Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Charley's School Of Woodworking: Lesson #1-Straight Up Jigga

Google me this: What came first, the jig or the right angle?  You really need one to make the other and it had to start somewhere.  Find me a right angle in nature and I will send you a free t shirt. I don't care who you are.  They are out there but it took me a long time to find one.  You want a shirt? Show me the natural 90. It is the quintessential man made object.  It is what most separates us from nature.

First thing to do is build a jig.  I build jigs to build jigs. I have built mini jiglettes for jigs that I have made to make real jigs.  It's a good thing because if your jigs are tight, everything else falls into place.  And that is an especially good thing when you are routing in the dark.  It gets dark early in these parts, this time of year. Below is a picture of me routing this evening at the main or "upper" manufacturing facility.  I can only plug three things in at once.  Two routers and a radio.  Even though I can't hear the radio over the R rated scream of the router, it is comforting knowing some NPR bozo is yammering away somewhere. I don't need light, thanks to jigs.  I hardly need anything at all!

I set up the camera to give you a better idea of what it is really like.


2   [rout]  Show IPA–verb (used with object)1. to hollow out or furrow, as with a scoop, gouge, or machine

 The benches I am making in the dark, cold rain are going to be boss.  Honkin' dovetails, tight, tight grain, and a weighty girth.   A real bench's bench. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Coincidental Felt Soup

It was a year ago yesterday that Madeleine felted sick. It was also a year ago yesterday that I put a bowl of felt soup into the fridge while she went to get an emergency appendectomy. 

Look at this bowl of soup that my daughter made yesterday, exactly one year from the day she made the previous one.  Weird, right?  These are the only two bowls of felt soup she has ever made.  It was purely by chance.  I ate them both.

Instead of appendicitis, this year she had a loose tooth which she extracted in dramatic fashion.  After a full day of creative attempts, she finally had me tie a ball to a string and attached that to her tooth.  She threw it and boom.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yeah! It's My Birthday!! T minus X

I might as well use a cartoon woodpecker as a drill.  Much to my beautiful wife's delight, the primary manufacturing facility is now covered in a giant blue tarp that has a large enough pool of water on it to raise a Beluga.  It does serve to waylay the indoor rains that were threatening to ruin all of my tools but really it's the menacing impermanence of the entire set up that is of deeper concern.  It is so friggin' tight in there, I am moving my hips like a hula dancer navigating my way to the screw gun. Dippin' and divin'.

But I'm a lucky guy!  I am making some more Skuk benches for my all time favorite furniture store in NYC, Regeneration. I am trying to build four of them out of my shemp shop.  Luckily I just threw away all my jigs about a month ago.  That means I can make new better ones! That is what I was doing today, in the rain. the wonderful rain.

The vintage was all consuming this year. It was both frenetic and fun as ever.  We smashed the winery record for the most grapes processed in a day.  Previous record was 76 tons and we hit 96!  All the grapes came at once.  A purple hailstorm.  It is like a five year old boy's dream job. Driving a forklift, dumping 1/2 ton bins of grapes in a hopper, squirting water all over the place, getting barefoot and digging out tanks, cleaning the press!

Cleaning the inside of the press is one of the craziest things.  You gotta try it.  Squeezing your weary shitass into the press cavity and muscling the huge rubber bladder around is not a normal task.  The deflated bladder is like a grape skin covered dead walrus smashing against your face.  Sometimes I couldn't tell if we were fighting or making love.

Here are a couple of undercover movies I took with my Cybershot: 

And there is always the thought that the tank might roll and bisect you or someone could knock the air on by mistake and turn you into a million tiny extrusions.


  [v. bahy-sekt, bahy-sekt; n. bahy-sekt]  Show IPA
–verb (used with object)
to cut or divide into two equal or nearly equal parts.

Tank Digout:

Good news, A to Z 2008 Pinot Noir just got a 90 point rating from the Wine Spectator which put them in the top 100 wines of '08! I helped make that!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Round III

Round III starts Monday.  I can't get enough of those sticky grapes and earwigs.  Although the vintage is looking ifey, my duties remain the same.  It is just as laborious to make crappy wine as it is to make great wine, as far as I am concerned.
I bought a new pair of Bean boots. Screw those Blunstones that all the real wine geeks wear.  Too much time  on the vineyards rob you of your sense of fashion. Duck boots are where it's at. Ask Madeline Weeks.

“It’s definitely a good look,” said Madeline Weeks, the fashion director of GQ. “But the proportion of the boot and the pants has to be right. You don’t want to the boots to be too short or too tall — say, four to six inches above the ankle, or up to eight if you’re really going to go there.”
Before I dive into the juice I need to crank out one more project from my pathetic manufacturing facility.  Pa from Little House on the Prairie had a better set up than me.  It continues to rain in my factory long after the rain outside has stopped.  The only power is run through extension cords coming from my back yard and the cords sizzle in the Oregon mud puddles.  I can't believe this structure even passes for a garage.  Drive in there and you can't open the doors to the car, it's so friggin' small.  You could crawl out the sunroof but you would mush your head on the soggy broken rafters. You can't light a cigarette in there on a balmy day, it is so drafty.   I am starting to embrace the idea that my design career is doomed and that chocolate will be my savior.  It kind of kills me that I can't succeed in design but what are you going to do? Make chocolate. 

