Words cannot express my delight. June of 2012 I met the most amazing woman, and in August of 2013 I married her. February of 2014 we bought a house together and after a summer of working away, I’m finally home to enjoy the life that I had been cultivating; as it were. I had begun living the dream. Our new home, in Roddickton-Bide Arm, Newfoundland and Labrador, is in the most beautiful part of Canada; in my humble opinion. Our house is nestled between a hilly (not quite mountainous) ridge and the saltwater shore of a 15km (10mi) long sheltered inlet on the Great Northern Peninsula. Adjacent our property is a protected municiple park with walking trails, there’s only one road in our town, less than 200 people and no street lights. A dozen houses, maybe, have house numbers, and many people don’t even lock their doors at night. My neighbors mow my lawn while I’m away and pedestrians wave to us as we drive by. My wife is a High School English teacher and I work with the Fisheries during the summer, but that’s not why you’re here. I intend on starting a full-time woodworking business out of my garage, and calling it Widdershins Joinery. I even have a logo that my beautiful wife helped me design. We’re still developing it, but our mascot is a Robin and I’ve called him Alfred. Chime-in if you get the double-humour in the name. As luck would have it, my prodigal return corresponded with a visit from my parents, and that’s when the 5-day siege began.
On 29 August, my parents visited us at our new home of Bide Arm, NL from their home of St. David’s, NL. About a 6 hour drive by National and Provincial highway. They arrived with a full pick-up truck load, including a chest freezer and some of my belongings, but most importantly, that truck brought my parents for a visit. While here my father and I tended to the Garage. You see, when we bought the place, we rushed the sale in favor of an early close-date, and the property came with some baggage: A garage full of trash that I now had to deal with. It took 7 trips to the landfill to completely rid ourselves of the old wallboard, tools, rusted parts, and garbage that collected over the winter while I was away for training to do the job I was away all summer doing, so you can imagine there was a mess in there.
That side room in the front had deep-freezers in it, rusting and rotting out from the bottom and the back room was full of old wood and debris from the previous years wood-burning furnace. The main body of the garage had to be stripped of walling, the loft and all the shelves had bits and bobs left from the previous owner. (Truth be told, I told him to leave it there, but I was beginning to regret that decision!) It was all good, though. Dad and I got the mess cleared away and we were beginning to see the floor! (le gaspe). We took the time to deck-broom the floor, practically a scrubbing motion, and clear away the debris. We then took the hose to the floor several times, and let it air-dry. What had been a dank, dungeon of a building (at 32′ long by 20′ wide with 11′ ceilings for the main structure, 16′ by 8′ and 7′ high for the front side-building and 16′ by 10′ by 10′ high for the rear wood shed) with garbage, debris, paneling, old motors, tools, insulation… into something MUCH more presentable.
With those big, beautiful garage doors opened, the light burst into the main room after the thorough cleaning. The floors had dried and were scrubbed down, all the tools and errata were organized and separated into piles, the real work was about to begin. Now I call it work, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Now er had a couple of days before my parents had to head back south to their estate and I was left to tend to mine. So we got it into our heads that we had to accomplish a few small projects before the teary-eyed goodbyes and 6-hour drives. We envisioned a fenced-off area in which our dogs could frolic. Now I warn you: The images you are about to see are graphic. They contain a dog breed known as Staffordshires, and weigh about 100lb (60kg) between them. They are writhing savages who’d just as soon attack you as see you. As the
photographs to the left demonstrate. When they are conscious, their preferred form of violence is to lick the face, hands, and any exposed skin of any visitors, while occasionally barking and wagging their tails excitedly. The smaller of the two dogs, Ruby, tends to hop on her hind legs to get closer to licking-territory. Savages. They are our guard-dogs insofar as they are always on guard for potential fingernails to give them attention, and the visitors to whom the fingernail scratchers are attached. They are my children, and they deserve a proper place to play. Our home is in an area that had experienced -51C (-65F) last winter, and burning an entire tank of furnace oil in a month is not unheard of. The snow is unbelievable, which makes fence-design a challenge. I think that my father and I came up with an elegant solution: A 20′ by 8′ walled-off area, with 6′ high walls and a gate on the end for the lawnmower. The fencing is attached by 200 small wiring staples/tacks applied with a hammer, and another 100 or so from a staple-gun. The fence is on the inside, and our beautiful little savages are not inclined to dig, so it sitting onto he grass should be fine. I had purchased 25 boards, each 2″x4″x12′, and had six left after the job was complete. Not a bad investment of $180 for fencing and lumber!
