Guitar and Ukulele wall mounts

One of the last things to deal with at our place in France was all the stringed instruments propped in corners or laying precariously on top of furniture. I wanted them out in view so they would be played instead of put in a closet somewhere, forgotten about. We want a home that is filled with music and if there is a loaner guitar or uke (LOVE the ukulele – have two) about, someone is going to pick one of them up and strum a few cords. There is nothing like a cool evening, sitting outside after a BBQ with someone softly playing a tune or two.

I looked at a couple of commercial wall mounts that were pricey and didn’t really go with our decor and decided to make my own. I am sure they would look great in a studio and there was one model that would have been killer in my 15-year-old self’s poster-filled bedroom, but nothing I looked at screamed “hand-crafted” or “classy.” I went through a couple of ideas in my head that wouldn’t have really worked out for various reasons before having a light bulb moment while on a work trip in China: scrap wood + my lathe + U-hooks and some silicone tape = sweet instrument hangers that both blend with our home AND that no one else has.

This past weekend (Easter holiday) I cut five octagon blocks out of some left-over 5 inch thick pine timber and rounded the first one on the lathe. It was meant to be a prototype so I free-handed the curves without really having a design in mind before I started. It looked so great after the stain and wax went on that I took it right in and mounted it to the wall. I turned the others all with different patterns and hung them in a living-room hallway that has an awkward corner. They look great there, if my opinion counts for anything. Now there is room for 2 ukuleles, an acoustic guitar, an electric cigar-box blues machine, and a resonator banjo.

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The city, not the game.

My wife really likes castles. Really, Really! Ruins, Chateaus, piles of stone on the top of a lonely hill: they all make her swoon. We visit whenever we are in the vicinity of one and if such a visit won’t land us in jail for trespassing. I set the bar a little high on her 25th birthday when we spent a week touring wineries and castles along the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Now, castle-filled birthdays are are de rigueur and for the third anniversary of Stamps-With-Foot’s 29th birthday, we spent a long weekend in the walled City of Carcassonne and then a couple of days at a B&B in Limoux. Carcassonne was amazing – we were there two weeks before tourist season started in earnest and had many of the streets and restaurants almost to ourselves. Old walls, moats, a huge almost empty church, a high-walled keep, great food… I could go on and on.

Limoux was also a relaxing change of pace from our everyday life. I didn’t turn on my phone once to work and we may have brought three cases of wine and Blanquette (similar to Champagne) home with us. Brodie stayed with a house/puppy sitter while we were gallivanting about and when we got home he and my cute wife immediately snuggled down and took a nap. Below are a few of my pictures and here is the link to her website and more pictures from the trip.

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Another Cherry Bowl

I spent another weekend afternoon playing on the lathe. I made a mate to the cherry bowl I turned last month – the other side of the tree trunk. It was a little smaller block of wood and I roughed it out a little quicker. I decided to keep this one instead of giving it away and use on the dining table for fruit and such. It colored up really nicely – a warm orange that will darken with age, but it has checked a little more than the first one – it hasn’t split and hopefully won’t – but there are a few fine cracks that have popped up here and there.

I started it out thinking it was going to be a different shape, but due to some spongy fruit-wood, it became more of a vertically sided bowl with a deep finger groove on the bottom. Like the last bowl (and most of my bowls and lids), I turned a little detail in the bottom of the bowl because I think that curiosity should be rewarded. The bowl is again finished off with my own mix of beeswax and walnut oil. I am going to let it dry for a few months and reapply.


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Film Friday – Paddle Triple Feature – 4/18/2014

Canoe Paddle Maker

Hand Crafted from Jam Jar Films on Vimeo.

A Cherry Paddle

My Paddle – Luke Gibson from Luke Gibson on Vimeo.

Hawaiian Paddle Maker


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A Fine French Work Bench

My GROP (garage and shop combo) in Seattle was too small for a proper joiner’s bench. I made due with a slim, high, wall-mounted work counter, a bolted on machinist-vise, Quick Clamps, and the top of my table saw. It worked – mostly – but was a pain in the ass a good bit of the time: I never once planed a board on a stable, solid surface. My GROP here in France is roughly the same size as the one in Seattle, but is absent the huge cast iron machines and saws. I have some room to move and finally have the space for a big, heavy, proper work bench. This shit is about to get real…

As I live in France, I am building a 2m long, 85cm wide split top Roubo-style bohemyth, that will have a 12cm, 4-part slab top (6.5′ X 33.46″ X 4.72″) and it will be 36″ high as that is MY optimal bench height. Wooden leg vise, dog holes, a cast iron tail vise – all the bells and whistles! I am planning for it to take a mule to move this thing as I will do some serious planing on this baby. It is an amalgamation of benches by M. Roubo, Roy Underhill, Chris Schwartz, and Bill Schenher. I am calling it the “Cornebarrieu Bench” after the small village in southern France where we live, where the lumber has been sourced, and where the bench will be made and first used.

