My mission in life is to preserve craftsmanship. – Waris Ahluwalia
I will no doubt sound outdated in the extreme when I say this – but I truly miss craftsmanship. In this day of plastics and throwaways, the feel of a truly well made table, the curve of a hard-carved chair arm or the beautiful lines of a bookcase is something I search for, and don’t often find. So, it was with great pleasure that I accepted when asked to review The Unplugged Woodshop by Tom Fidgen.
Mr. Fidgen is a true craftsman, and it shows in all of his work. This volume contains some of the most amazing works I have seen come out of “unplugged” shops – workshops that use solely hand tools that don’t require the modern day convenience of electricity! His works are amazing. There is a drafting table that looks as if it came straight from a Craftsman Era workshop that would be beautiful for any aspiring architect or artist. A gentleman’s valet would fit beautifully in any dressing room or bedroom, while an old-fashioned doctor’s medicine chest, complete with carry strap, makes a beautiful and highly unusual wine tote for visits to friend’s dinner parties.
Handcut dovetails in all of his drawer work is especially prominent in my favorite piece – an absolutely stunning library style card catalog. For those of you too young to remember, there was a time when we didn’t run to a computer to look up books. Instead, our fingers did the work in a different way, running across sometimes handwritten tags on the fronts of many drawers holding 3×5 cards, each neatly lettered with the titles and information about all the books in the library. I spent many happy hours in the library when I was in school, paging through the cards, enjoying the smells of old paper, and dreaming of the worlds to be found in books. Tom has repurposed the card catalog for use in the kitchen,setting the height to 43 ½ inches in order to be at a good working height. I envision it in another setting, in my quilting workroom where the drawers will hold spools of thread, small tools, and the myriad of other items I am constantly searching for as I work. Tom gives gorgeous examples of how you can utilize cheaper woods and yet still turn out gorgeous pieces by using veneers of highly prized woods to give your project a million dollar look on a budget. His zebrawood veneer on the card catalog is stunning, while blending walnut, quarter-sawn oak and cherry woods, along with veneers of more exotic woods can turn the simple architect’s table into a museum quality piece of art.
The photos in the books are absolutely stunning. Great care has been taken to not only show the beauty of the finished pieces, but to give beautifully illustrated photos of the projects as they are built. Any of the photos in the book are works of art in and of themselves.
Don’t have the proper tools for working wood? Tom even helps you there, as he gives patterns and instructions for making your own tools! He also gives tips and hints about how to handle your tools properly, how to us a handsaw properly for best results, properly using a plane (which he shows you how to build) and other methods of proper workmanship and hand tool safety.
If you are at all interested in the fine art and craft of woodworking, you could not go wrong with this beautiful book and the stunning projects within.
If you remember, I posted back on December 9, 2013 about The Tiny House Movement and how amazing it is. Tiny carbon footprints, efficient, and often amazingly beautiful.
Well, when I opened my email this morning from tinyhouselistings.com THIS is what I found! Now, I don’t get paid or anything to show this on my site, just so you know. But I wanted to share something absolutely BEAUTIFUL with you this afternoon. And how beautiful is THIS? You can click on the top photo to link to the listing at Tiny House Listings if you’re would like more information, and more photos.
Enjoy! (Oh, and see below for a Hobbit House! If you are more interested in a “fixed in place” tiny house, This Is AWESOME!!!)
I just don’t get it. The economy is in the tank; jobs are hard to come by. Families are surviving on short work hours, part-time jobs, and increasing prices. And yet these huge-ass McMansions are going up all around us. Who BUYS this shit?
My neighborhood is cool. Far enough out from civilization to make it private and quiet, and yet close enough to town that the market isn’t a nightmare
to get to when the snow is deep and the wind is howling. You know the type – early 70’s rancher brick bungalow style with a large, fenced yard for the dogs. The neighbor on the corner is a flower greenhouse, there is a creek running on one side, and a veterinarian lives behind us. Mature trees (yea, so mature that I really need to rip out the one that finally croaked in the back yard before it blows over in the next huge windstorm. I would really, really like a crabapple out there to replace it – they have beautiful pink flowers in the spring . . . but I digress.)
