Monday, December 29, 2008

more from the workshop

Here are some pictures of the latest objects to come out of the workshop. I've really enjoyed making these little boxes. They are pleasing to the eye and are functional. I'm going to stop making boxes now for awhile since I have a number of other ideas I want to pursue. But I know I will come back to the box as an expression of beauty, form, and function. I already have a few ideas bouncing around in my head for some new and different shapes for them, but it is time to do some other things.

This round box is made of oak, maple, and mahogany and is 4" round and 2" deep.

The top pivots open.

This rectangular box is 5.5" x 3.5" x 2" deep. It is made of oak, mahogany, and purpleheart.

The top pivots open.

This round box is 4.5" in diameter and 2" deep. The top swivels open.

It is made of oak, cedar, padauk, and purpleheart.

Here is a freeform box that is about 5.5" long and 2.5" deep. it is made of oak and mahogany.

The lid swivels open.

If you want to see more pictures of these boxes and the other work I've done, just click on "gallery" in the sidebar and it will take you to my other site called After the Sawdust Settles. Thanks for looking.

seasonal thoughts

So here we are, nearly through the holiday season once again. As holiday seasons go it has been nice but nothing special, enjoyable but not overwhelming. And there in lies the rub as the Bard would say.

Most people feel like the holidays have to be a super special time of the year, when the world shines with goodness and light and men exhibit goodwill toward each other. Everyone strives to achieve that illusory holiday spirit, whatever that is. The usually taciturn become gregarious, the cynical become angelic in their search for that feeling of good cheer. For the few brief days that define the holidays for the majority of us, we end up living a lie and convincing ourselves that we are truly filled with the Christmas spirit.

The dutiful giving of gifts is particularly grating. It’s the dutiful part that irritates me more than anything. The idea that you have to give gifts that most often you can’t afford to give and the recipient really doesn’t want, perverts the very idea of gift giving. I love to give gifts, but only when it is my idea and when it is least expected. The anticipation of gift receiving and giving under such controlled and demanded circumstances takes any joy out of the process for me. I guess I would never play a convincing Santa.

Another pet peeve of mine is the appearance of the once-a-year do-gooders who crawl out of their comfy circumstances to stroke their own need for demonstrable goodness. You know the ones I’m talking about: those who serve Christmas dinner to the hungry, those who provide an evening’s shelter for the homeless, and those who provide unneeded toys instead of clothing for the poor children. Once the two week holiday season passes once more, the hungry still need to eat, the homeless still need shelter, the poor kids still need clothing and heat and food while those toys lie unnoticed on the floor in the corner.
But for some reason those needs don’t seem so urgent once the twinkling lights go out. I guess for those once-a-year types, it is possible to store up enough “feel good” to last until the next holiday season arrives. In he meantime, the everyday providers are left to carry the load throughout the year, to try to stretch the help they can give until the next round of seasonal do-gooders take all the credit.

I know it’s better to have at least a couple weeks of that good holiday spirit to share and spread among all those who are willing to accept it and participate in the seasonal festivities. Of course the ideal would be to carry that spirit throughout the year, but I guess we will have to settle for what we can get. So merry Christmas, happy new year, and see you all next year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

winter forecast

This just in from the front page of the local paper: yesterday we had nearly 5" of snow, with up to 12" expected for Thursday/ Friday, then Saturday comes along with another possible 4" followed by an anticipated 5" on Sunday. And next week even more is on the way. Yeah, I get that people like a white Christmas, but a whiteout Christmas? You can have my share of it. I don't want it.
When ever I protest too much about the weather here in Wisconsin, people tell me to quit the whining and move to a more salubrious climate. But obviously that is not so easily done. This is where our home is. This is where we grew up. This is where our children grew up. This where all the memories were made. This is home. And even though we know that every year winter will bombard us with snow and cold, it just doesn't get any easier.

Actually I think that the whining and complaining about the weather makes it a bit easier to tolerate. When we encounter people out and about, all bundled up, heads hunched down into their coats, hats and gloves and scarves wrapped tightly to fight off the wind, we nod and smile knowingly at each other, convinced that we can survive anything that Nature throws our way. And when we do speak to each other, the weather and its ferocity is always the first topic past our chapped lips. So allow me my whining. Allow me my complaining. Allow me to survive the harshest of seasons with a little tolerance for my intolerance of the conditions outside.

