Still Learning

Comparison of the cuts in acrylic by different blade types.

It shouldn’t be surprising to me when I learn something but I always get a thrill when something new takes root in my brain. Recently I read the book Every Tool’s a Hammer by Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame. In the book he gives a lot of cool advice in a “tricks-of-the-trade” manner.

At one point he excitedly mentions how he learned from Jamie Heinemann (his boss at the time) that cutting acrylic on a table saw requires a special blade to get good quality results. He goes on to describe the blade with less than exact or explicit terminology. The words he used didn’t match the verbiage used by the saw blade manufacturers but he provided enough information for me to find the blade he was describing.

It’s understandable that he didn’t get overly technical describing the blades, that’s really not the point of his book. What is strange is that in all of the woodworking/DIY publications I’ve read, never once have I seen it mentioned that there is a special blade for acrylic/plexiglass. The authors always used a standard carbide blade.

Diablo by Freud Plastic-Cutting Blade

Armed with that narrow spectrum of information I always tried to make a General Purpose blade work when I cut acrylic on my table saw. As you can see in the picture above (left piece), that produces less-than-satisfactory results. On the right side in the picture there’s a piece of acrylic cut with the, Plastic (and Non-Ferrous Metal) blade.

With the new blade there’s no chipping or melting of the plastic. This is going to make cutting plastic so much easier! Plus the blade is designed for cutting aluminum (and other non-ferrous metals), too. That ought to be interesting.

Spring Clamp Storage

A woodworker never has too many clamps. Trouble is, they have to be stored properly. Otherwise you either can’t find them when you need them or you’ll be tripping over them and moving them all the time; it interrupts the workflow.

Also, I’m working under the new mindset of de-cluttering my workspace. It’s the only way I’ll ever finish building out my workshop. So, with that mindset, I started working toward finding a place and means to store all the new spring clamps and c-clamps I have.

It should have been a quick and easy process of collecting the clamps, looking them over and building something to store them. The spring clamps and 2-inch c-clamps went well; quick and easy. Neither are heave or too bulking so there wasn’t much to figure out.

Then I got to the 4-inch and 6-inch c-clamps. They are heavy. To store them requires that I build something substantial but also as small as possible. I went through prototype after prototype trying to get a design that would work. It took the majority of my weekend.

I was in the workshop Saturday and Sunday and built a lot of things I can’t use. Lots of screw-ups. This is a new way to work for me because I usually design things in 3D with Sketchup then build to the drawings generated from the 3D models.

Freeform prototyping has worked on a few things but this weekend it cost me a lot of expensive materials. I’m frustrated by that and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any good ideas for c-clamp storage on the Internet.

There’s a solution to this and I’m sure I’ll be happy with it when I find it. This is probably one of those things that, when someone visits my workshop I’ll take them to my c-clamp storage and proudly point out my greatest achievement which will cause them to wonder about my sanity.

6-Pistol Rack

6-Pistol Rack

It has been three years in the making but I finally finished my handgun rack. It was substantially complete with it back in March 2015 but I never liked the solutions I was using for the gun slots.

I tried using CA glue to attach hook & loop (Velcro®) with the loop side exposed and the hook side glued to the wood. That didn’t work. It didn’t adhere well and it wasn’t very good padding. That’s when I shelved it to research new ideas.

Over the next couple of years I thought of different padding materials and different adhesives. I moved toward using felt early on but I was always concerned with the adhesive bleeding through the fabric and, therefore, nullifying the padding effect. The fabric would be like sandpaper once the glue set up.

Another issue was that I didn’t feel like I was capable of cutting fabric at a consistent width to match the width of the plywood edge to which it would be adhered. During this time my wife taught me how she uses an Olfa® rotary cutter and a straightedge to cut strips of fabric with consistent widths. That problem was solved.

Next, on Tested.com, I saw how Adam Savage glued fabric (and foam) with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. The adhesive is sprayed on both pieces being bonded together and it has a low absorption rate on fabrics. It’s the perfect solution for what I was doing. Since it works great on foam, too, it will help me on another languishing project where I have to glue pieces of rubber foam together.

Finally, on McMaster–Carr (wonderful web site), I found wool felt in different thicknesses. I was able to get a 12″ x 72″ x 3/16″ thick piece of wool felt and, by my reasoning, it would be thick enough to prevent the adhesive from bleeding through. In actuality I found that the adhesive would work just as well on thinner felt but I’m happy with the results of the felt I used this time.

It took a long time but I didn’t give up on this project even while it was shelved and I was working on others. It’s very rewarding to finish this project and get the great results.

Just Finished Reading “The Vanishing American Adult”

Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-Of-Age Crisis—And How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance recently came out and I just finished reading it yesterday. Because my reading list isn’t huge (50+ books a year), I try to pick good, impactful books to read. This isn’t always easy so I’m constantly looking for sources to help me populate my reading list.