The following day, my father saw the miserable state of our existing garbage box, and decided to assist in making a fresh one. I was too embarrassed (or frankly forgot, it makes no difference -ahem-) to photograph the previous contraption. It was made of MDF and old boards, many of which had rotted away. Father-dear had the inspiration to harvest pallets from a local building supply/hardware/grocery/postal office/ice cream parlor (we live in a VERY small town of 184 people, as of the 2011 census) and build the box out of that. I proposed a octagonal cross-section, my father proposed a hexagonal one. We compromised (as I had learned to do in my marriage) and went with the other person’s idea. Hex it was! It was completely free. We borrowed my neighbor’s compound mitre saw, since the drive belt on mine disintegrated. We carefully broke apart the pallets and straightened all then nails. We even harvested the hinges from an old door that was in the back of the shed when we started unloading! It cost us ZERO, other than the 4 hours of fun to build it. It turned out well! All-told each of the six sides on the end-caps was 22″, the length was 6′, and the door is made of a discarded sheet of 3/8″ plywood we scrounged from the scrap pile. A couple coats of heavy paint and it’ll last a decade, I’m sure.
Then onto the next project, which ended up being cut tragically short, no pun intended. We had saved some old grey pallets for this special job. I was paid a commission to build a pirate chest for a customer. It’s a special gift for a 4-year-old that was ordered in the spring, but terms were that I finish it when I got back home and sorted away in the garage. We used some old pallet wood to make the bottom, and for the lovely lady’s patience, I decided to include some bells and whistles. Those included brass fittings for the corners, brass hinges, a slow-release latch for the toy box so no baby-fingers get broken, an old steamer trunk latch and some cosmetic brass tacks to run up the sides. I’m going to include all black felted interior, and a hidden compartment that mom can stash some goodies, like a cloth pouch full of silver coins (what’s a pirates chest without treasure!) and a laminated treasure map. The compartment is a false-bottom accessible by a finger-hole. Ultimately, it can be an ideal place to store time-capsule memorabilia for the inevitable inheritors of this piece. No pictures yet, but they’re coming.
With that, my parents departed, it now being Sunday August 31th, and I had my father (and my muse, my inspiration and mentor) enroute to his home and I was left to my own devices. It took me until yesterday evening, Tuesday September 3rd, to tidy up the garage to my satisfaction. It’s now organized and even have my kayak mounted to the wall on a hook. There are a few nick-nacky things I’d like to do, like laminate the floor with 1/2″ plywood in the spring, once we jack up the corners of the garage to level the floor. I also want to re-insulate the walls and install a proper insulated ceiling beneath the trusses. These will happen next year, once I get a sense of how much work it’ll take to heat the place in the winter, without the reno, I can then establish a needs-analysis for what I require to make the place comfortable long-term. That, and waiting a season to do $3000.00 worth of reno is easier on the pocket-book after just buying a house. Go figure.
So today, I was sizing up my shop and my scrap pile, with a few hours to kill, and I noticed an old wooden hollow-core door in the back room woodpile/mess. Then it hit me: Torsion box. Hollow-core doors are remarkably stable in all directions, and many woodworkers have converted old doors into desks and benches! So I thought, what the hell, right? The work bench seen in the photos above (the ones with the blue kayak) is narrow and already filled with tools, boxes of parts and buckets of nails and screws. I needed a comfortable place to assemble, since I’ve already got a nice cart upon which I can set my compound mitre saw (once I get the belt replaced) and saw some wood. For this new bench project, I used the portable mitre table stand as a bench to cut some boards with my circular saw. Not exactly precision work, but it got the job done within acceptable tolerances. I’ll be happy enough to get a proper contractors benchsaw (think a baby table saw or a contractors saw) with some crosscut sleds, I tell ya! So I drew the sucker in Google Sketchup (A sweet, and free program which I highly recommend, I’m even developing a taste for it above and beyond my previous love, Autodesk’s Autocad) and set to work sorting my pieces. I decided mid-way through that I didn’t need 4×4 columns for the legs, and got rid of those middle braces in the centre… the lateral stress on an assembly table/workbench would be so minimal that I didn’t think it necessary. I made sure to install the bottom braces in such a way that my scrap pallet wood could create a convenient shelf! The assembly, it turns out, was off by about a 1/4″ to 3/8″, but I can handle that. I chalk that up to the circular saw, for starters, not being calibrated properly, and secondly, not being meant for finished work. I’ll get nicer tools and a fancier shop and have to deal with less cobble-ups, but for a piece of shop furniture, it’ll do nicely.
In other new, on Friday August 29th, I purchased my first huge shop tool; I had already been given or otherwise scrounged everything else in my shop. I bought a Shapeoko 2 CNC router milling machine. This bad-boy has a 12″ by 14″ milling area, 3-axis travel and runs on 120VAC service. It will be the cornerstone of Widdershins Joinery in the weeks and months to come. It’s due to arrive on or near the 15th of September. I am very much hoping to establish a little wholesaler business in which I can sell to agents who handle all the marketing and advertising in order to resell and earn markup commissions. We shall see how it goes. All of my assets, other than shop-profits, are going back into paying down those pesky bills associated with the costs of living, and the outragous costs of groceries up here in the frozen Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. But that’s okay, I want to build a greenhouse next year.
Until next time!