No Truck Required

When we left Seattle for Southern France, I sold my truck and it felt like I lost a hand. I toyed with the idea of bringing mine over, but it would have been impossible to park and the money that I would have had to spend for gas would have been astronomical. My very first vehicle was a truck and I have never not had a truck to drive. There have been other vehicles, but I have always had a pick-up.

I didn’t really plan to do much heavy hauling during our time in Toulouse, so we got a 5-door diesel Suzuki Swift and I added a roof rack – just in case I needed to road trip with a bike or grab the odd 2X4 at the lumber yard… Reality is often brighter and more interesting than the initial plan. We have abused our little Suzuki. I have treated it like a farm hauler and overloaded it again and again. The rack has a 100 pound weight limit, yeah about that… In my own experience, 250 pounds has ridden just fine. I still miss my truck, but we are making due.

All the things I have hauled in or on the car that have been questionable:

400 pound wood lathe
The cut rounds from 4 trees (to date)
A 7′ X 6′ x 2′ Wardrobe
3 work benches
9 bookshelves
~1500 books in boxes
10 sheets of plywood
Enough lumber to build a garden shed
2 beds
9 rolled carpets
A Buffet hutch
A garden table, 8 chairs and a umbrella
250 pounds of gravel for lathe ballast
A huge antique armoire
300 pounds of wet lumber
A Canoe
5 people and all their crap

Car hauling 2014 (2)

Car hauling 2014 (3)


back of car 10-2014

Car haul 2014

Car hauling 2014 (1)

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Being the proprietor of a urban wildlife kibbutz

I was home in Seattle taking care of a couple of things and my mom mentioned skratching noises on the roof… hmmm… DAMMIT! WE HAVE SQUIRRELS IN THE ATTIC!! They chewed between the gutter and the shingles and have been living the easy life all fall and winter in my attic. I called a contractor to fix the initial damage and the secondary water damage on the soffet.

In addition to the squirrels, I also have the urban wildlife equivalent of a kibbutz in the attic: Rats and bees have also decided to move in. There was a swarm on the eve of the front porch this summer, but my mother said that they sort of went away. What that actually meant is that I have a small colony that has settled in the eyebrow eve above the front door.

Then there are the other furry residents…

While going over yard design plans with my gardening contractor, I noticed that we were being observed from above by two beadly little eyes. I tagged a medium brown rat (8″ body) with my son’s pellet rifle as it was making a run at the hole in the soffet – Headshot. It makes my heart happy that I could send him off to his eternal reward.

I almost welcome the bees, but rats and squirrels…  I bet they had dinner parties, board game nights, and cross species orgies to cement the truce and draw up the boundaries of their respective territory in MY attic.

I swear by the GOT god’s, old and new, and by the hairy feet of Bilbo Baggins, that if I build another house it will be concrete and steel.  I found myself cruising for property again this morning and there is an old titan missile silo for sale near Yakima that is speaking to me.

Rats in Attic 2015

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The contents of my checked luggage

Every time I come back to the US for work or vacation, I go back to France with maxed-out checked luggage.  Not smuggling contraband or anything, just comfort food, hand tools, and stuff we cant get there. I have only been stopped at customs once and it was an hour long “what is this” game.  All sorts of fun explaining what an 8TPI lathe chuck was….

If customs decides to stop me this time they will find the following in my 2 huge duffle bags:

1 thermarest mattress pad
4 bags of Vashon Roasters Coffee
2 Starbucks mugs from home
1 giant 5/8″ bowl gouge (lathe chisel)
3 sets of Queen sheets
1 end grain lathe chisel tool
New snowboard boots.
Found pocket knife
2 jars of Coconut oil
Multi Vitamins
1 ziplock bag full of shelled pecans from my aunt.
Bottle of Tums
Christmas presents from my mom for my wife
A new hat (Heisenburg-ish and green)
17mm combo wrench and 17mm socket
2 sets of workshop/garage plans
Specialty hardware from Woodcraft
A second notebook computer
4 months worth of mail
7 books
End grain specific lathe chisel
75mm bowl jaws (for previously mentioned lathe chuck)

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Diabolical plans for arborcide are coming to fruition

Holy sh1t, my neighbor has finally agreed to let me cut a pine tree out of his yard that has been the bane of my existence in Seattle for 5 years! It has been my 50′ foot nemesis.

It hangs over my roof – branches like spiky swords of Damocles, waiting to fall into my living room.  Pine needles and cones litter my yard and get tracked into the house.  My view of Mt. Rainier is obscured.  It has grown a fine crop of moss on my roof, a secondary crop in my front yard, and fills my gutters to the point that they have to be cleaned 6 times a year.

The thing has now grown over my fireplace and it is a fire hazard for our house and his.  That is what won him finally over to the Dark Side – the possibility that his house could burn.

Now, I have to pay for 100% of it, but it is a check that I will gladly write. And if nothing else, this revelation has made my trip home 100% worth it.

You truly have no idea how happy I am about this!  I wish my wife were here – This make me so giddy, that I want to conceive a child to commemorate this victory!

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In Seattle taking care of house related stuff

I am in Seattle working this week and have taken a couple of days off to take care of some stuff with the house.  We are trying to decide whither we need to invest and build an addition or to sell and look for something already done and dusted.

