Heartbreaking screwup. Don’t do this :-(

What a dope I can be.

So I have this board. It’s like, 9″x23″. I need to cut it to two boards, each 9″x10 5/8″. That’s *almost* in half. So, what I did is measured out the 10 5/8, drew a line, lined up the crosscut, and ran it across the table saw. Sounds simple, but there’s a big screwup in what I just said. Do you know what it is?

I didn’t mark the “waste” side of the cut. As a result, I made an absolutely *perfect* cut…. on the wrong side of the line. I’m exactly 1/8″ shy.

Always mark the waste side of your cut. What makes this heartbreaking is that instead of having one cut left to make (on the same board – I need two 10 5/8″ pieces), I now have to do a glue-up of *another* set of 1/2″x6″ boards, trim it so that the resulting 9″ board has the glued seam in the middle, square it up, and cut my 10 5/8″ piece. It causes more waste as well.

Woodworking Progress, and why I hate plywood and woodworking books

So first, the progress report:

I’ve had a few days off due to the holidays, and I got a $100 Lowe’s gift certificate for Christmas. I requested Lowe’s because they have a nicer, and wider selection of wood there for me to use in my small projects. When I get to the larger projects or nicer woods, there’s a great mill nearby that I’ll get to when I can afford it.

So, I went and bought enough poplar to build a bookcase that is sized nicely to double as a sofa table, which is great. Even after adding a couple of other essentials I still didn’t even use my whole $100 allotment. Of course, I haven’t actually *started* on the bookcase yet, but this leaves me in a good position. Namely, it puts me in a place where I am actually working on three projects simultaneously. This sounds like nothing until you realize that I am starting with *zero* jigs in my shop, so really, when you factor in the building of the jigs and the fact that I’m still pretty new to woodworking, it’s kinda like I’m working on about 5 or 6 projects.

The first project is the oak medicine cabinet from the New Yankee Workshop book. This involves building a box-joint jig. I’m sorta saving this one for later because I have only today found a dado set for my table saw that got good reviews and isn’t $300. Once I get that, I’ll be on my way. In the meantime, there are still some pieces I can cut to length and stuff.

The second project is the one that has most of my focus right now. It’s the desk organizer from the book “Furniture you can build” which is a fantastic book. Buy it if you haven’t already. The main reason this one is taking so much time is lack of clampage. I have to make bigger boards from smaller ones, which involves, at a minimum, 4 clamps. Preferably 6. I’m using 4 because the rest are too big for the job and I don’t have any of the bessey-style ones that can go *under* the panel being glued. This has been a decent learning experience, though. I’ve learned to make better use of my block plane, my old Stanley No. 5, and my shiny new card scraper, which I also learned how to sharpen.

The last project is the bookcase, which is from the same book, “Furniture you can build”. They built it from white oak I think. I’m using poplar because it’s probably 1/3 the cost of white oak. If it works out, I can always give this one away as a gift and, wife willing, build another one from white oak.

Doing a few projects at once is kinda nice, because it means there’s no downtime in the shop. If things for one project are at a standstill because of a pending glue-up or something, I can cut pieces for another project to size. Things still take me long enough that I don’t get a whole lot done in any kind of a hurry. Everything is still extremely slow and deliberate. I’m still often referring to books to see the best way to do just about anything. By the time I futz around with stuff and finally get stuff cut to size, my glue-up (with 30-minute glue) is ready to be unclamped. If I really have nothing to do, I can sharpen my plane blades.

Side project No. 1 is a crosscut sled, which brings us to why I hate plywood. I can’t seem to touch it without getting splinters. This, if you don’t already know, sucks. From now on I need to remember to just break down and wear gloves when I have to carry it anywhere. This is the cheap plywood. I don’t seem to have the problem with the oak veneered plywood I bought. The crosscut sled is an enormous pain in the buttocks, because it seems just about impossible to get the rails to the point where they a) allow smooth movement on the table saw, and b) *don’t* allow any side play in the sled base, which will screw up your accuracy.

As for woodworking books, I own many of them, and they all have the same problem, and it’s pissing me off because the problem is so basic and easy to fix, and yet nobody does anything about it: NOT A SINGLE ONE shows a “materials list”. They *call* what they show a materials list sometimes, but it’s not. It’s a ‘parts’ list. This list shows the dimensions of the parts of a project. It does *NOT* show a list of stuff you need to *buy*. This leaves me in the position of having to go through the parts list and figure out what size boards I need and how many I need. This, if you don’t already know, sucks. I think it’s ShopNotes magazine where I’ve seen a real “this is what you need to shop for” guide in the projects, and they even lay out diagrams of which parts will be cut from each board you buy. This is invaluable to newbies.

So, this is where I’m at. I have the vertical dividers for my organizer cut to rough size, to be planed-to-fit later. I have my panels glued up from which my sides, bottom, and back will be cut. This last glue-up went badly, and I learned that you shouldn’t do a glue-up on top of a plastic bag that has red ink on it, because the glue soaks up that red stuff… so my card scraper and plane are gonna get a little extra workout tomorrow. Once that’s all ready to go, which should be tomorrow morning, I should be able to get *ALL* of the pieces for the desk organizer cut to size by tomorrow afternoon some time. I’ll still need to cut dadoes for the project, but these pieces are small enough to just run across my router, since there’s no special joinery involved like box joints.

