Christmas List – 2016

Fat man in a red suit time again…

Gifts that Keep giving:

  1. Heifer International:
  2. A little cash to Doctors Without Borders/MSF
  3. Go give blood and send me a post card
  4. Habitat for Humanity
  5. Money for Diabetes Research

An Amazon Gift Card
Campaign Furniture by Chris Schwartz
Bees of the World by Mitchner

A gift card to Hardwick’s Hardware in Seattle
Genetic Genealogy testing from National Geographic
A coupon for a Royal Shave at The Art of Shaving
A class or two at the Pratt Center in Seattle
French Bulldog cufflinks
Maybe a Woodcraft gift card
Letters from my kids – written on actual paper.
A 2-Day Rally School Course
The Apple Watch 2. Simple black band – Stainless Steel bezel
An Ash Pack Basket (Sling-style harness)
Amber 2ga. Plugs (bonus points if they have insect inclusions)
Tiffany blue silk tie and matching pocket square
These new bad-ass cufflinks

A fine Anejo Tequila
Franziskaner or Paulaner German Wheat Beer
Hakushu 12 Whisky
A bottle of Fronsac or Canon-Fronsac (Château Lafond, Château La Vieille Cure, La Dalphine…)
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
Porto (Cálem 2011 Vintage, Ramos Pinto, or a Taylor’s)
Glenfiddich 21

Not Looking for a New Job, But…

Port Townsend School of Woodworking is looking for a new Executive Director.  It is my dream job!  I read the job notice early one morning before Thanksgiving and it checked all my boxes.  I have the EXACT qualifications for this position and then some.  It was like the sky parted and a ray of warm sunshine fell upon me.  I needed, my soul need this job!  I had a momentary lapse into my new fantasy life:

Waking up on our 43′ sailboat moored near Ft. Walton Park.
Fresh cup of coffee in the galley.
Kiss my still blissfully sleeping, blanket covered, puppy snuggling wife as I head off the boat to start my day.

Stop in by my dock-side garage shop and feed the cat (
an imaginary cat as I do not have one currently, but would need one for my dockside garage shop in Port Townsend...)
Walk or cycle to work.
Spend my day smiling – the scent of fresh wood in the air around me and surrounded by people also doing what the love.
Stop by a cute local store on the way home for a couple of things and pick up flowers for my wife.
Write a few work e-mails and do a little work on some personal wood projects before dinner.
A fine meal of local veggies and fresh-caught fish with a glass or two of a 2009 Pomerol wine.
Read a little, write a letter or two, play a game of chess, and/or maybe some Netflix before going to bed in our cozy aft cabin.


As I day-dreamed about this new life, I got WAY ahead of myself thinking about how I was going to break the news that we were selling our house in Seattle to my wife. I was fully into the dream right up until I read the last little bit: “…Starting Salary: $45K to $55K”. Dammit!

I guess I will keep my day-job and just huff sawdust in my free time. I sent the notice to my boss without any explanation and I got back something to the effect of: ‘I was worried until I got to the end. I think we will be seeing you for a while longer…’


Film Friday – Racing on a School Night

In the back of our brains we all thing that we are great drivers.  I have been driving at various semi-legal speeds on various forms of transport for 30+ years.  I have hugged corners on winding California coastal roads, slid into mud holes at 4500+ RPM with all four tires throwing rooster tails, took my GPZ900r & CBR600 on track & road courses, and had track days in an AWD blue Subaru demon, and have done a 1/4 mile in less than 12 seconds.  I even have a helmet at work just in case someone wants to go to the local indoor or outdoor cart tracks.  All facts and experience point to the supposition that I am probably an excellent driver.  Nope, I am a realist and just an OK driver.

I have known and currently know much better drivers than myself.  I have been going to a local indoor cart track to get schooled by some coworkers.  We have a couple of guys on staff that are great drivers and I would like to be better than I currently am.  If you want to be rich, hang out with rich people and copy what they do.  If you want to be a good driver…

Working on my day off

The house remodel seems to never end…  I will be so glad to just be and live in our space at some point.  We are close, but there are still details left undone – enough that I am trying to concentrate on one room at a time.  My plan is to get each done in turn and then move on to the next.  I wasn’t as successful at that as I wanted to be this weekend as I bounced back and forth between the living room and our bedroom closet, but I did get a ton done.

I installed the upper shelves and corner shelf in the walk-in closet, laminating two layers of 3/4″ plywood for really strong support over a 54″ span and in the unsupported corner.  In addition to using copious amount of glue and screws, I attached the butted plywood edges together with wood biscuits – it is always a fine day when I get to crank up the biscuit joiner.

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Almost a year ago, I sourced some corner shelves at one of the local architectural salvage places for less than $200 – far cheaper than what it would have taken me to build them.  They came out of a 1930-40’s house and were painted Christmas colors, but I knew that they would be perfect for our living room, which was stripped of its built-ins at some point in the last 88 years.  They have sat in storage and until this past week when I pulled them out and got some material together to permanently mount them.  Stamps-With-Foot helped me set them in place after I built sturdy bases.  Each of them cover a wall plug, so I am in the process of re-routing the receptacle using armored cable.  I also have to build in an air-return duct under one and that has taken some serious brain power to get right.  I will add trim this week and my wife and Mother-in-law will paint them cabinet white this weekend.

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While I was at it, I punched out a rubber washer for a pot lid knob.  I made the knob a couple years ago out of some scrap cherry firewood after the original plastic one broke.  The original washer had corroded, so I made a new one and installed it.


I also took a couple minutes to mount the red glass post topper on the back fence.  It was ordered (along with a spare) months ago and have meant to put it on every weekend since.  There is always an excuse for why I didn’t, so I marched right out first thing Saturday with a tube of clear silicone and finally just got it done.  It is the little victories that keep me going.



A Walk-in Closet for My Wife

As part of the now 10 month rehab, remodel, rebuild of our house my wife wanted some space to hang her clothes and put her shoes and boots that was not an afterthought.  A place that, for once was not crammed or disorganized and was purpose built.  It was decided that we turn a small bedroom/office into a walk-in closet.

I sketched out a few ideas in my notebook and went over them with her.  She removed a large shoe rack and opted for more clothes bar space.  She also wanted a bunch of drawers to store smaller stuff in.  I initially drew everything with a built in dresser, but changed it a little and made room for a free-standing French dresser made in Revel in the 1930’s that we acquired while living in Toulouse. There is 27 feet of linear hanging space using iron pipe (no sag), 24+ shoe cubbies, shelves, drawers, storage, and two full length mirrors.

I spent most of this past weekend getting the flat panel section dividers up, installing the clothes bars and adding top shelves.  There are three areas that are made for off-season storage: coats in the summers/short sleeves in the winter.  For these spaces, I decided to line one wall each with cedar.  While some people might line the whole closet with cedar, I would advise against it unless you and your significant other wants to smell like a lumberjack constantly.  Too much and the smell, while pleasing for me, pervades everything.

I lined two of the three spaces this weekend and got to use my old-school hand miter saw. While manual, it is faster to use in the closet – no dragging in a stand and cords and creates a LOT less dust than my big power Bosch miter saw.

I still need to add shelving on one side, put up all of the upper and lower panel trim, fill my nail holes, sand, paint, and bring the dresser in, but the space is usable and has allowed us to unpack all the boxes that have sat in our bedroom full of clothes. I will take the clothes back out on the day that I sand and paint.

Here is the progress to this point:

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Using My Dad’s Tools

In 1982 or 1983 my dad made me a ball, bat, and glove rack for Christmas. I was super into baseball and it was cool to have your gear up on the wall ready and waiting for you to be able to grab it all and run out the door to a game at a moments notice. Getting the pocket for the ball cut correctly and rounding over all the edges and corners took him forever. He decided that he HAD to have a router and for that same Christmas, my mom bought him a Craftsman 1-1/2 HP, Model #315.17492 Double Insulated router. He was as happy as a puppy with a new bone and looked for stuff to round over, “ease the edge…” everywhere in our lives for months. He was so proud of that router and for years a wood project around the house wasn’t complete until it had been kissed by a 1/4′ shank bit, whirling at 25,000 RPM.

When my dad passed, I got all his tools and the router was part of the deal. I have used it for years and while it is a little funky to adjust and has a base that isn’t perfectly round, it still does a fine job of “easing the edge” on shelves and cabinets. For the most part I use a 1/2 or 3/4 round-over bit in it and use my trim router for 1/4 and 1/8 round overs. Technology has much improved since the early ’80s and I have other routers to do fancy stuff these days but, Daddy’s still gets used a good bit.

I few years ago I had a garage break-in and a bunch of tools were stolen. I lost a lot of Daddy’s wrenches, power tools, my grandfather’s chisels, all sorts of stuff, but the big funky router happened to be in the basement where I had left it sitting for weeks on a long undone project. I am thankful it didn’t end up in a pawnshop somewhere and I am still able to use it to do a little work and connect with my dad, all these years later, just by using the router that he so badly wanted. I used Daddy’s router today, while building a walk-in closet for my wife. I thought about my dad, his smile, his quiet manner, and his patient love for his small son.

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Not quite how he planned it…

My son, The Ruminator, has decided it would be cool for him and I to rebuild a classic ’60s or ’70s muscle car. He has gone full-salesman mode:  preparatory text messages about how my day was going, asking about garage progress, asking about the results of a recent work trip…  then BAM!

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The desire is strong, but the understanding in lacking in my progeny.

