Country Living

A neighbor raises cattle, one of his calves got stuck in mud, and its mother abandoned it. My kids pulled it out and brought it home. It’s winter, and we don’t know how long it was left there. The first picture shows my daughter trying to give it warm fresh milk from our own Jersey cow, while it’s still in the box we brought it home in. The calf didn’t drink much, and couldn’t stand up. It was determined that it probably wouldn’t make it.

But it was given a warm bath, which changed it’s condition very much. It’s now drinking milk, and standing.

I came out one recent morning, and the moon was still bright, but just about to go down behind the trees.

Testing the Lightning Scraper II

This is the roof of a RR coach. It was previously painted with the silver colored roof coating, which has caused problems for subsequent layers of paint. I’ve encountered flaking paint like this often; and wanted to make a multi directional scraper. Most scrapers only work one or two directions, I wanted one that can work in any direction.

I realized it needed a round blade. the first one was only a handle and blade. It worked well, but reaching down a curved surface was a little bit of a hazard. So I made it bigger, and added a shaft. This is the Lightning Scraper 2, and it works very well. The scraped area in the picture was done in about 4 minutes. There has been a slight modification since these pictures were taken, but I’ll show that when I display this model of tool for sale.

On the home front, my son got some firewood that smells like oak when split, but is very difficult to split. I drove a steel wedge all the way down in it, but it still wouldn’t come apart. So I went and got the Hickory wood maul, and several Dogwood gluts. In the picture, the steel wedge is sunk in the wood, to the right of the wood wedge, which is called a glut. Behind the piece of wood is the Hickory maul, it looks like a cave man club. We’ll be selling both of these wood tools.

I’m wondering if I should do some of my pictures in black and white.

My First Cherry Wood Pipe

I got a lot further along on my Cheery wood pipe today; it’s pretty much finished save for a little fitting between the stem and bowl. This first picture shows the large hole being bored. The stem is in two pieces, one is a piece of pine that I think is from the 1870’s. That piece has walnut stain on it, but no clear yet. The shroud for the stem is Cholla wood from Texas that my daughter sent. When I got it, there was a dark grey outer layer on all the surfaces. I took a small pocket knife blade, and scraped all that off. It was a bit time consuming to get at all the contours, but worth it. Then I put a coat of amber colored shellac on it; because it already had an unusual yellow color.

Step by step

In the next picture, it’s assembled and ready to test. As I said, it still needs some more fitting. You can see the threaded brass piece I used to attach the stem to the bowl, which would be hidden had the fitting been better. The bowl is Cherry wood, with one coat of clear shellac. these days people use fast drying lacquer as a seal coat, which works really well, in terms of production time. Shellac is traditional, which I like, and they say it brings out the color of wood better.

Not completely ready, but good enough for a test run.

The next picture was obviously hand held in low light conditions, but there it is, smoke from the first bowl full. In case you’re seeing this pipe project for the first time, I’ll reiterate: Pipes aren’t smoked the same way cigarettes are. they’re not inhaled, which makes a huge difference in terms of health hazard. Yes, there are warnings about oral cancer, but I don’t have one of these in my mouth all day, so I’m not terribly worried.

This pipe is actually huge in overall size compared to the average tobacco pipe. I’ve been researching the Indian smoking blend called KinnikKinnick; and have mixed up a bit of it. That’s what I thought I’d use this pipe for, but I decided to break it in with a Cavendish Tobacco blend, because frankly, the two part Indian blend I made up smells like a cross between Autumn leaves and cardboard when burned. Maybe the addition of Red Willow bark will help. Not a big deal, as I wanted it for the novelty and variety. I think I’ll do a separate post about the Kinni-Kinnick, because it’s worth it.

Scrounge Chronicles: Splitting Wood and . . .

Society of Scrounge Experts

We heat with firewood, and split the wood with a maul. Previously, we had a big tire on a stump to hold the wood being split. In spite of its size, it had a small hole, wasn’t very tall, and looked terrible. It was discarded, and we’ve been splitting the dummy way since. I got tired of it, and made this wire catch-thing around a chunk of wood.

It works great, much better than the tire. Not only that, but you can hardly see it from the porch, and I suppose not at all when driving by. The chunk of wood had a soft spot in the middle, so I removed part of that, and now use the hole to split smaller kindling. The wire looks like cattle panel, but fence wire or concrete reinforcement would also work. It’s held on by two bent over nails. I added the green area to the picture, so you would have an idea of where the top of the chunk is.

Next is a subject not for the uninitiated, but I saw something interesting; so I’ve included it here. I have an experimental composting toilet outside the house. Using an outhouse in the winter makes for some very realistic historic reenactments, but it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.

Anyway, I did a little research before starting the project; and one source said that the compost needs to age/process for months before it’s safe to pour out. I started using this toilet in March of 2018. In cold weather, I empty the toilet once a month into a blue plastic barrel, that has no lid. I cover the opening with metal window screen to keep flies out. I had to switch to metal because the (wasps?) kept making oblong holes in the black screen, presumably to get flies. I leave it lying on the ground, with the solid end raised a little, so that little rain water gets in the screen end. I occasionally roll the barrels to mix/aerate the contents. Also, these have only fecal matter, peat moss, straw, and a little dirt, the urine is separated.