Wish me luck!

It’s a Woodworking Christmas

This year, just about everything I got for christmas was woodworking-related, which is wonderful. After a couple of years of mucking with my tools and making a couple of small projects, I’m ready to move on to projects that are still small, but are made of real wood, instead of plywood or 2×4 lumber.

I received two excellent DVDs. David Charlesworth on Planing Techniques, and another on Sharpening Planes. Both very good. There’s no old wiseman in my life, like a woodworking grampa or something to show me how these things are done, so it does wonders for a newbie like me to see someone use a plane (for one example) who you know *knows* how to use a plane properly. David Charlesworth, therefore, is sort of an adopted grampa. :-)

To go with the sharpening DVD, I also received (from my saint of a wife) a set of Arkansas sharpening stones. It’s the Woodcraft boxed set. The only thing it didn’t come with was any indication of the grit for each stone, which I must say is pretty annoying. In addition, I can’t find any indication on the woodcraft site – so if anyone knows the grit of the three stones, it would help me figure out how to use them most effectively.

I also received a set of card scrapers. Can you tell I hate sanding? :-) I dislike it for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is dust. I can’t stand the dust that sanding creates. I also don’t like the idea of coming to the end of a project, getting to where I need to sand things out, and then realizing I have no sandpaper and having to run out to get some. Card scrapers and planes are always around. They aren’t really “consumables” like sandpaper. You can resharpen them (with your wonderful new stones) and get back to work.

Finally, I got two books that I had read glowing reviews about. One is a book about nothing but how to build beds, and the other is about how to build nothing but tables. It’ll take some time before I’m ready to take on the risk of building a bed (the risk is that you buy a good bit of expensive wood and then mess up something critical… and big), but I’m confident enough to go for a small nightstand, which, as it turns out, I need. We only have one right now.

Another thing I’m thinking is that there might be people who need some small project built, but don’t have a woodshop and don’t want to buy particleboard. I wonder if I couldn’t get those people to buy the wood, and I’d then build it for free or, if the project requires stuff I don’t have, a small fee just to subsidize (not completely pay for) the missing bit. This would work for me, because, while I can’t take the risk of buying top-notch wood to build a bed, I *can* afford to replace one or two boards in the project if I mess it up, and I get experience from it, and someone else gets something useful from it, for the cost of the wood.

My current projects are the medicine cabinet from the New Yankee Workshop book and the desk organizer from a great book called “Furniture you can build”. Get this book if you’ve mucked around but haven’t built anything worthy of leaving the shop yet. So far, it’s fantastic. I can’t praise it enough.

Actually, those project are sort of not my real projects. Sure, I’m gluing up panels for the desk organizers, and I’m squaring up stock and cutting a few boards to length for the medicine cabinet, but the real projects right now are building the jigs I’ll need to complete these and other projects. I’m about 3/4 the way through building a crosscut sled for my table saw, and I need to find decent plans for a box-joint jig for a router. I’ve sketched out an idea of my own, but I’m sure someone could come up with a more clever plan that would create one that is adjustable for the size of the fingers, for example.

As always, the biggest challenge is finding the time to spend in the shop at a time when noise won’t shake the house awake. You just can’t wrap up some time and shove it in a stocking :-)

Happy holidays.

Great uses for old hardware

A friend of mine has found some good uses for hardware that was being thrown out…. rather prematurely I might add. It never ceases to amaze me what people throw out, and how much usefulness and life is often left in it.

One thing I’m doing with my own old hardware is outfitting them with PCI wireless cards and throwing them down in my basement so that I can add services to my network without further overloading my home office electrical circuit, or creating more noise by adding more spinning fans.

It’s also interesting to see how people’s home networks are shaping up. I set mine up quite some time ago and haven’t touched it too much. There’s a local caching DNS server that’s helped performance a bit. The same machine is also an NTP server to the other machines in the house, and (as naturally follows) a file server and log server to those same hosts.

I have yet to set up a centralized authentication scheme on my home network. I probably will set up and LDAP server at some point, but more because it would be great to have all of our addressbook data in an LDAP directory instead of me constantly trying to hunt down my wife’s address book.

Incidentally, this is my very first attempt at doing  a blog ‘trackback’ :-)  Hopefully, it works. My apologies if I goof it up.

LinuxLaboratory Overhaul and Relaunch Complete

So it’s all done. LinuxLaboratory.org now runs on Drupal, it runs on a new hosting service, and so far I’m very happy with both. 

The hosting service is a little more modern than my old one, is slightly faster, gives me access to far more resources than I’m likely to ever use, and costs about 70% less. 