That’s one reason I wanted to read this book but it unexpectedly delivered more than a source for great literature. He went into the mechanics and techniques of making great readers. Whereas I did have some moments of pause and reflection (I’ll need to read other books to weigh his points), reading this book didn’t cause me to outright disagree at any point; that’s very rare for me.

Something I found very reassuring was that I’d read so many of the books he refers to or suggests. The shear number of books he referred to impressed me so much that I collected them in a rough bibliography. Here it is:

Bibliography for The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse

  • Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz (retired Yale professor)
  • Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith (a Notre Dame sociologist)
  • The Great Disruption by Francis Fukuyama
  • The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman
  • The Affluent Society by C. Wright Mills
  • Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman
  • The Waste Makers by Vance Packard
  • Outside Lies Magic by John R. Stilgoe
  • Cultural Literacy by E. D. Hirsch
  • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (philosopher and classicist)
  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus
  • Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • On Old Age by Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • Shop Class for Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • John Dewey (Sasse disagrees with atheist Dewey and mentions these books, in particular, as to why he disagrees with him):
    • Democracy in Education
    • Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal
    • The Primary Education Fetich [sic]
    • The School and Society
    • My Pedagogic Creed
    • The Humanist Manifesto
  • Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
  • Escape from Camp Fourteen by Blaine Harden
  • Children of Dictators by Jay Nordlinger
  • White Collar by C. Wright Mills
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
  • Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman
  • Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
  • Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
  • Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • Religion
    • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
    • Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
    • Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (Sasse disagrees with this book but it’s a great book to read)
    • Book of Genesis in The Bible
    • Book of Matthew in The Bible (especially Sermon on the Mount)
    • Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther
    • The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
  • Greek Roots
    • Ethics by Aristotle (starter book)
    • Crito by Plato (starter book)
    • Odyssey by Homer
    • History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
    • Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
  • Homesick Souls (or, Fundamental Anthropology)
    • Confessions by Augustine
    • Why God Became Man by Anselm of Canterbury
    • Bondage of Will by Martin Luther
    • Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
    • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
    • Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Sasse has a long struggle with this book; he ultimately sees Rousseau as wrong)
  • Shakespeare
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • Hamlet
    • King Lear
    • Julius Caesar
    • Macbeth
    • Sonnets
  • The American Idea
    • Declaration of Independence
    • U. S. Constitution
    • The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
    • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
    • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an America Slave by Frederick Douglass
  • Markets
    • Politics by Aristotle
    • Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
    • The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 by Charles Sellers
    • Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman
    • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Tyrants
    • Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (laid the intellectual foundation for communism and, hence, the murder of more than 100 million people)
    • Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (the best analysis of the rise of scientific racism and anti-Semitism in nineteenth-century Europe, which led directly to the Holocaust)
    • The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek (explains the close relationship between fascism and communism)
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    • 1984 by George Orwell
    • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Nature of Things (or, a Humanistic Perspective on Science)
    • On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
    • Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
    • Elements of Geometry by Euclid
  • American Fiction
    • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
    • O, Pioneers by Willa Cather (a Cornhusker substitute for Death Comes for the Archbishop)
    • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (about his alienation as a black and gay man growing up in Harlem with an abusive Baptist minister as his stepfather. This is a disturbing book in many aspects. It illustrates the ways in which religious life can turn hypocritical and repressive.)
    • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This a great list to dig through and start reading which, in itself, is an exciting prospect.

Books on Success

There has appeared in our time a particular class of books and articles which I sincerely and solemnly think may be called the silliest ever known among men. They are much more wild than the wildest romances of chivalry and much more dull than the dullest religious tract. Moreover, the romances of chivalry were at least about chivalry; the religious tracts are about religion. But these things are about nothing; they are about what is called Success.

…there is no such thing as Success. Or, if you like to put it so, there is nothing that is not successful. That a thing is successful merely means that it is; a millionaire is successful in being a millionaire and a donkey in being a donkey.

This is a definite and business-like proposal, and I really think that the people who buy these books (if any people do buy them) have a moral, if not a legal, right to ask for their money back.

Yet our modern world is full of books about Success and successful people which literally contain no kind of idea, and scarcely any kind of verbal sense.

— G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered

How Pudd’nhead Wilson Got His Name

In March of 2014 I finished reading Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt and I started going through my notes on the book and I came across a quote Roosevelt used from The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain. In skimming Twain’s book recently I came across this piece that reminds me of how factions believe consensus in the group is truth with no consideration that they may not understand the facts or nuances of a situation. Factions rarely—without tragedy—change their collective mind.

In [the] month of February, Dawson’s Landing gained a new citizen. This was Mr. David Wilson, a young fellow of Scotch parentage. He had wandered to this remote region from his birthplace in the interior of the State of New York, to seek his fortune. He was twenty-five years old, college bred, and had finished a post-college course in an Eastern law school a couple of years before.