Drove down to Eugene to pick up a 70 kilo sack of Ocumare beans last night.  On the way down it was Slayer, Sepultura and High On Fire.  Coming back: Dolly Pardon and Bjork. 

Where were my handlers?  Why didn't I just get a job with UPS back in '86?  
Did you read this?  Hello? Echo!  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Maker or Works?

If I was going to start a Bean to Bar chocolate factory with my wife, we would have to name it.  Pretend that every name in the universe was already taken with the exception of the following two, which one do you like better?


Note: A chocolate maker is someone who roasts cocao beans and grinds them into chocolate. A chocolatier is someone who uses chocolate to make truffles and bon bons and whatnot.

There are but a handful of bean to bar houses in the US.  I am new to the scene but I have to say that chocolate is way more complex and dynamic than Hershy's would have you think.  I am loving the research.

My favorite bar, right this second, is the Amano Dos Rios bar.  Beans from the Dominican republic.  I can't f#$king believe that this bar is only beans and sugar.  It is so dynamic and the flavors are so distinctive.  I like to eat it in front of my spice rack and point to what I am tasting as the complex flavors eel through the canyons of my pallet.  The best way for me to describe it is to ask you to substitute the word CHOCOLATE wherever you see the word GUM, in the exchange below.  Except for the very first GUM.

Willy Wonka: Don't you know what this is?
Violet Beauregarde: By gum, it's gum.
Willy Wonka: [happily, but sarcastically] Wrong! It's the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world.
Violet Beauregarde: What's so fab about it?
Willy Wonka: This little piece of gum is a three-course dinner.
Mr. Salt: Bull.
Willy Wonka: No, roast beef. But I haven't got it quite right yet. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It ain't easy being interested in everything.  The diameter of my focus is manipulated by a flood of opportunities that each hold their own significant importance.  Actually, "diameter of focus" implies a foolish consistency that is not accurate.  The profile of my focus is more nebulous, morphing to accommodate the ebb and flow of priorities.  Oh, the list I could write!  My old buddy James, from college used to keep a credit card sized piece of paper in his wallet with tiny key words for jokes scratched into it so he could remember them.  It was funnier than the jokes.
Well, that is how my "to do" list reads right now.

Below are a few random images from a project I have been working on.

Color sample for the Three bench.  Milk paint on bamboo, shellac and wax.
Rude drawing of Three Bench.  I drew it after the bench was finished to make a show submission more interesting. Faking history. Fabricating a story. Its all a big lie. I saw a kid at Pratt scribbling on a cocktail napkin right before he had a presentation.  He tacked it to the board and the teachers were intrigued.  Suckers.  
Spooky photo of the almost finished Three Bench
Flip side of the color sample.  This is a blotch of milk paint.  A controlled spill.  We went with the stenciled circle.  It was prettier.  Less of a statement.  I do love this sample though.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Presenting The MOGmobile Interior!!!

This used to happen to me when I kept a diary. I am a busy guy and if I don't keep up with myself I get a little concerned 
that I am not giving all of these interesting things I am doing their due. Whaddaya gunna do?. Some kind of digital haiku would be nice but that would turn into a thing that might warrant a post of it's own.
Below are some images of the MOGmobile interior. What a rig. I wished I had documented the process a little more 
vigorously but my hands always had tools in them, which makes it hard to type. There was some good drama with the 
arm mechanism but everything else went pretty smoothly.



Casting Couch

Polly's Backdoor

Nutgland #1

View From Nutglandseat

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's A Blub Blub Thing

Duct tape, staples, screws, blue foam, luan, chicken wire, wood glue, gorilla glue, expanding foam, zip ties, polyester resin, gum and Spandex are some of the materials I removed from the MOGmobile dome to make room for the brain.  In the wine world MOG stands for "material other than grapes".  I think it refers to earwigs and things that find their way into the wine.  They are allowed to have a certain % of earwigs.

So I removed all the material other than MOG that constituted the plug upon which we laid the fiberglass.
This is to make room for the new roof mounted remote control arm mechanism (garage door opener) and the AC unit.  It will also house some lovely lights to back light the brain and eyeballs.

