One-Liner Wednesday – Advice

You can learn something from everyone you meet, if you’re paying attention.”

One Liner WednesdayMy brother sent this one to me last week. He remembers, as do I, hearing this bit of advice from our dad. We remember because it was one of those things we heard on more than one occasion.

Paying attention is sometimes difficult. We are pretty quick to write some people off as having nothing useful to say. Still, it’s rarely the case that someone is a total dry well.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. Since this post was my brother’s idea, I’m sharing a few pictures of his cats.

Posted in Advice, One Line Wed, Opinion | Tagged , , | 30 Comments

Easy Monday

About a month ago, I included a photo of a blurry near-full moon and a tree branch in fine focus. I mentioned that it was supposed to be the other way ‘round. Several people commented that they liked the photo the way it was.


That left me wondering what to do if I ever got the photo I wanted. Well, that time has come and I figured that I can give myself more time to work on the post I’m struggling with at the moment, and give you and my editor a break from reading.

Here’s the photo from last month.

moon & tree

Yeah, the moon was supposed to be in focus and the tree was supposed to be blurry.

The gallery below has the photos from this month, and a similar study of focus with moon and birds. You can let me know in a comment, or, if you want to get out before the next full moon, you can register your opinion in the poll below the gallery.

If you want to know why these photos turn out the way they do, consider the following: I am using a point & shoot camera, zoomed in pretty far. I’m attached to an Irish Setter who is fascinated by every moving thing, every sound, every smell and every person, squirrel, bird and bunny that is or recently has been near our spot. Thanks for stopping by.

Posted in Perspective, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 53 Comments

Brackets, No Not Those Brackets


The stub where my right hand is goes through the wall into the supporting structure.

Usually, the only time I use the word ‘bracket’ is during March Madness, when millions of people try to guess the ultimate outcome of 64 college basketball teams working their way to one winner. I do dumb things with those brackets, like pick the teams I hope will win, instead of those that are likely to win. Then again, this isn’t a post about NCAA Basketball. This is a post, no pun intended, about supporting brackets.


I wanted to write about this project, but I wanted to keep it light. So, I decided to do it as part of Linda G. Hill’s SoCS prompt. Of course, Linda didn’t make my job very easy. I want to write about making wooden brackets and she gave us:

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “your/you’re/yore.” Use one, use them all, but whatever you do, enjoy!

She didn’t mention bonus points. I think there should be bonus points when there are three words. And, ‘yore’ – seriously, Linda, yore?

Anyway, back to those brackets. They’re part of a small home-improvement project, currently underway in our back yard. We’ve decided to add an overhanging roof to the gable-end of our screen-porch. One of the reasons we built the porch was to shade the living room from the afternoon sun and shield it from the rain and snow. Now, we’re adding an overhang to shade the porch.

I was going to wait and write a post after the roof was complete. Kind of a what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation post. You’re lucky I didn’t go that route. I’m guessing that would take about 9,000 words and 800 photos. So, I’m breaking it up for your reading pleasure.

The roof will hang over a wide set of “steps.” I put that in quotes because the steps are really stacked mini-decks. I won’t get into the steps today because they’re going to be replaced later. I only mention them because we didn’t want any posts at the edge of the steps. Snow shovels bump into posts. My wife and I bump into posts and the dog likes to wrap her leash around posts. We have to say something like “my side” to get her to walk on the same side of a post/tree/telephone pole as us.

Remember when we said: “bread and butter?” If two friends had to split up to walk around an object, you said “bread and butter” in order to avoid any bad luck. But, you both had to say it. Otherwise, you would fight later on – according to – superstition.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life saying bread and butter, so brackets. I’m making the brackets from Western Red Cedar 4x4s. For those of you unfamiliar with US measurements and the concept of dimensional lumber, here’s a quick lesson:

‘4×4’ (pronounced 4-by-4) refers to the nominal width and depth of the board, 4 inches by 4 inches, or 4” x 4”. The measurement is nominal because it’s the dimensions of the rough board, before it’s machined to a nice, square, smooth surface. Typically, a 4×4 is 3 ½” x 3 ½”. For some reason, a cedar 4×4 is about 3 3/8” x 3 3/8”.