I picked up the lumber at a yard near the house, strapped it to the top of my tiny car and carried it home, giggling manically. The wood is now in the GROP drying out a little and waiting for me to attack the timber and fashion it into one fine, sweet hunk of usefulness. It makes my black heart more than a little happy to think about the look on movers’ faces when they see this thing when they come to pack us out for our eventual move back to Seattle. Mwahahaha…

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Weekend Update – 4/14/14

Really good weekend with just a couple of bumps…

Out late Friday night in Toulouse
Slept in Saturday morning
Stamps-With-Foot made yummy breakfast – great croissants!
Surfed the Interwebs and lost an hour or two to Pinterest
Worked on a dining table bench for about an hour
Used smoothing plane and made tissue paper-thin shavings :-)
Drove to Toulouse for 1st outdoor beekeeping class – waking up the hives from the Winter
Warm sunshine, blue skies, perfect weather!
Hives were in good condition and got to split one hive that was doing really well – already completely filled the hive box with pollen and honey.
Stopped by Lumber store on way home to buy some dust masks.
I can’t be trusted in Lumber/Hardware stores…
Bought 60 Euros worth of lumber, glue and screws
Forgot dust masks…
Came home to cuddle wife
Wife accidentally kneed me in the baby-maker and ¼ of a second later, put weight on the same knee, smashing the boys…
Rolled around on the ground in pain for at least a full minute
Limped outside
Mowed lawn and turned the compost
Limped a little while doing so – boys still hurt.
Helped wife make steak fajitas
Was on guard for any errant knees…
Drank a glass of wine and snuggled while watching 6 episodes of the last season of HIMYM
More Pinterest and sleep
Slept till 10:00 and leisurely breakfast
Went into Village to market and found a very nice oak printer tray for 10 Euro.
Immediately bought it without haggling over the price
Spent an hour in shop patching a small section of bench where plane slipped while joining two boards.
Found where a cat had marked some lumber when garage door was open night before.
Said hateful things about cats.
Had lunch with a friend that is healing from a cracked collarbone
Came home and finished putting together the teak patio
Bought wrong oil for the patio furniture – Grrr…
Fixed one of the broken arms (from move) on the Adirondack chairs
Had coffee in the shade
Hung hammock and tested it out.
Place feels like home now!
Sweet wife made dinner and we ate for first time on our new patio table – first of many meals
Snuggled in hammock with wife and listened to birds, neighbors, bees, etc…

Very happy

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Market Stall Finds – China 2014

My mom drug me all over Texas as a kid; visiting antique markets, flea markets, auction houses, garage sales, junk shops, etc… I hated it at first, but more and more, I would find some cool old nick-knacks, books, or a tool that would make the trip worth it. I think my dad made her take me along so she would not be tempted to buy out every shop. I had side deals with both of them: to rat mom out and keep my mouth shut when Daddy asked about the amount spent. It was a lucrative arrangement and usually netted me $10 a weekend in hush money and my father would slide me a Verboten Sneakers Bar under the table for tidbits of information. As I got older, I became my mother’s pack mule – training that my wife now truly appreciates!

My first sword came from a garage sale and was a rusty WW1 Cavalry saber that I defeated entire imaginary armies with, became a pirate, an Arthurian knight, a samurai, a ninja, a Jedi, and was Teddy Roosevelt leading the charge up San Juan Hill! As a note, that hill was a mound of dirt pushed up by a dozer at a construction site, but it didn’t matter to my 9-year-old self. I now look back with fond memory on all the bits and bobbles that came home with me from that time and those early trips into the dusty corners of market stalls has left me with a love of the same. I hope that when I retire from my J-O-B to have my own little Rag and Bone shop of furniture and antiques to while away my time in.

For now, anytime I travel, I try to take a couple of hours to explore the local markets. I have spent hours roaming, looking, haggling and bargaining in market districts from Berlin to Paris, Marrakesh, New York, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv, London, Belfast, Beijing, Hong Kong, Montreal, Calcutta, New Delhi, Los Angeles and so many points in-between.

I just returned from China where had a little time in Xi’an and Chengdu to do some wandering and I found a few treasures to bring home and some that stayed right where they were… Some of the offerings included:

Wooden and stone beads
Cabinet Hardware
Brass statues
Corn and honey sweet treats
Bamboo chop-sticks that were made right there in the stall (~10 cents a pair)
Human skull caps (stayed at the market!)
Hand bells
Military Surplus
Old Suitcases
Musical Instruments
Dried fruit and nuts
Polished turtle shells
Go game pieces
Reproduction coins
Terra Cotta Figures
Chinese calligraphy paintings
Religious mementos
Animal horn combs
20 different poses of Buddha
Porcelain dishes and bowls
Wood Carvings
Old books

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Off to China

My J-O-B sent me to China again for another 5-city mad dash of meetings over a 6 day period. Here is how the schedule went:

Wake up at 0-dark-thirty, taxi to the airport, fly, meet with customers, eat, take train or car to the airport, fly again, eat, check into some weird hotel, sleep, do all over again. Exhausting.

A few observations:

That is not dust in the air, it is smog.
Lots of inappropriate footwear – lady cop directing traffic in platform heals & brick mason in flip-flops
Food was amazing!
Food sucked – depended on the place and the dish…
Really got tired of people pushing, cutting in line, spitting on sidewalk everywhere.
There is an inability to use a urinal: piss everywhere but there.
Liked haggling at the markets
Where did all the bikes go?
Really liked the door/chest hardware stalls at the street markets.
No, I do not want a watch…
No, I do not want pretty girl…
NEVER drive a car in China!
How can a fvcking plane seat be this small!?
Traffic lanes and signals are just for suggestion.
LOVE the cabinet hardware in the markets.
Can I please have chicken without the whole damn head included on the plate?!
Why is there no soap in the bathroom?!
Please stop touching me…
Why is that kid peeing in the middle of a busy intersection?