Drupal is a CMS. It’s not a wiki, it’s not a blog, it’s there mainly to manage “content”. It doesn’t have a wysiwyg editor, but that’s no big deal, and I wound up having to add two modules, which I really didn’t want to have to do, but it handles things pretty nicely, and it was pretty much a breeze to get going. Moving over content was no problem – just a little time consuming to fix the formatting. Getting a download section in place was a little more of a headache, but once I got the hang of it it was nicer than anything else I’ve used. 

In the end, I think Drupal’s ease-of-use (at least, the way I’m using it is easy) will be a catalyst to doing more with the site. 99% of the content is handled using the Drupal “book” module, so I don’t have to mess with “taxonomies”, for example. I don’t even know what that really is in the context of Drupal, and I’m happy to stay stupid in that regard. 

Anyway, it’s up and running, so go have a look and let me know what you think about it. 

New LinuxLaboratory.org Site Live

By now, DNS has propagated, and everyone should be able to see the new drupal-ized LinuxLaboratory.org (LLO for short). http://www.linuxlaboratory.org

Just about all of the old content that is still relevant has been moved over, and some new content, and a good number of useful downloads have also been added.

I’ve also added another site administrator named Chris St. Pierre. I’ve known Chris online for some time, and recently we got to meet in person at LISA ’06, where we co-hosted the Fedora Directory Server BoF. We’ve collaborated a bit on some code in the hopes of eventually making the FDS GUI obsolete, and that code is available on the site. It should be noted that the code isn’t FDS-specific – it’s just the catalyst for its creation :-)

Well, let me know what you think, and happy holidays!!

More CMS Requirements Than I Thought

I thought my needs were simple. When I started LinuxLaboratory.org, it was full of features. User forums, news categories, icons and emoticons everywhere, downloads, interviews… it was really all-singing and all-dancing. It was also too much for one guy to manage.

I decided to trim the fat and get back to basics. LinuxLaboratory.org started as a place for me to keep notes for myself. Others found the notes useful, and I was asked to write an article or two for other sites. Then I started writing my notes in the form of articles. Then I started writing LOTS of articles all the time. I also wrote some code, and saw no reason to keep it to myself. So, what I need is a place to keep articles, and a place to keep downloads that others can get to.

My requirements? Well, I need a CMS that allows me to create navigation that is very article-centric. I want users who come to the site to see the categories of articles so they can find what they want quickly. I want users to click on an article category and see the article titles available in that section. I also want a link on the front page to a download section where people can then see a list of available downloads.

I don’t want much more than that. I don’t want to learn about inane taxonomies, I don’t want things listed chronologically, I don’t want a framework that allows a million people to contribute. I don’t want a wiki, I don’t want a blog, I don’t want a news portal.

What I want, I think, is to be able to structure content more or less like a book is laid out… online. A single-user site with content broken down by chapter and subchapter. When the content contains code, I’d like to make it available, either inline or via a download. As far as I can tell, this does not exist. Let me explain:

I’ve tried PHPX, drupal, dokuwiki, mediawiki, and wordpress, all within the last year or so. Looking back over 5 years, I’ve tried just about everything else as well. XOOPS, PHP-Nuke, Postnuke, Mambo, and the list goes on.

PHPX was just plain flaky, but was damn near perfect in terms of what I wanted to do with my content. The numerous bugs made me leave it.

Drupal is really nice too, and I’m still testing it, but the article formatting isn’t wonderful, and I’ve found that if I insert PHP code inline, if I use a ‘pre’ tag to insert it, the PHP gets parsed. If I use the ‘code’ tag to insert it, I lose any notion of indentation. This is no good, but I’m still searching for a solution because otherwise drupal seems kinda nice so far.

Dokuwiki is nice, too. I really like that you can have syntax highlighted code inline in your articles. I *don’t* like that you have to pick a string representation of your article that is not the title of the article. So, in other words, instead of seeing Linux->Scripting->More Power With Bash Getopts, I’m forced to live with Linux->Scripting->bash_getopts. It also wasn’t obvious to me how you’d link to a download without using an absolute “External” link, which, in the context of something that already does so much, seems like a hack.

Mediawiki is what LLO currently runs on, and I’ve learned over the past year that doing downloads and structuring things the way I want them in mediawiki also involves hacks.

WordPress is nice, but again, no obvious way to do downloads cleanly, and chronology in my content is really pretty irrellevant. I’m happy to date my articles, but the articles I’m posting relate to eachother in ways that have nothing to do with their creation date. PHP and Shell articles written two years apart should still appear next to eachother in the “scripting” section.

In the end, my recommendation to others is this: if you’re not hosting a blog, don’t use blog software. Not hosting a wiki? Don’t use wiki software. Not hosting a news portal? Don’t use news portal software.

Also, before I get flamed, note that I’m aware that I can probably load my site down with plugins to accomplish what I want. However, I’ve been doing this for a while, and I know that, while using a plugin will work for a while, there is also often a lag between the release of a new version of the base software and the release of the plugin for the new version of the base software.

If anyone has a clue about what I might use to accomplish my goal of basically providing categorized articles online with as little bloat as possible, let me know.

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