I Went to the North Carolina State Fair and All I Got Was This Odd Business Plan

It has become a tradition for us to attend the NC State Fair on the last Sunday of the run arriving around 9:00 AM. It’s not too crowded, lots to see and also the place we get our annual flu shots. Tradition.

This year we were there for the food. Not really. The highlights were a BBQ pork stuffed jalapeno (well cleaned) dipped in hush puppy batter and deep fried, served with sweet potato waffle fries. (Unfortunately is was good.) Did I mention the jalapeno was bacon wrapped?

The food we didn’t try was the Twinkie stuffed with a Twixt, wrapped in bacon and fried. Or the Krispy Kreme hamburger (Thank you, Paula Dean.) Or a deep-fried anything else.

Walking around looking at my fellow attendees, I was once again astounded by the number of selfies been taken, and many in predictable places. Slowly a business plan started forming in my twisted mind. Let’s say you are the Chief Digital Officer of a magazine publishing company, let’s just use Taunton Press  for this blog. You have the need to find new ways to promote your products online. You fear that there are web pages out there that aren’t promoting your e-commerce sites.

My idea is sponsored photobombers. For those not in the know, photobombing is the fine art of inserting yourself into other people’s pictures. Often without their knowledge or permission.

Speaking of without permission.

Speaking of without permission. Apologies to Mike Peters and Mother Goose and Grimm.

Send attractive young people out with t-shirts with large corporate logos to photobomb as many unsuspecting civilians as possible. Just sit back and watch your logo starting to show up in hundreds of Facebook and Instagram images. I haven’t quite figured out the monetization yet but that should come in time.

Tomorrow, back to furniture like things, promise.

This blog has been modified to correct a typo and correct some sentence structure.

Get to Know Your Ampacity

There was too much woodworking going on in my shop tonight. On many Monday nights, the Hillsborough Orange Woodworkers hold their weekly meeting in my shop. Tonight’s project was part of the continuing toy build for the Triangle Woodworkers Association annual Toys For Tots campaign. To recap, HOW was building toys for the TWA’s T4T 2014.

Nominally, I am in charge of the build. My shop, my project. Trouble is that the HOW people are a bunch of self starters. Hard to control. Not a bad thing, I just need to be a bit more assertive. Better overly eager than reluctant and cranky.

For most of the night there were five work stations in use, a band saw, a drill press and three different sanding stations. I have plenty of power in the shop. Problem is that I usually work alone in the shop and use only one tool with dust collection at a time. The power isn’t distributed for so many tools in use at one time.

Five people in there working, really.

Five people in there working, really.

Tonight, I had to run more extension cords from outlets I seldom use. Running out of extension cords, I plugged the band saw and it’s dust collector into the retractable ceiling cord reel. I have often plugged in the band saw there without anything interesting happening. But it usually only runs for 10 or 15 minutes. Nothing that will stress the system.

They were using the band saw continuously for around two hours when it happened. I had gone into the main house. Nothing for me to do in the shop, all the tools were in use. I came back in and was told the breaker for the ceiling outlet had tripped and would not reset. We plugged the bands saw into  another outlet and moved on.

I tried the breaker and it tripped immediately. They were right. Thinking that there might be a problem in the reel, I pulled down. It wouldn’t move. I pulled harder. It moved and I didn’t like the results. Wire was a bit toasty.


10 amps, 20 amps, what's the diff?

10 amps, 20 amps, what’s the diff?

The wire was only 16 gauge. 10 amps. I was running a bit more through it. Probably a bad idea. And the lack of air movement in the reel didn’t help.

Well, off to the recycling center, a sadder but wiser man.

Has F & W Crossed the Rubicon?

I hear voices. Or I did. I’m better now.

I was sitting in my office this afternoon when I suddenly heard unexpected (and unwelcome) females voices coming from my laptop. I usually have many open windows and tabs, and on occasion, more than one browser. The female voices would start to talk for a few seconds, stop and then restart an arbitrary time later. One sounded like somebody named Kirby Johnson telling me about the only cream I will ever need. The other voice was an unnamed female starting to tell me that Britney Spears was starting a line of lingerie.