I have met with our estate agent, a builder, a draftsman, an architect, a landscape company, and a second builder in our quest to make a decision. At this point, if we want to to buy something else and stay in our neighborhood, then we are looking at $650k to $750k and would still have to build a $40K garage/shop.  If we stay put, then we need about $250k to build a garage, update systems, finish the attic, and move an interior wall.

Stamps-With-Foot and I are going over it all and trying to decide what is best for our finances, future possible family expansion, and quality of life.  The weight of love we feel for our house and the blood I have spilled so for in the kitchen and basement adds a little weight to the decision as well.

I hate being a grown up…

Garage Plan 2015 (3)

Garage Plan 2015 (1)

Garage Plan 2015 (2)

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What I want Thursday

I love wearing overalls , a leather apron, and work boots in the wood-shop.  During the summer, I spend my time at home in flip-flips and t-shirts, but I do clean up fairly well.  My J-O-B requires me to spend a good deal of time in front of customers and I have to look good: be well dressed, properly groomed, and present appropriately. Along those lines, there are a couple of things that I would like to add to my work-related accouterments:

A Moore & Giles Portfolio
Porsche Design TecFlex Fountain Pen (F or EF Nib)
A few pairs of two-tone wing-tip oxfords: brown and tan,  tan and green, brown and black, etc… 
Brooks Brothers grey or subtle pattern sport coat – slim cut.
Filson Medium Travel bag.
Rimowa Carry-on
A fine set of Cuff-links
Cobalt blue, Tiffany blue, purple, orange solid and patterned silk ties.

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Film Friday – Makers Double Feature

MAKERS Part 3: Holiday Customs from Shwood Eyewear on Vimeo.

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Throwback Thursday: Mark Flood – The TOUGHEST man you will ever know

So, I have this buddy who is by nature and temperament a hard-man. Sweetest guy in the world, super humble, would give you his last dollar in the pocket of the shirt off his back, salt of the earth sort of a guy. Seriously. This same friend is also physically and mentally toughest person I have ever personally met. I have only seen him mad twice and thankfully neither time was at me. I was very happy about that. Flood is one of those Old Testament, walked forty years in the desert and killed and army with a mule jaw bone sort of guy. Really, really.

All my climbing buddies and I TRY to get together once a year and spend a week in the mountains. One year (maybe 2009), Mark couldn’t come and it was the most relaxed trip ever – soft beds, video games and *GASP* a rest day! We all talked about how Flood would have hated the wasted time when he could have been wedged into some shitty, moss filled crevice, 40 feet above a manky piece of protection, giggling with glee. At the time, “Chuck Norris” jokes were just getting popular and while sitting at a bar one evening we started telling Mark Flood true-isms. At one point these two girls who had over heard us, came over and asked with willful intent if Mark was at the bar or in town. Dr. G looks them up and down and slyly says, “Nah baby, your would KNOW if he were here…” They got all giddy. True story.

Anyway, the list below is some of what came out of that evening and 10 or so follow-up e-mails after the trip.

Mark Flood uses Tabasco Sauce for eye drops.
As a child Mark Flood ate transformer toys in vehicle mode and shat them out transformed into a robot.
Mark Flood’s penis is so big that it has a penis of its own and it is still bigger than yours.
… doesn’t open no can of whoopass. He makes his own with farm-fresh eggs and dehydrated onions.
… can get Blackjack with just one card.
… once screwed up his knee, purely for the sake of winning the Special Olympics.
… can sneeze with his eyes open
… once fucked a sheep ‘till it was a sweater
… once took a lead-fall so big that his clothes burned off on re-entry
… uses a rattlesnake as a condom
Mark Flood’s penis is so TALL it has never been mounted without the use of oxygen.
… eats live Billy-goats as a light mountain snack.
… started a pirate mutiny in the south china sea.
… is hung like a woolly mammoth.
… keeps live cobras in his sock drawer.
… once snorted cocaine off Jenna bush’s titties in the oval office and made W watch.
… has a +92 Ape index.
… secretes Serin gas from his rectum.
…once used a spork as an ice axe and tire chains as crampons.
… whittled his own skis.
… can write in beautiful Victorian script cursive ambidextrously with his feet.
… once killed and gutted a grizzly bear with toenail clippers to have a warm place to sleep
… carries a pack so heavy he can rightfully call Atlas himself a pussy.
… always has sex on the first date. Always.
… is capable of lactation.
… once took a bubble bath with Rosie O’Donnell and made her straight.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse actually live in Mark Flood’s nutsack
Mark Flood makes his women wear gaiters and crampons to bed.
… can eat a hammer and poop nails.
Mark flood can climb any 14er using only echo location
Mark flood can play “the devil went down to Georgia” better than Charlie Daniels AND the Devil using a violins
strung with his pubic hair.
Mark flood pulled so hard on Castle Rock in Eldorado Canyon that the climb is now 12.3 feet shorter.
… makes MacGyver look like Steve Erkel.
… does not procreate – he breeds…
…  raped Blackbeard for using Argh! in an incorrect grammatical supposition.
… once climbed to heaven and he did it all in one linked pitch.
Mark Flood once stated “The double rope system is for newbie’s. I only climb using a sextuple rope system!”
… can piss directly into gale force winds and not get a drop on himself.
Mark Flood has to live in the Midwest because his gravitational field screws up the tides.
… felt that the ‘Jolly Mark” was egotistical, so he let some fruity guy named Roger take the credit.
… is no longer allowed to climb at Indian Creek because his hand jams have widened all the cracks.
… simply decided to start producing spider silk from his anus so he no longer had to use ropes.
… only dates climbers because only they have the necessary grip strength to give him a hand-job.
… is not afraid to climb any route but all climbing routes are afraid that Mark will climb them.
… once gave a new meaning to peak enchainment when he added Mt Elbrus, Long’s and Pikes to his key chain.
… feet are sooo big he doesn’t need snowshoes.
Mark Floods’ dick is so big that the AAC listed an all female ascent the latest American Alpine Journal
… can literally talk to snakes
… is so energetic that routes get tired of HIM.
… climbed every peak west of the Mississippi in two days with only a Mars Bar, the September 1980 issue of
Playboy, an ice axe, 1 box of Pop-Tarts, and a can of tuna.
… masturbates to pictures of used climbing gear and Alpenglow.

