Saturday, January 10, 2009

Together we make a plying box.

On the 18th of December
Elsie gave to me
a sketch:

Elsie wanted a plying box.

She had never seen a plying box but she saw in her mind what it would do and told me what she wanted. It would a covered box with compartments to hold the separate balls of spun fiber that together are plied into finished yarn. During plying the strands are drawn up through narrow openings in the top. I had seen her do it with upside-down flower pots so I had the mental picture, too.

Elsie made it clear that it didn't need to be fancy. She's really classy like that.

I saw as a great opportunity. I could make something nice for Elsie and I could improve my skills with the sawdust-making tools.

So I committed myself in secret to make the plying box in time for Christmas. I had the wood and the tools. I needed a plan and some time.
And a clue.

I had been sneaking up on a clue for a while, puttering in the garage. I also had taken some pointers from a book and a DVD.

Classic Joints with Power Tools [Thanks Elsie!] by Yeung Chan is a slim book that I go to for clear advice and inspiration on the mechanics of joinery. The jig arrangement I used for the box joints is based on one found in this book.

This DVD, borrowed from the library, is incredible. Mark Duginske is God's shop teacher. It is really interesting viewing. Trust me.

To cut the corner joints, I built a jig to pass the wood across the router in a repeatable way, and experimented with scrap lumber until I snuck up a good fit.

It worked!
For several days after, the weather turned bitter and the garage was quiet. I drew up, scratched out, and re-drew a full-scale set of plans. Maybe I had a clue now.

Finally, the day before Christmas, I started early and kept at it all day.

For the wood I had chosen a wide old hard-pine board from a trash heap and a piece of birds-eye maple salvaged from a pallet. I had already jointed and planed these and I had no back-up materials if I goofed.

I cut out the pieces as per my drawings. There was no turning back now!

Then I hunched over my router table with the jig I had built. I carefully milled the teeth of the interlocking corner joints. So far so good. Too much hunching for my joints, but the joints of the box were looking good.

The rest of it I improvised "to plan", which could have been a trainwreck, but I had been experimenting on scrap to get an idea of most of what was needed. A more complete plan would have been better. I'm pretty grateful it turned out OK.

I came inside to warm up and took this picture of the major pieces, before cutting grooves for the dividers:

It came out as I had pictured, or better.

<- Outside

Inside ->

And on top of it all, it works just as Elsie planned. Hooray for us!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

a poem I like very much

Is it legal for me to do this? As long as I attribute it accurately? I assume so, but someone, please correct me if I'm wrong.

And may you all find the poems in your odd sock drawer in the new year.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”

And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.

And let me know.

--Naomi Shihab Nye