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He has gone full salesman and used the “father/son/together/memories” angle.  Now we are going to pause here and discuss my deal with my children about cars…  I will not buy them a car.  The deal I had with my daughter, LOL, is that I would give her a down payment for a car when she started college or a trade school.  Not that I would finance or buy one for her.  That is the deal she got.  As I am all about fairness and egality, my son got the same offer.  Though, I did tell him that I would match funds – WHEN HE STARTED COLLEGE or trade school – if he managed to not spend every single cent that hit his pocket.  This was not over and above the offer to my daughter.  It was an attempt to get him to save some money and not blow it all.  I also mentioned that if he lived in Seattle for college, that I wouldn’t mind rebuilding a car with him.  You need to understand that conversation revolved around a Monster-Miata build: shoe-horning a 351 crate engine into a hardtop Miata for me, as my garage queen, that he would get to drive “occasionally” when the weather was nice, in the summer… Now, that discussion has morphed into “We are going to buy and rebuild HIM a classic muscle car.”  Huh?

I am not the kind of father that crushes my children’s dreams with things like details and I can see that there is opportunity for me to enjoy this conversation, so I went forward when he continued his negotiation a couple of days later:

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Man, he threw in the gruff, cantankerous old dad with a heart of gold one finds only in a SitCom angle…  He is either really good or getting help.  I countered with a baited hook of my own and then BAM!!

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I offered up a Pinto, Pacer, or sweet Gremlin. Mwahahahahaha!!!  He stepped right into the trap – Bwahahahaha!!


New yellow Mustard-Monster Lathe up and running

When building The F-Bomb Garage, I bought some new tools in which to fill it.  One of those hunks of iron delight was a Powermatic PM3520b wood lathe with a bed extension and lots of accessories.  It was a replacement for the three lathes of varying sizes I had sold before the original garage was torn down. I didn’t have the room or desire to store equipment that I wanted to upgrade anyway.  The new lathe had been boxed up for 4 months waiting for me to clear some room, unpack boxes, and for the power to be hooked up.

I spent all of Saturday afternoon, the weekend after power was finally turned on,  putting together my sweet lathe. The thing is a beast, so I had to start out with the bed upside down and install the legs.  I carefully rolled it on its side after all the leg bolts were torqued down and girded up my loins for some heavy lifting.  Now, what I should of done was hook a block and tackle to the rafters and pulled it up right, but I am hard-headed, so I put on wrist straps and dead-lifted the bed onto a 2′ wood block.  Then, after psyching myself up a little, I lifted it the rest of the way vertical.  If my sweet wife would have caught me, she would have said dirty words and i would have been in serious – grounded form the shop – trouble.

Anyway, after the base was upright, the head-stock/motor, banjo (tool rest holder), and tail-stock went on.  I installed the 18″ bed extension while I was at it and made sure to check everything over one more time.

It is 710lbs of mustard-yellow sexy.

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We Have LIGHTS!!!

HOLY Bejesus… I have Electricity in the F-Bomb Garage!! Only 4 months after permit pulled and 9 months after garage build began. I have lights that are not hooked up to an extension cord, the auto door openers work, there are five 110VAC plugs ready for power tools, and my lift is now working without the aid of a 220VAC extension cord running from the drier plug in the basement of the house.

I just had the bare minimum done to get the panel and transfer switch in place and have the city sign off on the garage. Now, that is not to say that all is well in the electrical department: I am still waiting for final permit sign off for the work already done, which is on hold. Apparently, my electrician screwed up the wire routing in the meter box and SCL cannot install a meter. Thankfully they are letting me keep the lights on until my current electrician can come back and address.

I am now prepping in all the other 110 plugs myself – at 4′ high, putting in 2 additional 220 plugs and a 50amp plug for my welder. There is no way I am going to pay an hourly fee to have romex run, holes drilled, staples put in, and plugs & switches wired in. Nope. I will be paying electrician that my company contracts for industrial work to sign off on my install and run the lines into the panel and install breakers – already arranged and the price isn’t too bad at all. While I can do this in my sleep, I am not licensed and my insurance would not pay a dime is something happened, regardless of fault.

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Additionally, My J-O-B was getting rid of a huge organizer bin cabinet: 1/8″ steel, 72″X24″X84″ and 350+ lbs. There was no way I was going to watch that beast go to the recycling center, so I asked if I could have it. Yep, the facilities guy said “load it up” and btw “I have a pallet jack that is wonky if you want it…” Yes, please. Got them both home and the cabinet fits perfectly and will be amazing for climbing, boarding, camping gear organization – keeping all the shop dust and debris off of my gear and making it so I don’t have to dig for small parts ever again.

The pallet jack was low on hydraulic fluid. I filled it up, put a weighted pallet on it overnight and this morning I found the pallet still in the air and no fluid on the floor. Win-win.

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Fall has arrived on my street

Outside of the house this weekend there were leaves littering the grass, there was a damp chill, clouds gathered, the sky was a light grey, and the smell of wood smoke was in the air. Fall is my favorite time of year.