It took me a while to track down the offending tabs. Turns out it was the Editors’ and Chris Schwarz’s blogs from the Popular Woodworking website doing something called ad rotation, the practice of showing multiple advertisements in a single location on a web page. Seems that every 8 seconds or so, one of the eight ads on a blog page is replaced by another ad. For some reason, the offending ads kept getting in the queue and reloading.

I did a search for ad blocking software and was surprised to find that there were many more articles written about bypassing ad blockers and using the ad blocker to form a strategy for bypassing the ad blocker than there are about ad blockers themselves. Reading the articles leads me to believe that people with a second amendment level fervor believe that they have a right to place ads on our screens. I understand that there is a quid pro quo, you provide me with content and I accept that I must tolerate some ads. They have bills to pay and need to make a reasonable profit. But they also run the risk of alienating their readers and annoying us to the point that we believe that they content isn’t worth the assault.

I don’t blame the editorial staff at Pop Woodworking for this. I do not believe that they are the masters of their fates. They have owners. And the owners have owners. And those owners have investors. All are out to serve the investors. In May, 2014, F & W, the parent of Popular Woodworking, was acquired by the private equity company Tinicum Capital Partners LP. At around the same time F & W Media (formerly F & W Publications) rebranded itself as just F & W. F & W bills itself as a media and e-commerce company.

Doing some more poking around, I found the following in an article from Folio, a multi-channel industry magazine:


For F+W, the change is more representative of the company’s ongoing strategic shift into e-commerce. Not long ago, it was known simply as an enthusiast publisher in the craft, art, writing and outdoors markets, then called F+W Publications.

As the company expanded its commerce product lines—related third-party products, pattern kits, digital downloads, etc. F+W also began to de-emphasize its media designation, instead using its brands as a way to support communities and their product purchasing power.

One thing that reading the Columbia Journalism Review for 40 years has taught me is that media companies like to make money. It’s the American thing to do. Many of them run with margins that would make manufacturers cry. Editorial content is often viewed by top-level management as what is needed to keep the ads from running into each other and to turn readers into customers. The people at the magazine level care about what they produce and do the best they can to balance the needs of the owners with interests of the consumers of their content. It can’t be easy.

This explains why I get two or three e-mails a day from Popular Woodworking or Shop Woodworking. Offering to sell me stuff I already own. They produce more marketing than content. For a while I was getting roughly the same e-mail from American Woodworker. This has tapered off.

I have gone to Woodworking in America for five years. I usually register the day registration opens. Yet I still get three to five e-mails a week singing the praises of WIA and encouraging me to register. I understand the need for marketing; I just wish they would do it more intelligently. It might cost more but it would be far less annoying.

The voices have stopped. For now. It could be the ad blocker plug-in is working. It could be that there was a browser/Java error that caused me to get the ads. Or a server error. I just know I am enjoying the silence.

Epilog: I didn’t think I was going to post this blog. I wrote it as a catharsis, one of those that gets written and left in the drawer. Then Friday I got five e-mails from my dear friends and posting it became necessary. One of the e-mails was an invitation to subscribe. I am one of their premium subscribers and my subscription runs through November, 2015.

They should know that.

Oh, Right. Ecuador, I Was Just There…

As mentioned earlier, I just got back a few weeks ago from a trip to the Galapagos Islands with stops in Quito and Otavalo, Ecuador en route. Otavalo is a town of about 90,000,  seventy miles north of Quito. With an elevation or 8,500 feet, one could safely consider it to be in the mountains.

We arrived in Otavalo early evening on Thursday, had dinner and went to bed. On Friday, we hired a small van with driver and visited a few notable local weavers. In the afternoon, we visited a local town that specialized in leather goods. It was an interesting day. Not activities I might have chosen, but it’s not always about me.

Saturday is market day. We started the day by visiting the animal market. I won’t try to describe it other than saying there are no USDA inspectors involved. Use your imagination. Ya, it was like that. Not quite enough to make me a vegetarian and it won’t as long as I visit only every ten years.

When we were done there, it was back to town for “the market”. The market engulfs the square downtown and sends tentacles down several side and main streets. Much of the merchandise looked like much of the other merchandise. To me. Woven art, purses, carved figures, some paintings. Stuff I am not looking to buy. My wife took her two friends on the grand tour. The other couple went their own way looking for a wooden flute (him) and at all the woven art (her). Once again I was left to entertain myself.

