or a series of Turk's head knots
  9. Finally, just slather on three coats of varnish and call her done -- a great walking stick/monopod ready for action
Here's the progress so far...

Soon to be sacrificed tripod...
tripod with cutoff point_400_IMG_3918.JPG


Square stick as it came off the saw... Best_Stick on saw _ 400_IMG_3915.JPG

'Pod blank readied for rounding... stick with lines_420_IMG_3917.JPG

And that's all for today...

By those hectic feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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March 21, 2012

Insanity and the Shed

Hi,

Well, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that back around Christmas, the wife and I started on a 'new to us' shed. And there she sits in all her reluctant glory...

six by six_IMG_3913.JPG

The beauty is all set and ready to store and shelter except for just one tiny final step... Those two 16' timbers are 6x6 monsters, and somehow those are going to have to become the skirt between the sloping earth and the floor of the shed itself... So that means I'm going to have to drag them into a workable space, cut them to length with a chainsaw, make a level trench for them beside the shed, partially fill it with stone (in the bags in the foreground), then muscle the beasties into place, all the while applying construction adhesive... I can already hear that whisper in the back of my head saying, "Here comes the pain..." Even my id's shadow is worried.

Success on a project like this of course keeps out the loathsome (snakes, rats, politicians, etc.), but garners great respect and incredibly hot bunny babes... Failure on the other hand (this endeavor only has one hand, and its name is, 'abject failure') is most assured... You know, just the sound of going into these sorts of assignments always have the same 'clank!' to them... I'll give it my best shot, and then my ego will be crushed and I'll have to explain (again) why I really don't need to go to the Emergency Room... It's sort of like taking 'French' for the 6th time after failing it 5 times before. (Note to all you French folks across 'The Pond" -- you have a stupid language. The least you could do is speak English, and that way I only would have had to take your language three times, finally passing with a C-...)

But like Carl, I digress... That's the project -- button up the bottom of the shed whilst not shattering my psyche or any major bones...

By the wee place... Bring some Kleenex and a first-aid kit...

CapeCodAlan


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March 10, 2012

Red-wings, Grackles, Emily Dickinson, and Birdhouse Construction Techniques...

Hi,

Yeah, I know... I'm packing too much into a single post for the better welfare of human or beast... Tough... Here we go...

First up, a neato video I shot of red-wings and grackle...

This so much reminds me of the sublime poem by Emily Dickinson...

I'll tell you how the Sun rose --
A Ribbon at a time --
The Steeples swam in Amethyst --
The news, like Squirrels, ran --
The Hills untied their Bonnets --
The Bobolinks -- begun --
Then I said softly to myself --
"That must have been the Sun"!
But how he set -- I know not --
There seemed a purple stile
That little Yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while --
Till when they reached the other side,
A Dominie in Gray --
Put gently up the evening Bars --
And led the flock away --

(Yup, I've referred to this poem before -- excellence never wears out... There's just something about the way Ms. Dickinson describes a mass of birds taking flight...)

Anywho... About the birdhouse... 'Tis the time to build those puppies and get them out there... Pictured below is a soon-to-be avian domicile constructed using box (or finger) joints...

box joint resized IMG_3897.JPG

It isn't pretty, but it will keep the pin feathers dry... Now is the ideal time to practice some basic joints on some scrap, and slam together a few houses... Before this one is done, I'll add a sloping roof, bore an entry and drainage holes, scuff up inside and out for little claws, and secure to a tree with that big honking cable tie (available at plumbing and electrical supply stores.) And that will be it...

There... Emily and birdhouses in one sitting... I should have worked in some Ella...

By the feeders!

CapeCodAlan


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February 5, 2012

Box Joint, Birdhouse, and Turkey Love...

For some time now, I've been longing for some method to quickly build custom wood storage crates -- crates for stuff like tools, winter storage, garage clutter, etc... They should be strong, but not ugly. The old military rifle boxes are about the right size, but they break the 'Ugly Rule' and are too costly to boot. Enter recycled lumber and the box joint (below).

resized box joint_IMG_3738.JPG

Please forgive the lack of sanding, but I hope you get the idea. Here's the Rockler jig used to create that joint...

resized and loaded_IMG_3737.JPG

What this all really boils down to is the ability to create neat, strong box-type stuff (like the birdhouse components above) really quickly once the jig is configured properly... Something to think about for the backyard, etc...

Lastly (and on a different note...) The photograph below probably says it all, but it seems that the toms are... Well, you know... The other day we had 21 hens and 7 males. The yard is a mine field of turkey doo... Grrr... I'm going to have to find a way to use that box jig to make a turkey pooper scooper. Like I said... Grrr!!!

400_toms_IMG_3731.JPG

By those well crafted but messy feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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January 17, 2012

Around the Homestead...

Hi,

As I've mentioned umpteen times before, so long as you locate your bird feeders properly, keep them clean and full with quality seed, and provide fresh water, backyard birding is pretty much a hands-off hobby... If you're not familiar with any of the steps above, please feel free to:

  • Google on this blog for instructions
  • Ask a question via the comment field
  • Email me at CapeCodAlan@eBirdseed.com
  • Call us at 1-866-324-7373

So, around here, it's 'gaze baby gaze...'

On to other more domestic stuff...

First off, we have our n-gauge train on our dining room table... Both seem to be aging well... (Who knows what we'll do with the train...)

400 table with train_IMG_3689.JPG

Speaking of aging... Here's our third batch of home brew snug and dark. Give it about a month and it ain't bad... (Stay tuned... Sometime I'll write a 300 word post on how to brew beer for the first timer...)

400 covered fermenter_IMG_3691.JPG

Beer maturing...

bottled in white_400_IMG_3692.JPG

Next up is the tall Shaker clock... The mock-up cardboard 'hood' (the wood enclosure that houses the actual clock mechanism itself) rests about midway... The final assembly height of the hood will match that of our hutch...

400 clock hood mock up_IMG_3690.JPG

Here is the board that will be used to make the hood... I'd guess it's 125 years old, checked, painted, and loaded with iron nails... I glued the checks back together, the old paint will be carefully stripped, and the board will be cut to shape using a blade that can handle both wood and ferrous. -- time consuming but beautiful when done properly...

hood wood resized_IMG_3695.JPG

Outside to the shed! Work goes exceptionally well... All looks square, level, and plumb... Right now, the ridge beam is in place, and all that remains is to put in the 2 X 6 roof reinforcements and to install the roof...

shed with ridge beam and two by sockets_400_IMG_3693.JPG

400_two by six_IMG_3694.JPG

One small problem -- the 2 X 6 timbers we bought don't seem to be the standard 1.5" by 5.5", but rather a true 6" wide... Nothing a table saw can't fix...

And that's about it from here on the back forty... Happy birds and projects galore

Always busy by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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January 12, 2012

A Couple of Updates on the Shed

Hi,

Not a lot to report... It has been an unusually warm winter here on Cape Cod. (Having said that, it probably will snow 10' deep tomorrow...)

The shed build goes relatively uneventfully...

doors on_400_IMG_3676.JPG

Obviously, I need to get the ridge beam and roof on, but that's just a matter of time. The structure being thrice owned, I'll have to refine here and there, but all told, we're pretty happy.

It's interesting to note that the turkeys find the shed 'captivating'... They flocked around it, which at least suggests that they remember that once upon a time the building was not there. (I always thought of turkeys as idiot dinosaur spawn who spent half their lives just trying to remember where they were 15 minutes ago, and the other half trying to find our lawn so that they could do their 'business.'.) But apparently not so... Maybe a more accurate ratio is 40:60...

And that's the update on the shed, turkeys and all...

See you by the feeders and the storage facility... but be careful where you walk...

CapeCodAlan


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December 20, 2011

Splitting a Laser Beam... Getting Feeders (and everything else) Plumb, Level, and Square

Hi,

400 autumn trellis_1.JPG

No telling how many times we've looked out at our trellis (and feeders) and felt a subtle sense of reward --- everything is visually so right with the things. What should be straight is straight; what should be a smooth curve is a smooth curve. (I know I've talked about this before, but things like plumb and square bear repeating ad nauseam.) Nothing foreshadows a final shoddy build like a warped beginning. The heart just isn't in it for the entire build when the start is flawed to the eye. Take a look at the clock case below...









400_laser_IMG_3492.JPG Now is that cool or what?!? Granted, the floor isn't perfectly flat, and as soon as we move the brute, perfection will try to slip away, but a variety of those flat, felt, anti-scratch furniture pads will take care of the rest and let the project half that red light yet again.... The point being that if you buy a few levels (torpedo, line, 24", laser, bubble -- about $50 worth), and spend some time and thought, you can do some remarkably true work be it a tall clock, a mailbox, mounting a painting, or even putting up a feeder... Little things mean a lot...

As always, by those upright feeders etc...

CapeCodAlan


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December 13, 2011

Shaker Clock Continued...

Hi,

400 with levels_IMG_3437.JPG

The weather is starting to cool (27F last night...) Time to get back to the shop... The Shaker tall clock build (right) progresses rather nicely, though there is some twist in it. I knew this had to happen -- the old pine boards just had too much warp and boogaloo in them to build anything anywhere near true... Oh well... If the Shakers could live with it, I guess we can. (Why is it that folks fret over things like cabinet work, putting up feeder posts, designing and building bird houses, or even fussing with an encryption contests?)

Anywho, there's the build as it stands now... Note the levels (red arrows...) Those levels are there to help truly flatten the base level and plumb. The case sits gingerly upon a sheet of glass and shims have been added to make the levels happy. That done, lines were drawn around the base and top to give true flat planes.

Once the carcase is copacetic, the shelves will be put in place and leveled. Glue block supports will be added to reinforce the case and shelves. Then off to the top -- that will be.a rectangular affair that will slip over the case and house the actual quartz time movement. Finally, the doors will be added and umpteen coats of stain/varnish will be applied.

All for now...

By the feeders...


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November 22, 2011

Outdoor Bird Cam, Crows, Woodworking Trick, Etc.

400 cam with Ikelite_IMG_3384.JPG

Well, that was the idea -- I'd mount the streaming cam in the old waterproof Ikelite housing, and put that outdoors. Granted, I'd have to dig a trench for the wire, house the wire in a system of PVC pipe for burial, snake the wire through a 4 X 4 mounting post, plumb the whole mess into the homestead... After all that, I'd have no guarantee as to the effect of wild temperature swings and camera performance... Nope... Not gonna happen... Wouldn't be prudent. So, for the moment at least, the link below is the best streaming cam shot I've got...

Beyond the moving picture machine, things around here have been slow bird-wise. (Part of the problem no doubt has to do with all the activity that's going on as we try to repair all the downed-tree damage..) Still, we feed the feathered ones, and they eat. I do however, continue to notice one behavior in the crows that seems to cross at least a couple emotional boundaries -- whether they're frustrated or excited, they ruffle their wing feathers. Is it a single behavior for two sentiments? Am I missing a nuance that separates two different types of movement? Perhaps the birds are incapable of feeling the difference between frustration and excitement... Who knows?

Lastly, here's a neat little trick I learned while building a canoe -- use tire inner tubes as giant rubber bands/clamps for unusual shapes and for joints that want to slide around. Here's that Shaker tall clock being bound together for fitting and eventually gluing and nailing... Pretty clever, no?

clock_IMG_3385.JPG

Happy Holidays!!!

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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September 29, 2011

Bird Update and Splitting Wood

Hi,

Well, at least the anarchy below provides shelter for the birds, squirrels, and stone wall panthers (aka chipmunks).

400_800_looking west to east_logs on ground_IMG_3199.JPG

In general, the birds seem to be 'ho-hum' concerning the loss of the maple. I guess that's a good thing. I wish I could come to rest so easily with the vacancy. There's something almost tragic in the loss of a large tree...

Of course, come next summer, the house is going to get absolutely baked without the shade of the maple... Today, a friend mentioned that now would be a good time to install solar panels... I think he might just be right and will look into it. At first glance, I think we're talking $30K, but let's just see. There's a ton of homework to be done...

But back to the tree (above). As far as I can tell, it's going to cost apx. $500 to have that beast milled, which simply ain't gonna' happen. So the alternatives are to chop it up and burn it, or split it by hand and use it for lumber. Bluntly, the former is completely unacceptable, and the latter sounds mighty sweaty. So be it the latter. I'll keep you posted though this probably isn't going to be pretty.

Pensive by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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September 25, 2011

Stump, Logs, Firewood, Furniture, and Birds

Hi,

400_looking North to south_logs on ground_IMG_3198.JPG

Take a look at the image above... What to do with the remnants of tropical storm Irene? Essentially, we're facing a 'maple' quandary on five fronts:

  • There is the stump itself... I guess we could cut it off at dirt level, and have the remains ground away. Ughhh...
  • Note all them thar logs... 21st century 'wisdom' dictates that all those guys should have been ground to flakes days ago. Once again... Ughhh...
  • There's always the option of chopping the lot up into firewood. In fact, some of the smaller stuff has been taken away for the hearth. (IMHO, better that than chipping it up into oblivion.)
  • My first real choice though is that of at least milling the logs. Take a look at the beast below keeping in mind the vertical yardstick as a size reference...

    400_Trunk_looking east to west_IMG_3194 with yardstick.JPG

    It doesn't take much imagination to see an heirloom blanket chest or table hiding in there.

  • But what of the birds? Now we come full circle back to the stump... Mrs. CCA and I think we want to leave the stump, and turn it into perhaps a pedestal for a birdbath. Then again, it would make for a super-strong housing for a birdhouse pole. Maybe it could house a small water fall for the birds...And so it goes -- circle of life... My money is on the birds.

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 20, 2011

Golden Ratio

Hi,

After the last entry, (Night Terrors and Flying Things in the Dark), I thought I might make a bit of a departure away from birds for just a bit, and touch upon a bedrock design consideration -- the 'Golden Ratio'. (Truth be told, if you have any interest in bird photography, bird carving, bird paintings, etc, this is all still valuable, so you might want to read on anyway.)

So what is the Golden Ratio? Well, it's arguably the the most comfortable ratio of image objects (typically height v. width) for the human eye. That ratio is usually about 1.6:1. Just look at your average book... if you multiply the bottom width by about 1.6, you'll end up with the page height. (To really get wonky, you make the ratio of the short element compared to the long element equal that of the ratio of the long element to the totality of the design itself, which is what I did below.) So, anywho... I faced that dilemma in this Shaker clock design...

math resized_2011-09-20_110918.JPG

Yeah... If Algebra ain't your thing, the numbers above probably don't mean too much; but the bottom line is that the following is true: 'short is to long as long is to total.' The eye can feel the balance as it slides down from the clock face to the pendulum bob and lands squarely on the bottom as if it were a perfect funnel.

