Lots of small unimportant things.  But I’m trying valiantly to avoid doing absolutely nothing now that the kids are off to college.  I’m working on accomplishing that wish list I’ve been keeping all these years.  Most of that is just tinkering but it’s fun stuff.

We drove up to Woolaroc on Saturday which is the museum up on the Frank Phillips ranch.  I don’t think I’ve been there since Erin was in a stroller.  I couldn’t even remember where it was but Google knows.  Some of it came back to me after we got there though; for example, I remember the little diorama of Indians dancing around a fire that Evan was so fascinated with when he was little.  Still there and still dancing.  We also walked around the place and saw Frank Phillips’ rich-guy retreat. It’s made to look like a rustic cabin but he was an oil baron; it’s not truly rustic. For example there was a grand piano covered with pine bark. We also ate at the little snack shack – I had the buffalo sandwich.  It is advertised to be real bison meat but I couldn’t tell because of all the barbecue sauce.

I think my favorite part was the buffalo herd.  The road into the museum goes through a preserve where the bison (and other animals) roam freely and that includes taking naps on the road itself.  They seem not to realize that we puny humans and our cars are no match for their mass (and horns).  Whenever they become aware of your car, they hop up and trot away as if in fear of us.  If they ever catch on, we’re in trouble. 

I started putting together a little circuit board that I bought from adafruit that reads the info on SIM cards.  I look forward to finding out if there’s anything interesting on my SIM.  If there’s not I guess I’m out $15 which is not bad for useful knowledge.

I also tried to do a bit of hand tool woodworking but again the heat drove me back inside.  That and some dull tools.  I brought all my sharpening gear inside and started to work away on an old router plane (or the cutter thereof) but it has apparently never been sharpened at all.  I got it from my brother who said he bought it at a BX in Germany back in the early ‘60s when he was in the army.  I ground away at it for quite awhile on a stone because it is “L” shaped and will not easily fit on my bench grinder.  I don’t fancy trying to free-hand like that but I may have to; after lots and lots of work on a coarse stone, it still didn’t come to a sharp point.  I was able to sort-of make it work but raising the cutter a bit to steepen the angle on the cutting edge.  That’s a bit unreliable but I got it sharper than it was.  Then I took it out to clean up some tenon cheeks.  Worked quite well once the cutter was sharp(er).

I then started on a chisel.  The last time I sharpened it, I had taken it over to my friend’s house who owns a Tormek.  I had thought to put a basic shape on it then; later I would have an easy time with honing the hollow-ground edge.  But he never seemed to take the guides or angle gauge seriously and didn’t know where they were.  As a result the edge I got was a bit out of square as well as being a different angle than I wanted.  So when I started to touch it up on my new diamond plate, it seems it was only grinding on the rearmost parts of the edge and part of one side of the edge.  So more work is required.  I tried just grinding it on my bench stones but that will take a long time since the one I bought is a fine/extra fine.

I learned something in the process: diamond plates are often advertised as requiring no lubricant.  They say you can use then dry but I seemed to get better results when I put a few drops of water on them.  The instructions say that you should clean them with water after each dry use anyway.  This may be my imagination – I should try it both ways now that they are broken in.  I learned that a new diamond plate is coarser than advertised until you use it for a day or so.  So all those metal filings that were clogging things up in the beginning may just be a thing you experience when it’s new.  So again, more experience with it will tell the tale.

This all just highlights the need for me to actually build an angle jig for my bench grinder and use that to establish a proper edge on everything I have.  Then honing will go more smoothly.  I hope.  I could just buy a Tormek myself but holy cow!  $500?  Get real. The biggest trouble with those is that you can’t get by with the basic tool holding jig.  You have to buy a different jig for every different tool type you have and each one is $100 at least.  By the time you have everything you need, it’s closer to $800.  I agree that it’s a wonderful thing and sharpening is a breeze with it but the price is just ridiculous.  Grizzly makes a cheap knockoff but I don’t know how well it works; some of their stuff is really nice – other stuff is crap.  I’m not sure how to tell in advance.  My table saw is wonderful – my bench vise makes me want to cry every time I use it so I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum.

I also set up my webcam-getter program to download a weather map of the hurricane every 15 minutes.  I will stack up all these images and make a movie of hurricane Irene moving up the coast of the US.  That should be interesting. 

So we kept busy this weekend.  Not bad for somebody with no particular place to be.

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I have a fascination with hand tools and hand-work.  I’ve seen some very impressive work done with only hand tools and so I’ve slowly been accumulating some along with the skill to use them.  The skill part is pretty slow but I keep at it.

Recently I bought a drawknife at a junk store over in Jenks.  I’ve often seen Roy Underhill and other guests on his show go at it with a drawknife so I bought one myself.

The edge is pretty dull and has a nick or two in it.  I originally thought that this was pretty much a tool for rough work but I think a bit of sharpening couldn’t hurt plus it would give me practice at holding a constant edge.  The whole thing is curved in two dimensions so that rules out using any of the jigs I have or might build.  This is going to rely on just holding it right and holding the file/stone correctly.  I once watched a guy at Plimoth Plantation do this with a scythe and he managed to get that down to a razor edge – enough to cut grass with easily.  I’ll try to do what he did.  Of course people tend to make things easy that are not necessarily easy.  I’ve learned that over and over with guitar playing.

I’ll have to take photos and document the whole thing.  Or not; I find that when I get my head down into something like this, I don’t fancy stopping to take a photo.  Plus this is the sort of thing that gets my hands dirty and/or oily and that keeps me from touching my camera. 

Not sure how well this is going to go; I went at it with a file last night and I accomplished little except getting some corrosion off the edge.  No iron filings to be seen yet.