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Workbench Progress

Progress on the Cornebarrieu Bench is coming along.  It has been slow going – I have been swamped with work, travel, lack of allowance (I spent it on Christmas and a classic fiddle/violin…), more work, etc…

Stamps-With-Foot gave me a gift card for our local Home Center/hardware big-box as a Christmas present that took care of the price for the last section of the top. I got a lot accomplished this last two weeks:

  1. The final sections of the top were glued up just before New Years eve- using every single clamp I brought to France and more than a little ingenuity.
  2. Installed (2 hours of cutting, drilling and chiseling) a pricey German-made cast iron end vice that I got on 65% sale – was missing two small metric bolts and the wood handle.
  3. Made final leg cuts: the tenons that go inside the bench top.
  4. Put 5/16 oak dowels in to the pieces that have cracked, even a little, to make sure that the cracks do not spread.
  5. Gave all the base parts an 80 grit sanding.
  6. Really like the sawmill marks on some of the pieces.  Am going to put clear poly on the base instead of milk paint to preserve the marks.
  7. The legs and stretchers shrunk and warped just a touch in the six months since I cut them even though I had it all clamped together.  It will be fine and could have been worse.
  8. Made the first dry-fit of the base to the top: Everything lined up , fit perfectly, and is as square as I could ask for.
  9. Drilled holes for connector bolts and lag screws.
  10. Installed base shelf cleats
  11. Cut the 12 sections of 5/8″ tongue & groove pine that will be the base shelf

Cornebarrieu Bench 08-2014 Cornebarrieu Bench 09-2014 Cornebarrieubench 12-2014 Cornebarrieu Bench 1-2015







Before I head to the US in a couple of weeks, I hope to have installed the end-vise block, given the base a 120 grit sanding, polyurethane the base &shelf, cut the hole for the leg vise screw and the rectangle cut for the vices’ parallel guide. I also want to install the leg vise nut in a pocket behind the leg while the bench is upside down.

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Gluttony: Deadly Sin #2 accomplished.

We spent Christmas at a friends’ parent’s house near Pau (pronounced “Po”), France. It is in the middle of the Jurançon wine region and near one of the historical centers for mountain pasture fed sheep and goat cheese. Our hosts were incredible and the amount of food we consumed was staggering! Below is a semi complete list of the things that we enjoyed:

Aged local Brebis (sheep) cheese
Steak grilled in the home’s fireplace
Herbal tea
Cured ham
Roasted Rabbit
Strawberry preserves
Roasted potatoes
Rice pilaf
Christmas cake
Croissant with honey
Wild Boar
Foie gras
pumpkin soup
3 types of Jurançon wine
Aged Pyrenees goat cheese
Swiss and German chocolate
Dutch Stroopwafel
Bottle after bottle of amazing 2008 and 2006 Bordeaux wine


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I am old, whiskered, and fat, but I can still ride!

Just after New Years 2015, two friends and I drove south from Toulouse to the Principality of Andorra to spend three days skiing and boarding in the mountain passes there. It is like the whole country turns into a Ski basecamp for the winter – there were lifts everywhere, the back-country is patrolled, the apres-piste activities available swing from shopping for Lux goods, to a tame evening in front of a fire, to hedonism at the Irish corner in Pas de la Casa. The groomed slopes were really well maintained and the lifts were great.

I took it easy on the first day, being a grandpa and all, but I got some really good riding in: a few small jumps, a couple of really fast descents, and one aerial 360 just to prove I still could. After the 1st day of riding, I noticed that my boot soles were de-laminating, but figured they would be good for the rest of the weekend… Nope. They came apart as I was walking to the 1st lift the next day. Dammit. I had to go and rent boots for the rest of the trip. The only ones available were either 1 size too small or 3 sizes too big. I crammed my toes in the little ones and didn’t lace them too tight. All was good until about an hour later when I busted the toe-strap on my left binding – DAMMIT!! I made a MacGyver worthy repair that lasted the rest of the weekend, but I will need to get a new strap before I ride again in February.

