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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“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

Pennsylvania Ballet • Serenade

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Pennsylvania Ballet • Serenade • Choreographer: George Balanchine

IF YOU WERE permitted one cultural performance your entire life, what would you choose?  The Doors in Madison Square Garden?  Pavarotti singing below the Eiffel Tower?  A recital of wooden flute in an Aurignacian cave?

After attending the first ballet performance of my life, I can attest there is one answer only to this question:  a ballet performance of Serenade.  

“Now, hold on a minute”, you are probably thinking.  Just who is this George fella?  George Balanchine was the finest choreographer that ever lived, says just about everyone who studies this for a living.  “And what, exactly, is this Serenade?” 

Backing up a little, we remember Tchaikovsky wrote, in 1880, Serenade for Strings in C.  Inspired by his time in Italy, this piece supremely exhibits a relaxed buoyancy and melodic richness. Perfect, one thinks, for ballet. This piece, however, was not written for Mr. Balanchine. Sadly, by eleven years, the two men missed the other’s worldly existence.

A few decades later, as a young man, Mr. Balanchine heard Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, and wrote, to accompany this music, a perfect dance he also called Serenade.  To answer your question, finally, Serenade, first performed in 1934, is a ballet by George Balanchine to Tchaikovsky’s  Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48.

Tchaikovsky’s score is fulfilling and romantic; the ballet performance is this but so much more.  Beauty and grace one rarely encounters in a world of survival comes alive through the imagination and vision of one man.  The dance designed by Mr. Balanchine will transport one in a manner the Manly Man, hiding tears, may not acknowledge.  Women, however, will openly be thankful for the beauty of all Mankind.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in Serenade, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. | Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

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Chinook Winds Bison Yarn and Fiber • MONTANA

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Chinook Winds harvests fiber from bison, or buffalo as they are commonly called,  then blends the fiber with varying amounts of alpaca and/or wool.

All fibers come from animals  raised on South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming ranches.  The fibers are processed at regional and US owned mills. Once the yarn comes back from the mill, it is sold in its own beautiful natural colors or kettle-dyed and handpainted in deep rich tones.

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 Why am I so excited?

Because Heather had some extra time, bottled up on her farm in Iowa, during this famously cold winter. And I asked, very nicely, if she’s knit me an extra warm watch cap with extra special yarn. AND IT’S DONE !!!!! 

It’s 70% Rambouillet which is one of the softest wools with high crimp for warmth and bounce, 25% bison which is strong, light, warm, and soft with a micron count comparable to good cashmere, and 5% Suri which is strong, light, warm, and soft.   There are two types of alpacas, and Suri makes up only about 10% of the total population. – Heather

Hats by Heather of Iowa. From $55 to $225 delivered. This example cost $125.

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¡Ay, caramba! Cara Cara CARA !!!

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WE ARE officially in mid-season for one of my favorite Venezuelan imports! Discovered at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Valencia, this  cross between the Washington navel and the DSCF2780Brazilian Bahia navel is a phenomenal treat.

You don’t like oranges? You’ll love the cara cara, regardless. Slice one up! Go ahead, I dare you ! The carpels tear cleanly off the pericarp and melt in your mouth in a complex explosion evoking notes of cherry, rose petal, orange, and blackberry. Carpels, you ask? HCeLFThat’s the flesh of the fruit, also called the segments. The inner core is the pith, and even that didn’t go to waste in the orange I just consumed. This cara cara was $1.25 at Wegmans, and well worth it!

Meiser Tire Pressure Gauge

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Pressure Drop   Toots & The Maytals

LONG long ago, a son gave to his father the nicest tire pressure gauge one could get from the auto supply store. It was made in the USA, and featured a hose and easy-to-hold brass chuck. But the father didn’t straight on tablebother with tire pressures; he allowed the garage to handle any and all routine maintenance. So, as often happens after the best intentions, the gauge was given back to the son several year later with a rueful excuse and a smile.

I used the gauge for over two decades before something went amiss. It began giving off-readings, telling me a tire was flat when visual inspection clearly showed a healthy sidewall. What to do? Meiser, the manufacturer, apparently had all their domestic market product made in China, sold under the Accugauge label.

I called Meiser, and discovered the gauge had a lifetime warranty. “If I would only mail it in with $3 return postage, they would repair or replace the product.” WHAT? No, sir, I want the gauge repaired. “Fine. Note that you want REPAIR, NOT REPLACE on your contact information.”made in usa

“Why don’t you make gauges here anymore”, I asked. The short answer was that their distributor stopped carrying domestic production gauges, so production stopped. I offered to take over sales, accepted the financial impact of a one hundred gauge order, and began selling them on eBay and sportsmen’s forums. The venture, after postage, fees, and promotional samples, does not make any money. But Meiser is very pleased to keep their guys busy, and Meiser’s suppliers can’t but feel the same way. Buyers invariably rave about the quality.

Never has an unfavorable comment been received. A quality gauge and a fair price