Product Review

Democracy – 2018 –

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California is burning.  Mid-term elections seem largely forgotten.  A few candidates hang by a chad, screaming foul.  Charges fly.  Voter suppression.  Illegally handled ballots.  Racism!  Existing laws broken and court orders ignored.  Is this politics, mommy?

Politics concern the whole world around us, from what we teach in schools;  to where we send our military;  to whether we fix our roads;  to how we handle crime, poverty, addiction, mental health, and the homeless;  to whether pink slime can be included in our burgers;  to a hospital’s obligations to the uninsured.  Laws.  Products of politics.  We live by them.  Some work, some don’t.  Some bad ones need to be changed, and some good ones need to be protected.  Democracy turns on participation.  Around the world, people continue to fight for the right, as did our forbears.

So we fight to make it work.  In some areas, with clear majorities, it works quickly and efficiently.  Where razor-thin margins appear, vote counting and recounting slows.  Ballots are “found”.  Tabulation numbers shift daily.  Judicial Circuit Courts issues judgements, duly ignored.  The process slows to a crawl.

It’s a really fine mess we’ve got ourselves into, when officials cannot publicly provide voter data as mandated by law.  Hey, don’t rush them.  Provisional, mail-in, and early voting ballots are mere suggestions of citizen intent.  In the right hands, they can swing a national election!

Clearly, the honey tastes better on the other side of the fence.  Call me when it is all over.  🙂

Quaker Oats

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Over this Veterans Day weekend, swamped with keeping the boat moving forward, quill never made it to parchment.  Several half articles popped their heads above the hedge but that blasted rabbit got away every time.  Notably, Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal was on sale;  a winter favorite, our review was imagined as steamy and satisfying … until the words MADE IN CANADA came into focus.  There’s always Heinz Catsup, but that would be too easy …. Maybe next week, the Apex Tool article will finally be finished.  And we will get the Quaker Oats angle;  our top muncher is on it.

Quaker Oats was founded in 1901 by the merger of four oat mills: The Quaker Mill Company of Ravenna, Ohio (founded 1877), which held the trademark on the Quaker name and was acquired in 1901 by Henry Parsons Crowell, who also bought the bankrupt Quaker Oat Mill Company, also in Ravenna.  

The company’s roots are in Akron, Ohio. Ferdinand Schumacher, a pioneer miller born in Hanover, Germany, in 1822, used medieval period milling techniques to manufacture oatmeal on a mass scale.  

Eclectic Products – Eugene, Oregon

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Decades ago this penniless vagabond was huffing it across country.  One last adventure awaited just over yonder ridge.  His footfalls across the asphalt were joined by a third sound, the scrape / flwapp cadence of a detached boot sole.  He’d been advised to Goop-It, but the unfamiliar brought fear and confusion.  Goop?

In time a weekend adventurer joined the fire ring.  This camper had a pouch with everything one needs on the road.  We could suture the sole, duct tape it, or Goop it.  The Circle decided.  Goop it was.  The boot was carefully packed with flat stones.  Goop was squirted liberally between the sole and the insole and the affected area clamped together with more rock.  Some Goop squeezed out the edges like jelly from a donut but it was left as-is.

In the morning, our Weekend MacGyver was gone.  My boot, sitting by the smoldering fire ring, was unclamped, emptied of stone and scorpion, examined, yanked, poked, fitted, and pronounced good for another 10,000 miles.

Such bipedal adventures are now left to others but the experience stuck.  Goop is a quality adhesive.  No doubt the toluene and solvent naphtha play a part;  avoid confined spaces.

When a local college banquet bar triple bowl sink drip began to dampen spirits and socks, close examination revealed a mess of replacement issues.  The largest?  Budget and urgency. The sink was used only as a beer cooler,  melting ice the only use of its drain.  Instead of a Full Monty, stripping it down to bare metal and a full repipe with new components, we gave it the ‘ol college try à la MacGyver.

Buff the metal with ScotchBrite, a judicious application of Plumber’s Goop, and wait 24 hours.  Amazing results!  All three sinks filled to the brim with water, all unplugged simultaneously, and the strainers and drains lose nary a drop.  It looks like this assembly will withstand another decade of light use.

Now, it ain’t pretty. But replacing 1″ brass strainers on a copper drain, all the parts seized together, very tight access, the sink itself destined for the rubbish heap or recycler?  Replacement is definitely not cost-effective in this situation.  There is a time and place for “temporary repairs”.   Through no fault of our own we often see ‘temporary repairs’ last over a decade. 🙂


  

Bubba • Bootjack California

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It never occurred to me that Bubba might have a Christian name or a last name.  Joseph Lang  And surely he’d live forever, collecting bits and pieces of people’s lives, arranging them in his store for resale.  The social hub of Bootjack California, Bubba’s establishment anchoring one end of Main Street.

joe bubba lang.jpegWhere else could one find a twelve-foot arch-back velour couch in infant yellow, deep enough to sleep comfortably without crowded elbows?  For $20?  Clark Gable probably napped on it, and here the couch ended, for a worn Jackson.

Shelving, kitchen ware, tools of a sort, clothes.  Bubba had everything you’d need to set up house.  Apartment clean outs, estate sales, competitor’s overstock, where ever he got it always seemed a mystery as Bubba talked into his beard.  But he knew how to stand firm on his price.

Bubba left this world in May 2018, the victim of a 2:00 AM hit-and-run. Merced California police have released little information about the accident.

D’Addario Violin Strings

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The estate sale find looked somewhat like a violin.  Except it was a jumble of dusty components which fell further apart when its chin rest was removed.  Quick work for our handy Kershaw pocket knife.  A bit of practiced slip-n-snap, the last remaining parts released their failed hide glue after a century together.

Inked with fountain pen upon the inside top, E. Guthwaite of Leeds (England) left his repair mark in 1886.  The hive buzzed that I had a French 1850-1870 Mirecourt.  Gut strings plus patterns of grime from playing along with dust from laying tell us this violin may not have been functional since about 1920.

Back apart, repairs begin anew.  Its old glue is tacky, with a sharp, astringent smell.  It is picked and scraped out of a groove along the back’s perimeter.  The ribs are reattached with fresh Behlen Hide Glue.  The neck heel looks different than usual, sporting a culvertail joint at the heel.  Odd, even uncommon?  We carve an end block to receive the dovetail and are rewarded with extra tensile strength.  The top is an issue, but we’re making a player, not a museum piece.  Joined, cleated, glued, we’re almost done.  Fingerboard dressed, polished, reattached, nut corrected, saddle soaped, bridge finalized, and we find used but serviceable D’Addario Kaplan strings on our windowsill for testing.

Superb!  At a gig, Steve cannot put her down for a full four hours, grinning like a kid as the tone opens up.  Chance favors the fortunate and lucky, as its set-up receives raves – although he says it feels more German and Italian than French.  But there was so much immigration and resettling after Napoléon Bonaparte.

Now for the final bit of finish.  A wipe of varnish here, pegs to trim and polish, a composite tailpiece for student trial.  Off with our used tester strings.  We’re going with adult fare, a D’Addario Helicore H310 offering.  Without knowing what the final owner will want, we choose a dependable string far higher in quality than most students will get.  Two or three times more expensive than economy strings, maybe half the cost or a little more than strings a professional might favor.  We’ve taken the high road of serious string choice.  

Fit as a fiddle.  Her voice is back after a century of slumber.  D’Addario is doing the talking.

All D’Addario strings are designed, engineered and manufactured in the USA to the most stringent quality controls in the industry.D’Addario 

Daylight Savings Time

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Sunrise has galloped to 6:08AM while sunset drops to a milestone, 8:00pm straight.  Squeezed from both directions, the “Fall Back” date of November 4th will find my home well stocked with teas, crackers, and fine hardback novels.  Peaceful nighttime activities, reading early in bed, will come an hour sooner, thanks to Benny F.

While Benjamin floated the idea via a witty “letter” to the Journal of Paris in 1784, it had been around far far longer.  My ancestors were whipped into the fields as the first mistle thrush and woodlark began their songs (about 4am, barely time for a cup of ale and a crust).  Even the Egyptians knew the best time for dragging 30 ton stone blocks were the hours before the sun was a cubit above the Bolbitinic.

We’re having a cool morning.  Seasonal sunlight changes have increased my appetite, as Mo’Nature suggests I bank carbs and fats.  I shall be mindful over the next four months not to take her message too closely to heart *munch munch burp*

Why do the changes not follow autumnal & vernal equinoctes?  The Naval Observatory sets the dates.  Something to do with a vigorous party schedule?  The Veep’, our “man of letters” and regular contributor to ATB, will know.  His residence is on the Navel Observatory grounds, and he knows everybody.  Stay tuned for an update!

Bowers Tool Company

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Waking up to a beautiful 71˚ but 93% humidity, the chances of writing a coherent review today are slim.  In a flash it will be both 93˚F and 93% humidity.  Welcome to The Philadelphia Summer.

