Thursday, March 29, 2012

Deep Fried Goodness

It's amazing how deep frying most anything ends up being pretty darn good. Blame it on the Devil I guess. A while back as we were making corn bread I had the idea that corn bread batter mixed with diced onion, whole kernel corn and diced jalapeno deep fried would probably be pretty good. I was thinking cake doughnut only with a slightly healthier basis.

I'd been meaning to try it out for weeks and never got around to it. That was until last weekend. We had some time, some potato that would make perfect fries and some corn bread mix so I figured that we had little to lose. I took our electric fryer thingy out on the deck, slammed some vegetable oil in it and flipped the switch.

Once it was up to speed we dropped in some corn bread batter. That was actually harder than it would seem as the stuff is really sticky. I think the best bet would be to use an icing bag or something. I wonder how they make cake doughnuts as that would likely be similar? Anyhow, it did work and we were able to make small balls of deep friend corn bready goodness. They were pretty darn good also. Not as dense as a fritter. Lighter and crumblier, like corn bread.

Good and good for you, especially drizzled with maple syrup.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Out of Retirement

No, not me. I'm still living the "retired" life, also known as having no tangible income. What I'm referring to is our tandem. If you recall back to last summer we had a rough spell on the tandem and had decided to spend some time away from each other. The bike sat sullen and quietly in the basement by itself, pondering it's fate for the fall, finally drifting off into hibernation through the winter months.

Alas, the spring saw a change of heart and we dragged her out from her slumber, refreshed and looking for some variety. A couple of good, enjoyable rides on her and we were all optimistic. I swapped a few things around and added a new handlebar I had acquired and a different, snazzier stem. Of course I cleaned the copious layers of dust from her back and shoulders also. She responded well.

Yesterday, since I had some time and no bigger projects on the immediate schedule, I decided to finally install the drive-train upgrade that I'd pieced together months and months ago. This would include 10spd STI levers to replace the 9spd she'd had since birth. That also meant new chain, cassette and rear derailleur with a slightly longer cage. I also swapped the old disc brake rotors for a newer and lighter set I had sitting in the bin. The rear rotor was swapped to a 185mm from a 203mm in order to save a little weight, albeit at the expense of braking performance. I wagered that we would be OK on the rear. The jury is still out though.

Our aging but still capable, tandem. It has seen many adventures over the years.

Yesterday was Tuesday and Tuesday night has come to be our local Smackdown training ride. After finishing the tandem upgrades by mid afternoon I though it might be a good test to try and ride the tandem at the Smackdown ride. I knew that this would be a challenge and that we would end up working really, really hard in some places but that we could cause lots of suffering to others elsewhere. The tandem is a tool that is really good at some things and really bad at others.

After a short shakedown and adjustment to make sure everything was working, Cathy agreed and the cast was set. Our arrival on the tandem at the start of the ride was met with some surprise but soon we started rolling and attention turned to the ride itself for all of us.

The tandem excels where it can maintain it's momentum. On the downs, flats and shallow or even short steep ups, it is untouchable. It has so much mass that it will coast much further up a grade change than a single bike. The downside is that you don't get that much mass moving quickly compared to a single bike. Sprinting up to speed is slow. Coming down from speed is also slow. When you get the thing rolling though it cruises nicely at 25mph for long periods.

Another tandem nuance is that they are terrible for riding in a group of single bikes. Again, the tandem wants to maintain constant, steady momentum. Speeding up and slowing down play havoc with the bike. We need to be on the gas or on the brakes or often times, both. You also need to pay strict attention so as not to cross wheels or roll into the person in front of you. Not easy work by any stretch and certainly keeps you on your toes.

The ride last night was fun. It was hard but we worked to control the pace in a number of sections. Because of the dynamics we spend a bunch of time up front, simply because it was easier and less work than trying to pace-line.

The final section of the ride is a 7.5 mile straight headed back toward Bedford on RT4. This section has only one traffic light and no other stop signs. The road is rolling and there are two notable little climbs on it. The first hill is one of the worst of the entire loop and I knew that we would be dropped. We went into the climb up front and hit it with as much speed as we could muster. That momentum and a mighty effort on the pedals carried us about 1/3 of the way up the climb. Then we lost momentum and it was a matter of settling in for the grind up the remainder. Shortly after the stall we were passed hard by two of the group, who I assumed would attack at that point. Cathy and I went hard and steady and kept the gap to about 50 meters, an easy distance to make up with the tandem on gently rolling terrain.