However, the world is creeping up on us, in the form of million dollar homes going up less than a couple miles away. And of course, you know what happens – the taxes on the neighborhood of ranchers suddenly go through the roof . . . Asswipes. As if we really COULD sell the places for the value that Jefferson County suddenly straps onto us! Like THAT is going to happen.
It really makes one think. And one thing I think about is how greedy and ostentatious people are. Oh, don’t get me wrong. When I lived in California and other places where my whole focus was on climbing the ladder, I was just as ostentatious as anyone else I worked with. Appearances really WERE everything, especially in my world. Who you knew, what you wore, what you drove and where you lived. Yes, I really did live down the street from O. J. and a lot of other “muckty mucks.” Well, BFD, right?
As time goes along, I have come to realize what a true waste of space I, and all of my previous cronies, really were. Hanging with movie stars and corporate moguls who took advantage of everyone really wasn’t as cool as it seemed at the time. Yep. Waste of space.
And that brings me full circle to the waste of space. Who truly needs 8,000 feet, or more, of house, which is usually only filled by one or two people, or maybe a family of three, at most? Horrible for the environment, if nothing else. The more I think about it, the more sad and disgusted I become. Talk about having the wrong priorities!
The more I think about it, the more I really, really wish the ‘Tiny House Movement’ would become the true wave of the future. Haven’t read about it? Tiny Houses are just that, tiny, efficient homes, some that are actually popped onto trailers so that if you decide you don’t like your neighbors, you just hitch up and pull away to somewhere more pleasant. Or maybe just because you want to see another part of the country.
I first heard about this when I saw an ad for “Tumbleweed Tiny Houses.” The Elm 24 is ADORABLE!! I mean, look inside it!
Well, the Linden is adorable too. Both are wood built, have dormers for the loft sleeping areas, and beautiful
Well, the Linden is adorable too . . .
Both are wood built, have dormers for the loft sleeping areas, and beautiful kitchens.kitchens. Though tiny, they are so well laid out that there is actually a lot of useful room available. Both of these have front porches for a rocker and a plant or two. How nice would it be to sit out on your porch, the going, listening to the birds and watching little critters walk across your “front yard” when your front yard is a state park in the mountains, or by the sea? Yeah, yeah, you can get an RV. But what fun is that? These little houses are COOL!!! They really are tiny homes! And yes, they have bathrooms, with showers and chemical toilets (no, chemical toilets don’t stink), hot water heaters, and even fireplaces! I mean, take a look at the pictures! What else could you need, anyway? Besides, sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or on the beach in the Carolinas – heck, even parked with a view of the snowy peaks of Mount McKinley in Alaska – what is not to love? And when you get tired of moving around, and find where you want to live? Just find a bit of land you love and park your home, grow your garden, put in your greenhouse, and you are living your happily ever after!
Of course, you don’t have to go all “woodsy” with your tiny house. Check out the HiveHaus! Fixed in place, it is very modern in style. In the words of the company:
“Delivered to site as flatpack components by standard palletised transport enabling HIVEHAUS® to be installed on hard to access sights with ease – a single cell can be erected by 2/3 people within one day without the need for heavy machinery – adjustable legs and minimal foundations allow for erection on sloping or uneven terrain without problem. And because the compact nature of HIVEHAUS® fits within the legal limitations for garden rooms the need for planning permission in most cases is not required.”
How massively amazing is THAT!
So, looking for a happily ever after that you can actually afford, and that won’t destroy the environment – and will give you options that will still feel like home? Hey – check it out! You don’t have to be one of the Three Bears to live in a beautiful world like theirs!
Click click click click click . . . arrrgh! I have listened to that from my ceiling fan for at least the last year. Click click click click. Survey shows, I definitely need a new ceiling fan! Don’t get me wrong, that one has served well for at least ten years. In Colorado summers, you need the air movement, even living in a brick house that holds the nights cool air if you seal it up every morning. But I digress.
