Addition by Division

Cutlery Divided and Conquered

Looking at this past year of woodworking projects (and some more coming up), I think they can be divided into three categories:

  • Outdoor furniture, which focuses more on build quality than on the finish work.
  • Indoor pieces, which demands a high-quality fit and finish.
  • Quick solutions that aren’t meant to meet high standards, but get the job done.

Adirondack chairs and planters, for example, certainly fall into the first category. Cutting boards and trays, shelves, boxes, and a walnut bench (coming soon) clearly fall into the second. And the third category includes projects like the dog feeder stand, Jenga blocks, garden boxes, and this week’s project: the cutlery dividers. Oooh, ahhh.

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Custom Project: Balcony Tray

Finished Tray

Not too long ago, I got a cryptic email from a work colleague. It read in part, “Take a look at this amateur drawing I did in 2 min. What do you think?”

The drawing was in an attached PowerPoint file. For a moment I wondered if I was being subject to a phishing scam. Or maybe this was a test of my email security practices? But after a thorough forensic analysis, I concluded the email was legit and opened the file. In it was an illustration of a tray with two sets of legs sticking down from it. My friend, it seemed, was asking me to make him a custom dining tray. I agreed and it turned out to be an engineering puzzle that was fun to solve.

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Chicken Run

Chicken Close-Up

I guess we became “chicken” people when my wife brought nine chicks home from Tractor Supply in late April. Or maybe it was when I “rescued” a baby quail (I nicknamed it Danny Quail) my dog found in the yard and I then paired with four more chicks so it could be raised in a family.

Could it have been when I spent hours and hours figuring out the best coop to build (or buy)?

It definitely wasn’t when we gave away five of our chickens when they revealed themselves to be roosters and thus had to be separated from each other. But it might have been when we brought a new rooster into the flock and named him Elvis Cluckstello.

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Power Hungry

The Beast

When I was a kid, power outages weren’t uncommon. Heavy snow or a summer thunderstorm could easily cause trees to come crashing down on power lines. And when that happened, everything went not just dark, but quiet. We’d find our flashlights and light our candles and enjoy the tranquility the lack of electricity created. I was always pleasantly surprised to rediscover how quiet the world was when we turned everything off.

In more recent years, power outages still happened in Arlington with alarming frequency. And when they did, it wasn’t peace and tranquility I noticed, but the roar of the many neighborhood generators. Diesel engines destroyed whatever peace there could have been. And I understood — you don’t want food to go bad in the refrigerator or freezer and summer heat can become unbearable or even deadly without air conditioning. Nevertheless, I missed the quiet stillness a power outage enabled. 

So when we moved out to the country, I had mixed feelings about the whole-house generator that was already in place. It turns out, the generator — like so much with this place — is more complicated than it first appears.

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Full of Compressed Air

Powered Up

Question: What do you feel when you come across a piece of machinery that no longer works? Do you feel sadness that it’s not able to fulfill its potential? Confusion as to why it isn’t working as it should? Anger that some kind of engineering injustice is being inflicted upon you, it, and the world? Joy that this is proof that machines will not rise up and challenge humanity for supremacy? Or nothing? Maybe you feel nothing because it’s just a machine and this is kind of stupid and there are more important things in the world.

I think most people probably go with “nothing,” because they are normal, well-adjusted people with better things to spend their time thinking about. Not me, though. I feel compelled. Compelled to see the machine returned back to its rightful working state.

And that’s why I spent too much time and too much money resurrecting an old air compressor.

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Duct, Duct, Goose

Centralized Dust Collector and Ductwork

As I’ve been working on more and more projects in my shop, I’ve become increasingly annoyed by the mess — not to mention the health hazards — caused by sawdust. It’s not like I’ve been letting machines just spew out dust willy nilly; I’ve been following the well-worn path of cheapniks everywhere by connecting a shop vacuum to my machines. But, shop vacuums really aren’t made for this purpose and it’s annoying (not to mention a tripping hazard) to move the vacuum to each machine as I work around the shop.

I guess you could say I had approached another one of those lines between adolescence and adulthood, like drinking amber liquids from cut-crystal glasses; hiring professional movers instead of begging friends for help; making beds after sleeping in them; preparing entire meals instead of opening a can of smoked oysters and a box of crackers. It was time, in other words, to be a man and install a central dust collection machine and permanent ductwork in my shop.

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En Garde(n)

Among the many reasons we moved out to the country — space, quiet, nature, workshop — perhaps the top consideration was plenty of space for a garden. Or, better yet, multiple gardens.

We got that, for sure, including lots of existing garden beds that were already well established. So over the summer we’ve been working to expand what was in place and create new space for veggies, flowers and more.

I’ve already written about our wildflower projects. Those meadows are well underway and beginning to pop with color. And I’ve also written about the greenhouse we put up last fall. But those are just the beginnings of our efforts.

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Cornhole in One

A few months ago, I decided to make some outdoor games for when friends come over. I started with a simple oversized Jenga set using leftover 2x4s from the dog kennel demolition. And while folks do seem to love Jenga — especially when a falling tower has the potential to break a toe — I decided I needed to add a less destructive game to the mix. Cornhole to the rescue.

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