We slowly approached the two who were now soft-pedaling and attacked them hard for the pass. They managed to get back on so we dialed it back and waited, recovering. We hit a couple of rollers that took some wind out of or sails and I knew that an attack would be coming at the top of the 2nd one, which was the straight into the Bedford town line sprint. That was also the 2nd of the hills that would be a challenge on the tandem. The attack came as expected and we chose to just keep pace and recover some for the hill. This let us hit the climb hard and by the top we had the break minimized to about 50 meters. We kept pace and let him hang, waiting for an uptick in the grade to make a move. We could see it coming and accelerated hard to be going about 10mph faster and to make sure we would catch just as his speed started to drop in order to maximize the effect. It worked and we shot ahead. A while later he made a small gain which prompted us to dig deep and push hard to the end.

We "solo'd" into town for the win, Tuesday night Smackdown world champions of the world!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Save a Tree

Eat a beaver.

Last week I rode through this area near a marsh where the beaver population had laid siege to a number of trees. I took a picture of one of the more ambitious projects that they currently had going. It's amazing the damage they do, not to mention the incredible landscape and environmental change from the backwater of their damming efforts. I realize that beavers gotta eat too but dang.

However, that's not what this is about.

I grew up in the 70's and 80's. Back then, in grade school, some of the most profound sayings and prolific artwork was found not only on mudflaps and bumper-stickers but also on T-shirts. Not just any T-shirt, 3/4 sleeve baseball style under-shirts with iron on graphics. Think Bad News Bears, the original, with Jackie Haley as Kelly before he gained infamy as Moocher in the most beloved cycling movie ever. No, not that crappy modern Billy-Bob remake.

The best of these T-shirts were sourced at the county fair where there would be a booth with the outside covered in decals to choose from. Classy stuff too, not just the trashy sayings. If you were lucky, the graphics had sparkly backgrounds. Think bass-boat style here. Amazing that they went out of style along with gym shorts over your sweatpants. I blame it on the 90's.

Those were the days, indeed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Mantle

Although I really didn't expect it, I have to say that this was probably the most intensive project I've done of the recent batch. Though the basement redo was probably a bigger undertaking all told, this one project had more detail and thought required. On the surface it seemed like it was going to be really straight forward but as I peeled it apart, the challenges presented themselves.

The fireplace and mantle as it has been since we bought the house, dark and dismal.

Like many projects, getting started was the hardest part. I designed, measured, re-designed and so on, over and over. It finally got to the point last Monday where I simply gave up and started building stuff. Of course, I made mistakes that soon presented themselves. The entire day Monday was pretty much spend scratching my head and making scrap wood out of lumber I'd paid good money for. Finally I had some workable uprights to start with. Of course, in hindsight, I did it all wrong in terms of building the frame. You can't build a square box and expect it to fit in these cases. Lesson learned for next time I guess.

Upright supports added and anchored to the wall. The frame to which the rest will be mounted.

Tuesday I was bound and determined to make some progress and finally cut some baseboard and got the uprights of the frame built and installed. From there I had to decided what I wanted the face to look like. The big challenge was how to cover the support bricks for the existing rough granite mantle. I toyed with a number of different ideas including multiple rows of crown molding to build the face out and at the last minute switched to what I thought may be a easier solution. I'm not sure that was actually the case but I rolled with it choosing to simply box in the bricks all together with MDO plywood and then decorate the box with various pieces of molding stock.

Face attached and brick supports boxed around.

That was where the detail work came into play. The detail work involved numerous pieces of molding cut at precise angles. Before I could get there though I had to deal with the actual top which would case in the granite mantle itself. That included building a 3 piece MDO base plate that was templated to fit around the many brick surface changes of the face. I then built a 2" wide lip piece out of MDO which I attached to the lower plate. This added stability and tied the 3 separate pieces together, along with some biscuit joints and loads of wood glue. The actual mantle top, which I made from 3/4" poplar, would then affix to the lower via the lip, perfectly encasing the big chunk of granite for all eternity. After that, some more molding would band the outer edge of the entire piece and both tie it together and finish it off.

More trim work and getting the scalloped upright facing on.

That part worked mostly fine, except for one lapse in attention where I made one incorrect miter cut on the banding molding. Fortunately I was over on the angle versus under but I'd already nailed it into place and had to trip the angle by hand. Fun times. Nothing a little bondo can't fix. Luckily I used my Ryoba saw and lots of patience followed by some hand sanding with a block and got it to the point where it looked fine from the bathroom.