Click click click click . . . So, I have been saving my nickles and dimes for quite some time, because there is a specific fan I want.
It is a Hunter 26407, a 52-inch Architect Series, bronze with cherry-wood blades (digression – HAHAHAH – more like fiber wood with “real faux cherry-wood design on one side, real faux walnut-wood on the other! Oh, well, what did I expect? The company may be in Memphis, but five will get you ten it was made it Korea or someplace similar.)
So anyway, (click click click click) I finally save up enough nickles and dimes and my fan arrives. Oh, goodie goodie goodie! Whee!!!
Now, you have to remember, I have a lot of home renovation under my belt. (Oh, Pandora is Playing Up Around The Bend – good, it is 4 AM and I just got up, my tea is made, and life begins . . . And Led Zeppelin Radio helps get me moving at this hour.) So. Where was I? Oh, yes, home renovation. I started out with a 1901 California Bungalow when I lived in California. This picture is the same structure, nearly exactly, but my photos were all lost in a flood when I lived in Seal Beach, so I don’t have any photos of the one I did, but other than the paint colours, this one is the same.) Stripping off layers and layers of paint from real old-growth redwood and cypress trim, stripping and sanding down wide plank flooring and sealing it with spar to bring up the grain and pure color. Believe me, you haven’t lived until you are sanding floors that are in a house homeless drug users have used as a flop. And let me tell you, having to borrow a girlfriend’s fire department standard hazmat suit and chain metal gloves, and using a carpet knife and long pliers to rip and strip the carpet and drag it out to the dumpster was NO FUN. . . those suits are HOT… and there must have been two dozen needles and three pounds of busted up fixings in the old shag that probably went in in the 1960’s. That stuff was nasty! But what can you expect from a neighborhood undergoing ‘gentrification” after years of not wanting to drive through the neighborhood without an armoured vehicle? Anyway, new paint on the antique plaster, sealer on the trim work, new kitchen, new bathrooms. At least the old wavy glass in the windows miraculously made it through mostly in one piece, only a few had to be replaced or were long gone. It was something to see when I was done.
Then there was the last house. A mishmash of styles and lack of styles, all cobbled together from the 1930’s to the 1980’s, after a huge wildfire that wiped out the south coast of Oregon.
(Yes, I do have pictures of this remodel, but they are on a drive somewhere downstairs, if you are interested I will pull them out later. But, anyway. . .)
The oldest part of the house had great plaster, nice woods, and both old-growth fir and cork flooring. New tile and refinishing the old cabinets in the kitchen, click together wood floors in the dining room (the floor was wayyy wavy and an add-on from the 80’s, what can I say?) But I did add slate flooring in the hallways where the old 80’s fiber-board was awful, and the master bedrooms had that amazing cork. New bathrooms were a must (I really, really hate installing toilets, fiddly little buggers) but it was really nice when I got done. I even did Italian plaster on the walls, leather treatment in the master, installed ceiling fans (they were so easy to install!) and did Italian plaster and this wonderful Italian tile with copper trim on the fireplace and sprayed the old 80’s era stove with copper fire-proof paint. Killer. Went from “land-only” value to mid six-figures and I was a proud house-momma!
So, we moved back to Colorado, after 20 years away, and found this nice little brick rancher in the country.
It was built in 1972, and wonder of wonders, it had already been freshly painted and the carpet was new, as were the bathrooms. Glory be, I can put away my tools! Well, for a few years, at least. The water heater had to be replaced (original) then the heating system (original) then the swamp cooler had to be just forgotten about and taken away when high winds took away a big chunk of the roof (roof replaced, check). The kitchen isn’t what we really want, but it is functional, and after the market crash and my cancer, well, nothing is getting done there any time soon.
But, that BLASTED FAN!!! Don’t get me wrong, it was nice in it’s day, not flashy, but nice, a Hampton Bay (can anyone say Home Depot special?)
