The Handcrafted Ladle

Vine maple - a NW native

Vine maple – a NW native

Winter is a great time to be out in the woods.  Especially for some fun  little bushcraft projects.  All the leaves are down and it is really easy (or easier) to scramble around in a tangle of vine maple roots to find the exact specimen for carving a wooden ladle.

So I found this gem right along the banks of the Snohomish River and decided it would be worth a little effort.

Here is a video I made of the day to day developments:

 

The handcrafted ladle

The handcrafted ladle

Well, as you saw in the video, it didn’t actually work out the way I intended.  That’s one of the challenges of working with green wood, you just never know exactly how it’s gonna respond to carving and drying out.  But on the plus side it was a fun few days, and I truly enjoying the process of taking a raw piece of natural material and chopping away at it until you find something beautiful inside… Wow, that could be a metaphor for so many things in life!

So, as I said in the video, if you want this little (slightly flawed) wooden ladle to hang on the side of your chuckwagon, or to use as a long handled scoop for your pet food bag, let me know.  It’s free to the first person to claim it.

Thanks for following along.  Kat

Posted in Bushcraft, Projects, Video | 2 Comments

Booker’s Cabinet of Curiosities

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The Library Book

This all started with a library book.  Last week my grandson Booker showed me a very cool book he’d checked out of his library featuring page after page of great ideas on how to study, preserve, and catalog various treasures found in the natural world.

Now I’m sure that every grandpa will say that his grandsons are extremely smart… Just like all of my Dudes.  But I gotta say how pleased I am that 7 year-old Booker is so deeply interested in the natural world around him.  I’m sure he has watched and memorized every episode of the Wild Kratts show, and he has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of birds and animals living around him.  As an example, here is a little throw back to October 2014 with a video we made of Stellar’s Jays.  This was all Booker’s idea.

And I’m pleased to see that his enthusiasm for learning about the natural world continues to grow.  So when it was suggested that Booker might need a cabinet to start his collection, I got started immediately.

The design

The design

I began by making a rough sketch of the cabinet and then had the plan “approved” by Booker.

Next was the question of what material to use.  That was easily answered out of necessity:  I’d just use whatever I had laying around.

There is something very satisfying about reusing, reclaiming, or refurbishing old grungy building materials and giving them a new purpose in life.  I still had a few remnants of the old cedar fence that had been storm damaged a couple of years ago.  I knew that hiding deep inside those slimy green boards was some beautiful cedar stock.

 

Before & After

Before & After

Scraping Off The Yucky

Scraping Off The Yucky

It was just a matter of drying off the old fence boards and then planing down the stock to uncover the beauty within.

Remarkably I managed to actually stick to the drawings and follow the plans that I’d made.  As often as not, somewhere along the way, I find that I have to change something to accommodate the wood I have to work with.

In the process I created a small table saw sled to help cutting the dados that would hold the whole thing together.

 

The Table Saw Sled

The Table Saw Sled

Pre-finish

Pre-finish

So eventually I’d cleaned up enough old cedar boards to piece together the cabinet.  Everything was glued up and then we applied some walnut wood stain (to match the beds we’d built last summer).

The next idea on my checklist of cool ideas was to fabricate some drawer pull out of an old mule deer antler.  I’d found the antler hanging in a wood shed at my mother’s house and knew it had to be 30 to 35 years old.  My mom was delighted with the idea that it might end up as a part of her great-grandson’s curiosity cabinet.  The only problem was that I didn’t really know anything about carving or fabricating stuff from deer antlers.  So, after spending a little time at the University of YouTube – I came away with a BS in antler carving.  Yep, BS means just what you think it does.  I made about 3 different types of drawer pulls and settled on a really simple, smooth design.  I’ll put the unused pieces in the cabinet’s drawer for Booker to examine later.

Antler pieces

Antler pieces

Now a word of caution about sawing and sanding deer antler:  If you remember ever going to the dentist and having the doctor drill into your tooth… imagine that smell only 10 times more pungent filling the air in your workshop.  NASTY!  I can still smell it as I type these words a day later.