As it looks so far (and I fuss with the details of the door...)

face in perspective resized_IMG_3191.JPG

This may sound esoteric and unrelated to birds, but it isn't. There's a reason why we're drawn to birds and carvings and all the rest -- the proportions are just right. Do this... open up your 'Sibley Guide to Birds' to any page. Look at the layout and balance... Say no more...

See you by those harmonic feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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September 4, 2011

Drunken Bee and New Crow Tray

Hi,

I couldn't help but think of the following Emily Dickinson piece when I took this shot...

yellow jacket_IMG_3149.JPG

I taste a liquor never brewed --
From Tankards scooped in Pearl --
Not all the Vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of Air -- am I --
And Debauchee of Dew --
Reeling -- thro endless summer days --
From inns of Molten Blue --

When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove's door --
When Butterflies -- renounce their "drams" --
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats --
And Saints -- to windows run --
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the -- Sun --

"When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove's door --"

That just kills me -- high on nature. This little fellow looks (and acts) like he's bombed. Then again, in this heat, the sugar water may have fermented a bit (either that or he's on a sugar high...) I wonder what the world would be like from the perspective of a blasted bee? Inquiring minds...

Let's see, what else?

Ah, there's the 'new' crow feeder... I had a spare piece of 1 X 12 pine, and a length of 1 X 1. I just tossed in some stainless screws and some weatherproof glue, and presto, a new platform is born. (Note the watchful crow...)

New crow tray and crow_resized_IMG_3164.JPG

(BTW, note the two monster cable ties used to reinforce the top of the support post. Those are a 'must-own', and can be purchased at plumbing and electrical supply stores.)

Time to go...

See you by those patched feeders if the bees don't get me...

CapeCodAlan


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August 22, 2011

Birds and Design

Hi,

OK, enough with the cat suppositories stuff! (You pet owners have been warned...) Back to the birds.

No great secret that we talk a lot about woodworking here. (Just Google on 'eBirdseed.com woodworking' and there you go...) And over the years, it turns out that I have a slight, reluctant flair for design stuff. Nothing grand, but enough to get me into trouble. Consider the shelf and kitchen island below...

rooster in shelf supports resized_IMG_3076.JPG

Mrs. CCA and I designed and built those. She chose the colors and the 'chicken' cast iron shelf brackets in red wisely. The design effect reflects us, the house, and the Cape -- straight-forward, functional, and unpretentious. But it's the chicken that initially tripped me up... I still struggle with it. (Perhaps better on a chicken farm in Kansas? Maybe a chickadee instead?) Still, the bird gets the pass and contributes quietly to the space... Next up is the new farmers table...

table with birds resized_IMG_3075.JPG

See anything subtle there? Look again... Look at the bird carvings at the base of the vase. (More on the Shaker clock build and its big brother in a sec...) But IMHO, the birds make the table come alive. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something there... Once again, it speaks (to me at least) as 'Cape Cod' and 'home'.

front of tall clock_resized_IMG_3078.JPG

Now, about the clocks... The big guy at right will eventually be an 80" Shaker tall clock. (That's only the front...)The one above (20") will reside in my shop and will annoyingly remind me that I'm late for bed. I truly don't know how the theme of birds will play out in those, if at all. This is where it gets tricky... So much of design depends on light and shadow and appropriateness of statement and understatement. Maybe I should work a bird into the design. Maybe perfection is a thin, brownish watercolor sparrow perched on one of the knots in one of the tall clock's two re-sawn doors. Perhaps that will give pause... that soft 'yes...' Maybe... maybe... maybe. I really don't know.

All I do know is that I think I'll leave the 20" clock alone. I can see it in the shop as the sun rises and the shadows will be perfect -- no embellishments -- no birds, no nothing... Just stark Shaker in a concrete basement surrounded by, wood, glass, steel, and iron...

I think that design is going to work...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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July 28, 2011

Let's Build a Birdhouse, a Boat, or Something!

Hi,

Well, 'tis the time to start thinking about building birdhouses, roosts, etc. As I already have my hands full in that department, I thought I'd just throw in some basic woodworking math that will come in handy regardless of the endeavor...

Might as well cut to the chase -- how to handle that age old dilemma of, "What's the cheapest purchase of wood for a given need? (Do I buy a 12' 1X6 or a 6' 1X12? What happens when I start ripping lumber/sheet goods? How do I calculate the effect of the blade kerf etc.?") Alrighty then... Here's your answer short and sweet:

  1. Draw out what you want. In the pic below, I'm anticipating ripping a sheet of 4X8 plywood into three equal widths ("X") for the sides of a boat...
  2. 48 inches cut into thirds.jpg

    Since the total usage will be three "X" and two saw kerfs, the fence setting on the saw needs to reflect this equation: 3X plus two kerf (or blade widths) equals to 48"

  3. Next, I measure the blade thickness (with the saw unplugged) to give me the kerf. In my case, that equates to 1/8" or .125"
  4. So... 3X plus .250" is going to have to total 48"... Or 3X = 47.75"... Or our mystery width "X" is 47.75" divided by three... That is "X" is 15.91667". Wonderful... How do I measure .91667" and set the rip fence accordingly??? Check the table below...
  5. 128ths_resized full screen.jpg

    (Click on the above to see full screen...)

    It turns out that 15.91667" is pretty close to 15 & 29/32". Set your fence to that, and you'll be well nigh to spot on... When you're done, just re-set the fence to the narrowest slice, and a couple clean-up passes will make all equal with only a smidgen of sawdust to tell the tale....

And that's it... I use this sort of calculation on virtually every project ... from crow trays to water craft.... Hope this make sense...

I'll be by the feeders making sawdust...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. If you really want to have fun, pick up a digital caliper from one of the woodworking outlets to measure the kerf... Yee haw!

P.P.S. Don't tell Mrs. CCA, but I've started building another boat... As long as we keep this on the 'hush hush', I don't think she'll notice a 16' sailboat taking shape in the garage...


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July 20, 2011

Mailboxes, Woodworking, etc.

Hi,

Got a full plate today, so we might just as well take a look at the pic below, and I'll explain as we go along...

Cramp_Pinch_Wixey_Mailbox.JPG

Let us see then... By the red letters:

  • "A": Last winter, yet another of our mailboxes got popped by a plow. So now I have two. One will become a well-ventilated duplex birdhouse for the shade, and the other will be the overdue outdoor camera housing for the feeders. I can't cool it for the summer, but I can heat it for the fall and winter. Should be interesting.
  • "B": That little black ring is a piece of 0.150" spring steel that has been bent into a loop complete with pointy ends. The idea is that it can be used for clamping two mitered boards together for gluing purposes.
  • "C": Ah, "cramps". Like the 'pinch clamp' above, cramps are an 'old school' way of clamping a miter from the outside. Just rip a couple of right triangle wood strips with equal 3/4" legs, glue the hypotenuse to each side of the carcase, let the glue dry, and then clamp as shown. (Next time, I'll be careful not to let the cramps get so close to each other.)
  • "D": Ever want to really "dial in" a saw -- get a really accurate angle on the blade? Meet "Wixey WR300". How did we live without this sort of calibration device??? Just plunk it on your tool's work surface, turn it on, zero it, and then let its magnet clamp onto the adjacent blade or fence. The LCD shows you the angle between the two. I've already used it to calibrate my table saw and radial arm saw. The band saw, drill press, and joiner are next. While it's jittery and fussy, for $30, this thing is simply a "Must Have" for anyone who has a shop.
  • "E": Finally, there's the old standard, "The Complete Woodworker" by Bernard E. Jones. While obviously dated, this tome is superb. If you can pick it up used for a couple of bucks... Go for it -- the skills inside are both timeless and invaluable.
  • Gotta run,

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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June 28, 2011

Farm Table Finished and Happy Dancing Creatures

Hi, Well, the table is fini...

Finished_IMG_2870.JPG

Should you decide to take on a similar project, here are a few thoughts from first idea to last coat of finish...

  • Number one... Figure out what you want! It's amazing how many people leap into a build (boat or furniture) with a blurred goal in sight. The end result is awkward (at best) changes on the fly. Do your research, and if you have to, make a scale model... Never forget the Golden Rule... In the end, light and shade matters!
  • Consider leg kits. We used Osborne Wood Products, Inc. and were extremely pleased with their service.
  • If you're going to work with old wood as we did, beware warping, cupping, dry rot, etc.
  • Speaking of old wood, don't sand it to the point of destroying the patina.
  • Keep in mind too that wide planks of any age will swell and shrink. Take a look at the peg/slot arrangement below for the mating surface between the table tongue and the breadboard slot..

    slots_resized_IMG_2872.JPG
    All too often, wood like this either moves or it splits.

  • Choose your chemicals wisely... We like fresh, high-end stuff for glues and finish...
  • And when the project is done, sit back and enjoy -- that is, don't sweat the small stuff...
  • Finally, beyond furniture... Just a few words on our happy creatures dancing, (obvious CCR reference)... Yesterday, I looked out the kitchen window and saw the largest menagerie of backyard critters... At a single moment, there were: squirrels, a chipmunk, mourning doves, a catbird, a red-wing, a black-cap, a crow, a hummingbird, and a Bigfoot. O.k., so I made up the Bigfoot part... But you get the idea... Quite a sight...

    By those feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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June 27, 2011

Building a Hummingbird -- The Wings

Hi,

Well, the game plan is to capture the essence of the wee beastie below in wood, wire and some amorphous/diaphanous wing material unknown...

hummingbird translucent win_resized_IMG_2819.JPG

Quite frankly, I don't want a museum-quality replica of the hummer... Nope... I felt (and feel) that that would ruin the spirit of the thing -- take away its 'chi' if you will... So I decided to carve it complete with the various body twists and undulations. By dumb luck, I stumbled upon a wood with the perfect grain and the carving went rather well, if I do say so myself....

But what of those doggoned wings?

  • I thought about molding glass -- that's a good organic material... With practice I could probably get the colors right, but the thinness would fail if anyone so much as looked cross-eyed at it.
  • Then there was epoxy... That might have worked, but epoxy is really just a type of super strong plastic... Bye bye organic feel...
  • Finally, I think I stumbled upon a winner -- a fabric called organza... Its got a good natural feel and flow... It's available in various colors... Here are two samples draped over the torso...
both gold and white organza resized_IMG_2857.JPG

I'm not sure I like the gold/white layered effect above ... Perhaps pure white organza...

white organza resized_IMG_2854.JPG

Who knows? But when all is said and done, I'm thinking of a wing structure consisting of the cloth, wire for the metacarpals, etc... (Maybe I'll airbrush them a bit?) Natch' the wires will be twisted and soldered together and the the wing root will be bored and epoxied into the clavicle area... Put on a bit of watercolor paint on the bird, and we're off to the races... (I think I've got the mounting under control... Sweet!)

And that's it... An easy hobby just waiting for you... Let me know if you have questions... I'll give you my vastly overpriced $.02...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 21, 2011

Bird Video and Shaker Clock Update...

Ah summertime... Time for the birdbath... Check out the oriole, bluebird, and sparrow...

I've always wondered why birds use birdbaths... Obviously, they like to drink from them, and I've read that it helps them cool off by washing away some of the oil on their feathers that keeps them warm in the colder months... I guess that all makes sense, but quite frankly, at times it seems like they are playing. (BTW... The idea of animal play is compelling... Here's a good starting point... on the subject. Anyone who has watched crows knows that they have a great sense of loyalty and intelligence... Could it be that birds in general can experience "fun" and "joy"?)

Moving on...

The next project will be the tall Shaker clock...

resized_400_2011-05-27_131555.jpg

It will have to be 80" to match the height of the hutch. Also, I think I want to make the access door have a glass face which opens into a set of curio shelves... (Thick glass shelves maybe? Internal lighting maybe?) There probably will be a lower, finger-groove drawer which when removed will expose 50 pounds of lead on the clock's bottom as a steadying ballast. Believe it or not, I intend to dovetail the entire carcase together (by hand) using half-blind dovetails. By a quick, rough estimate, that will be 200+ dovetails, or 400+ pins and tails... Not a problem... I'm faster by hand than I am with machine... (I will have to look up the proportions of traditional Shaker dovetails though...)

Now... As for the 'mechanism' I think we want high-tech... (It will make for a great contrast...) Maybe something like this...

DIGITAL FACE_resized_.JPG

This project is right around the corner in that the farmers table is almost done, and I'm already selecting the boards for the clock. Expect another fast build with plenty of updates...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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June 19, 2011

Post #750 Hummingbird Model, Table, etc...

Hi,

In my last post, I mentioned some of the reasons I keep writing these things. In the comments section, old friend and faithful reader Harry "Gipper" Morris suggested another reason might be that of the sake his (and I assume others') readership. Excellent point Harry... Excellent point... But he also asked,

"BTW, did you ever finish that humming bird carving you started working one a while back?"

Funny you should ask that Harry... (For a more thorough understanding of our comments, just take a look at the last post and the exchange that followed...)

So... What of that model? Truth be told, I've been thinking about it... But it's not easy to catch one of these rascals in inanimate material...

hummingbird translucent win_resized_IMG_2819.JPG

For the hummingbird model, what I wanted was something light, organic, essential... Something that gently depicted the thing as if we'd left the screen door open and it furtively buzzed in to take a quick drink. Also, I felt it a shame to completely cover the wood grain -- I wanted that alive too... This is what I have so far...

Hummingbird model_in jug_resized_MG_2836.JPG

Obviously, the beak isn't epoxied into place yet so the bird is drooping, but that's an easy fix when the time comes. As for the wings and painting,... Well... Those issues have garnered considerable thought... Regarding the wings -- I think I'm going to use the top photo as a sort of guide. Some sort of translucent glass complete with the outlines of the primary and secondary feathers. (Maybe thin gallery glass or polymer clay?) But no matter what, the wings need to "float". Ditto for the body... Perhaps watercolor paint or pyrography for the torso? In any event, I'm getting into techniques I've never explored before, so it will no doubt get interesting. (The phrase, "Practice first!" leaps to mind...) Depending on how it all works out, the table below may become its final home.

Table with unfinished hummingbird_resized_IMG_2838.JPG

Concerning the table... The underside floating cleats of the table are finally in place, and the end bread boards are coming down the home stretch. All seems remarkably flat and square... (The real miracle is that the wide boards haven't split...) After the ends are fini, all that's left is to loose-clip the top to the skirt and hand it off to Mrs. CCA for tidy up. Let's see if our luck holds...