For those of you who wonder why the U.S. is still using feet and inches, a system of measurement dating back to days or yore, I can’t answer you. Ask Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. They tried to switch us to the metric system, but that didn’t go so well. We get less wine in a bottle, but that’s about it. Still, I’d rather say four-by-four than 10.16-by-10.16.

Mortise and tenon joint

This illustrates how a mortise and tenon joint is mechanically strong and provides a lot of glue surface.

These brackets have to support a pretty heavy load, so I’m joining them with a combination of mortise and tenon and dado joints. I’ve borrowed the illustration from a previous Thursday Doors post. This joint has a mechanical connection with lots of surface area for glue, and none of the boards lose much strength from the material being cut away.

Each bracket has one 90 degree joint and two 45 degree joints. The 90 degree joint was easy to cut. The tenon was cut on my table saw, with the aid of a couple of jigs. The mortise was cut with a mortising machine and the dado was cut with a router, also with the aid of a jig.

The 45 degree joints were another story. The various settings required on stationary power tools would have taken a long time to set up, and making the cuts would have been awkward. I decided to cut them by hand. I cut the first one with a hand saw and then switched to a small circular saw.

These brackets are the kind of project that, once complete, don’t look like they were hard to build. That’s because all the complicated work is concealed. The photos in the galleries will lead you through the process. If yours is a cursory interest, the first gallery is for you. As a friend of mine used to say, it goes 1,2..6.


If you’re interested in the gory details, the second gallery should work nicely.

socs badge 2016-17

Posted in DIY, SoCS, Tools, Woodworking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 58 Comments

Thursday Doors – 27 Quality Avenue

27 Quality Ave

Toward the end of our shop’s operation, we were renting these two bays. That little white square on the right is an exhaust fan I installed in 1986.

If you were opening a custom furniture shop, you might think “27 Quality Avenue” would be a pretty perfect address. That’s what I thought. I remember that thought lasting just long enough to apply for a commercial loan. When I told the loan officer the address, the excitement disappeared from my voice with his reply: “I guess it’s better than 27 Shoemaker Lane (1).”

The attitude of the banker wasn’t the only challenge with the 1,500 square feet (139.35 sq. meter) that was to become Wood Designs. One of the biggest challenges was the entrance.

Make no mistake, in 1985, the space I was moving into was low quality warehouse space. The doors to my shop were latched with a padlock and hasp. That meant that there was no easy way to lock the doors from the inside, or even keep them closed. It also meant that the doors had a little wiggle room when locked. Wiggle room is fine, except when you’re paying to heat the space and when you’re trying to install an alarm system. The doors were about 3” (7.6 cm) thick. i.e. much thicker than most locksets. So, my first task at my brand new wood shop was to fabricate a few metal pieces to allow me to adapt a standard commercial entrance set and deadbolt to fit such a massive door.

Once inside those doors, I was surrounded by wood. 10” square Chestnut posts that were carrying 10” x 14” Chestnut beams in a grid pattern. Thick oil-stained wood planks made for a comfortable floor on which to work all day, as well as a fire hazard, a thought that was never far from my mind.

Shop Layout

The grid wasn’t an ideal layout for the machinery used in woodworking. The most difficult machine to locate was my table saw. I needed to be able to run 4×8 foot sheets of plywood across that, in every direction. Everything else was configured to support the way the stock flowed over the machine. I don’t have photos, but I remember the layout pretty well.

One disconcerting thing about the layout of the shop was the fact that those doors were the only way in or out. 10 feet away from the doors was the oil-fired furnace, which drew oil from a tank under the loading dock.

