Saturday, December 31, 2011

More shop essentials...

My friend Lupe pointed out to me the other day that I'm close to 100 blog posts for the year. (I'm at 99 right now.) So I thought I'd get one last post in for this year - I'm not sure why, but an even one-hundred posts sounds like a nice achievement.

It has been a long time since I wrote about being a tool junkie,
and lately, I've been hanging out at The Onion's website, so I thought I might play around with something here.

Now - if you're reading this, then you're probably already interested in woodworking. Besides actual bench tools, like chisels or measuring tapes, there are tons of other devices I deem necessary for my shop. Yup - you know what that means - ... MORE TOOLS!

Here are some of my shop (and home) essentials ...


Who doesn't get chapped lips from being around sawdust all day?

Speaking of chapped lips, let's not forget the abuse our hands take all year long. If you're like me and wash your hands every twenty minutes (no, it's not from OCD) - then you might as well use a cool dispenser.
There is nothing like a nice pair of gloves to provide some protection from those nasty splinters.

Speaking of splinters - these might help. They're nearly 12" long.

My hands take a beating, don't yours? Do you develop those awful cracks on the tips of your fingers? Me too - and they hurt beyond belief! If you've used finger cots for some protection, you know that they can really speed up the healing process. Here are my favorite ones.

As long as we're talking about shop essentials, let's not forget the need for packing tape. When I sell something from my Etsy site, I usually wrap it with this.

Hearing protection in the shop is important, but sometimes, when the tools are too loud to hear the music, I throw on a set of ear buds and listen to my iPod. The only other set I like better are my chainsaw ear buds, but unfortunately, I accidentally cut the cord on them.

Of course, at the end of a long day, my muscles are aching. This USB portable massager really comes in handy.

Owning a small business isn't easy. So when my day is done at the shop and I head home, keeping up with my housecleaning is a challenge. These have saved me a lot of valuable time.

Who doesn't love a piece of ice cold watermelon? This personal chiller is the only way to go, in my book.

I wasn't a girl scout, but I'm usually prepared for anything, thanks to my new Swiss Army knife.

And finally - laundry sometimes takes a back seat to other important things, like sleeping or watching old episodes of Chopped. So these come in really handy when I'm low on clean laundry. I also keep a box of these in my cargo van - you just never know when you'll need them!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The most amazing GI Joe collection ever

What a shame - this blog post has been on hold for over a year.


The scope of this post has been one of those things that just gets shoved to the back burner - too much to write about, and ... where do I even begin? I've worked on it at least a dozen times, and since I've mentioned it to a few people, they're all "when's it coming out?" on me every other week.

Well, here it is, and I hope I do it justice.

This is the most amazing GI Joe collection in the world.

OK, I just made that last part up, but I think it's the most amazing collection. About a year ago, I met a fellow with whom I had an instant connection. In fact, we joked that we may have been brother and sister in a past life, we felt so familiar with each other.

Tony is a military buff, to say the least. He's served in Iraq, and along with is family, has devoted much of his life to the armed forces. Our first day together was spent walking around Nellis Air Force Base, touring museums, watching fighter jets take off and land, and even meeting with a small delegation of Saudi fighter pilots, for whom I was building a piece of furniture. Not your typical day in the life of a woodworker!

When I went to Tony's home, he mentioned that he had a small collection room that might need some cabinetry built in it. Then he proceeded to take me on a tour of his GI Joe room. Well, that's what I call it. He would probably refer to it as his Military History Museum.

Let's take a walk around...

(Oh - and I hope you're not offended at my language at the beginning of this video, but I was overwhelmed by this room!)

How do you even organize a collection like this? From the beginning of time, no doubt. This collection showcases military uniforms, working around the room in a dizzying display from the biblical era to current military dress codes. While the top shelves depict world history, each column (or bookcase) depicts military scenes from that era. For example, the top corner starts with Egyptian warriors, then moved to Greece, then to Roman soldiers, to Germans, and so on. My head is already spinning.

These shelves are arranged by countries, and major players of European wars - the Germans, Italians, Brits, French, the Russians, then Chinese then N. Korea then Viet Nam.

Scattered throughout the room are small vignettes of historical scenes - below is D-Day at Normandy.

The detail in these scenes is incredible, down to a soldier's shoelaces.

This row starts American soldiers in the late 1870s to the beginning of WW2, including Civil war, World War One, World War Two, and Korea.

