Saturday, February 28, 2009

An Open and Shut Case

One of a few I will be building. This is pretty cool for tool storage.

This one case occupies a 48 X 42 inch wall space and has a sheet and a half of pegboard storage. With a small shop, finding a use for every nook and cranny- maximizing working space and storage is paramount. Today with any luck I will complete the trim and varathane and maybe get a coat of paint on the pegboard.

I managed to get some bugwood trim around the small side entry door. What a trial.

There is a reason Mike Holmes makes sure everything is square and plumb before he starts. I thought the job would take about a half hour. Several hours later - when I went into the house for a calming cup of tea Jo-Ann mentioned that she was hearing a lot of crashing and banging and sawing and some swearing coming from the shop..

It was twenty below yesterday - time to work on the recalcitrant skid steer. the starter relay appears to be toasted. I will have to see if I can get a new one in town today as we have snow on the way.

I know I have been spending a lot of time blogging about the shop lately. Bear with me. One of these months I should be finished. O.K. I will probably never be finished - as in everything to the last detail. The workshop is a tool that I can use to progress the enterprise, so to speak. Being able to work on machinery and build cabinets for the kitchen reno and the myriad other projects to enhance the homestead - that type of thing. A place to do maintenance is critical to wringing the most bang from our bucks.

Besides, soon it will be time to obsess about gardening.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Heavy Metal

Well the tables were heavy, and they had metal legs and stiffeners. They were 36 inches wide and I wanted to cut them down to 24 inches so they fit better in the limited space. I want to be able to walk around the skidsteer when I am working on it inside. So narrowing the salvaged tables involved cutting the tubing and re-welding via a wire feed welder. Love the smell of burning metal in the morning. My brother, Tiny brought up a 110 volt powered M.I.G. welder that he doesn't use. Now I can build a few of the projects I have in my head that involve metal fabrication: like a firewood elevator..

I have always wanted to be able to weld but it is going to take some practice. I am a better grinder than a welder.

After we had fun with the welding I made cleats for the walls. They are made with the top edge cut at 45 degrees so I can build hangers, shelves - whatever and hang them from the cleats by using a piece of 1 by cut at a complimentary 45 degree angle. This makes it easy to add or move shelves, cabinets, Pegboards etc.

It 's snowing today so it's a great day to be fooling around in the shop. Today I want to get a coat of varathane on all the cleats, finish trim the side door and maybe make a pegboard for hand tools. Oh and move another shelf from the old shop/ soon to be chicken house. If I don't have to plow the driveway. No wait, according to the weather network it's just snow flurries - for the next five days..

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Project Shelved

Well almost. Jo-Ann and I had fun yesterday putting together the repainted shelving, and deciding whether to listen to Classical or Country and Western while we bolted the things together.

Yes I know to some people Country and Western is classical. Lately I have been listening to Gregorian Chants which I find very soothing.

Now the trick is to make anything that wants to go on the shelving fight for the right. It's just too easy to fill up any horizontal space with crap.

While I was waiting for painted stand off blocks to dry I lugged a few more tools over. I now have more of my tools in the new shop than the old. What a concept-- having all my tools in one place.

I have a cubbyhole shelf to drag over and then I can get onto today's project: putting up cleats on the side walls so I can hang up tool shelving, pegboards whatever and make them movable should I change my mind about what goes where. but before that I need to make a stand for my little table saw so I can use one of the salvaged work tables as an out feed table. Then I can use the saw to make the cleats. Oh and before that I need to go to town to get some construction adhesive, varathane 1 X 6's and maybe some peg board. And 48 million dollars.

Ah I love the smell of sawdust in the morning..

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Green, Green it's green they say

And not just on the far side of the hill. Well, up the hill and in the new shop. The shelves that is.