The last part was the trim, which took more than a day for me to complete. Although less than ideal, I used the miter saw in the basement and took the finish nailer upstairs for assembly. That meant at least one trip down and back up the stairs for each cut. Some times I was able to get multiple cuts done at once but other times it took multiple trips. I figure I probably went down and back up the flight of stairs 75 times a day for 3 days in a row. Excellent cross training I guess.

The construction done it was time for the finish.

Thursday afternoon I finished up and got after the pre-paint prep work which included filling all of the finish nail holes with filler and caulking all of the joints. This is miserable work that I don't wish upon anyone. Well, maybe on some people I can think of. After that the first coat of paint, which exposed the fact that I still had a bunch more prep work left to do. We did a group MTB ride Thursday night and let me tell you, I was beat. The previous week was a big one ride wise and coupled with the hard effort Tuesday and a non-recovery effort on Wednesday, my butt was dragging.

Yesterday I did some more prep work and hit the whole thing with a second coat of paint. It is to the point where I can live with it for now though I still need to caulk the edges that meet the walls and then paint both the walls and mantle. I can still do a little more finish prep and put another coat on the whole mantle, but I think that will wait for another day.

Done for the time being. A nice gas or pellet insert would look really nice there.

All told, it took most of a week to complete. This is why I don't get paid to do that type of work. The result is passable to my eye, which granted is probably more discerning than most. I say that because I know where all of the flaws are. The big thing is that it makes a huge difference to the room, changing it exactly the way we had hoped. It is much brighter and cleaner looking and gives a good bright focal point where before there was a dark void.

Mission accomplished. On to the next project.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tuesday Smackdown Ride

Last spring as a means of getting through the supersized winter that we had, I put together a Tuesday evening road ride starting in the middle of March of last year. This ride was actually what prompted a very explicit ride disclaimer to be drawn up, not because of infractions but as a preemptive attack and to set the ground rules. The premise of the ride was for training and as such, it was to be a no holds barred, left for dead, hammerfest. The idea was that we would all just take turns beating each other into submission. These are the kind of antics that really poor racers like myself employ in races, which typically ensures a mediocre placing. It always seems like a good idea at the time though.

I had little trouble finding a group of really solid riders and racers that had no qualms about riding really hard for a couple of hours at night, in some really miserable conditions. If you remember last winter, it was harsh and lingered. We still had a ton of snow in March and real winter conditions were still in full effect. I recall the ride last year that we started in a light mist on wet roads in 40 degree temperatures. Part way through the ride we lost daylight and spent the rest of the ride in the dark. It was misery but we all did it and provided the much needed inspiration and motivation for the others.

This year the weather has been really good so no tales of horror to be had. In fact, though it seems we haven't actually had as many of the rides, the truth is that we actually started earlier in the season this year. Because everyone has been spending so much time riding the group is all in really good condition already. This makes for less disparity and some harder overall riding. Just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, a mishap shortly into the ride with a sewer grate that had been turned so the slots ran parallel to the road ended Ben's ride. He kept it upright and the only victims were his rear wheel and water bottle, both of which exploded. The grate has since been fixed.

I need to tweak the route a little bit to incorporate some cheater lines where, if people get dropped, they can bypass a small section and get back in. Unfortunately the route has a hard section less than 10 miles in that often splits the group. It would be good to be be able to incorporate them back in later on.

It's nice to have a good group to ride with. This general area has no shortage of good trails and roads on which to ride. Moreover, there is no shortage of good folks with whom to ride. We are certainly fortunate.

This week's edition of the Tuesday Smackdown Ride.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The flowers may be thinking spring but dang, it feels like summer out there. Starting to wonder if those crazy Mayans had it right. Guess we will all find out. The vintage dual cassette AM/FM stereo radio that I have been using in the workshop died this AM. Playing some sweet 70's/80's music one minute then nothing on any station. I thought we were done for. Turns out it just gave up the ship. Probably all the dust I've been stirring up making little pieces of scrap wood out of big pieces of good wood.

I've been crazy busy this week working on that stupid mantle piece. Why is finish woodworking always way more involved than you plan? Maybe it's because I can't plan that stuff worth beans. Saws are all in the basement though so I figure I've been up and down the stairs 75 times each day this week easily. Good stuff though and the end is finally in sight. I'll post some pictures of the process once it is done.

