Thursday, July 30, 2009

More WTF?

OK, I totally have a new favorite food website.

This site is.... well, insane. Click on some of their tabs, like Recession or Chocolate.

This is nuts. This is, too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I don't even know what to say about this...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sin City Woodworkers meeting and AWFS thoughts

This week has been a little crazy. The big woodworking show was in town most of the week, and the fifth meeting of the Sin City Woodworkers was held on the first day of the show. One of our members - Dennis Patchett of DEP Woodworks shared his sharpening techniques, proving it doesn't take a lot of special equipment or a great deal of time to achieve a sharp edge on a chisel.

After sharpening some of his tools, Dennis proceeded to carve some small floral header blocks in minutes, much to the surprise of the group. If you click on that picture above, you'll get a much better view of some of the carvings Dennis brought to show the group. The apple with the "bite" out of it was my favorite, but that (carved) rose in the (carved) vase was pretty awesome, too.

Dennis is laid back and very humble about his work, but his linen fold door panel is really an amazing piece. I hope Dennis will give another demo in a future meeting to show us how he lays out and carves one of those. They really add something special to a piece of furniture.

The day after our meeting, I headed out to the AWFS show. That's the the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers, and it's held every other year here in Las Vegas. The past two times I've attended, the crowds have been huge, and each exhibition hall requires a full day of walking. Not so much this year.

That doesn't mean there weren't some pretty cool things to see. But I did notice a general pissyness from many of the tool and hardware reps, probably from the poor attendance. They were probably thinking of all the things they could be doing (craps? golf? strip clubs?) rather than standing around talking to two people an hour at the show. Other attendees might disagree, but I found the sales reps to be generally crabby. Hey, I'm sorry you're not selling a $200,000 CNC machine to everyone who walks into your booth. How about just smiling and establishing a good relationship with some of the woodworkers, so that they'll think of your tool when the economy rebounds and they're ready to start buying again?

But maybe that's just me being silly.

There were some standouts, and even though attendees weren't allowed to take pictures, I made a few notes about some of the cooler products.

Schaub and Company
had an amazing line of hardware, with mother of pearl and jeweled accents. If I ever build a wine cellar, I know what pulls I'll be using on the doors and drawers.

A long time ago, a designer told me that pulls are like the jewelry we add to a piece, and that's really true. I've gone through phases in my life, where I either love jewelry, or I hate it. But this new hardware by Schaub is pretty sweet.

Green building materials are starting to pique my interest. So walking in the door of the show and seeing a huge showcase of green building materials offered a chance to see a good selection of showcased products. My favorite? Hands down, the bamboo sink.

It was stunning, and their website shows a lot more products that their booth didn't even mention, like dinnerware (bowls and plates) as well as some great smaller pieces, like cutting boards, chopsticks and much more. I've got a design or two rolling around my head for building with Plyboo. Silly name, great sustainable product. Even better, it's gorgeous.

As much as I complain about my Dewalt tools, they had a nice new TrackSaw, perfect for trimming doors, or cutting on the jobsite. However, I have to say that although I loved their product, Festool has a similar (and probably better) product, for right around the same price.

I've been burned by Dewalt tools too many times - short battery life, poor engineering, broken parts - and their customer service sort of sucks. So it'll be a while before they win me back with any of their tools. But if you do any on-the-job cutting, you should definitely investigate these track saws. Awesome.

Speaking of Festool, I know their Domino joiner isn't new, but if you've never seen what it does, check out this link and watch the video. Sweet tool. If I ever decide to build chairs full time, I will use this system.

There's a local drawer shop here, I've heard good things about them, and finally got a chance to meet the owners, Scott and Lana. Their booth was very nice, and they had some good examples of what they build. I love buying local, and the next chance I get, I will be using their drawers.

If you read any popular woodworking magazines, or watch woodworking shows on TV, then you undoubtedly know about Kreg and their pocket hole jigs.

I finally broke down and bought one of their jigs, the Kreg Jr. I'm working on a couple of small projects that will assemble much eaiser with pocket screws than any other method I normally use. Call me stubborn, I'm still not completely sold on the idea of pocket screws in fine furniture, but I'm open-minded enough to see their value. It only took me twenty+ years!