All is not lost.  Little thought is required.  The perfect article for AmericanToolbox literally fell into our drafts folder.  In my search for a light machinist hammer, I discovered the Carrollton Texas company of Nelson Bowers.  Mr Bowers has a great philosophy.  Save Time and Money: Buy it Once, Buy it Right.  Everything he sells is quality.  We have built partnerships with 21+ domestic manufactures bringing together a wide array of tools from Automotive to Gunsmithing, HVAC, Aviation and more.  Bowers Tool

Carrollton Texas, the heartland.  Not too far from some of my favorite camping spots.  Home of the famous graphic artist Kadin Betts, God rest his soul.  We’ve added a stop on our next road trip.  Coming soon, on American Toolbox.

Cutting Tools – Pliers – Sockets & Socket Sets – Automotive – Punches & Chisels – Screwdrivers & Nutdrivers – Hex Key – L Wrenches – Hex & Torx Fastener Tools – Levels & Measuring Tools – Rethreading Tools: Files, Taps, Dies – Drill Bits & Accessories – Abrasives – Hammers & Hatchets – Tool Organization – HVAC: Heating, Ventilation, & AC – Wrenches – Gunsmith Tools – Cutting Tools, Snips – Pry Bars – Farrier Tools – Hardware – Air Tools & Accessories

Lakeside Manufacturing

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Lakeside 311 Utility Cart

The backbone of any professional practice is accessibility. Your tools within easy reach.  American Toolbox auxiliaries have discovered firsthand how important organization and mobility can be.  Rolling in and out of performing arts schools across the nation, we triage, dismantle, repair, and restore stringed instruments – and the occasional desk chair.  Scheduled maintenance, emergency service, vanity buff-ups.  You name it, we’ve been asked to do it.

The job gets done.  It will now be a little easier.  A near-vintage stainless steel utility cart has been donated to the cause!  🙂  Manufactured in the 1970s by the venerable Milwaukee Wisconsin firm Lakeside Manufacturing, our new cart still functions perfectly!  Casters solid, roller bearings smoothly turning all four wheels any direction we require.  We’ll be the Poster Luthiers at the next Orchestral Directors Bongo Banquet!

Lakeside has been producing durable products for over 70 years.  Now that you know the name, you’ll recognize the distinctive “L” on their products.  Found in all of the better practices and corporate parks across America.

How did we clean this basement rescue?  Powerful water hose across all surfaces.  Air dry 90%, old towel on the remainder.  Silicone spray into the caster directional bearings, spin, wipe excess.  Light wipe of all surfaces with silicone spray-dampened towel.  Ready for John’s plectrum banjo.  A bushing job on a 99-year-old banjo.  Trimmed with a new chisel from Lie-Nielsen.  And another story on American Toolbox.

Vintage Surefire Flashlight

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It does not take much to become ‘vintage’.  Happened to me, in fact.  🙂  But my flashlight is only a decade old, I nearly react!

When purchased, it was the latest & greatest; LED was just coming out.  Dozens of batteries later, my E2E is now on its third lamp assembly.  An “outdated” incandescent bulb.  No, there is no LED we can retrofit into your Executive E2E flashlight.  But when it comes to indestructible, Surefire got it right.  This flashlight is first in, last out, in drenching, freezing, and steaming conditions.  Vibration, drops, dust, nothing stops it from extricating me from the really fine mess I’m invariably in.

Its two CR123 batteries provide decent runtime.  I often prefer intermittent light via its tail cap switch, stretching battery life (at the expense of bulb life?).  This flashlight compliments my LED headlamp.  And a backup LED lamp, the Titan, on a lanyard.  All Surefire.  Because when crawling into the unknown, you must have reliability and ruggedness.  Tools you can count on.  Surefire.

Thirstystone Coasters

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The ubiquitous beverage coaster.  Tossed with abandon as kids, set liberally about the newlywed’s new furniture.  Their use tends to lose urgency as my go-to table begins taking on the characteristics of my wooden floor.

In climates with near-zero atmospheric humidity to condense, yonder glass of iced sun tea with mint still rests upon a handsome coaster.  Decorative, maybe protecting … something.  Maybe from habit?

Made in the Southwest, cores of solid sandstone are cut to discs of this absorbent rock.  Then shaped and polished.  Natural cork backing and any logo or design you choose.  Painted and packaged in Gainesville, Texas.  

The perfect gift.  An unopened boxed set discovered at an out-of-the-way thrift store?  Definite collector’s item.  Stock up!  You’ll be retiring in style!

Kansas Grasslands

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The prairie is an ocean on which no oar is dipped.

One in a continuing series of Road Trip essays . . . Taking a diagonal cue from the atlas, we look at I-35 thru Kansas en route to our intended two-lane destination, US-400 / US-54.  And discover the Monarch Highway.  Not asphalt, grasslands. The I-35 as Monarch Highway initiative is an example of a recent coordinated effort across six states – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota – to provide habitat for the rapidly declining monarch butterfly.NWF

Camping is permitted.  Next time we’re entertaining area stretches of two-lane  relaxation, we’ll plan to pull in closer to dusk.  A piece of rough linen as sleeping cocoon with a seat cushion for our noggin, and we’ll slumber under the stars ’till dawn.  On part of the original prairie.

Kansas was a pleasure.  Kingman Kansas deserved more time.  Taco Delite in Pratt, locally owned and surrounded by chain fast food, Six Thumbs Up !!!  Grassland to the horizon dotted with cattle.  Wheat!  Corn, soybeans, milo, hay.  And of course oil, pronounced awwwlllllll, with a capital $$$$ at the end  🙂 

We continue 2-lane magic upon US-60 into New Mexico and Arizona, rediscovering Ira’s Bar and finally stopping for a perfect enchilada-stype burro in Globe, Arizona.

RO-ARK Leather

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Romance, Arkansas  From the beginning Man has used animal hides to improve his life.  The Art of Tanning is developed.  Jerkins, leggings, boots, gloves, satchels, and iPhone cases quickly follow.  The best of crafters are elusive.  These crafters bridge income disparities, turn trade to hobby and back again, set down needle and thread when returning to a previous career or duty.  Full-time production shops?  Not the same as a one- or two- person operation.  When you find a stand-out product, stock up for a lifetime of gift-giving!

A year back we covered the work of Michael Hicks Design, when they created the perfect minimalist wallet.  A business card case which accommodates my DL & CC, CIA ident’, and all-hours White House Pass.  Very handy bit of stitching, thin as a whisker.  Now a year old, hardly broken in at all!

With growing nephews sprouting like summer corn, I figure to start them out right in their early teens, and present another favorite after college.  Stack’o’leather, please, Mike!

Ro-Ark Leather obliged and made me eleven different bifold card cases.  I chose seven.  The fun is just beginning.  I’ll get the two boys to choose their favorites in turn.  Years down the roads, these adolescent decisions will come back to them as milestone gifts.

Lenox Saw Blades

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In the food services industry, you never know what you’ll run into.  Standard tradespeople avoid working on restaurant equipment.  Those few specialty service companies have huge service fees (the local branch of a national company bills $174 for the first ½ hour, $104/hr after that, invoiced in ¼ hour increments).

Specifications are always changing, equipment gets handed down through subsequent owners with no service manuals, identifying plates are obliterated by heat and abrasion and cleaning agents.  At death, you’re left with a hulk of smoldering stainless steel, a few greasy bent knobs, and frantic kitchen staff winging it with other equipment.  The restaurant owner, upon seeing just the material cost of new components (which will not mate up with his existing components), asks hopefully, Can it be repaired?

When the original manufacturer went out of business, they politely left behind a zero-database for others to maintain their commercial kitchen equipment.  A Bricks-N-Mortar shop promised OEM replacement parts.  But the Infrared Element for Brian’s essential cheese melter came in a wee bit on the big side.  The appliance’s I/R element mounting shelf will require discrete modification.

My metal nipper is lent to the big church job up the street.  Grinder with thin cut-off wheel?  Mmmmm, maybe too much dust.  I’m thinking jigsaw.  Lowes has the blades.  And would’dga lookit that!  Made in USA, both the Lexox and the DeWalt.  

Most of the small blades seem to be USA origin, or USA/Swiss with global components.  A few packs of Asian remain, but their reputation seems entrenched:  they are cheap and burn out far too quickly.

I went with a 5-pack of 24 t.p.i. Lenox over two 2-packs of the Dewalt in 18 tpi and 24 tpi, figuring 18 teeth per inch is more than I want for thin metal.  Two blades later, I’m back to fitting the I/R burner into place.  In short order, Brian’s cheese melter, mounted above his main grill, is again toasting meatball mozzarella grinders and nachos.  Yummm!

Stuarts Draft, Virginia

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Amid a cacophony of tectonic activity there lies a valley of peace and tranquility.  Prosperity, jobs, and amazing opportunities for outdoor types.  Nestled here amid the Allegheny, Appalachian, and Blue Ridge Mountains,  NIBCO manufactures world-class copper plumbing fittings.

