Red Wing Work Boots

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Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 5.30.17 PMTHE ROLLICKING ’20s were a grand time in Philadelphia.  Luxury “flats” stretched entire blocks.  Inside these aristocratic apartments, room after room unfolded in a maze. As an apprentice plumber, a kid in a man’s body, I once found myself on the 8th floor above 15th and Spruce, snapping a piece of 6″ cast iron pipe. We were replacing part of a cracked stack in just such a grande dame near the Academy of Music. 

Snap! Crack! Ouch! . . . wait, what happened? The pipe jumped forward a funny way, and smacked my ankle.  The boss, grinning through his cigarette smoke, christened me Hoppy, chuckling at the swelling.  A few minutes later, he promised we’d visit Vern at the boot store.  My health benefits were about to kick in.

Vern ran the local Red Wing Boot Store.  For ten bucks, Vern handed me a used but serviceable pair of boots in my size from out back.  I was now officially a plumber, with the boots to match.  8″ of leather protected my ankles.  Sturdy soles protected my arches in the trenches, where I practiced the Art of Digging.  I’ve been buying Red Wing exclusively ever since.

There is a city called Red Wing, in Minnesota.  The heart of a country engrossed with mining, logging and farming needed the Right Boots.  In 1905, local shoe merchant Charles Beckman, along with 14 investors, opened a shoe company to develop work boots to fill industry needs.  A new standard for excellence was born!

My current pair was bought as closeouts a decade ago, and finally put into service a few years back.  After Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.48.37 PMthe heels became mushy, I belatedly discovered these boots were not recraftable.  New boots looked to be in order.  However, a shoe genius located, at all places, the corner of 15th and Spruce, cut off the heels and glued on new ones for $40, saving me a thick stack of crisp Yankee dollars. 

Red Wing is a city in Goodhue County, Minnesota, United States, on the Mississippi River. The population was 16,459 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Goodhue County.

Stolen Prey • john sandford

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Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 7.13.06 PMLET THE TRUTH be told.  I didn’t read the book.  But I was deeply entertained with the fine narration by Richard Ferrone.  Richie’s voice came through my truck speakers, via a library loan of the book on MP3.  I highly recommend an audio book over news stations and most music.

Face it, you don’t need to hear the news.  You don’t want to hear the news.  It is so often mindless content, inflicted by media conglomerates in greedy desire to suffer upon you countless product advertisements for which you have no interest.

The story (yes, we are now back to literary discussions) is a neat tale of a loafer computer dude working at a bank, who discovers a narco criminale’s bank account.  Humm. Easy pickings!  Back door, multiple wire transfers, buy lots of gold.  Scram!  Easy!  Done!  Not!

Then comes the DEA, the Mexican Federales, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, 22 million in gold, the narcos, and of course,  Lucas Davenport.  John Sandford writes an exceptionally successful and hugely popular series (judging by the number of his books at the library!) featuring Lucas Davenport, an agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.  Lucas has BUCK$, wears Italian loafers, and drives a Porsche.  Clearly, your typical law enforcement officer.

What I liked about the story was that it was simple enough to be believable, but had enough twists to keep me guessing.  The story line was never lost or disjointed, which is great when listening a few minutes at a time.  The bad guys got their just deserts (some of them) and the deserving got theirs.  Most importantly, the humor is supreme.  So are both storytellers.

Burt’s vs. Badger vs. Boticario

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The great hand-cream discussion, continued . . . 

IN THE COURSE of human events, the typical male receives several containers of hand cream EVERY YEAR from those who know better.  So it sits.  And sits.  And sits.  The Burt’s pictured above, I received . . . ten years ago?  Maybe longer?  The Badger Balm is a year old, and I just opened it.  The fancy stuff, the Boticario, was a holiday gift which I do not use.  But here are the basics of hand cream for males:

Burt’s  –  Waxy but effective.  Great for landscapers.

Badger  –  Fantastic in a medicated manner.  Perfect for the semi-retired plumber.

Boticario  –  A bit more water-based, so it seems to moisturize and protect less.  The most perfumed.  Excellent choice for the stockbroker who commutes by train, walking to the station in all seasons.

In truth, smaller is better.  Burt’s sells a little green tin of goo I put on my cuticles just before they begin cracking, and that’s enough.  Res-Q Ointment.

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SANDOWN FORGE • Custom Knives

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Felicità raggiunta, si cammina per te sul fil di lama

IMG_1011_zps4279964eTHE KNIFE IS the most important tool ever invented.  Five of the 20 most important tools are derived from the knife (the chisel, the lathe, the saw, the scythe and the sword, in case you are testing your game show skills).  Is it any wonder so many men choose to carry a pocket knife everywhere they go? How handy it is for cutting, prying, poking, and slicing.

IMG_1013_zpsa9a2a766An American knife maker came to my attention through his perfectly proportioned work; graceful blade,  substantial handle, artistic mating of wood to metal. Although not a hunter, I could not resist doubling my collection of fine cutlery with the addition of this knife.

Why own a knife like this?  If you ever go camping (not INSIDE the Franklin Institute with the Boy Scout Troop, mind you), a knife is the #1 tool you’d want to improve your site.  This beauty from Sandown Forge features CM154 stainless steel heat treated to a Rockwell C hardness of 59.  Bad a§§ hard!  Go ahead and hack down the surrounding forest!  You won’t hurt the knife.  A hunter in the family, you say?  This is the perfect belt accessory for wild pigs through bison.  Gotta process the harvest for transport.

And for the gentleman philosopher, tilted back in his office chair after another nail-biting day on Wall Street?  It’s a really well crafted knife, screaming QUALITY.  Great for making your buddies jealous.  A gentle reminder that it’s just a few steps from the trenches, knife in hand, fighting for your life.

1950’s American Craftsman Toolbox

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1950s six sided houseTRIANGULAR properties left over after subdivision may be a burdensome possession to the developer.  Fortunately, there exist the intrepid builder and amateur architect willing to take lemons and create meringue pie.   Passing such a property regularly as I walk to the Post Office, one comes to appreciate, six decades ago, a young man’s vision to mate a six-sided home into a three-sided corner property.

In the mid-1950s, a young cabinetmaker, just married, built this house on newly subdivided farmland a ten minute walk from City Hall.  His practice thrived.  He lived there the remainder of his life. A decade after his
1950’s American Craftsman Toolboxdeath, his house was being cleared out for the next occupant.  Walking by, I struck up a conversation with the laborers, and was offered a glimpse into the basement workshop.  All the tools had been passed to a younger generation.  There remained, however, this nice box made by the cabinetmaker early in his career. Rather than allow the locking aluminum-clad craftsman’s toolbox a one-way trip to the rubbish hauler, I brought it home.  At present, the box stands on it’s end by the corner of my living room, a pedestal to a flower-pot under a window.

1950s American Craftsman Toolbox interior

Brickbat Book’s Benches

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book woodcut 1835

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”Cicero

NewStoolPAT GRAHAM loves books. He collected them from childhood. By the time he was in Art School, his 10,000+ volume collection had becoming cumbersome. The logical solution? Open a shop.

First, with a partner, came Big Jar Books on North 2nd Street, Old City, Philadelphia. Big Jar eventually sold; Pat then opened Brickbat Books on South 4th as a solo-owned boutique collection for the more esoteric among the literaria.

DSCF2747DSCF2742Unto this sparse establishment was lent a collection of wooden benches, platforms, and tables, all carved from lengths of 12″ x 12″ solid oak and poplar. The story, not independently verified, is that a local plumber found a pile of giant landscape ties discarded by a century-old insurance firm in West Philadelphia. Inspired hours with chainsaw, belt sander, and angle-grinder transformed some of the wood into the pictured objets d’art.

The collection has become famous although the identity of the artist remains shrouded in mystery.

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A Peculiar Grace • a novel by jeffrey lent

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What to give a blacksmith?

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 10.17.26 AMWHAT a fantastic book! The detail Mr. Lent incorporates into his main characters’ trade, blacksmithing, is sure to appeal to any tradesman. A solitary man, living alone, living with his demons, rediscovering love. Again, a complex effort by Mr. Lent, which will enrich your life. I invite you to visit any library in America, locate this book of fiction, and try the first three paragraphs in a quiet nook. Time permitting, you’ll sit for the first chapter of 50 pages and leave with the book under your arm.

Jeffrey Lent was born in Vermont and grew up there and in western New York State, on dairy farms powered mainly by lent190draft horses. He lived for many years in North Carolina, an enriching and formative experience.  Lent currently resides with his wife and two daughters in central Vermont. – Grove Atlantic