The second day it was on and I hopped on a few technical routes, popped over jumps and bumps, bombed down hills, and threw snow with my board edges like a champ. We had an amazing dinner at a local place that was a converted mountain house/barn where they cooked all our food over hot wood coals: a perfect end to a day of fine boarding!

All told, I ended the trip with broken boots, a wonky binding, and a big smile! I was so glad to be on my board again and if I may say so myself, not too shabby for an old-guy!  We ended the trip with no serious injuries and I only had a single bruise – on my butt. A kid went down hard directly in front of me at the foot of a lift – I had to either bail ass first or hit him and I chose the former.

Boarding 1-201520150104_12155720150104_121609Boarding 2015phone1 (2)20150104_16315820150103_16154720150104_13290320150103_161816

Boarding 2015phone1 (1)


Boarding 2015phone1 (3)













Side Note:
Stamps-With-Foot stayed home and snuggled the puppies as sitting on a cold ski-lift is her own personal version of Hell, but she said the pictures of us were pretty. I am grateful to have a wife that doesn’t fuss when I go outside and play. :-)

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2014: My year in Review

Moved into house in small village near Toulouse France
Started running and lifting again
Set up office at home
Had to deal with broken furniture from move – Insurance company was fairly easy to deal with
Fixed some stuff, got other new stuff
Flight to Florida for work
At least 10 hours a day spend at J-O-B
Work Laptop stolen in Paris hotel Room – Super pissed!!
Met friend both new and Old in and around Toulouse.
Trip to China for a week
More work, more coffee
Cut down a deceased cherry tree and made 3 big bowls
Gave two away
Played Pétanque with the old guys in my village
Built 5 benches for the house over a 5–week period
Work crazy hours
Flight back to Seattle for 2 weeks work/vacation
Visit to Carcassonne and Limoux
Found amazing French junk shop in the middle of nowhere
Joined a French beekeeping group
Bought a wood Lathe
Worked more crazy hours
Rode my bikes a little – not enough.
Made stuff for house: instrument hangers, book shelves, lids, kitchen island, etc…
Running and lifting again somehow stopped and work increased…
Got a new Banjo
Horribly addicted to coffee
Blogged a good bit
Started setting up small hand tool work shop in garage
Son in France for 2 months
Got a canoe for Father’s Day
Bastille Day in Carcassonne
Began building 450# traditional work bench
Quit Facebook
Spent way too much at local wood supply house
Made 4-5 small pieces of furniture for the house
Father in law in France for a month
Fixed some furniture for a co-worker and another piece for a neighbor
Adopted new puppy – Truffle
Flights to Germany, Marseilles and Paris
Super stressed – J-O-B
Getting fat(er)
41st Birthday trip to Porto, Portugal
Got an awesome watch as a gift from sweet wife
Trip to Morocco for J-O-B – bought 2 fantastic carpets while there
Thanksgiving in Turkey – sort of funny sounding. Was working
Grew a beard – wife disgruntled
Flight to Arkansas
Became a Grandfather!!
A beautiful baby girl!
Feel super-old
Tried to bribe a Friend’s parents into selling me his old jeep
Enacted a diabolical plan to make the jeep mine
Spent 14th Birthday with Son
Got most of Christmas shopping done in US
Came home to France with new mandolin and vintage violin
Cut down another cherry, and apricot and a plum and started making bowl blanks
Back to work and back to more 10-12 hour days and calls until 10pm
Christmas snuck up on me again.
Read 20 books in 2014 – almost shameful. Will read more next year
Spent holiday in Pau, France at a friend’s parent’s place and ate and drank until I was ready to pop
Finished top for new work bench – only took six months
Had two friends from London come over for New Years
Spent first weekend of 2015 snowboarding with two friends in Andorra

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Film Friday – Daniel Roberts Stringworks

Daniel Roberts Stringworks from Matt Treager on Vimeo.

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Merry Christmas 2014!

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with Laughter, family, health, and prosperity!

~Matt and Laurel Talley

Christmas 2014 - 2

Christmas 2014

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Becoming a Grandfather…

I am a 41 year old Grandfather.  I am still letting that fact/reality sink in…

My daughter, LOL, had a baby girl just after Thanksgiving and my wife and I flew from Toulouse to Arkansas to be with her for the birth.  We had scheduled the trip for a week before and a week after her due date.  Our timing was impeccable as she had the baby the day after we arrived.  Being there for the birth, at the hospital was amazing and scary!  LOL did great and mother and baby are doing super.  The baby is putting on weight, is a good eater and sleeper, isn’t fussy, and makes the sweetest faces.  WE are all very much in love with her.  Her mother is reveling in motherhood and seems happier than I have seen her, maybe ever.

Granddaddy 2

LOL and Baby

3 generations

granddaddy 3

gilf 1

Granddaddy 1

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I try really hard to keep things on DRIVENOUTSIDE positive, but I must now take a moment to ascend my soapbox and bitch:

I spend 1/3 to 1/2 of my work life on the road. I have been to airports all over the world: third world countries, Eastern Europe, Central America, tiny American towns, western China, etc… and the one I hate to fly through the most is CDG in Paris. Seriously.  I have been stuck in Terminal 2E for 6 hours today with a grumpy, jet-lagged wife and had to deal with super un-helpful staff.  Not feeling the love right now.