Brian’s sports bar in University City is a hopping success.  Near three colleges, it is de facto dorm room to scholars and athletes alike.  But by the northern battery of beer taps, what is that smell?  The beer tray indirect trap had issues.  Nothing the right plumbing can’t fix.  Brian will tell you, for great food, it starts with quality ingredients.  Likewise, for plumbing parts, I turn to the leaders. NIBCO.

With the right fittings and tools, Brian’s longstanding issue disappears.  After a little all-purpose cleaner mixed 50/50 with hot water and a heavy scrub pad, his floor tiles are back to Union Specification. 

The fittings came to me from the supply house in pristine condition.  Blessedly with no gooey stickers affixed.  Deeply and proudly stamped NIBCO.  Country of origin?  A call to NIBCO’s general number immediately connected me with Susan, who zapped me onward.  In a flash, Jem in Technical Support looked up the fittings, confirmed origin, right as I was viewing the Stuarts Draft article on NIBCO’s webpage.  Sunday morning calls to area businesses confirm the vibe:  Stuarts Draft is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Vintage Laura Ashley Comforter

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A typical love story.  The small town girl loved the idea of a big city.  A city filled with arts and liberal thinking and culture and men.  She moved herself across country.  From the hot arid Southwest to the Ice Capital of the Mid-Atlantic States.  Two items did not make the trip:  1] heavy winter coat, non-existent back home, and 2] satisfyingly thick blanket for comfortable sleeping (same reason).

With negative percentile body fat, her blanket had to be the best a department store within walking distance could offer.  Wanamakers?  Precise provenance is blurred in a haze of Philadelphia smog.  But a thick attractive comforter was purchased.  Durable, with excellent stitching, it probably cost a week’s salary.

Philadelphia is a cruel mistress.  Some are taken to her bosom, nurtured, and blossom to fulfillment.  Others, disillusioned, return home, leaving coats, boots, and blankets for other’s hopes and dreams.  In time, the comforter was inherited and stored.

While I’ve never been a blanket guy, barely wanting even a sheet on cold nights, advancing age means thinning blood.  The abandoned Laura Ashley comforter found new purpose.  What a lifesaver it turned out to be this frigid April!

Now in its majority, the stitching remains tight.  Its strong fabric is a little faded but wearing gracefully.  

Whether enjoying your comforter trdelník-style or indulging full-court burrito, the vintage Laura Ashley makes every dreaming session a Top Hat affair.

Laura Ashley USA is headquartered in Fort Mill, SC.  Revman International made my comforter decades ago for Laura Ashley.  They continue to provide quality merchandise Laura Ashley customers want. 

Vintage Laura Ashley Comforter   74″ x 86″   5.7 pounds.

Irwin Taps & Dies

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A box of cheap spool clamps unearthed at the closing violin shop seemed a deal.  Spring clamps and forty pounds of lead bar were getting me only so far.  Centenarian violins streaming to my luthier table deserve better.  Proper violin spool clamps it would be!

After every full face lift, a violin top is reunited with its body with 33 spool clamps about the perimeter.  Quickly installed, as hot hide glue cools quickly.  Adjusted, glue cleaned from seams, ribs, and behind clamps, but in general, they stay tight on the violin for a good hour or so.

My clamps were arthritic.  Or constipated?  Binding issues prevented spools from moving freely upon their shafts.  I’d wrestle with one, make it work, maybe have better luck with the next.  Eventually I was back to vintage Pony spring clamps and lead bars.

Winter brings time for the fisherman to repair nets.  Likewise, the luthier may catch a break to refurbish tools.  After the triplets were off my table, I closely examined the clamps.  Some shafts were threaded a bit haphazardly.  There was glue in the threads.  Spools were mis-drilled.  Hmmmm . . . one man’s trash is another mans . . .

Clyde’s Hardware Store had a complete display of tapping tools in neat order, being overlooked by the casual weekend tinkerer.  I found the correct die head, ¼” x 20 (threads per inch), and with a wire brush and Liquid Wrench Silicone Spray, went to work.  Disassembling each spool clamp, wire-brushing its threads clean, sometimes running the die head all the way down the shaft, tidying up the threads.  Occasionally drilling the spool’s hole a tad wider.  Thirsty work, indeed!

Fifty clamps refurbished, enough for several ongoing projects.  With the right tools, restoration work made easy.

Editor’s note:  Irwin Industrial Tools makes their products all over the world and are currently owned by Stanley Black & Decker.  Irwin’s most identifiable product are Vise-Grips.  In 2008, Irwin announced the closing of its DeWitt, Nebraska plant, ending 80 years of American production for Vise-Grips, citing a necessity to move production to China “to keep the Vise-Grip name competitive.”

Today, this Easter Sunday morning, I visited a Lowe’s Home Improvement store.  Within the tool aisles, examining Irwin products, most were made in Asia, China primarily.  Most, but not all.  The taps and dies are still USA production.

The USA-made Radiator Specialty’s Liquid Wrench, used on the threads? Since 1941 Liquid Wrench® has been making premium lubricating, penetrating and protecting products for people who know that their choice of tools can make all the difference.  rscbrands

RUST-OLEUM

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The old planter shelf sat beside the house, baking in the sun and rusting.  Faded, looking more like the rubbish stacked upon it, the garden shelves were a step from becoming Scrapper Stan’s property.

Mom wouldn’t have it on the screened porch although it would be a perfect replacement for her time-ravaged plastic planter shelves.  She had a solution: How about some paint?

“Ace is the Place” remains true.  The same sticky oil-based Rust-Oleum of my youth is still available.  But instead of slopping it all over our rusted swing-set, we went New Hat all the way.  A set of wire brushes, half a dozen foam brushes, and half a pint of Flat Black.  Sharing the labor, they set to wire-brushing while I made a pitcher of grapefruit-crush from scratch, fresh from the tree.  While they sipped, I wire-brushed one more time.  Then all of us, to the painting!

Daub, stoke, dab, swipe.  All manner of applications.  The Rust-Oleum covered wonderfully.  Across both smooth and imperfect steel, its flat black reversing years of sun damage, the oil-based paint sticking tightly to the wrought surfaces.  One coat was nearly perfect, but an hour later we hit a few spots with another light coat.  Wow, what a transformation!  Rust-Oleum, still a winner for the professional and do-it-yourselfer alike!

Amana Woolen Mill • Iowa

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Unlimited time is chaff to the Gods.  What we crave, they suffer.  In amusing their idleness, they direct me, puppet-like, to another garage sale.  I think I’m searching for a used Lie-Nielsen #102 hand plane, but their machinations prefer otherwise.

Cold road-tripping mornings remind me of the “Old Man” comment suffered even in my 20’s.  I like a wool throw over my legs and knees to fight the chill.  Before me, in an out-of-the-way yard sale, upon the mixed textiles pile, is a nice scrap of tartan.  Wool.  Perfect size.  A few small meals extracted, but largely left untouched by moths.  Neutral smell.  Good signs, all.

We bargain the old-fashioned way.  She said eight dollars and I quickly accepted.  A small pile of worn Yankee dollars and silver pour from my hand into her jug.  I am the newest caretaker of this fine Amana wool throw.  Handcrafted in Iowa since 1855.

A perfect companion to winter mornings in the Southwest.  If that cat jumps upon my lap, I may stay here until lunch!

 

Lie-Nielsen Handtools

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When it was time to shave boxwood bushings whisker-close on an 1880s pegbox, advice was sought.  Spending other people’s money has never been a problem for my circle of advisors.  All manner of chisel manufacturers were recommended.  I settled for a couple of used Buck Bros. chisels brought back to lovely health by a pro.

Months later, I learn craftsperson Jayne Henderson had visited a Maine manufacturer recommended by my acquaintances.  Even better, a hand tool demonstration at Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing, will feature these Lie-Nielsen tools.  Perfect timing, as we want additional guidance on wood planes and sharpening techniques.

Lie-Nielsen sent their crack team of cabinet makers / salesmen to Philadelphia.  Examples, answers, explanations, it flowed with an easy pace.  Two items of immediate interest: use of a scraper, and sharpening a hand plane blade.

A scraper is a thin flat piece of steel with a sharply squared edge.  One can scrape the thinnest shavings of wood with such a tool.  The answer to my use question moved to sharpening the scraper, truing its edge.  A crowd quickly gathered as the representative covered the simple technique of producing the correct scraper edge.  Guess it was not only me wanting help!

In covering planes I might purchase for general use repairing instruments, it also came back to care of the blade.  The Lie-Nielsen honing guide is the nicest piece of sharpening equipment in the business.  After the demonstration plane had its blade sharpened, staff was removing hair-thin wisps of ribbon from a block of maple.  The wood was left mirror-smooth.  Amazing!

Their chisels?  $55 buys you the nicest wood chisel in the world.  The feel is heavenly, the machining impeccable, and the quality of the metal, unbeatable.