I started walking in search of an antiques shop or a furniture store and found neither. I did find one small shop about the size of a supply closet and not as well-lit. It was packed with locals that look surprised and vaguely annoyed to see me there. But they were very polite. Discretion being the better part of tourism, I left. And kept walking.

What I did notice was the doors. There were lots of different doors. Interesting doors. It is a city with all blocks solidly packed with buildings. Or one big building. I couldn’t always tell where one ended and the next began. Retail on the first level and offices and residential on the upper floors. There mustn’t be a strong zoning office in that there didn’t seem to be a uniform color palate.

Where is the downtown merchants association when you need it.

Where is the downtown merchants association when you need it?

Another thing I noticed was ready availability of funerary supplies. I must have seem six funeral supply stores.

Not something I needed on this trip. Good to know it's there though.

Not something I needed on this trip. Good to know it’s there though.

And I found their dollar store. Ecuador use the US dollar as currency. Their have some of their own coins but use US paper money. So, a dollar store really is a dollar store.

More interesting that Family Dollar or Dollar Tree.

More interesting that Family Dollar or Dollar Tree.

While walking, I learned you can make a ladder with bamboo poles, a saw, a chisel,  some hardwood scraps and a bit of wire.

No safety labels or posted weight limit.

No safety labels or posted weight limit.

Did I mention there were doors?

A church door.

A church door.

Lots of doors.

Not a church door.

Not a church door.

Click HERE to see the entire set of my walkabout pictures. It is worth a look.

Have I ever lied to you…

The Anti-Roy

I have been anxious about all the conflict and flux in the woodworking universe. To help calm myself, I went out seeking woodworking comfort food.

Klingspor is a global abrasives manufacturing company with an American division. This division has three retail woodworking stores in North Carolina. They are having their 14th annual Woodworking Extravaganza a third of the state away in Hickory, NC. It has all the usual extravaganza stuff, various manufacturers, demonstrations, competitions and lots of sandpaper. They sell roll ends, surplus, discontinued products. Boxes and boxes of the stuff. I am still working through my box of sheet sandpaper bought three or four years ago.

This year there was the added attraction of the (in)famous Scott Phillips. For those not familiar with Mr. Phillips, he has been the host of Public Television’s The American Woodshop for 17 years. This is a little unusual in that Mr. Phillips has been associated with Woodcraft. In North Carolina and on-line, Klingspor is a competitor of Woodcraft’s. Who knows how relationships in corporate America work.


Watching Scott work, I realized that there are some differences between Scott and the legendary Roy Underhill. The obvious one is that Roy eschews the use of power tools while Scott embraces them. Sometimes while they are running. Roy has studied and is a practitioner of traditional methods and techniques. Scott is not bound by tradition and is willing to stretch and experiment with ideas on the use and application of tools. Scott is a pioneer and I do not think we will see his like again.

There are similarities between the two. Both are entertainers and know how to work a room. Both are passionate about their woodworking. Neither is afraid of hard work. During a demonstration, Scott realized the Kreg Foreman was not plugged in. He didn’t raise a fuss and demand that someone fix it. He humbly crawled under the table and plugged it in. I also have never heard Roy ask anyone to plug-in any of his tools.

While I was there, Mr. Phillips was showcasing the year’s best new woodworking product. As luck would have it, the manufacturers of the best new products all had booths there. It just goes to show that Klingspor only invited the best manufacturers to their show.

Scott Phillips demonstrating the best new products.

Scott Phillips demonstrating the best new products.

A few years back, I had the chance to talk to Mr. Phillips at a Cincinnati Woodcraft the day before Woodworking in America opened. I think he really does understand his place in the woodworking firmament. He views himself as the guy that demonstrates that anyone can woodwork. He tries to keep things simple and fun. Many of us watch his show and roll our eyes. I don’t think those who do are his target audience. His show is always entertaining although perhaps not for the intended reasons.

It’s a living…

Update: This blog has been modified to correct a word omission.

A Questionable Blog, But It’s Short

If you are a genteel person with a sensitive nature, you should leave now. Some might find this topic shocking, not in the Howard Stern or South Park sense. More like the stereotypical maiden aunt from Dayton expectation of shocking.

If you are still reading you either are a curious person or don’t have a freakin’ clue what I am blathering on about. Whatever your reason, read on.