I got them all sanded yesterday and started the painting process. I drove 3 inch screws into 2 by's and placed the shelves on them. I am using Tremclad paint, which is one of the best I have found for metal. The only down side was I used a cheap roller and the tenacious oil based paint just sucked the fibers out of it. And I thought I was being frugal by using one dollar rollers from the Fraser Lake Fields store that I could just toss after I used them. Now the carefully prepped surface has roller pile strands all over it. Yes I did ignore the little voice. I could sand it and start again but I may just call it a feature. I will make up my mind when I go out today..

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Shop Project is Tabled

Three times actually. Last year we scored three heavy duty tables that a local school was throwing out. The were over in the old shop and we brought them over to use as temporary workbenches. Endlessly moving the construction stuff from one wall to the other gets a little lame after a while.

Here's the view of where the Garage door will go. It will be 10 feet wide by 8 high. Now I am going back to get the shelving sanded and then painted. And then time to move in some tool chests and a cupboard, and then pegboard.

Tomorrow with any luck I will either be putting on a second coat or assembling them at the far end of the shop.

Boose the shop cat seems to really like the new digs. The other day I put an old red paint rag around her neck and she didn't mind it at all. She kept it on until it fell off.
About the only thing that seems to annoy her is the ticking of the shop clock. That little hand going round and round...

Monday, February 16, 2009

If Only We Could See..

Still sanding away in the new shop. Getting the shelves ready for painting. I decided to dismantle them which will make for a way easier paint job. Although I could spray them I have decided to just use the old standby rollers and brush. I don't want to be bothered by having to put plastic up all over the place to handle the spray mist.

And now for an entirely different rant:

I have been thinking about the recession we are "suddenly in". I am not an economist but it seems that essentially we have all been drafted into some elaborate and world wide Ponzi scheme. And when the chickens came home to roost, the NINJA traders grabbed their loot - well there were no chickens, just chicken crap - the "economy" collapsed. Actually that's not a very good metaphor because chicken crap can be useful. I italicized "suddenly in" because I don't think it was sudden - it was a long time coming, building since the second World War. The rise of the military industrial complex. The collapse was sudden of course. Ponzi schemes always fail catastrophically.

Basically the whole thing seems to be based on a process of gross over consumption. We are required to buy stuff that we don't need, to fulfill very unrealistic and unattainable expectations. That something we purchase can make us happy. One weird result,of many, from a global perspective, are grossly overweight people paying others to make them skinny.. We've been trying to eat our Happiness.

I'm not talking about the basics: food, shelter etc.. But even those have been perverted beyond recognition. Advertising drives the planet. And not in a direction that is going to be good. It's whole purpose is to get us to buy something. Anything. And lot's of it. I remember my Father saying years ago: " One day their going to sell water in bottles - just like pop".

I am driven to distraction by concocted pictures of 3 foot long dastardly microbeasts that-- if only we could see them ...Or if you could see what lives on your kitchen dishes would buy this marvelous elixir - and keep buying it. The problem with Flim Flam is that it doesn't have any substance, and we will surely waste away ( or explode) on a steady diet of it. They sell Ninja mortgages as if they were real.

That's where we are now. Unreal.

Time to rip up the front lawn and plant a few turnips. I don't mean metaphorically. Well, actually there are better ways, but you get my point.

Not to have you leave this post on such a gloomy note. I am, essentially, an optimist. The crap that we are wading through now can have a very positive outcome. If we are prepared to question why we need a whole aisle in the supermarket dedicated to cereal.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Somethings On My Mind

I don't know what it is exactly but it seems to be driving Xena to distraction.

I have all the shop outlets powered up, lights installed. Now I am dragging the shelving that I will be re-using from the old shop to the new. They are some old metal industrial shelves, still in pretty good shape but I think I will clean them up, sand them down, prime them and paint them with some good quality metal primer and paint.

It's hard to resist the urge to just get on with throwing all my stuff in the shop, but if I don't paint the shelving now I am pretty sure it will never get done and I will later regret not doing it. Once I have the shelves painted I can start working on cleaning up the place and starting on the workbenches, tool storage and power tool layouts. It's a small shop so getting everything in that I want will be a bit of a challenge.