Luxury items or wood shop essentials?  Maybe both, but it’s a tool you’ll have the rest of your life.  I bought the scrapers.  Next big job, a Lie-Nielsen hand plane, a chisel, and sharpening tools are joining the bench!

American Style

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My favorite shoes

Good taste doesn’t cost a lot.  Great style never goes out of fashion.  Flashy is for other people.

A family friend I’d see at holidays and birthdays wore the same loafers year after year.  Plain, leather, hand-sewn.  From a respectable New England cordwainer.  His loafers developed the most wonderful patina, the soft leather fitting his stride and personality.  In the absence of a better word, they were best described as cool.  

He was of remarkable perspicacity.  A man everyone admired.  I tried to understand his cool disposition and viewpoints from the ground up.  Starting, naturally, with his taste in shoes.  His chosen manufacturer had skedaddled to foreign production, but Kenny Sherman had several options.

I balked at the price, Kenny danced a bit around the subject, but always came back to quality.  Now over eight years old, my Alden suede loafers, hand-sewn in New England, have proven to be the MOST comfortable shoes on the planet.  And value?  Even at today’s list price, divided by years owned, they’re cheap.

My depth of personality is still under review, but the concept stuck.  Well-made items last longer and provide far more enjoyment of ownership.  My kickers, closing in on a decade old?  Just getting broken in.  Cheers!

Juzek Peg Shaper

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One of the handiest items on my workbench is the Juzek peg shaper.  Nearly every violin in line exhibits peg issues.  An ill-fitted “emergency” peg, in place for decades, inexorably ruining the peg box due to ignorance, empty pockets, or economy.  Absent pegs.  No pegs.  Archaic peg hole taper.

With a peg shaper we’re able to fit a new set of pegs “from scratch” any time we choose.  Last week it almost didn’t happen, though.  What started as a routine shaving experience became a scraping.  Hardwood dust was produced with no significant reduction in peg diameter.

Upon advice from every point of the windrose, we’ve recently delved into the dark arts of metal sharpening.  Just as my forbearers scraped early bronze blades across stone, we remove the peg sharpener’s blade and scrape it across our new Gator Sharpening Stone.

Held at the manufacturer’s proscribed angle, eased by a 99.5% water mixture with natural lubricants added, a circular action was initiated.  Just like on an old Daniel Boone movie.  Three times we reinstall and test.  It works!  Also of import, we’ve learned the limitations of our small one-grit stone.  

Clyde’s Hardware Store, closing its doors forever, managed to save their last stone for me.  My first sharpening stone.  We’ll be adding to our collection in future articles, but for now, we achieve an adequate edge with the Gator.

Special thanks to Philadelphia luthier David Michie.  His customers, Academy Of Music, Curtis, and Kimmel Center musicians, bring him an endless array of stringed instruments for refurbishment and repair.  Cast-off violin pegs from these instruments soften our learning curve and now grace student violins across the Western Hemisphere.

Gator Finishing • Fairborn Ohio

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All good things come to an end.  A proverb of glorious filler to any article!  🙂  Dropped into conversation to make the speaker sound insightful and connected.  A bumper guard which comes out on auto-pilot while trying to think up something more cogent.

Today it refers to a hardware store up the street, nearly within wrist-rocket range.  A 5 minute uphill huff on bicycle.  Clyde’s Home Supplies is closing.  While Sam Clyde doesn’t look it, he is 72, and feels every year.  I’m gently informed He may not look as old as he is as you’re gotten older?   Hmmmmm  ..  ciphering that one out, I think she is saying I’m getting older.

With his Ace Hardware store now offering 60% off, we’re stocking up.  Lots of plumbing and electrical fittings, sheets of sand paper.  And there, on a high shelf, the last sharpening stone they have.  Gator Finishing.  The same brand as the black oxide sandpaper I use.  Calling me.  It’s finally time to learn how to put an edge on my knife.

With a few old blades handy for ruination, I cannot do too much damage with such a small stone.  What I think will happen?  I’ll correct the edge on a chisel a few times, then go speak with the old guy from southern Italy.  More properly, I’ll stand mute, and catch every other word of his barrage.  Then invest in a larger stone.  Big things have small beginnings.

Micro Mesh Abrasive Pads

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The ideal violin neck is subjective.  It changes as you grow, develop, and mature.  Perfect today is old hat tomorrow.  The neck itself moves, as does the fingerboard.  Not as quickly as our tastes but more like a painting of a slow tortoise.

The fingerboard is shaped with a radius across it’s width.  The other direction, parallel with the strings, looks flat.  But it is actually curved.  String height is so low on a violin that without longitudinal concavity – the fingerboard’s scoop – vibrating strings would buzz against the fingerboard.

When a favored fiddler’s favorite fingerboard appeared beyond flat, clearly convex along its length, it was time to learn the art of the scoop.  After chipping up a few natty practice fingerboards, I tried a good one.  It was easier.  Quality wood shaves more cleanly.  “Scraping” of the fingerboard was performed.  Seemingly random, together the strokes produced a concave surface to the fingerboard.  Nearly flat along the high E edge.  Visually pronounced along the low G.  Gradations in between.  Finally, comparison of the newly scooped violin fingerboard with my Products Engineering Corporation straight edge.  Convex no more.  Just the right amount of concavity. 

After the scraping comes the sanding.  Dusty thirsty work with multiple grits of scratch cloth.  220, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1,000.  The glossy finish I want?  The easy way is to dump sealer over it, a thick polymer coating.  But tradition prefers bare wood.  We scraped and sanded the old sealer off the fingerboard during the scooping.  The reshaped wood now prefers special attention.  The musician wants skin-smooth wood under their fingertips.  A natural shine is wanted.

Micro Mesh makes it easy.  With products developed for fine art restoration, our slat of century-old ebony is no challenge.  Working up through the colored grits, the wood begins gleaming at about 6,000 grit.  But do we stop?  No!  All the way to 12,000 grit, buffing like the best Park Avenue manicurist.  The wood shines!

We started using Micro Mesh Buffing Sticks a few years back, touching up a bit of mandolin here and there.  Then discovered an ebony violin nut can be made to shine.  After a few more fingerboard refurbishments, we’re sold on Micro Mesh.  Fingerboard sealers we’ll save for fretted instruments.  All of our fine stringed instrument fingerboards are going out the door bare wood shining.  Sparkling like Eve’s smile ≈≈≈

Health & Happiness

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A CAMPBELL’S SOUP ARTICLE planned this week had to be postponed.  The reference material was eaten before pictures could be taken.  We can report, in preview, sodium levels seem to be lower.  The tester was of the expired variety, not unknown in this house.  A bit tinny but warming with nighttime winds of -15˚ buffeting the windows.

The East Coast has been icebound for days.  We’re informed a heat wave is on its way.  Wind-chill temperatures are expected to soar into the balmy single digits by midday.  Commerce never ground to a complete halt, but was quieted for several revolutions.

Enforced lethargy is about to have its restrictive shell shattered.  After this last cup of java, it is time for severe weather gear.  A broken drain deep under a commercial kitchen floor is keeping Jerry from emptying his mop bucket.  Measure, estimate, sell.  With cast iron work on the horizon, we have another Charlotte article in the making.

Two national lotteries located winners this weekend.  Over a billion annuity dollars dispensed.  Yesterday’s Powerball drawing found a Merrimack NH winner.  Our first thought is of the Anheuser Busch brewery in Merrimack, now producing a delicious Bass Ale for domestic health and consumption.  Over the pond, our cousins report this effort to be passable. 

Two dollars get you balcony seating to dream of millions within a country-sized arena.  It doesn’t take much to feel a winner, though.  A roof, some clothes, a bit of vittles from time to time, someone who cares, and perhaps purpose for the ambitious.  And now, a kick out the door, please.  There’s money to be made.

Mars Spirit Rover

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Closing out 2017, you’d think we have a long-planned article filled with deep thinking and cute anecdotes.  Ha!  Barely able to keep up with dry winter skin and filling the constantly empty cat food bowl – where does he put it? – this week’s installment has taken Second Stage.

Following Andy Weir with a NASA Mars feature seemed appropriate.  Wow, that image from the Mars Spirit Rover (2004) reminds me of Northern Arizona.  How’d you like to drop your orbital vehicle keys out there?  Always something keeping us up from what is planned  ≈

Holiday cheer has slowed digestion, winter winds,  0˚F this very morning,  have stunted typing, and general life activities have crowded thinking.  A reoccurring theme, it is the little things which keep us from reaching our potential.  A drawerful of items rattling about,  a bucket of issues getting knocked over.  Likewise, the little things put us over our potential.  Matched socks.  A tidy refrigerator.  The sidewalk clear from snow.

As amazing as NASA landing a 180 kilogram (400 pound) ATV on the next planet over sounds, they dropped a bigger ride, five times heavier, less than a decade later.  ATB Prediction:  permanent inhabited Mars colony in 80 years.

Here’s to you, the special few,
We lift our mug of jasmine.
With steaming milk and honey too, 
A comfortable companion.