As my buddy was giving me a tour, my hand couldn't takes notes fast enough.

Here are English soldiers - from Colonial England thru WW1. Is your head starting to spin like mine was?

WW1-WW2 (England)

Here is a brief history of Italian military uniforms, these are desert wear, winter gear, and camouflage.

Americans uniforms developed over the course of the war, these are from the Korean war. That is Elvis on the lower right corner.

Here's a German
Kettenkrad motorcycle with tracks in the back.

It looks like a mini tank, and started out a light duty farm vehicle for airborne troops, and was small enough to be driven right into airplanes that could transport them around. Here is Tony's version of that - I wish I'd gotten a shot from the front, this is an AWESOME piece.

On the right (below) is a light artillery cannon, used by German paratroopers.
On top, the soldiers (OK, the dolls....) depict colonial (American revolution - 1820) To the beginning of the navy. And the jeeps below? Jeesh! If you thought the GI Joes were amazing, the jeeps will blow you away.

Here is an American jeep with rocket launchers, Vietnam era.

These are all WW2 era jeeps - navy, army, medical jeep and battle of the bulge.

Civil war union troops on top, confederate troops on bottom.

More 1960's vintage GI Joes and jeep

Here is a German Panzer VI Tiger tank, from WW2. This is an all metal tank, weighing about 63 tons, the first to mount an 88 MM gun.

German half-track Std 250 armored personal vehicle WW2, used as a command car.

One on front is a WW2 German 20 MM anti aircraft gun, behind it is a anti aircraft 20 MM quad gun. In the movie, Saving Private Ryan, this gun was featured in the scene where where the Americans were trying to destroy the German tank in the small village.

Here is an M-5 American WW2 tank, middle is a White Scout car, and Dodge staff car. Patton is on the far right in this scene.

A WW2 German side car motorcycle with a Bazooka Panzer Schweck rocket launcher.

Are your eyes starting to glaze over yet? No? OK, here's a Jeep from the Grenada conflict (Panama era) called a Mutt jeep, with an M-60 machine gun.

And another Vietnam era jeep.

A WW2 military police (MP) jeep

I told you this collection was incredible, right? Words can hardly describe the detail included with every scene.

Another shot of D Day at Normandy.

A scene from Band of Brothers (paratroopers from WW2).

And here are the Screaming Eagles, 101st airborne division.

Part of the diorama from above - a German camp site (notice the livestock for food).

Another picture of the camp, notice the horse drawn field kitchen. the Germans had to live off the land when they invaded a town, unlike the Americans who supplied themselves with C rations to feed their troops. Americans had standardized equipment, the Germans did not. Below is a a scene from a German mess area, complete with bags of potatoes and farm animals.

A POW camp watchtower

A scene from "A Bridge Too Far" with British paratroopers. Check out the flame thrower on the right.

It has been said that war is hell; these small vignettes capture some of those heatbreaking scenes. Here are two paratroopers, with one cutting his buddy loose.

The dolls (OK, GI Joes) are fascinating, but all of the accessories are amazing, too. Like these crated supplies

or a medic's field kit.

Here, a soldier receives a blood transfusion in the field.

One of my favorite scenes, from Pearl Harbor. This gun actually had sound, check out the video below.

I was never a huge history buff, so if I've mislabeled some of these images, I apologize. My hand couldn't write as quickly as my "brother" Tony narrated each scene.

And finally, a scene more personal that I tried to capture. This GI Joe represents Tony's son, who is currently serving in the Air Force.

The details on this military bag are incredible -

down to the embroidery of his name on the bag.

Soldiers keep a small notebook with them; here is his book, with some notes written inside.

They also keep maps handy, here you can see one strapped to his leg.

Simply incredible detail, down to the incidentals stuffed into his cargo pocket.

I'd like to thank Tony for sharing this amazing room with me; if I had one wish, it would be that you could experience it first hand, like I did. Once your head stops spinning, you'd be in for an incredible journey throughout history.

But besides thanking Tony for the tour, I'd like to thank him for his service to our country. And his family's service. It should go without saying - but I am going to mention it, anyway! - that behind every good soldier, there is usually a wife or husband that should be thanked, too. So - Hilda - you're an amazing, integral (and beautiful!) part of this, too.

Tony is just the type of guy who you envision when you think of the perfect soldier. Strong, brilliant, fearless, compassionate.

Well done, Brother!