But after years of nearly constant running, poor thing is just ka-put. Click click click click.
So, on Saturday the fan is finally in my hot little hands and I am thrilled.
Hey, I have to sit under that thing to work on my blog and read when it is too hot to sit outside, so that noise was really truly getting on my nerves! On Sunday morning, I pull out my toolbox and start in. Everything unpacked, all pieces in order. Check. I drag out the Costco ladder (that thing with the tough plastic tray to hold your goo-gaws within arms reach is great, by the way) and do my normal, picky as heck, take each part off individually, bag the screws and tie the bag to the part that they go to, then carry the parts out to the garage one at a time. (Note: I wasn’t always this meticulous. As in, I buried my Leatherman tool out in the front flowerbed under matting and cedar
chips and river rock last summer because I didn’t remember to put it back on the holster on my belt, and by the time I needed it again, who knows where under the fifty feet of matting it was buried? And you would know I don’t know anyone with a metal detector. Sigh. And that was my favorite tool. Now I just have a cheapy faux Leatherman. So, yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks. One thing at a time, moron…..)
The old one come down fine, all the screws are tight, but not overly so, and I draw my wiring diagram on the back of an old envelope so I have a double check on what wire goes where (of course, later, I sat there and puzzled over “blue wire”? WHAT “blue wire”? And why on earth would the hot wire be BLUE on the Hampton Bay? However, I digress. Again.)
But I have remembered to turn off the power, so life is good and I don’t get myself knocked on my ass so far, so life is good. Oh, the power box is new too, that is one thing the 70’s did NOT offer was good wiring to handle the micro, stove, new heating system, etc. that we have worked into the mix over the years. OR the four computers, monitors, printers, etc . . . I truck it all out to the workbench and leave it there for the garage sale I am going to get around to one of these years, and (wild chuckle) I am ready for the new one. Here we go!!!
So, I pull and check the wiring, it’s new. Check. (The wiring in both the above mentioned houses had to be totally replaced. I did a lot of it myself, but sad to say, I had to have an electrician for the new boxes and the City Inspector. Well, I am not THAT good at wiring!)
Screw in a new electrical box, just because I can. Check. Ok. New ceiling plate. Nice, 3” screws to hold the whole 22.4 lbs up to the ceiling. Sweet. So, I grab my nice Ryobi drill (don’t buy a lot of tools, but when you do, make them nice ones. They last longer, are stronger, and you won’t regret the purchase later like you do that date with that really handsome guy who slurps his soup and gropes you under the table). I got the Ryobi drill, hammer drill, bits and case at ‘fire sale’ prices when I worked for Home Depot (whole other story) and I baby it to death.
Anyway – drill at the ready – brrrrrrr – BAM! Screw is sticking out a full inch and I am stuck. Up into the attic (OMG. Blown in insulation, and doesn’t THAT suck when it is hot hot hot and you are sweating and fussing. Yep. Metal plating. Bugger. I could have sworn that I checked the length on the original screws. Yep, check my envelope – 2” screws and the new ones are 3”. And you couldn’t have checked that before Leiah? Sigh) Down the steps, back out the screws, and off to the garage to the metal box. I say metal box, because the movers dropped my screw and
nail collection box (all those lovely little compartments!! And I built it myself!) And broke it to pieces. I am still picking up nails and screws from the lawn beside the driveway. So, it is ‘the metal box” an old drawer that holds everything all jumbled together. Ouch! Pointy! Ouch! Sharp! Bugger! I finally dig out the right screws, and back to my ladder. Linda has gone to bed by now (she works nights at one of the casinos in Black Hawk, and she needs her sleep) so I am back to the old hand-held screwdriver. Bugger again. But I am a woman on a mission, so I got the thing up there. Check. I want to flush mount, so no down rod. Good, put that piece back and grab the canopy and canopy ring, and double check the wiring on the new fan. They give you about eight feet of wire
on the new one (sweet) so I had to measure off the wire length I needed and cut it and strip it to length. WHERE is my wire stripper? Where???? Dig dig dig.
