Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Alton was the younger of the two grandfathers.

farming at the gateway to the sandhills.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Tools of choice: my go to hammer. 

better depth of head, especially when using for outdoor construction.

 the sides have milled surfaces that can be used for tight spots.

the steep claw is aggressive for removing jacked-up nails or other fasteners.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Findley's hatchets II

Received an 18" white hickory handle. good grain and shape. 

had to reduce the diameter of the eye and the helve's shoulder (reducing the shoulder diameter makes it look more proportional). 

the head still needs to be hung.

the new handle laying next to the older one. looks more balanced and definitely feels more balanced. Handles can be too long: however my preference is that a bit longer is better than too short. better leverage, better reach and less fatigue. if one needs more control just choke up on the handle.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


A cabinet that was ineligible for reclaim. 
 5 foot flames from this little cabinet. rocket ship effect.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hair & grain

The similarities between Frances' hair
                          and harvest ready grain.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Findley's hatchets

From the Findley are two great hatchets: one is a Wards, the other is a Hackett Diamond. both are brilliant hatchets from his family's past. it has been great fun working on these Americans. both of these are to be in the hands of the next generation, gifts to outdoorsmen: used and relied on.

both are and will be treated differently. 

the Wards here is to be brought back to an earlier age where the new bearer (a nephew) will make his great grandfather's hatchet age as he did. this is the original patina. the tool itself was well taken care of.

testing the temper, this is a very functional tool.

with a bit of work the initial polish shows good shine and the cutting edge angle was tightened up.
a sharper angle will give this tool better cut and more function. 

the Hackett is of an older era (older that the Wards) and was one of those real treats to work with. after all it was in the hands of great great grandfather. from the patina to the old school modifications, this tool read to me like a real sense of reality (a "give it a fix so i can get back to work" feel). with this in mind, we wanted to do less shine and more leave it as it is look. 

had to remove the older handle. i did save the handle and the eye hardware so Findley could use them for later. i do try at not letting anything go to waste, especially if they have some significance from the past. 

this hatchet shown NO use of modern grinders, so i was not worried about the temper. in fact, his hand filing was so obvious i could see a slight curve in the file marks. just like words on a page i could actually read the movements of his great grands sharpening technique, right down to the direction his hand favored when applying pressure to the file. good book.

this hatchet was about leaving a bit of the past; therefore some of the patina. there was some rust, so oil and some hand rubbing reduced its impact. for a bit of show, the hatchet's steel was removed to show it in a more original state. this photo does not do it justice, GREAT steel and great shine.

this cutting edge was also tightened up. 

both hatchets need a final polish (mostly the Wards) and cutting edge hone. as well as re-handling( i have had to order some new Tennessee hickory handles for these) and flash.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Treasure chests

The two older boys get double walled treasure chests. made heavy to take more of a beating. i will have to find some more materials to make one for the youngest. 

made from wine crates, trim & furniture remnants.
 using the whole buffalo.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I have two grandfathers that excel in all that a man could be. both are very different and both i admire. Victor was the older of the two.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Odd cider recipes

Our house enjoys almost every style of beer, but we do prefer the big beers: high grain bills with lots of octane. we also enjoy traditional ciders but the following recipes are about exploring our diversity. 
these cider recipes are extreme variations of cider and are designed for the very hot summer days of Nebraska: cleaner, lighter body, higher octane and served very cold. 


Using the champagne yeast converts more of the body into alcohol resulting in a lighter and higher alcoholic beverage. here are some of the steps we take to achieve this: add 1 pound of sugar to the recipe before fermentation, sometimes a red juice for even more, let the cider sit in the carboys for a complete fermentation (including multiple rackings if we want, this could go as long as two months),  at priming time we add quite a bit of priming sugar.

And finally we serve these very cold. when the apparent temperature is in (or past) the 90's and one is working outside these ciders are a welcome addition.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Standing on the corn

When the corn reaches 8' tall,  we are able to walk on it.
In 1999 the corn was especially dense.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Old photo of the bright lake

At age 14, young william (my father) decided to step into the lake.
and the others followed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quick casserole in the dutch oven

Dutch oven cooking is too simple. 
after some practice the preparation times for most recipes are usually very short and the results are grade A.  

just remember whatever the diameter of the oven, you add two coals to the top and subtract two coals from the top. 350 degrees.

a flaming 24 coals for the 14" oven.

finished working 17 of the past 24 hours, so dutch oven cooking will make a big difference. 
preparation is 15 minutes. 
there will be 3 boys being fed so potatoes on the top are "necessary". 

coals are on and under. just cooks for 1 hour.

finished meal plus the cheese.
clean up is just hot water in the oven and let dry. when dry, a very light spray of oil, then wiped.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Axe and hatchet sharpening jig

Re-establishing the edge of two Plumb hatchets this morning.

The best jigs are the ones we make. this one was from a scrap piece of bamboo from work, some wood from a pallet, 2 x horizontal clamps and a close line tensioner. when using the protractor level i can get an exact angle.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Axe restoration: what axe is worth keeping

Axe restoration: must have a temper to use
The value of an axe is only measured by its ability to perform or in its ability to remind us of a person or event. With that being said there are two types: those in use and those that have to be retired. 

First, those that should be retired are those that can not function anymore yet have a historical significance, say grandfather's tried and true. no matter what its condition (mushroomed all to hell, deformed eye, crack) they deserve a place on the wall. the object itself is as valuable as any portrait, at times even more potent in reminding us of their strength and hard work. 

Second, those that are in use. this should be all axes/hatchets. ready to go at anytime. there are many great new axes out there: however i find myself reviving the old steel. any axe will not do. there must be some qualifications met before it is worth not taking to the scrap yard.  

When you get your axe, you must check the temper. no temper means the axe is of no use. to do this, fill a bucket with distilled white vinegar. the vinegar will dissolve the rust and expose the temper.  below are two heads to describe some of the issues out there:

The single bit had little rust and a nice patina. patina is nice for antique dealers and for those who want a snap shot of the steel's potential, but we still need to get to basics and test the temper. if anything with proper oiling, use and age that patina will come back. even better you made that patina with your own experience, not someone else's. after just two days in vinegar this head showed its good temper. the darker area is the tempered steel. 
 The double bit head was badly rusted but still had a pretty well defined edges. this head was worth testing and after being in the vinegar (6 days, three times as long as the craftsman single bit) showed its temper well in tact.

The next steps will be to polish, re-establish a proper edge (using hand files and a jig), hanging and then a small amount of flash for easy spotting in the field.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

6' bird cage

The six foot bird cage, cobbled from:
one wine crate,
cedar wood from torn up deck,
bamboo skewers 
and some windowing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Morning Kohi

Coffee from earlier this morning.

Some milk in the milk glass, allowed to warm up while the coffee brews.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

First mallet posted on etsy: green one stripe with padauk head and American hickory helve. looks fast.