After all, this too shall pass. Then when summer arrives all the complaining about the cold will be forgotten in the whining about the goddamn heat and humidity.


It's the Christmas season so here it is one more time.


Twas the day before Xmas, when all through the mall
the shoppers were hustling, heeding the call
of sale upon sale by merchants galore,
who were trying to entice them into the store.
Last minute shoppers were desperate to buy
anything merchants still had in supply.
Finding a parking place a half mile away
we forged ahead eagerly and dove into the fray.
“You go to that end and I’ll start right here,”
I shouted our plan with bogus good cheer.
“We’ll cover all stores and little by little,
having shopped till we dropped, we’ll meet in the middle.
So my wife trotted off both brazen and bold,
her gucci filled with plastic, both platinum and gold.
My own pockets bulged with my own set of cards,
which the companies sent with kindest regards,
my charging to the limit their insidious goal
so eventually they’’d own me body and soul.
I checked over my list, so I’d know where to begin,
but its length just added increasing chagrin.
On it were family and friends, both far and near,
all of them worthy at this time of year.
I’ll have a gift for each before my shopping ceases,
something for all aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces.
There will be a cell phone for Suzy, an xbox for Jim
and an ipod sized right for wee Tiny Tim.
Liz gets a sweater, and a skirt nicely pressed.
If she wears them together she’ll be fully dressed.
A knit hat and scarf for my cousin Paul,
new sneakers for Tom, and still that’s not all.
For Lynn a neat dolly that cries and wets,
and Ralph gets new poker chips for when he bets.
A bottle of brandy for old uncle Fred,
for Aunt Sophie a...oops, cross her off, she’s dead.
Grandma will get that nice warm stitched quilt.
A new Barbie for Ashley (wow, is she built).
For Carrie I’m stumped, dont’ know what to do,
maybe some cash for another tatoo.
I know just what Jerry would like,
a specially pimped out red mountain bike.
A new calculator for Jon on which he relies
to sort out the figures that dance in his eyes.
For Katie I stopped in an import store
and got something Asian I know she’ll adore.
Some earrings for Mary would be about right,
or a necklace with diamonds, ooh I just might
max out the Visa if I buy so much bling,
but there’s still MC, Discover, and Amex to fling.
By the time I exhausted the names on my list
I had just enough credit left, so I couldn’t resist
that special last gift from me to me,
a giant screen hd plasma tv.
As I finished covering my end of the mall
I spotted my wife and gave her a call.
But she sat simply staring and at once I saw
that her nerves were all frazzled, stretched thin and raw.
This last minute shopping had taken its toll
and though we went forth and achieved our goal,
it was like a descent into Dante’s hells,
accompanied by a raucous rendition of Jingle Bells.
We gathered our boxes and bags of gifts
and joined the exodus of the other spendthrifts.
We passed Santa’s castle where he sat on his throne
ho hoing to kids in groups and alone.
A bit further on we saw him once more,
enticing the unwary into a store.
He must have been cloned, so buyer beware,
Jolly St. Nick, the guy’s everywhere.
Again on the left with a pudgy hand wave
and a wink of his eye I swear that he gave
a mocking salute to our supposed Xmas spirit.
We hurried along, did not want to hear it.
I thought as I passed I heard him retort,
“See you all next month in bankrupcty court.”
We found our way out and as we passed through the door,
he was there again assailing us once more.
With his right hand a bell he was ringing,
the sound melding well with the carolers singing.
Rotund and bedecked in his red and white suit
with misty eyes and wry smile he noticed our loot.
His gesture was subtle as he blinked at his pot,
all red it stood empty, no coins in the slot.
Guilt overcame me as I set down my load,
my wife doing the same without being told.
We both started fumbling in pocket and purse,
overcome by the plastic credit card curse.
No cash could be found after all we had spent,
neither of us found a single red cent.
Mumbling apologies we slithered away,
there really was nothing we could possibly say.
We loaded the Volvo, filled it up tight
all the while feeling that something’s not right.
We nearly made it out of the lot
when we both noticed it in a new spot.
Someone installed a brand new machine,
that dispenses new bills, all crisp and green.
We jumped from the car, this wouldn’t be hard.
Thank God we still had our ATM card.
We maxed the card out and collected the cash,
scurried back to the car and made a mad dash
back to where Santa stood ringing his bell.
By the twinkle in his eye we knew he could tell
that we returned from the end of the lot
to stuff all our cash into his pot.
We drove away happy, but when we got back around
that new ATM was nowhere to be found.
As we passed by the spot where we knew it should be,
only new fallen snow was all we could see.
But we both swear that as we drove passed the sight
we heard Santa shout, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Friday, December 12, 2008


I've been on a box kick lately. I just love the endless design possibilities that the simple concept of a box provides. So I am exploring some of those possibilities.
This first box is actually a box in a box. It is made of oak, maple, walnut, and pine pieces that were glued up into usable stock that was then cut up into the pieces that make up the box.

