Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's hip to be square

I have finally, after two years, $500, endless cuts, measuring, and cursing, made a square piece of wood.

Stick a fork in it, it's done!

This, friends and neighbors, is a momentous moment for me. This is what I have been working towards for the last two years, ever since I got my Rigid circular saw. All it took was five saw guides, a computer, and a $250 table saw. OK, really all it took was the $250 table saw; the rest was just "practice".

I made several saw guides, but then I cut up each and every one as I attempted to "fix" them as soon as I made them. Except for the last one, which worked perfectly until I accidentally put the "short side" of the base on the "long side" of the guide and cut it off. I now have a not too bad guide that only works on the least stable side of the saw. So, by building my own saw guide, I was able to avoid buying a $30 saw guide and instead made one from materials I already had. Except I made so many mistakes I had to buy more wood. And then I bought the friggin guide anyway. So now I have a $30 guide that cost me about $60.

The best way to compensate for a lack of skill, as we all know, is to buy bigger tools. I went online to read about how to cut a piece of wood straight without the use of a circular saw. This led to a bunch of pages about hand saws, so, I changed my search to exclude hand tools and include power tools, because, I mean, really, who does that?

Eventually I settled on a nice Jet contractor saw on Amazon for $300. It was reviewed well and seemed a good deal for a starter saw. But really I wanted more, so I was scanning Craig's list every day in the hopes of finding something better. On the very day I was going to buy my Jet, I saw an ad for a Grizzly table saw for $250. That was clearly the saw for me. It was like Jesus himself came down and said "David, I'm not really in the carpentry business so much anymore, so I want you to have this saw". And it was good.

The Grizzly in its natural environment

My saw is not exactly the saw in the link above, but it is the closest thing to it. I also got a heavy duty rolling stand and an outfeed roller with it. Isn't it beautiful? look at it again:

Note the golden sunshine reflecting off the cast-iron table,
as if Jesus were pointing at it, saying
"Look! What a beautiful saw I gave you!"

This is a great saw. I had to change the fuses to 20 amp timed release just to get it to stay on. The lights in the house dim when I turn it on!

I joke about this saw and go on and on about it, but I can tell you, the quality of my work has increased a hundred fold just by using this saw. I am a lot more excited by what this will mean to my work than to anything else. I built an end table in 3 hours, complete with dados and tetons. Those are real joints! Without this table saw, I would have used 3 different tools and taken much longer to make a trapezoidal disaster that couldn't hold its shape, much less a glass of juice! I am excited because now what I see in my head is possible; I can make the things I want because I can cut a straight line.


2,595 miles

Most people who read this blog already know we ended up driving to Texas in the middle of possibly the worst snowstorm Washington and Oregon have ever seen. We had driven to Adrianne's as planned (her massage shop was open, despite the storm) and got the news of our flight cancellation at about 10 PM, three hours before scheduled lift-off. Continental Airlines' next available flight would have touched down on Dec 26th, and that just wasn't going to work for us. (I have to say, I was impressed that Continental did offer to refund our money, which was really unexpected.) So, with no other options that ended with us in Texas, we got in the car and drove. Well, actually, we had to push the car out of the parking lot first, but once that happened, we got in the car and drove.

The drive itself was absolutely horrible the first "day". We hadn't planned on doing this, so we had not slept or packed food before leaving. The tank was full (good thing, too) because the Prius doesn't really use gas, I think it just evaporates in the tank real slow. I was afraid to stop until I was completely south of the storm, (it would have been beyond terrible to get stranded in Portland or someplace and miss Christmas altogether!) we drove 341 miles to Sutherlin, OR in just about 9 hours. That's an average speed of 37.88 MPH. Most of the time we were below 30.

Next we drove about 831 miles and stopped at the Hi-Way Host Motel in Pasadena, CA.

We had only slept a few fitful hours in OR, so I was pretty beat and for some reason I thought this was a cool, kitchy place to stop. It wasn't, really. It is the only motel I have ever been in that offered free cable porn by default (although they don't tell you this at check in). So, to the sound of the plastic matress cover crinkling under us and the gentle sting of bleach fumes stinging our noses, we slept the sleep of the dead.

The next morning, we left after an exuberant good bye from the very nice asian proprietor (I think we may have been the first customers to stay a whole night) and drove the final 1384 miles to Austin, arriving Christmas Eve morning around 9 AM. (I think; I was pretty out of it by then!)

We had done it.

When we left Bellevue that night and told everyone what we were doing, we got a lot of reactions to what we had done. In fact, at that first stop in OR, after we had slept a few hours, even Kathleen and I looked at each other and asked if we were doing the right thing. But I thought Corey had put it best when we called and told him what we were doing. We had driven a Prius 350 miles through snow that had all but crippled two states; we had driven when no plane could fly, when no train could chug, and we did it all with out chains. Corey's reaction, unexpected but appreciated, was this:

"That's badass!"