Finished

Finished

Well here it is finished.  We stocked it with a few little treasures to get Booker started, like the tail feathers from a northern Saw-Whet owl, some cool shells, and a couple of rocks.

All that remained was to attached the cabinet to Booker’s bedroom wall.

That task ended up being an “all hands on deck” evolution with two very curious little boys trying to inspect everything at once.  But as soon as it was stuck up on the wall Booker got busy filling in some of the shelves with his treasures.

 

A curious little boy

A curious little boy

…and finally a photo of the finished cabinet.

Thanks for following along.  Kat

 

 

 

 

Posted in Birds, Dudes, Projects | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Building A Workbench

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The joy of wood shavings

So I thought I would write a little story about the woodworking bench I just completed.  In the past I’d been using a small front vise with some wooden vise jaws that was pretty unsatisfactory when it came time to clamp anything for sawing, planing, or sanding.  It was actually embarrassing to see how wobbly it was.

I figured a proper heavy duty workbench with a large wooden front vise and a smaller tail vise, as well as a few bench dogs would fit the bill nicely.

After a little time at the “University of YouTube” reviewing other people’s triumphs and tragedies, I came up with a plan.

A stack of 2x4's

A stack of 2×4’s

First I purchased a stack of standard 2×4’s from our local Lowes store.  As with all lumber from the big box stores I really had to pick through a lot of sticks to find some fairly decent stock.  “Well, I remember back in the day…”

Trimming the edges

Trimming the edges

I planed the surfaces smooth and flat, then I trimmed the edges down on my table saw to make for the best possible glue up.

 

 

 

 

 

A test fit

A test fit

Always a good idea to do a rehearsal before any glue gets applied.  That way you know everything is gonna fit and you have your clamps all laid out.

Gluing up

Gluing up

No turning back now

All glued up

All glued up

This was the easiest part.  Sitting around waiting of the glue to dry.

Smoothing the top

Smoothing the top

Then it was time to smooth out the top and bottom of the massive bench top.  A #4 smoothing plane did most of the heavy lifting here.  But certain areas got a little help from a block plane and the spokeshave.

The front vise

The front vise

A note of thanks here to my mother and mother-in-law and father-in-law.  They all knew just what I needed for Christmas.  Of course they didn’t know exactly what a Heavy-Duty Quick Release Front Vise was…  But between those wonderful people and Santa it all worked out fine.

 

 

 

Reclaimed lumber for the legs and base frame

Reclaimed lumber for the legs and base frame

Next it was on to making the framework for the bench top to sit on.  Almost all of this was made with reclaimed lumber.  The 4×4 legs began their life as fence posts on a fence that was already built (very poorly) when we moved into the house.  Unsurprisingly, it fell over in a wind storm several years ago.  I built a new fence and the old posts served another enlistment as a makeshift firewood rack.  Finally they came in from the cold, got a thorough scrubbing and sanding, and are serving proudly in their new assignment.

Framed

Framed

Stained

Stained

Mounting the vise

Mounting the vise

Before I attached the top to the base I needed to layout the placement of the vise mounting plate.  For convenience this was done with the bench upside down.  It worked perfectly, except for one little thing.  Apparently the upside down thing threw me off became it seems that I had mounted the plate backwards and the quick release feature didn’t release… Duh!

I quickly ( and quietly) fixed that.  Shush!

 

Front Vise

Front Vise

A big beautiful chunk of clear fir was fashioned for the front vise.  I’ll be crying the first time I slice that guy with an errant stroke from my saw.

The tail vise

The tail vise

And finally the tail vise and bench dogs were installed, and within about a minute I was putting those to good use.

So the only thing I’ll say about building a big workbench like this is, “Man, building a workbench would be a lot easier if you already had a…workbench

Thanks for following along.  Kat

 

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New Years Day with New Friends

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Family and Friends

We had a wonderful New Years Day adventure up in the mountains.  Here is a little video from outing.

