Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Return of the Ambi-Note

This is the Ambi-Note.

I designed this notebook a few years ago, maybe in 1999. I was designing my own line of handcrafted leather goods. The Ambi-Note is simply a notebook that fits standard (5"x8" in this example) notepads. It has slots (4 here) for business cards (or I.D. cards, credit cards, etc.) with a compartment behind the card slots for anything else you can stuff in there.

What is unusual is that I designed the Ambi-Note to be reversible for either right handed or left handed people (My beautiful wife, Elizabeth, is a lefty).

I was lucky enough to score some beautiful Slovakian pigskin for my samples through a very skilled leather worker I know, Chris Tekverk. While in his studio I had spotted this leather in brown (he was making some menus and billets for the Polo restaurant in Chicago). I asked him to order some in black for me.

I ended up making a belt, a 5"x8" Ambi-Note, a 8 1/2"x11" Ambi-Note, and a passel of simple card wallets, and a watchband.

Why am I posting about it now? Glad you asked. I've sold a few wooden play swords on Etsy and have been thinking about expanding what I sold there. I've been using Moleskine notebooks for awhile now, but hate that they don't stand up better. Today I saw a beautiful custom Moleskine cover by Paul Saffo and Gfeller Casemakers artisan Steve Derricott on Toolmonger.com, was inspired and thought of my Ambi-Note.
So I'm going to see if I can source some nice leather and start making some Ambi-Notes, perhaps even a matching Moleskine cover.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Me on the bench. Not much more to be said.

So this is a little late. This is the bench set I made for the Hoopers last year. My friend, Oleg Baburin, took the photos. It's a big set. The large bench is just under ten feet long. Most of the wood is 16/4 white oak (4"x4") except for the arcs which a little smaller. Mortised and tenoned. Fun job and a great couple to work with.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Getting closer to Christmas....

The Ridgid saw arrived and I've already used it up at the Millay Colony barn renovation. Very nice saw. Well designed and lightweight. Comfortable to use. I'm happy with it, and the price was great. Thanks guys! I think they still have about half the saws remaining.

I was just interviewed and asked what my favorite sites and magazines were. I decided to put the answer up here also.

"Make Mag and MakeZine, Instructables, Power Wagon Advertiser, Jalopy Junktown, Retro Thing, Fine Woodworking, Toolmonger, Cool Tools, Hack a Day, 2600, CPU, Nuts and Volts are favorite magazines/websites"

Make, the Power Wagon Advertiser, Fine Woodworking, 2600, CPU, and Nuts and Volts are also great magazines. I should mention that James Grahame over at Retro Thing put out an excellent book called "Essential Retro". If you like his site, buy his book! Buy it direct from him though, he'll get more money and probably give you a better price.

You'll notice a serious lack of "spiritual, or Christian" links. That might seem strange, but I like the www for information and casual communication, but leave my spiritual development to face to face encounters. It's how Jesus met me, so I try and model that behavior. I do try and "be salt and light" as I communicate with people, and don't shy away from telling people that I'm a Christian. I just know how imperfect communication can be in this medium and I don't want to become a "stumbling block".

I think we're going out to Newton, MA this weekend. We'll miss our home church, but we'll be fellowshipping with the Nolands and their church group. Should be fun. The Rockler store out that way is having a sale, maybe I can convince Oleg (his family is going too) and John to check it out.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

It was a good Sunday

Well, today's teaching went well at church, although it was less a discussion of the Theory of Evolution and more an exhortation on Faith. It might lead to more teachings, as it was well received by the body.

My Instructable on making nice wooden swords made it onto the Make Blog today too. That was a nice surprise.

And I won a Ridgid circular saw on Toolmonger! That was definitely more than a nice surprise. I think they have another 23-24 to give away.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Ode To The Generalist

I originally posted this at the Power Wagon Advertiser Forum in May of this year.

An Ode To The Generalist

Just something that has been on my mind for a bit.

What ever happened to the generalist? He was the guy that could fix most anything that went wrong. He knew the basic mechanics for most things he came across. He simply knew how things worked.