I have never met a single soul that likes to fly through that particular Hell airport, even my colleagues from France would rather connect through Amsterdam, Madrid, or Brussels. Really, it has been the topic of at least 3 discussions since I have lived in France and two of them were not anger induced or alcohol fueled.

Why? Well, glad you asked…  Here is my $0.02 worth:  Lack of forethought in the layout of the international arrival area, making it hard for through travelers to negotiate from gate to gate, poor signage and limited announcements (even in French) concerning last minute gate changes. Lots of last minute gate changes! Chronically understaffed security and customs checkpoints. Why should they have more than one border gaurd asigned first thing on a MOnday morning?  So what if a Trans-Atlantic flights come in at the same time. Getting on a plane is a mob experience where no form of order is either expected or imposed. You need a spell book to find the public restroom in some terminals, and last but not least, every single time I have gone through CDG in the last 12 years, something in my checked luggage has either gone missing, gets lost, or is damaged! Seriously, that is not an exaggeration.

You need examples? OK: in 2004 I had a bag left out on the Tarmac, in the rain. It was completely soaked all the way through and dripping when it met me at baggage claim. In 2008, 2 bags of Cheetos were taken from my wife’s suitcase, in 2010 my bag was opened for inspection and mixed with someone else’s. Never got one shoe back. My bags were lost in January of 2014 and I didn’t see them for 3 days.  You can bike from Paris to Toulouse in three days…  I lost 3 dress shirts 6 months later while in transit to Hamburg. In 2013 I had a suitcase that came out on the baggage belt with shrink wrap barely holding it in one pile. It looked like it had been sucked into the engine of a plane. I was informed that Air France “Is not liable for normal wear and tear…” and my bags condition was normal for CDG. Really.

Ok, done venting. Dismounting my soapbox now…

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Buying a Moroccan Rug: How-To

Below is a link to a PDF document that contains The VERY little I know about Moroccan carpets and how to buy them in Morocco. I put it together of multiple trips and years and thought I would share with the general public on the interwebs. Disclaimer: This work is not 100% mine. I have kludged together some of the knowledge and wisdom of others that has helped me in the search for my own carpets and have added my own thoughts, ideas, and text here & there.

I will say that the statements contained are not purely academic: I have perused Medinas and souks in Marrakesh, Fez, Casablanca, Essaouira, Rabat, Dubai, Ankara, and Abu Dhabi. I have purchased rugs from multi-generational vendors who spoke every conceivable language – especially the numbers – and who have seen every bargaining trick known to man. You have not lived a full life until you have seen a mustached Moroccan man and a tiny Chinese lady in serious heated discussion over the quoted price of Beni-Mguild, wildly gesturing with their hands while barking in Mandarin at each other.

I have also walked away from deals after bargaining for a couple of hours. There is a hanbel (kilim is the Turkish word) in Essaouira that I left folded on the floor there that still calls to me. Every so often my wife will say, “Remember that rug…” and we both get a little sad. I do not claim that I am the world’s greatest negotiator or that I have never been taken advantage of by a market seller – I have.

If there is someone out there reading this that feels my info – any of it – is wrong or misleading, write me, tell me what I need to know/change. I will update this doc and list them as a primary source in an endnote/footnote.

Buying a Carpet in Morocco V3

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Film Friday – Blacksmith

“Artisan Blacksmith” Short Film from Kevin Andrews on Vimeo.

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Film Friday – Coffee Double Feature

Roasted || A Coffee Documentary from Matt Ellenbogen on Vimeo.

Making a Perfect Cup of Coffee from BANG on Vimeo.

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Chinese Lathe Build Update – Pimp My Lathe Edition

As mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a Chinese manufactured wood lathe shortly after moving to France. Putting it together and getting it running true was not a Herculean task, but it wasn’t a plug and play affair either. In addition to the initial setup, I have taken an hour here and there to make it bit more ridged and add some features that did not come stock, just to pimp it out a little:

  1. The base is now sheathed in 1/2″ plywood, glued to the wood supports and screwed into the sheet metal legs.  It makes the base a LOT stiffer and clean-up is much faster.
  2. After 4 months of weekly run-time, I have had to replace a couple of set screws and re-tighten the short bed extension outboard of the head-stock. The clamp bolt holding the head stock shattered and caused me some grief.  Chinese bolt quality sucks.
  3. The bottom of the base was finished with 2″ thick scraps and I added a couple hundred pounds of pavers, gravel, and crushed brick to add even more stability.  It is not enough when I try to turn a 15″ hunk of cherry outboard,  It still wobbles and jumps around a bit.  There is just no way to make the sheet metal frame more ridged.
  4. On the French cleats above the lathe, I added a tool holder and chuck/drive center/tail center tool mount for convenience.
  5. I hung a long compact florescent over the work area and on the side there is an IKEA floor lamp/spot light that I can move about.  Scored it used for $8.00!
  6. A tool grinder the I picked up for about $45 is mounted are the end of the lathe on a small table for easy mid-project tool sharpening.
  7. The capacity is only 12″ and that is not the magic number.  16″ – 18″ would be perfect for the bowls and bases and platters that I am doing here.  If I added 2″ iron risers to the head and tail stocks, then it would give me a 16″ turning capacity (swing).  I have thought long and hard about doing it, but haven’t yet as it might be a complication that is more headache than useful AND I don’t want to put anymore time or money into the thing.  I just want it to work.
  8. I designed a steel bed extension – modeled it in 3D and everything, but I am not going to have it made… I would be trying to turn an under powered Hyundai into a V8 4X4 Toyota Truck.
  9. For tuning large objects with the head swiveled, I designed a sweet swing arm tool post as well.  I modeled it up too, and decided not to have it built for the same reasons.  I will use the tool post arm that came with the lathe with a wood post under for support when I turn bigger stuff outboard.
  10. This Lathe will get me by for the next couple of years and I will go over it and repair/replace any worn parts before we leave France to ensure the next owner has relatively trouble free tool, but This is my last “cheap” lathe.  I am going to plop down some funds and get a Robust, Vicmarc, a huge Powermatic, Oneway, Oliver, or a Stubby – Something with power, mass, lots of heavy cast iron and reliable parts that I don’t have to screw with.