Happy New Years!  Kat

 

 

 

 

Until next time…

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Rockhopper Christmas

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Kat & Booker several years ago…

Well I was feeling a bit nostalgic this year about all the great bicycle adventures I have enjoyed in the past.  So I made a little Christmas video to share some holiday spirit with my friends.

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas to all… Kat

Posted in Bicycle, Photography, Projects, Ukulele, Video | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Remembering Our History

Recently I was honored with a request to link up with the current members of my old Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) and share with them some of the history of how their team was started and who were the original members.  I must say I was delighted with the idea that someone, anyone, was taking the effort to learn and document the early history of the team before it all just fades away into obscurity.  So on a rainy morning I met with the current team leader and about 6 of the team members and we shared stories, looked at photographs, and generally had a wonderful time outlining the events that brought us to where we were today.

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The original SERT members circa 1985

The exercise was such a vivid reminder of so many hard charging, dedicated, individuals.  Men that I would and did trust with my life.  Some  of them serious, most of them fun loving, all of them truly men of honor.

Everett PD SWAT approx. 1993

Everett PD SWAT approx. 1993

In a light hearted moment

In a light hearted moment

Repelling

Repelling

When the SERT leader asked me about my thoughts on a team philosophy… I shared what we always believed in.  Physical fitness, excellent weapons skills, and sound tactics.  That pretty much got us through a quarter century of SWAT operations.  I reminded him that even though the job and the missions were very serious, it was best not to take yourself too serious.

 

Helo-Cast

Helo-Cast

Teaching a SWAT school in Brazil

Teaching a SWAT school in Brazil

Maritime Operations Training

Maritime Operations Training

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Regional SWAT Team

Regional SWAT Team

…and one of the true joys of my retired life, is that my son joined the “family business” and basically stepped right into my old SWAT job.  What I meant to say was he EARNED his way into my old SWAT job.  I couldn’t be any more proud of him.  Kat 2.0 is new and improved!

In preparation for my visit I dug out old photos, uniform patches, and an original pen and ink work of art of done by Bill Able.  Bill, as well as being an accomplished artist, was a commander at Monroe PD and back in about 1986 when he saw a photograph I’d taken of 4 of my team members stacked up next to a wall, he put pen to paper and created this very cool piece.  I passed all those items on to the SERT members with my compliments.  I was pleased they would be some place where many people could enjoy them rather than hanging in my garage.

SERT Shadow Box

SERT Shadow Box

A few days later I received this photo of the shadow box that is hanging in the SERT training room.  What a fitting place for those old original team members… right at the top. Well done team.

SERT patch and Coin

SERT patch and Coin

At the conclusion of my visit with the SERT members I was presented with one of their uniform patches and a very special SERT coin.  The badge on the coin bears the number of a former team leader and dear friend that has since passed on to join that big SWAT team in heaven.  It was a very touching moment that I will cherish forever.

Thank you to all who have served and continue to serve on these teams.  Kat

 

Posted in Classic Adventures | Tagged , | 11 Comments

The Lumber Yard

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Dovetalis

So I tried my hand at cutting some traditional dovetails to form the corners of a wooden box.  They came out OK, but there is still a lot to learn before I get those perfected.

After finishing the final sanding and slapping on a coat of linseed oil, I decided it would be a perfect day to head out to the salt marsh, at the mouth of the Snohomish River.  I wanted to watch some birds and see what types of lumber the recent storms and flooding deposited for me.

Here is a little movie I made about my trip to the “Lumber Yard”.

 

A frosty Day

A frosty Day

So I have no idea what I’m gonna build from the lumber I collected today.  In the next few days I’ll get it cut into some slabs and then sticker it to dry for a year.

That’s it for now.  Hope you liked the video, and thanks for following along.  Gotta fly…  Kat

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Posted in Birding, Projects, Video | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments