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Friday, October 12, 2012

Vancouver, BC. Summer 1975

Why this very poor photo was not thrown away decades ago is a mystery to me, but it remains here today. Shown below is a scene from my life in Vancouver and a record of where I lived in summer 1975. The table and chair comprised half of the furniture I possessed at the time. 

This was the kitchen-dining room area of the third floor, one bedroom apartment that I rented on East Broadway near Fraser. The table served as a desk and it was covered with various items of an esoteric nature; most people would have probably said, "A lot of junk." 

Strange in a way; the appearance of my desk today is almost identical in manner but covered with even more mostly useless stuff.

As I stare at the photo and study the items on the table, I am reminded about my life in July 1975 and struck by how much has changed in the 35 years since. Every item captured in this scene is gone from my life and my possession except for one. 

Beneath the small black and white photo in the folder standing on the table, there was a card with a Bible verse, which reads, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee: yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10) 

The other side of the card is a 1974 calendar. I still have that card in my Bible.

Everything in my life that I thought was important to me in 1975 was taken away, including the relationship with the young lady in that black and white photo. All that remains with me today from 35 years ago is the word of God.

The God of Israel has been my God. He has been with me, He has strengthened me, He has helped me and He has upheld me with the right hand of His righteousness. He has done everything he said He would do.

The Oddblock Station Agent
(Summer 2010)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

If I had enough money...

This lake-front cottage in Maine has been for sale for several years. If I had enough money then I would probably consider buying it. 

Several years ago I said the same thing too and two things have not changed since. The cottage has not sold and I still don't have enough money to buy it.

Renting a cottage like this for a week is not a bad idea...maintenance free, worry free, and a lot easier to enjoy.

The Oddblock Station Agent

A Bridge to Adventure

Somewhere in northwestern Maine a trail that disappears upward into the forested hills beckons.

Cross this river, cross this bridge and enter into the wilderness.

First learn how to read the signs on a trail. Second, be certain to take a compass, know how to use it and hope that you shall never need to look at it. If you lose the trail then the route out can be very difficult to find...even if you are only going a short distance.

A fence is barely visible in the background and it offers a last glimpse back at civilization. 

Where's the trail? Good question.

The above photo was taken off-trail. The actual marked trail is on the extreme left of the photo.

Are fences meant to keep something in or to keep something out? The answer probably depends upon the reason why the fence was built in the first place. Maybe the answer also depends upon the side of the fence one is on or, perhaps wishes to be on. Nonetheless, respect fences because they are there for good reason.

An eastern hemlock twig with the bright green of new growth.

Ahead awaits a trail of many tangled roots...this is the real stuff! 

Typical of some places along the trails, usually found on hills, and certainly no leisurely stroll in a city park. Also included on the tangled route are rocks, hills, water, mud, insects, animals and maybe even a few other unexpected surprises. Then again most surprises are unexpected. So too is the reality of adventure. Undoubtedly, this is the place where the faint-of-heart usually turn back.

Some parts of the trail are easier to hike but always pay attention to where you are going.

In the forest, protruding tree roots are always present to trip up those who are not paying attention. Those dead branches on evergreen trees are dangerous like spears. Always watch where you are going!

Nothing wrong with this picture...and no click of the mouse required.

Here, blending into the woodwork is easy without even trying.

Wearing something with a contrasting colour is not always a bad idea. 

And don't forget to tell someone where you going. Better yet, ask someone to go with you.

I just can't wait to go back to Maine again.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One of Canada's Best Kept Secrets

Have you ever seen this label before?

Made exactly in the manner as the label says they are made.

I shall guess that you probably have not and this is the reason why I call this one of Canada's best kept secrets.

The wool blankets that are made in the Asselstine Factory are sold in this store and only in this store. You won't find them anywhere else and you cannot look them up on-line to purchase.

This is the village store at the entrance to Upper Canada Village. If you have ever visited the village, then most likely you have gone inside the store.

You'll find the blankets on display just inside of the front entrance of the village store. Many people pause to look at the blankets, then look at the price tags and walk away, immediately dismissing an amazing product being sold at a rather reasonable price. I know because I did the same for many years...but I kept looking at the blankets, impressed by the material and workmanship..

$250.00 and $300.00 price tags for a blanket will scare most people away but these particular blankets are not the cheap WalMart and dollar-store junk-quality items mass-produced in China from synthetic fibers. As the Asselstine Factory blanket label reads, these are made on-site from genuine 100% wool and made the same way wool blankets were made over a century ago. Not very many of these blankets are made in the course of a year.

