Monthly Archives: April 2010

Dry Run Dialogue

As I was doing a dry run before gluing the pieces together, the wood and I were chatting.  The subject of football came up and we talked a bit about the pros and then college.  I asked the pieces of my future mallet who his favorite college coach was, and he replied matter, ‘I like Jim Tressel, but my favorite would have to be Woody Hayes.’  I ignored the rare double pun and replied, ‘O…H’ and the hard maple quickly said, ‘I…O’.  It was then and there that I decided that ‘Archie’ would be a good name for the mallet.

The mallet pieces agreed and became excited to get the gluing show on the road.  So I cleaned off the workspace, applied the glue and then clamped ‘Archie’ into mallet form.  I ignored the taunts of the mallet as I tightened the clamps.  He kept saying “Tighter…come on wussy…tighten those clamps like you mean it.”  When the taunting stopped I asked if it was acceptable.  It was and I was about to turn off the light and let the mallet become one, when I remembered that there had been a couple of nice comments about the joke.

“Archie, several of the blog readers indicated that they liked your termite joke.”

Archie seemed pleased by this and said, “Do you think they might like another one?”

“I believe they would…pun intended” I said.   If the mallet had eyes, I am sure that there would have been considerable rolling.

“What does a comedian who is getting a lot of laughs, who is ‘on fire’ as it were, do?”

“I don’t know; what?”

“He should stop, drop and droll.”

I rolled my eyes and turned off the lights.

That was the extent of my woodworking for the evening.

Yesterday, amid all the storms, as I waited for the power to go out and a massive tornado to hurl me out of Jones County, I did some more tweaking of the handle.  Shaping the handle with my selection of tools was a joy.  I have no doubt that using a lathe would have been much quicker, and given a choice, I would have used one.  I was not given that choice.  Having an understanding of what is possible with a 50 grit belt and a belt sander does cause my mind to delight with what might be.

This brings me to the thoughts that have been running through my head.  I have been considering all sorts of projects.  Fanciful thoughts of museum quality pieces dance through my head.  It is hard, but I do try to remind myself that, “One mallet handle does not a Sam Maloof make.”  There is so much more to learn.  I have cut but 5 sets of dovetails.  I need to build something with a drawer in it.  I need to learn how to do inlays, marquetry, carving, many more joints, planning, and to improve in all the areas I have already started to learn.  My understanding of wood is limited at best.  I need to continue to build shop stuff.  If I keep focused on my original goal, I should be ok, but it can be hard.  Talking about it though, is a help.  Thanks for listening.  And by listening I mean reading.

Short Update

With spring one gets flowers, warm weather and brutal storms.  I am watching the news and it appears that Jones county is under a tornado warning.  I decided to do a quick update for the blog, to keep the streak alive.  I don’t know if we might lose power later.

I have done a good job on the mallet I am building.  Last evening and today I have been shaping the handle and have all the pieces for the mallet head, ready to be glued.  I don’t have a spokeshave, so I have been using my belt sander, some rasps, files and my mouse sander.  It isn’t terribly efficient, but it is rare that I have been efficient in my projects.  I am happy with how the handle is turning out, though it would likely look better if I could actually turn a handle.

It sounds like Grinnell has been hit by a tornado and they are saying that I should be going to the basement.  So I need to grab my camera and head outside.  Sorry about the tiny little post, if it is possible, I will add more later.

(It is now a little bit later)

Earlier this evening I spent a bit of time chatting with Jackie and Don.  They fed me strawberries, which were yummy.  Martelle is cool.

When I went outside, I met Julie, Carla and Carol, who were out enjoying the great city of Martelle with their two four legged friends Daisy and Rosco.  We chatted a bit and then I joined them on their walk around town.  When I say ‘around town’ I mean it.  We did a lap entirely around Martelle.  I saw the old train depot, which is now a really cool house with a great Dane.  The great Dane was happy to see us and really wanted to play, but he had a collar that wouldn’t let him leave the  yard.  I have met him before, when he was on one of his walks, but I didn’t know if he would remember me, so I just waved.  Ok, that is the latest update from storm central.  Now for an emergency snack.

How I Got Started Selling Stock Photos

I started in high school, taking classes and learning the ins and outs of photography.  I remember one class period when the teacher took me aside and said, “Brian you have a really good eye, but you stink in the darkroom.”  It sounds much worse than it was, as I really did stink in the dark room and I knew it, but I wasn’t aware that I had a good eye.  Believe it or not this compliment/criticism made my day and I have been in love with shooting ever since.