Nice social MTB ride planned for tonight. That should be a good cap to the riding part of the week, at least the meat of it. Got in a great ride Tuesday and the fastest of the Tuesday smackdown rides so far this year. Great weather helped no doubt. Tomorrow will be a nice easy spin and Saturday just a mild opener for the MTB TT on Sunday in RI. First race of the season.

It seems to have come quickly, though for no good reason. We've been on the bikes constantly this year, literally. The streak is still alive. Not sure what day I'm on any more though but every one since December 29th. No end in sight.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Notchfest I - 2012

The first Notch Ride of the year is completed. It isn't the earliest we ever did a Notch Ride. We missed that distinction by just a few calendar days from a couple of years back. That year the weather was a big part of the ride with sustained headwinds in the double digits for a large portion of the ride. It was also before the daylight savings time change, so light was a factor.

This year, with the crazy winter we didn't have and the even crazier summer weather we had this past week we figured that conditions would be ripe for a ride. The forecast was for sun and 60 degrees in Lincoln, NH so we packed up the good bikes and headed north. The entire ride up the weather was somewhat less than what we expected. As we traveled further up I93 the temperature continually crept down, until it was in the high 30's. To add insult, the skies were overcast, grey and cloudy. Panic set in as I realized that I may have made a big mistake. About 10 miles out from Lincoln we could see some blue sky opening up on the horizon. As we got to the exit, the sky was blue and cloudless and the temperature was a comfortable 47 degrees. Much better.

Cathy and I changed up and got on the road just after 10:30AM. It was still cool but we had a long climb up Kinsman Notch on RT112 right off the bat. In my opinion, Kinsman is the worst climb of the route. It has some steep sustained grades. Worst is that it starts almost immediately out of the parking lot of the visitor center. Fortunately the approach is a few miles before the grade starts to pick up, which gives a brief chance to warm up. As expected, the climb was brutally hard, more so as I discovered that I had some pretty grumpy legs. Note to self, starting a big notch ride with grumpy legs is a bad idea that makes for a long day of discomfort and suffering. The sore legs put a cramp in my lower left side that chose to hang around all day. Nothing terrible, just annoying. The plan for the day was to take it steady and stay together as much as possible. We would regroup on the climbs if necessary and spend the day, together.

The top of Kinsman Notch.

Once we hit the top of Kinsman it was cloudy so we put the vests on for the descent. Little did we know that we would be descending back into overcast with cooler temperatures and wet roads. Soon we found out our fate would include wet feet. Not bad though and certainly not bad for March, or at least for a normal March. Despite the weather at home, it had recently been winter in those parts. The woods were full of snow and the melt-water runoff was ample. The roads were in full spring frost-heave mode, making for some interesting riding heading in to Franconia on RT116. That stretch of road seems very remote and isolated though it really isn't. I like that road and that area.

RT116 toward Franconia under grey skies on wet and bumpy roads.

From there it was another good climb up from Franconia to RT3 and over to Twin Mountain onto Rt302. That stretch of RT3 has an extended downhill grade for miles with nice wide shoulders. The down side is that traffic, often heavy, is moving at 60mph or better. Still not a bad section. Coming in to Twin the cloud cover once again parted to reveal sun and blue.

Nothing but blue skies coming my way.

I think for the first time ever we had a neutral/tail wind on RT302 headed to Crawford Notch. The section is a shallow sloped climb up over Crawford Notch and then a long descent into Bartlett. This section is often scary fast and you can make up huge time. On this trip, the wind funneled up the notch which meant we rode into a headwind all the way down. It subsided greatly as we descended but was always present. This meant you were working at a steady pace to get 21mph. Not as bad as we have seen but no 25mph free ride either. It was amazing to see the amount of snow still left in the valley coming down out of the Notch. There was recently winter this year for sure, at least in that area.

We split a Reuben and some homemade chips. Very good but a little too much goodness maybe.

In Bartlett we stopped at the deli to refuel. Some drink and a corned beef sandwich and homemade chips in honor of St. Patrick's Day gave us a small respite and then we were back on our way. Bear Notch was still snowed in so we bypassed North Conway via West Side Road. West Side is probably the most heavily ridden road in Conway, thus it has actual bike lanes on much of it. We saw a ton of cyclists on that road including Bruce and one other rider from Sunapee, at least I think it was Bruce. Nice rolling to false flat and a great break, which gave us time to think about the final task of the day that loomed in the near future, the Kanc.