Seven or eight years ago Kie and I purchased our first two of these large blankets...they were the remaining two in the store and were discounted clearance sale items on the last day prior to the village closing for winter. Well we used those blankets that winter, and have every winter since, We can only use one at a time on the bed. Combined with L.L. Bean's famous flannel sheets the wool blankets keep us far too warm. We also had to lower the thermostat 2 degrees for the remainder of the winter.

Over the years we have purchased a few more of these blankets. They have made wonderful gifts that will endure for a lifetime with the proper care. No one has complained so far.

Most people will spend 25 to 30 percent of their lifespan asleep in bed; may as well be warm and comfortable. Again, $250.00 and $300.00 price tags for an excellent quality, 100% genuine pure wool blanket will scare most people away but maybe this is a good thing...because the next time we go to buy one we won't find that they are all sold out. 

 Anyway,  it all starts and ends in there...

The Assestine Factory on the water in Upper Canada Village. The blanket label does say water-powered.

An up-close view of that sign near the corner of the building...but what is just around the corner?

Open doors beckon, including that door on the second floor. What was the reason for placing a door up there? Let's go in and try to find out. Downstairs just inside the front entrance is a good place to start.

The scene below is what you may find right inside that large sliding door. Were you wondering why the sign said woollen mill? Now you know.

Nothing like going directly to the actual source for genuine raw materials. Better yet, have the source come to you and inside your front door too. Can't get any fresher or newer wool than this. No recycled fiber content here.

One of the many piles of wool in the mill. Aside from the dyes used for colouring, nothing is added.

A wool carding machine. The input is over there on the floor on the left. Note the output - a stream of wool coming off in the front. The fibers have yet to be spun into yarns or threads and dyed. I'm twine to figure out the correct order...and I ain't stringing you a line either.

Exposed belt-driven wheels on large machines certainly made working in an 1800's factory a hazard. Nothing has changed and these machines are still just as hazardous to be around today.

Although idle when this photo was taken all this is one large automated spinning machine known as a "Spinning Jack"

Inside the mill and little changed for as long as I can remember, and probably for along time before that too. Now there is a nice new blanket that will soon be for sale in the village store.

Another new blanket is rolling off the loom...maybe rolled-up is more like it.

The first time I watched a blanket being made here in this Upper Canada Village mill was in 1967...that's right...45 years ago on a school field trip. I was impressed then too.

Now let's look at a finished blanket.

This blanket was made a few years ago. Last winter Kiera used the blanket on her bed in Grandma's house. A few times she commented about being too hot during the winter nights when she visited.

This is aromatic red cedar. If the wood does not look familiar, then the scent certainly will be. When not in use, the wool blankets should be carefully stored in a wood box made from or blanket chest lined with this stuff. I have made blanket boxes from this wood too. Cut-offs, shorts and/or scraps are good and inexpensive for making a small box that can hold a single blanket.

This blanket was made this year and has just been placed inside the new red cedar box that was constructed for it.

Why not buy a truly very well made genuine 100% pure wool blanket and support Upper Canada Village at the same time?

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum October 19, 2012

For those of you who may like knitting or making things out of wool, the Asselstine Mill also produces skeins of various wools in different colours. These too are available in the Village Store at the gateway to Upper Canada Village. You'll find these right next to the blankets.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Some Things are Turning

The Oddblock Station has welcomed a new arrival.

Fresh out of the box a few minutes earlier and no parts missing. I haven't even plugged in the cord yet to see if this works. That machine weighs just over 100 pounds! A few days earlier I had to reinforce the work area to prevent any possible vibration or bouncing.

Lathe levelled with wood squares cut and ready. The lathe has now been tested. No vibration or bouncing at all. From this angle all the wood looks the same. The large square on the right is Rad Oak. The other 4 squares are Ash. These woods came from Woodworker's Paradise in Rumford, Maine.

Here is another view of the same squares. Ash and Oak do not look very different from each other aside from the colour. Their grain patterns are almost identical. If the block on the left was turned the other way, the grain would look the same as the other four squares

Why wait for later? After setting up and levelling the lathe I put it and me to work. Hard to believe but 35 years have passed since I last used a wood lathe or any type of lathe. I hadn't completely forgotten how to use it including the wood set-up, but I was quite rusty using the tools. Anyway, no scratches, cuts, bruises, injuries or deaths so far...and the first turning is cut, ready for sanding.

Quite a few woodchips later...the completed nostepinde finished with linseed oil. After a day or two for drying out, Kie can put this to use to wind her wool. Prior to last week, I had never even heard of or seen a nostepinde before and now I have made one. This was supposed to be a test/practice piece but it turned out okay...literally.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum: May 19, 2013 

Not yet a year later and a lot (really a lot) of wood chips later a few things have been turned out.

