2015 News Archives

This page contains the news updates from 2015, in order to keep the Welcome page from getting too big as I continue to add updates to the renovation project and web site on that page.

click to enlarge
The nearly complete joiner's bench (1 photos).

2015 Projects
The House: Like 2014, I didn't manage to tackle any large projects on the house last year. Part of the trouble is finding the right time to remove the top layer of the plywood & linoleum floor, and remove all of the ceilings in the living room and bedroom. Those projects are going to cause quite a disruption to our living space, but they need to be done so hopefully I'll find a way in 2016. I did manage to get my new joiner's bench nearly finished by the end of 2015, so at least I accomplished something of significance. As I made more progress on that bench, I could also use the bench to hold whatever I was working on - what a differnce the bench makes as opposed to my previous struggles with clamps and saw horses! I'm very glad I took on the bench build project, and I believe it will help future trim carpentry and furniture projects go much smoother.
The Site: Most updates in 2015 addressed the specifics of the bench build project, and it seems I went in to great detail on each step (the Joiner's Bench page is the biggest page on the site, and it's still not finished). All the updates from the year are available within the news items below.

2008 News Archives.
2009 News Archives.
2010 News Archives.
2011 News Archives.
2012 News Archives.
2013 News Archives.
2014 News Archives.
2016 News Archives.
2017 News Archives.
2018-21 News Archives.
2022 News Archives.

Old News Updates

The House: With Winter fast approaching I've starting getting to some yard work again while the good weather holds, with some time spent working on the bamboo removal project I started on last October. I've gotten the retaining wall into the new position along the property line, and added a couple more fence posts. I'll keep picking at it as long as I can before snow as I attempt to get the lower bamboo section surrounded with new bamboo barrier.
I also kept pluggin' away at the joiner's bench project, and over the last few weeks (when I wasn't battling the flu), I've gotten the main bench assembled, and finish applied to everything. I still need to make the leg vise, sliding deadman, lower shelves and tool storage box, but it's useable now, and the rest of the project should go pretty smoothly.
The Site: While it's been a few weeks since the last update, I did persist in taking lots of photos of bench progress as I worked, so this update adds a lot of stuff to the Joiner's Bench page. That page is growing very long (although I don't see how breaking it into sections would make any sense), so I've added a new Table of Contents at the beginning of the page to help navigate to the appropriate sections. This update also added many new sections to that page, and over thirty new photos of the progress. All that stuff warranted a refresh of the search index as well. Enjoy!

The House: Other than a little yard work (finally got the string trimmer put back together, so that helped), I've spent way too much time lately as a result of clickin' that little Windows® 10 icon in the task bar...
Fun with Computers: Before I went for it, I cloned my system drive to a new 250GB Intel® 535 series SSD, thinkin' I'd be able to just swap the old SSD back in if I decided to revert to Windows® 7. I then downloaded and installed Windows® 10, and it seemed like everything was fine. What I forgot about was that I had moved my old "ProgramData" folder tree off the C: drive using a load of NTFS junction points to fool the system into letting me do that. When I put Windows® 10 on, of course that stuff all ended up back on the C: drive and was a big mess. After lots of drive swapping (the "ProgramData" folder cannot be moved while the system is using it) and "mklink /J" commands, I had everything the way I wanted it again. I shut down the system and all was right in the world. The next time I turned it on however, the system wouldn't even get through POST, and there was no BIOS screen available. This had happened a couple times before and I'd just ignored it and restarted (it's a sign the motherboard is going bubye). This time it was done - the motherboard was toast.
So, I found a replacement HP® board on E-Bay, then also found an ASUSTek® board that would fit my case and allow me to swap to that if needed, since there's no documentation available for the proprietary HP® boards. They both arrived on the same day, so I first swapped in the HP® replacement, and the system booted right up... once. After a shut down and restart, I had the same no BIOS situation as before. There was something in the system that the motherboard really didn't like. I then completely dis-assembled the system and installed the ASUS board with just a power supply and monitor connected. The system booted up fine (it complained about no memory or keyboard, of course), so I then added one component at a time and checked for successful start-up after each one until the whole thing was back together. There were no problems at all with the new board, and after a rather long phone call to Microsoft® support , I finally got the new system validated and activated. At least it was still cheaper than buying a new system, and I didn't lose any data (yes, a complete system backup to a remote drive still runs every night).
The Hammers: The recent good news is about those Estwing® hammers pictured above. I wanted to get a couple nice hammers that are dedicated to shop use with the new bench, and after lots of looking I couldn't find anything decent from the Stanley vintage ones available so I decided to see what Estwing® had to offer (I still have and often use their blue-handled Rip Hammers from my first construction job in college). After perusing their website I found I really liked the leather-handled International serieslink opens a new window, but couldn't find anyone to buy them from in the U.S. After lots of web searching, I finally gave up and just called them to see if I could send a friend from Chicago to their plant and just buy them direct. I was pleasantly surprised to find that although they do not sell direct from their plant, nor will they sell via e-mail requests, if you call and ask they'll sell individuals their International series over the phone! Sure, the cost is full retail, but they send them with no shipping costs, and even at full retail it's still far less than trying to buy them from the U.K. or Germany via the web. So, if you're looking for a couple well made, beautiful hammers and can't find a source, just give Estwing® a call with your credit card handy.
The Site: As I said I'd do in the last update, I finally took some pictures of the recent vintage Stanley tool acquisitions (a handful of Try & Mitre Squares) and got those added to the Vintage Tools gallery page in the Et cetera section, as well as updated the listings for them on the Vintage Tools data page in the Specifications section. That is all.

The House: The last few weeks I've been doing lots of work on the joiner's bench and not much else. I have the thing to the point where I need to move it into the shop before I can continue working on it, so that will likely take a few days to get right (need to make room for it out there, dis-assemble and re-assemble all the parts, then figure out how to get it level on the un-even floor). I've also managed to pick up a few more vintage tools, so I'm thinkin' the next update will feature those and let the bench rest for a bit.
The Site: I've added another couple paragraphs and progress photos to the Joiner's Bench page, with new sections detailing the construction of the Bench Top.That is all.

The House: Most of the last couple weeks was spent continuing to work on the joiner's bench, with a little yard work sprinkled in when the weather wasn't too hot. This week is supposed to be in the 70's, so I'm hoping to put a little more time into the yard in between getting finish applied to the latest bits of the bench assembly. I also still need to get the string trimmer re-built. The good news is we enjoyed a few cookouts on the new deck.
My Right Hand: After a half a dozen visits to the occupational therapist, we've determined that the only way I'm going to regain the use of the tip of my ring finger is to have another tenolysis procedure. I'm not sure if I'll have that done any time soon, since there's lots of projects piling up that need to be dealt with now.
The Site: As usual, I've added another couple paragraphs and progress photos to the Joiner's Bench page, with a new section on the massive Tail Vise Frame. That is all.

The House: Much of my time in June was spent trying to get caught up with yard work as my hand got more useful, although I'm still a few weeks behind where I like to have things this time of year (the pond pump isn't running yet, and there's still leaves to collect in a couple areas from last year, for example). I did take the time to re-organize the green garage wood shop and make a spot for the new bench to live, which meant making a new wood storage rack and moving some shelf units around. I also got some new tool storage racks installed in the garden shed. Then I found the lawn mower wasn't working at all (it was running very poorly late last season), so I had to replace a couple broken control cables and rebuild the carb on that to get it running right again so I could finally mow the lawn. The weed whacker also broke down over the Winter when I was using the snow blower attachment on it, and after taking it apart I found it had a broken exhaust valve. Parts for that arrived yesterday, so that'll require a day or two to get back in working order as well.
The Bench project also made some good progress over the last week or so, and I've finished the front apron assembly. I brought all the parts inside again so I could get it put together on a level floor. I'll likely pick away at the tail vise unit in the shop and leave the bench inside for a bit while I work on getting the yard back into maintenance mode. I've still got a few small Pines that popped up to transplant, and I need to get the pond going then get back to work on that bamboo project behind the pond.
My Right Hand: The middle knuckle is working well now and I've got some grip strength back, but the tip still doesn't bend after the tenolysis procedure. I'll be visiting the occupational therapist twice a week through the end of July, although it's likely I'll need another tenolysis to try and finally get the tip working. I may just skip it for now rather than get put out of commission for another month in the middle of Summer.
The Site: I added another couple paragraphs and progress photos to the Joiner's Bench page, with a new section on the Front Apron Backer Board. I also added some more information to the Vintage Hand Tool Data page in the Miscellaneous Tools section, as I've been slowly adding a few more Stanley Try & Mitre Squares to the collection. Finally, I updated the Garden Shed page with a before and after photo of the new tool storage system I installed a couple weeks ago.

The House: Not too much going on this season since we had the trees taken down, although I have been pickin' away at the joiner's bench project and wanted to get the latest updates for that published.
My Right Hand: I had a second surgical procedure on May 13th to attempt to free up the tenon from the scar tissue that encased it after the initial surgery. In theory I should be able to move the distal phalanges now, however I don't really see any improvement in my active motion range or grip strength. It's been a couple weeks and the stitches are still in place - will likely get those removed in early June. I don't have much hope that my finger will get any better than it is right now (when I make a fist it just sorta sticks up on its own), but the doctor says to just keep exercising it and we'll see what happens. The situation is rather disappointing, but at least I've been given the go-ahead to start working again.
The Site: I've added a few more updates regarding the construction process and progress photos to the Joiner's Bench page, with a new section on Working the Front Apron. That is all.

The House: After a long month of snow melting and mud, it appears Spring is finally here. With the snow gone and ground starting to firm up, I had Cicroia Tree Service link opens a new window come by to remove a couple trees that have been bothering me for years. There was a medium Maple across the street (although "officially" is was in the road) that had been leaning over the power lines a little more each year, then we made the difficult decision to remove one of the two huge Red Oaks in the backyard as well. The one over the pond had a big limb that was reaching over the house, and when I had Mark Cicoria come out last Fall and get an estimate for removing the limb, he did a good deal of poking around the base of the tree and looking over the whole thing, and recommended that we remove the entire tree due to its marginal health. Since we would need their crane even if we only wanted to take the single limb, he said it would make more sense to just take the whole thing down instead. He had no time to do it last Fall, then we had to wait a long time for snow to go away to get after it this Spring. Earlier this week I got a call from their office saying they were in the area and had time to come over, so last Friday all their equipment showed up, and two hours later the trees were gone. They even honored the quoted price from last Fall! I'm sure I'll be very happy with our decision to remove that Oak when it comes time to pick up acorns and leaves this Fall, and with a little bit of re-arranging of a few rocks and a little fill, that stump should disappear completely.
Other than some occasionaly leaf and stick clean-up in the yard, most of the project work over the last few weeks has been focused on getting the Joiner's Bench built now that my hand is mostly working. All of the base components will be ready for finish and assembly this week, then I can get after the bench top and finish the whole project.
My Right Hand: I was given the go ahead to return to doing hand tool work in March, however the final surgical procedure to regain full movement keeps getting delayed. The earliest opportuniy for surgury that was available was at the end of April, but that got delayed due to scheduling conflicts within the surgical team until May 13th. I'm hoping to have the bench project to the point where I'm just applying finish by then, and with the supposedly very quick recovery time for this procedure things should progress without much difficulty after that. We'll see.
The Site: I've made a few updates regarding the construction process and progress photos to the Joiner's Bench page over the last couple weeks (although I didn't update this News section at the time so you may have missed them), including new sections for Mortise & Tenon Work on the leg stretchers, Drawboring the leg unit assemblies, Installing Bench Bolts for the lower stretchers, Installing the Top Stretcher, and most recently, Installing the Workholding Fixtures on the leg units prior to applying finish. All this new bench information also warranted a search index refresh, as usual, and I touched up the Project Timeline page to include stuffs for 2015.

The House: Nothing much happening on projects, but at least the weather has warmed into the 30s to start melting some of the massive snow banks. It's going to take many weeks for this white stuff to go away. On another subject, over the last few weeks I've had my VW Vanagon in the shop (mostly while waiting for parts) to have some major work done. I should have that back soon and can at least schlep some more wood to my friend's shop to make a little progress on the Joiner's Bench.
My Right Hand: After another visit with the doctor, we've determined that I'm going to need a second surgical procedure called Flexor Tenolysis to get the finger tip working again. He pretty much knew this was going to be required, since there's now lots of scar tissue inside the finger that prevents the tendon from doing what it needs to do. Surgery is planned for early April. In the mean time I continue seeing my Occupational Therapist to get the joint working better. Slow and steady.
The Site: I recently discovered that when I made the new menu section with all the Et cetera pages, I actually made all those Et cetera links unavailable - apparantly Apache servers reserve the "etc" folder for internal use, so trying to get my Et cetera pages over the net resulted in an error (it worked fine on my own MS web server, so I didn't notice until now). All the pages have been tweaked to work properly now (and the search index refreshed too), however you'll likely need to reload any page to get it to work properly. Sorry for the rookie mistake.