One last mention - there is a well known hardware company that debuted a really slick automatic drawer opening system. Worked perfectly and seemed fairly easy to install. But two things stand out in my mind - their sales reps at the booth were idiots, both in their condescending remarks, and their overall bored attitude with the whole show. Honestly, the products were great. The support for them? Not so much. Sorry, but I'd rather not mention them. If I'm spending $300 for drawers that open at a touch, I want someone to act like they care if I ask questions about their products.

Makita and Laguna had some smoking hot deals - and on the last day of the show, I noticed several "SOLD" signs on some of their larger pieces of equipment. Quality always sells. And their salespeople were nice. Huh! Go figure.

Once again, there was a student furniture building competition called Fresh Wood, and the entries were outstanding. My buddy Larry and I thoughtfully inspected the entries, and voted for what we thought built the best piece. A couple of days later, we went back to see which pieces had won. This is a great competition, and the level of expertise even on the high school level is very impressive. Those kids are building pieces I wouldn't even attempt now!

That's all for now. I'm off to try out my new toys...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Staining concrete with environmentally friendly products

There is a two week break from classes in my woodworking school right now, so I'm taking this opportunity to get some work done on the two small rooms that will eventually become an office and a small exhibition gallery. Although the linoleum floors are only a few years old, they look like ass. Apparently, a former tenant thought it was OK to use this room for tasks like washing car parts.

No amount of scrubbing would eliminate the stains, so I stripped the linoleum off, revealing the concrete below. The adhesive underneath was nearly impossible to remove. My research suggested hot water and a scraper. I did this in the first room, and although it took a while, I got most of it off the floor.

Right around the time when I was deciding what to do next, someone on this blog suggested a soy-based product for staining the concrete. See, I was considering an acid etching method that was very toxic, and that's the last thing these lungs of mine need. When I finally located a company in town that carries the soy products, I made an appointment with them.

One of the coolest things about their products is that they're very safe - no fumes, no caustic chemicals. They have a stripper that you can actually apply with your bare hands. Sweet.

Of course, I'd love to show you a can of it, but I didn't have my camera with me. But you can see the stripped floor below. (With my classy office desk.)

That stripper worked like a charm. Of course, I wish I had known about it earlier, so I wouldn't have spent so long scraping the first room.

After stripping the adhesive, it was recommended that I use a heavy duty degreaser, to remove any last remnant of the stripper. Again, I chose to use a eco-friendly product, and chose one of those citrus based products from my local hardware store. Once the floor was degreased, I did a thorough rinsing (maybe four or five times) with plain water, sucking it all up with my wet-vac.

You could have eaten your lunch off the floor by the time I was done with it.

Since there were a lot of colors to choose from, the owners of the company dropped off some samples for me.

These samples are only two ounces, and will stain about eight square feet of concrete.

I was hoping for a color that would hide the sawdust that is sure to be tracked through these rooms.

Once my hands were coated with colors, I couldn't take any pictures. But the interesting thing about this products is that you can apply it, and if you don't like the color, you can wash it right off the concrete. So after testing these colors, I chose the dark brown color, the sample on the far left.

The next step was to mask off the floor, where the room starts.

I started by applying the stain with a sponge, on my hands and knees. I can't tell you how old that got.

So I grabbed a sponge mop and applied it differently in the next room. The hell with eco-friendly, I need something that knee-friendly.

You're supposed to wipe it on, and wipe off the residue, as this is a penetrating stain product.

Wiping it was a little time consuming, as the product had dried on the surface. I used that same sponge mop to rinse it off the floor. The color of the concrete was fairly light, but it needed to dry overnight before I would be able to decide if it needed another coat.

The next morning? Ugh, to was way too light for the effect I wanted, so I applied another coat to each floor. The second coat really added some depth of color

All that's left is to apply a sealer. But that will have to wait, because I'm headed to the convention center here for the huge AWFS show that started yesterday. There will be acres of tools and hardware and lumber products to see - what more could a girl want?

Friday, July 10, 2009

United breaks guitars

I love this story.
You must read it.

Well, I don't love what happened to the musician whose guitar was broken by United Airlines baggage handlers.

We've all been there, haven't we? How many of us have suffered broken or missing bags? And as a former musician, I'm particularly incensed that the employees wouldn't realize that what they were moving could possibly be fragile, and handle it a little more gently, rather than toss it.