I have seen the following item in the men’s room of several higher-end restaurants and bars. I’m not sure if it’s a hipster trend or there is just a really good salesperson out there catering to all the right places. Well, here goes.

There are now toilet seats with handles:

It's got a handle. Click for a larger view. Really?

It’s got a handle. Click for a larger view. Really?

This looks like the Kohler White Stronghold® Elongated Toilet Seat With Integrated Handle and Self-sustaining Check Hinge, $28.46 street price. Available in Almond, Black Black and Biscuit at slightly higher prices.

Is this a growing niche market? There are many similar products including add on handles called Nifty-Lifty and Flipsit (Antimicrobial) and a foot powered lifter. There are a lot of really odd products out there related to toilets that I hope to forget once this blog is finished. There are some things you can’t unsee. Research takes a toll.

I asked my wife if there are similar things in the women’s room. She shouldn’t recall. In fact, she couldn’t say if the toilet seats are open front or closed front (horseshoe or oval). Part of me is glad. We don’t need two overly curious minds in the family. I will just need to do research on my own.

Or not.

Life Immitating Art – in Ecuador



There is this image in today’s blog over there at Lost Art Press:

Used with the tacit permission of Lost Art Press. Click to visit their blog.

Used with the tacit permission of Lost Art Press. Click to visit their blog.

The plate is titled How to Stack and Preserve Wood, Plate 4 and is from the forthcoming Roubo on Furniture, a work in progress from the fine folks at Lost Art Press. What struck me was that I saw the real life version of this plate in Ecuador. The reason I was not blogging for a while was that we were on a trip to Ecuador. My wife had always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands and this was her chance. We recruited four friends and booked ourselves on a tour of the Galapagos Islands. On the way down, we spent three days in Otavalo, a center of weaving and a market town a few hours north of Quito. More on that later.

What struck me about the plate in the LAP blog was that I had just seen the real life version of the plate driving from Otavalo to Quito. We were traveling down the Pan-American Highway. Between the recent earthquake damage and all the local festivals, the 90 minute drive took about four hours. This left lots of time for observing the scenery. We passed several small lumber yards that looked something like the plate.

This is the lumber yard.

This is the lumber yard.

And here are the lumber stacks. Just like Plate 4.

And here are the lumber stacks. Just like Plate 4.

And another lumber yard.

And another lumber yard.

There will be more about the trip in the next few days but for now I will offer you some panoramic photos I took at a raptor center near Otavalo and the drive south. The last two panoramas prove that you can take panoramic photos with your iPhone from a moving vehicle if you reverse the scan and are traveling at a relatively constant speed on a level and smooth road. Results aren’t perfect but are interesting.

The other pictures are from a brief stop in Cayambe, home of our driver and location of his family’s biscotti bakery. Click HERE to see the pictures.

I’m Not Sure I Believe in Coincidence…

There are two recent niche media events that will go unnoticed by 97% of the American public. In late August, the Discovery Channel announced that Tory Belleci, Grant Imahara and Kari Byron would not be returning to Mythbusters for the 2015 season. The show seems to be going back to its roots and will return to the original format of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman working alone. (Will folklorist Heather Joseph-Witham, Ph.D. return?) It could be budget, could be a creative reboot. It does remove some of the silliness that the show would occasionally devolve into. But they have their fans and will be missed.

The other niche trio making news is Bob Lang, Glen Huey and Chuck Bender leaving Popular Woodworking. I first met (if you can use that word) Glen Huey five (?) years ago at my first Woodworking in America. The local Woodcraft was holding a meet and greet with some woodworking luminaries. Ron Herman was there. Rob Cosman. Scott Phillips. Glen Huey and I believe Chuck Bender. And I am sure there were others but I was too new to the celebrity woodworking world to appreciate who most of these people were. A violent thunderstorm kept some away while holding the rest of us captive. While waiting to talk to Scott Phillips, I chatted with Mr. Huey. (Not entirely true but true enough.) I attended a few of his classes over the weekend and was impressed. Favorably.

We next met when he came to Raleigh, NC for a Friday night talk and a weekend workshop for the Triangle Woodworkers Association. We talked more. Then we talked more when I came to the Pop Woodworking shop for Bob Lang’s Puzzle Stool class. Glen was there to help out.