For years I took pictures with my trusty Minolta X-570 and X-700.  I still love the sound of a motor drive, but who doesn’t.   I switched to a Nikon D-200 about 4 years ago, when I needed to buy a digital camera to do some work for a new client in Seattle.  I had been teaching my self Photoshop CS 2 & 3 for almost a year, but not to use for photography, but more as a graphic design tool.  In January of 2008 I started to mess around with the idea of taking stock photos.  I found several places online where one could apply to become a member photographer.  The first one I chose was Istockphoto and went ahead and applied.  To apply for a stock site one must submit a number of images for review.  I had to choose 3 images and submit them.  I spent some time reading the forums at istockphoto to learn a bit, and despite this, I still ended up getting 2 of the 3 rejected.  But that was ok, one could try again, so I did.
It took 3 attempts to get accepted, but I finally made it.  The thing about stock photography that is different than fine art photography, is that it isn’t good enough to have a  ‘good eye’, one must be good in the digital dark room.  It is ironic that all these years since high school and I just happened to get pretty good at Photoshop and now could use that skill to make my photos technically sound.  There are a number of tips that will help one get going in stock photography.
I like to start with the fun stuff. Working on building an online stock portfolio improves one’s technical skills. I think most people enjoy improving at their craft, I know that I do. The next best part is the external validation. I was filling up my car with gas two summers ago and there was a hose lying on the ground. It had the tiniest pin hole in it. Water was spraying out and it looked interesting. I took my camera out and got two pictures. The fun came when I had my first sale of ‘Leaking Hose’. I made 25 cents, and one would have thought I had won the lottery. I was giddy. Now two years later, I still feel good every time it sells, or any of my images for that matter.Ok, so on to the tips.

1) The larger the photo the better. Prices increase with the size of the image, at most sites. Some people will want really large images, and those that have only the minimum size allowed will be left out.

2) Don’t up-size your image. The inspectors are very clever and they will reject it immediately.

3) Learn and understand the sites rule with regard to copyright. If the image has a person who is identifiable, or a child of any sort, you will need a model release. The model releases can be downloaded from the site. If there are any copyrighted images within your shot, they must be edited out. This could be a logo on a pair of jeans, a sign above a restaurant way off in the background, or even building that is famous. The Eiffel Tower can be photographed during the day, but all the night photos, with the lights on are copyright protected. Any of Frank Gehry’s buildings are off limits. Don’t even think about using the Opera House in Sydney. And lastly, most all makes of car and all cruise ships, if they are the main subject, are not allowed by most places.

4) Learn to use Photoshop CS 2, 3, or 4, or something similar. Stock photography is about creating images that are salable, not about capturing ‘truth’ as one would do in journalism. On average I spend between 30 minutes and 3 hours working on a single image.

5) Shoot in Raw! This is worth repeating. Shoot in Raw! Raw gives one the most flexibility with regards to adjusting the white balance and getting the highest quality images possible.

6) Learn to shoot images isolated on white. This gives your customers a good deal of flexibility; they can use the image in combination with their own designs.

7) Study what other people are shooting and selling.  This will give you a good starting point if you want to try to do this as a career.  For me, I shoot what I like and if someone needs a picture of a cactus, then just maybe they will buy my shot.

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to stock photography, there are lots of other things one can learn.  For instance, the milk in the photo of the cereal is Elmer’s glue and the bubbles in the coffee are dish washing soap bubbles.  Learning to shoot and process photos well enough to get them accepted has made me a better photographer.  The excitement of selling a photo, well that is just a delightful bonus.

Listening to the Wood

The moisture content of my walnut, which has been in the basement all winter, is around 8%.  It is interesting that the wood which has been in the basement, with the warmer temperature, is a full 6 points dryer than the stuff in the garage.  I suppose it is to be expected, but I was surprised by the difference between the two.  I expected the gap to be smaller.  The good news is that I now have a substantial supply of walnut which I can use.  Now I need to add ‘stack rest of walnut and cherry’ to my list.  Task 7, ‘figure out how to use my moisture meter’, is now off the list. 

One more of my archived blog pieces have been moved over, which is not anywhere close to my goal of moving the remaining 34.  I have not completed, but I have started my mallet.  The handle is being glued together now.  I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how I wanted to approach my mallet.  I had several ideas but all of them seemed like they might have structural integrity issues.