I want to get on with the shop so that I can start the equipment shed, and new chicken house & runs ( the old blue shop) before planting time gets here.

Happy Heart Day.

I have been informed by a knowledgeable source that any chocolate consumed on this day is entirely calorie free..

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


On fixtures. As in let there be light. What a difference. My brother, Tiny, came up yesterday and we spent a couple of hours solving all the problems on the planet and installing fluorescent lighting in the shop. Hopefully today will see all the fixtures installed and I will move on to getting all the outlets wired up.

Using the drywall lift to install the ceiling O.S.B. worked so well that we twigged on the idea of using it to install fixtures on the shop ceiling. An easy way to make an arm busting job a pleasant task.

This shows the lighting with a little less than half the fixtures installed. I have another row the same as this to go up on the other side .

As there will not be any natural lighting in the shop I have decided to make the fluorescent lighting levels fairly high. With one or two incandescent lights, just in case it inadvertently ( power outage) gets really cold in there. That's one good thing about incandescent lights. They don't care if it's 40 below. They still come on. The whole shop is heated by a 1000 watt, in wall electric heater. Yesterday it was -20c (-4f) outside and the heater had no trouble keeping it a balmy +20c (68f) inside. And that's without the insulated overhead door installed - just a double layer of house wrap and a plastic tarp.

Nothing like good light for wood working. I want to do some relief carving and that will demand great lighting. When budget allows I will put in a couple of skylight tubes.

I am still trying to figure out the best layout for benches, shelving and placement of a table saw, planer, drill press, grinder, chop saw, compound miter saws, air compressor, welder, and an edger. Basically one side will be for wood working, the other for mechanical repairs, the end for storage.

And, of course, a shop cat, Boose, who has now taken up residence on an insulated work shirt I left on an improvised work table.

I am reminded that progress works better than perfection.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up...

So it's firewood for you then.

When I went outside yesterday I got the strangest feeling that something was different. Couldn't put my finger on it.

Went over to the Chicken coop, fed and watered them. Into the blue shed to look for some electrical stuff - back to the storage shed when I noticed, well O.K., Just about tripped over:

This is one of three trees that was supporting a shed that is mostly filled with old wood and metal. This particular one had a hoisting arm swinging on a cable. It creaked in the wind. I have never felt comfortable about the three dead trees, and want to liberate the living fir from the sheds. A faller friend of mine came and downed one of the larger dead firs. It was sound all the way to the top. The one that fell down in the wind a day ago wasn't. We didn't hear a thing. The bottom of it was basically ant dust - although it wasn't readily apparent from the outside. The building was holding the tree up-- not the other way round. Anyway glad it came down so I don't have to worry about it any more. I wouldn't get the building torn down until this summer. Hopefully I will be able to re-use some of the poles and tin from the roof. And of course as much of the old fir barn wood as I can. There is probably enough there to floor our place.

Thankfully the tree came down along side the old log building I want to rebuild. The only damage was where the swing arm hit the roof and it isn't worth saving anyway.

The electrician managed to get the sub panel hooked up and today it's listening to CBC radio and installing outlets, heater and maybe fixtures. Progress.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Whacking Wood

One of the weekly chores around here is to bring the weeks wood supply in from the outside to an inside holding area closer to the downstairs RSF furnace. We make good use of a small electric wood splitter mounted waist high to quickly split the rounds into manageable chunks. The RSF wood furnace can take logs almost three feet long, but if they are 18" in diameter they are just to heavy to handle easily. One of those in and we are ofton turning on the "air conditioning" ( i.e. opening the doors) or dancing on the veranda in our ginch. Which is O.K. on a night like last night with a full moon, a warm wind, and +2C. Not so nice when it's in the -30's with a screamer Easterly.