IMG_3410 Lathe Chisel rack 2014 Lathe clean aug 2014



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New Cell Phone Blues

My J-O-B issued cell phone was on its last legs: broken internal WiFi antenna, if I switched on “Airplane Mode” than I would have to power the phone down to get it to come out again. At the end, it wouldn’t text and I could receive calls, but not make them. It was a sad day when I turned her in to our IT department.

My iPhone was 3 years old; she lived a good life and was as good to me as a phone could be: We traveled the world together, took pictures in exotic locations, drunk texted my wife and friends, sent e-mail sealing $100K+ deals, jammed together on Seasick Steve and Hillbilly music, searched Wiki at the drop of a hat, we ran/biked/lifted together. I had the unlocked version and she took SIM cards from China, the US, Japan, France, Germany, and Morocco like a champ – nary a hiccup. She was my connection to the 21st century. I think her undoing was one to many drops while running and then I used her as a tether for 3 weeks while my home and office internet were down. It was more then her little chip-set could handle.

I was given an “upgrade” and a new Samsung Galaxy S5 showed up at my door. “Ummm, this isn’t an iPhone…” I uttered into the phone at my IT rep who sat in an office 5,000 miles and 7 time zones away. Don’t worry she said, smooth transition she said… Maybe Android will grow on me, maybe, but setting this thing up to be usable makes me feel like a semi-literate 5th grader taking the SATs. It only took 2 hours and two support calls to configure my three mail accounts, my contacts are floating around in the ether somewhere, I had to buy a couple Android apps to replace the Apple ones that I have come to depend on: Turbo Scanner and Photo Toaster. I use a budget/expense app that is not available in Android and my awesome classic pocket watch app, according to the developers, is forever to remain Apple only. Where the Hell is the flashlight function?!?!

My new phone also has the misfortune of being locked – both SIM and region. I had a wonderful experience with AT&T Customer Service, 4 calls actually, where I was finally informed that the only way that AT&T will unlock this bad boy is if my J-O-B buys the phone and the remainder of my contract outright and then pays them a substantial “fee” to unlock it 7-15 days later. OK, small semi-legal Turkish phone shop on a side street in Toulouse, I will soon be on my way to see you with 40 Euros in hand and let you settle this unlock business. Side Rant: I would like to mash the customer service groups of AT&T and Comcast together in Thunderdome and let them battle to the last. Really, really.

I will say that the screen resolution and processor speed are bad-ass! The thing is huge though. I am going to have to start buying pants and suits with bigger pockets.

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Rainy Day Projects

I spent a few hours this past Saturday cleaning up and re-arranging the GROP. I had bits and pieces of projects strewn about everywhere and I had to wiggle my way in through both the garage door and the door from the house – like I was in need of a hoarder intervention. It just took a couple of hours and only two utterances of the F-word to make sure that my on-going and future tasks were staged for completion and arranged in an orderly fashion.

Months ago, I picked up an antique copyist’s lectern (the top part only) taken from a French Abby. It was in ruins and the wood was full of worm holes, but I saw treasure and have planned on rebuilding it “…when I have time...” This is what rain days are for! Running and biking would have beeen cold and muddy, the dogs wouldn’t budge from the warmth of the pillow filled couch, I had already slept late and there was serious wife snuggling, so might as well make some wood shavings!

I sketched up a few column profiles in my ubiquitous little black notebook (currently a Rhodia Webbie) and decided on a somewhat simple design that MIGHT have been found when the piece was made. It is not some object of high art – no Gothic arches, no carvings and it seems to have been made for a specific task which didn’t require flourishes. I tried to follow that ascetic and kept it all fairly simple, only using a gouge, parting tool, and skew to work the column. While my lathe is modern, the tools are the same that have been used since the ancient Egyptians turned on their horizontal lathes, so I figure that the re-made version would be recognizable to both the maker and user of the original piece – that and it feeds my own mild form of wood working OCD.

The lectern top is now stabilized and bug free after months of treatment and I spent a little time on Sunday turning a new pedestal out of beech scraps from my workbench build that I had. I glued them all up into a single 5″ X 5″ x 32″ hunk of wood. I then measured and turned matching intermediate supports so that it all blends in as one piece. I need to give it a good all-over sanding before I remove it from the lathe. What I have left to do before I call it done is to replace one book ledge, rebuild (or find at junk shop) the second tin candle holder to match the single original that is left, turn and fit the pedestal base plate, and then everything gets stained and oil-finished to match.