He was a homely, freckled, sandy-haired young fellow, with an intelligent blue eye that had frankness and comradeship in it and a covert twinkle of a pleasant sort. But for an unfortunate remark of his, he would no doubt have entered at once upon a successful career at Dawson’s Landing. But he made his fatal remark the first day he spent in the village, and it “gaged” him. He had just made the acquaintance of a group of citizens when an invisible [out of eyesight] dog began to yelp and snarl and howl and make himself very comprehensively disagreeable, whereupon young Wilson said, much as one who is thinking aloud:

“I wish I owned half of that dog.”

“Why?” somebody asked.

“Because I would kill my half.”

The group searched his face with curiosity, with anxiety even, but found no light there, no expression that they could read. They fell away from him as from something uncanny, and went into privacy to discuss him. One said:

“‘Pears to be a fool.”

“‘Pears?” said another. “Is, I reckon you better say.”

“Said he wished he owned half of the dog, the idiot,” said a third. “What did he reckon would become of the other half if he killed his half? Do you reckon he thought it would live?”

“Why, he must have thought it, unless he IS the downrightest fool in the world; because if he hadn’t thought it, he would have wanted to own the whole dog, knowing that if he killed his half and the other half died, he would be responsible for that half just the same as if he had killed that half instead of his own. Don’t it look that way to you, gents?”

“Yes, it does. If he owned one half of the general dog, it would be so; if he owned one end of the dog and another person owned the other end, it would be so, just the same; particularly in the first case, because if you kill one half of a general dog, there ain’t any man that can tell whose half it was; but if he owned one end of the dog, maybe he could kill his end of it and—”

“No, he couldn’t either; he couldn’t and not be responsible if the other end died, which it would. In my opinion that man ain’t in his right mind.”

“In my opinion he hain’t got any mind.”

No. 3 said: “Well, he’s a lummox, anyway.”

“That’s what he is;” said No. 4. “He’s a labrick—just a Simon-pure labrick, if there was one.”

“Yes, sir, he’s a dam fool. That’s the way I put him up,” said No. 5. “Anybody can think different that wants to, but those are my sentiments.”

“I’m with you, gentlemen,” said No. 6. “Perfect jackass—yes, and it ain’t going too far to say he is a pudd’nhead. If he ain’t a pudd’nhead, I ain’t no judge, that’s all.”

Mr. Wilson stood elected. The incident was told all over the town, and gravely discussed by everybody. Within a week he had lost his first name; Pudd’nhead took its place. In time he came to be liked, and well liked too; but by that time the nickname had got well stuck on, and it stayed. That first day’s verdict made him a fool, and he was not able to get it set aside, or even modified. The nickname soon ceased to carry any harsh or unfriendly feeling with it, but it held its place, and was to continue to hold its place for twenty long years.

Celebrating Potential Rather Than Achievement

Today, in our schools, the manual trades are given little honor. The egalitarian worry that has always attended tracking students into “college prep” and “vocational ed” is overlaid with another: the fear that acquiring a specific skill set means that one’s life is determined. In college, by contrast, many students don’t learn anything of particular application; college is the ticket to an open future. Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement.

— Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

Step No. 1 to Learning

LXXII

If a man would pursue Philosophy [learning], his first task is to throw away conceit. For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he has a conceit [preconception] that he already knows.

— Epictetus, Harvard Classics, Vol. 2, Part 2 – The Golden Sayings of Epictetus

Stalking Horse or, Elk Don’t Know How Many Feet a Horse Has!

Today, while reading an article on Reason.Com about Obamacare, I came across the term Stalking Horse. Of course, whenever I come across a new term that I don’t know, my mind will not let me pass it by. I’ve been known to obsess on more obscure words and phrases for days until I can find out the meaning; it drives me crazy…er. Luckily this term was easily definable on Wikipedia (link here).

Here’s an example of the use of a Stalking Horse in the Wikipedia article taken from the 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, when Johnson and Chris Lapp (“Bear Claw”) are hunting elk in the Rockies:

Jeremiah: Wind’s right, but he’ll just run soon as we step out of these trees.

Bear Claw: Trick to it. Walk out on this side of your horse.

Jeremiah: What if he sees our feet?

Bear Claw: Elk don’t know how many feet a horse has!

A Sudden Realization

As I started listening to the series of lectures Old Testament by Professor Amy-Jill Levine produced & published by The Great Courses, I had a sudden realization of the impact this and other lectures from The Great Courses have had on my understanding of the Bible. After listening to the lectures I’m able to get a much deeper understanding of the message being convey in specific scriptures.

They have helped me put the books of the Bible into context and understand the literary form of the books. Understanding whether it’s law, history, wisdom, etc. helps to understand how to interpret what the author is trying to portray. One does not treat non-fiction the same as fiction. Both can have a valuable message but we understand one is literal and one is an example.

Without the understanding of the genres, nuances, back stories, etc. I was frustrated for years. Now it’s a joy to appreciate the real genius of the Bible and to be able to absorb its wisdom. Someday I may even be wise, I’m a long, long way from it now, but I’m enjoying the process much more thanks to The Great Courses lectures.

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