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Film Friday – Shoes – March 21, 2014

Bespoke Boots:

George’s Boots from farmrun on Vimeo.

A Family shoe business:

E Vogel {Custom Boots and Shoes} from Davide Luciano on Vimeo.

Danner Boots:

Crafting Higher Standards Trailer from Haven Anderson on Vimeo.


Recrafting: Crafting Higher Standards from Haven Anderson on Vimeo.

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What I want Thursday – A Someday Custom Bike build

Someday, I will have a bespoke bike built – custom fit to my goofy measurements and with all the bells a whistles that I want/need/lust after. A bike that is equally suited for using as a city single-speed, a gravel road shredder, light single track, and a 9-speed road rider and tourer.

I want:
A lugged steel frame
S&S couplers so I can fly with it
Disc breaks
Single front 32T or 44T chain ring
18T freewheel (I have an Ultegra 9-speed group and Deraulier in a box…)
Clearance for 33X700 tires
Bull horn bars
Paul 2-finger levers
Flipping Rear dropouts (44 Bike)
Duel bottle cage
Rack and fender mounts (I have a set of wood FastBoy fenders that need a good home)
Brazed on bottle opener (A’la Rodriguez Cycles)
Brooks Swallow Tail saddle.

I really dig what Kristofer Henry in New Hampshire has going with 44 Bikes. If I could talk him into a lugged Huntsman, then we could do some serious business.

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From tree to bowl with a LOT of sweat in between

I have a colleague that was making over a large section of his property out in the French country-side and he needed a dying cherry tree taken down. It was a big old tree with what looked like lots of good hard wood in the trunk base, so I gave him a hand. I thought I could tun the wood into some nice bowels, mallet heads, honey dippers, etc… and he agreed to let me have some of the wood that was destined for his fire place. Holy Crap it was work – not at all helped by his tiny electric chainsaw. It made me long for my 30″ bar, 2-stroke beast back in my Seattle garage shop.

After cutting 2 good rounds and trimming up the root ball, I split the rounds in two, then put 200 pounds of wood in the back of my tiny Suzuki Swift and hauled it home. Into the garage it went and the wife and I were off to the Saturday Market. I came back to one of the rounds on the next night and decided to prep it for turning. With my Japanese hatchet and hand saw, I worked it into an octagon-ish shape. There was a lot of rot in the outer rings and the sections did not make as large of bowls as I had hopped, but the root ball will make an AMAZING centerpiece on the table for holding bread or fruit at parties. I am getting ahead of my self a little…

Anyway, the first section was a beast! It took me 3 hours to go from the half-round to the round bowl-blank. I almost threw the hunk down and took it over to my neighbors wood pile while just roughing it into shape with the axe. The wood was SO FREAKING HARD! It got worse when I started spinning the thing! My roughing gouge was super sharp when I started and I had to sharpen it twice again during the initial turn. There was a break in the turning where I built a jig for my turning chisels so that the sharpening angle was perfect every time, but that is a different tale…

I have never gone from tree to bowl before and I wanted to see if I could do it well. Usually, I either glue up hardwood scraps or buy a rough elm or maple blank from my hardwood dealer in Seattle (With the coin I drop at his place, he is most assuredly a DEALER! His crack just has figured grain and tight growth rings…) Anyway, I might should have picked a tree with softer wood for my first time, but how many turners back in the US can say that they cut down a old cherry tree in France and made cool stuff with it?!

I finished up the bowl four nights after I started turning the rough shape. I had to work around some rot and cracks, but the final shape turned out really nice. When someone handles the bowl and flips it over, they will find my makers mark and I turned a little detail in the bottom of the bowl because I think that curiosity should be rewarded. The bowl is finished off with my own mix of beeswax and walnut oil. After two coats, it colored up beautifully. There are a couple of spots where it may split along the rim, but that is just the nature of the wood and that specific piece – it will add character to the bowl. This one was done for the guy who gave me the wood and I will turn a couple later for our house.

I was really proud of how it all turned out and the final product made all the sweat and cussing worth it.

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Film Friday – Wine Double Feature +1 – March 14, 2014


“Under The Vine” from Stephen DaVega on Vimeo.



+1 – Old School way of making a Wine Barrel:

Making of a wine barrel – Francesco Loi from Francesco Loi on Vimeo.

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Off to the Antique Market we go!!

A couple of months ago while talking to my son on the phone, I mentioned that Stamps-With-Foot and I had been at the monthly Antique Market here in Toulouse. My boy, The Ruminator, started roaring with laughter and said something about how “…going antiquing was for old ladies!..” I let him laugh a while and then explained how awesome it was to find bobbles and treasures and cool stuff at the different stalls. He wasn’t having it and continued with the giggles. Fast forward to this past weekend (1st full weekend in March). My lovely wife and I planned the day out around going to peruse the market: Coffee and lunch and wine and crapes while touring strolling the lanes and bargaining for small bits, talking to the locals, and looking a treasures that we won’t ever be able to afford – the 7′X12′ landscape paining from 1930 or the french-polished table form the reign of Napoleon.