Speaking of falling leaves…  Wwe have two paper-bark maple trees (Acer griseum) in our parking strip that I never particularly liked.  For 7 years they have been a little scraggly, are the first to shed the leaves in the fall and the last to leaf-out in the spring. It means that for 6+ months of the year I had dead looking stick trees in front of our house. I have wanted to replace them with ornamental cherries for 6.5 of those seven years, but have been hesitant to cut them because they were healthy and I couldn’t find anyone to take the trees, even after I offered to dig them up, hall them to their new home and assist with re-planting.

Well, it became apparent this spring that one of them is dying. I began plotting and had decided to take them both out this winter and plant cherries this spring. Then something weird happened – the one healthy tree started dropping seed pods – 1st time ever. A lot of them. I am used to seeing the single winged seeds helicoptering to the ground from other trees, but this one drops singles, doubles, triples, and quads. There are very cool and from the top almost look like arrow fetching.

Alright. The healthy one can stay and I have collected seeds to germinate and plant in some property with some oaks, vine maples, plums, pecan, and wall it seedlings I have collected in my travels.

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F-Bomb Garage Build Update: Mid-September 2016

Still no electricity… long sad story from the electrician: too much work, not enough people, confusion with the city, scheduling snafu… No show at all last week. I have watched an entire house, with a garage, be built and sold 3 streets away since my garage project started…

Fall is here and the rain is coming soon, so I spent an afternoon last week with the Airless Spray Rig and painted the garage doors, bollard post, and man-door Benjamin Moore Heritage red. The door & building trim will be bright white and will go on after work one day next week. Gutters go on after.

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I did not buy a boat or tools at the 2016 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

I went to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival this past weekend (the 40th anniversary) and succeeded in staying married to my lovely wife by not buying a sailboat, not buying any crazy expensive (yet stunning!) tools at the Lee Valley Tools booth (the plane hammer and plane irons don’t count), and by not getting shanghaied into debauchery aboard a three-masted sailing ship headed out into the Pacific for points unknown.  Instead, I drove up, saw the sights, talked to a few folks, lusted after a few tools, fell in love with one particular little wooden single-mast pocket yacht, then drove home in time for date night.

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There were so many amazing boats there and I went up specifically to see a couple of the CLCPocketShips, a Scamp build, and to see if I could get on a 19’ West Wight Potter (while not a wooden boat, the Puget Sound Potters Group were in the vicinity…).

The Ruminator will be spending a good bit of his time next summer learning to sail and I may be in the market (grade and behavior dependent) for a little trailer sailor/pocket yacht for us to rebuild together.  The  idea of building or rebuilding a boat with one another interests me a great deal (sweat equity), but the Scamp is too small for us both (he is a big boy and I am tubby) and it is a 1000+ hour build.  The Pocket Ship would work and we could overnight in it like a 2-man tent, but it is a 2,000+ hour build.  The latter translates into 2 years of weekends and all my days off from work.  It would also tie up all of my new shop space for the duration of the build.  That is no está bien…  The “smart” thing is to pick up a Catalina or Columbia 22 and just sail, but the ones I have seen, been aboard, and sailed on have no soul.

I did get a very close look at Opus, a lovely little boat (named after my second favorite Bloom County character) that I have seen battened up at the Center for Wooden Boats a few times.  Her owners were there this weekend with her brass polished, decks scrubbed, and companion way open.  I am in love!  Opus has plenty of soul and personality just sitting dockside.  I got to talk to the owners a good bit about how she sails, her history, and explored her little cabin to my heart’s content.  I want her.  If I were to build a boat someday it would be just like Opus.  She is a Wee Seal MKII, designed by the noted Australian/Scotsman designer Iain Oughtred.

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I also got to take a look at the Pygmy boats and kayaks (love their traditional kayak paddles) as well as the offerings from CLC.  Some of the wood, inlay, and detail work on these kayaks is amazing.  I don’t think I could put one in the water after I finished building it.  I would be way too guarded about where it went and where I put it.  CLC also has a little teardrop trailer that seemed to be one of the hits of the show/Festival.

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I finished my tour of the show back at the Lee Valley booth and then walked out onto a long pier to watch all the sail boats playing in the 10 knot winds for a long while, before heading back to Seattle in the Forester by way of Port Gamble.

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Life Lesson – you can’t text message your wife that you have a tumor…

So… I have had a bump on my forehead for a couple of years. I went to a Dr. about it in France and she said it was a bone spur. I sort of ignored it after that, but it still bugged me as a cosmetic thing. Right after we moved back to the US, I let a buddy of mine , who happens to be a Dr., take a look. He felt it was a dermoid cyst, but he couldn’t take it out for me because of location and recommended a plastic surgeon. I finally got an appointment week before last to see a guy and holy crap… Not a bone spur, not a cyst. It was a lipoma – a tumor. He recommended immediate removal. I walked out of his office and sent my wife a text that said:

“Not a cyst. A tumor, probably benign. I will call him Harold. Removal next Tuesday.”