The chicken wire that I pulled out tells the story of how blub blubs drill.  Sometimes  the chicken wire would catch the drill bit and wrap around it, wreaking havoc beneath the fiberglass shell, as it augered up sparrows' nests of junk drawer plug debris.  What makes it such a blub blub thing is the effort and determination it took to make these gnarly knots.  They are like wasp nests.  Some are so tightly bound, I can't imagine why the blubs didn't stop drilling and reverse it.  I love the resolve but the execution is questionable.  It did make for some nice photos.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

MOGmobile Sawzall Surgery

Not unlike the wizard of Oz, my job now is to give some substance to the appealing yet gutless shell that is the MOGmobile.  I am hoping that after installing a brain, everything else will fall into place.  Western as that may seem.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Giant Chocolate Roommate

We have a new roommate.  A 70 Kilo sack of Rio Caribe, '10!  Trinitario cacao beans from Venezuela!  Fermented for 5-6 days and dried in the South American sun.  Our house smells like a yummy plummy vinegar.  I am looking forward to the explosive aromas we will be releasing when we roast these puppies and crunch them up.

My mind is working like a taffy machine in some silly town as my schemes drift from the MOGmobile  to my chocolate fantasy to my burgeoning baseball buddy (Leo) and back.  I have been gobbling more chocolate than ever before, drawing pictures and making models of the MOGmobile components, and playing baseball with my kids on the grassy school yard at the end of our block. On top of it all, it has been a beautiful Springtime here in Portland.  I hope I didn't jinx it.  Has there been any research into the potential jinx effect of blog content? If the jinx effect is valid, can it be manipulated or tricked?  I better turn the old taffy machine off now.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I love my '56.  What can I say.   I remember the day I saw it's picture on Craigslist. It wasn't a good picture, not like the ones I was planning on taking, but it was enough to get me to drive  45 minutes and drop the $275 that was supposed to go towards feeding my children.  My plan is get a professional to come and take some pin up style cheesecake shots of it for the "Naked Tools Of '56" calendar I am planning on never making.

This machine was originally purchased by a general contractor but was apparently too heavy to bring to job sites so he kept it for his rarely used basement shop.  When he sold the house, the saw stayed in the basement.  The new owner hardly ever used it but respected it nonetheless.  I don't think the thing moved more than twenty feet in 50 years.  And now it is my responsibility and I am questioning my worthiness.

I bought it last year and moved it from the contractor's basement into my leaky garage, where it continues to rain long after the raindrops have stopped falling outside.  The result was a fine coat of orange rust.  It haunted me in my sleep.  The tip tip tapping of the Portland raindrops on the roof above our bed should have been soothing and relaxing but all I could think about was the poor saw that was slowly deteriorating on my watch after 50 years of being pampered.  

I had to sell it before I let it completely disintegrate, so I cleaned it up for the hoc block. I wanted to sell it to someone who was worthy.  I wanted to find someone who would be angry at me for the care I had not taken and just give it to them out of shame.  Someone cool enough to handle such a trophy saw.  However, in the process of caressing those solid state lines with naval jelly and rubbing the machined surface with wax, I rediscovered the attraction that originally hooked me.  So I cleaned it up, got a brand newly sharpened, used blade and a new belt and now it is sitting out in my leaky garage, in the rain, looking and working great.  It hums like a science fiction movie.  It is like having my own locomotive.  I love it. 
Please excuse the sloppy photoshopping on the above picture.  The teeth on the fence track are tedious and I am a busy dude.  My wife probably thinks I am looking at porn because when she walks up I close the window on my computer screen. It is really because I don't want her to catch me spending hours painstakingly tracing the details of a picture of an old rusty saw when I should be doing something important. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Poor Me

You try sitting next to this bowl all day.  My wife and I have decided to take our chocolate lust to the next level.  It happens to coincide with my knee surgery recovery and I am just fine with that.  Research, research, research!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Two Good Legs

That wasn't so bad.  It was a creepy but not so painful process.  I was concerned the other day when my surgeon told me that my ACL looked funky in the MRI and he wouldn't know for sure until he got in there.  Well, today on the phone he told me that he "really wailed" on my knee and it seemed tight.  I cringe at the thought of him wailing on my poor knee while I am out, cold.  I told him to try it while I am awake and see what happens.

He also said that he found a piece of ligament floating around in there and he couldn't figure out from where it came.  Did it drip down from my old shoulder? Was it planted there by someone? I remember digging through full bags of garbage looking for a tiny, missing  piece of 18th Century veneer that disappeared from a chair I was working on.  I would like to think that my surgeon would take similar measures.  I don't know what to think about that.  I think I just won't think about that.

They don't say anything on the label about mixing Vicodin and high test, single bean selection, gravity  flow,  Criollo chocolate but they should.  I feel funny.  This is when I start doing regrettable blog posts.  Who reads this drivel anyway?


  [driv-uhl]  Show IPA noun, verb,-eled, -el·ing or(especially British-elled, -el·ling.
saliva flowing from the mouth, or mucus from the nose; slaver.
childish, silly, or meaningless talk or thinking; nonsense; twaddle.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Good Leg

I had an MRI yesterday and an operation today!  My meniscus was breached, its integrity compromised, some mechanical breakdown occurred but now, hopefully it is fixed.  It took about half an hour.  
I had my kids mark up my good knee so the blub blubs in the OR didn't operate on the wrong knee.  It worked.
The couch part of my rehab will be all about chocolate research.