There was a little of everything to be found: a jar of brains, a VERY cool turtle, black powder shotguns, Persian rugs, linens, paintings, desks, tables, tapestries, rusted iron tools, old dolls, military medals, an anvil, low chairs, cutting blocks, glass ware, sculptures, books, etc… We ended up with an 18th century book stand from an Abby, a haberdasher’s display rack (our new entryway coat rack), a SWEET industrial Cast-Iron-legged table that has a 28″X72″ oak slab top that is over 100 years old! I also happened upon a rusty axe head in a stall full of miscellaneous crap that resembles a large 17th Century broad axe in the Armor and Weapons section of the Louvre. Not saying that this one is the same thing, but it looks REAL close. I immediately sent my son the following text:

“…Made fun of me for going to the Antiques markets… This weekend I got what looks like a 300 year old Battle Axe made for storming castles. It was $40. Too bad antiques are for old ladies and you won’t be going to any any markets while you are here. Are you laughing at me now? Mwahahaha!!…”

As a note, The Ruminator is enamored with Vikings, swords, castles, armor, and all things Medieval. I did my black heart some needed good to wave his antique-arrogance under his nose a little. It make the evil-inside almost giddy thinking about the “AWE MAN!” face he made when he read my note.

Below are some shots of both the market and our haul.

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How to make a Chinese wood lathe work “right out of the box”

I have mentioned that when planning our move to Toulouse, I realized that I would have to leave my big electrical shop machines in Seattle.   It hurt a little as I have become dependent on a table saw and compound miter saw for even the simplest tasks. I am looking forward to spending some quality time with my hand tools, but I have to have a lathe to complete 75% of the projects that I tackle. There is no way in Blue Blazes that I am was going to build a pole lathe or a foot-powered flywheel lathe – there I draw the line. I needed a fairly large machine to turn the posts, trenchers, stools, bowls, table legs, spindles, scoops, etc… that are on my “to-do in France” list.

Machine tools in France are CRAZY expensive. Look at the US price, change the Dollar sign to a Euro sign and add 30% to the final price. I looked at a large Jet lathe and it cost more than my first truck. Even the small midi version was the equivalent of $600. I just can’t spent that kind of cash on something that doesn’t either feed me or take me to work. After some research, I found a bare bones, no accessories, Chinese made model that some of the local turners were buying for their second or third lathe. It was 1/3 the cost of a well appointed model with the same bed length and power. Sold. I brought all my chucks and jigs and accessories with me, so I thought “Perfect!”

There wasn’t one available in a 400 mile radius, so I had to order it at the home center in the next village over.  11 days later it showed up and I brought my new 400 pound beauty queen home in a Suzuki swift. I am sure the douche-bag that stood 10′ from me watched as I man-handled it into the rear hatch of my tiny car using old tires and 2X4s has already posted the video.

Now, it was advertised at “Ready to turn out of the box!” For that to be true you need the following tools:

  1. Rubber Mallet
  2. 1/2″ combination wrench
  3. Set of standard Allen wrenches
  4. Flat-head screwdriver
  5. #2 Phillips screwdriver
  6. 3/8″ drive ratchet
  7. 1/2 socket
  8. Long socket extension: >6″
  9. Standard Tap and Die set
  10. A large vocabulary of cuss words
  11. Drill
  12. Metal Drill-bit Set
  13. Large Bastard File

You will also need the following additional parts as the bolts and washers provided were likely scooped from a bin without counting and dropped in a bag.  There are only two small pages of instructions and they do not list all the parts, the number of each that will be required, or the order in which they are installed.  Take examples of the bits and pieces provided and get duplicates in the same size:

  1. Washers
  2. lock-washers
  3. pan head bolts
  4. Machine bolts

You will also need:

  1. four 8′ long 2X4s
  2. Wood Glue
  3. Sandpaper
  4. Pan-head wood screws or deck screws
  5. 4 sacks of concrete

I found out about the hardware issue right away and drove back to the home center in the next village for spares, but I had all of the other supplies on hand – I did not pack light for our move here :-)   The base was my first obstacle. It was flimsy sheet metal and some of the holes were out of alignment.  I drilled and fitted, whacked with a mallet and said lots of dirty words, before I finally got the lathe on.  A quick tug showed that the base needed some serious beefing up.  If I put an unbalanced piece in it, it would shake apart.   I ended up building a crossed braced wooden skeleton for the whole thing – my Jr. High Wood Shop teacher would beam with pride.  The reinforcing process took me 4 hours that first night, but that was mostly because I don’t have a miter box saw and was making compound angle cuts with a sliding-T bevel and a Japanese pull saw. I ended up having to chase the threads in the cast iron lathe bed and on the head stock (really) with a couple of different taps and used Loctite on all the bolts.

All the handles and knobs had to be put on and tested and the tail stock and head stock had to be adjusted, tweaked, and tweaked a little more to get them in alignment. The cast iron tool rest was really rough, so I used a file here and there on it and sanded the tool bearing surface and finger groove with progressively finer sandpaper, from 80 to 400 grit.  This all took another 3 hours the next night.