If I'm not in the shop, I'm by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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May 27, 2011

More Work on the Farm Table, and the Next Project...

Maybe I should have named this post, "The Importance of 'Square', 'Level', 'Plumb', and 'True'..." Anywho, in an effort to pass along a few of the hard-learned lessons I've suffered along the way, here is yet another installment of the farm table build... Take a look at the photos below... First, the soon-to-be table top is being cross measured for squareness...

resized table top cross measurement_IMG_2760.JPG

And the two shots below show the accuracy -- about ± 1/16"...

resized right table top cross measurement_IMG_2760.JPG

resized leftt table top cross measurement_IMG_2760.JPG

That accuracy isn't easy to achieve because the boards are old and out of true. But I've squared them up as much as I dare without wiping out all original edges. (This is where building a boat or a new piece of furniture is so much easier in that you don't have to worry about preserving the vintage -- just hack, slam, measure, and then repeat the process to the point of square, plumb and true perfection and call her, 'Done!"

In the second from the top photo, you can see a 30 year old Skilsaw. Believe it or not I use that for some pretty accurate cuts as in the ends of the top... All it takes is a quality blade and a good fence like the aluminum one in the picture below... Also on display are two identical wooden templates (both cut at the same time) used for spacing and reducing error to.01". And then there's one of the underside cleats, etc.

table with straight edge_resized_IMG_2762.JPG

As for the next project... Gee, I wonder what it could be... Can you say, "Shaker?"

By the feeders and the piles of sawdust...

CapeCodAlan

resized_400_2011-05-27_131555.jpg


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May 22, 2011

Table Glue Assembly Tips (Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here)

Well, the table below doesn't really look different from last time, but man alive, it is...

glued_resized_IMG_2746.JPG

The green beast above is now glued and screwed together. (The top however still waits for its unique attachment arrangement.) But as for the legs, skirt, and spreader, they're now and forever locked in the wedded bliss of TiteBond III glue. In fact, the shot below shows how we clamped the skirt assembly into the top of the legs...

spanish windlass_resized_IMG_2756.JPG
(That red strap has been stretched taut by first tying it loosely and then inserting a stick and winding it tight "tourniquet style". Great caution has to be used here in that it only takes a few turns to put the strap and stick under tremendous tension. Should you not freeze the stick with clamps, it will spin back at your fingers like an airplane propeller -- trust me, I know of what I speak.)

Anywho.. I thought I'd take just a few minutes and briefly offer my "over-priced two cents worth" on the glue-up process for such a piece of furniture... Observations...

  • First, understand the "Big Picture". The name of the game is to chemically/physically secure a collection of timbers in a fixed pattern -- usually at right angles. So much for the "Big Picture". It never works no matter how it looks when dry fit (without glue).
  • Dry fit and square anyway just so that when the sticky gremlins come out, you can at least honestly say, "But it was perfect when I dry fit!" This is important. Woodworkers have absolutely no respect for fools who don't dry fit and square, but infinite empathy for fools who do dry fit and square, and still end up with a warped, racked, twisted abomination. (If you ever want free drinks for the night, just walk into a working-class bar and exclaim, "I dry fit and squared, and the glue-up still looks like it was done by Picasso on LSD... Now my wife is going to kill me!" Works every time.)
  • For that matter, be sure to get your significant other involved. There's nothing like the fraction-of-a-second dry time of a glue to bring out those nasty little peeves in a relationship. ("You never plan for things you stupid little troll!!!") See above.
  • Glue may be a fluid, but it's not a gas. That is, glue is a liquid with substantial volume. Put yet another way, if you're gluing something like a tenon into a mortise and the dry fit is really tight, the glue will act like a hydraulic fluid and either stop the parts short, or even split the mortise. Repeat the following mantra... "Glue scores and a moderately-snug fit are good things... Om..."
  • Cross measure along the longest lines and in three dimensions using just a single rule. Make all symmetrical by shoving, re-clamping, pummeling, and cussing.
  • Expect a rip-snorting disaster or two in the frantic process... Always be cool.
  • Keep things organized. Work slows down to an unacceptable mild chaos when a broken toe is thrown into the mix.
  • Have the right tools including a flashlight and quality squares.
  • Finally, give yourself a break. You aren't building a shrine. (And even if you are and you truly foul things up, you can always throw yourself off a cliff...)

See you by those just-not-quite-right feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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May 2, 2011

UBL DEAD and Farm Table

Hi,

If by some wild fluke you haven't heard yet... Osama Bin Laden is dead -- U.S. forces killed him. So forgive me if the rest of this post is a bit off, but I'm going to do my best to do something I haven't done in ten years -- get drunk on my keister... God... What a great night...

Onward...

The farm table moves along rather nicely... here you can see it unpainted and dry-assembled...

parts labeled and resized_IMG_2698.JPG

Thoughts...

  • The table itself is pretty simple. It consists of...
    • The two-board top
    • The "h-leg" assembly ("h")
    • The spreader ("s")
    • The skirt or apron ("a") which circumnavigates the table
    • The underside cleats, clamps, springs, etc.
  • The trick of course is going to be getting everything square, plumb, flat, and level. Methinks the cleats and breadboard will flatten stuff, and then it will just be a matter of cross-measuring and using squares to take care of the rest. (Hopefully, that won't be a huge deal.)
  • In the course of designing this table, I calculated the cost of the h-legs, spreader, and apron. I also figured in the time it would take for me to make those parts, and sadly, there's no way I could compete with having the components custom machine. So here's a hat tip to Osborne Wood Products. Deep sigh...
  • My plan of attack concerning assembly is to square and glue the h-legs, then move on to the apron etc. When all supporting members are copacetic, I'll get busy with the top. In the mean time, there's a whole lot of priming and painting going on.
And that's the farm table so far... Now where's my beer?

Hopefully toasty by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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April 27, 2011

Frisky Flicker and Farm Table Update...

Right off the bat, let me tell you that our chimney-pounding flicker is starting to wear very thin. From sunup to sunset, "Little Bird Viagra" has been using our metal flue insert as a broadcasting beacon for his very own nasty bad self... (Given the incessant duration of his efforts, I can only assume that we're talking one ugly bird here.) Enough is enough. If a 'guy bird' wants to meet a 'gal bird'... Fine. Take out a classified... But the 'guy bird' shouldn't tear our house apart in his less-than-civilized process. So Mr. Romeo Flicker... That's it... Either you turn to some sort of dating service, or I will make a giant sign out of a sheet of 4' by 8' plywood; and that sign will say "Hawks! Free Lunch!!!" I'll post that sign (complete with neon bulls eye) right on the roof where you like to slam dance your message of luvvv... (If you thought the neighbors were talking about CapeCodAlan before...)

Deep breath... On to the table... Here's the problem... We have to join these two boards together somewhat permanently, yet at the same time allow them to move as they soak up (or release) humidity... Note the yardstick...

top resized.JPG

There are a couple of techniques that take into account such swelling and contraction, and the end bread board below with grooved pin areas is a good starting point...

floating bread board resized.JPG

And there's the floating underside cleat(s) that allow give and take... CLEAT resized.JPG

But still there's the matter of keeping the whole thing together... As for uniting the top with the skirt and legs, I'll just use common metal clamps. But what of that "breathing" top? Here's my solution...

SPRING AND floatong breadbord resized.JPG

Yup, this thing is going to be spring-loaded so that it can move and at the same time look as tight as a drum....

I'm telling ya', I'm a genius... Now if I can just figure out a way to make that flicker leave us alone...

See you by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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April 17, 2011

Unknown Nest, News, Table, etc...

Hi,

Not sure who originally made the nest below...

resized_IMG_2540.JPG

Obviously, some creature took quite a bit of time in the process of construction, but Don the squirrel probably doesn't care much... (I wonder what wee beastie would dare nest so exposed? Was this originally a hawks nest?)

Moving on... A tom turkey passed by today... It was a beautiful thing, but all alone. I wonder where the hens are... hopefully taking care of poults... It's a hard world for little things.

Speaking of little things, we still haven't seen our first hummer of the season. Bummer! (But we're readying the camera!)

Well, the news isn't good this Monday morning...Over the weekend, at least 44 were killed by twisters in the South. (You can contact the American Red Cross here). And the economy isn't looking so good either -- Standard and Poor's just busted our long-term debt outlook down from a "Stable" to a "Negative". Right now, the Dow is minus 227... If, down the road, Moody reduces our credit rating from "AAA" to "AA", the economy is really cooked. (Didn't someone warn and warn yet again of the dangers of long-term debt?) Time will tell...

Finally, on a happier note, the farm table is coming along nicely. The top (showwn here with a yardstick for perspective) has been rough sanded, finish sanded, and the application of seemingly endless coats of varnish has begun. Oh goody...

resized_two boards_with yardstick_3.JPG

With boards this wide, it's clear that any attempt to permanently affix them to the table and/or each other will split them wide open... No, I have a sliding system in mind with a spring-loaded resist that will keep the top in place and let it move and contract all by itself... Stay tuned...

See you by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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April 15, 2011

Flicker Alarm and a Farm Table Begins...

So there I am, just pounding away at my old netbook when some sort of alarm goes off... We're talking loud and very periodic -- a metallic klaxon of sorts. It seems to be coming from the TV, and I figure that Ahmadinejad has dropped the "Big One" and all of old, sandy Cape Cod is about to become glass. Not so. I killed the TV, and listened. Hey, the sound was coming from the chimney. I wish I could have gotten a pic, but here's the damage so far...

chimney_resized.JPG

Yup, after umpteen (interrupted) tries, the flicker has put in quite the dimple... Where's a hawk when you need one?

Onward...

After great discussion, Mrs. CCA has decided that she wants a rural farm dining table something like the one below...

table specs_400.jpg

This is not a huge deal for us -- I used to be a cabinet maker. But still, it does involve logistics which are not exactly my forte. Here are the two 18" boards that will be used for the top.

final_OLD WIDE PINE BOARDS_ORIGINAL_1.JPG

Naturally, I'll have to trim them to length...

final_trimmed_old wide pine boards_cut to length_2.JPG

The real trick in a table like this isn't the mortise and tenon skirts (the supports that bear the top and connect the legs) or the "H" web frame that offer rest for the feet... No, no, no... The dicey part is the top itself. We have two 60 year old wide boards, each of which wants to shrink and swell across each of their 18" widths at their own whim. And those critters will not be denied. If I try to glue, screw, and cleat those beasts together, I'll have more splits than you'll see in a gymnastics floor routine. Nope, believe it or not, the top has to be pretty much free floating. I'll use a series of wooden sliding cleats and clamps to keep the two pieces snug, and at the same time give them breathing room...

Time will tell...

As always... see you by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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March 31, 2011

How to Sharpen Chisels etc...

Faithful reader and commenter Harry "Gipper" Morris asked the following...
Hi Alan. I've recently procured a set of Lathe Turning Chisels and a set of Wood Carving Chisels. Now I'm wondering how to keep them sharp. Any suggestions?
Right off the bat, anytime you're working with tools, be sure you've read and understand all the pertinent manuals and that you're wearing eye protection...

Alrighty then... That out of the way, realize that entire books have been written on sharpening, and I obviously can't go into that sort of detail here, but at least I can offer some overview as to how I keep the shop going...

planes collection resized IMG_2479.JPG

I guess there are two schools of thought concerning sharpening/honing: namely by power or by hand. Where you've bought turning tools (I assume a skew chisel is amongst them), I'd suggest that you consider the former and take a long look at the excruciatingly expensive Tormek or the more reasonable Work Sharp 3000. Then there are the traditionalists who prefer the latter (sans electricity), and that's fine too -- I used to be one of them. Today, for me, I ultimately use a mix of both... Take a look at this battered old chisel...

rough_chisel_400_IMG_2471.JPG

Ah, but a gem lies beneath... I use the goodies below to put a razor's edge on such things...

Labeled sharpening stuff resized_IMG_2475.JPG And those doohickeys are:

  1. Dual wheel grinder to establish the correct initial grinding and whetting edges... (more about this in a minute...)
  2. A roller guide that holds the chisel at the proper angle relative to the hand sharpening stones
  3. Natural stones and slips
  4. Diamond stones
  5. Dremel hand grinder for quick and dirty tune ups
  6. An angle gauge for checking bevel angles
  7. And of course the final strop
Concerning technique... First I use my bevel gauge to make sure that my coarse grinding wheel is set to about 25 degrees relative to the tool rest. Next I increase the bevel on the fine wheel to about 30 degrees. That takes care of the grinding and whetting edges respectively. When working with a grinder, it is absolutely crucial to remember a couple of things... First, don't let the steel get too warm. (If it gets hot, you'll ruin the temper and therefore the tool.) Second, never put even the slightest bevel on the back of the blade. When you're done with the grinder, the edge will look something like below as seen through a microscope...

resized_Image133.jpg

Note the fine silver edge towards the top of the blade -- that's a "wire" or "burr" that has been formed by the grinding process. You can actually feel it as you sharpen. Onward... Next comes the fun part... Honing

Honing is as mundane as it is difficult. The trick is to alternate sharpening the exact whetting bevel (I use a roller guide) with flat-scrubbing the back of the chisel. Remember, you must not put a bevel on the back! The goal is to use finer and finer stones until the wire is gone and the edge is goofy sharp. A strop (piece of leather) will polish and end the exercise.

sharpening done_400_Image134.jpg

Voila! When done properly, you'll end up with something that will literally shave hair...

hair and flakes_resized_Image135.jpg

Obviously, the Web (as well as the marketplace) is packed with info, jigs, and accessories for sharpening gouges, planer blades, scissors, etc., etc., etc... If I had to boil the process down, I'd say that there really are only five objectives...

  • Be safe
  • Don't burn the steel
  • Don't put a bevel on the back
  • Make and keep the right bevel by gosh or by golly -- the more uniform, the better
  • Don't sacrifice "plenty good enough" in the hunt for perfection... When getting ready for a new project, I'll sharpen 20 -- 30 tools in a relaxed afternoon.

Harry... Hope this helps!

CapeCodAlan

P.S. If you want to see something really different, take a look at "scary sharp" or plate glass sharpening......


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March 24, 2011

Another Loss... Harold "Dynamite" Payson

Not too long ago, I wrote of the passing of pioneering boat designer Phil Bolger... A couple days ago, we in the boating community (and the larger, "Ah hell, I can build it myself" community) lost another, professionally-related "keeper" - Harold H. 'Dynamite' Payson...

Dory cover new_400.JPG

It's tough to describe Dynamite to those whose instinct is to crack the phone book and check book whenever a boat or a bookshelf or a bird feeder is called for. His approach was, "Just do it!"

