Category Archives: Shop Life

Back in the Saddle Again!

The murderous heat and humidity of late Mississippi summer have finally given way to the first cool days of pre-autumn, and I can once more burst forth from the shelter of the air-conditioning.  No, I haven’t given up on either woodworking or blogging, but sometimes even a lifelong Mississippi boy finds it too hot for woodworking to be fun.  Now that I can work without dripping sweat on my good steel and iron, I can concentrate on projects once more.

Some things have happened in the interim.  The biggest of these has been the addition of a dust collector, and associated accessories, which will be the subject of my next post.  The hurricane blew down a small white oak that may make good splits for chair seats.  And, of course, there are new projects on the way, starting with a storage cabinet for table saw accessories.  Most of all, I’ve had time to plan shop-related activities while waiting for cooler weather.

So stay tuned!  The Little Good Pieces shop is back in the game!


New Wood-Hauling Wheels!

Last week, my venerable Ford Explorer Sport-Track started having transmission trouble for the second time.  Since I had no intention of putting more repair money into a truck its age, this necessitated a search for a new truck.  Since I tend to plan ahead for such things, I already had a good idea of what I wanted.  I managed to find one in my price range, and here it is!

My new Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline was definitely a step up from the Sport Track.  It’s a larger truck, with a spacious four-door cabin.  The back seat’s big enough that even Adam Cerubini and I (both 6’4″) could sit comfortably upright without squabbling over the armrest.  There’s a whole bunch of fancy electronics and voice control stuff, but that has little bearing on the main function – wood hauling.

Bed view

The bed is a little short, but adequate.  It’s 54″ wide, with 49″ between the very low wheel wells.  The diagonal distance from the bottom front to the top of the tailgate is 61″, so strapped-down 8′ stock should ride fine.  Alternatively, you can lower the tailgate and slide plywood sheets between the wheel wells to ride flat.  If you’re interested in the Ridgeline, clicking on either of the above photos will take you to the CarMax-provided webpage of photos of this truck – a nice touch on their part.

Ridgeline Trunk 1

The real deciding factor for me is not immediately obvious to the casual viewer.  The tailgate also swings out like a station wagon’s.  Once this is done, you press a button in a small recess, lift, and:

Ridgeline Trunk 2

Voila!  An under-bed storage area – a trunk!  That’s right, gentle readers, a pickup with a trunk!  How many times have we pickup drivers wished for someplace to store things out of the view of passerbys?  Well, the Ridgeline lets you do it.

Ridgeline Trunk 3

This is no little cubby, either.  The trunk is 48″ wide, 22″ long, and 19″ deep, not counting the spare tire space.  By the way, unscrewing a pair of wing nuts allows the spare tire carrier to slide out to the rear, providing easy access to all tire changing components.  I realize that this could be a problem with a bed full of wood, but I actually spend a very small percentage of my time with a load in the bed.  Hopefully the numbers will work in my favor – I just hope Mr. Murphy isn’t listening.

So, as you can understand, my week has been rather full of car-shopping and purchasing adventures.  As a result, the next article in the blanket chest design series has been delayed a bit.  However, this next one covers some very interesting design observations with graphics, and I didn’t want to rush it.  There are points there worth taking your time on and pondering, so I’m going to do the best job I can on it over the weekend and have it ready next week.  I think you’ll find it worth the wait.  Stay tuned!

Too Hot for Woodworking


Weather’s a funny thing, as is people’s adaptation to it.  Some years back, I was working on a job with a project manager from Wisconsin.  He worked with us for 14 months, commuting back home from Jackson, MS every weekend. This gave me ample opportunity to observe his reactions to heat and cold.

One of my most vivid memories of him occurred on a frigid winter day.  The morning temperature was about 20 degrees Farenheit, and I was bundled up in a parka and wool scarf and hat, trying to survive the trip from the car to the door.  Darrel, on the other hand, was casually striding across the parking lot in shirtsleeves, with his suit jacket slung over his shoulder.  When we questioned him about this, he promptly informed us that we had no idea what real winter cold was like.  I reluctantly had to agree, though it felt like winter to me.

