Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 145, September 2017 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
The Down to Earth Woodworker
By Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This Month's Column:

• Morphing Projects • Not One Red Cent “Stud” The Spokesman Big Sound, Tough Little Box

Morphing Projects

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Unbelievably, the summer of 2017 is almost over. For many of us it is time to stow the mower, coil the hoses, and put away the short sleeved shirts. On the bright side, though, it is nearing what I call "high woodworking season." Before I crank up the heat in the shop and tune up the snow blower, a little reflection on the accomplishments of the too-short summer is in order.

There were four major projects I wanted to get done this summer. One got done. One got started. The other two are postponed until next summer. That sounds like a pretty miserable track record of accomplishment, but I have legitimate excuses… I mean reasons.

Figure 1 - Hand-digging this ditch was a chore,
and a lot of "stuff" was found buried beneath
the soil... bricks, stones, even an old concrete
water diverter for a downspout!
The most critical project this summer was to finally correct some semi-serious drainage issues around the house. This involved digging some 205 feet of ditches and burying six-inch diameter drain pipe. And this is when a simple project began to morph into something entirely different… and the saga started.

The drain pipe was to run the length of one side of the house, then emerge to the front of the house, bisect an existing flower bed that I had future dreams of enlarging and replanting and continue on for another 100+ feet. It seemed, at the time, only logical to go ahead and enlarge that bed while digging for the drain pipe… no sense digging it all up twice, right? Of course, with a freshly-dug and enlarged flower bed, it seemed reasonable, too, to go ahead and install landscaping lighting. Already a simple job of digging a ditch and burying a drain pipe was morphing into something much bigger.

Because of a dense stand of trees along the side of the house, the first 40 feet or so of ditch had to be dug by hand --- the rest I could do with my backhoe. I was looking forward to the relative ease of digging with a machine. Within the next thirty feet of ditch, I managed to sever the buried pipe from the sump pump. Okay, a minor disaster or two is not unexpected in a project this size, but when considering how to repair the damage, I realized that the sump pump outflow was originally misplaced and should be run in a completely different direction. This turned into an additional project digging yet another ditch. These things have a way of compounding!

Figure 2 - Frequent rain slowed work on
many summer projects this year. This ditch
for a buried power cable filled with water
after one nightly rain.
The new ditch for the new sump pump pipe would need to run along the driveway and would end up half-encircling a turn-out parking area adjacent to the drive. That just happens to be where a stand of trees and ornamental plantings hides any vehicles parked there, and a section I also wanted to enlarge and improve, perhaps in 2019. Of course, digging there now made it seem illogical to wait two years, so a little ditch for a small pipe turned into another huge landscaping project.

With that landscaping project underway, it also seemed logical to go ahead and bury a wire to power another post light, closer to the road. After another 100+ feet of ditch, a spanking new matching post light was installed. The post light is a welcome addition on a dark unlighted road, but it brought undue attention to the ugly rural mailbox. Fact is, the mailbox post was a little rickety, so I dug a deep hole, mixed up cement, and installed a new post and mailbox. With all the new landscaping, the front porch was looking a bit shabby, so I spent a couple of days repainting, and then installed new custom made copper tops on the railing newel posts. Getting those copper tops made would make a great sidebar story, but we'll save that for later.

With all the landscape work, my tractor had made quite a mess of the already-pitiful grass struggling to grow between flower beds and under canopies of trees, so to finish up I spread a dozen or so cubic yards of top soil, reseeded, and now, thank you very much, some pretty nice grass is growing vigorously.

Figure 3 - Posts for the pole barn cemented in place before building the forms
for the concrete.
It amazes me sometimes how projects morph and metastasize. Project number two is a 16 X 24 pole barn with a concrete floor, a storage and maintenance area for equipment, an enclosed lock-up space, and a roasting pit. With only a few weeks left before the weather turns frigid and the first snow flies, the ground work is finally done, the posts are in, and the concrete work will start shortly. By the time you read this, I hope to have a 6-inch thick slab that, with a little luck, might even be flat and smooth. Once the concrete is in, I will scurry to get a roof on before the bad weather starts. The finishing touches can then be done as weather permits.

So with all the morphing and expansion of projects, what didn't get done? Barn # 1, just steps behind my shop was to get a facelift. Actually a makeover might be a better description. I intend to turn that space into a cozy place for coffee roasting, writing, drawing, and maybe even a little quiet reflection from time to time. The other "un-done" project is a 6-foot wide pathway about 85 feet long that will be lined with brick pavers. What might those projects morph into next year is anyone's guess.

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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life). Steven can be reached directly via email at sjohnson@downtoearthwoodworking.com

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