The House: After lots of Calcium Chloride on the roof and a couple days of sunshine, I managed to get all the snow and ice cleared off to prevent any ice dams. Things were getting bad up there, since only half the attic has any insulation in it. Getting that attic insulated and sealed is going to be a priority in 2015. Another project we've been discussing is making some progress on the garage, so I've spent a few days re-working the plans to see if we can get the specifics figured out and start the permit process.
My Right Hand: Things are moving very slowly, but at least the cuts are nearly all healed up at last. The joint is still very stiff, however the occupational therapist is confident we'll get everything working again over a couple weeks.
The Site: Without a lot of project work happening, there's not much to update. I did get a couple images of the new garage plans on to the Garage page, as well as a multi-page PDF showing how the plans got from the previous version to this latest revision, available on the Specification page.

The House: We set a new Boston area record with over five feet of snow received in less than thirty days, and the temperatures haven't been above freezing for a couple weeks now, so nothing has melted. This weekend we're expecting another Winter storm to blow in, with record cold temperatures and at least another foot of snow. No power outages yet, and I managed to get most of the snow off the roof over the last few days, so we'll just hope for the best.
My Right Hand: The stitches are out and the doc said things are going as expected. It's starting to get a little easier to exercise it, but I still can't do much with it so it just remains taped up while I deal with moving snow around. Next week I'm supposed to start seeing an occupational therapist twice a week, so hopefully that will move things along a little faster.
The Site: In addition to getting the 2014 news items moved off this page to an archive page, I decided to deal with that huge page I had with stuff about Hand Planes on it. Because the Kester House & Garden was created to address our renovation projects, I had information about other stuff I wanted to put on the web kind of just buried here and there. With no way to get any actual house project work done with my damaged hand, I decided it was finally time to re-organize things a little on the site.
As you may have noticed on the left navigation menu, I've created a new section called Et cetera. I've had an Etc. page here for a while, but it wasn't available through the menu, and it was fairly long. I've also slowly been collecting vintage hand tools, and while I had posted a page about hand planes long ago in the Specifications section, I've also gotten a lot of tools other than just hand planes. Making all the information I want to share about vintage tools available on a single web page had just become silly, so I made a few smaller, easier to manage pages.
With the site re-org, here's how the massive old Hand Planes and Etc. pages have been re-arranged:

With the new pages, changed navigation menu, and many of the vintage tool images getting moved around to new sub-folders, you'll likely need to re-load any page you visit to re-cache the data for your browser and make sure things appear as intended. Of course all these changes also warranted a search index refresh, as usual. Enjoy!

The House: Boy did we get some snow over the last few days! A Nor'easter blew through over the 27th and 28th (Tuesday & Wednesday) dumping about 20" of white stuff with high winds, followed by a Clipper that came through late on Friday with another 6" by the time it blew out to sea on Saturday morning. We weren't done yet, as another system crept in from the West in the wee hours of Monday morning, with high winds and another 12" of snow throughout the day on Monday. With lows forecast in the single digits the rest of the week, it doesn't look like this stuff's going anywhere soon. We're supposed to get another few inches on Thursday this week as well.
I managed to keep up with the white stuff with the snowblower as the temps stayed low enough that everything remained fluffy powder and blew easily. I also decided to get the snowshoes out on Monday and go around the house with the roof rake to pull the huge drifts off the roof and minimize the weight up there.
My Right Hand: With all these storms, I still haven't been able to get back to see my surgeon for the second post-op visit and get my stitches removed. I've been exercising the finger as instructed, but I can feel those stitches pulling on stuff when I do so I'm looking forward to getting those strings out of my finger soon. We've re-scheduled again for this Wednesday, and it looks like we'll actually be able to get in to see him before our next snow storm blows in.
The Site: Didn't do much other than get this news item up. I picked up a couple more vintage tools (Stanley Try Squares and an E.C. Stearns Hollow Auger bit), but I haven't had a chance to get photos of them yet so I've only added them to the Vintage Hand Tool Data page in the Specifications section.