I have decided upon a strategy where I have created a handle with a tapered end, which will be sandwiched between two pieces of hard maple.  The shape of the mallet was, interestingly enough, chosen by the wood.  I know that I said yesterday I wanted to let the wood be my guide when I create a project, but today it was more than just a guide, it was a clever mallet designer.

After having dismissed several ideas I was wondering around the basement and the piece of wood which was left over from when I created the dust collection system said, “Hey, how about me?”  I picked up the piece of wood with its two hour glass shapes and thought it just might work.  I took it upstairs and the wood spoke again, “I appreciate the consideration.  I was thinking you might cut me into 4 pieces and then sandwich them around some other bits of wood, do a bit of sanding, and then you could use us to chisel until the cows come home.”  To which I replied, “The Meeks family hasn’t had any cattle in many years, but I get your point.  I am concerned about the mallet coming apart.”

“Hmm”  the wood started to think out loud, then continued, “If you did some clever mortises when you sandwich the handle that might improve our structural integrity.”

“That seems like a good idea, but won’t there still be a chance that the head of the mallet will eventually slip off?”

“If you taper the end, you should be fine.  Why don’t you go grab those 1 x 2’s that were hanging out near Marey the jigsaw, and create the handle from them.”

I ran back down stairs and sure enough, there were a couple of 1 x 2’s that were perfect.  I marked each one with a slight taper, took chisel in hand, and in no time had a reasonable taper.  I glued the two pieces together, and went back to talk to the other pieces of wood.

“That is excellent, well done.  Now why don’t you go ahead and turn me into four pieces.” said the wood.  It only took a few minutes.  After this, I decided to watch the movie 2012, as the wood thought a little apocalyptic cinema would help pass the time while we waited for the handle to get reasonable dry.  The four pieces of wood gave it 3 out of 5 stars and I agreed.

When the movie was over we discussed whether there might still be some issues with the head coming apart after it is glued.  Neither the wood nor I knew how strong wood glue could be.  So we developed a secret plan that may or may not help.  Then the wood told me a joke, “A termite walks into a bar and asks, ‘Is the bar tender here?'” 

I told the wood that he shouldn’t quit his day job.


Composing a List

I was tweeting earlier with one of my Twitter friends, soartmodel, and we were discussing whether I had made a decision on what my next project might be.  She reads the ole blog from time to time and was nice enough to ask me if I had tried out my router table, which I haven’t, nor have I picked a project.  I mentioned that I liked the way James Krenov would let the wood dictacte design decisions.  That seems like a good way to work and it is my hope that I can learn to be as wise.

I like the thought of listening to my wood, letting it tell me what I should build, discussing politics and sports, and generally hanging out with it on weekends.  To those who are new to reading the extremelyaverage blog, it should now be obvious that I lead a solitary, sad and pathetic existence.  I love it!  It should be noted that the last sentence was suggested by a 6 foot long piece of walnut that is hanging out in the corner.  He thought it would make a nice contrast to the sentence before and I had to agree.  But I digress.

My twitter friend suggested that I should put a piece of wood under my pillow and perhaps a project idea would come to me.  I am the sort of person who loves an impulse nap, so I decided to take her advice, though I didn’t actually put any wood under the pillow.  I did wake up several hours later feeling inspired.  I realized that I needed to make a list.

Lists are great.  I don’t make as many of them as I should, but when I do, they always motivate me.  There are all sorts of lists, the A list, grocery lists, Dean’s lists, and of course boat lists.  Who doesn’t love a good list?  So I think I will make a list. 

I am not sure, but it seems like I have already written an ‘ode to lists’ blog piece.   This is my 91st consecutive day of blogging and I seem to remember something about lists.  I will have to check that out, but I am sure that the previous post didn’t have the boat joke in it, so this will be slightly different.  This list will be my inspiration for the weekend.  It will motivate me to get some very important things done.  I expect the regular readers to mock me should I fail to complete the first task.  This is my list, which I shall name, Franz.


  1. Move all the remaining blog pieces from the old site to this one.  (I have written 91, but 34 still are not on this site.)
  2. Build a mallet
  3. Build two feather boards
  4. Create a push stick
  5. Build a jig for using my router to flaten wood.
  6. Buy a 9 volt battery  (done)
  7. Figure out how to use my moisture meter.
  8. Write a Henry Wood chapter.