Bang bang bang. Not where it is supposed to be, check. Not on the workbench. Check. Dig dig dig. Screw it. So, out comes the paring knife, and picky ticky picky, strip off the casing and the wires are all ready.
But this thing weighs 22.4 lbs and has to be held over my head and Linda is asleep and well, bugger. So, I pack up my toys and take a shower and go down for a nap because there is no way that I am going to be able to finish this up all the time. It is getting dark out, and I have to turn off the power to the whole den to wire this thing so tomorrow it is. Besides, it has been a while since I had my chemo and radiation, but I am still not in top shape, and that reaching over my head business sucks!
So, Monday morning, bright and shiny, I turn off the power again and, with Linda’s help, I am going to quick like a bunny wire this bugger up and get it hung so she can go to bed.
It is her first day off after graveyards, and I want her to be able to hit her bed. First roadblock. The wiring doesn’t match the diagram. Crap. So, we pull it down and I go out and get the old one. Sure enough, the wiring colours don’t match, but that is workable, the blue on the old one is the red on the new one, check. Got it. Take the old one back out and back up the ladder. Now Linda is holding up the fan, but she is on a chair and she is right at 6′ tall, so life is good. I wire it up, screw on the wire caps, and Bam!
Life is good! Just hang the fan on the hooks and flip it up onto the ceiling plate and I am ready to screw it into place (yes, after making sure no wires are sticking out, I am not a total moron) and it even fits tightly, oh goodie!
Oh, not goodie. Bugger! *&(%(*^(*^%%#$**. The holes don’t line up!! The holes in the ceiling plate are stripped and at an ANGLE!!!!!!! *^&*&%$&^(&%$^$. Of course, we don’t figure that out until the first screw pops back on me, and falls into the HOLES in the top of the fan. (Buh-bye screw! Buh-bye!) Holes WITHOUT screening, so they Fall. Into. The. Motor. Housing. BUGGER Now Linda and I both have the “flat out exhausted with the whole business giggles” – Buh-bye Screw! Buh-bye! Then again, several more times throughout the mess, of course, buh-bye screw!
Yep. Gotta pull the whole bastard down, because I don’t want that screw rattling around and getting pulled up into the motor and burning it out the first time we have to use it. By now, Linda is goofy as all get- \out and tired beyond measure, I am cranky and tired and SORE from mucking about with my arms over my head all day yesterday as well as today, and I am way pissed. So, we pull it down, unwire it, and turn it over the sheet on the floor to shake out the screw, then back up the ladder, this time with the holes covered with socks to cover the holes (the curve of the sock at the ankle means it covers the round well. (Buh-bye screw, again….sigh…) Remember that when you need to make sure screws don’t go where they aren’t supposed to next time you are doing something like this).
Now, up the ladder we rewire and flip up the fan and now we have to deal with the mismatched holes, but I am smart (this time) and bring the drill bits out of my bag and fit on the drill and brrrrrrrrr I drill new holes through the cowling and plate on two sides (the third side had been OK, and of course that is the first one we put in originally and then had to back that puppy out and it was stuck fast. Pops out and Buh-bye screw again . . .
Have I said how sucky this whole installation has turned out to be?) And we start in with the new screws – which pop out and fall down on the floor, (Uh oh,buh-bye screws! Can they not make these things magnetic? ) but not into the housing at least, so that is something. Up and down the ladder, but at least the cowl and fan are hanging from the hooks on the housing and Linda isn’t having to hold it over her head now, but she is past that sweet-spot of exhaustion and the adrenaline of listening to me cuss a blue streak and doing a bit of her own has gotten her wide awake, so we are in it to win it by this point. Yea, right. And I am going to win the Lotto too. Sigh.
Back up the ladder, we finally, finally got the bugger screwed into the housing, and TA-DA!!! The fan body is UP! Yeah, Baby!!!!
Rahr! Rarh! Rarh! I unscrew the plastic brackets that hold the fan motor in place from the holes where the fan blades are attached.