The shoe was on the other foot when summer arrived.  While we would stroll in the door with a faint sheen on our faces, Darrel would arrive red-faced and pouring sweat.  He couldn’t understand how anyone could live in such a furnace-like climate.  We were baffled – after all, it was only 90 degrees.

Well, the pigeons have come home to roost this summer.  For the past two weeks, high temperatures and drought have plagued the state of Mississippi.  Since my shop has no air conditioning, I have become a slave to the climate.  On my days off, I have had to do whatever woodworking (and outdoor chores) in the morning while the temperature was still in the 80’s and 90’s.  After lunch, the temperature was invariably over 100 and that, as they say, was that.  On workdays, the shop wasn’t even an option.

Yes, I have been punished for my mockery of Darrel.  The temperature has finally reached the point that even this Ole Southern Boy has thrown in the towel and headed to the house.  You know it’s bad when even the shop kittens, who live at ground level, think it’s too hot to frolic.  I suppose I could get enough air moving to stand it, but this is supposed to be FUN.

Happily, however, the rains have returned, and with them cooler temperatures.  Today’s high was only 91, which feels like fall after the 102’s and 103’s of the past week.  Not only was I able to get back into my usual exercise routine, but I can finally finish assembling the second outdoor Morris chair, and move on to other projects on the agenda.  It’s woodworking time again.

Of course, the grass will soon need mowing, I’ve got limbs to move, and I need to box-blade the driveway to get rid of some potholes…

Woodworking Hazards – Cat Foot

As some of you recall, Lacie, the Calico Shop Cat had five kittens a few weeks back.  Two weeks later, she went missing – probably to some predator – and my wife and I took over the duties of raising the kittens.  Bottle feedings became a fact of life, and for a time totally changed our patterns of activity.  Despite this, the kittens have flourished and are becoming an integral part of shop life.  They also now think that I’m their mother.  I’m 6’4″ and 260lb.  Picture that.

Being their mother, the kittens have followed me everywhere I went.  This was cute, but often inconvenient, as they are constantly under foot (literally).  They would often group together in a fuzzy ball for warmth and comfort.  This was a cute sight, until you’re standing at the bench and look down to see:

5 Cat Foot
What’s a mother to do?  Work basically ground to a standstill during these moments.  Fortunately, they’ve gotten a little more independent as they’ve gotten older, and now they range all over.  However, they still like to climb on my feet and attack my shoestrings or try to climb my leg.  The latter wouldn’t be so bad in winter, but summer, in shorts?  Ow!

A Battery Crisis Averted

Like many folks, I’ve been using a DeWalt 18V cordless drill for the past few years.  Though heavy, it’s been a real workhorse in the shop and around the house.  Yesterday, I dropped one of the batteries in the charger and got a fast-blinking red light – bad battery.  I took the other spare and tried it again – same result.


This presented a problem.  If these two had gone bad then the third, which was of the same vintage, couldn’t be far behind.  And while prices had gone down for these, $40 each for replacements was not an insignificant sum.  Add to this that the drill was getting a bit long in the tooth itself, and a replacement lithium drill started to look like the best option.  Neither option was appealing, as that money had been earmarked for other purposes.  I really had myself set to put a deposit down on one of Mark Harrell’s Bad Axe 12″ Hybrid Dovetail Saws, and didn’t want to have to back-burner it for something as prosaic as a cordless drill or batteries.

However, it didn’t look like I had an option in the matter, so I started my research.  I researched Amazon and other sites for tool reviews, put out feelers on Twitter, and started comparing prices and features.  I had just about resigned myself to a Makita 18V when, on a whim, I remembered a second charger that I had tucked away.  What the heck, I plugged it in and tossed in a battery.  Later, while unloading clothes, I noticed it sitting there with a steady glow from the LED – fully charged!  It was a bad charger instead of a bad battery!  I tried again with the other battery, but no dice.  Hey, that leaves me with two working batteries for now, and I can live with that.

Forget the drill – Bad Axe, here I come!