It will look amazing in living room next to the book press with a reprinted copy of one of the four volumes of Roubo’s L’Art Du Menuisier on one side and Viollet-le-duc’s Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century on the other side, tall beeswax candles in the holders… Jesus, I am getting nerdier with each passing year!

Lectern rebuild 11-2014 (1)

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Lectern rebuild 11-2014 (4)

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Film Friday – Basket Making

A Measure of the Earth from Billy Sims on Vimeo.

Willow Basketry from Brad Salon on Vimeo.

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Four days in the US: lots of work, frenzied shopping, and severe jet lag

I just spent 3.5 days in the US. I had to go over for a bunch of meetings that I just couldn’t do over the phone and this is how trip started…

Woke up at 04:00 and hopped in the shower.

Had 06:30 flight to the U.S. 

Caught female French Bulldog chewing wife’s $400+ retainer in our new bed.

Took retainer away and scolded puppy. 
Went to get tooth brush. 

Walked back by bed while brushing teeth and headed to get dressed.

Caught a sideways glimpse of the same dog peeing between our pillows and switching to the “I gotta shit” hunch. 


Grabbed dog, wife put robe on me (was still naked at that point) as I marched dog to the door in righteous fury. 

Wife stripped bed – no pee on pillows or new mattress.

After completing her business, dog went into the kennel. 

She did it because she was pissed at me for taking her “new yummy toy” and for scolding her so early.

It is official, she is getting fixed next week.
No way we are passing those genes on to continue her line of un-smart and passive aggressive Frenchies.

Our other Frenchie (the smart and well behaved one) watched the whole affair with a dual look of “Wasn’t me!” and “Damn girl, you got in TROUBLE…”
As dessert, I got my balls manhandled by security at the Toulouse airport in a cup and smush maneuver that they must teach to the French equivalent of the TSA as this is not the first occurrence.

Work was work and there were lots of meetings and calls, but I had a couple of hours at night to run some errands. Anytime we go home, there is a list of stuff to get that we normally can’t find in France or if we can, it is crazy expensive: 12oz jar of coconut oil at Trader Joes is $4. Here it is the equivalent of $15.50. Really. You don’t want to know what vitamins cost and forget finding “your brand” of tooth paste.

My sweet wife, Stamps-With-Foot, gave me a list. A very exacting list and below are the places I went to check everything off:

Bed, Bath & Beyond
3 different Walgreens
Ye Olde Vitamin Shoppe
Woodcraft (that was for me and I got in trouble)
West Marine
CVS Pharmacy
Guitar Center (again me, but I only dropped $6)
Academy Sporting goods
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Barnes & Noble
Pets and More

I had to get the puppies new coats for winter ( on the list) and I had an arm load of pink frilly sweaters when a woman from my cooperate office walked by me in Petco and struck up a conversation. I felt especially manly standing the in the dog outfit section, deciding on which pink heart-covered puffy knitted number our female Frenchie would look best in. The lady may have snickered a little. Her husband was standing a few feet behind her – 6’2″, ~240 pounds with a large beard – he was holding a chihuahua mix with a purple harness and gave me a look of shared shame and defeat.

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Free Wood is the Best Wood!

Prospects for Fall wood-turning are looking up!  I am 98% done with the Chinese lathe build-up into a proper tool. I am waiting on the arrival (had to resort as there are not turning shops in a 100 mile radius?!) of two huge bowl gouges and I will be set up to make shavings all winter. I was also given a free electric oil-filled heater for the garage, which should keep things toasty!  On the raw material front: I am taking an old apricot tree out of a small orchard for some friends a few villages away tomorrow (National Holiday) and I am really excited to turn some bowls and jar tops out of it.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned the project to a friend of my wife’s and a couple of hours later she called and said that her husband was cutting an old ornamental cherry down and would I like the wood? Like the Pope wants Jesus, I did!! I went over with the chainsaw and helped him take it down and to cut a few larger limbs and the trunk into sections.  Some of the images below are what it looked like inside the tree just after my chainsaw went through. We were stunned. Not just the center was beautiful – a fire purple, but there are bright reds and oranges in the outer wood as well. The tree had over 70 rings and grew next to a couple of big cedars so the rings are real tight and as I had to sharpen my chain twice during the cutting, the wood is VERY hard and dense.

It took two loads in the car to get it all home.  I sealed the ends right away and stacked everything in the GROP near the lathe. They had cut a plum down earlier this week and I scored two 12” rounds from that as well – the ones with the flame purple center in the pictures below. I told the couple that I would make them a vessel or large bowl out of a hunk of the tree in trade for the lumber.

Fast forward to this past Saturday: I rough turned 6 bowls (one not pictured) in about 2.5 hours from the large limbs. The trunk sections will be cut into starting next weekend.   I will let the small pieces dry for 4-6 months and then finish turning them. The larger bowls from the trunk will take a year to dry.