Apparently, one should not text message about a tumor nor make jokes about same. I missed that section in the marriage handbook and my wife called me immediately to freak out a little let me know of the transgression…

I went in the last Tuesday and had Harold removed. It ended up being about the size of a small strawberry that was tenacious and adhered to the bone. The surgeon had to get out the lifter/chisel and the procedure took about 45 minutes, instead of the planed 20 or so. To close it all up, I had 5 interior and 12 exterior stitches. There is lots of swelling, two black eyes, and I can’t feel my forehead, but they said feeling will come back in 3-4 weeks as nerve heals. I also have had an on & off massive headache – feels like I got smacked with a 2×4. I took a couple of days off from work and popped Vicodin while watching movies and looking at Pocket yachts/trailer sailor videos on You Tube – dreaming of weekends sailing on the Puget Sound, camping on a small deserted tree covered island with my wife and bacon – it was a nice way to take my mind off the swelling and recuperate.

It all Looks good though as the Dr. feels Harold was benign. Sent to pathology anyway and I will know for 100% when I have stitches out this Wednesday.

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9-27-2016 Update:
The bump was completely benign. The pathology looked good, all my stitches are now out, and the scaring is minimal. I am very happy and wife is very happy. Best possible outcome.

Bumpershoot 2016

We have lived in Seattle for almost 8.5 years and 2016 was our first time going to Bumpershoot. When it was announced that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were headlining – Stamps-With-Foot immediately bought 3-day passes. We saw some really great acts and I very much enjoyed the time I spent with my wife, eating faire-food, and listening to music.

Acts that we saw:

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Billy Idol
Margo Price
Death Cab for Cutie
Micheal Franti and Spearhead
Tame Impala
Third Eye Blind
Kamasi Washington
Run the Jewels

The Macklemore and Michael Franti shows were our favorite and we are going to see Margo Price at The Tractor Tavern when she comes back to Seattle next month.

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Hand Tool Tuesday – First Post

Last week, I was a little off for two days – a pissed off sort of sad. I thought I had left my hammer out while fence building and it had walked away with someone else. I found it Thursday evening in the garage and I almost did a little jig. This hammer is special to me: I bought it brand new and shinny when I was 12 because my dad said ‘Estwing was the best’ long before they were in Big Box stores and when you had to drive to a particular store in town to buy them. I think it was like $26 and I paid part of the total with rolls of dimes and nickels.

I used it to build my first wall, lay sub-floor, hang countless pictures, install everything from siding to cabinets to trim to roof trusses.  It has fed me and my children.  I have other hammers including a matching 16oz trim hammer and 4 blue elastomer handled Estwings, but this one has been my constant companion for 30 years and will out live me.  Maybe my children or grandchildren will use and appreciate it and think of me when I am gone.

Matt Talley Estwing HaMMER 2016

There was a book written in 1990 called “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.  It is fictionalized account of one man’s experience in during the war in Vietnam told in part as a discussion about what he and his companions carried with them.  I read it in college and it changed my perception and appreciation for the often mundane things we carry in our pockets, in our bags, and out tool belts.  Those simple objects often come to have powerful associations and meaning for us.  I have decided to start a new weekly post covering the tools and things that I share my day and life with.

House Remodel Status September 2, 2016 – 7.5 months in

Here is the house/garage re-build/build status for the 1st part of September.

  1. The F-Bomb Garage has been painted – at least the outside walls.  I need to paint the trim and doors next.
  2. Repaired some major issues with the trim and siding on garage – real unhappy with my garage builder!
  3. Front yard is still green, but need to clean and re-seed the back yard.
  4. There oar only 2 rooms in the house that are complete and need no work at this point.  Stamps-With-Foot could be happier with me right now…
  5. The mounting brackets for the granite in the basement are done and I will install them this weekend.
  6. Our washing machine went out…  fuck.  The bearings finally gave up the ghost.  need to haul it out and put another in.
  7. No garage power yet.  Huge load of confusion between the City of Seattle and my electrician.  Maybe worked out now, but we will see.
  8. The yard is completely fenced in and the rear gate is installed.  just a couple of tweaks and then power wash and polyurethane coat.
  9. The living room corner cabinets are in place, but not painted or installed.
  10. We have a small roof leak – motherfvcker!!!  it is around the kitchen vent and from where the moss removal team got too eager with the power washer.  I will go up there this weekend and seal it.
  11. Got a huge bill from our plumber for work that they didn’t do before abandoning the job.  wanted to scan my ass into the 3D printer and send them a copy.  Called a lawyer instead.  we have a plan forward.

The yard is now secure for the puppies

I spent my evenings after work this week rebuilding 35’ of fence, connecting it to the corners of the new garage, and installing two gates using reclaimed boards and stringers from the original fence that I carefully tore down back in January.  I reused the screws and most of the hardware, but had to buy 7 new treated posts, 2160 lbs of Sakrete, 4 bolts and two 2x8x10s. Total cost was $160 and 14 hours of labor including the tear down and hole digging.