He was on of those with whom I shared my furniture pictures before I was bludgeoned into doing the this blog. He even used some of my pictures in his PW blog.

I initially met Chuck Bender through osmosis. He and Glen Huey seem to be joined at the hip. I started to talk to him while talking with Glen. It would be rude to not talk to him. I then gave him a lot of money and was allowed to hang out with him at his Acanthus Workshop in Pennsylvania for a week. He too came to Raleigh for a weekend workshop and we bonded further.

In 2012, Woodworking in America was held in Pasadena, CA and Cincinnati. In Pasadena, one of the after hours activities was a tour of and dinner at the Gamble House (a Greene and Greene designed Arts and Crafts house in Pasadena). I had toured the house before. It is a dark house on a bright and sunny California day. At night, it’s really dark. I shared a table with Bob Lang at dinner that night on the equally dark terrace. I’m not sure he saw me and ever realized who he was talking to. We then renewed(?) our acquaintance at his Puzzle stool class.

I was concerned when I read that these three gentlemen were leaving the magazine. I consider Megan Fitzpatrick a friend and this can’t be making her life any easier. (There are many working definitions of friend but for the purposes of my blog, I’ll use my definition.) I think we need to consider the entire Alexander Graham Bell Quote – When one door closes, another opens: but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed-door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. The three will experiment with new ideas on presenting their craft and some new and different voices brought in to fill the void at the magazine. More woodworking content cannot be a bad thing.

Now for the coincidence portion. Three people left Mythbusters while thousands of mile away, three people left Pop Woodworking. The Ohio crew are all talented builders and I am sure one of them can learn to use a TIG welder and plasma cutter. Glen looks like a natural to be the heavy equipment operator. They have a built-in following. Research show that the only people left watching TV on TV are those who might be considered older. It stands to reason that sponsors might want to find personalities the would appeal to that demographic. And, as a professional that has been involved in the entertainment industry since 1977, Bob Lang has really, really good hair. He truly does. (Bender, not so much.)

Not all will accept this theory yet no one has risen to refute it. One of my cats did walk away rolling his eyes upon hearing my theory. I think it was because there no treats involved. He is more accepting when there are treats involved.

Whatever happened, only them that were there will know the truth and then only their truth. Your truth may vary. I choose to believe their motives are pure.

And it doesn’t really matter. In a million years we are all dust…

Rewind and Final Adamstown Omnibus Photo Dump

I refuse to do the obvious “I’m baaaack” that was recently used by a definitely possible but uncommitted presidential candidate. It’s too obvious. And unless you’re Jack Nicholson (or Eminem), you shouldn’t use it either. It’s been done.

Before I explain where I’ve been for the past few weeks, I want to wrap up my nostalgic visit to Adamstown and do one final blog showing all the wonderful things you can find there.

This isn’t one of them:

Might be more vintage than antique.

Might be more vintage than antique.

I show this one to demonstrate that there is something there for everyone, even those that don’t deserve it.

I like this server a lot more:

Not real old but old enough.

Not real old but old enough.

with great and unique bellflowers:

Bellflowers with sand shading.

Bellflowers with sand shading.

Here we see an interesting use of veneer:

Almost makes me want to build veneered furniture.

Almost makes me want to build veneered furniture.

And this:

It's electric!

It’s electric!

Finally, a formal painted corner cabinet.

I wish I had the house to go with this cabinet.

I wish I had the house to go with this cabinet.

To see the entire Adamstown set on Flickr, click HERE

If you are in the area, you should definitely plan on spending the day. I hope to make it there again next year. And the year after that.


For reasons I’ll go on (and on) about later, between now and around October 1st, I will have even more limited internet access than I have with AT&T DSL. (“More limited?” How did that make it past the editor?) If I can get a blog out, I will, but don’t expect anything until October 2nd.

Don’t worry, I’m not sick or dying. It is possible that I might die between now and October 2nd, but that’s not at all expected and nothing going on would lead me to believe that I might pass on. Of course, one never really expects it, does one?

In the mean time, there are some blogs back in the archives worth reading. Just search for Porsche, tractors, dovetails, hardware…

Enjoy and I’ll be back just as soon as the techno gods allow.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 217 other followers