Let me back up a bit... As a boat builder, Payson's professional relationship with marine architect Bolger was compelling to say the least - Phil would design a small, easily assembled boat and then send the plans to Dynamite. He in turn would build the prototype, make notes on what he thought were appropriate improvements to the plans, and then send them back to Bolger... And so the process was repeated until both men were happy with the final design. Dynamite eventually immortalized those simple but wonderful boats as "Instant" (no need for lofting, frames, or molds) in umpteen books. (He wrote a total of ten books and hundreds of articles.) Suffice it to say that he and Phil made for a historic team. Between the two of them, they designed/built over 1,200 boats (though the collaborative "Instants" numbers around 30). If you want to build a boat, see the book list below.

But that's only the beginning... Harold Payson was a master boat modeler - just search the Web. There isn't much to say here - he simply was a master.

Finally, IMHO, he was one of the finest American writers I've ever encountered. If you aspire to learn (or be intimated by) the written word, buy "Instant Boats", "Build the New Instant Boats", and/or "Instant Boatbuilding with Dynamite Payson". This man's writing was as sharp and tight as his wit was dry - brilliance. (No doubt Dynamite would kick my backside if he could read this stumbling rant...)

And that's about it... No, that's not about it! Over the years (I bought his first book in '80 and have been the moderator of his forum for the last four...) I exchanged umpteen letters and phone calls with him. It's not like we were best buddies, but I'd call him a friend and a mentor on several levels. Damn I'm going to miss him!

Misty eyed by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Coming up... Two more book reviews... "The Crossley ID Guide" and "Hawks from Every Angle"!


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March 21, 2011

Update on Radial Arm Saw

Well, this is another fine mess you've gotten me into Ollie... Here is the radial arm saw (RAS) topless if you will. (Note the rather stout block and tackle that was used to perform the operation...)

Photobucket

What follows is the ramp I slammed together to slide the beast down (via rope) into the cavern.

Photobucket

Here, the RAS rests at the lowest sea level it will ever know so long as I'm alive or until someone with a lot of money and a lot of muscle and derned few brain cells wants to heft it off my hands... ( And no, I didn't use the dolly on the ramp. Just creeping it down on its base was thrilling enough. I ain't no Slim Pickins!)

Photobucket

Almost done... The machine waits patiently for it's wood table and sacrificial cutting surface...

sacrificial top beside saw_resized_IMG_2389.JPG

There... Now it's just a matter of securing the flat, beefy work surface and sheathing it with the quarter inch panel. (That panel will fall victim to the blade as a normal part of usage. When it becomes seriously scarred, it will be removed and another put in its place.) All that's left is to level, plumb and square, and all will be right with the world...

saw with sacrificial top clamped_resized_IMG_2389.JPG

As a follow up to "Buying Used Tools"... Final thoughts...

  • Know what you're doing with this sort of operation. Perhaps most importantly, seek out an old hand who knows how to identify quality, move really heavy stuff, and finely tune machines -- learn.
  • Expect to get hurt. (Betcha' didn't hear "Norm" mention that!) It's going to happen, just as assuredly as it will happen if you spend any time really cooking. Sharp things slip, hot things shift, and heavy things obey Mr. Newton. Learn to listen to that little voice in the back of your mind that softly swoons, "You're going to be sorry..." When that gentle voice turns into Ethel Merman, it's time to stop and re-think the situation.
  • There are worse things in the world than pre-shop physicals, tetanus shots, first aid kits, and bushel baskets full of humility.
That's about it... There are mind-numbing deals out there, and with those deals will come endless projects... Just do your homework, and play it safe...

See you by the feeders and as always I'll be wearing my safety glasses...

CapeCodAlan


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March 16, 2011

Radial Arm Saw and American Male Mid-Life Crisis

Hi,

resized_saw with block and tackle_IMG_2349.JPG Before I get started on this most personal of posts, I just wanted to give you this teaser into a very near post... We've got our mitts on a new, superb birding book, and as soon as I can get the copyright/review stuff out of the way, you'll be the first to hear about it. Expect "Sibley-grade" work...

O.K... Down to brass tacks - Take a look at that radial arm saw to the right... Notice how it's connected to the ceiling by a rather hefty block and tackle system? The overt purpose of that contraption is to pull the top off the beast (all 250 lbs worth) and lower it to the floor. But it's not the tool that's the real story... not on your tin type... It's the male psycho-sexual story behind it that's really compelling...

I didn't need that saw. I really didn't. I already own two table saws, a saber saw, a band saw, a sawzall, a chainsaw, umpteen handsaws, a Skil saw, and three Japanese saws. You name it, and I can cut it. So why the attraction to such a monster? I'll tell you why in no uncertain terms - because I'm a classic American male going through mid-life crisis. (Please understand that Freud got it all messed up when he proposed that humans go through five stages... U.S. males only go through two - pre-pubescence and pubescence. Basically, we're babies until we reach the age of 12, and then we hit mid-life and are lust hounds until we stop breathing.) But that lust takes on two different forms depending on the age. In the early years, we yearned for the bunny babes... and if we were lucky we failed. Later it was the more the mechanical - cars, tools, planes, boats, submarines, aircraft carriers... That's it. I don't know of a single normal American male who doesn't follow this pattern. (Oh there are holdouts who try to cling to the concept of chasing young women - we in the head shrinking game call them "deniers"... That's another story.) But as for the purchase of the saw, that's just an expression of the second half of my pubescence. Think I'm kidding? The other night I had a buddy over to look at the behemoth. We must have stood talking and nursing beers around the thing for an hour. He couldn't keep his hands off the curves and lines and movements and substance. Hubba hubba! I promise you, if I had bought a paperweight, he wouldn't have shown any sort of interest whatsoever. See what I mean?

So there... You came here expecting to read about birds and instead were lucky enough to gain rare insight into the male American psyche. Talk about your value-added blog...

See you by those sultry feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Don't forget we've got a review on a "must own" book coming up ASAP!


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March 13, 2011

New (Old) Radial Arm Saw... Buying Used Tools

Given the absolute disaster going on in Japan right now (not to mention these tough economic times), I thought I'd back off the birds a bit and retreat to my comfort zone - tools. (Hope you take solace in the shop too.) Right now, there are great deals on used tools... Consider the 10" radial arm saw below...

radial arm saw_400.JPG

That's a $700 - $1,200 near-new workhorse purchased for $100. (The blade alone is worth the price of admission.)

Here are just a few of the secrets to finding those sorts of "great deals".

  • First, make Craigslist your best friend. Study it every which way to Sunday. Get a sense of the "going rates".
  • Know your tool. Don't wander into a purchase because something "looks cool".
  • Buy quality. Old no-name junk is even worse than new no-name junk.
  • How is the tool structurally? Are there rattles? Binding spots? Slop? Is the thing rusty or broken?
  • Make sure that the equipment is complete including manuals and accessories.
  • Can you get replacement parts? If not, walk away.
  • Will your shop hold the beast? Be honest!
  • Can you move the thing? Once again, be honest!
  • Overall, what's your impression of the tool and its owner??? If it looks like the owner was Attila the Hun, do a "Dione Warwick" and walk on by.
  • Plan on spending 25% of what you would on an equal new tool, and at the same time getting 99% longevity and functionality - it's a buyer's market. Don't be afraid to wave bye bye.
  • Finally, when the time comes and you've found the perfect deal... Pounce! (From the "Lessons Learned the Hard Way Dept.": In a moment of indecision and profound stupidity, I hesitated on a sweet $25 14" Craftsman band saw and let it slip right through my hands... An equivalent new one would run about $700. Ouch... Say no more.)

    In the sawdust and the joys and the miseries by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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March 9, 2011

Wings etc. for a Wooden Hummingbird...

Hi,

Remember this hummingbird fellow?

finished_400 hummer only_IMG_2314.JPG

Normally, I'm pretty critical of my work, but I must admit, so far, so good. Still, progress must continue... Here are my thoughts, and I certainly would appreciate yours as well...

  • To get a sense of what I see as a final result, I'm picturing a 3D diorama, though I don't know if I want it glassed in, or just open...
  • I want to carve a local flower... Perhaps a Cardinal Flower, or a Honeysuckle, or maybe a, Royal Catchfly. But probably I'll go with a Morning Glory... That seems the one most likely to be easily carved. (Then again, a nice silk flower would hold promise.) The bird's beak will be countersunk and glued into the stigma or pistil. With luck, the whole bird will simply "float" in the air. I want to reflect the lightness and momentary grace of the thing.
  • I can't wait to take on the little metal feet!
  • Painting is going to be a bear... Obviously I want the Ruby throat's natural colors, but at the same time I don't want to lose the wonderful grain of the wood... This shall be tricky.
  • The wings too aren't going to be a cakewalk. Again, I need that ethereal feel all the while injecting an almost transparent sense of their blinding speed. Plastics? Glass?
  • Not sure about the backdrop... I'm leaning towards a one piece laminated curving structure... Should I paint it? Carve more flowers? Silk flowers? Should the base be some sort of translucent material?
As I said at the beginning, I'd appreciate any input you can give me...

Having fun pondering by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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February 24, 2011

Carving Design, Part 2

Hi,

Last time we looked at carving simple fish and birds. While this is far from a comprehensive carving course, it should be enough to get you started. Take a look at the torso of my first bird - a hummer, as well as a whimsical fish...

Photobucket

With that, more tips...
  • Unexpected horizontal and vertical lines can be interesting... Note the "scales" on the fish...
  • Curved lines in the form of a circle are usually a no-no. Ellipses, parabolas, and hyperbolas are more pleasing.
  • Use repetition to maintain the "spirit" of the piece. At the same time, don't be afraid to mesh techniques to avoid boredom... Just don't ruin the overall harmony and flow.
  • Keep the work in tune with its environment. (I'm not quite sure how I'll do it, but I want the hummingbird to be "floating" - only attached to the final display by its beak as it drinks from a flower.)
  • Static objects should have a great deal of symmetry, but curves should reflect motion... In the case of the hummer, look at how I've got the rear half trying to adjust for the wind.
  • Don't be afraid to mix mediums... Consider master boatbuilder and modeler Dynamite Payson's "Friendship Skiff"...

    Photobucket
    (Yeah, that really is a model that mixes wood, glass, photography, paint, and metal to create the desire effect. BTW... Should you be interested in buying Mr. Payson's models, contact me; he is no longer making them, and there aren't many left.)
  • Consider colors, perspective, shadow, size, value, and shape...
  • Use all of the above to breath life into your bird/fish/boat model...
Hope you give carving a try... It really isn't all that difficult to make something at least respectable...

Making sawdust by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 14, 2011

A Rank Stinkin' Amateur Introduces You to the Wonderful World of Bird Carving

(Note: As I've mentioned before concerning woodworking and safety, be sure to read, understand, and follow all safety instructions that come with your tools, and for heaven's sake, protect your eyes and use your head.)

Alright, if the title of this post didn't say it all, let me be clear... I haven't carved any birds before... In fact, all I've ever carved are two fish decoys, and neither of those are done yet. But optimism springs eternal, and here we go...

  1. So, what's the plan of attack? Well, I could break out the old jacknife and whittle away, but previous such attempts have ended in "birds" with shapes remarkably similar to Ozzie Osborne... No, there has to be a better way, and there is. First, gather a decent set of tools...

    Photobucket

    We're basically talking about an old electric scroll saw, a Dremel, and a few hand tools. Throw in some sandpaper and that takes care of that.

  2. But where to actually begin? (I've described much of this before, but a rehash can't hurt...) After you have your tools secured, pick a subject and think "head and torso". A hummingbird sounds good to me! The question then becomes, "How do I make a recognizable, curvey three-dimensional object spring forth from a boxy stick of wood?" I'm going to fall back on the old boatbuilding technique of working from the plan view (back image), and the profile view (side image). (Granted that there's a tad more involved with building boats, but at least that should give you some starting point.) More descriptively, I'm going to start with a scrap 1" X 1" X 1' soft-wood blank and outline the plan view on one surface, and the profile on an adjacent side. Obviously, I'll need to align the two views appropriately (hence avoiding "The Ozzie Effect"), but so far so good...

    Photobucket

    (Note that I used the photos above to rough the views.)

  3. Next comes the OMG step. Cut 95% of each of the two views with the saw set at 90 degrees. Don't freak because nothing makes sense. It will when you finish the cuts, and the whole thing falls apart....
  4. Photobucket

  5. Break out the Dremel! If you thought you knew birds before, you might be surprised. As you sand and form your bird, you'll probably be faced with all sorts of question involving shape, movement, color, light, background, etc... This is where the "Arteest" comes out. Don't worry about the wings, beak, paint, etc. right now... Just get the torso roughed...

    Photobucket

    My little hummingbird is in the center. And that leads us to the last step on this windy night.

  6. Don't get frustrated if your results turn out poorly. (I'm leading that parade...) People get so discouraged so easily nowadays... You've got to do a few face plants before you ice dance. In my case, I'll put a beak on the hummer, wings, some paint, and she'll almost be recognizable - something that I could give to a forgiving loved one... Besides, at least it won't look like it's fronting Black Sabbath...

See you by the sawdust and the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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February 7, 2011

Decoy... Let's Carve a Fish!

Sorry, but the birds have to wait...

It's time for the latest rage that's sweeping the country - fish decoy carving! (Why do I have this strange feeling I'm weirding you out???)

Fish Decoy Collection

O.K... Peraps a bit of explanation is in order... Fish decoys are used as whimsical decoration, serious art, and actual "bait". Here's the story of the last part... Imagine yourself in Minnesota or Michigan, and the winter is a monster... You can only stand so much work-time and home-time - you need some fresh (albeit frozen) air... So, you hook up your shack to your snow machine, drag the shelter out on the local lake and take up residence. Nothing left to do but chop a hole in the ice and dangle your decoy in the hopes that a big ol' pike comes along that you can spear... Dinner!

With the explanation out of the way, how does one actually carve/make these quant little oddities? Glad you asked... It really is quite simple...

  1. Gather the requsite tools. (A cheap power scroll saw and a dremel go a long way, but a pocket knife, sandpaper, and patience works too.)
  2. Get your mitts on some scrap soft wood. Make sure that it's square or rectangular in cross section. A piece about a foot long by 1" by 1" should be fine for starters.
  3. Label the front of the block, "body", the side "profile", and the top, "plan". Those are your three views. The body shows the "head on" appearance. The profile is the side view, and the plan is the "top down" looksee.
  4. Next comes the tricky/fun part... Use a pencil and draw the three views such that they are all in agreement. It takes a few tries, but it is doable.
  5. Carve/sand/grind/rasp away! Release your creature from its cellulose confines.
  6. Fins are easy... Just pick up a box of those tin disks carpenters use to hold down shingles and cut them to shape using heavy scissors. Carve a slight groove for them and epoxy home.
  7. You paint as you like, fuss with the eyes, hang appropriately, and it's show over... Another fish decoy enters the world.

Ah the craziness of this blog...

Hummingbird and Fish Mobile

See you by those scaly feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. You'd almost think that this post was an informal way to get you to think about carving birds... Naw...


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February 3, 2011

Storms have Passed for the Moment

Hi,

Got a hodge podge, so we might as well get started...

Well, it looks like we dodged a major storm here on Cape Cod... The rain took away most of the existing snow, and then the plummeting temperatures froze everything. So now what we have is a dusting of snow hiding solid ice. Oh goody. Why do I not have the warm and fuzzy about this?

Worry not... The immediate "long-term" forecast for the Cape predicts snow/rain/sleet/whatever for next Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. I'll let you know when it starts raining frogs...

Cold Feeders

At least the birds hold their own in this mess... Though we have noticed a sort of "puffed-up" appearance in them, so ample food and water is called for to maintain warmth.

Let's see... What else?

Ah yes... Do you remember I mentioned a broken bandsaw referenced in a comment? T'ain't broken no more! Here's what the part looked like new (without the crack of course...)

Photobucket

And then the break occurred...

Photobucket

And finally with the repair complete...

Photobucket

I learned a clever trick in the process of fixing the beast... Basically I tacked the broken part back in place using epoxy. Next, stressed woven steel wire (the type used to hold heavy mirrors) was wrapped around a secure sub-assembly and locked onto the severed part. Finally, the whole shebang was encased in a melange of epoxy, thickened epoxy, and wood laminates. When the dust settled and the fumes cleared, the saw was back in action. and better than new. (For more details, see the following "Instant Boats" forum thread.)

That's all for tonight...

See you by those slippery feeders if I don't fall and break my neck in transit,

CapeCodAlan


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January 6, 2011

Follow Up on "Dead Red-Wings", Hutch Mishaps

Hi,

Last time I noted that birds (and fish and crabs) are dropping dead at alarming rates... Here's a likely explanation from National Geographic:

But the in-air bird deaths aren't due to some apocalyptic plague or insidious experiment--they happen all the time, scientists say. The recent buzz, it seems, was mainly hatched by media hype.

At any given time there are "at least ten billion birds in North America ... and there could be as much as 20 billion--and almost half die each year due to natural causes," said ornithologist Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C.

Not exactly the stuff of "The X Files", but still disturbing. You know, a part of me wonders if wildlife was like this before humans were around. Yeah, I know something like 99% of all species that ever existed on this planet are gone (Mr. Life, meet Mr. Darwin, existentialist), but it truly bugs me to see needless suffering and death... If it does turn out that something like fireworks did start the Arkansas panic, that would really be a shame... (On the other hand, I wonder if a shifting magnetic north pole had anything to do with this???)

Other stuff... We've finally got the hutch upstairs...

resized_IMG_1691.JPG

But the project didn't come without its more-than-fair-share of "ouchies". Each of the four major components (bottom and top carcases, drawers, and back) bear my initials in blood...

blood initials resized_IMG_1577.JPG

That really isn't so bad in that this was a large endeavor using a very hard wood (cherry) and lots of sharp tools. But the beast did have one last tantrum left in her. We were placing the 50 pound top when it noted my lack of leverage and felt the insidious urge of gravity... It dropped 40" (without the doors thankfully) taking out the bookshelf, phone, birdhouse, and yours truly. The noise was something spectacular really - sort of a sickening, chain-reaction roar. Here's my damage...

bruise resized_IMG_1778.JPG

The immediate aftermath found me et al scattered helter skelter. Mrs. CCA kept yelling, "Are you alright?!? Are you alright?!?", to which I kept saying, "'Bleep' me, how's the hutch?!?", "'Bleep' me, how's the hutch?!?". Thankfully, I tend to overbuild things (in the extreme), and the monolith is now fine, all secure, and ready for the finish team. (Read that, "The wife and my old cabinetmaker boss, Rick...") Another day in Paradise... All told, it was a great undertaking - I learned so much.

And what's next? Well, the next adventure will probably be this work skiff - a cakewalk compared to the brute above... Time will tell...

See you by those never-boring feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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December 25, 2010

Nat, Cam Update, and Turkey Buzz Kill

Hi,

Well, Merry Christmas to you all! (I know that that salutation may not be politically correct for some, but tough!) Here's the great Nat King Cole... (Did you know that he was an exceptional pianist before he became a vocalist? On the keyboard, Nathanial Adams Coles was comfortable with both jazz and classical music.)

Onward...

As I mentioned in the last post, the trick in getting the new cam outdoors is to keep it dry and warm/cool. Here's what I've got so far...

resized_mailbox as cam housing.JPG

No, the main shelter is not a Quonset hut, but instead a mailbox. (And no, we do not receive our snail mail in the mailbox on our deck - that one is reserved for small gardening tools.) Anywho, I hope the drawing speaks for itself, but the idea is to bore two holes in a standard mailbox - one at the end which will be sealed by glass for the cam, and the other in the bottom that will allow a jar-mounted light bulb/fan to keep the thing warm/cool. I'm still mulling over the wiring and mounting details, though those don't worry me terribly... The other option is to simply buy an outdoor security camera housing; that too would bring the project in on budget. Hmmm... For a sneak peek of the indoors experimental version, go here to see the live streaming video in action. (Sorry about the commercials - understandably, UStream has to find a way to make money.)

Lastly, there comes those buzz kill turkeys... Jeez Louise, just when you have the backyard just a little tamed, the turkeys discover how to perch on top of the feeder and raid it to oblivion...

resized_turkey on feeder ustream_2010-12-25_105550.jpg

And here's a clearer shot...

good resized Turkey on top of feeder_IMG_1683.JPG

Geez... I wonder what's for Christmas dinner???

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. the "Word Search Contest" is now closed... Harry, we'll think of something... More on that later...


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December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas... Hutch is Up... Streaming Cam Info...

Hi,

Once again, we've got a lot to cover, so let's get busy...

First up is my Christmas present to you... What follows is an absolutely breathtaking rendition of Ave Maria (I believe this is the Verdi version) by the late Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard.

There's a funny/sad story as to how I happened upon the Carpenters' music... About a year ago I was rummaging through YouTube looking for my demigoddess of music, Ella Fitzgerald, and found a video of her singing with, of all people, Karen Carpenter. "Oh boy!" I thought... "Ella is going to rip that puff piece Karen to shreds..." Not so much. I have never heard a better duet, and never heard Ella in finer form. That brought me to the Ave Maria piece above. If you care at all for superb Christmas music, buy the Carpenters "Christmas Collection" - this really is a remarkable accomplishment, and Karen and Richard truly were/are stunning musical talents. (As extraordinary as Karen Carpenter was as a vocalist, she might well have been a better drummer.)

Now, about that hutch... Well, here she is in all her unfinished glory...

resized_dining room complete almost_IMG_1690.JPG

Obviously, the photo doesn't do it justice, but it really is quite nice... The stained glass is hand-cut... The drawers are dovetailed and epoxied together. The doors are all through mortise and tenon... Think of her as an Artisan Style/Shaker work in progress... (Speaking of a funny/sad story, when we were assembling it, the top became "gravitationally challenged" and plunged to the floor taking the bookcase and me with it. I suffered the worst damage but can still type, so no harm no foul. Onward...)

Now here's a teaser... The new streaming video camera is up, and you can't see it (Naw naw, na naw naw!) Let me work out the hinks, and we'll be good to go... At least expect the respectable. (Ultimately, the trick is going to be keeping the cam warm/cool/dry in the great outdoors... Oh goody!)

And with that, Merry Christmas and as always, we'll see you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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December 10, 2010

When Good Planning Goes Bad Follow Up and...

Hi,

If you look back to the "Comments" section of the previous post, you'll note that my explanation of attaching one of the hutch's vertical shelf supports fell a tad short... Harry, a long-time reader of this blog had the following input...

"Hi CCA. Nope. Can't understand the pics. Your drawings are getting better all the time. Draw me a sectional detail of the joinery. Cheers, Harry "Gipper" Morris"

More than fair enough... O.K... Imagine this... Imagine standing right smack dab in front of the hutch as if you were going to put away plates, etc. But, instead of plates, you have a powerful laser beam that you'd use to cut the entire cabinet in half, floor to ceiling. Ha! After the smoke clears, you wrench one chunk away, turn and walk 90 degrees and look from the side at the damage you've done. (See that scorched end grain?) You are now staring at a cross section of the hutch, and you pay special attention to where the vertical shelf support meets the bottom of the top of the carcase... You'd see something like the following (obviously not to scale and poorly drawn...)

scan of top of hutch_400.jpg

The point being that I knew in the cockles of my heart that I had to pre-bore and countersink for the "screw" (see above). But I didn't do that, and instead anchored the cleat to the bottom of the top first - thus restricting installation of the "screw" through the cleat and into the vertical support. (In fact, restricting myself to a work space of just 8.5" with virtually no available overhead.)

vertical shelf suppot_400.JPG What I should have done is pre-assemble the vertical support/cleat first (see right), and then installed the "T" into the carcase...

You see these types of errors all the time in home projects... (I had a friend - a brilliant engineer - who was so enthused with the process of replacing the engine in his Firebird that he forgot that while he was working underneath his car, everything was reversed from the driver's seat perspective. Bottom line? He completely reversed his transmission linkages. Not to be outdone, I once built two port sides of the same boat. And perhaps, most frustrating of all was the kayak builder who started to assemble an abomination with the stem pointing down. (Maybe he was subconsciously trying to build a torpedo?))

So... To bring an end to these sad tales... yet again a word of caution - prepare. Make notes, perform dry runs, ask for ignorant input. But don't just launch into a project and expect it to come off without an, "Oh my Gawd... What have I done!?!"

And (yes, the title does include "and...") we're starting to make way on replacing our live streaming bird cam. (Talk about planning a project!) It looks like we're going with the Logitech 9000 Pro, a USB active extension cable, some sort of encoder, and possibly either UStream or CamStream as the host. But one way or the other, we're going to get our Cape Cod birds to you 24/7! (Now if only Otis, our night owl will show up...)

See you by those well thought out feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. How about that contest? Harry, do you want to help a friend take a shot at it???

P.P.S. Thanks for the comment about my drawings getting better, though I guess the next step up from "worst ever" is probably just "gruesome".


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December 8, 2010

When Good Planning Goes Bad

Hi,

Right off the bat, let this be an object lesson on how not to execute a plan. It doesn't matter whether you're landscaping, setting up bird feeders, building a birdhouse, building a boat, or sending a probe to Mars - this is how you don't make it happen...

Alrighty then... Take a look at the shot below... See that circled "A"? That is where the vertical shelf support meets the bottom of the top of the carcase. So far, so good... The mechanism that marries these two structural components is a "cleat" - a block of wood that is glued and screwed to the backside/underside of both. Now obviously, the cleat has to be bored, countersunk, and permanently attached to the vertical piece ASAP - that is, one can't affix the cleat to the bottom of the top, and then expect to drill/countersink in the dark, cramped, overhead nether regions behind letter "A".

front of hutch after disaster_400_IMG_1584.JPG

Ummm... Take a look at the photo below - that's a mirror pic of those very nether regions with a couple of screws (circled) hobbled into the cleat. And why were they hobbled in you ask? Because I anchored the cleat before I prepped its backside, that's why. (I heard that snicker...)

inside of hutch after disaster_400_IMG_1582.JPG

Solution? Get the cleat glued in place, let the glue cure, back out one screw at a time, and then use the 10lb beast below to countersink etc. (I included the Bud can for two reasons: First, I wanted to give give some scale, and secondly, it was a tip of the hat to my late dad and the original owner of the tool - he liked Budweiser.)

hole hog_400_IMG_1583.JPG

When all is said and done, the hutch is fine, but let this be a cautionary tale... In 1999, NASA lost a Mars orbiter when it crashed due to a confusion over the use of metric vs. English units. It's one thing to know something, and entirely another to actually execute the idea appropriately. Happy building...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Contest...


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December 5, 2010

Designing Another Streaming Cam System

Hi,

Last time we talked, I had just brought down our "old faithful" streaming backyard webcam... Increased security measurements on my end (not eBirdseed.com's) unfortunately required that I take the poor thing offline. So now what?

Well... Glad you asked! For some time now, I've been talking about bringing this vid down, and starting anew. And here we are... Before we get started, a word about major projects in general (let alone establishing a new live video feed 24X7...) Take it from a well-tempered engineer and boatbuilder - look at the big picture first and then dwell down into the details while at the same time not losing sight of the persnickety gotcha's that crop up along the way. That being said, I like to hand-draw a rough outline just as a starting point...

first flowchart_400.JPG

That doesn't look so bad... The signal comes off the camera, passes through a buried "active" USB cable (to bust the 16' limitation), is absorbed by the kitchen PC, which then passes it on via our network to the router and ultimately our cable modem and the fog of the Web. What could go wrong? The next thing you know, you'll be watching our backyard birds live. Anywho, that's the "Big Picture", and it seems basically sound right now. But... There are other considerations... Here are the preliminaries without getting too tangled in the "persnicketies":

  • Cost...
  • What equipment will be required? (The new stuff is truly remarkable!)
  • How to bury a cable...
  • And then there's the matter of wind rain and snow...
  • The stream should have some degree of mobility...
  • And finally who will we use to host this puppy?
Yes, I've looked at all of those, and have some ideas... But that's for next time...

'Til then, see you by the feeders Cecil B...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Did I ever tell you about our word search contest???


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December 4, 2010

Blog is Back, but the eBirdseed Streaming Cam is Not... Future Projects

Hi,

They say a picture tells a thousand words. The next two probably say more.

FINAL_RIP_cropped_IMG_1571_400.JPG

and

FINAL_final ebirdeed cam view count.jpg

You probably can't read the number in the lower Camstreams shot, but it shows that our little live cam had 29,260 views in its 2+ year lifespan. There was a lot of innocent, free fun there. But no more. Last week, CapeCodAlan (not eBirdseed.com) got slammed with some sort of email virus or worm. To make an excruciatingly long story short, all my email contacts were spammed and my Internet connectivity was cooked. (The fact that my ISP, Comcast crashed, at the same time may or may not have played a role in this.) As a result, I've had to torque up my AV and firewall settings to new heights which unfortunately croaks the cam. Deep sigh... I really don't know what to say about this... How do you speak to the subject of gutless weasels who raid other people's mailboxes... who have no more professional acumen than to pilfer innocents' IDs. Sad, sad, sad...

But life goes on... Here's is the top of the hutch as it stands now. (The clamps and sticks are securing the quarter-round molding to the upper inner back of the carcase while the glue dries...)

spring boards_400_IMG_1574.JPG

And then there's the infamous mailbox birdhouse(s). Finally, rest assured that another (and better) streaming cam will soon be coming to a blog near you. :)

See you by the resilient feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. I'm telling you, there's a contest just waiting for a winner...


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November 30, 2010

Heidegger's Crow Feeder

Hi,

About four bazillion years ago, I was an all too brief philosophy major. (I made it through the 19th century, then slammed into Sartre et al and went sniveling back to the university registrar to change my major.) But one thing that did stick (I think), was Heidegger's ideas on the philosophy of thought (epistemology). I believe it was in his book, "Being and Time" that he suggested that for any given issue or problem, the essence of thinking is the stripping away of the esoteric, convenient, comfortable, and instead grappling with the most intrinsic - i.e. not what we want to think, or even what we believe should be thought, but rather what is most "think-worthy"*.

Still awake? Wow... Anywho... It's with that om wafting in the back, that I approach the "right now" problem of seagulls raiding the crow feeder (or any danged feeder they can get to for that matter.) This has to stop. Where the crows peacefully co-exist with, and even protect the smaller birds, the gulls are simply bulldozers. So how to stop them? Everything from a flying comfy pillow to starvation has crossed our minds, but I think Heidegger nailed it... What is unique about crows and seagulls and what is different? Well, crows are smaller, they have oscine feet (great for perching), and are highly intelligent. Gulls are huge, have larus (webbed) feet, and quite frankly aren't all that bright. So how about this??? A smaller feeder that crows can still use, surrounded by a perch wire, and if need be, only accessible by a foot trigger or "key". (No "key push" means the door doesn't open and the food remains inaccessible.)

rough drawing.JPG

It would be a relatively easy build, and would give the gulls fits... On the other hand, if the seagulls watch the crows, and learn how to balance and use the "key" to open the feeder door, they may be closer to Heidegger than I thought... Hmmm...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

* And what did Martin think was the most "thought-worthy" subject for humanity??? He suggested that the fact that we're still not thinking takes the prize.

P.S... Contest still open...


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November 9, 2010

Hutch Update and an Invitation

Hi,

Moving inside for just a bit... The cherry hutch project is finally (read that umpteen years) winding down...

front_resized_IMG_1370.JPG

- and -

back_resized_IMG_1370.JPG

The photos above mislead concerning the simplicity of the build... While the carcases are box-like (our design was for for something between arts & crafts and Shaker) the devil is in the details. And in this case, the detail is the wood itself - cherry. What an obstinate, twisting, warping, heavy, tool-busting stuff it is. If ever I am so foolish as to try another project in cherry, you have my personal permission to come to my very domicile and kick me right in the tail section and demand to know if that I've once and for all lost my mind. Creating the through mortise and tenon joints, dovetails, and recesses for the stained glass (below) were nothing short of Herculean tasks, and in retrospect, the Augean Stables don't look all that bad...

front_resized_with door_IMG_1370.JPG

Still, the whole thing should be pretty neat when all is said and done...

door with stained glass_resized_IMG_1375.JPG

Now... About that invitation... Sometime on or about December 11 or 18, Mrs. CCA and I and a few suckers friends are going finish this beast, take it apart, and stevedore it up to its final resting place in the dining room. My plan is to turn our bird cam inward to stream the whole event live. Yes, you too can be a part of the laughter, triumph, beer, skinned knuckles, and cussing. (I'll leave the volume off... My suckers friends are an earthy lot who've taken obscenity to a sublime level.) Consider yourselves invited, but be forewarned that this ain't going to be pretty.

I'll be glad when this behemoth is done so I can go back to building simple stuff like boats...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

I'm telling you... There's a word search puzzle with a cool prize just waiting to be had...


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October 29, 2010

650th Post

649.jpg

Hi,

Yup, this is my 650th post. I was going to name it the "Sexcentennial-Plus-Quinquagenary Post", but I figured the title alone would be a turn off. Then I thought "650th Jubilee", but given yesterday's (terrorist) events the word, "Jubilee" seems way out of line. That led me to write a poli-sci piece, but that was unfitting for this blog. Sooo... For the moment, here's Mrs. CCA to display and discuss her carved bird collection. (If the demand is there, I'll get back to the terrorists later.)

Mrs. CCA here. It's appropriate on the occasion of CapeCodAlan's 650th post to share a few of our favorite birds--not the outdoor ones, but the indoor ones. Some of these you may have seen before, and some, not. Just in case you're interested, here's a bit about some of our favorites, and how you can find similar ones.

bobwhite.JPG

This photo shows two of our miniature birds carved by Canadian decoy maker John Gervers . One is a marsh wren, and the other is, oddly enough, a roadrunner. You can't tell from this photo how small they really are, but both birds are charming. Then we have a primitive bob-white by Massachusetts carver Will Kirkpatrick. Mr. Kirkpatrick continues to do beautiful work in Hudson, MA. Then there's the wonderful Delft tile of a flying goose, which I picked up at an antiques show here on Cape Cod.

bufflehead_resized.JPG

Here we have two real actual decoys by Cape Cod carver John Mulak of Yarmouth. The one on the left is a bufflehead, and the one on the right is a blue-winged teal. Both are fairly old, but in beautiful condition. If you're lucky, you may be able to find some of his work at decoy auctions in the Northeast. The third small duck is in fact a porcelain Herend figurine, and while the green ones are difficult to find, Geary's has a decent collection of this duck in other colors. Pricey (because they're embellished with 24k gold!) but sweet.

warbler.JPG

Last but certainly not least, we have a set of three shorebirds perched on a piece of driftowood, with no maker's mark at all. But just because they are unbranded doesn't mean we don't love them--they're full of character! And we have a lovely Kentucky warbler carved by another Yarmouth man, Fred Schmelke. Mr. Schmelke was a local high school shop teacher, who turned a profession into a hobby which then turned into a new profession! His birds are available each year when the South Yarmouth United Methodist Church has its annual summer fair. I've bought birds from Mr. Schmelke at the fair for three years running now, and each year, his carvings are better!

So that's a show of some of our favorite birds. Why don't you all share some photos of your best "indoor" birds?

See you by the feeders for another 650 and counting...

CapeCodAlan and Mrs. CapeCodAlan

Contest: Word search...


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October 15, 2010

Zooming IE, Mulch, Spiders, Etc.

Hi,

Before we get started, I should mention the obvious and then offer a simple solution. To wit, about the "puniness" of the chest drawing in the last post... True, it is puny, but you can zoom the IE/Firefox display simply by holding down the "Ctrl" key and hitting the "+" key. Try it... To reset the display, just do a "Ctrl 0". That should make the crude drawing usable and keep you sane at the same time.

Back to the birds, or more accurately, the yard...

resized_mulch_1.JPG

-and-

resized_autumn trellis_1.JPG

While the shots above may not look earth shattering, for us there's been a significant change; I added mulch around the footings of the feeders. The idea being that the grass there had long since been worn/scratched away (and seed remnants took its place), and that a new venue was called for. Besides... perhaps the area won't be so muddy during the soaking times. We'll see what happens, but already the ground feeders seem to disapprove.

But that leads us into a touchy subject for me - spiders. Quite simply they scare the Hades out of me. We're talking phobia here. Oh, I don't freak over the daddy long legs types, but those big honkin' (1"+ diam.) black suckers absolutely blow my mind. (I once took a BB gun to a 2" wolf spider in my living room.) Anyway, back to the mulch for just a moment... I was lifting old bags of the stuff when surprise! Looks like I interrupted a nasty-spider house party. Woo hoo! I was already nursing my annual "back spasm boogie", but that didn't stop me from performing a near-perfect 9.8 "Ricochet Rabbit Head Smash" against our 9' garage ceiling. As soon as I landed, I stomped one of the brutes straight into the Shadows of Glory, and I know another galloped off into the flotsam and jetsam that is our still-being-cleaned garage... But after that things get blurry and I probably suffered a convulsive, arachnid loss of consciousness. (I don't mind killing spiders, I just mind getting close enough to them to kill them. Do you see?)

The upshot of all this? We've got mulch under the feeders, the garage is cleaner, and Mrs. CCA is going to ride shotgun for the rest of the car stall revitalization. (And I do mean shotgun!)

See you by the feeders,

P.S. Word search contest

CapeCodAlan


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October 14, 2010

Projects

Hi,

All kinds of project-related stuff tonight... Let's see... First up is a pile of hobby in the waiting...

finished_projects_waiting_resized_IMG_1254.JPG

  • The inlay curio table is almost done and only needs the tender loving care of a honking big fastener, a bit more inlay, thickened epoxy, and a finish coat.
  • The mailbox/birdhouse too is pretty much fait accompli. I figure I can mount that on a 10' tabernacle mast and sink the steps in a large sonotube. That will be a blast...
  • But what of the "fleur de lis"? Should we wait until I build a shed? Perhaps when we open the kitchen into the dining area? Or should we just stick the thing on a pike and jab it into the garden???
And then there's the hutch... Attaching the top carcase to the bottom had turned into a bug-a-boo. See below...

Hutch top needs to be secured to hutch bottom_resized_IMG_1256.JPG

The problem had to do with the long screws that would rise from the underside of the top of the bottom carcase into the posts of the top cabinet. Unfortunately, the internal lower workins' (cleats) got in the way and would split for sure... The solution was the old boatbuilding trick of gluing (or sistering) a block to the cleat to reinforce...

sister and cleat finished IMG_1258.JPG

Lastly, there are these...

wide boards resized IMG_1265.JPG

The "youngest" of those boards is 100 years; the oldest is probably 300 years... (Note the ruler on the first piece - that's 12" marked in black.) I've fussed over the latter for three decades and probably have one more to go. Years ago I spotted an old chest in a local restaurant and took appropriate measurements...

final 415 brax chest with bottom corrected.jpg

I've started building with the "newest" of my antique stock, though the crude "napkin" drawing and modern boards will probably do ya'...

Just fun projects to think about and then really mull over...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. And the contest waits...


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October 8, 2010

Building a Boat

Hi,

Nope, this isn't going to be the usual backyard birding post! Long ago, I promised that I'd occasionally throw in an occasional off-topic post, and tonight's the night.

First things first... You should know that this is a re-write of another blog post I wrote for someone else. But every so often I write something that might actually have real long-term oomph, and when I do, I tweak it, and pass it on. (Think of this as a blog post "service pack".)

Onward...

Well, 'tis fall, and not all things in Heaven and on earth are feeders. I know for a fact that at least one of you out there has expressed an interest in building a boat. My guess is that that number is considerably larger. After all, we are the "handy-person" types. So what do you say? Do you to build a superb two-person "oar and sail" boat for less than $1,000? If so, read on...

There are only five things you need to do to build an economical small craft that will last the rest of your life:

  1. Read the following three books, all by Dynamite Payson: "Instant Boats", "Build the New Instant Boats", and "Instant Boatbuilding with Dynamite Payson". "Three books!" you scream? Calm down. Dynamite is a fantastic author. (Literally one of the great American writers IMHO.) Those three books will probably take a couple of weekends to consume, and a lifetime to digest.
  2. Make your decision concerning what boat to build. I'd recommend the "Teal". (Plans available from Dynamite.) There are several reasons for this choice:
    * I've built the thing...

    It's a simple build, and a superb boat. (I once mentioned to Dynamite that I thought that pound for pound, foot for foot, and dollar for dollar, it was one of the best designs ever conceived. He sort of laughed, but I asked that he come up with a better value... His response was something to the effect, "Now that's a tough one.")


    * Payson explains how to build the boat in "Instant Boats".
  3. Buy the plans to the boat.
  4. Learn the basics, hands on...
    * Build a scale model! (This is a "must do and is surprisingly simple and cheap using just cardboard!")
    * Practice real scale with epoxy and fiberglass using shop scraps.
    * Buy a quality architect's rule and learn how to use it.
  5. Go forth and build her!
And that's it... Soup to nuts boatbuilding in a matter of two or three months spare time... Now, the only thing stopping you is you...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. And still there's that pesky word search contest...


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October 3, 2010

Tiny Slice of Heaven

Trellis_BBQ planter_resized.JPG

Yeah, the lawn needs work, the garden is small, we've got a scrap birdhouse (occupied by a downy) and we're growing flowers in a rusty old BBQ grill. Still, there's a peace there. In fact, there's almost a Shaker echo to the place. My guess is that Thoreau would approve - just stark enough to enjoy "close to the bone", but still "where life is sweetest."

There's an interesting story behind the photograph above... By the time I had a chance to take the snapshot, by all rights it was too late in the day. In fact, there was so little light left before dusk proper that I didn't even bother with the tripod. My reasoning was that at least I could take some sample pics to find the best angles, and then come back when the luminous energy was a tad more cooperative. And that's exactly what I did. Figuring I had nothing to loose, I fussed with the various camera settings and pretty much ended up with the expected - dark blurry mush, but with one exception. On a lark, I set the camera to "Sports" mode, braced myself, drew my breath, and pushed the button. I heard the standard shutter open, but not close for a good two seconds. This seemed totally counter intuitive in that by my way of diminished thinking, a high shutter speed would equate to a high shutter speed. Anywho, the end result is what you see - a pretty respectable image taken under dim conditions. Now you shutter bugs out there can scoff, and rightfully sneer that I just don't understand aperture, ISO, and the Tao of the Canon. So be it.

Maybe the takeaway is that this is a bit of heaven, and it takes a bit of serendipity to capture it...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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September 25, 2010

Backyard Birding Tool Kit

Hi all,

In the past, we've discussed general woodworking, but given the time of year, perhaps a more immediate and practical post is in order. (Nothing like the change of seasons to break everything...) To the point, here I am fixing a feeder... (Note that this shot was taken off our live streaming cam and thankfully is out of focus...)

fixing feeder_cropped_birdfeeder3.jpg

But what would be a good "all-hands-on-deck" tool kit? Put another way, if you had to grab just a single toolbox and race out into the backyard to save "Truth, Justice, and the American Way", how would you be armed? Take a look at my IRB (Immediate Response Box).

Toolbox_ready_IMG_0990.JPG

Alrighty then... What have we got here? Why, 20 tools that will save the world, weigh less than 15 lbs, and cost less than $100 total!

  • Toolbox: Buy it cheap or build it from scrap.. No biggee.
  • Pencil
  • Plumb bob: These can be had for zip at yard sales, flea markets, etc.
  • Knife
  • Bungee: Buy a bag of bungees down at the "Bottom Buck" store Bucko. Good clamps make those.
  • Screws and nails: If you don't have a "Skippy" jar full of mixed hardware, you need to leave the mall immediately!
  • Cable ties: Do you see that heaving mass of white by the hammer head? Them's the greatest invention since duct tape... (Twist-ums are a good idea too!)
  • Tape rule
  • Torpedo level: Never leave home without it.
  • Tyvek tape: Think of this as weatherproof duct tape. It also serves as a great clamp... Yee Hah!
  • And speaking of "weatherproof": A glue like Titebond III is invaluable.
  • Pliers: Never know when the Three Stooges may need to do some dental work.
  • Saw: Take a good look at this puppy... I use a Stanley "Short Cut" saw... It's small, cheap, has a built-in square, and takes no prisoners. (I know there's a joke in there somewhere...)
  • Multi-bit screwdriver (reddish-orange handle)
  • Hammer (bang stick)
  • Wire nippers
  • Paper towels
  • 14.4 volt cordless drill
  • Collection of jobber drill bits (yellow box)
  • Shingle(s): Where would we be without the inclined plane? (And you can write on them too!)
So that's about it...

See you by those well-maintained feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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July 15, 2010

Just Another Day in Paradise...

Ah yes...

Remember when our freezer turned turtle? Gee, that was just a few days ago... Well, we fixed the freezer, but now the top half is belly up...

frig in center of kitchen_415_IMG_0069.JPG

If that wasn't entertainment enough, my bandsaw has decided to go down in flames. (Not really, but it might as well have...)

400_topless_IMG_0071.JPG

I'll simply skip over the former for the moment, and focus on the latter... Here's a microscopic shot of the part that failed on the saw.

broken assembly better_400.jpg

Micro-cracks... That's not good news, because there's a hutch demanding to completed...

400_IMG_0061.JPG

But back to that fridge... Ten years and we're looking at a new unit... As for the bandsaw - that struggled to last 15 years under powder-puff conditions. Whatever happened to 25-year refrigerators and 50-year power tools?

And people wonder why we feed the birds... We put the seed out, the birds show up, and everybody's happy. No planned obsolescence... No junk metals... Just birds...

Just another day in Paradise...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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July 14, 2010

New Camera and Old Planes

Hi,

Well, it arrived, and it's a beauty...

cropped and resized 101_0533.JPG

As best I can tell (cameras and I have a hate/hate relationship) this is a 10 Mpx Canon Rebel XS, and has more intellectual horsepower than NASA used to put a man on the moon back in '69. (And that's no joke BTW.) It really is a stunning piece of engineering and optics. Wow... Just wow... Down the road, there may be more lenses, but that's not even a remote issue right now... If I could offer just one bit of advice for anyone considering a quality camera, it would be this: be sure to buy a decent tripod (apx. $30) and a remote shutter trigger (apx. $30 also). The finest camera in the world, with all its image stabilization wizardry, still won't measure up to a remotely triggered system on a stable platform.

Now, about those planes...

planes_resized_IMG_0049.JPG

Kind of a dichotomy from the camera ain't they? From left to right they are: a 1910 Bailey #4; a treasured 70-year-old Stanley #3; an 1800's coffin-sided smoothing plane; and a modern ECE palm plane. When properly sharpened and tuned, each can easily nudge 1/100ths of an inch accuracy.

What to do with all this technology be it 21st or 19th? Well, in the case of the former, I'm afraid that there isn't much that can be done (at least for me), but the latter, that's a different story. There is nothing so serene as shaping wood with a sharp plane. (Note all the shavings in the shot above. Are those cool or what?) The hutch is slowly coming together. After that, I'll probably build a few boats and sell them. Anyone want to buy a Gloucester Light Dory??? After that, no doubt Mrs. CCA will have more projects...

See you by the feeders and the sawdust,

CapeCodAlan


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May 27, 2010

Memorial Day, Oil Update, Fisher Sighting, Woodworking Cont., etc.

Hi all,

First off, respect and thanks go out to all veterans! A tip of the hat to the mottos and core values...

USCG
"Semper Paratus" ("Always Ready")

USAF
"Integrity First
Service Before Self
Excellence in All We Do"

USMC
"Semper Fidelis" ("Always Faithful)"

U.S. Army
"This We'll Defend"

USN
"Honor, Courage, Commitment"

(I wrote a piece on Memorial Day here.)

Back to less noble things... Well, the news is in about the Gulf, and it ain't good... BP's estimate of the leak was 5,000 barrels of oil/day. Now the USGS is putting the estimate at between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels/day. That equates to somewhere between 500,000 gal/day (for a total of 18 million gal) and 800,000 gal/day (for a total of 30 million gal). Compare those numbers with the 11 million gal from the Exxon Valdez and the blood runs cold. To make matters even worse, we don't know exactly what the dispersants are doing and the effects of introducing them at such depths. Who knows where that mess is going to show up? Lastly, we find out that the dispersant itself (all 700,000+ gallons of the stuff) is toxic to humans. Once this toxic cocktail gets into swamps and wetlands... look out. I did manage to find another source (Department of the Interior) that you can try if you want to help:

  • Volunteer: 1-866-448-5816.
  • Report oiled wildlife: 1-866-557-1401. Messages checked hourly.
  • Report oiled shoreline: 1-866-448-5816
  • Report spill related damage: 1-800-440-0858.
  • Submit alternative response technology, services or products: 1-281-366-5511 or horizonsupport@oegllc.com
  • Submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system: 1-281-366-5511
  • File a claim for damage.

Onward... Well, the wife saw our first fisher cat a couple of days ago...

Fisher from Wikipedia.JPG

She'll write a post on that later.

Next! More woodworking for the backyard birder... So far we've got:

Alright then... It's almost time to make sawdust! This lesson is easy. Go to your local lumberyard, put on some gloves, and buy a bunch of cheap strapping (a.k.a. "1x3") and whatever bargain bin stuff you can find. And don't be afraid to ask the yard man if they have free scrap wood. Now take it home, break out a flashlight and study it. Study its end and face grains and note how the pieces warp, curve, cup, split. See if you can find a pattern. How were the boards cut at the sawmill? Refer to your books or to here. So much of your success working with wood is going to hinge on understanding how it moves...

'Til next time, see you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. The old NovaBird motion-activated camera is "circling the drain". After three years and 10,000+ pics, the little trooper is starting to fail big time. More on that next time.


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May 17, 2010

Oil Spill and We Have Hummingbirds

Hi all,

Sorry to keep dwelling on the Gulf oil spill, but it certainly deserves our attention...

I guess there's a crumb of good news and a bakery of bad. The good news is that it looks like BP has at least managed to attach a siphon hose to one of the leaks. That hose will supposedly drain off about 20% of the gushing oil. That would amount to a reduction from 200,000 gallons/day to 160,000 gallons/day. The really horrific news is that scientists and engineers may have grossly underestimated the rupture flow rate by a factor of 5. If that's true, BP et al are draining off 40,000 gallons/day and yet 960,000 gals/day just keep boiling out... Time for a bit more math... Being "optimistic" (200,000 gallons/day) it's been 28 days which equates to 5,600,000 gallons; being perhaps more realistic, 28,000,000 gals of oil have been flooding into the Gulf. To put that into perspective, the Exxon Valdez "only" spilled 11,000,000 gallons.

Look... maybe the dispersant will break this thing up. Maybe everything will be fine... But speaking as an engineer and a guy who's been on the water a few times, I ain't got the warm and fuzzies. I can't explain why I feel this way, but I do... I think the oil has gone deep or into solution. My gut says that we're treating this as a wave-top problem when in fact it's a seafloor to whitecap disaster. I hope I'm wrong... I hope this isn't going to be the bird catastrophe I think it's shaping up to be... And just one other thing... What in the name of all things good and Holy is President Obama doing??? He's letting BP run the oil-stoppage show... I say that the president should bring General Russel "The Ragin' Cajun" Honorè out of retirement and put him in charge. (Do you remember that general who told a reporter not to "get stuck on stupid!" Yeah, that general.) Oh, we'll keep all the BP techies, but you can bet your bottom dollar that some of their bottoms would be wearing his boot print.

Onward...

About that hummingbird picture...

First 2010 hummer_resized_2010-05-16_235930.jpg

Not bad... Not bad at all... First for the season...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. O.K. A dumb question about that oil rig pipe (and I'm just the guy to ask it...) Now that we have the siphon hose/pipe in place, why can't we secure it (my guess is that it already is pretty secure given the pressures involved) and then slide a collar down around the siphon hose and use that to further "stopper" the broken pipe?


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May 16, 2010

"It Was a Large Bird" and More Woodworking 101

Hi all,

Once again, we've come across a beautiful bird print... this time in an old children's' book. ("Boys and Girls Bookshelf, A Practical Plan of Character Building, Folk-Lore, Fables, and Fairy Tales", Volume II, The University Society)

Large white bird_resized_Scan20022.JPG

View image full size. (Use arrow keys to see all portions of the image.)

The Harry Rountree drawing above is entitled, "It Was a Large White Bird". Beautiful isn't it? Here's the text that goes with that art...

So Jack whistled loudly; and suddenly without hearing anything, he felt something take hold of his legs and give him a jerk which hoisted him on to its back, where he sat astride. It was a large white bird, and presently he found that they were rising up through the trees and out into the moonlight, with Jack on the bird's back and all the fairies in his pockets.

"And so we are going to Fairy-land," exclaimed Jack; "how delightful!"

As the evening grew dark the great white bird began to light up. She did it in this way. First, one of her eyes began to beam with a beautiful green light, and then when it was as bright as a lamp, the other eye began to shine, and the light of that eye was red. So they sailed through the darkness, Jack reminding the bird once in a while that he was very hungry.

Wow! No, I mean "Wow!" Just think... This was 90 years before Harry Potter. What beautiful, imaginative stuff! One note of caution though... Many of the stories in this series are wonderful, and ideal for the proverbial "children of all ages". However, there are some that reflect the mores of the early 20th century, and parents should read before offering up these tales to children. (Kind of goes without saying, doesn't it?)

Finally, as promised back in April, I'll continue with the "Woodworking 101"... About those tools that every backyard handyman should have... Here's my list with a few notes:

  • Straight edge (2' - 4'): Buy quality.
  • Squares (combination and framing): See above.
  • Levels (torpedo, 2', and 4'): See above
  • Clamps: Buy as many as you can of every variety. Note that there are both good and bad cheap ones out there... Use your head - if it feels or looks shoddy, it is shoddy.
  • Screwdriver: Just buy a quality Stanley multipurpose. $10.
  • Heavy scissors: Remember those commercials that advertised scissors that could cut pennies??? Yeah!
  • Pencils: Have lots and always keep one tucked under your hat and behind your ear.
  • String and plumb bob: A must for building something like a trellis.
  • Appropriate hardware: Obviously...
  • Chalk line: Sooner or later you'll need one for laying out a garden, striking a straight line, etc.
  • Nail set(s): Inexpensive.
  • Drill bits: If you're a first-time builder, buy cheap first and then break them. You'll know when you're ready for a quality set.
  • Banana knife: Be careful!
  • Coping saw: Yeah, I still use a coping saw to get access to the inaccessible cut.
  • Bevel square: Buy quality.
  • Miter saw: If you're a fist-time builder, buy a cheap hand unit. It will serve you well, and tell you when it's time to move on to a power chop saw.
  • Brace with a set of bits: Surprisingly, you can still get quality cheap... Watch eBay, Craig's list, yard sales, auctions, etc. Once again, if it feels or looks shoddy, it is shoddy. A decent used brace with a set of bits will run about $50.
  • Short carpenter's hand saw: Every hardware store has 'em...
  • Lots of lighting including a flashlight: The flashlight is a must.
  • Palm plane and a number 2, 3, or 4 plane: Here too, quality can be had on the cheap. I collect planes, and Stanley/Bailey are a fave... Look for used with no rust pitting, no cracks in the iron, a flat sole, a nice long blade that has no blue on the edge, and little slop in the mechanics. I was on eBay tonight, and saw a nice palm plane for $15. I prefer the early 20th century stuff - good value and good workmanship.
  • Measuring tape: Buy quality!
  • Pliers: There's good cheap Chinese stuff out there.
  • Cordless drill: 14.4V is fine... Watch Amazon.com, and compare "most popular" with "highest rated"...
  • Chisels: See planes above.
  • Digital calipers: Must have. Buy cheap and as big as you can.
  • Hammer/3 lb hammer: You probably already have a hammer, but a 3 lb hammer is priceless. Still, buy cheap.
  • Diamond sharpening stones and strop: Gotta do it... Buy cheap from Harbor Freight and learn how to sharpen edge tools via practice. (Hint! Never put a bevel on the back of an edged tool... You've been warned!) Also, a 15" chunk of an old, thick, wide leather belt clamped to a workbench makes for a dandy strop.
  • Circular saw/table saw: Beware!!!
  • Hand cleaner: Any hardware store has this... It's a must!
  • File: Use your head and try not to pull off the handle and stab yourself with the tang.
  • Sander: Cheap B & D ain't bad... Just don't push it.
  • Vise: Buy as big as you can and secure it rock-solid.
  • Step stool: Make your own... Good practice.
  • Power jig saw: Once again, be careful. For a "first timer" cheap is fine.
  • Grinder: I hesitate to even mention this... Excessive grinding will turn a blade blue and ruin it. Still, if you take your time and keep the steel cool, all will be cool.
  • Spokeshave: Must have... See planes and chisels.
  • Broom: Natch.
  • Magnifying glass: You'll see...

Well, that should keep you busy once again... And no matter what, practice SAFETY! Nothing will ruin your day like a splinter under a fingernail! (You may not see God, but you will probably see His shoes...)

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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May 1, 2010

Lousy Weather, Broken Router Bits, Stupid Crows

Well,

I guess you can tell this ain't gonna be no peaches and cream post... Not even close. Take a look at that stinkin' temp below...

Commie weather_resized_101_0328.JPG

Yeah, it's that bad. Eighty-five lousy degrees and there ain't a cloud in the sky. That's no kind of weather for a civilized soul! Oh for the days of driving sleet and 35° and to be digging out on a lonely clam flat. Now it's a matter of suntan lotion and air conditioning. "Arghh!" I say, "Arghh!" (Around the CCA household, this is formally known as "Communist Weather" - it's just that despicable.)

And then we move on to not one, but two broken router bits...