After all was said and done, I clamped up a small hunk of 2X4 that was a cut-off from building the base and with just my skew chisel, turned it down and into a bunch of tiny beads.  The lathe turns great and has plenty of power.  I couldn’t be happier.  I saved 800-1000 Euros in exchange for 7-8 hours of me time.

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Bench for the front entry – Project #4 in France

We are a “no shoes in the house” family. It is dry and dusty where we live in the summer and the trails near by that I run and that Stamps-With-Foot and Brodie walk on are shared with horses. We don’t want to track dirt and poo into the house. There is a great spot right by the front door to take your shoes off, but no place to sit down to do it. I decided a rustic little 5-board bench was in order. I spent five hours from the initial sketch design to putting on the final coat of polyurethane over a week’s time. No nails or screws were used, just through-mortises, wedges and dowels. We now have a small piece of furniture outside the front door that is functional and matches the house and the style of our other furniture – you never know it might someday find its way inside.

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Found Trunk

Last spring (2013), I was at the West Seattle Fruit Market and asked if I could snag an oak pallet that was sticking out of their dumpster. “No worries. Sure. Take whatever.” When I pulled out the pallet, I found an old trunk/chest under it that had the top ripped off and was in sad shape. I almost left it where it was, but then decided it would be good for tool storage in the shop as the top was under the box and all the pieces were there. I drug it all home and after I cleaned some old lettuce and a rotten beet out, stuck the thing under a wing of the table saw where it promptly started collecting sawdust.

While working on my own version of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest a few months later, I decided to fix the found trunk up as well. It took maybe a total of 2 hours was strait forward:

Vacuum job
Removal of the old bent and broken hardware
old hinges from some other scavenged project installed
Top refitted and put on
a little glue was applied to some trim
1″X4″ slats to reinforce the bottom…
A few well-placed screws
From the pieces of left-over pallet wood found on the same day, I glued up some 5″ blocks and turned them down to make bun feet.
Installation of the new feet
a quick light all-over sanding
Two coats of Teak tinted tung oil.
….and done…

Stamps-With-Foot saw it up on saw horses in the yard and claimed it for the house. Apparently, it was too “rustic & French & crafty” to be vanquished to warrens of my dark little shop to be abused with tools, dirt, dust, grease and boyness. When I first started putting it back together, I found stained receipt from a outdoor store (no date) and a cub scout pin wedged in the bottom. I surmised that this was a young man’s camping/scouting trunk that he or his dad or both built it together. From the construction and the materials used, it looks like it was put made in the late ’40′s or early 1950′s. It now sits in our living room in the south of France and serves as a coffee table and blanket/hammock storage chest.

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Making my single speed city bike into a single speed CycloX bike.

I love my Single Speed Bike. I built her in 2007, pieced together out of found, used and scrounged parts – all Bride of Frankenstein-like. She has been loving and trustworthy since our first spin together. We have ridden in five separate countries, in three States, through crazy German and Amsterdam traffic, in cities, on lonely country roads, commuted to and from work together, vacationed together, up horrendous hills, and down at least one set of subway stairs. She has never left me stranded, bruised and bleeding a little, but never alone and lost Now, we are riding single track together.

There is a network of mixed use trails near our house (lots of horses) that go on for miles and they have screamed for me to bike them. Right after our stuff was delivered in February, I got my big ol’ butt on my bike for a “quick run” to the store for milk. It was not quick. I had grossly over-estimated both my level of fitness and the slope of the road leading to said store. It did not help that I tipped the scales at nearly 200 pounds and my former peak cycling weight was ~165. My head was spinning by the time I got to the store and I had to fight with all my dignity not to puke. It was bad.

The very next night I put a set of 33X700 cyclo-cross tires on my bike so I could ride the trails by the house, work off some of the belly, and puke in private. The tires BARELY clear the chain-stays on the frame and are 1/8″ away from the brakes, but they DO clear and that is the most important part. Fvck buying a mountain bike! Me and my Single are just fine on the trails here. Even with the new tires, she weighs a whopping 22 pounds and I can throw her over my shoulder and walk by anything real shitty. Try that with a 40 pound full suspension monster!

We went for a muddy 10+ miler after work today and I had a ball! I am down to 181, the sun was shining, there were hard-packed trail sections that I was able to peddle like crazy on and there were some NASTY sections that were caked in slippery mud. We got dirty together.

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Film Friday – Chair making – March 7, 2014

This is a long one, but really detailed…

The Sterling Historical Society presents PeterGalbert from Robert McKay Jones on Vimeo.

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Fountain Pen Experiment

Have you ever seen a guy whip out a Montblanc Meisterstück 149 and flourish his writing hand a little before jotting his name down? Did he look at you with a winking smile after he lifted pen from paper? He was a douche bag.

I do love writing with a fountain pen. I don’t care if people look at it or like it or not. I use it to write with, sign checks, jot down notes, scribble, draw, doodle, formulate my plans for world domination, etc… I like how it feels to write with, I like my penmanship better when using one, I like the look of my letters and I like brown indelible ink – try getting that in a fvcking ball point from a plastic pack.