My neighbor has been INCREDIBLY patient with me, my mess, noise, and building debris.  When I rebuilt the fence on her side of the yard, I tore out some more of the existing, replaced two rotten posts and then leveled the tops of each section to make it look nicer.  There were a couple of solid posts left from the previous fence location – about 2′ from the new garage – that I just couldn’t chop down or pull out so, I leveled them up and built her a simple trellis for honey suckle or wisteria.  I also bought her a $50 Starbucks card as a small ‘Thank you!’.

The back gate and adjoining section is a nice mix of mostly reclaimed and reused hardware, boards, bits mixed with new posts and structural support. I did double up on the facing boards (set on both sides) for some additional privacy as our hot tub is right on the other side.  The gate itself used to be on the opposite side of the yard.  I had to trim it a bit to get it to hang plumb, and move some hardware around a little.  I will be adding an additional hinge in the middle for added support and some face boards on the outside as well, so it gives the same amount of privacy and so it matches the fence.   The whole thing then will get a power washing and a coat of polyurethane in the coming weeks.


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Painting The F-Bomb Garage

The Garage build is coming along. Still waiting for Seattle City Light to connect the power from the transformer. 5 weeks now…Delay has been just a factor of this build. I would have more patience with City Light if one of their crews hadn’t been sitting at a bikini coffee stand for 30+ minutes on Monday while I was eating a late lunch across the street. I like boobs and bikinis and coffee even more than the average bear, but come on – don’t tell tell everybody how swamped your crews are if they have time to have a philosophical discussion with a nearly naked barista…

(For those of you not in the PacNW – bikini coffee here is a thing and some stands are really open to the definition of what a bikini is – an eye patch and pasties are the rule and some stands.)

I can’t continue with the interior wiring until that connection happens and the electrical inspection is OKed. No insulation or drywall/T1-11 until it get the “OK to Cover” from the electric inspector. I am not one to sit on my butt, so I wheeled out the airless spray rig for the first time in like forever and put two coats of quality Benjamin Moore paint on the outside of the garage – matches the house. I will paint the doors and trim this weekend.

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Building fences and pouring concrete

I need to tie the wooden fence back into the new structure so the dogs can roam in the back yard again. While backing up to unload concrete and posts for the fence, I barely tapped the corner of the garage with my trailer. Not a single scratch or dent or ding, but it made me say DIRTY words. I put my thunkin’ cap on and decided that if I did it once, I would do it again, and someone else would definitely smack the corner. A Bollard was in order. I went by Pacific Metals and picked up a 6’X5″X5/16″ wall hunk of square tubing and 4 sections of 3/8X10′ rebar.

I rented an auger to dig the needed 7 post holes and dropped in 1 more for the bollard. The fence post holes are 18-14″ deep, but the bollard hole is 38″ deep and after chipping away at it with a post hole digger, maybe 14-16″ in diameter with a bell-shaped bottom. I cut 3 of the rebars to 7’ and bent the three pieces into a fishhook shape, wire tying the tops together in 3 places. I then took the off cuts and bent them into a “U.”

I put the rebar in the hole, sitting on plastic rebar chairs and placed the post over them. I splayed out the “hook” sections and wire-tied the U-shaped pieced around the rebar and around the bollard. I then added another hoop around the original section and the tied hoop. Concrete was poured in and vibrated to get all the air and voids out. I filled the bollard with concrete and used a scrap section of rebar to agitate and pack down the concrete in the bollard.

I left 4” of the top of the square tubing free of concrete and dropped in a 6” lag bolt with to 3” sticking out of the wet concrete, but still in the tube. After the concrete dried and while I was setting some fence posts, I went back and finished off the top of the bollard with a bit more concrete. I will paint it red when I paint the doors to the garage. The thing won’t stop a tank, but it might save the corner of my garage from a moment of inattention…
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Not so short contractor rant

We are so close to being done with the garage and the house (yard is still a disaster, which will have to wait ‘til next year, but the stress of dealing with crappy, disorganized, and/or no show contractors throughout this process has been and is so frustrating.  This is not a post to rail on all contractors or even all of our contractors…

We had same great ones:

  1. Maranatha Hardwood Floors showed up on time for the quote. The owner was personable and the quote was reasonable.  They showed up on time, did a beautiful job, listened to a specific request from my wife, there were no extra charges, cleaned up after themselves, and our floor looks great.
  2. RCS Fire Place was A-1: On time, good pricing, no add-on charges, etc…
  3. After an initial sales rep flub, Greenwood Heating & Air did a nice job on our heat pump. Very professional installers.  No complaints.
  4. Vehicle Equipment Solutions was awesome on the lift order and install. I couldn’t be happier with their work.
  5. Our Drywall guys were top notch.  Very professional, great price, showed up when they were supposed to and finished right on time.
  6. The carpet guys that did our bedroom were fast, professional, and did a nice job.
  7. I had some custom wrought iron brackets made and the blacksmith listen to our wants and delivered a beautiful product.
  8. Pacific RIM equipment rental was great in supplying heavy equipment for the garage tear out and site prep. When there was a breakdown, they delivered a new machine and I wasn’t charged for any gas use for the entire weekend.
  9. Bryan at Squak Box was a rock star when it came time to haul out the debris from the old garage and all the old concrete. On time, no hidden costs, dropped the containers perfectly.  Couldn’t ask for more.