One winter night, the furnace developed a problem. The burner stopped its precise atomization of fuel and the controlled flame became a burning puddle of oil, much like the scenes in the movie “PT 109” with the oil slicks burning on the ocean surface. The fire was being fed by a pump that had to bring oil from that outside tank. By the time I was able to get to the tank and shut off the oil supply, my shop was filled with heavy black smoke.

I tell that story because, like the Picking House, the building my shop was in had been built a “safe” distance away from the main mill building, due to a risk of fire. It’s ironic, that the two buildings that were separated so a fire in them wouldn’t spread to the mill complex, are the only bits to survive, after the mill burned to the ground.

After I closed my shop, 27 Quality Avenue deteriorated for a while. Eventually, the owner found enough money to renovate the building. He dropped the lower level floors (removing the oil soaked planks) to grade level, creating 12’ high spaces. He replaced the windows and added windows in the walls of the upper level to better match the design of the main mill building.

The building has had several tenants in the nearly 30 years since Wood Designs closed, but it still appears to be a viable mixed-use space. Today, it is home to an engineering firm and a daycare center, among other things.

Scantic River runs behind the parking lot at 27 Quality Ave. One of the best things to come out of the shop experience, was Oreo – our first Tuxedo cat. Unlike the river cats who never got close to people, this little guy wandered up to me during one of my last days in business. He followed me so close that my heel was kicking him as I walked. I remember picking him up and saying: “just what I need, another mouth to feed.”

I couldn’t leave him behind. Despite my wife’s objection (she was allergic), I took him home. When I opened our side door, he jumped into my wife’s arms. As I reached to pet him, he slashed at me as if to say: “you brought me to my mother, you can go now.” My wife didn’t protest her new role as mom cat.

This post is part of an enjoyable ongoing series, Thursday Doors, by Norm Frampton. Scoot on over to Norm’s place. Check out his doors and click the blue button to check out the others or add your own.

(1) I’ve never understood why “shoemaker” has a bad connotation with respect to workmanship. It seems it should be the other way ‘round.

If you want to see that oil fire:

Posted in History, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 72 Comments

One-Liner Wednesday – Grocery Shopping

“Warning, they rearranged the store since you’ve been there.”

Stop and Shop

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Last week, I was watching my daughter’s cats while she was on vacation. The day before she was going to return, I thought I would go to the grocery store, so she wouldn’t have to go out and get milk for her coffee. Rather that guess at what she might need (as I have done in the past) I decided to ask her if there was anything she wanted.

The on-liner up there was part of her response.

It was too late. I had already offered. I had to go, but my only thought was:

Seriously? I was almost to the point where I could find the usual suspects. What the heck is wrong with these people?

I get it. They keep moving the stuff to different parts of the store so you have to walk around. They’re hoping that, as you walk around, you’ll see stuff you didn’t come for. And you’ll buy that stuff. I mean why else would you put the cereal where the crackers used to be and the crackers where the prepared food used to be? If you haven’t guessed, I was looking for crackers.

At least they didn’t move that aisle, so I didn’t accidentally end up there. You all know what aisle I’m referring to. The aisle men never visit. God forbid that they ever put the crackers in with those products. Fortunately, as with everything else, those products seem to need an entire aisle for themselves.

One Liner WednesdayThis post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday.

Posted in Family, Humor, One Line Wed | Tagged , , , | 86 Comments

A New Sheriff in Town


We’re good to go.

We’ve recently started a small home improvement project. The project began, as every home improvement project should begin, with the application for a Building Permit. I’m sure one or two of you are wondering why I bothered getting a permit. I’m sure, because there have been at least one or two people in my daily work-life circles who have asked me that question.

The short answer to “why bother with a permit?” It’s the law. Evidence of the need for such a law is abundant in the rattrap “additions” I’ve seen recently.