Broken router bits_resized_101_0330.JPG

The two pieces on the left used to be one, but squirrelly cherry grain ended that. Ditto for the dovetail bit on the right. Ahhh... There's nothing quite like the sound and fury of hardened steel shattering at 12,000 RPM. Kind of makes one want to turn off the tool and look for blood...

And last but certainly not least is "Mr. Crow".

Crow trying to steal suet cage_resized_101_0326.JPG

Just yesterday, I had to replace one of the two nylon cable ties that holds the suet feeder to the feeder proper... Not to be outdone, the shot above is of a crow Hades bent on simply stealing the suet cage. (That would make for two or three rendered-fat bins that mysteriously "liberated" themselves. You might think that just eating the contents would be reward enough. But nooo!)

Anywho... I warned you that this post wasn't going to be "peaches and cream..." and I didn't lie...

See you by those testy feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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April 29, 2010

More on Glue and Birdfeeders etc.

Hi all,

Faithful reader Harry "Gipper" Morris has raised a couple of great questions concerning glue and building birdhouses. Being a hobby boatbuilder, former cabinetmaker, and glue collector, I think I can almost address these concerns as an "expert". (Below is just a small portion of my collection... Abandon all hope...)

glues_resized_101_0323.jpg

Harry writes about "Gorilla Glue", "Gorilla Fast Drying Glue", Elmers Waterproof Exterior Glue", and "Testors Cement for Wood Models": "So far, they do the job but I'm not satisfied with any of them. I will try to test those you've mentioned as soon as I can get to it."

CapeCodAlan replies: Judging upon a later comment (see below), I'd say take a look at something like "J-B Weld"... That's basically a non-toxic industrial epoxy that will set ("kick") in 4 - 6 hours. (Full cure time is 24 hours.) While nothing will fix a hopelessly mangled joint, a good epoxy and screws go a long way. On the other hand, something like "Uglu" might have promise. (Note: I've never used Uglu.)

The next question goes as follows: Many areas of Birdhouses can't be clamped except maybe with rubber bands. Waiting 24 hours for glue to cure is a pain. I'm an impatient builder. And what works fast, doesn't hold up very well in exposed exterior environments.

And I reply: Clamping is an art. (Hence the photo here.) Aside from springboards, there's always the Spanish Windlass (basically a rope wound around the obstinate beasts being glued, and then tightened tourniquet style), wedges, weights, ratchet strap clamps, temporary nails, duct tape, vacuum bagging (everyone overlooks this), levers, hot-melt glue (you can temporarily hot-melt pieces together while the real adhesive kicks), and of course there are the good old fashioned clamps.

I guess for me, backyard adhesives come down to four issues:

  • They need to be non-toxic
  • Glues should be strong and at the same time gap-filling - hence my love affair with epoxy
  • They shouldn't demand extreme clamping pressure - hello epoxy
  • Mechanical fasteners are good things

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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April 27, 2010

Fixing a Birdbath/Woodworking 101 Part 2

Hi all,

Ah Spring... A time to fix the things that the Winter broke, and then some. Below is a cement birdbath, and its base has seen better days.

Birdbath_resized_101_0322.JPG

My guess is that during a snowstorm, water managed to work its way into the base and then a freeze broke away a chip the size of a breakfast sausage. But not to worry... In fixing something like this, I turn to an epoxy putty like "A+B". Its easy to apply, likes rough gritty surfaces, is waterproof, bonds to almost anything, and strong as all get out. Other glues to tuck away for your birding projects include:

  • TiteBond III (aliphatic resins glue): This is good for outdoor projects like wooden birdhouses that will stand up to weather. A couple of things to keep in mind though... This stuff does not fill gaps, and you have to watch the shelf life. Other than that, it's a go-to goo.
  • White hobby glue: Nothing like good old Elmer's for that occasional indoors, non load-bearing project.
  • Hide glue: Few people use this guy anymore, but it does offer a couple of unique characteristics. Not only is it strong and has a long cure time, but it's highly water soluble to boot, So if a glue-up goes all cattywumpus on you, you can always expose the joint to water and start over.
  • Cyanoacrylate (or CA glue): This is the so called "Instant Glue" or "Crazy Glue". I've used a lot of this in model making. Warning... CA would be inappropriate for an outdoor project like a birdhouse, but it does a fine job of sticking your fingers together.
  • Construction adhesive: Nasty stuff! I've used it, and it's heaping strong, but cleanup can be a chore.
  • Polyurethane glue ("Gorilla Glue" et al): It's strong, and can even fill fall small gaps. I'm not crazy about it because I've found it to be unforgiving once it starts to cure, but it does hold.
  • Powdered plastic resin glue ("Weldwood"): Fantastic, cheap stickiness. Waterproof... Easily mixed... Strong... If you need to build a deck piece or a outdoor bird-related masterpiece, take a look at something like Weldwood.
  • Epoxy: Yeahhh... Now we're talking! I've used epoxy for everything from boats to bird digs. And we're not speaking of that 5 minute stuff either. If you want real "umph" in your build, look at Raka, West, System 3, U.S. Composites, etc. The gap-filling properties alone are worth the price (though the price will take your breath away.)

One final consideration... No matter what you decide to use, be sure to check for possible toxicity for our feathered friends. (If you're not sure, contact the adhesive manufacturer, or send a comment my way and I'll see what I can come up with.) Birds have such red-line metabolisms that we always have to be on the lookout for stuff that might make them sick.

See you by those tacky feeders,

CapeCodAlan

P.S. The "Tyvek" tape above is good stuff too...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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April 21, 2010

Night Coyote, Clever Crow, and Woodshop Layout

Hi all,

First off, check out the eBirdseed.com cam screen shot I got of a coyote last night.

COYOTE_resized_FINAL_2010-04-21_024951.jpg

It may not look like much, but it's still fun to look up and realize that there's a visitor out there. If you're not familiar with Backyard Night Fishing, here's the link. (Oops! We just had a possum wander through... Very cool.) Every so often we'll have an owl or maybe a bat swoop by. Of course, it moves too quickly to "Print Screen" but it's still a hoot if you know what I mean. Then there's the occasional mouse or skunk...

Onward...

I told you that crows were smart! Check out the Caledonia Crow video inside this BBC piece. I don't know about you, but in a strange way, that vid just gives me the creeps. (Back in 1974, a strange, slow-moving sci-fi movie named "Phase IV" was released. The basic premise was that for some reason desert ants developed a collective consciousness, and attacked their fellow desert-dwelling human counterparts. It was a genuinely frightening movie on a couple of levels: not only was the insect cinematography excellent, but it also had that "that's-impossible-but-I-wouldn't-be-amazed-if it-did-actually-happen" possibility. (Hitchcock's "The Birds" springs to mind as well, as does "The Andromeda Strain".)) Anyhoo... Back to the BBC creepy crow... I just get this nagging feeling that if he only teamed up with his buddies and put their "mind" to it, we'd be in in a hurt locker.

And finally, a bit more on the woodworking 101... Before we start talking about tools, we first have to have a place to store them - enter the shop. Shops will vary depending on what you have available, your needs, your price range, your proposed project(s), your living situation, etc. But here are eight key considerations:

  • Have room enough. Tearing apart a chunk of house just to get a boat out of a basement is a bad thing. Trust me, I know.
  • Have heat. Trying to build a birdhouse (or anything) when the temperature is 17 degrees is an excruciating process. Been there. (And for Heaven's sake, use SAFE heat! I lost a childhood friend to carbon monoxide.)
  • Have adequate light to work safely. Not being able to see properly is a great way to get blood on your project. Done that..
  • Have a means for safe ventilation. Paints, varnishes, some glues, etc, can get you walking on the streets of brain damage pronto. (Think of a hangover on steroids.)
  • Be able to move your equipment around freely. Immobile machines and clutter under foot can cause injury. You try stumbling with a circular saw.
  • Use an area that you can control completely. A shop is no place for children, pets, or neophytes to be wandering. Once again, trust me, I know.
  • Establish a rock-solid work surface. Trying to cut a piece on a tippy old chair is just kicking "Old Mr. Fate" right in the wallet. Yeah, I learned that one the hard way too.
  • Have an adequate electrical service for your intended endeavors. If you're not sure, get a master electrician involved ASAP. (Man, it's exciting to have a table saw go dead right in the middle of a sizable cut!)
Do you see a pattern in the list above? In other words, I've made the mistakes so that you don't have to. Be safe... Be safe... Be safe...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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April 18, 2010

Woodworking 101

There! I promised you that once and for all, I'd actually write a non-bird post, and after 552 entries, here we go. Welcome to woodworking 101...

A few days ago (April 10th) I mentioned building stuff... While I've spent quite a bit of time discussing the details on specific projects like birdhouses and feeders, Maybe it's time to take a bird break and offer a few back yard "How-To's" when it comes to the age-old art of wood working. (I used to make a living as a cabinetmaker and am currently the moderator of two boatbuilding forums.) O.K... Where to begin? Take a look at the photo below...

spring boards_resized_101_0309.JPG

There's a symmetry there (more about that later...) But much more importantly, buried in that workbench of tools in the forefront is something far more critical than the hutch or tools - eye protection. The first rule in woodworking is eye protection. If you want to do any kind of woodworking (birdhouses, feeders, mounting posts, roosting platforms, etc., etc., etc.) you must have eye protection. Period. Next comes the standard credo that accompanies all tools - "Read, understand, and follow all safety instructions that come with your tools." And that just doesn't apply to power tools... Hand tools can ruin your day too.

Alright... What else before we get you started on the road to "Chippendale Birdhouse Construction"? Ah yes... You need to understand the Tao of the "Moaning Chair" my son. (I borrow heavily from Dynamite Payson et al concerning this subject.) The moaning chair is the chunk of furniture your sorry, frustrated, and confused tail section should seek out when you discover that you've just made (without a doubt) the most bone-headed mistake of all time. The moaning chair should be your repository of self condemnation and in being so save your salvageable "oops" from the firewood scrap heap. Don't get me wrong... I'm not saying that you aren't going to make some "IQ = -100" boo boos. If you get into woodworking, you'll blow it for sure! But there is a time for putting down the tools and walking away. Enter the moaning chair. If you never take another thing away from this blog, please take away this hard-learned lesson... The only real mistake in woodworking is the one that sends you to the emergency room with your hand (or worse) wrapped in a bloody towel. If you simply butcher a piece of wood, you can save your nickels and dimes and approach the project all the wiser. Any failure that doesn't result in the loss of blood isn't a mistake - it's a learning experience.

So, let's see... You now know that careless woodworking can be dangerous, and no matter what, you're going to make dumb mistakes. Ahhh yes... That's the way to fire up a newbie!

Anyway... Going back to the picture above... I think the first thing I'd teach the apprentice is the importance of "plumb, level, and square". Take a look at those sprung, curved battens holding down the mahogany apron on the cherry shelf. (Yeah... Ya gotta learn the language sometime.) Whether you're building a birdhouse, a piece of furniture, a home, or a boat, you have to find a way to make one piece of wood line up with another piece of wood while the adhesives/fasteners do their job... even if that means wedging in spring battens from the ceiling.

And that's it. End of lesson one. That's about 50% of all of what you need to know about woodworking: plumb, level, and square... and the occasional beauty that goes along with making it happen.

Down the road, I'll offer my over-priced $.02 on such matters as shop layout, tools, sharpening, measuring, design, modeling, glues, woods, finishes, etc., but those issues are for other days.

'Til the next time I'll be standing in the sawdust over by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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March 8, 2010

As Spring Lurches Closer... Projects!

Hi all,

projects_resized_101_0160.JPG

Well, that's quite an image? Where to begin? Maybe at the bottom...

That white object on the floor is the mailbox/birdhouse to be. I've repaired the wooden bottom, and pounded the metal of the box itself back into shape. That will be fine. After reviewing the comments from the link above, I've decided to pull a mea culpa and go with no perch... Birds have been making nests in metal objects since humankind has been making metal, so I'll simply round the edges of the hole, put on some paint, drill some ventilation holes, and mount the rascal. Problem solved.

As for the hutch... Well, the drawers are done. They consist of cherry, pine, and luan bound together with epoxy and 48 dovetails - beautiful, and brutally strong. But there's still a lot of work to be done... The top panels have to be secured to the posts via biscuits and glue, and the top and bottom doors need to be routed for the glass and hinges. Then there's more framework, cleats, the top, a couple more shelves, glass, tiles, hardware, lights, and final assembly. (Who knows what this thing is going to weigh when all is said and done?) Ahhh, Spring...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 21, 2010

New Birdhouse, etc...

Hi all,

Mrs. CCA spotted the following birdhouse at a yard sale last fall, and we've been waiting for a decent day to mount it... Ta da!

Church_birdhouse_resized_101_0052.JPG

It only cost a few bucks, and had all of the features we look for:

  • Basically solid construction... It's nothing special, but serviceable. (We had to put a small, metal, entrance-hole face plate on the abode because of prior chewing, but that fixed that.)
  • Screws are used to hold the thing together... Should a piece rot, or cleaning is necessary, the remedy is just a screwdriver away.
  • Easily mountable... In this case, there's a stout plastic/wire loop that begs to be gang cable-tied to the branch. We probably will have to adjust the tilt of hang, but that's no big deal.
  • It's attractive in a New England sort of way.
  • The casa is easy to spot.
As for bird activity, they seem to like it. So far we've had chickadees, titmice, and a downy checking it out. The mount height of apx. 8' would be ideal for any of them. The only question is, "Who stakes his turf first?" Time will tell...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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January 21, 2010

Turkeys, Crows, and Gulls...

Hi all,

Once again, we've got several bird issues to address, so let's get right to it. First, there's a visit from the usual suspects... What a bunch of turkeys! Kidding aside, they're getting annoying. They're loud, brutish, and obviously don't know how to use a restroom, unless you call our entire backyard a loo. Hmmm...

1_21_10_400.jpg

Alright, it ain't pretty, but I guess we can live them guys. However, the chainsaw with wings below has become intolerable.

400_2010_gull.JPG

Any time we put food out for the crows on their tray, this beast and his brethren swarm, and chase away every living creature in their path. To make matters worse, once the seagulls find the food, they fight over it like Bumpus' dogs fight over a Christmas turkey. No, this horde needs to be discouraged. But how? Let's see, aside from their size, there's one glaring difference between the gulls and the crows - gulls have webbed feet (3 webbed toes forward and a very short toe pointing backward). I doubt that gulls can perch on a relatively thin smooth rod. So here's the plan... I modify the existing flat, open tray such that it is only accessible by small birds and birds who can perch like crows. Take a look at a rough drawing...

anti_gull_crow feeder.JPG

That's not a huge project and it's not an expensive one either... Things to think about...

See you by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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