The larger box is 9" long x 5" wide x 3.5" deep with a lid that lifts off.

The smaller box inside is 5" x 4.75" x 2"

I suppose the logical use for such a box is to hold bits of jewelry. I know that because Mary has already apppropriated it for just that purpose.

This little box is made from the same glued up stock that the last one was made with. It is 8" long x 3.5" wide x 4" high. The top lifts off.

This one is again using the same glued up stock as the others. This time the top pivots open in two directions. It is 8" long x 3" wide x 3.5" deep.

I still have more of the same stock left --enough for one more box which is nearing completion on the workbench right now.
I'll have pictures of that one soon along with a couple other little ones that I can't show you now because they are meant as Christmas presents. All in due time.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

cry uncle

Winter wonderland, my ass. Winter nightmare is more like it. Here we are only just getting used to the fact that it is December and I’ve worn out a snow shovel already. It seems that it has snowed every other day so far this month and the all knowing seers and prognosticators on TV with their fancy weather maps and gleeful look in their eyes are saying that more of the dreaded white stuff is on the way again. So I’m crying “uncle” already. Give me a break. I do not want to suffer through an endless whiteout for the next four months or so.

I understand that some people actually like this kind of weather. They jump into their long underwear and happily slip on their boots and rev up the snowmobile or wax their skis and joyfully dive right into the snow. Freaking idiots. No sane person would willingly spend time outdoors in the winter. That’s akin to those fools who willingly jump out of perfectly good airplanes for the fun of it. Morons.

No, I will spend the vast majority of my time for the foreseeable future comfortably warm and cozy in my recliner with remote at hand and scnaaps to heat up my insides. The only reason I will have to venture outside is to clear the driveway of snow so that the ambulance can get to me when I have the heart attack from shoveling the snow in the driveway. God, get me through this.

Monday, December 01, 2008

one more time

It’s December 1st, the Christmas decorations are up, the lights are lit, and the first big snowfall of the year is here, so winter has officially started.

Every year we promise ourselves that we won’t go overboard with the decorations, but once the Christmas season officially starts on the day after Thanksgiving, it seems that some genetic pulse intensifies and we break out all the old seasonal flotsam and put it in the usual places around the house, inside and out. That wouldn’t be so bad by itself—there are some treasured decorations that can’t be left hidden away—but when you start adding to the collection each year by buying something new to spruce up the d├ęcor, then eventually you have a problem. Mary is particularly susceptible to the adding syndrome. She has a decorator’s fetish about always adding something new and, to her, exciting to the mix. Yet she never throws anything old and worn out away (personally I should probably be happy about that) so the pile just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

We have enough Christmas trees around here to make a small forest proud. And yet, this year she managed to find a couple more that she just had to have to place on the front porch where they can add their lights to the twinkling garlands and wreath already there. Inside we have trees in a variety of sizes that seem to grow in every corner, all with their own set of lights and shiny ornaments. At sundown, when they are all turned on along with the wreaths in the windows, the Christmas village houses with their windows alit, the lighted garlands twisted around the stairway ballisters, and the many candles both lit with real fire and those that just artificially pretend, this humble little house of ours rivals the Vegas strip for excessive electrical consumption. Dark glasses are suggested but not required. And while I sort of like all the little trees with their happy shinyness, the one little tree that stands near the TV and cuts off the left side of the picture is going to feel the wrath of my chainsaw before long.

So despite all the grumbling about how much work it is to go through this decorating nonsense each year (and no small amount of cussing and swearing at those damn lights that won’t work just because one little bulb is balking), we still do it. I have to admit there is some joy to found in all the klitch, even if it is the just the satisfaction when it is all put away once again at the end of the holiday season. In the meantime we might as well enjoy our handiwork and look forward to next year when we can add some more to the collection.