I have carried and used a cheap blue plastic LAMY Safari as my everyday writer since 2007. I picked it up in a Thalia book shop in Hamburg and promised myself that if I wrote with it until I wore out the nib or until it stopped working forever, then I would “deserve” an expensive pen. I don’t mean a gold pen or a flashy pen, but one that writes like an angel whispers, doesn’t clog every other time, won’t leak all over my hand during a meeting (I used to have a Pilot that was cursed). That sort of performance and reliability does not come cheap and is not found at Target.

Well, that day has come! I went to refill my blue friend a couple days ago and found that the threads for the barrel had broken off at the base and the pen wouldn’t go back together. It was kinda sad for me sad as it has been a constant companion for 6 years, but I rallied, pulled the broken in F-nib off and put it on a Stainless Safari that Stamps-With-Foot gave me for our either our 2nd Anniversary or Valentine’s the same year. That pen is now my daily writer and I will keep using it until a Sheaffer Roaring Twenties, Porsche Design TecFlex, or a a Montblanc Chopin happens to fall into my pocket. That last sentence was a hint for my Pretty wife…

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Hall Tree and Shoe Rack for My Bride

Soon after we moved into La Maison du Talley in Seattle, my lovely bride decided that “we” needed a place to hang coats by the front door. I looked a little at coat racks and hall trees in the shops close to the house, but I just couldn’t stomach paying $250-300 for a semi-crappy coat rack that was the wrong color or wood for our house. I had one of those “light bulb” moments and decided to build one for us. Normally, I would have cut the raised panels (I tried to convince Stamps-With-Foot to let me do linen-fold panels) and added a little fancy trip work, but as I was recovering from shoulder surgery (#4), I decided to go with the re-use route. Second Use is a used hardware and reclaimed building material store in Seattle that I frequent and I cruised over for a used fir 6-panel door. Right away, I found the perfect one that set me back a whole $30. While pushing the cart loaded with the door to the front, I found a couple of cast off cabinet doors, a few odd sections of trim, and a bundle of old tongue & groove fir flooring. A plan formed in my little head…

I cut two feet from the top of the door, then flipped it over. I built a bench and shoe rack from the cabinet doors (raised panels turned in to match the adjacent hutch and the flat panel cabinets in the rest of the house) and attached it to what became the bottom of the door/hall tree. I ringed the top with a flooring plank, tongue down, and then applied some 100 year old left over fir crown molding on the top. The whole thing was sanded down and stained a deep red mahogany and finished off with 3 coats of exterior grade polyurethane.

For the hooks, I sourced a set of coat and helmet hooks from an old Seattle firehouse and small round dog leash hooks from Rejuvenation Hardware. When all was said and done, this was the very first project finished for our home in Seattle, I spent a total of $94, and I wrote a little love note to Stamps-With-Foot on the top of it. My little wife was giddy when I brought it into the house and she raved to friends for weeks about handy and awesome her husband was – made me puff out my chest like a Banty rooster.

If I did this again, the only thing I would change would be to make the shoe shelves movable as they are about 1/4″ too narrow for my running shoes, but perfect for her shoes, which I guess is the most important feature.

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Last Project in Seattle Shop for a While

Just before we left Seattle for Toulouse, Stamps-With-Foot and I went to San Francisco to secure our French Visas. While there, we spent an afternoon visiting friends and family. At one point, we found ourselves at my wife’s non-biological little sister’s house (Becca) and I noticed a couple of chunks of wood sitting out on her patio. My wood lust made me wonder over and take a look… HOLY CRAP! She had 4 huge chunks of Aromatic Cedar Burl – like $450+ in exotic wood sitting out in the rain. I immediately ran inside and told her to get it on eBay right then. She and her husband found the chunks sitting on the side of the road with the trash and just picked them up. I tried explaining to her how awesome and rare her find was, but Becca didn’t really have the will/time/interest to sell the pieces to some other lumber-jock and I was told to take some home if I wanted it.

I argued.
I tried to tell her how to sell it.
She was firm.
What was I to do??
I packed two hunks into a diaper box, taped it up, and checked it as luggage on the flight home.

The wood was a little wet still, but I couldn’t help myself – I HAD to cut into it to see what the figure looked like. I was a little heart sick on the first cut when my saw hit rotten heart wood. I managed to cut out a few (6) big wedges and a couple of blocks. I sanded one of the wedges smooth and applied a little walnut oil and OH MY!! I do not believe that I have ever fallen in love with a hunk of raw wood before that instant! I didn’t have the time to really do anything detailed, so I cleaned up the two sanded wedges and brought them in the house for bookends and left the other bits to dry and season in the garage until we move back and I can give them a some proper attention. I will make a little lidded bowel for Becca and maybe some bookends out of the other sections for her dad.

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Film Friday – Book related Double-Feature – Feb. 28, 2014

Book Binding:

The Binding Studio from Joefish on Vimeo.

A little Wood Block Printing:

Made By Hand for Wallpaper* from Anthony Burrill on Vimeo.

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Tools I brought with me from the old country…

When planning our move to Toulouse, I came to the realization that I would not be able to take my entire shop with me. I didn’t relish the idea of replacing all my power tools and saws with 220vt/60Hz versions, only to have to sell them in a couple of years when we move back to Seattle. I decided that I would bring mostly my hand tools and and spend some quality time working small projects, cutting dovetails, tuning my planes, etc… There were three 24″X24″ boxes and one wooden chest full of edge moulding planes, Stanley Bench Planes, 4 rolls of chisels, mallets, Japanese saws, hand drills, dovetail tools, axes, draw knives, my half set (#2 – #18 even) of 1850ish Gleave hollows and rounds, squares, jigs, rasps, and assorted joinery paraphernalia.