Practice piece made with Alaskan yellow cedar with one coat of linseed oil added.

Addendum: November 09, 2015 - Lilac 

Lilac was never a source of usable wood/lumber that I ever considered until three years ago when I had a conversation with Mike Chase, a professional wood turner displaying his skills at the Farmington Fair. He enthusiastically spoke to me about the merits of lilac as one of the best woods for turning and suggested I give the wood a try.

Three years intervened before I was able to revisit Farmington, Maine, and have another conversation with Mr. Chase. In our subsequent discussion about woods and wood turning, I mentioned our previous conversation about lilac but had been unable to source a piece. 

Upon hearing that, Mr. Chase generously offered me one of the two lilac squares that he had with him. I accepted his kind gift and promised to get back to him with the results, which I have since done. This said, I decided to add this update to my previous post, simply because lilac is unusual.

Surprisingly, to me anyway and flowers aside, hundreds of images and posts appear on Google relating to lilac wood itself... meaning that I am not adding anything new or profound.

Lilac is indeed an excellent wood for turning. Yes, wood from that same bush/small tree that flowers every spring.

The square that I accepted had a couple of cracks and soft spots so I allowed it to acclimatize for about a month before working with it.

The checking cracks did not extend deep into the wood and one soft spot (embedded decay) is the only remaining unusual characteristic. Most may simply label that soft spot a defect but I prefer to see it as an unusual characteristic unique to this piece of wood. True, some spots may cause problems or tear-out, but in this case it did not, as the above photo shows. 

I've since completed turning the piece round just to try the wood but haven't decided what to do with it. I suppose in the back of my mind I'm thinking about using it in a walking stick; I make those and this piece will be ideal for that.

Conclusion: lilac is indeed an excellent wood for turning, one of the best I've worked with. 

Addendum: September, 01,2017

The idiosyncrasies of glued-up stock...

Soft Maine maple and black cherry matched up.

This piece shown was turned to 3/4"

One of the exasperating challenges that turning longer thinner pieces presents is bouncing or chattering against the chisels; no matter how sharp. The results of course are tear-out or flat surfaces and often both together.

I know that stabilizers are available to address this problem, however, I've not yet been able to find one on the market that will fit my mini-lathe.

Anyway, these small pieces were glued-up like a shish-kebab on a 3/8th inch maple dowel running through. I'm not sure if that assembly helped or hindered the flexing while turning issue but I'm leaning toward the latter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Arrival - Jonah

The youngest member of our family arrived at 01:43 on June 30, 2012.

Here are a few scenes from the first eight days in Jonah's life.

Jonah with Mom and Dad a few moments after his arrival into the world and prior to transfer over to the Hospital for Sick Children.

Grandpa holding Jonah. That is a tiny feeding tube in his nose, one of a few of the things that were hooked-up to him while he was in the Cardiac Unit at the hospital

First day at home. Grandma holding Jonah while Kiera feeds her young brother.

Grandma holding Jonah

Big sister Kiera holding Jonah. Maybe this is a sign of things to come in the years ahead: the older sister telling the younger brother what to do and the younger brother voicing out his honest opinion.

He is awake! Mom playing with Jonah.

Grandpa holding Jonah. "Spout-plug" in place and sleeping like a baby...I had to say it. Not much bigger than a football.

Shh! Just don't make any noise. 

We all know what will happen if you do...and then I'll have to hand him back to his Mom. This is one of the good things about being a grand-parent.

The Oddblock Station Agent

A few updates 

If babies could talk...then Jonah to Mom:  Do I have to listen to all that baby talk?

November 2012 - Life is Good

Quite a contrast at nearly half a year later: from after birth wondering about possible heart surgery in the Cardiac Unit to healthy, happy and developing normally.

Second addendum August 13, 2013

January 2013 - life is just filled with troubles, for example - Where is my spout plug!!?

Now you know why it's there - the spout plug that is.

Third addendum December 21, 2013

Ready for Christmas 2013 - and only 15 more years before I can drive a real one.

Addendum December 27, 2013

December 25, 2013 - Stressed out on Christmas Day

...but it was not all tears on Christmas morning.

Jonah to Mom & Dad: Do you really think that I don't know how it goes together? I just take it apart and leave it for someone else to fix. Oh, were you looking for something to do?

Addendum November 18, 2014

A summer Saturday at Grandma's - with spoils of from a garage sale down the street.

Addendum December 06, 2014

Jonah, a few hours after arriving in Cape Town, South Africa.