And the not so great:

My garage contractor has now quit.  There is little I can do at this point besides shake my head in wonder and disgust.  It has been a bumpy road from almost the start, but I figured that with a little bit of work it would all be OK.  A bit of work turned into a part time job and time spent on the garage was time not spent on the house and that made Stamps-With-Foot grumble.  In addition to the garage tear down and the site preparation that had to be done (40+ hours of my time and ~$3000.  I had to do 4-5 hours of slab/rebar prep when the contractor’s guy messed up, then had to ask for poly burlap to cure the slab, apparently not standard.  I ended up keeping the slab wet for the entire 10-day cure (to limit cracking and allow it to fully harden, then apply the concrete densifier after my normal workday and the end of the cure process.

Installation of fire blocking isn’t required per code in Seattle for a wall less than 10’, but it is the right thing to do.  It was out of scope for the contractor and an additional cost, so The Ruminator and I ended up doing it while he was here on summer vacation.  I had to install two forgotten kicker studs, tighten missed/forgotten anchor bolt nuts, added nails to the hurricane straps, and had to go over punch list items twice before they were addressed.

The windows and door trim were installed incorrectly – I could see daylight in the corners of the windows and I asked that they be re-installed.  When that was being done, my siding got cracked.  I also found that instead of every 16” per code, the siding was nailed every 4’ in some locations.  I called and the foreman came out.  He addressed some issues but caused others.  I then called the owner and he came out.  He agreed with every point I had.  They crew came back and while some items were fixed, others were not and new problems popped up.  I let the owner know and this was his response:

“Unfortunately we’ve succeeded in messing up again.  ____ had no excuse for why he didn’t read my email, about taking the siding out from the bottom of the windows, and what they were thinking with the screws into the bottom of the fascia’s.  If they’d pre-drilled the holes it would have worked and been clean.

I don’t have anyone else in my employee who I could send down to make any corrections, and I don’t think you would trust anyone I sent to do any more work.  What I’d like to offer is to forego our final payment and let  you clean up any items by your self.  I don’t like doing this, I really want to get the job done for  you but we’ve already had three try’s.  I know you might not be as happy as you should be but I want to at least make you satisfied with _____________.”

I am not happy and while I agree that I don’t trust his guys to come back a third time, the keeping of a few hundred bucks does not make it all better.  Now, I either have to find and pay someone else or do it myself.  Frustrating.

I have looked at this.  Am I just an asshole?  Am I too picky or do I expect too much?  I really have looked at this hard and yes, I can be an asshole,  but not in this and not with a single contractor or tradesman on my site.  We provided lunches, Gator-aid, and beer for all the guys working, I talked to every contractor that has been on our property like I would want to be spoken to, If I wanted something different or changed, I addressed it right then by ASKING and wasn’t the least bit of a shit about it.  I cleaned up the job site in the afternoons after I got off work to save them all time and effort.

Is needing someone to stick to a schedule, be on time, and not halfway do something too particular?  I don’t think so.  Is asking that a contractor meet minimum code requirements, pull permits, and do the job they agreed to for the agreed to price crazy?  apparently so.

Other issues:

In addition to the plumbing circus that we had in the spring, we had a carpentry crew that abandoned us for a job where the other customer was screaming louder.  They left tools, work unfinished, material, you name it.   My electrician has been a little flakey – uncashed checks, no shows, showing up unannounced and unscheduled, really hard to get a hold of, etc., but at least this one hasn’t broken into our house while we were gone…  I have had 3 contractors come out for quotes on our basement bathroom tile and never heard from two of them again.  The third guy finally called me back and said the job was just way too small and “not worth the time it would take to set up his wet-saw.”

I get it, all the contractors in Seattle are busier than a puppy with two peckers.  That means that 1. they can be super picky, 2. charge what they want, 3. if they fuck up, no worries, there are three other jobs waiting.







Birthday list – 2016

In about 4 weeks I will celebrate the 14th anniversary of my 29th year.  I want cake (moist yellow cake with chocolate butter-cream frosting), snuggling, two fingers of a great scotch after lunch, lots of tiny cups of coffee all day, a nice glass of wine with a steak for dinner, laughter, and a few well thought out gifts. I will not be working that day and I plan to pamper myself with a haircut and a strait-razor shave.

