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Still cleaning up last year

Posted by joeabbott on January 1, 2010

Well, we’re now officially into 2010 and I’m still doing chores from 2009. That is, saying “thank you” for a bunch of wonderful gifts I received this past Christmas.

I like to think I live a simple life and get by with little, but one only has to tally up the enormous amount of “things” that come into a life to realize there’s a bunch that goes on below the conscious.

Take, for instance, books. I have gobs of them and they’re so much a part of daily life that I forget to account for them “coming in”. And yet they do. In ones and twos, by my own purchase or as gifts, but they’re there.

And so I’m taking a bit of a pause to recognize the fantastic wealth I amassed by way of gifts this past Christmas season. Mostly due to Suzanne and my mother but my in-laws on both sides helped out.

So, what on earth is all that stuff!

Let’s go from left to right … mostly.

The prominent Charley Harper book is a gift from my mother. She had heard that I really enjoyed Charley’s stuff (see my previous write up on Beguiled by the Wild) and got me what appears to be a comprehensive collection of Charley’s art through his many productive years! It’s a massive tome and looks to contain mainly just his pictures\prints. Wonderful!

The paper crown hanging off the left edge of the book and the small deck of cards found their way to me via a “Christmas cracker” that my mother always sends out to Suzy and me. They make a fun little pop and then shower you with a toy, a joke\riddle, and the paper crown. Suzanne and I always wear our crowns while unwrapping gifts!

The books in front of the “Charley book” are great additions to my library and span a swath of interests I enjoy.

The first book, Minnesota, Memories & Images by Michael Peterson (get your own here!) is full of pictures from my childhood home. Few people have immersed themselves into what MN has to offer more deeply than my mother and, even 1800 miles away, I share that love.

The next is from Suz, who knows my mischievous side: Cubicle Warfare, 101 Office Traps and Pranks by John Austin (want more info? look here!). The people in the office will never know what hit ’em!  >:-)

Mom also got me Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales (see the site dedicated to the book here). It’s subtitled “Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why”. A bit grim for Christmas but I go hiking a lot. As in a lot. And quite serious about getting home for dinner. Harder to do when you’re dead. And so, I read a tremendous amount on the topic of survival, rescue, and that sort of thing. I’ve promised Suzanne I won’t be the guy she reads about in the paper and intend to keep that promise. Thanks for your help in this area, Mom!

Then there’s The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene (check out the Nova site with lots of resources about the topic and author here). This book is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a fine work on one of the deep scientific theories of our time: string theory. If you love science or intrigued by how matter fundamentally is, this book is a great place to start. Regardless how many miles I hike and climb, Suz knows I’m a science geek at heart.

And finally a bit more fun for Suz and I to share: cartoons about cats! Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat (based on the webtoon site here) is a hoot! You can just tell people who live with cats. Our little fellas are well represented in the many pages and comics!

And that’s it for the books. The next major group of goodies is “tools”.

Forgive the slightly blurry picture … I’ll bring things into focus with my words!

The box on the lower right contains a “Dovetail Guide” … which is a jig (tool, not a dance) that helps a person keep his\her saw sawing at a specific angle. I do a bit of woodworking and find that I can’t cut straight to save my life. Practice practice practice is one answer … finding a tool like this is another.

On top of that is a lovely little sliding bevel gauge. When you’re cutting angles, sometimes you care a lot about the specific angle you’re cutting (like when you’re making a 45 degree cut for a side on a frame) and other times you just want to make sure the cut matches or complements another part. This tool is the answer in the second situation. It’s a mini version (I have a bigger version) that will fit into my pocket or apron and handy to use in an instant!

To the right of that is a pocket marking gauge. As with the last two items, these came from Lee Valley (wonderful quality tools) and used for marking wood. You set the distance (from the collar to the end cutting “bit”) … usually calibrated from a part … and then drag the tool along the part to mark. I’m not explaining well, but if you see a tenon in a project I’ve built, I will probably have used this tool.

Behind the box is a screwdriver-like looking implement. This is really a drawbore pin. It’s used to align holes in two different parts of wood. Like a skewer, just a long, round, smooth piece of metal.

Behind the box and to the right you can see a black and red clamp. You can see another to the far right that I used to prop up another tool. Had you been here on Christmas, you would have seen three of them coming out of a box from my brother-in-law, Jeremy Goebel, who got me those (“you can never have enough clamps”!) and a couple of mini-LED lights for my toolbox! You want to get onto my A-list? Give me tools. Cool, useful tools, please! Oh, those clamps are my go-to clamps for nearly every project. They are adjustable and just work.

OK, front and right … to the right of the baseball game. It’s a tiny shoulder plane. While it won’t be a workhorse from my toolbox, at a perfect 1/4″ wide, it’ll be useful in cleaning out those double passes on the table saw that I do when I need to cut a 1/4″ groove. I have their (Lee Valley, of course) medium shoulder plane, and it’s one of my favorite tools.

Behind that in the green box is a jig for holding drill bits while sharpening them. I must have an unsteady hand as I have a set of bits for drilling through anything and you can touch them up on a grindstone. I’ve tried to hold an angle and I fail. the bit ends up hopelessly unusable when I’m done. This should help. Yay! Thanks, Suz!

The red box on top of the green (such cheerful Christmas coordination!) is a simple carbide cutter knife sharpener. I got Suzy one just like it for the kitchen and I could shave with our knives. It’s a simple tool but fantastic for putting and edge on non-serrated, double-bevel knives.

Behind that you can just see a black and bronze item: it’s called a panel clamp. I have to (get to!) make the final tool … this is just the business part of it. Head on out to the Lee Valley page for panel clamps if you want more info.

And that leaves just a few items on the table! The baseball game came from my mother who knows I like playing around with things and can’t keep still. Either put something like this within arm’s reach of me wherever I’m sitting or you’ll have me picking up candle stick holders, a vase, or some other table decoration. Oh, Suzy holds the high score but I’ll get it back!

There’s some long pipe cleaner items to the right of the “Charley book” and to the left of the dovetail guide box (in either big picture). They’re used to build paper sculptures from! I’m quite excited and another treat my mother stuffed into the Box O’Goodness ™ that came from Minnesota this past holiday season!

Did you get a card from us this year? If so, you have to recognize the art on the pens and Post-it notes in the picture to the right. They’re the animated caricatures of Trimble, me, Suzy and Spencer that were on our cards and envelopes. Suzy is cooking up an online card repository so, when that goes live, I can add a link for those of you not on our list! Oh, and of course, they were from Suzy and will give me a constant smile whenever I use them.

Now onto the final two items that I amassed (yes, that is the right word) this Christmas. In the picture to the right you can see a few of them above the Simon’s Cat book: black items with the words “Figure 9 Carabiner” on them.

Go ahead an bing that if you want to see one up close. They’re used for tie-downs when using a rope … as I often do around the house or when camping (never use something like this when you’re climbing … use real gear and ensure you will get home for dinner). And the very last item is a companion part to the Figure 9 Carabiner and simply called the “Figure 9” … it uses the same tie-down feature but has a small loop instead of the carabiner on one end. And where are these in the pictures? Find the Charley book and look in front of it. They’re stacked between Charley book and my other books.

Well, what a piggish year. It’ll take me until June to get through all the books, find time to use the tools, and fiddle with all the treats. Many thanks to my mother, Suzanne, and all the others who made this holiday season one of plenty!

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