My Right Hand: Yep, still hangin' at the computer and reading more woodworking books. The doctor decided to leave the stitches in for another week or so, although I did visit with the occupational therapist to get a new brace, and also start working on some movement exercises to start loosening things up. Another visit had been scheduled for this week, but that's been cancelled with the doctor out of the country for a conference and all the flights grounded on the East coast due to a massive Winter storm that's creeping up the coast. The therapist said it'll likely be April before I get full use of my hand back. We'll know more when I see the doctor again next Monday. In the mean time, the next few days should be interesting with over 2 feet of snow in the forecast for the next 24 hours.
The Site: I received a few more books (Toolemera Press' link opens a new window re-prints of Fairham's Woodworker's Series of the early '20s, and a very nice, hard to find early edition of Hayward's Woodwork Joints), so those have been added to the reference section on the Specifications page. I've also gone through all the stuff I've picked up so far for the joiner's bench project, and added a new Bench Materials & Cost section to the Workbench page (since I keep thinking about the bench but can't actually get any work done on it). Not many updates, but enough to get a search index refresh while I was at it.


My Right Hand: It's still not possible to do any wood shop or project work, so I've mostly been spending time at the computer and reading. I had surgery last Wednesday to repair the Flexor tendon, and that went very well - the tendon was still in my finger (and not retracted back into my wrist, which was a possibility), but they needed to put a little metal pin into my last knuckle as an anchor to re-attach the tendon to since there wasn't enough left to stich it back together. The stiches for the lacerations come out on Monday, then we'll see how long it'll be before I can start using my hand again.
The Site: As I've been getting better at typing with a wrapped and braced hand, I spent some time working on the code behind the RSS news feed to get the XML to show up properly in Chrome (since that's the browser I use). I created an XSL and CSS page for the XML news page, and also went through all the links on the news feed to make them a little more compatible with any news readers you may be using. I also added a couple more books I recently picked up, with a new bench book in references sections of the Workbench page and a finishing book to the Specifications page.


My Right Hand: I've mostly been working on stock for the new English joiner's bench I'm building, and occasionally getting a little yard work in between all the rain we had in December. On December 30th I went out with my neighbor to use his skid steer machine and try to move a couple of the larger boulders from the retaining wall re-location project we've been picking at behind the bamboo. Things were going along pretty well as I'd wrap up a boulder with a length of chain, hook it to the skid steer bucket, then he'd hoist it away while I gave hand signals. Then I got stupid...
One boulder was wrapped with chain and hanging above another, and just needed a little tweak to the side to make it up to the higher grade, so I stuck my hand in there to shove it over. That chain slipped, and the boulder twisted out of the chain and back onto the wall a couple inches below it. My hand was under it at the time, and when it comes to boulder versus hand, hand loses. The thing landed on my right ring-finger and did a fine job of crushing it as it settled back onto the wall. I pulled my hand out quickly, but the damage was done. I had impressive lacerations as a result of the crush injury on both the dorsal (top, about 1-1/2" long) and the ventral (inside, about 2" long) sides of my finger, and my Distal phalanges (tip segment) didn't bend at all when I tried to make a fist. X-rays showed that thankfully there was no bone damage, and the nerves all seemed fine, but my Flexor tendon had certainly been cut somewhere between my top and middle knuckle. Everything has been sutured back together and wrapped up for now, and next week I'll have surgery from a hand specialist to re-connect my tendon. After it gets stitched together, it's looking like 12 to 14 weeks of recovery and therapy to get my hand working properly again. So much for getting anything accomplished this Winter.
The Site: Before I crushed my hand, I did a little re-arranging of some folders behind the scenes in order to make a spot for the new Workbench page, since that's going to be what I think will be an interesting project. I wasn't sure what section I should add it to, so I ended up making a new page that sort of stands on its own, like the current Et cetera page. As I keep getting involved in new side projects I want to document here, I may end up adding an Etc section to the nav menus on the left. For now, you can get at the Workbench page throught the link above, or through the Table of Contents at the bottom of this page. The new page and Etc folder also warranted a search index refresh, as usual.