Below is my birthday wish list for my wife, family and children.
Gifts that Keep giving:

  1. Heifer International:
  2. Doctors Without Borders/MSF
  3. Go give blood and send me a post card
  4. Habitat for Humanity
  5. Diabetes Research

Campaign Furniture by Chris Schwartz
Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenous Life
I could stand a Kindle Paperwhite
A volume on handplanes or a tome on traditional woodworking
Bees of the World by Mitchner
A Lost Art Press volume of The Essential Woodworker
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
James Krenov’s Cabinet Maker’s Notebook
Two Classic books on Shaker Furniture: here and here.

Forging class at the Pratt starting in October
Letters from my kids – written on actual paper.
A 3-Day Rally School Course
A bottle of Pre-Shave Oil from The Art of Shaving – Lavender
A couple of thoughtful cards
The iWatch 2. Simple black – the cheapest one
German Wheat Beer is always welcome
Zombie shooting targets
An Ash Pack Basket (Sling-style harness)
Amber 2ga. Plugs (bonus points if they have insect inclusions)
2ga. Dark Jade plugs
The AKcooltools Stainless/bronze Clamptite and the lg roll of stainless .041 wire
24 Provence lavender plants for my front yard
Tiffany blue silk tie and matching pocket square
These new bad-ass cufflinks
A Global Sashimi knife
Classic Cartoon DVDs (Wanrner Bros., Tex Avery, Bugs, Tom&Jerry, Loony Toons, Road Runner, etc…)
Christopher Ward Quartz Trident with black rubber strap

A fine Anejo Tequila
Hakushu 12 Whisky
A bottle of Fronsac or Canon-Fronsac (Château Lafond, Château La Vieille Cure, La Dalphine…)
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
Porto (Cálem 2011 Vintage, Ramos Pinto, or a Taylor’s)
Glenfiddich 21

The F-Bomb Garage completion is getting closer!

I was out of town this past week on a work trip to merry ol’ England. I came home to a sweet surprise: I have a new 10,000lb two-post lift installed in the F-Bomb Garage. I got a decent deal on a . Went with the Rotary Revolution RPT10 because there is a local dealer, local support, I got a decent deal on the lift+install, and some experience that some friends and colleagues have had with this and other lifts.

We are getting closer to finally building some stuff inside/voiding warranties/modifying the jeep.  My contractor had a foreman out last week to deal with the framing punch-list items: a couple of anchor bolts, some trim, loose siding, a funky corner, and I had him re-install my three windows with the proper flashing tape – I could see light in all the corners.  A leaky window after I have stressed the importance of proper installation and showed them what I needed twice would throw me into fits.  He also swapped the door trim, but not everything on the list got done and now there is more stuff that needs attention.  I have the contractor stopping by to go over it all tonight.  Very frustrating to spend this sort of cash and to deal with all the little things over and over.

The electrician is 3 weeks out – everyone is building and remodeling in Seattle and contractors are super swamped, so I am going to concentrate on the outside in the mean time: Paint and gutters as soon as the siding issues are dealt with.

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Building a Skin-On-Frame Kayak

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On my very first trip to Seattle in 2003, I had a day off from work and happened to wonder into The Center for Wooden Boats in the South Lake Union area of the city. I loved it immediately and lingered around the boats and workshop for hours with a smile and a happy heart. At some point, a volunteer let me take out a kayak and paddle the lake. It was not like the plastic and fiberglass beasts that I had paddled or owned previously. It was light and flexible in the right spots, sleek, and fast. It was a skin-on-frame boat, called a Baidarka, that was based on a 4,000+ year old Aleut design. No nails, no glue, no screws. Just wood, nylon (modern replacement for walrus or seal skin…), and LOTS of knots.

I was smitten and just as happenstance, there was a baidarka building class going on that was finishing up under a pavilion on site. I talked to the instructor, Corey Friedman, asking all sorts of questions, until I think he wanted to drown me. Six years later as we were planning our move to the Emerald City, I vowed to take the kayak building class. Finances, life, and vacation available conspired against me until this year, thirteen years after seeing them for the first time (though I did read the Dyson book in college), the stars aligned and I was able to sign up for the class and take the time off. It also happened to coincide with my son’s summer visit, so I got to build an item on my bucket list AND spend serious quality time with my son.

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We started on a cold Saturday morning with three ladies also building boats and 8.5 days later, I brought my hand built and custom sized boat home. The interim was spend learning a GREAT deal, tying 2000+ knots, bending frame ribs, listening to way too much zydeco music (instructor’s favorite), sewing, saying dirty words, removing stitches, resewing, loving the time spent with The Ruminator, and enjoying the ambiance of the Center for Wooden boats.

I have included a full photo documentation of my build as a pictures on my notes. I figure that the more people who document the process, the better chance this boat has of living on for future generations. Here is an additional documentation from another former student that was better at it than me.

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