My plan is to use the time here to do the detail work that I am usually in too much of a rush to even contemplate: carved scroll-work, mortised frames, insets, layered stain finishes, edging with the moulding planes, some light carving, maybe even cutting a few linen-fold panels. I have done a couple of little things already, but my first big task is to build a HEAVY work bench so that I will have a proper work space: I am going with a split top Neo-Roubo without a leg vise. I will be installing a cast iron Front Vise and a Screw Vise on the tail of the bench instead. No cabinets underneath so that I can store a shooting board and a Moxon vise. It WILL BE coming home to Seattle with us.

In the interest of full disclosure: I am not a neo-Luddite – I did buy an orbital sander right after we got here and I shipped my Ryobi 18vt tool set (circle saw, 2 drills, reciprocating saw, flashlight, & jig saw). The same sets are sold here and I got a 220vt charger that works with my existing batteries and picked up a couple of fresh new lithium-ion batteries in the process. Aside from the battery tools, I ordered a large wood lathe so that I can make furniture legs, tool handles, bowls, jar lids, platters, etc. I brought all my lathe chisels and chucks with me and I got a model that uses a DC motor that I can change over to one that runs on US current when we move back. It is much larger than my lathe in Seattle and will be a valuable addition to the shop there when we return.

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We had a pretty good weekend:

The house is coming together and I got a couple of small projects done. I hung a hand-tool only built pull-up bar outside to facilitate working out at home. With help from Stamps-With-Foot, I hung what used to be an old rickety wooden ladder in the living room. I sanded, stained, and varnished it into what is now a sweet bookshelf. We also picked up a couple of chairs, a wooden chest, and a large stone BBQ grill from a couple that are moving from France to Spain soon. The grill is moulded concrete and stone, came in 6 pieces, and weights close to 350 pounds. It super sucked getting it moved into place!

Part of Saturday was spent trying to update and setup my new work computer. There was some sort of sync error and all my previous back-ups are gone from the work server so I am starting with nothing. It is somewhat depressing and a metric shit-ton of work! At one point I had to take a break and we took Brodie for a long, muddy walk on a nearby trail. He was all in until it started raining and sleeting sideways on our way backup the house. He WANTS to be a giant farm dog right up until the reality of it smacks him in the face. Then, he wants to go home and snuggle under a blanket…

Saturday night was spent out in Toulouse. We had a Vietnamese dinner with 10+ people from an English speaking group. It was really nice to get out of the house and not think about my computer woes.

We went for a drive in the country Sunday, stopped by a craft market so that Stamps-With-Foot could peruse fabric for quilt pieces. After the crafty thing, we ate very long lunch in a tiny village restaurant 40 minutes north of Toulouse. We were seated at a table with a very sweet French couple who were very happy to talk to us, let my sweet/adorable wife try her new French vocabulary, and the food was Excellent! Brodie went and was perfectly mannered – he sat under the table the whole time while his mommy slipped him slivers duck breast.

Sunday night was filled with more work on my computer and some dirty words and wishes of bodily injury for the person that jacked my other computer.











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Computer gone… Life harder

Dear thieving bastard;

While I can understand a want/need in life and lacking the sources to make it happen – I really can: I once lived in a shack on the edge of an alligator and snake infested swamp with no job, no car, an absent partner, a negative bank balance, three cans of chili to eat, and a crying baby. I can see how my computer just sitting out in the open, behind my locked hotel room door, could be tempting for you. If you stole my computer to feed your children or buy medicine for a loved one, then please ignore the rest of this letter and may God hold you and keep you. I pray that my laptop, or the proceeds from its sale, is the catalyst, the first step, to a better life.

If that is not the case and you jacked my shit because you wanted a quick buck, well then… I hope that this theft is part of a life of petty crime that will eventually lead you to a small cell in a damp prison with a very large cell-mate that has aggressively amorous intentions for the part of your anatomy that you are currently sitting on. I wish this from the bottom of my deep dark soul due to the headache, frustration and lost time/effort you have caused me. Almost two months of work -12 hour days – gone. Hours that will be spent filling out paperwork, the finger wagging disapproval from the powers that be and my J-O-B. You son of a bitch…

Sincerely yours,
Matt Talley

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Paris in Winter

I spent a few days in Paris working and got into the center of the city one afternoon. The positive side of cyber commuting: I can work from a cramped little cube/office, from my sun-filled home office, or from a street cafe across from Notre Dame in Paris…
















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France – The first 30 days.

