Taking a break

This afternoon I finished a project that was overdue when I was assigned it. As soon as I finished it, I left work and just went walking. I decided to investigate a downtown area near work. After nearly eight years of working for the same company, I had been down this way only a couple of times. So I parked at the near end, walked to the far end, and then walked back.

There were plenty of bars and barber shops, a shoe store, and a few restaurants. I was beginning to feel a bit disappointed, thinking maybe I’d picked a dry well, creatively speaking.

Finally, on my way back to my car, I happened across this old hardware store that caters to the businesses in the area. The store was old, and piled from floor to ceiling with stuff – it seemed like some kind of fire hazzard, a training building for firefighters.

The conversation around me was lively and boisterous. I approached a row of old cabinets on the east wall with various files and rasps wired to the doors. I began to rummage around in the cabinet when an old guy, grizzled from a life in the trades, came over to help.

I asked him about the patternmaker’s rasp box that was empty (I’ve been wanting a No. 49), and about the auger bit file that was wired to the door. There were no No. 49s to be had, and the only remaining auger bit file was the sample on the door. The old guy consults his boss, who at first believes his charge has simply not looked hard enough. Once everyone agrees that yes, the sample is the only one left of its kind, the owner takes the file back to his office to look it up.

The boss comes back with a story about the file being discontinued in 2001, and a price that was about what I’d have paid had I ordered the file from one of the many fine specialty catalogs, including shipping. Not a bargain, but it was a pleasant surprise to find it out of the specialty environment.

Later in the evening, after the kids were in bed and Bonny had gone in to work, I spent some time in the workshop. I used my auger bit file to sharpen the boxed set of Irwin auger bits my grandfather gave me. It worked well, and all of the bits are ready for use again. While I was puttering, I realized I could create a holder for loose bits by routing the square tang holes in a strip of wood and gluing that strip to another strip, similar to dog holes in a traditional bench. Not that I want to displace the bits I got from my grandfather, but I have two sets, and plenty of extra space in my tool cabinet.

With some time left in the evening, I picked out a scrap of walnut my brother-in-law brought home from the middle school where he works (the shop teacher was doing his spring cleaning). I ripped two inches from the nicest side and began to make a pair of dovetail markers. The walnut was nice and dense. The color had mellowed a bit, and when I planed it down it revealed chocolate, almost purple hues. I cut the 1:8 and 1:6 angles into the pieces, sanded them a bit, and set them aside. Tomorrow I’ll set up the router table and route a ledge into the tops of the markers, and carve them with my initials and the date. I’l finish them with a few coats of shellac.

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