The bigger rounds require splitting. My favorite tools for this is a pickaroon and an eight pound splitting maul. If it can't be powered through the wood a couple of whacks with a small sledge and the toughest limbed wood comes apart. I find splitting wood a great form of meditation by sweating. I use two main poses:

The lift:

The follow through:

Repeat until satisfied.

Another problem we've run into is that the new/old upstairs heater we installed uses wood that can only be 16 inches long to fit in the door. So we essentially have to make two lengths of wood. This season we will standardize and everything will be 16 inch lengths and I will split the wood finer for the upstairs. We are trying to time it so that all the wood we have is burnt by the time we do another cutting. We have about 30 acres of bone dry bug wood before we have to look elsewhere and I figure that will last at least 20 years or more.

Here's Xena, bringing our attention to a moose she saw in the East tree line:

She's a good watch dog. Normally she does not use binoculars. She can even see the invisible moose. Which is quite a talent.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A secret Vice

Until now. I go through a lot of gloves. Here is a portion of the collection.

Rubber types:

These are great for when my hands will get wet. Like in the spring. The orange ones on the right I have had for years. They make all the difference when the weather demands rain gear. Nothing like having cold wet hands to put the damper on a rock hounding trip. In the winter time at the Coast we even wear lightweight liner gloves inside them. I keep a pair of these in with the chain box for emergency chain ups - which invariably happen when the snow is near melting.

The blue and yellow ones are insulated and have "gription" built into them. They were introduced to me as a more economical alternative to the absurdly expensive high tech ones.

High tech ones:

These are incredibly comfortable. Incredibly expensive. And they never last more than a week or so before the fingers wear out. The rest of the glove is fine - it's just the fingers.

I have tried a lot of different makes and they all fail miserably quickly. I call these my "yuppie" gloves. I think they are more about making a statement than actually being cost effective. I am going to do an experiment one of these days by dipping the fingers in some plasti-coat to see if that will make them stand up any better. One of the pairs even has a built in L.E.D. just above the pointer finger. Actually pretty useful around here at night. At the bottom right of the high tech pile is my general, tried and true, Not high tech, inexpensive working gloves. They are leather and cloth, fairly inexpensive, and last for quite a while. I always keep a dozen or so of these secreted around the place. For handling firewood and general yard chores summer or winter if it's not to cold. I find the insulated ones too bulky. I have large hands and the off shore ones just don't fit.

Winter Gloves:
These are my mainstays for the winter. The Mitts on the top left are insulated, but as the weather gets colder I augment them with wool mitts and light nylon liners. The ultimate cold weather pair. I can sit on the skidsteer at twenty below for a couple of hours, my hands on metal controls, and my fingers have never gotten cold. The leather ones below have a trigger finger and I augment their insulation the same way as the mitts. I use a trigger finger wool mitt liner. These are my most used gloves. They cost about as much as the high tech ones but last about fifty times longer.

These are the gloves that I use for light yard work and snow shoeing. The top left wool ones with leather palms and fold back mitt tops are my favorite for dry snow conditions. The blue mitts beside them I have had for years and are generally to warm above -20 or so.

Things I have learned:

  • For keeping fingers warm nothing works as good as a mitten. The kind where the fingers get to cuddle up to each other to keep toasty. Gloves - no matter the type or amount of thinsulate etc. just don't cut it.
  • Check out the local saw shops for good sturdy hand wear. They carry the types the worker guys use
  • No single pair of gloves does everything I need. Some come close.
  • For some reason, after a while, left handed gloves will predominate..

I am still looking. I want to get an over mitten like Nanook of the North wears. The kind than goes almost past my elbow. So far it looks like a trip to Yellow Knife is in order.. Oh-I do know that the 1920's film was all faked...Progress had enveloped the far North.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Can You Spot Waldo?

Actually it's Mabel the Moose. It turns out the rangers didn't go through our property but stuck to the road so we went down to where our driveway meets Savory road and waved at them and snapped pics as they went buy. Wished I would have thought to take the Canadian flag down and waved it like a mad Canuck. I am very proud of those guys & gals.

On the way back we startled the two moose that inhabit the place. They were crossing the road right in front of us. Were talking "fill the wind shield" big. Three cameras on the dash and this is the best we could do. No wonder pictures of the loch Ness Monster are always grainy.
I put the final coat of semi-gloss on the ceiling of the shop yesterday afternoon. Glad that particular part is over. The gun is cleaned and I will switch to a smaller one to do the shelving. But before I do that I think it's time to call the electrician in. In.

Home Again

Yesterday Sara and Kevin left on their flight back to the coast. We dropped them off at the air port in Prince George and they made it to the Vancouver airport and were picking up their luggage before we made it home. The Van made it up the roadway to our joint without a hitch. The ice had melted a little and then frozen with some snow on it so it roughed up the slick surface.

Here's some cool pics that Kevin took from the South East fields yesterday.

Xena just loves Kevin and was stuck in the house watching as he set up his tripod for some shots. When he was done we "released the hounds" and he got some cool pics of her running to him.

We're waiting to see a troop of Rangers and regular Canadian forces that are coming through on a training mission. It's quite the trek. They are planning on ending up in Churchill Manitoba. The Rangers serve as a vital, but largely under sung part of Canada's defense forces. Here's a link where you can track their progress as they are carrying a Spot Transmitter. We use one when we go off gallivanting. A lot cheaper than a satellite phone. Just don't hit the " send the helicopter" button by mistake! We tape ours off even tho it's recessed.

Today I seem to be suffering a bit from the empty nest syndrome. The kids are gone.

I am putting some new heat lamps in the chicken tractor, which is insulated for winter use. And then the last coat of paint on the ceiling of the shop prior to calling in the electrician. The guy is thorough - but really slow.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Tripping the light fantastic

On snowshoes. My Daughter Sara and husband Kevin are up from the big smoke for a bit of a breather. Kevin has a new set of snow shoes so we just had to go for a bit of a tromp.

Boose didn't want to be left back at the house so she followed us, shrugging off Xena's attempts to get her to stay at home. Here, just as we started out, she is a bit fluffed up from Xena's attention:

Eventually, about a couple of hundred feet inside the tree line and away from the packed windblown snow of the feilds she decided that maybe, perhaps, if you insist, riding was more fun and a better view.

Sara is doing a marathon later on this month and hasn't been able to run as much as she liked so decided a snow show tromp would work as a bit of a training regimen. I wished I was in as good as shape as she is:
The uphill run through rotten crumbly two foot deep snow took a couple of hours. Eventually landing us at the summit rocks to the East of our place. We discovered where the two moose that inhabit the place bed down. Their tracks and beds were all over the Eastern woods, from just inside the tree line to right up to the cliffs.

This is the view looking South and South west.
Kevin took the shots with his new his new camera a Cannon EOS 40D. This is a shot of the spread with his camera with Jo's long lens on it.

And of course a picture of Sara and Kevin on the summit. That's a 100 kmh wind blowing so we didn't hang around very long before starting the trip down. Gravity, a packed trail on our side coupled with a promise of hot tea and a warm fire making the down trip quite a bit faster.
Jo-Ann knitted the snow masks and they got a good workout on this trip.

Today we are in the midst of a total white out with a 60 kmh East wind. Snow plowing is going to be necessary. The chains on the skidsteer helping to scarify the totally iced up driveway. Last night Sara and I made a quick trip to town to pick up a cake for Kevin's Birthday. I tried seven times to make it up the driveway before admitting defeat, even with new studded snow tires. Under a star filled, moonlit night with Venus glowing below the sliver of moon, on went the chains. The road so slick we had a hard time just standing on it, even though we were wearing Yak Traks at the time. Moments later the birthday cake was safely delivered.