Because Passaconaway Road was also snowed in we had to ride down to RT16 in Conway and take that the the intersection of RT112, the true start of the Kancamagus Highway. I'd never done the whole thing but discovered that the lower part is actually steeper than the mid section. This makes sense as parts of Passaconaway Road are also pretty steep. Cathy and I stayed together a few miles and then she dropped back some while I continued to press forward. I waited briefly and we then pressed through the mid section. The upper section is the real climb. It is 5 miles of sustained effort with some sections of steep that inspire great discomfort, at least for me. I remembered from the last time I did the climb that 11.5mph was where I'd be on much of the climb. I also noticed that the sweet spot was just over 300watts. Much more and I risked blowing up and for what? There would be no prize for the first one over the pass.

The top of the Kancamagus Pass and the day's final climb.

I made it to the familiar switchback where you can see the rest area at the top just about 1/2 mile up the road. It was good to be done though the descent into town and the finish would surely be interesting. Soon I could see Cathy on the final approach to the top. We bundled up and headed down. It was amazing just how cold that descent was. It is about 13 miles back to where we parked. All of it is down, the final 5 miles or so slightly rolling. I was frozen solid by the time we hit ski traffic just leaving the bars probably, from Loon Mountain. The downtown of Lincoln was a madhouse and it took all of my concentration to keep track of the mass of traffic and congestion doing crazy things. Just before the lot we saw some friendly faces riding toward us. It was Alec and friends. Apparently they too had been doing some Notch training and got in a slightly different loop.

Final stats varied slightly from the GPS vs. the cyclometer. Not badly though.

The final stats were 5:55 rolling time for 113 miles and a little over 6k of climbing. Not the fastest I've ever done the route but with just two people sharing the work, it certainly isn't bad. We changed up and headed to the Woodstock Inn and Brewery for some food and drink and then made our way home to some very hungry kittens who thought that we had abandoned them.

A spectacular day spent together. Hopefully to first of many such adventures we will have this year.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's What's for Dinner

It's that time of year and it's cold, damp and miserable outside. It may be cliche but it's also pretty darned good. Oh, and it's easy as well. Nothing like a good old fashioned check of tough and nasty butt meat slow boiled all day long coupled with the most utilitarian, nondescript vegetable on the planet.

And then there is the beer. Oh yes, there will be beer. There must in fact.

Corned beef brisket and cabbage, it's what's for dinner.

In fact, the Corned Beef is currently seeping in a chocolate lager, some garlic, black pepper and Montreal Steak Seasoning because darn it, everything is better with steak seasoning. Later on the cabbage will join its companion for the final hour or so and dinner will be done.

Erin Go Bragh.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A New Leaf

No, not that kind of a leaf. It seems that our dining room table, which we almost never use and although already pretty big by reasonable standards, was a little short. I'd been planning to build a new leaf or get one built by my brother at the shop where he works, Lyndon Furniture, which actually built the table to begin with, for some time, but just never got to it. Not until now that is.

Last Saturday Cathy and I ventured in to Anderson McQuaid, the areas premier millworks shop. They produce the custom reproduction millwork for many of the high end historic restorations in the area. The supply This Old House. They also retail high end hardwood lumber. Our table is made of cherry and I didn't have enough stock on hand of the right dimension to make the new leaf. The tabletop is actually 15/16" which meant I'd need 5/4" which is actually 1" dimensional thickness, as close as I'd get without a custom milling. After some trouble finding the place (tucked in behind some office parks and much bigger than I expected) we found what we needed, 15' of 5" x 5/4". $80 later we were off.

A couple of days ago I started the milling and glue up of the top. I also milled the rails, which were like 9/16", from some 4/4" x 5" rough cherry I had on hand. I also built the overlap molding that rode between the rail of the leaf/table and covered the joint. The rails were attached using pocket holes made with the neat jig my brother gave me a few years back. I also made small, right angle brackets with screw holes for the inside of the rail and underside of the top, to help hold the rails perpendicular to the top. It all went together well. The next step was to drill the 3/8" holes for the pins. They needed to be specifically centered and horizontal to the top so I made a jig to hold the drill bit parallel and plumb which I clamped to the top. It worked just fine.

The T shaped butt end joint molding which covers the joint between the rails of the table/leaf.