Anyway, we have a new Building Inspector. I have pulled so many permits, that I was comfortable with the previous inspector. He was comfortable with me as well. I’d show him my plans. He’d look them over and say: “let me know when you’re ready for me to take a look,” and off I’d go. The permit would arrive in the mail, a few weeks later. The new guy is a bit more formal, like the old guy was 25 years ago. It’s OK. He has a job to do, and I respect that.

It’s been three or four years since I pulled a permit, and the process has changed a bit. Looking at some of the changes, I can see why some people avoid getting permits, but I still say they’re wrong:

Taxes paid? – Today’s Building Permit application has a box indicating that the taxes on the property are current. In fact, I had to take the application to the Tax Collector and get his stamp in that box before the application could be submitted. That’s a good idea in my book. If you have enough money to add on, you should use some to pay your taxes.

Zoning? – Are you allowed to build what you propose? You have to get that answer from the Zoning department before submitting the application. It’s a simple question but I drive by three houses on my way to work that have “additions” where the answer would have been no, had they bothered to ask. We’re putting a little roof to shade/protect the south side of our porch. No zoning issues here.

Fair market value? – This one took me by surprise. All the previous permits I’ve applied for included a base fee of $20 and an incremental fee of $10-per-thousand of the total cost. Total cost, in my case, has always been the cost of material. I could add in the cost of labor, but my wife doesn’t pay very well. She did let me buy that new chop-saw, but… I met with the inspector. We hemmed and hawed and agreed on a reasonable number. Reasonable, I like that.

Form 7A

Yet another form

Workmans’ Comp – There’s a new form that accompanies the Permit Application, where I have to show that all “employees” are covered by Workmans’ Comp insurance or attest to the fact that I am doing all the work myself. I’ve been injured on-the-job, as it were, while doing home-improvement projects. Medical costs, for even minor injuries, can be staggering. We once asked a friend to leave, because his girlfriend was messing around with equipment and material, and we knew that she didn’t have any medical insurance. If she had gotten injured, we would have gotten sued. Who needs that?

People also make fun of me for pulling a permit because: “your taxes will go up.” No they won’t. We’ve already over-improved this house relative to the market. Besides, they do a walk-through assessment every five years…they aren’t going to notice the roof hanging over the stairs? I’m not going to complain about that, well, I will, but not because of having to have a permit. Think about it:

First and foremost, if you build cheap, you’re putting yourself, your family and your guests in danger. I don’t want this roof collapsing under a heavy load of snow. The damage would greatly exceed my “savings” and my homeowners insurance wouldn’t have to pay, if they didn’t want to. The Building Code is there for a reason.

Additionally, if you skirt the assessor and keep your taxes artificially lower than they should be, everybody else’s taxes go up to cover the contribution you’re not making. The Town has to get money somewhere. Similarly, if they day-laborer you snagged in the Home Depot parking lot gets hurt on your job, he’s going to the ER, and our medical insurance costs are going up. Finally, that unsightly-piece-of-crap you put up is making it harder for the guy across the street from you to sell his house. We’re in a community, nobody is special.

Posted in DIY, Home Repair, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 81 Comments

apples, etc.

Dan (the other Dan) entertains those of us who follow him with stories like this and thoughts deep and profound. Well, stories like this, anyway. I always enjoy his writing, but sometimes, I feel like sharing it. I’m going to close comments here. If you feel the need, comment on Dan’s site.


As far as I know , there is only one type of apple that will grow in most of southern California , in the Los Angeles basin , the Anna’s apple . When ripe it is sort of striped red and green . Most apples need a colder climate than we’ve got in Arcadia and around the area .

So , moving right along , here I am in Poland with a borrowed electric chain saw chopping branches from apple trees . There’s a cherry tree in the yard too , and a pear tree , but the apple trees dominate the property . They cover so much of the yard that I was asked to saw several  branches off to open things up to the sunlight .

How did I get myself into this situation , you might ask . Another fine mess you got me into ? Well…

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