Naturally, we close out 2017 with some great music by Phish:   “Back On The Train” (2000)

When I jumped off, I had a bucket full of thoughts
When I first jumped off, I held that bucket in my hand
Ideas that would take me all around the world
I stood and watched the smoke behind the mountain curl
It took me a long time to get back on the train

Now I’m gone and I’ll never look back again
I’m gone and I’ll never look back at all
You know I’ll never look back again
I turn my face into the howlin’ wind
It took me a long time to get back on the train

See my face in the town that’s flashing by
See me standing at the station in the rain
See me running there beside the car
I left it all behind, again I’ll travel far
It took me a long time to get back on the train

When I jumped off, I had a bucket full of thoughts
When I first jumped off, I held that bucket in my hand
Ideas that would take me all around the world
I stood and watched the smoke behind the mountains curl
It took me a long time to get back on the train
It took me a long time to get back on the train
It took me a long time to get back on the train

The Winter Walk

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Our coffers are as bare as our drafts folder.  Not a farthing to be had for road trips, not a whiff of wit & wisdom nor waft of wistful words this week.  Perusing past articles, we remark again upon this comment from a reader:

Sometimes, amid the beautiful scenery and steady cadence of the horse’s steps and wagon wheels, we forget how the search began and discover pleasures unanticipated.

A budget trip in search of mid-December adventure, a tale of Americana, is undertaken.  We sample the afternoon stroll.  Take the pulse of The City.  Maybe some busking on the accordion.  Conduct a Smiles Count.  A lustrum back it was under 20%, so we have a baseline of sorts.  Well, it is a bit overcast.  Plus we’d have competition from the filming of Tuba Christmas.  Bah!

Onward through Rittenhouse Square in deep contemplation.  Winter brings greater enjoyment of Campbell’s Baked Beans.  We consider an article on this fine example of American entrepreneurship.  We could even do a tie-in with vegan, gluten-free … wait … the pork … oh, traces of wheat …  wow, look at that sodium!  But they sure are good, smothered in hot sauce!

Past the Square, a story continues to elude.  We’re late for Alma’s Christmas party.  Fresh-baked sugar cookies with red and green sprinkles.  Mmmmmmm.  Family and friends.  Happiness and love and forgiveness and compassion.  The “spirit of the holidays” has excellent characteristics which would work year around.  But not all of them, or my waistline would be *burp* light-years round.

Korky Flapper

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Winter weather brings winter water.  Reservoir water sitting out, like the porch cat’s water bowl.  Gets pert’ cold this time of year.  Freezes over, even.  What does that water do to plumbing system innards?  Not a whole lot, if you’ve got good materials.  One component you do not want failing?  The flapper inside your toilet tank.  The part that opens to let the toilet flush, and closes to let the tank refill.

In 1954 Korky invented the first toilet flapper.  This technology is still used today.  Their current reliability is so good, Korky warrants their premium product at 5 years.  Ten years for their double super premium ‘Ultra’ product line.

Last week my toilet flapper failed to drop over the flush valve.  It ‘stuck open’ and the tank tried to fill it self all night long.  After morning coffee, I didn’t hesitate.  Picking up a new radiator valve for Widow Baxter, I had Mike toss a couple of Korkys into the sack.  Replacement was fast and easy.  The old red Korky had an accumulation of minerals on it but the rubber was still pliable.  Yes, I probably could have cleaned and reinstalled it, but a few bucks for another lustrum or longer of reliability?  No brainer.

The Korky premium toilet tank flapper, made with chlorine resistant rubber.  This basic component of modern life has done as much to promote health, convenience, and conservation as refrigerated food.  Six Thumbs Up to Lavelle Industries of Burlington, Wisconsin!

Chlorazone® rubber is Lavelle’s proprietary family of elastomeric formulations that is specifically designed to withstand chemicals found naturally in water or added to it by municipal treatment facilities. Introduced in 1990, it was the first chlorine-resistant material made available for plumbing applications.  Lavelle

SureFire Headlamps

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Four years ago we eagerly put the spotlight on one of America’s finest headlamps, a SureFire variable output LED model.  This same headlamp has delved into dank dripping sub-basements,  explored maze-like warrens of cells within former workhouses, and camped along a raging Gardner River atop the Wyoming-Montana border.  We’ve even inched upon glutes and blades in such cramped quarters, a pipe or two had to be removed.

The only thing my 2012 SureFire Minimus has NOT done is fail to work perfectly.  A few blinks tells me the SureFire CR123 battery is ending its usefulness.  Dial down the output and prepare to swap its single battery.

My 2012 model has endured such intense duty, I had to acquire a new elastic adjustable headband.  The up-down swivel is getting a little loose in its carriage but is not yet an issue.  Without a doubt, this flashlight is one of the most useful items in my tool satchel.  What could be better than the Surefire Minimus?  How about a second Surefire Minimus.

The opportunity appeared to acquire a copy gifted in 2013.  While mine has gone through boxes of batteries, this one has consumed only one.  50 hours runtime maximum on this Minimus.  Its knurled aluminum clean, deep into the checkering.  Headband virtually unused.  Battery compartment has that new equipment smell.

There’s no excuse to clearly see problems and issues now.  Surefire lights my way.

The SureFire Minimus Vision Variable-Output LED Headlamp has been upgraded, replaced by a headlamp with FOUR TIMES the output while achieving even better battery life.  HS2-MV-A-BK  surefire.com

Mill-Rose Abrasive Cloth

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Back in the day, working with top quality materials was normal, an everyday affair.  There was demand for the best, local supply houses stocked the best, tradespeople used the best.  Then came the wave of Big Box Home Centers.  Pennies, and soon dollars, were pinched off every job.  Available materials became more generic.  But in doing our best, doesn’t that start with the best tools and materials?

A renovation job was going south.  Repiping a bathroom from below, I discover grout or thinset (the sticky mortar in which one sets tiles) followed a copper water supply pipe through its floor penetration.  The mortar was attached rock solid to the copper.  Tight quarters for polishing copper preparatory to soldering, the proverbial & literal ‘rock and a hard place’.  My assistant went at it with his ‘standard quality’ scratch cloth, but halfway materials produce halfway results.  Time to break out the good stuff.

MILL-ROSE

Into my torch bag I retrieved a length of blue scratch cloth.  Waterproof, for what is plumbing if not dealing with water?  Linen-backed, giving this 120-J grit scratch cloth long-lasting flexibility.  The same cloth I’ve trusted for decades.  Mill-Rose.

When it’s time to take it all off, I reach for the world leader in abrasive scratch cloth.  Copper oxides are but a memory to this durable abrasive cloth.  Paint is pulverized.  The mortar on our copper?  Back into dust.  (Yes, I wear a respirator on every job!)  The ability to overcome any obstacle, that is where the quality of Mill-Rose shines.

Leave nothing to chance.  When it’s time to replenish supplies,  don’t take what is offered.  Ask your supply house for Mill-Rose.

 

 

Yuengling Traditional Lager

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Serendipity.  A silly word.  Pretentious in all its syllables.  Plumbers and purveyors of ice cream think of “dip wells”, where an ice cream scooper rests under a perpetual flow of water between customers.  The office staff had their ideas:  Pink Oxford, plaid pants.  Croquet on the south lawn with Buffy and Trevor”.  Whatever all that means.  Maybe its time for their tea and biscuits.

Our glorious local library, stocked with DVDs from world-wide TV series, recently acquired 800 Words of New Zealand fame.  The word serendipity came up.  With an actual definition (according to their editors). 

Serendipity is a word coined over 250 years ago by the English author Horace Walpole from the title of a fairytale in which the heroes were always making discoveries by accident.  –  George, 800 Words.  Season 2, Part I, Episode 4.

While taking a break from convoluted inter-cabinet quad coiling during the installation of a T&S Brass glass filler at a local college *hic* institution, I strolled the aisle between bar and beer merchandiser.  And upon the morning buffet table spied a new, most impressive wall clock.  “The kids broke the old one.  Brian just got this.  We have to hang it”, explains Bonnie.

A beautiful, brand new Yuengling neon wall clock manufactured in Perryopolis PA.  The same clock company featured last week.  The beer of my formative years.  No ATB article yet on tap.  Content drops onto my mental keyboard.  “Order up“,  I imagine Hanif calling through the kitchen window.

America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling, of Pottsville PA, buys their promotional clocks in Perryopolis.  Yuengling Traditional Lager, elixir of the Gods, a perfect mate to pizza, pretzels, and stuffed Italian hoagies, immortalized upon a beautiful 20″ neon clock.  Logo expertly screened onto sheet aluminum.  Powder coat exterior finish.  Optical glass – will not “yellow” over time – secured to the bezel with industrial epoxy.  A real gem of a clock.  Magnificent craftsmanship.  The picky plumber finds not a single hair out-of-place.  SIX thumbs up to all!!!

What about this serendipity stuff?  I’ve almost forgotten myself.  It was having no piece completed for deadline, installing one American-made product, and seeing another which worked better for the article.  Sort of like desert to last week’s main course.  Discovered in a fine 5th generation restaurant.  Cheers!