We now have specialists. They know how one thing works. They know it very well. They need help though, making their speciality work with other specialities.

I was prompted to start this line of thought when a very nice fellow gave me a manual drill. It was in his barn and he didn't want it there. It was made in the 1800's by a company that used to exist not to far from here. You might have seen one of these in a shop somewhere in your youth. I've been told by men older than me that all small machine shops and garages had similar drills. Simple and elegantly it allowed someone to drill holes in metal by hand. It has two wheels, one that spins the shaft and another that allows you to raise and lower the shaft. It has a catchment that would allow you to have the drill automatically lower while you drill. It works very well a century and a half after it was made and it does so while looking beautiful.

It was designed by a generalist.

Generalists used to design cars, bicycles, tools and airplanes. These objects were simple , elegant and just plain worked.
The men (and women) who designed these things often did so because they needed to do so. They used them.

People who restore vehicles themselves become generalists. They get stretched outside their comfortable patterns and learn, by necessity often, why certain things were done when their vehicle was made. They learn to be humble, so that they can learn not only from their own mistakes, but from others mistakes. They come to appreciate the hard work someone else has done when they see what has wrought from a pile of parts. They simply become a better person.

Farmers are often generalists. They need to be plumbers, electricians, mechanics, doctors, and vets. My wife's uncle is such a man. When he needed to clean and sort his potatoes he made a machine from several other unrelated machines. Now he can sort and clean his potatoes faster and with less effort. He also restores tractors and bulldozers. He became good at it because he needed to. Now half his clients aren't farmers, but specialists (doctors and lawyers) who like the idea of having an old tractor, but they don't know how to fix one up and make it work in a reliable fashion.
Dick also served as the town judge for years and knows quite a bit about law. He can talk at length, and with knowledge, about bridge engineering.

We like him.

I admire the effort that someone takes to become a specialist, but I do not want to be one.

I want to be a generalist. I like working with my hands and my mind on projects that stretch from one side of my head to another. I like soldering, nailing, sanding, filing, painting, designing, cleaning, and many more things. I like to do as many of these things in a single day that I can. I like knowing many different things and being able to figure out how something works. I have, in my short 43 years, been trained in projection maintainance, carpentry, cabinetry, bootmaking, gunsmithing, computer maintainance, plumbing, drafting, fine arts, and glassblowing (among other disciplines). I can fell a decent sized tree and cut and split it for firewood. I can design and frame a house. I can shape molten glass into a drinking glass. I can take a rusted tool and patiently clean it and lubricate it until it works like it's supposed to. I can ride a horse. I can use proper grammar. I can plow a field. I can put together a computer from a pile of parts. I can sharpen a knife. I can disassemble, and then reassemble a M16, I can make chicken soup from a live chicken, and I can help birth a baby. None of things I consider myself an expert in, but I can do them. I like that. I don't want to stop now. I want to keep figuring things out and learning new skills. I'd like buy an old Bridgeport and mill my own parts. I want to re-learn how to weld. I want to cast metal (it can't be harder than casting glass).

That drill is mounted on my shop wall now. I currently don't need a manual drill, but I like it there. Sometimes when I'm working in my shop I'll stop by it and twirl the handled wheel so I can feel the smooth action and watch it spin. It feels nice, like shifting my old Dodge. The iron in my hand feels solid, somehow more real than some of my other tools. Maybe that solidity is a function of time spent on earth. I know that this tool can last another century and a half, and probably will.

Thanks to a generalist.

Ending November

The grass withers. the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever
Isaiah 40:8

I'm ending November as I start some new projects. I'll be teaching/sermonizing on Evolution and Faith this coming Sunday at Christian Calvary Chapel. Most likely it will be primarily about faith.

I've also picked up a new customer (referral from the Hooper garden bench set) and have several projects for them that I have to price out.

In addition, I've agreed to oversee some work that's going to be done to the interior of one of the barns at the Millay Colony.
(Actually it's the barn in the small middle picture on the websites splash page)