I have to admit that I completed task 6 before I typed up Franz, but it was already on my mental list when I awoke from my slumber.  Item seven on the list has me very excited, as I am going to be able to check my walnut and cherry and see if it is ready to get into the game, so to speak.  I have already read the first page of the instructions.  I stopped when it said 9-volt battery required.

This is a good Franz List.  Everything from the clever name of the list to the items on the list have inspired me to, post my blog, eat a cookie and then to watch some TV.

[Editor’s Note:  In a previous post there was a line, ‘happier than a kid in a goat food store’.  I won’t mention the names of the people who grew up on a farm and didn’t get that kids are young goats, as it might embarrass my parents Howard and Sandy, and I don’t want to do that.  I will just say that the boat list joke is referencing the 3rd definition of list as a noun, a boat lists or leans to one side.  I am still greatly saddened by the failure of the goat joke, and to my knowledge only Bryce Miller, who is a Senior Sports Editor for a major Iowa newspaper located in the center of the state, and John Casper who has the cat Harley, which I mention frequently are the only ones who have admitted getting it.  There may be others, and perhaps most people didn’t think it was funny, but I haven’t heard from them.  This whole goat joke debacle has been a trying experience for myself, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives who considered putting forth a bill requiring this be taught at all 5th grades across the country, and the greater blogging community in general.]

[Editor’s Double Secret Note:  I realize that the composer is Franz Liszt, not Franz List, but I was being clever.  I hope mom got that joke at least, as she does like classical music.]

Creating The Dust Collection

There were several readers who asked for a more detailed description of how the dust collection was created.  I do like getting feedback, so here it is.  I hope it is descriptive enough.

The fence is two pieces of 4/4 wood, one of hard maple and one of oak, which sandwich around two pieces of 6/4 hard maple.  This creates the gap in the center.  The wood fence is then connected to a couple of Rockler multi tracks.  Once I had the fence figured out I started putting the little gray cells to work trying to come up with a way to connect my rather weak little shop vac to the fence.

I wanted to create a piece that could be slid into the gap, from the top, and be interchanged with another vac connector, should I ever get the Festool shop vac I have my eye on.  So requirement one was to make it a connectible piece.

I did this by taking a piece of rectangular hard maple and chiseling out a shallow mortise the same size as the gap.  I then drilled a 1 inch hole in the center of the wood, all the way through.  Into this mortise I glued two triangular pieces.  The triangle was a right angle and close to a 3:4:5 in ratio, just to give you a mental picture.  I glued them with the 3 unit side into the mortise, so the diagonal of both triangles focused upwards.  My theory is that I would be reducing the area in the gap and thus improve sucking force.

Once the two triangular pieces dried, I tried out the fit.  I should mention that the triangular pieces were cut from the same 6/4 wood that made up the pieces forming the gap, so the fit was perfect.  The scraps were actually left over from when I built Teri and Tracy, the saw horses, for those who follow the blog.  But I digress.

Now that I had the connector portion figured out, I needed to be able to connect the hose.  I didn’t want the hose to go straight down, as that would look dumb.  I wanted it to enter at 90 degrees from the back of the fence.  My first idea was to create a box, which I did, with hand cut dovetails.  My dovetails, which were only my 4th and 5th attempts, were ok, but when I placed the box in position, I realized that it just didn’t look sexy enough for my router table fence.

So I decided to get out my french curve and design a more pleasing shape.  I came up with the curve and then rough cut the 4 pieces with my jigsaw, Marey.  Marey did a really nice job, but the pieces needed to be sanded until they looked like one.  I did this with my 3″ belt sander, 50 grit belt, and when I got the shape I wanted, ran through the 80 and 120 grits as well.  All 4 pieces were clamped into my vice for the sanding.

The next step was to drill a 1 1/4 inch hole in the center of three of the pieces.  The 4th piece I cut a light bulb shaped mortise in the fourth piece, the one that faces the front.  The idea is that the hose fits snugly into the first three, and the gap in the 4th allows the dust to be sucked up.

Once I got the 4 pieces shaped and the opening created I glued it up.  It turned out pretty good, so I then glued the curved connector piece to the other piece with the triangles and it was done.  I immediately threw some dust under the opening and sure enough, it sucked it up.

So that is how I built the connector.