The last step was the finish. I used clear rattle-can lacquer as I have done before and which is the normal finish for this type of furniture, including this particular table. After letting the multiple coats set over night, I went at it with steel wool to smooth the grain and even the finish. A little polish and she looks just fine.

I also took some time this morning to build a new branding iron, because, you know, everyone needs a branding iron to distinguish their property, right? My old one fell apart years ago when it literally couldn't take the heat. This one is welded up from solid steel so should last for a while. Yes, I know, I am vain.

The new iron, which is hard as sin to heat up I discovered.

Of course, cherry ages and darkens over time so the new leaf is significantly lighter than the table. That will change over time. The fit is pretty good but not perfect. I'm told that it never is and what they do with them involves ample work with the belt sander to custom fit it. I have one side of one joint that is sitting a hair low, maybe 1/32". I don't think I'll get after the table with the sander though. Maybe I'll try and wedge to bring it up or maybe I'll just live with it.

The finished product as it sits now and forever, likely, given how much we like change.

One more project down. Guess it's time to start that mantle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Miserables

No, that isn't the title to the all in action flick sequel which stars all of your favorite 80's and 90's action heroes. It is the literal translation to the 18th century French drama that Cathy and I went to see live last night at the historic and newly renovated Boston Opera House.

Opening night of Les Miserables at the Boston Opera House.

To put it mildly, we don't get out much so going into the big city to the theater is a big deal around these parts. I've seen a couple of musicals in the past, primarily Weber, and enjoyed them. That said, the last I'd seen was Phantom back in 1992 I believe. Only ten years ago, that's not bad. Oh wait, that's 20 years. Phuck me I'm old.

Back to the story, it was a fun night out and something that we don't do often but that I recognize that Cathy really likes to do. We took the red line in from Alewife and grabbed some food and drinks at Max and Dylan's in town. Good place. Very friendly and welcoming and a good selection of brews on tap. I opted for the Sierra Torpedo which is a double IPA. Given that it was basically summer yesterday with the temperatures in the 70's here, Cathy went for the Wachusett Blueberry garnished with actual blueberries. For food we started with some grilled kielbasa bites and then I had a parma prosciutto sandwich which was fresh and and tasty and Cathy went for the prosciutto mac & cheese, which she raved over. We finished with a cupcake trio.

Dinner at Max and Dylan's finished off with a cupcake trio.

The show was great and a delight to see the working of a high end production. The set design and complexity had me in awe, especially given the relatively small stage that they had to work with. The lighting was good though the production is set very dark, intentionally, given the theme and mood. Having never experienced Les Miserables before and knowing little if anything of the storyline, I found some of the movement between acts hard to follow. Wait, he was just in prison and then he got out and stole a bunch of silver from the church, now he owns a factory? I must admit though, I was often fidgeting or marveling at the sets and the theater and not fully engaged in the plot. ADD.

Boston Opera House is a recently revived classic from the roaring twenties. It is truly something to behold in it's classic theater design and architecture. Let me say, however, that people back in the 20's had a much greater tolerance for discomfort or rather, their notions of comfort were probably vastly different than our modern, coddled ideas. As such, I struggled with comfort at the lack of leg room. Doing a hard hour long TT effort right before leaving for the show probably didn't help things. One other thing, apparently people were not as hydrated in the 20's as us modern beings. I base this on the line for the restrooms at intermission. That was one time I was really glad not to be a woman. I'm told they had a person directing traffic in the ladies room, it was so busy. Wonder if they get overtime for that detail?

The detail was impressive. The seats, not so much.

All in all, a great night spent with my favorite person. Thank you Cathy, I had a wonderful time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It Came From Hell

Well, not really, but it sure was a pain in the rear and there was a whole lot of swearing involved. I speak of the latest component in the basement rehab, a stand for my big radial arm compound miter saw with an integrated cabinet. Maybe the problem was that I just didn't fully think it through. No, that is the problem for sure.

I was trying to minimize material usage and work with the current stock that I had lying around. I was also trying to add some spiffy features like side feed supports that were fixed but also had folding extensions on them. Those details got me tied up so that I didn't fully validate the design. As such, the initial design was flawed. When do you think I discovered the flaw? Of course, it was after I built the darn thing.

Fortunately I hadn't gotten to the trim and finish part but I was complete with the framing and sheathing. When I threw the saw into the inset space between the upright feed supports it fit fine, as expected. However, because I made the supports, which were 3.5" in height, the height that the saw's deck is above the base, the full width of the stand, 2', the lock handle of the miter saw as well as the rear lock handle of the compound miter struck the uprights, which blocked the full pivot of the saw. D'Oh! Dumb-ass!