Image Time • Perryopolis PA

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You never know what can be learned with eyes open to your surroundings.  So many people bury their faces toward sophisticated electronic gadgets.  Do they escape opportunities to exercise imagination?  Prepare for the future by exploring the past?

A typical service station waiting room appears the perfect nest of boredom.  Whip out “phones”, text furiously to important people, pace outside, shout into a line mic while gesturing animatedly.  Yes, you ARE important, you tell the world.  But maybe time waiting is time to think?  Introspection has its rewards.

Full circle was I rewarded recently by keeping the phone in its pocket.  With phoneless pacing at the tire shop I’m able to admire this handsome wall clock from all angles.  Smiles as its origin is discovered.  Right here in the Keystone State!  Pics are snapped and filed.  The thought of an article?  Not yet.

“Don’t Give Up the Ship”

But what is this Perryopolis?  Surrounded by the finest Greek pizzerias outside Italy, I’m confident of the town’s origins.  WRONG!  Perryopolis was named for 28-year old Hero Of Lake Erie, Oliver Hazard Perry.  The town?  Laid out by George Washington himself, called New Boston at the time.  

Big SMILING thumbs up for making the finest marketing clocks, Image Time!  Continental / General Tire picked a winner!  Wow, more delicious history exposed.  Uncle Jerry worked at a beer distributor his whole life, bringing home plaster Rolling Rock displays and the occasional wall clock.  Bet the clocks were made by Image Time!

Behlen Behkol Solvent

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Whiskey is for drinking.  Water content is for fighting over.

When it’s time to booze up, we have many choices.  Clyde stocks gallons of generic hooch.  With adult-proof lid, can rust, and drippy spout, we may buy in desperation or ignorance but regret our choice.  Acquire in haste, repent in leisure.

We’re dabbling into the arcane world of spirit varnishes and stains.  After the tool sharpening guy from Southern Italy insulted me, it’s likely I’ve transcended the hobbyist.  Genuine need for solvent worthy of a professional spurs investigation.

Internet research brings to mind Fido chasing his tail.  More opinions than the autumn leaves we crunch across during an evening stroll.  To filter flow & clarify consumption, we contact National Finishes Expert Phillip Pritchard and confirm what we suspect.  Hunches are backed with facts.  Myths dispelled.  When it is time to get our Varnish On, there is only one choice.  The professional choice.  Behkol.

We ask Phillip the advantages of Behlen spirit solvent over 190 proof hooch or hardware store quality denatured alcohol, when working with spirit varnishes.  We cannot possibly paraphrase Phillip’s wisdom;  an excellent quote you will have! – ATB

190 PROOF HOOCH IS 95% ethanol and 5% water.  It is designed for drinking purposes, best enjoyed after applying your finish.  Off the shelf denatured alcohol, sold primarily as a cleaning solvent, is a high concentration of ethanol and enough denaturant to prevent human consumption.  Alcohol is hydroscopic and naturally draws water from the environment; in a general purpose cleaning solvent it should pose no harm but there’s no telling how much water it contains.  

Behlen Behkol Solvent also contains a high concentration of ethanol, but it’s carefully sourced and controlled for minimal water content.  The denaturant used is less toxic than other common choices.  We add a stabilizing solvent to provide a greater shelf life for your dissolved shellac.  All solvents used in Behkol are alcohols and are carefully selected for better shellac compatibility.  This does add cost to Behkol Solvent, but it is purposely formulated for use as a shellac solvent, eliminates solvent related issues and provides higher performance when finishing with shellac.  –  Phillip Pritchard

Hartz Flea Collars

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Some like a consistently predictable & conforming life.  With bouts on the wild side.  My porch cat is an example.  While bucolic autumn afternoons beneath the maple out front are his norm, he is up to something other times.  Despite an inflated show of chasing cats off his patch, there is evidence he may be hanging with the wrong crowd.  He wouldn’t be the first cat to take a trip under the fence.

When that happens, FTIs can follow.  The dreaded transmitted feline issues.  A rare case of fleas, it seems.  Rare, because he gets the liquid on his nape.  As a Russian Blue -he identifies as Ossetian- his thick fur offers protection.  In general, he keeps his snout clean.

But fleas there were.  Banished outside for a spell, I went on attack with 20 Mule Team Borax about his crate.  And collared his condition with the name everyone trusts.  Hartz.

Back to the laid-back loafer lifestyle, his significant belly swings with a little more amplitude.  Even more cool on block patrol.  A Hartz collar is a status symbol.  His prosperous look provides him envious stares, but his Hartz collar sends a message.  He’s got health care.

Buck Bros. Woodworking Tools

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I’d seen it before.  The guy on a PBS woodworking show.  30 minutes of fantasy.  How easily shavings magically fall from his project.  Was he carving balsa wood?

When finally I tried it, complete disaster.  Chunks of wood removed.  Deep divots.  Chisel following grain instead of my will.  I accept the truth.  Repressed for years,  it is time to face fact.  My chisels are not sharp enough.

I had been putting this off even longer than learning the art of flossing back molars.  Yet it was not a girlfriends’ insistence this time.  An older woman’s beckoning desires had me considering the sharper edge.

This old violin wants her bushing pegs trimmed close.  Flush close.  Pink skin on a chilly autumn morning close.  But leave the surrounding wood intact.  A visit with the old guy from Southern Italy is more than helpful.

Antonio eyes my chisel suspiciously.  It looks remarkably like a combination spackle knife, pry bar, hole punch, and packing iron.  Respectfully he does not toss it into the rubbish bin, but brushing it aside, places a newspaper-wrapped parcel upon the counter.  Lunch?

Here is a sharp chisel.  This is what you need, he tells me with many extra syllables.  Wow, is this refurbished chisel sharp!  Back at the table, boxwood bushing pegs are conquered.  Slicing against the grain, wafer-thin shavings appear.  Translucent, they remind me of ginger root prepared for tea.  Only thinner.  

The following week, taking my new chisel back for consultation, Antonio animatedly launches into a general attack upon all tradespeople.  I am lumped into “all tradespeople”.  A satisfying classification.  I am one of many, using the tool wrong.  Backwards.  Upside down.  With no formal training, I accept the professional sharpener’s compliment.  We’ve made it to the big time.

Ceramic Source ◊ USA Mugs

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The recent package from International Violin included a surprise.  Only one thing could be more useful than a larger table.  What did Denny Wise include?

The timely delivery of a D’Addario & Co. promotional mug.  As with everything they do, even their mugs are of screamingly good quality.  I extract the mug from packaging and pour out my order of small luthier parts, cleverly included inside the cup.  Upon the bottom of the cup, a welcome sight:  The Stars & Bars circled by the name Ceramic Source.

Usually I see the D’Addario logo about once a week, stringing up a fresh victim upon the table.  It’ll be every day now.  And every evening washing up, the Ceramic Source logo. Thumbs up!

Hey, didn’t Ceramic Source also do the mugs for Old City Coffee?

Zona Razor Saws

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The 1860s violin had a rough life.  Through celebration and funeral,  joy and woe,  work and pleasure,  countless songs found voice.  Probably a trade instrument, sold to one of the trade musicians who supplied background, accompaniment, and main attractions before radio.

First to a right-handed player and later to a southpaw, a well-penciled calendar kept this fiddle busy for decades.  At some point, perhaps in the 1920s, the peg box could take no more abuse.  Donated to a church, and into a closet it rested, used as backup to the backup.

Neighborhoods change.  The church moved.  At their giant rummage sale this gem made its way onto a long folding table covered with relics.  Purchased and sold yet again, changing hands from New England into the Keystone was a welcome destiny.  This time not to play second fiddle.  She is getting the full spa treatment!

Everything looks wrong for this wandering minstrel, but she has backbone and spunk.  Incense wafts from the f-holes, Alma Pané informs me.  Hmmmmm!  Mystery solved?  As I ream the peg holes to round, the intriguing smell released from its wood finally explained ~ ~

She’s getting peg hole bushings.  I ream the peg holes back to round, insert and glue fitted boxwood peg hole bushings into the holes, and cut them flush with the peg box.  Then the bushings get drilled and reamed for new pegs.  A lovely experience for any fiddle, the excitement of momentarily returning to life as a violin!  But those protrusions of extra bushing are not going to surrender placement without a fight.

Just in time, I discover Zona and their lovely razor saws.  With this precision blade I’m able to safely cut within a couple hundredths of the peg box.  Far less wood to slice away with my chisel.  Papa always said, “Stick with what you’re good at”.  I’m better at cutting wood than shaving wood, so there you go!

1860 nears completion.  With D’Addario 4/4 Helicore Low Tension strings, 1860 will again be kicking up the hootenanny and serenading lovers, young and old.

Oatey Epoxy Putty

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What is a tube of epoxy doing on the luthier’s table?  Life is not all work, a swirl of fiddles and prima balalaikas.  Hobbies are also important, like plumbing and wall-papering.

