Friday, May 8, 2009

Whittling and Wood Carving

My parents bought me a copy of E.J Tangerman's book when I was 10 or 11 and I keep it in my possession to this day. Whilst I cannot boast of any award winning carvings I do recall amazing my old science teacher with 3 chain links carved from a single piece of cedar.

Whittling and Wood Carving by E.J. Tangerman

This is one of the books I never tire of going back to, if only to admire some of the designs, most of which are far beyond my skill level. There is something timeless about this book that was inspiring to me as a young reader and may prove likewise for others.

Rash Purchasing Decisions

I can tell the exact moment when I know my weekend has slipped out of my control. A job runs overtime, friends drop in or some family emergency comes up. I know this is when (if I am within half an hour drive of a hardware store) I am vulnerable to making a rash purchasing decision.

Why? Because modern marketing has relentlessly impressed on me that by buying something I am achieving something. All I need is the next gagdet and my problems will be solved. I am trying to buy back control so I can feel satisfied (which rationally I know is an illusion).

Some recent Sunday afternoon temptations:

Light fittings (never installed)
Sharpening system (not opened)
Big Steel Toolbox (if i buy a ute one day, will be very handy)
Rubber downpipe plugs for bush-fire preparedness (don't even know where these are supposed to go!)

In consolation I wonder how many routers, drill presses, band saws and whipper snippers never even get unpacked in the first 6 months. Ironically, all that is needed to satisfy these cravings is to spend a small amount of time focused on some small part of a current project. I have found there is much more satisfaction on a Monday morning in knowing I have sharpened one chisel well than there is in wondering why on earth I now own another useless doodad.

What are you doing while you are doing nothing?

Really productive people are not frantically busy. Instead of rushing around in panic, massively productive people are getting things done even when they are doing nothing.

How? By running lead times in parallel with down time. Think of it like planting seeds - even while you are asleep, they are growing.

Picture this - its Saturday and I have to attend a family lunch. But I know, that while I am barbecuing and drinking beer, time is working for me. In parallel with my social activities I have other things happening:

Homebrew is fermenting away
Glued up boards are setting
Shellac is hardening
My PC is running a full system backup, scan and update

If I can find enough scraps of time to get these processes underway I can then forget about them. Indeed with many jobs the longer you leave them the better the results (ageing wine, clarifying solutions, curing glues etc).

Understanding lead time and critical path

Lead time: How long it takes for a part to arrive once you have ordered it.

Critical Path: A list of jobs or stages, each one dependent (unable to start) until the previous stage has been completed.

Time, we discover, does not equal output. Quality aspects aside, two people given the same amount of time will produce vastly different quantities of final product. Two simple concepts to apply to your next (or current, or long overdue) project are lead time and critical path.

Lead time is lost time. Ordering a spare on Saturday morning is not much use if you need it that weekend. Sitting around waiting for things to arrive is not productive. Lead times are often connected to "preparation" and many of these steps can be moved out of weekend time and into the weekday. For example, it may take 10 minutes to find a spare part online, then 4 days for delivery.

The Critical Path shows you which stages must be completed before the next stage can be started. Two or more stages may be able to be done in parallel (simultaneously). Some processes are not on the critical path at all, meaning they can be done at any time without affecting other steps.

Map out the steps of your next project and think about which stages can be moved around. There are some stages that are on the critical path and have significant lead times attached (like waiting for a coat of paint to dry). However, many steps can be brought forward, broken up or rearranged to get maximum value out of your offpeak time - and in turn set you up for a productive weekend.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Talking Electronics

I was delighted this morning to find the Australian company TALKING ELECTRONICS is still around. As a kid I spent countless hours playing with their FM Radio bugs, hidden transmitters and other spy toys. In fact, I still have the original books of their FM Transmitter plans.

Talking Electronics

Not only were the kits great fun to build, this company seems to actually care that their customers are learning something!

Ballistol for Rust Removal

One of the many claims made on the back of the ballistol can is its ability to dissolve rust. Here are before and after photos of a rusted spanner head sprayed with a generous coat of ballistol and left for about an hour. The ballistol was then dried off using a paper towel.

This product continues to give pleasing results and I think warrants use on many rusted tools where it may be tempting to apply a wire wheel (potentially disfiguring engraving you didn't realise was there in the first place).

Timber Floor Gripes

There seems to be no end in sight for the popularity of timber and "floating timber" floors. My only beef on the subject is the apparent acceptability of not skirting the newly laid floor properly. Recently I have seen several examples where the floors were overlaid and the installers simply announced (after packing their tools up) that it would be "too hard" to put a skirting board around the floor (over an existing original skirting board). Funny how this never gets a mention by the salesperson at the showroom.

This photograph from a friend's house shows the view of the bare surface visible every time the fridge door is opened - complete with small cutout section existing for no apparent reason. Given that people invest a lot of money and thought into the timber selection, it would seem prudent to spend a few moments checking out the installers.

Rust Removal Using Electrolysis

A well thought out and researched bit of work looking at electrolysis for rust removal. There is no substitute for hard-earned experience and first hand trial and error.

Rust Removal Using Electrolysis by Andrew Westcott

I am looking for something rusty to try this out on.

Greetings to the Niagara WoodWorking Club

A big Hello to visitors from the Niagara Wood Working Club of Ontario. If you haven't seen their blogsite drop into and check out the member's projects gallery.

There is also a section dedicated to restoring hand planes utilising electrolysis for rust removal (Can I post mine over???)