The extension supports pivot on piano hinges and fold down. The whole thing is on casters.

So then I got to design and implement a work-around. Funny how this whole process is so similar to software. I guess it all comes down to the fact that design and manufacturing is the same world over; there are always flaws. It's just a matter of how well you cover them up.

Yea, I planned it that way.

One more piece to go and the project will be complete. This one should be pretty easy. I'm taking the freestanding band-saw and making it platform mount with a pivoting motor mount to easily adjust belt tension. Piece of cake.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Seventy Down

And so the streak continues. Yesterday's was a fairly unpleasant ride despite the warm weather and sun. You see, the mid day trail run on top of hill sprints the night before made for some very unhappy legs. That was, however, day 70 in a row of riding bicycle. That doesn't mean I've been spending hours and hours each day on the bike. I've been doing active recovery rides and easy 40 minute spins on the rollers some days. I did notice though that my weekly average ride time is 13:37 and the average weekly mileage is 177.8 so far for 2012. Not crazy but not too bad for the "dead of winter". I've yet to crack the 2000 mile mark this year. I partially attribute that to the amount of MTB riding I've been able to do vs. road riding.

My training calendar is looking pretty full and I have to go back almost to Christmas to find a white spot. This is less a testament to my personal fortitude and more a testament to the fact that we just didn't have any real winter this year. Last year I had like 35 XC ski days in at this point. This year I got in exactly 2, and they were marginal at best. I have gotten some running in but that's a different story all together.

The Cycling log for the year so far.

When is this streak going to end? I don't know for sure. I'd guess that once the season starts up in earnest I will get sick or tired of riding and take a day off here and there. Regardless, this has been a winter season for the record books. Lets hope it's an anomaly and not a part of some bigger, scary trend. It's funny how the whole doomsday thing is in vogue these days. Between the crazy Mayans and their 2012 connection, the insane weather extremities of recent past, the global political unrest and economic concerns and woes, television is ripe for doomsday based programming. The "educational channels" (which really aren't any longer) such as TLC, History and Discovery Channel now has multiple doomsday prepping/bunker series as well as the staple cataclysmic event scenario programming that they have had for some years. I guess that gloom and doom is good business indeed.

Anyhow, day 71 is slated for a smackdown, take no prisoners, left for dead, 40 mile road ride. A bunch of us did this as a regular Tuesday night series last spring. It was brutal. I'm not sure what I've got in the tank but I'm pretty sure that as much as the legs hurt yesterday, they are going to hurt a whole lot more later on. Should be a nice night for it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Slop Fooey

Today I learned a valuable lesson, one which is probably common sense actually but having now experienced it first hand, I will attest to. It is just as miserable running in slop as it is riding in it.


I'd been meaning to get out and see what the local trails looked like since the snow storm last week. Judging from my back yard I could tell that there would probably still be snow. There was. With the warm sunny weather we have today the snow is starting to melt in earnest. The frost, what little we have in the ground, is also coming out. What this yields is a mix of standing water, slick mud, slush, snow and ice cover. None of this is terribly conducive to running.

For mountain biking this is fairly miserable going, not to mention the fact that it ravages the trails. For trail running it's a whole different ball game. It's still miserable and terrible for the trails but it's also hard as sin. The trails I speak of have tons of rocks and roots, which make it difficult to navigate in dry conditions, as Cathy will attest to. With slick snow, ice and mud it was a challenge to stay upright let alone not trip over the hidden trail features.

Stupid ice, snow, slush, mud, and puddles!

Just another new challenge though, one I don't think that I will repeat for a while. My feet are still cold from the slushy puddles and my shoes and pants are covered in mud. For that matter, my calves are still sore from the run I did in the new shoes last week. We'll see what I have going on tomorrow with the legs. I can tell my lower quads are a little tender as well. Could be ugly. I ended up going further than I planned today as well as I wanted to press more into the main core of the PR to see what the trails looked like. The further in I got the more snow was still there. The powerline and gasline had the least, as expected, but the trails less traveled had a solid 3" of corn on them. It will be there for some time to come I would expect.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Workshop Refurb

Like many, my basement workspace is a mess. I've got lots of stuff and it seems to find its way everywhere. It's been about six years now since we put an addition onto our home. This addition afforded a big new basement space to use for my woodworking tools. This stuff takes up a lot of space and it's really hard to organize it in a usable way. As such, I just went with the simplest approach, that of least resistance which was to just let it go where it wanted to. Not the most efficient or attractive method.