Recently the emergency call went out from Francis Salon.  Inexplicably a rinse hose at their shampoo station periodically sprays into the room!  A mystery worthy of Star Trek but sorted out soon enough.  Of more intriguing interest is a blow dryer headed for the rubbish bin.  Dropped on its tail, backbone smashed, its destiny the American cure.  Throw it out and buy another.

In the business of fixing anything, the dryer is rescued and queued for table service.  Bill’s centenarian violin shipped, an 1860s trade violin pushed aside, the fractured Francis Salon blow dryer takes its eager place.  The same temporary cure to a cast iron rain pipe last year becomes a permanent cure for Alma Pané.  A piece of Oatey two part epoxy is sliced off the roll, kneaded for a minute within nitrile-clad hands, then pushed into the hair dryer’s fractured handle.  In minutes the epoxy cures, becoming harder than the plastic grip, a chemical Forever Bond.

Payment via Greek salad fresh from Alma’s garden settles nicely in my belly.  I’m wondering how to record this on my accounting ledger as gratuity is accepted.  At least I’ll be presentable at the IRS audit, with trim hair and shaven neck.  

Texting, American Style

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ATB ORBITAL VEHICLE  –  We decide to postpone reentry due to Hurricane Irma.  Friends far below evacuate or hunker down.  Decisions made for better or worse.  Thirst for news has the internet chunking and stuttering.  Texting seems most reliable.

As do people the world over, Americans love their phones.  Big or small.  Full service or voice and text only.  The younger generation are the ones with faces buried into phone screens. Overlooked are the more -ahem- mature among us.  We love our phones as well.  Texting has hit an all-time popularity among those sending affectionate notes to one another all day and night.  And no one does it like the older generation.  Because we have a secret.

Instead of looking for the next hookup, we cultivate trust and harvest love with our chosen.  It’s a maturity thing, kids.  Coming soon to you in a few years.

Initialisms are the future.  When you see an octogenarian walking through the park, smiling, looking starry-eyed at her phone, her guy probably just texted NKNC  (Neck kisses and caresses).  Maybe it is a hookup.  You are never too old.  More probably, a long-term relationship based on respect and trust.  

La Roche-Posay

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It sounds French.  Men may think it a type of wine.  Women, all-knowing, recognize the name from medical professional’s offices.   Sounds logical but not quite the truth.

Originally sold only within dermatologist and plastic surgeon’s offices, the best sunscreens in the world went retail ten years ago.  L’Oréal USA does not advertise La Roche-Posay.  High consumer report ratings and doctor recommendations have helped establish favorable market share.  But possibly the most important factor in this product line’s success?  Quality.

After “borrowing” a tube of La Roche Posay from a client while in the field, I note its comfort and protection.  After days of use, my usual daily burn is absent.  Once discovered, I became a quick convert.

We asked Mary, customer service majordomo and chief marketing strategist at L’Oréal USA, “What is the company known for?”  (paraphrased)  Quality.  R&D.  We take pride in the research and development we put into all of our products.  Diversity of product.  We’re the largest cosmetic company in world, and we make a product for all price points.  From personal experience, I’ve noted economy sunscreen stings, even causing a rash.  The cost of quality?  I don’t notice it.

Mary leaks a secret.  Calls to customer care are roughly split, 50/50.  Women and men both want to care for their skin.  Guess men like product as much as women. 🙂

Crest vs Colgate

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Bang bang, you’re dead.
Brush your teeth and go to bed.
Camp song

Children’s songs of folklore try to instill regular habits.  Giving thanks before meals.  The avoidance of blinding a friend in game.  Within fifty variations among a dozen generations, this camp song has reenforced, “Brush yer teeth.”  The cost of underbrushing.  Perils of over-brushing.

Good habits as kids carry over to good habits as adults.  Same for product.  Within the dental products aisle of our local market stretch options so vast one may forget that for which they came, blinded by the glamour of choice.

Artisanal, homeopathic, organic, PETA-approved … some linger in this aisle, confused, dreamy, excited, like a cat in a strange garret.  Sexual delights anticipated, amplified by their newly pearlescent teeth and licorice anisette breath.  Blind to marketing gimmicks, they buy the sizzle, brushing with false hope.  “Grandma’s Special Recipe” toothpaste at three times the price but without the drop of turpentine she concealed as her secret ingredient.

Back to basic.  Back to trust every time for me.  Crest as a kid, Crest now.  The name ‘Crest‘ means  “Research. Development. Testing. Quality.”  Not a garage concoction tubed, boxed, and sold out of a station wagon by Felix and his cousin, but a real product developed by professionals, extensively tested, with impeccable quality control.

Sometimes I’ll buy Colgate.  Same trust.  Do I lean towards one?  Sure, but either is fine.  In all my decades as a shopper, I’ve only bought a different paste once.  It’s still in its box in the cellar, half full, the properties unneeded.

Don’t forget to floss.

Most domestic consumption Crest is made in Greensboro, North Carolina.  My last tube of Colgate was made in Morristown Tennessee.  Occasionally you’ll get a tube of Crest manufactured in Nuacalpan, Mexico, differentiated by a foil seal beneath the cap. Colgate also has manufacturing in Mexico.  Both manufacturers sell primarily domestic production within the ‘States.

Gerber Covert Folder

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It is the perfect tool.  Large enough to achieve firm grip. Slim enough to carry everywhere.  Safe enough not to collapse into your fingers when the cutting gets tough.  The Gerber Covert Folder.

Based on the classic Applegate-Fairbairn fixed knife, the Covert is a 3/4 scale, pocket clip version of the Gerber original Applegate-Fairbairn Combat Folder.  Gerber

When my niece says, “Why do you always carry a knife”?,  she forgets she’s never asked,  “Why don’t you have your knife?”.  As the most important invention ever developed (along with its derivatives),  everyday living would be far different without the sharpened blade.  Walking down your steps (the saw and lathe) to breakfast cereal (scythe) in your stone house (the chisel), a free American (the sword) may think little of the knife’s importance.

Several times a day as a tradesperson I reach for my Gerber to resolve an issue.  Expand my view.  Nudge or persuade the reluctant in a manner my finger cannot.  Whether tight quarters or dangerously jagged obstructions, the Gerber has a way of poking its business end into the issue,  demanding quarter.  Recalcitrant material usually gives way.  Uncle!

It is the perfect tool.  And the perfect gift.

There’s always a ⅜” x 8″ Craftsman slotted screwdriver and Estwing hammer should more persuasion be wanted …

Nalgene N-Gen

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Sticking with the current theme of cooling off, hydration is the topic.  As natural as a glass of clean iced water on a hot summer day.  “You can’t take it with you” does not apply.

Everywhere I go, my Nalgene is in tow.  Fast rotation in the ‘fridge, or tepid tap, either does what the body cannot:  add water to the machine.  With current mid-summer weather, it is more important than ever to replenish this life-giving juice and basis of all chemical reaction in the body, water.

30OZ N-GEN  With three bottles in use, I’m usually well fixed.  But summer gift-giving approaches.   What to present a 14-year-old man-boy on his birthday?  Something cool and electronic?  An airplane model?  Swatch watch?  My call goes into the void, and echoes back, “An American-made water bottle”.  Nalgene, naturally.

Like potato chips, batting practice, or lýtkový řízek, I cannot stop at one.  I buy five.  Still free deliver on any order over $10.  For these gifts, a thin stack  of currency is traded.

At unwrapping, I learn my nephew recently acquired a new water bottle, but six is better!  With five from which to choose, he favors a match to his Swatch  (Accessorizing already?  No wonder the chicks dig him.  Smart lad.)  With plenty to share, his sister and cousins are ecstatic.  The cost of teaching generosity?  Priceless.

Nalgene.  Made in the USA, stylish, sleek, and affordable.

THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC

Bradford White

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From far back, I’ve heard the brand Bradford White repeated daily.  Plumbing distributor purchases.  Installations.  Pre-internet, the boss tracking down warranty information.  Visiting BWC’s distribution warehouse.  

Home Center mania pushed into the contractor supply business, selling cheaper and more expensive water heaters.  No qualifications required to buy, install or repair.  What could possibly go wrong?  Ask yourself that the next time you hear of a residence completely obliterated in a gas explosion.

It is Bradford White for me.  Manufactured with superior components.  The best controls in the industry with readily available parts.  All-brass drain valves.  Sturdy packaging.  Integrated piezo igniters, which means no more matches.  Fantastic performance, strong warranties, and world-class support.

Bradford White makes products for the professional.  You won’t find our water heaters, boilers or tanks at the local retail center where unsafe, corner-cutting installations frequently occur to save a few dollars. – BWC

Headquartered up the road, Pennsylvania is proud to host Bradford White‘s corporate offices in Ambler.  Manufactured in our heartland,  Middleville Michigan produces the final product.  Excellent distribution.  Any size, any feature, it is only hours or perhaps a day or two away.  Professional engineering and manufacturing for the plumbing professional.

Ettore Squeegee

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Almost three decades ago this young pup was called upon to clean some windows.  An idea blossomed to do my cleaning the way professionals do theirs – with professional-quality implements and techniques.  Storefront windows are large expanses of glass.  A large squeegee was wanted.

Within a dedicated commercial cleaning supplies company, choices were examined.  Brass components seemed best.  I chose an 18″ model which looked fully serviceable.  Sleek, elegant, well-balanced.  Excellent duty this squeegee did.  After proper scrubbing a streak-free glass surface was obtained.

Eventually I left the storefront.  The squeegee tagged along, to be rediscovered years later.  A glass shower enclosure wanted a professionally cleaned look.  The squeegee worked before, so I tried it again.  Time had not been kind to the rubber insert.  Back to the same supply company, where they sold insert by the foot.

Not knowing any better, I took what they sold.  Which was ill-fitting, poorly formulated, immediately left streaks, and quickly began leaving black smudges.  Lets be clear.  The OEM insert lasted years of light use and performed perfectly.  The replacement never gave satisfaction.  Research was in order.

Originally purchased was the Cadillac of squeegees, an Ettore, produced by the leader in such products.  An American Dream story of manufacturing.  Immigrant has invention then is spurned by manufacturers and vendors.  Immigrant markets invention, becomes successful, dominates the market long after patent runs out.  Initially balance and design won converts.  But the streak-free glass … what was that about?  The secret rubber formula of the squeegee insert!

Back to OEM I go.  For about the SAME cost as a cheap import squeegee insert, I buy a genuine Ettore insert.  My 18″ Ettore is back to full function.  A perfect product.

Buy a flute and you own a flute. Buy a professional squeegee and you’re a professional window washer.   Abraham Lincoln, 1853

Fiebing’s Saddle Soap

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Rehabbing old properties sounds glamorous but it’s dirty business.  Smacking everything apart and returning it to rights makes of mess of clothes and boots.  Clothes go into the Maytag.  The boots?  Special care is required.  Like we learn in the Army, you gotta take care of your feet.  That means taking care of your boots.  When the dust settles, I return my boots to factory specification.  A good cleaning, then boot oil.

For cleaning,  I continue a family tradition, trusting the same company my great-grandfather trusted with his farrier business.  Since 1895, the Fiebing Company has been manufacturing high quality Horse Care, Shoe Care and Leather Care products in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. – Fiebing

First a strong hose to remove mud and concrete dust, blood and sweat.  An old kitchen pad rubbed about in dampened Fiebing’s Saddle Soap gives me a hearty lather for sturdy scrubbing.  After a good rinse and a day for the leather to dry, its time to hydrate.  

Red Wing Boot Oil came with the Red Wing boots.  It sat for years as earlier boots crumbled into tatters.  Finally Redfern explained to me in simple terms I could remember. “You’ve got to keep the leather oiled”.  My current #1 pair of Red Wings are over a decade old, factory-resoled once.  The #2 pair, still almost dressy, six months.

Alternate days gets alternate boots.  They both get the same care. Keep’em clean with soap and water, and when the dirt becomes embedded, Fiebing’s Saddle Soap then a good boot oil.

General Tire

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Four harsh Pennsylvania winters have come and gone.  My truck tires started to feel like I would after buried in ice and snow several months a year.  Stiff & brittle.  OEM tires on American trucks are not performance tires, they’re work tires.  And work they did, perfectly, for four years and 50,000 miles.

I’d been researching tires for the past 18 months.  With 5/16″ remaining tread and even wear, my rubber is fine on dry pavement.  But the desert deluge and spring snowstorm?  Anything can be encountered within our duties maintaining this American products online resource.

Narrowing the field is easier than expected.  Noise and traction ratings were studied.  Forums consulted.  Experts queried.  My truck’s OEM tire, General Tire’s Grabber HTS,  is better than ever.  General manufactures worldwide but my Grabbers are domestic production, Mount Vernon, Illinois.  There’s even a new Grabber HTS60 manufactured in Sumter, South Carolina.

We went with OEM.  Our local Continental dealer gave us great pricing on a new set, mounted and balanced.  Immediately thereafter we embarked on a 6,000 mile adventure.  Two-lane highways preferred.  Through New Mexico deserts, a Wyoming snow and ice storm, and wind-swept plains of Montana and South Dakota.  Perfect traction and quiet.  Six Thumbs Up experience!

Surefire

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Dave Holland said, “Go ahead and fish in the (Yellowstone) River”.  Fishing permit lacking.  His parcel abutted the old Gardiner / Mammoth pump house, he owned the pump house, and the pump house deed ran to the middle of the river.  Fish & Game could pound sand, he declared.  Sounds like he was looking for a showdown.  Which never happened.

Dave is hooking another worm with Curt.  Time moves forward.  Again I find myself along the 45th Parallel, at Mammoth Hot Springs campground.  Better equipped, this time.  Spoiled, even.  

Spoiled with the best headlamp in the world, the Surefire variable output LED.  Guaranteed forever, practically indestructible.  With a bulb life of several generations, this fine bit of engineering and craftsmanship has never failed.

Elk give me more room.  Coyotes run from Man With Third Eye Glowing. A vintage copy of Dostoyevsky can be enjoyed long after ‘quiet time’ is enacted.  A spattering of rain, wind in the trees, the distant Gardner River, and my reliable Surefire.

Badger Balm

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A gift received four years ago sat unused for months.  Need finally arose over a bracing chapped winter.  This balm was found to be superior.  An all-natural salve with pleasant wintergreen finish restored what nature took.  

Before the tin was reduced to a few smears of Badger Balm along the bottom, my restored hands had intersourced * a vendor with reasonable shipping fees.  I’m BACK IN THE BALM again!

That split nail growing from a perpetually cracked cuticle?  Finally, some relief after a couple months of consistent application.  Sub-epidermal exposure through fingertip calluses?  Stick with Badger Balm, and relief will come.  A must have through the winter and all year around!

Bill, what makes it so good?  Our philosophy flows from the ground up. We believe in using botanical ingredients that are grown in healthy soil and processed simply without the use of chemicals. Ingredients like these are filled with life force. They make for better products, for healthier people, and for a healthier planet. Badger Bill Whyte, CEO & Head Badger


*  locate materials or labor via the Internet

Harry’s Shave Cream

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Our publishing deadline is here once again.  More quickly this time around.  As life becomes busier, hectic, and committed, options to slow down remain elusive.  But one ritual can transport you for a few minutes:  the morning shave.

A Barbasol man from ‘way back, gifted shave product traditionally sat unused.  Tried once or twice, they usually seemed gooey or thick.  Turns out I was not reading the directions.  Premium shaving products contains more conditioners  to position your beard and protect the skin.  Unlike the much lighter Barbasol.

This morning with fresh blade, Harry’s Shave Cream brought me, for a few minutes, into a decadent salon.  Natural oils pop with mildly astringent nose, along with conditioners which assist in Zamboni-smooth blade action across my weathered face.  Harry’s CSR will not share their formula secrets except to list ingredients.  Research as I may, the specific plant or tree oil which brings me to reorder Harry’s remains elusive. Unlike a perfect shave, which is now within my grasp.

The whole picture, via Harry’s SMT (social media team):  Thanks so much for your interest in our products! To give you the whole picture: our blades and cartridges are engineered and manufactured in Germany using Swedish steel, our handles are made in China, and our shaving cream is developed at a really cool lab in New Jersey. Every Harry’s item is uniquely designed and produced, but we hope you’ll love them all equally.

Harry’s shipping boxes are of particular genius.  Perfectly sized, sturdy, reusable.  I turn’em inside out and load them up!  Next project?  Take an unpurposed  box, unfold it flat, and have my nieces draw on it.  Then reassemble.  Voilà, first of the Harry’s Collectable Boxes.  You will not know which edition you receive until your order arrives, with instructions:  Kindly unpack your Harry’s premium shave gear for later use. Unfold this box to flat.  Reassemble inside out.  Fill your new Harry’s ART SERIES container with multi-generational treasures and enjoy!

3M Personal Safety Division

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La sécurité n’est pas un accident.

I gear up for another season with that famous French proverb ringing in my ears.  Safety is not an accident.  Eye protection?  Check!  Uxex for me.  Ears?  Hoppes plugs are always within reach and used, even if drilling only one or two holes in concrete.  Lungs?  As they say, when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. 

After several apprentice seasons struggling with disposal breathing masks, I took advice from safety experts at Graingers.  North/Honeywell or 3M are the usual offerings when safety is your top concern.  Decades later, I have and use both brands.  Honeywell for light dust and all day comfort, and the 3M “half-mask” for more involved irritants.

The 3M™ Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6000 Series.  Interchangeable cartridges for protection within different contaminants.  While this unit will not provide oxygen, with the right cartridges, muriatic acid can be handled safely in a well-ventilated area.  With the pictured P100 Particulate Filters, I’m protected against anything the typical construction site stirs up.

Healthy body, healthy mind, restful sleep.