If the first barrel went to processing in April 2018; and this is the third barrel I’ve emptied, then this should be May/June of 2018. What’s interesting is how well it processes. In the picture below, the ‘brown stuff’ on the upper right inside of barrel is peat moss stuck to the side where the rain got in. I’m really surprised how clean the inside of the barrel is. This has not been rinsed, only emptied in a hay field. There was no noticeable smell.

Inventory Production & Regulations

Please note, this post will be ‘sticky’ for awhile; new posts will appear below it.

For years I’ve had ideas of things I wanted to make and sell. For each one, there was an uncertainty of how to market them. Once I shifted my thinking from being a guy who could make a few things, to being a company that sells things, regardless of who made them, the direction was clear. The theme, the marketing, the products, it was all clear; and fun. Most of the things I’ve been involved in for the last 30 years or more, will be part of the Quill & Blade Country Store and Trading Post.

I set up this site, and an Ebay store, and wrote down lots of advertising plans. Then it was time to get the inventory. I’ve been developing some items for awhile, but now they’re moving into production. A little faster than I expected. I’m quite accustomed to unexpected delays, changes of plans, regulation hurdles and other slowdowns. Lately though, I’ve been getting some green lights. Here are some of them, bear in mind that these items aren’t finished, but the tools, jigs, and materials are in place.

Below are large examples of “Gluts”, a wood wedge made of Dogwood. They’re used with a wood maul, a thing that looks like an oversized baseball bat. They’re for splitting Cedar fence rails. I’ve also used them for splitting firewood, when I needed extra width in the gap. We’ll be selling these shortly.

The breakthrough here was getting a clear understanding of wood quarantine regulations. I can’t just move wood about, as I please, that could transport very destructive pests and diseases. The Department of Forestry guy also recommended heat treating the wood. I have some metal parts to make a steam wood bender, but have been putting it off. I plan to make it very retro looking, it will be a fun project. And shoot, now I’ll just have to move it to the front burner. They even have a cost sharing program, that will pay for half of it, if I get it up and running. I’m very wary of taking government money, besides, I’ll probably only need old timey square head bolts. The benefit will be in using language like “State Department of Forestry Approved . . .”

Some VERY tough wood.

When I was restoring the Mississippi locomotive, I had to invent a long narrow wire brush to get in difficult places. Below are the first 5 units of “Restoration Wire Brush #1”. They’re not quite finished, but close. These ones have the copper handle crimped on with the crimp tool I made. The copper has been polished and clear coated. There will also be a smaller model available.

One of the goals at Quill & Blade is to make items as affordable as possible, to that end we’ll sell complete units, as well as kits and parts. Our wood wheelbarrow will have the option of a steel wheel, or a wood wheel. The wheels will also be available separately. I just received the first 5 steel loops, pictured is one. Below that is the prototype of the wheelbarrow.

Sturdy Steel Construction
Field Tested

Finally, here’s the first wood wheel barrow wheel. I’ve had one on a hand truck for years, and it has held up very well. It doesn’t even get stored inside. This is made from pressure treated wood, and will be painted. we will also offer a natural Cedar wheel, stained and clear coated.

Important Parental Notification, and More

The notification is to do what I call “Grab a Kid”. It’s when you’re doing a task where they could learn something, be involved, accomplish something, and have fun, so you take them along to help with the project.

I finished the mini Quansit hut, with help from one of my younger sons. Here he is tightening the lag screws that hold the corner braces on the hut, after he predrilled the pilot holes.

Another corner brace

Below is one of those “what’s wrong with this picture” pictures. It’s not how crooked the post is, or that the metal door is open on the band saw. It’s hard to tell from this side; but the problem is that the long 2 X 8 horizontal brace is mounted at the same height as the table of the band saw. Band saws need room around them because the material tuns quite a bit. This board got lowered.

After the braces were on, I felt safe enough to get partially on the roof, and screw the 3 metal roof pieces together. The I decided to try the lathe again. I’m making a tobacco pipe from several pieces of unusual wood I have. As a side note, most pipe and cigar smokers don’t inhale the smoke the way a cigarette smoker does, so they’re not as dangerous as the latter.

Here’s a piece of pine wood that I think is from 1870. It was part of the walkboard that was replaced on the Mississippi locomotive. There’s a long drill bit on top of it.

My daughter sent some wood from Texas. I think it’s part of a cactus that grows down there. I wrapped wire around it while I was working on it, to keep it from breaking.

I like the way this stuff looks!

One of my funnest places to visit is Jeffrie’s Woodworks, in South Knoxville. On my last visit, I got these two small pieces of wood. The one is Cherry wood, the other is American Chestnut.

I cut a piece from the cherry, and shaped it for the bowl of the pipe I’m making. Here are the pieces laid together in the approximate way that it will be when finished. the cactus wood is gray when I get it, but is an unusual light yellow when scraped.