I grab a blade and Linda holds it while I start to screw them on. Got one screw in (Stupid! Why didn’t you remove one bracket at a time?!?! Now the stupid thing MOVES every time you try to put the blade on! Sigh) I get one in . . . but it is in the wrong hole, so now it doesn’t line up and I have to unscrew it and by now I am tired and sweaty and sore (again) and Linda is tired and sweaty and hysterically laughing (as if I am not, because a few years ago I could have done this in one afternoon all by myself, and damn, it sucks getting old and getting cancer and getting weak and did I mention getting old?) We give up, take showers, and hit the bed, and, well, now it is Tuesday, and I AM GETTING THAT SUCKER FINISHED TODAY, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER…..
Desprite Measures. Yes, that really is “Desprite” – it will make sense when you read the book. And when it comes out, you REALLY need to read this book. I am always positive when I start a new book. It is very much like entering a brand new world. A world of wonder and learning and exploration. Sometimes I am lucky, and the book is everything I hoped it would be. Sometimes – not so very much.
In this case I found another of the worlds I so enjoy visiting. I have a tendency to put myself in the place of the characters in books I enjoy, and that was quite easy with Desprite, on a lot of levels. The main character, Cassie, portrays, as odd as it sounds, an evolution of soul. The secondary characters are nearly as interesting as Cassie. Though with fully formed back stories, they still develop throughout the story in ways both fascinating and, in some cases, heartbreaking.
This is most definitely an Urban Fantasy, with all the myriad characters such implies. However, Ms. Lush goes deeper and wider than your everyday UF. She touches on real issues we are all facing today. And she does it in a way that weaves believably into her story. There are good guys and bad guys, and sometimes, the good and bad blend and meld in ways that make you wonder – where do the lines cross?
Relationships, beliefs, environmental and ecological questions. The beginning of this planned five-book series grabbed hold of me and didn’t let me go throughout. Keep an eye out, when Debby tells me when the book is coming out, I will let you know. If you like UF with a lot of action and adventure, fascinating personal relationships, and quirky characters, this is definitely a book to keep an eye out for!
Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.
Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.
This summer will see publication of her debut novel, THE PRINCE’S MAN, the first in a trilogy and winner of a UK Arts Board award. She also has non-fiction equestrian titles published under the name Debby Lush.
But how are you going to fund it? Maybe it is music, or software, or a trip across the country to write a book on the weirdest animal life you can photograph. Maybe you want to do something good, like raise money for a music program for inner city children. What do you do?
Kickstart! I learned about Kickstarter when C.E. Murphy posted a Kickstart for her book “No Dominion” about my favorite secondary character in her series “The Walker Papers”. Gary is a 70-something cab driver with a great secret – his very best friend in the whole world is a Shaman. A reluctant Shaman, to be sure, but a Shaman who relies on him for stability, a helping hand, and the occasional sword arm when it is necessary. And hey, when he can occasionally ride with Cernunnos and the Wild Hunt, well, what else could an old football jock ask for?
Anyway, back to the point (I did tell you, at some point that my mind wanders, right?)
I ran across this Kickstarter project earlier today. What plant lover doesn’t want to know just what their plants are feeling, what their needs are at any one point? Are we feeding them well? Do they have enough water, nutrients and light?
If we can’t talk to them and have them answer back, well, what about a type of “x-ray vision”? Well, Public Lab in Cambridge, MA (those Cambridge people are just SO Smart, aren’t they?) are working on a solution.
In their words, the Infragram is:
“A simple, cheap infrared camera which can measure plant health — for geek gardeners, farmers, and open source DIY scientists.”
(BTW – I don’t know where the purple cottage photo originated, only that I found it on Pinterest – it is linked there – and thought “Now THAT is my dream home!”)
There is an amazing video on the site that explains how it works. Check it out! Maybe it will help me figure out why I can only grow weeds in my yard . . . well, it could be that I am sitting on a huge sand pile that used to be the bottom of an ocean, I suppose?