Am feeling reasonably optimistic about upcoming projects :-)
















Update 11-9-14:

Well, the apricot tree wood harvesting didn’t quite go as planned. I had chainsaw issues right away – needed to tear it down before the first cut and unclog the chain oil hole. Holy crap the wood was hard. It had 65+ growth rings that were stacked in tight. It was slow going with a couple stops to sharpen my chain. The clincher though was that there were two twisting veins of rot that went from crown to root ball with lots of bug damage spidering out from the rot as well. Dammit! There was was maybe 12” of trunk that I can spin a bowl out of. Per my agreement with the owner, I cut up the other trunk & big limb sections to a length that will fit in a fireplace and stacked it up for them. You win some you lose some. If not for this tree I wouldn’t have the amazing wood from the ornamental cherry and plum tree and maybe karma will smile on me the next time I lug my saw into a field.

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Apricot Tree 11-2014 (1)

Apricot Tree 11-2014 (2)

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What I Want Thursday – 11/6/14

Below are the things that I find are present for me today:

1. More time with my children and my mom.

2. I want to stick to my diet and workout schedule and not fall off the wagon and back into the cookie/café Mocha/lethargic/big-belly/back-hurting abyss.

3. For my wife to finish some long ago promised sewing tasks for me – I would really like those shorts, pants, and shirts back…

4. a Fine large set (only 2) of Easy Wood carbide insert lathe chisels for all the fall and winter bowl work I have planned

5. For my proper car camping/glamping kitchen set up to be finished – it is about 1/2 the way done and sitting in the GROP.

6. A leisurely trip to Rome and Venice with my wife – no puppies, no family, no friends – just us for a week or so.

7. For my Joiners workbench to be done and set up and in use.  I am only about 1/3 of the way done and only have 8 of the 17 sections of the top laminated up.

8. A few booksFranklin Bio by Wood,  Paris Between the Wars 1919-1939: Art, Life & CultureErnest Hemmingway bio and a two books of his letters (1&2), A signed hardbound copy of Campaign Furniture 
Theodore Roosevelt: a Strenuous Life,  The Anarchist’s Tool Chest etc…

9. A whole Metric crap-ton (my favorite unit of measure) of wooden wine crates for a couple of open projects at home.

10. To give Heifer International a menagerie of animals for Christmas - That is my charity goal for the year.  We give monthly, but I would like to be able to do more this year.

11.  For our 2015 French Visas to be finished so we can get on with plans for next year.

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Film Friday – Pipe making

Becoming an Artisan — Life as a Pipemaker from J.AlanPipes on Vimeo.

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Home From Morocco

As mentioned in a previous post, my J-O-B sent me to Casablanca, Morocco recently for a few days. I had a free afternoon the day I flew in, so I headed right to the “New” Medina Market (the Old Medina is where the locals shop for fruit, fish, scarves, socks, underwear, etc…). I picked up a few things for gifts and spent almost 4 hours with a carpet merchant bargaining for two carpets and drinking glass after glass of hot, sweet, Moroccan mint tea. I can say that after haggling with carpet sellers in Marrakesh, that the carpet soul in Casablanca seemed almost laid back. The were no histrionics and the opening price did not equal the price of my first vehicle. I was pleasantly surprised.

Things turned out really well and I got a decent price for the carpets – 1/5 of what they go for in the US and half of the European mainland retail price. In addition to bringing back a horrendous cold, I also brought back a large red leather pouf and 1 square meter of Zellige tile for my sweet wife – she danced a little when I pulled them out of my bag. I got the tile at a giant outdoor bizarre that was full of used and new plumbing fixtures, tile, lumber, tools, doors, etc… It was like 2 Home Depots , a Lowes, and 10 architectural salvage places set up all their wares under tents in a football stadium parking lot. It was vast and cramped and noisy and awesome. I wanted to spend hours there, but it was getting dark and this pale gent doesn’t plan to get caught in a dark ally in the middle of a foreign bizarre after sundown, no sir. I got my tile and zipped away on the back of a borrowed scooter, piloted by a Moroccan carpet seller with a who had a schedule to keep – which is a whole other tale in-itself!

On the day before I left town, I had had a couple of hours and I went back to the Medina and bargained for a few cushions and pillow covers for my wife. Same thing – very laid back. There was nowhere near the selection, but it was worth it not to be constantly harassed and pawed at by sellers trying to drag me into the shop for a “special price just for me…”

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Film Friday – A Ship in a Bottle

Bottled History from Smith Journal on Vimeo.

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Headed to Morocco

Later this month, my J-O-B is sending me to Morocco for 3 days/4-nights. I haven’t been there since Laurel and I went in 2008 for our anniversary. That was a relaxing trip: Palatial riad, going out, romantic dinners, the beach, camels, etc… This trip will be a good bit different: Budget hotel, meeting after meeting all day, e-mails/drawings/spreadsheets at night, hasty meals, and early flights. I do get a free Sunday afternoon the day I fly into Casablanca, so I am headed right to the old Medina Market and plan to do a little gift shopping for my wife and all the birthdays coming up.

We sort of have a Moroccan/Sherlock/Boho thing going for our home deco and I am going to take the opportunity to pick up a few small things for the house while there this time:

  1. A 3-4 meter long meter runner for the living room
  2. A  very small rug for our entryway
  3. A few small tiles to make into coasters
  4. A leather pouf foot stool
  5. Some throw pillow covers – as many as I can carry back actually
  6. A couple of small tajines
  7. Slippers for my wife

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