Still Love France.
My French has gotten SO bad.
I did forget how slow things are to get done here. 
You want a buy/lease a car?  Three weeks-ish. 
You want cable and internet? 1 month.
Want it to work? 1 more week and 14 phone calls
Love my J-O-B
No such thing as coffee to go… even if you get it in a tiny paper/plastic cup, there is no lid.
Really like the house here. The 16″ thick concrete walls and steel shutters give it a homey crypt-like feeling.
Miss our house in Seattle.
There are doctors who speak English, but their receptionists who book the appointments don’t… 
You want groceries on Sunday?  Nope, not going to happen
I also forgot how amazing the eggs and meet are. 
Want to sit and have coffee and talk to my mom, miss that.
Bread goes with EVERYTHING! Awesome bread.
Having a really hard time finding a shop that sells wood lathes – only power tool I want/need here.
The weather here in winter is better than summer in Hamburg.
Miss my furniture. We have been “Camping” since Halloween and I am about 99.9999% done sitting on the floor to eat my dinner.
Want my tools like a junkie wants their cooking spoon.
Stamps-With-Foot is buying enough cheese to make the regional sale figures blip. 
Our dog< Brodie, has fully integrated and will cop a squat in the middle of the street, sneering at anyone who dares to question his right to do so.
He goes to restaurants with us like he is a little prince.
The wife slips him duck breast, cote of Beaof, and aged cheese under the table. 
I had 2 glasses of $4 wine that we bought at the grocery store with dinner tonight. 
It was awesome.  No, truly. 
Wish my kids were here.
I miss Starbucks, but I have a Killer espresso machine in the kitchen. 
Can now watch Netflix and BBC One with country specific VPN accounts - sticking it to the man!
Miss my bikes. Can't wait for them to arrive next week (insert giddy face)
The designer dog food here is sold in breed specific bags - really. It is crap, but it is packaged well.
I have lost a little weight because I am not eating crap and started running again.
Very, very nice wooded trail near house - miles and miles long.
Flying to Florida for work next week and am bringing home coffee beans, dry dog food, and Cajun Seasoning.
Packed an extra duffle bag...
Went for a drive in the country today and happened by a 16th century chalet with turrets and a moat about an hour form the house. 
The thought of Stamps-With-Foot driving in France scares the Hell out of me!
Life is damn fine on the whole.

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Film Friday – Guitar Build Double Feature – 12-27-13

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Our Temporary House in Toulouse

We have a house in a small, ancient (as in Roman) village outside of Toulouse.  It is all ready and waiting for us.  The only problem is that the house is completely empty.  No stuff, no where.  Our kitchen things and bed are being sent to us via an air shipment sometime in December and we will be able to move in as soon as that happens.  In the meantime, we rented a small apartment in the heart of old Toulouse on a street that was laid out in 1164.  Our place is full of hand-hewn timbers and exposed brick archways, and sits in the gate-house of a block of homes built between 1200-ish and 1840.  There are two small court yards, two Victorian water-pumps near our door and in the brick causeway, and there are still iron rings in the brick once used for tying up horses.  Very cool.

We are also walking distance from most of the inner-city sites and churches, and we have found a VERY yummy bakery just up the street.  Stamp-With-Foot stops every few feet to take pictures and marvel.  She loves Toulouse!

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Leaving for France and our MONSTER To-Do list.

Moving from one country to another, the actual process, is a huge pain in the ass.  So much to do and so many details…  The complexity of our move was increased because we will continue to own our place in Seattle and we had The Nana move into it.  Separating the stuff that would go and stay, fixing small issues like that leaking faucet, winterizing the garden, trimming trees, installing railings and additional locks, and organizing yard and house maintenance contacts was enough to make my head explode.

There were 4 specific and different to-do lists that were drawn up in June and added to as time went on.  I would like to tell you that it all got done, but the state of my backyard, the unsold table saws, the uninstalled basement railing and the incomplete bookshelf in our bedroom say different.

Things that were accomplished:

  1. Trimmed our vine maple (see pictures below of Stamps-With-Foot with the chainsaw)
  2. Winterized the pipes and garden
  3. Installed the front stair railing
  4. Installed a speak-easy in the front door, so Nana would not have to open the door to a stranger
  5. Leaves were raked
  6. The raspberry cage was retied
  7. Junk was removed from the backyard
  8. Bills were transferred
  9. The heating-oil tank was filled
  10. Rebuilt bathroom faucet and valve
  11. Cancelled our car insurance
  12. Trimmed the bushes
  13. New tires were purchased for the car we left for Nana to use
  14. Squeaky doors were oiled
  15. Wired a motion detector light in the back yard
  16. Installed an additional basement door lock and metal security screen
  17. My shop was cleaned and organized
  18. Had extra keys made
  19. Upgrades made in the alarm system
  20. We sold one truck and donated another
  21. My father-in-law planted a fig tree and served as grunt labor during Thanksgiving
  22. I drained and prepped the hot tub for 2 years of alone time
  23. Basement became slightly more organized
  24. I hauled two entire loads of brush and projects-that-will-never-be to the dump (and found a very nice Fender guitar and new oak office chair there, but that is a story/post for another day)
  25. Household paint was retouched
  26. Replaced burned out bulbs
  27. Blackberries were trimmed
  28. Removed rust and repainted the front door railings
  29. Did some final cabinet work
  30. Moved two houses worth of furniture and a storeroom into our basement, first floor and garage
  31. Unpacked my mom
  32. Had Cable TV and a home phone installed (we only used cell phones)
  33. Repaired outside wall where cable installer poked extra holes
  34. I busted some plaster in the living room that will wait until I get back in the summer
  35. Hung the TV over the fireplace
  36. etc…etc…etc…

The images below are proof of some of the work and evidence of what did not get done as well.

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