The old bench full of stuff. Ugly and nearly unusable.

For years I've been meaning to build new work benches and cabinets. For years I've let it slide, using instead a pieced together bench that was here when we bought the house, that I'd added onto and slightly modified. Keep it mind that I didn't really improve it as much as much as just make it bigger, using recycled materials of course. If you have ever driven the way back roads of the Northeast Kingdom or Western Maine and have witnessed some of the architecture, it was in that vein. Young's Condo or Hillbilly Heaven come to mind. In my mind I was recycling the old and being green. In reality I was being lazy though legitimately wanted nothing to do with tearing that old bench apart. One of the final straws was the sweet set of benches and cabinets that my buddy AA built. He used all really nice material and they came out awesome. I was jealous and more, embarrassed and ashamed at my mess.

Yep, what a mess. No wonder I never get anything done.

Last week I started planning a new project. I'm going to put a new mantle and casing on the fireplace in the living room that we never use, in order to try and brighten and clean the room up. Less old, dirty brick and granite, more nice finished white wood. I'm using a 4x8' sheet of MDO plywood for much of the base of the project. Ripping a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" MDO is difficult without an out-feed table. I didn't have a table so I decided to build one. And that is how the project started, with one bench.

The initial cabinet designed as an out-feed table for the table saw as well as planer stand.

The first cabinet was a pain, as is always the case with the prototype. My plan was to go 2x4' and 36" high to mate with the table saw height and also to have it on casters to move easily. Beyond that it was free form. I chose to build with 2x4" framing and OSB plywood, mostly because I had a good stock of both and also because I'm cheap. Nice hardwood plywood or even MDO would have been awesome, but at $60 a sheet for 3/4" MDO, it wasn't going to happen. Over the course of half a day I fumbled my way through the design and got the cabinet built. I put simple bypass doors on that rode in a parallel set of tracks that I cut with a dado blade into a 2x4" frame. A little corner trim out of some scrap pine I had and a couple of pieces of used casing and a top made of leftover white plastic tub surround and bang, it was done.

Making progress.

The fire was lit. I could now see just how bad the old bench was and so I started down the long road of making another set of slightly larger rolling cabinets. The first was 2x6' with a 2' overhang of benchtop under which my air compressor could sit. This one went together a little better and I changed the dimensions slightly to help maximize material usage. Turned out the first one was 33" high for the cabinet material size. Had I done 32" (31 15/16" actually) I could have had three even cuts in a 4x8' sheet of OSB.

The new layout and new benches.

The 6' length threw a wrench into things but I made do. This one used some new OSB that I picked up from the Home Depot that was in much better shape that the material I used on the first one. That OSB had been exposed to the elements for a short period and had swelled a bit on the edges and started to delaminate. This stuff was dry and tight and work every penny of the $8 a sheet I paid. For the benchtop on this one I decided to use industrial linoleum tiles that are affixed via adhesive. Tough and cheap and gives a nice clean appearance. I banded the whole thing with some old oak flooring I'd ripped out of the house when we did the addition. I completed this one on Saturday and was very happy with the results.

Much cleaner, more efficient and way more space.

Yesterday I cleaned the old bench out and tore it apart. Decades old nails and wood screws under layers of shredded up OSB and pine trim held together with 20# of sheet rock screws. This made for a fun afternoon indeed. When I had it all torn apart I discovered that some of the 2x6" and 2x4" material was ugly on one side but OK on the other and structurally fine. Even some of the OSB was only hacked on one side but the other was fine. As such I incorporated as much of the leftover material as I could into the last cabinet in places where it wouldn't show. This final run of bench was 2x6' which gives me 14' of run for my bench end to end. It also gives 2x14' of enclosed, dust resistant storage underneath. The results were fine and I was again satisfied with the finished product.

Just a couple more redesigns for the bandsaw and radial arm and I'll be done.

All in all a good project that should allow me to improve the quality on some future projects. It will also make things much cleaner and more efficient. In terms of cost, I didn't really spend all that much either. I'd guess the total outlay if I'd have purchased everything rather than using it from inventory would have been a couple hundred bucks. As an added bonus, they are big enough for a normal sized adult to fit inside so when I die, chuck me in and wheel me off to the hole.