You know what? I applaud what Dave Carroll did. He tried to go through the proper channels to take care of the problem, but when the airline stalled him, time after time, he took matters into his own hands. Good for him. I hope this video brings in tons of attention to his situation. I'm pretty sure United won't ever fix the problem, but perhaps it will all work out for him in the end.

He's vowed to make three videos. Good for you, Dave, stick it to them. I hope he sells a buttload of CDs.

The article linked above quotes James Norrie, associate dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management as saying that if Dave keeps writing the songs in the same manner as this one, that viewers will get bored and the attention paid to him will die down. It's exactly that sort of thinking that keeps that dude in his job, out of touch with the public.

Good luck Dave, keep the videos coming. And United Airlines? Shame on you.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Short break between classes

When you're the chief cook and bottle washer of a small business, everything falls on your shoulders. That's one of the reasons I've been absent from this blog for a few days, it's been a little crazy here.

The good news is that a few days ago, the first class in my new woodworking school "graduated". And I have to say that every single student produced some very nice work while studying with me. Of course, it would have been great to be able to post a few photos here of some of their pieces, but I forgot to shoot some pictures. What's even sadder - I had my camera with me, I just forgot to take it out!

So I have a couple of weeks off, with lots of plans for upgrades and renovations to the school. I plan on blogging this coming week (OK, maybe next week) about something verrry interesting - an eco-friendly concrete staining system that I am using on the office and small gallery in the school. I started stripping the floors today with a stripper that's so safe, you can apply it with your bare hands. Try that with muriatic acid! I was amazed at how well the stuff works, and plan on writing about it here. I think it'll be fascinating.

Well, that's if if your idea of "fascinating" includes stripping concrete.

Meanwhile, my garden at home has exploded. There's a nectarine tree with (I'm not exaggerating) about 200+ pieces of fruit on it. I can barely keep up with it, and the dogs just love picking up and gnawing on the rotten ones that have fallen off. For a truly different experience - try pulling a soggy smashed nectarine out of a puppy's mouth.

I've said it before - I never seriously gardened before I moved here. There was wasn't enough time to get a garden started in Ohio. By the time you put it in, you're lucky if you have 40 days of warm weather before the frosts of Fall start. Why bother?

But here in the desert, I started planting in March. March 13, to be exact. Yes, I'm anal about it and I wrote it on my calendar. And no, I don't draw a "map" and lay out the garden. The stuff goes where I can fit it. We like peppers, zucchini and tomatoes, so those are "givens", but this year, I added a few interesting things to the mix.

Like these gorgeous eggplant.

I've already started giving the eggplant to friends - there are so many on this plant that I am running out of friends who want them!

And I made a conscious decision this year to only plant two tomato plants. Last year, we simply had too many. So ... imagine my surprise when FOUR MORE tomato plants popped up on their own.

There aren't enough neighbors on the block to take all the excess.

And yes, if you read my blog last year and remember my insanity, those damn hornworms are back.

These bad boys creep me out, but I'm trying to stay on top of it by spraying the plants regularly. I swear, if someone ever spied on me in the back yard, they would witness a crazy woman staring intently at her tomato plant, trying to find these worms. They're so stealth, it's amazing. I can be inches from one, and not even see it. Then all of a sudden, I'll realize it's right there in front of me. What's up with that? I can't tell you how many hours I've spent searching for these damn worms.


Finally, the peppers... ah, peppers. Is there anything better than roasting and peeling them, and putting them on a piece of fresh bread? (With salt and a drop of olive oil, or course) I planted about a dozen plants this year, and right about now, I choke back the water to them, which makes them all the hotter.

By the end of the summer, I'll have about a half dozen or more huge bags of frozen peppers put away for the winter. I just clean and freeze them, and can cook with them for the next few months, until I start the garden back up. Nice. I've got a killer recipe for salmon that calls for peppers, it's our favorite way of using them.

That's all for now. I'm heading out to hunt for some of those damn worms now...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Some nice coverage in a local newspaper

Things are heating up here in Las Vegas. No, I don't mean the temperature, although it was 108˚here yesterday.

Here's an article published yesterday in a local newspaper about the school.

Meanwhile, here's the sort of day I'm having.

As I sip that tasty beverage, I'm toasting everyone who's written to me lately, congratulating me on the school. Thanks for your support!